Sunday, February 28, 2010

It IS the camera

As photographers we talk about gear A LOT. We throw out combinations of letters and numbers that sound like gibberish to the untrained ear. “I just picked up a 28-300 3.5-5.6L,” or “Is that an EF or EF-S?” and “Are you getting the D3x or the 1Ds Mark III?”

Inevitably someone always says, “It’s not about the camera, it’s about the photographer.” Every time I hear that, I cringe (and I occasionally want to whack that person upside the head). It’s just not that simple.

My nephew, a rather successful photojournalist, said the dreaded, “It’s not about the camera, it’s about the photographer,” line to me once after hearing me rant about wanting a better camera. Okay, sure, he could out-shoot me any day of the week no matter what camera we each had, but I still think gear plays a very important role in image making. It’s not like you see all the pros on the sidelines at a Super Bowl with a pink Sony ultra-slim Cyber-Shot or a Nikon Coolpix.

I’ve seen beautiful pictures shot with a cell phone camera and I’ve seen horrible images taken with expensive SLRs, even with all the nice lenses. Sure the photographer’s eye plays a huge roll in picture making, but having the right gear in the right hands offers a large degree of control over the outcome of the photograph. There are some photos that would be downright difficult to shoot without the option to choose your focal length, your f-stop and shutter speed. Even the glass inside the lens gives a noticeable difference in image quality.

Okay, even I think that 45 autofocus points are overkill, but I could use camera that had an ISO range of 50 – 25600. I may never fully utilize the 63-zone TTL full aperture metering, but I’d be pleased as punch to have up to 5 custom white balance settings. So please, please, don’t tell me it’s not about the camera anymore, because sometimes it is.

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