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Thread: It's the photographer not the camera - or is it?

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    rpcrowe's Avatar
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    It's the photographer not the camera - or is it?

    We often hear that "It's the photographer, not the camera, that makes a good picture!" I will buy into that statement to a certain degree. Without a doubt, an expert photographer using a lesser camera will produce better imagery than an incompetent photographer using a top-line camera! That is usually the rationale given to back up the previous statement...

    However, a good photographer shooting with a top-line camera will most often produce better pictures with that camera than he would using an inferior camera. This photographer will be able to shoot in a greater variety of venues, such as in low available light...

    This was brought to mind recently as I was researching a bridge camera for my son-in-law and with a possibility that I might get one for my own use as a "bring everywhere" tool. I had forgotten just how frustrating it was using an Olympus C5050X to shoot my dog portraits...

    The culprit was shutter lag which caused me to miss many great expressions and which often left me with images of puppy tails as the puppies exited the frame in the space of time between pressing the shutter buttion and acquiring the image. Even with pre-focusing it took what seemed to be an eternity for the camera to capture the shot...

    How about shooting in relatively low light levels with a lens that has a smaller aperture? That is an exercise in frustration as is trying to achieve selective focus using a camera with a tiny sensor size combined with a ridiculously small aperture at maximum focal length...

    As far as DSLR lenses go, the kit lenses can achieve pretty decent imagery when shoot in good light, especially if tripod mounted using f/8 or f/11. However, we often read posts from photographers with kit lenses asking about shooting amateur basketball and hockey games. These venues are often poorly lit and the lower level equipment is not up to the task...

    Good equipment is there for a reason and it allows the photographer to stetch the envelope in getting shots that would be impossible with lesser equipment. Professional and high-level amateur photographers are just like everyone else. They would like to save money! If there were no difference between the capability of a Rebel with a kit lens that you can buy for say $700 U.S. Dollars and a Canon 1Dx with a tp-line lens which will set you back over ten times that amount; Canon could not sell the 1Dx and "L" lenses would be impossible to move off the store shelves.

    Do we all need the absolute best in equipment - certainly not! In fact, some photographers would not do much better using a seven thousand dollar camera than they do with a cheap P&S. However, there is a niche in the photo world for every level of camera quality...

    However, we cannot judge the capability of cameras and lenses by the images posted on the Internet. Entry level and inexpensive cameras are most often used by less experienced photographers while very expensive, top-line gear is most often used by professionals and advanced amateurs. The difference between the imagery shot by duffers with entry level cameras and experts shooting with top-line gear is, of course, night and day!

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    Moderator Donald's Avatar
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    Re: It's the photographer not the camera - or is it?

    Quote Originally Posted by rpcrowe View Post
    Good equipment is there for a reason and it allows the photographer to stretch the envelope in getting shots that would be impossible with lesser equipment.
    For me that is the crux of the issue. We all have the opportunity to produce magnificent images if we work within our own and the equipment's parameters of maximum performance. The fact is, for me, that the top end gear widens the parameters, in terms of the equipment. Of itself, it doesn't guarantee better images, but it does open up options for better images from a wider range of situations.

    A very, very helpful post that will serve members well in the future. For that reason, I've added some tags to it so that anyone searching using tags will hopefully find it.
    Last edited by Donald; 16th December 2012 at 05:44 PM.

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    Re: It's the photographer not the camera - or is it?

    An interesting post that I can wholeheartedly agree with. I purchased a Canon G2 at the beginning of the year. It was the only way I could get started with a very limited budget. The post of Richard's has highlighted the problems that I have encountered. While it certainly doesn't stop you from taking pictures. It most certainly does restrict on the final outcome of the image. As I have grown and understood more about photography my frustration levels have increased with not being able to get the image that is envisaged at the time. Initially, this was down to my 'beginner' status but having tried lots of variants you begin to realise that some shots are just not possible with the camera. I also find that I am building an over-reliance on PP software to 'fix' things that I think I should be capable of getting right 'in camera'.

    I think that the kit you can own is down to the budget you have and how far you want to push yourself. I can certainly imagine that if I cannot move onto another level of equipment I can see it being very frustrating and could well lead to giving up because of it!

    Cheers for now

    Gary
    Last edited by oldgreygary; 16th December 2012 at 06:28 PM.

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    Re: It's the photographer not the camera - or is it?

    For someone like me, the camera is pretty close to the determiner of the quality of the photo that I get. But that is because I am a very limited photographer. There are people who have a wonderful photographic sense, who can learn the quirks of whatever equipment they have and find the artistic possibilities in that equipment. I suspect we've all seen low-res cell phone photos taken by serious photographers that we would have been proud to have taken, but we just don't have the cleverness to recognize the artistic possibilities among the many limitations that the tool presents. Ultimately, as in everything else, it's a poor workman that blames his tools. Or so ISTM.

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    Re: It's the photographer not the camera - or is it?

    With regard to missed pictures ...I fear a side effect of the automation we have today is that becuase one relies upon it so much one is reluctant to work manually. So one plugs on with the less than perfect auto system hoping one will get lucky and get the shot. There maybe a degree of laziness involved too such as not bothering to get out and use the CPL becuase mostly one doesn't need it but regretting not using it for the occasional shot which needs it.

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    Re: It's the photographer not the camera - or is it?

    Hi Richard,

    I agree -- in fact I'm sure I've written something similar here in the past.

    As I see it, it's all about limitations of the 'tog and the equipment. While it's the 'tog who's the limiting factor then the equipment remains "back stage" (eg put me in a Formula 1 car and I still won't be able to go any faster than in my current car) - but past a certain point it can become the camera that holds one back (eg put world champion Formula 1 driver Sebastian Vettle in a mini and he's going to finish last).

    To be honest, a lot of my stuff I could get with a lessor camera - but the high-end cameras just make it easier.

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    Re: It's the photographer not the camera - or is it?

    As a spinoff here, as we have lots of people really believing that they have grown out their instep model and they then ask us about upgrading, asking what camera would suit them best. Most often, these people are newcomers to the art and haven't yet exploited the possibilities their present equipment has. In photo forums, this opinion is often tedious, and I have almost completely laid off answering those postings that deal with upgrading for the sake of upgrading, when a newbie has had the camera for a year and believes she must be seasoned enough for an upgrade; mostly believing that the instep model is an impediment to further growth and that images will become better with a more advanced camera.

    Just as when you learn playing an instrument, you really can use the instep model for many years, and I would generally think that upgrading would be the thing when you really have something tangible where you know that you lack something with your present instrument, that you are likely to get with the new one. Even if it is only that you might fancy it more.

    But sometimes you run into the exception. You'll see that rogue figure whether it is music or any other art. Once in a while, we meet someone who is really gifted. And then we know that the sky is the limit, and this violinist deserves a Stradivarius, or this photographer really will be able to hone her skills better with a really advanced camera with just the right lenses, hand picked.

    I met that photographer not long ago on a discussion forum, a complete newbie, who asked for equipment for product photography, bakery. We scribbled back and forth, and many gave opinions, and it boiled down more or less to ”product photos can be taken with any equipment, even a lowly compact camera from several years back.” But her decision was to buy a Canon EOS 1100D, on advice from a camera salesman, as she pronounced that she wanted to take images with sharp subject and blurred background.

    Then she came back on the forum, with pictures. Asking how she could get such a nice blurred background that can be seen in other pictures, as she would not get that nice blurred background with the kit lens that came with the camera. So we got to the fact that only at longest focal length would that little zoom produce a blurred background, and if that wasn't enough, maybe a 50 mm 1.8 lens could do the trick, but nothing less. We also pointed out some other problems with her images, particularly the lighting, as there was a mixture between window daylight and a lightbulb somewhere.

    So she got that 50 mm f/1.8, shut off that lightbulb and came back again on the forum with pictures. PICTURES! This young lady is a genius. It was in October that she was a complete newbie, and just a few weeks ago, she produced images that a pro would be proud of, with her instep model DSLR. In our talks, she has rather clearly pointed out that the budget must be kept low, so she has not been talked into buying any better gear, not just for now, but it is amply clear, that for example a Nikon D800 with an 85 mm 1.4 lens might be better for the work she does, or a FF Canon with the 85 f/1.2. It is also amply clear that such excesses are outside the budget.

    But I wanted to share, because I am really happy, that my coaching has led to a progress that I never saw before, and I am sure that this gifted young lady might some day be even greater than she already is. Whenever I see a new post of hers in the forum, a smile gets to my face, and when I open it, often there is yet another surprise. And she's actually doing more or less the same thing, learning to do her stuff, to document the cakes she makes, cakes that are small works of very volatile art, ephemeral artwork to be consumed.

    Here are links to some of the discussion threads we had, with images she made after she got her new camera in October:
    http://foto.ifokus.se/discussions/50...omantisk-tarta
    http://foto.ifokus.se/discussions/50...?discussions-1
    http://foto.ifokus.se/discussions/50...?discussions-1
    http://foto.ifokus.se/discussions/50...b0-jultarta#22
    Last edited by Donald; 16th December 2012 at 09:03 PM.

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    Re: It's the photographer not the camera - or is it?

    That is indeed a happy tale Urban ... thanks for sharing

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    Re: It's the photographer not the camera - or is it?

    There are many interesting and important points already made on this thread: should be compulsory reading for all the “what should I upgrade to now?” questions.

    One point I would lie to pick up on – and add to:
    All gear has its limitations.
    Knowing what EACH of those limitations is, is very powerful knowledge.
    Seeking ways to exceed those limits of the gear by developing one’s own technique, skills and mastery of the craft is even more a very worthwhile self-development exercise.

    There is much which can be achieved with an entry level DSLR and a Kit Lens – and for one example – working out what can (and cannot) be captured at the BBall game and then planning a technique as to how to best get what is possible (and perhaps achieving a bit more): is very useful.

    WW

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    Re: It's the photographer not the camera - or is it?

    But, isn't it the photographer who chooses what level equipment they want to work with ?

    Unless your are a professional staff photographer working with equipment and on assignments handed to you, I suspect nearly every member of this forum went out with their own money to buy the equipment they selected themselves, not counting guidance and recommendations received to make that selection.

    Plus, another factor is that there is no Universal camera. No matter what a photographer chooses, a specific camera will be great for some situations and perform poorly in others. So, the very selection of the camera itself needs to take into account the subject matter and what the photographer will have in front of the lens and what images will be created.

    For me, my SLRs are not my idea of ideal cameras. The lens and camera body are fixed and stationary to each other. You have no control over the plane of focus, there is no means to compensate for parallax distortions, and I feel that even the 20.7 x 13.8 mm and 36 x 24 mm image sizes are ridiculously small. I chose to compromise and later get my "top of the line" camera when I could afford it, a 4x5 inch film negative view camera, because I want complete control and the illustrative photography that I conduct would benefit by a camera with that level of control.

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    Re: It's the photographer not the camera - or is it?


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    Re: It's the photographer not the camera - or is it?

    Quote Originally Posted by Steaphany View Post
    But, isn't it the photographer who chooses what level equipment they want to work with ?
    Of course very much so.

    Quote Originally Posted by Steaphany View Post
    For me, my SLRs are not my idea of ideal cameras. The lens and camera body are fixed and stationary to each other. You have no control over the plane of focus, there is no means to compensate for parallax distortions, and I feel that even the 20.7 x 13.8 mm and 36 x 24 mm image sizes are ridiculously small. I chose to compromise and later get my "top of the line" camera when I could afford it, a 4x5 inch film negative view camera, because I want complete control and the illustrative photography that I conduct would benefit by a camera with that level of control.
    I guess "parallax" was a glitch there, but keystoning is a well known problem, although it is very easily fixed in post production. However tilt is a nice feature, and the newer mirror-free systems work better with tilt lenses than DSLR cameras as focus can be checked over large part of the viewfinder area.

    A friend of mine, working professionally with her own studio, who does just any type of work, recently migrated to digital photography, because it got more difficult to get film and have it processed, and prices were rising. She also experienced a quality difference between the print jobs she could get from film compared to digital. Her old cameras were a Sinar P 9x12 and a Hasselblad 500C from the sixties. As a reserve for the eventual breakdown of the Hasselblad, she also had a Rolleiflex.

    She didn't find any current digital camera suiting her needs, so she got an old Rollei SL66 and equipped it with a digital back from Phase One. It tilts only one way, and the tilt is not in the center of the lens, but she can live with that. All lenses tilt, and the rest is done in post production. Now she controls most of the colour process herself, and her prints come out better than before. The SL66 could replace both the Sinar and the Hasselblad. Her only present woe is that the slightly modified SL66 would break down, so she is getting another body too, as she feels uncomfortable with having the Hasselblad with film back as backup.

    And I don't envision her needs myself, so I use a much smaller camera, but tilt was a feature that I wanted very much too, and that's one of the reasons why I got a camera without mirror system. It is ideal for most of what I do. Of course I would like to have a Rollei SL66 with a 65+ digital back too, but my budget says no.

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    Re: It's the photographer not the camera - or is it?

    I loved my Minolta X-700 and TMax 3200 pushed to 6400 in developing back in the 90's, but it in no way comes remotely close to my 7D for the sports I shoot today. And, that being said, my 7D is not enough to be doing the photojournalism and events I embark upon. My life would be much easier with a 1DX, but sometimes you have to just make due.

    Well put thread Richard!

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    Re: It's the photographer not the camera - or is it?

    Hello, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you all first.
    Glad to be keep learning in this forum.
    while you talk about camera or photohrapher, may be I need to add another factor. The person who receive the picture.
    while you guys are pro, fever guys....there is no limit to everything.
    interesting I found out that while I take photo for family, friends, they just don't have a high expectation. They only care about whether you take the whole person in the photo ( Which in many sense contrary to photographer's idea.)
    while we discuss about what 7D, iDx...they will ask why I need a big camera as 7D ( or the first 20D) while other camera can be so handy.
    they will even look odd in seeing 7d plus an 580 flash.
    adding a custom flash bracket, they almost scream.
    so, to average people who don't know photographer, or don't understand how to look at photo, top line photo from top line equipment not necessary satisfy their " why not full head, why some hair cut off.........."
    With more understand on how photography works, we start to understand why equipment can make what level of photo.
    so the world can be very different.
    enjoy.

    Bill

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    Re: It's the photographer not the camera - or is it?

    Quote Originally Posted by Colin Southern View Post
    Hi Richard,

    I agree -- in fact I'm sure I've written something similar here in the past.

    As I see it, it's all about limitations of the 'tog and the equipment. While it's the 'tog who's the limiting factor then the equipment remains "back stage" (eg put me in a Formula 1 car and I still won't be able to go any faster than in my current car) - but past a certain point it can become the camera that holds one back (eg put world champion Formula 1 driver Sebastian Vettle in a mini and he's going to finish last).

    To be honest, a lot of my stuff I could get with a lessor camera - but the high-end cameras just make it easier.
    ...very similar to the analogy I use...

    Imagine three drivers... a learner, an experienced driver and a professional F-1 driver.

    Put each of them in a Honda Civic and record their lap times around a F-1 circuit. The learner will be the slowest, then the experienced driver and then the F-1 driver. In the case of the learner, it's the driver that is is the limiting factor. The experienced and F-1 drivers will be pretty close with the F-1 driver being slightly faster. The car is now becoming the limiting factor.

    Now put those three drivers in a F-1 race car. The learner will just get frustrated as he/she stalls the car off the line or spins the car on the first corner. The experienced driver will get round the course but realize just how much he/she has to learn. The F-1 driver will whip round the course lapping both and then ask the mechanics to tweak the wings because he/she feels they need more downforce in turn four.

    (Signed... someone with a big red 'L' on the back)

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    Re: It's the photographer not the camera - or is it?

    Quote Originally Posted by CP140 View Post
    ...very similar to the analogy I use...

    Imagine three drivers... a learner, an experienced driver and a professional F-1 driver.

    Put each of them in a Honda Civic and record their lap times around a F-1 circuit. The learner will be the slowest, then the experienced driver and then the F-1 driver. In the case of the learner, it's the driver that is is the limiting factor. The experienced and F-1 drivers will be pretty close with the F-1 driver being slightly faster. The car is now becoming the limiting factor.

    Now put those three drivers in a F-1 race car. The learner will just get frustrated as he/she stalls the car off the line or spins the car on the first corner. The experienced driver will get round the course but realize just how much he/she has to learn. The F-1 driver will whip round the course lapping both and then ask the mechanics to tweak the wings because he/she feels they need more downforce in turn four.

    (Signed... someone with a big red 'L' on the back)
    The analogy can be drawn a bit further.

    Sometimes the camera does matter, just as the car would. Imagine that it is not a race track, but some daily chore, as moving stuff, taking kids to school, maybe driving a city buss with elderly people that are not as agile as youth, maybe needing a walker to get to the bus stop. Your skill has to be different, and the technique is vastly different from the seasoned F1 driver's.

    I guess it's evident that the F1 car is not the most suitable tool for many transportation needs, just as there is no such thing as the perfect camera for everything. Possibly, the skills of the F1 driver might even be counter-productive to some of the goals one tries to achieve with another tool. On the race track, it's fairly simple, you must get around at the fastest possible pace, without any accident. It takes a certain skill, that mostly is unusable in real life situations, in heavy traffic, or when the goods or people you transport need special attention to just how you do it.

    In the end, the analogy is limping quite a bit, although we might also fathom, that there are no absolute terms when it comes to what equipment is "best". The adjective good is a subjective value word, and the best camera certainly is the one that best suits the user and the user's intentions. Image quality maybe isn't about noise, colour depth, resolution or dynamic range at the end of the day, but could be what the image conveys to the viewer. Hence the most suitable tool for the task as well as the skills that are needed can vary with the situation. An artful bus driver that cares for the comfort of his passengers might perhaps not be the fastest around the race track, but in many real life situations, he could be a far better driver than the F1 specialist. And he would take the F1 car around the track unscathed.

    Creating images is art, and there are various tools. A good craftsman will choose his tool well, and most can get along with at tool that is not perfect for the job, but can do it. An artist will create art with available tools and can often stretch the limitations that would hold the non-artist back.

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    Re: It's the photographer not the camera - or is it?

    Quote Originally Posted by William W View Post
    Seeking ways to exceed those limits of the gear by developing one’s own technique, skills and mastery of the craft is even more a very worthwhile self-development exercise.
    Absoulety, that's the beauty of developing a hobby like photography.

  18. #18

    Re: It's the photographer not the camera - or is it?

    Quote Originally Posted by Andrew1 View Post
    And yes sometimes (like 99% of the shots I take) It is the camera!!

    I subscribe to the line that "It's the Photographer not the Camera". From my stand point, I find myself continually asking the question "a camera is a tool, how do you want to use it?" Understanding/ defining that is the most important part!! Beginners, myself included, get caught up in the rat race for better gear; instead of taking the time to refine what we have learned; and defining what and how we want to shoot. Knowing what and how you want to shoot is paramount to what kind of gear will suit you best. Upgrades and purchases should be based on that premise.

    I have been shooting my Pany GF2 camera for over a year now; I am still finding the limits of features, capabilities of other aspects, and coming up with ways to make a shot work. There is a steep a learning curve and I'm still climbing! I have never counted my photography as a strong suit. A recent experience, may shed some light. I met a "well to do" Photog at my "Coffee and Cars" after swapping phones and viewing each others work, he looked shocked, and asked if I taken my pictures with my M4/3? (turns out later, that disbelief is more fitting for how he felt) After several collaborative outings and shooting different venues, he offered to purchase a FF camera for me. While this is a once in a lifetime opportunity, I declined. I have looked extensively at DSLR's but there are features about my M4/3 that I am not ready to give up on. Size and price being two substantial reasons!! There are other places that I would rather invest my money. To further the perspective; in the process of learning I have mastered more ways to overcome my cameras shortcomings than I would have on the latest and greatest DSLR. I know those experiences have made me a better photographer. Craftsman who know the capabilities of their tools will generate better work.

    That takes care of the technical side, but there is an intangible element that confirms that It's the Photographer not the Camera. Think of your favorite photo, what is that "intangible element" that attracts you to the photo? That is precisely the Photographers work. We apply rules and systems to show how Art and the eyes work. These rules and systems are how we study, so we can learn. The tool used by the photographer, is a camera. We have all seen "first pics from my Pro Canon or Nikon DSLR" on the internet, only to view images that look like they were taken with a Cell phone. We know its not the camera, as we have seen what they can do in capable hands.

    Thanks
    Ryo
    Last edited by Ryogenetic; 18th December 2012 at 12:10 PM.

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    Re: It's the photographer not the camera - or is it?

    I can't help it, I bump this thread by coming back to this newbie young lady, who just posted another thread with a couple of images, and I am fully convinced that it is the photographer that makes the picture. I don't post direct links to the images, as they are posted rather small, and if opened directly aren't presented too well, but if you click them in the very thread, they come up in a light box, and I really don't know what to say about this, but it surely beats what I would have expected from someone after two months with a camera.
    http://foto.ifokus.se/discussions/50...?discussions-1

    I think it is absolutely crazy. This young lady's got it. Of course she could get similar results with a much better camera, but I think she could do it with just any camera. It isn't the camera that makes the picture.

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    Re: It's the photographer not the camera - or is it?

    Quote Originally Posted by Inkanyezi View Post
    It isn't the camera that makes the picture.
    I think it's BOTH. It's just the percentage that varies.

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