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Author Topic: Your Camera Does Matter  (Read 155752 times)
Mort54
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« on: March 13, 2008, 10:45:06 AM »
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Give a photographer two cameras - one camera being more capable than the other - and the photographer will take better shots, on average, with the more capable camera. That always seemed pretty obvious to me. The key, of course, is that it's the same photographer using the two cameras.

Give two photographers of differing abilities the same camera, and the better photographer will take better shots, on average, than the lesser photographer. Again pretty obvious.

Give two photographers of differing abilities two different cameras of differing capabilities, and now the outcome isn't so obvious. Which I guess is where the cliche comes from. Except the cliche tries to oversimplify.
« Last Edit: March 13, 2008, 10:54:38 AM by Mort54 » Logged

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« Reply #1 on: March 13, 2008, 12:15:43 PM »
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Quote
Give two photographers of differing abilities two different cameras of differing capabilities, and now the outcome isn't so obvious. Which I guess is where the cliche comes from. Except the cliche tries to oversimplify.
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All cliches simplify reality. I think the bottom line in this case is that both the camera and the photographer matter. But all else being equal, the photographer matters far more. Of course a pinhole camera doesn't have the same picture taking capabilities of, say, a Nikon D3, but then any competent photographer wouldn't expect it to and wouldn't attempt to use it to take a photograph that demands the capabilities of a D3. Certainly, a big part of being a good photographer is understanding what your equipment can and cannot do.

On the other hand, I would expect an Ansel Adams (were we able to beam him alive and kicking into our time) to be able to produce far more compelling images using a pinhole camera than your average three-year old. Likewise with the D3. A good photographer will always produce better photographs with any given camera than a my cousin Marvin would (assuming one could tear him away from ESPN), and will be far better at choosing the right camera for the job in the first place.

Give pinhole cameras to both my cousin and Ansel Adams and set them loose in Yosemite Valley and my cousin will happily snap away at El Capitan and Half Dome. Ansel would be far more likely to hang out at the bar in the Ahwanee Hotel and plan a return trip, armed with his view camera.
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eleanorbrown
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« Reply #2 on: March 13, 2008, 12:40:04 PM »
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My camera and lenses are quite simply extensions of my eyes, brain, heart and soul.   Yes they are important. I must "connect" with my hardware/camera/lens to make creative serious work.  I am drawn to certain specific types of equipment--always have been.  It is that equipment that motivates me and challenges me along with my subject matter and my feelings about that subject matter, of course.  Eleanor
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adion
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« Reply #3 on: March 13, 2008, 12:58:26 PM »
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I totally agree with Micheal, I used to sell cameras in a small shop near Montreal and the first thing i'd ask customers is "what do you plan to shoot" (and then the budget comes into play).

Then after that, we could suggest certain products (ok almost all of them were compacts and not SLR but...) And i'm sorry but when they came back to get they're picture printed, you can really see the difference between a nice piece of equipment and a crappy one...

So in my opinion, if this is true in compact cameras, it's true in all cameras/equipment.
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CVYE
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« Reply #4 on: March 13, 2008, 01:21:07 PM »
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This reminds me of a time when I was __________ ing. I'm a very good _____ er.
On a demo-day, I tried out a number of _________'s.
Each one enabled me to _________ very well.
Then I tried out the cream-of-the-crop _________. I found it had a profound difference on my ___________ ing.

I think people like Ken can get confused because any number of cameras allow for a certain level of competence. But there some cameras that will allow the competent to exceed at a new level.

BTW, ____ = ski
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pss
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« Reply #5 on: March 13, 2008, 01:23:12 PM »
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of course there are differences between cameras, some produce better detail and some can shoot faster....the right camera for the job...that goes without saying....
but there are also different kinds of photography...the kind when you wait for the moment, the kind where you create the moment and then there are some grey areas in between (setting the stage and waiting for the moment you wanted to create).....

i find it funny that ansel adams always is used as an example of a great photographer....which he certainly was, but he was an even better printer and a large part of his art is the developing and printing technique....

there is the old saying that the difference between an amateur and a pro are 500 frames....which to a point is true, not because random shooting will get you better results, but shooting more is like exploring and by that (and during editing) one finds what works better and learns for the next shoot....i would also add to that that the biggest difference is a master printer....nowadays that means someone who can make a file from a canon rebel look better then from a 1dsIII....

and considering that some working pros shoot with disposable cameras and some don't even touch the cameras (the assistants and camera operators do that for them...although i would say that that blurs the line with art directors)....no the camera does not matter at all....

but in reality these people found a way to get their ideas from their heads onto paper...that is the most important thing.....and forums probably can't help you with that....you have to play and find your toy.....

it is funny that in these forums, cameras and are discussed to death....and lens specs are compared in numbers.....but what makes the picture..the character of lenses and the light that is captured..actually rarely does....
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iancl
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« Reply #6 on: March 13, 2008, 01:48:06 PM »
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I thought I'd let Michael know that there are indeed online forums where people debate the merits of various pieces and brands of kitchen equipment for both the serious hobby-chef and the aspiring professional.

For example, try Chowhound.com and the 'cookware' board.

I remember a long posting on chowhound once complaining about people who comment on a cook's pans or appliances and say things like 'I should get a XXX so I could cook this dish' and not realising the importance of the cook. It all seemed very similar to the sort of equipment and counter-the-equipment debates that happen in photo circles.
« Last Edit: March 13, 2008, 01:48:49 PM by iancl » Logged

phule
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« Reply #7 on: March 13, 2008, 01:51:16 PM »
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Uhm.  Ken Rockwell's site is a joke.  It's a gag.  It's meant to poke fun at all manner of things photographic.  Did you read his "About" page?


[[Come on folks. Don't they teach analytical thinking in schools any more? ]]

Indeed.
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DiaAzul
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« Reply #8 on: March 13, 2008, 01:59:50 PM »
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Isn't this all irrelevant?

It's not the camera...get a life.
It's not the photographer...get over your ego

but the person (client) looking at the picture who is the most important
« Last Edit: March 13, 2008, 02:03:17 PM by DiaAzul » Logged

David Plummer    http://photo.tanzo.org/
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« Reply #9 on: March 13, 2008, 02:03:27 PM »
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If his site is a joke, it's one which he and many other take all too seriously.

His disclaimer simply appears to be an excuse for inconsistency.

Michael
« Last Edit: March 13, 2008, 02:05:04 PM by michael » Logged
robjr
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« Reply #10 on: March 13, 2008, 02:16:59 PM »
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Just what the manufacturers want us to believe - the more we buy, the "better" we get...I got over that a long time ago...

I guess Michael Schumacher was just along for the ride while the car won 7 championships...

Yes the equipment matters, and I enjoy the latest technology without shame or guilt. But to say that we need modern tools to accomplish anything is truely naive. Just ask the Incas, or the Egyptians...hell we're still trying to figure out how they did it.
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dakwegmo
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« Reply #11 on: March 13, 2008, 02:28:05 PM »
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Quote
a doctor can't do surgery without a finely honed scalpel
Right, but who would do a better job removing your appendix? A surgeon with a pocket knife, of a boy scout with a finely honed scalpel?

I think the point here is that the equipment only matters insofar as the photographer has the skill to get the most out of it.
« Last Edit: March 13, 2008, 02:33:38 PM by dakwegmo » Logged
Graeme Nattress
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« Reply #12 on: March 13, 2008, 02:32:10 PM »
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The thing I like about  photography is it's a combination of art and science. And in the skilled hands of a great photographer, a better camera can make better images, but in the hands of someone who knows not what they are doing, it's wasted. A picture is the sum of the camera, the technology, the art and the artist. You can't just look exclusively at one aspect or you'll get to the point of absurdity very rapidly....
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David L. Robertson
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« Reply #13 on: March 13, 2008, 03:04:28 PM »
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Michael:
With all due respect, I don't think that you and Ken are in disagreement.  You both believe that the camera is an essential part of the photographic experience and endeavor, as it obviously must be.  Ken makes the very valid point that the purpose of the camera is to make it possible for the photographer to accomplish his or her vision.  Put another way, the best camera is the one that best suits the photographer's intended purpose with the least amount of thought given to the tool and the most amount of thought given to the "seeing" of the final image.

I would suggest that Jay Maisel, who I have had the pleasure of shooting with on two occasions, would succeed in creating striking images with whatever equipment you gave to him.  However, he chooses to use a Nikon D3 because it allows him to capture the images he wants in the environments in which he chooses to shoot.

What Ken was communicating is that many of us get caught up in the technology chase and forget what drove us to photography in the first place, i.e., creating that "wow" image.  Does the camera make a difference?  Of course it does, and Ken would be the first to admit it.  Does the photographer make a bigger difference?  Of course he or she does.  Give a talented photographer and an uninspired photographer the same equipment and the same shooting environment, and I have no doubt which one will be the more likely to produce the "wow" image.

I have also experienced shooting with Michael in the Amazon last year.  Michael, you own or have owned virtually every fine piece of photographic equiment ever made, but can you honestly say that these purchases have improved the artistic, as opposed to technical, quality of your images anywhere near as much as your attention to improving your ability to "see" an image.  If you believe the answer is yes, then good for you.  You are a rare creature in that respect.

Rather than disparaging Ken's message, perhaps the debate would be furthered by concentrating on the insights he offers about the relative importance (not the exclusive importance) of vision over technology.  There is value there.
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Dave Millier
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« Reply #14 on: March 13, 2008, 03:10:14 PM »
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Goodness, Michael, that article is a bit of a rant!  

Of course you are right in a sense but in another sense you are wrong, too. It is a matter of degree and the kind of photography being undertaken. Praise of the Holga might be overdone but so to is the endless deconstruction of the merits of competing camera models which in reality offer almost identical performance.

Oh, and I'm surprised you are not more familiar with the words of Mr Rockwell. Love him or loath him the man is a internet photographers' (anti)legend. A man who can review equipment in great detail by looking at the brochure alone!

ps

Why not do something different and write a review of the Sigma DP-1. I was at the Focus on Imaging 2008 show the other week and managed to persuade Laurence Matson to let me into the Sigma booth to take a close up look at the A0 sized prints they had on display. The Death Valley shots demonstrated excellent print quality. I think a camera you can slip into a shirt pocket and get Canon 5D like quality from for landscape work has got to a lot more interesting than endless reviews of Canon Rebels (even though my 350D gets a lot more use than my 5D)...
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Tim Gray
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« Reply #15 on: March 13, 2008, 03:13:05 PM »
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As Michael often says:  "Horses for courses."

I think it boils down to the intent of the photographer.

Is it possible to create a striking image with a Holga?  Certainly.  

Could Burtynsky execute his intent with a Holga?  No way.

(And let's not confuse the necessary with the sufficient).
« Last Edit: March 13, 2008, 03:14:10 PM by Tim Gray » Logged
alainbriot
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« Reply #16 on: March 13, 2008, 03:18:38 PM »
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Michael is correct in saying that the equipment matters. It does in photography and in any endeavor in which science plays a significant role.

The real issue is that the equipment is not all that matters. The art matters as well.

In my view one's approach should be a 50/50 split between art and science.

Or maybe 60/40.

Definitely not 90/10 or worst 100/0 in either direction.

At least not if one intends to create expressive images.
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Alain Briot
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Quentin
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« Reply #17 on: March 13, 2008, 03:34:01 PM »
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In a literal sense, of course equipment "matters", but that's not the point that most people who say "equipment does not matter" are trying to make.

Bad workmen blame their tools, so the mediocre photographer explains his or her mediocrity on the fact he or she does not have a good enough camera.  Therein lies the root of the problem - the belief that all one needs to release the Ansel Adams trapped inside is a better camera, lens or other gadget.  Its not true historically and its not true now.  In that sense, equipment does not matter nearly as much as the sad gearheads on dpreview would like to believe and I'd be mighty surprised to see a contrary view receive support here.

Quentin
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svein
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« Reply #18 on: March 13, 2008, 03:38:52 PM »
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Wrote a mail to Michael about a week ago suggesting Ken Rockwell as an interesting subject for a future Video Journal interview. To me KR and MR represent opposite extremes when it comes to Internet photo sites. Personally I agree maybe 92% with MR, 3% with KR and 5% with myself, but I still think KR is a pretty smart guy who makes some valid points. Fun to read too.

Anyway, don't know if my mail influenced Michael to check out Ken Rockwell’s site, but I certainly won’t expect an interview anytime soon.
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christiaan
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« Reply #19 on: March 13, 2008, 03:44:13 PM »
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Michael wrote: Camera Does Matter. Yes he is right, a toycamera can make very interesting pictures.
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