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Author Topic: Your camera DOES matter  (Read 9317 times)
Mark D Segal
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« on: March 31, 2008, 08:13:10 AM »
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This is an excellent essay - it boils down to two fundamental propositions which are - at least to my mind - not debatable - (i) using the right tools (and there may be a range) for the purpose; (ii) creating fine photographs is a combination of the photographer and the equipment - not either/or. I hope this essay puts the issue in proper perspective for those who hadn't "got it".
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« Reply #1 on: March 31, 2008, 10:41:47 AM »
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This is an excellent essay - it boils down to two fundamental propositions which are - at least to my mind - not debatable - (i) using the right tools (and there may be a range) for the purpose; (ii) creating fine photographs is a combination of the photographer and the equipment - not either/or. I hope this essay puts the issue in proper perspective for those who hadn't "got it".
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Yes!!!!!
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« Reply #2 on: March 31, 2008, 10:47:02 AM »
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Double Yes - and if this thread go on interminably for 3 or 4 pages, I'll truly despair.
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wolfnowl
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« Reply #3 on: March 31, 2008, 11:54:55 AM »
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Oh, I don't know... we could have 3 or 4 pages of people going 'yes'!!!  ;-)

The only quibble I have with Sean's article, and it's a very minor one, is where he said,

"Could a given photographer make his or her best work with any camera handed to him or her? Maybe, but probably not."

I think a really good photographer can do excellent work with any equipment, given a little time to see what and how the camera sees, and with the understanding that the work from different formats will (obviously) be different.  A watercolour artist can also paint with guache or draw with charcoal, although their first love and primary interest may be in watercolour.

Michael, for example has published images using everything from a Canon G9 to a Leica to a Phase One P45+ and with film scans before that.  In all cases both the photographer AND the equipment are important!  I still remember walking into a camera store back in 1982, just as a woman was leaving with about a couple thousand dollars worth of equipment.  She was going on vacation and 'wanted to take good pictures'.  After she left I turned to the owner and said, 'She is going to be SO disappointed!'

So, my thanks to Sean for his article and especially to Michael for providing all of the reviews, articles, information, expertise...  it's a long list.

Mike.
« Last Edit: March 31, 2008, 11:56:16 AM by wolfnowl » Logged

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TaoMaas
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« Reply #4 on: March 31, 2008, 12:04:21 PM »
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The only quibble I have with Sean's article, and it's a very minor one, is where he said,

"Could a given photographer make his or her best work with any camera handed to him or her? Maybe, but probably not."
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That jumped out at me, too, because it was a total misread of the discussion.  Nobody has said that a skilled photographer can do his best work with any camera.
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n1r0t
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« Reply #5 on: March 31, 2008, 12:59:35 PM »
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What a great essay! I appreciated his musical instrument examples since I'm a classical musician (undergrad and grad degrees in performance) and photographer. Give me a student model instrument and I can still play rings around a student with my professional model instrument. However, to fully express the music, I've search for years for the equipment that will literally "get out of my way" and let me make music.

Nuff said...
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Plekto
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« Reply #6 on: March 31, 2008, 02:47:27 PM »
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Great article.  

IMO, the best people at any craft are the ones who chose one thing and stick with it until they know it better than anyone else.  That doesn't mean you shouldn't have different cameras, of course, but a person who has shot a few thousand pictures on an old Rolleicord is likely to obtain better results than a guy with a new fancy toy he's just starting out with.  IME, it takes about 5-10 years of shooting to get enough experience to start making truly great results on a consistent basis.  Of course, that's assuming you have a talent - some do, some don't.  It's a lot like playing a guitar.  The first few years you pretty much stink.  So does everyone.  It's just not something that you get good at immediately, no matter how expensive the tool is.

The worst are the types who change their gear every few months or couple of years and never really get down to the basics of:  lens.  box.  film.  

Me? I have a love of old rangefinders and TLRs precisely because of this.  It's all brutally simple and direct and in my case, has less to get in the way of my shots.

Of course, I need a new camera as my rangefinder is dying...  whole other topic...
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« Reply #7 on: March 31, 2008, 03:05:45 PM »
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No one seriously believes equipment does not matter at all.  But to take the piano analogy used in the article further, I'd rather hear Rachmaninov on an upright piano than Joe Blow on a Steinway grand

Quentin
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Er1kksen
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« Reply #8 on: April 01, 2008, 05:01:27 PM »
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I think it's overlooked that the camera not only matters for a skilled photographer and the way they work, but it's important for the amateur and how they learn. Sure, I could have improved and become a better photography using just my faulty OM-1 and Canon powershot A10, but getting an OM-2 expanded my horizons and helped me improve far more than I would have otherwise, and getting my first DLSR took this even further. The equipment is not an irrelevance for any photographer. Sure, it's not the only factor, but every piece of photographic equipment has its limits, some more than others. Sure, I could get (and have gotten) good pictures from pinhole cameras made of cardboard, but it would be useless for most of what I like to shoot.
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TaoMaas
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« Reply #9 on: April 01, 2008, 05:13:24 PM »
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Sure, I could have improved and become a better photography using just my faulty OM-1 and Canon powershot A10, but getting an OM-2 expanded my horizons and helped me improve far more than I would have otherwise, and getting my first DLSR took this even further.
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And you couldn't have developed with say...oh...a Canon F1 or a Pentax LX? Or would that part not have mattered that much?  
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Ray
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« Reply #10 on: April 01, 2008, 07:17:03 PM »
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No one seriously believes equipment does not matter at all.  But to take the piano analogy used in the article further, I'd rather hear Rachmaninov on an upright piano than Joe Blow on a Steinway grand

Quentin
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And I'd rather hear Mozart play his music on an 18th century piano, which in photography terms was the equivalent of a very modest camera, greatly lacking in the rich tonality and extended dynamic range of a P45+ (or a Steinway Grand), and didn't even have as many keys as a modern piano (61 as opposed to 88).
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Er1kksen
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« Reply #11 on: April 01, 2008, 10:18:19 PM »
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And you couldn't have developed with say...oh...a Canon F1 or a Pentax LX? Or would that part not have mattered that much?   
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Sure, either of those would have worked just as well. These are all cameras in the same approximate class of performance. The difference is between different classes of equipment rather than different brands.
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lovell
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« Reply #12 on: April 01, 2008, 10:42:09 PM »
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And I'd rather hear Mozart play his music on an 18th century piano, which in photography terms was the equivalent of a very modest camera, greatly lacking in the rich tonality and extended dynamic range of a P45+ (or a Steinway Grand), and didn't even have as many keys as a modern piano (61 as opposed to 88).
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Wait....if Mozart had the choice of a much better piano at the time, surely he would've used it instead, yea?

Of course  
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After composition, everything else is secondary--Alfred Steiglitz, NYC, 1927.

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« Reply #13 on: April 02, 2008, 02:35:22 AM »
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Wait....if Mozart had the choice of a much better piano at the time, surely he would've used it instead, yea?

Of course 
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Sure he would, and here's the source of the confusion. Would Mozart have written more sublime music if he'd had a modern piano?

Sean's article makes reference to musicians and other artists preferring modern tools. Do we therefore assume if such tools had not been available, these artisits' works would have been less artistic, less notable, less enduring, less worthy?

Bach is considered by many to be the greatest composer who ever lived. His works are frequently played today on the modern piano, yet the piano wasn't invented in his time. The keyboard of his day was the harpsichord.
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Nick Rains
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« Reply #14 on: April 02, 2008, 02:40:50 AM »
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Sure he would, and here's the source of the confusion. Would Mozart have written more sublime music if he'd had a modern piano?

Sean's article makes reference to musicians and other artists preferring modern tools. Do we therefore assume if such tools had not been available, these artisits' works would have been less artistic, less notable, less enduring, less worthy?

Bach is considered by many to be the greatest composer who ever lived. His works are frequently played today on the modern piano, yet the piano wasn't invented in his time. The keyboard of his day was the harpsichord.
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Good point Ray.

The piano is a poor analogy, it is used more to perform the music and not so much to write it. No doubt a superior piano would have been nice to have during the composing but I don't think it would affect the outcome.

At a concert, well that's a different matter.

Poor analogy aside, there are plenty of other good analogies where the tools do affect the outcomes, creatively speaking.
« Last Edit: April 02, 2008, 02:41:15 AM by Nick Rains » Logged

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NikosR
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« Reply #15 on: April 02, 2008, 03:00:28 AM »
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Good point Ray.

The piano is a poor analogy, it is used more to perform the music and not so much to write it. No doubt a superior piano would have been nice to have during the composing but I don't think it would affect the outcome.

At a concert, well that's a different matter.

Poor analogy aside, there are plenty of other good analogies where the tools do affect the outcomes, creatively speaking.
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Quite OT but I'm under the impression that composers most always compose having in mind (or at least broadely considering) the capabilities of the instruments (and the human players) to reproduce what they have composed. Yes, there have been examples of 'unplayable' pieces but these are just the exceptions to the rule.

In this sense, yes maybe Mozart or Bach would have composed different music if they were aware of more capable instruments.

I think there is no one way relationship composer / composition -> instrument but a two way one composer / composition <-> instrument. And I would suggest this holds true in other arts where the instrument / tools plays a role.

In that sense, the music analogy might be a good example in what we are discussing, although not in the sense that Ray intented it to be.
« Last Edit: April 02, 2008, 03:01:39 AM by NikosR » Logged

Nikos
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« Reply #16 on: April 05, 2008, 05:36:48 PM »
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It's obvious to me that my fast f1.4 lens and my low noise D300 gives me shots I couldn't get lesser gear. I like pushing the boundaries of what the equiptment offers. Of course the camera matters.
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MarkWelsh
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« Reply #17 on: April 07, 2008, 05:04:15 PM »
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Actually, the musical instrument analogy was originally mine. I also likened cameras to a writer's favourite typewriter, pen or word processor, among other points.
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Ray
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« Reply #18 on: April 07, 2008, 06:15:18 PM »
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Quite OT but I'm under the impression that composers most always compose having in mind (or at least broadely considering) the capabilities of the instruments (and the human players) to reproduce what they have composed. Yes, there have been examples of 'unplayable' pieces but these are just the exceptions to the rule.


In that sense, the music analogy might be a good example in what we are discussing, although not in the sense that Ray intented it to be.
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Yes, that is exactly the sense I meant when using the analogy. As I already mentioned, the modern piano has 88 keys as opposed to the 61 keys of the pianos of Mozart's day.

Beethoven's music has some lower notes written for the piano than is contained in Mozart's music. Of course composers write music for the capabilities of the instruments that are going to be used, including the human voice. You simply cannot play all of Beethoven's piano music on a Mozart period piano.

Can we therefore claim that Beethoven's music is generally of greater artistic merit than Mozart's?

I should amend that last statement for the benefit of the literally minded. Can we therefore claim, on the basis that that the Beethoven period piano was a more sophisticated piano than the Mozart period piano, that Beehoven's music is of greater artistic merit?
« Last Edit: April 07, 2008, 06:24:14 PM by Ray » Logged
lovell
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« Reply #19 on: April 11, 2008, 04:01:10 PM »
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Actually, the musical instrument analogy was originally mine. I also likened cameras to a writer's favourite typewriter, pen or word processor, among other points.
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Not a sound analogy, and no pun intended.

The camera contributes directly to the quality of the image.  

The typewriter DOES NOT contribute to the novel.  

The musical instrument DOES NOT contribute to the musical composition.  

The same exact musical composition can be created on ANY correctly working piano of ANY quality of build.  So long as the keys provide near accurate tune, that's all that is required.  Same for guitars and other instruments.

Apples and oranges....
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After composition, everything else is secondary--Alfred Steiglitz, NYC, 1927.

I'm not afraid of death.  I just don't want to be there when it happens--Woody Allen, Annie Hall, '70s
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