Thursday, December 18, 2008

Tools: How Much Camera Do You Need?

It's one of the first questions photographers ask each other: "What do you shoot with?"

I have had many cameras in my life. When I first went professional, the digital SLR was still out of my league. I was shooting with the Minolta Dimage 7i and then the Dimage A2, which had a great zoom and image stabilization in the body...the same tech that Sony acquired from them and now has on their Alpha line of camera bodies.
I took some great images with that Minolta. And I made money. To me that was the definition of Pro. Of course I would have loved a new camera, but I was trying to minimize the debt side of the business equation. I triggered external flashes, and shot great stuff both indoors and out.

Then, a couple of years ago, I could afford that SLR. I chose the Canon 30D, middle range as far as cameras go. I still use it on virtually every shoot. Soon, I'll pick up a 40D as my main body. I checked out the 50D and the increase in resolution is not as good as you might expect from the 40D, and it's 50% more. So I'll work the 40D like a rented mule and wait a couple more years for the 60D or maybe even shift gears to another platform.

Most digital SLRs will take great shots. In fact I think the glass you put in front of it is more important than the body. I have had Tamron 2.8 lenses now for several years and I like the balance of affordability and great low-light capability. Plus they offer a tremendous warranty which I've used already. I shoot a lot at the beach in Erie, and sand in the lens is a problem.
My advice to aspiring pros is to not worry so much about the camera. 8 Megapixels is enough to make 95% of what a new portrait photographer would need to do.

A case in point: On my vacation to Maine this summer, I traveled only with my Pentax waterproof point-and-shoot and a monopod. We hiked Cadillac Mountain and toured a lot of the coast, and I tool dozens of great images. One of my lighthouse shots from that camera was turned into a 30x40 canvas gallery wrap, and it is sharp and wonderful. See the attached photo for the original image, enhanced lightly in PaintShop Pro.

Now, I won't recommend going on professional shoots with only a pocket camera, but consider that you don't need to spend thousands on an expensive camera setup to take good images. Learn your camera body and lenses, and learn good lighting, composition and posing, and you can take great images in any setting.

1 comment:

  1. Some of my best photographs were taking with my compact Diggie. It's not the camera, it's the grey matter behind it that makes the photo.

    That said, knowing how to work the equipment is second. What you work with is nothing if you can't operate it well.

    I use a Nikon D40x and I'm quite happy with it. It lacks a few bells and whistles but I don't mind. I have the features I wanted and I use them to my advantage.