What do you want to shoot? is a better question than specification peeping.

April 02, 2015  •  Leave a Comment

I was participating in an online photography forum when someone asked "Camera XXX or Camera YYY??? And y"

Simple enough question, and there were many replies that pointed out the relative specification advantages of one or the other.  All either partisan Canon vs Nikon or delving into the arcana that are modern camera specifications.

I dared to ask "what are you intending to shoot?"  and a reply came back from one of the forum participants "which things the XXX shoots better than the YYY" and this leads me to my point.  Photography is a very technical art.  As a form, it is one of the few modern art forms, only being around for about 200 years - compare that to poetry or painting and you see what I mean by new.  As it is very technical, discussion can quickly devolve into specification comparison.  To me, this misses the point, and the point of my question.

EVERY camera is a compromise.  Let me repeat that.  EVERY camera is a compromise.  Be it price, low light performance, sensor size, frame rate, sensor color performance.  All of these have trade-offs.  A $60,000 Hasselblad is a very nice camera, great for studio work - and it is useless for the roller derby and fire performers I capture images of.  It doesn't have the frame rate or the low light performance.  My 5D MkIII is excellent for those applications.

And back to my question "what are you intending to shoot".  It turns out the original poster shoots kids sports and low light macro, had already invested in some nice lenses for one particular system and has a decent crop sensor DSLR.  I compared the specs of the camera he has and the ones he listed as choices.  Turns out, the camera he currently has is a better fit for what he wants to shoot.  A little more questioning it was revealed that he was worried that the 70-200mm lens he was eying would not work with his crop sensor camera.  Thing is, it will.

The point is, we can get wrapped up in specs all we want, but we need to consider what we are shooting first and ignore the hype and marketing BS until we can list what it is we need and what it is about our current gear that does not get us where we want.  I am a big proponent of keeping the gear you have until your photography outgrows it.  Gear will not make you better.  It gives more reach for particular images, but it can't make the images for you, and the most expensive camera with rocking specs may be absolutely awful for what you need. 

The same goes for lenses.  Are you shooting in studio? So, you are mostly at f/6is-11?  And you are still working on getting composition & focus right? Then why do you NEED an 85mm f/1.x lens? Yes the 85 is sharper at F/8.0 than your kit lens, but is your photography at a point where you can tell the difference?

Absolutely treat yourself to an indulgence once in a while, but don't get sucked in by the gear companies.  Evaluate what features are important and select on those.  You will have a much happier time with photography if the gear you have is a good match for what images you want to make.

PS: if anyone wants to send me a Hassie...


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