Thursday, March 19, 2009

So what do you shoot with?

I've been putting off this discussion for a long time, but I'd be a poor blogger if I continued to procrastinate on this one. After all, this is a blog about photography.

The question I get asked the most often when I'm at craft fairs or other venues where my prints are being displayed is, "What do you shoot with?"

I hate answering the question because there's a lot of folks who think that the camera is the key to everything that is important, and the dummy behind the camera doesn't really do much. So honestly, I talk down the equipment that I shoot with. I will talk about how old it is or that it's not the biggest/baddest thing on the block and that the camera itself is not that important. I'm not believed very often, even though it is true that I shoot with a relatively modest setup.

I also used to emphasize that a camera was just a box that we let light into and it really didn't matter what you were shooting because it was that dummy behind the camera that did the work. And I can't say that this is always the case.

Yes, that sounds contradictory, but it's not. Let me explain.

The advances that we've made in clarity, speed, and ISO sensitivity in the last 10 years of digital photography is incredible. So much progress has been made that it allowed for the near total extermination of film camera production. There has not been a significant pro or prosumer level camera put out in over 5 years. In the early days, the word was we'd need somewhere between 24-30 megapixel cameras to match the quality of film images. We now do with 6-8Mp that which we said was impossible--make a 11x14 print that compared favorably with a print made from Kodak Gold 100 or Fujichrome Velvia 50. Cameras have gotten that good.

But at the same time, I will tell you that you can no more give a fine set of brushes to a first year art student and expect them to make a gallery quality painting than you can give a top end camera to a novice and expect that image to be on the front of Sports Illustrated.

I will tell you that a photographer with a modest amount of experience using solid photographic technique will create a much better image with my Canon 30D than with my Canon 10D. ISO and sensor performance between the two cameras was incredible. Both will make good images and up to a certain size print (probably 8x10) it would be tough to tell the difference between the two. But look at it on a PC and the difference will be painfully obvious.

But at the same time, hundreds of thousands of dollars were made with images made from the 10D. Hundreds of thousands probably continue to be made with images made from the 30D even though it is now nearly 3 years old and the 50D has nearly double the megapixels. These cameras make awesome images.

So what do I shoot with? My camera body is a Canon 30D. I bought the battery grip after the fact and am very happy I did.

More important is what lens do I put in front of that camera. And for that you'll have to wait for the next installment. And eventually I'll even get to why it's important to the art of shooting from a blind.


Allan Davis said...

Well...until I broke my camera a couple months ago...I was shooting with an original Canon Digital Rebel, and either the 18-55 kit lens that came with it (which I killed along with the camera), or the 75-300 zoom I bought with the camera.

Now...well, now I make a square out of my fingers and thumbs and look thorugh it and call it a picture.


jim said...

I've had my share of issues with gravity and camera equipment. Never was left fully without an SLR, but I've come close. Lost three lenses that way, though.