What should be your next camera?

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I have been involved with the medium of photography for many years.  I recall a time when in order to achieve the highest-quality photographs, there was much agonizing over film emulsion, whether it was black and white, or colour, and how it reacted to light. Photographers were interested in the quality of the glass their lenses had, and whether there was distortion, flare, or lack of contrast, and were concerned with how a camera metered.

A good camera was a good camera, and no matter what the manufacturer’s hype about each season’s latest model, all a photographer had to do was take pictures. Everything was pretty sensible and the outcome showed in the quality of the final enlarged print.

All of that has changed. Many photographers don’t make prints, and some believe, with a misguided logic that escapes me, that the top-rated models of prior years will no longer produce the great photographs camera makers and photographers touted them to be capable of a short time ago.

My readers know of the constant promotions by manufacturers; that last year’s camera is no longer worth owning, and only a new model will produce good images, which always gets me ranting. So readers will understand both my amusement and frustration when I read the following email in a forum.  (I have edited it some and deleted specific brand references.)

“…I’m new to photography and I can’t seem to decide on which model to purchase. I have been leaning toward a DSLR that has recently been discontinued. A friend told me I should only consider newer models, and when I went to the store to check that camera and told the salesman I would just like a decent camera that will last me about 3 years, he said I should purchase one that is more current than the one my friend suggested so I wouldn’t need to upgrade for a while. Any suggestions?”

I would be surprised if anyone other than some very busy, sports journalist, or the like, can wear a camera out within three years, and I expect how long a camera lasts has more to do with marketing than durability. In 2002 I bought my first DSLR and used it as my main camera for weddings and portraits. The enlargements I made for clients were good and I believe will stand up against current cameras. Nevertheless, when I recently posted a picture I had just made with it in an online forum, to include camera and lens specifics, I received comments like “Wow, that’s a great picture to have been made with that old camera!”  Well, why not, if it was capable of taking good quality photographs in 2002 why shouldn’t it still continue to take them?

In some ways that 10-year old camera isn’t up to 2011 technology. It’s very slow writing RAW files, and it won’t lock focus on quick-moving subjects as fast as my current camera. Are those enough drawbacks to replace it? I suppose that depends on the kind of photography one does.

In spite of the excellent enlargements my clients received from that camera, I changed to one that made my job easier, and more consistent. However, did a new camera make me a better photographer? No. No way. It’s just a camera. My advice to any photographer that wants to get better is to get a used DSLR that fits their budget, and if they want to spend money, purchase a quality tripod, then do some research and get the best lens for the subject(s) to be photographed, and take classes, and practice. And please don’t let camera manufacturers, other photographers, and sales associates rule your decisions for photography.

These are my thoughts this week. Contact me at   www.enmanscamera.com or  emcam@telus.net. Stop by Enman’s Camera at 423 Tranquille Road in Kamloops. And if you want an experienced professional wedding or event photographer please call me.

I also sell an interesting selection of used photographic equipment.