Monday, January 12, 2015

The Holy Grail Camera

“If the photographer is interested in the people in front of his lens, and if he is compassionate, it’s already a lot. The instrument is not the camera but the photographer.” — Eve Arnold

There are many comments by many pro photographers throughout history reminding us that it is the six inches behind the eye that is more important than the six inches in front of it when making photos.

I wanted to be sure everyone understands that I not only believe this but spend most of my time thinking about what I have done, will do and am doing as compared to the time I think about my camera gear.

If you want to make better pictures for the most part you would do better investing in a class to learn something than spending that same money on more camera gear.

To make photos you must have a camera. When you buy your first camera the odds are very good that if you pursue this later as a profession that this will not be you last camera you buy.

Things to consider when buying a camera

Subject – Audience

These are the two things driving most every decision as to the best camera. As long as these stay singular you can find the perfect camera to own. However, the problem that typically happens is when you have:

Subject(s) – Audience(s)

The Holy Grail Camera that does it all is usually a compromise camera that will let a photographer get the images, but if they had the funds would most likely buy specialty cameras for some subjects or audiences.


When we think of an audience there are two things we should focus on that impacts what gear we purchase. The people and the channel they will see those visuals.

If your client is selling high end vehicles like a Lamborghini they will be more interested in the finer details than the community seeing a photo of the fire in their local paper or online. You will be more likely to see extremely large prints of your images in dealerships on their walls where the customer could walk up to the print to examine it closely. This is when an extreme megapixel camera would be the best choice.

If you are shooting photos that you plan to put in a show in a museum or gallery then the size of those prints will demand a higher pixel as well and will be appreciated.

This is why there are 80 MP camera backs for medium format cameras. You can go even higher with the view cameras.

There are many bloggers on the other hand that are shooting all their photos with the smartphone. The pictures are good enough for their audience which might be absorbing most of the content on their smartphone.


When you are shooting sports like soccer you must have really long glass due to the distance between the photographer and the action on the field. Having a camera like the Nikon 4s that shoots 11 frames a second and that has lenses like the Nikkor 600mm ƒ/4 is pretty much the standard for a sports action shooter.

Wedding photographers need to shoot often in low light and they need a camera with ISO higher than ISO 1600. They also will shoot with fast glass of ƒ/1.4 to ƒ/2.8 many times during ceremonies. Most wedding photographers are needing to cover 28mm – 200mm for most of their work. Occasionally having a few photos using some specialty glass just to offer something different.

Portrait photographers are often shooting with cameras with high megapixels for the same reason the photographer shooting a Lamborghini needs it–large prints.

Street shooters tend to want a small camera that will make them look more like a tourist than a professional photographer to be able to blend in and not draw attention to themselves.


If you are one of those people trying to tell everyone why you own the "BEST" camera ever–please know you only show your ignorance when you open your mouth. I see these people on almost every camera forum trying to argue why they know it all and everyone should listen to them and their wisdom.

If you are shooting one type of subject then you can easily find out what most photographers covering this subject are using and why they choose those cameras and lenses.

If you are shooting a wide variety of images for many different outlets you most likely will find a camera that does a pretty good covering the bases. Many will find they need to either rent or buy gear for some of their niche's.

Most of all we need to go back to where I started this blog that the photographer's knowledge will let them do more with a simple box camera than a $45,000 camera will do in a novice's hands.

You may hear that many people say invest in good glass more than the camera–I say invest in yourself more than the gear and you will be the better for it.

IMHO–most cameras today are so good that in the right hands most any camera could work.

What I own and use

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