Because Camera Equipment Really Does Matter

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Because Camera Equipment Really Does Matter

I think it’s safe to say that most photographers are a little sensitive when they get comments like “Wow that’s a great picture what kind of camera do you own.”   It makes me chuckle a little when the most common question I get from other photographers is “Would you mind sharing what kind of camera and lens you use?”   It seems like the industry is saying “it doesn’t matter” to the outside world but in reality we know it really does.

I’m not saying that anyone could purchase the Nikon D4 and immediately start putting out awe-inspiring photographs.  But I will say this; I think we are kidding ourselves when we pretend like equipment doesn’t make a difference because in my opinion it makes a significant difference.

I used to shoot with an entry-level camera and I loved it.  75% of the time I could produce good photographs.  But that other 25% of the time was driving me nuts.  I didn’t want to be restricted to perfect lighting anymore.  I was begging for more freedom.

If you are thinking about upgrading your equipment, here are a few questions to ask yourself:

  • Is my current camera limiting my creativity?  If you feel like you are capable of more but your camera’s ISO capabilities are too low, or your autofocus is too slow investing in a full frame camera might be a good decision.
  • I’m not feeling limited but what do I do if I feel like my images don’t stand out as much as I’d like?  A new camera will give you more flexibility but if you are looking for sharper images, creamier bokeh, or more vibrant colors it might be time to invest in a new lens.  Don’t cheat yourself here.  Good lenses are sometimes expensive but they are worth the investment especially if you are photographing for income.
  • I have a top of the line camera, and nice lens, but I still want more is there anything else?  Yes.  Sometimes we like to turn up our noses at artificial light.  But when it’s used correctly you can get beautiful soft light that opens up a whole new world to you and your creativity.

Technical knowledge, creativity, and artistic vision can’t be purchased.  Hopefully if you are already a photographer you’ve noticed those skills in yourself.   An expensive camera won’t make you an amazing photographer but it will help you to improve on the beautiful abilities that you already have.

This article was written by Kristin Wilkerson, a Utah based photographer.  You can find her on facebook.

Now it’s your turn.  What do you think?  Does the camera or lens you use help create a better image?  Yes or No – tell us what you think.

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  1. March 12, 2012 at 6:55 pm —

    I agree that the equipment can make a big difference in your potential (I can’t wait for my 5DMIII!) but I don’t think many non-photographers realize that that is only one part of the picture. The best

  2. March 12, 2012 at 6:39 pm —

    Agreed. The debate will continue forever on this, both sides have points and neither side is 100% correct.

  3. RHH
    March 12, 2012 at 3:39 pm —

    Other considerations are maintaining the value and serviceability of my current hardware. Warranty and the amount of use on my current camera are giving me good reason to trade up. My upgrade will have 1080 video and better low light . Can’t wait

  4. Tim
    March 12, 2012 at 3:18 pm —

    I’m passing on this post by David Ziser

    I think it an interesting addendum to this discussion.

  5. March 12, 2012 at 2:24 pm —

    Equipment definitely makes a difference (or at least makes it that much easier). There’s a huge difference in a kit lens v. a prime f/1.2 lens! Having the right lens is important, but having the right camera body is also important. Full frame is awesome, and the ISO is amazing! There’s no going back! Knowing your camera and having artistic ability is important, but the right equipment can enhance it that much more!

  6. March 12, 2012 at 2:13 pm —

    I agree! I started with a D60 and was so annoyed being limited, especially when it came to ISO and how quickly it would focus. I love love love my D700 and it has made such a difference in the quality of my photographs.

  7. March 12, 2012 at 12:15 pm —

    Yes. Equipment matters. Sometimes it matters a lot. It doesn’t matter what you know about the exposure triangle or how much your rock at composition, certain shots are only possible because technology makes it so. You are not going to replicate the look of 85mm f/1.2 shot on a full-frame camera by using a kit lens on a crop-sensor. Even buying the same lens won’t matter, if you are working with a camera that doesn’t support an ISO lower than 1600. You won’t be able to get the same crisp images in ambient or low light because you can’t get a high enough shutter speed even when shooting wide open. The key, perhaps, is having enough skill and photography knowledge to truly understand when your vision is being limited by the tools you’re holding in your hand.

  8. March 12, 2012 at 12:11 pm —

    There is a certain nuance to asking this question so that it is not an insult (not that people intend it that way). The distinction is this: the lens you use matters in several areas and the body matters in a few areas. If I’m asking, I typically only ask what lens people used and why. I really only ever care what camera they used when I see giant prints or maybe really clean low-light photos, but I always point out why I am asking. My question is nearly always centered on some kind of technical aspect (e.g., lack of distortion on a portrait shot close-range with a wide angle) that comes through in a photo. The point being, you reach a point in your photography where you know how gear effects your photos and you see those effects in other’s photos.

    The other way is saying “your skills are insignificant, this was obviously all camera.” The truth is, a great photographer can make great images with any equipment and here’s the key, they make photos. They are keenly aware of the limitations of the gear and they make decisions that will maximize their results from that gear.

    To borrow an example from another commenter, it wouldn’t necessarily be irresponsible to show up at a wedding with a Rebel and a kit lens. Knowing its limits, it is a poor match for a balcony in a dark church to shoot close-ups of a ceremony, but I’d bet you could shoot an intimate beach wedding with it and deliver great work.

    • March 12, 2012 at 2:38 pm —

      That was my example, and you’re absolutely right that you could shoot with just a Rebel and a kit lens in sunlight! (And I definitely didn’t mean to imply that you can’t shoot weddings with a Rebel — especially if you have the right lenses and flash.) Just meant that there are circumstances (like a dark church or dark reception venue) where showing up without the right gear would be a really bad idea, no matter how good the photographer is 🙂

  9. March 12, 2012 at 10:46 am —

    I’ve been saying this ever since I upgraded from my Rebel to my 5DM2. It absolutely makes a difference! I was certainly able to do more of what I wanted when using my nifty fifty than my kit lens. I don’t think anyone begrudges Lance Armstrong wanting to have the best biking equipment. Could he still win with a basic bike from Walmart? Maybe. But could he get his best times possible? Surely not.

    So often, photographers get so grumpy and say a good photographer can take a great image with any camera. And this is true. But they could take BETTER pictures with better equipment. Doesn’t mean great. Better than terrible doesn’t mean award winning images.

    Let’s just admit that the equipment DOES matter and move on.

  10. March 12, 2012 at 10:32 am —

    I TOTALLY agree!! Not everyone who owns a great camera is going to get professional quality photographs, but if you know how to use that camera, and you have intent and vision, along with the camera(which is one of our many TOOLS!) you will! I have had this debate numerous times, and I just feel I am banging my head against the wall! One person who told me they don’t think the camera matters, and it is ALL about intent and vision, just bought the new Canon 5D Mark III… um… why would you need to upgrade if it is not about the camera!?? lol Great post! You hit the nail right on the head!

  11. March 12, 2012 at 10:19 am —

    Exactly right!
    I used to say that the equipment doesn’t matter, until I bought my wife a smaller point-n-shoot so she didn’t have to get out my DSLR every time she wanted to take a picture. The smaller camera is awful! Poorer quality, shutter-lag, high-noise, etc…
    Equipment isn’t everything, but it does help to take consistently better shots.
    And agreed, never buy better equipment until you feel limited by what you currently have
    Great post, thanks!

  12. March 12, 2012 at 10:18 am —

    Thank you so much for this post!!! I agree 100%. Knowing how to take pictures (actually take control of your camera) and the artistic side of photography IS VERY important, but it’s also VERY important to have good equipment. Plus, I definitely drool over the new stuff that comes out and I can’t get mad at people for thinking my camera is awesome… because it really IS! 🙂

  13. Danielle
    March 12, 2012 at 9:58 am —

    I am in the exact same boat as Molly. Any suggestions for intermediate users that would like to upgrade but may not be able to afford the top of the line gear?

  14. March 12, 2012 at 9:38 am —

    I have an entry level Canon Revel T3 and I know that I could do more with a more expensive camera and lens. However, until I fully learn to shoot manual and I can consistently use this camera fully manual all the time, it seems unwise to spend thousands of dollars to upgrade the camera body and get professional lenses. P.S. I would love to see an article on suggested equipment for intermediate users (more advanced at photography, but not ready for professional level. Is there a middle ground?)

  15. March 12, 2012 at 9:37 am —

    Thanks for this post! Very timely as I’d been holding out for announcements from Nikon and am looking to finally upgrade. I’ve been shooting with a D80 (yes, that old!) but the questions you posed reinforce why I’d want to shell out all that cash. Totally agree that equipment does play a big role.

  16. March 12, 2012 at 9:29 am —

    Do folks ask Steven Spielberg what kind of word processor he uses?

  17. March 12, 2012 at 9:21 am —

    It would be the same as someone saying, “This is such a awesome meal, you must own some really expensive pots & pans”. Expensive gear will never replace an artistic eye and the ability to frame up & compose a shot.

    • March 12, 2012 at 10:18 am —

      I agree!

    • March 12, 2012 at 10:56 am —

      True, but there’s a point where the photographer is better than the gear he or she is using. If the camera really has nothing to do with it, we’d all be shooting with a $59 compact. And while I know I can manhandle a Rebel, it would be irresponsible for me to show up at a wedding with a camera that can’t handle low ISO…and without a low-light lens….and without a flash. At some point, you do need gear that can keep up with you, and I think that’s the point of this post.

    • March 13, 2012 at 12:03 am —

      I agree, but I bet top of the line chefs use top of the line pots and pans for various reasons.

  18. March 12, 2012 at 9:10 am —

    Awesome post! Great equipment can’t make someone a great photographer, but great equipment CAN make a great photographer even better 🙂

  19. Rebekah
    March 12, 2012 at 9:08 am —

    I so agree with Christina! I, too, shoot with a D90, but have been feeling so limited lately. I can’t wait to upgrade!

  20. March 12, 2012 at 9:05 am —

    I fully agree! I know my D90 takes great photos but I feel restricted! I cannot wait to get my hands on a D700 and let my powers flow 🙂

    • Nicole Garcia
      March 12, 2012 at 9:24 am —

      I completely agree! I have a D40 and I am looking into a D7000 (Not full frame, not ready for all that just yet). I know the D40 is a great camera, but i need MORE. Especially if I want to make this my business. 🙂

    • May 31, 2012 at 8:52 pm —

      Same here, D90 and looking to upgrade. I rent amazing lenses when I know I will have a heavy shooting week. But, I need to see the difference!

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Because Camera Equipment Really Does Matter