The True Test of a Camera

“The true test of a camera is how it makes you feel when you pick it up and carry it around with you on a daily basis.”

After teaching photography for many years, I’ve been able to make a few interesting observations about the average person who enjoys taking pictures:  A few have been using a relatively poor camera and have simply not been able to make any amount of progress with their photography at all. Many are “part-timers” who will only pick up the camera on special occasions such as photographing a child’s birthday party. However, the vast majority of the people I’ve had attend classes are folks who own a decent camera but really have no idea how to use it to its full capabilities. These are the ones who will spend upwards of a thousand dollars or more on the camera and a few lenses but only know how to take the photo on the “automatic” setting. They could also be described as having little or no knowledge of basic photographic principles. I’m not in any way trying to offend anyone. I was there and so were many of my photographer friends. We all start somewhere. But the point I’m trying to make is that a great many people do not ask themselves what kind of things they like to take pictures of, and how they plan on using the camera. As a result, after a brief length of time, the camera that they purchased has failed to continue to inspire them to be a better photographer. It has in fact, become more of a burden to them instead of an extension of their eyes and hearts.

I have asked many of these same people if they brought their camera with them when they went on vacation to Europe or Mexico or wherever. “No” they said, “Just their cellphone.”

“Why?”, I asked.

Most wanted to travel light, and others were worried about getting their camera gear stolen or damaged somehow. They did not want to be inconvenienced by having to tote around a backpack or a larger bag with a DSLR and a few lenses, filters, cleaning supplies, and all that other stuff that you must have with you.

It’s a bit astonishing really when you think about it. So many want to have a nice camera and are willing to part with their hard-earned money to get one, but just can’t be bothered to take it anywhere or use it except for the odd occasion – only when it’s convenient.

What are my thoughts on this? Well it tells me that many of the people mentioned above did not take the time to really think out how they would like to use their cameras. They are disappointed when they realize that the images on their expensive camera really don’t look any different than the ones on their small point and shoot. In fact, many have told me that they used to take a lot more photos than they do now. And therein lays a huge clue…

To get better at photography you have to practice. You have to carry that camera around with you wherever you go. To do that, the camera has to become an extension of your eyes. It must be easy to use, easy to understand, and able to inspire you to be creative. And, it must be small enough so that it’s not a bother for you to bring along when you go for lunch at the local diner.

When you are given limitations, you are forced to be creative. When you are travelling with a small, light camera setup you will find yourself taking more pictures.

I cannot help but think that many people would have been happier to have purchased either a small point and shoot or a nice mirror-less camera with a fixed lens.

Now it’s true that a small number of people may be interested in eventually selling their prints of landscapes for example. A few are interested in setting up a studio perhaps. And an even smaller number may be interested in specializing in wildlife photography. Certainly those genres demand a wide variety of bigger, more sophisticated camera/lens setups. But most people I’ve had in my classes have told me that they’re interested in photographing their children, travel photography, macro photography, and the occasional landscape that they see when on vacation. And while the DSLR’s they own are more than capable of doing these types of photography, for many, they are just not something that becomes a part of them, a means to express their way of seeing the world.

Most of the time, it’s the Leica people, or the owners of small mirror-less cameras like the Fujifilm X series that you see with their cameras tethered to their bodies. Talk to the Ricoh GR people and you’ll see lots of smiles. Only the truly diehard DSLR’ers or seasoned professionals pack a big bag of gear around with them.

So this is really something that I think is important for the average person to strongly think about when they go out to buy a camera. Some of the wonderful smaller mirror-less cameras that are available today can produce landscapes, portraits, lifestyle, travel, street, and macro photographs that far exceed the needs of the average photographer. And they offer all of this in a small convenient to use package that could inspire you to use your camera every day and become a better photographer.

Megapixels, resolution, sensor noise, burst rate, buffer size and things like that are really not relevant for the average person. What is important is that you love your camera and the way it makes you feel. What’s important is that your camera inspires you to be creative. What’s important is having a camera with you, and one that is intuitive and easy to use.

“The true test of a camera is how it makes you feel when you pick it up and carry it around with you on a daily basis.”

Happy Shooting,

Doug

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