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Expensive Cameras Produce Good Pictures?

Does it really matter what camera you use to produce your images? If for instance you had a very expensive camera, would you take better pictures?

This keeps happening quite often these days. When some people look at my pictures, there is a question to follow – they ask me what camera I use.

It happened for the first time during one of my presentations at a camera club. When I replied the Canon 1Ds Mk III (the one I was using back then), there was an “aaah” remark as a return. This made me think and I asked what that “aaah” meant. On the back of my mind I knew right away what they meant, no wonder your pictures look good, you are using a very good camera.

This is a false theory and one I will try to clear up within these next lines. Since then, I have downgraded to a Canon 5D Mk II. I call it a downgrade as the Canon 5D Mk II is a much cheaper camera than the 1 Canon series. Believe it or not, I still get the same questions and they all end up with the “aaah” result. This made me think of writing this article which might alter some people’s wrong impression of the relationship between good gear and good pictures.

People expect an introduction low priced DSLR camera with the kit lens to give them amazing results on any shooting situation as per the advert on the TV or photo magazine, it can’t. It can, however, give you some amazing results within its limitations, as long as you, the user, know these limitations.

The most important thing is to get to know your camera inside-out. Learn how to use it properly, find out its limitations, what it can offer you and what not to expect from it, this is vital. Read the manual (most of us don’t) and play with your camera. Experiment and write down all your findings, study them and check what works and what doesn’t. Get so familiar with your gear that when photographing, the gear should be the last thing to have in your mind. Instead, you can concentrate on capturing the light and mood in the scene.

After upgrading my cameras as a newer model came out, I had reached my financial peak with the Canon 1Ds Mk III. I did indeed make some really good pictures with it. The point is that with the Canon 5D Mk II I have made some even better pictures, and lately, with a film and much cheaper camera, I have made some even better ones.

So, what is going on? Do I get better pictures while I downgrade? It has nothing to do with upgrade or downgrade, it has to do with practice, experience and knowing how to use your camera. My advice? Get to know your camera and practise, practise, practise. When you get to the stage that your knowledge and experience will surpass your camera’s ability, you will know that it is holding you back and it is the right time to upgrade. It’s not the camera that takes a good picture, it’s the person behind it.

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15 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Hi, i was thinking of upgrading my Nikon D300 to a full frame camera like the D800, surely wouldn’t this be a wiser choice as the larger sensor capture more detail ?

    • Avatar
      Dimitrios Vasileiou on

      Hi Graham
      The full frame will offer you more pixels. Do you need more pixels?
      Do you print large? If you print large, then it is worth buying one.
      Will it improve your photography? Equipment do not do such thing.

  2. Avatar

    I used to live at the foot of the Eildon Hills – in Eildon Village. Small world eh? Long time ago now though, like 55 yrs ago. My Dad moved us all from Sheffield (Mum, 2 brothers and me) to Eildon when I was 6. He worked as a gardener for the Countess of Dalkeith.

  3. Avatar

    exact same thing happened to me the other day. A friend was looking at at photos I’d taken recently in Iceland. Comment “wow, you must have a great camera”.

  4. Avatar

    You are absolutely correct – it’s not about the camera but the person behind it. I wonder how many people are hugely disappointed when they buy the latest greatest camera only to discover their pictures are as average as before.

  5. Avatar

    Great article – agree with everything you say. Having started photography with a Braun Paxette 35mm camera aged about 12yrs, then various Nikon 35mm cameras I took some great, sharp photos without auto focus, sophisticated metering systems etc etc.

    Now I have moved to a DSLR I need to be a computer expert as well as a photographer….oh for a true digital version of a Nikon FM2N…..

  6. Avatar
    Alison fordham on

    I suppose it’s fair to say that when people admire your work that they want to know how you achieved the quality of the image. As a novice or amateur photographer we want to know that we can also one day achieve that elusive quality and we hope by having the best equipment we will one day get there. Once you become more familiar with your craft and hone your skills you realise that it’s not what you have but how you use it!

    • Avatar
      Dimitrios Vasileiou on

      “As a novice or amateur photographer we want to know that we can also one day achieve that elusive quality and we hope by having the best equipment we will one day get there.”

      This is a false hope, Alison. I always recommend that the best way is to join a good photographer’s workshop, get as much advice as possible and follow your own path. trust me, expensive gear is not the answer to good photography.

  7. Avatar
    David Taylor on

    I went to the wild life photography exhibition at the Natural History museum in London. I was in awe at the dedication and patience needed to get some of these wonderful shots. I also noted that most, if not all shots were taken on on Canon and Nikon cameras. No panasonics (mine) or other makes – not the first time I have noted this. What does this tell us? Surely the person behind the camera? But why are no other cameras represented? I await your readers comments with genuine interest!

    • Avatar
      Dimitrios Vasileiou on

      Hi David
      My article was dedicated to landscape photography. However, there are genres of photography such as wildlife that cameras with high frame rate and accurate autofocus help the photographer to achieve a high rate of keepers. Saying that, we shouldn’t forget that national geographic has printed in the past some extraordinary images that were captured with ordinary 35mm cameras such as Olympus or even Zenith, before digital was even invented. Obviously, those photographers could capture superb images without the need of very expensive cameras. It is the eye behind the camera and not the camera.

  8. Avatar
    Jennie French on

    This is very true and I suspect in a “line up” of images few people would be able to identify the ones taken with so called “good” cameras. These days tiny compacts that can be carried everywhere help us not to miss those special moments.

  9. Avatar
    Pete Kennington on

    I quite agree with everything you have said. When asked a similar question I often reply “When someone makes you a nice meal do you ask what oven they cooked it in.” Of course not!

  10. Avatar
    Lorraine McNeely on

    I’m an amateur photographer living in Alberta Canada. Thanks for the great article! People say “Wow you must have a really great camera”. It would be nice if they recognized the person behind the camera! I am using a Rebel t4i now but when I look back at older photos I’m more leased with how I have corrected mistakes of the past! Thanks again!

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