What Camera System Do You Use?

At almost to no end, I am asked this every day… I almost want to climb atop Pikes Peak and Scream as loudly as I can…” What does it matter!?” Seriously, I have used almost every brand of camera made and guess what? They’re all quite capable of making the greatest photograph ever made, but the real key to the puzzle is, it all depends on who’s hand they’re in and how they are used.

To define how great photography is made, you need to take the camera out of the room for a moment. Great photography is made first through a visualization in the mind made by an optical impression captured by the eyes and sent to the brain then emotionally filtered, spiritually filtered and then frantically but purposefully stuffed into the lens and little black box where the film or digital sensor is waiting to record the result of your short term mental breakdown.

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Actually when I am teaching my workshops or speaking to those who are gearing up for one, I don’t say it quite that way, but this is the point I try to convey in a more politically correct fashion. When seeking a camera system for your photographic journey, consider what you need to capture the images that your eyes and mind tell you are the best thing since slices bread or a six pack of bottled beer. the questions you need to be asking are, what am I trying to capture, what is my main subject matter, what do I want to do with the images I capture. Each of these will determine the equipment needed to do what you want.

When a potential student asks me anything about what they need, I turn in to Socrates and start asking questions of them so that they can answer their own questions. I do this in the field when teaching as well, but the best way to find answers is to ask questions and sometime the best answers are questions. When I go out to buy equipment my primer is usually that i saw an image in a magazine or website that made me stop and go wow. Then if I am lucky the photographer left some notes on how he or she created the photograph and thus I find some gadget or tool I must have or I will surely die. that’s what I tell my loving and patient wife and as she rolls her eyes and hands me the credit card I am off to buy the holy grail of photography. Thus the moral of the story is that a smart photographer will never have the credit card on them at all times, or they will surely become the poor starving divorced “wanna be” photographer. personally I know some really well equipped photographers who never get out to photograph anything because they spent all their money buying the latest and greatest, “bestest” and most highly rated equipment known to man kind and now they’re broke. I know “bestest” isn’t a real fancy or even a real word, but it works for me.

When I buy my equipment, I make Abe Lincoln Scream in pain as I pinch every penny I can, while not compromising on quality. I look for the basic functions versus the bells and whistles. I ask myself, do I need a camera that does it for me, or the one that makes me think for myself and create the images I want to create. Hint… the answer is go cheap! Heck I can’t drive 255 mph so I don’t need a Ferrari I’ll take the beat up abused jeep in the corner that’s going to get me where I want to be when I get there.

I used to work at a camera store and a lady came to the counter and asked to see a professional camera, I grinned turned around and grabbed a throw away Kodak box camera and handed it to her. With puzzlement she looked at me and pointed at the super gigantic Nikon F5 sitting on the golden pillar of honor bathed in a warm glow of halogen light saying, “No that’s the camera I was talking about I want a professional camera for my husband to learn on.” Again I grinned and pushed the little Kodak disposable her way and said, “This is as much a professional camera as the one you pointed to as well.” I had her hooked and confused. She then asked me, “What makes that camera a professional camera like the one I was pointing to?” “It depends on who is holding it.” I explained, “Every camera in this store can be a professional camera in the hands of a professional, but on that same note every camera including the one you pointed to is also an amateur camera in the hands of an amateur.”

Once she saw that I wasn’t going to sell her a camera that her husband didn’t need and was the most expensive, I began to ask her what his interests in photography were and what he hoped to do. I also asked her if he planned to do this as a casual hobby or become an overnight professional. I asked about his current knowledge of photography and equipment and by the end of the sale I sold her two lower priced fully functional Nikon F100 bodies and lenses so she could learn photography along side of her husband. She came back once a month after that and always asked for me when buying new equipment. By the way they have also attended many workshops and classes that I recommended as well.

So does it matter what Camera I use? What Film I use or what lens? The answer is both yes and no! Yes it matters what I use for functions I need, but brand and model do not. Go out and buy whatever brand you find that has the functions you need and enjoy!