Tuesday, January 15, 2013

My Camera Kit ...Or, Keep It Simple ...Or, Who Cares What Camera Equipment You Have

I'm asked all of the time what cameras I use and what cameras I recommend. People are very interested in equipment. In fact, people are far more interested in cameras than how to improve their own photography.

"The single most important component of a camera is the twelve inches behind it." --Ansel Adams

Cameras and related equipment are never as important as the skill of the person using the equipment. People seem to think that great equipment is the starting point for great photographs. The truth is that great camera equipment has never been a prerequisite to crafting great photographs. Great equipment is not a necessity, but a luxury.

I think there are people who are more interested in collecting equipment than making art. It is as if the camera has some sort of status cymbal associated with it. But when you are showing your images (whether as a print or on the internet), does anyone really care what equipment created it? The photograph that he or she is viewing is the only thing that matters.
Artificial - Tehachapi, California
Captured using a cell phone.
The number one camera that I carry with me is my cell phone. It is always with me, so that's convenient. It's also easy to post-process and share the photographs right from the phone. The image quality is just fine for web use or even 8" x 10" prints (sometimes larger). What's not to like? Cell phone cameras are perfect for everyday shooting.

For more serious work, I have a lightweight kit and an even lighter-weight kit.
Pentax K-30 DSLR
The lightweight kit is a Pentax K-30 DSLR with an 18-55mm lens. And that's it. Oh, I have a small camera bag that the camera fits into, but for the most part the camera hangs from my neck or is in one of my hands.

The K-30 is a well-built, versatile camera. It does a great job in pretty much any situation that you can throw it in. In low ISO (which is what I use for most of my photographs, especially if they are "serious" photographs), the image quality from the K-30 is right up there with full-frame DSLRs.
Old Tracks - McKinney, Texas
Captured using a Pentax K-30.
At some point I'd like to add a prime lens and longer zoom lens to my collection to have available. But I'd likely only bring one lens along with me at a time. I've found that it is best not to be loaded down with items that won't likely even be used.

I used to own a k-mount prime and zoom that would have been great to still have. I had several filters, too. And a nice flash. Unfortunately, a thief also wanted them, and they were stolen out of my car about six months ago.
Samsung NX210
The lighter-weight kit is a Samsung NX210 compact interchangeable-lens camera with an 18-55mm lens. Size and weight do matter, and, while the K-30 is actually fairly small and lightweight for a DSLR, sometimes one needs to be compact.

Anytime that you'll be carrying a camera around for hours at a time, you want that camera to be as small and lightweight as possible. A heavy DSLR will get old fast.
Gathering Pollen - Tehachapi, California
Captured using a Samsung NX210.
The small size of the NX210 also make it more discrete than a DSLR. Sometimes being unnoticed is the difference between getting "the shot" or not. This is especially true with street photography.

Also, the 20 megapixel sensor on the NX210 allows one to "zoom" by cropping. There is plenty of resolution to spare, so you don't necessarily need a long telephoto lens to capture the image you want.
Horse at Fence - Onyx, California
Captured using a $20 Holga 120N film camera.
I own a tripod, but rarely use it. I also have a handful of different film cameras that I do use every so often. In the age of "clean" digital, it is nice to get some more organic images from time to time.

I think keeping the camera kit simple is important. Too much bulk and too many options slow you down. Having a simple kit will force you to be creative with what you have. Creativity is far more important than equipment.

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