Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Convenience or Quality? (Don't Waste Time Researching Cameras.)

I dislike posting about equipment, but that's what people want to read about. There is a reason that the most successful photography blogs focus on equipment.

Look at the right side of this page, right under where it says Popular Posts. It shows the top 10 most viewed posts on this Blog, and all 10 are about equipment in one way or another. If I showed the top 20, each post would be about equipment. I write about equipment to attract attention to this site, but those are not the best or most helpful posts on here. The greatest posts on this Blog are often the least viewed.
Sunrise Over Vishnu Temple - Grand Canyon, Arizona
Captured with a sub par digital camera and lens.
People have backwards ideas on photography. Equipment is not nearly as important as vision or the decisive moment, but few seem interested in learning those things. And what is important about equipment is often ignored.

The evolution of the camera over the last 80+ years is actually a devolution. What we now call large format used to be the standard format. It blows away anything made with even the best digital cameras today, yet few use it. Why? It's big and heavy and slow and otherwise inconvenient.
Backyard Feed - Palo Verde, Arizona
Captured with a camera most would consider a forgotten relic. 
That's the story of camera (d)evolution: convenience over quality. We traded large format for medium format, then traded medium format for 35mm, then traded film for digital. Each trade was an evolution in convenience and a devolution in quality.

People spend hours and hours on the web searching for opinions on cameras, but they fail to understand that it doesn't matter because all of the cameras that they're interested in are sub par compared to what photographers used to use. Cameras now are "good enough" in quality. For most people and most uses, a cell phone camera is good enough. Any DSLR is good enough. Yet none of them are as good as a 35mm film camera (let alone large format!).
Horse At Fence - Onyx, California
Captured with a $20 "toy" camera. 
If people were really interested in quality, we'd all still be using film. But almost everyone prefers convenience over quality. Few want to fuss with a large format camera in order to gain superior image quality.

My point is not to bash digital photography. Heck, I use digital cameras just about every day. My point is simply that people will waste all sorts of time worrying about the insignificant differences between DSLRs, while ignoring what really matters. People will chase the latest advancements with modern cameras, yet those cameras aren't as good as cameras made 100 years ago.

That time people waste researching the latest cameras could be used to understand what is truly important in photography. Cameras are tools, and beyond being a means to an end, they're unimportant. You could home-build a camera and capture amazing images if you wanted to.
Photo by Michael Chrisman via The Toronto Star (www.thestar.com).
The less time one wastes trying to figure out which convenient camera is less worse than the others, the more time that person could be actually creating art. Any camera is capable as long as the photographer is capable. If you are truly interested in image quality, forget the latest DSLR, go find a good medium or large  format film camera.

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