Let’s discuss gear, price, and outcome for a minute.

First, credit where it’s due. This post is being inspired by a conversation I had last night with a friend (hello Sophie !) and a thread I replied to on DPR called “what DSLR would you buy” (answer for me : none, answer to the thread’s author, between the proposed choices : Nikon D3200).

I named this blog “it’s not the camera”, and I meant every word of it. Except… For any given *same* operator, with the same artistic eye and skill level, differences in gear used will translate into variations in output. YES. Give me an entry level DLSR with subpar AF and a low quality, slow kit zoom, or give me a high end camera with top notch AF performance and upper tier fast lenses, and my pictures will NOT look the same. So should you go ahead and buy a bunch of nicer, pricier gear to be happier with your photos ? Well, that entirely depends on your skill level. In other words, is your camera or lens *really* the limiting factor ?? Answer from a seasoned hobbyist (me) : it VERY rarely is. Usually, the limiting factor… is you (and yes, me).

Discussion number one. A friend of mine has now been using her Nikon D300s for a while, with various optics. She sends me a badly underexposed (and let’s say it, thoroughly fucked up) shot, and laments she doesn’t understand how it’s possible, a pro friend of hers was shooting right next to her “with the same gear and zero settings” and got a proper shot. A) upon a little inquiry it appears the other shooter was in fact using a body with slightly better ISO performance, and a (slightly) faster lens. Two minor differences adding up start making a not so minor one, right ? B) as I pointed out to my friend, there is no such thing as “zero settings”. Even automated modes ARE a sort of settings. Basically what happened is that she’d been shooting wide open at ISO 1600 in a dimly lit dog show hall, and that the camera had picked a shutter speed of 1/125th !! Obviously, there was so misguided metering at play. All the more so as, when I inquired about the lens used, and to my dismay, she admitted using the 18-300/3.5-6.3 lens (WTF) ?! Dismay which turned into utter bewilderment when she announced she owned a 70-200/2.8 (now WHAT the fuck ?!!).

The obvious answer to that problem was : use the faster lens (2.8 is worlds apart from 6.3, or even 5.6, or 4) in badly lit situations, and switch to spot metering for better exposure of your subject. But, a deeper and more fundamental progress that needed being made, was understand what metering/exposure were all about, because from her own admission, she hadn’t gotten that part down pat. So here, my friend actually HAD the adapted tool, but she didn’t chose to use it, and worse, she gave control to the camera over shutter speed, picking a metering mode that did not prioritize her subjects, in a chaotic lighting environment.

2nd discussion, a DPR reader, owning a NEX6, says he hasn’t been able to get good results for sports (what a surprise, lol). He’s considering getting another system for sports, but is on a tight budget so is hesitation between a Canon Rebel, Nikon D3200 or Sony A58. I suggested he invested in a LA-EA2 instead (which is cheaper than an extra body) and a decent lens. He answered he could get a very cheap lens kit, to what I replied that cheap lenses would yield cheap results. So here, while I do not know the skill level of the guy, he would be obviously limited for sports by picking the lower tier body, and moreover, lenses.

La morale ? Check out your skill level first. Can it be improved (trust me, it can. Everybody’s can). How ? What is your sticking point ? Try identify it and work on *that*. Then, what specific extra gear would help you achieving your goals. Eight times out of ten, it’ll be a lens. One time, it’ll be a flash. And the remaining time, your camera body. Feel free to comment, and even disagree !

So while deepening your knowledge is considerably more important that

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About marla2008

Shutterbug. Shallow DOF nut. Mother of Child. Student of the Horse.
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8 Responses to Let’s discuss gear, price, and outcome for a minute.

  1. Gavin says:

    Oh dear, I find it easier to buy new shiny toys than improve skill level! Talking of which, what are you doing wirh your a mount 1650 2.8 now you’e moving on up un the word, care to part with it for a reasonable fee?

    • marla2008 says:

      Gavin my 16-50/2.8 was with me only a week and sold, this focal was too short for me, and 2.8 not bright enough for the indoor arena my daughter rides in. I do have a friend selling a pristine one for 400€+20 shipping though, let me know if you might be interested 🙂

  2. padam says:

    And by choosing a better lens wisely they can be sold with little or no loss at all. So most of the investment comes back in that sense. (not so much with bodies, which is why I still have my 5N).

  3. Every time I am dreaming about a new lens, or a new camera, I am checking Flickr and check for images taken by cameras that are significantly cheaper than the one I own. Say a point and shoot, like the Fuji X-10. I see lots and lots of great pictures, far better than my own. Easy then to remind myself that I simply need to work on my skills.

    But Gracious Goodness, that Canon 35mm 1.4 L seems SOO good!

  4. I read a lot of gear-talk and nothing about working on your pics after the shot! Cropping it right, perhaps a slight turn, increasing sharpness … can work wonders! It´s not only the photographer who presses the trigger – believe me – 99,999% of what we would consider great pictures have been worked on.
    And PLEASE do not argue “I want the pictures as they come out of the camera”! ALL JPEGs have been worked on during the split second they are stored on your card!

    • marla2008 says:

      Hello Hanns 🙂 Can you please make your point clearer as I have *no* idea what you’re trying to say ?? I shoot 99% jepg, but 100% of the shots you can see here are edited, absolutely ALL of them. I edit first in CS3, and sometimes further in Snapseed. I’m very open to all suggestions but please reformulate, cause I totally missed your point. Thanks ! Oh, and I do NOT want the pictures “as they came out of the camera” !!

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