Gear Matters

While it is true that a talented photographer can create great images with virtually any camera, it is also true that camera gear matters. There are so many great choices of camera equipment available today that we sometimes forget that there is no such thing as a perfect camera.

NOTE: Click on images to enlarge.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikkor 10-100 mm f/4-5.6 @ 23 mm, efov 62.1 mm, f/5.6, 1/50, ISO-160

Every single piece of camera gear comes with some kind of trade-off. It could be size, weight, cost, auto-focus performance, frame rate, dynamic range, weatherproofing, or a host of other factors.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 60 mm f/2.8 macro with STF-8 Twin Macro Flash, f/11, 1/250 ISO-200, subject distance 270 mm

There is no one camera format, brand or model that will best meet the needs of all photographers. Gear matters because our needs as photographers differ… sometimes substantially.

Eye of the Wind, Monument Valley, Panasonic DMC-FZ28, 5 mm, efov 27 mm, f/5.6, 1/250, ISO-100

The work of many photographers is best suited to the use of larger sensor cameras such as medium format or full frame. They require camera gear that can produce highly detailed images with a maximum of dynamic range and colour depth.

NIKON 1 V2 + 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm, ISO 250, 1/250, f/5.6

Other folks put a high value on small size and portability. They are willing to trade-off some sensor performance in terms of dynamic range and colour depth in order to use smaller, lighter camera gear.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikon 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 10mm, efov 27mm, f/8, 1/640, ISO-160

Gear matters when it comes to lenses. Some photographers do a lot of work under challenging, low light conditions. As a result they may choose fast aperture prime lenses for the majority of their work. Other people may prefer the flexibility of constant aperture zoom lenses, or variable aperture ones. Most pros would confirm that investing in better quality glass has a bigger impact on image quality than does a new camera body.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 12-40mm f/2.8 @ 12, efov 24mm, f/4, 4 seconds handheld, ISO-200

Many photographers prefer to work with the stability provided by tripods. Others put a much higher value on the image stabilization provided by their camera equipment and prefer shooting handheld.

Olympus TG-5 @ 10 mm, efov 55.6 mm, f/5, 1/200, ISO-400

Plying their trade under frequently inclement weather, many photographers specifically choose camera equipment with high levels of weatherproofing. For others, this is a non-issue for them as they rarely, if ever, use their camera gear under wet, cold or dusty conditions.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm with M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 300 mm, efov 600 mm, f/11, -0.7 step, 1/1600, ISO-3200, Pro Capture H mode, subject distance 3.1 metres

There may be specific capabilities and technology that a particular camera provides that is critical to the needs of a photographer. That same feature may be of no interest to the next.

Olympus TG-5 @ 18 mm, efov 100 mm, f/4.9, 1/400, ISO-800, microscopic mode

The subject matter that we prefer to photograph can also have a huge impact on the camera gear that we choose. For example, when it comes to doing macro photography dedicated macro lenses, extension tubes, and teleconverters can all come into play.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 with M.Zuiko MC-20 Teleconverter @ 140 mm, efov 280 mm, f/5.6, 1/2000, ISO-640, subject distance 5 metres

Overall reach and continuous auto-focus performance could be high priorities for people who focus on photographing birds-in-flight.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikkor 10-100 mm f/4-5.6 @ 100 mm, efov 270 mm, f/8, 1/400, ISO-160

Some of us use our camera gear for short periods of time. Under this scenario the comfort and ergonomics provided by our cameras may be of little concern. Other photographers use their camera gear for long, extended periods without any breaks. For them comfort and ergonomics are critical considerations.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 @ 150 mm, efov 300 mm, f/2.8, 1/1250, ISO-400, subject distance 860 mm

When considering the purchase of camera gear, many of us read or watch camera gear reviews. It can also be very instructive to ask the owners of camera gear that we are considering two important questions.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikkor 10-100 mm f/4-5.6 @ 46 mm, efov 124.2 mm, f/8, 1/160, ISO-400

The first question is to ask what they like about their camera gear and how it helps them create their images.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikkor 6.7-13mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 6.7mm, efov 18mm, f/8, 1/500, ISO-400

The second question is perhaps even more important. Ask other photographers what they were prepared to give up to own and use their current camera gear… and if they have any regrets.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikon 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 10mm, efov 27mm, f/5.6, 1/400, ISO-400

When a photographer can answer both questions clearly, we know we’re speaking with someone who has made a well informed purchase decision based on their specific needs.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikon 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 100mm, efov 270mm, f/8, 1/320, ISO-1600

Ultimately camera gear matters to each of us in our own unique way. It doesn’t really matter what someone else recommends, or how various reviewers rate the camera gear that we are considering. What’s important is for each of us to buy and use the camera gear that best meets our individual needs, and with the least number of acceptable trade-offs.

French Polynesia, Kodak DX6490, 6 mm, efov 38 mm, f/5.6, 1/750, ISO-80

Gear matters because when we have a camera in our hands, we may have the opportunity to create one of life’s special memories.

Technical Note

Most photographs were captured hand-held using camera gear as noted in the EXIF data. The Eyes of the Wind image was captured tripod assisted. All Images were produced from RAW files using my standard process.

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