Lately I’ve been spending some time looking at camera gear reviews to get a better handle on what is currently available. I had to smile when I glanced at some of the reader comments on various photography sites. The debate on what constitutes professional gear seems to be one of those pointless exercises that never seems to end. Many folks seem to get downright glandular about the subject and attack each other’s opinion with some fervor.
If reader comments are to be believed, unless a camera is a high end, ultra megapixel, full frame body, the camera is sub-par and isn’t fit for ‘professional use’.
So what constitutes professional gear? Sure, it could be one of those ultra megapixel, full frame bodies. Or it could be something completely different. The point is ‘professional gear’ is whatever a particular photographer uses to do work for their clients and get paid for it. Cameras are their image making tools. Nothing more… nothing less.
I remember reading an interesting article in the spring of 2011 written by Bob Krist regarding the camera gear he was using at that time. For those of you who may not be familiar with Bob Krist, he is a highly celebrated travel photographer with an amazing body of work that has spanned many decades.
Even back in 2011 “professional camera gear” was defined by the internet crowd as being full frame cameras and corresponding lenses.
What was Bob Krist using back then to create his spectacular photographs? A pair of Nikon D7000 cameras with a selection of pretty common lenses. Those included a Nikkor DX 35mm f/1.8 prime, a Nikkor DX 16-85mm f/3.5-5.6 zoom, a Nikkor 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 zoom, and a Tokina DX 11-16mm f/2.8 wide angle zoom. I’m sure all of that gear would have been put down by internet trolls as not being fit for professional use as it was ‘only consumer grade’. Bob obviously had a different opinion.
There has been a large number of new cameras announced over the past year. Full frame appears to be the rage, along with some new medium format cameras. No doubt some of these cameras will provide new, and useful capabilities for many of you.
If you want to keep your emotions in check when you begin the camera buying process don’t worry about what constitutes professional gear. Instead, focus in on your specific needs. Consider creating a camera buying decision matrix. This exercise will help you identify your ‘must have’ and ‘nice to have’ camera capabilities. It can serve as a useful tool to help wade through all of the details and commentary on cameras, regardless of the make and model.
As discussed in a previous article, keep your sights set on those cameras that provide you with meaningful differences that are truly worth some of your hard earned money. Only consider those cameras that meet your ‘must have’ criteria, as well as some of your highest rated ‘nice-to-have’ capabilities.
Read reviews with a degree of skepticism. Many of them simply focus on differences in the specifications of various cameras. I’ve read some reviews lately that drone on and on about very small and petty differences between camera specifications. Incredibly some of these so-called reviews don’t even have any real-world sample images captured by the reviewer. I regard these ‘reviews’ as little more than click-bait.
If you are in the market for a new camera, look for reviews that provide good, hands-on observations about actually using the camera gear. Reviews that include good quality sample images also provide value.
The images in some reviews are so poor they would do an injustice to any camera. My rule of thumb is that if a reviewer doesn’t have the skill to create well composed images for their review, their camera assessment is of little value to me.
Another rule of thumb is to discount reviews that make a big deal out of the obvious. An example would be that images from an APS-C cropped sensor camera had more noise at high ISOs than did those captured with a full frame camera. If an obvious fact like this is a revelation to you… you probably shouldn’t be spending money on a new camera anyway.
When it comes to camera gear, buyer’s remorse is painful and expensive. Some advanced planning and logical research can reduce the risk.
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