At What Point Does Gear Matter?

I read a fair amount of articles around when to get gear, arguments for and against gear and on and on and on….  Most of these articles do make valid points and I’m going to toss my 2 cents into the ring Smile

My standpoint is going to be a little different as I’m not going to approach this from the gear side – closer to the scenario side of things.  Let’s explore this a bit.

To me, photography is about capturing the moment.  If you can capture the moment, in reality, how you captured it, is irrelevant.  Now, in saying that, as one progresses and tries to improve, there is a bit of a natural progression.  You have a camera or perhaps decide to get a new one – the initial intent of course, is to take photos.  In fact, it might even be your phone – doesn’t matter.  Not yet anyway Smile  Soooo.. as one progresses, you may want to get better.  If you follow ads, that latest and greatest camera will get you better photos – right?  Well, it depends…..sort of……  IF you have learned the basics and rules of  photography AND perhaps reached a point where your existing camera simply doesn’t do something you “see”.  At some point you become VERY serious and may trade, or buy your way into your “dream” camera and here you are…..  Soooo….what do you end up with?  Perhaps one camera, a backup and related accessories?  More important here – do you have your camera with you at all times?  If you are a serious amateur, you likely don’t Smile  You may have a DSLR or even a mirrorless perhaps, but there is a strong likelihood you don’t.  Unless. of course, you are not worried about using your phone…..To me, it’s about the moment and the camera is the tool.  What that tool is, shouldn’t matter for the most part.  BUT in saying that, there’s another perspective.  THIS also depends on where you are on the totem pole.

I consider myself a very serious photographer.  I have over 15 years in 35mm film and have now been in the digital space for more than a few years.  From my 35mm days, I do know the basics and despite the fact I’m still developing my brand, I have developed some personal mandates. 

1.  It is about capturing the moment.  I have my own theory around that.  When I started in the digital space and started to acquire my cameras, the intent was to have a camera with me at all times.  The one thing I DIDN’T do, was get rid of my cameras.  And I have a LOT of them – 15+ at last count.

2. I do try to “get it right” in camera.  So what does that mean.  Two things – I know the technical side of the camera to ensure my settings are correct for what I want to do.  I get my composition as close to what I “see” on the shot.  Does that mean I don’t take a lot of photos?  Not really – it goes beyond that.  I will take different exposures, angles. compositions as well.  There’s a reason – reduce post processing time.  Look at it this way – if you are sitting at your computer, you are taking time away from taking photos or time to prepare to take photos.

When I got going on this, I actually got my gear based on what I was doing at the time and as my “direction” changed, I got different gear accordingly.  Everything I do, even to this day, is based on mobility – or having the least amount of equipment to get the job done.  To a point…..  My photography fits into two basic categories.  The casual stuff and the serious stuff to keep it simple.  Casual  basically is the snapshot area.  In other words, everything from social events to reference photos for my properties.  Serious stuff is the stuff that the public sees.  DSLR’s are my primary use cameras but I am not bound to them in some situations either. 

So, why DSLR’s?  I do have a Micro Four Thirds unit – a Panasonic GX1 with a couple of lenses and it does just fine.  I also have a Fuji X10 – another great unit that I still use.  DSLR’s get me “into the game”.  I went into DSLR’s for two primary reasons.  First – image quality – I knew I would be in the space where the larger sensor would become a factor.  As good as Micro Four Thirds is, I do like what the larger sensor returns.  My Nikons are APS-C and not full frame, but all things considered, my preference is still with my Nikons.  The Panasonic and Fuji’s render every so slightly warmer in some situations.  The second was based on circumstance – battery power was a key factor and even today there are times when the extra battery power of  my Nikons reigns supreme.  Does the extra weight get in the way?  Yes, there are times.  And then there are accessories.  Micro Four Thirds, to my knowledge, have only recently been in the high speed sync space.  In mirrorless it’s just hitting a point where the flexibility is there.  But not in all cases. DSLR’s have had that flexibility for accessories for a long longer.  For instance – if I need to use radio triggers for a studio setup or equivalent, I don’t have to worry about looking very far or even spending a lot of money to get them.  I have several sets of radio triggers actually depending on the scenario.  I recently bought a bare bulb flash unit for some very specific work – getting one for Nikon was easy.  If I had been using say a Panasonic GH4 – not a hope.  Try and get a radio trigger release or even a remote release for something other than Canon or Nikon – not as easy as you think.

Sooo.. the bottom line.  Is there a point where gear matters or makes a difference?  To me, yes.  It’s also a judgement call.  You envision a specific type of photo and your current stuff doesn’t quite fit the bill.  Will getting new gear or extra gear make you a better photographer?  No, it won’t make you a better photographer – it will get you the shot though Smile

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