The truth is that people rarely take great pictures, most pictures taken are far from being great. When people see their mediocre pictures, they rarely blame themselves but they frequently blame their camera. In doing so they become obsessed with megapixels, zoom, LCD size, etc. They start thinking that getting a camera with more megapixels, more zoom and a bigger LCD – a better digital camera – will make their pictures great. Obsession starts there, with many things that have nothing to do with taking great pictures.
So it is not the camera, it is the photographer right? Absolutely. Someone said that you cannot buy yourself out of bad pictures. That is the truth, a poor photographer will remain that way unless he improves his composition and technique for getting the proper exposure, focus and depth of field. A new and more expensive camera will not make the pictures any better.
Is it not true then that professional photographers use expensive gear then? No, professionals do use expensive digital cameras and lenses. Why do they, if things like megapixels and zoom do not matter? The answer lies in knowing what matters. Professionals know what matters and so they obsess about the right things!
One of the longest-running obsessions for digital cameras is the obsession with megapixels. Megapixels are important to produce large prints and to achieve better composition by allowing more cropping. That is why many great photographers do not use the highest resolution camera, they use one that is sufficient for their medium. Anyone who does not print pictures anymore or only prints smaller than 8×10 does not need many megapixels, 6 will greatly suffice. Some photographers do specialize in very large prints, those rightfully seek out the highest possible resolution.
The right obsession is not about getting the most megapixels or the most zoom, although indirectly it may be. The right obsession is to find a camera which increases the oportunity of making exceptional pictures. Yes, some cameras provide more oportunities for great pictures. How can they influence that? By providing more efficient ways for the photographer to control the camera and capture the moment.
The photographer having efficient control over the camera is key. That is why better cameras, from the perspective of professionals, have more buttons and more parameters – not more scene-modes and automagical features, those take away control. Buttons, over menu options, are about speed of control. A photographic moment is happening right in front of the photographer’s eyes, he only has a short moment to capture it, wether he manages or not lies in how fast the camera can be controlled. Then the camera has to react, so shutter-lag, focus-speed, continuous drive speed and depth can all be important. Those are among the right things to obsess about, yet not equally by all photographers. Landscape photographers are much less subceptible to differences in miliseconds than sport photographers, for example.
DSLR cameras are used for their speed, their versatility and their high-ISO performance. What does that give to the professional photographer? Speed increases the chance of capturing a fleeting moment, it is more important for moving subjects. Versatility increases photo oportunities by changing lenses to fit the shooting location and composition. High-ISO clarity increases photo oportunities by reducing the amount of light required for action photography, this is ideal for sports, dance and candids.
Ultra-zoom cameras or long zoom lenses can also be obsessed about, they both provide photographic oportunities to take pictues from afar, to catch candid shots of people or shy wildlife. Wide-angle lenses too increase oportunities for photography by allowing shots in tight quarters and sweeping vistas to be compressed into a single image.
One can rightfully or wrongfully obsess on many things but only obsessing on the right things increase photographic oportunities. However, more oportunites cannot compensate for a lack of photographic vision and technique. This is why it is much better to concentrate on composition and exposure before deciding what obsessions really matter. Only then will the most suitable camera be truly beneficial to its owner.