Does Gear Really Matter? 30 Mind-Blowing Images Taken With Entry-Level Gear

When someone tells a photographer that “their camera must be really good,” chances are the photographer will respond with an eye roll. The debate surrounding gear verses skill in the photography world is a tired albeit consistent discussion. Let’s not kid ourselves, gear does in fact matter. However, does a photographer need top of the line equipment to produce mind-blowing images? Take a look at this collection and decide for yourself.

Last week while I was in Puerto Rico, I met a couple who was familiar with my work. They asked if I would take pictures of their adorable ten year old daughter. I would have loved to take her pictures but to my luck, I decided to leave my gear at home in hopes of taking a real vacation from photography. They mentioned that they had a Canon t4i and an 18-55mm lens that I could use. At first, I dismissed the idea because I’ve been spoiled with my Nikon D800 & prime glass. But truth be told, the idea of the challenge was very appealing to me and let’s be real, I was having separation anxiety from photography. I agreed to take a few photos. Here's a few:

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While shooting, I found that using lower-end gear can prove to be difficult to work with. Mainly, I had a hard time with the fact that I was using an 18-55 lens and the lowest F-stop was a 5.6 at 55mm. Additionally, there weren’t enough focus points for me to use. That being said, it did not stop me from using everything else I’ve learned outside of the gear department. After the shoot, I realized that skill is a crucial part of photography. I incorporated everything I knew about expressions, posing, composition and even post-processing to produce quality images.

The primary goal of this article is to give encouragement to go out and shoot without worrying about what gear is in the bag. As is with all art, photography is subjective. It’s important to remember that there is a huge range of gear between what is considered beginner and advanced. There is no way to draw the line between what is considered beginner and professional gear.

500pxcom3Joko d90 75mm

500pxcom3Joko 550D 55mm c

500pxcom3Joko 550D 55mm b

Tri Joko  Canon 550D - 18-55mm & Nikon D90 - 70-300mm ^

500px.com89205537525 d3100 50mm

Светлана Беляева Nikon D3100 & 50mm 1.8

500px.comAnnaTheodora t1i 18-55

Anna Theodora Canon T1i 18-55mm

Epic Sunrise at Nubble Lighthouse

Benjamin Williamson T2i 18-55mm

500px.comDaniloFaria t1i asigma 10-20

Danilo Faria T1i 10-20mm Sigma

500px.comhien1234 d5000 50 1.8

Hien Luong D5000 50mm 1.8

Moraine Lake Sunrise

James Wheeler D5000

500px.comLarsKorb d3200

Lars Korb D3200 18-55mm

500px.comLauraMar D3000 55mm

Laura Mar D3000 18-55mm

500px.comNico54 D3200 18mm

Nicodemo Quaglia D3200 18-55mm

500px.comPaulyP t2i 85mm 1.8

Pauly Pholwises T2i 85mm 1.8

500px.comRobertoInetti t3i 18-55

Roberto Inetti T3i 18-55mm

500px.comTimPalmanPhoto d3200 35mmm 1.8

Tim Palman D3200 35mm 1.8

500px.comvinduPhoto d5000 18-55

Vit Vitali vindu D5000 18-55

 500pxcomAzKarno D90 50 1.8d

Aaron Karnovski D90 50mm 1.8

500pxcomdiogopg t4i 10mm

Diogo Glovatski Canon T4i 10-20mm Sigma

500pxcomFlieg-e D3100 18-55

Marianna Roussou Nikon D3100 18-55

500pxcomharaldferber t4i 55-250 b

500pxcomharaldferber t4i 55-250 c

500pxcomharaldferber t4i 55-250 d

500pxcomharaldferber t4i 55-250

^Harald Ferber Canon T4i 55-250^

500pxcommandarmdeshpande t4i 18-55

Mandar Deshpande  Canon T4i 18-55mm

500pxcommankevichph d3100 50mm b

Ivan Mankevich D3100 50mm

500px.comgdphoto d3200 85mm 1.8

George Dikhamindjia Nikon D3200 85 1.8

500pxcomwxvelocity D90 35mm

Robert Edmonds Nikon D90 35mm

d70 28-80

Noam Galai Nikon D70 28-80

I'm sure there are many more amazing images out there taken with entrey-level gear, feel free to share a link to them below!

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168 Comments

Previous comments
guismo37's picture

Yeah, gear is not essential, software skill is.
The hassle and pain you avoid shooting with a 50L compared with the one you suffer with the 1.8 is well worth the more than $1,000 dollars difference.

ALEXANDER TARDIF's picture

Outstanding! Two of these have been in my fav's library for a while, actually! The whiners who bitch about pp are pathetic. Last I checked, digital photography includes... digital gear AND digital pp. Get over it.

Some of the styling isn't my cup of tea, but others are wonderfully composed, exposed, and processed. I enjoyed the post.

David Vaughn's picture

I think it's just that there is an unintentional implication from the images above that you can take amazing images with your kit lens as long as you put it through the Photoshop gauntlet.

I think this post would have been more successful if they provided a better variety of images to prove that kit lenses are capable lenses.

Jdorn's picture

No. Because once you start stretching the dynamic range of a camera with an older sensor, you will see terrible artifacts very quickly. So it remains just as crucial to be careful with your post-processing as your image capturing process.

David Vaughn's picture

I don't see any terrible artifacts that stand out to me in these, mostly just bad composites and post-processing.

I don't understand how your statement relates to mine when discussing why people are "whining" about this article.

Skip Middleton's picture

I think the point to mentioning post was that it doesn't matter as much what you use for gear if you're going to heavily modify an image. "Mind-blowing" is in the eye of the beholder, of course, but gear matters much less when it comes to composites and plug ins. I don't think it's "whining," I think it's a legitimate comment on the process used in obtaining an image.

Keegan Evans's picture

Great article! Sometimes I get into a roller coaster of thinking about what gear I don't have. Nice to be reminded on what we CAN do! Sorry for the Haterade some people are drinking in the comments!

BluestributeEnt .'s picture

https://www.flickr.com/photos/123736765@N04/

Canon T2i with either a nifty fifty or Sigma 17-70

groovieknave's picture

Let's try not to forget how much photoshop costs... yeah they took pictures with cheaper gear but they post processed them with expensive software. Not sure I really care about any of it though, because I am not ignorant and think a camera is what makes great photos.

Veldask Krofkomanov's picture

Don't forget that a lot of people have Photoshop downloaded for free, especially amateurs.

Don't forget, either, that GIMP is very close to Photoshop for the vast majority of intermediate photographers. For beginners, it does everything they need and more, for free (not taking into account the freely acquired PS).

Mark James's picture

I guess you still have to use a Canikon for it to matter.

Kristoffer Sandven's picture

If you simply look at an image on screen, it might not make such a big difference. The difference between an entry-level camera and a pro camera are many when you're delivering to clients. Dynamic range (getting details in both highlights and shadows), responsiveness and speed (getting the shot in a critical situation), multiple card slots (safety), image quality even at high ISO, weather sealing (obvious), focusing systems (again, getting the shot), sharpness and details when working with large format prints etc etc.
If you don't need to perform under pressure and sell your images, these things might not matter as much. I agree with Dani - the most important thing is to get out and shoot, whatever your gear.

Adam Kuzik's picture

Well said!

Tim's picture

Many of these things can be fixed with a choice of an appropriate workflow.
Dynamic range? HDR.
High ISO? Stack.
Sharpness? Super-resolution.
Depth of field versus lens performance issues? Focus-stacking.
Image-size? Panorama.

These things extend any camera's ability. What spending money on gear achieves is less reliance on such techniques and extends the attainable shots to subjects that don't work well with multi-image blending (e.g. wildlife).

Capion's picture

You should add mine to the list! Great pics here :D
Nikon D3200 PoTD http://fstoppers.com/potd/sleeping-titan

Brook Thompson's picture

I think it would be really something if we could take some of those old manual everything slrs and put a sensor where the the film was. No fancy features just to record what ends up there like film did.

Jennifer Kelley's picture

The majority of my best photos were taken with the camera in my avi, which is about 35 years old and totally manual, and processed in a wet darkroom. The camera doesn't make a good photo anymore than my oven made a great Thanksgiving dinner last year. The person is what makes great images - the person decides on the subject, composition, and when to click the shutter.

I feel that people who say you need super high grade equipment to work don't really know what they are talking about. 99% of my work could be shot with consumer grade equipment. However, I choose to save on repairs by buying pro grade equipment that is meant for heavier use. I choose to buy equipment that will allow me to work more efficiently, keep consistency in my images, and reduce my time in post production, which means that I essentially earn more per hour.

However, I think that there are probably enough really nice images taken with consumer grade equipment that the point could have been without using bad Photoshop examples.

Deter Pinklage's picture

Lighting and post matter.

James Nedresky's picture

Gear, of any kind, has extremely little to do with making an interesting image. Vision and timing do. Of course, it always depends on the viewer to say what is good or interesting. Like my first photo instructor replied when asked "what's a good picture"?... "One that satisfies the criteria of the viewer"

Gil Gildner's picture

Gear doesn't matter. I've taken my kit into some pretty nasty conditions, and that's why I shoot mainly on a D7100 with a D3200 as backup. If it gets stolen or takes a spill, less loss. In the end, nobody can tell what camera something's been shot on unless, perhaps, it's the bokeh difference between full frame and crop sensor.

Omar Salgado's picture

There are aesthetic differences in photos between cameras, believe it or not. Of course, that takes a lot of practice and experience, but I don't find it useful.

Andredesignz's picture

This is why I try to educate new comers to photography to STOP thinking that they don't need a D7100 - 800 Canon 7D - MIII etc. All you need is to be creative get familiar with your camera settings and learn how to use PS.

Kevin Geary's picture

Another FStoppers fail.

Veldask Krofkomanov's picture

How would you have done it better? And why would it be better?

Kevin Geary's picture

Most of these images have little to do with photography. They're heavily retouched or composited. And many of them poorly so.

Veldask Krofkomanov's picture

First, thanks for "answering" my question. Reread my question, then try again.

Second, interesting how you think an image has little to do with photography. You may not like the images, but the post processing has as much to do with photography as pressing the shutter button. Don't let your elitist opinions cloud the facts.

Terry Weaver's picture
Jason's picture

I shoot mainly with a D5000 and two kit lenses, I feel my images are better than some of my competitors in the area that use a pro lens and body. The only difference is the training I have received vs them putting it on auto and spray and pray.

Guest's picture

nikon d3100 tamron 18-200

Dani Diamond's picture

Nice!

Esteban Rodriguez's picture

This was with a Nikon coolpix pocket camera (my first camera)
http://500px.com/photo/5847195/salvation-by-esteban-rodriguez?from=user_...

asasa's picture

its not the camera. it's how good you are in photoshop!

Dani Diamond's picture

Exactly! Better get your game on with your editing skills bro!

Ian's picture

actually it's all in the matter of perspective. training your eyes to see and learning to get it right on the camera. you can avoid a lot of post processing and save time :) but then again it depends on your style.

Tam Nguyen's picture

Some of these photos are actually pretty amazing. Thanks for gathering them all up in one post Dani!

Dani Diamond's picture

Thanks Tam, I knew you'd enjoy it!

Josh Hittinger's picture

Entry level cameras, expert level post work. Slightly misleading, but cool nevertheless.

Skip Middleton's picture

A D90 with a 35mm and a D70 with a 28-80 are hardly "entry level." And, as others have pointed out, a lot was done in post to several of these.

Dani Diamond's picture

Can you please create a list of pro/entry level gear so I can update the article.

Skip Middleton's picture

Go on B&H and look up camera kits. That will give you a start. Canon Rebels and Nikon four digit bodies generally are entry level. The D90 was the equivalent of the Canon 5D, IIRC, a "prosumer" body and the first with video.
A 35mm lens is usually used by someone with more experience than a beginner and the old Nikon 28-80 f2.8 lens was decidedly a pro level lens. The Nikkor 85 f1.8 isn't exactly a starter kit lens either, at about $500, same with the Canon version of it. Same with the Sigma 10-20. Depending on which one it is, the price ranges between $400 and $650 and is a lens usually chosen by someone not satisfied with the lens that came in the kit with the camera. With sensors being shared across models, the body becomes much less important the the glass hung on the front of that body. I could go on, but in short, if it isn't a kit lens, it isn't entry level.

Tim Palman's picture

Thanks to F-Stoppers for featuring one of my photos (http://500px.com/photo/64452001/boat-shed-by-tim-palman?from=user_library) and to all those commenters saying that "all of these had a lot done in post", or words to that effect, this article is about encouraging people to remove the idea that in order to make great photos you need great gear. Indeed, the post is saying that others factors (ie. composition, knowledge of the camera and exposure, post proccessing) can effect your final image more than sensor size, number of pixels or how many exposures your camera can bracket for.

Donna Bailey's picture

well said Tim and congratulations on the feature :-)

Hank's picture

These are all edited to the depths of the universe. WTF does this have to do with basic gear?

Tim's picture

That's half the article's point.

The other half is recognizing vision. In every case someone set out to make a specific photo. Not just using some Canon or Nikon toy, but using the frame, the light, the subjects.

Will's picture

While the intention is great

Certain debates are getting pointless

Good gear doesn't guarantee high quality output, but they give better quality output than bad gear on any given individual

CHAP's picture

Entry-level camera but not-so-entry-leveled editing.

Scott's picture

No doubt!

rtimko's picture

It's still a tool that everyone has/uses. Use the tools you have.

Noam Galai's picture

Sometimes I feel like low-end equipment forces you to think and try harder. It pushes you to get more creative.
But I love my high-end equipment.

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