Why Camera Gear Matters

Photographers love to talk about gear, but there is also a strong contingent of those who believe that all that discussion is a distraction from what really matters. The truth is probably somewhere in-between: gear does matter, and your choice of it can affect your workflow, but it is still the means, not the end. This interesting video discusses the matter and why gear matters. 

Coming to you from Rick Bebbington, this great video discusses why photo gear matters. Photographers often say "gear doesn't matter," but this can be a bit of a misleading oversimplification. As a philosophy, it is a very well-meaning and important piece of advice, as many newer photographers get overly caught up in thinking gear will improve their work when what they really need is focused practice and creative exploration. Nonetheless, the right gear can make a large difference in image quality and give you tools to get the shot you want, such as faster and more accurate autofocus. Of course, that does not mean you should go empty your wallet on the latest and greatest, but it is worth considering reasonable purchases that can make your working life easier and more efficient. Check out the video above for the full rundown from Bebbington. 

Alex Cooke's picture

Alex Cooke is a Cleveland-based portrait, events, and landscape photographer. He holds an M.S. in Applied Mathematics and a doctorate in Music Composition. He is also an avid equestrian.

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Nice change of pace! A good photographer will take good pictures regardless of the gear. HOWEVER, a good photographer can produce good stuff easier and more efficiently with the terrific hardware we now have. The author's advice, buy the best gear that you can afford, has been my advice since I got serious about photography.

Someday, machine learning will yield a "content roadmap" for photographers to create YouTube videos that rack up views and subs with maximum efficiency.
"Why Gear Matters"
"Why Gear Doesn't Matter"
"I'm Switching from Canon to Sony"
"I'm Switching Back to Canon"
"This Is the ONLY Lens You Will Ever Need - Tamron 35-150 for Sony"
"Why You NEED a Tripod"
"Tripods are for SUCKERS!"
and so on ...

For those of us that are gizmo oriented, photography can sure be a threat to one's credit card balance. :-) My other hobby is astronomy and it's just as bad. Use this mount, change mounts, new scope, meh, try another scope. CCD camera, no, try a CMOS camera. It all sounds familiar and gear heads go nuts and that explains why the You
Tube people have success.

This one made my day 😅😂

A few years back I was photographing a wedding with a pair of Canon 6D's. While outside taking photos of the couple it suddenly started raining heavily. I ran back to the hotel, but was unable to prevent my cameras getting wet. One of them stopped working and I was forced to shoot the rest of the wedding with just one camera. The Canon 6D is not a professional camera, but still capable of excellent results. You would probably be hard pressed to tell the difference between a photo taken with the 6D and one taken with a 5D MarkIV under identical conditions. What I learned that day however, is that the reason professional photographers use professional cameras and lenses is because they are much more durable and reliable. You can depend on them to keep on working. I think this is one area where gear does matter. Expensive equipment may not make you a better photographer, but it is built to last and won't let you down at a critical moment.

I agree, but wonder if luck can play a part. I used to have a 70D and didn't worry too much about rain - I was more worried about the 70-200 F/2.8 than the camera.

I am a real estate photographer and still use my Canon 6D (450,000+ current shutter count and never been serviced). It's been in the rain, snow, sand, subfreezing weather, fog, and even a running carwash. I'm not sure what is considered professional gear, but this camera has proven robust. I have another Canon 6D (new) as a backup. As for my profession, it's all about spending money on Tripods, Lights, and Lenses. The Canon 6D may be "old" by today's standards but it works for me. The EF16-35mm f/2.8L II has not faltered either.

In conclusion, you can still acquire "professional gear" without making your credit card nervous, I'd look into older equipment that is still sold as NEW in the box.

1) All the things he mentions still don't change anything about your image quality. Sure, you get more DR, IBIS and whatnot but I never heard of a pro who wasn't able to get a certain shot, cause his DR was 1 stop less or he didn't have IBIS. Great photos have been taken even before these things were invented or relevant.
2) Regarding weather sealing, just get a cheap underwater bag. There you go, weather sealing that withstands pouring rain.

Ignoring if a photo is great or not...

I've gotten street photography shots on a Panasonic G9 only because of IBIS. Just try do 1 second handheld without IBIS and still get a sharp shot :-)

Not saying the G9 was perfect. One of the reasons I ditched the G9 for the Sony A7R series was DR, too much blown highlights or crushed shadows on a camera that wasn't ISO invariant (or if it was, it didn't seem to be). The A7R lets me get so much more usable DR.

Whether those factors are relevant would depend on the use case though. Shooting in a studio with controlled light isn't exactly challenging for even a basic camera. Shooting an Orangutan in a Borneo rain forest requires something a little better.

"Just try do 1 second handheld without IBIS and still get a sharp shot"
There's an easy solution called carbon travel-tripod. Sure, additional weight, blahblahblah. Still saves you a few thousand dollars, easier accessible for beginners than a $3000 camera and proves the point that gear doesn't matter. Know-how does.

"Shooting an Orangutan in a Borneo rain forest requires something a little better."
As I said, you don't need a $3000 camera for that, you just need a $50 underwater bag.

Yeah, nah.

The handheld was whilst walking around a crowded plaza with a light installation. A tripod wouldn't have worked out.

For the Borneo shoot, you need a camera that:
Has the resolution to allow cropping
Has autofocus that is able to grab and track the eye accurately
Has good noise at high ISO (it's dark. Surprisingly dark)
Can allow a high frame-rate capture, as small movements make a big difference to the image
Weather sealed. Humidity finds a way into everything.

Go to a place like Sarawak and most of the time it's around 30C and 99% humidity, hence weather sealing being essential. A Canon EOS 200D would be completely insufficient for the task, a Sony A7R III would work - An A7R V would be better :-)

Sometimes there's no way to avoid spending money. ?-400mm isn't enough lens to get good frame coverage of Orangutan at the expected distance, 200-600mm is.

If you're going to spend 15 hours flying, costing thousands of dollars, the trip has to get results. It just doesn't make sense to penny pinch in this case, though I happily admit that sometimes it definitely does!

He touches on what's REALLY IMPORTANT right around 9:55. Knowing your gear and its capabilities is really important. Understanding how your sensor will record a scene given the lighting conditions ultimately, may be more important than the number of megapixels or weather sealing.

While a meme, this typically encapsulates the common elements of a why gear doesn't matter type video or article. https://youtu.be/x1HIkBEi9uY