I keep on wondering about the discussions of photographic enthusiast about camera technology and brands. Some enthusiasts even react very angrily at brands they used to have, or at other people when they mention some sort of shortcomings of their new camera. I would think a camera is just a tool… isn’t it?
Modern cameras are a wonder of technology. The possibilities are almost endless and every year manufacturers think of new options that were thought almost impossible. It makes taking photos easier, and often more difficult at the same time. Cameras need to be configured to address the personal wishes of the photographer. Menus have sub menus, and sub menus have their own sub menus. Everything can be customized and buttons assigned. Screens have been introduced in the viewfinder, rendering mirrors and pentaprism unnecessary.
I do like all the technological progress. It makes it possible to acquire the wanted result more efficiently, or easily. In some occasions it makes photos possible that weren’t possible before. I always think the technology must be in service of the photographer, and not the goal in itself. It is the same about camera brand. Why should that be important if the tool you use gets the job done?
Of course, there is a difference between all those camera brands. One camera has more options than others, and one brand may use a different technology than the other. An amazing face-AF and eye-AF may be perfect for a portrait or wedding photographer, while the landscape photographer couldn’t care less. Just like shooting 20 frames per seconds. It's just a small part of photography that will benefit fully from this possibility. The same is for a huge dynamic range. A landscape photographer that uses HDR techniques and filters will almost never have the need for that kind dynamic range, while the wedding photographer could benefit from it.
The thing I am trying to make clear is that those technologies and possibilities of a camera may be amazing, but no photographer will ever make use of every single option; they just use the part that is important for their kind of photography. And of course, it is amazing if your camera can shoot with a dynamic range of 14 stops or more, or if that camera can shoot 20 frames per second, or has face-AF and eye-AF that can even recognize and choose between persons. But that technology does not determine a good photo. And that is exactly why I am writing this article. When you change brands or buy a new camera that has features that aren’t available in the other camera, it does not mean that your photos are becoming better, or that the other camera is suddenly a bad one. But that is exactly what I hear and read way too often.
I had a participant at one of my masterclasses that had changed brands. He used to shoot with a Canon EOS 5D mark III and replaced it by a Sony A7R III. When we talked about that decision he mentioned it was the best decision he ever made, because his pictures never had that amount of detail, and his new camera had eye-AF, and a large dynamic range, and buttons that could be customized, and there was no mirror anymore, and so on. Since he switched to the other brand, the previous one was suddenly a bad camera, that couldn’t make any good pictures. Since I still use Canon, he was basically saying that I could not make a decent picture with my camera.
I have heard stories like this about Nikon users that went to Fujifilm, or Canon users that switched to Sony, or a Canon user that switched to Fujifilm and partly back again, and about DSLR users that switch to mirrorless. And a lot of them are telling the result of the new camera or brand is so much better than the previous one. If this is true, they basically tell us they have never made a good photo before.
If your camera technology or brand is responsible for a good photo, I am wondering what the criteria of good photos are. Is a good photo determined by the newest technology, like a special AF option build in the camera, or an electronic viewfinder instead of an optical one, or 14 stops of dynamic range instead of 12 stops? Or is the technology just a way to retrieve a photo with a little bit more ease?
I know of a good macro photographer who uses a (relatively cheap) DSLR, with a simple macro lens that is absolutely not top of the line, but who is taking photos that are really amazing and award winning. I once had a participant at my Lofoten photo tour that was making amazing shots, with wonderful compositions, but without the "best of the best" camera brand or latest camera technology.
I have been writing for Fstoppers for about half a year, and I have written articles about both photographic techniques and camera reviews. The funny thing is, when it comes down to articles that cover technique, just a few people seem to be interested. But when I write about a camera, or about a certain brand, or an expensive flashgun, people keep on coming back with comments. A lot of them are defending their choice of brand as being the only thing that is good, or burning down the other brand. Photographers that have switched brands are perhaps the worst, just like my example of that masterclass participant.
I have been taking photographs since I was ten years old. I started with a Praktica Super TL and eventually switched to Minolta because I could afford that one. When I finally switched to digital photography I wanted to have a Nikon, and bought a Canon because for me it felt better. And I have stayed with Canon ever since. I do camera reviews on a regular basis and get to know a lot of other brands and technologies. I have used Fujifilm (X100t, X70, X-Pro2, GFX-50s, XT-2), Nikon (D500, D810, Z 7), and Sony (A9, A7R III). I had the opportunity to shoot with the Hasselblad X1D-50c and the Leica SL for a while, and I reviewed the Panasonic G9, GX9, and the S1. And of course different Canon cameras like the new EOS R. I still use the Canon EOS 5D mark IV for my work as a landscape and wedding photographer and I am happy with it. I wouldn’t want to change it for any other camera I have reviewed, no matter if it is a Sony, Nikon, Hasselblad, Fujifilm, Panasonic, Leica, or any other one. The camera I use gets the job done, just like any of the other brands would do.
So I wish people wouldn't argue so much about the newest cameras, the best brands, the best technology; but rather about the techniques that can be used for making better pictures. Because better pictures aren’t made by a brand or technology, just like the images in this article will show. I bet you never guess what kind of camera these were made with (you have read how many cameras I have used). But you may guess if you like.