Shooting With Different Cameras, Does it Lead to Inspiration?

Shooting With Different Cameras, Does it Lead to Inspiration?

For the last decade I’ve been sticking to my guns, shooting on a Canon 5D Mark II with a small selection of lenses. This camera has been the love of my life for so long even my family and friends get jealous. But what if you get the opportunity to dive into the dark depths of the deep end and shoot with a camera you’ve never dreamed of having the opportunity to shoot with before?A while back the Canon 5D Mark IV was announced, and the crowd went wild. A camera that stayed true to form in terms of the 5D line, while at the same time introducing new features to ease the workflow of the professional photographer. This camera immediately grabbed my attention when it was released and I needed to try it out for myself.

Being so used to the mechanical workhorse that is my 5D mark II, I felt the need to try out something different. Specializing in both Photography and Videography, I felt this camera had the perfect mix of both worlds. The Canon 5D Mark II established my love for both mediums, even though it had its limitations. The Mark IV takes it a step further in terms of what can be accomplished.

This is not a review on the 5D Mark IV, I’m sure if you Google or browse around on Fstoppers, you’d find a ton of reviews on the Mark IV. For this article, it’s merely an example of what you can do when being challenged to learn something new and the inspiration that comes with it when mastering a new system.

Because of the new camera, I saw photography in a whole new light. I felt the need to experiment again, just as I did when I bought my 5D Mark II all those years ago. I wanted to try the features it had to offer and see how it performed in post-production. Most importantly it got me to go out and shoot again. Even if it was in my garden, during midday sun. After shooting with the new camera for a whole day, I felt inspired and the need to shoot some new projects again. The love for photography rediscovered.

Now, I’m not saying when you’re stuck in a rut to go buy a new camera and you’ll be successful. But try experiment with new mediums and apply that to the gear you own. It gives you a fresh mind full of ideas and challenges. In the same light (no pun intended), I’ve had the opportunity to play around with Sony’s A7s low light video capabilities as well. I was met with newfound inspiration and excitement to start shooting on my Canon 5D Mark II again.

Gear is expensive, and while not all of us have the budget to upgrade our cameras every few years, it’s important to stay fresh and up to date with new technology. While the old saying goes, “It’s not the camera, it’s the photographer behind it.” I still believe it does play a vital role in the way it makes you feel about every photo you take. Even dusting off the old film camera once in a while could give you the inspiration you’re looking for.

The point is to just mix it up every once in a while if you feel bored with your gear. Go to your local rental house and play around with a new camera or lens and you’ll be surprised at what you find going on in your mind.

Have you found yourself reinvigorated and inspired after using a different camera body or lens?

Fred van Leeuwen's picture

Fred van Leeuwen is a South African-based photographer and filmmaker. He operates under The Image Engineer, working on short films, portraits, and landscape photography.

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The author is not alone; just last week we had Ty Poland tell us his phone camera inspired him, too. Unfortunately, it has had the opposite effect on me in the past - my photography immediately went backwards after getting a new camera.

Moving to a smaller format did this for me. I was a big Nikon FX wielding exponent for many years. And then the Olympus OM-D E-M5 came along and suddenly my camera became an interesting thing again. I ended up shooting more frames in 18 months with that thing than I had shot on the Nikons in the preceding 3 years. Eventually I just moved over completely when the E-M1 came out. No regrets.

Yes! For me after years of shooting Canon/Nikon DSLRs, I pretty much started shooting everything the same way, playing it safe, never straying too far from the staples of 16-35, 24-70, 70-200. A Fuji X100T really forced me to think differently about making photos with its fixed lens and completely different body style that makes a user slow down just a little. (also, I bought an X-T1 after that and started drinking way more of the Fuji Kool-Aid). The film simulations also led to me playing with colors more.

I habitually take a couple of different cameras with me whenever I go out for some serious photography, such as the Nikon F2 and the Canon 5D Mark III I used yesterday. Mixing it up does stop me falling into a rut. Good article!

For me it's not cameras, it's lighting and lenses. There's just so much to me with lenses and lighting then camera bodies because, I feel you can pick up any ILC body and get great results from it. Lenses and lighting aren't the same. Kit lenses are great but when you move up from say an 18-55 3.5-5.6 to a 17-50 2.8 constant you can see a difference right away with out you shoot. Then moving to a 24-70 the image quality for me was drastically different. I got a few AD600bm's from Godox for stuido and location shoots and to be able to free position the light wherever and how ever with that much power is a game changer especially shooting outside. HSS and overpowering the sun at F2.8 with those is stellar! Add some color gels, some honeycombs and a few other modifiers and you have so much creative freedom.

Different camera, different lens, different subject, different location. They all spark something in us. If it is your tool, and it is a major upgrade (about 6, or 7 years ago I upgraded from a D200 to a D800) it can blow your mind in all that you've been missing. But it's no substitute for technique and practice. I think people, myself included, can get bored with the same tools day in and day out. As Sheryl Crow would tell us, "A change would do you good." Lately I think the technology curve has leveled out a bit, so many of those WOW moments have become incremental, which means we will need more changes in subject, than tool to get that same spark. But that's me, still waiting for the D820... ;)

I've been shooting a film SLR that I bought in 1980, a Canon A-1. I sort of fell into a rut and in 2011, I bought a three-pack of C-41 B&W film since shooting color in pre-dawn hours would be a waste of color. That's when I rediscovered the classic look of B&W. For 2012, my resolution for that year was to shoot the entire year exclusively using B&W film. I did have some regrets about boxing myself in, particularly when seeing a stunning sunrise or sunset that wanted color; but I had a sunrise project where I shot B&W. 2012 was a creative year; I learned to visualize in B&W.
In 2013, I found a great price on a used Canon New F-1 which I bought so I could share lenses. With two film cameras, I've solved the quandary of shooting B&W or color; now one is loaded with B&W and the other with color.
What I didn't know was that my wife was going to buy me a Canon 5D III in 2013.