Photography channels on YouTube are a double-edged sword. On one hand, I’ve learned a lot about various techniques that I’ve found really helpful. On the other hand, a lot of them, especially the more popular ones, are awfully gear-centric. It’s easy to think after watching some of these videos, “OMG, I have the worst camera ever. I need to spend lots of money just to take usable photos.” It’s FOMO (fear of missing out) taken to ridiculous levels.
All I want is a camera that shoots great stills and video, has fast autofocus, performs well in low light, has good ergonomics, is easy to use, and fits in a coat pocket, preferably for under $1000. Is that too much to ask?
Well, yeah, it is, unfortunately.
When I took macroeconomics several years ago, we talked about the idea of tradeoffs. With finite resources, allocating more of them in one area means you have to allocate less elsewhere. Photography forces you to confront this reality all the time.
Forget comparing different camera systems for a moment – just look at the lens selection for any one class of cameras. Say you’re looking for something in the telephoto range. You can start out with the cheap telephoto lens, but their smaller minimum apertures mean you’ll sacrifice speed and low light performance. You can upgrade to a professional telephoto zoom, but that’s significantly more expensive, not to mention heavier. Fine, you say, let’s just get a fast prime in the telephoto range. Yes, you get the widest possible aperture that way, but you have to sacrifice zoom and might have to switch lenses more often if you’re shooting a variety of subjects. And all of this is just in one camera system.
Comparing camera systems increases your options (and therefore potential for confusion) exponentially. Each camera manufacturer has its strengths and weaknesses, and it can be difficult to determine how important those factors are to you. Also there are intangible factors in play. How does a particular camera feel in your hands? What are the cool kids shooting with right now? At least with the latter question I can save you some time: it’s Fuji.
I say that somewhat tongue-in-cheek, of course, but only somewhat. If you check photography blogs and YouTube channels, DSLRs (Canon, Nikon, Pentax) aren’t cool right now. Mirrorless (Fuji if you’re primarily a stills shooter, Sony for video) is supposedly where it’s at these days.
But honestly, I think most people, myself included, are more limited by their skill as a photographer than their gear. I’ve said before that putting someone else’s tools in your hand won’t turn you into them. It’s better to learn the camera you have inside and out. If you have a decent interchangeable lens camera, chances are it can do everything you need it to do.
True, other cameras might do certain things better or make certain tasks easier. But new cameras come out all the time. If you insist on always having the latest and greatest, that’s an awfully expensive treadmill to get on, especially if you don’t do photography for a living (that’s an entirely different conversation, although the pros I’ve talked to don’t seem obsessed with having the latest gear).
In conclusion, I’ll let Simon tell you what’s up.
When have you felt the tension between gear and skill? Share your experiences in the comments!