Does gear matter?
This is the continuing conundrum that faces photographers.
So, my usual response is this: Does gear matter? Yes. Is gear all that matters? No.
Yes, gear matters. That statement may ruffle some feathers, but it’s the absolute truth. If I take a picture of a flower with a $6,500 Nikon D4, then take a shot of the same flower immediately afterwards with a $476 Nikon D3200, you will see a difference in the pictures, I guarantee it. There is no getting around that.
Now, is gear everything? Absolutely not. Meaning, if I take a picture of that same flower in bad light, or if I cannot properly create a decent composition for that flower, then it (mostly) doesn’t matter if I have gear that costs the same as a pre-owned mid-sized sedan.
Gear matters. I’ve written down my opinion about gear before, and how I prefer to follow a philosophy I call Punk Photography. Trying to save the soul of photography. Then there’s my personal journey I have with my own gear.
When I got back into photography seriously around 2008, I simply started walking around with a Samsung Digimax S830 point and shoot camera. I have no idea where I got this camera, actually. I can’t remember if I bought it, or was gifted it, or I just stole it. Or, it just….appeared. Who knows. All I know is that having a camera around me all the time helped me “see” again. Helped me dust off all those compositional skills that had gone dormant since I completed Art School. And, guess what, I was able to take some not-half-bad pictures with it too.
In 2009, my family and I moved from England to America, from the countryside of Norflok, to the glitz and tainted glamour of Las Vegas. Upon arrival I immediately bought a new camera, a slightly better point and shoot, the Canon Powershot A1000 IS. Hot damn I love that camera.
Really great image quality, easy to use, compact. I took that camera everywhere. Because I wasn’t worrying about aperture, f-stops, ISO or shutter speed, I was able to just focus solely on composing good pictures. And, if I’m honest, I took many of my personal favorite photos with that camera.
I took pictures with that camera for two straight years. Most of those shots are still up on my flickr page. If you are starting out in photography, I can’t recommend this path enough; just buy a good point and shoot, or even a small mirrorless camera, and spend a significant amount of time just taking pictures. Don’t worry about gear, don’t worry about settings, don’t worry about anything technical. Just create. If you can sustain that, if you can remain creative without any other financial investment in gear, if you can see yourself improving solely on practice, building your experience and shooting every day, then you can get better gear.
Because, in my heart of hearts I believe that having a good eye for composition will trump having good gear every single time.
In April of 2011, after constantly taking pictures with that Canon A1000 for almost two full years, I decided to upgrade. I bought a Pentax K-x. My first DSLR. Hot damn I love that camera.
Now we’re talking. All that stuff I had purposely ignored for those previous years, aperture, f-stops, ISO and shutter speed, I needed to start taking that stuff seriously. I became a student again. Which is fine. Hopefully, I will never stop learning new things.
Like before, I had that camera for almost two years. I took it everywhere, and it never failed me. I learned everything I could, I grew, I began to really seek out critique for my work. I checked out webpages, I checked out books from the library. I learned about stuff I didn’t even know I needed to learn about (prime lenses vs zoom lenses, the qualities of different focal lengths, as two examples). And, like before, I tried to shoot daily.
It was almost by accident that in February, 2013, I got my current camera, the mighty Pentax K-01.
Hot damn I love this camera.
I wrote all about my Pentax K-01 before, you can start HERE if you want to read all about it. But, for our purposes, I’ll quote the relevant passage:
“I needed an upgrade.
Now, obviously that’s a load of cow manure. I WANTED an upgrade. I didn’t NEED one.
My Pentax K-x is fine, and would have been fine for a long time. But, after having the same equipment for almost two years, I just got that itch.”
Yup. That’s exactly where I am now. The mighty K-01 would do me right for many years to come. But, after about a year and a half….I’m just gettin’ that itch. Again.
What’s the next upgrade? Full frame.
I won’t go into too much here about what that actually means, here’s a fine Wikipedia article for you if you don’t already know the difference between a full frame sensor and a cropped sensor. I might write about the technical differences, in my own words, a bit further down the road. But, for now, just know that I’m really wanting to upgrade to a full frame camera. Here’s why.
As I have said before, I come from a fine art background. Therefore, I can best explain this by using an arts-related simile: A Full frame sensor is like painting in oils, while using a cropped sensor is like painting in acrylics.
If you look at a great oil painting, there is a weight and depth to the colors that acrylics just don’t have. Now, don’t get me wrong, that doesn’t mean acrylics can’t produce great colors, obviously they can. And with some skill, acrylic paints can absolutely be manipulated to look like an oil painting. And, if you have a boring subject matter, or a clumsy composition, it doesn’t matter if you are using oils, acrylics or finger paints. A bad painting is a bad painting.
But, at the end of the day, an oil painting is an oil painting, and most of the time it just has a different look to it. And, I appreciated that this is highly subjective, but I believe oils have a better look that acrylic. There, I said it. And, similarly, I think the image quality from full frame camera looks better than from a camera with a cropped sensor. There, I said it.
And I’m ready for some of that. I’m ready to start painting in oils.
I have no idea when this upgrade will happen, certainly not this summer. But, soon.
Hopefully, soon. We’ll see.