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Better photographer vs. better images
Old 10-25-2018   #1
TedHarris
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Better photographer vs. better images

I was reading a comment on another thread today where someone pointed out that a newer camera would not make one a better photographer. While I agree with the statement it seems there are some caveats to explore.

For instance, if someone buys a dslr at Costco, they are going to have better images of their kid (in most cases) if they use an 85mm 1.8 prime instead of the kit lens. So it would seem that ponying up a few hundred extra bucks would yield better images, but it doesn’t necessarily mean they have become a better photographer. Maybe it does though.

In a nutshell, my question is this; what’s the difference between having better images and being a better photographer?

(I apologize in advance if this has been addressed and/or beaten to death in other threads)
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Old 10-25-2018   #2
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It's not a given that the really neat lens/camera will provide superior images, as it really does come down to who is behind the camera. A good photographer can make great images with a $20 film camera, and a poor photographer cannot necessarily make great images with the best camera and lens out there.

It's always like this, and it's always been like this. That's why a good painter can use a house brush and a 2 ratty smaller brushes and paint a better painting that a bad painter can paint with all the expensive sable brushes in the world.

Better is a subjective word. Sharper, more detailed, good bokeh, all that is of no use if the portrait pose is bad, if the landscape has lousy light, and on and on and on. If someone doesn't have a good eye, and money cannot buy one, then they should try something else.

Take a look at the really lousy cameras and lenses that Edward Weston was forced to use due to money issues. He made some of the best photographs that were ever made, and they weren't made by his gear, they were made by Edward Weston. Even with the best gear money could buy, you or I couldn't have made those photos, or we WOULD be making them. We're not.
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Old 10-25-2018   #3
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Old 10-25-2018   #4
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The way I look at in general is that better equipment may help you get better images if it is within you to see those images first. You must always see the images first.

For example modern AF with matrix metering, predictive focusing and a camera with image stabilization may help you get an image that you would not otherwise have been able to capture, or which is technically excellent when it might otherwise have been technically deficient in some technical respect (over exposed, under exposed, blurred etc)

But the question always remains whether the image is artistically excellent as opposed to its technical merits. That comes from within and also is a product of serendipity.

And having said he above some of the technical deficiencies I mentioned can add to an image in an artistic sense. For example I quite like a touch of vignette in certain images as it adds something artistically to the image or at least can do. Vignetting is always regarded as a defect if you believe the lens reviews.

I still shoot a lot with old manual focus lenses often because I enjoy the challenge and because of the special rendering some of them have which add to the artistic qualities of the outcome image. In that respect it can be argued that sometimes the newer "better" equipment might actually detract from some images because it is technically excellent but intrinsically rather boring.

When I look at the Flickr feeds I follow, almost without exception the images I like best are the artistically rendered ones which are so often blurry, dark, smeared etc and technically lacking but interesting.
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Old 10-25-2018   #5
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Welcome to RFF, Ted!


If a person plans to pursue a certain type of photography (landscapes, portraits, macro, street, ... whatever), it makes sense to get the equipment that will enable that person to accomplish their goals. The issue is that we usually take it far beyond that with our enthusiasm for equipment in and of itself.


In my own notion of what makes a good photographer, it would be one who creates good images. A person could know the technical aspects of photography but not be able to create a good image. In that case, I would not see that person as a "good" photographer. At the same time, we don't need to be good at it to justify our enjoyment of the pursuit.


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Old 10-25-2018   #6
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A better photographer is more likely to get better images (and then recognise them after the fact) more often.
A better camera “should” allow a photographer to get better images more often.
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Old 10-25-2018   #7
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Newer camera? It could be old camera, but different one. Or it could be Mark "something" camera.

It is all about what are you capable of and what is your potential.

Technically incapable, but creative person will take better pictures with more automatic camera. Like mobile phone or cameras with good AF and AE functions.
I think newer cameras are more into this.

In the past camera which was more suitable for your potential would help you with better pictures. I mentioned it many times:
Yousuf Karsh, Ansel Adams both new how to work with large negatives - LF.
Jane Bown switched from TLR to Oly SLR and it helped her.
HCB and GW switched to Leica. It was their tool.
VM did it great with Rolleiflex and if you watch documentary about her you might realize why.
Or then I look at DA large prints from Mamiya TLR. Something hidden most be exposed and large, to help hidden ones.
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Old 10-25-2018   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TedHarris View Post
...For instance, if someone buys a dslr at Costco, they are going to have better images of their kid (in most cases) if they use an 85mm 1.8 prime instead of the kit lens. So it would seem that ponying up a few hundred extra bucks would yield better images..
In this case if you're suggesting that subject isolation using a narrow FOV lens with shallow DOF = "better" images, I don't agree. Better images come from better seeing, no matter the lens or camera.

However simplifying one's equipment can help to improve seeing, IMO. Too much choice is too much distraction from seeing and learning to see. So just one lens, whether 85mm or 35mm or whatever, might help. Fully auto cameras with fixed focal length can remove distraction too.. I agree with Ko.Fe's comments (and others above).
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Old 10-26-2018   #9
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Extracts from The Quality Plateau on my .eu site:

Up to a certain level, a better camera will give you better pictures. This level is the quality plateau. Above the quality plateau, more depends on you than on the camera.

. . .

The quality plateau is not a constant. It varies from photographer to photographer, and with what the photographer wants to do.

. . .

You can argue about the meaning of "better camera" too. Some people actually like Holgas and other cheap plastic cameras. That's fine. If that's how they get better pictures, defined as pictures they like more, then the Holga is a better camera for them. But if you want to shoot wildlife, you'll most likely want telephoto lenses, and if you want to shoot underwater, your camera had better be not just splash-proof but submersible.

And there's more in the link.

Cheers,

R.
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Old 10-26-2018   #10
Erik van Straten
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Technical quality is not only brought by the camera, but also by how the picture is processed. Cartier-Bresson had the best technicians working for him at Pictorial Service.


Erik.
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Old 10-26-2018   #11
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I don't quite understand why this topoc comes up so frequently. Just compare with any tool that you use in your line of work, be it a computer or a chisel. You need it to fulfill certain requirements to get quality work done, if it's even better it might make work more pleasant. With any tool, some people are in love with them, others expect better ones to make up for deficient technique or thinking or inspiration, others view them pragmatically.
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Old 10-26-2018   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TedHarris View Post
In a nutshell, my question is this; what’s the difference between having better images and being a better photographer?
None. Better photographers make better images. That's what it means to be a better photographer. Better photographers use all kinds of different cameras. Some technically sophisticated; some not. Some with a bag full of lenses; some not. Adequate equipment is necessary but not sufficient for better images.
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Old 10-26-2018   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TedHarris View Post
...

For instance, if someone buys a dslr at Costco, they are going to have better images of their kid (in most cases) if they use an 85mm 1.8 prime instead of the kit lens. So it would seem that ponying up a few hundred extra bucks would yield better images, but it doesn’t necessarily mean they have become a better photographer. Maybe it does though.

In a nutshell, my question is this; what’s the difference between having better images and being a better photographer?..
I agree with some other writers before that it doesn´t need a special equipment to have
better pictures or to be a better photographer.
The choice in your example is only one possibility to aim a technical issue in a small
range of photographic challenges.
The proof of the concept stays always the picture
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Old 10-26-2018   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ko.Fe. View Post
HCB and GW switched to Leica. It was their tool.
Yes, though this was before Leica became a camera only the rich could afford, and Garry Winogrand used relatively cheap Canon 28 mm lenses that are nothing special optically for much of his work. But yet his images are treasures.
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Old 10-26-2018   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TedHarris View Post
In a nutshell, my question is this; what’s the difference between having better images and being a better photographer?
Art vs. technical. You can achieve technically better photos with a nicer camera (i.e. better focus, better dynamic range, etc.), but your camera is not going to frame your subject or find you compelling content.

That said, for me...if a camera feel right in my hands and reacts to my commands quickly, I will want to use it more and I will make better photos simply because I`m spending time happy making photos.
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Old 10-26-2018   #16
Ko.Fe.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by olifaunt View Post
Yes, though this was before Leica became a camera only the rich could afford, and Garry Winogrand used relatively cheap Canon 28 mm lenses that are nothing special optically for much of his work. But yet his images are treasures.
Many could afford LTM body and LTM lens. And M8 or M5. Or CL, HCB used them as well.
GW was buying second hand Leica cameras, BTW.
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Old 10-26-2018   #17
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First welcome to RFF Ted!

I agree with Roger here, there is a "quality plateau" which to be reached needs a camera able to do it.

In the case the OP presented to have good images of your kids if you want to shoot them indoor you need a certain iso level...or a fast lens...or image stabilization. Why? because I guess you like to have pictures of your kids in focus and properly exposed (of course you can also make artistic pictures with a different style, I know...)

But we have seen many stunning photos made with "primitive" cameras...where the photographers was a good one, able to see the image...

Back in the film only era I took a workshop with a famous Nat Geo photographer. We were 5 or 6, I do not remember it was many years ago, each with a medium/good SLR a various lenses. Among us was a young girl with a basic SLR bought a few days before and which she used in a complete automatic way no knowing the technical side of photography.

Guess what? She made really good photos, I dare to say much better than some made but the other photographers in the class with better equipment. But...she came there from an art school where she had learned to see and this helped her much in selecting and framing her subjects.
Of course with a better knowledge of the technical side she could have done not good but excellent photos!

As peter said a good photo can also be "imperfect" , blurred or overexposed, or...which in today's era of digital perfection makes interest...

SO in my view it's always a combination, the tool and the photographer...

robert
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Old 10-26-2018   #18
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Welcome to rangefinder forum.

I’ve found that, for me, photography is about posing, lighting and composition.

There are several sub-menus under each item. Tools are one of them. The person making the photographs is another. There are more.

The essence of photography, for me, is contained with my second sentence.

Enjoy your time here.
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Old 10-26-2018   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by olifaunt View Post
Yes, though this was before Leica became a camera only the rich could afford, and Garry Winogrand used relatively cheap Canon 28 mm lenses that are nothing special optically for much of his work. But yet his images are treasures.
No, Leicas were always expensive. Leica IIIa with Summar lens in 1936 (ADKOO): £43. Multiplier for inflation: rather over 60x. This puts the camera at £2580 today.

Alternatively, and arguably more realistically, according to the measuringworth web-site, the average wage in UK in the UK in 1936 was around £160/year*, so a IIIa was over a quarter of an annual average wage. Go on: tell me that's NOT a camera only the rich could afford.

*https://www.measuringworth.com

Cheers,

R.
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Old 10-26-2018   #20
TedHarris
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Thanks everyone for all the thoughtful and insightful responses and the kind words. I’ve been reading threads for eight years or so and am pleasantly surprised by the responses to my first post.

The issue seems to be a bit of a conflict for most photographers, and the industry seems dependent upon unveiling the next greatest thing. More mega pixels! Higher ISO’s! Buy! Buy! Buy!
I’m fortunate to have several Contax II’s that have been overhauled by Henry Scherer and I mainly shoot with them. Sometimes I feel limited by the lenses but as several have mentioned working within certain limitations can be a good thing. I doubt thoug that if Robert Capa was resurrected today he would be using them.

I shot professionally for about ten years and got really burnt out on all of the digital whizbang hype and yesterday’s most amazing thing ever being valued as obsolete today.
I may miss shots with my Contax or M3 that I would’ve nailed with a 5Dx but I enjoy the experience this way a lot more.
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Old 10-26-2018   #21
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Try 'in body image stabilization'. And then ask the same question, again.
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Old 10-26-2018   #22
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More and more these days I think good light trumps everything
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Old 10-26-2018   #23
David Hughes
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Not one mention of Bert Hardy, what is the forum coming to?

Regards, David




(Edit) Samples:-


https://www.google.com/search?q=Bert...QIBhAG#imgrc=_


https://www.google.com/search?q=Bert...&bih=748&dpr=1


https://thephotographersgallery.org....sts/bert-hardy
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Old 10-26-2018   #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by David Hughes View Post
Not one mention of Bert Hardy, what is the forum coming to?
*Having written an article for amateur photographers suggesting that you didn't need an expensive camera to take good pictures, Hardy staged a carefully posed photograph of two young women sitting on railings above a breezy Blackpool promenade using a Box Brownie in 1951, a photograph which has since become an iconic image of post-war Britain.[8][9]*
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bert_Hardy#Recognition

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Old 10-26-2018   #25
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You know there's that saying "It's the Indian not the arrow." ......
Too much of photo forum activity revolves around gear....gear excitement...gear acquisition...gear discussion
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Old 10-26-2018   #26
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Quote:
Originally Posted by olifaunt View Post
Yes, though this was before Leica became a camera only the rich could afford, and Garry Winogrand used relatively cheap Canon 28 mm lenses that are nothing special optically for much of his work. But yet his images are treasures.

Kind of wondering what exactly is your definition of "Rich"?

Yes I own and shooting with Leica but certainly I don't consider myself rich, in fact far from it and I sure the most of the other Leica shooters here would say the same.
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Old 10-26-2018   #27
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Does gear matter Yes in that it can often affect how we photograph a subject, example I took some shots of some rides at night a the local fair this past summer and due to the limits of the M9 I decide to go with setting of ISO800 F2.0/F2.8 at 1/45th and use the blur to tried to emphasize movement. Now if I had been shooting with say an M246 or a camera with fast AF I may have taken a different approach. As to wither the results would of been better, well "better" is some what subjective so maybe yes but also maybe no.
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Old 10-26-2018   #28
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Gear is important but I find other ingredients are even more important.
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Old 10-26-2018   #29
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Peter M's comments up top are very apropros and appreciated!
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Old 10-27-2018   #30
David Hughes
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This thread started off with this "...someone pointed out that a newer camera would not make one a better photographer..." and I reckon that saying "newer" doesn't mean "better" when talking about cameras as cameras that can turn out far better images than the photographer expects or wants have been around for decades.

But first of all, we have to face up to the plain fact that few photographers (most of who don't even know about RFF) even bother to print bigger than 5" by 7" and so don't really need much in the way of lens quality. Even if they printed everything to 8" by 10" I can point to several cameras dating from the 60's that were not top of the range and expensive but which could do that with ease. A couple of good examples being the 1960's Konica C35 (a small, neat programmed mode RF with a good lens) and the Olympus Trip 35 from the 70's (and still a bargain just for the lens). Even auto focus and a decent lens etc was available in the 70's on the Konica C35Af and many others.

Spend more for a good SLR with excellent controls, TTL, super lenses etc, etc and there's the Olympus OM-1 available from the early 70's.

The problem is that to many people a good lens means something like the APO Leica ones but to many of us that is overkill. That was why I mentioned Bert Hardy who went out with a box camera to prove the point and made an icon that few could better so easily and cheaply.

Nowadays I'd say that the equivalent of his box camera would be something like the Lomo Cosmic Symbol in the right hands...

So do the cameras I've mentioned fit the specification of better (than needed) but not newer?

Regards, David

Last edited by David Hughes : 10-27-2018 at 01:28. Reason: All those unnecessary CRLF's...
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Old 10-27-2018   #31
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Quote:
Originally Posted by David Hughes View Post
...
So do the cameras I've mentioned fit the specification of better (than needed) but not newer?...
No I think thats another common misunderstanding that a big print should have more
informations in it than a small one.

A good picture stays a good picture even when you print it XXL+.
More resolution, sharpness, details etc. can be beneficial but they not necessary make a better picture.

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Old 10-27-2018   #32
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Not one mention of Bert Hardy, what is the forum coming to? . . .
Dear David,

That's because it was a substantially pointless stunt. Work within the limits of any camera and you can produce good images. The problem arises when you need fancy stuff like a focusing lens, or telephotos, or variable shutter speeds. It is perhaps telling that Hardy did not subsequently switch to box cameras because they were all he needed.

Cheers,

R.
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Old 10-27-2018   #33
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Quote:
Originally Posted by David Hughes View Post
This thread started off with this "...someone pointed out that a newer camera would not make one a better photographer..." and I reckon that saying "newer" doesn't mean "better" when talking about cameras as cameras that can turn out far better images than the photographer expects or wants have been around for decades.

But first of all, we have to face up to the plain fact that few photographers (most of who don't even know about RFF) even bother to print bigger than 5" by 7" and so don't really need much in the way of lens quality. Even if they printed everything to 8" by 10" I can point to several cameras dating from the 60's that were not top of the range and expensive but which could do that with ease. A couple of good examples being the 1960's Konica C35 (a small, neat programmed mode RF with a good lens) and the Olympus Trip 35 from the 70's (and still a bargain just for the lens). Even auto focus and a decent lens etc was available in the 70's on the Konica C35Af and many others.

Spend more for a good SLR with excellent controls, TTL, super lenses etc, etc and there's the Olympus OM-1 available from the early 70's.

The problem is that to many people a good lens means something like the APO Leica ones but to many of us that is overkill. That was why I mentioned Bert Hardy who went out with a box camera to prove the point and made an icon that few could better so easily and cheaply.

Nowadays I'd say that the equivalent of his box camera would be something like the Lomo Cosmic Symbol in the right hands...

So do the cameras I've mentioned fit the specification of better (than needed) but not newer?

Regards, David
Dear David,

I repeat the extract from The Quality Plateau:

Some people actually like Holgas and other cheap plastic cameras. That's fine. If that's how they get better pictures, defined as pictures they like more, then the Holga is a better camera for them. But if you want to shoot wildlife, you'll most likely want telephoto lenses, and if you want to shoot underwater, your camera had better be not just splash-proof but submersible.

Cheers,

R.
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Old 10-27-2018   #34
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TedHarris View Post
Thanks everyone for all the thoughtful and insightful responses and the kind words. I’ve been reading threads for eight years or so and am pleasantly surprised by the responses to my first post.

The issue seems to be a bit of a conflict for most photographers, and the industry seems dependent upon unveiling the next greatest thing. More mega pixels! Higher ISO’s! Buy! Buy! Buy!
I’m fortunate to have several Contax II’s that have been overhauled by Henry Scherer and I mainly shoot with them. Sometimes I feel limited by the lenses but as several have mentioned working within certain limitations can be a good thing. I doubt thoug that if Robert Capa was resurrected today he would be using them.

I shot professionally for about ten years and got really burnt out on all of the digital whizbang hype and yesterday’s most amazing thing ever being valued as obsolete today.
I may miss shots with my Contax or M3 that I would’ve nailed with a 5Dx but I enjoy the experience this way a lot more.
Another Contax user! Welcome!
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Old 10-27-2018   #35
David Hughes
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Roger Hicks View Post
Dear David,

I repeat the extract from The Quality Plateau:

Some people actually like Holgas and other cheap plastic cameras. That's fine. If that's how they get better pictures, defined as pictures they like more, then the Holga is a better camera for them. But if you want to shoot wildlife, you'll most likely want telephoto lenses, and if you want to shoot underwater, your camera had better be not just splash-proof but submersible.

Cheers,

R.

Hmmm, but we are not all widlife photographers; that's a specialised use, surely?.

My money's on most photographers taking - to quote Ilford's old advert - faces and places. And for that a normal ordinary camera would do and the Trip 35 and C35 I suggested would be more than enough.

And would a wildlife photographer cope with a 35mm and nothing else to quote a lot of people when discussing the one lens concept?

That's assuming the point is that better/newer equipment beats a good eye for a photo or vice versa. My point being that a lot of equipment is overkill in terms of what's actually done by the owner, especially when 4" x 6" ordering prints from the lab...

Regards, David

Last edited by David Hughes : 10-27-2018 at 05:38. Reason: Semi-colon missed...
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Old 10-27-2018   #36
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Originally Posted by David Hughes View Post
Hmmm, but we are not all widlife photographers; that's a specialised use, surely?.

My money's on most photographers taking - to quote Ilford's old advert - faces and places. And for that a normal ordinary camera would do and the Trip 35 and C35 I suggested would be more than enough.

And would a wildlife photographer cope with a 35mm and nothing else to quote a lot of people when discussing the one lens concept?

That's assuming the point is that better/newer equipment beats a good eye for a photo or vice versa. My point being that a lot of equipment is overkill in terms of what's actually done by the owner, especially when 4" x 6" ordering prints from the lab...

Regards, David
Dear David,

Highlight: But then, so is underwater photography (as noted in the original quote); and macro; and sports; and music photography; and low-light reportage; and interiors; and indeed pretty much anything except basic happy-snaps. What you're saying, in effect, is that happy-snap cameras are pretty good for the sort of thing that happy-snap cameras are pretty good for.

I don't deny that many cameras are, for many photographers, overkill: again, as I say in one of the quotes above, Pretty much any good camera made in the last 60 years or so can take better pictures than many of the photographers who have ever used it or who will ever use it. On the other hand, hobbyists habitually indulge in overkill: think of golf, or bicycling, or even cooking. The great advantage of overkill is that it leaves you room to explore and improve without being limited by your equipment.

And there's a pleasure in using good kit. A Leica feels nicer in my hands than a Cosmic Symbol; my Sabatier knives are nicer (and easier) to use than cheap, overly flexible stainless steel.

Cheers,

R.
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Old 10-27-2018   #37
Sumarongi
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Deardorff38 View Post
You know there's that saying "It's the Indian not the arrow." ......
Too much of photo forum activity revolves around gear....gear excitement...gear acquisition...gear discussion
Oh yes. A friend of mine coined: "If one cannot swim, it's the swimsuit's fault..."

IMHO, most cameras today offer too much. It's confusing, time consuming, annoying.

I've rarely missed a shot due to a lack of ability to focus manually really super-fast, but dozens because the darned autofocus didn't do what I wanted.
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Old 10-28-2018   #38
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Old 10-28-2018   #39
David Hughes
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Roger Hicks View Post
Dear David,

That's because it was a substantially pointless stunt. Work within the limits of any camera and you can produce good images. The problem arises when you need fancy stuff like a focusing lens, or telephotos, or variable shutter speeds. It is perhaps telling that Hardy did not subsequently switch to box cameras because they were all he needed.

Cheers,

R.

Hmmm, well, um, I see it as proof that the well known thread about image vs. equipment has been around a lot longer than the internet and he being a poor working photographer made his point and kept his name in front of the public, which most pro's still try to do...

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Old 10-28-2018   #40
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sumarongi View Post
Oh yes. A friend of mine coined: "If one cannot swim, it's the swimsuit's fault..."

IMHO, most cameras today offer too much. It's confusing, time consuming, annoying.

I've rarely missed a shot due to a lack of ability to focus manually really super-fast, but dozens because the darned autofocus didn't do what I wanted.
YES!

Cheers,

R.
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