Friday, March 7, 2014

Whats the Best Gear

From several on-going web forum discussions. People were arguing what the best camera is but never layed out any guidelines. Here is what my reply was “On the best gear….”. Note that the forum is "Fine Art Photographers" and the question was “Are you a photographer or an Artist?” and in it someone asked about the best gear to use.

People are missing the point on “the best gear” and again goes to the question “Are you a photographer or an artist?” I’m often thinking many people are neither. When someone blankly asks what the best gear is, it's obvious they have no understanding of what photography is, what a camera is and what its for or how to use it! My question is "What's the best gear for what?"

As photographers (people who make realistic copies of the world around them) we need the best meaning gear that will give the best results based on what we are doing. A Hasselblad sucks at Bird Photography and so a Canon 70D or a Nikon D800 with a 500mm or 600mm lens is required. If we are doing corporate head shots and we never print very large, a full frame camera like a 5D is perfect combined with a good piece of glass. If on the other hand you are shooting head shoots that need to be printed very large, the 5D sucks and a Hasselblad or Leaf would be better. But, even these cameras may not do what you need if shooting high end large scaled landscapes or architectural images and so you may need to go to 8x10 or an ALP or something like that as you may require more perspective correction than what a TS Lens will offer. Photographers generally (note the word generally here as the trolls on this site will skip this word) require way more quality than a Diana camera and often more than a good cell phone camera. But even these may be good enough for Web based work and such.

As artists on the other hand we require other elements. And the camera or the gear should not be deciding your art or hindering your art. You camera should be your ‘tool’ and the old adage of make sure you “use the right tool for the right job”. A painter will know his tools and will not use a palate knife when a fine delicate brush is required. As artists why is your camera (the palate knife) forcing you to create art in a specific way? As artists ‘WE’, the artists decide on a project. We decide on the ‘language’ our photographs will use and we will decide on the project as a whole and will define what technical specs are required. Often these technical specs are not “quality” (the Hasselblad)  but rather a “look” or a “feeling”. So then the question is what is the “Best” camera turns into “What is the Best Camera for My Artistic Project”. It may be a Pinhole Camera, a Diana for doing Lomography type images, a Cell Phone for quick and easy, it may be a Leica type compact for high quality Street Photography, a DSLR for on location artistic Portraiture, a Medium Format Digital or perhaps Film (remember the project and the look) for on location Fine Art Nudes or perhaps 8x10 or 20x24 film camera for incredible grand landscapes.

Note that these can all me mixed up also as a Fine Art photographer could use a Diana if he chooses to for creating Fine Art Nudes. That’s the beauty of ART! But the point here is “What is the look you want?” and “What tools will get you those results?”

If you want to become a better artist you should learn to visualize and conceptualize a project. You should define its photographic language (what Camera, what Lens and what Focal Length if using a Zoom), what Viewpoint, what Aperture, what Film, what Look, what grain or other outputs (perhaps Cyanotypes as an example (Yes this much detail and others) and then based on what you need to create “the Vision” you should then choose the best tool! And it may be a Pinhole Camera! NOT a Hasselblad.

It’s all about control of the project and what photographic language and vision you want in your final images. As an artist you should know your equipment inside and out and be personal with it. You should know its strengths and weaknesses.

So is a camera better than another? Yes most definitely. What’s the best camera. The one that does what you want or need perfectly!

© 2014 Francois Cleroux
Version 1.00 - March 2014

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I value thoughtful comments and suggestions. If you like or dislike this post, please let me know. If you have any ideas or suggestion, comments or corrections (I do make mistakes) please also let me know. Thanks.

- Francois Cleroux