Here is something all photographers have in common- the desire for ever better, ever newer, ever ever camera gear. Whether young or old or ancient, good, great or god awful, outdoor, indoor or sliding door we all crave better stuff whether we actually need it or not. Need has nothing to do with these desires actually. Need implies practicality and a reasoned approach to photography. As soon as you show me a reasonable photographer I will show you a reasonable congressperson. You go first!
Back when I started, back when cameras where pulled by horses and dams and windmills supplied their power and we suffered through the inconvenience, the horror of film, the big choices we all had to make was lenses. There were only one or two camera bodies from which to choose and then maybe a dozen lenses. There weren’t small cameras then only not as big cameras and lenses didn’t come in different colors or f-stops or flavors (you know it is just a matter of time). We had a couple of zooms, a couple of telephotos and a few prime lenses. That was it.
But the beauty of this limited selection was that you knew what was the best camera and what were the best one or two lenses. this made buying or upgrading your camera gear very easy. Everything was linear back then. All the choices were obvious.
Ah, those days are gone now. Nothing is linear anymore. Starting from the gear you have you can go off in any number of directions to get better or different gear. there was no different in my day, just better or not as good. Today we have so many choices of lenses, camera bodies, cameras, camera bags, camera this, camera that it becomes at times paralyzing to make a decision. I am pretty sure that this is how the camera companies want it.
Nikon has 15 digital SLR cameras and 24 digital point and shoot cameras not to mention 2 hybrids. That’s 41 cameras to choose from! But wait, there’s more. Canon has 10 digital SLRs and 30 digital point and shoots. Sony has 21 digital cameras and Panasonic has 24! That’s 126 cameras from which to choose from only 4 manufacturers! And I didn’t even get into Olympus or Pentax or Fuji or Kodak or Samsung! Dare I say that there must be well over 200 digital cameras out there to confound and entice us. Yes, I dare!
But, here’s the deal- they are all pretty darn good cameras. Okay, let’s toss out the lowest end models, that still leaves us with over 150 to mull over. And even if you have some brand loyalty or loyalties you still are probably looking at well over 50 different cameras. Oye!
Here is the trap that we fall into or I should say, I fall into- there is not one best camera. The top of the line Nikon, the D4 (or is it the D800?) and the top of the line Canon, the John, Paul, Luke and MarkII, (or the Mark III 3cpo? or 1D eieio?) are magnificent cameras but they have their flaws. One is that they are huge and heavy. Another is that they are very, very conspicuous. And let us not forget that they cost more than my first car did! All the rest of the Canon and Nikon cameras also have their flaws- the sensors are small, the cameras are small, the features are limited, they are too slow to autofocus, too slow to start, too slow to process, the video is limited, and on and on and on.
Here is the bottom line: There is no one best camera generally and there is no one best camera even for you in particular. Every camera has wonderful features you will adore, several you don’t care about, several you hate and several that you really wish you had. It doesn’t matter how much you spend on a camera it is always the same- love some, lose some, loath some, lust some. My Nikon D4 is wonderful but in a crowded market in a third world country it is too big and much too conspicuous. My Coolpix A is very cool and very fun but it is a fixed 28mm. My Nikon 1 is small and handy and very inconspicuous but the sensor is tiny and the controls are sometimes buried in menus.
So what is a photographer to do? Well, on any given day you will love, lose, loath and lust after a different set of choices based on how you are feeling at the time, what you are photographing at the time and how you are photographing it. In a crowded market my little Coolpix A is perfect but if a dance breaks out I am going to wish I had my Nikon 1. If I wander into a dim courtyard and find a beautiful elderly man to photograph I am going to really with I had my Nikon D4. Am I going to carry all three? Never. I will make choices. Choices based on my mood and interest at the time. If I miss some shots so be it, such is life. I will probably always carry two cameras with me- a big one and a smaller one but which ones, I can’t say.
So don’t get hung up on trying to pick the perfect camera- it is a fool’s game. Pick two or three (cameras are getting pretty cheap these days) that are different that give you different capabilities and then be happy. Two should be enough for most situations, three perhaps a bit overkill. Four? Nikon’s D600sure does look like a great camera. I think it would be perfect for me!!!!
Your right, there is no “perfect” of anything and knowing the limitations can spawn more creativty. I’m playing more with my iPhone and the varied number of apps makes this part of photography a live and energizing. I also find I appreciate more my Canon Mark III and its versatility.
I just checked in to see what you’re up to and read this thoughtful article. I still remember you teaching our class that you can get pro results with just about any lens, a lesson that I pass on whenever I can. It’s human nature to lust for gear, eh?
How the heck are you? Great to hear from you. And I agree, great results are possible from just about any camera but that will never stop the lust…thank goodness!