Let's Make an End to All Those Pointless Camera Discussions

Let's Make an End to All Those Pointless Camera Discussions

I keep on wondering about the discussions of photographic enthusiast about camera technology and brands. Some enthusiasts even react very angrily at brands they used to have, or at other people when they mention some sort of shortcomings of their new camera. I would think a camera is just a tool… isn’t it?

Modern cameras are a wonder of technology. The possibilities are almost endless and every year manufacturers think of new options that were thought almost impossible. It makes taking photos easier, and often more difficult at the same time. Cameras need to be configured to address the personal wishes of the photographer. Menus have sub menus, and sub menus have their own sub menus. Everything can be customized and buttons assigned. Screens have been introduced in the viewfinder, rendering mirrors and pentaprism unnecessary.

I do like all the technological progress. It makes it possible to acquire the wanted result more efficiently, or easily. In some occasions it makes photos possible that weren’t possible before. I always think the technology must be in service of the photographer, and not the goal in itself. It is the same about camera brand. Why should that be important if the tool you use gets the job done?

Of course, there is a difference between all those camera brands. One camera has more options than others, and one brand may use a different technology than the other. An amazing face-AF and eye-AF may be perfect for a portrait or wedding photographer, while the landscape photographer couldn’t care less. Just like shooting 20 frames per seconds. It's just a small part of photography that will benefit fully from this possibility. The same is for a huge dynamic range. A landscape photographer that uses HDR techniques and filters will almost never have the need for that kind dynamic range, while the wedding photographer could benefit from it.

The thing I am trying to make clear is that those technologies and possibilities of a camera may be amazing, but no photographer will ever make use of every single option; they just use the part that is important for their kind of photography. And of course, it is amazing if your camera can shoot with a dynamic range of 14 stops or more, or if that camera can shoot 20 frames per second, or has face-AF and eye-AF that can even recognize and choose between persons. But that technology does not determine a good photo. And that is exactly why I am writing this article. When you change brands or buy a new camera that has features that aren’t available in the other camera, it does not mean that your photos are becoming better, or that the other camera is suddenly a bad one. But that is exactly what I hear and read way too often.

I had a participant at one of my masterclasses that had changed brands. He used to shoot with a Canon EOS 5D mark III and replaced it by a Sony A7R III. When we talked about that decision he mentioned it was the best decision he ever made, because his pictures never had that amount of detail, and his new camera had eye-AF, and a large dynamic range, and buttons that could be customized, and there was no mirror anymore, and so on. Since he switched to the other brand, the previous one was suddenly a bad camera, that couldn’t make any good pictures. Since I still use Canon, he was basically saying that I could not make a decent picture with my camera.

I have heard stories like this about Nikon users that went to Fujifilm, or Canon users that switched to Sony, or a Canon user that switched to Fujifilm and partly back again, and about DSLR users that switch to mirrorless. And a lot of them are telling the result of the new camera or brand is so much better than the previous one. If this is true, they basically tell us they have never made a good photo before.

If your camera technology or brand is responsible for a good photo, I am wondering what the criteria of good photos are. Is a good photo determined by the newest technology, like a special AF option build in the camera, or an electronic viewfinder instead of an optical one, or 14 stops of dynamic range instead of 12 stops? Or is the technology just a way to retrieve a photo with a little bit more ease?

I know of a good macro photographer who uses a (relatively cheap) DSLR, with a simple macro lens that is absolutely not top of the line, but who is taking photos that are really amazing and award winning. I once had a participant at my Lofoten photo tour that was making amazing shots, with wonderful compositions, but without the "best of the best" camera brand or latest camera technology.

I have been writing for Fstoppers for about half a year, and I have written articles about both photographic techniques and camera reviews. The funny thing is, when it comes down to articles that cover technique, just a few people seem to be interested. But when I write about a camera, or about a certain brand, or an expensive flashgun, people keep on coming back with comments. A lot of them are defending their choice of brand as being the only thing that is good, or burning down the other brand. Photographers that have switched brands are perhaps the worst, just like my example of that masterclass participant.

I have been taking photographs since I was ten years old. I started with a Praktica Super TL and eventually switched to Minolta because I could afford that one. When I finally switched to digital photography I wanted to have a Nikon, and bought a Canon because for me it felt better. And I have stayed with Canon ever since. I do camera reviews on a regular basis and get to know a lot of other brands and technologies. I have used Fujifilm (X100t, X70, X-Pro2, GFX-50s, XT-2), Nikon (D500, D810, Z 7), and Sony (A9, A7R III). I had the opportunity to shoot with the Hasselblad X1D-50c and the Leica SL for a while, and I reviewed the Panasonic G9, GX9, and the S1. And of course different Canon cameras like the new EOS R. I still use the Canon EOS 5D mark IV for my work as a landscape and wedding photographer and I am happy with it. I wouldn’t want to change it for any other camera I have reviewed, no matter if it is a Sony, Nikon, Hasselblad, Fujifilm, Panasonic, Leica, or any other one. The camera I use gets the job done, just like any of the other brands would do.

So I wish people wouldn't argue so much about the newest cameras, the best brands, the best technology; but rather about the techniques that can be used for making better pictures. Because better pictures aren’t made by a brand or technology, just like the images in this article will show. I bet you never guess what kind of camera these were made with (you have read how many cameras I have used). But you may guess if you like.

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152 Comments
Jonathan Brady's picture

An enormous number of arguments and replies would be eliminated if people simply accepted 2 truths...
1) you don't know what you don't know. In other words, it's quite possible that switching would DRAMATICALLY improve a person's photographic experience and/or results but they're too _______ to even consider it.
2) what works (or doesn't) for one person doesn't necessarily work for someone else (or does). In other words, X, Y, and Z may be of paramount importance to one photographer and those factors couldn't be more irrelevant to the photographer that values A, B, and C.

Accepting these 2 truths would practically eliminate arguments and simply lead to "experience sharing" instead.

I'll add a contentious 3rd truth... Brand loyalty only works one way and that's the consumer to the brand. The brand has no clue who you are and only wants your money. They only care about you as part of a larger demographic. Stop giving a $#!+ about brands.

Jonathan Brady's picture

"Accepting these 2 truths would practically eliminate arguments and simply lead to 'experience sharing' instead."

Jonathan Brady's picture

Assuming you've run #1 through it's paces them clearly they need to be introduced to my rule number 2! 😁

George Anderson's picture

Pat, I didn't ask you for your advice. Silence yourself.

George Anderson's picture

Yet more unsolicited advice. Shut up.

George Anderson's picture

Pat, I can't stop what I've already done. Not only is your advice not pre-approved, it's impossible to carry out. Zip it, Einstein.

Penny Fan's picture

That's not all true, IMO brand loyalty should be given toward those brands whom care about their customers, means those constantly releasing firmwares, listen to their users, give the best possible features and techs to their products and provides great customer supports & services.

Jonathan Brady's picture

My point was that brands don't actually care about their customers. They care about their customer's money. That's it. Never has the CEO of any camera company called up a customer and asked them about their day, what their hopes and dreams are, who their High School crush was, or how their parents ruined or supported their lives. THE BRANDS DON'T CARE ABOUT THEIR CUSTOMERS. Just their money.

Deleted Account's picture

They will only do this to make a profit. The first concern of any firm is to make money. Everything else after that can only happen when they make money and usually goes to further their profit potential. Brands do everything they can to make you think they care about you. Maybe for some small number of companies this is their USP, but in the end, they will only care about you if you are giving them your money. Yes there is a two way street but brand loyalty really only benefits the brand.

Competitive markets are what benefit the consumer. It keeps prices low and innovation high.

Ariel Martini's picture

What about the discussion on camera discussions?

Nando Harmsen's picture

Good one ;)

Graham Goodman's picture

I think it's a mistake to think that this is unique in photography. I think it is true in any marketplace that is dominated by a small number of big retailers, particularly if that marketplace can in any way be seen as a luxury marketplace.

- Mac v Windows or iPhone v Android
- Audi v BMW
- Any cycling manufacturer v any other cycling manufacturer
- Marvel v DC Comics

Whether it is crushing brand loyalty or just an overwhelming desire to "have made the right decision", I've never been able to make my mind up.

All I do know is that it is tedious. The quickest way to make me end a conversation is to see my Canon and tell me that I bought the wrong brand (that was genuinely the first words that someone once said to me, they didn't even get a hello out first).

ANDREW WILDER's picture

Hahaha @Canon being the wrong brand. Thats just silly!

C Fisher's picture

Hatfields vs McCoys

Mike Ditz's picture

The Hatrocks? :)

Mark Smith's picture

Agree. When consumer culture merges with tribalism we get these entrenched, unthinking positions. Extremely tedious, downright silly and .... rather pathetic. I am completely happy with my Sony a6000 andI feel no need to invest my energy in trashing anybody or anything else. My identity does not extend to my camera. Or my college, or my baseball team, or my car, etc.

ANDREW WILDER's picture

I always crack up when i see the same people in every camera review comment section saying things like "real photographers dont need X fps" or "my X year old camera still makes me money, my clients dont care what i shoot with". Its absurd, if no one wanted X fps then camera makers wouldnt make more capable bodies. And if your ancient camera still works, great no one is forcing you to buy anything. As far as brands go there is no BEST brand. Each one has unique things about it that are purely subjective and no two people will agree on.

Jacques Cornell's picture

"'my clients dont care what i shoot with'. Its absurd,"
It's not absurd. What would be absurd would be if they then insisted that what works for them must suffice for others, which many who make the above observation, including myself, often don't do. You're setting up a straw dog argument just so you can knock it down.
My clients don't care what I shoot with.
Make of that what you will. But, if you want to do the kind of work I do, this might be useful information.

ANDREW WILDER's picture

Ah, you're one of them. Another thing they like to do is take things out of context when triggered...

Jacques Cornell's picture

Another troll slandering random strangers and offering no substantive information whatsoever. Pathetic.

ANDREW WILDER's picture

You're correct, thats exactly what you're doing.

michaeljin's picture

What was the point of all of those photographs? Just to get us to guess?

Nando Harmsen's picture

I hope you enjoyed the pictures. :)

Deleted Account's picture

I rather enjoyed the photographs.

Nando Harmsen's picture

Yes, you're welcome to guess

rodney simba masarirambi's picture

Love this article. So true... we all need to accept that we are dealing with incredible devices which frankly all of them have issues and could/will get better. Enjoy the differences secure in the knowledge that my choice is the perfect choice and the rest of y'all are simply wrong 🤣

Adam Hynes's picture

When people switch camera brands they move to a newer camera. Every generation of cameras improves noticeably. Going from a Canon 5D Mark III to an A7R3 is two generations. The difference will be dramatic regardless of the brand. Most people’s conviction that their new brand is better than the old is skewed as a result. Also, it disappoints me the number one question I get asked about photography is “what camera do you have?“. It’s really so unimportant.

Nando Harmsen's picture

About the question "which camera"; it is okay when they ask me that. It could be just an interest. This changes when they are going to tell me why I should replace it with another brand ;)

Deleted Account's picture

It’ll never end. There’s always a new batch of over excited people that buy a camera system and need to justify their purchases.

Nando Harmsen's picture

That is so true.

Stas Aleksandersson's picture

Hands down the best article I’ve read in quite a while. Very true.
When I read comments how photographers love their cameras, it’s almost as if they made cameras themselves.

Nando Harmsen's picture

Thanks Stas.

Tim Cray's picture

What's wrong with someone saying they "love their cameras?" That's neither indicative nor could it be even remotely construed as someone making the camera. Your comment was great until you added that silly, and totally unnecessary statement. And, by the way, I LOVE my cameras.

Stas Aleksandersson's picture

I did not say that there’s anything wrong with someone saying they love cameras, did I? I love my camera too, always did. What I meant is that some people hate other brands and express it in a way that makes me think they came up with their great tool.

Tim Cray's picture

Your response to my comment with this statement: "...some people hate other brands and express it in a way that makes me think they came up with their great tool" is how you should've said it in the first place. I suggest you phrase it correctly the next time.

Stas Aleksandersson's picture

Thanks, bud, you’re right. I’ll consult with you next time before posting the comment.

Tim Cray's picture

No need to consult with me, Dude. Just "think," or better yet, "proofread" your articles before you post them to the site. What gets me is most of you so-called pros think you know more than everyone else about photography. Just because you've been shooting since you were 10 years old doesn't mean a thing to me or most people for that matter, either.

Stas Aleksandersson's picture

I didn’t say that I was a pro or that I know anything about photography. Where do you get these fake news from?

Tim Cray's picture

Fake news? There's no news here. I just made an astute observation with my comment.

Eric Peterson's picture

I shot Canon for 30 years. I think they were great cameras and still capable of making professional images. My frustration with Canon was they seemed to hold back innovation. I had a 5D mk iii and kept waiting for the new mirrorless system. I was wildly disappointed with what they brought. I really wanted them to fix the dynamic range in their sensors. They didn't really. I truly feel 24 MP is more than enough for 99% of professional photographers. They also let me down on video. So I switched to Sony. They are not perfect but my new A9 and A7rii make great images and Sony seems to be pushing innovation instead of containing it. I am also tired of people saying their system x is the best and everyone else is stupid for not choosing them. My advice is to stick with what you have unless its not meeting your needs anymore.

Nando Harmsen's picture

What was the reason you needed to go mirrorless, or why did you need more innovation in your camera? This is exactly the point, did you wanted to go mirrorless or more innovative because your pictures became worse?
I don't want to argue about it, because you might have a good reason for the choice you made, and it is your personal decision. I only hope you are not the one that started to convince everyone that Canon suddenly is a bad and old fashioned brand and they should choose Sony. That is what I was aiming at with this article

Eric Peterson's picture

I thought I articulated it pretty well. All the main manufacturers still make amazing photos. However, I wanted forward thinking and innovation. I wanted smaller, lighter, better dynamic range... The IBIS and silent shutter pushed me over the edge. I’m an event photographer and the A9 is an absolute game changer. completely silent shooting at an event!! With great image quality! Game changer and the what you see is what you get electronic view finder! Amazing. I was an attendee at a wedding recently and the photographer was using a DSLR and the noise was just ridiculous and distracting. I actually felt bad for all the past weddings I shot and distraction I was causing. So that’s my summary.

Nando Harmsen's picture

I never had any complaints about the noise of my dslr during weddings. It is photographers that seem to find it a problem, and only the ones that have started using the silent function of their mirrorless.
But who cares... as long as you just mention it how great you find it, its is okay. I only find it annoying when it turns into accusing other photographers making too much noise.
:)

Eric Peterson's picture

I also shot a lot of theater work. Completely unacceptable to make noise. I shoot a lot of both and it’s a game changer. It doesn’t mean you can’t get good photos with other cameras, it means you can’t get silent photos.

Yin Ze's picture

Hi Nando, you stated " I always think the technology must be in service of the photographer, and not the goal in itself." but here you are roughing up a photographer who is stating why silent shutter technology has served him in his job. I switched from Nikon D4 and D5 to A9 and just that one feature has been a game changer.

"It is photographers that seem to find it a problem, and only the ones that have started using the silent function of their mirrorless."

Tell that to Tiger Woods and his caddie when you shoot too early on his swing. Or tell that to the sound guy while you shoot in a closed set. Or tell that to the judge when you have to shoot in court during a trial.

https://www.espn.com/golf/story?id=1475078

Once you have this feature you realize how disruptive loud shutters can be when other photographers walk up and ruin a picture during an emotional moment you are capturing during a news event.

Mirrorless gives you an edge and so far I have enjoyed it against the dslr competition. However, many photographers have realized the advantage and have dumped their loud dslr.

Brant Kuehn's picture

While brand v. brand fights can be incredibly annoying, I do think you are setting up a bit of a straw man. For example, it doesn't sound like your masterclass participant was saying that you as instructor could not take a decent photo with your old camera - s/he was just telling you how happy s/he was with his/her new purchase. And really, it's not unreasonable to find that you have an easier time getting good shots with a particular (usually newer and more expensive) piece of hardware.

For example, I upgraded both my cameras last summer. I have plenty of pics out of my older, cheaper cameras that I love. But my yield of good photos to bad is much higher with my newer equipment. Granted, I'm not a pro, barely a hobbyist, but I do love having more confidence that I won't miss important shots of my kids, whether due to slow autofocus, bad exposure, poor low-light performance, etc.

Civil equipment discussion can actually be very helpful and interesting - it's the negativity that can be a drag.

BTW, I intentionally omitted the brands and models of my old and current cameras to avoid falling into the trap, but I am am very happy with my current setup and certainly am happy to evangelize...

Nando Harmsen's picture

About the masterclass... it wasn't just telling s/he was happy with the new brand, but telling the old brand was bad.
But not all photographers are like that. If there is a good reason to change brand, why not.

Alexander Petrenko's picture

Yet another “Gear Doesn’t Matter” article? (YAGDMA)

Nando Harmsen's picture

hahaha - gear does matter. The endless discussions about what is the best gear does not matter.

Alexander Petrenko's picture

But the best gear matters bester! :)

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