When working as a Lecturer there was one question that we always had a ‘cringe’ at when a visiting lecturer would open the floor to questions…….
“What camera do you use?”
You may be thinking to yourself, “what’s the problem?!”….The problem with this question is, IT DOESN’T MATTER!!!!!! The skill comes in the way you use light, compose the image, work with your subject, consider the narrative, the context, etc etc etc etc. Yes, obviously there are some lenses/cameras that will enable a better image quality, but this is not the difference between a good and a bad photograph.
In terms of cameras what you need to understand is what their limitations are at each level. Very very briefly, compact ‘snap-shot’ cameras are easy to carry and easy to use, but the function buttons aren’t great and you have little creative control. However, most of them have video functions that work well for something so compact. I have a compact camera, it has its uses, especially on a family outing when the thought of carrying a big camera around isn’t the most convenient. Semi professional cameras give you more options, menus, and some have the ability to change lenses. You can get some really great semi-professional cameras on the market now, and their automatic functions work pretty well. However, in general, if you have an interest in photography and want to have independent creative control over your shots, you need to invest in an SLR camera.
SLR, means ‘Single Lens Reflex’, DSLR has the addition of ‘Digital’. This name is almost descriptive to the way the camera works, there is a mirror inside the camera, when the shutter is released (button pressed!) the mirror flips out of the way to allow the light to either fall on the digital sensor or on the film. (In later posts I will explain about camera functions in more detail and how they work together for creative control.)
Buying an SLR doesn’t need to be a costly investment, you can pick up a second hand SLR camera on eBay for very little. It doesn’t even need to be a top of the range Canon or Nikon, just as long as it’s an SLR (film or digital) it’ll do the job. When I opened my studio in Liverpool I was using a Fuji S5 Pro because they are good at capturing a range of skin tones. However, you are unlikely to notice these subtle differences until you start to gain A LOT of experience in using varying photographic equipment so don’t worry about which one you get at this stage. Any will be fine.
What you need to concern yourself with is understanding the fundamentals of using an SLR camera, as a good foundation in this will open the door to a greater understanding of photography in general.
There are of course many many other types of cameras that you can enjoy, such as medium format cameras, instant cameras (Polaroid/Instax), fun cameras such as the Diana, pin hole cameras, wet plate cameras, the list goes on. But an SLR is easily accessible, affordable, and will give you all you need to gain a good grounding of this wonderful subject. It’s a great place to start!
Regardless of all the gear others may have compared to you, always but always remember this ….the word ‘photography’ roughly means (from its historical origins) ‘drawing with light’… And THAT is what it’s all about! Don’t become a ‘kit w*@nker’!!