If you post photo of video content online the most frequent question is probably what you shoot on. Everyone is in constant pursuit of the perfect camera.
My first camera shot on dv tape and I got it when I was 9 years old which I used throughout my teenage years. In college I graduated to a flip camera that shot in 720, which was the lowest quality that was still considered high definition. Then the DSLR revolution happened and I picked up a canon 60d. After I felt I outgrew that I eventually got a Panasonic GH4 which shot in 4k, which how can you go wrong with 4k right?
On paper the GH4 is a fantastic camera and the first consumer camera to hit the market with that kind of resolution. Some of my peers used the GH2 and were getting great results so this seemed like the obvious choice. So at the recommendation of respected coworkers I pulled the trigger on it.
People have gotten great stuff out of the GH4. I’ve gotten some stuff I have been happy with. But largely I learned that camera was not well suited for the way I like to shoot. It didn’t handle low light well, the crop sensor meant I had to be farther back from my subjects to get wide shots (were I prefer wide shots and to be close to my subjects), and I was using vintage lenses which meant I lacked stabilization. I invested in a system that was counter to how I worked.
Ultimately since the camera didn’t really fit my needs I ended up mostly shooting on the canon 60d and eventually began eyeing up the Sony A7sii. I thought if only I had that I could finally make the stuff I wanted to make. As time passed by I started to outgrow that thought only in favor of the highly anticipated Sony A7siii.
Eventually we found out we were expecting twins and I wanted to pull the trigger on a new camera before their arrival. I choose to stop pining for the fabled camera and purchase the one that closest matched my needs and also existed, which is how I ended up with the Sony A7iii. That’s the camera I carry with me every day.
For me I shoot photos and videos of my kids a lot in natural light, a lot of the times while using vintage lenses. A camera that handled low light, that shot full frame photos and videos, and had in body stabilization made a lot of sense. Plus I often use my cameras to capture behind the scenes for video production and the silent shutter is a big advantage when it comes to that.
I think this is a great little camera. But that doesn’t make it perfect for everyone.
The company I work for makes brand films, tv commercials, short films, and documentaries. We use a number of different cameras from ARRI to RED to Panasonic to Canon but none are the Sony A7iii. All the cameras they use are bigger and fully featured with multiple audio jacks and outputs as well. Their resolutions, frame rates, and color sciences all vary. But I wouldn’t want to bring them home to film my family or to capture a day hike with friends.
A lot of beginners seek out others and ask about what camera they should get, and without knowing their intended uses or needs a camera name is thrown into the mix. This deeply held belief that a perfect camera exist would be the same as believing that the perfect car exist. But some people need compact cars while others need pick up trucks or mini vans.
control vs convenience
The main thing that separates consumer gear from professional gear is the trade off of control for convenience. This does not mean you can’t use consumer gear professionally or professional gear for personal reasons. But you can’t really have both control and convenience. By opening up the ability to control settings you are inconvenienced by having to know how to use those tools.
A lot of consumer cameras take the guess work out of things like exposure or focus. They rely on making features automatic, letting the camera do the thinking for you. If you don’t understand how different settings adjust the exposure and look of the image then you don’t need to be able to control them. Someone who does understand how those things change the way an image looks and feels wants to be able to adjust those things. Having more control of those settings opens up the possibility that if you don’t know what you are doing that your images can turn out worse.
gear vs skill
Gear does matter but skill matters more. If you put a consumer camera in talented hands you will achieve better results than a professional camera in the hands of someone who doesn’t know what they are doing.
The benefit of thinking this way is that even if you are unable to get the camera you’ve been eyeing up you can begin to invest in your skills by taking the time to shoot regardless of the gear you have available to you. Even if you have a camera that lacks exposure control you can focus on others things such as composition.
When it comes to creating video and photos there is an interplay between our skill level and the gear we use. It is really tempting to think that what is holding us back is the gear we have access too. But if we had that tool would we even be able to take full advantage of it?
your first camera is already in your pocket
If you have newly found yourself in the market for a camera you will quickly discover there are a lot of options out there. Truth is it’s nearly impossible to pick a bad camera in today’s market. But it is possible to pick a bad fit. It’s worth considering your needs and you may not know what they even are until you get started. You can try and anticipate them or lean on others to help figure out what they are but really experience will give you the best idea.
If you are in the search for your first camera chances are you have a very capable one in your pocket right now. With every knew release of phones it seems like the biggest incentive to upgrade is based off the new camera specs.
Consumer camera sales are taking a hit as phones eat into their markets. The little camera built into your phone may not be perfect but it really can be a good start and a solid way to begin honing your skills.
It definitely checks the box of convenience over control but in the beginning that can allow you to focus on the creative aspects of photography instead of technical.
Having the biggest and the best camera is not a sure fire approach to getting better photos. A lot of times people purchase higher end gear and then leave it in the auto settings which means you are paying for a level of control you aren’t even taking advantage of. With your phone you can also download apps that will allow you to control exposure manually when you feel like you are at that step.
It is worth noting that there will be image quality differences between a phone and a dedicated camera. But starting with the camera in your pocket can give you the necessary experience you need to even know what you want out of a camera. It’s not how you will always want to shoot but it is a good first step. Plus it’s likely that you’ll always have it close by and what better way to get experience than to always be able to capture the moment.
There is no such thing as a perfect camera, only a good fit .There will always be tools coming out improving upon what you have access too. It’s important to focus on what you have and make the best use of it. Don’t get caught up in the gear and neglect advancing your skill. Don’t let gear be the reason to stop learning and gaining experience.