Sunday, July 20, 2014

What is the best camera to buy?

The first 35mm camera I ever held in my bands was a Minolta SRT 201.  I received that camera from my English teacher, Mrs. Annette Williams, who got the Butts County Board of Education to purchase the camera for Jackson High School Newspaper, The Red Letter.

The first camera I ever owned came in a Christmas gift box in 1979, from Mamie Crawford, aunt; it came from Sears with a 100mm f2.8 lens and a 50mm f1.8 lens.  I added a Focal (K-Mart product) zoom lens, Vivitar 283 flash and a 28 mm lens that I purchased from Zayre.   I used that equipment during my college career at Morebouse College.

In August of 1985, while an intern at The Atlanta Journal – Constitution, I learned the difference between pro equipment and consumer equipment.   I was shooting the Atlanta Braves star Dale Murphy rounding the third base after a grand slam when my $39 motor drive,  $89 Focal zoom lens, and my Canon AE-1 all either quit working or came apart in my hand.   My equipment was not built to take the daily workload of a major newspaper.  

After total equipment failure, I purchased a Nikon FM, Nikon 180mm f2.8 lens and Nikon 20mm f2.8 lens from picture editor Mimi Foster.   Later that month, photography director Joe Coleman gave me a brand new Nikon FE2.  My pictures got better because I now had equipment that could take the pounding of over 40 rolls a film a week.

In 1986, I attended graduate school at Ohio University and the photography staff purchased a Nikon FA for me.   Over the next 28 years I would own or be assigned the following cameras: Nikon FM2 (2), Nikon F3 (2), Nikon 8008 (2), Nikon 8008s (2) Nikon N90 (2), Nikon N90s (1), Nikon F5 (1), Kodak DCS 420 (1), Canon EOS-1N (1), (1) Nikon D1 (2), Nikon D1H (2), Nikon D2H (2), Canon Mark IIN (2), Canon Mark III (2), Nikon D3 (2), Nikon D3s (2) and a Nikon D4 (1).

As I look back over my photographic career, I can honestly say that equipment makes a difference.  However, the knowledge learned from photographic failures, successes, picture editors, Ohio University professors, and the relationships with over 60 professional photographers are the most important reason that I take photographs at a high level today.

Knowledge is the key more so than a camera.  For every $100 you spend on camera equipment, you should invest 5 hours on photographic education. Because cameras don’t take good pictures, people take good pictures.

Photography is about light and relationships.   To be an excellent photographer, you have to understand how to control light and form instant relationships with people.

However, here are two things to consider before buying a camera:

1) If you are taking sports photographs, you want a camera that gets at least 6 frames a second.
2) If you are shooting low light situations, you want a camera that gets an ISO of at least 6400 with f2.8 lens.  The lens is the key if you want to shoot pictures with the subject in focus in the foreground with the background blurred. 

Most cameras come with a F3.5 to F5.6 lens.  Those lenses are built for shooting in daylight, but if you want to shoot at night or get some very sharp images you have to spend the money and get F2.8 lens.  

I advise my students to buy cameras from Nikon or Canon because they have been making great cameras for a long time.   I don't have enough knowledge of the other brands to make a recommendation.

1 comment:

  1. Yeah man, that's is incredible. Your photos seem to point to something-- this idea that a person, a stranger, seems to be feeling "this." It's all a bit voyeuristic and I accept that. As humans, what is it if we don't look up and don't care at all…
    I am pretty sure that I am on your line with things, yet ten thousand steps behind.
    The story of life has an emotional "charge," a sort of voltage let's say and maybe that's a nice metaphor. We have to sense that charge. it is a silent force. There's a simple straight-forward way about your work, combined with some nice color. Often I've thought about what it is when life stops for one fraction of a second yet people might take that for granted.
    It's like being able to look at a river and command it to stop for a moment. Photography is something special. I should say that people do get it, but few study it and few try to articulate it with words, I suppose. I should not say that people do not get this, they do. They don't know how it is done. They move on. They think, "Oh, cool."
    Your work is special.