“Photography is not about the camera”

Nov 20, 2018 | Blog

Why I Swapped my “Professional” DSLR camera for the Cheapest Entry Level DSLR Option Available
Originally posted on photoion’s blog

As anyone who follows me / us (our photography school) on Facebook will know, I recently purchased a new photographic camera system – camera body and lenses.

However, it wasn’t an “upgrade”, it was, in fact a “downgrade” so I got myself a Canon 100D (Rebel SL1), which is the smallest, cheapest, lightest entry-level DSLR on the market today (Canon website classify it as: “camera for beginners”). Well, we will see!

Along with the body, I picked up an entry level Canon 18-55mm f/5.6 lens kit lens, as well as a Canon 55-250mm f/5.6 kit entry level telephoto lens, the cheapest entry level lenses in the world. For the moment I am only working with these 2 lenses.

Now, you may be wondering why I would make the change from a 5D Mark III DSLR to such a “cheap” and “beginners camera system” option. Well, the reason is that lately a lot of people seeing my images they had been only complimenting my camera leaving comments like “wow, your camera is so cool, so professional”, and asking all the time “what camera and lenses do you use”, etc.?

This bothered me somewhat because as a tutor and photography teacher I know that, even with the best tools in the world, you won’t take good photographs unless you are competent and skilled and you understand what exactly makes a good photograph (composition, light, good knowledge of exposure, knowing how to mix the settings effectively and optimise them, a good eye to details, etc.).

When teaching my photography courses and workshops in London, I always used to tell students to focus on the things I was saying, on my practical demonstrations, on the topics of the course or workshop and not worry about the equipment I’m using, and to make the most of their equipment. I very often had to take my pictures during the courses and workshops with my students cameras to avoid any misunderstandings. Now, this was sorted out, almost all my students have a more expensive camera than mine, so things are much clearer now and no misunderstandings anymore.

A camera is just a tool, having a more expensive camera does not make you a better photographer and will not produce better photographs, from the contrary, it will distract you from learning photorgaphy properly and make you think only “how cool” your camera is and that your images will better because you have a great camera.

But to take great photographs, one needs to understand what photography is about, one needs the skills and knowledge of light, composition, and to really understand how equipment works and knowing what to capture and when. Yes, the tools will make a difference (maybe) in some situations, (a more expensive camera with higher ISO and a more expensive lens with a larger aperture) but again, that is a technical limitation that might be only needed from time to time and usually only in extremely low light. But, a camera and a lens has not impact whatsoever on the aesthetics of a photographs, that’s down to the photographer, q100%!! And now have a look at my low light images and let’s see how a cheap non-professional camera will perform, will the skills prevail?

Sunset image taken with Canon 100D (Rebel SL1) + kit lens 55-250mm f/5.6 lens – Portsmouth Marina Emirates Spinnaker Tower

But most most of the time the very small results obtain from different lenses / cameras in photography are indiscernible from one another if not examined under the microscope,  at a pixel level of detail, an exaggeration of course. Below I uploaded 2 images taken with the 2 cameras: Canon 5d-Mark III + Canon telephoto 70-200mm f/2.8 IS USM Mark II versus Canon 100D (Rebel SL1)+ kit lens 55-250mm IS USM f/5.6, see the results for yourself, can you tell which one is which? I don’t think so.

If you want to take great photographs you need to train your eye to see like the camera so that you can compose an image entirely in your mind (eye) before you ever point the camera at the subject.

Below are some images I have taken with my new, “cheap entry level beginner” camera. I hope they inspire you to get past the idea that the camera is the most important thing in photography and start viewing yourself and your skills and knowledge as the key element!

Having the right photographic equipment may be a prerequisite and paramount sometimes, but it’s not necessarily the end of the world, and it’s not what defines a great photograph, but the skills, and the knowledge of light, composition, and having a great trained “eye” and mind! It is the next 15 cm behind a camera that makes one great a good photographer!

Stop pixel peeping and start learning what makes a good photograph!  

Image taken outdoor natural light with Canon 100D (Rebel SL1) + 18-55mm f/5.6 kit lens – Wasp flying around a flower