Is More or Less, More?

I was reading the article that was in Digital SLR magazine about my photography and how they made out I was ‘taking on the big money photographers with modest kit’. It got me thinking about a few of my tog friends and what kit they have compared to mine. A few of them have Canon 7D’s, some others have 5DII’s and another has a Nikon D800. Most of them are using L series or Nikkor lenses and Lee filters. I know of others with Canon 60D’s and Nikon D7000’s etc and lenses to match. All just numbers to me, I don’t even know how much they cost. I just know it’s more than I’ve got. I used to feel inferior because I had a Sony and not a Canon or Nikon. In money terms, I’m at the bottom of the pile. But does that make my images lesser than theirs? Surely it’s all about the light?

I’ve never been one to immerse myself into a pastime to the point where I get obsessive and can quote prices, models and numbers. I’m not one for upgrading as soon as the newest model comes out either. To be honest, I’m not that bothered. I buy something I can afford and learn how to use and enjoy it. If what you have works for you and isn’t broken, why change it?

I hear fellow ‘togs in clubs and while out and about talking about how great their new kit is and they show it off and pass it around for others to feel and fiddle with. I’ll have a feel and a fiddle myself and they’re all very nice. From what I’ve seen though, even the lower priced lenses offer great clarity. My wide-angle lens is not one of the more popular lenses but I think it performs as good if not better than the more favoured ones. In fact, my clearest, sharpest lens costs about £25 on EBay.

So is it worth spending all the extra cash? Are the images produced really that much better? Surely with more pixels and better glass then they must be? Having used a 7D for a month I should say yes. The truth is I didn’t think it any better than my Sony. Sure, it had 4mp more, but is the extra 4mp really needed when you only display your work online? Once the image is processed it’s resized to 72dpi and 800 pixels high, plenty enough to look good on a 21” screen without becoming blocky. Let’s face it, they basically capture light in the same way.

If we were printing off every image we took to the full size available then we couldn’t afford the paper or ink and we’d soon run out of space to store them all. This is the beauty of digital. Thousands of pictures crammed into a tiny space for us to view at the touch of a button; mostly on a screen of about 17”. On a display that size my humble 14mp is fine and I didn’t see any difference with 18mp either. I processed them exactly the same way and resized them to the same size. Image quality looked no different in my eyes.

My regular companion has a 7D and a 5DII and I can’t tell which one he’s using at the time or when I look at his images after he’s processed and posted them on the usual social media and image sharing sites. There are countless others using the same kit and getting images of astounding clarity and quality. I used to look at them in amazement of how good they looked. Then I saw some images of a local tog that were fantastically clear and crisp. I contacted him and asked what he was using, expecting the usual 5Dmark II as a reply: A 10mp Canon 50D and Sigma 10-20 mm; nothing outlandish, in fact, quite ordinary. I was completely stunned. So I asked him what his secret was…

Processing. A few simple tweaks on some sliders and the world becomes clear and sharp. I sent him one of my RAW files to process and couldn’t believe the results. Full clarity and depth, no noise and detail in the shadows; I had to learn this technique for myself. We arranged to meet up so he could show me the processing technique. I took notes and then the time to learn for myself. It’s now second nature and takes me no more than 20 minutes per image. It makes it easier to take the data that the camera has captured and get the best out of it to produce what my eyes saw at the time.

These techniques are no secret. There are hundreds, if not thousands of videos on the internet. Countless other photographers offer tutorials that can be bought from their websites. Just asking other photographers opens up a wealth of information and advice that can be taken or left. Once you gain an understanding of the tools available, the world is your oyster.

So, do you spend thousands on camera bodies and lenses or buy lower priced alternatives that produce equally good results? At the end of the day it’s down to personal choice and budget. If you can afford the more expensive kit then go for it. If not, then you can still get images to be proud of without spending a chunk of the offspring’s university fund. Just a little time spent learning how to use it, how to compose, learn how to process and, possibly the most important part, gain an understanding of light, and you can be showing some of the more financially affluent members how it’s done.