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Is it Just the Gear?

April 7, 2014 by Jo Plumridge

When you look at the current digital camera market, there are a baffling array of choices available. From simple compacts, through bridge and micro four-thirds, and all the way up through crop and full frame DSLRs, it’s hard to know where to start when it comes to choosing a camera.

But one thing that nearly always hold true is the type of cameras that professionals use – top of the range DSLRs, with the lenses and accessories to match.

Canon 5D
image by krzyboy2o

Why do we all use this gear?

Many clients believe, of course, that it’s because we can produce far better images with these cameras, but that’s not necessarily true. A good photographer can produce a great photograph from a camera phone if that’s all that is to hand.

As an example, I got married last year and had three pro photographers at the wedding – one shooting on a top of the range Nikon DSLR, one on a Fuji X Pro bridge camera and the other simply snapping a few shots on his iPhone (as he was having a firm day off!). Most people would think that such diverse ‘cameras’ would produce very different results, but actually I have three A2 canvases from the day up on my walls, with one from each pro!

It’s Not Only About the Technology

Technology is always moving forward, but if we look at great photographers from the past we can see that their imagery is no less impressive for them shooting on what might be considered by some inferior cameras by today’s modern standards.

The old adage certainly rings true when it comes to photography – you can have the most expensive gear in the world but if you don’t know how to use it, you’ll never get good results. The reason a good photographer can get good results out of any equipment is because they understand the technology behind it and, most importantly, the exposure triangle of ISO, shutter speed and aperture.

And yet, there are reasons why we pros use the DSLRs that we do. For me, the main reason I use Canon full frame DSLRs is the access they give me to their amazing lenses. There are some lenses that I use because they produce certain characteristics, have a particular aperture rating or are extremely sharp. It’s not always about the price of the lenses (although many of my lenses are Canon’s top of the range L series) – for instance, my favourite lens in the world is Canon’s mid-range 50mm f1.4 because of the beautifully pin-sharp images it produces and the focal length it provides.

Then there are the additional features that you find on top-end DSLRs. The most useful are the enhanced metering and autofocus systems. The autofocus systems tend to have more focus points, with the ability to use them in a wider variety of ways. In addition, there are more cross-type points, allowing the cameras to focus more quickly. Another important factor is speed. The DSLRs pros use tend to shoot at between 9-12 frames per second (fps).

Why is this important, you may ask? A lot of people presume that you only need this kind of speed if you’re shooting fast moving sporting events. Whilst it’s true that a fast fps rate is essential for that kind of work, all pros take advantage of the system.

For instance, I’m a portrait photographer and years of experience have taught me that I get the best results from my clients by engaging with them – getting them to chat and hopefully making them laugh. And to get these good results, I need to be shooting quickly so that I don’t miss facial expressions. The faster fps rate, combined with a quick camera buffer writing images to the memory card allows me to work to the best of my abilities.

Lastly, there’s the durability of top-end DSLRs. My Canons are made from magnesium alloy, which makes them highly resistant to any damage from impact. In addition, they are weather-sealed to help resist dust and moisture. They are built for heavy use and have shutters that will keep working for several hundred thousand frames.

As pros, we need to be able to rely on our cameras to keep working, no matter what we put them through. They are our livelihood after all! This last reason doesn’t actually make any difference to our ability to capture great shots – it just makes our lives easier.

So there you have it – the reasons why pros do use top of the range DSLRs. They undoubtedly have their attractions to pros, but it’s always wise to remember that the best camera in the world won’t make you a good photographer.

Jo Plumridge

About the author: Jo Plumridge

Jo Plumridge is a UK based photographer, writer and lecturer. She specializes in portrait, corporate and travel photography, and writes photography, travel and comedy pieces for magazines, websites and books. You can see some of her work at her website, follow her on Twitter or Google+.