The search for the perfect camera – from a pro tog’s perspective

The search for the perfect camera – from a pro tog’s perspective
Taken on a Sony A200, entry level DSLR. 6secs at f5.6 on the 'crappy' kit lens.

Taken on a Sony A200, entry level DSLR. 6secs at f5.6 on the ‘crappy’ kit lens.

Note from Admin: Here’s an excellent guest post with exceptional images by Paul Richards who’s a professional photographer in the UK.  Enjoy!

I am a professional wedding photographer in Cornwall, UK, who specialises in documentary style photography. Honest storytelling is at the heart of what I do, and the only posed shots I do at a wedding are the group shots. I am somewhat of a purist photojournalist, so I won’t interfere at all, not even to move a wedding dress into a better spot, I’m only interested in finding the truth of the day. To me, life in all its glory is more than beautiful enough without being staged.

Canon 5d Mark3, 17-40 f4 lens.

Canon 5d Mark3, 17-40 f4 lens.

I have used DSLR cameras for years, and they have done a perfectly good job, but I never felt any kind of connection with them, they were just tools. Fuji has changed that for me, I truly enjoy using the Fuji X-T1. I’m not going to say that I love them or that they are perfect, because they aren’t. Like any camera, they have flaws. What is important is that you want to pick them up and make images, that they work for what you need and that they do not feel like a burden.

X-pro1 with 35mm f1.4 lens. The camera that 'can't autofocus' according to it's critics.

X-pro1 with 35mm f1.4 lens. The camera that ‘can’t autofocus’ according to it’s critics.

There are always battles going on in the forums, and on the blogs, over which camera is best. Not enough megapixels, not fast enough AF, not sharp enough etc etc, it’s boring and disconnected from reality.

Modern camera technology is incredible! The cameras available to us nowadays are incredible, with most options fully catered for.

Need small and light? Olympus OM series are incredible.

Want retro knobs and dials? Fuji X or Nikon DF has you covered.

Want full blown machine gun DSLR? Nikon D4s or Canon 1dX can shoot anything in any conditions.

Need a bit of class and luxury? Get out your credit card and go see the good folks at Leica!

Need to print billboard-sized landscapes with eye popping detail? Nikon D800 or Sony A7r will float your boat, not to mention medium format.

Underwater? Astrophotography? Macro? Pocketable? Available in pink? A quick search will find you all of these, no problem.

No money? Get on ebay and buy some amazing old film camera for next to nothing and make rocking pictures anyway. Or an ‘ancient’ digital camera from a few years ago that is selling for next to nothing and still makes brilliant images.

Do you need the latest camera? No. Defintely not!

Will the latest camera make you a better photographer? Not in the slightest.

Do you want to buy it anyway? Fine by me, just don’t expect to suddenly be the next HCB or Ansell Adams.

Taken on the original Fuji X100. It's humble 12mp sensor printed this shot at 30" wide and it looks fantastic.

Taken on the original Fuji X100. It’s humble 12mp sensor printed this shot at 30″ wide and it looks fantastic.

Before you think that I am preaching, I should probably make a confession. I suffered from G.A.S, I have owned tons of different cameras over the past 5 years! Including; OMD EM5, OMD EM1, Canon 1ds, Panasonic LX7, Canon G10, Sony NEX5, Fuji X100, Ricoh GRDiii, Sony RX100, Fuji X-Pro1, Fuji X-E1, Fuji X100s, Olympus OM1 film camera, Canon 5d mark 3, Canon 6d, Canon 60d, Fuji XT-1… there are more but my brain has started hurting.

Olympus OM1 film camera. I forget which lens or film, but it was definitely cheap! Great results for next to no money on ebay.

Olympus OM1 film camera. I forget which lens or film, but it was definitely cheap! Great results for next to no money on ebay.

Throughout I have used Canon DSLR’s for my professional use with a few big expensive lenses. They have done a perfectly good job, but I never really enjoyed using them. Now I am using two Fuji XT-1’s for my professional wedding work, with the 14mm f2.8, 23mm f1.4 and 56mm f1.2. It is a small, light, and very capable system, which is more than sufficient for all of my needs as a working pro. I also happen to really enjoy working with it. I wouldn’t go as far to say that it inspires me or makes me a better photographer, but what it does do for me is step out of the way and let me create in a fluid manner.

Canon 5d3. Probably the closest to a do-anything camera I've come across.

Canon 5d3. Probably the closest to a do-anything camera I’ve come across.

One of the most important words in the last paragraph, which brings me back to the title of this rambling article, is ‘sufficient’. It is easy to look at spec sheets and think I need that improved AF or massive MP count or ISO400,000. I have now realized that I have found a camera system that does everything I need it to do. It can print much bigger than I will ever need it to, the autofocus is plenty fast enough, it can shoot in low enough light for my wedding work, it is light, fun & simple. The images are fantastic.

Low light is commonplace for a wedding photographer.

Low light is commonplace for a wedding photographer.

When I look back at that list of cameras that I have owned, I realize that they are all amazing and capable cameras, and that I jumped too quickly from one to another, always looking for the next thing. What I should have been doing was stopping and creating with what I already had, and only changing when I found that I was somehow limited or hampered by my current gear. The creative requirements should drive the technical requirements not the other way around.

Taken on my Mum's naff little point and shoot. Lightroom doesn't recognise what type of camera it is. It's the photographer that is important.

Taken on my Mum’s naff little point and shoot back in 2002. Lightroom doesn’t recognise what type of camera it is. It’s the photographer that is important.

Over the course of the last few years I have also noticed something else, when I show someone my work, whether professionally or personally, nobody has ever said “Wow great shot, shame it doesn’t have more megapixels” or “I like that, but I wish it were sharper”. If you are creating great work then people are looking at the image and how it makes them feel, not which camera you used to create it.

Cameras passed the point of sufficiency for most users years ago, so go forward and create, with whichever camera suits you best regardless of age, type or spec sheet.

P.S. I’ve not included any pictures from my XT-1 in this post, and even if I did they wouldn’t stand out as being better than any of the others, but I think that is probably the point. Enjoy your photography.

Sony NEX-5n & 16mm lens. Long exposure of 25secs using a cheap 10stop filter.

Sony NEX-5n & 16mm lens. Long exposure of 25secs using a cheap 10stop filter.

G.A.S-10

5d3 and 50L. Shot @ f3.2 1/125 ISO320. Natural light from a window.

G.A.S-11

Sony NEX-5n. A great camera available for a few quid nowadays.

G.A.S-12

Canon 6d and some gorgeous window light.

G.A.S-13

Canon 1ds mark1. In 2002 it’s 11mp sensor and ISO limit of 1250 was good enough for pro photographers all over the world to create stunning imagery. Available now for about £300. Still good enough?

G.A.S-14

Obligatory cat image.

G.A.S-15

The X-pro1 proved a great companion on many walks and stood up to quite a battering in my time with it.

G.A.S-16

Sony NEX-5n and some old vintage macro lens. I think it was a Vivitar 100mm. Sunrise through my misted bedroom window. Opportunities for photography are all around us.

Author: Paul Richards

www.albionrow.com

For more about my use of the Fuji X system click here.

Note from Admin: I want to thank Paul for sharing this excellent article with us!  If any of you want to check out more of his work by all means, click on his link above.  Thanks again, Paul!

5 comments… add one

  • Tracesofpio

    I really liked the sunrise photo it’s very unique. Thanks for sharing such great pieces!

  • Hi Patrick and Paul richard,
    Your photo are beautiful and they are not because of the camera,is because of the light and the photographer ability to recognize that beautiful light. Aamzing photos and lists of gears :)
    Great days ahead
    Meng

  • Thanks again for posting my article Patrick. Thanks Meng and Tracesofpio for the lovely comments, it is very kind.

    • Patrick

      Hi Paul, thanks again for sharing it with us!

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