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An essay by Randall Kelley over at Steve Huff Photo.

Discussion in 'Open Discussion' started by bilzmale, Jan 20, 2011.

  1. bilzmale

    bilzmale Mu-43 All-Pro

    • Like Like x 3
  2. russell

    russell Mu-43 Regular

    98
    Dec 28, 2010
    Victoria, Australia
    Thank you -- a great antidote to the rot that's commonly trotted out on this topic by those who have never actually had to deal with financial limitations.

    "When you get a camera and lens that produces radically improved images, you WILL see your errors much more distinctly"

    That is very much my philosophy and why I want the best gear I can afford, with an emphasis on sharpness over gadgetry and gimmickery. Not because I think it will churn out great photos effortlessly, but because when I sit down and look at dozens of crap photos, I know without a shadow of a doubt that it's all my fault and not the gear's!

    (As a corrollary, nothing annoys me more than the comment often made on viewing a great photo: "wow, that must be a great camera!" :dash2:)
     
    • Like Like x 3
  3. nseika

    nseika Mu-43 Veteran

    260
    Nov 22, 2010
    Jakarta, Indonesia
    Lois
    Skill and tool both take better picture up to a limit either could reach to.
    Can the article be taken as so ? :)
    How about, "great place and great timing"? :)

    Often time when seeing pictures, it's what's in the picture itself that's intriguing. The skill of the photographer often got pushed to the back stage like make up artists that have important role but unnoticed in the credits.
    At least for me, so rarely remember the photography figures.
     
  4. Grant

    Grant Mu-43 Veteran

    Oh my, what bull sh*t!

    An example he use is that of a chain saw to cut framing boards and complains that you need better tools than a chain say to make a more accurate cut. The fact is you don't need a better tool but you need a more appropriate tool. If the finishing too is so much better tell me that after you try to cut cord wood with it.

    What you really need in carpentry and photography is an appropriate tool for the job.
     
    • Like Like x 7
  5. leeh

    leeh Mu-43 Rookie

    21
    Jan 20, 2011
    Spot on!

    lee.
     
  6. russell

    russell Mu-43 Regular

    98
    Dec 28, 2010
    Victoria, Australia
    ...so the carpenter who only has a pointy rock and some fallen trees to work with has no cause to look for better tools and materials?

    It's actually worse with photography. A roughly finished piece of wood is obviously lacking, but often with images (or sound, for that matter), you don't know what you're missing until you see something better. (It's like when you 'pop' your ears on the way down a mountain.)
     
  7. squidbrand

    squidbrand Mu-43 Regular

    55
    Dec 22, 2010
    Hà Nội, Việt Nam
    Totally ridiculous article — one that could only have been written by someone who just recently dropped major coin on a new camera. His argument is completely centered around blur and resolution of fine detail. He seems to think that the most common failing in terms of the "craft" side of photography is soft shots, which is ridiculous. (Poor exposure is way, way, way more common.) And he also seems to think that blowing $8000 on a camera that only gives you about 25% more linear resolution than a garden variety cheap DSLR, in pixel terms, will somehow make you a maven of razor sharp shots, as if there's some specific level of sharpness that makes the difference between understanding photographic principles and not.

    Most people (even beginners) understand that a camera has to be held very still, and that less light means it has to be held even more still. That concept, combined with the rather amazing AF algorithms of modern cameras, means that most people can take sharp photos. If they take a shot that appears sharp when viewed with the methods they use to look at their photos, but can be revealed as "blurry" when printed two feet wide, the photo is not "blurry" unless a two-foot print was actually the way the shooter intended for it to be displayed. And when they take a shot that's really soft, 6 or 10 or 12 million pixels is usually enough to reveal the problem and the reason behind it. Even with my lowly GF1, I've never been baffled about why one of my shots wasn't sharp. I've never pixel-peeped an eyeball, seen that the cornea is just slightly out of focus, and said "DUHHHH, WHAT HAPPEN?" These things are quite easy to understand, and anyone who has reached the point where they're concentrating on framing, perspective, and exposure has probably figured out the mechanical concepts behind sharpness long ago.

    I could go on, but yeah, this is an article written by a guy who is high on his new gear. In a few years, when cheap cameras resolve more detail than today's M9, maybe this guy will buy a future $8000 camera and write another article about how you have to upgrade from the inadequate, M9-beating cheap camera to get "better at seeing". And I guess he will be right, if you think photography is about the patterns in a cornea or the pores on a nose.

    There is one and only one reason why I do think getting a better camera can make you a better photographer: a new camera will excite your inner gear nerd, and that nerdy glee will lead you to actually shoot more — gotta play with your new toy. Shooting more (and looking critically at what you've shot) is the only real way to "see better".
     
    • Like Like x 1
  8. Streetshooter

    Streetshooter Administrator Emeritus

    Dec 15, 2009
    Phila, Pa USA
    It's all about vision. Your camera either supports your vision or creates interference with it. The price/quality of the camera really doesn't matter if it supports your vision.
    You either think about what you see or want to see or you think that you can't see because your camera doesn't produce those thoughts about seeing.
    Nonsense! Open your eyes and heart and the mind will follow.
     
    • Like Like x 4
  9. WT21

    WT21 Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Feb 19, 2010
    Boston
    I'm with Don on this one. Which also goes to Grant's comment on "the right tool."

    I will say, though, that better appropriate equipment will help your results --but only to a point of diminishing returns. When I was doing more woodworking than I am now, I started with cheap tools. I labored quite a bit. When I spent up for better tools (e.g. a more accurate compound mitre saw) my work improved. However, I did plateau, and today I'm pretty good with white/painted trim (where caulking and paint covers a multitude of sins), but I leave natural wood trim to the professionals.

    Same with photography. When I started in digital using Canon ELPHS, I was doing OK. When I moved along to DSLRs, I did improve my results. But I've plateaued, as my vision is limited, and I've not much time in my life to grow it.

    So, I think it takes both -- the right tool and the vision.

    One thing to consider -- trying DIFFERENT tools can help you understand the different visions those tools were designed for, which can both broaden your perspective on the whole of photography (oh, so this is wide angle shooting!), and also narrow your expertise in one area, as you learn what that area is not.

    For example, it is easier to understand both the limitations and advantages of a telephoto lens, if you also have access and try a wide angle lens, and watch the differences in framing between the two. If you only ever had a 70-300 lens, you might spend your life trying to figure out how to get an environmental portrait, thinking that somehow you could replicate the perspective of a 35mm lens! Alternatively, you might only have tried a 35mm lens, and might think "what's all this fuss over wide angle" until you finally end up trying that 17mm lens, and then WOW -- now you understand it.
     
    • Like Like x 2
  10. leeh

    leeh Mu-43 Rookie

    21
    Jan 20, 2011
  11. BBW

    BBW Super Moderator Emeritus

    Interestingly, I thought it was a great little essay. I think we all bring our own background and experiential bags in when we read anything, right?

    Of course, Grant you're right about the "appropriate" tool vs the better tool. I think Kelley was, perhaps, being heavy handed to make his point.

    I also felt that as he went on he made it clear that there is an important mix needed to achieve "success" artistically. I never felt he was saying - you have to have the best camera/lens to be a good photographer. We all know that there are plenty of people with deep pockets who can buy whatever they want but they can't make a good picture.

    Speaking strictly from a personal point of view, I think I have made some really good pictures with each of the digital cameras that I have had since...um, about a year ago. Add in that I have become much more experienced in using a digital camera (beyond a pure point and shoot with no controls) and I can see my pictures or style or whatever it is becoming clearer. So I'm completely on the side of following one's heart and keeping one's eyes open, and that vision is key - as Don has talked about. I do, however, think that there can be a big plus in having the kind of camera that is "better" for oneself. Is it going to be a Leica M9 for me? Nope. I don't think Kelley was espousing that, nor was he saying you have to have "the best". I think he was saying that if one has the heart and eye and vision, the talent, makes the effort to see and grows in one's vision that it can be a big plus to have the camera that works the best or most appropriately. Anyhow, that's how I read the article.:wink:

    Thanks Bill!:thumbup:

    P.S. I didn't see WT21's post as I was writing. Your points are well taken, as are everyone's.
     
  12. ~tc~

    ~tc~ Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Oct 22, 2010
    Houston, TX
    First - who is Randall Kelley? Why is his opinion any more valuable than the pimple faced kid behind the camera counter at Best Buy (since their "opinions" are essentially the same)

    Second - I can't believe Steve Huff posted it on his blog, because it did not but cement in my mind evidence of my opinion that Leica-men feel that expensive equipment means better pictures.

    That said, I think Grant stated it properly - the right tool for the job. If you want to blow up an image to, say, a billboard, yes, a 12MP small sensor camera ain't gonna cut it. If your artistic vision means taking pictures in good light and looking at them on a computer screen (or small print) then you will be hard pressed to see the difference. I forget which website, perhaps Luminous Landscapes, did an identical scene comparison of a Hasselblad to a m43, and it was almost impossible to reliably tell which was which.

    My hobby is rock crawling in trucks and buggies, and there is a similar equipment fascination in that world. There is a subset of the people who spend all their time building a rig and never actually get on the trail because "it's not good enough"... and then when they do, they get driven circles around by people in lesser built vehicles who have been out driving them. Yes, there are certain lines you just are not going to make without 37+" tires, a ton of suspension articulation, and dual locking differentials ... but a bad driver will never make any lines ...

    A bad photographer with no discipline to be at the right place at the right time, no appreciation for light, and no understanding and knack for composition is never going to take as interesting pictures, no matter how good the equipment, as someone with those abilities.
     
  13. John M Flores

    John M Flores Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jan 7, 2011
    Somerville, NJ
    They guy didn't do himself any favors with the photos - they simply proved that you can take ok snapshots with any camera.

    The formula is simple - a photo is 80% photographer and 20% camera.

    That's why an average photographer (40%) with a decent dSLR (10%) can take a decent photo (40%+10%=50%), yet still be outdone by a very good photographer (60%) with a cheap P&S (4%).

    That's also why working photogs get the best gear that they can afford - every advantage counts.
     
  14. Djarum

    Djarum Super Moderator

    Dec 15, 2009
    Huntsville, AL, USA
    Jason
    First, let me say this. I am not a professional photographer. This is a hobby to me which I enjoy. I also have only been in the hobby for about 6 years now. Say, this is my few pennies.

    There are some things I do agree with him on at a basic level. A camera with a full manual mode will make a photographer better. In taking his article in its entirety, I didn't think that mentioning this was relevant. A P&S without a manual mode and a camera with one is not really important to this sort of discussion. This sort of discussion is more about a beginner moving to a more advanced camera (notice I'm not saying "better"!).

    Now, getting to what he's talking about in terms of a better camera, there is a reference to making an "Ansel Adams" type landscape that can be blown up to 20x20. In my opinion, the quality of a photograph is not about how large it can be blown up. To a professional, maybe. This is more of a question about the medium vs the camera. In photography, the medium is directly related to the camera in many cases, so I can agree with that a little. Film transfered to print or digital transfered to print. But the size of the potential print, especially in this digital era, means less and less(again, my opinion). I personally value the quality of an image moreso over the size the image can be. I understand that we are talking about the amount of detail, but until monitors get even larger or more resolution, I think it doesn't matter as much as it used to. Lighting, composition, subject and the overall feel of an image is what determines the quality.

    Then the writer gets into discussing "tools", at least by his chainsaw example. The real problem with his discussion is that he's not talking about tools in the way they should be discussed. Comparing a chainsaw to using a different saw is more about the right tool for the right job, not about the better tool. Well sort of. Isn't it obvious that the right tool for the job will always be better than the wrong tool? So is the discussion about better tools he is referencing a discussion about using the right tools or about comparing the different levels of the right tools for the right job? His analogy is confusing, and really doesn't make the point I think he's trying to make.

    The problem I have in general talking about different types of cameras is that there is some notion by amatuers and the professional photography world that one type is better than another, and that the so called better type will make me a better photographer.

    The problem is, the different types of cameras are becoming more specialized tools. Will a FF canera produce, at a 8x10 print, a better picture than a mFT or even a high end P&S? I seriously doubt it. So in some cases, both cameras perform the same task, and the FF camera is no better than another with certain constraints. Is a FF camera better for weddings or portrait photography? Sure, but it is only better because it is the right tool, and its obvious that the best tool starts with the right tool. For hiking, is a FF camera better? It will handle dynamic range better and print larger, but I can take more lenses and have more opporotunities to take shots that I couldn't with the FF, so any picture taken with one camera over the other is going to be better, again, because it is the right tool.

    I'd also argue that in many hobbies and sports, once we do determine the right tool or if we are limited by a set of tools, that using what we have and pushing what we have makes us better at said hobby. If a golfer using only woods can drive the ball just as far as the next guy using the latest and greatest driver, who is the better golfer off the tee?

    At the end of the day, the discussion drives toward using the M9. I know nothing about this camera, other than its expense. I personally don't have the finances for it, and if someone does, that is great, and I hope they love it.

    I hope no one takes this the wrong way, but in my experiences with the sports and hobbies I have, putting the best equipment into any schmuck's hands will only get the schmuch so far. It is still about the person behind the camera.
     
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  15. Djarum

    Djarum Super Moderator

    Dec 15, 2009
    Huntsville, AL, USA
    Jason
    I really hate to reply to this, but Steve made the following comment. Keep in mind that this is in reference to this article at LuminousLandscapes.

    Kidding

    Steve Huff:

    "I have to say with those images at LL, no wonder no one could tell the difference. Take a G10 with it’s small sensor and huge DOF and shoot a part of a tree with it and an MF camera. Print them and yea, you can’t tell a difference. BUT, take a real image of a sweeping landscape, or a portrait with more shallow DOF and you could EASILY tell a difference between the two in a large print.

    It’s easy to make images look the same between a $300 camera and a $30,000 camera, if you shoot images like we see in that test at LL.

    I agree with Randall in this article. No way will a Canon S95 give you results of something like an M9 or even a Pentax K5. It also will not give you the control and yes, even the confidence. Things like ISO noise, dynamic range, depth of field…all play a huge part. For these reasons alone cameras DO indeed make a difference to your final output quality no matter what anyone says."



    Again, aren't we talking about different tools for different jobs? No, the G10 is not going to give you DOF control a medium format or a FF camera will give you. LL was not arguing that point, either. The G10 can also give as good of results for sweeping landscapes if we put contraints on the size of print. Does a camera that can achieve a shallower depth of field better for every situation? I'd argue that in many cases, I want a flat picture, and I don't want to have to stop down and introduce diffraction just to achieve it. Why would I want to carry a huge lens if I have to stop it down all the time?

    I know when I hike I'm not going to have the confidence to pull out an M9 or a K5 to get a shot. Rather, I will pull out a a compact or mFT camera while on the ledge of a waterfall holding onto a tree getting the shot instead. If I drop the camera or if I slip and fall, I have the confidence I'm only losing 500 bucks, not thousands of dollars, LOL.
     
  16. squidbrand

    squidbrand Mu-43 Regular

    55
    Dec 22, 2010
    Hà Nội, Việt Nam
    Yeah, I usually really like Steve Huff, but he's off-base too. Of course there are certain situations where one of the more expensive cameras is simply the necessary tool for the task, like a Canon 1D Mark IV for shooting an NFL game, or a Phase One P65+ for shooting a fashion spread, or a Leica M9 for discreet street shots that can be blown up huge. But you have to make a lot of assumptions about someone's photography style to just say straight-up that those cameras will give you better results. It's BS to generalize like that, because there are many types of shooting where those cameras' superiority is irrelevant, and some types where they're actually detrimental.

    Most people do not make giant prints or pixel-peep on 30" displays. Many compact cameras do give you about as much control as you'd have on a high-end camera, though some of those controls take longer to access and set. Confidence is completely personal and has nothing to do with the actual technical abilities of a camera. Sometimes you want deeper focus. Most cameras are virtually noiseless at base ISO, so noise is a non-issue if you have good light. The only thing on his list that actually makes sense is dynamic range; he's right in that wider DR is always going to improve your results to some degree, no matter what the shooting situation. But considering that his example of a lesser camera, the Canon S95, actually has wider DR than yesterday's $4000 top-of-the-line pro camera, it's pretty silly to say that the DR of today's top compacts is actually a serious limitation.

    And then there's the issue that neither Steve Huff nor Randall Kelley mentioned: camera size. Before switching to M4/3, I shot with a Canon 7D. In terms of all the factors Steve Huff mentioned, the 7D mops the floor with my GF1 — more resolution, much quicker controls, a bigger sensor for more attractive portrait DOF, lower noise, wider DR, confidence-inspiring construction. And yet, I instantly became a more interesting and prolific photographer when I "downgraded" to the GF1, because the bulky size made the 7D an inappropriate tool for almost all of my shooting.
     
  17. ~tc~

    ~tc~ Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Oct 22, 2010
    Houston, TX
    I would also add that some of the most iconic photographs of all time, are technically, not very good. Over/under exposed, not sharp, grainy, etc.

    One of the things that makes photography interesting to me, is how it combines "no rules" art with a "full of rules" technical pursuit, but you can never create interesting images on one side without the other. You can have a scene exposed perfectly and in focus, but if the composition is crap, it's not interesting. You can have fantastic lighting and composition, but if the focus is off, it's probably crap ... You need to balance the two aspects, and the people who have done that right are the big names.
     
    • Like Like x 3
  18. ZephyrZ33

    ZephyrZ33 Mu-43 Top Veteran

    685
    Nov 18, 2010
    Southern California
    Without reading too much into what has been said, this statement above pretty much resonates with me.

    This reminds me of the guitar world:
    (which is more subjective than sports)

    A talented musician picks a guitar and equipment that produces the desired sound he wants to convey. The equipment just amplifies his talent. Never does it make him a better musician.

    A beginner may be able to play two chords with beautiful clarity on a 56' Gibson Les Paul, but it won't make him a guitarist, while a pro won't be able to hit that sustained note on a department store beater. It doesn't mean the pro can't play beautiful music on the beater.

    Everyone has a threshold.
     
  19. Streetshooter

    Streetshooter Administrator Emeritus

    Dec 15, 2009
    Phila, Pa USA
    One of my favorite players always used a real cheap ax.
    Robert Nighthawk. He played raw with a sound that cut to the heart with a $125.00 guitar.

    Anyway, this entire conversation is based on opinion.
    Art is the man! Period!

     
    • Like Like x 1
  20. WT21

    WT21 Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Feb 19, 2010
    Boston
    I have always felt that. I can't count the number of times I've seen a photo from some of the greats and the "DPR part of my brain" (that's the part of your brain that thinks it's fun to post on the DPR site) thinks "hot spots, not quite in focus" or some sort, but the image is gripping because of the subject and the way it was shot.