What is a Proper Camera

Steve Counsell

What is a Proper Camera

I was prompted to write this blog post after seeing a photo posted on Facebook by a professional photographer who also commented that the picture was a "proper photo taken with a proper camera". This got me thinking about the nature of photography and how some people can be pretty snobby about eh kit they use and spout on about this or that camera being better that the one your have.

Let's be clear on this; a camera is essentially a box with a hole in the front where the light can get in. It's nothing more that that!

OK, I know that there are many other technical specifications where the image that is being captured can be enhanced but it's true to say that a camera is just a box with a hole in it.

When I spent a couple of years as a "pro photographer" around 2008 many people would be in awe of the camera kit I used. I regularly carried around £5,000 worth of kit on my shoulder. I sometimes got comments like "You must be able to take some really threat photos with that" followed by the usual how much did it cost, where did you get it etc.

My response to that was usually "I got my camera from the same place Shakespeare got his pen". Many people didn't really understand that but let me explain; The camera you use to capture images is like the pen you use to write stories, it means nothing without your imagination to drive it. Just like great writers, great photographers don't rely on the pen or camera to allow them to create the story or image, instead they rely on their imagination and vision.

So what's my advice about cameras? Well it's not so much about the camera, which as I say is a box with a hole in it, it's more about the lens that you place in front of that hole. I learned years ago that the lenses we use to capture images is all important. I still miss my Canon 70mm to 200mm f2.8 lens. It was a beast of a thing, almost industrial in construction and weighed a ton especially as I used it as my every day walk around lens.

Images captured through this lens were somehow clearer, sharper, had more depth and feeling in them.

Yhou might be wondering why I don't have it today; well that's because I gave up Pro Photography and sold all my pro kit and went for a smaller more easily carried set up in the LUMIX G5 (now a G7) micro four thirds system.

I'm still intending to get back to that Canon 70-200mm feeling and saving my pennies in order to get a LUMIX 35mm to 100mm f2.8 lens. You see the micro four thirds system have a 2 times crop factor and therefor the focal length that gives the same sort of image is exactly half that of the "Full Frame" 35mm camera lenses. So 35 to 100 is a direct equivalent of the 70 to 200mm lens.

To be honest it's probably the constant F Number (f2.8) that is the biggest factor as being able to have the lens open that wide offers some great creative opportunities especially the beautifully blurred backgrounds that separate your main subject and somehow make the image "POP" as they say.

I'm reminded of the answer to the question "What is the best camera?". The answer of course is "The one you have with you when you need to take a photo".

I often use my iPhone to take photos these days and although it's a bit fiddly and unnatural for me to get a photo on my phone it does produce some excellent results in terms of quality of image.

I suppose that if I was to define what a "Proper Camera" is then I'd say that it's a camera that allows the photographer to express their natural creativity without that camera "getting in the way". In terms of producing great images that all takes practice and the development of your own personal style.

Good luck with your own photography and remember that it's your eyes that see the photo first and the camera should not get in your way. Oh and buy the BEST lenses you can afford. 

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