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Old Jan 11, 2005, 12:44 PM   #1
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you always see photos in magazines and even here in the photo of the day, and they are always taken on huge fantastic slr's. i have a little 3mp casio with 3x optical zoom. i know that to an extent, its the photographer and not the camera that takes good photos, but can fantastic photos be gotten on theese small cameras ( within limits of zoom )? what im really asking is to what extent is a top class photo the doing of the photographer, or how much does the camera weigh in on the end result?
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Old Jan 11, 2005, 2:26 PM   #2
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Well, I'm far from a pro, but I would say this:

Your camera has to be able to capture the light fairly accurately (which some small cameras can't, but most can) and has to have manual controls, including shutter speed and iris (because if the camera's relatively puny brain gets it wrong, you have to have manual control to get it right). Yes, better glass means better sharpness in general, and "bigger" cameras have great advantages (generally less noise, more lens flexibility, etc). And there are some things your small cam won't do -- it won't be able to take sharpzoom pictures from the indy 500 from across the track. It probably won't be able to take macroshots at a 1:1 ratio, filling the frame with a gnat. So, if you want to win POTD by taking a picture of a swan taking flight from 300 yards away in the early morning, that's probably not going to happen.

But I saw a Sports Illustrated special where the photographer took pictures for the SWIMSUIT ISSUE with a DISPOSEABLE CAMERA (just about as terrible as you can get for all technical aspects). He said 'well, you know, they do so much retouching, who cares how the film is captured.' Perhaps. But the lesson there is (1) he's a great photographer who knows how to "see" images and (2) he had a crew of professional makeup artists, gaffers, assistants, and world class models to find the right locations, get (and enhance) the right light, get the girls looking perfect, and getting great shots. They did it because they were really good at what they do.

You can be really good at what you'll do and get great shots with a small digicam. I'm very pleased with some of the shots I took with my Canon Powershot S30-- an older, 3.1 megapixel compact. I think you see lots of great shots taken by "big" cameras because people who invest that much $$ in their camera often (but not always) invest the time to learn the art and science of photography... they'd be taken good pictures no matter what, but the camera helps them achieve even morew. (There are also a lot of really bad shots I've seen taken by dSLRs, too.) If photography is your livelihood or your passion, just like anything, you'll invest lots of time and money... and your results will show.
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Old Jan 11, 2005, 3:13 PM   #3
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This question is similar to asking "in the last Indy 500, how much was winning the race due to the driver and how much due to the car"? Both are required to win the race at that level. I would tend to think the skill of the photographer can overcome limitations of gear much more easily than quality gear can overcome the limitations of the photographer. But you still have to have a tool capable of doing the work you want to do. That disposable camera from Perdendosi's post could not be used to take a picture of a football receiver catching a pass in a night game under lights from 50 yards away - I don't care how good the photographer is - the camera just can't do it. IMHO what produces great results is a photographer understanding his/her gear and what it is and isn't capable of. Once you know the strong and weak points of your gear you can take fabulous photos in those areas where your gear is strong. And recognizing where your gear has limiations will allow you to avoid frustration when your photos fail because of the gear (like trying to take the football picture with the disposable camera). Just my humble opinion
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Old Jan 11, 2005, 3:14 PM   #4
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To me, there are many aspects to this question.

The simple answer is that its completely situational. In many situations the camera doesn't matter. Taking a simple portrait of a person in street cloths standing in front of a store is not demanding (depending on the color/light of the scene.) Getting the right expression on their face and choosing that person and that store is the skill of the photographer.

Taking a picture of an eagle diving into a lake an carrying away a huge salmon is a lot more about the camera. Most cameras don't have a good shot of getting that picture. But the right tool (camera & lens) will make it easier (not easy, but easier.) There is still a lot about the photographer.. knowing the right angle to shoot from, where and when the light is best.... And there is general knowledge like where to find the bird (while not photography, its very important! And it's an aspect of the photographer!)

A more detailed answer follows:

On one side you have what type of picture you're taking. I take pictures of wild animals, almost exclusively birds. There are very few cameras that can do this well (in the grand scheme of things) because the lens quality, focal length, fast AF, and low noise/high ISO just aren't there.

The same type of thing applies to wedding photography. To do it well, you have similar issues with wildlife photography. Some times those amazing photos appear and disappear. No matter how good you are if you're camera isn't good enough you won't get the shot (not taking into account anticipation; I'm talking about situations where you turn around and there is that fleeting moment.)

But there is another side. A picture is just capturing light on a light sensitive thing (film, sensor, whatever.) Often, great pictures are made by the light. Bad light will ruin a picture, good light will make a good picture great. Knowing how the camera will the light and knowing when its "good" is very important. It is the difference between an ok picture and a good one.

If you have the eye/brain (it can be trained) you can see what picture you want and go and create it. You'll look across a field and know how the sun will play across it... the colors that it adds. What it will look like and if it will look good. If you know your equipment, you'll know what shots you can get in that situation. This has much more to do with you than your camera.

An taking a picture isn't all about just getting it properly focused and exposed. How much do you want in focus? How do you use this to your advantage? How about creative use of shadows and light/dark? What about having part of the picture blurred?

Does this give you some ideas? If you view photography as a giant glob of things you can take pictures of.... In some of those things the camera doesn't really matter. In others the picture wouldn't (basically) be possible without the right camera. But in every case, its the skill of the photography (in making the picture & using the camera) that makes the picture.

Imagine the same question about a car. I can drive almost any car to work. Then the car doesn't matter, the driver does. But if I were in a Formula 1 race... well, then. The car matters a hell of a lot... but without a skilled driver they would still crash very quickly. It's the same issue. The right tool for the job. Some times the tool doesn't really matter. Other times it is essential. But the car doesn't drive it self and the camera doesn't take the picture on its own.

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Old Jan 11, 2005, 4:55 PM   #5
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Casio EX-Z3.. 3 MP... (see the other thread about ultra compacts... )

To me this picture means more than any other photo... :G
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Old Jan 12, 2005, 10:59 PM   #6
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schmintan wrote:
what im really asking is to what extent is a top class photo the doing of the photographer, or how much does the camera weigh in on the end result?
Waaay back when, Janet Malcom wrote a book called Diana and Nikon, which I recall* included an essay about a toy camera called the Diana; it had horrible plastic optics and made what would conventionally be called "lousy" prints, but several famous photographers used it, because they saw something ordinary eyes did not.
Taken to its extreme, the point would be to place credit for the "great image" entirely on the side of the photographer rather than the camera. It all depends on what you want to do. If you want to take pictures like Ansel Adams, then you've basically got to use his techniques and equipment. If you want to take pictures that look like they came out of Salvidore Dali's fevered imagination, then use a camera/technique that produces appropriately surreal results. As in all things, Good Luck.

* Accuracy of recall not guaranteed; I read the book back in the late 70s.

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