The BEST camera is……
The BEST camera is……
Most people who know me will know how much affinity I have for Fujifilm. Before I loved the X-Pro, I applauded the D800, was inseparable from the Nikon D3x, and was charmed with the Pentax 645. Previous camera champions were the 5D mark 2 or maybe the D700. I love and still use my Nikon D90. (Not so much these day though I have to admit) It is quite apparent that I might be a total geek when it comes to cameras. Not quite the pixel peeping type of geek that goes on forums to debate the sharpness of sensor V’s sensor though, for me it is something a little different that makes a camera …. good…
It is not the colour rendition, it is not how fast it auto focuses, or how high the ISO goes. In-fact, I more than likely could not tell you what the mega-pixel count of the X-pro is off the top of my head. It is just not a statistic that is important to me. I could however explain how the sensor of the X-pro is different to a Bayer Sensor, or how that differs over a Foveon Sigma Sensor. I could wax lyrical on why I still love CCD sensors like the one found in the Pentax 645. But to be honest, this is all not related to why I like a camera or not. I could not tell you the frame rate of all of the cameras I have mentioned and I could not tell you which is ‘best’. I could not tell you the file sizes or recite the detail spec of the camera like a Star Trek geek could give you chapter and verse of each episode. My love stems from how the camera feels, how it balances, how it empowers me, how it challenges me and ultimately how it helps me do what I want to do. I want a camera that does just what I want and nothing more. I don’t NEED Art Filters, or auto-face detection, anti-blink, perfect shot tech messing about with MY photograph. If I was to make a camera I would not even have the option to shoot to JPEG… It would be DNG and that would be the end of that. I would have 3 dials. Shutter Speed, Aperture, ISO and a slot for a battery and a shutter button. What more do you really need ?? Everything else it to make you feel better and something to play with while your not concentrating on your photograph. Before people comment, I have a clear idea that this would not suit everyone. I hear that Nikon are making a system of finger print recognition for the cameras? And no doubt people will find a marketing reason to say why they applaud it. Not for me though.
The other day I was doing a training event for a camera company and we were talking about the X100s. A lady looked at the camera and took an instant dislike its complex look: “It has so many buttons! It looks so complicated !!” she gasped. I explained it like this… It has three switches for use before the photograph is taken. The rest are to do with things after you have taken your photo. It has one to control the Shutter Speed, one for aperture and one for taking the shot (Once you have set your ISO….that is). In this day and age, we are totally capable of filling a camera with so much amazing technology that it can start to be distracting element. If you’re spending more time looking AT the camera than looking though it, you may need to change your camera for something simpler. I understand that in order for companies to stay in business they need to evolve and develop new stuff, but, really- where are we going with Blink Detection. We don’t need it…
There is an increasing amount of people super-reliant on the tech put into cameras and not really understanding what a camera is for. I break it down in like this. There are people who take photos and there are people who create photos. People who take pictures and people who create pictures. In my head there are distinct differences and the camera that is right for each one could be totally different. Let’s start by the major difference. Photographs and Pictures are totally different, well for me there are anyway. Pictures speak with the message of the artist behind them. They are designed, crafted and shaped to create and evoke emotion. A painter paints a picture, a Photographer create a picture, a wordsmith describes a picture. A picture is designed in involve, challenge, and move. A Pictures can tell stories, be it fact or fiction. They can lie and be deceitful at the whim of the creator. Photographs are the result of a capturing a moment and recording it for people to add there own views. A news reporter photographs a gunman, a Sports photographer photographs a runner winning a race, a paparazzi photographs a drunk girl at a party, another girl photographs her shoes at a beach and another hipster photographs his lunch. I see photographs as much more of dry element of recording history with less of predefined story context. The whole world of Instagram is world borne out of the human need to share news and record life. Photography is self is only an act of recording a visual moment. Social Photography is the new kid on the block. People photographing things to show to people what they are having for lunch or trying pick which pair of sneakers they are going to by has never been so cool…. The ‘look how amazing’ I am kids have never had such a way to brag about being ‘hip’ Social Photograph is just like having your own rolling news channel for people to pretend to be famous. How Fab is That !! I am the first one to admit it is an amazing new world for photography..
People taking Pictures and people creating Pictures. I like to create my Pictures or images as I prefer to call them. I like to pre-think, pre-define, pre-judge and pre-make images. Like a movie, it is a scripted story that is being created to give a viewer a feeling or thought. It is the way I control the shoot and visual element that is the creating part. From the location, the fashions, the choice of creative team (or lack of), the model, the light, the mood, the energy, the whole thing is a scripted play with an end goal, in which I, as the story teller can say something. The result is more often than not something that brands like as they can use this to convey messages about something. It is a script and message frozen in time to cause a predefined effect. When people talk about vision, this is what they are talking about…. There is a very subtle difference from people taking and creating images. Both are usually the end result of a creation process for a narrative based ending. The difference is only the way the creator approaches the recording. Some people set up the environment, then record what happens with elements of randomness and spontaneous things inside the created environment.
My recent example of this would be an editorial shoot I did with Chloe-Jasmine Whichello entitled Room 517. We created the set, we had the lingerie and a rough idea of what the end result could be, but it was also a process of having fun and just seeing what happened. I had shot the same Lingerie the day before with another model for a magazine. Each shot was pre-thought out and place for a reason thinking about how they would look in the magazine. I had to make sure the lingerie looked nice and was not covered by arms or other clothing. The next shoot, we really didn’t care about being able to see the lingerie in detail, it was about something different. The context was different. The motive was different. The visual impact was also different in the final shots.
Taking photos as something different. I see the difference quite like this. A sports photographer photographs a runner winning a race, just as much as he photographs the loser. The photograph is taken to record, not to give a point of view or push a motive. Photographs are a processed to record the world around us. How they are used is another matter, the point is that a Photograph is less scripted. They seem more trivial than an image. Great Photographs can turn into images, when the context has meaning, but until that is understood. They are photos, or snaps, or just a memory of me on holiday. To me, a “Photo” says less than an “Image”.
To help explain this a little better lets think of Imagery and Photography. A client could come to me explain they need new imagery for a Lingerie Brand, as a Photographer, I would use Photography to create this imagery. If I was on holiday or enjoying a nice coffee in Covent Garden, I might upload a photo to Facebook.
The reason I like to have this clear distinction is that some cameras are better for creating images and some cameras are better are creating photos, and never before have we had such a camera like the X-Pro that has been so good at both. When I shoot the Flying Horse image, the nature of the shoot dictated the needs of the camera. As does when I am photographing my lunch, the need dictates the camera used. The world does not need a 40 mega-pixel photo of my Costa Coffee.
When a client comes to me and explains they need some new material I know exactly what it entails. It is work and business. My brother might ask if I have time for some new photos of his son. I do understand this might not be as black and white for everyone, but this is how my mind operates. When people ask me which is the” best” camera, I ask them ‘are you creating images or taking photos’.
So which camera for which? Only you can decide this, but before you go down the route of talking about mega-pixels and sharpness, give some thought into what your objectives are, what are the core reasons as to why you need a camera. These things will tell you what you need. The more ‘pro’ you are or want to be the chance that you need to have commercial edges to your work means you will be creating rather than taking thus, you will be working under different pressures. More likely you will need something like a Phase One or Hasselblad. If your not needing the file size that these systems offer or are limited by budget, your looking at a D800 or Canon 1dx. If your clients need video your looking at a 5dm3. If you need image quality and not worried about speed, the Pentax 645d is Perfect. If your looking for a more rounded system the D4 or D3x is going to be a workhorse.
It is worth pointing out these are all tools to do a job, most of them are quite lacking in soul. None of them are inspiring on the level that a Leica or X-Pro does. I have to admit though, this is personal to me and might not be the same for everyone.
For many people Cameras like the Sigma SD1 Merrill and the DP series of Sigma cameras are the most perfect cameras in the world. It is so great that we have such a wide breath cameras to choose from. During the last couple of months, I have been looking at the whole camera market. From low end compacts to Bridge cameras and micro for-thirds to super high end Medium Format systems. They all have a place in the market today and all have genuine plus sides to them. The iPhone is one of the most important digital imaging devices ever made in my eyes, but perhaps not the most efficient tool for commercial use.
Chase Jarvis wrote that the best camera is one you have on you “Inherently, we all know that an image isn’t measured by its resolution, dynamic range, or anything technical. It’s measured by the simple—sometimes profound, other times absurd or humorous or whimsical—effect that it can have upon us. If you can see it, it can move you.” He is totally right, and it worth thinking that the same way he could be describing what an image is. The definition is not of a photograph, in which you can describe with resolution and technical stats. Chase is very right on so many levels, but there is something else we can read into this, the most appropriate camera might not always be the one you have with you, there is something extra going on here. A camera that you love is a camera you want to use and always have with you, ending up meaning it is the best camera as it always is there. A bad camera is a camera you don’t want to use. A great camera is one that sits on the table looking at you and just says, ‘what shall we create today…’
The Fuji does that to me, it sits there, when I have lost the love of photography, it sits on the desk next to the screen bugging me to do something about it. Is that the definition of the Best Camera ??
Words and images by Dave Kai Piper