Just what does ‘Pro’ mean for camera equipment?
Should I only buy ‘pro’ cameras?
Does it help me become a better photographer?
So, when does ‘pro’ gear become worthwhile?
As a working photographer, I need to be able to rely on the equipment I use on jobs. Someone is paying for my time and what I’m taking photos of may not be repeatable.
The kind of kit people usually refer to as ‘Pro’ is typically better built and made for heavier use as a work tool.
I want equipment that I can trust – so I look for ‘Pro’ kit?
Well… no, I’ll admit that I dislike the term ‘Pro’ – it’s become just a marketing label to indicate more expensive or more complex ;-)
I’m looking for tools that help me do my job, tools that help my business create the product it sells. As with many other tradespeople, ‘pro’ photographers are producing products to be sold, and like a master carpenter, I like to know I’ve reliable chisels, and that I know the right chisel for the job.
If anyone has the money and inclination, then buy what you like – compared with many hobbies, spending £5000 on some kit is not that expensive (sailing and cars come to mind)
Unlike some, I do believe that having a better camera and lens can enable you to produce better photos. The big caveats are that:
- You know how to use the equipment
- You understand how the technology affects the types of images you can get
- The image is going to be used in a context where the difference will show
The most obvious example is where I’m not going using my iPhone, when I know a client wants a 60″ x 40″ architectural print… ;-)
Note that I’d never say you can’t take good pictures on a rubbish camera, just that their overall usefulness may be rather limited – Lomography, yep, heard of that… ;-)
Let’s envisage 2 camera setups
- Canon EOS 7D (8 frames per second(fps), fairly good autofocus (AF)) with EF400mm f/2.8L IS II USM
- Canon EOS1100D ( 2 fps, basic AF) with Canon EF400mm f/5.6L USM
The experienced nature photographer could get good photos with either setup, but will likely get a higher proportion with the much more expensive kit (the 400/2.8 is over £8000)
The photographer new to nature photography will also benefit from the more expensive kit, since the image stabilisation (IS) and higher FPS will give them more sharp photos (they just may not be very good)
The difference is that the experienced and knowledgeable photographer will derive much more benefit from using specialised equipment. Experience becomes a multiplier for the technical advantages.
The lenses I’ve got in the photo above only really come into their own when you know how to use their special features (see –using tilt and shift)
As a working ‘pro’ photographer, the tricky bit is deciding which new expensive bit of kit will really be of benefit for our business… but that’s another question altogether (see the photographer in the orange hat)
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