Simply The Best?

DSCF3140-EditI was talking to a college student this week, I asked him why I hadn’t seen any of his work recently, his reply bemused me – “I’m getting a Canon 5D mark three in a few weeks, so I’m not shooting anything until I get that, it’s like ten times better than the camera I’m using now…I want to shoot my ideas on the best kit…should I get the seventy to two-hundred?”

Amazing. This talented young artist has actually put his photography on hold because he doesn’t want to ‘waste’ any of his creative ideas on what he considers to be inferior camera equipment. I was going to point-out that the Canon 5D mark III isn’t actually ‘The Best’, if he wants that then he should really be saving-up his student grant for an 8×10 inch film camera, but I’d have been wasting my time, I think.

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What is ‘The Best’ camera? It’s the one you have with you, of course. I always have at least one camera on me, usually two – a 35mm film compact and some kind of digital, at the moment it’s a Canon G15 or a Fuji X-Pro1. If for any reason I can’t take a small bag out with me, I always have my iPhone in my pocket. People have become obsessed with megapixels and millimetres to the detriment of actually making photographs, we should be shooting with what we have, not what we think we should have.

If I ‘saved-up’ all my ideas to shoot on the best possible equipment, if I didn’t take that photograph outside the pub because I only had my iPhone, then I’d never get anything done.

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Top to bottom – Fuji X-Pro1, X-Pro1, iPhone 4S, some toys, Nikon TW20, Holga GCFN, Canon G15, X-Pro-1, Olympus Mju II, Nikon TW20, Kodak disposable, Canon G11.

19 comments

  1. Janice Farnan

    couldn’t agree more. My favourite digital is my d300, and it has only 12mp, but oh it just feels so good in my hands :0)

  2. Absolutely agree with you, Phil. It’s about making the most of the moment with the tools you have, rather than waiting for a more convenient time. The best camera is always the one that you have ready at hand when you see something special that catches your eye, even if it is only the one in your smartphone. Capturing moments and playing with ideas any time is the most fun for me. But I also know ‘professional’ photographers who barely shoot if it’s not for a job and can’t really get a single proper picture done without writing a concept for days, an extensive set-up and photoshop work later. That’s obsession about technique rather than creativity.

    As for your student, I’m wondering if it will make him happy when somebody tells him later that his new camera takes very good pictures? :)

  3. I also thoroughly agree with your philosophy. Although I now have a couple of great cameras, I also enjoy using older DSLRs and rangefinders. One of my favourite (digital) pics was taken with my first digital camera in 2002, a 3 megapixel Pentax Optio.

  4. I like that! I almost always have my little Nikon P300 point and shoot with me, but like you said about your iPhone (I have a Samsung Galaxy Ace – I like the Android OS better) smart phone cameras work in a pinch too, it keeps my Tumblr feed happy.

  5. Spot on! I’m a college student and I also used to have that same mindset, that somehow better equipment would make me a better photographer. And then I realized I just need to make do with what I have right now to grow and become better, not the other way around.

  6. Well, I commend you for biting your tongue! Much more gracious than I would have been, that’s for sure. I’d’ve probably handed the kid my old Fujica ST, a roll of Plus-X and and a Black Cat exposure guide and told him to make do.

  7. davbi

    I’m at an amateur level and have stagnated to the point of nt taking photos for quite a while. I just didn’t feel like it. I had a recent trip to two countries I’d never been to before; I took my trusty EOS 400D and got trigger happy again. The photos (save 2 or 3) are mediocre at best, but I never blamed the camera: it has survived nearly 6 years of being thrown in a backpack & carrying on and that’s more than I could ask of it. I noticed it was my lack of practice and I only blame myself for the lack of quality of what I took.

  8. You are absolutely right. My very first camera was a plastic thing made in Japan that came out of a slot machine. i was 7 years old and though I no longer have the photos it was what got me hooked on photography! Some of my favourite shots were taken on a Halina Paulette Electric II (Kodachrome 64) and I do still have those shots. I got the camera for my 10th birthday and it cost £10, including a bulb flash, slide viewer, case and a film!

    Photography is all about the ‘vision’ of the photographer not the gear you use. After all just think about a pinhole camera.

  9. Reblogged this on My Thrifting Adventures and commented:
    I’ve always been fascinated with photography, taking pictures, and capturing what I think was “beautiful” or “significant” at a particular moment in time. Though I always drool over high-tech camera equipment, I never underestimate lowly tools. It’s not the camera, it’s the photographer. Phil Kneen, one of my favorite photographers, said (and captured) it best.

  10. Joseph Williamson

    I have a Nikon D200 and I hear all my friend obsessing over MP, mines only 10.2 and it’s great. Set it to the right speed you will find nothing at all wrong

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