Through the looking glass…

I’ve been a victim of camera envy as I’m sure most photographers have at one point or another. In Middle School and High School the Nikon F4 and F5s were the most wonderful pieces of  imaging technology that I believed existed. I thought that it put my poor Canon T70 to shame. As digital SLR cameras made their debut, Nikon’s 5 megapixel D1x became my dream camera. Then it was the D2x, Then the D3…ect. After years of growing my equipment and upgrading my cameras I’ve discovered something huge: “Your camera doesn’t matter…at least…not as much as you’d think.”

Some die-hard film photographers were wise to this discovery. Film and lenses gave you images…the camera that you were using was of little importance. As I worked in a camera shop I often heard older film photographers try to apply that same concept to the digital photography world, and while I believe they were on the right track, they were leaving out a huge factor: “There is no film in digital cameras, so the digital camera has to somewhat matter.”

And it does. Digital cameras use various imaging sensors and imaging results vary greatly…however, camera companies do “share” their sensors not only within the company but between other companies as well. This is pretty shocking if it’s something that you’ve never heard of before, and I assure you that the big camera companies don’t like consumers knowing this information. And why would they, they want you to rush out and buy the latest greatest that they have to offer.  Let me give you an example of how broad this concept is:

The Nikon D300s (retail -$1600) shares the same sensor as the: Nikon D90, Nikon D5000, Sony A500, Pentax Kr, and the Pentax Kx.

All these cameras use a Sony made 12.3-4 MP sensor. This brings me back to my main point. The camera doesn’t matter…that much. It does matter that the Sony 12.3-4MP CMOS sensor (found in these cameras) is a better sensor than, say, the Sony 10.2MP CCD sensor that you’d find in a Nikon D3000 (or Nikon D60, or Nikon D40X). However, when a $500 Sony A500 camera can pretty much give you the same imaging results as a $1600 Nikon D300s, that frees up $1200 that can be better invested in gear that holds it’s value alot longer.

Lenses are in my opinion the very best place to put your money. Look online, lenses that were make 10 years ago still sell for close to what they debuted at. The technology doesn’t change much either, so there are still lenses on the market that were designed 10, 20, even 30 years ago that are still in production today…you can’t say that about very many cameras that I know of.

My best advice that I give regarding a camera purchase is this: “realistically figure out what you need the camera to do, find the best deal on the camera that will meet those needs, and use the rest of your budget on good glass.”

I personally have about $8000 invested in lenses…only $1200 in my cameras and I couldn’t be happier =)

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~ by jeffrauch on September 3, 2011.

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