This is a question that I struggle with, because I truly believe that the best camera is the camera you already have. I want to believe that you can give me any camera and I will still make great photographs. But the truth is, camera gear does matter… kind of.
For some photographers great autofocus matters, or dynamic range, camera size, discreetness, weather resistance, megapixel count, sharpness, macro capability, focal length, and ISO range. The list is never-ending, because we all have different needs and we all photograph in our own way—each of our styles require different parameters.
Here is an extreme example: if you gave me a 4-megapixel point-and-shoot camera with a 50mm lens I would probably be able to take a photo in my style, but if you gave me a 100-megapixel Hasselblad with a 300mm lens, I wouldn’t be able to pull it off. I’d get close, but the result wouldn’t reflect my style.
Now, I know that a good professional would be able to make it work. And any good photographer knows how to adapt to a situation. But that doesn’t mean that gear doesn’t matter.
I’m a strong believer in only using one camera & lens until you know it inside and out. I believe in mastering gear, focal lengths, and developing a consistent photographic style. I can’t see myself photographing something without having a 50mm or 28mm lens at my disposal. You might be the same. You might have a default piece of gear, whether that’s a flash or a type of film. Whatever it is, we all have that something that is consistent with our work, and that consistency matters.
All cameras essentially do the same thing. What you’re paying for when you start going into that upper-tier market is small percentages, and those small refinements matter to the professional. Where they don’t matter is if you’re just starting out or doing it for fun—then paying an extra 10k or even 1k isn’t worth it until you find your style or are making a comfortable living from this profession.
In short, does photography gear matter? The answer is “Yes, when your business or profession requires it.”
Any other time, what you have is good enough. Even professionals love the liberation of playing around with something as limiting as a smartphone camera. When your bank account or credit limit runs short, do one better and adapt. Learn to use what you have, master the gear you already own.
Because the best equipment you will ever own is your artistic eye, your vision, your style, your way of looking at the world. And that’s something money can’t buy.
About the author: A.B Watson is a New Zealand photographer based in Auckland. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. To see more of his work, head over to his website or follow him on Facebook and Instagram. This post was also published here.