The right tool for the job…

When I was still pretty active on a photography forum, one recurring discussion was between those who got all excited on the latest and greatest gear with all the new features, and those who claimed that the camera doesn’t matter because it’s all down to the photographer. In other words “with this camera, you can finally really make good images” versus “tools don’t matter”.

Yet another example of unnecessary polarised discussion.

So tiring. So useless. So short-sighted, on both sides.

Yes, sure, the latest and greatest camera doesn’t suddenly make you a better photographer. Extra features, options, improved functionalities do not suddenly make you creative. In this sense, it is true that the tool doesn’t matter. Understanding composition, colour theory, studying other photos, experiment in different types of light – all things that create a more important foundation than improved autofocus, an automated option to lift shadows or more pixels on the sensor.

But if you want to hit a nail in the wall, you don’t need a saw. Tools do matter: they have to be fit for the job.

Being a good fit to the job has multiple sides to it. First of all, the abilities of the camera need to meet requirements. Trying to shoot a sportsgame with a 6×6 TLR camera isn’t ideal.
That said, there are a good amount of extremely all-round capable cameras available, that are pretty much up to any task. Choosing the right lens is probably more of an issue – yes, you can get a do-it-all-superzoom, they’re pretty nice and do most things pretty well. And there are specialist lenses that do one thing extremely well. There is a place and time for both. In any case: find a system that matches the requirements isn’t that difficult. Plenty choice.

But there is another aspect, that is seldom mentioned in discussions between the gearheads and anti-gearheads. And that is quite simple: do you like using the camera? Are the controls there where you expect them or want them? Are the options that really matter to you easy to operate? Can you get the lenses you want for the camera of choice? Etc. etc.

Weight, shape of the handgrip, button placement: it matters. The easier a camera is to use, the sooner you’ll be able to use the camera blindfolded. And when you can do that, it means you have all attention and focus left to frame the scene, compose your image, consider the exposure, catch the fleeting moment. The real job at hand.

Cameras and lenses are tools. But good tools enable you, don’t get in your way but rather make is possible and easier to get done what you want to do. It’s a very personal choice, because we’re all different human beings, with different priorities and a different sense of what matters most. So, “reallycoolphotographer123” on that forum cannot tell you what is (and what is not) a good tool for you. His personal preference has got really nothing to do with your personal preferences.

So, neither can I. I can share my experiences with the tools I’ve used, and try explain what I liked, disliked and what it brought me. Whether it fit me, or not. Pure subjective experiences, no reviews claiming truth. Perhaps that helps someone, some day, maybe not.

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