A Bad Camera is Still Probably More Than You Need / by Michael Jin

There have been a flurry of recent announcements in the camera industry and it has resulted in a lot of discussion. Nikon and Canon finally entered the market with their MILC offerings. Panasonic, Sigma, and Leica announced their “L-Mount Alliance” to present a united front in the face of increasing competition. Part of this has included Panasonic announcing its own jump into full-frame digital cameras. Fuji has taken the route of continuing to focus on APS-C and Medium Format cameras, but announcing a Medium Format camera that is more or less the size of a full-frame digital camera from many other brands, causing further confusion. In the midst of all these announcements and product releases has been headed debate and downright animosity between the fans of each respective system.

Listen, I’m not going to pretend that I’m all high and mighty or somehow above all of this. As my last post pointed out, I clearly have my own opinion regarding the state of the industry at the moment and I’ve made my decision for now in regard to where I’m willing to put my money. I’m obviously keeping up to date on news regarding all of the different systems, reading reviews, watching test videos, viewing sample images, etc. As it stands right now, every camera is a compromise of some sort and there are certainly some systems that perform better than others in certain aspects.

The reason for this post is not to suggest that all cameras are somehow created equal—they’re not—but, rather, to point out that even the worst cameras today are still probably way more than the average photographer will ever need. We’ve gotten to a point where we’re bitching about which camera has 15 stops of dynamic range vs. 14 stops or which camera performs better at ISO 12,800. People will debate ad nauseum about “color science” (I hate this term) or how well a camera autofocuses in near-complete darkness. We do this because when it comes down to it, we’ve gotten to a point in camera development where it’s only at the extreme ends of the user experience that we can start to notice any differences in the abilities of these cameras.

There are, of course, people who live in these extreme ends of the photographic spectrum to whom these specs are very meaningful. We have sports photographers, event photographers, photojournalists, and a plethora of other types of photographers that each have their individual needs, whether it’s intense weathersealing, lightning fast AF, or superb low-light performance. How many of us can honestly say that we fall into this spectrum, though? I can definitely say that I’ve never filled my buffer once in the course of my photography, nor have I shot at the max burst speed of my camera for more than a second or two at a time. I have never had to push my ISO beyond 6,400 even on the street at night thanks to the ambient light provided by street lamps and signs in the city. I’ve never taken my camera out into a monsoon to test the weathersealing and I’ve never needed to track an Olympic sprinter in the dark with my autofocus.

I well aware that my usage is not necessarily representative of the entire photographic community, but when you start watching these videos, reading these articles, or getting engaged in the pissing war, take a moment to think to yourself how much any of it honestly matters to your photography. The chances are that even a bad camera today is still probably more than you need. If you really get down and think about it, it truly is a wonderful time that we’re living in.