I came across this article about designer DSLR camera straps on Apartment Therapy today and it really brought home how unreasonable it is for the average person to carry around a bulky camera in order to get good photos. Camera technology is hitting the same curve that computers did a few years ago. Whether it’s computers or cameras we no longer need megahertz or megapixel wars. It’s about ease of use, functionality and efficiency.
As the Director of Education for Samy’s Camera, I see hundreds of students every month and the number one question asked is “what high quality zoom lens can I get for my trip/safari/vacation that is small and easy to lug around?” Nobody really wants to be the dork wearing bermuda shorts with black socks walking around strapped with bulky DSLRs, a backpack full of lenses and a fanny pack full of whatever it is people put in fanny packs.
I’m not saying that pro’s should worry about how they look and switch to mirrorless cameras so that they look cool and sleek. But a pro tool will often give you the capability to get the job done in any situation including under harsh conditions where other, lesser gear might fail. That said I think that the days of amateurs emulating pro’s by buying and wearing bulky DSLRs are quickly coming to an end.
It’s no coincidence that cameras that are getting better and easier to use, follow closely with the removal of outdated technology like mirror boxes – or the R in SLR. This frees up the development and manufacturing to focus on the digital components. This creates purely electronic cameras with improvement arcs that are starting to mimic Moore’s law for computers.
Sensors are also improving at an exponential rate. It was only 4-5 years ago that if you bought a compact camera, DSLR or a Medium format camera it was hit or miss whether you got a good chip in the camera. Now you would be hard pressed to buy even the cheapest point and shoot that didn’t take great images.
My first DSLR was the Canon D30 which was a 3 megapixel camera that used 600 megabyte micro drives that cost about $1 per meg. Now my iPhone has an 8 megapixel camera with many gigabytes of storage and it takes uncannily good images in the right hands.
What’s that you’re saying . . . it’s about the lenses and not the sensor or camera. You are absolutely correct. I can put great Schneider optics on my iPhone using the iPro Lens System system and some of the best lenses being made today are possible because of mirrorless camera technology. These lenses are easier to design due to factors like the flange depth/sensor size relationship. We’ve got $199 Sigma lenses out performing $3000+ Leica glass on mirrorless cameras!
Speaking of Leica’s, one of the advantages of rangefinder cameras has been their small size due to the lack of a mirror box mechanism. Rangefinders use a small optical window to frame and focus. This method of shooting wasn’t for everyone but some of the most sought after images were shot on rangefinders. Without the mirror slapping up and down, a rangefinder photographer could hand hold up to 2 shutter speeds lower than when using an SLR. Modern mirror-less cameras have the advantage of great LCD screens and electronic viewfinders and also benefit from being able to shoot at slower handheld shutter speeds. All the benefits of a DSLR on a rangefinder sized camera body.
All those guys sitting around in their bermuda shorts trying to define what a “pro” camera is on DPReview (can’t get that image out of my mind) are the photo dinosaurs who think that buying into professional gear will make them a better photographer.
Professional photographers realize that it’s their vision and execution that separate the pros from the rookies, not the gear. It doesn’t matter if they are handed a toy camera, cell phone, DSLR or Medium format camera. The end result is consistent with their vision. It’s really no different than thinking that buying a NASCAR will help you become a better driver. It’s actually the other way around. A NASCAR would be a terrible car to drive around the streets and try to park.
A DSLR around your neck is a pain to take everywhere, so unless you want to load up like a pack mule you should leave it at home. In my experience with consumers, most of them just put it on Program mode and hope for the best. They are essentially turning a pro tool into a bulky point and shoot so that they can be “better” photographers.
I carry around a Sony NEX-7, three lenses, an iPad with cables, chargers and my other daily requirements in a small Tamrac shoulder bag. This goes almost everywhere with me so I’m always ready to shoot when the situation arises. I tried this approach with a Canon DSLR in another shoulder bag designed to carry a laptop and camera gear and ended up pulling the photo gear out because of the size and weight.
Hang on a sec, I need to take this call before I get out my DSLR to take a shot.