Last week’s call for Readers Submissions definitely brought on submissions, but surprisingly it was the single image of the pelican which garnered the most comments.  The overwhelming theme of the comments centered around the clarity and focus of the image, and questions like “Can I get this level of image quality and clarity from my gear?”  The answer is yes.  And I’ll back up that yes with an example.  Another claim “come on Steve, you were using a $10,000 worth of lens and camera, anyone can do this with that type of gear!”  Really?  Let’s talk about that a bit.

Canon 5d Mark II, 300mm F2.8L IS USM  @F8  1/320th  ISO 160  

 

Last week’s call for Readers Submissions definitely brought on submissions, but surprisingly it was the single image of the pelican which garnered the most comments.  The overwhelming theme of the comments centered around the clarity and focus of the image, and questions like “Can I get this level of image quality and clarity from my gear?”  The answer is yes.  And I’ll back up that yes with an example.  Another claim “come on Steve, you were using a $10,000 worth of lens and camera, anyone can do this with that type of gear!”  Really?  Let’s talk about that a bit. 

This image is significant because it sets a bar.  A bar anyone can shoot for with any level of equipment.  One of my responses to this comment “Steve, I’m frustrated.  I have a new NEX-5 and I can’t get this level of quality” went like this:  “You can’t bring home a new Steinway grand piano and expect to play like Ray Charles just because you now have the piano.  You need to be willing to put in the practice, learn the techniques, and then start making music.  Conversely, Ray Charles could probably make even the worst piano sound great.”

 

This image is significant because it sets a bar.  A bar anyone can shoot for with any level of equipment.  One of my responses to this comment “Steve, I’m frustrated.  I have a new NEX-5 and I can’t get this level of quality” went like this:  “You can’t bring home a new Steinway grand piano and expect to play like Ray Charles just because you now have the piano.  You need to be willing to put in the practice, learn the techniques, and then start making music.  Conversely, Ray Charles could probably make even the worst piano sound great.”

Canon 5d Mark II, 300mm F2.8L IS USM  @F8  1/320th  ISO 160  

 

Cameras have really improved over the years and taken a lot of the mystery out of photography, allowing someone to produce really nice photographs right out of the box.  Still, if you want to surpass that “out of the box” level of quality you’ll need to learn some techniques and put in the time to practice.  I recommend reading my Special Edition on Critical Focus   if you’re interested. 

Let’s get back to the comment that it’s all about the expensive equipment.  There is no doubt that at a certain level equipment elevates image quality.  However, I think you’d be surprised with how far off that level really is and how great your images can be with your simple point and shoot compact if you just employ a bit of technique and take a bit of time to practice.  Prove it you say?  Okay.

 

The above image was captured in 2001 with a 4mp point and shoot.  It had a small sensor, probably smaller than most modern compacts, a very limited range zoom, and technically is probably greatly inferior to any 2010 manufacture point and shoot compact.  No Photoshop involved either.  This is out of the camera.  Here we have the same great level of detail and focus, and even a nicely defocused background, from a $500 camera (digital cameras were much more expensive in 2001) that we see with the $10,000 camera setup.  How did that happen?

Olympus E-10 @F2.4  36mm  ISO 80 

 

The above image was captured in 2001 with a 4mp point and shoot.  It had a small sensor, probably smaller than most modern compacts, a very limited range zoom, and technically is probably greatly inferior to any 2010 manufacture point and shoot compact.  No Photoshop involved either.  This is out of the camera.  Here we have the same great level of detail and focus, and even a nicely defocused background, from a $500 camera (digital cameras were much more expensive in 2001) that we see with the $10,000 camera setup.  How did that happen? 

It wasn’t an accident.  I had the right lighting, a fairly steady subject (that was a pun), a manual mode on the camera allowing me to choose my settings to best suit not only the subject, but to also get the most from the camera, and I’d put in my time practicing.  Sure, the gear helps, but you can achieve really great images with really simple and inexpensive cameras.   

I’ve been cleaning my great grandmothers $1 Baby Brownie.  I’ll see if I can find some film for it and blow you away with the results.  I can tell you this in advance:  the resulting negative will have greater resolution and better image quality than ANY digital camera made today.  A dollar went a long way back in the 1930’s.. ;o)