In the era of film cameras serious photographers would come to a point when they would consider upgrading from a 35mm SLR cameras to a medium format 120mm, or make the climb to a 4×5 view camera.
It was all about the size of the film and bigger really was better. I recall feeling bad for couples that had friends photograph their wedding with tiny 35mm cameras. Only those photographers wielding medium format cameras would be assured of quality final prints. If one wanted a colourful, sharp, grain free enlargement then 120mm or a larger format was a must.
What do I now say to photographers like the one I talked with recently who are considering a more serious approach to photography?
I always begin with the question, “what are your interests and what subjects do you like to photograph?” My short answer for that digicam user was, if you want to shoot sports, wildlife, or even scenics and want enlargements bigger than 8×10, then, yes, get a DSLR.
I think printing quality 11×14, or bigger, enlargements are best produced with sensors that are considerably larger than what digicams provide.
I like digicams. They are perfect for intimate, candid shots. The compact size lets one put them in a pocket and go, and if used within their limits they can produce excellent images. However, if one feels, like that fellow I talked with, they have reached their camera’s limits then it is time to move on.
I must add at this point, that with the entry of mid- and full-size sensor mirrorless cameras there are new and exciting choices. I would like to discuss those at another time, and hope for plenty of advice from readers on their preferences.
To simplify my discussion with him I put DSLRs into two categories, amateur and professional. However, the difference between amateur and pro cameras isn’t as easy as it was with film.
The most significant difference, in my opinion, is durability. Pro cameras feel sturdy, are heavy, and are sealed against the elements. When dropped, they bounce and usually don’t break, and even with hard use, the shutters will last a long time.
When the first DSLRs came onto the scene there was definitely a difference in the quality of the images between entry level and professional level cameras, but that is not as distinct now. The technology for sensors and in-camera processing has rocketed. The latest entry-level model may well have the same sensor as the previous summer’s expensive pro model as the technology is transferred over. The obvious difference may only be the weight and controls and debating megapixels has become just plain silly.
I know many are willing to argue about cropped frame vs. full frame, but I wonder if that’s more a personal preference than an upgrade.
For those, like the photographer I talked with, interested in purchasing used equipment; there will always be opportunities to purchase at reduced prices.
Whatever the camera availability, my advice to that fellow and others asking the “upgrading” question is to consider what kind of photography they want to do. Talk to other photographers about cameras that are interesting, go online and check out the many photography forums to find out what others with their same interest are using, and absolutely attend some classes.
Using a different camera is always fun and I believe learning how to control the technology a new camera offers is like a shot in the arm that gets the excitement going and helps ultimately to make better photographers.
Any comments on this subject, or mirrorless cameras are very welcome.
My website is at www.enmanscamera.com