“Better gear doesn’t help you make better photographs.” It’s the first thing we experienced photographers tell any newbie who thinks a better camera or lens is needed to make better photographs. Most of the time, like any other photographer who knows their stuff, I’ll tell them to work on the craft rather than obsess over the best cameras and the best lenses. However, there are certain occasions where certain photography gear will help you create a better photograph, depending on the subject matter.
Understanding How Photography Gear Influences a Photograph
I have a theory why many of us battle hard to distance ourselves from the “better gear, better photos” ideology. It’s because we’re precious. And we have every right to be. Photography takes years, decades, to perfect. To think some nube can rock up with, for example, the Sony A1, and start making better or more professional photographs is ridiculous. But if we let our desire to protect our craft soften a little, try to consider this.
Let’s take two portrait photographers. Both are similar in experience and skill set. For this scenario, let’s say both of them use the Nikon Z7 II. It’s a fantastic camera, and one you can read more about in our full Nikon Z7 II review. Both photographers have the task of taking a standard headshot for a finance company (check out some super creative headshots). You know the type, head and shoulders, subject pretends to be somewhat happy about the whole ordeal. Now, if photographer A has the Nikkor Z 20mm f1.8, and photographer B has the Nikkor Z 85mm f1.8, which one takes the better headshot? (Read our Nikkor Z 85mm f1.8 review.)
Photographer A, who will need to get close to the subject to create a good headshot, will experience distortion. Their subject will have an unflattering look, and no company will want such an image on their website. Whereas photographer B will stand further back and create a more natural look without needing to do much, if any, cropping in post-production. In this example, better photography gear, leads to a better photograph. Let’s look at some more examples.
Fujifilm Photography Gear and The Moon
EIC Chris Gampat and I are both sipping some Japanese whiskey. We’re on a rooftop, and it’s a full moon. I have my Fujifilm X-T2, and Chris, smirking, has his beloved Fujifilm X Pro 3 (read our full X Pro 3 review). To create a photograph of this beautiful full moon, I turn to the only lens I own. It’s the Fujinon XF35mm f2 R WR, a superb lens that serves me well in most cases. But I’m not sure it will be up to scratch for this scenario. Chris, on the other hand, shows he’s ahead of the game and pulls out the Tamron 18-300mm f3.5-6.3 Di III-A2 VC VXD (check out our first look here.) Although not a full moon, here’s what the lens Chris used is capable of. Who do you think makes the better picture here? (Mine wouldn’t even be worth sharing.)
The Printing Gig
For this next example, let’s say that our Reviews Editor, Hillary Grigonis and our Reviews Writer, Brittany Smith get a commercial booking. It’s an ad campaign for a clothing line. Beyond online marketing, large posters are going to be put up all around New York City. Hillary, who’s coming in from Michigan, forgets her Fujifilm X-T4 (read our full Fujifilm XT4 review) at home. Instead, she has to use an Olympus OMD EM5 Mark III (read our full review.) For micro four-thirds fans, it’s a blissfully good camera. For a printed ad campaign, well, I’m not so sure. Brittany, showing this isn’t her first rodeo, rocks up with a Hasselblad X1D II 50C (read our full review). It’s a medium-format camera that produces awesome images that look great even when printed large. Needless to say, Brittany gets the gig, and her work is seen all across New York.
While these mythical scenarios all came from my mind, the outcomes are very much real. Two newbies with two different cameras will still likely make similarly bad images. But two experienced photographers with different tools for the same job won’t. So, yes, certain photography gear will help you make better photographs. Will it make you a better photographer? I’ll leave that for you to decide. Let me know in the comments below. Thanks for reading.