Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Convenience Over Quality - Devolution of the Camera

Forgotten Cans - Mojave, California
Captured with a Nokia Lumia 1020 cell phone.
I dislike posting about equipment, but that's what people want to read about. There is a reason that the most successful photography blogs focus on gear.

People have backwards ideas on photography. Equipment is not nearly as important as photographic vision, creativity and the decisive moment, but few seem interested in those things. And what is important about gear is often ignored.

The evolution of the camera over the last 80+ years is actually a devolution. What we now call large format used to be the standard format. It blows away anything made with even the best digital cameras today, yet few use it. Why? It's big and heavy and slow and otherwise inconvenient.

That's the story of camera (d)evolution: convenience over quality. We traded large format for medium format, then traded medium format for 35mm, then traded film for digital. Each trade was an evolution in convenience and a devolution in quality.
Hot Kitchen - Goodyear, Arizona
Captured with a Samsung Galaxy S cell phone.
People spend hours and hours on the web searching for opinions on cameras, but they fail to understand that it doesn't matter because all of the cameras that they're interested in are sub par compared to what photographers used to use. Cameras now are "good enough" in quality. For most people and most uses, a cell phone is good enough. Any DSLR is good enough. Yet only a few of them are as good as a 35mm film camera (let alone large format!).

If people were really interested in quality, we'd all still be using film. But almost everyone prefers convenience over quality. Few want to fuss with a large format camera in order to gain superior image quality. Me included.

My point is not to bash digital photography. Heck, I use digital cameras just about every day. My point is simply that people will waste all sorts of time worrying about the insignificant differences between DSLRs, while ignoring what really matters. People will chase the latest advancements with modern cameras, yet those cameras aren't as good as cameras made 100 years ago.

That time people waste researching the latest cameras could be used to understand what is truly important in photography. Cameras are tools, and beyond being a means to an end, they're unimportant. You could home-build a camera and capture amazing images if you wanted to.

The less time one wastes trying to figure out which convenient camera is less worse than the others, the more time that person could be actually creating art. Any camera is capable as long as the photographer is capable. If you are truly interested in image quality, forget the latest DSLR, go find a good medium or large format film camera.

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