Keeping things simple
This is something that I have been battling with for years. And it really is a first world problem. Having too much camera gear sounds great, but even on a small scale, if you have say one camera and three lenses - if you see a situation and think to yourself “I wonder which lens I should put on to get the shot” then you may miss the moment. This may not apply to genres such as landscapes and architecture, but for street photography or portraits it is definitely relevant. If you only had one camera and one lens, you would just take two steps forwards or two steps back and be done with it. That is what I did when I went on holiday to Marrakesh, and I felt free!
Photographers like gear, if I am being honest with myself that is kind of why I got into digital photography in 2003, because of the allure of pixels. The next purchase is only just around the corner, because what was perfectly good in 2018 seems inadequate in 2019. It isn’t just the adverts online and in photography magazines, we sell the idea to ourselves!
I recently got my hands on an Canon Eos RP, the latest full frame ‘budget’ mirrorless camera, and this started the wheels in motion. I am lucky that I am friends with Gordon Laing from Cameralabs, and I occasionally get to try out new equipment and make review videos with him. I was comparing a Sony 135mm and Canon 135mm Lens when Canon kindly lent him the Canon RP for testing. This got me thinking. At the moment, I create a lot of youtube content and I use one camera for filming myself and another for taking stills. For a landscape sunsrise outing this involves a Canon 80D for filming and a Canon 5D mk3 for taking stills. To make the gear situation worse, lenses that are good for stills are sometimes no good for filming, due to stabilisation or the amount of noise they make when focusing. In my opinion the 80D does not compete when it comes to quality of still images, and the 5D3 has neither a flip out screen or autofocus when filming. So the question I ask Gordon, which camera does both?
How did I end up with so many cameras?
I am a hoarder. But I don’t just collect cameras, that isn’t my thing, I use them all on a regular basis. There isn’t a perfect camera. I think that the camera companies must be in cahoots to avoid the market collapsing. The meeting went something like this. Canon, you make lovely skin tones and awesome focusing - but keep your specs at least five years behind the competition, Sony you have incredible technical capabilities - but make your menus and useability an after-thought, oh and your lenses must be extortionate! Olympus you will create the most outrageous in camera stabilisation, Panasonic you will be the best all-round video cameras but pretend that contrast based focusing is the right decision, Fuji you create great looking images straight out of camera but everyone that buys one has to join a cult to say that the images have ‘a look’ but you can’t describe it. Leica, you carry on doing your thing, just throw in a few curve-balls like cameras that only shoot black and white or don’t have a screen to keep the artists on their toes. No one else was invited to the meeting, incase I missed anyone :-)
What happened next?
Well Gordon hit me with my options. A full frame camera with a flip out screen, images that equal or improve upon the 5D3, and takes advantage of my L-series EF lenses; I was left with the Canon 6D mk2, the Canon RP and the Canon R. What a bleak line up. Even if I said I am happy to switch systems, these are the only three cameras in the world right now that meet my criteria. Since the RP was targeted as an upgrade to their existing Canon 80D users, I made a comparison video on my youtube channel, to see if it was the right camera for my above conundrum. Unfortunately not, the video specs of the camera very limited, especially when you fit ef-s lenses to the cameras, which are some of the best lenses for vlogging (with stabilisation and absolutely silent focusing). It has also inherited the sensor from the 6d mk2, which is notoriously bad for video. It also takes a smaller battery that I am used to, and I experienced the issue with this when making my review of the camera. Not good. With that bad review in mind, I discounted the 6D mk2 also 1. Because of the fact that it is DSLR that is already getting on a bit, and that it may actually be a down-grade in the image quality from my 5d3. I was left with one option. The Canon Eos R.
DSLR or mirrorless?
I didn’t mean to jump from the DSLR world, I love my DSLR’s, I have built up the muscle memory to know where all of the buttons are - I can literally use them in the dark. It is just that in this instance there were no DSLR’s that met my wish list. If I required more frames per second, better weather sealing or had no interest in shooting video at all, perhaps th 5D mk4 would be a better option. But right now, the Eos R is the best camera for my needs. This of course means that I can no go out with one camera for making vlogs and taking the photos. I have now sold my Canon 80D and my 5D mk3 to slim down the amount of gear that I have.
What matters most…
The photographs that I take the most are photos of my family. But I also create a lot of videos - which once again is answered by the above. I can now go out with one camera and I have a less to carry and less decisions to make when a creative opportunity happens before me. Which camera should I use…the Eos R. But let’s not think that the Eos R is good value for money. It is horrendously expensive for what you get. The specs are embarrassing when you compare it to my Sony A7iii, which is cheaper. The Sony takes more than double the amount of photos per second, it shoots incredible slow motion footage, built in stabilisation….but no flippy screen. The right tool for the right job.
There is a camera for everyone
I have other cameras that are niche that I have not mentioned here. I have a camera that is converted to infrared, I have a DJI Osmo that is built into a stabiliser, I have a go pro that I use to action and under-water activities. I have a lumix LX-15 that literally fits in my pocket, for when you don’t want to draw too much attention to yourself. And of course, an iphone for when I never intended on taking a camera out with me. You really have to decide what is important to you to figure out which is the best camera for you. Many photographers are brand loyal, so you do have to be careful about who’s opinion you listen to.
I haven’t even touched on the other items that might be in your camera bag, adding to the weight and complication when setting up the camera. Tripods, lenses, batteries, filters, cable releases etc etc. With progress in technology and innovation, the amount of gear that we ‘need’ to take with us can be massively reduced. Be ruthless with your camera bag and ask yourself whether you really need to take everything with you, or whether you will be better off with one camera and one lens.
Stay nimble and remember why you are taking photos in the first place, because you enjoy it!
Thanks for reading.