Commenter #1: "12 MP should be enough for any pro assignment...."
Commenter #2: "Don't think so! Over on a Nikon mailing list I'm on there are several pros who say 21 MP is the minimum the market will even look at in their part of the industry...."
Commenter #1 again: "Market requests can be silly...."
Commenter #3: "The alleged silliness of the market is irrelevant when the job is on the line."
I tend to agree with Commenter #3 on this subject. I knew a studio advertising photographer back in the '80s who said he would have shot Mamiya (because, he explained, he was a cheapskate—he really was, too) but "Hasselblad is the only camera brand all the art directors have heard of." So he shot Hasselblad because that was what all the art directors—his immediate clients, that would be—expected him to have. And paid a fortune for annual maintenance on his five bodies, 15 backs, and so forth.
I bought my old K-M 7D specifically because it was big and impressive-looking and because it was a brand that potential portrait clients would be unlikely to have in their own camera bags. (Never mind that I ended up doing almost no portrait commissions with it...I had planned to. You know the famous quote: "The best-laid plans o' Mikes an' men...."*) It might be silly, but if it helps, it helps. People compete for jobs.
These days if I were doing work for clients I would buy a D3[something] (possible 12 MP and all). Despite disliking the chubby, gravitationally-challenged form-factor myself, it is a camera that very few amateurs own—and that impresses almost anyone, from the rank tyro to the seasoned account exec. I never got more comments about a camera than when I was borrowing John C.'s D3 for a couple of weeks. People even stopped me in the supermarket. (Although maybe they were alarmed because I was stooping from the weight on my neck.)
When it comes to which camera to buy, it's not just results that count...when you're getting paid. What your clients want and expect is just as important.
(Illustration photo by Brady O'Brien)
*The Robert Burns quote, from a 1785 poem called "To a Mouse, On Turning Up in Her Nest with the Plow," is actually "The best-laid schemes o' mice an' men / Gang aft a-gley," "gang aft a-gley" being Scots dialect for "Often go screwy." The famous couplet is usually "translated" into "The best-laid plans of mice and men / oft go awry."
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Original contents copyright 2010 by Michael C. Johnston and/or the bylined author. All Rights Reserved.
Featured Comment by Kurt Holter: "Unfortunately, commenter #3 is correct. During the dozen years I shot Hasselblads, I have zero doubt that their mere presence on commercial shoots brought me a lot of street cred. I also had more trouble with that stuff than I've ever had in 34 years of shooting with Nikons. Way more. Up until two years ago I'd always owned and shot multiple highest end Nikon bodies. Then, at age 54, I just stopped giving a damn, since I flipped my DSLR bodies for new ones every 24 to 30 months anyway. So I went to D300 bodies and they're the best cameras I've ever owned, bar none. I'll replace those with (smaller, less visually impressive) D7000 bodies toward the end of this year, and will delight in lightening my load even more."
Featured Comment by Mike O'Donoghue: "I think it was David Bailey who shot in 35mm and had his negatives copied onto 4x5 film because his clients insisted on large format. He got his shots and his clients got their LF negatives. Everyone happy."