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Thursday, 08 September 2011

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I think you're absolutely right: the results generated by any of those cameras would have been science-fiction quality 5 years ago. That said, hardware wars have been going on ever since those heathen upstarts next door started using that newfangled iron stuff instead of the of course infinitely superior bronze of our fathers and their fathers and their fathers before them...

The best equipment fails when the photographer buying it has more money than sense. Of course, the photographic equipment industry is very thankful for these folks. Sure, I like it when someone sees a photo of mine and says "nice photo": I hate it when someone says "you must have a nice camera to take pictures like that".

It's always the photographer, never the equipment. Equipment helps, but I'd rather have an adequate camera and time to use it than have the best out there but not have time to take pictures because I'm too busy paying for the equipment...

"...nudge it with his nose so that it rolled underneath the radiator again..."

My parson russell does the same thing under the dang couch! He pushes it way back into the corner where even I can't get it, forcing me to retrieve my monopod, which makes me feel sad because it's the only thing I've ever used my monopod for.

A generation of photographers trained on the K1000, and took plenty of good pictures with it, who could only have dreamed of "entry level" cams with multiple AF modes, spot and matrix metering, OTF changes of ISO and frankly ridiculous FPS speeds. Obviously, all those images were complete flukes.

Beyond good glass, a light tight box with a hole for the glass, a way to focus the glass, and a way to control the amount/duration of the light allowed through the hole, almost every other feature of a camera is really a luxury. Luxuries I wouldn't want to live without (and thankfully don't have to), but luxuries nontheless.

A year ago I was champing at the bit to get rid of my E-P1 and upgrade to something nicer. Now that I have both the means to do so and a likely target, I find myself blase about it. Guess that's what comes from finding tons of problems in your photos that can be traced to photographer limitations, a few that can be traced to lens limitations, and hardly a one that can be traced to camera limitations.

People may be wanting to hang onto their current cameras because they are "good enough" Unfortunately the reliability or lack thereof of said cameras will not allow this. The days of hanging on to a workhorse like the Nikkormat Ftn for 20+ years are gone. Currently our electronic wonder cameras have a pitiful MTBF (mean time between failure) spec.

Yes, of course equipment "matters".

Vocational and committed art photographers generally need to use equipment with certain performance, technical, and durability characteristics.

But for the vast majority of avocational photographers equipment "matters" for other reasons. The simple fact is that today, within the large belly band spanning good/better/best consumer gear the actual performance differences are very slight and subtle (contrary to what photo gear forum flies so vociferously assert). And such subtle distinctions are generally obliterated by ham-handed digital post-processing anyway.

But avocational equipment choices do matter. People should choose a camera that they'll thoroughly learn to use and then actually use intensively. Spending thousands on fine gear that spends most of its time on a shelf makes absolutely zero sense.

Choose the camera you'll carry and use, not necessarily the "best" camera. You'll be shocked at how much a relatively modest camera improves with age and actual usage.

When I got my new Canon 60D with 18-135 lens, I gave my old Rebel XSi to my nephew.
After wrestling with the size, weight, and miserable ergonomics I ordered a new Rebel t2i with 18-55 lens (basically an XSi with more pixels), and couldn't be happier.
In this instance, Less is definitely More!

Mike
You are responsible for me owning 2 900s and an 850 HOW?
Well I read your write up in UK BW of the Last Minolta DSLR and a follow up on this site with your big apple print. I was hooked bought an A100 and progressed to first 1 and then a second A900.
When they announced the demise of the 850 I bought one as the price was falling.
I am a dinosuar, I do not like zooms so I have 24F2, 50 Planar F1.4 (Nikon converted via Leiteax adapter and James Lau chip to Sony) and 85mm 1.4 each on a different body and my favourite lens the 135 1.8 ready to go on a body as needed.
I have Leica M digital M4/3 and an X100 but they all pale when the Sony's come out.
The A900 is like the Nikon F2As of the DSLR world and I hope whilst Sony will release a do everything whisltes and bangs full frame in the future they might keep a more basic FF for JUST talking photographs.
The A900/850 is probably the best kept secret in the photographic world and I feel sorry for anyone who has never experienced the quality it can produce. I should mention that I have used Nikon/Canon/Pentax/Hasselbald alternatives so I am not binkered.
No doubt when the new FFs appear A900/850 prices will drop like a brick and I will be first in line to buy another body for when one of my existing bodies chips are down.
Good on you Wolfgang.
All the best

David

I have the Sony a900 along with the Zeiss 24-70/2.8. Don't really like the camera but will probably hang onto it. Prefer my M6, Mamiya 7, and Epson much better. By the way, for my tastes, the sensor in the Epson is far superior in color rendition than is the sensor in the a900.

Back to work.

Good enough came to mind my mind earlier this summer when I made a 24" print of a lighthouse scene from my "tiny" sensor LX5 (plenty of light, ISO80, polarizer) which is gorgeous and at close inspection easily matched the smaller 18" prints I made from a Nikon D40 with kit lens and ISO200 four summers ago.

I know have a Oly 620 with 14-54 and on my recent lighthouse trip to Maine I found that 2/3rds of the time I left the Oly in the car and used the LX5 instead.

Peter F.

Any camera will do in a pinch, but some cameras seem to excel at certain subjects. I've found that my Fuji X-100 is tuned for photographing certain subjects, and not so great at others. Makes sense when you think about it considering the camera type. What is it good at? Well, so far - horses. I took it for a walk through the stables at Saratoga, and came away with some nice images.
http://www.oboylephoto.com/blog/2011/09/saratoga-2/
What is it not so good at? Foliage and trees - landscapes. Not sure why.

I shoot with the goal to make a pic good enough to print; then I evaluate the final print. The switch to digital a few years back did not change the goal, nor the basis for evaluation. Screen shots don't matter.

Toward this end, I choose a camera based on a few key attributes. First and foremost I must like the way the camera allows me to see and frame the picture, then to focus manually and accurately. These old eyes only like optical finders; that eliminates a host of choices. Then it must be robust enough, and ergonomically satisfying enough, to carry everywhere and to easily use a few required manual controls. Finally the system must provide prime lenses that meet my shooting style and yield a high IQ for my sized prints. The rest just needs to not get in the way.

That's how I ended up choosing the Leica M8.2. Does it matter that I chose this camera in lieu of others? Not to anyone but me. Would another camera better satisfy my needs and preferences? No need to bother; I'm shooting a lot and my prints are looking fine.

Life is so easy when options don't muddle things.

"MTBTI (mean time before trade-in) is rising" - I'd say so, and its partner MTBPO (mean time before perceived obsolescence) too, it would seem. Do you realise the A900 was announced three years ago tomorrow? Still no full-frame DLSR has topped its pixel count, and the 'prosumer' Sony line is just now making that leap. That seems a long time in digital land.

(In fact, at some sub-conscious level, I'd say your recently recurring desire for the 100%-coverage-full-frame-viewfinder-equipped A900 is a protest against Sony's move to EVF technology.)

Interesting comments regarding the Leica M9-P and the Fuji X100 at this blog: http://www.imx.nl/photo/page152/page152.html

See the post titled 'Lazy Photographers'.

I think the "Buy once, buy the best" mentality was part of my dad's thinking that was handed down to me as well. Once you do that, there's really nowhere else to go. In my case, shooting film that's a Leica with a set of primes and a brace of last generation Pentax film SLRs and primes. This theory only breaks down when you've bought into something you don't like. For example, if now I wanted to shoot digital... oops.

I always now wish I had instead a D700 OR a Sony A900 and a couple of primes. Heck, why not both! One for the day and one for the night! I just need the courage to get out there and drop my credit card down onto the counter.

Pak

Hi Mike,

You''re right that for 96% it doesn't matter, but they are also the ones that just use a camera to take pictures and don't keep going to photography forums and blogs; those are inhabited by the remaining 4% who are likely more specialised in certain aspects. For them it can be important if it is good in low light or has quick auto-focus, takes twin memory cards, has WR, etc etc.
I think it is easier to make do if you don't do extremes of photography; it is a lot different if all your shooting is between 25-75mm compared to motorsport, wildlife, timelapse etc. It would be interesting to give a street togger and a motorsport togger each other's equipment and get them to carry on as normal, it would force both to think differently and could end with some interesting perspectives.
I don't photograph people unless I have to, so a X100 would be almost useless for me (unless I could use a Raynox for macro and add a ..... etc).

It does make me cringe reading some forums where a newbie asks "what camera should I buy?", and is deluged with 1Dxyz this and 2.8 that - as though they can't even start until they have spent several thousands. (they normally come back shortly after saying "why are all my pictures fuzzy/white/upside-down/etc...?").

Personally I'd prefer not to make do as it's a hobby so I want to be happy rather than it feeling a chore (I still use a hodge-podge of ancient flashes though, as I don't want to spend on modern ones [GNs and moving them back and fore]).

Do you think the MTBTI is rising because people are content? or because of the economy? or because there have been no upgrade releases lately? I'd like to think it's contentment, but looking at the average forum and the number of people browsing the equipment threads vs numbers reading the image threads I doubt it.

But yeah, we can all make do, but there is still a market for various makes and models of sports car for those who want a little more ;-)

all the best phil

Well, taking a look at the desk in front of me, I see the following (from left to right): Nikon D70, Yashica FX-3, Sigma flashgun (for Nikon), Leica IIIa, Voigtlaender VSL1, and a Leica M3. I count roughly eleven lenses as well.

So: yes, you are absolutely right, Mike. Equipment doesn't matter at all :-)

I agree a Rebel T2i or similar is more than most people will ever need. It's nice and light with enough resolution to let you crop quite severely. I used one as an everyday camera for about a year. The grip on it is too small for my hands, however, so I gave mine to my wife. Perfect for her.

I saw above that there was a statement about the long-term reliability of the wondrous electronic camera choices we are deluged with. I agree that the only plausible reason one might want a newer "better" camera now is because the old one has fried its own electron generator.

What riles me, is that I've been prone to the insidious disease of reaching "ever higher" to the next big thing. I wish there was a therapy group for this.

One camera that has never worn out is an old Minolta Freedom pure plastic (even the lens) point and shoot. So, it is always the one thrown into the backpack as a reliable spare for long trips in the mountains.

Funny thing is, I've taken one of my better images (my opinion only, of course) with this piece of crap plastic film camera, and some kind of drug store ASA200 film.

http://i2.photobucket.com/albums/y25/Larry55/RubyBeachSunburst2.jpg

So, of course the frustration rises when I don't seem to be able to match this earlier snapshot even with my $$$$ invested in the "newer is better" merry-go-round. If I could just settle down and stay with the current iteration of digicam that I own for more than a couple of years, maybe I'll get lucky again.

It's enough to give me heartburn.

Laurence S.

@ Eric: I disagree with your assertion that reliability of today's cameras is weaker than cameras of yore. In fact, I believe that exactly the opposite is truer, especially at the higher end of the prosumer range and the pro range. Shutters are actually rated for MTBF today, with even modest camera shutters rated for 100,000+ clicks. In fact I am very confident that most amateurs could shoot with, say, a Canon 1Ds III or Nikon D3 for 20 years, and probably longer. Today's better digital cameras are generally far more robust (and infinitely more complex) than their mechanical film ancestors.

No, what churns the camera gear market is the fact that cameras merged completely into the consumer electronics industry. As such parades of planned electronic "improvements" ensure that covetous fellows replace their cameras long before their useful life has expired.

On 5th November 2005, I took delivery of my Canon 1Ds Mark 2. It cost a fortune. I didn't care. The camera proved that I'd arrived as a photographer. There wasn't anything I wouldn't be able to do with it.

What an idiot.

Six years later, I still use it professionally. It's still a good camera. Thing is, I could probably have taken all the photographs I have produced with it on a Canon 30D. Probably on a 300D.

Mind you, would a 30D or 300D have survived professional abuse? I tell myself they wouldn't have. It lets me sleep easier at night.

I tend to agree but, as much as I love my 5DMKII and my lenses, I'll inevitably buy the MKIII - and more lenses, and...probably never make a better image than what I can do now.
On the other hand, you mentioned the great deal at B&H on the Epson 4900. I was looking at a lot of money just for new cartridges for my Epson 4000 that has served me so well, albeit with a few quirks. When I checked, B&H was sold out, oh well. For grins I checked Adorama and it was significantly cheaper with free shiping. A new set of cartridges will cost almost as much. Anyway, got it, installed it (very easy) and I am truely blown away. Significantly better than my 4000 which I always thought was "good enough". Now I need to find the 4000 a new home.
I recently moved and have started sharing photos with neighbors and I will say that I am really annoyed when someone sees a nice landscape that I spent a lot of time on planning, setting up, and post processing and their first comment is: "Oh, you must have a nice camera!" Yep, I just stand there and press the button.
My two Goldens play the same game with their toys. They have me well trained.

All I really want is manual focus, aperture priority, high quality lens/sensor, small and light and most importantly, I WANT THE SHUTTER TO GO DOWN WHEN I PUSH THE BUTTON. The GF1, X100 and other more automated cameras I've used still can't compete with DSLRs on this last front. My latest attempt to get all this is a Pentax K-5 that arrived today with pancake lenses. Wish me luck.

After having had both my battered Canon 5D and 5DII recently bite the dust, I've come to Java for a month of photography with nothing but the newest Rebel. (And just two lenses, of which I've only used one, a 28mm.) I didn't even bring a backup, since you can buy the things in every town and city along the way. Image quality is fine and the camera is small and light enough that it stays in my hand pretty much all day long.

I still use my K10D five years on, though sad to say the spreading hot/stuck pixels and increasingly flaky controls means it'll be time to get a new body by next year or so.

It is good enough for me; at the same time I've just realized the Pentax Q actually has as good iso 1600 performance as my K10. It means that whatever body I get next year (or year after next…) will most likely be whatever entry-level DSLR Pentax has on offer, or possibly a K-mount adaptable mirrorless Ricoh body if available. Image quality differences have, as you say, largely ceased to matter.

Sigh…I am fortunate enough to own a decent amount of very good equipment, sometimes I’m even a little embarrassed at the way I’ve spoiled myself. I like fine photographic equipment the way some people like fine cars, or high end audio equipment perhaps. We have gone from the analog era where, generally, the ultimate test of quality resulted in a print and if you couldn’t see the difference in the print, there was no difference. Today, on the screen, we can see differences between 2 cameras or lenses that are indeed very real and noticeable, differences that evaporate or become much smaller when put to paper. For many of us, myself included, much of our photography would be of comparable technical quality using very modestly priced equipment.

Back in the day, my prints never exceeded 11x14 because I felt that was the limit of enlargement that they could reasonably endure while keeping me happy with sharpness. Moreover, printing larger than 11x14 in the home darkroom became very expensive, and maybe even more cumbersome. Firing up the darkroom to print 16x20 involved lots of chemicals, larger capacity equipment, not something done for one or two prints. Oh, and color, fuhgeddabout it, printing color in the home darkroom was difficult, expensive and large sizes prohibitively expensive. Today I can churn out 16x20’s (actually 17x22’s…), either color or black and white at a fraction of the cost (of maintaining a darkroom) and I can do single print runs.

The capability to print big which does seem to be the rage in the art world, is partly due to the ease of which it can be done and the need to supply a larger item for collectors to display . A 44” inch printer is a behemoth that costs about as much as one would have had to pay for a small c-print processor in days gone by and of course the permanence of today’s inkjet prints is infinitely superior to c-prints.

Nonetheless, my observation is that most committed amateur photographers still tend to print limited size prints, e.g. 11x14 or smaller. That includes me. The truth is that my m4/3 camera can handle that size print with ease, I don’t really need a full frame camera and all the expense, but I use it because I like it. Maybe I dream of the day when I’ll have a reason to print big, you know, when my savant genius with a camera is finally appreciated…ha!

Circling back to where I began, do I really need the expensive stuff to get the edge of quality I desire, no, I really don’t, you won’t notice it in my print. But I like working with nice equipment and the act of photographing with the nice equipment and knowing I’ve made little compromise is intrinsic to my enjoyment and after all, I’m doing this for me—mostly.

Photography and camera appreciation/purchase/trade are two separate hobbies. They just intersect in a lot of people.

I think I've stopped buying for a while, unless something breaks. I don't like my little p&s much, though, come to think of it.

Image Quality (the much debated one with the capital letters) is not a proxy for imagination. Or quality.

Yes, I agree that a Rebel or a 3100 or a K-r would do just fine. However, I do believe equipment does matter - in photography or any other field. My fav for travel is the D300 with a 50/2 R lens on it. Few years back when dslr were very expensive I didn't buy any dslr - I used either a film camera or a Minolta point and shoot. The pictures taken with my point and shoot cannot be enlarged - obviously. When I go to the beach I take my D40 w/18-200 since I don't want to damage my other equipment. When I am in the mood for film, I take out my MP or M7II. Yes, a DSLR with fast primes for evenings. Thanks.

...this dachshund post reminds me of my Mom's late Jack Russell "Digger", pushing her ball under the bookcase until she couldn't get it and barking until you'd get up and retrieve it, in which case she'd do it all over again...it's only frustrating until they're gone, then you have to laugh remembering it to keep from cryin'....

Anyway, are you the dog in that analogy? Or is the photo industry the dog, pushing that new camera under the bookcase and barking until you buy it?

I have to say, manufacturers are doing a really good job finding ways to tempt (some of) us when 4-year old cameras (if they still work) are really quite excellent. That 12MP Sony sensor in the A700 and Nikon D90/D300 does well (I recently printed a 20x30 from a picture shot at ISO 400 and it still meets my needs). Some want more, others are content with less, but I have to believe most people are upgrading for features or nice-to-have options at this point, unless going up in sensor size.

When I upgraded from my KM 7D to the Sony A700, the primary reason was improved autofocus. The 85/1.4 on the 7D was so slow that I would usually focus manually instead. My main reason for upgrading from the A700 to something else is to get a camera with a much quieter shutter for shooting at certain events.

Along the way, the sensor improvements (mostly in dynamic range and low noise) are certainly appreciated.

I think the further manufacturers deviate from simple, traditional designs, the easier time they'll have persuading us to upgrade. Consider that A900 ... the sensor is showing its age relative to new APS-C sensors, and you might wonder what you could get out of a FF version of the sensor in the Nikon D7000, that 24MP FF sensor, particularly shot at low ISO settings, produces great results. So between the satisfactory image quality and that rock solid build, simple, basic control layout, and big, beautiful viewfinder, it's the type of camera you could see owning for a long time. No live view, no video, no sweep panorama, just the basics thank you very much !

Fast forward to the A77. Electronic view via LCD or OLED EVF, mediocre battery life, all sorts of image processing features, the latest & greatest video recording features ... basically most everything about the camera (except maybe it's weather-resistant build) is subject to looking outdated in 2-3 years.

As for whether the gear matters, look at what you wrote about the Rebel and go back and consider the Sony NEX. What you said about the Rebel applies to the NEX as well, with the possible exception of the currently limited lens selection (although there, too, it can probably satisfy an awful lot of camera buyers). Anyway, my main point is, when you consider the NEX and what you've said about it in the past, it's clear that choice of gear is about far more than a few essential specs that address your basic needs. (MUST ... RESIST ... CAR ... ANALOGIES !)

Could I do all I need to with a Rebel ? Yeah, probably. I'd end up shooting less and enjoying what I did shoot less. Some people enjoy trying to maximize their capabilities with a minimum of tools/expenditures. I'm not one of them. (I want to minimize, but only to a point of satisfaction, not to a point of necessity).

The trick, of course, is finding that ultimately satisfying camera or lens. The more complicated cameras get, the more compromises there are. Four years ago, I could compare the Sony A700 to the competition and be perfectly happy, with nothing more than details to differentiate them. Now the new SLTs have significant pros & cons. If I were to switch brands (say I'm really not thrilled with the SLTs when I finally get to see them in person), I lose IBIS going with one of the big two; Nikon has the quiet shutter option I like while Canon has the lenses I'd prefer, and both would lack a few features the Sony SLT would offer me.

So I think the whole compromise situation (aka "the grass isn't always greener") forces me to bring the "gear is important" message back into perspective.

Although Mike will probably sigh, or worse, to see the innevitable turn of the topic, again, to something he never said, that oft-invoked adage is exactly wrong: the camera always matters, while the photographer only sometimes does (or perhaps aspires to matter). Without the camera, the photo simply isn't possible. Like it or not, sufficiently clever cameras can and do take brilliant photos (amid scores of duds) even in the hands of children and philistines. Many, probably most, of the most famous photographs in history are more than 50% luck, and the more honest among the storied greats have no problem admitting it.

When people tell me "nice camera," i say, yes, it really is, isn't it, i guess i have no excuse if the photos aren't any good. Anyone who's bothered by the "nice camera" compliment should do all their photography with an iphone--then you can smugly smack down anyone who dares venture the compliment, if they still do. Otherwise, get over it--photography depends on equipment.

Btw, i completely concur about the miraculous capabilities of present day entry level cameras (or for that matter, of phone cameras). But no camera that lacks two dedicated control wheels will be "adequate" for me, since i need to control (at a minimum) shutter speed and aperture quickly. Otherwise i'd welcome the light weight and quiet operation of most of today's entry tier cameras. I think it's odd how people so often conclude that more expensive cameras are a waste of money because they don't have dramatically better sensors; sensor quality isn't the only advantage a camera can confer. You would think the "it's always the photographer" crowd would like any camera that gave the photographer more control. But then i guess the camera would once again matter ...

One of my requirements for a camera - it's gotta be big enough that it won't fit under the radiator.

Does equipment matter? Sure it does. But as Ansel Adams wrote in "The Camera" (and I am paraphrasing from memory) " If a photographer has some thing to say he can probably say it with a pinhole camera, but he can probably say it more efficiently and effectively using a high quality camera and lens."

Yup, I agree about entry level cameras being adequate. I'm still making & exhibiting good quality prints from my Eos 1Ds mk1. The files from which which are smaller and quite possibly noisier than even the entry level Eos DSLR here in 2011.

Low end kit lenses on the other hand...

This year I finally retired my Rebel XT from 2005. Live view, what a concept! Especially at night on a tripod.

No camera I previously owned (or currently made apart from a D3s) allows me to capture low light images as well as a D700.

If you are a regular photographer then most of the time a decent current APSC SLR or 4/3 camera is fine. I use my D90 for travelling and I would be just as happy with a EPL3. They work fine in good to moderate light for static subjects

But when you are shooting gigs at ISO3200, or sport, or wildlife, then some specialist gear will provide far better results.

And if you are paid by the shot, then anything that improves the odds of a money shot (good AF tracking, wide DR, fast frame rates or a decent flash system) has a direct financial payback.

Sadly it is true that some of the most spectacular action shots could only have been taken with cameras like a D3s.

However I really do not see the point in Leica M9s or their ilk. They are sold purely on the basis of good light static IQ which is hardly very demanding. I can make a very nice 24" print from a D5100 and a £300 prime. PP and good printing technique would (IMO) make more difference.

I think you got the thesis wrong. 96% of all photographers could probably achieve *most* of what they actually achieve with an iPhone.

Depending, of course, on how you define "photographer".

M6 has spoiled me. Though I really like the idea of Fuji X-10, but I am afraid that I would still hanker after M9, and if I do afford an M9 some day I might still repent that I didn't get a Hassy X-PAN.

I think gear, especially the camera, is far more important than usually gets credit. Hear me out, you who think a camera is just a light-tight box. A camera is several things in addition. It is a box we need to hold and operate in an efficient manner. Ergonomics are important. Controls must be efficiently accessible in order to be used/useful. A shutter needs to be accurate and durable.

Contrarily, I'll even say that lenses are far less important except in highly technical areas of photography (scientific, architecture etc.). So my premises are really oriented towards areas of photography served by hand-holdable cameras (even if actually used on a stabilizing mount).

I think a good analogy is between the camera and a musical instrument. Good gear provides better results only when the artist has spent LOTS of time gaining proficiency in its use.

Patrick

Yeah, So Funny!

For more than 15 years I have only one Nikon F3 with 3 lenses. And reluctantly survived the digital wave attack until Coolpix 5100 popped up after my son's birth.

Unsatisfied with the quality, I started searching wildly over Internet and found sites such as uncle Ken's and Dpreview's.
The Mind Infiltration phase has just started.

I bought 2 Nikon DSLRs, 5 new lenses one old Elmarit R. Guess, I am reading the reviews from the site and still unhappy.

Now I sold all my VR junks, and keep only my old manual lenses and pro grade AF-D and slowly using more negative film again.
Today I just bought one Mamiya 645 Pro TL via ebay. And next week I plan to order one Epson V600 for scanning film.

I feel like a stupid Hamster running in a 'please trade again' cage. Digital Photography is not a discipline of art but consumer electronic business where "Keep Buying New Models" is the main objective.

PS: Phase One still tempts me :)

Adding to Mike's response to Kristin, Camera Raw and Lightroom share the same processing engine. ACR is provided as a free plug-in with Photoshop, whereas LR can be bought separately, and includes a very powerful Library module to organise and access your images. I believe the controls and editing tools are the same or pretty much between ACR and LR, but I cannot vouch for this as I always use LR and photoshop and do not have an updated ACR version.

As for your question whether LR would be enough to "go pro", it's hard to say. All the basic adjustments an image needs can be done in LR, and the adjustment brush and graduated filter allow to make more complex and local adjustments. So unless you want to do heavy editing with layers, layer masks and such, LR could do. Photoshop is definitely more powerful and you may need it sooner than later, but it is also more expensive. Hope this helps.

Just a quick comment about Lightroom- very powerful and a lot imo a lot easier to use than learning Photoshop -intuitively developed for photographers as opposed to graphics folks. The best free place to learn Lightroom would be right here http://www.slrlounge.com/ A free course that starts at the beginning using excellent vidieos and going to great depth. I have taken several photoshop (elements) classes over the years and got nowhere. LR is the way to go. Thanks, Irv Mortenen

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