This morning, B&H announced some rebates on Canon Rebels. And I found myself composing a sardonic little notice to the effect that 96% of photographers could probably do everything they needed or wanted to do just fine with a Rebel, a 3100, or a K-r—and 96% of the other 4% could get by with one of those cameras if they had to, if that's what they had, if it was that or nothing. Only a few specialists might be left wanting.
Then Alexey M. sent me a link to a little thread on Rangefinder Forum in which intrepid participants belly into the fray and attempt to match sets of M9 pictures to the lenses that took them—without much success. 'Twasn't the fairest of fights, but the inevitable conclusion has a certain justness to it—that any of the four would effectively do as well as any of the others. True.
And I found myself hankering for an A900 again*, and yet again troubled by what lens I'd use with it, and thinking that maybe I might be perfectly happy with my old Konica-Minolta (née Tamron) 28–75mm ƒ/2.8.** And the fact is, I probably would be.
We have a long history in digital of evaluating "quality"—but that's partly because quality was highly variable in the early days and progress was rapid. I had great fun with a Sony F-707, but I certainly don't have fun wrestling with those nasty files today, if all I care about is a decent print.
But those days are gone. Any of the three entry-level DSLRs named in the first paragraph better the best we had, for any price, when the F-707 was new. It wasn't that long ago, but a lot has changed since then. MTBTI (mean time before trade-in) is rising, and more and more photographers are content with deliberately less-than-state-of-the-art solutions, such as the various mirrorless offerings. It's now the era of Good Enough.
I'm sure this is a transitory state I'm in this morning, akin to indigestion, which I also have. I'll come to my senses tomorrow and get back to...well, caring.
It not like I haven't traversed this question before.
*When it comes to the A900 I'm very much like my mother's late long-haired silver-dapple miniature dachshund, Wolfgang, who would scratch and bark and whine and worry when his tennis ball went under the radiator, until he'd drive you so crazy that you'd stop what you were doing and go over and get it out for him. He would take the ball in his mouth and trot around happily for a while, then place it on the floor next to radiator and nudge it with his nose so that it rolled underneath the radiator again where he couldn't get it. At which point he would begin scratching, barking, whining, and worrying again. We're both very annoying, Wolfgang with his tennis ball, and me with the A900.
**There's now a version in Sony cladding. Incidentally, this lens is very nice on APS-C, so it will probably be lovely on the A77 if you don't mind the longish zoom range. See, there, I'm starting to recover.
Featured Comment by Sumanta Chandra: "I am one of those persons who certainly fall into 'equipment junkie' category—however narrow the definition. Every time I got interested in a particular camera/lens, I would head through the 'holy' Google path of knowledge and enlightenment.
"Invariably, I would step through the same process:
- The strengths of the potential camera/lens would bring xyz benefits.
- This purchase will finally close all my equipment decision loops.
- I will never need to look at any classifieds ever.
"On hindsight, the Google path lead me deeper and deeper into the 'have all*, know much, do little' (mixture of decision paralysis and over equipment confidence) quagmire.
"Having bought the X100 (equipment junkie say first person to own one in India), things have changed drastically.
"I carry the camera casually almost daily, on weekends it is two M3s with Tri-X and T-Max and the X100.
"I shoot a lot more, and review my photos more diligently from content rather than IQ.
"I have almost stopped looking at classifieds altogether.
"I am not a photo professional, it is a pure hobby.
"Moral of the story: For me the X100 has been like a rehabilitation. Equipment really did matter.
"No Fuji did not gift me one, I had to buy it with hard earned cash."
*On last count, my equipment collection was close to 1000 pro camera/lenses.
Featured Comment by Jeff: "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."
Featured Comment by Kristin Oren: "I was glad you wrote "96% of photographers could probably do everything they needed or wanted to do just fine with a Rebel, a 3100, or a K-r—", because the K-r is what I bought on your recommendation! I love it and have a long way to go to know how to fully use it, but lucky for me the auto settings are really great. I've been taking lots of horse pictures, just for me, but just yesterday a friend asked if I could take some pictures of her horse and wants to pay me. So, I wondered, could I become a professional photographer with just a K-r? And here, I found the answer—yes! Two more questions. Is Lightroom good enough or do I really need the full Photoshop? And, what is the best crash course in photography out there?"
Mike replies: Hi Kris. I use Photoshop, but I now do about 95% everything in the wonderful Adobe Camera Raw (ACR) 6.0—which I believe is accessible from within Lightroom too, no? (I've never used Lightroom, so please forgive my ignorance.) I do think that Lightroom will serve for most purposes, based on the anecdotal evidence I've heard and read from its users. Maybe some of them will chime in in the Comments, although this post is getting a little old now and hence this will be seen by fewer people.
As for a crash course, hmm—tough question. The answers would be vastly different depending on your specific aims and goals. Since your preamble was to talk about your first paying job (congratulations on that, by the way), I'll make a leap that might be unwarranted and assume what you're talking about is learning how to be a professional...and the answer to that (still) is to assist. That is, you find someone who does exactly what you want to be doing, and offer to work for that person for very little money. In return you get to watch them work and observe how they run their business up close—which serves as a kind of apprenticeship. It's the traditional way for photographers to learn their trade, and if have clear goals and can identify a good person to work for, it's still the best way.
If you're just talking about a crash course in Lightroom, then I'd recommend Lynda.com.