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Sunday, 08 October 2017


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After sunset, if the camera you have with you is a smartphone, it's almost certainly worse than nothing. So far.

You said,

"Color pictures have to work harder to mean anything."

So what? You're not interested in pictures that work hard?

Black & white, and 6x6. Nothing beats the look when 80mm is your "normal" lens.

I never took that quote to mean "any camera is better than nothing." I always took it to mean that whichever camera had the right combination of size/performance/enjoyment/etc. that made it the most likely to be the one with you was the best one.

I am learning to like and use colors, but B&W is definitely my love.

I don't photograph too much "random stuff" anymore, so the iPhone 7+ is pretty ideal that it is available and good enough for random stuff.

How about "The best camera you have with you is the best camera you have with you"?

I like printed, on paper, from a darkroom (not in books) b&w photography. Printed b&w photos in photobooks give up a large portion of their tonality. You will be amazed how little variety in tonality can be achieved in screen.
I don't like to look at b&w images on a computer screen. That is a huge difference from looking at color images. A computer screen is build for color.
Also I cannot print b&w photos on my Epson, the images have always a color cast. So I gave up on b&w, too difficult. I could buy special grey inks, but then I have to maintain 2 printers ....

If you own only one camera can it ever be the wrong one? It's nice to have choices.

Does the fact that you know what they mean, mean that they wrote well enough? ;)

Something about these facile truisms must appeal to a lot of photo hobbyists. Maybe because they suggest some ultimate wisdom, with no further thought necessary?

The one that never failed to annoy me was "There's no substitute for square inches." True on the most basic and trivial level, beyond which it begs all kinds of questions about the real nature of "image quality".

Bravo on both counts !!!

Man, do I agree with everything in Mike's post. Just to make things interesting though, I'd put a slightly different spin on it. You hear this phrase used often in the telescope world. But what it means there is: "the scope you actually use is the 'best' to have." This means, in that context, that if you purchase a Leica-like Questar telescope, but are afraid to take it into the field because of its price, that its "best-ness" is called into question.

Or "Ben's corollary" -- the best camera is the one you actually use.

I like the image of Butters beneath the window that you took with your iPhone. I even like the grain/noise. Have you tried coverting it to black & white? I realize you wish you had taken the shot wih your Fuji but you should give it a try.

That truism only makes sense if making any photograph at that moment matters more than making an excellent photograph.

Unless I forgot it, I always have my phone with me, but these days it's never the right camera. I just can't be bothered anymore to make images that I wouldn't want to print.

This isn't just a phone thing. I used to always have a Ricoh GR on me "just in case". It was an excellent little camera, but it too was rarely the right camera for me, so I sold it.

What they mean is a camera that isn't with you is irrelevant, and wishing for it is like wishing for champagne to come out of the water faucet; you can wait for it to happen and die of thirst, or you can drink what's available.

This is to Frank: assuming you print with at least an Epson R2400, it is possible to print without any colour cast at all. Printing from Lightroom (but this must be easy in PS as well), instead of choosing a specific profile, choose 'Managed by Printer', and a 100% Epson menu pops up that completely bypasses LR. Take it from there, inform yourself on the Internet if necessary, or by reading (Martin Evening is a good author here). Additional advantage: almost no colour pigments are used, and an image that consists of almost only carbon never eve fades).

People sometimes ask my why I only shoot for black and white. I find it really difficult to explain. I say all the usual things (simplicity, stripping things down to their elements, tone, etc.) But they always sound forced. I like colour for movies and TV shows, but photographs that matter to me are almost always black and white. The rare exceptions are colour photographs that echo black and white because their palettes are simple.

An overwhelming preference for black and white versus colour seems to be something that is almost hard-wired in some people. Jay Maisel, in his terrific book Light, Gesture, and Color, explains that he tried black and white but didn't like it at all! I wonder if this is something we could detect on an MRI scan of the brain...

The chances you will capture a great image while walking around with whatever camera and lens you have are remote at best. Really great photos are usually planned in advance. You've scouted the location for the subject, best shooting angle, time of day, distance to subject, etc. etc, and as a result of that planning, you selected the best camera and lens for that situation.

Of course, you are correct, because NO Camera, is the best camera for every scene you encounter.
"The Best Camera......" is also a way of saying always carry a camera, which, if photography is important to you, is very good advice.

But Who among us doesn't have a bunch of smartphone or pocket camera photos that they sorely wish were taken with a different, 'better' camera.
So yes, that leads to 'Always carry the Right camera' (one where the results satisfy you)
My practice during the film days was to always carry a camera with Tri-X in it (either a Leica M3/ 50 or a Nikon F/35mm. If I was going to shoot color, I put the color in the Nikon.
Now, most digital cameras of 1" sensor and larger are flexible and quite good, so we really don't have a lot of reasons to complain.
Having said that, personally I most often carry a FF camera, because its results satisfy me most.
Does it feel heavy sometimes? Increasingly so. But I look at it as paying it forward--doing the work to be ready---- but also it strips me of excuses---I can't complain "I had the wrong camera"

1. The best camera is the rumored one.
2. Do you set your EVFs to B&W?
3. On that page of thumbmails, my eye went immediately to New Camera News!

Mike, like you I started off printing black and white photos. I still prefer B&W, but now with a
medium format roll film camera, that allows decent quality scanned negatives. When I need prints for an exhibition, I go to Costco.

Ansel was an artist, but he was also a pro. And you might say that his approach to photography more often than not was purposeful. So if he knew that he was headed to a particular spot in the Sierras, for example, probably he knew roughly what he'd be after there and would equip accordingly. After a while you know yourself, know the places you go, know why they appeal to you and know what you need to get at that.

As for the random and unexpected miracles that happen along the way and that will never, ever happen again and for which you are completely unprepared: that's life. You can't do everything, and besides a little narrowness helps progress by preparing you for the greater number of miracles you see that you can work with.

Probably most of us usually do have the best camera along. Consciously or unconsciously, possibly we tend to carry what over time has given us the best returns in our accustomed personal niches, which after all, are unlikely to be without pattern or habit.

Yes! It's much easier to make a "beautiful" image in black and white. The world is overfull of simply "pretty"color photos.

How many cameras can you carry or take with you?

Happened to me yesterday. Kew Gardens, powerful clouds, early evening sun breaking through low on the horizon, scullers in silhouette and... meh. I blame the camera.

Having always found the 'best camera is the one with you' cliché particularly irritating, and having often wished I could sever its author's head with a blunt, rusty axe, I can't agree with you more. It's OK for people to shoot whatever they want, taking as many photos as they will, but ultimately one wonders what they're for. The other day I took my 5 year-old niece to a park; aware I had my smartphone with me - a rarity on weekends -, she asked me to take some pictures. I took several of them. When I came home, she looked at the pictures for 15 seconds and said, with her precocious sentence construction, 'I don't want to see any more photos.' How many keepers I got? Zero. Maybe the ratio of keepers would have been higher if I had a real camera with me, but ultimately that would be pointless: I find no use in making pictures of trivial events. Snaps will do. At least for 15 seconds.
However, the true pearl of wisdom in this entry is, "Color pictures have to work harder to mean anything." Yes they do. I'll go farther and say I find it more difficult - or at least more challenging - to shoot colour. Black and white and colour are like two different languages. The aesthetics are not interchangeable, and I have to be extra careful in order for the photographs not to get too much lifelike when I shoot colour, otherwise they will be just too textual for my likings. I look at pictures by Harry Gruyaert, Fred Herzog, Saul Leiter, and William Albert Allard, with envy and despair: they surely can do colour. I can't.

"The Internet should stop repeating..."

This statement is true and applies to a lot of things.

"After sunset, if the camera you have with you is a smartphone, it's almost certainly worse than nothing. So far."

Not really true at all.




I have always interpreted the original statement to mean "The world often presents you with something that you'd like to take a picture of, but for whatever reason you were too tired or lazy to bring all of your best equipment with you. In these times, having a backup device around is better than nothing. In particular carrying a smaller camera that you know you will bring with you and you also know that you can use to cover many common subjects is a nice fallback."

But that's a lot to say all the time, so the shorter sentence is a nice summary, if you interpret it correctly.

It also seems to be that writing off a whole range of photographic activity just because it is unlikely to result in a picture worthy of an 11x14 on your wall also seems to me to miss the point of this whole endeavor. You are usually taking pictures to have fun, or to record some other way in which you are having fun.

Anyway, over the last 10-15 years or so of shooting digital I have trained myself to shoot color pictures which I know will be pretty good when I make them black and white later. It took some brain reprogramming to be sure, but it's been worth it for my overall anxiety levels.

The other thing that's happened over the last five or so years, since I took that night shot in Hong Kong above, is that the camera in the iPhone, at least for me, is almost always good enough to get a good picture of something happening unexpectedly as long as that something can be captured with a wide to normal lens. I guess I just don't print, or I don't see the problems other people here who do print see. As they say on the Internet:


It comes down to- what is the minimum technical quality you're willing to accept? If you're fine with a smart phone- no worries! If not, look elsewhere- or do without.

I'm good with a GR most days, tack sharp 16in prints. The perfect camera? Hell no! But when the stars align (as with any other camera) it delivers a final product without compromise- fits in your pocket too!

Chase Jarvis wrote a book ©2010 The Best Camera Is The One That's With You: iPhone Photography by Chase Jarvis https://www.amazon.com/Best-Camera-One-Thats-You-ebook/dp/B0030DL346 You should blame The Best Camera ... on him 8-)

White Wall in NYCity, USA and Berlin, Germany make LightJet B&W prints on Ilford paper. They can also make Color LightJet prints on Kodak paper. The best of both worlds from color files https://us.whitewall.com/photo-lab/photo-print/ilford-bw-oce#tjn=f&t=produkt-details Who knew that the best B&W negative was a digital color file 8-) BTW Océ LightJet printers are used by some other photo labs, you just have to search.

I have highly evolved (can't say "developed"!) opinions... Sure you can, as long as you don't attach the noxious phrase pun intended.

To make sure I always have a suitable camera I take my Sony RX100II whenever I leave the house. Unless I forget it, then I always have my trusty iPhone SE. The problem is, and I think this may change things with regard to photos in the future, I am contemplating the purchase of an Apple Watch Series 3 with LTE. This means I will no longer need to take my phone with me. But the Apple Watch doesn't have a camera. Once everyone else starts to copy Apple's watch, and we all start talking to our wrists like Dick Tracy, will that be the end of the ubiquitous phone camera?

My understanding of the "the best camera you have ...." aphorism is different to everyone else's. I'll stick my head out of the trenches and admit that I use it, but only for certain people.

I know people who aren't what I'd term "serious photographers", but who have fallen into the trap of thinking that a big expensive camera will improve their shots. But having bought one, they find it too big and heavy and so never carry it around and so never use it and so it's a waste. To such people I say "The best camera is the one you have with you", by which I mean, if you're going to buy a camera rather than just use your phone to take photos, then don't buy anything bigger than something that you're prepared to carry around with you. A camera that you've left at home is of absolutely no use and you'll end up using your phone most of the time.

I wouldn't say the same thing to someone who cares about their shots. For them the relevant question is how small a camera will still provide acceptable quality. For me, like Mike, that's a Fuji mirrorless. So the best camera I have is the one that I have with me because I've made that choice, and that's my advice to others who care about their shots who say that they're tired of lugging around a dSLR. (I still occasionally get the Nikon D3s out for a shoot, but that's rare and it must feel rather unloved.)

I find that all photos should be B&W unless color is necessary for the image. Color clutters.

Mike, I've always had a different take on that saying than you and most of the commenters. To me it has meant get your mind off endless fanboy discussions of whether C or N is the right initial letter for a camera brand (or S, F, O, P, or ..., for that matter) and _use_ the camera (or cameras) you have. Taken that way, it's a useful reminder that photography is about photographs, not equipment. Having said that, _of course_ we need cameras to photograph. Of course some cameras are better for some tasks than others. But obsessing over which is the "best" isn't going to improve your photos nearly as much as using the "good enough" you have or have available.

I think people place too much emphasis on the "best camera." It leads down the rabbit hole of I need to constantly upgrade my camera. I notice in the photography I like that the photographers generally shoot a very narrow range of lenses and stick more or less to the same format. How many great photos have been taken with a Leica film camera and a 35 or 50mm lens? How many of them would have been better if the photographer had a modern high end digital camera and a constant aperture zoom? So in a way I agree with the statement provided that the camera you have with you is the one you have learned to use and suits the style of what you shoot. Honestly Mike do you really think the Sony or the Fuji is really that different? What photo could you take with one that you couldn't take with the other one? I happen to use Fuji cameras (X Pro and X100). I don't know maybe it's because I got out of the gear habit when I got the original X Pro. I never have considered another camera because it works for me. For the first time in years i really have no idea what Canon or Nikon or Sony or Olympus are making. It just wouldn't matter because I am completely and utterly happy with the X Pro and the 18/23/35/50 F2 lenses. When I want to go light I just take the X100 because at least 50% if not more of what I want to photograph can be done with a 35mm equivalent lens. It's sort of nice not to worry about cameras anymore. I finally upgraded my camera when the X Pro 2 came out but I still have my original X Pro and X100 you know what they takes great photos! That said I did recently purchase a Pentax Spotmatic and 28/35/50 for a film project I am doing for my Dad in his home town in the Mississippi Delta. I thought it would be nice to shoot the South in B/W film because everyone else does William Eggleston there. I got the whole set up and got the camera CLA'ed for less than $200. :-) I have shot several rolls through it to get back into the film habit. That 50mm lens is very good!

I interpreted that phrase to mean that there is no point in having the best camera in the world if you don't take it with you.

My Xpro2 goes with me just about everywhere, in my regular satchel - along with a tablet, glasses, folding umbrella, and a newspaper.

I don't feel it sacrifices anything over my D800 quality wise, but it's much easier to carry.

Colour imagery is what some scientist or similar feels the range of a colour image should be. Kodak interprets colour their way, Fuji, another; and so on. No one producer of either colour film, image recording cards or glass plates and similar, they all "look" at colour with slightly different interpretations.

Black and white is a different result, "we" do not" have to imagine what said B&W images is in colour through our eyes. There is no colour expressed, simply tones (shades?) of grey.

Your experience may vary depending upon your situation.
We are all different, is that not just the way it should be, eh?

I've been around a long time. My first web browser was Mac Surf which pre-dates Netscape Navigator. Before there was the W3C, there were usenet newsgroups. News groups were discussion forums for any subject under-the-sun—including photography.

Chase Jarvis was one of the first photographers to do behind-the-scenes videos, and to talk about photo techniques. Because of this he had a huge n00b audience who was eager to learn. Before Chase Jarvis wrote his book ( and flogged it on his site), I didn't see n00bs or anyone else saying The best camera ...

Hmmm, it strikes me a bit as the photographer’s equivalent of the angler’s ‘you should have seen the one that got away’ story - “I saw this great scene, but I had the wrong camera with me...”

I suppose it could be useful if taken a bit further. Hey, I could tell people my pictures would have been absolutely brilliant, if only I’d had the right camera with me!

Mind you, with the number of different cameras people seem to think they need for different purposes, it seems to me that the odds are you will just about always have the wrong camera with you. In which case, you may as well give up photography and collect picture postcards (deltiology, should you care) instead.


A little late to the party. The problem with this "truism that isn't" isn't that it's technically inaccurate (and we know what they mean) ... it's that it's often used to rationalize the wrong camera. I see it used frequently in the context of justifying a deliberate decision to downsize or to not carry a camera because it's just too much bother and "I always have my phone with me". If a person can buy into "the best camera is the one I have with me" then it makes it okay to be lazy; to not make the effort to carry a camera (certainly to not carry a tripod !); to not be ready to take good photographs.
It's part of a disturbing trend I've seen where "serious" photography is frowned, even on fora (forums ?) dedicated to photography. Pixel peeping is a no-no, of course, along with critical evaluation of lenses, upgrading cameras, and heaven forbid, carrying anything that weighs more than 16 ounces and doesn't fit in your pocket.

Every photographer has to develop a style! Then find the camera that suits that style and then stop reading and start shooting. So for some the best camera is an iPhone and for some the best camera is an 8X10 analog Plaubel.

Stephen Shore continously expanded his game. He shot the whole of the USA with a Rollei 35mm and a single street crossing with an 8 x 10. Does that matter in art terms, not at all.....the one is as arty (or artistically valuable) as the other.

Any modern DSLR (made in this decade) can take exelent pictures in comparison to a Nikon F2 of the seventies. The combination of 18 Mpixel sensors with 13 EV headroom and optics that are great and affordable...so these days it's just the imagination of the photographer that creates the picture.

Never buy a camera thinking that it will improve your photography, it might slightly improve your picture quality but never your photographic quality.

Greets, Ed.

My understanding of this saying is that you can't make pictures with the camera you've left at home, so you better find a way to make do with what you've got with you because this is as good as it will get.

Or in other words: don't bother buying a camera you will leave at home.

I've been a traditional (film/darkroom) person for a number of years, until I started getting serious about digital capture and processing about 7 years ago. In the early years of my digital photography, I was frustrated with the results of the digital colour to B&W conversion. But of late there seems to be a number of dedicated B&W conversion software that's very good. Like you Mike, when I'm going through images on the internet, it's the B&W images that stand out from the colour ones.

How about this: lets say there are three types of shots - snaps, good decent shots, and then there are really good ones. The last group are the ones to really keep and hold as serious work. There are keepers in the first two groups, but at a more casual level.

You can get a camera to do two of these (maybe even just one sometimes) but not all three. We try to make one for all three, but maybe it's just not possible.

So what do we do? Sometimes we find a decent shot taken with modest gear, and maybe wish it had more to it, more depth or better tones, more DR. There is a school of thought that the capture is more important than the sheer technical quality - think of all those 35mm shots that are grainy, off exposure, maybe not even sharp, but are compelling nonetheless. I'd say that's the middle group, extending into the third group - by design. Its a philosophical approach, Danny Lyons.

Others may try to take a more serious camera and use it more informally. Think medium format, or 4x5 hauled around for more flexible shooting. Explains TLRs.

At one time, you could line up different cameras to here different groupings - but now, the tech lines are blurred, as there are so many very good cameras in all sizes. So the discussion has moved, with difficulty, to technique as being the measure instead. But it's still an issue: IPhone snaps are not going to be the same as shooting with a tripod. The problem still exists: there are different goals, and one technique or camera rarely can fulfill them all. No matter what you have with you.

The best camera is the one you WISH you had with you.

Love the one your with.

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