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Friday, 01 June 2018


I recall seeing a video of Jay Maisel having lunch with another photographer (I think it was a promotional thing that Epson produced). The other photographer (I don't remember who it was) said that if the conditions weren't right to make a quality image he would pass and not shoot it, in response to which Jay replied "To hell with quality. Get the picture." I often shoot what I can't get perfectly because I know it is transient or because it is a note to myself to come back with the right equipment to get it right in situations where that is possible. Either way, at worst it is an opportunity to practice.

I thought your title was intended as satire. But not. No, Mike, this is an excellent example of the hypothesis that any camera can be the best camera (and certainly is if it’s the only camera you have). This image is a good composition of how the vastness of farmland really feels. The tiny farm buildings on a sweeping flat landscape under an endless oppressive sky that makes you feel like an ant on a sumo ring.

No, sorry, to my eye you had the right camera. You’ve made an image I’m likely to remember for a while with it. But perhaps you just didn’t bring the eye you wanted to use? (Sometimes bad health makes for good pictures, much like bad weather.)

While you are lamenting the photo that might have been, I am enjoying the photo you actually took. Do you not see the irony?

I think the issue here, Mike, is that your "souvenir of the picture I wanted," is, in fact, all the picture most people want these days.

They can view it on their phone, share it with friends and family, post it online, publish it in a book ... just about everything except make a nice, large print to hang on their wall and let's be honest, who does that anymore?

Trough different periods of my life I have combined professional and personal work in photography, and I couldn't agree more with your point. I have found myself in many, many occasions carrying the wrong camera or the wrong lens for what I wanted to photograph.

I remember going to little towns with a small camera to make documentary portraits when an opportunity to go into the woods for birding arose. Or the opposite, going for birding and arriving with a big, imposing DSLR and long lenses in an indigenous community.

I guess that if you only do one type of photography, or one theme or subject, the odds are you'll always have the right camera with you. But if you have a little variety you're bound to sometimes get the wrong tool with you.

Make photographs that suit the camera you have on you, otherwise you will always be waiting for that "golden bullet." Yes, your photograph would have looked great if it was shot on 8x10 film, but who cares? When friends get bummed out about these things, I like to loosely quote Winogrand's answer to the question whether he gets bummed out about missing photographs when he is reloading film: "When I am loading film, there are no good photographs."
And a more cynical reply is: yes, the best camera is the one you have on you. So bring a camera, not a phone!

... if you have the wrong camera with you... isn't it still your fault for not bringing the 'right' camera?

I understand the whole conversation/debate/philosophy of the right camera, etc.... but if the entire blog post is about bringing the wrong camera and acknowledging that a different one would have been the 'right' one...

I guess my question is: why aren't you carrying a camera with you, other than your phone?

[I thought I explained that. Because I'm SICK. --Mike]

Hmm. Before the advent of the iPhone you probably get zero photos in this case. Just saying.

Advantage iPhone. Just slip it in and out of pocket.

Disadvantage Sony A7III: Takes some planning to bring along wherever you go. (And usually not to the doctor's office when feeling sick).


This is why I have a Canon G7X Mark II in a pouch on my belt all the time.

So true. My wife will take pictures of a pretty sunset out of a moving car, using her iphone. She will never do anything with it, and its final expression will be as a thumbnail she scrolls past to find the picture of a person or shop price tag she's looking for. She's smug with me because I don't have a camera (and I'm driving) so I get nothing, and I'm smug with her because I know that what I saw with my eyes trumps what she will get with her phone.

But there I was, on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon (I was there for a meeting with park officials, not for being a tourist), making photos with my iphone--panoramas that I hoped to stitch together into the One Photo That Nobody Else Ever Made. We are dumb like that. In a case like that, having my Canon 5D still fills me with a bit of regret that I don't have my Pentax 67, or my Sinar, etc. The problem is scalable, after all.

The Nick Prior law of inverse memory states:

"The perception of the subtlety of the light varies in inverse proportion to the aptness of the camera to capture it".

So if all you have is your 5 year old cell phone camera, you'll remember the light as phenomenal.

However if you're carrying your A7Riii, you'll invariably find the light just ain't good enough to be worth bothering with.

And of course if you have no camera the light is infinitely good.

Meantime in the background: "Just take the damn picture!"

I find the photo somehow comforting in its restful composition. Very nice to look at, admittedly, if the same file was printed, say 11x14 it would fall apart. Today, a photo on the web, in the size you have on the page- it is very nice.
So what is the answer? Carry a studio's worth of cameras, lenses in the trunk of the car? Start at 8x10 field camera and work your way to the phone in your pocket. That would take care of the problem.

Sure, I understand the struggle, what to have at hand, what to leave. Perhaps a 'always ready kit'?
I know nothing of what's on offer in compact digital but perhaps a compact, fixed zoom lens digital of modest range. A "just in case" camera if you will, not supplanting your Sony but complementing it.

Sounds like a tough day for you, Mike. The summer cold is a drag. Bill

I think it has been alluded to, but you are taking the adage entirely too literally. You might want to give that some thought and come back to the issue.

I shoot with a Nikon D800, a Panasonic GH5 and my iPhone 7. There are many times when all I have is an iPhone with me. When shooting with my iPhone I use the Lightroom camera app. It's excellent. I shoot raw as well with the iPhone so I have a greater chance of correcting things in post. When using the "Pro" mode in the Lightroom camera app, you can even choose your shutter speed and you can manually focus using focus peaking. Obtaining focus should not be a problem if you learn the app, just like learning your main cameras. There will be times that the iPhone is your only camera, so one should become competent with that camera. Especially if you are a professional and want professional results. I have a bunch of different camera apps and I've found the Lightroom camera app to be the best choice for me if I want the best results. If you already have Lightroom for your computer, the app for your iPhone is free. However, you need to practice and understand the controls for the app so you are ready when the iPhone is your only camera.

My wife says, Take the picture now. The light's not going to wait.

Smart woman.

Maybe the answer is, on the internet, no one knows you had the wrong camera. When you provide an example, it’s just another jpeg on the internet, and everyone can say, see, that looks fine, and of course it does. We live in a compressed world, online.

Sorry you're ill, feeling terrible is feeling terrible, regardless of reasons - I feel worse with a cold than when I broke my arm.
I think the saying is more to do with a one-off event that's gone forever if you can't capture it with the "wrong" camera. I assume those weather conditions are frequent enough that you can use this photo as an aide memoir to re-shoot.

I assume you look at it in terms of fine art, whereas I've taken photos on my 1.3mp phone of bugs and plants to ID - bad pics but they allow me to compare them to reference books - so I was glad to have the "wrong" camera, rather than no camera.

A medium format guy might well be upset if he only had a 35mm DSLR to record a scene.

Not sure I'm the best person to comment as my Pentax K20D is possibly no better than your phone nowadays :-)

Mike, to understand those people, consider that they don't print. They'd be happy to have that picture and share it on flickr or Instagram.
I side with you on the issue. I've bypassed scenes that I'd have loved to stop and photograph if only I had my camera, because a phone snapshot isn't what I wanted. "Any picture is better than none" doesn't always ring true. Sometimes, it's just one more thing to have to delete.
Of course there have been plenty of times I've been glad to have my phone to snap a photo of something that I want to remember or share. As you say, there is such a thing as the right camera (and the wrong camera).

For what it's worth to you, Mike, I completely agree with your argument, and am also amused by how well it joins up with your prior rangefinder-dislike article.

The camera that works for me -- gets me the shots I wan; fits my workflow, etc. -- is a Pentax 645Z. Now it should be painfully clear why that is not with me all the time.

I decided a year or two ago that I really should have a "pocketable" camera to get those other shots, the ones where I don't have a 645Z handy. After much research I chose a used Fuji X20 rangefinder.

Sadly, I cannot live with it. It fails me in just about every possible way except that it looks pretty nice. It's in the drawer in my desk, where it's been for a very long time. If I was smart I would get it up on eBay before it loses even more value to someone.

I have returned to being happy with getting shots with my 645Z in my hand. Works for me.

I agree that, for its ability to facilitate memory of the landscape, as you perceived it in that moment, that shot works in the current context. Your observations also trigger a personal memory of my buying a Rollie 35 during a time in the last century when I used Pentax 6x7s for most of my photography, just so I could have a camera with me when I wasn’t specifically heading out with the intent of shooting pictures. Interestingly, just has happened with my fancy new iPhone (purchased for its camera) I always felt, when I looked at prints from the Rollei, that I’d had the “wrong camera” with me. Hopefully, you’ll feel better quickly. Who knows? Maybe you’ll like this image better once the respiratory infection clears.

Honestly Mike, if you had the Sony with you, would the picture have gotten printed, mounted, framed, and hung on a wall? Or, would it have remained a digital file on your screen?

The problem with photos shot with my iPhone camera is that while the shots look OK on an LCD display screen, they look awful when printed. AWFUL!
The aggressive JPEG processing of the iPhone shots, especially the sharpening, is what destroys them when the attempt to print them is made. It is apparent that when Apple's ad agency makes those big murals from iPhone shots, they are employing aggressive Photoshop processing to get rid of the aggressive JPEG processing that the phone applied.
Add to this what Lloyd Chambers called 'Apple's brain-dead ergonomics'** and you've got a camera that's always there, but that you never want to use.
**Lloyd was referring to the iMac computers, but it applies to the phones as well.

I don't think anyone disagrees that the camera you have with you might not be the "best" camera or the "right" camera or even a camera capable of capturing the picture you want to capture at any given time and in any given place.

The disagreement, IMHO, is over how much this should vex you and the extent to which a more flexible view of "right" might help you be a happier person. 😃

I think phenomenon is fed by the "it's good enough" environment that digital media has fostered. Capture a file that's "good enough" and make it "good" later. You can always clean it up in the computer later. The seduction of having a little camera in your pocket all the time lulls one into accepting that attitude. Until it fails you. Because sometimes it isn't good enough.

My recommendation would be to get in the habit of talking your camera bag with you whenever you go out the door. Oh, and BTW, that ultimate image stabilization system known as...my tripod, lives in the trunk of the car, so I always have it with me. The current crop of tripods is pushing past 10 stops of stabilization...amazing! ;-)

In the situations where taking the camera bag is just too much hassle, I still take the little Fuji X100F with me everywhere. Even when I go to the store for groceries.

Decisive Moment Digital...

The best camera ... is the title of a book that Chase Jarvis was flogging in 2010 https://www.amazon.com/Best-Camera-One-Thats-You/dp/0321684788?tag=ad-backfill-amzn-no-or-one-good-20 It's not a cause célèbre.

How about some righteous indignation over When better automobiles are built, Buick will build them https://plusmoretime.blogspot.com/2011/04/when-better-automobiles-are-built-buick.html

That's OK, we don't get that you don't get it, either. :)

Again, the truism isn't about what the best camera is, period. It's about the best camera to take a picture with right now. If you hadn't had your phone, you would have had no picture. Your A7III, or Hasselblad, or D5, are all irrelevant. They weren't with you. Your phone was. Ergo, it was the best camera you had to take the picture.

Sorry you are ill. I have the same tendency after getting a cold, once a year the cold morphs into Bronchitis. I feel your pain, it is an utterly miserable feeling.
You get points for making ANY photograph.

Re the subject at hand, I really don't think ANYONE is saying that it is not possible to have the wrong Camera with you.
Only you know your intent for the photograph, and only you know if the camera you have with you is inadequate to the task.
But that is not really the point. EVERY Camera is the wrong camera sometimes. And every camera is the right or adequate camera sometimes.
The better the camera, the more often it will be adequate or 'Right'
We are all responsible for choosing to carry a camera (or not), and for which camera we choose to carry.

Today, you were under the weather, and quite understandably, you chose to leave the big camera home.
There is nothing wrong with that, BUT, You have to accept the consequences of that decision.
You encountered a beautiful scene with an extreme brightness range, and subtle quality of light.........
You brought a knife to a gunfight.....
It happens to everyone but Mr. Maisel

Re What good is it.....
I would argue that you got a column out of it.
You got a nice representation of what you saw
Like Artists have done forever you made a sketch of what you saw
You can use it as a reminder of a place to check out for good light then go back from time to time.
It will never be the same, but it might be better.
And you got a not so subtle reminder that it is better to carry a camera that is more capable than a phone, ...just in case.

It is always a personal choice
Each of us should carry or not carry whatever we want.
But if we choose not to carry a camera, or a 'better' camera than your iPhone, and you encounter a miraculous scene......
It's not news, it's just being unprepared.
It happens to EVERYONE (except Mr. Maisel)

Feel Better

I'll support you on this one, Mike. It comes down to the fact that most people don't care. They don't understand or are ignorant. They are happy to look at a picture on a screen, even if the screen is on a phone. You, on the other hand, know from your past life experience what a joy it can be to quietly observe, in a moment of solitude, the subtle tones present within a carefully crafted print on the wall, or better still, within a textured heavy-weight print held in both hands.

I read the post originally on my iPhone then went to my 38" monitor to look at the photo again. I'm puzzled. It's a nice photo. Is the problem that you think with the Sony you would have sharpness to blow it up to fill a wall? Bigger is not always better. I see it as a beaut to print 4X5 or 5X7 max, put in a very wide ornate antique frame and hang on the wall. (I might get rid of the fencepost in the bottom middle, however.)
Look, there is the issue of probability. Carry an iPhone all the time and you will get a fairly high probability of photos you will be happy with. Carry the Sony and add a few percent to the probability but at the cost of back and shoulder pain. NOTHING is 100% certain in life. Chill out!

I'm sure the lack of a 'like' button, or some such, on your site is a good thing. Still, I would like to 'like' your post, but really I'd like to 'like' the combination of your post and Terry Burnes' comment ... and then the rest of the conversation. No 'like' button, but something that no magazine could do -- except perhaps at a glacial pace, from one month to the next -- and that is treat the reader to a constellation of ideas and tastes. Thank you thank you thank you!

I agree with you. When I take a photograph, I want it to tell the story or express the emotion I feel at that time. If the camera I have with me can't do that, it's the wrong one.

Mike, I agree 100%, and I think the noun you’re lookng for to describe others who disagree is “denial”. I have three distinct camera systems: full frame Canon with a slew of primes and a couple of zooms; a Fuji X2 with lens and an X100 for shits and giggles; and an iPhone 6s with a couple Momentum lens and case. Oh and besides an EOS 3 and Rebel X, I have a Konica Hexar and a couple Lecia lenses. And yet I know when I retire and get serious about my work, I’ll want digital MF and a film LF. There’s a right tool for every job. Jim

It just helps prove my point I often make. Cell phones suck as cameras. They are convenient and I use mine to take pics all the time. But when I want printable pics, pics to remember, it's time for my D850 or whatever body I happen to fancy at that moment.

Yes, yes, I've seen beautiful pics from cell phones. I even took some side by side with my camera of some colorful leaves on a tree, up close and on screen it was hard to tell apart.

But give me some movement, something far away, and I'll keep the phone in my pocket every time.

Maybe the camera was the right camera but I'm thinking that you used the wrong film. Or app, that is.
Shooting on raw with iPhone would have given you all those file options you missed out on with Jpeg (and yes, I'm assuming you shot Jpeg in camera).
If you have the desktop Adobe Lightroom CC or the Photography combo of Photoshop and LR Classic, then you already have an excellent raw camera app that integrates via 'The Cloud' (cue: fanfare of Hallelujahs) and automatically syncs back into your LR Classic catalogue (pain in the neck to set up but once it is, it just keeps working).
Or, the Manual Camera app which has good camera controls and a raw file option, but doesn't allow post-processing like the LR app.
The mystery is why Apple's built-in camera doesn't allow shooting in raw.
Get well soon Mike.

I feel like I am in a time warp. Your What Is Wrong With You Guys? post reminded me of More On Video Reviews of Camera Equipment. I thought we'd all be in violent agreement back then about the general uselessness of most video reviews. I've got déjà vu again because Myth: The Best Camera Is.... and now this post both remind me of The Best Camera is NOT the One You Have With You. Is it just me who feels like this?

I thought that many commentators missed the point of your recent "Myth" post, which was really about those who are never satisfied with their gear vs those who master what they've got and use it to good effect, not the "what you've got with you" point. But if we are having that discussion all over again ... FWIW I have two interprations of "The Best Camera is the One You Have With You". I often use this phrase to people who are not serious photographers who are considering buying something large like a dSLR. I've seen too many people do that and then never use it because they never take it anywhere, because it's too big and heavy. They need portability, not the ultimate image quality.

However for the serious user, who always wants a good quality shot, the meaning is subtly different. Find the smallest camera that will just about always give you minimum acceptable quality, because that's the one you're most likely to always carry with you. The D850 left at home doesn't take the shot. And nowadays you have plenty of such choices, e.g. the Fuji X-E3. So where's the problem? It may be that you always want to be in a position to capture the ultimate quality. If so, such a person will just have to suck it up and lug the bigger camera around.

Hope you feel better soon, Mike.

I tend to agree with Kirk Tuck in his recent post, 'the best cell phone is the one you NEVER take with you'
Can't stand the bloody things, they keep on ringing.....

How about a Sinar Handy 4x5 camera http://glennview.com/jpgs/sinar/handy/45/47mm/big_9.jpg the ultimate Point & Shoot camera. A 47mm lens gives you 100 degrees of 4x5 goodness.

As Terry mentioned, you captured the light. Not too sure how important the rest of it is.

Mike, the arguments boil down to:
“Anything is better than nothing”,
“Yeah, but is it worth looking at”?
Discuss. :-)

“The best camera is the one you have with you.” ???

What do you like to shoot, or where are you going today, and what might you encounter there? Pack your camera bag accordingly.

There are patterns in daily life. If you feel you’re compromising too many found opportunities, reasses yours.

All this talk about rangefinders brings one thing to mind, f——parallax! My first serious 35mm was a Yashica YF, a quite nice Leica clone with a good lense. After about 4 years, the last two in the army I was tempted by an affordably priced Leica, an iiif with a 50 mm Summitar. We never bonded although I still have it, maybe someday it will be worth enough to bother to sell. Maybe it’s my nearsightedness but I always was trying to shoot things really closeup which the rangefinder is ill suited. It was a great pleasure when I could afford my first SLR. I have never looked backed

I had a NTT DOCoMo phone with a 3 megapix "camera." The quality was so poor and it was so slow to use as to render it worthless. I actually tried to use that camera to take some photos to illustrate something I was writing about at the time, but they were so bad as to do nothing but confuse the issue. That camera was not the best camera for anything, even compared to no camera.

Look! There's a grizzly 200 yards away attacking a buffalo calf. Quick, get out you 3 mpx NTT DoCoMo camera and after you get through all the menu choices required take a photo, take a shot and then go through the menu choices to save it. Of course that photo would show nothing but a small unidentifiable blurry brown spot so you have zoom with your feet to within 3-5 meters to get a recognizable shot. No problem. Walking up to grizzly on a kill will probably give you even further photo opportunities that your next of kin will have to remember you by--if you can get it set up and ready to shoot before you get munched on.

The only way the idea makes sense is if you assume any photo of something is always better than nothing.

To me, a camera which frustrates any element of my purpose I consider important cannot ever be the best. As much as others may like the result, I will always regard it as a might-have-been - a consolation prize.

As I see it, Mike has cause to be dissatisfied with this beautiful shot because the camera failed him in what he considers important in this instance - sharpness and the subtlety of light and/or colour. I quite understand.

Otherwise, I fully subscribe to the view that having a camera, any camera, with you is better than having none.

I didn't coin the phrase so I can't defend its original meaning but I can describe what it means to me. I see it as a statement of irony, almost a joke. (Think of Abraham Lincoln's reply that a man's legs should be just long enough to reach the ground.) It's obvious to me that there's no reason to expect the camera you happen to have with you to be the optimal camera to achieve your desired results in any random situation. But, if you want to take a picture and you only have one camera available, then the best camera is the one you have with you.

I call this reconnaissance photography. One day I'll go back with a better camera and get a better photograph.

No matter that it may need a better camera that I don't own or take years before it happens.

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