Lesson from the Shot: What’s a good camera for me?


 by Stanley Leary

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When I speak to groups someone usually ask what camera I use. Next someone else will ask, “Would I take better pictures if I use a camera…maybe one like your?”
The best answer I’ve ever heard to that question came from Joanna Pinneo, a former colleague of mine. Joanna is an outstanding photographer who has worked for Newsweek and National Geographic. Joanna had just finished wowing an audience with some of her photographs when a little old lady asked, “If I had a camera like yours would I take better pictures?”
“Probably not,” Joanna said, “you will take the best photos with a camera that is easy for you to use. When you see something you want to photograph the less you have to think about the camera the better your picture will be.”
Joanna went on to point out that professional photographers are so familiar with their cameras that using them is second nature to them; like driving a car. She told the little lady that unless she planed to study photography she should find a camera that was simple and easy to use then just concentrate on the subject of the photograph she wanted to make.
She was right, of course. In general most of your best photographs are taken to capture a moment. If you are switching lenses, fidgeting with a flash, or trying to remember how your camera works you’ll miss the moment. By the time everything is set just right the shot is gone, the moment has passed.
On the other hand, if you have a point-and-shoot camera you can just (pardon this) you can just point-and-shoot and capture the moment. You’ll take a better picture precisely because you did NOT have a “better” camera.
Not long ago I was photographing the keynote speaker at an event in Atlanta. Beside me was Ambassador Andrew Young with his point-and-shoot camera. He was photographing the speaker as well. Later he showed me his shot and it was quite good.
This was not the only time I’ve seen him making pictures. I’ve worked with him on several occasions and once I asked him about his photography. He reached into his pocket and pulled out the small point-and-shoot camera. He said he always carried it with him and that he loved to take pictures and share with his friends.
Then Ambassador Young laughed. He told me he even pulled it out of his pocket at his daughter’s wedding. He was officiating the wedding, but he still took a photo during the ceremony at the altar.
PGA rules will not allow a picture to be taken of a professional golfer during their back swing since the noise might distract the golfer. Steve Williams, Tiger Woods’ caddy has thrown a few cameras into lakes when people have fired away during Tiger’s backswing.
When Dave Black showed an editor, from Sports Illustrated, photos of Phil Mickelson in his back swing, you can understand why the editor started to quiver and gasp for air. Dave pulled out the little camera and made a picture or two of the editor.
When the editor found that he couldn’t even hear the little quite camera, he began to breath normally again. No one had any photos of golfers in their back swing before Dave, so Sports Illustrated ran the photos big made with the little point and shoot.
Today’s cameras are so much better than before. Take for example the point-and-shoot Nikon P80. Nikon’s enhanced Face-Priority AF automatically finds and focuses on one person’s face or up to 12 people’s faces within one frame. Face-Priority AF provides faster and sharper focus to produce clear, crisp portraits wherever the subjects are positioned in the frame.
The P80 is equipped with a 18x optical zoom lens (a 27-486mm in 35mm equivalent) focal length coverage. The maximum aperture is F2.8 to 4.5. It has 10.1 megapixels letting you capture fine detail with the creative freedom to crop and edit.
The amazing thing is that the professional grade Nikon camera body with all the lenses needed to match the zoom power of the little P80, would cost close to $15,000, but the P80 sells for just $399. (Hay, I’m beginning to wonder if I really need all this expensive photographic equipment!) 
Another camera similar to the Nikon P-80 is the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ28K. It is equipped with a Leica lens and is similarly priced to the Nikon P-80.
Joanna Pinneo said it so well, when she said, “You will take the best photos with a camera that is easy for you to use.” Guess the old adage is true after all. I’ll paraphrase: It would be Stupid not to just Keep It Simple.