My Digital Camera Is Better Than Yours
Yep, But My Lens Is Better Than Yours
There’s been a lot of chatter lately on the Internet about mirror-less vs. mirror cameras, the new Nikon D4 vs. the latest Canon 5D Mark III, iPhones vs. other smart phones, the new technology of the Lytros camera and more. Basically, people expressing their opinions on Twitter, Facebook, blogs, etc., over what camera or form of photographic capture is best. Everyone seems to make valid points along with a lot of great information and bad information, but what many people fail to recognize, no matter what camera you use or prefer, it’s ultimately about the photographer’s abilities that really matters—besides, the best camera is the one in your hand, not in your camera bag.
The 70-200mm F/4 lens is great for outdoor sports, but for indoor sports, the F/2.8 version is better.
In simple terms, it’s not necessarily what you shoot with, but whether or not you understand the basic concepts, fundamentals and principles of photography in general—before you even purchase a camera. It’s about using the right tool for the right job, but how can you properly choose the “right” tool if you don’t know how to “effectively” use it to begin with? Just because you buy a gun, load a bullet and point the barrel forward, doesn’t mean you’ll hit the target—it takes training, skill and knowledge to hit the bull’s eye—the same goes with a digital camera.
As an example, is F/8 the same on all the above cameras? If it is, then why are there so many arguments over what camera is best? Sometimes I wonder if half the people arguing know the difference between an F/stop and a bus stop. Seriously, the first step in becoming a great photographer is comprehending your equipment and in digital photography that means more than just shutter speeds and apertures, it also means understanding white balance, crop factors, lens perspectives and what seems as an infinite amount of ISO’s we have today. Obviously the correlation of the latter basics is the key to great photographs, not the brand of equipment that you own.
The "F" Number
Don’t be confused as to why it’s F/2.8 and not F/2.0, as “F” numbers pertain to the square root of 2. Lenses today rely upon a standardized F-stop scale, based approximately on the “geometric sequence of numbers that corresponds to the sequence of the powers of the square root of 2,” i.e., F/1, F/1.4, F/2, F/2.8, F/4, F/5.6, F/8, F/11, F/16, F/22, F/32, F/45, F/64, F/90, F/128, etc. Note: these ratio values are rounded off for easier recollection.
Personally, I shoot Canon, but I also own Nikon, Olympus and Leica, as I look at the camera body as second to my lenses (glass) and lighting (lifeblood of the image). This is where many photographers fail, they drop $4,000 to $8,000 on “top of the line” name brand camera bodies and buy cheap lenses for them—or inferior glass—because they fail to comprehend simple things like why a 70-200mm F/2.8 lens (notice I didn’t name a brand) is ten times better than a 70-200mm F/4 lens.
Ever try and photograph a subject as the sun sets behind them with an F/4 lens, especially if you rely on autofocus? Zip, zip, zip, your zoom lens will act like a “zoom lens” as the focus barrel zooms in and out trying to lock-on, and if you’re shooting manual focus, well good luck at having the focus dead-on when it comes to the best fraction of a second to depress that shutter release. Bottom line, the lens aperture value of F/4 is the same on both lenses, but the viewfinder on an F/2.8 lens is twice as bright as a lens at F/4.
But more important than a bright viewfinder when using an F/2.8 lens vs. an F/4 lens, the quality of the glass is better on the F/2.8 lens—that’s why it’s an F/2.8 lens and not an F/4 lower grade lens. Great glass is one factor that separates most professional photographers from amateurs—because a pro understands you don’t risk the possibility of failing to capture a great photograph with inferior glass any more than driving a NASCAR race car with cheap rethread tires.
A photographer must know the basics before selecting the proper lens. Note: All feathers are from domesticated birds, shed naturally from molting, none are from endagered species.
Sure, some will argue that all you need is a 70-200mm lens with a minimum aperture of F/4 for photographing outdoor sports, landscapes, and macro shooting—in fact it’s a great lens for that price for those genres—but I tend to cover all my bases and why would I pay twice for a similar lens? I highly recommend that every photographer just save up and wait for an F/2.8 version to prevent paying twice. I say twice because it’s very common, as a new photographer, to purchase the F/4 version first, then later purchase the F/2.8 version—especially with marketing hype.
Oh yes, marketing hype exists, don’t believe me, check your shampoo bottle as practically all of them say, “Shampoo, rinse and repeat.” When they hook you to buy that shampoo over another brand, it’s obviously better than all the other products, so why repeat? Simple, it sells more shampoo and increases the manufacturer’s revenue. Marketing hype does exist in the photo industry, especially with camera bodies and lenses. The more you buy, the more they make.
Zoom lenses, like the 70-200mm with a minimum aperture of F/2.8, provide for better bokeh and a more shallow depth of field.
However, if your photography is nothing but landscapes and outdoor sports photography, then stick with the F/4 version, it’ll keep your camera bag lighter. My point is use the right tool for the right job while avoiding the marketing hype, but understand the real reason why you chose one tool (lens, camera body) over another.
As an example, I choose the F/2.8 version because it allows my viewfinder to be twice as bright, and with age, it helps, especially with both manual and auto focusing. I shoot a lot of photos during the Golden Hour—I need that brighter viewfinder as the day becomes darker—why end a shoot when you can make it better? I prefer higher-quality glass and better glass is found in a lens with a minimum aperture of F/2.8 vs. F/4. Plus I like the better bokeh for the mood it establishes in my photos, especially at longer focal lengths. The bokeh at F/2.8 is much better than at F/4 in my style of photography. Yes, this probably sounds like personal preferences, but it pertains more to my photographic style and the fact that I prefer great glass for primo photographs.
Understanding “great glass” is just one of many basic concepts, fundamentals, and principles of photography a photographer must comprehend when deciding which tool to use to achieve a predetermined photographic result, and here on LensDiaries.com, you’ll find plenty on those three “musts” for better photography. Though you must still shoot, shoot, shoot, not just read—a great photographer must also exercise that creative eye, communicate to their subject and the intended audience, plus comprehend their equipment in order to use it effectively. The best photography comes from training (shooting regularly), skills (creativity, communication, and comprehension) and knowledge (gained through experience by exercising what you learn).
Combine the latter with creativity, communication and comprehension, or what I call the three “C’s” of being a great photographer, and you’ll propel your photography to a master’s level. Mastering photography is not about whether you shoot a Nikon D4 vs. a Canon 5D Mark III or an iPhone vs. a mirror-less camera, as shutter speeds are shutter speeds and F/stops are F/stops; mastering photography comes from understanding the fundamentals, concepts and principles first, and you can find plenty of that knowledge here in this photographic community. With that I close by saying, please don’t forget our military troops, their families and friends, for they pay the ultimate sacrifices to protect our freedoms to practice photography as we pretty much please. God Bless them all! Rolando.