I guess I’m writing on a really old argument. Do equipment or skill really matter in photography? Which is more important over the other? I’ll cut the chase on the history on this debate and go straight to the point of contention. Is there a really need to get an expensive lens to improve your photography?
Well, there is no doubt that a good lens plays an important role in the output of a good photo. In the past 6 months working as a photo editor at a news agency I have come across my far share of photos shot with good and bad lenses. There were shots that were great shots taken with really normal equipment, while there were average shots taken with the best lenses. A good lens can only get you that far. Yes, using a good lens makes the photographic process more convenient, pleasant and efficient. However, it will only bring you that far. The rest very much depends on the photographer himself/herself.
Photojournalists usually do not have the luxury of time to experiment with settings and creativity. Having a good lens with all the latest tech marvels (image stabilization, fast autofocus), coupled with good optics and a camera that works well in low light would be god-sent. Of course not everyone can afford the best of equipments, nor is it utterly necessary to own them all. It is nice to have great equipment, but it does not mean a photographer cannot take good photos without them. Technology conveniences people. It is nice to have them, but we can survive without them. Though this comes with some unavoidable inconveniences.
There was a time not too long ago that we were all using film cameras, and Polaroid’s instant film was a god-sent. There was a time, a while further back that auto-focus lenses were a god-sent. There was only manual focus lenses before that. Then there was a time cameras were bulky and unportable, negatives were made from glass. Nevertheless, regardless of whatever technology that were available, they were never truly enough.
We have come to benefit from people’s pursuit for an easier attainable goal of good photos. We now have cameras that detect smiles. We have cameras the size of credit cards. We have camera on our handphones. Photography is made so accessible, but did photography on a whole improved in quality? Now there are many answers to the question. But the source of the answer leads back to ourselves. How do we, as photographers, make use of our equipment to get the best shot possible. A good lens (and camera) is only as useful as the photographer who utilizes it.
I recently went to Sentosa for the Sentosa Flower Fest. I brought along two lenses for my camera, my 18-200mm super-zoom and my 55mm macro lens. There were people there with their professional grade cameras and expensive macro (or telephoto) lenses, mounted on equally premium tripods/monopods. The lens that was on my camera most of the time was my macro lens. I am probably pretty under-equipped as compared to the other DSLR users at the event. I have mentioned before that the Nikkor MF 55mm ƒ2.8 macro lens is my favorite lens in my collection. I am head over heels in love with a lens that does not meter with my camera, that is nothing more than pieces of glass and metal put-together. But this lens works marvels. It does what I asks for, no less than an auto-focus lens. Although I am inconvenienced in the aspect of focusing and exposure, the optics are great. What matters most for me is that I get my shot. The inconvenience is secondary. Of course it helps that I have pretty stable hands. This lens is a disaster with most people around me. It’s also not the lens you want to use for sporting events. But for capturing flowers and food? It irrefutably works its magic.
Perhaps I’ll get an auto-focus macro lens in the near future. But in the meanwhile, I’m satisfied with my macro lens.
The camera and lens and the photographer makes the shot. While having good equipment plays a big factor in a good shot, the photographer takes the critical role.