What Makes A Pro Camera
A Pro Camera?
What is a “Pro Camera” - basically its a camera a Professional Photographer uses and that’s that… But for the sake of the argument I will of course dive into this subject a little more than the actual simple true answer. There are certain camera models that manufacturers claim to be a “Pro Camera” and there are plenty that are unofficially named a Pro Camera by photographers. One of the biggest issues that photographers have other than "whats a pro camera" is what they personally feel is “The Way”.

Click on the image and see the text of this ad... You will see that the copy points to the root of the Pro Camera, and it's not the camera. In fact in this Leica ad they are stressing about how much the camera does not have. As the industry and mindset of photographers has shift from the amount of knowledge the photographer has to now putting emphasis on how many gadgets their camera has.

I purposefully stay off of FaceBook photo forums and groups because there are so many self proclaimed master photographers that spew out their critiques like water from the faucet. And many of the peeps who post images are just happy to have been able to produce an image, they don't need someone telling them it should be their way instead.

For the most part, it is only photographers that feel the need to criticize other photographers works and try to set the standards of what a “Pro Photographer” should use. When you combine that with the hype that manufacturers use to sell cameras making you think that by buying a certain camera you will get better quality images than the other cameras. Where it use to be you could have a consumer camera or a pro camera has now been extended to include “Prosumer” cameras. One that has bells and whistles that the entry model doesn't have and still missing a few that the “Pro Camera” has.

No matter what classification you put on a camera, you still can not change the fact that a photo is based upon the basic variables of shutter speed, aperture and sensitivity of the sensor/film. No matter what grade of camera you use, there will still be those same factors that produce the image. Camera manufacturers have taken a much different turn since the introduction of the DSLR than they took with the SLR film camera.

In the days of film cameras the emphasis was on build quality mostly, with Pro bodies having things like weather proof seals, titanium frames and other construction upgrades. With todays cameras, no matter how much it cost, it still looks like plastic and with most being from a polycarbonate plastic and a magnesium alloy frame, to buy the upgraded titanium frame is kind of a waste, since the electronics are going to fail if you drop the camera on the ground before the frame breaks.

When you bought a film camera in the 70’s or 80’s, you could still use it over 10 years later and produce just a s good of an image as the newest models. With a DSLR you wont be using it in 10 years even if it still works. The advances in image quality will be far too noticeable and the electronics will have failed multiple times. The Nikon D100 I bought in 2002 would still make good images, but the image size and low light capabilities far exceed that now with today's entry level DSLR. Aside from all the hype about what a camera will do and what one will not do, it is still only other photographers that think it matters.

I get a major laugh when I hear a photographer complaining about a fellow photographer that may be using a consumer grade camera to shoot the same wedding market that a so called pro is shooting. The way I see it, if you are worried about a photographer using inferior equipment to yours but shooting the same market share of work… you are just telling me that your confidence level of your work is no where near that of the person using the low-end camera. Although you have all kinds of reasons to try and justify your feelings about them, the fact is you lack confidence that your work is strong enough that you don’t need to worry about some photographer using a very inexpensive camera to shoot the same type of weddings.

If that statement just pissed you off, then you may need to re-read it several times since you have time to devote to worrying about what the others are shooting with. I have seen some of the crappiest images ever that were shot with a Hasselblad and some of the best imagery I have ever seen that was shot with a Holga.

If you are a photographer that may happen to be shooting with say a Nikon D3100 and have it in your mind if you bought a D4 that you would get better images, you are certainly wrong with that idea. Although there may be aspects of what the D4 can do in comparison, you can make the same image in either camera of pretty much the same quality. Once again before you spout off… it is only other photographers that this fact bothers and the "experts" that do do pixel-peeping to see how well the image holds together when viewed at 100% pixel size.

In all my years of selling my works in my gallery, shooting for advertising or commercial purposes or even weddings… not a single client has wanted to see the pixels at 100% or wanted to know what kind of camera I shot with. If by chance they did, then they were also a camera buff and just wanted to know that age old question. Even beyond what a camera can do inside is what the photographer can do once he has the image on the computer.

When you ask a fellow photographer to guide you along the way in your own photography journey, keep in mind they will steer you in the direction they wished for you to go. Even being a judge of a photo competition is difficult to do since you will have a tendency to vote higher on images you personally like. Some of the best work I see is from photographers that step out of the box and are not afraid to present something the way they want to and not the way their peers want them to.

What is a Pro Camera gonna do for you?
Sure you get some sort of bragging rights, but there again remember that in a crowd of strangers the only ones that know that you have a D4 hanging from your shoulder is other photographers. I personally have owned the “Pro” body before and have shot with other Manufacturers pro bodies and have had 20x30 prints hanging in my gallery that even the other photographers would not be able to tell me which camera made which image. The basic fact that the shutter speed, aperture and sensitivity are functions of capturing a photograph no matter what camera you have.

The factor that makes a camera a “Pro” model would be the added features it may have in helping you achieve your preferred EV in different ways. I prefer to go by the standards of what made a Pro Camera back in the film days. Some of the really usable features of the higher end camera would be a depth of field preview, a much wider range of shutter speeds, interchangeable focusing screens and exposure lock button. While none of those features would actually produce a better image, they can in fact aide you in producing a better image than just firing the shutter and hoping you get what you wanted.

Keep in mind that I worked at Shutterbug Magazine back when the SLR was transitioning into the DSLR and I know a lot of the marketing hype and the strategies they used to sell cameras, so my tainted vision and ideas of the photography industry has a lot of validity. As with each photo magazine, the authors that do reviews of equipment are limited on how many bad marks they can put on a camera since they will not get any gear to revue in the future and take the risk of damaging the amount of advertising money spent by those manufacturers.

I would also be willing to guess that more amateurs spend the money to have bragging rights and buy the “Pro Camera” whereas any confident pro will use any camera that suits him since they would know that shutter speed, aperture and sensitivity are what make up the exposure. The photographer takes it from there by knowing what exposure he is going for and how to compose and present the final image. The key words in that sentence and in photography in general is “Final Image”.

The camera is only 1 of the tools used in making the image, if you feel you need a certain camera to define your image, then you are way off base. I carried a Pro Body Nikon around in Europe for a month, but in the end I wish I had just had a nice range-finder camera instead.

No matter what the scene was, the things that mattered were once again shutter speed, aperture and sensitivity. During my journey there, I shot with the Pro Body and a “Consumer” body with no visible difference in the final images I had hanging in my gallery5.

Observing the sample images here, you can see that even when shooting with two very different focal lengths and glass quality, that the difference is not even close to being worth $4000.

I have even included some pixel-peeping samples as well in this set of images, and yet again you would be hard pressed to tell the difference. You could see some difference in the quality of the lens coatings and the amounts of extra-low dispersion glass elements used in each lens but as far as pointing the camera at a scene and using the cameras meter reading, you won't be picking out which one is which.

It’s not that I have gotten off the topic of the original subject “What Makes A Pro Camera”… What makes a Pro Camera has nothing at all to do with the camera. Yes, a manufacturer can make a camera thats more resistant to water and impact, it may have more bells & whistles and even a more mega-pixel image. There may be features on a camera that a pro could utilize in helping him determine exposure and composition more to his favor but indeed the knowledge of a pro photographer could create the same image from a much lesser priced camera.

I have seen various debates in photo forums Online about if a certain camera is a Pro Camera or not, but the answer still remains the same… it’s not about the camera. If you are one that gets upset when a person is shooting the same market you are with a $400 consumer camera and you have several thousand dollars in gear, then you really need to wake up and focus on your own work. If a person ends up taking work from your market, they could still take it if they had a Pro camera.

No One Cares Except Other Photographers
I shot about ten weddings last year and not a one of the couples ever asked me what model camera I had or even asked what brand it was. Maybe if I showed up to shoot a wedding with an iPhone they might have something to say, but any DSLR around your neck is going to look the same to the client.

Get A Pro Lens Before You get a Pro Camera! If you are going to think that you can get a piece of gear that will make a difference in your images, it won’t be the camera body as much as it will be the lens you use. A camera body, no matter what has a shutter speed, aperture and sensitivity setting. those are “Fixed Factors” of creating the image. With different price ranges of glass, you can get a lens with less distortion, better contrast, less prone to chromatic aberration and many other noticeable aspects of an image.

If you have to choose a pro body and mid-grade glass or a consumer body and high-end glass, your best choice will be the better glass option. I can almost hear you in the background thinking the sensor difference between the two will be a major difference. As you can see from various other projects in The Photography Experience, that I do enjoy pixel-peeping, and in fact I did some peeping into images from the Pro Body of a Canon and the Prosumer Nikon body. Even at the 300% enlargement of the images, you can still not clearly decide one is better than the other.

Don't let your gear define you as a Pro... let your work define you!

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