Cameras & Lenses
by William Lulow
I have been in business since 1980 and I am used to shooting images with large and medium format cameras. I always loved the fabulous detail I got with my Wista 4×5 Field View camera and my arsenal of Hasselblad cameras and lenses. I wound up selling my Hasselblad gear back in 2001 when I decided to go all digital .At that time, much of the Hasselblad equipment was way too expensive for the kind of images I was making. And, with the digital backs, it was also too cumbersome and heavy for hand-held use. So, I started with the Fujifilm S2 Pro and also had to buy all new digital lenses, even though I had Nikon-mount lenses for my old Nikon F cameras. Although I got thousands of great images, I wanted that crisp, pore-revealing look I used to get with medium format. Recently, I made the switch to Canon equipment. Specifically, I wanted a camera that wasn’t too heavy for wedding work, something that had a large-enough LCD so that I could easily preview images and also one which could give the flexibility of composition I used to get with my Hasselblad’s waist-level finder. (I actually had an eye-level finder for the 500C/M as well).
What I got was the Canon 60D. At 18megapixels it renders enough detail so that I still get excited with my portraits. It has a swivel LCD that lets me shoot at high angle or low angle vantage points. I bought the extra battery pack for it so that I never have to worry about running out of power during a shoot.
Some of the other Canon models may have higher resolution CCDs but don’t have the flexibility of the 60D. And, as with many people these days, cost is a factor. This camera is reasonably priced (much less than the $15,000 I would have had to pay for the digital Hasselblad), is easier to manipulate and faster to operate. I still don’t like the 35mm feel, but I have gotten used to using the LCD.
Having started my business in the film age, my mind-set was always film oriented. I discovered that film and digital image-making were two completely different animals. I wanted to keep my traditional 4×5 cameras and lenses, but found out that they were really no match for great digital cameras and lenses on the market today.
With all this said, every photographer has to find the piece of equipment with which they feel most comfortable. Many cameras can handle the digital work that most professionals use them for, so the quality of the images comes down to only a few variables:
- Do you know about light?
- Do you know how to get the most from your camera?
- Are you using top quality optics?
These are really the main questions that need to be answered in order to create great images. Photographers need to have a facility with equipment because it is a “hardware-based” endeavor. It would be great if one could just blink, and there would be a great photo. But, we all know that’s not possible. You have to know how to use your equipment. You can make great photographs with a black box and a pinhole, but that won’t suffice for most commercial uses today.
Today, I prefer prime lenses to zooms because they seem to be sharper, smaller, easier to hold and they make you think more about your compositions. I carry four basic lenses: a 20mm wide angle, a 60mm macro, an 85mm portrait lens and a 135mm telephoto to compress distances. You shouldn’t need more than this complement of lenses.
So, finding the right equipment is a matter of taste. Make sure you’re comfortable with the cameras and lenses you choose. Test them to make sure they are performing optimally for the subjects you shoot. And, shoot often. Constant practice can improve your eye.