The Camera As a Tool


Canon EOS 5D Mark II with 50mm 1.4

I have loved my Canon 20D since the day I bought it back in early 2005… all 8+ megapixels that it offers, along with the tiny LCD screen on the back that my tired old eyes can hardly use, and the annoying affinity it has for gathering dust on its sensor. It has traveled much of the Maine landscape with me in every kind of weather imaginable, it has witnessed and captured the beauty of Yosemite and other parts of California on several memorable trips, and it has even crossed the mighty Atlantic to enjoy my homeland of Ireland. Throw in five years worth of wonderful family memories as Jack and Sam got to know each other, and I feel pretty good about how well this camera has served me. Throughout the years I have also employed several handy and more portable point and shoot digital cameras, all of which are capable of excellent image quality, but methinks it might be time to upgrade my main camera and join the 21st century.

I have always understood that whichever camera I am using is merely a tool… nothing more, and nothing less. Every now and then someone might generously tell me that they like one of my photographs, and every now and then someone will also tell me, “You must have a really nice camera.” I usually just smile and brush their back-handed compliment off as being misinformed but well-intentioned, and even though I know it shouldn’t bother me, truth be told sometimes it just plain irks me. The camera didn’t create the image, I did! I was the one waking at an ungodly hour to enjoy some beautiful light in a stunning location, I was the one determining the technical details of how to best portray a particular scene, and I was the one who deciding what to include and exclude compositionally within the frame. Without getting too corny or philosophical about it, I see it as being exactly the same as a painter choosing a brush, a writer penning his words, or a chef working with fresh ingredients… it is the person using the tool who brings creativity, passion, and experiences to determining the effectiveness of the final outcome, whether that is a painting, a novel, a great meal, or a photograph. And besides… the reason I spend time exploring pretty places isn’t necessarily to make a photograph, but rather it is to engage with my surroundings in a personal way, admiring the awesomeness and beauty of nature, and most importantly, to feed my own soul. Nothing new to this notion I know, but I wanted to say it anyway… it isn’t the camera that matters, but rather the person using the camera.

Having said all of that, I am excited to be upgrading soon to a more modern camera model – one that will provide highly anticipated solutions such as a very welcome self-cleaning mechanism for the sensor, live view on a relatively huge LCD so that I will at least be able to focus accurately, and considerably more resolution that will in turn hopefully lead to better image quality. Oh yes, and then there is HD video… hmmm. I haven’t yet decided between the Canon 5D Mark II and the Canon 7D… but one thing’s for sure, having a nicer camera will almost certainly help me take better pictures 😉


6 thoughts on “The Camera As a Tool

  1. I just did what you’re talking about. Used a Nikon D60 for the last 3 years, and upgraded to the Nikon D7000. Many new features, HD video, big display, better resolution and low-light capability.

    It’s a bit disconcerting at first, things don’t work the same, new features, I couldn’t just shoot and manipulate the camera settings almost without thinking.

    But after a few days I’m in the groove and enjoying the new creative possibilities with the new gear. Find a good home for your old camera and have fun with the new one!

  2. Ben Horne

    It’s always exciting when deciding on a new camera. I’d say that the 20D has done you well. Whichever camera you go with, you will enjoy. Since you do a lot of landscape shooting, I think the 5DII might be your best bet. The full frame sensor really helps with fine detail. The 7D is also a fantastic camera though. Flip a coin?

    • David Patterson

      Ben… thanks. The 20D has definitely served me well and I am looking forward to being able to take advantage of the latest advancements in digital image capture. I envy your patience and expertise with film cameras though… maybe some day I can follow that path. Thanks for stopping by!

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