Shooting Away from the Center

I swear, sometimes I think I must be related to Michael Johnston over at The Online Photographerhis recent post on hitting the sweet spot with consumer level cameras is something I’ve tried to articulate before, but never quite so eloquently.

The difference in image quality between an entry level DSLR (or even some higher end point and shoots) and a top-of-the-line, pull-a-second-mortgage camera under ideal conditions is pretty minimal. It’s when you move away from the center, when you move into the fringes of light and environment, that you see real differences.

My wife, who runs a great online bargain finding site, gets questions from readers about what sort of camera to buy from time to time. (And, to be honest, I get them all the time.) They all want the same thing – something that will take great vacation and birthday photos, something that will be good for soccer games and dance recitals and something under $250.

I’m sorry, but that doesn’t exist. That last requirement alone is going to have you buying a $1,500 70-200 mm f/2.8 zoom lens. That’s not something the average point-and-shoot camera can handle. Low light? Far away? Lots of movement? You’re way off the center.

So why is this relevant here? Because in a week or two I’m going to be handing out camera kits to my first semester students and they are, to a point, centered kits. They are very, very good at most things. They are excellent learning tools. But they are not complete kits, there will be fringes they won’t be able to work in.

For them, and for any shooter, it comes down to knowing your gear. What you have is what you have – shoot within its limitations, occasionally push the envelope, but understand that the gear does matter at some level.

Mark E. Johnson

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