Pro photographer challenged to spot difference between $500 camera and $4,000 camera

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Well the benefits of a high-end camera usually have to do with image size and ability to shoot in challenging conditions (low light, high speed, etc.). Looking at still life images on a small screen would not be a fair comparison of the differences at extremes, which would be quite noticeable.


I took photography classes in college in the late 1970s.
I used an old Argus C3 while most everyone else (or their parents) bought the nicest Nikon gear they could get their hands on.


I didn’t use it because it was hip or fashionable.
If you wanted that, there was the DIANA.

I used the Argus because it was free and it was sitting in the closet at my parent’s house and they said I could have it. I never worried about anyone stealing it.


Yeah, with these sorts of photos you aren’t testing the low light performance, shooting speed, autofocus speed/accuracy, ability to print at billboard sizes… all the things pros pay thousands of dollars for.

That said, there are people who spend thousands just to have “the best” camera, and then use it to take snapshots of their friends or whatever. This video demonstrates why that’s silly.


Yeah the clear benefits of a high end camera are going to be more apparent in extreme conditions (long distance, macro, low & high light, and multiple types of focal length situations). If you take a bunch of average photos that make a $500 camera look good that’s not really representative of what a $4000 can excel at.


You see this a lot with instruments, too. Not saying that more money doesn’t necessarily = higher quality, but once I realized that the difference between a moderately priced guitar and a crazy-ass-you-gotta-be-kidding-me-expensive guitar were relatively negligible (especially when factoring in a 5x price difference for a small amount of upgrades), my purchasing decisions changed drastically.


I use a DSLR instead of a mirrorless camera or my phone, not so much because of image quality (the gap is closing there although there may always be cases where a big dedicated camera wins), but because I personally have a lot of experience with it and I know how to make it do what I want. If I’m using the camera gear that I have a ton of experience with, then I usually get the shot. If I am using something else, I don’t.

It’s possible I could retrain myself and get what I wanted out of more modest equipment. But I already have what I have, and 20 years of experience under my fingertips with it, so, that’s what I use.


It’s pretty much been this way since the consumer camera became available… Gear is not a replacement for skill. I’m always amused by how many giant cameras I see on tourists who have no clue what they’re doing with them.

That said, the rewards of the high-end cameras begin to become reasonable when you are being paid and a lot is on the line… When you need a camera that will perform in weather, heat, cold, low light, fast movement… Dual memory cards for redundancy… and pure resolution. Need to crop in on something? Better hope the resolution and low grain is there. That’s when the extra $$ counts.

As an anecdote, for a while I was making interview videos for some tech businesses… I was using cheap gear that I knew could still capture great images. However. There were times when the shabby look of my DIY setup and small cameras really bugged some of my interview subjects. The gear did not match their personal ideas of what a professional environment should look like (even though the results were the same), and I had to do a lot of work to get them to be in the right state of mind for the shoot. I’ve seen that kind of prejudice on agency gigs too. If a client will be on set, you better make sure you’ve got some expensive glass on your camera. Sometimes the gear is about impressing people. Sad but true.


I would be really curious to see a test like this with a pro photographer comparing images between a $4000 DSLR and a recent iPhone/Android. I’ve seen some truly excellent images come out of phones these days.

I recently bought a camera (my first new gear in years) for a safari trip. I knew I wanted tons of zoom so I went with a $500 refurbished Nikon P900 with a built in 83x optical telephoto lens. Pro photographer friends insisted I was buying substandard gear and should invest in a top notch body and set of lenses. But in the safari jeep, the guys with pro kits were cursing their zoom lenses, having to constantly swap back and forth, missing great shots, lugging their huge bags around. I had a terrific time shooting with my ‘superzoom’ and thought I had pretty good results.


That is a beautiful camera.


That’s some sanity right there. Use what you know how to use. Why spend anything unless it gets you capabilities you want?


I still have that camera! I found it in a pawn shop when I was in 8th grade and used it until I got a digital in 2004. I love the Argus. It is very forgiving and smooth to the non-professional like myself.


I narrowly missed buying that model or a similar one from a thrift shop for $8 for lack of funds. I’m still broken up over it.


The one pro photog I know says he calls those, “GWC’s: Guys with Cameras”.

And that a common reason they are worth the money is because they can convince women that they are real professional photographers and… well… you can imagine.


I’m not necessarily a big fan of Canon cameras, but a lot of the problems with the T100 could have been solved with some decent glass. The Canon kit lenses are pretty good, and I like that 18-55 a lot. The 50, not so much.

By knowing your camera and it’s abilities and limitations, investing a couple of grand in a decent set of lenses, and having access to a simple softbox that can convert to a fill, there are very few circumstances where you’re not able to grab some really great shots, even with a low-end camera like the Rebel. When I compared shots I took with my old Olympus E-10 (4.4mp, circa 2003) and my OnePlus (which has the best sensor of any cell phone I’ve owned and shoots 4K), the E-10 shots still look really good.


He can can’t tell from the pixels.


How does that new Yashica Y35 compare?


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Don’t these things steal souls?


Not as often as pens do.


Isn’t a lot of that as much to do with lens as body? (Not a photography expert!)