Equipment - The Other View

By Ted Ayers

The proliferation of new products and information in the photography magazines and journals has been informative and confusing to professional, amateur and novice photographers alike.

There has been much said about manual vs. automatic cameras and film vs. digital cameras, begging the issue of which is best. This material is directed at expanding the photographic market and is presented to the consumer in such a way as to have him/her believe that they cannot live without the latest and greatest product. After all, the manufacturers are there to make money.

I study that information, and then draw my own conclusions regarding its value and applicability to my own photographic needs and desires. I have also discussed it with others, including some LPA members, and have come to the conclusion that some attempt to simplify and clarify the issue is in order. Here, then, is the other view.


The purported advantage automatic cameras have over manual cameras has been discussed ad infinitum, such as shutter priority, aperture priority, program modes, auto bracketing, multi-segment metering, etc. It’s true that these new cameras are electronic and technological marvels with great flexibility. The question is will they make you a better photographer? I think not! A great image has good composition, proper exposure, depth of field and sharpness to match the situation, and conveys a message with impact. These characteristics have very little to do with the equipment you use but everything to do with how you use your equipment. My advice to those who really want to develop their photographic skills is not to be intimidated by the high tech, high priced equipment you see, hear and read about. Get yourself a good manual camera. Understand its capabilities— especially its light metering system. Understanding your equipment, whatever kind you have, because it is fundamental to being a good photographer.

My favorite cameras are still my 30-year old Canon FTB and 30-year old Canon F-1— both manual. They do not have multi-segment metering, but I know how the cameras’ exposure meters respond to the scene and adjust my exposure accordingly. They do not have auto bracketing, but I can manually bracket very quickly.

They do have depth-of-field preview —something most automatic cameras do not have. These cameras can also produce excellent macro images by simply reversing the lens, something you cannot do with automatic cameras.

  • Develop knowledge of the interrelationship between shutter speed and aperture to control depth of field.
  • Learn the hyperfocal distance of your lenses to save time in rapidly-changing situations.
  • Understand the fundamentals of the Zone System of exposure for both black and white and color and become familiar with the characteristics of the film you are using.
  • Different films respond to light and color in different ways. Read material and develop an eye for composition.
  • Participate in workshops and field trips. These will all help you come home with beautiful images.


Much has also been made about the advantages of digital cameras over film cameras. Well folks, digital is here to stay but film ain’t goin away—at least not in our lifetime. Phenomenal strides have been made in the development of digital cameras, but there is still a long way to go. The technology will continue to evolve and costs will drop significantly. For me, digital simply isn’t there yet for image sizes 11 by 14 inches or larger. The newest camera models by Canon, Fuji and Kodak have 11-14 megapixel resolutions. That’s great, but it’s still far short of the 23 mp generally regarded as necessary to match 35 mm film resolution.

File storage is another issue that needs further development for these very high-resolution digital cameras. A 12 mp resolution image requires a 35.5 mb file, meaning you get 3 images on a 128 mb storage card. The alternative is to purchase high-end microdrives and/or storage devices, and they are very expensive. Image sensor type and size is still another issue to be resolved.

Besides these things, there is also much to do in dealing with the very high power requirements of digital cameras.

Great strides will be made in digital camera and battery technology over the next 2 to 3 years. When the time is right, I will purchase a digital SLR, but I have no intention of ever giving up my film cameras. I still enjoy photography the old fashioned way. I own manual, automatic and digital cameras. I am just very selective as to when and where I use them. Remember that great images come from seeing, composing, exposing and printing. Your equipment type has very little to do with it.

Get out your gear, whatever type it is, and shoot, shoot, shoot. Above all, participate, compete and enjoy photography.


For comments: By Ted Ayres

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