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Do you want to listen to the music or the equipment – some thoughts on cameras

Discussion in 'The Watering Hole' started by Jock Elliott, Jul 4, 2014.

  1. Jock Elliott

    Jock Elliott SC All-Pro

    Jan 3, 2012
    Troy, NY
    Back shortly after the dawn of time and before the Internet was available for instant research, I decided I wanted a decent sound system for listening to folk music and bluegrass. Speaking to friends and acquaintances who were audiophiles, the cost of a “decent” (read: adequate but not top end) system kept rising until it became apparent that I would have to spend a considerable fraction of the cost of a new automobile to get an “adequate” system.

    Exhausted, demoralized, and confused, I stumbled into an audio shop and poured out my plight to its knowledgeable owner. He looked me dead in the eye and said, “Do you want to listen to the music or the equipment?” I bought a modest bookshelf system, listened to my music (and sometimes played along), and never spent a moment wondering whether the high frequency or bass response was all that it should be.

    What put me in mind of this encounter was a recent post by Sue (kyteflyer) here: https://www.photographerslounge.org/showthread.php?t=28310&page=3 Take a look at the image of the black shouldered kite; it’s as nice a wildlife photograph as I have ever seen. I would be proud to have taken it.

    And guess what? It was taken with an FZ100 – yesterday’s technology, a couple of generations back in the FZ, hardly worth – if you listen to some of the pundits on the Internet – taking into the field. And yet the image speaks for itself. In my not-so-humble opinion, it’s good enough for almost any usage I can think of, including publication in a magazine, with the possible exception of a very large print.

    Now here’s the kicker: according to Sue “This is a crop, its only about 25% of the full shot (and resized down anyway).” Seriously? Well, I guess that means I don’t need a full-frame DSLR and a $12,000 telephoto lens with teleconverter to take a shot as nice as Kyteflyer’s.

    Recently, I went to a nature photo workshop. A fellow there had a Canon 70D with a Tamron 150-600 mounted. He let me try it. It was a heck of a rig. It had about the same reach as my FZ200 and the autofocus was faster, but it was substantially bigger and heavier than my outfit. I wouldn’t want to carry it all the time on the chance that I might capture something extraordinary.

    But my FZ200 or my G12? The only time I have regretted those cameras was when I didn’t have them with me when the Wonderful Thing happened. (Like yesterday, when my wife and watched 15 geese stop traffic as they crossed a highway.)

    Sometimes, you just have to travel light and listen to the music.

    Cheers, Jock
     
    • Like Like x 13
  2. pdh

    pdh SC Legend

    Jan 2, 2011
    well, quite
     
    • Like Like x 1
  3. Ray Sachs

    Ray Sachs SC Legend

    Sep 21, 2010
    Not too far from Philly
    you should be able to figure it out...
    I get your basic point but only agree with it to a really limited degree. Because there's a huge difference between creating the art and being the audience for it. I too am happy to listen to music on pretty basic consumer level gear - Sonos in the home and my iphone on the road with decent consumer level headphones or a very low end car stereo. And happy to view most photographs only on the web at relatively modest resolution.

    But you can be assured that those who CREATED the music you're listening to put almost as much thought and effort into the technical details of how it was recorded as they did creating the music itself. Many rock and blues performers toil away for months on end with the highest tech studio equipment to get just the right sound on recordings so that they sound like 1930's field recordings from the Mississippi Delta (and occasionally the music is almost as good as from the Delta)... And it's key that they are taking into account how their audience will be listening to it. In many cases that used to mean AM radio and they tediously engineered their records so they would sound best for AM radio, given all of it's inherent technical limitations. Now I suspect most popular recordings are made with mp3 compression and ultimate playback through an mp3 player and a Beats headset in mind. Maybe Deutche Grammaphone is still making audiophile recordings of classical music, but I have no idea what their targeted playback system would be anymore... So I'm listening to music from highly compressed mp3 files through consumer gear, but I'm real glad the artists I listen to are recording the music with me in mind on far more sophisticated equipment!

    In terms of photography, we also have to think about how our photographs are going to be viewed. If they're going to be shown only in relatively low resolution sizes on the internet, Sue's shot (which I also admired and commented on) is as good as it would EVER need to be. If it's going to be viewed on a higher res device or printed large, OTOH, it probably would not have the same impact it has on Flickr and linked here on SC.

    But an equally important thing to keep in mind is that even when you're making photographs to mostly be displayed online or in small prints, the process of creating them CAN be aided by higher end gear. I'm in the process of selling my Fuji APS gear and have already sold my m43 gear and have just bought a 24mp Nikon D610. I fell in love with the sensor in the camera through the RX1, which uses the same chip. I rarely print larger than 12x18 and I do plenty of showing and viewing my stuff online, so the highest resolution isn't an issue for me in that respect. But I've found that as someone who likes to put some energy into processing my photographs, that the files from that sensor allow me to do things I simply can't on other files without pushing past their limits. It's incredible dynamic range opens up creative possibilties that aren't there with other gear I've used. So even though my audience may not be viewing through the highest end tech, I'm glad to be making the photographs with it. My nice camera is the high-end recording equipment being used to make photographs that will be viewed on really rudimentary displays, or maybe occasionally for higher end (high res or large prints) viewing.

    NONE of this is a substitute for a good eye and good composition - the CONTENT of a photograph will always be 95-99% of what makes it work or not work. I think this was your basic point and I agree 100% But I figure my eye is my eye, my compositions are my compositions, my content is gonna be my content whether I'm shooting with an Pentax Q or a full frame DSLR. So assuming my content will be as good as it's going to be with either high end or low end gear and that the camera isn't getting in my way somehow (which some have done), I'd rather have the file from the high end gear to work with and pull perhaps just a bit more of what makes the shot work through my processing. That it can then be viewed either at 1024 pixels on the internet or in a 40x60" print is an added bonus.

    -Ray
     
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  4. ReD

    ReD SC Hall of Famer

    Mar 27, 2013
    Been there & passed through it to a better life.

    Now don't give a toss whether its Stereo or Mono

    Same with just about everything Cars, Houses, Cameras
     
    • Like Like x 7
  5. ajramirez

    ajramirez SC All-Pro

    Jul 9, 2010
    Caguas, Puerto Rico
    Antonio
    What Ray said.

    Cheers,

    Antonio
     
    • Like Like x 2
  6. Jock Elliott

    Jock Elliott SC All-Pro

    Jan 3, 2012
    Troy, NY
    Ray,

    I take your point and I don't disagree. We each make our choices about what gear we are willing to carry. Those choices bring with them advantages and disadvantages that are both immediate (carry weight, for example) and down-the-road (the ability or not to make big prints.)

    As to the audio gear, I will relate a story. Some years ago I was a roadie sideman to a folk musician. We played out; made a few bucks, had some good times.

    At one of our gigs, a sound technician from my day job (at a major research and development center) came and made a stereo recording of Bert and I onstage with top-end recording gear.

    Later I was able to hear that recording played through a friend's top end audio system that included Magnaplanar (sp?) speakers that were flat panels the size of room dividers. They were astonishingly expensive and incapable of being over-driven. Literally, you could put all the power the system was capable of through the speakers and they wouldn't go into distortion. It was loud and it sounded exactly like being on stage with my friend. The "presence" was amazing.

    Now, was it worth the cost of a small automobile to me? Absolutely not. We make our choices and live with the consequences.

    Thanks for your wisdom.

    Cheers, Jock
     
    • Like Like x 1
  7. Luke

    Luke Super Moderator

    Nov 11, 2011
    Milwaukee, WI USA
    Luke
    Jock and Ray....both well written bits. And I agree with both of you. I can enjoy a rich detailed photograph for the technical bits and the detail in the shadows. And I can enjoy a well composed shot packed with emotion shot with a telephone camera (or whatever they call those things).

    I slightly disagree with Ray's point about the "quality" of gear being more important on the creative side. I'd rather look at photos shot by a great photographer with a disposable camera than shots taken by my mother with a Sony RX1.

    I'd also rather listen to low-fi old recordings of the Ellington band from the late 20s and early 30s on an old hi-fi console than any of the soulless big band recordings recorded "direct to disc" and half-speed mastered and played back on a turntable that costs more than my first 3 cars added together.

    That is not to say that one can't enjoy the gear.....just that it isn't important.
     
    • Like Like x 6
  8. Jock Elliott

    Jock Elliott SC All-Pro

    Jan 3, 2012
    Troy, NY
    ROFLMAO!

    Cheers, Jock
     
  9. Ray Sachs

    Ray Sachs SC Legend

    Sep 21, 2010
    Not too far from Philly
    you should be able to figure it out...
    Luke,

    I wasn't suggesting that the quality of gear was more important than content on the creative side. Just that it's more important on the creative side than the audience side. I'd rather look at BB's iphone shots than most of my RX1 photos, but I'd still rather look at my photos from the RX1 than an iPhone.

    As for Ellington, I would too, but if the Duke could come back with Paul Gonsalves and record that stuff AGAIN on the new gear, I suspect I'd like it every bit as much if not more. Because he'd make damn sure it sounded like he wanted it to sound...

    I think we agree that content is very nearly the whole game in terms of what you want to listen to or look at, but assuming the same content, I'd prefer it be made on state of the art gear. The caveat being if that gear doesn't get in the way of the performance. That can happen and it's something the creative person always has to try to avoid. But assuming the same content and performance, I'd prefer it came through better equipment than lesser equipment...

    -Ray
     
  10. Ray Sachs

    Ray Sachs SC Legend

    Sep 21, 2010
    Not too far from Philly
    you should be able to figure it out...
    Absolutely - agree 100%. All about our own priorities...

    There will always be some types of shot that I'll probably get with my Coolpix A that I might not with the D610 and it's more than good enough to get them. But for most of what I shoot and how I shoot, the D610 isn't a hinderance to me. And once the cost of lenses are figured in, it's no more and is probably less expensive than the mirrorless gear it's replacing.

    The key is knowing the tradeoffs we're each gonna be most comfortable with...

    -Ray
     
    • Like Like x 1
  11. john m flores

    john m flores SC All-Pro

    Aug 13, 2012
    Good points all around. Personally, the pursuit of the right gear and the technical aspect of photography has been fun, but it's also come at an expense. Time and money could have been spent learning more about the history of photography, taking classes, and learning more about finding my voice, my POV, etc…instead of looking at ISO3200 100% crops of a piece of red fabric.

    I don't regret all that time spent on gear as wasted time, however. It's made me a better technical photographer. But I approach the technical side differently than I did five years ago. Nowadays, my goal is to be fluent enough in the technical aspects so that when I am working to capture an image, 80% of my attention is on the mood and the lighting and the composition and the feeling of the moment and 20% is on the gear and the settings.

    I'm not quite there yet, but at least I now know where I'm going with all of this...
     
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  12. Biro

    Biro SC All-Pro

    Aug 7, 2011
    Jersey Shore
    Steve
    This may be a part of the general maturation process... and I'm right there with you. I've been a gear head (as in cars) all of my life. Today, I find myself less and less interested in the enthusiast offerings and appreciate truly well-designed and built low-end models.

    The same for audio: I've spent decades as a professional in radio and TV, and today I actually prefer a mono signal from a decent speaker than stereo from two cheap speakers... and don't even bother me with separate woofers and tweeters. Just give me a competent full-range speaker. It sounds more natural to my ears anyway.

    Houses? I've never lusted for anything beyond my modest two-bedroom townhouse.

    Cameras? After nearly 40 years in photography, I'm coming along there as well. I've never been a pixel-peeper and find my needs are simpler with each passing year. But, like John Flores, I've managed to learn a lot while having fun along the way. And I finally seem to know what I want in terms of both cameras and results.

    At the end of the day, it's good that we have plenty of choice because we're all just a bit different.
     
    • Like Like x 5
  13. ReD

    ReD SC Hall of Famer

    Mar 27, 2013
    Yes .. with you again Steve - Full range is what I use - point source DIY model (but just a bit high end)

    At this moment in time I don't lust after cameras but do find I'm interested in trying them for the experience. - DIY Pinhole was (and is) an excellent rewarding experience.
     
  14. Boid

    Boid SC All-Pro

    Dec 15, 2011
    Bangalore, India
    Rajiv
    I think everyone should do what I do. Buy 16 different cameras, including big heavy DSLRs and a bunch of lenses, and light street shooters like the GR and the X100, and everything in between, and then leave them at home and loathe yourself.
     
    • Like Like x 11
  15. Ray Sachs

    Ray Sachs SC Legend

    Sep 21, 2010
    Not too far from Philly
    you should be able to figure it out...
    Sounds like an awesome strategy - I'll have to try it. My problem is I'm ruthless about selling stuff that's not getting used, so I never build up that much of an inventory...

    -Ray
     
    • Like Like x 2
  16. Luckypenguin

    Luckypenguin SC Hall of Famer

    Dec 24, 2010
    Brisbane, Australia
    Nic
    Dollar-for-dollar and pound-for-pound comparisons are tilted significantly in the favour of bridge-style cameras at extreme telephoto focal lengths, but much less so at more "normal" focal lengths.
     
    • Like Like x 1
  17. Jock Elliott

    Jock Elliott SC All-Pro

    Jan 3, 2012
    Troy, NY
    I would absolutely agree with that. When I run ExposurePlot on my pictures folder, I find a great deal of my photos are at extreme telephoto or full wide.

    Cheers, Jock
     
  18. Isoterica

    Isoterica SC Hall of Famer

    Dec 6, 2011
    There is what you need to accomplish your goal, and what you don't need but instead is bells and bangles beyond-- and that is tailored to each individuals needs. What is necessary for one photographer like a big weatherproofed dslr and a good telephoto lens for a nature photographer, isn't necessary for a street photographer who wants a wide angle and a smaller profile camera so as to not be noticed as easily. Ray has a point that the music we listen to has been performed on equipment, produced via equipment and recorded using equipment that was likely not a radio shack mixer and cassette recorder-- but Jock makes a good point that you only really need what gets the shots that please you. Ultimately don't get lost in the gear, right? Get lost in your craft and use the gear that you require to pull it off.
     
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  19. Chrisnmn

    Chrisnmn SC Veteran

    405
    Jul 8, 2012
    Auckland, New Zealand
    Chris Leskovsek
    That! :thiagree:
     
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  20. kyteflyer

    kyteflyer ~@¿@~

    Jan 31, 2011
    Newcastle, Australia
    Sue
    Bingo. I have hundreds of dollars worth of gear I hardly ever use. I really need to rationalise/sell
     
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