Monday, January 14, 2013

I'm Still Shooting With an Original 5D

I spend a fair amount of time keeping tabs on what's going on in the world of photography. I do that by following hundreds of photo sites, photographers, and others on Twitter and Facebook. I also regularly read articles published by photography magazines and web sites and more. As a result, I've come to a very obvious conclusion. If the Tweets, FB postings, and content of the majority of articles I read reflects the current state of photography, there's way more photographers overly interested in photo gear than they are in the art, craft, techniques, and practice of photography.

As a rule, I'm not an overly judgmental person but I will say this, as judgmental as it sounds: If most of your world of photography revolves around gear, i.e., the latest cameras, lenses, lights, software and more, it's a very small and sterile photographic world you live in. 

Now don't get me wrong. I'm not looking down on the gear we all use to do this thing we do. And keeping abreast of what's going with gear -- what's new and different, what will help you become a more efficient and productive photographer -- is important.  But if all you mostly know about (or care about) is the latest equipment coming onto the market and you're less interested in the creative aesthetics of photography and how to achieve those aesthetics, you're going to be, or mostly remain, a fairly sterile photographer in terms of the creatively satisfying output of your camera.

I bought a Canon EOS 5D when it was first released. At the time, I think it cost somewhere around $3500 or $3600 with tax. I did so because it was the first Canon camera with a full-frame sensor that I could more easily afford. If I remember correctly, that was in 2006. Guess what? It's 6 years later and I'm still shooting with that same Canon 5D. Why?  Because the subsequent, next-gen, Canon cameras won't make me a better photographer and they won't improve the output of my camera in the ways that truly matter to me. Because of that, I haven't seen why I should have spent the money to upgrade. In other words, if it ain't broken, don't fix it or replace it. I don't consider the aesthetics of what I produce to be broken. More importantly, my clients don't see it that way either. So why should I fix it or replace by upgrading?

That's not to say that, since purchasing my 5D, I haven't purchased any other gear. I have. I've purchased glass, lights, grip, and more. But a camera body? Nope. No reason to do so. And until my 5D decides to stop working (It has hundreds of thousands of shutter actuations on it) I'm not going to upgrade it. When it does quit on me, I'll probably have it fixed and relegate it to a backup. At that time, I will possibly purchase one of the next-gen 5Ds. Or, maybe not. I might simply purchase another original 5D, a much newer one or a brand new one (if I can find one) from some seller's old stock because, frankly, for me, the Canon 5D gets the job done. I'm not being negative on the newer camera bodies but, honestly, there's not a thing those next-gen Canon camera bodies (like the Mk II or Mk III) do that I truly need a camera body to do for the kind of work I perform. Not a freaking thing.

The pretty girl at the top is one I snapped a couple of weeks ago during one of my "shoot 5 girls in 25 minutes" sessions. You can click the pic to enlarge it if you're so inclined.


Lorenzo said...

Hi Jimmy,

I am totally with you on this one too. I bought at an estate sale a 5D2 that was originally refurbished with its kit lens and a really old Zeiss lens. This forced me to think about what I was doing as I was taking too many photos that I couldn´t even process and that I was not liking. I even bought (again as I sold my original) canon AE-1 program with a 50mm lens for extreme shock therapy.

Every time I feel that I'm loosing it (whatever "it" is) I go back to a small CF card and the manual lens or the film system. It works wonder for the little grey cells.

I keep gear envy in check as I know for a fact that I don't use most of my camera functions. Just Manual mode and seldom A or T priorities. I sound like an old geezer but that's the way I learned and it has kept me well. My only problem is glass envy, - I've got this thing for primes-.

jimmyd said...


Good photography will always be at least 80%, if not more, about the gray cells and significantly less about the gear. Always been that way, always will. I love your "shock therapy" technique!

munkisquisher said...

Hey Jimmy, Love your approach and for what you shoot you get the results.

I'm a self confessed gear head, I've gone through the upgrade cycle of 5D to 5D-II and just got the 5D-III. On top of that are 15 or so lenses and a bunch of lighting gear.

I think my difference to you is that I have a desk job (as an artist doing visual effects for films) and shooting photos is my hobby.

So I've got time during the day where I think about photography, gear, location and techniques without being able to hold a camera or shoot with it. This leads me more to the gear head side of thinking about the gear and the photos I want to shoot together. When I pick up a camera, I've then often got a clear idea of a technique I want to try.

Also seeing as it's my hobby, I don't really have to justify my spending as in investment in the bottom line of the business. If a new camera makes me happy, I'll buy it. The weighing up the pros and cons comes back being a pleasant mental exercise I can do on a coffee break.

So if you're a gear nut or not, this old quote still holds true...

“The single most important component of a camera is the twelve inches behind it.” – Ansel Adams

Jay said...

Hello friend,

Great post and one I post about often as from my teaching and education, I see lots of photographers spending tons of money on gear and their work doesn't improve one bit.

That being said, I upgraded (side and down) for specific reasons;

The 5D original buffer became too slow for me. The write speed is bad and when I'm shooting moving things, I need the buffer and write speeds. Also having the extra mp allows for bigger blow up images with less interpolation.

That being said, a HUGE draw back is the image size. After 12 years of doing this I finally upgraded and got a 5DII, 7D and 60D and I'll be honest, the image files of these cameras makes me want to go back to my 40D. The last time I produced an image with colors I love was with my 40D.

So I'll agree, it's not really the gear, but good gear helps get the shot and allows you to do more. It can be related to saying a car is a car. Sure, a 1977 pinto will get you from A to B, but a 2010 caravan will do the same but make the trip that much more enjoyable.

Rick said...

I've gone through four digital cameras. Dropped my Olympus and broke the lenses, (non interchangable), wore out the Fugi S-1, and replaced my Nikon D-50 with the D300s for the larger pixels.

If it weren't for digital I'd still be shooting my Canon A-1.

Da Game World said...

I had the XT and 7D in 2010. I was learning DSLR at that time and I did thought that it was all about the gear to improve everything but it wasn't. It was all knowledge, practice, studying and improving skills.

And then after learning and understanding photography better, I went and bought EOS 5D Classic in January 2013. For number one reasons I didn't get 5D MK II or III because... More Megapixels doesn't mean better, it just for printing large and I don't really print above 20x30 but there is a way to print large with 12MP, all you have to do is create panorama or use gigapan device, you will end going more than 50MP. So, camera bodies doesn't matter, its all in the head, and skills. Art and creativity is #1 thing to think about beside gears.

5D Buffer doesn't bother me not a bit cause I am using 400x CF card, and it was fast enough. I love the image quality, dynamic range and small file sizes. 5D still a great camera today, believe me you wont see much differences between 5D vs. 5D III for image quality. 5D II/III suffers noise banding in shadows.

Another reason I bought 5D Classic because all I ever wanted in the camera was more than just 3 autobracketing exposures which you can use via Magic Lantern hack. Look it up ML Beta 4 for EOS 5D Classic. Have a happy shooting!