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Which is the right camera for you?


Some time back I was chatting with my good friend Mohandas. Mohandas is a middle aged man who earns his bread and not much of butter, running what is called a passport photo studio. His "studio" is nothing to write home about. It has hardly enough space for two people to sit together and get photographed. Just about adequate for "passport" photos.


As we were chatting, a young man came into the studio. Apparently he was known to Mohandas. "Uncle, I am planning to buy a digital camera" he announced gladly. "That is good" Mohandas said. "Which camera should I buy?" he asked. "You should buy a camera that suits your job. Anyway what are you going to do with the camera?" "Shoot photos of course." "What I mean is, what is the sort of photos you are planning to shoot?" "I am planning to shoot wild life. I am interested in that. I see many wild life photos in magazines and I like them." "Do you have any idea about wild life?" "My friend and I are planning to go to the forest and shoot some tigers there." The young man went on to mention a high end, expensive, high megapixel camera and a range of lenses that would cost a neat pile of money.


A few months later I happened to be with Mohandas again and the same young man came by. "So, which camera did you buy?" Mohandas asked. He mentioned a big brand and a list of lenses that could have passed off as a catalogue of that camera company. "Why did you chose that camera?" Mohandas asked. "It has more megapixels than any other camera and they have the largest range of lenses" he beamed. "Ah, that is good" Mohandas said with a smile. "I would like to see your photos. Surely you would have got some very good photos." "Uncle, I have not  gone to the forest yet. My friend has not been able to get leave from his office." Mohandas had a sad look on his face. "Son, sit down, I shall tell you a few things." The young man did not look very happy. "A big camera will not make you a better photographer. It is not a secret. What you need to know is, what exactly is your capability and what is your vision. What I mean is, what you see in your mind is important. It is all about knowing yourself. Do you know who said that? Not me, son. Your camera should not be bigger than you." The young man looked crest fallen.

"I am not trying to dissuade you, but photography is a lonely pursuit. You cannot go to the forest and ask that tiger taking a stroll in the jungle to pose for you. The tiger has better things to do. The animals in the forest have no respect for your 42 megapixel camera or the few lakhs your father spent on that camera. They are not interested in getting their portraits done. They do not need passports or id cards. They live in a free world." "I shall come back later." the young man said and disappeared.


After a few weeks, the young man went to Mohandas and said "I do not think I will be able to shoot any wild life photos. Uncle, so many people come your studio. Do you think any one of them would be interested in buying my camera?"


So, which camera is the right one for you?


That depends on what you want to shoot. Or what you can possibly shoot. Be realistic. Do you think you can go to Mount Everest and shoot that or get close to a charging lion and capture a picture? Can you go a brothel and get pictures of the occupants? To a great extend what you shoot depends on who will see your photos. If your family members would like photos of themselves and you need to send many photos to them, chose a camera that is good for that, not one suited for wild life photography. Surely your relatives are not wild animals! If your need is small, go for a small camera. If you are absolutely sure your work is going to be big, say like a large hoarding, go for a big, high megapixel camera. Or even think of hiring a large camera for the work. Big camera will not get you aesthetically better pictures. The old saying goes, the best camera is the one that you have with you at the moment you want to shoot. Would you care to carry a heavy, bulky high megapixel, high performance camera with you all the time, just in case you come across an interesting scene? If you plan to carry a camera all the time get a small camera. That is where a cell phone camera comes in handy. But that is not saying a cell phone camera is the best camera for you. It is just one of the options. It has huge limitations. I know a really good photographer who specializes in street photography. He uses a really small camera that can go into his pocket. It is there in his pocket all the time. He cycles from home to his college where he teaches and his camera is always in his pocket ready for anything. You should see his photos. They are just marvellous. Almost ninety nine percent of every day photography can be done with any camera, irrespective of its cost. If you have money to burn and get a thrill out of doing that, go ahead, but do not expect to get great photos. Money can buy you any camera but it cannot not buy you photography. I remember a friend of mine who once borrowed my camera. I asked him "what are you going to do with that?"

"I am planning to buy a camera." "Then why are you borrowing this?" "I will borrow as many cameras as possible and then decide which one suits me." I think it was a wise way to select a camera.


So, which camera is the right camera for you? Only you can decide. Only you can know yourself.


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