Are you a 1, 2, 3, or 4?

Kodak DCS 620x, Kodak electronics in a Nikon F5 body.  2MP for a mere $10,000 in the year 2000.

I am amazed at the changes in the photography world in the last 20 years.  Yes, cameras have become little computers that gather images to last forever.  I bought my first digital camera in June of 2000.  I wasn’t on the bleeding edge at this point, but I was on the leading edge.

In 2000, I will put photographers in 4 categories:

  1. Casual shooter, probably owned an instamatic or a smaller film size that had limited capabilities, but it was inexpensive to buy.
  2. Intermediate photographer.  They probably owned an inexpensive 35mm camera with a fixed or zoom lens that was easy to carry around and could provide nice pictures.
  3. Advanced Amateur or professional.  They owned an SLR camera that used 35mm film, but with a large lens selection and better lenses, they were able to create better pictures
  4. The Professional, They probably used a 35mm camera and also a medium format camera and maybe large 4×5 cameras.

One characteristic that was true then and is still true today, bigger is better (in most situations).  It makes sense, a bigger camera/lens/film/sensor will catch more light which makes it easier to capture a better detailed picture.  This is true today with digital cameras, but there are some factors that level the playing field some.

My first Digital Camera, Sony Cybershop DSC-S50.  2MP camera for MSRP $700

When I bought my first digital camera in 2000, the technology had advanced enough that a digital camera could be bought to satisfy the needs of all four categories.  Although they didn’t satisfy all the needs of the advanced amateur or Professional.  But most professionals saw that technology was changing and digital was the future, so they adapted and learned the technology along the way.  Ok, one of the best Professional cameras in the 2000, was a joint effort between Kodak and Nikon, that cost about $10,000 and had 2MPixels (MP).  It did take good pictures though.

Fast forward to today. A quality Professional full frame (35mm) will cost $2,000 to $6,000.  These Cameras will have anywhere from 25MP to 50MP.  Plus expensive lenses to go with it.  Times have changed.

Let’s look at our 4 photography categories.

  1. The Casual shooter is happy with their cell phone.  And, they should be, the modern cell phone can take better pictures than what the film cameras they were buying in 2000 were capable of doing.
  2. The intermediate photographer is using their cell phone, but they may be buying a digital camera that has a significant zoom.  Since their cell phone doesn’t really zoom.  But, they aren’t overly concerned with low light shooting and depth of field.
  3. The advanced amateur is concerned with low light shooting and depth of field control in their pictures.  They probably have an interchangeable lens camera (ILC)
  4. The Professional will of course have several cameras.  But their best camera will most likely be a Full Frame capable of shooting 20MP and up pictures.  They may also go up a step to a Medium Format digital camera (costing $8,000 to $45000).  Some still shoot film in the medium and large format categories.  Yes, some still shoot film in the 35mm format, but they are becoming a rare breed, and I don’t expect to see a revival as we are seeing with albums/records in the music world.
Sony A7 II, a Full Frame 25MP camera

In the next 3 blogs, I’ll look at what cameras make sense in categories 2, 3, and 4.

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