Cheap Camera vs. Pro Camera: Which One’s Which?

How many times have you heard the proverbial quote, “the best part of a camera is the 12 inches behind it”? I bet not enough. If you’ve been complaining that your APS-C camera doesn’t shoot that well and you might need to upgrade to a full-frame, or that your smart phone isn’t a serious camera and you should at least purchase a DSLR, think again. Your complaints are misguided; your camera is not to be blamed:

Yes, a professional camera and a great lens make it a lot easier to capture your vision. But you should remember that your camera or your lens is not going to make the photo for you. As Pye puts it,

“The camera is simply a tool.”

To prove the point, here is a collage of images that were shot using an iPhone. Stunning, no?


Images Shot with an iPhone

To further drive home the point, Pye sets up a sort of challenge. He pitted the Canon 5D Mark III against the Canon Rebel T5i. The full-frame DSLR was paired with an 85mm f/1.2 L II lens against an 85mm f/1.8 lens mounted on the crop DSLR. That’s $5,400 worth of sheer brawn against a humble $800 entry level kit. Which one do you think makes better images?

Both the cameras shot the exact same composition, same lighting, same model, and with the same silver reflector working as the main-light. With the full-frame camera the position of the photographer was closer to the subject to compensate for the wider angle of view. Check out the images below:

5D Mark iii vs. Rebel T5i

One of the shots taken during the test

cheap vs pro camera

The other shot from the same shoot.

Can you tell which is which?

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4 responses to “Cheap Camera vs. Pro Camera: Which One’s Which?”

  1. I go with the old saying that the best camera is the one you have in your hand right now. The main reason that pros spend so much money on a body is for dependability. My 1DS mk3 is as good as bomb-proof and exactly what I need for all-weather, all-terrain shooting. In the studio I frequently use a 600D and have even had phone-pics published.

    As Rajib said, the camera is only a tool and expensive kit won’t make you a good photographer.

  2. Oh, and the top one is off the 5

  3. Chris says:

    I hate those articles. You guys make it sound like a pro camera is pointless. I’m using a RebelT2i and I can’t nail focus wide open because the body makes my 50mm 1.4 shift focus horribly. Furthermore, I only have one center cross type focus point. We all know that focus and recompose shifts the focal plane which will give you a nice out-of-focus picture. With a pro camera, I have multiple cross type focus points and the autofocus system works better. Also, the dynamic range of a pro camera allows me to use higher shutter speeds in bad lighting conditions which are wanted to eliminate camera shake. Of course, if you guys have the time to set up a photoshoot to compare an entry level camera with a pro camera, you will almost get the same results. The question is, though, how many shots did it take you? Did you apply sharpening in camera? What if you have to nail focus with a model that is walking towards you? How well does each focus point perform? I could ask millions of questions that not a single person considers when writing this kind of articles. It feels like you guys want to prove, at any cost, that it is the person behind the camera. This is not entirely true, especially when we’re talking about amateur photography. I’m sure people like Annie Leibovitz could take very interesting pictures with my shitty old camera because they have the experience but the quality of the picture would not live up to their pro-gear. I just got into photography and my pictures already look good enough so that people start asking me about it. I read a lot about post processing in order to achieve a certain look (like Dani Diamond’s for example). Give me some pro-gear, a makeup artist, people who help me with lighting, models and 2 weeks to practice. I will step up my game considerably just by using pro gear. And the first picture is from the 5DMark :)

  4. Eric says:

    On a 5 in iPhone screen there won’t be much difference. But you aren’t going to buy a pro camera for that.

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