Nice Photo/Picture – What Camera/Lens Did You Use?

Now this is something that really irks me…

I first encountered it when I joined some Malaysian photography forums a couple of years back, there was a lot of “Wow nice pics, what camera did you use?!” – usually stated with horrible grammar and spelling.

I was a member of a bunch of more International forums too and noticed that I didn’t really see that so much, I got more involved in Flickr then and hardly ever saw it there – perhaps because the EXIF info is more easily available (EXIF show what settings and camera were used).

But then there are plugins for Firefox that can show you EXIF in pictures too (Opanda, FxIF, EXIF Viewer) if you really want to know what was used to take the picture, I think it’s more important for people to check the settings rather than the camera used.

But why do they care what lens and camera was used? How does it matter? If it’s more expensive, or a top-end camera does that mean I have less skill in taking a nice picture?

You don’t meet a published author and say “Hey I read your book, it was really good – what typewriter did you use?”

Wouldn’t that be considered a big insult?

It’s just a tool that achieves an end result, it’s not what makes the picture. Given a better camera makes it EASIER to take pictures in certain situations and certainly makes changing settings and start-up faster..but it doesn’t effect the exposure, composition, concept or understanding of light displayed by the photographer.

The sensor in a low end dSLR and a high end is often the same, the difference is the build quality of the body, the external buttons (high end cameras have a LOT more buttons) and the speed of processing/taking pictures (faster processor and bigger buffer).

The image quality (known as IQ) is about the same, the photographer is making the difference.

Lenses make more of a difference, but at web size (500-800) pixels a shot with a low-end kit lens (like the Nikon or Canon 18-55) and a high end f/2.8 lens at mid range aperture (f/5.6-8) are indistinguishable.

So really it doesn’t matter either, and that is why it irks me.

It’s one of the reasons why I stayed on Flickr more than the local forums, and then got tired of both and started Shutter Asia – we totally avoid any gearheads if possible (people who think buying the latest most expensive gear will give you awesome pictures and ALWAYS ask “Wow nice bokeh, what lens did you use?“) and we avoid any hero worshiping of ‘senior’ or ‘sifu’ photographers that take crappy pics but have expensive gear.

There’s an endemic in the photography scene in Malaysia at the moment, all you need to do to get praised is:

1) Take a picture of a pretty girl (doesn’t have to be that pretty)
2) Use a long lens with a wide aperture and get creamy bokeh (85mm f/1.8, 135mm f2/0, 70-200mm f/2.8)

People will worship you like you’re a God. You can have a crappy exposure, blown highlights, green whitebalance, bad composition (chopped limbs) but as long as you have the girl and the bokeh you are super kau pro photographer.

All you need to do is browse some of the famous photographers on Flickr and see they are using 3.2 megapixel compact cameras….yeah they can’t blow up their pics to 40″x30″ prints – but they still are making superb images.

Pick any brand, any compact camera and you’ll find superb images.

So please don’t insult people by asking what camera or lens they use, just appreciate their pics, give some feedback and constructive criticism if possible. The picture they took is pretty much possible with any camera and lens, it’s their skill and vision that made the image – not the camera.

Never forget that.




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45 Responses to Nice Photo/Picture – What Camera/Lens Did You Use?

  1. Dr. Tan July 8, 2008 at 2:22 pm #

    Ya, which is why I’m on Strobist’s pool.

    Even then, there are alot of shit photos. Some of people jumping, of people showing ‘test shots’, “I’m just mucking around with my camera”.

  2. David July 8, 2008 at 3:07 pm #

    True, I agree..

    I’m still new to this photography thing but a friend who brought me into it told me this before, ‘The photographer takes the shot, the camera just makes it easier’.

    But I still have loads more to learn though lol

  3. kevin July 8, 2008 at 3:32 pm #

    totally agree with what you said. its the photographer and not the tools that makes a picture say a thousand words.

    but hey…


  4. sooyin July 8, 2008 at 3:51 pm #

    LOL…i’ve been asked the same question before, and it never really occurred to me until now that yes, it IS kinda irritating, isn’t it? especially when the next question that follows my answer is: “oh…so how much is that camera/lens?” =P

  5. Albert Ng July 8, 2008 at 4:13 pm #

    I like to Save For Web. 😀 Save bandwidth!

    I’m not big on pixel-peeping although I am a fan of good painterly bokeh as opposed to the Gaussian blurred look some lenses have. Having an enlarged background alone doesn’t make for great bokeh.

    I like green WB! It seems not so off compared to blueish WB. Sometimes when I don’t know which direction to tint it, green is where I go.

  6. shun2u July 8, 2008 at 5:07 pm #

    you are a great photograher la!

  7. hOcmun July 8, 2008 at 5:59 pm #

    you said it right. thanks for the sharing.
    however the local photography forum is sucky sometimes,
    when you need people to give comment or suggestion they just don’t border
    but when someone else more ‘famous’ in the forum posted some crappy picture they got all the attention there.
    what’s wrong with malaysians.

  8. ch3ryl July 8, 2008 at 6:10 pm #

    yes, the photographer more important than the camera used. & to some people, having photo-editing software does wonders even to crappy photos. to me, the best photos are still the unedited ones. 🙂

  9. acidict July 8, 2008 at 6:44 pm #

    Truly agree bro …. NICE POST!! u speek da tooth and nothing but da tooth!BTW nice wordings .. what keyboard did u use? 😛

  10. Ranga July 8, 2008 at 7:25 pm #

    Good post, ST! Well said! I’m guilty of the question myself but I’m not a photographer nor do I aspire to be. I wouldn’t know the EXIF data from the filename. I also do the incessant accusations of “Photoshop!” but you know I’m just kidding, right? Right?? Heh.

  11. Dabido July 8, 2008 at 8:27 pm #

    Great post. Which fingers did you use and what did you type it on?! 🙂

  12. Ginny July 8, 2008 at 8:52 pm #

    ohh I totally agree! it all depends on the photographer and not the camera. the camera is just a tool aye.

  13. Tom Hayton July 8, 2008 at 9:05 pm #

    Agree. The people who fuss about gear are usually crap photographers.

  14. moons July 8, 2008 at 9:18 pm #

    I guess quite a lot of people tend to think that expensive means good without even considering personal skills.

    Just like some people who just get a spanking new pc with high end specs then go around bragging about how great his/her pc is, while the fact remains that the pc isn’t even properly maintained or configured.

  15. eileen July 8, 2008 at 10:47 pm #

    nice post. yea i agree with you. people tends to get praise for showing off their gadgets rather than the skills.

    anyway, try to drop by there’s lots of good pictures there too. 😀

    have a nice day

  16. Huai Bin July 8, 2008 at 10:52 pm #

    Wise words indeed, my friend. I admit I take a lot of crappy photos coz I tend to carry around a compact digicam. Then again, it’s only for the blog so I don’t really need high res images.

    I’ve been asked the same question before too, and I don’t even use a dSLR. It’s the lighting conditions more than anything with the Sony T300 that I’m using – low light shots are horrible, underpowered flash but bright daylight shots are fine.

  17. TikTsin July 8, 2008 at 11:17 pm #

    no and yes Mr.ST

    no lens does matter if it’s a DSLR. puny point and shoot ones jangan harap

    yes it’s stupid to harp on the camera make and model.

  18. Pientai July 9, 2008 at 12:20 am #

    I couldn’t agree more with what ST had said. It’s not what the camera can do for you but what you can do with the camera at the right moment, in the right place and when the GOLDEN opportunity struck!

  19. pinkpau July 9, 2008 at 4:17 am #

    “super kau pro photographer”

    hahaha ST you’re so funny

    ah i always look forward to your ranty posts 😀 good post! what brand of computer did you use to write it?

  20. Elle Zhang July 9, 2008 at 6:05 am #

    Thanks, I learnt a new word today. Bokeh. It’s a fun word. Like smock, pebble, defunct, defunct defunct defunct.

    Bokeh. Heh. I can’t stop saying it. Bokeh bokeh. Bokeh bokeh bokeh.

    I know next to nothing about the technique and technology involved in photography but am a huge fan of the final work! Will attend every exhibition I can and specifically love compositions involving marine life or people. I admire photographers for seeing what I cannot see. Black and white photos frustrate me, they’re like unfinished stories.

    My favourite photographers are David Doubilet and David Alan Harvey. Who are yours?

  21. CK Go Places July 9, 2008 at 10:26 am #

    I think your point is only true to a certain extent. I do agree that it takes skills to capture a good image, but the tools used are equally important. I am an advocate of ‘the science part is equally important as the art part’ in photography. Better tools give us better sharpness, colours, tonal balance, and the list goes on!

    Do you see any of the popular photographer using a consumer level DLSR with kit lens?

  22. jon July 9, 2008 at 11:08 am #

    oi, what camera you use ah? what lens wei? oi, dont so lansi can. i know you got big guns, that’s why take nice photo lah…. purlesss… if I have your guns, I shoot the moon big big round round okay… sorry, but i just have my lousy canon and shoot my lousy wedding photographs. if i have your guns, i tell you ah…. fuyooohhhhh

  23. potatoe July 9, 2008 at 1:13 pm #

    when i do get such questions – i normaly tell them i shoot with photoshop.

    come, lets have a shoot with our mobile phone. wa ha ha.

  24. Woodcrest July 9, 2008 at 4:34 pm #

    You must have been insulted and pissed off by the countless enquiries about which camera you’re using. 😀

  25. ShaolinTiger July 9, 2008 at 5:09 pm #

    Dr. Tan: Strobist pool used to be very high quality, it’s more popular now though so as with most things it’s dropped..

    David: Yup most important thing is what’s between the photographers ears, understanding of light especially..once you’ve nailed everything you can use any camera pretty much.

    kevin: Ahaha yah, too true.

    sooyin: Yah it gets annoying after a while…or when you are using a prime lens and someone asks “How many times zoom is your camera, it’s so big!”

    Albert Ng: Well that’s when you have artistic intent, which you do and you solidly understand the technology involved so you are making a creative decision…rather than screwing up.

    shun2u: Yah so great you rip of my pics 🙂

    hOcmun: Yah that’s another issue altogether…cronyism at its best.

    ch3ryl: That’s very subjective too, as to how do you define RAW conversion editing? Anyway not everyone is a journalist..edit or not a picture can be good. But editing can make a good picture great.

    acidict: I used Microsoft Internet Keyboard – it rocks!

    Ranga: No you really upset me…bwahahha, yah non photographers asking isn’t quite so annoying, but it’s still a little insulting.

    Ginny: Yup it’s just a device that leads you to the end result.

    Tom Hayton: Haha I totally agree with that..

    moons: Yah and those guys are the worst gamers and get pwned by some poor fella using a P4 with a ball mouse running at 640×480 res haha.

    eileen: Yah Deviant Art is cool, it’s more into digital imaging though, salon photography and stuff like that. I’m more in the natural camp. Pbase is pretty good too.

    Huai Bin: Yah that’s where compact cams fall down due to physics the tiny sensors just can’t capture enough light and at higher sensitivity they get swamped with noise. That’s why I use a Fuji F31fd – the Fuji SuperCCD is a tiny miracle.

    TikTsin: Dude some PnS have Zeiss lenses…and some like Panasonic FZ-50 have superb optics..I’ve seen award winning shots taken with PnS.

    Pientai: Yup, right time, right light, right place, right vision, right skills and lastly right gear 🙂

    pinkpau: I used ST brand, I built myself, lagi best one!

    Elle Zhang: Bokeh rocks haha, interesting view on B&W. I like the simplicity of B&W, it takes away the distraction and garish nature of colours and leaves the simplicity of form and light. Favourites? Depends what Genre really, I like Joe Mcnally, Chase Jarvis, merkley, SANCHEZ, Mark Velasquez, zuan, Kris Kros, Ansel Adams and a bunch of others.

    CK Go Places: Better yah, but don’t you agree a compact in the hands of a pro will take FAR better pictures than a top end dSLR in the hands of a beginner? Thus the limiting factor is not the gear, it’s the human. Not even entry level dSLR, I see pro assigment photos and award winners from PnS (admittedly higher level like Canon G9) but the limiting factor is the photographer.

    jon: All my pictures are taken with 2mp Camera Phone, want to trade with yours?

    potatoe: I was thinking compact cam shoot, at least we can trigger the SB-800 in SU-4 I don’t think can trigger.

  26. Donny July 10, 2008 at 12:12 am #

    hehe…there was a time I used my SE K750 to snap some really awesome photos and people start to say…woa…SE K750 is good…duh. I take it that they also mean I’m good 😛

  27. Ranga July 10, 2008 at 12:50 am #

    Speaking of which, could you point me in the direction of some great examples of point and shoot photographs? I’m curious.

  28. ShaolinTiger July 10, 2008 at 1:05 am #

    Donny: Haha yeah, strange eh?

    Ranga: Explore Flickr, use the camera tool to select common compacts and sort by interestingness, you can find plenty of awesome pics for any brand and model of compact. Some are here for Powershot, here for Finepix and here for Lumix.

  29. edwin July 10, 2008 at 9:16 am #

    So…what camera did you use?

  30. Matthew July 10, 2008 at 12:41 pm #

    Well, I was reading DCM’s December issue yesterday and the editor was also complaining about this. About how certain people are bias towards more popular or expensive gears, eg. Meriam. When winning pictures are taken using Meriam, they pay more attention but never bothered if it was some other brand.

    It’s the skills and an eye for good photos, not the equipment.

    Glad you posted this entry! 🙂

  31. Azmeen July 11, 2008 at 2:07 am #

    I’ve just hopped on the DSLR bandwagon and have been playing with the manual setting of my A200. I enjoy the wealth of possibilities that can be captured by tweaking the aperture, exposure and whatnot of the DSLR.

    There are shots captured on my two previous Lumixes that made me proud, but the sheer power of DSLRs don’t make me miss them that much.

    To be honest, my itch to get a DSLR was cause by you ST. I’ve always enjoyed your photoblog posts and thought to myself, I got to get a decent entry level DSLR and see what ST’s been seeing through that eyepiece before he releases the shutter.

    I kept thinking about composition, subject placement, suitable ISO settings for the ambience, to use flash or otherwise… etc.

    Lenses and kits were never in my mind because I just have to make do with what I have 🙂

    BTW, I registered on Shutter Asia a few days back… just waiting for that special picture to use as my introductory showcase 🙂

    Vibrant photography community we have there!

  32. Finding Me July 11, 2008 at 12:21 pm #

    Hey ST, I remember a conversation with a fren with regards to the ability of the compact camera vs DSLR. Is the compact camera able to match the DSLR in terms of composition, etc etc.. I mean can a compact camera capture a picture that is almost comparable to a DSLR in terms of lighting, composition and etc… when viewed through computer screen. Of course if you were to develop it into film then it might not be nice… but on a computer screen it should appear not much difference. Do comment and enlighten me. Any site to recommend for me to learn up photography with compact camera ?

    Thanks a million

  33. pinolam July 11, 2008 at 10:24 pm #

    i’m ur regular reader and its my first comment.
    well said. two thumbs up.
    save me 3k for buying a DSLR.

  34. Simmonette Tan July 12, 2008 at 10:15 am #

    Shaolin, i am bookmarking this particular entry of yours, you have said what i wanted to say for a long long time !

  35. oscar July 12, 2008 at 1:52 pm #

    Hi there, no disrespect to your post but few things i would like to share.

    1. English is not our Malaysian 1st language. We respect your culture so we use your language to communicate with you. Either we have grammar or spelling mistake, please bear with it. If you seriously cannot bear with our poor broken English, we would love to communicate with you in Malay, Chinese or Tamil. (How about dialect? Cantonese? Hokkien?)

    2. People praise your pictures and they are also curious on the gears you are using. You cannot expect all the layman out there know all the ABC, XYZ or to be accurate EXIF info as mentioned. I am a layman. Our intention is not trying to insult the tools that you are using. We are purely amazed by your pictures and wanted to know more bout it.

    3. Camera and Lens do affect a picture. Of cause there are more elements that would eventually turn a bad pictures good and a good pictures excellent, e.g. photoshop. I browse through your pictures, to be honest, i think there are all well taken. And if based on your post, I would have to agree with you that tools and gears are not that important, provided you are photoshop expert.

    4. Asking the camera and lens is not an insult to the photographer. If your photographs is sucks, nobody would bother to ask. If your gears is good and high-end, we would be amaze on the built quality of the gears. If your gear is just normal and compact, that would just set a bench mark to ourself to hit the standard that you have achieved by the same gears. From your post, you have just told me you doubt at your photography skill. Don’t feel bad when people ask.

    5. Your blog is well known and famous, i love your blog.

  36. Dean July 13, 2008 at 11:22 pm #

    ahh..the ancient question is it? 😀
    creativity is the only lens or camera you cant buy! 😉
    if u manage somehow to actually bought the are on the correct way to PASSION 😀

  37. grace July 14, 2008 at 1:05 pm #

    No matter what, I believe you are a great photographer. I always admire your skills in capturing great shots whether it is macro or nature or fashion photos… they are just gorgeous.

    Keep it up, Shaolin Tiger! I wanna see more pics!! =)

  38. wombok July 15, 2008 at 12:58 am #

    Kit lens for the win!

  39. nikz July 15, 2008 at 12:58 pm #

    Totally agree!!!
    It’s the photographer who does most of the magic and not the lenses.
    I luv your photography. Keep up the good work.
    Cheers mate =)

  40. Bungholio July 15, 2008 at 4:28 pm #

    Aiya, so what u use lar, ur camera and lens, and how much ah they cost?

  41. ShaolinTiger July 16, 2008 at 5:16 pm #

    edwin: Nokia N95 😀

    Matthew: Yup, give a pro a basic camera and give a noob a pro camera I know which will produce better pics.

    Azmeen: Most important is learn to use Aperture priority well, that’s the most used mode. Get a good balance with the shutter speed by tweaking the ISO. Hope to see you active on Shutter Asia…life looking through a viewfinder is so different and so many things to consider before pressing the shutter.

    pinolam: Yah learn what you have first, only when you find the limitations of what you are using will you really understand what you need next.

    Simmonette Tan: Eheh thanks Simmy 🙂

    oscar: Well you were a little disrespectful on your blog, but that’s your choice 🙂 As for your points.

    1. Many people in Malaysia speak better English than people natively from England and Firefox comes with a spellchecker built there’s no longer any excuse for poor spelling (I don’t spell well either but I make an effort).

    2. The camera didn’t make the picture, ask what settings I used, or why I took that angle or what focal length I chose, and why I used that depth of field? Any reasonable camera can take the pictures I take – it’s not relevant.

    3. Photoshop can’t replace technique and understanding, if you underexpose and ‘fix’ it you’ll get noise, if you overexpose you’ll lose detail. As above, any reasonable camera can take the pics I take, Photoshop or not. Photoshop can’t fix a bad picture, it can make a good picture great but it can’t make a bad picture good.

    4. I don’t doubt it, but when I use compact sometimes people ask me what camera and lens I use…I say Fuji F31fd – they are so shocked. Perhaps limitations and expectations are placed by the people who ask such questins rather than questioning their own skill they expect to blame the poor quality of their own pictures on their equipment. You wouldn’t ask a surgeon what brand of scalpel they used to operate on you? Or an author what keyboard they used?

    5. Thanks – but that’s not sincere 🙂

    Dean: That’s the truth!

    grace: Thanks grace, don’t worry I’ll keep on pushing and trying to improve and posting my pics.

    wombok: Agree, seen some stunning pics from kit lens well used.

    nikz: Yah, respect the artist not the lens.

    Bungholio: Now I’m using pin hole camera, cost about rm2 for cardboard box and some tape.

  42. endura April 21, 2009 at 1:15 pm #

    “People will worship you like you’re a God. You can have a crappy exposure, blown highlights, green whitebalance, bad composition (chopped limbs) but as long as you have the girl and the bokeh you are super kau pro photographer.”

    Totally true to the last word. Local forum when they comment, they don’t say why the like the photo or why they dislike. Just “nice photo”..please mention a little like nice compo, the color is strong etc….

  43. Alex Leong April 21, 2009 at 1:53 pm #

    Well said my friend.

  44. Nazmi April 21, 2009 at 7:27 pm #

    Totally agreed!

    flickr much better than malaysia photography forum, which emphasis mainly on the gear. i learned more in flickr.

  45. ShaolinTiger April 27, 2009 at 2:32 pm #

    endura: That’s why Shutter Asia rocks, we have made it a different platform for sharing…although that does happen sometimes we try not to allow it too much.

    Alex Leong: Thanks

    Nazmi: Try Shutter Asia, it’s more like Flickr, less about gear.