Harsh Truths About Cameras

Recently there have been a lot of complains directed toward new releases and launches of cameras, and I would like to share my thoughts and harsh opinion on camera truths. I think the obsession for technical perfection and the chase for drastic numerical increment of specification numbers is quite an endless and frankly pointless pursuit. The cameras have been around for a long, long time and strangely people are getting more and more dissatisfied even though the innovation in camera making has progressed far beyond what was made possible decades ago. There were claims about camera companies "not listening to customers" and some new cameras are "dead on arrival". I think we do need to slow down a little bit and truly look at ourselves, not just easily pointing our fingers at camera manufacturers. 


There is no point chasing perfection. There will never be a perfect camera, people will never be truly happy with what they have, and they will continue to complain. Cameras are improving and they have gotten so much better in the last 10 years, in comparison to the previous half century. The numbers in camera specifications - megapixel count, high ISO capabilities, dynamic range, AF speed, buffer depth, burst sequential shooting speed, etc - the numbers will continue to change and increase and there is no end to this. What you think is the best today will be superseded tomorrow and this cycle will keep turning and repeating, when will it stop if you want the latest and the greatest all the time?

 Camera is not a gadget - people often just want the best of the best, if we want more and more from the camera, we are missing the point of photography in the first place. If you are a professional photographer, the tools that we have today are more than sufficient to get any photography job done, if there are cases where you think the cameras fall short, I'd think it is the photographer's (most cameras are better than photographers these days). There are truly amazing photography work in the past decades that were shot in less powerful and capable cameras. How did they do it? They did not complain that their camera was not good enough, they did not have 100MP, they did not have 5-Axis IS, no blazing fast C-AF, no super high dynamic range capable image sensors, they just went and made photography happen. 

Do we need the camera to be perfect? No. Because there are no perfect photographers. We cannot even fully utilize the capabilities of what we are given today!


Any cameras released in recent times are good enough. We have reached the point of camera sufficiency, I don't believe there is truly any bad cameras. We have a lot of choices, and that is a good thing, we can choose the gear that works for us and our specific photography needs. Even the lowest level camera, such as the entry level Olympus PEN E-PL8/9/10 can deliver great results, having fast AF and decent overall camera performance. It will not be able to compete with the latest and greatest out there but do you really need the greatest and latest? Why is the camera not good enough? 

I have seen many newcomers to photography believing that just because they don't have the better equipment, they cannot perform as well as their other friends who have superior cameras and lenses.They also believe that they should upgrade their cameras to be able to achieve better photography results, at least to match what their peers are doing. Here is the plain and simple truth - you don't have to break the bank to enjoy photography. If you are an enthusiast or hobbyist, you should allocate a suitable budget that will not cause you any financial strain - photography should empower you, not drown you. Buy the camera and lenses that you can afford, and trust me, they are good enough. What you have now, is good enough and you should be focusing on improving your craft, and learn new skills than worry about what your camera can or cannot do. 

If you think that your photography is not good enough, it is not because your camera is not good enough. There are no bad cameras, only bad photographers. 


Lenses allow you to achieve specific photography objectives. If you don't have the right lens to get the job done, you won't accomplish the desired results. For example, if you want to shoot birds from a distance, being stuck with an ultra wide angle won't bring the birds any closer to the camera. Similarly, not having a dedicated macro lens means you won't be able to get sufficient magnification to fill your frame with the tiny little bug you are trying to shoot. Many photographers emphasized on camera performance but often failed to put enough thought on the lenses they own. 

The most popular questions I have received over the years would be what lens to buy or upgrade to next. If you are asking me what lens to get next, that simply means you are not sure of what you are doing, and it won't matter what lens you upgrade to, that won't make a difference. The best solution is to continue to use the kit lens, fully explore photography and maximize the potential of the kit lens while doing that. After a while, you will realize what you want more from the kit lens, the limitations will help you discover yourself, what you want to do with your own photography and in turn help you make a better decision on what lens to buy next. There is no short and quick answer to what lens is best for you, you have to find that out on your own. 


The basics of how the camera works is the same and has not changed for a very long time. The exposure triangle - ISO, shutter speed and aperture remain similar in ALL cameras, across all brands, at all levels from pro grade cameras to entry level cameras. It is like driving a car - the gear, steering wheel, brakes, signals, are all the same. Learning the driving language is very important, it is universal, red light at the traffic junction means stop, green means go, you just have to know this there is no escaping it. 

The biggest mistake I see a lot of newcomers to photography (and a lot of self-claimed pro, I boldly add) is not making enough effort or spending time to truly understand how the camera works and master the fundamentals of photography, before moving on to the more advanced photography shooting. 

There is no shortcut in photography. 

Many people want to skip the boring part - the basics. They just want to do the fun part, the advanced level of photography. Some of these so called "artists" would blanket their shooting mistakes and sloppiness by saying something as silly as "blur is art". Blur is blur, there is no excuse for your mistake, you cannot fool others and confuse them with your artistic statement. If your blur is intended to enhance your photography people will be able to see that, and you don't have to justify your mistakes. Not being able to use your camera to its full potential and truly control it shows what kind of a photographer you are. Don't skip the fundamentals. Learn it. Embrace it. You cannot learn to run before you are able to walk. 


You are the master, you are in control and the camera is your slave. I often observe the complete opposite. 

Whenever the camera does not give a satisfactory result, the camera is to be blamed as if the camera knew what was happening. Wrong white balance? The camera is lousy it cannot give accurate colors. Wrongly exposed images, with severe over or under exposure? Oh it is the camera's poor metering capability, not being able to calculate the available ambient light accurately. Missed your focus, did not nail that shot in perfect, tack sharp focus? The camera AF system is too slow, not efficient enough. The camera is always blamed as if the camera knows what you want and can read your mind. 

The camera is a piece of equipment, used by the photographer. You have to tell the camera what you want. if your image is overexposed, don't blame the camera, go and balance the exposure by whatever means necessary, you can do it by easily turning the exposure compensation dial. The camera gave you the wrong color, fix it! Focusing is not as simple as pressing the shutter button, understanding how the camera works and telling the camera exactly what you have in mind (something as simple as moving the focusing point to the intended target area to be in focus) can get you your desired results. The camera's job is to capture exactly what is presented, and if the camera fail to do that, it is often the photographer's problem. 

I do hope this simple sharing on some harsh photography and camera truths can benefit those who are new to photography, and seriously guys, stop complaining about cameras and start shooting. 

Life is too short to be unhappy with what we own, why not leave a legacy behind with an incredible body of photography work? That is a life goal worth chasing for, not camera perfection. 

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  1. This is something that a lot of photographers needs to read! A camera is a tool and how you use it and your skills will dictate how good you can use it to achieve what you want.

    Gilles (from Canada)

    1. Thanks! Sharing what I can, hope this will benefit some newcomers.

  2. Excellent post and I really appreciate your very down-to-earth views on these things. It was very inspiring to read also because I worry too often about whether or not I'm using the right camera system blabla because I often shoot in low light and should I have chosen another mirrorless system etc or even stayed with Canon. But I really love my Olympus camera (there is a reason I left Canon behind!) and will now calm down and try to become a better photographer instead.

    1. There is no bad camera, don't worry! The best camera is the one you have with you now, keep shooting on!

  3. Well said, and an important lesson in a world where new cameras are being released every time you turn around, all with hype and hoopla. We all love to watch it, and choice is good, but remember, the camera you already own is probably pretty good. Also thank you for mentioning us Pen users! I've been doing street photography in Seattle for 2 years with an E-PL8 (the last model before Olympus started eliminating features) and it still works fine. (Though I might get an E-M1 Mark II so I can finally shoot in the rain...)

    1. E-PL8 is an awesome camera, if I do travel I always use my PEN, I have an E-P5, but the LCD screen is broken. Need to get that fixed.

  4. Another great video Robin.
    This is a life lesson everyone needs to learn as it's not just cameras that everyone is dissatisfied with. I see complaints about all the camera brands, car models and other electronics such as computers and phones. Everywhere there is dissatisfaction about what we have.
    A lot of it could be down to genetics. We have survived on this planet because of our ability to adapt to different climates and environments so we naturally adapt to new technology very quickly. The new becomes old very fast. Most of it though, I think is down to a lack of life purpose. People are trying to find meaning and purpose in their lives through stuff and that isn't possible so people are becoming more and more dissatisfied with what they have. Thinking the next thing will be the great thing that makes me worth something.
    Growth, sense of purpose and meaning come from the inside not from outside things so I don't see things getting better any time soon unless people come to realize this.
    Although this post may not have been understood by some of your viewers,(just going by a couple of comments on your Youtube video), I think this did resonate with some of your followers and that's what really matters.
    Keep up the great work :)

    1. I like the way you perceive the issue here - lack of growth, sense of purpose.
      We should strive to be better photographers, improve our skills, and hone our craft. Photography does not just happen overnight, great photographers take decades to develop!

  5. I really liked the article! And Yes! The best camera from the entire world in the moment you want to take a shot is the one from your hands!!!

  6. Complaining about cameras is like complaining about mirrors that we're not pretty enough. When we reach our level of incompetence, the complaints are echoes of marketing's game.
    But thanks for complaining, thanks to them we can buy cheap second-hand equipment.
    The complainers discuss equipment, the photographers discuss light. Good shots!

  7. Very thoughtful, as always, Robin.

    Your point that people were not so gear obsessed decades ago got me thinking. Before digital, and further back,before auto-focus and auto-exposure, there were two big differences from today. 1. If the focus or exposure were wrong, it was the photographer, not the camera. 2. Before digital, the imaging device ("film") was independent of the camera and its features. Today, though, the imaging device is built into the camera, so that if you don't like some aspect of the images (not enough resolution, too noisy...), you must replace both the imaging device and the camera - as they are one and the same.
    Bottom line: you are right. There was much less whinging back then...

  8. I took better photos with a C2100 and a C5050 than I do with my OMDs because I concentrated on the compositions and I spent more time going out and looking for interesting photos rather than doing IQ tests

  9. Robin: What do you think about Panasonic GX85? how do you evaluate this camera.' Thank you very much! best regards ,Mario.

  10. I'm sure Robin doesn't need me to fight his corner here, but as an E-M5 owner, I think the upgrade to any one of the latest model revisions would be worth having. Going to the E-M5 mark 3 gives the dual mode auto-focus, for instance, which people always asked for despite it being the main differentiator between the product lines. Even going across to the E-M10 mark 3 would be an upgrade of sorts.

    For those wanting to upgrade every time a new revision comes out, the pace of change is going to be disappointing. Then again, I don't see revolutionary change amongst product iterations from other manufacturers, either. For a while, Fujifilm were introducing stuff that they previously claimed wasn't important, mostly because they hadn't been able to deliver it themselves: classic Fuji! That was just them catching up to remain viable in a number of increasingly important areas, however. Good news if you were a Fujifilm user, I guess.

    Otherwise, there's probably been some refinement with regard to user interfaces. Some manufacturers have been better than others at this. All in all, I suspect that manufacturers are under a certain amount of economic pressure and can't deliver blockbuster upgrades any more. Ming Thein would probably have something to say about that (and has probably already said it).