Beginner Do any professional/highly regarded photographers use entry level gear?

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Conan
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#1
Hi everyone, I hope you are OK.

I have been thoroughly enjoying my Nikon D3500 and kit lens, and have been looking at other photographs online for inspiration.

I then wondered, are there any professional photographers that use kit similar to mine? E.G entry level DSLR and kit lens's, or budget equipment.

It's only a thought that popped into my head, I realise the camera is just a tool that is used but would be nice to hear if anyone shoots at a high level with 'basic' tools.
 
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#2
Not if they're a real professional and not just an enthusiastic amateur.

Starting out they may have done but a real pro 'tog knows that he (or she) must have equipment that won't let them down and will produce the images their clients will be willing to pay for.
 
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Paul
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#3
You'll find lots of people that claim to be a professional and use entry level gear, but they really aren't professionals, struggling, low end photographers.

This isn't because you can't take a good photo with a cheap camera, because you can., but when it comes to all the situations thrown at you on a daily basis, all the different things you need to do and shoot as a professional and the sheer volume you need to shoot, it simply doesn't make sense to even attempt to exist with cheap kit, especially not when professional kit is just a week or twos wages to a working professional.
 
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#4
I’ve seen people do it. But, generally speaking, it’s only really up to an acceptable standard in perfect conditions. Once you start losing light, or increasing the speed of any action, or you need redundancy (he says with a Z6!) then entry level gear can start to struggle.
 
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#5
Pete's right. Pro kit tends to be designed to cope with frequent use without breaking down, so you're paying for heavier duty mechanical parts and things like weather sealing, metal body coverings, etc. It's a bit like asking would a busy, successful, professional garden maintenance contractor buy a £90 lawnmower. They don't do it because if the equipment breaks down on them then it costs them a lot of money in lost time and productivity. Plus, using pro quality kit usually increases productivity, taking less time to deliver the finished result.

However, pro photographers have been known to do projects than involve entry level kit, or accept challenges to use such kit and see what results they can get. I seem to remember that Kai in his Digital Rev days gave some pro photographers a kids' Hello Kitty camera in just such a challenge. Perhaps unsurprisingly, they delivered some good looking photos. It's like putting The Stig in a 'reasonably priced car'... he/she/it could probably clock a better lap time than a novice in a sports car.
 
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Alan
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#6
I think lots of them do. This chap popped into my mind, here's what Wiki says about him...

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ian_Berry_(photojournalist)

This lovely little clip is IMO worth watching. It's only 5min and 38sec long.

View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kOPwMqrSTro

I'm sure there are others.

Actually here's another chap and just by coincidence he's using the same camera... 4min 18sec long...

View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=98PF33R5gxk


:D

I will never ever be in the same league as those guys. I've had that camera though but for reasons I wont go into here I wouldn't recommend it but I would be happy to recommend later similar cameras, with just a caveat or two :D
 
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#7
I remember seeing his stuff in the 1960s when he made a name over the South African troubles and in particular the Sharpeville massacre.
 
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#8
I remember seeing his stuff in the 1960s when he made a name over the South African troubles and in particular the Sharpeville massacre.
I can see the argument that pro gear has to be tough and weather sealed and have two card slots and be able to shoot a gazillion photos in a one second burst and clear the buffer is a millisecond and all that but surely these special requirements are just that, special requirements, and there must be "pros" using quite humble gear in their own less technology demanding fields.
 
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#9
there must be "pros" using quite humble gear in their own less technology demanding fields.
Definitely. Over the years I've come across plenty of busy working photographers with all sorts of "low end" equipment.
 
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Chris
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#15
As others have said it depends how you define 'low end'. I've read loads of articles from fantastic, busy pros who use relatively 'consumer' gear, the Fuji 18-55 2.8-4 springs to mind in one. Mirrorless has really fractured the market (in some fields) in that respect.

One of the most highly regarded wedding photographers in the UK chooses to use the Nikon 35mm 1.8 over the 'pro-grade' f1.4 version. Loads of working pros use Fuji gear now, and often with the cheaper f2 lenses rather than the expensive 'pro' ones.
 
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#16
I've tried the d3500 and was really impressed with the quality. I have a Canon 750d as my walk around camera. it's really good quality, I got one after I played with the good ladies camera one day.
The main different is the pro cameras are tougher and better weather sealed. That doesn't mean they take a better picture though.
 
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Conan
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#17
Thank you all for your input and explanations.

So essentially, a 'pro' body and lens could take very similar quality photos to what my D3500 and kit lens is capable of, it just is a lot more durable with things such as weather sealing and more reliable?
I see that the pro models also have things like more focus points and dials to change settings quicker, instead of diving into the menu like my camera.

I could of done with weather sealing earlier. Went for a walk with a friend intending to take some photos, and the heavens opened. I covered my camera the best I could, it did get some water on the outside that wiped off. Was a bit worried but it is working fine.

It was only a thought, I was thinking if I progress enough to be able to make money from my images in the future what I would need.

Would a mid range Nikon be suitable for 'pro' use if it is weather sealed? I am using the DX format currently and am impressed with the image quality, so in the future maybe even one of the 'pro' DX format cameras would be good?
 
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#18
Maybe a lot will depend on he sort of photography you want to pursue. If you're going to be out in the pouring rain and you're camera is going to get a soaking or if you're going to be hit by a wave then I'd imagine that weather sealing might come in handy.

I've never had a weather sealed camera but I've still taken pictures in the pouring rain and in snow, I've fallen into snow filled ditches holding my camera and walked back looking like a snowman, I've used my cameras on boats and in the humidity of Thailand etc and I've never had a weather related failure. But I may just have been lucky.
 
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#19
Thank you all for your input and explanations.

So essentially, a 'pro' body and lens could take very similar quality photos to what my D3500 and kit lens is capable of, it just is a lot more durable with things such as weather sealing and more reliable?
I see that the pro models also have things like more focus points and dials to change settings quicker, instead of diving into the menu like my camera.

I could of done with weather sealing earlier. Went for a walk with a friend intending to take some photos, and the heavens opened. I covered my camera the best I could, it did get some water on the outside that wiped off. Was a bit worried but it is working fine.

It was only a thought, I was thinking if I progress enough to be able to make money from my images in the future what I would need.

Would a mid range Nikon be suitable for 'pro' use if it is weather sealed? I am using the DX format currently and am impressed with the image quality, so in the future maybe even one of the 'pro' DX format cameras would be good?
No, a good quality, pro-grade DSLR will usually do an awful lot more than an entry level DSLR. The results may look similar on a nice sunny day in 'ideal' lighting conditions. but the pro camera will usually produce much better results in more difficult lighting conditions. Then there's the functionality; a pro quality DSLR will usually give far more control over the various 'settings options', it will usually also offer numerous custom function options, where the photographer can pre-programme the settings they require to cope with various lighting and shooting scenarios.

Then there's the speed at which the camera saves and buffers the shots taken, once again, the pro camera will usually be a lot quicker than the entry level camera. Then there's the lenses; pro quality lenses will usually be 'faster', allowing more light to pass through them for the given focal length. They'll usually give less distortion and chromatic aberration, and may well offer 'image stabilisation' of at least 4 or 5 stops.

Then there's the compatibility with accessories such as flash units, power boosters/grips, etc., etc. The pro camera will usually offer significantly more expandability and integration than entry level kit.

Put simply, within reason, you usually get what you pay for. Yes, it's entirely possible to get professional looking shots from an entry level DSLR (or indeed, an old film camera from the early 1900s), but a pro quality camera should give a pro photographer a significantly better chance of getting a good result, just as a high-tech works rally car will give a pro rally driver a much better chance of winning a world championship rally than an ordinary family saloon.

As for weather sealing, it depends if you actually need it. Can you tuck your camera under a waterproof coat instead if the heavens open? Or, perhaps, avoid days when the weather is bad? If your style of photography doesn't demand weather resistant kit, then could the money you save be better spent on another lens, a higher-spec flash unit, etc.? For instance, how many Formula 1 racing car teams spend money on snow chains or studded ice tyres?

Pro photographers tend to spend money on camera kit based on actual need, and the existence of a sound business case for doing so; they will usually only buy stuff if they are fairly certain that they will actually benefit from the investment. Perhaps amateur photographers could learn something from them in that respect?
 
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Tommy
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#20
Pro photographers tend to spend money on camera kit based on actual need, and the existence of a sound business case for doing so; they will usually only buy stuff if they are fairly certain that they will actually benefit from the investment. Perhaps amateur photographers could learn something from them in that respect?
How many full time employed photogographera do you know?

I am a full time self employed photographer and buy plenty of camera crap I don’t need but just want. So do many others, I would go as far as saying the majority do and I know quite a few. There is the odd old school type guy who only buys based on business reasons but quite a lot of pro photographers are just as gear hungry as amateurs, sometimes more so.

As for the original question posted by the o.p sometimes it’s fun to bring along non “professional” equipment just for the challenge, a few giggles or just the shear enjoyment factor. Depend on the equipment obviously.
 
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Adrian
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#22
There are quite a few Magnum photographers that use (or have used) 'entry level' gear. Secondly, don't assume that 'weather resistant' equates to 'waterproof'. A freezer bag and a rubber band will afford you a far greater level of protection in a downpour. Don't worry so much about what gear you need. Take photos. Make mistakes. Learn. You'll come to realise that the gear you use isn't everything.
 
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Soeren
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#24
While there are professional photographers who don't know f-stops from busstops most good amateurs and professionals know their gear extremely well. They know the strengths and limitations and how to get the most of it. So theyll come up with great shots in any conditions no matter the gear where the rest uf us only achieve mediocre results with even the best money can buy
 
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Ned
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#25
You only have to look at the National Geographic award winners to know that many many pros use cheaper low range gear, and they’re winning national geographic awards.

That you need extensive/pro kit is a very rich country point of view; most of the world isn’t that rich yet still manages to have pro photographers.
 
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Tommy
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#26
Snip:
Would you like to have another go at spelling that job title? ;)
You had a spelling mistake the first time you posted this, then edited your post.

At least I can use the excuse that I was using my phone, what’s yours?
 
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Paul
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#29
Mr Badger gets it and writes a very good reply.

Its way more than just weather sealing, toughness and the ability to shoot lots of frames quickly (a feature I practically never use anyway)

Toughness and weather sealing, the general hard wearingness as a tool is no different to any professional who uses his tools all day long, every day, and that's a major factor. How many hobbyists / wannabes use their camera and the other respective kit 8 hours a day, 5 days a week? Knock it, bang it get into super tight deadlines where you almost have to throw the camera around sometimes because you don't have time worry about it? and to be put into and shoot in multiple senerios, anything that is thrown at you? Each and every day. Even most successful wedding photographers are often only shooting 20 -30 weddings or days a year.

And its all these different scenarios which your average camera cannot cope with, or cannot cope with the speed required in pro photography, better meters, better meter matrixing, better focus, more focus points, lots of subtle little differences in the images actually produced, better rendition of colours, wider dynamic range and so forth.

Some of the factors are subtle, and without being rude, I doubt many hobbyists would even notice the difference in colour rendition and curves and if they can they can probably adjust in it later on in post or editing, and achieve the same with a cheaper camera. But that the point. As a professional you don't have the time to be doing that, time spent not shooting is generally time not earning money.

And as a professional, anything I spend on kit, effectively comes out of my profits. Everything has to be justified, this is a business.
Example. Right now I have 2 Elinchrom softboxes, they are wearing out and will need replacing soon, replacements are about £175.00 each. And I've used lots of different softboxes, and own some cheap about £50.00 softboxes by Phot-R. Qualitywise, final image wise, those Phot-R softboxes are good, actually as good as many of the more expensive brands, but they are not as good as the Elinchroms, not quite, close, but not quite. More importantly they are a pain to assemble and disassemble and when rushing around on site, saving 5 minutes faffing around with softboxes when you are tired at the end of the day is a major reason why I'm buying the Elinchroms at the higher price. If you only did that occasionally it probably wouldn't bother you, but as a pro doing this sort of thing day in, day out, it really adds up.

Again no different to any business.
 
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Soeren
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#30
You only have to look at the National Geographic award winners to know that many many pros use cheaper low range gear, and they’re winning national geographic awards.

That you need extensive/pro kit is a very rich country point of view; most of the world isn’t that rich yet still manages to have pro photographers.
like e.g. the 2015 winning photograph. Done with a RX100
 
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Andrew
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#31
Yup.

I went to a wedding once and the pro photographer was using film.... for Gosh sake! :D
My professional wedding photographer used film:(, but it was 22 years ago, still happily married, still look at the album :):) now and again(y).
 
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Alan
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#32
My professional wedding photographer used film:(, but it was 22 years ago, still happily married, still look at the album :):) now and again(y).
Ours was shot with a 5DII and I ended up having to process the raws myself, but hey-ho. I wanted to get a couple of albums printed and a kind person on this site gave me a money off voucher :D so that was nice. I have all the pictures on my pc but there's something special about looking through an album, imo.
 
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#33
Yeah mocking is definitely the way to go
It wasn't mocking, it was having a bit of a laugh. I'm sure we've all had that happen when typing on a small touch-screen or phone, just as we've probably also stumbled over saying a word from time to time. Under such circumstances, it's often funny if a friend or colleague replies with "Well, that's easy for you to say". I have mild dyslexia, particularly if I'm tired, so I'm no stranger to typos! It's not being cruel or mocking, it's having a bit of a laugh at everyday life, perhaps if more people had a laugh or a smile at things (particularly when things go a bit wrong) then the world would be a happier place?
 
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Nod

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Nod (NOT Ethel!!!)
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#34
How many full time employed photogographera do you know?

I am a full time self employed photographer and buy plenty of camera crap I don’t need but just want. So do many others, I would go as far as saying the majority do and I know quite a few. There is the odd old school type guy who only buys based on business reasons but quite a lot of pro photographers are just as gear hungry as amateurs, sometimes more so.

As for the original question posted by the o.p sometimes it’s fun to bring along non “professional” equipment just for the challenge, a few giggles or just the shear enjoyment factor. Depend on the equipment obviously.

Nothing stopping a professional from also being an amateur - after all, an amateur is simply one who loves it (from a linguistic PoV, at least!). Presumably you use the less good stuff on personal shoots rather than paid ones - that could be seen as unprofessional! ;)
 
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#35
You had a spelling mistake the first time you posted this, then edited your post.

At least I can use the excuse that I was using my phone, what’s yours?
I'm mildly dyslexic, that's why I re-read what I've written and amend it if I spot a mistake; not really an excuse, more a reason really. Anyway, back to your post. Yes, some enthusiastic pro photographers will often have a play with some new bit of kit, or perhaps experiment with a bit of vintage kit. However, the way I read it, the OP's question was do pro photographers use entry level kit in their daily jobs, not purely to evaluate something or have a bit of a play.

To answer your question, I've met/known a few pro photographers over the years, and from what I've seen they've all used pro-quality cameras and lenses for their main kit when doing their 'day job'. I've also met a few part time/semi-pro photographers, and a number of them have used a mixture of semi-pro/enthusiast grade kit, occasionally with some pro grade kit as well (depending on their budget and needs I suppose).
 
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Dave
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#36
I think lots of them do. This chap popped into my mind, here's what Wiki says about him...

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ian_Berry_(photojournalist)

This lovely little clip is IMO worth watching. It's only 5min and 38sec long.

View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kOPwMqrSTro

I'm sure there are others.

Actually here's another chap and just by coincidence he's using the same camera... 4min 18sec long...

View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=98PF33R5gxk


:D

I will never ever be in the same league as those guys. I've had that camera though but for reasons I wont go into here I wouldn't recommend it but I would be happy to recommend later similar cameras, with just a caveat or two :D
Some people will use any camera if they get paid. I see Ian Berry is now connected with Olympus. https://www.olympus-imagespace.co.uk/photographers/

Bob Krist used to use D90s and 'consumer' zooms. https://bobkrist.com/whats-in-the-bag-lately/

Then it was Sony. https://www.oldmaninmotion.com/its-in-the-bag/

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZtGtQT4FsPA
 
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Toni
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#37
Being paid to do something = professional. However there can be a gulf between the attitudes of various professional individuals over their approach to performing their job.

In many circumstances an entry level camera might be adequate and take fully acceptable pictures, but that doesn't necessarily make it desirable or even ok to use one.

Working professionally is only partly about the pictures.
 
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#38
In terms of the OPs question, it's perhaps best not get confused with pro photographers doing product endorsement type shoots for camera kit manufacturers. What we should be thinking, is what primary camera bodies and lenses would that pro photographer bring with them to use if they were being hired for a commercial shoot where time to publication was of the essence?
 
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Tim
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#39
Where I am rarely meet people being paid using entry level gear. Some assignments stipulate “full frame” cameras a silly rule which irritates people but also has the effect of preventing people with more entry level equipment.
 
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Paul
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#40
Where I am rarely meet people being paid using entry level gear. Some assignments stipulate “full frame” cameras a silly rule which irritates people but also has the effect of preventing people with more entry level equipment.
Totally sensible. If I post a job for a junior or even pro photographer to cover a job for me, I'll be drowning in replies. I usually literally receive over 200, the vast majority of which the 'photographers' aren't even remotely close to professional. Any way I can filter people out is a major bonus.
 
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