At DPP, we’ve had the same discussion ever since the magazine started. We’ve asked the fundamental question: What makes a camera a pro camera? What if you could get a DSLR with a 4.5-megapixel APS-C sensor, an ISO range of 200-1600 and a three-second startup time at a cost of about $6,500? How about a camera with an 18.7-megapixel APS-C sensor, an ISO range of 100-6400 and instant startup at a cost of about $800? The former is the Canon EOS-1D (introduced in 2001) and the latter is the Canon EOS T3i (introduced in March of this year). When the EOS-1D came on the scene, it was heralded as the ultimate professional DSLR. It had everything, yet in many aspects the EOS T3i is superior to the 1D. We’re not suggesting that the EOS T3i should become every pro’s camera. Rather we’re trying to give some perspective on the definition of a pro camera.
So what are the key criteria? Is it image quality? AF performance? Battery life? Shutter durability? Construction? Onboard processing? Low-light performance? It all depends on you—what you shoot, how you shoot, where you shoot and who are your clients. In all of the debates about what makes a camera a pro camera—in other words, what makes a camera one that a pro could use to make a living—we’ve only come up with a single inflexible litmus test: immediacy. Any discernable shutter lag isn’t acceptable because as professionals, we need cameras to function as fast as we see. Every other aspect of the camera is subject to personal style and individual needs.
Certainly, higher-end cameras offer a host of advantages, but if you’re looking to lighten up on your gear and be more of a minimalist, it makes sense to look at the whole lineup from your selected manufacturer. More and more, we’re talking to professionals who are eschewing the pricier top-end models in favor of having several lower-end bodies in their kit. In this issue of DPP, Brian DeMint discusses his use of DSLRs that are just a couple of steps above entry-level.
The big advantages to the all-out pro cameras are speed, ruggedness and high-ISO performance. But in many cases, all-out pro ruggedness and speed aren’t primary concerns, and the latest mid-level and lower-end models have excellent sensors and image processors to produce image quality suitable for many pro uses. And, of course, these mid-level and lower-end models can use all of the same pro lenses as the pro models.
Certainly, higher-end cameras offer a host of advantages, but if you’re looking to lighten up on your gear and be more of a minimalist, it makes sense to look at the whole lineup from your selected manufacturer.