Which Camera?

Its perhaps interesting to see which cameras were used to take the winning pictures in World Press Photo, though the sample is so small (I think 38) it isn’t possible to draw any really strong conclusions from them. They continue to be dominated by Canon and Nikon DSLRs, but I doubt if the one can really draw any conclusions about the relative popularity of the two marques from the different proportions from year to year. There are articles in various places on the web about this, including Fstoppers and PetaPixel, all relying on an article in a Spanish magazine. But I’ll try to give my own perspective.

The DSLR remains the camera of choice for most working professional news photographers for good reasons, and they are likely to use the more expensive models designed for professional use. The actual models change over the years, rather more rapidly than they would have done years ago, both because the manufacturers bring out new models with at least minor improvements, but also because they simply do not last as long as cameras used to, with major repairs usually being uneconomic. So while the SLR I bought back in 1973 is still actually capable of taking pictures (though in terrible condition after I used it for almost 30 years), I’ve written off two DSLRs bought in the last ten years.

DSLRs are flexible and relatively reliable, usable with lenses of every focal length – and a huge range of them available. Professional models at least can be used in all kinds of conditions (or almost all) and are reasonably weather-proof, important to many of us. They can do almost any photographic job, even if there are better tools for some. Since I went seriously digital I’ve used Nikon DSLRs for almost all of my work. When I went into digital, Nikon had the best camera at an affordable price with the D100 and I’ve upgraded though a whole series of new models to the D810, though never moving to the top of the range models such as the D5, which have always seemed just too large and too heavy for any advantages they might have. When the D810 comes to the end of its life I’ll probably replace it with another Nikon DSLR.

I’ve never worked with a Canon DSLR. I’m sure once I got used to it I’d find it as good as the Nikon, but over the years I’ve built up a collection of Nikon lenses, most of which have their uses, though I only regularly use three of them, and a system change would be expensive.

But I have for some years wanted to move to a smaller, lighter system, and for some years I’ve also been using Fuji cameras too. They feature in the winners list too, though I think the interpretation I’ve seen of this in various articles is rather lacking. Fuji-X cameras split into three very distinct groups – the fixed lens X100 series – used by three of the winners, the rangefinder style X-Pros with one winner, and mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras which fail to feature. All of the four Fuji images in the list were taken with cameras which have – like the DSLR – an optical viewfinder.

I’m increasingly working with cameras without an optical viewfinder, including the Fuji XT1 and an Olympus OMD E-M5II (I remain convinced Olympus would double their sales if they came up with a sensible naming system) and although their digital viewfinders are good, they are still lacking compared to the directness of an optical finder. The Fuji is frustrating in not always being ready to take a picture – sometimes the quickest way seems to be to switch it off and on, and while the Olympus is better in this respect, I find its menu system and function buttons etc confusing, and sometimes the camera seems to have a mind of its own, refusing to stay on auto WB or some other setting I’ve made. Nikons just seem easier to keep control of (though they have their quirks.)

Of course if you are going to use Nikon or Canon’s top of the range DSLRs you will be probably be using full-frame (though perversely I often use the D810 at 1.2x or even APS-C) though few of us ever need the full size files. I didn’t consider Micro 4/3 cameras for years, but using the Olympus has rather changed my mind.

Although the name Leica still comes up with one entry, this is the Leica Q, a fixed lens camera rather than a traditional M-series camera. The nearest to that in the list is perhaps the Fuji X-Pro2, and that, along with four relatively compact fixed lens cameras (three from Fuji and the Leica) making the winners does seem to me to be a very high proportion. There are still situations where a relatively small and less obtrusive camera is the best for the job.

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