Seven years with one camera By Amirali Joorabchi

Seven years with one camera

By Amirali Joorabchi

Hi steve , hi everybody!

I’m AmirAli , a reader of this awesome blog for about two years. I’m 23 , live in Tehran. I do painting and photography as an enthusiast. I started photography when I was 14-15. As a gift my family bought me a Canon 400D and a 50 f1.8 and if I’m right I have this set and been using it for about 7 years ! Well it’s 10mps , ISO800 isn’t clean , ISO1600is only usability in monochrome , the LCD is 2.5″(240k). The camera and two lenses weighs in at about 850g…and yes I’m still using it !

This lest seven years that has passed by..well, photography has changed a lot (which you all know better than me). The wave in digital photography started with Canon 350D (affordable DSLR for everyone) then led to this following seven years. Companies got competitive with each other , introducing new models like a mad man ( canon 40D/50D… Nikon D80/D90… Canon 5D/5DmarkII Nikon D700/D800/D610 Sony A900/A800/A99 , then mirrorless Olympus , Panasonic , Sony , Fuji…).

The more technology went further , the more prices came down , which now you have so many affordable options (heck you can buy a full frame for 1600$ which weighs less than 500g). In theory this should help people but , instead , it turned out to be a huge problem for us!

For example it became like an idea that “because a pro photographer has that camera/lens then he can take pictures that I can’t”. So I started to blame the gear and I thought if I had better camera I would have made a better photographs. This is the point when your endless loop starts (even if you are aware of the fact that getting new gear won’t make you any better), where you buy new cameras when the one you have is already very qualified. Jumping from one system to another or jump from one brand to other. You fall into this endless loop where you waste time and sources on the wrong side of the photography.

I was about to fall , but a wise photographer told me this: “Changing your gear won’t change your view , it only replaces the last window with a new window to the same view , you’re the one who should change the view “ It hit me really hard. I still didn’t know about composition , lightening , color management… My VISION was weak yet I blamed the camera that I still have. He showed me that how much VISION is more important than gear , that your vision can create beauty , you have to train it to get the most out of it.ย Although the truth was clear but still resisting the new gears was hard. I get another advise : “loan and play with the new ones , the hype will come off of your mind”. I took the advice and it worked most of the time.

I tested Canon 40D , Nikon D90 , Canon 1DsII , Canon 5DII , Sony A900 with zeiss 85F1.4 (this lens didn’t came off ever) , Canon 17-55F2.8 , 24-70F2.8 , 14F2.8 , Nikon 80-200F2.8 , 18-135… . All of them are far better than my set , but using them I realized that my results weren’t that different… if not worse ! The brand was different , the format was different , the lens different , but my vision was the same.ย Yes , new gear makes it easier to take photos like more pixels , better ISO , better OVF/EVF… . These things are not necessary to capture a master piece. These are tools to help us create. But the features has spoiled lots of photographers’ minds. A slight change in light/composition can make a mediocre photo into a master piece , yet we waste our time wondering about gear…

Well , the question is , which is worth to you more ?

1.Having G.A.S and taking mediocre images , or

2.Mastering your vision and taking eternal images

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93 Comments

  1. Really nice photos here… nice compositions and very, very nice capturing of light (which I think is really the main thing with photography). The quality of the images is really as good as it needs to be so at least for these photos, I can’t see that they’d be improved by using any other newer, perhaps higher resolution camera.

    I went through my own issues with desiring fancier, more expensive gear. First I used an old point and shoot digital camera for many years. often I was frustrated by what the camera couldn’t do, but even so I often enjoyed the challenge of working within the limitations that this camera made me recon with. I found that with the right approach to photographing and to processing (really, really important to me!), that I wasn’t feeling like I was missing much using the cheaper, older camera.

    More recently I finally did upgrade as I wanted a camera that had a few less limitations on what I could photograph well. I really wanted one of a couple of models that I realized even used weren’t quite affordable to me. I settled on a similar camera that was less expensive (I got a good deal used) and I quickly realized that this one does pretty much everything I need it to do… even if lacks a few features of the models that I was initially looking at. I’ve gotten so deep into the using the thing that I’ve really stopped thinking about what I might be missing not having the gear that I initially had my sights set on. A huge plus is using this new camera with some very old manual focus, film camera era lenses with adaptors. This makes using extra lenses very cheap (as I had them already). I had read mixed things about using old manual focus lenses with digital cameras, but in my experience they work very well.

    • Thank you. Old lenses do have character and the manual focus will make you think more. But I think a camera and a 35/50 f2 would do the job. Don’t get yourself in trouble. Good luck ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. the photos have a picture/painting like effect and a sincere feeling with the light and post processing(i suppose). and just like you can paint without a camera, you can -as illustrated- lay out a beautiful picture with any camera eh. congragulats:)

  3. There is nothing wrong to use an old camera. None of my cameras has a real ability to shoot beyond 1250 Iso clean. I use a NEX-7 for the sole reason that it allows manual focusing work with all lenses and with ease. I use commonly a light D40 and a Fuji S5 to work with DSLR. Both are 7 years old, both do excellent photos, and D40 is an allround toy, light and simple to use. S5 is absolutely top notch in color rendering, but for the rest, one can not see any difference in the pictures I shot, and here a more recent camera does no better job. The only camera actually that attempts me is Sony’s RX1 for the IQ and the size. But here too, I wait future development. I see that you love light play, same as me. I have quiet a few pictures in the same style, the lamp shots and the mosque are absolutely top notch. Thanks for sharing those. I do not think that any new camera would make you a better photographer, maybe the more recent camera setting possibilities would attempt you to leave the camera do much more work, and by that some of this fascination would be lost. NEX-7 left me rediscover the pleasure to shoot the shot myself, and not leave the job to the camera. But I do the same Steve does, is disable all internal picture reworking functions. Keep on trucking, your on the right road.

  4. Some nice photos there. I would like you to consider this, though. You ask:

    “Well , the question is , which is worth to you more ?
    1.Having G.A.S and taking mediocre images , or
    2.Mastering your vision and taking eternal images”

    That implies that these are the only two options. Just looking around at popular bloggers from Steve here to Kirk Tuck to Michael Reichman to Ming Thein, it’s easy to see that you can be a gear hound *and* an excellent photographer.

    You say “A slight change in light/composition can make a mediocre photo into a master piece , yet we waste our time wondering about gearโ€ฆ”

    You’re suggesting that people are capable of only one train of thought. I think most people are quite capable of learning how to be excellent photographers and keeping up on the latest gear and looking for ways to shoot better (or even just upgrading for fun, if that’s what floats their boat).

    I personally love learning about new gear. I spend some time on online forums, visit a photo expo once per year, and just like to keep tabs on technology. It’s a fun aspect of the hobby. I don’t upgrade too frequently, but I am on my third DSLR. It’s 2+ years old (and was introduced earlier, so has been surpassed by new models) .. between it, a nice selection of lenses, and the excellent Sony RX100, I have no desire for any upgrades. (I’m debating a long tele). The first DSLR was primarily for improved AF (I had a lens that focused so slowly on my first DSLR that I usually used manual focus if I risked missing a shot that I had to take quickly). The second DSLR was primarily to get a quiet shutter (for shooting performances) and Auto ISO in M mode, for shooting sports at high ISOs. I’m not worried about my composition. I’m not looking for gear to make my photos better. I know very well what new gear will and won’t do for me. You’re a better photographer (by far) than I was at 23 (and a wiser one, as well), but you should understand that there are a lot of people out there with a lot of experiences, and a lot of good reasons for looking at new products on the market. Including the simple quest for that elusive camera that just fits your hand like a glove and is a sheer joy to use. (I’ve used a couple different film cameras that were like that, but the digital cameras I’ve used to date are much more sterile … I suspect Fuji has a couple models that might do it, but my current gear is more practical).

    • You are right , there are excellent photographers who enjoy using new gear. This little article is not for them , for sure. This is for the larger part of the photography family , who are struggling and seems to forget that a camera is just a mean.
      New gear will with out a doubt , making your life easier (the high iso on my camera is awful , the grip is not that comfortable and I will well come new gear…) but I rather spend my money on workshops and books rather than gear. And a photographer shouldn’t just rely on his/hers knowledge of photography for taking great photos. Colors arrangement , the different of the quality of the light in different seasons or heights , psychology…(the list is endless !) .These are the elements that separate great photographers from the rest. Now ask around you how many people has spent a whole day for taking just one perfect shot or how many of them spent time talking or doing other things to their models for a long time to prepare them for a single portrait shot ? This is what I meant about wasting time on gear.
      At the end , I am also planning to change my gear in the near future :D.

  5. I agree with almost everything you said, except when it comes to the size and weight of a camera, which can be responsable for the photographs you CAN’T take (bacause your camera is at home).

    So, I think, size-wise, equipment matters and has a direct influence on your creative process.

    Thats why I love my iPhone too. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  6. Very beautiful images AmirAli! They are sensitive, subtle, and powerful, very well done! I specially liked the one of the shepherd and the herd!

  7. Hi Amirali
    Interesting images and great advice about equipment.
    It’s a breath of fresh air to see images like this coming from Iran, reminding us that people around the world are the same instead of the garbage much of the western media vomit regarding your country.
    Even us crazy photographers are the same, lol.

    Take care,
    Harv.!

  8. I totally agree with you Amirali! It adds to the frase David Duchemin always uses; Gear is Good, but Vision is better. I was struck by the portraits you made of the blond girl near the lamp. Well composed with a delicate atmosphere

  9. I totally envy you, Amirali! I really like your photographs and admire your ability to resist the G.A.S.
    Last year I saw the movie “Ghaedeye Tasadof – Bending the Rules” by moviemaker Behnam Behzadi which made me wanna travel Teheran and your pictures confirm my resolution.

    • If I can do it everybody can :D. Thank you. Well except the portraits the rest isn’t in Tehran. I strongly suggest to also visit Esfehan , Shiraz and the nature of the North area. You won’t be disappointed. When ever you are in tehran , just tell me. I’ll be more than happy to give you a tour.

  10. Inspirational…nearest I ever got to GAS was a whopping 2 cameras (Yashica GX and Panasonic GF1) and even that was too much. Never knew which one to take with me and didn’t make sense to take both.

    Down to 1 now, hopefully for the long run. You’ve set the standard, 7 years, I’m about 1 year into that, 6 to go!

  11. I would say you have mastered your equipment very, very well. Nice job. I love all of these shots!

  12. I have a Sony a7r and every A and E mount Zeiss lenses and you take better photos than me. keep up the good work!

  13. Thanks for posting these, Amirali — wonderful photos. I’m assuming you’ve added one wider angle lens at some point along the way from looking at them but otherwise left everything as is . . . still, a great lesson in keeping things simple and focusing on the light.

    Also, those are all in Iran? Seems cooler, rainier and cloudier than I had imagined. Those forest photos are beautiful.

    • Thank you. Except the guy in the mosque(which is in Stanbul) the rest is in iran. The forest photos is in the north area of Iran which is more rainier…the more you move to the south it becomes more dry. Iran is a four season country through the year.

  14. First off wonderful images that show that you truly do have the eye of an artist.

    Without “being” an artist and having art in you, no equipment in the world will make what you do any good.

    Having said that, each artist eventually finds the medium that is best for them to express themselves through.

    And in the case of photography, for myself, I have found that each camera touches me in a different way and modifies my vision uniquely.

    Most recently discovering the Nikon V1 has allowed me to create images that have surpassed my earlier work with much more expensive higher pixel cameras.

    Something about the 10mp V1 has made the difference for me as an artist.

    So I agree with you and don’t agree, if that makes sense?

    I invite you to view my V1 work here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/

    • Thank you very much and a very nice set of captures.
      No I’m not denying what you are saying. You are right , but for me after trying different equipment I find myself to adapt with them to get what I have in mind. It’s the man’s mind that differ himself from other individuals. I guess you finally found peace by the V1.

  15. Great, sensitive images. A great seven years; I hope you have many times seven in the future

  16. the landscape and light there seems to be very similar to here in Northern California where I am. I have tried to capture this land many times but you have succeeded where i have not. I appreciate the difficulty of what you have accomplished, well done.

    • Thank you. Geometrically speaking we’re about the same distance from the Equator , so the light degree is the same. So the difference is about light quality. Those locations are about 3k~3.5km height from the sea. If the last landscape is what you have in mind , I would try the summer at sunset light. I’m sure you take better pictures than me.

  17. Superb images, very well done. You have the vision, equipment will come and go, but your vision will stay and carry you far.

  18. The way you are working with colours is impressive. The last picture is a perfect example. Wow.

  19. You’ve clearly mastered your camera to do what you want. (I sometimes wonder why I thought I had to move on from my D-Lux 4 !) Hugely enjoyable to sit and look at your photos – the colour, the play of light and shade, the framing: everything! I’m so glad you felt able to share. Best wishes to you and for your country.

  20. I agree totally with your point of view. Your images are beautiful, especially the second one. I shoot with a Canon and L lenses plus I have a Fuji X100 which is quirky and annoying, but I use it all the time as I love the images and I am learning to understand the camera rather than blame it ๐Ÿ™‚ I will sell my Canon gear and get the OMD E 1 due to portability and image quality, which will be better for my trip to Nepal and India.

  21. yup you proved the point that you can have the best camera but still not take great pictures and also you can have a decent camera and yet take magnificent shots. in reflection some of my more memorable pictures actually came from a $100 point & shoot Sony DCS W-50 with 6mp and no stabilization. great shots!!!

  22. Sound like you were fortunate enough to meet a wise man. I like your window and view analogy. Will have to give this a lot of thought. Your images have a very enjoyable to look at as well.

  23. Your pictures are a testament to the notion that the most important part of photography is the photographer’s eye and not the equipment! I’ve seem pictures that come out of a smartphone that looked better than ones that came out of professional equipment. Continue mastering your vision and don’t worry about the equipment. At the end, it is all about your vision and not the model number embedded in the images.

  24. Amirali, I haven’t seen such fantastic pictures since a long time. Thanks for sharing these and putting a few questions out. I wish I could take pictures as good as you have taken.

    Unfortunately for me satisfying GAS is also important as I do love playing with new tools. Men love their tools, don’t want to sound sexist but that is true.

    • That didn’t sound sexist at all , and that’s true. Sure you have seen better than these. Thank you.

  25. I really like your images. But I think I have you beat on using an old camera. I used a Canon 10D (6mp) from 2005 until last year. I took a lot of, what I consider, really nice images. I sold many images and won numerous awards with it. I recently went to an Oly E-PL5, and I haven’t seriously used the 10D since. The Oly has much better dynamic range, and the tilting LCD lets me get shots I couldn’t otherwise get. Having said that, my vision is pretty much the same, and is the weak link in my photographic process. The result is, I’m getting better images of the same old stuff!

    • Got you beat, Phil. Used a pair of Nikon D2H bodies as a news shooter from 2003 to 2013 when I retired. Don’t miss the weight of the cameras and the fast lenses that were needed but miss the opportunities I had during the time I was working. Shifted to mirrorless (Fuij) and am working to refine my “vision” with a set of lenses that give me a 35mm, 52mm and 127mm FOV. AND that is a work in progress……

  26. Yes, you are right about the choice vision over gear. No question about that. And you did right trying different setups and brands. So you can be sure that the right gear can support you vision. For me, gear has to go out of my way. If it is in my way, i just know i own the wrong gear.
    Your pics are lovely, i like the third, the fifth and the ninth. It is nice to see Pics of the normal live and the people in Iran. In the news the pics are mostly related to fundamentalism and dangers coming from Iran. So itยดs great to see pics like yours. Enjoy your Camera and the beautiful pics you can make with it.

    • Thank you very much. Yes maybe if politics weren’t so based on advertisements , people of world could see us better.

  27. AmirAli
    I think your pictures present the truth so many of us already know. That by changing cameras and lenses new options may be possible but it the eye behind the viewfinder that matters most. I have largely gone back to using a Nikkor 50mm despite having other lenses and I thnik it is because it is through that lens that I already envisage the final picture. Keep on taking those wonderful photographs.

  28. AmirAli, very well written article and amazing photographs! I love your portrait pictures and the landscape and still life ones are great as well.You are an inspiration to all of us regulars on this blog … we need that reminder every once in a while that it is about your own vision and not about the latest and greatest camera gear …

  29. Very well made point and perfectly demonstrated by your excellent images. There are so many people out there who talk the talk and wax on about their gear, and most of them can’t take photos as nice as this.

    Well done indeed.

    • P.S. Even tho I’m mainly mirrorless now, and my DSLRs have come and go, I still have my 7 year old Nikon D40 (it was the Nikon rival to your 400D!) which I consider to be an excellent camera and one which I have made some of my favourite images with.

    • Thank you very much. Yeah I remember D40 , I had doubts between D40 or 400D and then I said ” what the hell , lets get the canon”

  30. Greetings Amirali–
    You have taken some very fine images, and I loved reading your comments and then seeing what you are able to accomplish with your vision! It is rewarding to hear from someone young who already has begun to understand this wonderful journey called photography! You are an inspiration!

  31. You have made your point eloquently with these wonderful images. Congratulations and thank you for sharing them.

  32. No matter what type of sensor, ISO sensitivity or the size of the sensor of your camera your vision will always win. You are talented regardless of your camera choice. Congrats and good luck!

  33. Wow, Amirali, you are obviously wise beyond your years. Your insight is totally reinforced by your great photography. The fact that you have probably saved thousands of dollars while perfecting your skills is even better. Rest assured that you are a much better photographer than you think, and all because your decision to work on yourself and your art rather than expect that the new, shinny camera to hit the market would make you a better photographer. I must commend you for not submitting to the relentless GAS-inducing propaganda promoted by so many photo bloggers out there who are better writers than photographers. But perhaps you ought to seriously think about whether someday you intend to write about 16 years with the same camera. Don’t know what’s enough when it comes to time and technology, but I guess that’s a personal thing. Enjoyed your take on the subject and your photos.

    • well I guess the shutter life limit won’t let me keep the camera for 16years , but I’ll keep that in mind. Thank you.

  34. Hi Amirali , you are 100% right!! Of course, there’s nothing wrong to try to get a better equipment, but NOT the way it is done today. You can’t even get to know the Fuji XE-2 and the XT-1 comes along! Wow, how about the guys who just bought the XE-2 ? (not I!)
    You proved all your arguments with beautiful images! Congratulations and keep up with the great work!

  35. 2 definitely – as you have done – I like the indoor images especially in the Mosque.

    But sometimes a different camera enables you to make very different images and you buy it for that purpose. Like many as I got older the weight became more important as did problems with my hands, and a one that was easier to operate – dials not menus resulted in changing my gear.

    • +1

      As a fellow enthusiast photographer and father of four kids under the age of 11, lugging around my Canon 7D to family outings was becoming a real chore, and often times we’d leave “The Good Camera” at home and rely on either a P&S or our cellphone cameras for pix of our day. We recently switched to a NEX-6 as our “Family Camera” and we’ve never looked back.

      Having said that, I’m gonna put the train back on its rails and commend you on your photos, Amirali. You certainly have a great eye for photos that is truly inspiring!

    • Thank you , I almost got kicked by that guy in the mosque ! Yes , you are definitely right. I could use better high iso on my camera.

  36. Dear Ali, you are blessed with a fantastic vision as much as a great country where all the beauty you have captured very eloquently. Almost every picture managed to capture my imagination and to me I love the balance of colours and the subtlety of many of your photos. Thanks for sharing.

  37. Well balanced viewpoint. Trying out equipment is a great idea also. Like so many possessions, it’s the yearning and pursuit that’s the fun part often leading to the crash from the “high” once the object of desire is attained. Not to mention the drop in one’s bank balance. Of course if the tool is truly useful and changes the way one does their work then the acquisition has been of value. Steve seems to point to this on a regular basis when emphasizing usability for a particular piece of equipment versus strict tech specs. Congrats on the beautiful photos.

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