Pros vs Amateurs

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CharlesB58 Veteran Member • Posts: 9,045
Pros vs Amateurs

"The EM1 Mk2 is too big and expensive. Now the EM1X is going to be even bigger and more expensive"

This complaint is common, and in a certain context not unfounded. It's that context I want to address.

First off, let me say that while I don't currently earn most of my income from my photography, I am currently doing "professional work" because I get paid for taking photos and those photos are regularly used for more than just filling up my own website. Currently this entails music and theater photography, but in the past I have also worked in a professional capacity at a portrait studio. I also know a number of pros and talk with them about gear from time to time.

Secondly, I too wish the EM1.2 were about $500 USD less expensive, and that the EM1x would come in around the $1500 USD mark, but I don't see that happening (though the price of the EM1.2 may drop with the intro of the EM1x. )

Simply put, pros and amateurs view gear from a different perspective and with a different set of priorities.

In my experience, here is how amateur/enthusiast photographers tend to assess the value of a camera (order of importance varies by individual):

  • Sensor size and performance as relates to IQ
  • AF capability
  • Features of additional appeal
  • Overall system

A reasonable set of expectations, but it leads to the complaint that the current flagship from Olympus is too expensive, and almost as commonly, too big. What I find amusing at times is how some people making this complain also seem to want others to know that, even though they aren't pros or "semi-pros" (I prefer "working photographer"), they seem to think they know what pros demand in a camera.

In over 40 years involvement in photography, there has always been a camp of enthusiasts who think this way. Often, they are off the mark in many ways, mainly because they fail to realize most pros approach their photography as a business. As such, that elicits different considerations regarding gear than many amateurs realize.

Based on my own experience, and that of the many pros I know (and articles found on professional sources) here's a list of considerations many pros have when it comes to gear (priority varies by individual):

  • Return on Investment
  • System versatility and manufacturer support for that system
  • Image quality for the job being done and end usage
  • Reliability, usability and durability
  • "Just in case" features.
  • Availability

RoI is huge. Gear needs to earn its worth as quickly as possible. This can also lead a pro to not bother upgrading as long as a current camera getting the job done, since once it's earned its cost, it becomes purely profitable. This is a big reason why pros may not suffer "sticker shock" on flagship cameras (consider that the price of the Canon and Nikon flagships, or the Sony A9, aren't really just because they have Full Frame sensors. But a pros will lay out that much money because he/she could potentially recoup the expense with a single job.

System versatility and manufacturer support. It's not just that Canon and Nikon have a large number of lenses and accessories, and that some of those lenses aren't currently found with other systems (such as tilt/shift lenses). It's that Canon and Nikon both have long standing, extensive pro support.

Did anyone see the photo from the last last Olympics showing the large number of bodies and lenses the support office had? These were to lend or rent to photographers if their own gear either failed, or if they needed a lens they don't own.

Believe it or not, for certain pros IQ is not the end all factor in choosing gear. The context of this is that a pro may own more than one system, choosing a given system for a particular job. He/she might use MF for a fashion shoot intended for a high end magazine, but resort to a smaller format for a shoot of workers in a factory that is just intended for the company's website.

Some pros do use one system for all their work, others use more than one. It's not any sort of "rule" that pros will pick a given camera and stick with that for everything.

Reliability and durability are pretty obvious, but usability is often overlooked as a reason for picking a particular camera.The way the camera feels in the hands, ease of using controls etc. all matter a lot to a photographer who may capture more images in a single day long shoot than a lot of people use in a year.

This relates to size as well. A sports or wildlife photographer is likely to be using long lenses almost all the time. A larger body makes for a better balanced, more easily handled combination. This is especially the case considering the performance of Olympus IBIS, together with the comparatively smaller size of a lens like the 300mm f4 compared to a 600mm lens on a FF camera. Trying to handle that lens with a camera the size of the EM5 would be problematic, even if using a monopod. But the whole idea of Olympus IBIS is to dispense with a tripod or monopod as much as possible.

People ask me why I use m4/3 for concerts when conventional wisdom says I should be using FF, or at least a good low light performing APS-C camera. Part of the answer is I enjoy how my Olympus gear feels in my hands more than any other mirrorless camera I've tried out (and a number of dslrs as well).

"Just in case" features. Right now, I have no "professional" need for Hi-Res capability. If I were to try to get product photography jobs, then I'd make use of that feature. One of our forum friends recently posted a lightning photo that was facilitated by the "live composite" feature. This is a little known feature that, as far as I know, no other camera has. It makes taking lightning photos pretty "easy" compared to what most people try, and eliminates the need for buying a lightning trigger.

A pro may not regularly use certain features on his camera, but knowing it's there when a paying opportunity comes along is important. By contrast, we regularly hear amateurs sniff at certain features  on a camera declaring they don't see a need for it.  Many pros can't afford to think that way.

Availability. Olympus users well know the issue with finding a place that carries Oly gear in stock, in order to try before buying.  This can impact a pro who needs to pick up a piece of gear right away. Pros may also want to borrow gear from a friend (one of my former associates on a website I shot for had a Nikon UWA that he used a lot. He said I could borrow it, if I owned Nikon...)

None of this is to put down amateurs. It's just to point out that when it comes to pricing a flagship camera, Olympus and other companies know that pros aren't going to balk at a price nearly as much as enthusiasts will. This is why companies offer "enthusiast" or "prosumer" cameras for those who like a greater number and more advanced features than lower tier cameras, but don't want to pay the price of a flagship model.

Yes, I agree it would be great if Olympus let us know when the EM5 MkIII was coming out, and what sort of upgrades it will have. However, anyone who has used Olympus for a while knows they tend to "keep their cards close to the vest" at times.

My apologies for this being so long, but as a working photographer, I do, at times, get annoyed by complaints about prices coming from people who don't understand the market certain cameras and lenses are intended for.

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Photography is not about the thing photographed. It is about how that thing looks photographed. Quote by Garry Winogrand

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