The other day I was on a photography forum that I sometimes frequent. It’s just a bunch of people who like and make photographs posting messages on a message board about photography. One question that popped up got me thinking. The question was, “Price not being an issue what is your dream camera?”. It didn’t get me thinking about what my dream camera was. It got me wondering why I don’t have a dream camera. The notion has never even crossed my mind.

First off, despite my interest in and practice of photography, I don’t consider myself a photographer. I am an artist first and foremost. One of the mediums I work in is photography but it isn’t first on my list. Painting and drawing come first. That’s how I spend most of my creative time and energy. I like photography and I like cameras but that question made me realize I have no dream camera.

I am a gadget guy in general. I like handy little devices that make my life a little easier. I find them clever and useful. I even like gadgets that don’t really do much but are cool anyway. I can push buttons and scroll through software with the best of them. I even like old gadgets that are obsolete but become nostalgic little time machines. I’m thinking right now of breaking out my Gameboy camera and going retro. Yet I have no dream camera.

I certainly spent a lot of time researching different cameras before I bought a new one this fall. I must have a dozen models of cameras on my Amazon wish list. I had to even made a special camera wish list so I could keep track of them a little easier. But none of them were dream cameras. They were just the ones I may or may not have bought depending on what I would decide. By the way, I decided to keep things fairly cheap with a $400 camera rather than a $800 one. It ended up being an easy decision since I didn’t have $800 to spend on a camera. Even if I did the camera really wasn’t any dreamier.

I think the lack of a dream camera has to do with the distinction between being an artist rather than a photographer. There is no “Dream” equipment for an artist. Sure I may prefer one brand, type, or color of paint, paper, or canvas over another but it really doesn’t matter that much. One of the fun things and one of the strengths about being an artist is that you can make something out of nothing. With pencil and a piece of paper I can make something. With more elaborate tools I can make more elaborate things but the basic making something out of nothing doesn’t change. Of course nothing isn’t really nothing, it’s art supplies, but you get the point. An artist can make a picture where there wasn’t one before with only the most basic tools. Some chalk and a wall.

No matter how talented a photographer is they can’t make a photo with a stick and some sand. They need a camera. A photographer’s talent is meaningless without a camera so therefore they have dream cameras. On the other hand an artist doesn’t have any dream equipment but has dream talent. Most artists dream about having someone like DaVinci’s talent. Would wouldn’t want to be able to draw and paint with his skill? But no one dreams about having DaVinci’s pencils, paper, or paints. What good would they do us without his talent?

There is a lot to be said about having the right art supplies. I’m a firm believer in the right tool for the right job. But I’m also a believer in making things with the tools you have. There are certainly a lot of things that make an artist’s job easier. I know how to mix any color from the three primary ones but is sure is easier to have a lot of different colors pre-mixed and available for purchase in tubes. I’ve been thinking for years about getting a new and fancier easel but I never do because the old one holds my painting in place just fine. What would a fancier one really do for me? It might help me out a bit in certain situations but I know it won’t make me more talented.

I can understand a photographer’s notion of a dream camera. Sometimes the type of camera does matter. A lot of photographers can take interesting photos no matter what they’re shooting with but there are certain types of photos that not all cameras are capable of taking. The general dream of photographers is to be able to take clear photos and control the focus and depth of field no matter how little light there is. You need extremely well made lenses to do that. And usually the better a camera and lens is at capturing those elements the more expensive it is.

A better camera might not make a photographer more talented but it could make it easier for him to express his talent. If you want to take photos in dimly lit clubs and bars then you’d better have a lens that lets in a lot of light. If you want to freeze the action at a sporting event then you’d better have a big lens. If you want to capture the fine detail of life then you’d better have a sharp lens and large negative/sensor. Those are extremes of photography and they can cost a lot of money.

If you want to do those things in a photo but you can’t quite do what you want to do then you’ll dream about having a camera that helps your talent express itself. If you want to make a beautiful painting but you can’t dreaming about expensive equipment is never a thought. Your only dream is to have more talent. Because paint is paint. An interesting distinction.