Why I Hate My Camera

Unlike most photographers, I hate my camera. I have read hundreds of stories on the Internet in which photographers argue about which cameras are the best and why. There are stories trying to prove that Canon is better than Nikon, or that 4×5 film is better than medium format digital. Camera review websites show scientific-style photographs displaying how much detail they have captured in a dollar bill, or pictures of color checkers and skin tones. They will also show “real-world” and studio tests illustrating how camera A is better than camera B and write long narratives about why.

The comments area of the page is where the real battle begins. It’s a battle between the Skeptic, the Cynic, and the Undoubting Believer. The Undoubting Believer loves everything he reads about in the article and drools over the amazing new camera. He will defend to the death that this is absolutely the best new camera out there. Now the Skeptic throws some punches. The Skeptic will pick on a few problems the camera has and will say that under certain circumstances this may be a great camera, but under other conditions it may not be. “This is a great camera for sports, but not for the studio” or something along those lines.

The height of the battle is when the Cynic steps into the ring. No matter what the article states, the Cynic doesn’t believe any of it. One would think that the Cynic has a PhD in online camera reviewing. The Cynic goes on to talk about how bad this camera is in comparison to others, how overpriced it is, and how it’s worse than its predecessor. The funny thing is that this person has never actually used the new camera. Blow after blow the Cynic obsesses over what is wrong about this camera. The Cynic will bash the undoubting believer and the skeptic to no avail. They will alternate turns bashing each other until they get completely off topic and start speaking incoherently.

Once the dust settles you realize that the comment battle hasn’t added a single ounce of useful information to the review. It’s a battle in which all the soldiers die and the civilians of the neighboring towns are left watching in bewilderment, wondering what the purpose of the battle was in the first place. The reason why nobody will ever win is because no matter how great a camera may be in the reviews, it will never be perfect. Every camera has advantages and disadvantages in comparison to others and it’s likely that no matter what they are, the camera will not make you a better photographer.

No matter how good reviewers say a camera is, I still hate it. The camera is always the thing trying to get in the way of me making the picture I have envisioned or I am witnessing before me. You are in front of an amazing sunset but the image the camera makes often doesn’t quite lives up to what it was like to be on that beach watching that sunset. Is it possible to make a picture of an amazing sunset that lives up to the moment? I think so, but most of the time the image is just a disappointment.

When I download images from a shoot onto my computer I sometimes realize that the shot I thought I captured, which embodied the most amazing moment from that shoot, is out of focus or something is just slightly not right. More often than not, the camera gets in the way of the feeling I had when when I pushed that shutter button. For the short time period when the shutter was open and the mirror was up, I am in the dark and can’t see with certainty that I captured what I thought I captured until I see the image later. Even if I did capture the moment I was hoping to capture, more often than not the image I shot doesn’t quite convey what I felt when I took that picture.

This is why I love photography but hate my camera. I love the challenge of trying to use a clunky piece of technology to capture images even though the odds are stacked against me. Trying to fit a person, experience, or piece of the world onto the surface of a digital sensor or piece of film is such a challenge. As photographers we are taking the three dimensional world and turning it into a two dimensional photograph. No matter how good a camera may be, or how good the reviews may be, it is still just a tool which allows me to make photographs. Even a camera with the very best reviews can easily make horrible photographs. I’ll tell you one thing for sure, sitting around arguing about why one camera is better than another will not make you a better photographer, but it sure can be entertaining.

About the author: Steve Giralt is a NYC-based photographer who was selected in 2005 by PDN magazine as one of 30 emerging photographers to watch. Visit his website here. This post was originally published here.

Image credit: Boxing by abolotnov, Civil War Battle 859 by Michael Kappel

  • Siva

    So true. However, it still doesn’t stop me from drooling over the latest piece of equipment.

  • speltrong

    Interesting point of view. I’m just the opposite – I love my camera, and cameras in general but hate most forms of photography. I specifically choose lenses and alter my settings in a way I’d never be able to reproduce with my eyes without the aid of special glasses. I could care less about capturing a feeling or moment that I’m experiencing in the way I’m experiencing it – I’d rather be surprised and delighted at what a fisheye, or a macro, or an ultrawide can do to a seemingly “normal” object or setup.

  • Kimberly Siebert

    Thats called G.A.S, go gear acquisition syndrome.. I have bad GAS too, in fact, I have bad GAS right now…… :)

  • Matt

    What I hate about my camera is that it does exactly what the goof at the controls tells it to do…

  • Bri Miller

    amen brother

  • Stephan Zielinski

    Garry Winogrand is apropos here: “Photography is not about the thing photographed. It is about how that thing looks photographed.”

    (Less cryptically: no camera is your eye; it cannot do what your eye does. However, your eye is not a camera, either; your camera can see things in a way you cannot. Don’t fight it; collaborate with it.)

  • Spider- Man

    The only issue with my cam is the nut opperating the shutter HA

  • Revolori

    So, you want to be a swordsman but dont know how to use a sword? Its a tool and nothing more, just learn how to use it so get what you want.

  • Arjan

    Funny, this is just what he discribed.

  • RJ

    Love your line, “Every camera has advantages and disadvantages in comparison to others and it’s likely that no matter what they are, the camera will not make you a better photographer.” This is the truest statement ever about photography! Well said!

  • gabe sturdevant

    Thats the joy, pain, hate, and love that is photography. If we got the perfect picture every single shoot, what joy or excitement would be left? It’s being amazed that a shot you didn’t think would turn out did. It’s being disappointed that the shot you think you got did not turn out. It’s what keeps me going. Being patient for that one split second moment where the war with the camera, and more importantly with yourself, is won.

  • Susheel Chandradhas

    If you’re having trouble with your camera, it’s obvious that you do’t know how to use it 100%. Spend more time with it and stop hating.

  • jdm8

    That’s a very long way to say that the camera is no better than the user’s understanding of how to use it.

  • philhoyt

    Everything about this article is wrong. I didn’t read it BUT i have opinons about it that I must state. meh.

    I liked the article a lot.

  • Bob Wydra

    I know the day will come when you will have so many aspects of the image cover that one device will do more than most photographers will take the time to find in the data.

    Here’s a thought, video so hi res that we set it and then just pick the frame we like at the perfect moment. 200 fps and instead of 1080 I am thinking 20 times that so you can crop to 1/250 of the image. Multi lens multi processor devices that have a bank of 20, 30 or 100 lenses set in an array like how a insect eye is laid out all set to different inputs as to work directly with the software so you can see the entire focal plane at different color balances and 100% focus throughout the entry field. Say by to Fstops!

    Well there you have it, then we will finally have it all or at least more than we can handle. What then! I am glad I grew up with film and your eye was the best device to see the light and great photographs had a sense of mystery and wonder. Now there is so many images that we are digitally numb and we are so board with it all we find comfort in making the images look like they have been in a box for 35 years and were run over by a truck. Thanks Instagram. I have cameras that do amazing things yet I still use The M setting most of the time and know that the image has to do with the moment and the elusive hunt for the that place and time that no one else has taken the time to find. I wish us all well in the adventure of finding the perfect element and the perfect moment when the emotion is at it’s absolute hight but let none us forget that we all started a child like awe about the process of how wonderful our first images came to life. We live for the challange and the chase and sometimes it’s the one we miss that shows us how important the image is that is “the one” is. Good luck and happy hunting.

  • Alfie Goodrich

    “The camera is always the thing trying to get in the way of me making the picture I have envisioned or I am witnessing before me.”

    Imagination bends around whatever methods of execution are available. Imagination sees how to use whatever is at hand to realise the initial vision… creativity is not about hating a piece of equipment because it ‘in the way’. It’s about seeing no impediment to realising that goal of the picture you had in your head.

    Maybe your head is getting in the way….? And not the camera….

  • The Douche Outing Bureau

    well it’s clear you did not check the author’s website before commenting.
    He’s ok, knows how to work the equipment.

    You are the epitomy of the cynic type described above.

  • Steve Giralt

    Next Story: “I love my camera! Now look at me use it so perfectly every time I push the button.” Who wants to read that article? Nobody wants to hear a Pro photographer blab about how great they are, and how good they are at using their camera. What would I accomplish by writing such an article? All I would get is the same exact thing I wrote a post about.
    Those who believe that this article says that I am bad at using my camera totally missed the point. I am amazingly skilled with my equipment and shoot so often that the equipment usually doesn’t get in the way for me. The point is that photography isn’t easy, even for a professional like myself. Creating great images no matter how good your camera is, takes great amount of skill, effort, and practice. This was supposedly a feel good article for photographer who get discouraged when their images don’t come out as they hoped.
    The point most readers did get is that arguing in the comments section of a blog about a camera doesn’t accomplish anything much. And here we are, writing back and forth in the comments section of a blog post about arguing about cameras on a blog post.

  • Albert Zablit

    exactly my thoughts

  • Albert Zablit

    No. Next story: “my experiences, my stories, my advice.”

    Personally, it would have clicked a lot better with me. Instead, you served me with a “why i hate my camera” and a long diatribe about gear and people commenting on the internet.

    You don’t hate your camera (I got that from the get-go), you obviously care too much about what commenters on the web think of gear this and gear that, and forgot all about the essence of what you do and why you do for a second there, Steve.
    I eventually clicked on your website and found you pretty good. And you seem to see and know that as well. Embrace. The. Fuck. Out. Of. That.
    Maybe you’ll get less attention. Maybe that’s not what “people want to hear”, but it’s definitely something that will come from the heart, authentic and sincere.

    Cheers ;)


  • Jeremy Wallace

    I’m reading this as I have 7 other B&H tabs open… I’m ashamed :(

  • Deukmejian Wilderness Park

    I don’t know how many times I’ve shot something only to see it on the screen an hour or two later with disappointment (almost always). But then, if I revisit it a week, a month, or a year later, I seem to find that there was some real magic in the capture, almost as if I am seeing it through a new viewers eyes.
    So, what our brains do with color, perception of distance, and sense of frame cannot be explained much less be reproduced outside of those billions of synapses we call memory, and it is not the fault of the tools or the photographers…
    We all have times where we need to step back and allow our images to “cook” off that initial perception and allow for post-shot creativity to step up.

  • darylcheshire

    I tend not to read too many comments as there are many angry opinionated people out there and I switch off after the first few.
    You read a nice review and someone will say “it doesn’t have a pop-up flash, it’s crap” or something similar.

  • Nath

    I believe you have a Sony then?

  • jdm8

    What I wrote might seem insulting. What I meant more is that a camera can’t make up for user error. It’s not a magic box with mind reading capabilities to boot.

  • mark

    I hate my hammer. It hurts my thumb when it misses the nail.

  • Jon

    “This is why I love photography but hate my camera. I love the challenge of trying to use a clunky piece of technology to capture images even though the odds are stacked against me.”

    ^ That tied up the article to me. It seems like a lot of you aren’t really taking into consideration that every nitwit, including Steve, knows that a camera isn’t making or breaking a photo. That’s the point of this article – that cameras are tools. Means to an end. Different photographers see the relationship between themselves and their tools differently, and I think it would be a little bit ridiculous to say that any one view is right or wrong. The way it seems that Steve sees this relationship is that a camera challenges you to find the one (or few) right way(s) to take a picture in a way that captures the experience, or whatever you’re intending to communicate. In that light, your camera is an enemy of sorts. I myself lean more towards Stephan Zielinski’s view – “no camera is your eye; it cannot do what your eye does. However, your eye is not a camera, either; your camera can see things in a way you cannot. Don’t fight it; collaborate with it.”

    But maybe for some people, it helps to fight it, and to see photography, and each photo they take as a challenge to overcome the obstacle that is the frame. All in all, this was a very interesting article with a pretty enticing title. Don’t be so quick to assume someone with a different view is a moron behind a camera.

  • mds18

    whats the model of your camera anyways?

  • Steve Giralt

    If you haven’t gotten it yet, it’s not actually about me hating my specific camera … I actually love my actual camera. Phase One IQ180 back with Hasselblad V bodies and lenses

  • Nathan Hornby

    You’re right, in that eventually we’ll eventually be able to capture a ‘scene’ in a more malleable way (think RAW times a million); but in some ways that would take you back to square one. You’d still need to decide what to alter to achieve the right image, the only advantage it gives is that a specific moment in time yields many potential photographic opportunities, rather than having to get it right first time.

    tl;dr A bad photographer in charge of that kind of photography equipment would still produce bad photographs.

  • Neoracer Xox

    Sounds like your the problem not the camera lol

  • Richard H. Weiner

    1) In order to build a house you need to learn how to swing a hammer.
    Learn your tool first then it is there to help, not hinder, with your vision.
    2) Even the PROS who have learned their tools have bad days.
    But they don’t show their crap shots to anyone.

  • KN

    it seems all the problems that you list are because, you are technically poor and inept and not because your camera is bad. stop hating your camera, start loving and learning it, perhaps then you wont have the simple problem of not being able to capture the sunset for what it is. secondly, as a photographer, your primary motive should be to live the moment through your camera and through your pictures, if you are so in trying to feel what is around you then please by all means stop photographing and start doing something else. thirdly, as far “Even if I did capture the moment I was hoping to capture, more often
    than not the image I shot doesn’t quite convey what I felt when I took
    that picture” is concerned, the problem is with you brother, not with your camera. the problem lies with your visual sense and not with your instrument, again, you are unable to use your instrument properly, and its your fault not your instrument’s.

  • Adrian

    What I really learned to “hate” is post processing and how PS experts are such bad photographers, but one would never know since they cover it all by fixing all the bad 1’s and 0’s. So much technology crammed in the latest DSLR’s but one goes and spends thousands on post processing software and countless hours modifying reality. Yes I didn’t know any better and I too acquired such tools but now see my self going back to the basics, capturing the moment and with the least effort possible. On film and w/ a 2.7 mp Nikon D1 and only one lens, 50mm 1.4.