A Lesson In Lighting: An Impressive Demo that Shows You It’s Not About the Gear

It’s not about the camera, it’s about the light. Here to prove that is photographer Miguel Quiles. In the above video, Quiles proves you don’t need the best camera or lens to capture amazing results. You only need to understand how important light is and learn how to use it to your advantage.

As part of the Photoflex lighting school, he decided to use an interesting little demonstration to show off that more so than anything, it’s the lighting that defines an image, not the gear. Specifically, he put a Canon 5D Mark III with an 85mm f/1.2 L attached up against a Canon 7D with a 50mm f/1.8 attached. Using the same lighting setup with each kit, he processed the files identically and shared the results.

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Granted, a YouTube video isn’t going to show all the detail, unless you’re viewing the images at 100%, the difference seems negligible. Quiles has a number of quality lighting modifiers that helped him achieve this goal, but the same could be done with natural light. Gear does have an impact, there’s no denying that. But more than any gear, understanding how to see and manipulate light will affect your photographs more so than any camera body or piece of glass.

(via The Phoblographer)

  • pgb0517

    Canon 7D with 50mm f/1.8 lens is more like $1,100.

  • Black Light Shoots

    Yep he should have mentioned Used / Refurbished pricing.

  • Jonathan Maniago

    It should be noted though that the 7D’s 18MP sensor was also inherited by the 60D, 550D, and 600D.

  • eric westpheling

    Using the 85mm 1.2 stopped down on a seamless is kinda silly. Not really the use-case for that lens. That said, almost any camera body from 2002 onward will make you great pics if you can use it well!

    Would love to see this revisited, on-location, wide open- compare the resulting 8x10s

  • Black Light Shoots

    Good video. I have worked with good professionals who use that 7D+50mm1.8 combination. This is about lighting though.

  • Gvido Mūrnieks

    I totally agree, that good lighting is a key, to a good portrait. And I too think, that most photographers underrate entry level cameras and overrate high-end ones.

    But, I think, that his camera comperesment was rather pointless. Of course, you wont see a big difference between FF and crop, when you shoot f/9 and ISO100.

  • Mhord

    It’s me or the audio isn’t working?

  • pgb0517

    Aarrgh. This discussion about “it’s not the gear, it’s the photographer” is getting so very, very stale. It’s as stale as the “over-Photoshopped” rants. Boring, in other words. Can we talk about something else? No? Oh well.

    Yes, using the lighting and skills he used in this video, I can probably get the same results with my Canon Rebel XS and a $100 lens.

    So what? So very, very what?

    I did not buy my Canon 6D so I can replicate this particular test or any other “gotcha” test. People need to think about the entire range of how they use their cameras to reach the right purchase decision.

    Example: I shoot a lot of indoor candids for events, just people in ordinary rooms with whatever light, or lack of it, there happens to be. The first time I shot such images with my 6D and ratcheted the ISO up to 3200 and even higher and got clear, detailed results, I knew I had made the right choice. I don’t know about the 7D, but I know that my 60D and my Rebel could not do that.

    For the first time, I can actually think about using auto ISO with some confidence in shooting situations where the lighting changes frequently. I have taken usable indoor photos in mediocre lighting at 6400 ISO.

    Plus my 6D has many features, such as WIFI and the iOS EOS Remote app, that really make my life easier.

    If you want to document where you parked your car at the Walmart, or take grainy or overly flashy indoor pictures at a birthday party, use your iPhone.

    This is just not a debate worth having.

  • Mhord

    Nevermind he put his audio on the left channel and my speaker cables aren’t playing well :P

  • Jonathan Maniago

    It’s not one of those “it’s not the gear, it’s the photographer” videos. The point is to consider other possible investments (in this case, lighting) rather than simply going for the most expensive camera or lens. It’s still about gear.

  • pgb0517

    You make a good point. I think it’s a bit of both. This just bugs me because somebody else might go out with their Rebel and think they’re a pro, or overlook lots of good reasons for buying a better camera body. Cheap vs. good lighting is a great discussion to have, though. I figured out about fluorescents for portraits real quick after I tried a kit. Now I have Bowens Geminis.

  • pgb0517

    Now that I think about it, the headline and lead paragraph are off the mark and probably influenced my thinking. The video is about gear — lighting gear — and the skills to use it.

  • Tim

    “Using the 85mm 1.2 stopped down on a seamless is kinda silly.”

    Most portraits on seamless are stopped down, using it wide open on a seamless would make less sense because his face would be OOF.

  • Pickle

    utter rubbish. He’s using an expensive lens for a purpose that it really wasn’t meant to be used (people don’t buy an f/1.2 lens to stop it down, and then using expensive lighting to compensate for another lens, then he brags about how it’s not the gear and people actually respect him for that rubbish?

  • Pickle

    You’re missing the point. People buy f/1.2 lenses to shoot at f/1.2 in low light or to blur the background. at f/8, even a kit lens would be very good.

  • eric westpheling

    Yes. The vignetting at 1.2 would also be not so great for working on a seamless.

  • bob cooley

    Really? The headline is “An Impressive Demo that Shows You It’s Not About the Gear” :) I’m kidding of course – it should be titled, “It’s not about the gear, its about more gear!”

  • pgb0517

    I guess he chose the 50mm just because it’s a cheap lens, but no, you wouldn’t use it this way generally.

  • chris

    there is some serious moire on one of his grey suit image crops while the other image has no such issues. that ain’t the light.

  • Meredith Horne

    At the same time, there are people that can afford the 5D and 7D bodies and more expensive lenses but have no clue how to use them nor how to compose a photograph. The gear doesn’t always make the photographer.

  • Adam Cross

    this is hilarious. “it’s not about gear” … then goes on about great quality lighting… which is gear that is also super expensive if quality is what you want, using triggers that are super expensive and then processes his images in Lightroom /and/ Photoshop which are expensive. I needed some comedy today, thanks PP.

  • Adam Cross

    a purpose that it wasn’t meant to be used for? … studio portraiture? I guess all those shooters out there using 85 lenses to shoot portraits are doing something wrong. And no – no one buys fast lenses to shoot specifically at it’s widest aperture. They might do for the first few days or weeks until they realise the lens performs much better at 2.8 than 1.2

  • Jonathan Maniago

    The guy doesn’t have the best setup for making a convincing argument, but I do agree with his point.

    Not too long ago, I was also drooling over full-frame cameras and the legendary L lenses. I eventually got myself a basic lighting kit (speedlight, triggers, light modifiers) and a couple of 3rd party alternatives (Tamron and Samyang) to work with it.

    While I do not doubt the performance of high-end cameras and lenses, not all photographers can afford them, and other equipment may offer better bang for buck.

  • Sidd Saha

    While I don’t disagree to “t’s not the gear, it’s the photographer”, this video is kind of pointless. One can get the same result using a kit lens on a 4 year old rebel camera, with similar lighting setup. Even a point-and-shoot with some manual controls and a hot shoe will be able to produce the same result.

    The video highlights the difference in the prices – which I think is pointless. There are some things an 85L on 5D can do that 50/1.8 in a 7D just cannot.

  • Tagnal

    What I got from this…

    “See you can get the same results using cheaper lenses and cameras. Nevermind the expense of the studio strobes, light modifiers, studio space, light stands, backdrop, triggers, etc. Also, let’s ignore the primary reason why most photographers want a lens capable of f/1.2 or the higher ISO capability of a FF.”

  • ScottDonald

    I love my 1.2 85mm, but if I knew I would only be shooting studio portrait (and thus at f5 or higher) then I wouldn’t have paid the extra $1,000. The 1.2 does things in natural low light that no other lens can and that is the reason you pay the difference for that lens. The point of the video would have been been to compare a “L” lens on 5D to non-L lense on Rebel. Then show how lighting can close the gap on image quality between that set up.

  • David Sorcher

    Seems a silly comparison. Why the 85mm ƒ1.2, especially if you are going to stop it down to ƒ9? The main reason this lens is so much more money is that it is so fast and requires so much more glass for that 1.2 aperture. And in the end the title is deceiving because the video actually IS about the gear, just the LIGHTING gear instead of the CAMERA gear. That light with the Flex Flash with the Octo-dome isn’t exactly a cheap set up.

  • John

    Who paid for this ad? All of the brands included?

  • Tagnal

    Also, the point for for lighting was already better demonstrated in Lee Morris’s video using an iPhone 3G

  • Tim

    But not as good as a prime, since they’re sharper stopped down and have less distortion. Ideal for portraits, hence the name “portrait lens”. What’s silly is trying to shoot a portrait at f/1.2 since the DOF is so narrow you’ll only ever get one eye in focus.

  • Tim

    And by the way i get the point of the article but i am replying to Eric’s comment that the 85mm 1.2 shouldn’t be used like that. It’s the perfect use for it.

  • Tim

    Of course people buy the f/1.2 to use it stopped down! What, just because you have an f/1.2 lens does that mean you have to go around shooting everything at f/1.2? Free your mind man. I’m guessing you’ve never used one, the DOF is so narrow its practically useless for most things, especially portraits (where you need both eyes in focus).

  • Tim

    That is exactly the point of the video but some people are over complicating it..

  • Tim

    I noticed that but i wondered if it might have something to do with my screen resolution.

  • Roberto De Nigris

    You are totally right. Actually at first, not paying great attention while watching the video, they did seem very close in quality. Then I went back, made sure the video was set to 1080p, paused and took a closer look at the suit and sweater images, and on both the left side image is way sharper. Of course, the right one is fine too, but you can notice the difference pretty clearly.

  • Jorge

    with good light even an iPad would take a nice shoot. The point in having a better gear is to use it in tough conditions such as bad light situations.

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  • Dave Wilson

    I would really like to see a detailed comparison between full frame and crop sensor cameras and DOF/Bokeh. I’m having a tough time understanding how a full frame sensor can alter that.

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  • Julie Malmstrøm

    I’m a videographer – what tips do you guys have on low budget video lighting equipment? So far I’ve worked only with natural lighting – using a reflector etc. If I were to buy light stands for electrical lighting I’ve read that work lamps and those round paper lamps are good cheap buys. Does anyone else have good tips? Because as far as I can see, all the lamps made specifically for video cost a minimum of 2000 dollars. Please correct me if 200 dollar video lamps are available out there :) !!

  • pgb0517

    Google topics such as “fluorescent lights for videography,” “LED lights for videography,” “halogen lights for videography,” and various resources turn up. Youtube has a bunch of videos on the subject.

  • Julie Malmstrøm

    But LED lights often create light “waves” when I film – especially since I shoot in pal (25 fps). Its not too bad in NTCS (24fps) when the lights are turned all the way up. But i’ll look into it at try it out. Maybe its just some LED lights that give me trouble – I think the problem mostly occurred when the lights werent turned all the way up in power… The same problem comes with some projectors – shooting in 25 frames just makes it look weird.

  • mcarneybsa

    Welcome to the world of video where the economies of scale aren’t present like they are in photography. Video equipment is more highly specialized and sold to a smaller audience, it’s gonna be pricey. The best bang for the buck I’ve seen is one of two things: 1) all-around shooting – get an Arri 3-4 light kit with nothing smaller than a 300w lamp. 650’s and 1k’s are the work-horses of video lighting. 2) interviews only – get either two KinoFlo Diva lights or IKan LED panels (the 1024LED models) and one smaller LED light for a hairlight/kicker (litepanels sola eng is a good option). Either way you’re still shelling out around $2k, but you’ll get equipment that lasts.

    The DIY/cheap stuff typically falls apart quick, looks like garbage, and are difficult to control with modifiers/give a garbage-quality light. You’re clients won’t be impressed by your cardboard and gaff-tape softbox (especially when your 500w Halogen work lamp catches it on fire).

  • Julie Malmstrøm

    i totally agree – lighting is noncomparable to photography when it comes to price. And I’ll definitely look into the Arri, Kino Flo and IKan. Haha, yeah, work lamps get insanely hot. And I agree – this stuff should never be used for jobs where you get paid. Thanks for the tips. I think I’d start out by saving up for Arri lamps :) Have you had any trouble with those waves of light (don’t know the exact term for it) when filming with the LED panels?

  • Julie Malmstrøm

    but thanks :) I’lll definitely look into fluorescent and halogen lights and figure out how they work.

  • mcarneybsa

    That issue comes from a bad ballast and is usually most present in flourescent lights. I haven’t experienced it with LED lights, but have with Flouros. Part of the cost of KinoFlo lights are the ballast. If you go with other brands, make sure they have “Flicker Free” ballasts and you should be good to go. You’ll experience more flicker with higher frame rates, so if you are shooting with, say an FS700 at 240FPS, you’ll definitely need to shell out extra cash for the more expensive lights. But if you are like the rest of us who shoot at more modest speeds (even up to 60 in my experience) as long as you buy a reputable system, it’s not an issue.

  • Julie Malmstrøm

    yeah, shutter at 50 is also my preferred speed for LED light. Ok thanks – this made it a lot easier to figure out :) I really appreciate it !

  • Geir

    This is silly. He is not using any features that the expensive camera offers, like a wide open aperture or high ISO. A WV Beetle is just as fast as a Ferrari when they both are driven at 50km/h.

    That being said, good lightning is important. If the lighting conditions are less than ideal, the more expensive setup would stand out because of the faster optics and less noise at high ISO.

  • Jeremiah True

    I do on my 7D for the angle of view. It works out to about a 80mm lens.

  • wilmark johnatty

    What a stupid title – i refuse to read it. Seen many articles with this idea. So if i am shooting at 7 pm after the sun goes down the focusing ability, sensor sensitivity dont make a difference?? Lighting is just another variable and you cannot always choose your lighting.