What is the most important part of your SLR or EVIL camera? If you just replied ‘the camera body’, you’re onto something, but you’d be wrong. The answer is “the lens” – and in this post, I’ll teach you everything you need to know about lenses!
Okay, so not everybody agrees that lenses are important, but hear me out… Of course, it’s important to have a bucket-load of megapixels, comfortable controls, a good light meter, a solid ISO range, reliable noise reduction and a precise shutter – and all of that is part of your camera body. However, I’ve grown to appreciate camera bodies as more or less disposable.
That’s not to say that the cost of a camera body is pocket change, but I’ve been through a hell of a lot of camera bodies over the past 15 years. If we cut off the dreary pre-digital era, my SLR history started with the Canon EOS D30 I saved up for for several months. After that, I had a D60, a 300D, a 350D, a 450D, a 400D and a 550D. In between all of that, I’ve also had several xxD and xD series cameras, but because I spend most of my time writing books aimed at beginners and intermediate photographers, I like to keep a finger on the pulse by (mostly) sticking to entry-level cameras.
Each individual little step up the camera body ladder is an evolution rather than a revolution. Canon, Nikon, and all the other camera manufacturers keep making tiny little tweaks that make camera bodies that tiny little bit better for every iteration. I defy anybody to tell much of a difference between the Canon EOS 500D and the Canon EOS 550D, for example, but pick up a 300D and compare it to the 600D, and you’ll be amazed how different the camera bodies are. Better sensors, better ergonomics, better controls, better photo quality, better battery life, and still around the same price point. It’s awesome.
Introduction, Part II: Wasn’t this meant to be about lenses?
The point I’m trying to make here is that I’ve owned a dozen different camera bodies over the past 15 years or so, but there’s one thing that stays constant: My lenses. I don’t buy lenses very often, but when I do, I buy top-quality stuff.
The oldest lens I currently use is nearly 10 years old, and it’s a 70-200mm f/2.8. It’s ludicrously sharp, delivers fantastic autofocus performance, and is one of my all-time favourite lenses. If it was stolen from me today, I’d head to the nearest camera shop tomorrow to buy the exact same lens again. Or, y’know, the current version of it.
The best thing about all of this is that that 70-200 lens has done something that’s nearly unheard of in the world of technology: It has gotten better with age. Or rather: Every time I upgrade my camera body, the image quality I get from my lenses increases just that tiny little bit. The sensors and on-board processing on SLR cameras is only getting better, meaning that I can get more resolving power, better colours, and less noise from my lenses.