The secret camera revealed

The last few days I’ve had some fun on Google+ and Twitter with images I shot during the workshops with a “secret” camera. Of course I know when I post images online with the message “testing a different camera” it will start people wondering what kind of camera that will be, according to some it had to be the new Canon 5DMKIII, according to some a new Leaf digital back, or maybe even the new Nikon. Anyway the people were convinced it had to be something special, and the images…. well the usual quality.

I can already give away that the images you see are almost 100% straight out of the camera, some small things have been changed in the background, for example some seams from the wallpaper, the background has been smoothened with the gray background, but furthermore they are straight out of the camera.

Before I reveal this “mystery” camera, some background information.
The images were all shot during the workshops, I literally took not longer than 4-5 shots per setup to get the shot you see here, in other words they could have been better. But this was not the point.

How it started
Very often I hear about the images I post online that the main reason they look good is the gear I use, and let’s be honest I can say 100 times it’s the light somehow people really don’t understand this, sometimes this is a frustration because people really think that gear will make you a better shooter. And let’s first make clear that I don’t think of myself as one of the greatest shooters out there, I make nice images, I can teach a good workshop and I’m an all round Mr. Nice Guy (with a killer high kick :D). Some people will say differently and I love that but this is my opinion. (maybe it’s a Dutch thing).

The feeling that it’s all in the gear is something that I hate. And OK I use a Medium format camera and Elinchrom strobes (and some killer firewire and USB cables) but in the end in my opinion it’s all about the photographer and his/her control of the story, light etc. to make a good shot. In the last weeks I’ve been posting several blog posts about posing, styling and upgrades and to be honest (believe it or not) it’s all been building up to this….

Because all the images you have seen in this blogpost and online that were made with “a different” camera, they were indeed all done with a Canon…… but not a 5DMKIII, not even a 5DMKII, and not even a 10D……. my camera of choice for these images was my old Canon G9…..


I just put on a skyport and shot it next to the Medium Format camera.
Now what is the deal with this experiment…..


Differences or no differences
Trust me, the G9 is NO comparison to the MF system or the 5D(MKII).
But I never ever doubted that, however some people claim that they can judge from an internet file if it was shot with a MF camera, a DSLR or a P&S. There were many of those threads on several forums, and I’ve read quite a few and to be totally honest I always wondered how people could ever tell the difference from a small file on the internet, also when I tell people that their DSLR is really good enough and they should only make the switch to Medium Format when they really need the systems pros (if you want I can make a different blog post about those), still there are people that judge from an internet sized image and really full heartily believe that they can never ever make images like that because their gear is not up to the task.


Again, PLEASE don’t read this as a message that all gear is equal because it most definitely is not, but realize that to make this point I really went to an extreme, I wanted to use my iPhone 4S initially but did not because of the distortion of the wider lens would give it away to easily so I took the simplest camera I had in my possession with a hotshoe and that happened to be my old G9 (which is by the way in no way a bad camera, but a lot less than a DSLR). The whole idea behind this “experiment” is to show you that even with a P&S you can make images that are good, a G9 is as good as the photographer holding it. It does has it’s limitations and when I would show you 1:1 crops you will immediately see a huge difference, but what I hope to achieve is that people who are budget limited and can’t afford new gear and therefore feel closed down in their progress are motivated to pick up their “junk” and discover that in essence they have a great camera and that when they learn to control their light and pay attention to detail in the styling, posing, angles etc. they can make incredible images with their camera.


In the end it all boils down to this.
It doesn’t matter if you hammer a nail in the wall with a hammer from brand X or brand Y as long as the nail goes in the wall. With cameras this doesn’t work exactly that way because there is indeed a huge difference between some models and for some photography you will be limited, but please do realize that when you are judging from images you see on the internet, PLEASE don’t discard your own system as being worthless, invest in workshops that teach you proper understanding of lighting, learn to get your vision on the sensor, and than you very quickly realize that the camera is just a tool….. and the best camera ? that’s the one you have with you.
If you want to have a great investment in learning to master you camera, lights etc. click on the Kelbytraining logo in the side menu and take a subscription, you could start with one month, but trust me… before you know it you will be hooked and want more and more…… I think it’s the best investment you can make in your photography learning curve…. and you can also see some videos I done for them 🙂

19 replies
  1. Stefan
    Stefan says:

    Hi Frank, interesting topic and I totally agree with you. But to be very honest I also believed before that it is all about gear, which on itself is nice for the gear suppliers 🙂

    Since I am following your blog but also the one for instance from David DuChemin who has named his blog that it is “about vision and not about gear” it became also my believe. Especially since my best frame was made with a G10.

    Investing in workshops and not (too much) in gear is my present approach and yours are on my wish list for next year which is very close by

    Gr Stefan

  2. Aryan Aqajani
    Aryan Aqajani says:

    That’s one of your best blogs ever, Frank. It simply shows that gear does not matter to convey a story, emotion or expression. As you said, it matters when other factors and job requirements come into account. Well done man.

  3. Jonathan Thompson
    Jonathan Thompson says:

    Excellent stuff Frank. Beautiful images we can all obtain if we learn to use and caress light. I hope to come on one of your workshops one day, as long as it’s in English 😉 Love your Kelby Training videos, everyone should stop by there and take a look.
    Thanks for all your sharing. Wishing you and all your family, friends & followers a very happy Christmas.

  4. Bernd Markgraf
    Bernd Markgraf says:

    somehow I’ve seen this coming 🙂
    but please elaborate on the pros of MF – I need more reasons to convince the missus 😉

  5. Charles Mercer
    Charles Mercer says:

    Interesting exercise Frank. There’s a lot of truth in the saying that it’s not the gear that produces great images, it’s the nut on the lens! I’ve taken to carrying my Canon G12 around with me – it’s not exactly a compact, but it’s smaller than a DSLR. And it’s a little marvel. I use images for the web, so I don’t really need a camera which would allow me to blow up billboard size enlargements. Fair enough,  a 5D mark 11 for use in the studio, but now I’ve seen what you have produced with the G9, I’m beginning to wonder. Do we all spend too much on our gear?

  6. Riker.
    Riker. says:

    Great post frank… and with all the revolutionary advances in even the smaller camera’s these days and minimal post processing.. can produce top quality results.
    But it’s like you said it’s not always the gear.. it’s in the eye of the beholder. and or in our line of business .. “the shooter”
    it’s all about the technique and not always about the tools.. you learn to use these as you learn more about how to create a better and better image every time you pick up a camera. Hell even I’ve take some wicked shots with a 6.3 mp Canon digital rebel XTi that I bought in Canada in  2005 .. and while even though those images were shot mostly in jpeg back then ..they rocked.. but as you learn to take better images…  you learn better and better ways to produce them even with the not so expensive equipment you already have in hand today. Until your ready to make a move and pick up that new piece of equipment and master it !
    it’s all about your techniques.. once you master them or a achieve a consistent level of great images.. then your ready for the next step. And the whole process begins over again.

  7. Ronnie Kinaadman
    Ronnie Kinaadman says:

    Hi Frank, great article and great advice! I needed to hear something like this lately and it just re-enforces what my current ideas are on investing more in learning.  Thanks for posting this.

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