There's still something "reassuring" about a DSLR

Nikon D7000 10-24mm Zoom

I like small cameras. Anyone who has read anything of what I've written here over the last three years or so will realise that. However in all that time there has only been a very short period when I haven't had a DSLR at the same time. Though I have issues about the weight of them, in general, I've never stopped enjoying the feeling of picking one up and shooting pictures with it. Male macho posturing probably, but there is a certain satisfaction in holding a large black DSLR + battery grip + big lens. I will admit to a certain sense of "Look what I got, its big isn't it?"

Canon 7D Panasonic GH1

This "mines bigger than yours" attitude is obviously nothing to do with photographic ability, but are we all immune to it? If we are out with our m4/3 camera or CSC, and we walk past a photographer carrying some huge Nikon or Canon rig, how many of us have that little voice inside saying "I wish I'd bought the DSLR,  he/she looks like a "proper" photographer and I don't." Note I used he/she. The common consensus is that this is a male thing. However recently I've seen a fair number of female photographers using large DSLR outfits. It may have been my imagination, but did I detect the merest hint of "Check out my camera" on their faces?

Nikon D5100 16-85mm zoom photographed with a Nikon D7000 and 35mm f/1.8 lens.

So what exactly does a DSLR give me? There's certainly a sense of reliability, solidity and the ability to "get the job done". Whether this has any basis in reality, is another matter. Certainly the only cameras I've ever had fail on me have all been DSLR's, so maybe that impression is not that realistic.

There is also the sense that it's saying "I'm a photographer, thats what I do" with the added implications that, "I'm not a snapshooter"  "I'm serious about photography" "I create images I don't take pictures" No matter what we tell ourselves, are those thoughts and the fact that we want to be taken seriously, lurking in our minds?. I'm honest enough to admit that these thoughts do surface with me from time to time.

So why do we need this "reassurance?" Why this constant desire to prevent the pain of "Camera envy?"  Maybe it's something to do with the fact that, in the "developed" world at least, photography and camera ownership is pretty universal. How many people do you know who haven't got some device for taking pictures? Is there then a sense of setting ourselves apart from the crowd, placing ourselves on a higher level from the masses and the snapshooters? And does a DSLR do that better than a smaller camera, no matter how good that may be?

Sony NEX-C3 17-55mm 16mm f/2.8 Nikon D7000 16-85mm

The one on the left has virtually the same sensor as the one on the right. Look at the pictures they create side by side and you won't tell the difference. But which one says "I'm a photographer" ?

I enjoy using my Nikons, I know that the NEX-C3 will give me the same quality for 95% of the picures I take (sorry - images I create!) but I still like using them. I know my Leica M9 will give me sharper, "better" images, but I still like using the D7000. I like the instant feel of the shutter. I like the fact that it feels solid and substantial in my hand. I like the feeling that there's all that speed, power and functionality just waiting for me to unleash it. I like it because it "feels like a camera, godammit!!"

All of this may be completely irrational and yes, its not what photography is about, but if this is what we feel, why not admit it and indeed embrace it. If we feel good about the camera we are using, and the camera we use makes us feel better about ourselves as photographers, then it just might help us to take "better" pictures. Because if we feel like a "real" photographer because of the camera we use, then don't we have to go out and prove it?