What makes a good Stock Photography camera? - Why do we constantly update our gear?


Having a look at my best selling stock images it was interesting to see that most of them were taken on 10-12MP cameras. This has to do with the fact that to be best sellers they have been selling consistently over a number of years and back when they were taken 10-12MP was a big deal. The picture at the top of the page was taken with a Canon 5D. Other images with sales into the 1000's were taken with a Nikon D3, a Pentax K10D and a Panasonic G1. So as you can see, successful stock photography doesn't need state of the art, newest model cameras. In fact five of my top 10 best sellers were shot on film.

Lenses used are also revealing. The top picture again wasn't shot on state of the art gear. The lens used was a 2006 model Sigma 28-300mm zoom. My best selling Nikon D3 shot (see below) was taken on a S/H 28-200mm zoom lens.


I'm as guilty as anybody else in thinking that if I buy the latest and greatest I will somehow get results that will outshine everything I've taken before and that newest = best. It is however far from the case. I was looking back recently at some images taken a few years with a Leica Digilux 3. This has a 7MP sensor. I found that I could upsize the images quite dramatically and the quality was excellent. Helped of course by the fact that the camera has a Panasonic / Leica 14-50mm f/2.8 - 3.5 on the front of it, which was / is a terrific lens. 


So is there any point in updating our gear? Well yes, because even though more MP's only marginally improves the image quality of pictures at base ISO's (and in fact much less than many would have us believe) cameras offer much more in terms of features, handling and speed. And there is no doubt that high(er) ISO performance is constantly improving. But maybe we (I) don't need to upgrade quite so much, though it is undeniably a pleasurable experience to buy and use a new camera. I've written many times how I kept my film cameras for years, but then it was always the film in the camera that was the greatest contributor to how the images looked. Because of this, that's why manufacturers love digital. Because to take advantage of the latest sensor technology we have to buy a new camera. Unfortunately sensors aren't like film and we can't slip a new one into our existing camera. It would be nice and it has been tried, but it isn't an option as yet.

To be honest, if people did hang on to cameras longer and manufacturers made less models less frequently, then a good part of the photographic internet, including this blog, would be struggling to find content. Just how much of what you read about photography concerns new gear and rumours about new gear? I have to say with me it's quite a high percentage. 

Finally, to answer the initial question what makes a good stock photography camera? The answer is pretty much anything. I've taken (and sold) images shot with my Blackberry and iPad. However, to maximise the sales potential of my images I do need to use something better than those. But the majority of picture library sales are for small images, so becoming a stock photographer is probably the cheapest way to earn money from photography, since the initial outlay on equipment need not be prohibitive. It is all about the image content and not what creates the image, unlike situations where the person paying you gets to see what you are shooting with. But then the difference between what we need and what we want is significant. If it wasn't there would be little future for capitalism!!

N.B. to see more on the cameras and lenses featured in this post click on the relevant labels (tags and keywords) at the bottom of this post.