Can amateur with pro gear shoot better photos than pros with cheap gear?

Jun 8, 2017

Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic is a multi-talented artist based in Novi Sad, Serbia. With 15 years of experience as a photographer, she specializes in capturing the beauty of nature, travel, and fine art. In addition to her photography, Dunja also expresses her creativity through writing, embroidery, and jewelry making.

Can amateur with pro gear shoot better photos than pros with cheap gear?

Jun 8, 2017

Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic is a multi-talented artist based in Novi Sad, Serbia. With 15 years of experience as a photographer, she specializes in capturing the beauty of nature, travel, and fine art. In addition to her photography, Dunja also expresses her creativity through writing, embroidery, and jewelry making.

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We’ve all repeated it many times – it’s not the gear that makes good photos, it’s the photographer. Guys from Mango Street put this claim to the test in an interesting video. In one corner, there are professional photographers with cheap cameras and lenses. In the other corner, there’s an amateur photographer with an expensive full-frame camera and lens. They shoot the same model at the same location, trying to get the best out of their gear and skills. So let’s see who (or what) takes better shots – professional gear, or professional photographers.

YouTube video

For this test, Daniel and Rachel shot on a Canon EOS Rebel T3i with a 40mm f/2.8 lens (around $600 together), and a Canon EOS Rebel T5 with a kit 18-55mm lens (around $350). Their friend Justin, who has basic knowledge of using the camera, used their Canon EOS 5D Mark IV with a 35mm f/1.4 lens (around $5000 together). They took shots in a studio, and here’s how they performed.

An amateur photographer with expensive gear:

Professional photographers with cheap gear:

Now, I wouldn’t say Justin’s photos are bad, because they aren’t. But he used ten times more expensive gear, and you have to admit his photos aren’t ten times better than those Rachel and Daniel took with cheap cameras.

So, if you’re a professional photographer and often get questions from newbies which camera they should buy, you can refer them to this video. On the other hand, if you’re an amateur at the stage of choosing your first DSLR, don’t get fooled by the price. As long as you keep learning and improving your skills, even cheap gear will do. And as your skill grows, you can start upgrading your gear and switching to the more expensive stuff. After all, the experience of buying gear is much more fulfilling this way.

[Your Gear Doesn’t Matter | We Shot with Cheap Cameras to Prove It| Mango Street]

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Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic is a multi-talented artist based in Novi Sad, Serbia. With 15 years of experience as a photographer, she specializes in capturing the beauty of nature, travel, and fine art. In addition to her photography, Dunja also expresses her creativity through writing, embroidery, and jewelry making.

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35 responses to “Can amateur with pro gear shoot better photos than pros with cheap gear?”

  1. Dean Nixon Avatar
    Dean Nixon

    Probably not, but some pros are crap and some amateurs are brilliant…

  2. Craig Johnson Avatar
    Craig Johnson

    I’ve seen a pro shoot with a £350 camera….. believe me these guys n girls are pro for a very good reason n flash, high end gear isn’t it!

  3. Mike Wardlow Avatar
    Mike Wardlow

    I’ve seen a wedding photog rake 4K shooting with a Nikon D70, consistently. The camera is a tool, functional. It’s up to who’s holding it to do something with it.

    1. Mike Wardlow Avatar
      Mike Wardlow

      Think of a camera as a hammer and chisel to the sculptor. It’s on you how you capture.

    2. Mike Wardlow Avatar
      Mike Wardlow

      I’ve owned a lot of cameras. I’ve been shooting an ancient Soviet era rangefinder lately. It does what I need it to do.

    3. Victor Balderas Avatar
      Victor Balderas

      Good glass will help also

  4. Kostas Avatar

    I am sorry, but what is the point in comparing these different gear sets if, in the end, they are edited as taken with a camera with cheap film..?

    1. Ron van Rutten Avatar
      Ron van Rutten

      I’m with you. The edit isn’t exactly up to par. The background looks to be white, not grey, skintones can be better.

  5. Viggo Næss Avatar
    Viggo Næss

    Photography is about light, and I was waiting for the pros to use the lights that were sitting next to the backdrop all video. Spend your money on light, not camera/lenses.

    1. Ken Weil Avatar
      Ken Weil

      I like how you say this with Conviction! Still you’re only partially correct. Just the light part.

    2. Viggo Næss Avatar
      Viggo Næss

      Ken, if you can afford both a great camera and lens AND light, then by all means, get everything. But if you have only money for a new lens or light, buy light, it will transform your pictures in a way no lens can.

    3. Viggo Næss Avatar
      Viggo Næss

      1dx + 35 L II used in both shots. One with a flash, one without.

  6. KC Avatar

    Great article to start my day with. We can nitpick this to death, but cameras today are (generally) so good it’s hard to tell the difference in the final image. I’m deliberately avoiding the phrase “pro cameras” but what they add to the equation is that they can be more durable and more capable. The rest is details.

    Be known for your portfolio, not your equipment. Yes, sometimes you can play off your choice of cameras so you’re known for both, but in the end it’s the results – the portfolio. In 35mm film days I owned Olympus cameras to stand out in a crowded field of Canon’s and Nikon’s. In these digital days, it’s Panasonic.

    I usually don’t call out camera brands. I’ve handled so many cameras they’re all a blur, and they’re all good. Some do some things better than others, but they’re all good. In a studio, under the typical fixed conditions, a camera just becomes a recording device. There’s not a lot of technical variables. Out of the studio, under variable conditions, is where the differences start to show. You may hit some limitations with a lower end camera. (Damn, if my camera could only do ISO 128,000 and I had that f/.095 lens!)

    1. Mark Avatar

      My first teacher couldn’t stand the “gearheads” as he’d call them; arrogant, elitist, and boorish were his frequent refrain. Sort of like the old PC vs mac fanboys going at it.

  7. Mark Harrison Avatar
    Mark Harrison

    A cheaper camera has it limitations in some situations. For example t2i vs 5d Mark III. I ran into a situation with my t2i without flash and i was indoors where I needed to go to 6400 iso for proper exposure, made the pics grainy. Lesson learned I should have brought my real gear.

  8. catlett Avatar

    Stupid headline at a minimum. This answers the question of can this specific amateur match this specific pro in this specific shooting scenario. If you think all pros are better across the board than all amateurs you aren’t very bright.

  9. nicubunu Avatar

    Let’s skip the part where the terms “amateur” and “professional” are bullshit (they are about how one earn his living, not about the degree of knowledge) and go to the comparison.
    From a technical point of view, the differences between a cheap and an expensive modern digital camera are usually evident in hard light conditions, not in a studio setting like here. Also, evidently the expensive gear was not used at its full potential, was it a requirement of the “test”? Anyway, all the images are edited here is a way that technical merits are nullified, we don’t have anything to talk about that.
    From an artistic point of view, clearly one set is shoot almost randomly and the other one with good knowledge about angles, framing, poses. Yes, you can easily see the skill and knowledge.
    Now what would be more interesting: switch the gear. Give the “amateur” the cheap camera and the pictures would be about the same, give the “pro” the expensive camera and you should see a difference. Of course, drop any restrictions for camera settings.

  10. Raluca Cozma Avatar
    Raluca Cozma

    Well, this is kinda stupid, they use an expensive camera and an affordable one, but then they use presets and sloppy editing to make them look like film and ruin the quality. I bet if you`ll see the sooc or at a larger rezolution, this article would not exist :)

  11. Zak Neumann Avatar
    Zak Neumann

    Depends on the photographer, the subject, the end goal. There are a lot of factors, but you don’t have to shoot with a $6k body to be good.

  12. Duane Emmerson Avatar
    Duane Emmerson

    I’m from Australia, what is the t3i. Flash hi end gear doesn’t make you a pro. About 1 million shots gives you the experience, to take better images.

  13. Ryan Jones Avatar
    Ryan Jones

    Seems these should have been provided without PS or LR editing.

  14. Craig Johnson Avatar
    Craig Johnson

    It’s more about knowing the limitations of you gear set up and working around them….. You’ll get a reasonable image out of anything with understanding of what you’ve got.

  15. geezertomnc Avatar

    I did a one-on-one with a professional photographer. At times we did alternate shots. I was shooting with a Nikon D5300 and a 18-140mm zoom; he had a Nikon 800 with a. 24-70mm zoom. He edited with Photoshop and I used Capture NX2. I sent him a combination of one of his shots beside mine….and he wanted to know which was his. I know on average his images are superior to mine. There are so many variables that he knows better than I do. A better camera just lets you push boundaries

    1. Chris Hutcheson Avatar
      Chris Hutcheson

      I agree, particularly with your comment “A better camera just lets you push boundaries” I just finished shooting some concert performances in an extremely dark space. I doubt I could’ve done as well in capturing and being able to edit these extremely dark images with a lower end camera.

      1. Mark Avatar

        I used to shoot concerts and that is where I found it really made a difference; but day to day shooting? meh.

  16. Kelli Miguez Avatar
    Kelli Miguez

    Why doesn’t the article show us the un-edited versions of the images so we can truly compare? They both look awful to me with that particular edit. Not a white to be found…

  17. Ken Weil Avatar
    Ken Weil

    All camera gear and lighting have a place and many of them have limitations. Light Is light, and for many situations a cheap flash will do the same as a profoto. Just like camera gear. But don’t fool yourself thinking this applies to all. In commercial product work you need dead sharp edge to edge. Only certain cameras and lenses will do. But at the same time an amateur would not know how to utilize this so it wouldn’t matter. That’s why they’re amateurs.

  18. Rui Borba Baptista Avatar
    Rui Borba Baptista

    These discussions about cheap gear vs top gear… in the end it’s creativity that matters. However if gear doesn’t matter, why do pros always use top gear?! … glass, ISO performance, dynamic range, etc. … all this matters, so it’s all important, the one behind the gear and the gear.

  19. Jimmy Harris Avatar
    Jimmy Harris

    Gear just defines the theoretical limitations of what’s possible. Very rarely will one find themselves in an actual position where they are being held back by their gear. Much more common is the lack of creativity and vision that bottlenecks our progress. Of course, admitting such is an exercise in humility, which is so easily avoided in the modern era, especially when it is much easier to blame an intimate object incapable of defending itself on our failures.

    Case in point: Think of all of the highly revered photographers of the past who made stunning images we still covet on gear, that by today’s standards, would be consumer grade at best. A true artist finds inspiration in limitations, where as a false artist finds only excuses.

  20. Eddy Kamera Avatar
    Eddy Kamera

    Why compare noob vs pro? To see the importance of gears, we should compare: photog + pro gear Vs pro photog + consumer gear
    2.noob + pro gear vs noob + consumer gear.

    then we talk.

    1. Mark Avatar

      I would have preferred to see something like a pro concert shooter in low light conditions comparing a low and high end rig. Then the contrasts would have been more appropriate perhaps.

  21. Jan-Uwe Reichert Avatar
    Jan-Uwe Reichert

    Yes this comparison makes absolutely NO sense.
    Try to make a beginner program something on an expensive computer and a pro on a cheap computer…. see, ridiculous.

  22. Jay Avatar

    Like saying give me an NBA basketball therefore I can slam dunk? Could Jordan slam a ball made of plastic?

  23. Oscar Corrales Avatar
    Oscar Corrales

    Good article, but there is a litle trap, its inusual so this camera Canon t3i have a lens 40mm f2.8, its usal ) Its a
    bright lens) a normal lens 50 mm f3.5, why dont try whith the normal lens??? jajajajajajajaja..! The result is diferent.! Excuse my English ..!!

  24. blurider Avatar

    The thing that stands out to me is that the pro got in closer to the subject. Settings and exposure info are basically the same for both, but the pro moved in closer for visual impact…making for maybe more captivating and/or interesting results. Like Robert Capa said, “if you’re pictures aren’t good, you’re not close enough”.