Rooms without windows

The craze for new cameras that ignores the lens
A common question in Instagram is 'what camera do you use'? Sometimes you see this question when an insanely talented photographer posts an image that uses wide angle or narrow depth of field. It's tempting to add a dumbass reply ('it's a rectangle with buttons'), but this ain't helpful. Usually the person asking is new to photography and simply wants to take better photos. Every time they go online they're confused by information overload.

Here's the problem: the internet's focus on testing new cameras takes our attention away from the lenses. Throw in the competition to release cutting-edge mirrorless cameras and it's no surprise when a newbie spends a fortune on the 'best' (insert score from dpreview here). To add confusion, some so-called experts will tell you online that old lenses suck and brand new lenses are the best. The true experts - the photographers who win awards and have been doing so over 10 years - will tell you to shift your focus.

Mammoth camera

Imagine you're renting or buying a new home and you want the most awesome lounge (or living room if you're British). You can tart it up and get the best furniture, but if the windows are tiny or dark, you'll hate the place. Worse if there are no windows at all. Conversely, if the room is bathed in sunlight, it inspires you to put pictures on the walls. I realise my analogy's not perfect, but hope you get my point. You can spend a fortune on a top-range Sony / Canon / Nikon, but a cheap kit lens will strangle your creativity. Fiddling with the menu won't relieve the pain. Buy a cheaper camera instead and spend half your budget on a well made lens. Tell the guy in the camera store what kind of photography you enjoy. Or better still, email your hero in Instagram and ask them what lens they recommend. If you keep it short and tell them what inspires you, they may reply with a cool suggestion. Remember, the pros started out just like you.

I hope this is helpful. A truly great lens together with a reliable fun camera can deliver great results. The lens is the key. Get this right and your creativity will take flight for years (...until it's time to buy another lens). Soon people on Instagram will ask: 'what camera do you use?'.