Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Best Camera and Lens for an Amusement Park - Reading This might Save your Marriage.

At the very least, it will save you money and a lot of frustration. But let me explain myself...

A few days ago, I went to a local amusement park. Warm sunny day (26C/78F - it qualifies as a heatwave in Finland!), and the park was jammed with people. There were a lot of parents with their small children, and naturally, many of them had cameras with them. Nothing wrong with that, wanting to capture some happy moments with your family, right? Still, I noticed that I could separate the camera-bearers into distinct categories:

Practical Master
S/he uses a mobile phone and that's it. Spends a few seconds to take a pic, then the phone goes back into the pocket and s/he resumes playing/being with the kids

Casual Photographer
S/he uses a compact, hanging around the neck at all times. Takes a few pics every now and then, then resumes playing (every now and then having to adjust the camera strap)

Has a small DSLR or a mirrorless, with the kit lens (say, a Nikon D3200 with the 18-55). S/he is ready to shoot at all times, framing (and maybe pressing the shutter) often. Usually doesn't interact with the children (it's the other parent who has to do that).

This Guy

Has a big DSLR, to which a 4-pound lens is attached. It's a sunny noon, enough for shutter speeds faster than 1/500 at ISO 200 and f/8, yet this kind of camera-bearer wants to drag a heavy fast zoom. Ends up taking less photos than the DSLR-er, simply because he wastes more time dragging the thing. 

(For the record, I had no camera with me other than my mobile phone, which I used only once - to take the photo of this guy)

So, who do you think 
a) Got the best pics
b) Had the most fun with his/her family?

Let us begin with b), because it is the most important aspect here. You see, photography has become so dominant in our everyday lives, that we tend to see everything through the perspective of obsessive recording and storing of visual information. I think it was Russell West-Pavlov in his Temporalities who argued that we live in an era where we experience the present being consumed by the idea of a future storing the past. In other words, instead of actually living the present moment, we fret over how it will be saved as a past, to be accessed on some indefinite future moment. Now, is that weird or what?

This is a website about photography, not psychology or human relations, but let me emphasize this in any case: If you waste your time (because make no mistake, it is time wasted) taking constant photos of your family, you'll wake up one day and realize that, man, you actually took photos of scenes and occasions instead of being in them yourself. 

As for a), who got the best pics? 
The best pics were taken by the person who was best able to connect with their children and spouses. I'd put my money on those using a phone camera. Make no mistake, an amusement park is not a location that will give you any kind of family portrait masterpieces. It can't happen, I guarantee it. 

To the original question:
Which camera and lens should I take to an amusement park?

I have only one answer:
The smallest and lightest you can get your hands on (your mobile phone camera being the best option). Use it very sparingly. Focus on being in the present than capturing it.

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