There are two seemingly different views you'll see on the internet. One says that with the latest, greatest camera anyone can make the most amazing images. This is usually more implied than explicit. It's what is suggested by all the ads from all camera company's as well as a few of the review sites and forums. Buying the latest StatusFlex X-550 Mark IV is all you'll need to be the next Ansel Adams... and you'll probably be awarded a MacArthur Genius Grant as well. If only it were so simple.
The other view holds that it's not about the camera, a good photographer can make a great image with any camera. As David DuChemin says; "Gear is Good, Vision is Better." It was Ansel Adams who said; "I'd rather have a fuzzy image of a sharp concept than a sharp image of a fuzzy concept." In other words, content is king. There's even a website that finds the crappiest cameras imaginable and gives them to established photographers, partly to watch them squirm, but also to see what they can come up with... which is usually something interesting. The camera is just a tool and like all tools, it's only as good as the person using it.
While I lean heavily toward the second view, I believe there is a kernel of truth in the first. The first image in this post was made with a high end digital camera with a high quality lens. The second image was made with a Holga plastic toy camera with a crappy plastic lens. They both might be interesting images but with completely different aesthetics. The first image is about texture where the subtleties of the details are important. The second image is softer, more ethereal. Fineness of detail is not critical. The choice of tools will affect the outcome. You always want to use the proper tool for the job. The first image wouldn't be the same with a plastic camera. If you want to make a large print of a building for an architect then an entry level point 'n shoot is probably the wrong tool.
All that said, it's still all about content. Back to the quote from Adams and that fuzzy image of a sharp concept. Minor technical imperfections might be ignored if the content is compelling. Conversely, if the best thing someone can say about your image is; "Wow, that's really sharp", then you might what to reconsider the concept.
More next week,