By Lou Washington

One of things I learned early on in the world of amateur photography is that size does matter. The bigger the camera, the better. The bigger the lens, well Dr. Freud that’s even more important.

So, with those two rules in mind, you’ll have no problem understanding why my camera of choice is the Digital Single Lens Reflex or DSLR. The DSLR offers all the shooting flexibility of a regular film based SLR. That flexibility is made possible by equipping the camera body with a variety of selection dials and toggle switches.

All of those dials and switches mean the camera itself has to be fairly large to start with. There are some camera makers that try to pack all of that functionality into a compact camera body. It just doesn’t work for guys like me who struggle to find their glasses each morning. Small has no advantage for me in this area.

Bigger controls make it easier for other folks to see how great your camera is and also easier for me to make sure that the camera is properly set on Full Auto Mode.

The other great feature of DSLR cameras is the interchangeable lens. Lens are typically sold separately in the world of DSLRs. Most amateur photographers can get by with two lens, one for shooting people shots and snap shot type photography. For shooting at sporting events or out-door scenery type shooting you will want to invest in a telephoto lens. Telephotos are also handy for shooting close-ups of plants and insects.

Keeping all that in mind you may not be surprised to find that I am not particularly interested in the newest generation of cameras that are commonly referred to as compact system cameras. These are smallish body cameras that offer several proprietary interchangeable lens. For me they combine the high price of DSLRs with the inconvenience of micro sized camera bodies.

I’m sure they take fine pictures and for little people with fat wallets and 20/20 vision they may be a good alternative to the bulkier DSLR choices.

The main problem I find with these cameras is that they get no respect in the competitive, tough world of amateur photography. Let me explain what I mean.

Photo by Lou Washington

I live in the Cincinnati area and every year the Krohn Conservatory holds a fantastic butterfly show. It’s a great photo op for anyone who likes to shoot bugs and flowers.

It was during my first butterfly show that I learned just how much camera size matters.

Upon entering the show area, the first thing I noticed was there were just a ton of people clamoring around trying to get that special shot. I think there may have been more people than butterflies.

I was using my little Pentax point and shoot film camera. It was an okay camera with an optical zoom that improved the range for this type of shooting. But, every time I’d get a great shot lined up, some idiot would push in front of me or bump my arm or somehow terrorize the little bug causing it to fly away.

It was the most frustrating photographic day of my life. I didn’t get any shots worth a damn and worst of all, I felt totally disrespected. That’s when I realized it wasn’t me that was disrespected, it was my camera.

As we walked out of the conservatory, I told Barb, I‘m coming back next year and things are going to be different!

By golly, next year things were different.

First, I went out to Dick’s sporting goods and picked up one of those khaki colored fishing vests with all the little pockets and nifty hangers for stowing fishing gadgets. I found that fishing vests were virtually identical to professional photography vests but they cost about a quarter of what you’d pay for the photo vest. Plus, I fish occasionally, so what the heck.

Next, was my camera. Canon had recently introduced the Digital Rebel. This was one of the first DSLRs on the market. It was a great camera and best of all, virtually all of Canon’s huge catalogue of autofocus lenses would fit the Digital Rebel.

For my butterfly safari, I picked a 300mm telephoto lens.

When next year rolled around I was ready to go. We got up extra early that morning. I put on my vest and loaded it up with a wide variety of photo paraphernalia. I put on my favorite ball cap, with the bill pointed to the back like real photographers do and loaded a fresh power cell into my Rebel.

This time, when I entered the butterfly room it was a totally different experience. I slapped my ginormous 300 mm telephoto lens on my camera and powered up. The effect was almost immediate.

People gave me a wide berth, no one bumped me or even tried to get in my shots.

One guy who started to cross in front of me, stopped and apologized. I nodded and told him it was okay this time, but not to do it again.

A child who was threatening to grab one of my subjects was hauled back by his mom who harshly reprimanded the little guy.

It was easy to tell where the butterfly action was. People would gather around three deep trying to shoot over each other’s shoulders and heads. I would only have to walk up, clear my throat and busy myself with the dials on my camera and focus on the lens.

The whole crowd would just kind of stand back to make way for me, the guy with big camera, the fellow with the giant lens, the dude with the special vest.

Yep, just as I suspected, no one messes with a pro photographer packing a giant camera.