I've been thinking of getting an SLR camera for a while now, and have narrowed my choices down to the D40 and the D80. The D40 is generally regarded as something for beginners as it seems to have poorer image capabilities, but from most serious reviews I've read, it seems that the D40 doesn't lose out in image qualities, only in certain features that might be quite irrelevant to me such as the inability to use older lens and the absence of some user interface features.
Anyway, I was aimlessly surfing the camera sites last night when I came across a new website for the Nikon D40 unveiled last month called Picturetown. 200 people from Geogetown, South Carolina were given free cameras (that each cost around S$1000 retail), and asked to take pictures of their neighbourhood, loved ones, whatever. The general idea was that anyone could take good pictures, if given a good camera (such as the D40). I thought the website was stunningly beautiful; the marketing concept, the stories from the participants, and the photos they took (300 are downloadable).
Naturally, some photographers don't really buy the idea of this campaign (e.g. comment at here, 2nd comment here, here) It's the photographer behind the camera who has the skill to pull off great pictures, not just the quality of the equipment! If this continues, then the masses will have access to the DSLRs, they will think they can then take great pictures, and what would become of real professionals like us?!
So some find the pictures 'totally mediocre'. Others, like me, really liked the whole project. I don't believe in either end of the spectrum. If one really has a terrible camera, even the most professional photographer might have problems. If one has a $20000 camera, it's still highly possible to screw things up by not being a reasonably good photographer in the first place.
The more interesting thing for me was this. I didn't think the photographs were mediocre at all, to the extent that I began doubting at first whether these 200 folks were really amateurs or really quite knowledgeable people that were brought in to shoot pictures for this Nikon website. I later found out that 200 folks were point-and-shoot amateurs who answered a casting call for this Nikon marketing campaign. So, what was it that made the difference? Did the D40 really have such a significant effect on the outcome?
I think the answer is partly yes, since the D40 was supposedly designed to enable folks to take reasonably nice pictures out of the box. (And the answer would be 'no' for those who didn't think the pictures were all that great.) I'm thinking along the lines of another possibility, and it's the context in which these photographs were taken. If one looks at the 'making of' movie at the Picturetown website, everyone was really having fun. (And who wouldn't be if they were given free DSLR cameras?!) A huge sense of community had formed in the beginning, I'd suspect. All these things come together to make great photographs. These photographs might not have the 'technical' brilliance of the professionals, but I dare say they are full of heart. And that's enough for me.
Now, when is Nikon Singapore going to give out 200 cameras for us folks to take great pictures too?! ;p
Related posts: here, here, here.