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6 Things Photographers Like to Argue About

by Dan Bailey on June 29, 2010 · 324 comments

Let’s face it, as much as we all like to tout community and togetherness, human beings are inherently hard wired to be Us vs Them type creatures. We can’t escape it, our species is naturally predisposed to be wary of the other guy and his way of life. Since the dawn of man, we humans tend to gather in tribes of like minded individuals and look with suspicion on those who have different beliefs and customs, and whenever possible, we like to argue the merits of OUR way vs. THEIR way.

Photographers are certainly not immune to this basic instinctual behavior, in fact, the Us vs Them is well alive and kicking with our crowd. Here are the things that photographers like to argue about:

Nikon vs. Canon: This is the big one and fights have broken out over which brand is better. You choose one when you start out, and although migrations do occur on rare occasion, most of the time you stick with your brand for life. Of course, it doesn’t really matter which type of camera you use, we all know that it’s the photographer and not the camera that make great pictures. Which brand to I use? Nikon all the way. They’re the best.

Film vs. Digital: Although most of us shoot digital these days, there are still some film holdouts who will argue to the end of days why film is better and more beautiful than digital, or at least until they use their last roll and are forced to switch. Film was indeed great, but so were LP records.

Color vs. BW: This one carries big divisions. Essentially, the argument revolves around which one is so much more “artisitic.” Makes for some great roundtable discussions, but in the end, we’ll let Ansel Adams and Galen Rowell duke this one out in the great darkroom in the sky. Or is it the great E-6 lab in the sky. I guess I’ll find out when I get there. Anyway, great photographers have created wonderful works of art in both mediums.

RAW vs. Jpeg: This one sparked a very spirited debate a few weeks ago between me and our other contributor Mike Panic. I’ll let you read for yourself how it went. Sorry Mike, I still hold that I’m right- Shooting in RAW allows you to achieve the highest quality results from your digital imagery.

Mac vs. PC: I don’t even know why this is even on the table. Everyone knows that Macs are the only way to go for serious creative people.

Fixed vs. Zoom: Now this one has real potential for serious discussion, I might have to do an entire post about the merits of fixed lenses vs zoom lenses. Some shooters swear by their primes (fixed), while others love the versatility of their zooms. What do you prefer and why?


Dan Bailey is a professional adventure, outdoor and travel photographer based in Anchorage, Alaska. You can follow his own blog at and see his daily Facebook updates at

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{ 47 comments… read them below or add one }

Mike Panic June 29, 2010 at 3:54 pm

Nikon vs. Canon is always an interesting battle, until one person chimes in saying that they are a purist and only use Leica and another starts to mention his shiny new Hassy H4D, not to mention there is always the large format shooters who like to chime in.

RAW vs. JPG will also continue to be strongly argued Dan, just like I'm willing to bet you don't edit on a high end Eizo monitor, so any benefit you are achieving from RAW you aren't even seeing on an inferior screen =)

Mac vs. PC (Windows o/s at least) is one that I believe is there only to be annoying. After working as a network administrator for the last 6+ years and dealing with countless Windows problems not to mention flaky drivers, I advice nearly everyone to invest in a Mac because it's far less of headache later on down the road and they simply work. Recently I bought my Mom a Dell netbook and hackintosh'd it so I didn't have to worry about her getting a virus or doing something silly to it.

Fixed vs. Zooms = best tool for the job at hand. No amount of super high ISO will help you achieve the depth of field that is capable from an 85mm f/1.2 in low light, much like nothing will compare to the versatility of the “working” lens for most photographers, a 24-70. There are trade-offs with each and that is why this particular argument will live on for ever.

Greg KB June 29, 2010 at 4:11 pm

I have managed to solve all of the debates by shooting Nikon lenses on Canon bodies, and then processing RAW files into JPEGs using Lightroom for Windows in a bootcamp partition on my MacBook Pro! I also swear by zooms, but use gaffer tape to lock them into one position.

But, that's because I'm a people-pleaser and just want everyone to get along!

Roberta June 29, 2010 at 8:51 pm

Raw vs JPG? Really? (Shakes head in disbelief.)

Tomas June 29, 2010 at 10:45 pm

At this point in time, large format and ultra large format are film's trump cards. Although while I'm a purist, I'm also a realist. Someday digital will catch up.

In the meantime, that new Pentax 645 (digital) could probably sway me if I could justify it for work reasons…

Dfc June 30, 2010 at 1:32 pm

these arguments are so old, cliche and boring that they are not even worth writing a post about.

and PS, a lot of people dig vinyl LP's, they are one of the only growing markets in the music industry.

Rune Luk July 2, 2010 at 10:39 am

Don't care about the Canon vs. Nikon thing. Both perform well. I use Canon because that was what I bought ages ago. A Phase one 645DF would probably be great, but lugging two of the around in rain and dust and colliding with people and what have you? My money is on the rugged and faster 1D/D3 to deliver when asked to. For fashion, commercial? Well, different scenario…
What bothers me the most isn't Nikon/Canon, but the people in both camps who argue because they apparently have feelings for their tools. I wanna see two carpenters having a heartfelt argument about whether Black & Decker or Bosch is the better tool. Never gonna happen.

Raw vs. jpeg – would never even consider shooting jpeg – I like being able to punish the file that bit more. Have been shooting raw since the first digicam, but if people are thorough enough to get a decent jpeg from the cam I applaud.

Fixed vs. Zoom: I like fixed lenses, but they're just not practical for every application. Sometimes, zooming with your feet is not an option. If I had the money and the strength to carry around a camera body for every focal length from 16 to 70 I'd do it. But use fixed whenever possible.

Mac vs. Pc – there is hardly any difference. I liked exposé for photoshop, but only use cap one pro now, so it's sort of a draw. So my production machine is Win 7 on newest hardware – a problem with Apple, it's never the newest, not since they switched to Intel anyways. Plus, colour managing is broken on Snow Leopard – last time I checked, calibrating an Eizo is impossible. I only buy Apple laptops, force of habit I guess.
Again, what annoys me are the camps on both sides— like “I don’t even know why this is even on the table. Everyone knows that Macs are the only way to go for serious creative people” I apologize if that was meant to be sarcastic.

Bw vs. colour? Who cares, do whatever compliment the contents.

f2000g July 7, 2010 at 5:47 pm

I shoot Nikon (D90) but i just recommended a work mate, who was stunned by some pictures i took, to buy either a D90 or a 550D. My hands love the Nikons so that's my eternal choise. (And Nikon is better…)

Qeaweef July 8, 2010 at 12:15 pm

RAW is too much work, ofc it can achieve the best image, but RAW is annoying to handle

Gary Simmons July 9, 2010 at 2:12 pm

What about HDR?

joshua July 9, 2010 at 2:14 pm

HAHAHAHA! shut up, stop arguing and just take photos man (: that's my stand :D

Nicholas Erwin July 9, 2010 at 2:14 pm

I like this post, I love my Nikon camera and going to be with Nikon for life, I only shoot in RAW when I am doing professional work, when i'm having fun or at a party or what ever, it really depends what I am doing. Most of the time I shoot in JPEG Fine which is still you know 10 megs a photo. RAW is more like 14megs, I can't really see the difference and again it depends on the photo, I shot a sunset the other night I used RAW because I knew I could achieve I much better image in lighting condition I was in.

it doesn't really mater how you do things, as long as you are having fun!

Tim July 9, 2010 at 2:15 pm

Apparently so, in some circles. I've encountered someone recently who seems to think there can be a case for shooting JPG only. Can't say I see it, myself.

David Wieland July 9, 2010 at 2:16 pm

You seem very predisposed about film vs. digital. One learns more about photography after hundred developed shots than a thousand digital prints. Particularly if one develops film themselves.

Jennifer Sando July 9, 2010 at 2:17 pm

Film IS much more beautiful than digital. :) But I still shoot digital only. As for RAW vs JPEG… I can't imagine shooting professionally in JPEG…

reflections July 9, 2010 at 2:18 pm

I agree…why even try to compare the Mac with the PC. In terms of creativity, the PC is not even on the same plain. ;) @Greg that is the way please them.

Jimmy Kastner July 9, 2010 at 2:18 pm

So you're saying that I'm not serious because I use a PC? That's a load of bull. My work speaks for itself and I don't care what you say.…

sacredgeometry July 9, 2010 at 2:20 pm

NIkon, Both, Both but mainly colour these days, B&W seems like a cop out on digital RAW macs and primes.

Shawn Carpenter July 9, 2010 at 2:20 pm

As an apprentice carpenter (that happens to have the last name Carpenter) Bosch is clearly superior to Black & Decker! Throw Makita and DeWalt into the mix and you've got yourself a debate!

I do photography as a hobby. It's interesting to see the different debates with Nikon -vs- Cannon. Plus the debates about which format and which zoom. I'm just getting into the market for my first professional camera, so I get to make the choice myself in the near future!

Anon July 9, 2010 at 2:21 pm

I find the case for shooting jpg is easiest to make when shooting sports. You can get a batch of shots ingested and shipped out MUCH faster if you're shooting jpg.

reflections July 9, 2010 at 2:27 pm

I actually agree with this. When shooting sports, I tend to use jpg. I think when it comes down to it, you use what is the best option for that given circumstance. Even Mike Colon who shoots primarily jpg will shoot raw when that circumstance demands it.

Tim Burton July 9, 2010 at 2:29 pm

Canon 5D please, esp as I use the video func

Film is fun, but makes my 5Dii seem cheap when Bayeux charge me £30 for two rolls of film with prints.

Shoot colour always, then play in lightroom. Only even shoot B&W straight when I wanna shoot film.

Only reason not to shoot raw is if your camera & card cant keep up in sports shooting.

Does excel do photo's? DIdn't think so, I'll stick to Mac.

Depends on if you are willing to sacrifice coverage for fewer but special shots. Also most prime peeps will shoot on two bodies (i cant afford two, well I can but mrs would flip).

Tim July 9, 2010 at 2:36 pm

“Of course, it doesn’t really matter which type of camera you use, we all know that it’s the photographer and not the camera that make great pictures”

same goes for computing. if you know what you're doing, Mac or PC or Linux is a moot point.

Justin Van Leeuwen July 9, 2010 at 2:37 pm

You missed my huge UV filter vs. no UV filter debate from yesterday… I even had a poll.

Mouring July 9, 2010 at 3:27 pm

All but one are “yawn, use what you want” to me. The only interesting bit is discussing is Color vs B&W vs Selective Colorization. Along with how one crops, sharpens, color corrects, etc. It exposes the inner mindset of the photographer, and to me that is the most interesting. Seeing how a photographer handles in-camera and out-of-camera process excites me because it tends to give me a new perspective.

Ryan July 9, 2010 at 4:06 pm

You've made a serious oversight. The reason these are argued is because there are legitimate arguments to both sides. If it one side is a push over then there is little argument to be done. Therefore stating something like “Everyone knows that Macs are the only way to go for serious creative people.” is absurd. By “Everyone” you mean photographers, graphic designers and musicians. A novelist can write just as well on a PC, any programmer will swear by PC (most likely the very person who wrote the blogging software you used to publish this article CREATED it on a PC). And last time I checked you can run Photoshop on PC, and you can probably get some cheaper hardware to have better performance while you're at it. Some of the most creative people are using PCs and you're just dismissing them because they don't fit into your cute little world.

But don't make the mistake that I'm arguing PC vs Mac. I'm arguing your oversight that is evident with your little remarks one way or the other. If you're going to write about the redundant nature of taking sides, it shouldn't be too much of a stretch to be diplomatic about it too.

reflections July 9, 2010 at 4:26 pm

Interesting, I am a software developer and I would rather develop on a Mac. If I can't get a Mac then it will be Linux. If i have to run windows then it will be inside a VM running on a Mac or Linux. Of course the argument really isn't Mac vs PC it is OS X vs Windows. It is all about the Operating System.

James Baker July 9, 2010 at 6:23 pm

Nikon Vs Canon – You'll never be sorry whichever you choose. It depends on what features you are looking at and where they are in their release cycles they are who is best.

Colour vs B&W – I generally prefer images in B&W when compared to a colour version, but not always. It depends on the picture. A beach scene with beautiful blue water and sky and lush green forests and bright beach sand could look drab in B&W.

RAW vs JPEG – Definitely RAW for my creative and paid work. Definitely JPEG for my day to day snapshots. I know RAW is better, but when it is a snapshot of my daughter's kindergarten concert, it will look just as good in JPEG. I'll never be processing it heavily.

Mac vs PC – Mac all the way. I couldn't do my workflow nearly as efficiently on a PC. I use a PC and a Mac side by side every day and the Mac always wins except for writing Windows software. (My other job.)

Fixed vs Zoom – Apples vs Oranges. They have different uses for different shots. Limiting yourself to one is silly. I prefer my f/1.8 prime because it's bright, clear and makes me think more about my shot and angles. However, it's no good for air shows. Sometimes you just can't get close enough or far enough from the subject to use a prime unless you have several at different lengths. I use 3 lenses. one wide zoom, my prime and one telephoto zoom.

Dan Bailey July 9, 2010 at 6:50 pm

Ryan, you're absolutely right, stating that “Everyone knows that Macs are the only way to go for serious creative people.” is absurd indeed. That's why I said it. Read the article again and this time look for the irony in my comments.

Dan Bailey July 9, 2010 at 6:51 pm

Bravo!! Well said!

Dan Bailey July 9, 2010 at 6:55 pm

David, you're right, there will never be an equal substitution for everything that film taught us. There are definitely things that I miss about film, but since digital is here to say, I've embraced it. And I'm not predisposed, I was just trying to be funny. Thanks for your comment!

Dan Bailey July 9, 2010 at 6:57 pm

Oh no, you've just opened up another can of worms!! I think that Mike even wrote a post about HDR here a couple of weeks ago.

Irene July 9, 2010 at 11:07 pm

Thank you for this terrific article. I linked to it from today's scrapbook news in my National Scrapbook Column at

Have a wonderful weekend!

Michael Jardeen July 10, 2010 at 3:38 am

“I wanna see two carpenters having a heartfelt argument about whether Black & Decker or Bosch is the better tool. Never gonna happen.“

Get real, DeWalt!

Jake Garn July 18, 2010 at 8:46 pm

Great list and you're right on all counts. Especially about RAW and Macs, why that is a discussion is beyond me. :-)

dwade July 19, 2010 at 2:08 pm

interesting article! i love fixed as it 'force' you to be creative on your composition, while zoom is suitable when you're on holiday or some casual outing

omicronlyrae July 19, 2010 at 2:14 pm

It somewhat worries me that people – specifically picking on the mac vs pc argument here – actually think you're being serious, and that macs are better for, as you put it, 'serious creative people'. I'm someone who uses various Windows OSs, and MacOS X, and to an extent some distros of Unix, on a regular basis, and as a photographer, i use Windows, because I can't afford a Mac, the ones i use aren't mine. I wouldn't say I'm any less able to do creative stuff, so, to clarify: at the Article, well said, yay sarcasm! At people who genuinely believe Macs are better… Oh. Sorry. Think what you will, I don't agree.
(please note: at no point did I say any OS was better than any other, they're basically all equal. If you think I said that, re-read my post)

Kevin Shea July 19, 2010 at 2:32 pm

I started out years ago (like 25 or so) with a Pentax K1000, and film. I guess that's why I'm late to theb table on this one (grin). After a long hiatus, the photo bug bit me again, and when I found out old Pentax lenses were compatible with the new K20D, there wasn't much debate: K20D it was. I essentially ended up with a new camera and three lenses (two zoom, one fixed) for the cost of the new camera.

I've admired Nikon and Canon for a long time, I know they both make great cameras. Someday, I may but one or the other. Ultimately, the name won't matter. Same for PC vs. Mac. For me, its all about the tool that helps me get the job done right and make great things.

My father was an auto mechanic for about 45 years, and he had a tool for just about everything. I learned from him the value of having the right tool for the job at hand, but I am very aware it took him a long time to acquire all those tools. Would I like to have all the lenses and hardware I desire? Sure, but money and time impose some tight limits. So I apply something else I learned from my dad: Always do the best you can with what you have, the rest will take care of itself.

I like a good debate, but I like creating wonder even more. Most days I don't care how many angels fit on the pinhead, I'm just glad there are angels! Dan, I appreciate your humorous spin on things. Good post!

GoCat July 19, 2010 at 2:34 pm

Well, first of all, it was a joke. Relax. Secondly, you've got some fab images there, but be careful about “my work speaks for itself” declarations. They sound a bit supercilious.

Tech Guy July 19, 2010 at 5:23 pm

Windows systems are only “flaky” in the wrong hands. Windows runs on hundreds of millions of combinations of hardware. OS X may appear more stable to a novice, but that's because it's running on very select, approved hardware configurations. A manufacturer may release a crappy driver now and then, but that affects both OS X and Windows. A properly configured Windows system (especially Windows 7) should be rock solid. (If you are experiencing persistent issues in your office, then you should look at your systems imaging process or hardware vendor to improve your situation. Having persistent hardware issues is NOT the norm.)

Part of the reason those Dells are so cheap is because Dell is compensated by vendors for shipping the systems chock full of the vendors 3rd party crapware that will bog down the system and cause problems. This is not Windows' fault. And while Windows runs on millions of combinations of hardware, there are plenty of incompatibilities among hardware manufacturers. Again, that's a byproduct of an open platform and is not necessarily Windows' fault.

Part of the premium you pay when buying a Mac is so the system that is shipped to you is in pristine condition and ready to roll. Apple is in complete control from the time the hardware is drawn up to the time it reaches your hands. There's no junkware on it, and there's no danger that an OEM manufacturer used the wrong memory timings. Windows is just an operating system. The build process is not in their control. If this is something you don't want to be concerned with and are willing to pay for an alternative, that's perfectly understandable.

The operating systems themselves and their usage is mostly a matter of preference. OS X's interface is upfront, intuitive and looks great. Windows is more subtle, and is probably better appreciated by a power user. Both camps dislike the other interface, but that's probably due more to comfort and experience than it is actual system control.

Adobe software suites and other commonly used photography software are released for both Windows and OS X, so the real issue is what's under the hood. Apple offers some incredible horsepower to its customers, but make no mistake, you will pay more than you would if you bought those exact parts and built the system yourself. (This is especially true as you move into more exotic, server-level configurations. Apple wants $3,700 for 32GB of RAM, when it's only $1,200 on the market.)

The sentiment that “Mac is better for graphics” is absolutely ridiculous, and people that trumpet it are stuck in a mid 1990s mentality. When it comes to graphics, it's all about the hardware and there is absolutely no difference in power of what's available to Mac and PC. The OS will render whatever its told to. Graphics cards are becoming just as powerful (if not more) than the CPU itself, and I'd be willing to bet that on 99.9% of computer setups out there, the weakest part of the graphics display lies in the monitor. (The market is flooded with hundreds of cheap LCDs these days.)

The virus issue is also unnecessarily beaten to death. Unprotected Windows systems are indeed more vulnerable, but safe-browsing practices and taking 5 minutes and downloading one of the many free, effective anti-virus programs out there is more than enough to level the playing field. (Microsoft has finally caught up to the other vendors here, and their free Microsoft Security Essentials is excellent.)

I always find it ironic when people say that “real _______ people use Macs.” There is no doubt that Macs are excellent, powerful systems that require little maintenance. But if you have the capability to build a PC system yourself, and are willing to give it the small amount of effort required to maintain it, your $3000+ dollars will go much farther in PC/Windows land. Wouldn't that make you a “real ______” power user?

Anton Khoff July 20, 2010 at 11:49 am

Canon is the best!

Jboimages July 20, 2010 at 10:34 pm

MAC vs PC? Has anyone ever met a photographer that uses a PC? That's just silly.

CP July 23, 2010 at 11:39 am

shoot digital AND film. I still have an LP collection. Plus, when i get my roll of film & 4×6 prints with white border back from my local mini lab, its always feels like a holiday, such as Christmas. Its Christmas about twice a month for me. OH, and what is Nikon again? ;)

Gary Oldham July 23, 2010 at 5:20 pm

I like what I like and works for me, and I'm completely OK with y'all doing the same. There is NO REASON for you to like or use what I do, nor for me to like or use what you do.

Andersson Photo July 29, 2010 at 8:58 pm

hmm PC vs Mac: PC performs faster and is also more options on better hardware.. better value for money!
Mac is soo ridiculously overpriced by the “evil” steve jobs. It even have overheating problems and uses old hardware… Program wise: they're both the same!

Canon vs Nikon? I use Canon, I chose canon because of their wide choice of lens. As specially their Tele Lenses and other primes. And I like the thumb dial :) I dont like they way that Nikon places their buttons everywhere! But I also use an old 35mm film Nikon FE2 :)

RAW vs Jpeg? I always use RAW for my serious photos… Family photos I use Jpeg ^^

Fixed vs Zoom? I use both, but I like primes more, sharper, better CA control.

Film or Digital: I use Digital mostly… but the film part isnt dead for me yet. I also like Lomography

BW vs Color? Who cares? they're both useful!

Andersson Photo July 29, 2010 at 9:02 pm

Im a semi pro photographer an I use a PC :) There are many photographers out there that uses PC!

I used to own a mac until I got soo sick and tired of that piece of expensive crap keeps overheating and slowing down!

Matty December 5, 2010 at 10:53 am

In all the debates, the only answer can be “who cares?” If you're achieving the images you want, it doesn't matter if you're using digital or film, nikon or canon, raw or jpeg and processing on a pc or a mac or even setting your camera to B&W (if digital) or choosing B&W or colour film. Using your feet to zoom or the ring on the lens (or even the little button on the body) is also irrelevant unless we're talking about an f1.2 lens for shooting in the dark.

My choices from the above…..
canon (because I did a lot of reading on different bodies and available glass when I first bought into digital SLR and at my price point, the canon was marginally ahead of the nikon)
pc because the hardware is cheaper to be able to run lightroom and PS
zooms because I have more versatility and I can handle 2.8 being my widest aperture through zoom range.
raw because I just dislike throwing away data before getting it into lightroom
colour because I shoot raw and convert the image I saw from the raw in lightroom
digital because, well, just because it's cheaper for when I make a right mess of the shots.

None of the above arguments are relevant when you're getting the shots you want ;)

Goat November 7, 2011 at 3:57 pm

In the tree service world, there are HUGE arguments of Stihl vs. Husqvarna.

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