In all fairness, I wish to back away a bit from my snark to Brandon.
There's nothing wrong with having great gear and for liking great gear. His note did read a bit to me as if, "I can shoot some nice pen pics because I have monster gear", when of course as with most things, monster gear is not necessary for learning and for good outcome. I remember taking some tennis lessons at age 9 and wandering the sporting goods store with my folks to grab a first racquet . I really liked the $200 racquet (vs nice enough $20 versions) and argued it would help me play better. My folks explained to me wryly that the difference in those tools was not what would be the rate limiting effect on my early game. I ended up with the $20 racquet
Point and shoot lightweight cameras have advantages in this game. They can be held with one hand easily for the shot.
Back in photo school where I was learning advertising and fashion photography in a SUNY community college, we were taught how to light using one 75 watt bulb with a clip on light with a large metal parabolic reflector on it. We then used pieces of cardboard of varying shades which were gray scale, 0 percent black to 100 percent black for the use of learning how light hits an object to get an even tone. We used handheld meters to meter what we were shooting.
With our 4x5 cameras on old tripods and just a bulb setting because we needed to keep the shutter open for 30 seconds or more, it was a terrific experience for each of us to understand how to photograph still life. When shooting a perfume bottle which had to be set up a specific way in order to fit the template given to us, well one can imagine the amount of time for us. Basically 20 people or so in a large studio classroom each in their own space setting up everything. Then when it was set up we had to act as assistants for our classmates so they could have someone view their work because we were told we could only take 3 shots of what we made and then present them after going into darkroom the next day. Since a shot might have a shutter open for over a minute, we had to announce to class for everyone to stop work, make no movement in the room lest the camera have for any reason movement. Being we were over the number 1 train we also had to be aware that the building shoot. It also shook when a truck went by. But this is how we learned.
So we yell out getting ready to shoot with a 1 min shutter and three shots would be taken so it was over 3 minutes no movement, you learn how to get along with your classmates and work together.
You took the shot, ran to the darkroom to process it and then make the 4x5 contact print to see how it looks. Bring it to the instructor who states that there is a problem, look at the shadow, it is too muddy, you need to light it better and the highlight on the front of the bottle is too blown out.
Back to the set up making sure everything is fine. Doing the tweaks, checking it twice. Having a classmate check and see why the shadows is so filled up that it would not print properly. Moving reflectors and measuring tonal range with gray scale and 18 percent gray cards. Then take the next shot. Run to process and print a contact print. Show it to the instructor who remarks there is improvement and notes that it is now 3pm in the afternoon and you have less than 1.5 hours to get the project done and then be able to present the finished product the next day on 11x14 paper in portfolio form and you had one more shot to get it right, completely right for it to be able to make it to publication.
So you went through the part again, making sure everything is right, remeasuring everything and then taking that last photo. Run to the darkroom to process it and make the contact print. The instructor would then pick the best of the three then we had to go in the next day and print all three. We needed to retouch it if there was dust or scratches and from there have a perfect print that could be used for publication. It was the real world.
I was a better black and white darkroom technician than I was a photographer. My classmates had me fix up their negs and do the magic in the darkroom to get the right tonal ranges and clean up with retouching. Some used my tricks and others tried their own. It was difficult. It was not fun. It was not a good match for me. But I learned and still have some of that knowledge. With one camera, one light, one tripod and many reflectors, we learned product photography for the real world at the time of the mid 70s. That was all that was needed to do the work.
One can easily take shots these days just needing a basic sharp lens with less distortions and aberrations and a decent small camera. You and many others prove it daily that sharpness, clarity and good tonal range is all that is needed in a camera that does the job. It is best to learn how to use basic tools and from there grow if it is necessary for one in their hobbies or profession. On Facebook I am absolutely astounded by the work one friend is doing with his IPhone 5 and a bit of post processing. His composition, his capture of what he sees on NYC streets is terrific.
A relative of mine is using a Panasonic Z150 for his bird photography. With that camera in macro mode and it is prosumer camera with a high zoom of what 24x or so I believe, his macro work was terrific. On a tripod he took a photo of a dragonfly and the color work, the sharpness, the clarity and his ability to get the image so close in macro made. It was done with a 500 buck camera. At the same time his photos at the highest zoom of hummingbirds coming to the feeder are worthy of publication as he catches the motion of the wings in flight. Each night that he is able on his nightly walk he is capturing cloud combinations in the sunsets that are enviable. I want to be there with him and watch those sunsets. He does little post processing, some cropping, opening up the tonal range and a bit of post sharpening. Honestly his hobby work over the last year has improved so much that he is deserving of recognition for his work.
For years I wanted to upgrade my camera but finances were tough for a long time. In 2005 I purchased a Canon S2 5 mpx camera. With that camera I have taken over 50,000 photos. I have been able to have a photo published in a newspaper for an incident that happened in NYC which was news for days on end. A steampipe broke on 40th and Lexington Ave and the area was shutdown. Numerous 3rd degree burns to the driver and passenger of a tow truck that was sitting over the steampipe at the moment it burst. When the truck was lifted due to the location of my office, i was able to sneak in using ID and from the 17th fl using the 12x zoom on my camera get a direct look at the broken pipe. The NYPost published my photo and bought other photos that no one else had published thus scooping everyone. For me, it was the my joy of finally being published in a newspaper. I got what i wanted, what I hoped for since I was in high school. And it was a simple 5mpx camera with a 12x zoom lens that did it for me.
That same camera took photos which are on a webpage that has had over 1,000,000 hits in 6 years. The photos of a walk I took in the Bronx of my old neighborhood is visited and I get about 2000-3000 hits a week of these photos. I just use a simple site meter to see what people look at and the page documents the number of hits for each photo. There are over 1750 comments that people have left over the last few years about missing the Bronx. i get hits from people all around the world who look and leave email to me about the Bronx. All of this taken with a 5mpx camera and a 12x lens.
Are the photos worthy of awards. Not in the least. Nothing artsy about them. But they do the job of giving people who long for their old neighborhood a chance to remember and sigh and wish for the old days to be back. I get thank yous from people from comments and private emails every week. I am proud of that site. There are 4000 photos dealing up there, but few look at the work of trying to be a photographer and just migrate to the snapshots of me saying this was my home. Sometimes the most simplistic work, the sloppiest photos are the ones most appreciated. That is fine. They have made so many feel some joy and that is what is truly matters.
Sorry for the long winded post but this is for anyone who chooses to read it. One does not need to spend a great deal to do work that is appreciated by many. Sometimes the minimal approach, the most simplistic approach can be the best.