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Does better digital camera make a better photographer ?

| January 15, 2010 | 2 Comments
The technology of digital cameras has evolved so much, and the intelligence put into cameras has greatly facilitated the way we take pictures. However, we need to ask ourselves: how much does modern technology help towards making better photos ? Is it technology or the human factor behind it that turns photography into art ?

If you look into a section of any digital photography magazine, you will see hundreds of ads offering bigger, better, and consequently more expensive Digital Cameras, packed with tons of features giving their readers an idea that a better camera will help them take better photos. This mindset has become so mainstream that we have gotten so used to “upgrading” our digital compacts and DSLRs that we never stop and ask ourselves: Are we really using our camera to the full of it’s potential ? and even more important:

Will a better digital camera necessarily make us better photographer ?

In order to test the impact of the modern technology on taking photos we have decided to face off two digital cameras that normally do not stand a chance against one another: one of the first phone cameras – the 0.3 megapixel Nokia 6600 VGA camera against fairly recent 10 megapixel Pentax K200D DSLR.

Nokia 6600 vs Pentax K200D

Nokia 6600 vs Pentax K200D Test

In order to be able to compare the photos, here are some technical details of both systems:

Technical Details Comparison
Technical CharacteristicNokia 6600Pentax K200D
Announced16.Jun.200323.Jan.2008
Megapixels0.3 MP10 MP
Max Resolution (pix)640 x 4803872 x 2592
Lens3.5mm f/2.818-55mm f/3.5-5.6
Equivalent on 35mm30mm33mm

The overall goal of the test is to take a series of photos of different subjects with both cameras set at same approximate focal length. Since it does not make sense to compare megapixel count, both photos taken with Nokia and Pentax will be resized to 320×240 and then evaluated according to the following criteria:

  1. The ability to compose images
  2. The overall sharpness of the image
  3. The colors in the final photo (tonal range)
  4. The creative freedom offered by the system

Please note that no photos have been edited (apart from resizing and cropping) to keep the same composition and aspect ratio in both compared images. The photos are displayed in the table below. I am sorry if some are not aligned perfectly, but it was freezing out here (Stockholm, -19 C) and my hands were partly numb.

Nokia 6600Pentax K200D
Statue shot with Nokia 6600Statue shot with Pentax K200D
Stockholm City Hall Columns shot with Nokia 6600Stockholm City Hall Columns shot with Pentax K200D
Statue in front of Gamla Stan shot with Nokia 6600Statue in front of Gamla Stan shot with Pentax K200D
Stockholm City Hall show with Nokia 6600Stockholm City Hall show with Pentax K200D
Railing Sunset - Nokia 6600Railing Sunset - Pentax K200D
Gamla Stan - Nokia 6600Gamla Stan - Pentax K200D
Lion Head - Nokia 6600Lion Head - Pentax K200D
Life Belt - Nokia 6600Life Belt - Pentax K200D
Sun at Columns - Nokia 6600Sun at Columns - Pentax K200D
Flower at Snow - Nokia 6600Flower at Snow - Pentax K200D
View over Gamla Stan - Nokia 6600View over Gamla Stan - Pentax K200D
View of Stockholm City Hall - Nokia 6600View of Stockholm City Hall - Pentax K200D

If you look at photos, you will see that both Nokia and Pentax were able to deliver in terms of composition ability. The interesting fact is that due to the lack of Live View on my Pentax K200D, the Nokia provided greater composition freedom, as it was easier to manipulate and compose using Nokias LCD screen than the Pentax viewfinder.

In terms of overall sharpness and tonal range, Pentax was way ahead as expected since the photos were much sharper and the colors were richer, and it was more less prone to lens flare than Nokia. Also in terms of creative freedom, Pentax allowed much more manipulation and control over photo taking process, such as changing exposure parameters, changing lenses, using filters, and much more.

However, if you consider the fact that photos do look similar, we have proven the point that you do not necessarily need an expensive camera to take good photos. Taking great photos depends mostly on the photographer, and his/her ability to see the world, as well as on the knowledge, experience, and the passion for photography.


So what are main benefits of a better camera ?
1. Better image quality – (hopefully)
2. Robustness – Usually, better cameras are designed for more frequent use, and therefore usually much more robust.
3. Greater creative freedom – It will not make you a better photographer per se, but it will give you the options and features necessary to become one.

One thing I have learned after I have bought my DSLR: It made my mistakes more visible than my digital compact. Good photos looked great, and bad ones were just awful. In addition, there can be many more settings to choose from, which could be intimidating to a novice user. So my recommendation to all of you considering to upgrade your digital camera, ask yourselves this question:

Have I outgrown my current digital camera ? Am I using it to the maximum of its abilities ?

If the answer is yes, then by all means, DO upgrade. However, if the answer is no, maybe your money would be better spent investing in a good photography book or a course.

If you are committed to becoming a better photographer, we recommend you check out these articles:


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Category: Beginners Photography, Photo Equipment, Photography Lessons

About the Author (Author Profile)

Alan Graf is the editor and founder of Digital Photography Student. He lives in Stockholm, Sweden, and is also editor of CRO-Wallpapers.com – a Croatian wallpaper archive, and his own photo gallery at http://www.alangraf.com.

Comments (2)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Do you have kids? Have you ever tried to take a picture of a 2 years old with a phone camera? Impossible! unless they are sleeping and therefore still 🙂
    My point here is that (nowadays) it is impossible to take pictures of moving objects with a mobile phone camera. Why haven't you put such tests in your article?

  2. Grunf says:

    Good point. The point I was trying to make is that a better camera gives you the freedom to take better pictures, but it is you who will ultimately press the shutter button. Camera is just a tool.

    However, regarding moving subjects, I completely agree that mobile phone camera is inadequate at best. I have tried to shoot my wife's cat with similar results. Maybe that explains the fact that my former colleagues with small children started massively buying DSLR's.

    Thx for the idea, and i will probably follow up on it with a post such as "reasons for getting a DSLR".

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