The dangers of having a BIG camera

Over the recent days there was a lot of media coverage due to fresh video evidence on the tragic death of Namir Noor-Eldeen, an Iraqi photographer working for Reuters.

A contributing factor in his accidental killing was when the gunner in an American Apache helicopter mistook his camera for an RPG.

Zoom lens: mistaken for an RPG

Zoom lens: mistaken for an RPG

Of course this is an almost-absurd event. War photographers might often actually be protected by their large and obvious cameras, identifying them as presumably neutral observers.
But this serves a good introduction to the point I actually want to make – the “best” camera is often not the best camera to have. You might be encumbered by it, or even worse, might not have it with you at all.

Professional photographic gear is designed to maximize optical quality, ruggedness, reliability and ease of use. However this often results in exorbitantly large and expensive hardware.

The Nikkor AF-S 200mm f/2 G ED VR is one of Nikon's range-topping professional lenses. It's excellent but large, expensive and heavy

And while – on paper – you may have the perfect collection of glass, you may find that it very quickly becomes unmanageable when you’re out in the field.

This doesn't look very portable...

I currently own, and regularly use a Nikon D80 (complete with 5 lenses), as well as a Panasonic LX3. I also have an iPhone. Despite its age, the D80 has a significantly better image sensor than the more recent LX3. The iPhone is obviously useless compared to both of these proper cameras.

When I’m out to do serious photography I usually take my D80 with its 18-200 zoom, and if space allows I like to have my 10-20 and maybe also 35mm prime for some creative options.
Now, in practice, it turns out that I take more photographs with my LX3 than with my D80. And sometimes I take photographs with my iPhone. Why is this? Do I purposefully crave bad-quality photographs? Of course not. The answer might be obvious, but let me state this in big letters:

Remember: "The best camera is the one you have with you"

Professionals will still go for the best hardware. They do this for a living, and therefore they can afford to do body-building by carrying their large and expensive cameras. Maybe they will also have a smaller camera for being discreet when the situation requires.

For the average enthusiast, like you and me, the situation is different. The biggest danger of having a big camera is that it might not be there when you want it most!