Does a More Expensive Camera Lead to More Interesting Photos?

When it comes to hobbies, an age old question is whether the cost or quality of gear leads to better results. Online message boards have millions of posts comparing this piece of equipment to that one. Passion can flow stronger than sanity, leading to insults being traded.

I enjoy photography and I wanted to look at this question. The first question I grappled with was how to define a good photo. I turned to the online photo sharing site Flickr. Flickr has an “interestingness” ranking on all photos. This algorithm looks at several metrics, and there’s a pretty good explanation of Flickr’s interestingness algorithm on Wesley Hein’s blog.

Using the photo sharing site Flickr’s API, I wrote a little script that would download the EXIF data on the 500 most interesting photos for each day during the years 2008 and 2009. I collected not only the camera’s make and model, but most of the other settings available. I ended up with information on about 155,000 photos (because not all of the photos had EXIF data available).

In a nutshell, the most common camera with photos ranked with high “interestingness” is the Canon Digital Rebel XTI (EOS 400D) at 4.6%. Next is a near tie between the Canon Digital Rebel XSi (EOS 450D) and Canon’s 40D, each with about 2.7% of the cameras.

The Digital Rebels had release prices in the $600 to $650 USD range. The 40D cost $1299 at its release.

For the most part, these cameras are used by folks who are enthusiasts, like I am. These are not cameras typically used by pros.

My next post about the Flickr database will discuss the cameras used by those whose photos show up repeatedly in the list of interesting photos.

Finally, I will continue to look at Flickr data to see what cameras were used the most among all photos, in order to examine whether the distribution of cameras used in interesting photos is different from the general photo set.

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