When is a camera a professional camera?

Concert shot

I’ve just come home from a great weekend of music, poetry, and theatre at the Latitude music festival. There were heaps of cameras floating around Henham Park, from 8 year olds with disposable ones that you can buy in Boots for a few pounds to Nikon D3Ss toted by the press, via mobile phones and all shades of compact camera. But if you were an ordinary paying member of the public, you weren’t allowed to bring in a dSLR.

You see the powers-that-be at Festival Republic—organisers of Latitude and several other big name festivals—had deemed dSLRs as ‘professional’, and that makes them forbidden. If you want the exact text from the website, it’s this: ‘Cameras are normally permitted for personal use. Cameras with detachable telephoto lenses will not be allowed through the three arena entrances. Professional cameras and video/audio equipment are strictly prohibited. Live video/audio recordings made without the permission of the artiste/promoter are prohibited.’

It got me thinking: what exactly is Festival Republic’s logic here?

It seems as if Festival Republic want to protect their professional interests by preventing the commercial sale of images from the festival. In order to do that, they’ve felt that they’ve had to draw a line in the sand regarding what constitutes ‘professional’ equipment. Their distinction is a dSLR camera. I can understand that, to a certain degree: their security personnel can’t be expected to know a zoom from a prime lens or a Canon 1D from a Nikon D3000, so it’s easiest to say dSLRs aren’t allowed. But in many respects, they are doing themselves a huge disservice.

For a start, have they checked out the zoom capabilities on a high-end compact camera? Or even on a lower-end camera, for that matter. Yeah, they have pretty impressive specs.

So this camera would be allowed.

Have they considered that using a dSLR is going to cause less disturbance to performers than common-or-garden variety cameras because the flash doesn’t need to fire to produce an image in low-light settings?

Plenty of compact cameras are able to shoot videos. In fact, I saw a good number of people doing that over the weekend, despite it being prohibited.

This one takes video, but that's still okay.

There are plenty of people out there using dSLR cameras because that’s what they prefer to use. They’re not professional and they don’t even hope to become professional. Their cameras are for personal use. Find a better distinction; realise that a dSLR camera doesn’t make someone a professional, and a professional doesn’t always use a dSLR.

I wonder what would happen if someone tried to use a manual SLR?