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Monday, 05 March 2012

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If you take a job, as a pro, shouldn't you know what you need to do the job? A billboard for a florist requires a different machine than a fast moving young wedding album. Kirk (great eye, extraordinarily generous in his sharing, writes very well) embraces moving out of his traditional comfort zone with a very open heart, and just takes client (and Kirk) pleasing photographs. And pays for his life. Not many here can speak from that perspective (Not even Mike). So the sensor/lens/quality issue is still up in t he air. Is it a Leica M9 with a summicron? Is it a hasselblad with a cfv-16 digital back? Is it a Nikon d800e with a zeiss 50mm? I've no idea. I just picture Edward Weston with a gorgeous mexican mistress, a 10x8 view camera, a lightbulb, and a fundamental need to make photographs. No one has really done anything better since, right?

Unless you are a wedding pro, in which case you must carry the biggest, baddest lens/camera combo, ideally the bulbous 85/1.2 (which, of course, you will never use at that f/stop), just to differentiate yourself from Uncle Bob ;-)

Kirk Tuck posted an essay expanding on that topic on his Web site: You can't use that. It's not professional.

I think Kurt's answer here is spot on, as he invariably is with his thoughts...

Camera matters less than the final quality of print or file... all depending on the intended output.

Interesting thought mind you, and perhaps posed by those who are slightly nervous of their abilities...

Personally I get quite a kick from having such a small camera... ;)

I stopped taking commercial assignment work two years ago. But Kirk's remarks coincide entirely with my own (likely more limited) experiences and observations. Clients cared about three things.

1. Image quality / delivery deadlines. (They're too inseparable to count as two items.)

2. Your reputation for reliability.

3. Cost.

There was no 4th item on the list. And as often as not I did not meet the person commissioning the assignment. We'd discuss it by phone or email.

Perhaps if I was shooting glamor rag spreads with $100,000+ budgets the art directors would be nervous seeing me show up with a consumer-grade camera. But even then...it's more likely that only my crew would think I was a dope.

Only camera geeks care about cameras. The rest of the world (rightly) cares about images.

I used panasonic gh2 to photograph kids in dance studio. The only problem is slowness of preview and a small buffer. Nobody questioned my choice of gear and everybody was super excited to see results. Printed some nice 20x30 canvases from well cropped images. It was a little bit strange feeling when I came to the dance show. All parents used either big ass cameras or ipads to photograph the show. gh2 was probably the tiniest camera around there.

I think this depends on culture as well. Where I'm from (Malaysia), the "bigger is better" mentality sadly prevails.

As local photographer Paul Gadd once quipped:
"The bigger the worm used, the bigger fish caught. True or not? Well if you think true, you're probably from South East Asia."

"Only camera geeks care about cameras. The rest of the world (rightly) cares about images."

Bravo, Ken!!! Exactly what I was trying to say. You just said it in about 2100 fewer words...

The only people who really care are other photographers.

I remember when pros would seemed to be in some sort of contest to have the most beat to death cameras. And dosen't Terry Richardson use disposable cameras
I have been known to indulge in the my camera is bigger than your camera game from time to time...
DSC03915

Everything that everybody has said here is true, but you also have to be a bit careful...you can't get an image if you don't have a working camera. I shoot almost nothing but m4/3 Panasonics now, but a few years ago, for several years spanning the film/digital divide, I was the principal photographer for an archaeological dig in the Middle East. We worked in a cloud of dust, and almost every day for six straight weeks the temps were ABOVE 40C, which is about 104F. When I was doing that, I shot Nikon F5's*, then D1X's and D2X's. Anytime after 9 o'clock in the morning, they were covered with mud, from a combination of dust and sweat; when I stopped sweating, I was in trouble from dehydration. I think my Pannys would have lasted a day or two...

If you're talking from a particular perspective like Kirk is, doing a lot of studio work, there may not seem much point in the overloaded monsters. But in reality, there is a point. Back in film days, when I was still reporting, I worked with photographers who were supplied with F4's and F5's, and a lot of them began using their own N90's, because those were great cameras and much lighter and with virtually all the functionality of F5's. But then, there were also the ugly assignments, around dusty cornfields or around water or forest fires, and then the F5's would come out. The small cameras are also not good for throwing around in lightly padded backpacks, and I suspect quite a few people here do that.

So the small cameras are just fine for what small cameras are just fine for; but there are some things that they're not just fine for. When Panasonic comes out with an armored G1x, I'll probably get one.

*The apostrophe indicates a plural. I know that's not right, but how do you indicate a plural when you're talking about different camera models, some of which may have an "s" in them, like the D2Xs, but you're only referring to plurals of the D2X (no "s") model? It's a conundrum.

Hilariously, I've had several people ask about my "vintage" film camera, which is actually a NEX-5N with a leather half-case and rangefinder lens attached. :)

In commercial work especially, the shoot, etc. is such a small part of the final - with the proper preparation, lighting, setting, props, stylists, models, and on, the camera typically matters very little as long as it meets the image/output use.

And probably like most professionals, I always show up with more equipment than I will ever need for a shoot, having multiple backups means never having to say your sorry for something you can control.

Robert

I think it depends on the situation and people involved.

People in a position of authority or paying the bills will often perceive bigger as better, because they lack technical knowledge.

If you showed a layman a Nikon D90 and D300, they will most likely identify the D300 as the 'better camera'. Bigger is better, even if in this case the two cameras share the same technology and sensor. Based on that, I believe it is fair to say that many clients will get a little nervous, if you don't show up 'loaded for bear'.

Obviously it also depends on whom we are talking about. I don't think that someone like Antonin Kratochvil catches a lot of flack when he shows up on a shoot with a Leica M or M9...

Ultimately the quality of the work is the decisive factor. If it meets the technical and artistic expectations, no one will question what sort of camera it was shot with. But I would still worry about 'producer logic, which could go two ways:

"If I am getting the same results from a $2000 camera, as from a $6000 camera; why am I paying the same price?".
Never mind that you are being paid for your talent and experience and not your gear, but that's another story...

or

"That was risky. This guy/gal showed up with a toy camera and we got lucky. Next time I'll hire the guy with the big rig. Better safe than sorry." ( Remember this old line?: 'Nobody ever got fired for buying IBM')


On the other hand I feel that the subject being photographed, often feels more at ease with a more compact camera. For a while I shot with a Canon 1-V HS. With the battery pack and a lens it truly did generate a level of 'performance anxiety' for the person being photographed. You could almost read the mind of the subject being photographed: "That's a serious / expensive camera. It's show time and I better perform!". I've never had that problem with a Leica M.

Ultimately it seems that we are trapped in a wicked cycle, with 'pro' gear that seems to grow bigger and more complex with every product cycle.

It will probably be a cold day in hell before Nikon introduces a full frame DSLR the size of an F3 or even F100.

Our only hope is that the more compact 'amateur' gear will continue to narrow the performance gap to the point were the difference in IQ and functionality is negligible and we will no longer be paying a kings ransom to our chiropractor.


Definition: A professional camera is a camera used by a professional.

I was at an informal photo club meeting last night where there was about 70 people. About 3 people brought prints, 3 people brought tablets (with photos on them), and the rest cameras and talked equipment. This question on equipment doesn't surprise me at all.

At that meeting I talked to a photographer and we talked a lot about confidence in your own work -- either being able to handle critique or building a body of work that represents what you want or who you are. Unfortunately, equipment doesn't do that; but most discussion seems to be focused around that.

Pak

Thank you Kirk for your reply to my question, but perhaps I didn't word it as well as I should - it appears the discussion (and even the blog title) has taken another trajectory.

I was more curious about whether you experienced a difference in the 'demeanour', or mood, of the photographic subject with a smaller camera. Do you find the absence of a big black blob obscuring your face resulting in more natural poses and casual energy in a shoot? Is the point-and-shoot style of looking at an LCD screen putting your subjects more at ease, as they can chat with you in a more natural fashion?

Your photos of the chef look quite relaxed. I suspect that this result is independent of camera type and more a reflection of your skill and personality in developing rapport, but I'm wondering if you think this result would (or wouldn't) have required more effort with a bigger camera.

I mentioned my experience with the GXR because I tried it as an experiment to see if it had a positive impact on a shoot (smaller, thus more discrete, and possibly less threatening) but discovered it didn't really change that aspect of the session. In fact my fumbling around with technicalities seemed to be getting in the way.

Anyway thanks for your interesting reply. The subsequent comments have also made for entertaining reading.

Several years back, when Canon was making the digital Rebel in silver, a friend was turned down for a job photographing a high end child's birthday party. The reason? When she went to discuss the job with the prospective client, the client saw her silver Rebel and replied that she preferred a photographer with a "professional" camera. My friend returned later that afternoon with a BLACK Rebel, borrowed from a friend. Same camera, different color, got the job. Go figure.

A small correction to Kens statement:
"Only camera geeks care about cameras. The rest of the world (rightly) cares about images".

... a small miority of the rest of the world cares about images. The rest of the world doesn't even look at images.

Although not the same because it's not commissioned work, I was amused to find David Burnett's Holga gallery just after reading this post.

People are right to make the statement that what matters is the picture. I remember seeing an original of "Migrant Worker" at the George Eastman house and it was pock-marked and scratched, but it was barely noticeable under the power of the image...

BUT, as a professional who gets hired by clients, there's an assumption that you have made a series of decisions about your equipment that will render the client the correct quality level image for his/her usage. Showing up with an 8 megapixel 4/3rd's camera from a few generations ago for an assignment that is going to need 40X60 inch prints is probably not a decision that is going to get you rehired. On the other hand, that rig might be perfectly OK for a web only job at 72dpi.

Twenty years ago, art directors knew what they wanted the final image for, and specifically asked for the film size they knew would meet it. Today, very few people at all know what's going on (don't get me started about modern art directors), so more of it falls on photographer to make the correct decisions.

I can say in the past, I never used 35mm for anything in my career, strictly a photo-journalists size, period. We used to laugh at those ads that used to say more professionals used Canon or Nikon or? When in reality, more professionals used Hasselblad, or for that matter Deardorf than any 35mm at all! The only people that used 35mm were photo-journalists and some, but few, wedding photographers. What thoes ads really meant, were "of the people that use 35mm professionally, more used Canon or Nikon or ?". But it gave the wrong impression to a generation of people. Walking into an ad agency around here in the 70's-80's with a 35mm would have gotten you laughed out of the reception room.

Anyway, I've done test's on what I'm using, a 12 megapixel Nikon DSLR, and the art directors I work with seem to think it looks perfectly fine for sharpness at any size most of the work I do for them get's reproduced. BUT, I just don't like how the camera looks most the time. It's very easy to get those "pop colors" and contrasts those young art directors cherish, but tough to get film like subtlety. I find myself using another light on things that during the film years, I would have just used a fill card on. I find if I keep moving and moving the fill card into the subject, I never really get any fill, it just remains black. There is some discussion among my crew on how CCD sensors do a far better job of emmulating the image we were used to with film, and the CMOS sensors, not so much.

So that's my problem, I use a camera every day I know delivers the minimum of what my art directors need, but I'm unhappy with the quality level and I can't afford the 30K dollar CCD camera that would make me feel comfortable.

BTW, the photographers around here usually get paid to bring "something to the picture". And by that "something" they usually mean lighting. The clients expectations are that they are hiring you to do something to the image that the average jamoke is not going to be able to do. Now, we all know that subject/photographer interaction is key, and composition is 9/10ths of the battle. But no one around here would have gotten paid to go out to a restaurant with no lighting and take a few nice snaps of the chef. That job would have gone to the assistant at the agency or magazine who has a Canon Rebel as a little 'bonus' experience for them. I salute that someone can actually still get paid for a job like that! Those are the clients I need!

Eh Tom, wasn't Edward Weston's mistress Tina Modotti? Eh, I heard that rumour more then once and wasn't she Italian......rrrrrrrrr :-) so to speak. Eh, maybe Gursky.....Julia Stocheck wasn't half bad either :-) eh still is, but without Gursky.

Greetings, Ed.

A smaller camera can work better than a larger one in certain situations. I have been shooting preschoolers for years now with m4/3 equipment (currently with that great little 25/1.4). The small camera makes the photographer a lot less intimidating to the kids than a big bad black block would. I can move very close to their faces and still get a smile. I can even let them hold the camera and no broken wrists!

Caveat, I'm not a "pro". I shoot specific projects for people I already know, so I don't depend on the hunches of anonymous clients.

This is a question I've wondered about a lot lately. What I keep coming back to is this: It feels like with digital we are now going through the same transition that film once did when the 35mm camera became commonly used. A full frame dslr is in many ways like a film medium format. As in the case of film, there might be a bit of a drop off in quality from a full frame dslr to these smaller mirrorless bodies, but it seems like we're finally reaching the point where the quality of what they produce is at an acceptable level for almost any circumstance.
I totally love my D700, but I'd never walk around for several hours with more than one around my neck. On the other hand, it's easy to see yourself with a couple of the latest offerings from Fuji or Olympus or someone else and be quite comfortable shooting all day.

"Only camera geeks care about cameras. The rest of the world (rightly) cares about images."

Posted by: Kenneth Tanaka

Amen brother.

As I mentioned over at the VSL blog, I have a friend who used to shoot assignments for magazines with a tiny ("pocketable") point-n-shoot. His reasoning was very much the same that Mr. Tuck has outlined numerous times - it was the best tool for him to do the job and the output was perfectly fine. He has since switched to micro-4/3 and has been doing very well for himself and his family. I'm convinced. The only thing that makes a camera "professional," regardless of what the badge on the thing says, is whether a professional photographer is using it.

There's a lot of discussion about this in the video world as well. I use what works for the situation: an iPhone, DSLR or a Sony XDCAM. Most clients don't care but there are those that figure big-bucks = big gear, and lots of it. When one fellow saw my DSLR rig he said, 'hey, I've got one of those - why don't I do it myself'. Jokingly I pointed to my head, 'because you don't have one of these.' He got it. Some don't.

If a client bases professionalism on camera size, I think it is time to FIRE that client. Seth Godin says we "hire" our clients too. I believe that. Certainly there is a plethora of ignorance and materialism within the greater cultural landscape that would permeate photography. Bigger or more expensive = better, to many people. But for the most part, most reasonable clients care about the results and personality of the photographer more than camera size. It makes no sense for them to care now since EVERYONE owns a dSLR anyway, whether they are a photographer or not. Hehe. Good post.

If it's about making clients think they are getting their money's worth, I always found that showing up with a Norman and 5 heads and all the stands, soft boxes, umbrellas, and flags to go with it, plus 50 feet of 25 amp extension cord and a maybe a couple Yashicamats would do the trick.

John Camp, if I had the choice between using my own N90 or an F5 somebody else provided around a forest fire, I'd pick the F5 in a heartbeat.

And if you reversed it, and it was my F5, and somebody else's N90, I'd still choose the one that belonged to somebody else for that assignment.

(I have no idea what a good solution to your problem pluralizing 1Ds and similar things is; I tend to use the improper apostrophe also.)

Best price for the Sony 24mm f/1.8 lens in stock in the UK seems to be £899. Nex-7 APS body £999, total £1898.

Nikon 35mm f/2 £260, Nikon D700 £1766. Total £2026.

Little difference in total cost, and one system is APS-C and the other is full frame; full-frame systems historically carrying a heavy price premium due to the expensive, superlative sensor response. Of course one must buy whichever system on feels suits one’s needs, but I gasp at the cost of the Sony, whereas the Nikon appears good value on appraisal, especially given Sony’s “throw everything at the wall and see what sticks” approach to systems development. Whither their full-frame attempts? I wouldn’t trust the NEX system to survive the next five years, and I’m not putting my money anywhere near it. Nikon’s F mount? Micro four thirds? Both far beyond critical mass, and will be pleasing enthusiasts in ten years’ time.

In conclusion, it is quite possible that the supply chain problems are not due to any great demand - how can the desire for an expensive lens for a niche system which is only slightly cheaper than Nikon’s faster and full-frame 35mm 1.4 be so much in relative terms? I suspect Sony high command are reluctant to manufacture such an expensive lens in great quantities: “a toe in the water” springs to mind. Full-frame lenses are the past, present and future: APS-C lenses are not.

Being a guy who's spent an entire career rarely using any lens longer than a 150 on a Hasselblad, and rarely any wider than a 60 on the same, I hold out great hopes for the 'all in one' package as emulated by the new Canon G1X. A chip size that would render most 8.5 X 11 full bleeds sharp enough, a lens that covers the equivalent of 28mm to 112mm on 35mm (even wider and longer than I mostly use!), and stuck on the camera body without adding to the chip cleaning problems. I await being able to rent one in the future, and if it checks out, I can certainly say goodbye to lugging around a DSLR, it'll be lighting equipment and a little camera bag on my shoulder with a few x-tra batteries and memory cards in it!

By the way, love all the people on here that said it's time to fire the client! Ha, where do you live: OZ? If I fired every client for being stupid, I'd enjoy my new career at 7-11! I've already fired all the clients that won't pay market day-rate (it's amazing how the day rate here went from 800-1000 bucks a day in the 80's, to most people calling you up and asking you if you'd do some pics for them for a few hundred, that basically shoots your whole day anyway), and I've also fired the people that won't pay in less than 120-140 days, and so now I'm barely working.!

That's a nice camera, it must take really good pictures....hmm.

Most cameras these days are ridiculously capable. Of course, people are not always aware of that, so they judge by appearances. It is still true that a lot of clients expect you to turn up with a Canon or Nikon and some expensive looking lenses and a fat kit-bag.

On the other hand, many pros shooting on assignment prefer to travel incognito, knowing that a 12MP MFT or even a good P&S will net them some publishable shots. But then no-one has any expectations on them at the time of the shoot.

However, it's tough to convince clients. I had an educational experience at a friend's wedding when everyone thought I was the pro-photographer as I had a D700 with grip, flash and 24-70 F2,8 which is an imposing lump. So everyone kept looking at me when the event photographer with a 60D kept trying to get their attention. I took pity and put my camera away. He took some really excellent shots, better than mine, but it proves a point.

Of course there are times when a "professional" body is a necessity - advanced flash control, harsh conditions, fast action, poor light, large prints. All of these will force you down a certain path.

But for documentary and PJ work, most of the time you are better off not looking like paperazzi and going discretely about your business. If you have that freedom, then you really can choose something far less cumbersome as your main tool.

MIke
I guess you are busy, and maybe I wasn't plain enough - you have Hoover's name next to my post about the red carpet at Cannes, on the small vs large camera debate. I am not now, nor have I ever been Hoover... J Edgar, nor Herbert. And if you are gonna move to Fla, you should go the whole hog and move to Oz, where the air is cleaner, there are fewer people and you can still watch American football (and plenty of other types).
Best
PB

"you have Hoover's name next to my post about the red carpet at Cannes, on the small vs large camera debate."

Paul,
I beg your pardon! I AM sorry. Fixed now.

Mike the sometimes-not-so-good Ed.

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