Editor's Note: I was just about to post this below Kirk's Panasonic 25mm review, at the bottom of the existing Featured Comments, but I thought too many people might miss it way down there and it seems like an interesting topic. So here it is on its own. —MJ
Question from Kelvin: "Kirk, do you find your clients responding to you differently with the smaller camera? More relaxed? Easier to work with? Or not impressed, expecting 'big gear' for the money? I tried using my Ricoh GXR for a job once and the subject didn't seem to care. It made my job harder though (compared to an SLR—harder to focus, slow buffering).
Kirk Tuck replies: Perhaps in the old days of film photography, clients who were educated in the process might specify medium format film over 35mm film, especially if they had experience with color separations, but in this day and age I never, ever have any client ask about camera or camera type. If it's in your portfolio, they assume you can pull off a new version.
In the past three years I've had one client (rightly) criticize my camera choice. I tried to press an Olympus E-3 into making a sharp 11x17 for 4-color print. The strong AA filter on that model made it difficult to resolve small detail well. I ran out that afternoon and bought a Canon 5D Mark II, and we re-shot. The client didn't know Canon from Olympus. His only gauge was the quality of the final file.
While the "TV" version of professional photography often includes an art director standing right next to the camera approving each shot, the "reality" version, for editorial, is a client 1200 miles away waiting for you to upload a gallery of small JPEGs for selection and then waiting for your upload of the finished file from Raw. They never see the gear you bring. Only the result. And the result is what generally gets you the next job. Or not.
A 16-megapixel camera from Panasonic, Canon or Nikon will work well for nearly every job we do. The 12-MP ones pleased art directors just a few years ago. And the 6-MP ones before that. The vision thing is what we're really trying to sell. Not the gear.
[Kirk has expanded on this idea in a post over on his own blog called "You Can't Use That. It's Not Professional." (Thanks to Gary Brown for pointing this out...I hadn't seen it yet.)]
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Featured Comment by Jeffy: "As a former Nikon DSLR shooter, I do all my work with Micro 4/3 cameras now. In the beginning of working with small cameras I had some uneasy clients, so I would simply get my old beat to death D2H and set it on a table close by. Then I would shoot with my GX1."
Mike replies: You bring up a very good point. One of the things Kirk was saying is that he doesn't interact directly with clients and they don't see his equipment, which I thought was interesting. But when you do, it's essential not to give the impression that you can't afford the equipment you need. That can be death.
Featured Comment by Sanford: "In the official rules for media at the AT&T Pro-Am: Photographers must use professional looking equipment."
Featured [partial] Comment by John Camp: "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 Micro 4/3 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 40°C, which is about 104°F. When I was doing that, I shot Nikon F5's, then D1X's and D2X's. Anytime after 9:00 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."
Mike replies: You also bring up a good point. I used to shop at Pro Photo in D.C., when they were the principal repair shop for many working photojournalists. I remember coming in once and seeing two very beat-up cameras on the repair bench—Nikon F4's that had been painted desert camouflage. This was during the Gulf War. I made some snappy comment about how old they were, and the proprietor of the shop told me they were five months old. So it does depend how the camera has to be used, and for how long.
Featured [partial] Comment by mbka: "A smaller camera can work better than a larger one in certain situations. I have been shooting preschoolers for years now with Micro 4/3 equipment (currently with that great little 25mm ƒ/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!"
Featured Comment by Chris Lucianu: "'You can't use that, it's not professional' are almost the very words Ella Maillart told me she heard from her editors when she proposed to travel to Central Asia and China with her Leica in the 1930s.
"You may want to look up Ella Maillart: adventurer, travel writer, photographer. Her first major tribulations took her across the Soviet Union through to Soviet Turkestan, 1930–32. On her way back, she stopped over in Germany, where she was met by Ernst Leitz II. Leitz was so impressed with her photographs that he presented her, literally, with her first Leica. (Her last would be a CL, forty years later.) Ella went back to Central Asia, and was joined for a trek all across China and the Himalayas, from Beijing to Srinagar, by Peter Fleming (Ian Fleming's elder and arguably more interesting brother). Both she and Fleming published their individual accounts of that journey.
"I met Ella Maillart half a century after her first Asian adventures. A spry, ageless Kate Hepburn character, she was preparing a trek to Bhutan and Sikkim. I took her picture with my OM-1. She examined the Olympus, weighed it carefully in her hands, and said: 'Not too bad for an SLR. Still, the lenses are bulkier than my Leica. You can't travel light enough up there.' I joked that she should consider a Minox. 'I thought about that, but was warned that I might get arrested as a spy. Even my Leica was so unusually small at the time, it was held against me as a "concealed camera" when I was arrested in turn by the Russians, the Japanese and the Chinese, during my travels in the '30s. Eventually they let me go, and keep my camera, because I was clearly an "amateur."' At that, she beamed me a broad smile."
Featured Comment by Colin Work: "Sometimes use my Pany Micro 4/3 equipment in conjunction with my Canon DSLRs on assignment, but tend to pass them off as backup gear / testing etc. In many cases they would do the job, but I have noticed many nasty comments made about photographers shooting with point 'n' shoots at media events (why are they here? how did he get accreditation?). While I agree in principle with the 'size doesn't matter' point of view, I'm not yet prepared to risk being snubbed by event organisers for not having appropriate equipment. As an aside, I have found carrying my big white Canon 500mm ƒ/4 a great door opener, even in situations where such a lens would be inappropriate, if not unusable—I've been waved through gates where others have had to plead their case for admission."
Mike replies: I have a confession—I once went to a Jaguar dealer when I could in no way afford a Jaguar, so for the occasion I got a Leica M7 and 35mm APSH out of the closet and put it on like a necklace. It had the desired effect—the salesman recongized it, and I have no doubt it helped pre-qualify me as being more prosperous than I really am. Imposture most base!
Featured Comment by Hoover: "I shot a job couple of weeks ago. Product shot at the client's office. Nikon D200 and 28–70mm ƒ/2.8 lens, four lights, green screen for background and big fancy tripod. One of the guys who worked there was curious as to what camera I was using. Turns out he has a D700! Going to be putting on a bit of gaffer's tape over the old D200 logo and tell who ever asks that it's a new Nikon prototype and I can't say anything about it. Or I'll lug my Pentax 67II along as a prop and say the Nikon's just for proofing and set up....
"Man, that D200 has paid for itself many times over. The client could have cared less what the camera was. Well, up to a point. And yes, I do want that new D800!!"
Featured Comment by Paul Byrnes: "On the red carpet at Cannes, photographers must wear a dinner suit to shoot; this is outside the theatre, on the approaches to the stairs of the Palais, not inside.
"One thing I did not know until I went last year was that people shooting live footage must have a 'professional' tripod. A friend who produces Australia's most-watched movie show had to spend a day trying to find a camera shop that would sell or hire him a big tripod to get some coverage from the day before his real crew was booked to arrive. He had found someone who could shoot it but they only had a dinky tripod.
"This is presumably to stop dinky camera crews, rather than 'real' ones from major TV networks, getting a space on the coveted approaches. My point is: it's not just the camera, baby. If you don't show up with a full rig at the world's most important film festival, doesn't matter what camera you are carrying. Insane, but true."