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Archive for December 2012

Annual business realignment

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It’s time for my annual business realignment.

Each year at this time, I evaluate what I have done, what I plan to do and the equipment I use.

The photography business changes so fast you could probably do it on a monthly basis and still not keep up. The basics continue to be the same. Finding the light, framing an artistic composition and striving to push the shutter release at precisely the right moment never changes. It all comes together every now and then. As my friend Mike Wray says, “A blind squirrel finds a nut every now and then.”

Everything else, in the photography business, is kind of like jumping into a constantly revolving door.

I’ll just address equipment in this post.

I’ve been making money with my photography for the past 27 years including the newspaper business, PR jobs and my business.

Back in the day, I loved shooting film, Tri-X to be exact, in my Nikon FM2 cameras. The camera didn’t do anything for you except give you an estimate of what the exposure was suppose to be in the center of your frame. I also used Mamiya medium format cameras with a handheld light meter. It was about as basic as you could get, by today’s standards.

I jumped on digital fairly early on. The first digital camera I used, back in the mid 1990s, was made by Kodak which only did files that were about 800 pixels wide. That’s about the size of photos you see on Facebook now. I used the camera to put photos on the web. I could shoot, go to my computer and upload photos. It was great. Before long, I had a three megapixel camera and could sent photos that could actually be printed.

My first digital SLR was the Nikon D1H which I purchased the day before it became available in 2001. Don’t ask, I was just lucky.

When I started my business, in 2004, I was using Nikons and the Olympus E-1.

As things changed, and I started doing more weddings I wanted a camera that could handle shooting wedding without using a flash as much as possible.

At the time, the only cameras that would allow me to shoot quality photographs at ISO 3200 were the Canon 5D and Canon Mark II. I sold all of my Nikon equipment and most of the Olympus stuff and purchased Canon.

Then Nikon produced, what I considered, the perfect digital camera. It was the Nikon D700. It was smaller and lighter than the D3. I really hate carrying around a big camera. I purchased one with a couple of lenses and used it along with my Canon stuff. Within six months, I had sold all the Canon stuff and had Nikon equipment again.

I bought back into Olympus along the way for studio stuff and shooting outdoors.

Then, Olympus came out with the Pen series. They were small cameras with the same size sensors as their DSLRs. I dreamed of the day the Pen series would have good enough image quality I could just use the Micro Four-Thirds cameras for nearly everything I do. I purchased the E-P1, the E-P3 and Olympus gave me an E-PM1 through the Pen Ready promotion. This past spring Olympus released the OM-D. The time I have been dreaming of has finally arrived.

When I held my annual realignment, last December, I decided I wasn’t going to buy any new equipment this year. I held off until November to buy the OM-D. I received it about three days before a wedding. I never use a camera on an important shoot until I have learned its in and outs. However, the day I received the OM-D, I cranked it up to ISO 3200 and shot some photos around the house. I actually said “WOW” when I looked at the photos. I used it for a play that night at 3200 and 6400 ISO. I shot with it the following day and it was my most used camera that weekend at a wedding. Since I had been shooting with the Pens I felt comfortable with the camera.

I had already purchased the 12mm F2, 45mm F1.8 and the Panasonic 20mm F1.7 to use with my other Olympus Micro 4/3rds cameras. I could shoot an entire wedding with those focal lengths (you double the mm on 4/3rds cameras) so the view in those lenses are 24mm, 40mm and 90mm.

I made 12 x 18 prints from the OM-D at 3200, 6400 and some I shot at 12,800 ISO. They looked great. 12,800 ISO looks like Tri-X shot at 1600. I love it. Here’s a couple of photos shot at ISO 6400. One is shot with the Olympus OM-D. The other with the Nikon D700. Yea, I know, “how am I suppose to tell at 700 pixels”. I can tell you that you will not be able to tell at full resolution. One was shot with the only lights that were there at their backs and the other was shot with no lights but an outdoor heater. Different angles at different times.

Image

Image

So this year in my realignment, I plan to buy more Micro 4/3rds equipment and move to using that for the coming year. I will buy another OM-D, an E-PL5 body (same sensor and image quality) and several more of their fast lenses. The camera and lenses are about 1/2 or 1/3 the size of the Nikon equipment.

There are many benefits with the OM-D and Micro 4/3rds equipment. Here are my top 10:

  1. The autofocus is the fastest I have ever used. It also has face detention with eye priority which is killer for doing portraits. I push the shutter release and it always focuses on the eyes.
  2. Because it has an EVF viewfinder rather than an optical viewfinder, I know what the photo is going to look like before I push the shutter release.
  3. The self-cleaning sensor and built-in image stabilization is outstanding. I have never had dust on an Olympus sensor in the past eight years of using them. No matter what  lens I am using, I can shoot at slow shutter speeds due to the image stabilization.
  4. The lenses are fast and so is the camera. The camera shoots up to nine frames per second.
  5. The OM-D is much better at some functions such as auto white balance. It is far more customizable than any camera I have used.
  6. If I purchase all the equipment I need, I can put it in a bag half the size that I now use and carry. That also means a reduction of at least half the weight. I can carry everything I would need on a shoot at probably less weight than two D700s and the 24-70mm and the 70-200mm. The camera is about the size of a Leica rangefinder.
  7. The camera is quiet. I mean really quiet. It’s really no louder than a Leica rangefinder. I have a Leica MP-4 so I know. A quiet camera is a huge benefit in shooting weddings.
  8. Coming from a guy that would prefer to shoot with a Leica rangefinder, the automation of this camera just makes my life easier. Photos out of this camera require less work on the post processing side than any other camera I have used. Less time working on photos means more time shooting photos.
  9. The OM-D shoots great video. I may change some of the things I do to include video.
  10. Finally, the image quality is outstanding. I did a studio shoot with the camera this week. I have never seen such sharp photos straight out of the camera.

I say all of this, to let you know I have some equipment for sale. Oh wow, your thinking I read all of this for a sales pitch? No, not really. I’m just telling you. If you want any of this and can stop by to pick it up, let me know by Wednesday, December 12, or it is going to be sold to KEH. Send me a message on Facebook or by e-mail at steve@stevesheppard.com.

Here’s what I am letting go:

Nikon D7000

Nikon D7000 battery pack

Nikon 35mm F2

Nikon 180mm F2.8

Nikon 10mm F2.8 fisheye

Nikon 24-70mm F2.8

Leica/Panasonic 25mm F1.4 for Olympus

Olympus E-3

Olympus E-P1

Olympus EP-3

By mid-year 2013, you may be able to talk me out of the rest of my Nikon gear.

I love shooting film cameras with no automation, such as a Leica or a Konica T3. I have several film cameras that don’t even have a light meter in them. However, the bottom line is if automation in a small camera gives me great image quality, I save my back a lot of pain, and I can spent more time shooting.

After all, finding great light, the right composition and pushing the shutter release at the decisive moment is what photography is all about.

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Written by stevesheppardphotography

December 8, 2012 at 7:51 pm

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