People say my dad is a crazy man. He and mum travel A LOT and he loves to cook which means that the final thing packed on every international holiday is a frypan. You’re probably thinking, “Really??!?!?!? A frypan???!?! That’s so much to lug around!” but to him, it’s a sacrifice he is willing to make for the freedom of being able to cook along the way. It’s what he loves and he won’t quickly compromise on lugging it around. That’s how I see cameras, there is no such thing as the ‘ideal’ camera because in my mind, they all have a strength that makes them the ‘best camera’ for a particular purpose or person. Today I’m going to let you peek into my camera bag and explore the contentious topic of what I use and why, and I’m going to use my second favourite topic (being food) to do it.
The Camera Phone: iPhone6+ (McDonalds)
When you’re walking around almost anywhere in the world and you get that hunger pang, you can be guaranteed that the golden arches of McD’s will be close by waiting for you, it’s so convenient. You’ll go in, get your fix but and it won’t be all that satisfying but it will hit the spot for the moment. This is like my iPhone in photography, it’s easy, quick and the results are pretty consistent but I’m not going to be using it for anything of any real importance. It’s my trusty ‘happy-snapper’ and like fast food it’s got it’s place but it’s a quick-fix but won’t be winning any quality awards any time soon.
Hot tip: If you press on the screen where you want to focus it will adjust the brightness to the subject too! Slide your finger up and down on the subject to adjust the brightness of the image (yep, even an iPhone has exposure compensation).
Shot on the iPhone by Laura (aka Wifey)
-Great for happy snaps and ‘memories’
-Small and always on you
-Terrible low light performance
-Questionable image quality for print
-Looks great on the iPhone but be prepared that when on a computer, that might change
The Point & Shoot: Olympus TG-4 (Oliver’s Real Food)
In Australia we have a chain called Oliver’s Real Food and it’s all about quality, healthy fast food (think quinoa bread and kale things). The TG-4 is like Olivers in my opinion. It’s not restaurant quality but it is a hell-of-a-lot better than McD’s. It’s also giving you a different offering, no great-on-the-menu-board-horrible-in-the-real-world hamburgers here; the TG-4 gives you a healthy (albeit not comprehensive) selection of settings and produces consistently great quality. The biggest reason this camera earns its place however is that I’m pretty guilty of dropping my gear in all kinds of fun things like mud, sand and even the occasional puddle of water. The TG-4 is water, crush and drop-proof which if you know my style of photography is pretty important. Last but not least it is also used as my back-up camera when out and about because I’ve not always got my macro lens and it can take photos (like… great photos) of subjects down to just a couple of millimetres. Thats better macro performance than ANY camera I’ve ever had the pleasure of using. More options, better quality but still fast and simple to use, the TG-4 is my Olivers.
Shot on the Olympus TG-4
-Top notch image quality for a compact
-Tiny for it’s performance
-Image quality doesn’t live up to interchangeable lens cameras
-No manual settings (for those who demand the control)
Real Camera 1: Olympus OM-D E-M1 (The highly awarded Family Restaurant)
My E-M1 is like a highly awarded family restaurant, it’s high quality, convenient, has many options with it’s interchangeable lenses and makes life easier. The thing about these micro-four-thirds cameras is not the body size but the size of the lenses. I can carry a whole kit of Oly gear in the pockets of my jacket meaning I’m more likely to try for the photo, as pulling the camera out isn’t a real hassle (like my D810). This camera is packed family-friendly-features but when you strip these away it is an imaging power-house that has been responsible for a huge portion of my portfolio. Like when you read a glowing ‘Good-Food-Guide’ review my tenancy is to err on the side of ‘prove-it’ and this camera has done just that. It can capture DSLR quality images and is a fraction of the weight of a regular DSLR and with LiveView you can see the exposure and colour results through the viewfinder before you take the shot; that means no more interpreting light meters and a much higher accuracy on your first shot. Whilst this camera is spectacular in almost every way, a couple more generations of OM-D cameras and I truly believe this family restaurant will win a Michelin Star and is already attracting some of the worlds best photographers to make the move.
Shot on Olympus OM-D
-Small body and small lenses which makes it the most convenient interchangeable lens camera I have ever owned
-Amazing image quality that can print pretty damn big without quality loss
-Incredibly affordable for what you get
-Brilliant low light but not quite that of the monster cameras (mentioned below)
-Not quite as shallow depth of field as the full frame cameras (but thats a small price to pay)
-Autofocus is lightning fast but focus tracking still needs work
The Real Camera 2: Nikon D810 (My Cast Iron Frypan)
The Nikon D810 is my frypan. Regardless of how amazing the family restaurant is or how many awards it has won, cooking your own meal (with the right skills & tools) is always going to give you more flexibility and freedom but at a cost. There is no question that the D810 outshoots most cameras on the market in terms of dynamic range (capturing all of the shadow and highlight details) as well as taking whopping 36mp photographs. When it rolls over on top of my TG-4 though it really does test the 100kg crush-proof nature of it, and the lenses? They fit in my jacket just like my E-M1 but the problem is I can’t fit with them. Like my dad travelling and carrying a frypan around the globe, for the right situation I will sacrifice convenience for absolute unrivalled flexibility and quality. The D810 is generally used as my ‘Print Camera’ meaning that if I am out shooting to create prints this will be the pick of the bunch. Resolution-wise it gives me the most flexibility for large scale printing and the best chance at recovering highlights and shadow in tricky lighting situations. Like taking on a complex dish though, this camera is not for the faint-hearted, is harder to get a sharp image out of due to the high resolution and shallow depth-of-field, is overly obvious when shooting street photography and will cost you dearly in both up-front dollars and ongoing chiropractor bills.
Shot on my Nikon D810
-Undeniably the best image quality I’ve used
-Great low light performance
-Can achieve very shallow depth of field (Sigma 50mm f/1.4 … ooohhh yeah!)
-It weighs more than a small child and takes up more space than the entire remainder of my luggage when travelling
-Horribly unforgiving to slower shutter speeds with camera shake (yes… even with VR).
-Incredibly expensive for the camera and also the lenses
So there you have it, a whole range of cameras in my bag for a whole range of purposes. The important thing here is that in most cases the audience can’t tell (nor should they care) what camera you used to photograph your images if you have worked within its limitations. You’ve heard me talk about it again and again in these tutorials but a camera is simply a tool you use and different tools do different jobs in different situations. We are all guilty of grabbing a quick McD’s burger when we are short on time that is absolutely fine, after all, sometimes you have to use what is available!
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