DSLR vs Mirrorless – Part III The Sum up

So where is this all going? A fair question for sure. Will mirrorless replace the DSLR? Once upon a time many thought film and digital could coexist. From a practical standpoint, I think we know how that turned out. Here’s what I think. For what its worth…

I think mirrorless is beginning to prove itself a worthy contender in the photography landscape. Sony has led the way so far, and the A9 has landed right in the middle of the DSLR party. The truth is that at some point, DSLRs will go away. No one will be using a DSLR 100 years from now. But will they be using one 25 years from now? 10 years? 5 years? At some point, something will come along and change the photography landscape, and mirrorless appears to be the first contender to try to be that technology.

Along the way however, some things will change, and that may remove one of the primary benefits of mirrorless technology. This is size and weight. It seems as though pros are especially committed to a full frame sensor. As a matter of geometry, this will increase the size and weight of both the camera and the lens you attach to it. Bigger sensor means a bigger (and heavier) camera. Bigger sensor also means a bigger square surface to cover with light from the lens. This means the lens must also be bigger (and heavier) to make an image circle large enough to cover that sensor completely with light. It appeared to me that many mirrorless manufacturers tried to sell pros on smaller sensors which results in smaller lighter cameras. Some pros may have jumped at this, but the internet seems loaded with “pros” and “joes” just waiting for a full frame mirrorless sensor. Sony did it, and has won awards (and sales) aplenty for the effort. Now everyone is sitting back waiting for Nikon and Canon to do the same. The rumor sites seem to point to a release within the year.

Another problem that may stall mirrorless is the lens conversion issue. If you own DSLR lenses, you can’t use them on mirrorless without an adapter. Here’s where the physics of light gets in the way. Basically DSLRs have a big flapping mirror in them that swings up and down. The lens needs to get out of its way, so there is a big space between the back end of the lens and the sensor. The lens is designed to assure that the light passing through the lens falls into focus on the sensor after passing through this open space. This open space is called flange distance, and because mirrorless cameras don’t have mirrors (hence the name) the flange distance is significantly smaller. This smaller flange distance allows a mirrorless camera to be thinner and more compact, but it also means you cant put a DSLR lens on it without an adapter. That’s because with the shorter flange distance, the light hasn’t come into focus yet when it reaches the sensor of a mirrorless camera using a DSLR lens. Therefore you need an adapter or new lenses. That’s bad news and ultimately expensive news for a potential DSLR owner, because say what you will about lens adapters, most agree, they are nobody’s friend.

Well, this post went way long and I’m sorry about that. I hope these last few posts have helped increase your understanding on mirrorless vs DSLR. If you’re planning a purchase, I hope this will help you make a better, more informed decision. After all, none of these cameras are cheap. Looking down the road for the long haul, there are more questions than answers on how to best spend your money right now. I’ll admit to being a gear monger wanna be, but I’m also pretty cheap, with a kid in college and mortgage to pay. I want to make good informed decisions, and not break the bank at the end of the day. So I’ll wait a bit before I buy my next camera and see where the dust settles on this one.

Please enjoy another image I’ve taken with my mirrorless camera. These two Ponderosa Pines rose above all their surroundings at Black Horse Canyon in New Mexico. It had been a long day of hiking, and these trees made an incredible sound as the breeze blew through them. I was sleeping in a matter of minutes listening to them, even with that bright full moon. All the best to you.

DSLR vs Mirrorless Part II: My Experience

When mirrorless cameras came out there were some photographers who jumped right on board and sang it’s praises incessantly.  To be honest, I wasn’t too thrilled.  I don’t know why exactly.  I guess it was because I didn’t like people dissing my beloved DSLR, and the thought of “upgrading” was not one I was very fond of.  I’m not stubborn, but change was not in my wheel house this time around; especially with some of the notable short comings with the early models that I mentioned in part one of this blog.

Then something happened.  I had committed to a two week hike with my son as part of a Boy Scout experience at a place called Philmont.  It promised a two week trek through the back woods of New Mexico, waking with the rising sun, hiking several miles over mountains and through canyons to the next camp site; day after day for two weeks.  A total of 89 miles, 2 summits, and a host of other cool stuff (like a fossilized T-Rex track).  All stuff photographers drool to be a part of.  The only problem is you take everything you need for those two weeks and carry it on your back.  While tents, rain gear, and sleeping bags are part of the necessary equipment, 10 pounds worth of camera gear is highly discouraged. It was time to shop for another camera.

I poured over the potential alternatives and mirrorless kept coming up as the natural answer. I wanted the ability to shoot RAW, a fully manual camera so I could choose, ISO, shutter speed and f stop, and interchangeable lenses in a small, lightweight form.  That eliminated DSLRs and most point and shoots.  Either too heavy or not functional enough.  I scoured reviews of all the usual suspects and settled on a Nikon J5.  In short, it had all the functionality of a DSLR, and the whole thing including camera, lens and battery weighed less than the walk around lens I attach to my D810.  I wasn’t cheap but I got one.

Overall, I had a great experience with the camera.  It was super convenient to keep out at all times, held in place by a carabineer that I could undo in less than 2 seconds to grab a shot when I wanted.  I took close to 1000 pictures and went through  2 and 1/2 batteries in the process.  Not bad.  My pictures looked great, and I can honestly say there is no way I would have taken so many pictures with my DSLR because it would have been stowed most of the time.   Many of the advantages of mirrorless besides weight and size were also appreciated.  Such as super fast focus, high frame rate, and an articulating screen, something more DSLRs are starting to have, but not at the time of this hike.  My biggest complaint was the low light performance which left me hoping for more.  At the end of the day however, I was pleased with my choice and still use the camera today when I’m doing stuff with the family, and don’t want to be weighed down by my big D810.

I have one more post to do on this and I promise to get it out soon.  I just want to talk about the current state of mirrorless and where I think this is all going.  I’ll also discuss why mirrorless isn’t necessarily lightweight or compact anymore.  In the mean time, I’ve included another shot with my mirrorless  J5 that I took while on my Philmont hike.  This is the Maxwell trail camp at Sunset.  I hope you enjoy it.  Until then…All the Best.

DSLR or Mirrorless Part I – A History

Kahoolawe Rain seen from Wailea beach

I love my Nikon D810, as I think I’ve already mentioned in previous posts. There’s plenty of reasons why, but one I never considered was because the inside is so familiar to me. It has that big flappy mirror, and a shutter, along with that big ol’ sensor right where it ought to be. The same spot where the film was stretched between two rollers when I used SLR’s back in the 1900’s. The path of light came through the lens, reflected off the mirror, got bounced around by a pentaprism, and eventually found my eye. Pretty familiar stuff actually. In fact, it’s all I’d ever known until a few years ago. Then, along came the mirrorless revolution.

These cameras had all kinds of names from “next Gen” cameras, to “EVIL” cameras. (Electronic Viewfinder Interchangeable Lens if you were wondering). The truth was no one knew what to make of them, or what to call them. The path of light was much simpler. It comes through the lens and falls on the sensor. So how do you see what your taking a picture of? That’s the EV in EVIL. An electronic viewfinder shows you not the actual light, but the sensor’s version of the image created by the light falling on it’s surface.

This was a serious industry disruptor. Dinosaurs like me liked our big flappy mirrors in the DSLRs so we shunned them, and at first it really wasn’t much of a competition anyway. Mirrorless cameras weren’t very good, especially in low light. There were other problems too, like a rolling shutter in the EV that could get you seasick taking action shots, but there were/are serious advantages too; like very high frames per second shooting. After all, there’s no mirror flapping around to slow things down. Another was focus peaking, to highlight any out of focus areas in your image, and a big advantage was a greatly reduced size and bulk factor that came with these cameras. It was starting to become a compelling argument, but for a photographer image quality, in ALL settings, trumps features, and bulk, any day of the week.

So went the early chapters of this book, but times have changed.  Some of these advantages stood the test of time and others did not, but some of these disadvantages have also begun to be addressed and things are looking brighter for the mirrorless revolution.  Part II of this post will discuss my experience with mirrorless (yes, I bought one) and where I think things are going. In the mean time, enjoy this picture of a beautiful sunset on Wailea beach in Maui. For those of us caught in the midst of a cold and snowy winter, it is a reminder of the good warm days soon to come. Any yes, it was taken with a mirrorless camera, not my DSLR.

Until next time…all the Best!!!!

Gloomy Tuesday

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It’s a pretty gloomy day here as I look out my window.  Actually, not a bad day for photography, but honestly, there’s never a bad day for photography.  I’m rushing to work though, and I thought I would just put up a shot of an equally gloomy day I spent in New York recently.  Gloomy days just scream black and white, so I fired up the ol’ monochrome conversion skills and got to work.  I hope you like it.  Have a great day where ever you are, and remember the sun is just above the clouds.

All the Best …John

The Trouble with Presets

There are a ton of new photo enhancing software packages coming out now.  There are some pretty big names putting their foot forward and, like a Phoenix from the ashes, an old friend has been reborn.  This last reference is to the Nik collection of software that has lived a precarious life as an editing program that has been sold from one company to the next, given away to anyone who wanted it for a while, then eventually killed by its developer and left for dead.  With this track record it’s probably easy to think it was junk, but quite the opposite is true.  This suite of programs was used universally by countless photographers, including myself, and seemed to be everyone’s favorite secondary processor after the 800 pound gorilla that is Photoshop.

With all this attention to secondary image processors comes a concern from myself.  Most of these programs deal with Presets, or filters.  This basically means that the program applies a host of global edits to your photo to give it a variety of “looks”.  This could be anything from a retro look, to a high contrast black and white, to a host of film emulations with color casts, blurs, and vignettes added.  This is all well and good, and I don’t deny that sometimes you can be taken aback by the results of these presets, but overall I give them a thumbs down.  I feel they squash the creative process.  I don’t see any true expression coming from the clicking of a button and seeing 20 potential developing scenarios to scroll through.  To be fair, you have countless ways to tweak these effects, but in the end they are all based on these original fundamental presets.  Where’s the exploration?  Where’s the experimentation?  Where’s the risk?  This make photo processing expedient and safe.  There is no journey to this process.  It’s just not for me.  I’ve never used one and probably won’t any time soon.

I suppose there is some value in seeing what “could be”, and yes, there are some wild presets out there, put forth by these software companies and photographers who will sell you whole galleries of these things to use in the programs.  In the end however, the result is someone else’s vision.  Maybe I’m missing something, what do you think?

Enjoy today’s picture.  It’s an image I got recently on a late afternoon walk in a nearby park.  I love this time of year.  Photography is almost simple with all the beauty created by the fall colors.  I hope you like it!!

Until next time…all the best!!!

 

Fall Leaves are Fallin’

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Hi Everybody!!  Just a quick post today to keep up with everything.  I thought I would share a shot I took on a recent walk through a nearby park.  The fall leaves are in full tilt here in the Northeast and it’s beautiful.  Of course, the high winds most likely lead to a dramatic transformation by the week’s end.

All the best to you and see you soon!!

Ohhh…Adobe!

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Well if your a photographer, especially if you shoot digital, which is about everyone these days, you probably use Photoshop, and/or Lightroom.  Love it or hate it, everyone edits their photos…everyone.  Some do this with a heavy hand, while others stick to the basics of “clean up”  for what the camera failed to capture.  (I really mean to do a post on my Photoshop pursuits, and I promise I will soon.)  The other function of the Photoshop/Lightroom duo is the storage aspect.  You need somewhere to store and categorize all those photos you take.   Here again, Lightroom provides an answer few find any major faults in.  I’m a fan of these products, I really am, and I’ve used them for years.  The problem with this relationship is that the maker of these programs, Adobe, keeps slapping me in the face.

Once upon a time, you bought these software applications and you had a license to use them forever, but a few years ago, that went away, and now you have no choice but to “subscribe” to their Creative Cloud service.  Initially, the cost was $50 a month and included every application available in Adobe’s Creative Suite of programs.  This allowed for video editing, web design, publishing, and a host of things I will never, ever need.  As a rank amateur, I had been smacked down.  I had no intention of paying $50 a month for something I would never use to its full extent.  Adobe tried all sorts of promos to get people to bite, and eventually they won me over with the Photographer’s Plan.  For $10 a month, I get Photoshop and Lightroom.  All I would ever need, and at a price I could justify.  Said plan still exists, and still costs $10 a month, but I got another smack down this week.  Adobe has just released a second version of Lightroom that is wholly web based.  Apparently, this serves a growing group of professionals who need to edit in the cloud.  This is not me.  The old version of Lightroom still exists, but it has been renamed “Lightroom Classic”.  Lots of people have speculated on this version’s future.  Some believe this is a beginning of the end.  Adobe says “no”, but there is precedent for taking little comfort in such an assertion, but once again, Adobe has firmly pointed at me and said, “Amateur!”  It’s hard to say how many like me use the photographer’s plan as part of their hobby, but maybe this isn’t a niche Adobe is concerned about.  My biggest concern is that if Lightroom Classic goes away, I’ll be forced to store my images in Adobe’s web space, and quite honestly, that will never happen.  Not only because I won’t rely on anyone else to store my images, but also because I have so many of them.  Literally tens of thousands of them encompassing several terabytes of storage.  Buying that much space from Adobe would break me.    So now, I’m left to speculate if I will be using a software that is leading me down a dead end, that at some point will say, “Sorry, ride’s over, please convert to the web based program.”  At that point, years of edits will evaporate as I seek an alternative, which will leave me left out to dry.

Let me just say that I love the photographer’s plan.  It’s fair at the price it charges for the service it provides, and I have gone “all in” on developing my skills with these programs.  So much so that I have shunned the competitors, many of whom have stepped up their game significantly since this whole subscription based model went live.  Not having a perpetual license doesn’t bug me because at this price, the constantly updated forms of these programs are worth the money (don’t tell Adobe that).  However, control of my images is also important to me, and is my paramount concern.  They will live two feet away from me on these hard drives and nowhere else.  Lets hope there are enough photographers like me to make sure Adobe gets this message.  For now, I’m, “drinking the Kool-Aid” with a wary eye.  How about you?

I hope you enjoy today’s image.  It is a heavily processed fall image of a forest path I hike on frequently.  I’ve applied an Orton Effect to give it a dreamy quality.  Thank you Photoshop for providing the  means for this expression.  I hope we have may more years together.

Until next time…All the Best…John

 

 

 

Is it Good?

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We’ve all been there.  The moment we complete our work, and we take a step back to take it in.  Then comes the question.

Is it Good?

I think as artists we all try to determine if our labors have earned our approval.  But I submit that all too often we are determining the answer to this question from the wrong point of view, and the question we are asking ourselves is a lie.  That is, that all too often we are really asking, “Will anyone else think it’s good?”  And in that we have the true rub.  We are judging our own work through the eyes of others, and trying to determine if we will win their approval.  Let me just start by saying, that while I am guilty of this, as we all are to some degree, I have begun to realize the answer to whether or not I have obtained everyone’s artistic approval of my work, is becoming less important to me.

As artists, we all seek approval from others, but I submit to you, that we must each have an inner satisfaction to our efforts as a fundamental necessity of our pursuits.  This applies across the artistic spectrum, from writing, to painting, to sculpture and yes, photography.  Art needs to be free, and an expression of what we each choose to express, not what we think others want expressed.  This is a step that requires great courage and vulnerability, but in the end, having the approval of others without feeling fulfilled ourselves, leads to empty success.  There are countless expressions for compromised art, from adverse influence to just plain selling out.  Sometimes you need to pay the bills, but when we pursue art on our own terms we find it’s purest expression.

Satisfaction in our own work, on our own terms, does not come easily at first.  We long for acceptance, but as we grow more confident of our abilities, that sense of fulfillment in our achievement comes more easily.  I have begun to find this happy place with my photography, and it has elevated my pursuit of this hobby.  It comes with practice, successes, and many failures, but the road is fun to look back on, if only for a moment, until I cast my gaze forward again.  Because as anyone can tell you, there is no room for comfort in art either.  Comfort leads to stagnation, and a lack of growth…but that’s a story for another day.  Enjoy my shot of a walk in the woods, on a sunny day.  I am pleased with the picture, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say, I hope you like it!!

Until next time…all the best…John

Composition or What’s Your Story

DSC_6453-Edit-EditComposition is such a conundrum. It is clearly the heart and soul of photography. For all the anguish we spend learning the exposure triangle and how to apply it, for all the obsession about proper focus and depth of field. At the end of the day, none of the above matters if what we’ve pointed our camera at doesn’t stir us in some way. As artists, we seek an emotional response from those who view our work, and that simply won’t happen if the picture sucks.

This is tough because as photographers we’re forced to deal with what we get from the scene. It’s up to us to somehow make the viewer of the image not only see, but more importantly feel, what we are experiencing as we take the picture.

This is where I sometimes have trouble with some of the time honored dogma of photography. I’m supposed to be telling a story with the image. Sometimes a picture screams its 1000 words, and other times, I couldn’t come up with a decent paragraph. Do I really need to tell a story? Isn’t it sufficient that I capture a beautiful image? As the sun rises above the clouds on a nondescript grassy hill, and it illuminates the fog on a rolling field with a brilliant golden light. Is that picture really telling a story? I use all my composition rules that I’ve learned to place the peaking sun on one of the “high energy” points of the image, and perhaps a fence leads me into and through the image, but what’s the story? Perhaps you could go on about how the old sun rises above the sloping hill as it has done for eons, illuminating….an on and on. Please excuse me if I admit, that to me, that’s all just artsy fluff. It’s a beautiful picture taken at the perfect moment of the day. End of story. 500px is rife with golden hour shots taken in mountains all over the world. Each is a little bit different, but if they are telling a story, it’s a pretty common one. In these cases I submit that the photographer is paying homage to the beauty of the scene, and the story, if there is one, is an afterthought.

Please don’t take this to mean that I don’t believe that proper care and consideration of the moment are necessary to create a great image. Or, that taking an image without considering its story diminishes all the wonders possible from a great photograph, but sometimes the visceral pursuit overcomes the cerebral one. Personally, I have no problem with that. Especially, if the person gets that look on their face all us photographers know, when someone looking at our image is hit with it as though it were a left hook from a prize fighter, and they simply say, “Wow, that’s beautiful.” It’s a satisfying feeling that screams mission accomplished.

I hope you like today’s image.  This is a horse stable near my home.  I consider myself lucky to live near such a rich photographic subject as I have taken many pictures in and around this place.  I just wish the horses had been up and walking around already on this particular morning.  Have a great day.  Go out there and make a great picture.

All the Best…John

Gear or Megapixels vs. Grey Matter

Once upon a time, not too long ago, I got a package delivered to my doorstep, wrapped in brown heavy gauge paper. It wasn’t very big, maybe about a cubic foot in size, but true to the old axiom, good things do come in little packages, and I had been waiting for this one. I could tell from the labels this was what I had been waiting for. I had tracked it’s movement across several states each day knowing it was closer to arriving. I tore into the package with a wholehearted vigor that would put a child on Christmas day to shame. I finally reached the inner golden box emblazoned with the markings Nikon D810. It had finally arrived. After months of craving, and planning, I was finally holding my new camera upgrade. Stepping up from a D90, the 810 was a full frame sensor camera roughly equal in size to the 35mm film I used to shoot in the 80’s and 90’s. It was, at the time, the highest resolution DSLR camera (35megapixels) on the market, anywhere in the world. And…I had my very own copy. Surely, this would make me a better photographer.

A few months, and a few thousand pictures later, I began to realize something.  I was a better photographer, but not because my camera had 35 megapixels.  It was because I had taken several thousand pictures, and was smarter for the effort.  I had always heard the saying that cameras don’t make pictures, people do, and a host of other philosophies that drive the point home that the photographer is way more important than the camera they are using.  I mostly agreed with that point, the heart and emotion of an image come from the human pressing the shutter, not the camera collecting the photons.  A few years ago, a popular video blogger  (DigitalRev) did a series of pieces where he would give world renowned photographers the absolute worst cameras, and force them to use it for a day.  The result was hysterical, especially for a camera geek like me.  But it was also photographic brilliance,  even when the camera was a 25 year old point and shoot, a 2 megapixel antique, or even a child’s toy camera made out of Legos.  The experiment demonstrated the genius of the photographers using the cameras, not the cameras themselves.  Fuel for the old adage that the most important accessory to any camera sits 6-8 inches behind the lens, i.e. the photographer’s brain.

Well, this week was an interesting one for me as my beloved D810 slipped into obsolescence. The Nikon D850 was released on Thursday, and by Friday, the internet was littered with unboxing videos, and in depth reviews of Nikon’s newest gem.  The 850 has 45 megapixels, 8K hi-res time lapse, and a host of other goodies, but I’ll pass. To be sure, the 850 has a host of ergonomic improvements, and features that facilitate the picture making progress, but while things like back-illuminated buttons would be appreciated, their not worth the cost of admission.  Taking the high road doesn’t come easy, but at $3200 USD, it’s a lot easier decision to make.   For now, I’ll keep on going with my D810 and concentrate on the craft more so than the technology, and happily so.

Today’s picture comes from a sunrise in New Mexico, shot during a 2 week back packing excursion I did with my son last summer.  More about that later.  It was taken with a Nikon J5, not my D810.  When your backpacking, you go light and the 14 ounce J5 wins out over the 3 pound D810.

Until next time…all the best!!!