So I just came back from a marvelous 2-week work party trip to Tanzania.
A 10-people team from Wood Group headed to a lively town of Moshi to help Vine Trust assist local charities in raising houses for the most vulnerable in the Tanzanian community.
As notable and glorious the cause was, my task was to produce bucket-loads of media which would be used in a 5-year long campaign to follow. I was assigned both the role of a photographer and a one-man-band film crew (with my colleague swinging the shotgun mic for the interviews).
The trip was a huge success and I managed to bring back some awesome photos like the ones below, but it’s not about them today.
Can you justify carrying a dslr to get them? I suppose you could.
Can you justify carrying two peli-cases full of gear, taking roughly a minute to swap to a different focal length, wipe the glass, wipe the mirror, take the dust off, take the lens cap off, take the rear cap back in, check if aperture jumped back-up or if it’s still on f5.6 from the previous lens? Can you, for 13 consecutive days?
I think I had my breaking point during the safari trip.
We went for a 6-hour drive to the Ngorongoro crater so that we would never have to visit a Zoo ever again.
I tried to stick to the setup of 60D with 70-200mm f2.8. I gave my colleague in another jeep the 1d Mark III with 28-135 as she is still entering the world of manual photography, to avoid her having to change lenses.
So much like above, I managed to get some good snaps, however I was surrounded by people who have compacts for the sake of it and whose daily experience with photography is limited to selfies during a night-out; guess what? They still managed to get closer than I did.
My effective focal length of 300mm and gear with total value of roughly £1900 was beaten by cameras the size of a credit card.
Yup. Middle-range compacts got roughly twice as close as I did with my telephoto lens, their images were not shaky as the weather was brilliant so all cameras had as much light as they needed. Even their colours were more vibrant.
My first thought was: why is this happening?!
Now, don’t get me wrong. I like my dslrs. I love my 5d mark II and the unbelievable depth of field it brings to the table but I wonder: why do we do all this?
Why do we invest ten-folds of what the amateurs spend on their cameras to get 8 out of 10 times an overall similar image? I get it, I know that I can print my images to the size of the building and still expect to see some quality in them, I also know that I can beat these toy-cameras after the dusk.
But how many times does one actually take the full advantage of the sizing? It does not really matter how big the resolution of the original file is as I’m pretty sure some 90% of these are scaled down to 1200×800 and live happily ever after on social media websites. Nobody prints their photos anymore. What if they have to? Well, this for example.
Speak of printing, after my mental breakdown and return from Africa my first destination was a Jessops store. After I shared my concerns with a customer assistant, she showed me her images she took with some 200-pound Sony compact camera. It was a Depeche mode gig, so not much of light other than the scene, yet the images are super-sharp, they were untouched, about 9 out of 10 were not blurry.
You would not tell they were not from a dslr.
Yeah, my 5d probably beats your camera hands-down in low-light. Oh wait, your point and shoot has a built-in flash? Now that’s unfair…
I get how it’s all about how much you want to get from your images; but at what cost? For my 5d, I still had to have a set of separate lenses and I should own a flash-gun by now. The price tag of the speedlite is equal to a very decent compact camera. On top of all that, your images are not good in the first place. Since as a pro, you most likely do flat video or low-contrast images to have the biggest capabilities in the post-production, they do not really look that great. In most cases it’s just a case of punching the footage up in Lightroom, but it does add up. So is it really worth all the investment?
do you really want to carry that everywhere?
I think the camera is a tool in the end. If you have some imagination and the creative juices flow through, you have some experience and knowledge of framing, composition and basics of exposure you will still be able to take good images, no matter if you use a Hasselblad or an iPhone. It felt quite funny being asked by the guys from our party to take their photographs for them (using their cameras naturally), but I felt flattered in the end. Nothing beats hands-on experience.
Yuk. Well, I might have over-exaggerated a little bit.
To sum up though, I think even being a skilled photographer and owning a dslr, you should not underestimate the power of some of the compacts. I have not had a chance to do full research yet, but one thing I’m sure off – instead of buying yet another bulky lens, I want to give it a try an invest something into a compact camera for a change and see where it takes me. In a controlled environment or if I really want to squeeze out every last bit of quality out of the situation, I would still moan but drag my 5d set, but I kind of long for the possibility of casual shooting. Even as a photographer you do not want to drag your job with you everywhere. Have a break, have a compact.
Do you have any thoughts on this? Any worthwhile portable setups to recommend?