4.17.2011

Mini-Camera Review, Social Photography Commentary.....

Dave Steakley's shoes.  Perfect with a black tuxedo.

Belinda and I went to the $300 a person, super deluxe, wonderfully fun, fund-raiser for Zach Scott Theatre last night at the downtown Hilton.  The event is called, Red Hot and Soul, and this year's theme was the 1960's.  Bee hive hairdo's and Sgt. Pepper outfits we well represented as were pink suits for men and "Madmen" fashion for women.  The culturally clever even made reference to, La Dolce Vita, with some pretty stellar sunglasses.  Tons of great music.  Mercifully short speeches.  And best of all,  NO SILENT AUCTION.

Since I wasn't working I didn't take a serious camera but I did take along a camera I almost condemned.  See,  I was just about to send Olympus back their ZX-1 for a list of what I considered, "design faux pas".  I'll list them and we'll get that out of the way:  1.  You charge the tiny battery in camera with a USB charger.  All cameras should come with chargers that allow "out of camera" charging.  And the camera size shouldn't be so small that it compromises battery performance.  2.  While we're on the subject of small !!!!!!  Things can be too small.  I don't have big hands but I felt like my hands were the size of catcher's mitts when handling this one.  And the buttons.......they are made for ants.  3.  The camera is way too thin, front to back to hold comfortably.  Really.  Were they trying to become two dimensional?  And is that a selling point?  This is why serious photographers opt for a Canon G12 instead of the S95......there's more to hold onto.  And finally, of course, #4.  The menu and interface operation still sucks.

But I stuck it in my pocket with an EV-2 finder on the top and we went downtown.  I had the camera set for auto-ISO, AWB, and auto flash.  Sometimes I turned off the flash.  

So,  I wrote all that negative stuff above.  Why am I still writing?  Because I like the photos I got out of the camera.  Because it locked focus in a very dark room very quickly.  Because the flash was nuts on every time.  Because I could use the eye level viewfinder from my EP-2.  Because it has a raw mode.  Because it has a built in neutral density filter.  And because the battery didn't run out.

I'm keeping it for another few weeks and then I'll decide if it really deserves a big review or not.  I will say that Belinda thought it was wonderfully small.  And it's a good reminder that not everyone is looking for the same things on their cameras.  

The Winner of the Best Hair.

Kissy Face with the managing director, the artistic director and the two incredibly dedicated board volunteers who filled the giant ballroom to its fire code limit with generous donors and fans of live theater.


And...what does a grisled old pro like me do on a night off?  Well I certainly take a moment to check out the photographers (there were three) who were working the venue.  While I am the official photographer for the Theatre I only do the shows and the creative marketing campaigns.  I don't do the "grip and grins."

Above is my favorite photographer of the night.  Dressed in a black shirt (approved) and black paramilitary cargo pants (neutral)  he got extra sartorial points from me for the matching it all up with a good pair of black shoes.  Lost points for wearing at least five big pouches all over his tactical belt.  But what amazed me was the size of his flash reflector.  Instant award for the biggest one I've ever seen.  Black Rapid (camera suicide straps)  on one each of a 5Dmk2 and 1Dmk4.  The only two lenses I saw him use were the 24-70mm and the 70-200.  I'm dying to know what was in the five cubic feet of bag space hanging all over his belt........

I'm dying to see the photos.

Added at 6pm CMT:  The interview with Michael O'Brien goes up at 1 am Monday morning.  Thanks.

UPDATED:  The photo gallery from the photographer has been posted and it's pretty darn good.  Guess he had some magic in those little bags!

18 comments:

Daniel Fealko said...

Something tells me that the photos from the photographer won't be nearly as interesting as your photo of the photographer.

kirk tuck said...

I'm not sure and I'm not going to pass judgement until I see some stuff. He seemed to really know what he was doing and the folks at Zach Scott are known for finding and hiring really talented people. When I see his work I'll try to put up a link. I wasn't making a comment about the work, only the size of the reflector and the massive quantity of storage he was walking around with. I usually shoot stuff like this with one camera, one lens and one flash, but everyone has their own way. Can't accuse this guy of following the pack. That's for sure. Also, he spent a lot of time shooting available light in a very dark ballroom. Three years ago I would have said he's nuts but with the 1dmk4 I'm really looking forward to seeing what comes out.

Jessica said...

If you do see his photos, post a link. I'd be curious to see them as well.

Dominic said...

Kirk, care to elaborate on your parenthesised comment about the Black Rapid straps?

Thanks.

Anonymous said...

I bought an external charger with 2 spare batteries from a supplier in China for a whopping $25, delivered. Sadly, I've already lost the EV2...ouch! Button size and menu are tolerable, just takes some getting used to. But the dial on top is too easily changed by accident. Photos are simply stellar so it's a keeper.

kirk tuck said...

Dominic, Yes. Gladly. From and engineering viewpoint I think anything that mounts with one screw (and no locking mechanism) to the tripod socket is stupid. They also look goofy. One of my acquaintances bought a Nikon D3x and was hiking thru Scotland, using one of the "rapid camera suicide" straps when it came loose. His brand new 24-70mm L lens took must of the brunt when it hit the rocks but the camera was scratched up as well. And this is a very compulsive photographer who probably double-checked that connection every fifteen or twenty minutes. Several changes have been made to the straps since then but you won't catch me taking a risk like that. So, $800 in repairs later I notice that both straps have been retired by my acquaintance in favor of traditional straps, anchored to the camera at the points where the camera's design engineers intended. Did I mention they look very, very dorky?

Anonymous said...

Black rapid straps are to cameras what hood scoops were to Chevy Novas, a desparate attempt to customize your rig so that it looks different and more "professional" than the next guy's. Chalk it up to lame concept, lame market.

Alex said...

Psst -it's XZ-1, not ZX-1. I agree about the charger - I quickly picked up a second hand official one for $12 US from Ebay, but I shouldn't have had to. The PDF manual on the Windows-only CD (which Mac users have to manually dig through folders for) is also pretty useless.

I have smaller hands personally, and find the general layout and buttons of the XZ-1 a pleasure, although it's still too small front-to-back, so I have a stick-on grip coming from Richard Franiec's workshop.

It's a fun camera - fast, sharp lens, surprisingly good JPG engine, and as you mention spookily accurate flash. I think it's suffering a bit from comparisons to m43rds cameras rather than to its direct peers, the S95 and LX5. People are pixel-peeping 100% crops and moaning about perceived defects. It's a compact people, come on!

I have a few handling gripes mind, mainly the lack of a few custom settings - no ability to set minimum shutter speed for AutoISO (in Aperture priority it'll take shutter down to about 1/2 before going beyond ISO200, which is pretty useless), and no ability to remap the big, wonderfully placed dedicated Record Video button, which I don't think I'll ever use. It would be wonderful as an AE Lock button, or a modifier for the Lens Ring when shooting in Manual.

I don't currently have the VF2; I'm a bit wary of making my compact camera uncompact. Would you consider it essential?

Camarillo Brillo said...

I love my S90 and enjoyed reading about your experience with the XZ-1.
Quality compacts do have their place.
Hope the "Pro's" pics come out as good as his effort appears...
PhotoHop

George said...

To Alex-- For snapshots the VF2 is not essential. I bright sunlight or for more creative framing, I do think it's essential--call me retro. My VF2 does double-duty between my XZ-1 and the EPL-2 (that's how I justify the high cost of the viewfinder as money well spent).

Kirk -- I hope you start taking to the camera as I want to hear more from you about it. I think it gives pleasing to very good results, and the lens is absolutely terrific.

Like you, I can't believe Olympus doesn't include a charger in the package---how short-sighted and cheap of them. I almost passed on buying the camera because of this.

Frank Grygier said...

This is exciting. Michael O'Brien's labor of love will make a compelling interview. I will set my alarm!

atmtx said...

Wow, that is a heck of a reflector!

jfgilbert said...

I got a small nifty charger and spare battery at Amazon for something like $3.50. I don't expect much from the battery, but the charger works fine (already lasted 2 weeks) and even switches to trickle charge at the end. Yes, it should have been in the box, but it's no big deal.

Jeff Snyder said...

Have to agree on the Black Rapid straps, dangerous and odd, guarantee that nobody will be using them in a couple of years. It's hard to improve on the basic camera strap with a two-point connection - it's form defines its function, like a bicycle. The other day I saw a guy with another getup - two loops- one over each shoulder. How is that better? Need to market a goofy camera carrying gimmick of my own so I can finally afford that D3s.

dstengle said...

Gotta disagree about the 'suicide' straps. I particularly like them for getting the camera out of the way when not shooting. Having a large camera with the lense perpendicular to your body is awkward with anything other than a 50mm. So many problems getting caught up in turnstiles and doorways or scraping people in crowds.

The best alternative I could imagine, if I didn't have one of these setups (DIY until recently) would be to use the handgrip mount points to change the way the camera hangs next to my body, but that's not changing the perpendicular thing.

kirk tuck said...

Not convincing me. I've shot for a long time without resorting to this kind of paramilitary nonsense and they make nice belt bags for long lenses. Research, because it's still hanging perpendicular just in a less convenient place.

Anonymous said...

http://www.austincandids.com/gallery/v/austin/rhs11/

Damien said...

I personally feel that the over-sized reflector is a bit of overkill. And furthermore, why would a photographer want to look like a combat soldier? It looks more like he would scare his subjects into having their photo taken.