11.12.2011

I'm always amazed at how entrenched people can get in a position without even a thimble of experience...

Having too much fun at Zachary Scott Theatre.  I think this was for HairSpray. I used a camera.

I came back into town last night from an assignment and I reflexively checked the "referrer" stats for the VSL blog.  I am always a bit worried and amused when a big clump of referrals come from one address on DP Review.  I clicked on the link and found a discussion in the Nikon V1 forum entitled, "Kirk Tuck reports that the V1 has a one stop advantage over........"  Following the original poster's synopsis of my long ramble about using six different cameras on one assignment, are nearly 100 responses that range to how it is theoretically impossible for the V1 to be:  "good, sharp, have low noise, operate at 72 degrees, flush, focus, or make legible images because of the constraints of its microscopic sensor."  And all these pronouncements are delivered as unassailable fact.

How am I involved?  Only as a convenient target for the religious sect that believes only "full frame" cameras are the chosen tools of professionals and that any person who likes any camera that is not full frame (or bigger) is, A.  NOT a professional.  B.  Obviously needs glasses in order to see how "smeared" the detail is.  And, C.  Must be on Nikon's payola roll.  (I laughed so hard at that one that coffee almost came out of my nose.....).  Doesn't  matter that I can't seem to beat Nikon out of flash even for FULL PRICE.

But here's the deal.  We're hearing only the rants of people who've never touched or used the camera in question.  And that's usually the case.  Across product categories.  Do you remember all the "IT" and industry experts who predicted, very earnestly, that the iPad would never become a viable consumer product?  They were legion.  And every one of them had some sort of argument (based on the ancient days of desktop preeminence) outlining why consumers would never embrace a pad that didn't run Adobe Flash or play nice with Microsoft office.  I think the joke is on them.  I imagine them mournfully choking down mouthfuls of bitter delivery pizza and chalices full of Mountain Dew as they turn their attention toward another product category and pronounce it DOA.  Maybe the Kindle Fire will be next....

All the targets we thought were so precious in the nascent days of digital imaging seem to be largely discounted these days.  We don't really need five pound cameras.  We don't need hyper complex menus.  In fact, we don't need hyper complex anything.  The truth of the matter is that the professional market as we knew it is almost completely gone and it's been replaced by a new way of shooting and doing business and the only people who haven't gotten the memo are the experts.

A camera, or a camera system, is only a method to communicate with.  In most instances the message is much more important than the delivery system.  Especially when we remember who our target markets are.  Most people are not "old school" photographers or photography buffs and they haven't developed a taste for many of the techniques that old fart holdovers seem to think crucial.  For example, a beautiful expression trumps massive resolution.  The right moment trumps high color accuracy.  The right angle "bitch slaps" bit depth.  And more and more the camera that provides the user with the most fluency and fluidity is the system that returns the best dividends.  The fewer controls the faster the operation.  The faster the operation the more opportunity.

No matter how far we've come with photography it's hard for me to escape using the car analogy to describe market changes.  In the U.S. thirty/forty years ago we worshipped big V-8 engines.  Now the nod goes to reliability and economic good sense.  Ten years ago people bought Hummers.  Now the Hummer really only exists as a cruel joke that exemplifies the extremes of bad taste (unless you are in a desert and being shot at.....).  Four cylinder cars are the norm.  Sixes suffice for big human cattle movers like Ford Explorers and the like.  V8's are specialty engines for people who like to go faster than everyone else or people who need to tow boats or trailers.

As we share more and more on the web we'll see the metrics of a previous generation of photographic experts wilt away and die.  And we'll see an explosion of creativity unleashed by small, powerful new tools that are right sized.  The medium is the message and the message seems to be that small is just right.  Anecdotally, I'm seeing everyone embrace their favorite, new small camera.  Some love the Olympus Pen cameras (and I hope the company fixes itself so we can continue to enjoy their groundbreaking design and feature engineering) while others love the Sony Nex cameras.  I'm loving the Nikon V1 but I'm also anxious to get my hands on a new camera with an even smaller sensor, the Fuji X-10.  They are all good enough for the way I like to shoot.  Fun.  Especially when the performance of all the cameras in a niche exceed my needs.  That means I can buy and shoot the one I think has the coolest feature set for me.  And, if I weave the files through the selections I give to my clients and they like them.......have we mutually redefined what it is to be a "professional" photographer?

I think we have.  We just forgot to tell everyone who still thinks that the only way to make a good picture is to measure all the parameters of a camera first, then applied an outdated understanding of physics and, finally, grace it with cultish miracle lenses.  Pah.

The same people are so quick to decry "in camera black magic software noise reduction" but if they've ever seen a real raw file they'd be amazed at the incredible amount of manipulation that is applied to linear raw files even before we begin our "conversions" in Lightroom or Bridge or Capture.  The little Nikon V1 is not the best camera in the world.  Nor is the little Fuji or the Olympus cameras.  But they are fun, get most of every job done and they do so with far less intrusion than the bigger, previous generations.  We need big cameras for highly focused work that must be perfect.  But we also need fun cameras.  Art cameras.  Pleasure cameras.  Cruiser cameras.  And purse cameras.  I like them all.  I like some better than others.  But not enough better to start wars about them.

The next wave is cameras like the Fuji, small Nikon, Olympus and Panasonic.  The next wave is LED lighting.  The next trend is actually going out and shooting the cameras because you have something to say.

Errata and fun news:  I talked to the Fuji rep today and he flat out stated that the company is re-emerging into the photo market with interchangeable lens cameras and a collection of lenses.  He suggested that the cameras would be real game changers.  Seem like Austin is a particular hot spot of the sale of X-100's and the early orders for X-10's are enormous.  Kinda confirms what I've been seeing in the hands of friends lately.  It's great when known innovators step back into the game after an absence.  I have very fond memories of my Fuji S2's and S5's.  Really great cameras for portraits.....

Delkin was showing off a laptop holder that fits onto any tripod and provides a firm base for your computer.  For $85 I thought it was a good design.

Hope everyone has a good weekend.  It's fun to be alive and well.  I'll be back at the Photo Expo for two more classes tomorrow.  I hope a lot of fun people show up and mix it up.  We're all about the LED lights.  At least until 5pm tomorrow....

24 comments:

almostinfamous said...

i really like the files out of the fuji x100, and if the x10 is really all that they are making it out to be, i think i'll make it my carry everywhere camera.

Robert Wolterman said...

As I keep researching these small interchangeable lens cameras to supplement my need to shoot film, I came across that thread on DPReview. I read a couple of posts and found it quite annoying, one can only handle reading people bicker about uselessness for so long.

I've since been thrown a loop in my want of the Nikon V1, the Panasonic GX1. In my search for info on it and the GF1 that is updates, I found a review on the GF1 that is on par with your camera reviews. Needless to say, I was ecstatic; the fact that someone else talked about a camera in a subjective way that didn't involve charts was refreshing.

These new cameras are intriguing and I'm glad that you have positive things to say about them.

Dave Jenkins said...

It really upsets me to find out that you're not a true professional because you often use smaller cameras, Kirk.

Gerald Brimacombe, who is most certainly a professional, was ahead of the curve on this. He had dumped his heavy load of "professional" cameras and lenses and was creating stunning travel photography (and selling large prints) with a Sony F828 and R1 six or seven years ago. Here's a link to an interesting article about him which appeared in Studio Photography in June, 2006. http://tinyurl.com/ctu98qe

Glenn Harris said...

Funny stuff. I'm glad you were able to work "bitch slap" into a blog post. People still read DPReview, I didn't know that. And finally, real photographers take photos period.

Michael Ferron said...

Missed your teachings by 1/2 an hour at the expo today Kirk but I did get to handle that X100(and X10). Although both are impressive I don't think either would will steal me away from my V1. If I was wealthy the M9 might. I didn't even ask to handle it. It would be like asking for one kiss from a stunning woman knowing you'll never get another. LOL

Paul said...

I'm a camera agonostic. Sitting on my desk right now is a Pentax 645, an Olympus XA4, a Panasonic LX5, an EP2, an EOS5 and an EOS550. All of them are good cameras, and I enjoy using them very much. Although intended to serve different purposes by their designers they have enough of an over lap in function that it makes it fun and interesting to use them for different things. I sometimes use the Pentax to shoot street and I've used the LX5 for a couple of professional assignments. If you really know your craft and know how your kit performs you can achieve good work with almost anything.

John said...

You said, "We need big cameras for highly focused work that must be perfect."

Why? Why would a big camera shot be more perfect than a small camera shot, for almost any use that you can think of, if you assume the presence of post -processing? Have you really taken your argument here to its logical conclusion, which (it seems to me) would be that virtually all professional photography can be done with small cameras? And don't tell me about DOF -- I'm the proud new owner of a f0.95 25mm Voightlander for my Panny D2H, and I'm thinking about the 50mm f1.1 with an adapter, for portraits...

kirk tuck said...

John, good job calling me out on that. It's my knee jerk reaction for having been in the very demographic I was poking. You're right, of course.

Michael, Great analogy.

Brad Burnham said...

I take such pleasure from your articles. Thanks for writing.

I shot my brother's wedding yesterday. I shot my D300 for the "real shots", but also shot some slide film in an F5 with a manual focus 28mm lens as well as several rolls of B&W on a Holga 120N. Cameras are just tools.

Paul Glover said...

This is why I read your blog and avoid places like DPReview's forums like the hot radioactive mess they are.

The people who get online and huff and puff about what a professional photographer would or would not use crack me up. I wonder how many of them even take photographs, never mind for a living.

That would be like me confidently declaring that professional swimmers would never use some particular type of swim goggle because [insert blah de blah here], even though I'm not a professional swimmer, don't even own a set of swim goggles and in fact my swimming activity is generally limited to the occasional slow length in between bouts of reading by the poolside.

ajcarr said...

If my favourite photographer, Bill Brandt, was practicing today, he would be condemned for using the very wide-angle police surveillance camera he bought second-hand in a market, which alloowed him to produce his perspective-distorted nudes, for example.

Matthew said...

Just saw my first X100 a few days ago in the hands of a customer/client, and man, was it elegant. As for the naysayers over on DB Review (yes, I mean that), just let it roll off your shoulders; your discerning audience is over here. My favorite part of the whole post? "I used a camera."

atmtx said...

Great presentation today at the Expo Kirk. And Yes, the X10 is a little gem, somehow it seems more enticing to me right now than an X100.

Yoram Nevo said...

Speaking of "pro photographers" are you aware that Rob Galbraith has a very detailed and positive review of the Nikon V1 in his site ?

Alf said...

Nice story, well told.
Plus a nice pic, beautiful girls, smiles. You get all the fun!

Bojan Volcansek said...

Bravo, just bravo.
I am so happy that you decided to continue to "waste your time" on the blogosphere. I can only imagine how hard must be for you to find some time to write these jewel like posts in your busy schedule.
But thank you so much for doing it!
You, Michael Johnston, Frank Doorhof always bring such a joy and learning experience (in contrary to different whining blogs :) )

Richard said...

Another interesting post. I love my Ricoh GXR so much that I have not picked up my DSLR in a year. On another topic, will we ever get to the point in time where we quit referring to a lens as a 35mm equivalent? I would think the majority of the photographers are not really helped by that expression and a lens on a 35mm camera is the equivalent of what in another format?

DIS Ottawa said...

Very good indeed. I recently bought a Pen E-P3 and three primes for it. While I'm still using my 7D and 400 mm for shooting birds but I find I'm using my 5DII less and less. The Pen is very good and tiny in comparison. I have a bag containing the 5D II and several lenses by the front door and a much smaller bag containing the Pen and lenses. Guess which one I take more and more?

Glenn said...

Kirk, another great post. I made the jump to an NEX last year from my big Nikon gear, and have only occasionally looked backed longingly... For my ultralight, travelling ways, I have discovered exactly what you are saying. Times are changing, and the most important thing is delivering compelling images to your TARGET audience. For web and small print, I can easily do that with these new smaller and lighter cameras. While happy with my NEX-5, I will be adding the 5N and look forward to testing the V1.

Now everyone, go out and have fun taking pics!!

Marino Mannarini said...

This is why i quit reading forums on the net, 99% of people just talk dogmas and beliefs, without ever going out there and doing thei own experience, building up facts and not hear-say.
Fuji is revving up very well, i am looking forward to the new system coming up next year. A bit less the X10.
And, yes, it amazes me thei contemporary dogma about FF (35mm) being King of formats, when in the 160 years of photographic history 35mm has beenabout one of the smallest film formats ever, and deride upon when it came out. But i suppose each era has it own "firm" beliefs.

theotherme said...

"I used a camera." LOL Love that!

Thanks for another great article Kirk.

Imagine if internet forums existed in the 1800's.

Pr0Painter69: Dude, I heard the pigments @VanGogh used were made from berries picked in March! And he calls himself a painter!

KanvasKiller: OMFG What a n00b! He's probably using five year old brushes to. LMAO

NudeArtFTW: I saw him with Gauguin at BRUSHORAMA. Gauguin (a real painter) picked up two big rolls of Hasslecan Canvas. @VanGogh picked up some cheap ass consumer grade canvas. (if you can even call that canvas) He's a total poser. If you aren't using Hasslecan skins you may as well stroke something beside a brush.

Calsmeyer said...

Hi Kirk

I felt bad for you when I read that thread. Those forums are trashy but addictive.

Really enjoy your blog. My grandparents lived in Brenham until they died this spring and checking your updates keeps a link with a part of the world I love.

Christian said...

There is a fascinating talk by Eric Fossum, one of the inventors of the CMOS sensor. Besides the fact that the man thinks a lot about the implications of technology in society, I was really impressed by his outlook as to what is coming in sensor technology. The stuff that is in the labs right now is simply mind-blowing. Amongst other things, they are working towards sensors that will capture single photons of light and map those through time to create an image. Imagine what that could do.

That aside, I guess it is still hard for people to grasp intuitively what Moore's "Law" really implies. I suggest that we imagine that digital camera technology is currently where the PC was in the mid-80s and we will eventually end up in 2011 ... Great times to be a photographer!

Raianerastha said...

A good read as always, Kirk. I do have to take you to task for the following: " For example, a beautiful expression trumps massive resolution. The right moment trumps high color accuracy. The right angle "bitch slaps" bit depth. And more and more the camera that provides the user with the most fluency and fluidity is the system that returns the best dividends. The fewer controls the faster the operation. The faster the operation the more opportunity."

You are, of course, assuming that said pixel peeper types have the patience and desire to learn these subtleties! Too many picking up cameras today don't have that patience. However, the latest cameras are solving this as they not only add features such as beginner's guides and smile detection, but in the future composition confirmation.

So soon, they will prevail! Picking a camera based solely on the physics of the sensor and other features will, in fact, guarantee "good photos" ;-)