12.02.2011

Pocketability? It's a bad word and a worse concept.

Must find more pockets.......  Must find bigger pockets......

What in the world is with the latest metrosexual camera obsession called pocketability?  I was reading some well reasoned discussions about Olympus Pen and Nikon series 1 cameras and when I started to scroll down through the comments I found entry after entry downgrading the cameras because they can't fit into someone's tight, slim fit, rocker jeans back pocket.  Since when was that a concern for real photographers?  Pathetic.

So, now a camera has to have fully interchangeable lenses, a complete selection of super fast prime lenses, a fully programmable wireless flash system, a battery that will last for 10,000 actuations+ chimping,  amazingly noise free and noise-reduction-artifact-free files up to 12,000 ISO and it must fit into a space smaller than a round can of smoke-less (Skoal?)  tobacco in someone's pants pocket in order to be considered anything less than a "fail"?  (And while we're at it let's stop with the achingly cliched: "total fail.")

Let's step back and set some ground rules for the family here at the Visual Science Lab.

1.  If you honestly feel that the ability to cram a camera into your Levi's pocket along with your car keys is a most vital stat, please don't tell me that or write that in your comments.  I will not be able to resist critiquing your education, your taste and your tenuous grasp on sanity and logic.

2.  You can have pocketability but you are relegated to cameras where that's the only design imperative.  The Canon s95 and s100 and a few of the candy colored Nikon Coolpix cameras come to mind.  But we don't really like to talk about cameras here on VSL that don't have, or can't be retrofitted with, a grown-up viewfinder.  " Stinky Diaper Hold" is a camera handling technique that's generally thought of derisively around here....

3.  Don't expect any serious camera manufacturer to make a workable, interchangeable lens camera that fits in something the size of your pack of cigarettes.  Besides, where will you relocate your pack of cigarettes?

4.  Let's stop insisting on mutually exclusive design parameters.  Are there "serious" pink camera and lens sets?  Can you have a camera you can stuff into your wallet WITH an 800mm f2.8 lens on it?  I didn't think so.  Neither would Einstein have thought so.

5.  Speaking of price/performance/size compromises,  please, immediately stop slagging the smaller cameras because they won't do noise free performance on par with a Nikon D3.  One is $250 the other is $5,000.    Don't expect your Fiat 500 to match top speeds with an Aston Martin Rapide either.  (almost hit a brand new Rapide today heading toward the coffee shop because I was trying to yank my Hasselblad 500 CM with the 150mm out of the pocket of my Kenneth Cole Slim Fit slacks so I could photograph it!!!!  (sounds stupid, doesn't it?)

6.  I don't want to hear stories of how you were cheated in the warranty repair process after you realized the crunch you heard as you were sitting down was the camera in your back pocket.

7.  If you need a special tool or aftermarket attachment to hold the camera properly then it is too small.  If it slips through your Metro shelving and falls onto the floor of your studio then it's too small.  If you confuse your iPhone with your camera then the camera is too small.  If it slips through the seat cushions of your sofa.....it is too small.  Like saving money by buying a Canon 5D mk2 for video and then adding $10,000 worth of Red Rock Micro stuff to it to make it all work....

8.  Every time you whine about a camera not fitting into your English rocker pants pockets   mystic wood spirits kill another puppy.

9.  It's a sickness if your weight hasn't changed but you've switched from buying pants with a waist size of 32 to pants with a waist size of 44 inches just to better carry your "arsenal" of "pocketable" mini-cams.

10.  If you insist on panta-looney photography people will make jokes that start with......"Is that a toy camera in your pocket or are you just glad to...........?"

This photo is the minimum assemblage of gear recommended for daily carrying 
by the American Association for More Profitable Chiropractors. (AAMPC).

Seriously.  I understand that it's great to not carry around a ton of gear in your day to day life but just let a little more testosterone flow into the system and use one of the unobtrusive camera straps that comes free in the camera box.  Your camera will be ready when you need it (and where you need it), you won't have to hear lectures from your bespoke tailor about the "bump that's ruining the sinuous line of your trousers."  No jokes about dressing "left" or dressing "right."  And then, since you saved a bundle getting a tiny camera instead of a reasonable camera, you'll have acres of pocket space left for that dramatic roll of banknotes.  If pocket dimensions are an overriding concern then skip the mini-cam and get an iPhone 4-something.  Join Jack Hollingsworth in his pursuit to redefine photograph.....one quarter inch sensor at a time.

Hard to believe that some of the same folks who pine for "pocketability" are the same people who rush to the other side of absurdity and put giant, militaristic, nihilist, Goth, Black Rapid Straps on their sane sized cameras......but that's a whole different discussion.

Apple Boxes. A very mundane accessory. Priceless when needed.

This is Martin Burke as the mouse in a new kids play, 
based on the children's book, If You Give a Mouse a Cookie.

I love working with talented actors and I had a romping good time with Martin in my little studio today.  We were shooting marketing photos for post cards, posters and the endlessly starving web.  Unlike "civilian" subjects actors of Martin's caliber make a photographer's job really easy.  In the course of 30 minutes we had 225 keepers in twenty or thirty different poses.  We were shooting under the watchful eye of Zach's collateral designer, Rona.  

Before they got to the studio I set up the lighting using two Elinchrom D-Lite 400 monolights.  I wanted a harder light than I usually use to sharpen up the edges of the images so I used a 28 inch, silver beauty dish, with no diffusion, for my main light source.  I filled in with a smaller, 18 inch silver beauty dish that was wearing it's white diffusion "sock."
That's all the light we needed.  I set the light levels for f5.6 at 1/60th of second, ISO 100.  Two test shots and we were ready to go.

I'd been waiting for a simple studio shot like the one above to test out the Nikon V1 combined with studio lighting.  I used the SBn5 I have on loan from Nikon to trigger the studio flashes by setting the flash in the manual control mode and dialing the power down to 1/16th.  I pointed the  on camera flash over to one side so it would have no effect on the subject illumination.  The images were all easy to work with and one click of the lens profile button in Lightroom release candidate 3.6 does nice stuff for the 10-30mm lens.  The files were shot in RAW.

Most of photographs were standing shots but we also wanted to do a few seated images so out came several of the cheapest and most useful studio accessories I have ever acquired:  The Apple Crates.  These are boxes, made of wood, that were born in the movie industry.  What you see in the image above is what is referred to as a full Apple.  They measure 20 x 12 x 8 inches and they are plenty sturdy enough for anyone to stand on.  The people who make Apple Crates also make "half apples" and " quarter apples" which are shorter in the smallest dimension.

We use them to do so many things.  I used one (inappropriately) to stand on and clamp off my white background paper this morning.  They are valuable as posing blocks and they are especially valuable for photographers who, like me, are five feet, eight inches tall... or shorter.  You can stand on a sturdy Apple Crate when you need to do eye level portraits of desperately tall people.....

Quick Note on the Nikon V1:  Now that I've done three or four charge cycles on the batteries I am getting a lot more frames per charge (fpc).  When I shot a dress rehearsal on Tues. I shot over six hundred images and the battery meter indicated that I had 72% battery charge remaining.  After shooting an additional 225 frames today, with puny flash in every frame, the counter is only down to 60%.  I think the eye level viewfinder might be much more energy efficient than the rear LCD screen.  At any right I am now, officially, happy with the battery capacity of the camera.