A few little unnerving observations from yesterday. The first one is that cheap gear works well.

The old Lamar Bridge via the Samsung NX300 camera and kit lens.

While in Houston yesterday I photographed with both the a99 and a58 cameras. What's the difference between them? Not much. One (the a99) costs $2799 and the other costs $550. The a99  features a full frame sensor while the a58 makes good use of a new 20 megapixel APS-C sensor. But when it comes right down to how the images look on the big screen it's mostly a toss up. Of course the trés literal readers will foam up at the mouth and start yanking my chain about the imaging performance at 6400 ISO but that only works if you have nice looking light to begin with, not fluorescent lite office interiors that need to be lit to work aesthetically. At the point where you introduce lighting design you essentially cancel your desperate need for religiously pure, high ISO performance.

My point? If you light what you shoot or you shoot in nice light you'll find just about every body out there on the market today is nothing more than an appliance on which to hang your chosen lenses. We've reached a point that is analogous to where film equipment was in decades past; the camera is now the interchangeable box and it's the quality of the lenses that drives the bus. That, and being able to really see fun stuff with your unadorned eye and mind. Will a better camera make you a better photographer? If you are shooting a contemporary DSLR? Probably not. Except at the technical fringes. Oh, you shoot sports? Professionally? Well then, you already know what you need to be using.

Second lesson learned. In the future most lens improvements will be in the lens profile software. I shot with an inexpensive wide angle zoom for all my wide shots yesterday. It's a Sigma 10-20mm f4.5-5.6 lens. Believe me, it's nothing fancy but it sure is wide and it doesn't misbehave. The only flies on this piece of cake have been a strange, moustache distortion on the outer edges of the lens and a whole heapin' helpin' of vignetting at just about any aperture south of f11. But I had the confidence to use the lens because the latest raw conversion update for Lightroom 4.4 includes a well done profile just for this lens. Touch an on screen button and watch the exciting transformation from sharp and saturated but distorted with dark edges into "Wow! That looks great." I like to think that Adobe has a facility somewhere with lots of donuts and pizza and Mountain Dew where software writers sit around testing lenses and writing profiles for them and that they will eventually get to every lens I ever wanted to own.

This profile makes my lens a heavy hitting production lens. Now I'm happier shooting wide and wider.

I learned to cancel my four days of driving to Denver and back to Austin for later this Summer. I drove to Houston and back, a mere 6 hours behind the wheel and I'm tired of driving for at least the rest of the quarter. I need to be in Denver on the tenth. Now I'm flying. I'll ship all the crap I wanted to take (the original rationale for driving insane distances....).

I learned that one needn't go far from home to get great BBQ. If you read yesterday's blog you read about my disappointment with the brisket and ribs at Smitty's. Well, I sampled the brisket (just a taste, not a lunch) at Whole Foods today and I stand by my assertion that state of the art Que can be had just a bit more than three miles from my home. The rest is just scene-sters posturing.

That's enough learning for one day. Now it's back to work. Must clean studio before session with alarmingly beautiful person tomorrow morning. Yes, you'll see the images.


Bob Dein said...

I so appreciate your tell-it-like-I see-it style. Thanks, and please keep it up.

Robert Hudyma said...

I am wondering, you say here that it’s not about the bodies (and I agree) but it’s all about the lenses.

I’m not 100% so sure.

I have the A58 with the kit 18-55mm lens, I process the images in Dx0 Mark and it appears to do a nice job correcting the corner-falloff and slight barrel distortion of the lens. And so I am happy.

Seems to me that software can fix this lens’s weaknesses.

The Sony folks have a 16-50mm f2.8 lens for sale too. It costs almost $1,000. My understanding is that this lens performs really well; I don’t own one and it is bigger, heavier and more expensive than the kit lens.

If you are using the distortion correction software (Dx0 Mark); is there any discernible improvement with the 16-50mm expensive glass as compared to the kit lens?

Mark Davidson said...

I have been preaching the "good light" gospel for some time now. The endless chatter about DR and high ISO performance is merely a debate about what slight increment of improvement you will have on an image taken in desperate circumstances. No matter how much you spend, bad light (almost every wedding reception) will yield bad images.

A pro controls what they can to get what the client wants. If a client says "available light only in this coal mine" you are sunk no matter what you brung.

Wally said...

The local nikon rep passed on a tip for shipping gear by air. Ship Freight to Freight from you to you and pick it up at the air freight terminal. The only the thing you do is be able to ship gear a few days before your flight. cost is supposed to be similar to UPS.

Kirk Tuck said...

I'd rather ship to my final location and not hassle with getting a rental car, dealing with the freight side of the airport, etc. In the case of my Denver trip I can UPS the gear directly to the studio I'll be in and they'll have it ready for me on arrival.

ChazL said...

If it wasn't for cheap gear, I wouldn't have any gear at all. And yes, I've long thought that virtually all of it works just fine for my (hobbyist) purposes. (I do have a couple of cheap zoom lenses that are dogs).

Still, it's nice to see the point validated with an intelligent argument from someone who has used both the high-end and the low-end stuff.

(PS- Be sure to grace us with some portraits of tomorrow's alarmingly beautiful subject).

Jeffrey Minch said...

As always great learning even for a novice. Thanks, K.


JJ Semple said...

très, adv. Sorry, I just had to...