I'm heading up to New Jersey next to make photographs at a large industrial concern that manufactures technical products for worldwide sale. When I talked to the advertising agency about the project they indicated that our primary mission would be to take portraits of the company's executive leadership team for use on the website and, since we would already be there, we would also spend a day taking photographs of the nuts and bolts and spaces of the business. The idea, as I understood it, was that all of the images would be used on the newly re-designed website but might also be re-purposed for other media. And it's those last four words that tend to paralyze me when it comes to choosing which cameras and lenses I'll want to pack.
When I listened to the production manager from the agency describe the project my focus went immediately to the Olympus m4:3 cameras and lenses; after all, we'd be packing to fly, and then travel to the actual location and the size and weight savings of the smaller system would be noticeable. We carry on our camera gear and that means we have to spend hours shepherding it through airports, on and off rental car shuttles, and in and our of hotels. Not to mention porting the gear around large factories. The lights and assorted lighting support gear goes into wheeled cases and is checked luggage. It's only at transition points that the burden of the lighting stuff really comes into play.
I envisioned stuffing the two EM5.2 cameras into a smaller Domke camera bag, along with a spread of lenses that would give me the equivalent of 24-130mm in focal lengths. If we decided to do big still lives or interiors I would feel pretty confident putting those cameras on a tripod and revving up the high res mode. I've tested it and it really works. Add to that the beautiful Olympus files and it's really hard to consider leaving them behind.
But.....there's always the specter that we'll get to the location and the client will lead with a request that we shoot some of their people or working processes (things that move cancel out the hi-res advantage of the OMD) for use on trade show graphics or large posters. It's happened to me before....and with the very same agency. You can armchair quarterback and say that we should lock all uses down before we step out of the studio, but that's not realistic.That's not the current market.
That fear of failing to deliver the enormous, high res file, leads me to alternately consider choosing to go with the big Nikon cameras instead. They aren't as quick to work with and they weigh (comparatively) a ton but they do provide a 36 megapixel image that's hard to argue against when you need sheer resolution along with subject motion.
I'm "test packing" today in anticipation of a week out of the studio. I'm packing two alternate variations and I must say that, from the outset, the Olympus is winning the "comfort" contest. Later this evening the Nikons will win the "bulwark against fear of failure" contest. And by Sunday afternoon I'll be so confused that we'll be back to a coin toss.
This is my cautionary tale against having so many competing systems sitting around your studio. It's nice to tell yourself that you are prepared for any undertaking but the mentally tyrannical nature of choice is a real anxiety provoker and time waster. I actually have nostalgia for the days when I had no money and no real choices other than the single camera I had in my bag. I had so much more free time when I didn't have to decide.
Is it really a question of technical performance or is it the illusion of what might still constitute industrial standards, and playing to client expectations? Will we ever figure it out? Probably not.
Some cherish one format over the other. I see the formats as style neutral.
Camera choices, yes. But the tripod is a non-negotiable necessity.
You can always pack a bigger and better camera and more expensive lenses but does it really
make any difference to many of the projects we do that rely more completely on
our vision for the lighting and our rapport with the people we meet? Is the higher res process cost effective? Is it time efficient?
How small can you pack? How much can you carry?
More importantly, how much will you use?
Will the format and image size really effect the final result once everything is shrunken down and compressed for website use? Is medium format film capable of eliciting more of a feeling of
flakiness? Will the differences show up?
Can we get there from here with the stuff we need for a good shoot?
It's all just part of the agony of traveling to do photography for a living in modern times...
In the end it's the subject that drives the photograph, not the camera.
Does that mean I should take the Olympus cameras? Hmmm....