Everyone is hell bent on doing their lists of the "top ten cameras" and "amazing accessories to buy now for photographic success!!!" and every mention of every product has a fat link that connects it to Amazon or B&H. I thought I'd resist the temptation to go into hyper-sales mode just a bit longer and give you some alternative reading here instead. Maybe a few articles about "What NOT to Buy!!!!!"
I'm all stream-of-consciousness today so bear with me. Or is it "bare" with me? I can never remember.
First off I had a bout of intense camera handling this week. Not cameras I own but cameras newly for sale out at Precision Camera. I'll start with my most negative recommendation first. If you see a sales person coming toward you with the new Hasselblad X1D 50C mirrorless camera turn around and run or at least toss your credit cards into a nearby shredder. I'll be blunt. What a beautifully designed piece of poop. The camera is very simple and it's got that snotty and minimalist, northern European design ethos all over it but.... Turn it on, wait 25 to 35 seconds for it to "boot up" (shades of the old Samsung Galaxy NX camera) and then you'll be ready to shoot. Of course, whatever inspired you to turn the thing on in the first place will be long gone. Really? 2016 and it takes thirty long seconds for your camera wake up? Just silly.
But once it's awake it's like, really, really good, right??? Oh hell no. It focuses like the original Canon M camera, if the M camera had a soft focus filter over the front of the lens. Slow, slow, slow. And not always very certain. It tentatively tippy-toes around focus for a while in anything but pure, hot sunlight. But it must feel great when the (ultra-well noise dampened) shutter goes off, right??? I'm not sure, I was so surprised by how much vibration the shutter on a mirrorless camera made. It's beyond noticeable. I have a sneaking suspicion that this will be the newly appointed KING OF SHUTTER SHOCK. But at least they got the EVF right, huh? Naw. It's not as good as the new Leica SL and just about as well done as the Sony A7rii. With about the same magnification. But, to be fair, you do have your choice of two poorly chosen, slow, NON ZEISS lenses to chose from. Hope you like that old, cheap point and shoot look because the two lenses available for what should have been a natural portrait shooter are more like the semi-wide angle fixed lenses of most older point and shoots. Oh boy. $10,000+ for a mostly useless camera. Gift guides be damned. Save yourself while you still can.
Let's take a break from photography for a second to talk about getting ready for the holidays in the age of global warming. So, it's the first week of December and my biggest concern, when stringing Christmas lights on the exterior of the VSL world headquarters is not the real possibility that I may fall from the roof and injure myself but that the swarms of mosquitos buzzing around me constantly might be transmitting the Zika virus. Seriously. Mosquitos in December? Nasty.
Back to photography. I'm pissed at progress and annoyed with my good friend, Frank (not really, Frank, just using you as a foil..). I bought a bunch of cool, LED lights last year and have enjoyed using them. Then Frank shows up with a tiny Pelican-like case with three magic new lights in it. They are sold by a company called Came-TV. They are sleek and beautifully designed LED lights that come complete with front fresnels, focusability, A/C power blocks AND big, Sony camcorder batteries. They'll run off one big battery (each) for something like two full hours of run time and...the color is markedly better than the stuff I own. Grrrrrr. Here's a link to show you what Frank had the audacity to trawl in front of me in my own studio today: http://www.came-tv.com/3-pcs-cametv-boltzen-55w-fresnel-focusable-led-daylight-p-889.html Did I mention that the color is wonderful? That the lights are super well designed? That they fit into a little case? That they all come with batteries? That I salivated like Pavlov's dog?
I am currently making one of those cardboard signs to hold up at traffic intersections. Mine says, "Will work for focusable LED lights! Bless." I am planning to forgive Frank if he brings them back over this weekend so we can do a video project with the new lights....
But I have not been a total sloth about buying new stuff that I probably don't need. I did buy three more cheap, variable neutral density filters from a company called Zomei. I bought an 82mm from them this last Spring and have used it often with no deleterious effects on color or contrast and I decided to buy one to dedicate to each of my most used "video" cameras. 67mm, 72mm, and 77mm. All ready for sunshine and bright skies just as our first (and probably only) blush with winter comes roaring in. Hold on to your hats and scarves. It may dive into the 30's on Thurs.!!!! Cold-ma-geddon.
I also bought a "cage" for the a6300 which I really love. But I'll talk more about that in the next post. Back to other stuff that I wouldn't buy even if I were spending your money... I see advertisements all the time for light fixtures that hold one, three, five or seven spiral fluorescent tubes and come with a flimsy softbox. There are so many better products out on the market now that I would not touch one of these unless you never, ever intend to move it out of your studio or transport it anywhere. The lighting world has moved on. There are better options. Honest.
Since we're on a lighting roll let's talk about another type of product that I currently have no interest in. That would be LED panels. They were pretty much the only accessible LED lights available when I was writing my book on LEDs back in 2010 but they have been effectively superseded by the one inch SMD type of "open face" LED light fixtures that are the modern variation of the tungsten flood light. They are more efficient, easier to travel with, easier to use with modifiers and easier to sculpt light with.
At this point in the game I don't think I would go back to using the panels with 500, 600 or 1000 little LED bulbs on the front. There are just too many better options. Exceptions might be permanent installations in TV newsrooms or for photographers and videographers who will use them day-in-and-day-out with just a piece of diffusion material on the front. I love the light shaping tools you can use with the SMDs; like barn doors, shoots, grid spots and more. I also like being able to put the newer units into soft boxes or bounce them into umbrellas. Look at what's available from Fiilex, RPS, CameTV, Arri, Fotodiox, Smith Victor and many others.
Finally, in this day and age, I am not sure I would ever buy an electronic flash in the form of an A/C power-only monolight. That train has sailed. I want to replace my hodgepodge of Profoto, Elinchrom and Photogenic monolights with a set of Godox 600 w/s monolights that work in TTL and have lithium ion batteries as a power source, along with the option to use A/C. We're no longer quite so attached to our studios and more likely to be in situations where the nearest wall plug is far, far away. The old stuff was just right in the film days because lithium ion batteries were not yet invented for powerful flashes. Now? Yes. Please.
I'm pretty sure that electronic flashes that are solely "plug-in-the-wall" will fade the same way strobe "box and head" units have faded from the market. They represent a logic matrix from another age.
I am waiting for a smaller, camera shoe flash from Godox to be delivered (tomorrow?). It's a dedicated TTL flash for Sony E cameras and it features a lithium ion battery instead of the typical four double A batteries. The battery lasts longer and gives more flashes with quicker recycling. I hope it works the way I imagine. It will be nice to have HSS flash again.
In other news, while the weather was blustery and cool the water in the pool was constant. Right at 80 degrees. While the sky was glowering and the branches of the live oaks were thrashing around during our time in the pool, the lunch time masters workout was wonderful. Certainly a good temporary antidote for the holiday infused camera buying drama.
If you are happy with what you have and it works just use it and keep the money in the bank. God knows we might need it if we ever want to change gears...
And now? Some colors....