Format Agnostic Photography. In defense of almost all sensor sizes.

Image from Eeyore's Birthday Party, 2017. ©2017 Kirk Tuck.

I've been playing with the Nikon D2Xs for the last few days---in between shooting real stuff with my GH5 cameras--- and today was no different. I decided to continue my sentimental reattachment to big, fat, old school cameras by venturing out with the Nikon and a 50mm f1.8, just to see how it might affect my image making process. My head was filled with optimistic memories of my original time with the D2Xs and I was out to see if my good memories were more a result of that camera being about as good as you could get at that point in history, and my ability to accommodate its foibles, or, if it was really a wonderful photo instrument.

The body is certainly more solid than the mirrorless Sony cameras I had been shooting with until recently but the GH5 cameras give up nothing to the Nikon in that regard.

I decided to park at ZACH Theatre, which is just across the river from downtown proper. I would walk across the small campus and head over to my usual walking route via the pedestrian bridge. Since I was at the theatre at the right time I followed the groups of people as they entered the lobby in anticipation of the afternoon matinee of, "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Park in the Night Time."

I stopped in to see who might be playing piano in the lobby bar and to take a look around to see if the life-size posters marketing the upcoming shows had been put up yet. I always like to see how my work is used and how it looks in print. Especially large print.

There are four new, life-size, printed posters up. Two are from the same shoot. That was an assignment I did using the RX10iii and the Panasonic FZ2500. One image is for "Beauty and the Beast" --- it's an elegant photograph of Leslie Anne Leal as "Belle" holding a red rose out in front of her gold dress. She, of course, looks adorable but the surprise is just how good the image looks, technically,  from as close as a three or four feet away. The colors are right on the money and the details are crisp without looking crunchy. Uncropped, the entire frame would be about 4x6 feet. I thought it was a pretty convincing result from a camera with a sensor the size of a thumbnail. I was almost certain it was made with the Sony but I went back and checked and saw that it was done with the Panasonic.

Just a bit further across the lobby was a photograph of an actor in the character of the artist, George Seurat, for the upcoming production of Stephen Sondheim's play, "Sunday in the Park with George." This poster was printed the same size as the Beauty and the Beast poster but it started life as a file in a Sony A7R-ii. While the file was different there were few clues (probably only apparent to me) that the images were shot with different cameras. The posters are classic point-of-puchase-style collateral and they are designed and produced to be seen up close. I will say one thing for consistent practice of technique and that is that you have a much better chance of the final color matching across projects and from various cameras.... if you do the technical stuff by the numbers.

The final image I looked at was from one of our earlier marketing shoots for the current main stage production; The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Park at Night Time. I made those photographs using dim stage lighting and a couple of battery powered LED panels with the Panasonic GH5 and its friend, the Olympus 12-100mm f4.0 Pro series lens. While it was done in a different overall style from the other two posters, and it was presented as a horizontal (a pick-up from the advertising campaign) it still maintained the same overall look and feel of the other two posters.

Seeing this work, across three formats, presented in the same space and for the same client, was a very interesting experience. If I had seen only the Beauty and the Beast poster alone I would have worried that it might suffer by comparison with posters made with other format size cameras and I would have beaten myself up for allowing my own hubris to move me into selecting what many would characterize as the "wrong camera" for this kind of work. Same with the GH5 generated poster. But seeing them all in the same space and being able to approach each of them at the same viewing distance I was impressed to see just how well the smaller formats actually performed.

The realization that the camera is less important to the overall process than things like good (and ample) lighting, the use of a nice tripod, good technical approaches to white balance and exposure, and a good stage-side manner all seem to me to be much more important than the sensor dimensions of the imaging device.

All of this took the wind out of my sails as far as my imagined appreciation for the vintage Nikon camera went. I decided to continue the walk anyway and trudged on making only five or six unimaginative and boring photographs (which I will not share). That's fine with me. Not every day can be successful for photography. But the walk was much needed. I was looking forward to this morning's swim practice but when we'd gotten about 45 minutes into it we got lots of thunder and meteorological excitement ( one swimmer said, "I didn't see any thunder...") and we had to clear the pool a half an hour early. Nothing worse than a truncated swim practice after a long and emotionally draining week. A couple hours of walking, with or without a camera, is a great way to clear out the cobwebs and get back into a good groove.

Thinking of returning the camera and continuing my concentration on the micro-four-thirds cameras and the marvelous range of lenses available for them. Seems like a more fun way to make photographs.