Friday, 28 April 2017

A Question of Perception. (Part One)

Equipment Acquisition Syndrome and The Cure.

Lock any group of photographers into a room, sooner or later...........

Today's event photographer carries alot of kit and from day one, we have to make many choices. Nikon vs Canon. Full Frame vs  Crop Sensor. OEM vs Third Party and now Mirror vs Mirrorless.  The list goes on and on and the spending NEVER STOPS! We are in a constant state of perpetual motion when it comes to equipment and keeping up with the rapid development of technology is no easy feat. Alas I think the time has come when we have to take a step back and view the whole picture because the state of photography NOW is, worrying to say the least......The days of keeping a camera for 14 years have long gone.

I'm don't BETA TEST

Now this has been bugging me for a quite while and I thought that it was high time I dealt with it, having received several questions questioning some of the  personal choices I've made (in terms of the equipment that I currently use) but before I begin to delve into the contents of my various kit bags, let me reiterate something, a cardinal rule that I have lived by all of my professional life.  I DON"T DO BETA TESTING. I have never been in a position where my equipment has been brought for me. I've always had to cough up the money myself. Bitter experience has taught me that jumping feet first into a new and untested technology can be both emotionally draining and financially crippling. I now can't think of my time with either the Nikon D1 or the Canon 5Dmk2 without feeling sick. I've made other less notable mistakes (the early Sigma lenses and the Bowens Pulsar  Wireless Transmitters to name but a few) which were inspired more by my desire to  save money, than to be the first in the queue but these too came with a sting in the tail. The fact also remains that too many products come to market without first being given a proper good old fashioned "shake down" and the customer is the one left with the task of discovering and ironing out the bugs. Nikon and Canon are the major culprits, unlike Fuji who have taken real time/real world ongoing developments of their products to a whole new level of customer service (but more on this later).

The Nikon D1. The singular worse experience that I've ever had with a brand new camera..

This means that in most cases I don't buy brand new, newly released equipment. I watch and wait for others with more money that sense to first jump into those shark infested waters and only after they have emerged intact, do I venture to dip my pinky toe. It's spineless, I know but it's also rock solid safe. My aim is clear, I only use equipment that WORKS. Everything else is surplus to requirements, so if it doesn't work or can't work, it goes. This is precisely why I've kept and used my ancient Lumedyne equipment for so long (almost 14 years) because it took that long for the competition to catch up. Only now with the new generation of standalone wireless studio heads from the likes of Profoto, Godox, iLux and Interfit, do I  feel comfortable and secure in thinking about trading up to something new but tested.  In short, my clients demand two things from me and the equipment that I use. The "best" and "that the best works". This is why I try and purchase the best quality glass that money can buy because that's essentially where the quality comes from. Alas, if only that was TRUE because of late, something else has crept into the mix, that of client perception.

This is my sport kit bag and it weights a tonne. 

For many years, photographers the world over have turned up at jobs  weighted down by the big heavy pro bodies and lenses of either  Nikon or Canon and it seems that this has left both an indelible impression upon not only our backs but also on the psyche of a far few of the general public who now equate a professional photographer almost exclusively to these two big brands.  Worse, it seems that without either our permission or knowledge the pro photographer  has become part of the entertainment industry, who turns up at events merely to play a role and the camera's and lenses have become nothing more than the props. This wasn't a problem when Canon and Nikon ruled the roost but today this is no longer the case, especially with the rise of the Mirrorless Digital Camera. Woe betide the photographer who doesn't look the part on a paying gig and THAT"S MY PROBLEM because in many ways I already don't look the part, being a big black male with a large personality.

Currently I use two systems, Canon and Fuji. I've been with Canon for all of my professional life and for the most part, they have served me well (with the exception of low light work, where even today they lag behind Nikon). Only in the last two years have I dabbled with the Fuji X system, especially with the X-Pro1. My Canon kit (excluding the kit that I will be shipping to South Africa) consists of four bodies (all with grips), seven lenses (ranging from 17mm all the way to 300mm and longer if I include my two  1.5 converters) and three flashguns. All this is then divided between two kit bags, one to cover sport and the other for events, corporate and editorial work. Both weight a tonne. Now unfortunately time waits for no man, especially a 53 year old who's body has seen better days. Most of the times I can just let me Land Cruiser do the heavy lifting, but there are occasions when it's just easier (and cheaper, parking in London has become a nightmare) for me to just jump on the tube if I've got a job in town. This works great except for the part where I have to do ALL the leg work and the whole business of manually hauling my equipment from A2B becomes a back breaking chore.  Alas I have NEVER been questioned by any client about my Canon's. Not once! The subject has never come up! Once I'm properly attired and turned into a walking billboard for all things Canon, that's it and I'm left alone to get on with the job and suitably meet my clients perceptions of what a professional photographer, should be..........

Fuji X. The New Kid on the Block......

Small, light and very discreet. Everything my Canons are NOT!

Thing is, I can't pull the same trick with my Fuji X-Pro 1 (or any Fuji for that matter). Fuji bodies and lenses are smaller and lighter compared to their bigger Nikon and Canon counterparts and when I mean smaller and lighter, I'm not kidding, your back will immediately know the difference and thank you for it. Currently my Fuji kit consist of two bodies (one borrowed), three lenses and two flashguns and basically mirrors my Canon kit bag that I bring along to cover events and all of it can be carried in a small messenger style bag and slung across my shoulder for all day working in comfort instead of pain.

I could walk into any venue and nobody would know that I was a photographer.

Initially I only brought it to replace my old and trusty Canon G7 compact camera to cover personal as opposed to professional assignments but quickly found I was using it more and more to shoot everything.  My X-Pro 1 became my "goto" camera, until it started drawing some very unwelcome attention from the very people who were signing off on my invoices. In short, the moment I pulled out my Fuji, they thought I was taking the piss. They simply could not equate my Fuji camera as playing any part in my perceived "role" as a professional photographer, irrespective of the fact that the files coming out of the camera were in many cases equal to and better than those coming out of my Canon 5Dmk3. On one notable occasion the PR lady involved wanted me to go home and get changed. Lucky for me,  my Canon kit was in the car, parked in the company car park but it was a lesson learned. Until the people who hire me, educate themselves on precisely what a professional photographer does and how we do it then this kind of foolishness will never end. And this is why I won't be parting company with my Canons anytime soon.

The other "problem" that I have with some PR people is when they ask me to be discreet, while it is obvious for ALL to see that I'm loaded down the four tonnes on iron around my neck. Canon and Nikon Pro Bodies and lenses are by their very nature NOT meant to be  discreet. And yet when I turn up at a job with a camera which is nigh on invisible, I still get it in the neck. Truth be told, I just plain hate PR people.  

This is typical of the quality that you can get out of a Fuji X-Pro1.......

In short I love working with ALL of the camera's that I use and I should do because I've spent a lot of time and money acquiring it and making sure it's fit for purpose but between my Canon and Fuji, I love my Fuji more for the simple reason that I don't have to visit a chiropractor each and every time I pick up the camera. That and FujiFilm's  constant development of their products via firmware updates even after years on the market, something they call their

Philosophy of Kaizen

is something that money can't buy.