In the studio just using flash I find it fairly easy now to get a good image.
Outdoors with good daylight again with correct positioning and control of contrast its relatively straight forward.
This weekend I had a few ideas so with it being a hot summers day with bright sunlight, I gave myself the challenge of trying to come up with something different.
A hot shoe flash on a light stand behind the model, with a gel and diffuser on it, and for the front a battery flash head with gels and a grid.
The model was my long suffering wife, while I took several shots changing the balance of daylight to flash, using grids, diffusers and gels. Its given me a few ideas for my next out door shoot with a professional model.
For street photography people I would say 40% use a 50mm lens, 40% use a 35mm while the rest are either shooting very wide or with a mild telephoto.
They call the 50mm the standard lens for full frame 35mm photography but actually its more like 43mm but I think Pentax are the only manufacturer to actually produce one, but in the past 40mm and 45mm lens were very popular with street photographers, and with the explosion of interest again in fast 50mm lens rather then zooms, small 40mm lens are now also making a comeback.
Canon had one for their EOS mount which in its pancake format made for a lovely little everyday walk around lens, far easier to carry then a bit heavy zoom.
With mirrorless cameras offering the chance of small bodies and small lens it seems strange that no-one has released a small 40mm. Instead we have large very fast heavy 50mm f/1.2 and 85mm f/1.2, but this week Nikon announced their new 40mm f/2. A small light lens with a plastic mount. Its nothing like their un-compromised and optically stunning Z 50mm f/1.2 but then its not over £2000 and weighing over a kilogram, instead its £250 and weighs 170g so is the ultimate always carry with you lens. Lets hope more manufactures jump on this.
Since the 1980’s the 35-70mm zoom has taken over as the standard lens, now all of the major camera companies have the modern equivalent the high end 24-70mm f/2.8 and a more budget 24-70mm f/4. As a quick aside, the Nikkor 24-70mm f/4 kit lens which was released with the Nikon Z system is simply phenomenal and deserves better recognition.
Now the traditional 50mm is making a come back, people getting hold of old Leica M lens and using them with adapters on their mirrorless cameras is proving popular.
We now have Canon and Nikon releasing very high quality f/1.2 50mm lens and Youtube seems full of photographers showing what a great 50mm lens can do.
The photograph at the top of this post was taken with the stunning Leica M Summilux-M 50mm f/1.4 wide open. Myself and the model were scouting for locations and taking snapshots before I got out my main Nikon SLR for the actual shoot.
The natural look of the 50mm and the ability to shoot wide open at f/2 and faster, giving far more options with depth of field and creating that dreamy look everyone seems to love is very much en vogue now. It seems all manufactures are producing large fast 50mm lens and us photographers are buying them.
A professional camera system is all about the system support.
For me the key is good support from camera RAW processor software and good flash support the the major TTL providers for when I do event and wedding photography.
There are not many medium format players left but lets start with the big boys.
Hasselblad H6D-400c: a full frame medium format camera that supports multi shot tech, that will produce a 400 megapixel file from its 100 megapixel sensor. It has 16 bits of colour data and 15 stops of dynamic range. Full support from the major flash manufactures but at over £40k you are paying for the best. If you want the best the H series cameras are hard to beat.
Hasselblad also produce a few cropped sensored cameras, its most famous the X1D 50C, now on version 2.
Phase with there IQ digital backs are at the leading edge of medium format, there XT system camera with a 150 megapixel back, plus backs for legacy cameras such as Hasselblad, and since the purchase of Mamiya there own range of medium format cameras. If your interested in system flashes then like Hasselblad support the Nikon flash standards, Phase support Nikon and Canon flash standards.
Many would say Pentax started the compact SLR type handling autofocus medium format camera. Their 645 system is often forgotten about but with its cropped 50 megapixel sensor is something to consider and for medium format a budget way of getting into things. There TTL flash support is limited but the price is tempting.
Fuji was actually the subcontractor for some of the Hasselblad bodies and lens. In the modern digital age they have been making a name for themselves with their cropped 35mm sensors. Now to partner these they have brought out the for medium format budget GFX range. For just over £3000 you can pick up a body, £10,000 for the 100 megapixels versions.
What would I pick? Budget no option I may go Phase but as I do have a budget it would likely be Hasselblad at £5400 for the X1D II 50C.
For many pressionals we would likely generally use a Canon 5D or Nikon D850 type camera, and for when we need to reel out the big boys, most rental houses carry Hasselblad H and X series cameras.
I have been looking at new cameras again, and thinking to myself: ‘if I was to start a fresh what would I buy today’.
Now I don’t want a lot.
A very good wide angle, and a very good portrait lens.
Something around 50 megapixels.
Very good flash support. TTL flash and good third party flash support for weddings and events where things change quickly.
So lets start at 35mm systems, the perfect allrounder most people think, unless you shoot Fuji or Micro Four Thirds, where you may want to place a valid argument.
We will start at the top of tree. A modern mirrorless design, with lens that could be considered the best in the world.
I would have this close to the top of my list if it was for not one issue. Third party TTL flash support. Not even ProPhoto do a TTL controller for the Leica range. Hot shoe flash does have Metz and Leica’s own flash units but that is it.
At 45.7 megapixels these are killer studio cameras, lots of glass available, some of it very good, and support from all the major third parties for TTL flash solutions. Support from third parties for accessories; the D850 also works well in the field for event, wedding and wildlife subjects, being very responsive, access to focus modes is better then its Z7II equivalent. The native Z glass is better.
Canon 5DS R
I have personal issues with Canon, I had a FD mount Canon A1 for many years and lots of prime glass. Unlike Nikon who managed to keep their mount making the transition to a new mount types easier, Canon just seem to leave you in the lurch. Yes now finally Nikon have jumped to a new mount but being a mirrorless, an adapter is available and some of the F mount glass actually focuses faster on a Z class camera then a F mount camera.
I’ll not argue that Canon and Nikon are just about the same when it comes to quality and support. They continue to leap frog each other in terms of performance and their 5D range of SLR’s have always been about the best when it comes to high megapixel performance. The latest 5DS R at 50.6 mega pixels is another monster of a studio camera and like the D850 puts in a good show at also being an allrounder. Again lots of support from third parties.
Like Canon I am not a Sony shoot and do not follow them that closely. The cameras are generally very good but I have issues with the ergonomics for me. Most of the issues of the past I had with them had now been overcome. They can be considered to be the king of the megapixels. Owning their own silicon fab’s for manufacturing not just sensors for themselves but for most other camera manufactures, if you like Sony its a good choice. Their hot shoe is the old non-standard Minolta offering buts its been around a while an is supported. Turn up at a studio though and you better have your own converter for traditional hot shoe.
Panasonic (and L mount)
I’ll mention Panasonic as being a member of the L series mount alliance but their more video focussed than then still. It would be nice if the L series group got together and developed their own TTL standard and pushed others to support it. At this point I’ll mention Hasselblad, they license the Nikon standard which is what I wished Leica would do.
So what would I buy?
I would like to be able say the Leica SL, but I do events and weddings and need third party TTL flash support.
At the moment with the current level of technology I would likely pick up a Nikon D850. It could do everything I need, if I went for a Z7II then I would likely use that for landscape and studio and keep my D800 for event and weddings. The D800/D850 is still the king of fast focus and you can access and customise the focus faster on the old F mount camera then a current Z mount camera. I do think the eye select focus now available in many mirrorless cameras can make working in a studio easier.
The Olympics is often used by Canon and Nikon as a test bed for new professional cameras. Both had there new mirrorless cameras being tested which is good to see. The high end pro mirrorless Canon’s and Nikon’s will not be for me but will suit a lot of photojournalist and wildlife photographers.
Canon and Nikon are building out well and while still have a way to go to catch Sony they have produced some stunning bodies and glass so far. In fact for the cost the Nikon glass has been simply outstanding. Come on Nikon release that f/1.2 35mm and 85mm you have on your drawing boards.
I am feeling the pull of the Nikon Z system and with all my Nikon glass its certainly difficult to justify going to another system.
If you change the flash power, remember to check the next few shots carefully, are you getting flash sync errors, has the colour temp changed so do you need to do a fresh white balance. Its not just getting the exposure right.
When I am using studios with cheaper flash heads I often need to check these things or lose shots.
When you can shoot tethered it does make it easier to spot if things have changed.
When on location as in the shot above of the lovely Ivory Flame, I was mixing changing daylight with flash, in this situation having a flash you know you can rely on is definitely and advantage.
I sometimes make the mistake of heading into the camera forums. I generally leave filling angry at all the self justification of my system is the best. People treat camera systems like their football clubs, only one can win.
The last time I went into the camera forums it was to look at the affect of flash sync speed and power settings of some for some of the cheaper Chinese made flash units. You then get drawn into other corners and regret it.
Part of the problem seems to be that some of the camera companies have really got their social media campaigns working well with well know social media celebrities using their cameras and promoting them. Sony are possibly the best at this with Nikon being the worse.
The problem is this seems to feed online tribalism, and its a shame. Some hobbies like pen and stationary collecting, and also watch collecting seem to attract people that can appreciate other brands and other peoples choices, but in the camera forums its ‘my camera is the best, yours is crap’.
Everyone should appreciate the technical tour-de-force that is the Sony camera systems. Canon also like Sony with the ability to design great cameras, great sensors but also build the sensors and cameras and glass all in house. Nikon on the other hand are with Leica one of the great glass manufactures, designing new types of glass to solve new issues. Nikon and Leica are also getting into sensor design but are reliant on other sensor manufactures to produce these sensors for them. For a long time the cheaper Nikon cameras have used off the shelf Sony sensors but with Nikon electronics around them, while the high end pro cameras have had Nikon designed sensors and are manufactured by several sensor companies including Sony, but also Toshiba and Aptina.
I have always said that there is little difference now in the quality coming out of the cameras from the different manufactures. Despite the claims on the forums, Nikon is not behind in the focusing department, it just needs setting up differently, Leica do not have the best menus, just a different take on what’s important to offer and how.
Depending on what’s important to you and what feels to good in your hand, how you work etc should guide your camera choice.
For some the technical options all available in the Sony menus is a help, for me I hate not being able to find anything, but if I was a Sony user I would get used to it. I love the simplicity of the Hasselblad and Leica menu system, they are a breath of fresh air to me.
Some will have arguments about technical choices the manufactures have made. I dislike the way some lens artefact processing and noise reduction is done and baked into the Sony RAW files, but then I also dislike the low level noise reduction that the Canon R range do at low ISO, in my opinion its unnecessary. I am a Nikon fan boy and I would also argue that some the processing of white balance they do pre-writing out the RAW file is also detrimental, but then I like post processing my images my way.
Often many people will choice a camera for the way a default file comes out of a camera, the image from a Sony, Canon or Leica do look different and sometimes its this that draws people to them.
So camera choice, this is not my camera is better then yours, its more that the camera I choose suites me and the way I work and the way I want my images to look.