Category Archives: Equipment

SLR versus Mirrorless

I’ve been following the SLR versus mirrorless camera debate with interest for some time and thought I ought to add my four peneth to the debate.

I’ve used Nikon SLR’s since going for autofocus in 1994 and always been happy with the quality and the handling of these cameras. I’m very happy with my current D800 which gives excellent picture quality, but it does have one large drawback………….. With a lens fitted, it’s the size and weight of two house bricks and I’d really love to lose some of that weight.

I’m also the proud owner of a mint Olympus OM1 which is half the size and weight of a DSLR, yet is still full frame. Plus an Olympus OMD – EM1 mk1 which I use as a “walk about” camera when I get sick of carrying the Nikon kit about. The OMD is literally half the size and weight of the D800, but whilst the picture quality is quite good, it falls a long way short of the D800, particularly in low light. Added to that, anything above ISO 200 and it’s quite noisy, so it’s not on my list as a possible replacement for the D800. The OMD EM1 mk2 reckons to be a big improvement (At three times the cost of my mk1!), but I’ll wait and try an EM1 mk3 before I consider a change of system. The Sony A7R looks to be a fine camera, but I really don’t want to change systems if I can avoid it.

Travelling to Greenland earlier this year and suffering from the mirror freezing up on my SLR on several occasions, really brought it home to me that it’s high time the mirror was declared obsolete. After all, the SLR with a flappy mirror has been around for something like a hundred years, so surely, we have the technology to replace it by now!

Back in 2004, many people said that digital cameras would not catch on, but that was the tipping point, DSLR’s had reached the main stream and took off from that point. I believe that we have almost reached that tipping point with mirrorless, we only need one more major manufacturer to bring out a top level camera to rival the Sony and we’ll see the demise of the SLR.

I’m certain the Nikon D850 is a very fine camera, but I for one have no inclination to buy another brick. In my opinion, if Nikon and Canon don’t come out with mirrorless cameras to rival the Sony A7 and A9 very soon, then they are destined to lose their places as markets leaders.

Travelling Light

For almost as long as I can remember, photography for me has meant using a tripod, mirror up, cable release and square filters. Whilst this approach tends to make me slow down and be more measured in my approach, it can also be more restrictive, particularly now I use a backpack rather than a shoulder bag, I tend to be much more reluctant to stop and take the odd quirky detail shot. This has led to my photography becoming much less spontaneous.

810-1-0791-R

Ceannabeinne

In the past when on week long trips like this, I end up getting tired of carrying the heavy backpack and tripod and eventually give up and go for walks without a camera, just to get a rest from it. This usually resulted in my regretting not having a camera when I spotted something interesting. My solution was to buy a Canon G1X compact camera. My first impressions of this camera were that it was excellent and produced first class results, but as I pushed it harder in less favourable light conditions, it soon became apparent that it had some limitations, particularly in low light, so it soon lost favour.

810-1-0814-R

810-1-0810-J

This trip to Cape Wrath has proved to be so windy that using a tripod at all has become almost impossible, so I’ve had to resort to using the camera hand held and I must say I’m finding this quite liberating! I’m able to travel light with just the SLR fitted with the 24-120 lens and a screw on 2 stop ND grad. No tripod to carry and no big weight around my neck. I can walk for miles without suffering stiff shoulders and I’m free to shoot all those quirky details such as interesting rocks and seaweed patterns and suddenly my photography is much more spontaneous again. It’s very liberating!

810-1-0851-J

810-1-0848-R

Awesome compact camera.

I’m not really into gear, I think the best piece of advice we could give anyone is use the camera you have and learn how to master it, but I’ve long been looking to replace my beloved Olympus AX film compact. This great little camera travelled the world with me and its superb quality lens and unrivalled low light metering meant we were able to capture some great shots by virtue of always having a camera with us. We shot balloons and rallies at night and it way outperformed my state of art modern SLR I currently use.

When it finally died full of African dust, I tried many other compacts such as the Minox and the much vaunted Ricoh GR1 and found they didn’t compare. Come the digital age I looked at many offerings from Nikon, Canon and Fuji and hated them all, but I’ve finally found one that meets my requirements. It’s the Canon G1X and initial impressions are that it’s an awesome piece of kit, with great picture quality and very good handling. The downsides are that it’s expensive, large and heavy, but the build quality and controls rival most high end SLR’s, so it would be a great camera for anyone travelling who wants to produce good quality photos.

DSC_3998

I’m not big into equipment, as I’m not the sort of person who has to have the latest gadget, but buying the best can often be the cheapest in the long run. The best is best because it’s the best!

Way back 20 years ago when we started in photography we had Cokin P type filters, but I didn’t like using them, so I spent more money on round screw on filters. As we got more serious about landscape photography, we realised the limitations of round filters, and bought Cokin P Type filter systems again. Over time we gradually bought better quality lenses and therefore bigger diameter, so we soon reached the limitation of P type filters and had to upgrade to Cokin Z type filter systems, but I didn’t get on with the Cokin filter holder, so once again we had to upgrade to a Lee holder with proved much better. Remember there are 2 of us, so by now we’ve spent an awful lot of money! The moral is if we’d bough the Lee system in the first place we would have saved a lot of money!

I’ve often heard people say how much better Lee filters are because of the lack of colour cast. I currently have an eclectic mixture of Cokin, Hitec and Lee filters, but I recently had this brought home to me on a shoot on Holy Isle. I had a Lee ND grad fitted, then wanted to slow down the exposure so I fitted an ND4 from another brand and whole photo went a yucky shade of magenta! Once again, buy the best first time around and save money in the long run.

Still on the subject of equipment, I’ve been having problems with my camera turning on the quick release mount when I’m shooting in portrait mode. A chance bit of investigation of Vanguard tripods (Janet won one from Photography Monthly) lead me to an article by David Clapp where he recommended L-brackets. This prompted me to invest in a Kirk L-bracket, which was eye wateringly expensive, but what a lovely piece of kit! It not only solved my problem of the camera drooping, but also had the bonus of being much more rigid on the ball mount and eliminates the need to re-level the camera when swapping from landscape to portrait mode.

Still on the subject of equipment, I’m not sure I need the 36mp of the new Nikon D800. I’m sure 20-25 mp like the Canon 5D2 is quite enough. However Mr. Nikon, what I do need is:-

  • Even greater enhanced low light noise reduction
  • Definitely ISO 50, but why not ISO 5 so I don’t have to fit ND filters to slow things down
  • A major must is a remote shutter release like we’ve all had to lock our cars for years. This would save me having to fit a cable release in a hurry every time I relocate.