The New Direction

February of this year marks the start of my third year as a full-time photographer and the opening of my studio location in Downtown Aurora. I could fill volumes of hard drives with what I have learned, of the experiences and how all of that has shaped and changed my business model, and my choices in running the business.

Outside of running the business, yet very connected to the business, is how my creative side has also changed and how that has driven my equipment choices. First let me make one thing perfectly clear. No one company provides a complete system of cameras, lenses, flash or lighting products and industry infrastructure support. Not as a convenient and best of breed business solution in mind. Period. Rant all you want. You would have to be working a very niche based market to be able to claim that. Or live under a small Artic rock.

With affordability within reason being a caveat, these two things drive my business decisions: 1) I want to use the best equipment that provides the best imagery for my customers and 2) I want to use equipment that makes my job as easy as possible without comprising the integrity of the images I produce. Using those two principals, I am always looking at the ever-changing landscape of equipment offerings, industry direction and consumer and commercial requirements and evaluating what I use now or should be using and whether it does indeed make a difference. My decisions on whether it makes a difference are based on my needs for the way I work. For instance, will a 42 MP full frame sensor do any better than a 36 MP full frame sensor? For me?  No. Would 2 more stops of dynamic range matter? Yes. Would 2 more stops of acceptably higher ISO matter? No. I have a list of these sorts of things and use it to pass judgment. My list. For me. 

So with all that in mind, I have done some evaluating and decided to make a directional move. This is what I have been alluding to in my posts on Facebook for my coming third year. What have I decided to do? Here we go…I am sticking with a Nikon based system for the segment of business I use it for; there just isn’t anything better out there right now. I have the D810 and my combination of Nikon and Sigma Art glass dialed in. It all works very well in studio, tethered using Capture One, its like having a new camera. It does what I need it for at a wedding, and does reasonably well on the go. I have a D4s and Df too for more on the go use and event coverage although either works well in the studio too. The D4s is pretty heavy though so I have used my Df more and more for on the go coverage. I can’t tell the results apart. Complaints are that the Df and D4s offer less dynamic range than I’d like. Their 16MP of detail can’t compare with 36MP of it. The D4s is not as quiet in use, its shutter is very loud and this is evident during a wedding ceremony. It is fast though, but the D810 with a EN EL-18a battery fires at half the speed top speed of the D4s so it works – quietly.

I’m also sticking with and expanding the role of my Fujifilm system. I love carrying this system around. It travels with me. I have started using it for events and even though it’s a 16MP based system; its sensor configuration provides image detail at the level of a 20-22MP sensor. Excellent dynamic range, and extraordinary high ISO ability for its APS-C sensor size. I just pre-ordered the new X-Pro2 which, if it can be believed, offers similar dynamic range and high ISO (if not better) with it’s 24MP sensor of the same x-Trans configuration. Plus image detail at a 30-33 MP level. All Fuji’s have a quiet mode too so you can’t hear anything when you press a shutter button - if you prefer that. When I go mobile and take my Nikons and my Fuji’s with similar lenses and all, my Fuji pack weighs about 25 lbs. My Nikon roller is closer to 70 lbs. Yeah. Huge difference. I think I can replace the functionality of the D4s with the existing Fuji X-T1 and for sure with the new X-Pro2 and get at least equal performance if not better in a much smaller and easier to handle package. The downside is it might not be as robust a build as the D4s (although it is all metal and magnesium and is rated to equal temperature ranges) and the battery life sucks. My X-T1 needs 2-3 batteries for a solid day of shooting. Sometimes four. The X-Pro2 is a hybrid, using an energy saving optical viewfinder as an option along with its battery draining EVF. Its rated a bit higher than the X-T1 but 330 shots per battery is nothing to tout. The D4s can shoot for a few weeks on a battery. So, small and light with equal or better images or robust and heavy with more than acceptable images? I bought more batteries and decided to give the smaller system a go.  My D4s is for all intent sold as I type. I love the D4s. It’s a great camera and screams pro build but it just sees less and less work and at its price of $6499 new it should be used more. The new D5 was considered. I just didn’t want to spend the extra amount over the used value of the D4s.

So my little experiment might prove to be a bad move. Or it might lead to a revelation. I think the latter. I think the X-Pro2 will offer more to my three year evolved style and me. Besides, it’s not the gamble it sounds like. My D810 is still the big man on campus. Still the main one I go to for an sort of formal work like portraits or ad work. I love shooting tethered and Fuji just doesn’t offer a very complete solution there. But the Fuji’s will work on the go where tethering isn’t usually part of the plan. For that, I think it will excel. Tell me your thoughts with in the comments below.