Micro 4/3 is without doubt a very useful format. Just recently we headed south and it coincided with the time when figs in the south-west ripen and the parrots and Correllas gather around for a feast. I like to travel with a few different camera options. The ideal focal length for taking these photographs would have been between seven and 800 mm. Have you priced an 800 mm lens recently? Have you tried to lift an 800 mm lens recently? You know what I’m talking about. They are horrendously expensive and unbelievably heavy. It is a good idea to spend a bit of time in the gym building up some muscle mass before trying to use a lens like that.
And you know what is also amazing? A fixed focal length means that you don’t always get to frame your shot very well and even then you often crop from the image so that you lose quite a few megapixels. What you really need is something like a zoom lens with a 200 to 800 mm range.
A 200 to 800 mm range will give you a lot of flexibility and also allow you to zoom in very close.
My solution is simply to shoot with micro 4/3 with a 100 to 400 mm lens which effectively means that you are shooting with 200 to 800 mm. Thankfully there is an excellent Panasonic Leica variant available that fits perfectly into the Micro 4/3 system. For this shoot we attached it to the new Olympus M1X camera and decided to see how it would go with tracking and focusing these interesting squabbles that were going on around the figs. In actual fact the birds were gorging themselves on the figs and so were very heavy and looked rather relaxed.
Regardless, the birds don’t allow you to get too close and so you needed to be able to stand well back so that you were nonthreatening. The Olympus M1X camera performed perfectly and we came away with about 1000 keepers. Some of these I’ve posted to the Instagram site.
During the trip we got the opportunity to see quite a bit more wildlife and the 100 to 400 mm lens on the micro 4/3 system performed perfectly.
Here are some examples illustrate the value of this rig. And just to make the point. This is a really light rig for any photographer to carry about and you are shooting with 20 megapixels and exceptional clear glass. Don’t underestimate the Micro 4/3 system. It really is awesome.
You read through the magazine or the review on the site and immediately you start thinking about how your photography would improve if you had that camera or lens. But is it true? Do you really need all that gear and all those innovations? Will all those extra, often incremental improvements, really show up in the finished shot?
Initially, when you first get involved in photography you might genuinely believe that you need all the gear that you could possibly get your hands on. Or you might feel that you must have one particular camera or lens and it will make all the difference. Photography experience however provides insight into the overall craft. Camera craft is something that you acquire as you get involved in photography. Genuine photography assignments provide insight into photography that you might never experience in the casual setting. Whether you get involved in actual professional or semi-professional photography or you join a camera club and put your work against others so that you can improve your skill, you quickly realise that it isn’t all about the gear. In fact, you might realise that the photography market is sometimes overly influenced by the emphasis placed on certain innovations as opposed to what is really important in photography.
Cameras have been very good for quite a while now.
To illustrate this I have several hundred thousand images available on my hard drives and I’m still getting very good sale from images that were taken by cameras that were available in 2008. Ask any professional photographer who’s been around for the last decade and don’t be surprised to find the same story. You will often run into professional photographers using photography equipment that is six or eight years old and getting excellent results. They will read the reviews and look at the innovations with genuine interest but with an experienced eye that helps them to sort the difference between what is needed and what isn’t. Genuine photography experience provides that extra insight.
Don’t Get Me Wrong – Gear is Important!
There is however an important distinction to make in this discussion. There is an old story about the person who goes out and buys a top of the range tennis racket, which makes the point that, they don’t automatically become a better tennis player just because they own a better racket. However, it’s also true that a better tennis player will often use a better tennis racket for the simple reason that a better player is able to get and use the benefit of a more balanced racket that is strung in a particular way.
Practice Makes You Better!
The same is true with cameras. Buying a better camera will not make you a better photographer. However, a better photographer will probably use a better camera for the simple reason that they now know how to get the best out of the camera and they see the benefit of having a better dynamic range or a faster focus or a better colour gamut overall.
My brother once put the point bluntly when we were talking about the old saying that a workman doesn’t blame his tools. He replied that the good workman wouldn’t let himself be found with useless tools. The same is true with a photographer. You do need good tools.
It Has To Perform
However, in the field the photographer needs the camera gear to perform. He isn’t thinking about how many megapixels the camera has or what it can do in different areas of performance when he’s in the field. Regardless of the style of photography you are focussed on, there are just so many other things that you need to think about. Composition is the key. Whether you’re shooting nature and you need to grab a specific moment or action where the same is true or if you’re photographing a group when you’re trying to organise everybody in the group into something that doesn’t look like a dog’s breakfast, you’ve got so many more things to think about other than how many megapixels your camera has or how many frames per second it can do in the field.
There are always Compromises
You choose the right tool for the job and then you get on with photography. If you need something with high frames per second you are perfectly happy to accept a lower megapixel because you recognise that you can’t have both. And for that matter a 24-megapixel camera that can shoot at 12-20 frames per second is pretty much going to be able to do just about everything that you as a photographer will want.
You can have too much emphasis on gear, and you can have misplaced priorities when it comes to what is important. The problem with this is that it can also stifle your photography. Using just the gear that you need and that is appropriate to the style of photography that you’re doing at that point is just so important.
Perspective Means That Often Photographers See Cameras Differently
I read a letter just recently about how a group of camera reviewers rated a group of 10 cameras and how another group of photographers rated the same group of cameras. The reviewers placed the cameras in one specific order using megapixels and frames per second as the priority whereas the photographers put the cameras in a completely different order based on how they perform in the field and how quickly they acquire focus. There were points of overlap such as the placement of buttons and tools and the comfortable feeling of the camera system in the hand. However whereas the reviewers were focusing on the number of lenses that were available in each system, the photographers knew that as long as they had the principal lenses available that were appropriate to their own application, it didn’t really mean an awful lot to them that the given camera didn’t have quite the range of lenses that another camera manufacture offered. This just illustrates how the difference in view can occur.
Acquire the Craft
So, there is a difference between the perspective of a photographer when it comes to looking at photographic equipment. If you understand the different perspective that you will acquire as a photographer when you have a deadline to meet and performance in the field is absolutely essential, then you will acquire camera craft. Photography experience provides insight into the overall craft of photography. When you put yourself in photographic competitions against other photographers you will quickly realise that having 10 cameras in the closet will not make you a better photographer. Two photographers with identical equipment will produce very different results. There is a divergence between perception and reality in photography and it’s important to capture this difference and understand what is really important.