I thought to post some photography business related links that I use when researching new gear or point people to when asked what camera to buy.
Obviously each persons requirements for camera gear will be different which is why I think these links could provide good starting points for research. With everything online these days it’s near impossible now to try out gear and software before you actually buy it. Forums and reviews seem to be replacing the in-store experience. Often disregarded though is the ergonomics of a camera which is why borrowing or renting first maybe a good idea.
http://www.dxomark.com/index.php is great place to go if you are into scientific analysis of higher end cameras and lenses. Without consideration for ergonomics, the site does get into an amazing amount of detail concerning tonal depths, MTF charts, discussions on true ISO etc. It also has a very easy to use comparison tool for many popular cameras and lenses. Interesting to see how very expensive cameras and digital backs actually under perform in some areas than more common and much cheaper 35mm cameras! I would recommend any serious photographer to understand MTF charts when buying lenses. Googling MTF charts helps here.
http://www.bhphotovideo.com world famous camera shop and now even cheaper with the falling USD. Worth a visit if you are in NY in only just to see all the goods being sold whizzing around on an automated train like system above your head. I use the site to get an idea of prices and range of products.
https://www.yodobashi.com/ The Japanese B+H, however, their main store takes up nearly two blocks and boasts around 11 levels of camera related gear. The website is always worth a look to see what is new, quirky and potentially not available anywhere else. (a web translator helps!). If you ever go to Japan then going there is a great experience… if you have a day or two free. Jenn and I flew there to buy my medium format gear as it was sold under a different brand name…Fuji instead of Hasselblad! And at about half the price, hence the flights hotels and food was all free ( I guess). Who knew Fuji make most parts in a new Hasselblad these days? A highlight for me would have to be the year round digitalised christmas carols being pumped out of the stores inhouse speaker system, adding to the surreal experience while you are in this digitised maze. Another highlight was drinking in a hotels sky bar in a nearby suburb and seeing the lights from Yodobashi lighting up the sky like a mini fireworks show….both highlights form a love hate feeling due to it’s extravagance. I hear the store lights are now rated “gloomy” due to the earthquake and resulting nuclear power shutdowns. Will the Godzilla of camera stores ever be the same again?
http://diglloyd.com/index-free.html offers independent reviews on some gear and gear related topics. Again a little on the nerdy side but breaks it down some technical aspects more than DXOmark.
http://www.pdnonline.com/ is perhaps the largest of photography magazines that with the webolution has become a great online resource covering anything and everything to do with photography. Unfortunately membership is the only way to unlock some of the meatier articles.I hope that helps…. and if you can’t be bothered reading online then simply just buy the heaviest camera or lens you can afford! 90% of the time it’ll likely be better.
My kit bag has gone through about four major evolutionary changes to where it is now. ( article I wrote for shotkit.com )
Firstly, as a young photographer in the 90’s with no money, I started small. A second-hand Mamiya 645, an 80mm f/2.8 lens, Polaroid and film backs and a Quantum off camera flash. That was about the bare minimum I could get away with to shoot portraits for magazines.
Then, as my career grew and kit bags got larger, I switched to a Contax 645. After a few years I dumped that for a Hasselblad 645 with the full range of lenses. I flew to Japan for a weekend shopping spree and bought all the Hassey gear in one go at Bic Camera…I think I made the salesman’s week!
I also moved into Broncolor lighting, purchasing a ring flash (as that look was in demand in the early 2000’s), a few heads and second-hand packs. Shortly after that I added two Broncolor Mobil packs, which really allowed me to get a look with outdoor flash that wasn’t too common at the time. Putting lights in trees and on the beach, always trying to beat the sun!
The next major evolution was the big one: film to digital … however it didn’t happen quickly. I shot a lot at Pioneer Studios (now called Sun) and they got on board with some of the first digital cameras. To be honest for the first couple of years these digital setups were pretty crap… cords everywhere, slow laptops and often so much noise it made 35mm neg look sharp.
I had a well-off friend who lent me the first Nikon Digital 35mm professional camera which was just over 8 megapixels and cost him over 20K! Since a roll of 35mm was $50 to purchase and process, we actually used that 8mp camera a lot for pickup shots. After a few years of using both film and digital in conjunction on shoots it came time to dive in. I firstly went for a Sinar Back, then a Phase One back and then finally a Leaf Back for my Hassey. It was an expensive ride – at one stage killing a Phase One back with salt water – but advertising required the high-end gear and budgets from clients was good!
Finally, the last evolution is where I am now. For 15 years I had never owned a 35mm body and thought 35mm was a bit low-end to be honest. However, with the evolution of the Canon 5D range, 35mm digital was hard to ignore. After the GFC, budgets for advertising shoots halved overnight and digital cameras became sharp, relatively noiseless and cheap. Briefs from clients also changed from wanting billboards to wanting pop-up gifs, so the economics of owning a 40mp digi back and medium format gear seemed like overkill all of the sudden. I dumped the whole lot in 2013 for Canon and L series.
Then there was also another revolution – this time with lighting! Flash sync speeds went out the window with the launch of the Profoto B1. At first I bought two, then another and then another. Four is just about enough to do nearly 90% of my work. I think the B1 is up there with the Canon 5D series as being revolutionary to the way I work.
Lastly a word about lenses. Changing fixed lenses constantly on location was getting cumbersome, so I bought the 24-70mm f/2.8 Canon L series just this year. My first zoom lens ever! Unfortunately, I have to say it’s not impressive. The fixed lenses just have a nicer look and are often sharper. Zooms, I still think, are a compromise.
The new 85mm f/1.4 Canon lens is a beauty and is highly recommended. It was a replacement for the f/1.2 version, which although a mark II version, was slow and not often sharp.
I have also had a love-hate relationship with the Sigma range. I went back to Canon for the 35mm and still might go back to the Canon 50mm also.
[Ed – see more Canon lens reviews.]
The Canon 135mm f/2 and the 35mm f/1.4 are just excellent. However, since my journey in 35mm I have realised not all lenses are built equally.
Before you buy a lens, go to the shop and test two or three versions of the same lens before buying. You’d be amazed at the difference even if the salesman thinks you’re being over the top!
Canon 14mm f/2.8 L Series
Sigma 20mm f/1.4 Art Series
Canon 35mm f/1.4 L Series
Sigma 50mm f/1.4 Art Series
Canon 85mm f/1.4 L Series
Canon 100mm Macro f/2.8 L Series
Canon 135mm f/2.0 L Series
Canon 200mm f/2.8 L Series
Canon 24-70mm f/2.8 L Series
Profoto B1 Flash x 4
Profoto B1 Spare Batteries x 6
Profoto A1 Flash + Spare Battery
Canon 5d Mark IV
Atomos Ninja Flame
Sirui Ball Head