A Quick Update

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Hey everyone, just wanted to let you know what’s going on with this site and other quick updates around here.

Since my last post, I’ve started working on a social media marketing consulting business and have since worked with a variety of local restaurants, barbershops, personal trainers, and even a school. It’s been a truly rewarding experience and I’m excited to be able to help entrepreneurs take their businesses to the next level and attract clients they wouldn’t otherwise be able to reach. For me, it’s important to help people understand how SEO and PPC strategies can help them expand their market reach and how to effectively manage (i.e. not overspend on their advertising budget) their accounts.

I’m still writing. Product journalism is still my passion and I don’t see myself moving away from it anytime soon. To that end, I’ve partnered with GStyleMag.com to provide Camera and Photography-related product reviews and insight.

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Back to Micro Four-Thirds

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This year I decided to focus more on film photography as a means to better focus on the process of making a photograph. It’s a means for me to slow down and be part of the moment that’s being captured and not just firing off shot after shot without ever fully connecting to my subject. Still, there’s a reason we’re all shooting digital and there’s but a handful of places that develop film – so it came time to weigh some options.

Back in late February, I found myself really in a bind – my GX85 had officially died and I was sitting on some really good, really new lenses that would be hard to replace with FujiFilm equivalent gear. Also, add to the mix the fact that my X-Pro1 doesn’t allow for any external mic to be added and my dilemma just worsened. While I don’t shoot video often, I realized that most of my video reviews were shot primarily with my GX85. Faced with the option of either selling my Micro Four-Thirds (MFT) gear, biting the bullet and trying to find a suitable option in Fuji’s X-Mount lineup; I realized I wasn’t ready to jump the MFT ship just yet.

Going Back to Micro Four-Thirds

Enter the Olympus OM-D E-M5 II – the mid-tier option in Olympus’ OM-D camera line up. While in March 2018, the E-M5 II is a little long in the tooth, the truth of the matter is that it still is an amazing camera if you’re doing any kind of travel photography or professional work.

The Olympus E-M5 II is one of my favorite MFT cameras available due to its size and output performance. While it doesn’t boast as many megapixels as its younger counterpart, the OM-D E-M1 Mark II, I found that the E-M5 II is more than capable of a wide range of applications.

Video on the E-M5 II

The E-M5 II may not have the wealth of video options that a camera like Panasonic’s GH4/GH5(s) might have, but it isn’t a slouch either. If you’re looking for a simple set up with the option to pipe audio through an external mic, the E-M5 II is a great option.

Outside of the occasional run-and-gun video clip, I found myself not using many of the camera’s video capabilities. In an attempt to figure out a streaming solution for a local church though, I found that the E-M5 II does provide a “clean” HDMI-out signal so you could in theory set the camera up for live streaming.

Sample Gallery

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Conclusion

As illustrated above, the E-M5 II is comfortable in just about any situation you can put it in. From event photography, product shots, and as a street shooter, the E-M5 II is adaptable and when paired with Olympus’ Pro lineup of lenses, it’s hard to find a camera that can deliver more bang for your buck.

Last update on the GX85

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Just before July 4th, I had to send my GX85 in for servicing. For some reason, the shutter blades locked and left the camera in a perpetual loop asking I power down and restart. After some initial problems logging my repair request in, I was able to move forward and even got a response and quote back fairly quickly. Here’s how it all went down.

The Quote Process

After shipping my camera to Panasonic’s repair center in Texas, I awaited to hear something back. Given the fact that it was sent close to a holiday, I didn’t stress when I did not hear back within that first week. I was just happy knowing that the camera was on it’s way and would (hopefully) soon be repaired.

A week after having originally sent the camera, I still had not heard back. I began worrying that I didn’t send it to the correct facility or worse yet, that USPS may have lost it somewhere. After verifying that the package indeed went to the correct location, I checked the Panasonic website – my repair order was marked as canceled. No other information was available. I immediately hit the “Chat Now” button from the Service Request page, as prompted by a pop-up, in hopes that I could get some info on now canceled service order. Various redirecting from the chat representatives and a phone call later, I found out the status of my camera – it was received and sent to the repair facility awaiting a quote number and amount; which is represented in their system as a canceled service order.

Totally not confusing at all. (Yes, that is sarcasm.)

Quoted and Waiting

It’s now mid-July, I’ve finally received the service quote – a reasonable amount just south of $400. So I quickly filled out my credit card info and approved up to the quoted amount. The previous breakdowns in communication prompted me to follow up regularly (one email a week after receiving acknowledgement of signed quote); I was not going to lose track of this new service order. For two weeks the camera sat awaiting a second authorization – the PDF document I had previously emailed was apparently missing information. I will own this one and say that I may not have properly saved the info using Preview (Mac OS’s PDF viewer/editor for you PC people) but having the order hold without contacting the customer falls squarely on Panasonic. It required a third call to Panasonic Customer Care and once squared away I was given some good news, the repair would only cost $225 plus the labor fee ($100). The initial tech’s diagnosis was that the camera only needed a new shutter unit and bracket but the image sensor was undamaged – great news indeed.

The good news would not continue into the following week. The first email I’ve received from Panasonic’s service department was one notifying me that they would need a revised authorization for over $600 in repairs or cancel the order and pay diagnostic and labor fees. A month and a half after having started the process, what I was assured would be a simple and reasonably priced fix became a complicated far more expensive repair that involved replacing the camera’s sensor unit and various other parts.

The End of the Road

At $600 I had to make a decision – sink more money on this camera or cut my loses and try to off-load some of the lenses I’ve picked up for this format. After some deliberation, I had to cut my losses. I asked Panasonic to cancel the order and return the unit. Two bills and some change later, I received my busted camera.

A few things to keep in mind: The GX85 is not a professional body and would not qualify for professional repair service. I was not expecting any kind of white glove service for this repair. I bought this camera at a discount – sales are your friend – but $600+ would’ve been like me buying this unit twice. When the camera was received, the unit powered back on but it still would fail POST about every 3rd or so time it was powered on. After some tinkering and coaching from a fellow DIYer, I managed to have the shutter blades work though there are some focusing issues when shooting video, mostly when using tracking AF.

In the GX85 Panasonic made a very capable entry-level mirrorless camera that can hold its own doing some professional work (and if you go back and read my previous post on the GX85, you’ll know that by no means would I make this my primary camera for commissioned shoots) but the repair service leaves much to be desired. I would strongly recommend that anyone sending their camera in for repair be mindful of the somewhat convoluted ticketing process and the lack of response once the repair process has begun. If this post makes its way in front of the powers that be at Panasonic, I hope you guys can make note of my experience and make some changes that will make this a more seamless process.

A Quick Update on the Panasonic GX85

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A while back I wrote my thoughts on the GX85. Unfortunately, since the last time I posted something on the GX85 it started having an issue where it’s stuck in some kind of startup loop requiring me to shut it down and then turn it back on (Error code: 1D10T). After some deliberation, I’ve decided to send it in for repair; this post will help chronicle the process. Spoiler alert: It’s annoying to say the least.

I’ve done some research on this issue and though nothing comes up specifically for the GX85, other cameras (mainly Panasonic’s line of superzoom point-and-shoot cameras) have had these issues. From what I’ve been able to dig up there’s a two-button combination that should bring the camera into a kind of maintenance mode but from there it gets murky. Rather than risk bricking my camera, I decided to send back to Panasonic for repair.

First, I strongly recommend that you register all your products (especially the pricier ones) with the manufacturer. Having all your info in before something goes wrong will help. Especially when you get to questions like “date of purchase.” In the event that this information isn’t readily available you can guesstimate when it was purchased but without proof of purchase your warranty may not be honored. This goes for every manufacturere and not exclusive to Panasonic.

I started the repair request process on my iPad fully aware that an iPad is not a full laptop but I had hoped that there would be a way to go back into an existing request after saving or entering the necessary information. I learned the hard way that this was not the case and all the information I had previously entered ended up on Panasonic servers with no way for me to update any of the previously entered data or to reprint a confirmation page (which is required when sending back the product). After getting some direction via their live chat option (two days later mind you), I had to go back and start a second repair request to make sure I print out a copy of the confirmation page.

Panasonic, please accept the following bit of constructive criticism: If a copy of the confirmation page is a requirement for any service order, make it available either by logging into your account or automatically sending it to the email you requested in the service order ticket. This should not be aside that a customer has to figure out or wait for regular working hours to have a rep explain this. Yes, I accept responsibility for not printing my confirmation the first go-round but sending an email should be standard. The package will be on its way to Panasonic tomorrow morning, hopefully this will be the only hiccup in getting my camera working again.

About Nepotism and Misplaced Hate

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In my career I’ve worked various jobs for different sized organizations. I’ve worked for a mom & pop shop to a major global corporation and everything in between; office politics were always a part of the day to day. Whether it was management with questionable credentials or outright hiring family members, nepotism and cronyism are such a part of the business world that you’re bound to come across it at some point or another and the Photography world isn’t any different.

Earlier this week, Brooklyn Beckham, spawn of former Spice Girl turned designer, Victoria Beckham and football star, David Beckham, announced the release date of his first Photobook published by Penguin. It wasn’t long before the Internet was up in arms about how “unfair” and “unjust” it was that Brooklyn was “given” a book. It was yet another toll in the death knell of Photography as an art form – after all, Brooklyn has no formal training; he hasn’t paid his dues like every photographer that’s come before him. The Internet in it’s collective wisdom had decided that this one of the worst cases of nepotism in the history of modern art. Truth be told; we’re all full of shit.

As of this post, Brooklyn Beckham as over 10 million followers on Instagram – which is to be expected of a celebrity account. His followers (from my quick 5 minute glance of his page) are engaged and though mostly not art critics, many can appreciate his interpretation of Photography. While Brooklyn may not have a day’s worth of formal training under his belt he not only practices the craft but has managed to carve out an audience for the images that he’s creating. Would he had gotten his Burberry spread had his parents not been the internationally known Beckhams? Probably not, but he still needed to take the opportunity.

And that’s what we’re really talking about here; we’re not upset that Beckham has a book but he got an opportunity. Consider this: his being born of rich and famous parents has garnered him various opportunities that those of us who weren’t born with such privilege might never see. It’s a privilege that many Photographers abuse when we look at new Photographers of non-famous backgrounds; denying them the opportunities to professional practice their craft because they’re not a part of inner circles. Friends, we’re not mad at nepotism, we’re mad at privilege.

How many times have we overlooked privilege when it’s benefitted us? As long as it’s been good to us, we’re likely to turn a blind eye. Too often we allow our own conceit to trick us into believing we’ve earned every opportunity presented. It’s never about the connections that some of us were born with or the financial circumstances that allow us to pursue the work that we do. Before passing judgement let’s try to remember the last time we’ve extended an opportunity to someone just getting started in this industry. Maybe, just maybe, the next generation of photographers will be discovered based on talent alone.

If you’re looking for a photo book with black and white images of daily life but Brooklyn Beckham isn’t quite your speed; consider picking up A Beautiful Ghetto by Devin Allen. A Beautiful Ghetto beautifully displays the spirit of Baltimore through the stories of its residents, their struggles and the beauty of their resistance against racism in America.  Allen’s work has been featured in on the cover of Time, New York Magazine, the Washington Post, the New York Times, and may other print and online publications.

Return to the Oculus

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After taking a job in Queens I found myself not returning to Lower Manhattan very often. Aside from putting me out of my way, I often don’t get off work early enough to capture the hustle and bustle of life Downtown. As luck would have it, I found myself near the World Trade Center last week and took advantage of the opportunity to walk around and do some shooting. 

Nothing fancy here – just some snaps I thought I’d share.

The lines of the Oculus’ architecture make for an interesting subject. It’s all about “working the scene” until you find something unique about what/where you’re shooting.

Holding up the wall.

There’s something to be said about finding yet a new way to look at a familiar place. 

Last Call: Your New York Minute 2016

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Photo by  Andrew Hetherington

With the PhotoPlus Expo coming up in a little over a month, expo organizers, PDN, are looking for both professional and amateur submissions for their first PhotoPlus Expo photo contest. PDN and PhotoPlus Expo are looking for slice-of-life images captured in New York City. To sweeten the pot, PDN is giving away over $13k in prizes to the winners including a Nikon D500 with 16-80mm lens (pro division) and Nikon D7200 18-140mm VR lens kit (amateur division).

The contest is straight forward, enter in one of five categories within the pro or amateur divisions; the categories each reflect one of the city’s five boroughs and outlying islands. There are no limits on the number of entries you can submit however there is a fee of $30 (pro) $25 (amateur) per submission. Aside from the chance to win some great gear, Grand Prize and First Place winners will have their work featured at this year’s PhotoPlus Expo where an estimated 25,000 people will see it; best of all, photographers retain all rights to their work.

The contest deadline is today so be sure to hit up the link in the featured image for full contest details and registration info. I hope to see you all at this year’s PhotoPlus Expo.