One of the most important feature on any camera for 99% (pardon the hyperbole) is familiarity. Knowing where everything is. Knowing how everything works. Knowing how your gear reacts in various conditions is absolutely crucial for making great photographs. I’ve been shooting with Samsung cameras exclusively for over 2 years and I knew my cameras down to their most obscure detail. As you’ve guessed from the title to this post and my constant use of the past tense, I will no longer be shooting with Samsung cameras – and it’s not by choice.
When I first started getting serious about photography, I shot everything. It was all new and there was just so many new concepts I wanted to try out. Shortly after, I had a very expensive DSLR sitting in a closet collecting dust. The camera was originally bought because I was trying to build my first blog (an Apple-related blog if you’re curious) and I convinced myself that if it was to be successful it would need original photos. Never mind I didn’t really know anything about photography beyond making sure it wasn’t blurry. My original failure in the world of photography didn’t come from lack of interest of passion or even time – I never respected the fact that simply trying a technique isn’t the same as learning a technique.
Shortly after my first blog fizzled out I found myself writing for another tech blog – The Noisecast. I ended up there with a fib, I said I had a camera and took great pictures. See where I’m going with this? Unlike the first time I tried to learn photography, this time I focused on a couple of key styles of photography. These became the building blocks for truly picking up the camera for the first time. I was covering live events and press conferences; it’s fast shooting in variable conditions. It’s a lot harder than you convince yourself it to be but it is a true trial by fire. I became competent shooting events for journalistic purposes but I couldn’t practice event photography without events to shoot – and so I learned about Street Photography.
Learning a very specific style of photography pushed my creative limits. It forced me to relearn everything I had already become comfortable with. I had to go through the ups and downs of starting fresh. Mistakes were made, shortcuts taken; in the end I saw it through and became better at the craft. Learning about new compositional techniques, learning how to capture the emotion of a scene or the energy of a place.
I’m not going to say I’ve mastered any of this – fooling ourselves into mastery of this craft leads to stagnation and conforming. I’m however ready for my next challenge. I want to be better at what I do so I decided that I’ll be taking on not just film photography but learning to shoot medium format 120 film. It’s going to be an on-going challenge in conjunction to my daily digital photography. I’m looking forward to this next step and I encourage you dear reader to step outside of your comfort zone. Portrait photographers go out and shoot some landscapes; nature photographers head into the city where the wild things are. You get the idea.
At this very moment if you walked into the nearest camera specialty store and walked around the latest gear for you to try, chances are you couldn’t walk a few feet without running into a really good camera. Whether it’s a Samsung NX3000, Olympus’s E-PL7, Canon’s T3i, or various other interchangeable lens camera systems, chances are that you’ll be able to produce quality images at a relatively inexpensive price-points.
So where does this leave us? Well, the old arguments about which camera system makes the best photographs are now by and large just a matter of personal preference and/or justification of spending lots, and lots, and lots of money in the gear you’ve chosen to buy into. Make no mistake, photography remains an expensive profession and even more expensive hobby once you get to a certain point but when you’re starting out there’s almost no wrong choice.
Getting started – Why there’s nothing wrong with the “kit lens”
You’ve done your homework and now you’re ready to make a big purchase – your first interchangeable lens camera. Whether you go DSLR (I’ll be explaining in another post why you shouldn’t) or one of the mirror-less cameras, if you base your purchasing decision solely on the opinions of Internet forums and your “almost pro” friends you’ll often hear that you shouldn’t buy the camera bundled with a cheap lens. They’ll often point you to a camera body and make a suggestion as to which “prime” lens to buy, but the truth is that even the kit lenses that many manufacturers have greatly improved the quality of their kit offerings.Make no mistake, a prime lens will give you better image quality than you’re typical kit lens, but if you’re just getting started the average kit lens on the market will be able to handle most situations. The kit will provide you with the flexibility of a zoom and the added benefit of knowing that you didn’t spend the additional money on a “good lens” in the event you have second thoughts.
Breaking the bank: buying the best body or splurging on a lens
Online debates often revolve around the latest and greatest camera bodies manufacturers can offer. Whether it’s the flagship Canon 5D Mark II, Samsung NX30, or Olympus OM-D E-M1, a flagship camera is almost certain to cost you a pretty penny. Often times a flagship camera body is usually sold as a body-only meaning you’ll be dropping even more coin on picking up a necessary lens. It’s a costly endeavor for sure but does it have to be? Not really.
Unless you’re a high-level enthusiasts or working professional, chances are that you will not be using all the features of a flagship camera. If you’re just getting started in the world of photography, consider picking up an entry-to-mid-level camera body and use the balance of your flagship budget on picking up an additional lens or two. If you choose to go this route you can easily pick up a great, fast prime lens that will serve you for a variety of uses. Best of all, learning to shoot with a prime lens will help you make the most out of an included kit lens or other zoom lens should you choose to pick one up at a later time. So before you’re swayed by all the bells and whistles of a flagship camera, find capable middle of the road camera body and consider getting the best lens your budget affords.
Finding your a camera that fits your style
Now that the secret is out and there’s no such thing as a bad camera these days, where does that leave you? Well if this generation of gear is indicative of what the future of photography may bring, then we’re all in for a great time. For seasoned pros or experienced hobbyists, great cameras will make it easier for them to create the images that they see in their mind’s eye. They’ll be able to capture the decisive moment with even more accuracy, capture landscapes with an even higher level of sharpness and clarity. For those who have recently caught the bug or may be just starting out, the improved processes in camera manufacturing and wide availability means that it’s even easier to get started. Though the learning curve may still be there, there’s never been a better time to find a camera that offers plenty of control to the photographer while still being technologically advanced enough to guide them as needed.
It’s a truly great time for photographers of all stripes; who knows maybe some day soon we’ll no longer be as concerned with what we’re shooting with and what we shoot.
At its most basic, photography is all about getting light to hit a sensor to produce an image. Whether that sensor is inside your smartphone or a $50k medium format camera you’re going to get some poor results if you don’t take the time to learn how to use your camera. Learn some basic photography language and how it applies to what you want to shoot. You’ll need to learn the difference between “primes” and “zooms.” How does your aperture setting affect your image; how about shutter speed? Don’t be afraid to RTFM but if you’re lazy like I can be, don’t be afraid to Google it before you start asking questions on your favorite blog or forum. Get the information you needed and then get out there and shoot.Over the last year I really started getting into HDR photography. I liked the way photographer Trey Ratcliffe approached his landscapes but I personally didn’t think it fit my style of shooting. I took in some of his tutorials on HDR processing and then experimented on my own photos. Some looked like clown vomit (as HDR processing can get ridiculous quickly) but some were good. Some were even great. I learned how to make the most out of bracketed shot functions on my NX300 and refined the process and the bracket depth on every subsequent camera I used after.
Experimentation wasn’t just limited to HDR photography either. After reading Ibarionex Pererllo’s “The Candid Frame on Street Photography” I took some of the notes he shared on Street Photography and applied them as practical setting changes on my cameras. From “..on Street Photography,” Perello states:
“With a high ISO setting and the lens aperture set to F/5.6, you can expect that you’ll have a fast enough shutter speed to counter camera shake as well as freeze the movement of your subject.”
After reading the book, I immediately made the necessary adjustments to my NX500’s custom setting (along with some personal preferences) and hit the streets ready to try to make some great photographs.
In case I haven’t beat this into your head enough, don’t spend too much time hand-wringing on camera manufacturers or camera settings with some random people online. That takes away from what will make you a better photographer – that’s the time you’ll spend out in the streets or in your home studio making photographs.
So which camera should I buy?
I said I would answer this question in the beginning so here’s the answer – go to a camera store, in the NYC-metro area I recommend you check out Adorama, B & H, or Unique Photo, and try out a couple of different models and form factors. Ask yourself what do I plan on shooting with this camera: will I just take a couple of snapshots during my vacation or do you have ambitions to take a photography class? Do I need full manual controls or will the camera sit on its auto function? The first thing you have to remember is that a camera is simply a tool; think of it as the paintbrush to your painting. It’s not the painting, just what you will use to create it.
So if you’re looking to up your photography game in 2016 or looking into purchasing a camera without a phone or text function, congrats! Dedicate some time into the craft and you’ll find that photography can truly be an eye-opening hobby that you will enjoy for a lifetime.
As 2015 draws to a close I’m sitting in a hospital room reflecting on where this year started and where it has ended. As I sit here I’m reminded of opportunities missed; mostly out of pride and opportunities that I have not put enough time or effort into. This isn’t a post about all the things wrong with the year, in the midst of this storm, I choose instead to be grateful for being able to share this story.This story isn’t about photography per se, photography was a big part of my life in 2015. I don’t think I officially stated that I was doing a 365 project at the start of the year, I definitely approached the year with shooting and sharing every day in mind. This year I’m very grateful to Allison + Partners and Samsung for continuing to believe in me and my photography and for continuing to keep me on as an Imagelogger in 2015; being an Imagelogger is the single event that has pushed me to my creative limits not just as a photographer but as a writer/journalist as well. Becoming a better photographer forced me to become a better storyteller. Understanding how the emotional weight of an image can tell a story has made me rethink the way I tell stories with words – make them more visual.
This past year has also made more keenly aware of the impermanence of life. Where you are today is not necessarily where you’ll be tomorrow; the last four months of the year have shown me that this isn’t an omen but a hopeful promise. I truly pray that no one has to live through a time like that but knowing that it is temporary has kept me and my family pushing forward. Don’t allow the impermanence of your current successes lead you to becoming prideful, boastful, or cocky. Don’t allow the fleeting trials or bad hands color your judgement going forward and keep you from living a joy filled life. There’s beauty to be found all around you; capture it in your memories and learn to look back but not live in them for too long.
I’m not sure what 2016 will have in store for me or any of you. I encourage all of you to learn something new. Get out of your comfort zones, don’t be afraid to fail. If you’re scared of making that next move; it’s probably worth it. I’ve been blessed with a network of support that extends from close friends and family to an extended family that I’ve never met in person. To my colleagues on the verge of launching new endeavors and businesses I wish you much success; may we continue to be collaborators, competitors, but above all, continue to push one another to greatness.
It’s been a little over two months since I first got the NX500 in my hands. After long NY winter shooting with the NX1 on a near daily basis it was refreshing to have a camera that was light enough to drop in my messenger bag and forget it’s there. Just because the camera lost some of its size, it by no means lost any of its power. Read on for some of my impressions on the NX500 and some sample images.
Disclosure Notice: I’m part of Samsung’s Imagelogger program in which they send me shiny new cameras to try and take many, many pictures with. This is not a paid placement; all opinions from here on are my own.
When I first took the NX500 out of the box I was absolutely floored by how light it is. Sure, I absolutely get that it is a (relatively) tiny camera but I still can’t get over the technology that powers it. Inside the small and svelte frame is a 28-megapixel back-side illuminated APS-C sensor and DRIMe 5 image processor – the very same sensor and processor combo found in the larger (more expensive) NX1. The NX500 is capable of capturing 9fps in full resolution and comes with a gorgeous 3-inch AMOLED touch display and boasts 209 auto-focus detection points. When combined with the NX500’s Hybrid Phase Detection AF system, those 209-phase make for speedy changes in focusing that make shooting 4k video on the NX500 a dream.
Ultimately the biggest reason that I’ve fallen in love with the NX500 is that much like the NX300, the NX500 has allowed me to disappear into the background and capture those fleeting moments of city life without drawing too much attention to myself. For my style of shooting, I’d gladly give up a viewfinder for a chance to capture my subjects without drawing too much attention to myself. The NX500 is my current favorite camera for my street photography and it’s clear to see why; you don’t have to take my word for it, check out the gallery below for more photographs made with the NX500 and be sure to leave a comment.
If you’re ready to dive into the world of 4k video and pick up one of the best APS-C cameras under $800 consider shopping via the link below. It helps me keep the lights on and writing more posts like this one. Thanks again for your support.
At last year’s Photoplus Expo in New York City I got a chance to chat with the folks at Lowepro and check out some of their latest gear. I’ve long been a fan of their products but had recently been wooed by my Brenthaven BX2 backpack for covering events, but I often found myself wondering if I really needed all that space as I’ve learned to pare down the gear I took to these shows. I was ditching excess weight in my kit bag, maybe it was time to reconsider what my event bag should be.
The Lowepro Urban Reporter 250 in this review was sent over by Lowepro; they wanted me to review their bag so they sent a sample to keep. These are my impressions from real every day use of this bag.
Styling and function
The first thing that pops into mind when I received the bag was – “this is bulkier than I remember.” It’s not that it’s a big bag, for a camera bag it’s pretty compact and ultimately you want the foam cushions that protect your gear to get the job done. Specifically, the Urban Reporter 250 measures 41.5 x 17.5 x 28.5 cm with the camera compartment measuring 34 x 10 x 24.5 cm. The bag weighs a little over 2-lbs. without your gear so it won’t add necessary bulk on your trips.
If you’re looking for a bag that doesn’t look like a camera bag the fact is that there far more discrete options available on the market. That being said, the Urban Reporter 250 is a good option that looks like a slightly pudgy messenger bag. It’s a good option for taking along for a specialized shoot or event – one that may not require much gear – but you’ll definitely skip this one if you’ll be in need of additional gear or tripod/monopod (the Urban Reporter 250 doesn’t have a compartment for a tripod).
The Urban Report does maximize the space that it does have with plenty of room for personal carry-alongs. The clasps on the saddle pockets can fit additional batteries, a flash gun, snacks, or a bottle of water. Meanwhile the main compartment features a main padded insert with two dividers for customizing the main pocket for your specific load out. Just behind the main padded compartment is a discrete laptop sleeve that fits up to a 15-inch laptop or full-sized tablet. The rear of the bag has a zippered faux pocket that can be used to carry documents or can be unzipped to be stacked onto your rolling luggage.
The Urban Reporter is a fully functional bag that’s ideal for day trips or commuting but may not be the most stylish option out there. That said, it’s a great bag for event photographers that are looking for a no-nonsense bag that gets the job done.