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.
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.
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.
As I mentioned in last night’s post, I’m currently in the midst of trying out a new every day camera system. The truth is that a lot of my paid photography work will continue to be done on the Samsung NX cameras, I am starting to try out some new cameras in hopes that I find one that fits my style of shooting and personal style as well. Enter the FujiFilm X-Pro (the original).
The Fujifilm X-Pro was originally released in 2012 and has since been updated by the X-Pro 2 but with a $1700 body-only price tag, I decided on spending far less for the older version before making such a large commitment. So here’s what I bought (specs):
Fujifilm X-Pro 1
- 16-megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor
- 3-inch fixed LCD display
- Native ISO range from 200-6400
- EXR Pro Image Processor
- 1/4000 second maximum shutter speed
- hybrid optical/electronic viewfinder
- rangefinder style mirrorless body
- Fujifilm film simulation mode for JPEGs
The gallery above is a small compilation of images taken over the past couple of days with the Fujifilm X-Pro 1. I’ve mostly spent the couple of days getting a feel for the camera, learning where everything is and where all the menu commands/settings can be found. Although I don’t recommend anyone rely too heavily on filters (Instagram or VSCO) they definitely have a place and Fujifilm’s film simulation mode allows you to create processed-in-camera JPEGs that look very close to some of Fujifilm’s iconic 35mm films.
So far my favorite aspect of the X-Pro 1 is the overall construction of the camera and its rangefinder style. In my heart of hearts I want a Leica M but the way my bank account is set up, the Fujifilm X-Pro makes for more than a capable alternative. The camera is solidly built without being too heavy or bulky despite it’s dimensions. Though it’s not fully pocketable, it’s nowhere near as obtrusive as a full-sized DSLR making it a great performer out in real-world use.
I haven’t gotten around to working with the RAW files yet though I do intend on working on those this week. I’m confident that a modern 16-megapixel camera can handle a little bit of pushing in Lightroom; look for my full break down in a future post.
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 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.
It’s been a while since my last update and though things have been quite on this front, I’ve been keeping busy writing at MirrorlessMinutes.com and for Adorama Learning Center. It’s been a helluva ride so far. Loving what I’m doing.
As I’ve mentioned before; as a Samsung Imagelogger, part of the deal is that I have to send them feedback and photos. Over the last year I’ve acquired quite a number of photos and have begun the process of editing them – not just technical things like exposure or composition – but true self-editing; identifying the images that move me (and I hope they in turn move you).
Feedback is always appreciated.
While you were sleeping, Olympus announced their latest addition to the Pen Lite lineup – the Olympus E-PL7. Beating the Photokina madness and hoping to win over consumer mindshare early, Olympus pulled the veil off their mid-range micro four-thirds camera that boasts three-axis in-body image stabilization, a 16-megapixel sensor powered by the TruePic VII processor, in-camera WiFi, and an all new 180-degree flip down selfie touchscreen. All in a small package then the previous version of Pen-Lite cameras.