WHAT CAMERA SHOULD YOU BUY?

I literally haven't used my digital SLR cameras in just over a month. Not even once. 

I mean, fuck... my insurance premium each month would be so much more chilled if i didn't have my digital kit.

I wanted to write this post as I get messaged twice a week by friends, at the very least, asking 'SUP.. Dan what do you think I should get.. i have about 400£/600£/£1000' .. and whereas I used to know... the answer is .. i really don't know any more... Everything on offer is pretty good. Everything on offer is actually now pretty expensive too. You're all expecting me to go into a rant about film cameras now and how badass and cheap...aren't you? Well.. 

Let's say you're buying a digital camera in 2017. In 2014, the price of a standard portrait lens, a 50mm 1.8, was £150. It's now £199. A Nikon Pro body was £2370. Now it's £2799.  

First caveat.. the lens is the most important purchase. If you want that background blur.. buy a prime lens with a 1.4/1.8 aperture and you're off. Ignore the kit lenses on offer.. ignore the 18-55's and the 55-200's.. they're terrible. Buy body only and buy a 35mm or a 50mm lens with a fast aperture.

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The camera is only as good as the lens. People have said this for years and it will never not be the truth. Good lenses before expensive cameras. 

1. DSLR's

DSLR updates since about 2014 have not really given you much more camera. (and focus on the word camera with the following statements) - It has been little sales moments from the inclusion of WIFI, better movie slow-motion frame-rates, 4k with improving bit-rates, slightly better processors so you can take that extra 10 frames in a 100 shot burst and record clean 4K. This stuff is mostly bullshit if you're trying to just take a good photo. The sales companies make you think you want these features and whack £500 more on the product for it.

Salesman [It has 4k.. crosses arms all smug-like]. ..90% of the improvements they're charging you for now are on the moving image side. 

I've been talking about DSLR's so far which are different to:

2. Mirrorless cameras. Mirrorless cameras are smaller than DSLR's as they have electronic sensors , instead of periscope systems of mirrors, to help you compose the image.  DSLR's have optical viewfinders (That means a viewfinder you look through and can see real life not pixels). Mirrorless cameras replace these mirrors with an electronic sensor that recreate what the mirrors would do. This allows the cameras to be smaller and lighter.

i recommend a mirrorless camera for 95% of people, like the Sony A7S II's A7R ii's / FUJI XT2 or 1/XT20 or 10. You can pretty much adapt any amazing vintage lens onto them so you don't need to blitz 500£ a lens any more. They give you amazing help manual focusing with focus peaking and zebra modes that highlight the point of focus in the viewfinder. They're super light weight and have as many functions as the bigger cameras.

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Realistically, if a camera's lighter, you're more likely to take it out, therefore take better shots and likely to enjoy it more. The cameras i've recommended above are actually creeping up over 1-2K new BUT, you should buy used from wex.com / mpb.com / ebay / and facebook groups as you will get SO much more for your money.

3. Why don't I use mirrorless cameras? I love my film cameras. I love the process of film and the feeling like a camera is a tool to craft with. I also love them as they feel like cameras. Most mirrorless cameras feel more like customisable computers, to me, than tools for me to work with. If my last camera purchase is anything to go by (see below).. i'm not the one to be taking advice from. 

Big love xxx

My new camera - The Intrepid 4x5

THE CAMERA I HATED FOR 6 YEARS...and then didn't.

For anyone who knows me, they know I love shooting film and LOVE film cameras. I love how they're inexpensive so I can try some of the best that were ever made and, if i don't like them, I can sell them on and not really lose money (now that there's been a resurgence in their popularity). I mostly use my Pentax 67 as a workhorse for my main work and that has been my only real constant..other than one camera that has never left my bag.

Let me take you back to 2011. It was coming up to my 21st birthday and I lived in Edinburgh. That August, My Dad and I bought a Leica M6 on one of my trips back home to London. We researched it together and that's always been something we've done together. We wanted to get a camera that was mechanical that would never need a battery to work so, in theory, it would last. That left us with the choice of an MP, the M6 TTL or the M3. 

We headed down to Richard Caplan, a Leica shop in Green Park, and looked through all their Leica cameras and THERE IT WAS...a Leica and Zeiss lens under 1800£.. yes, that's a shit tonne of money and yes I couldn't get close to affording a Leica lens and yes that's how it will always be with handmade Leicas and final yes that was the cheapest one in store.

I walked away with a mint black TTL M6 and a Zeiss 35mm 2.0 . I put all my summer job money towards it from working on a glorified hot dog stand at Wimbledon Tennis and, very fortunately, the rest was sorted by my Dad and Grandfather for my 21st.  I didn't realise at the time that it was my Dad and Grandad's way of giving me a family heirloom that I could give to my kids one day. I lost my grandfather this year and it is a part of him I keep with me. He loved it and loved talking about it every time we spoke on the phone or when I came home.

In 2011, I was just getting into shooting music, taking shots for the The Student Newspaper and The Skinny magazine, in Scotland, shooting everything on a Canon 50D. The Leica M6 i bought is a 35mm rangefinder film camera. If you've used a rangefinder, it is by no means a quick or easy method of focusing a camera for even the hardiest professional nor necessarily the best format to use in a music photo pit.  It was definitely not the quickest way for me to cut my cloth and make it into the front pages of NME. Furthermore, no one my age at uni really knew what a Leica was...and that's because, not many students in Edinburgh were shooting film as digital cameras were evolving at such a rate and, was at the time, the most exciting thing happening in photography.

I didn't like taking it my Leica out. Fear brewed hatred and It scared the crap out of me even having it in Edinburgh with me. I would think, what if i'd have been mugged and I'd have to tell my Dad it had been stolen. The red dot in the centre of the camera is like a GPS for thieves. 

Being a student, film was a total luxury spend. It was dinner or camera film. Made worse by the slump of film sales and made even worse by it being expensive to get developed. In Edinburgh, there was a Fujifilm place on Newington Road that would charge me £8.99 to get 200KB scans on CD and a set of prints (not actually that bad). But 200KB scans is juseless even more so now. This thing was never going to get off the ground.

So, spin forward over 5 years of growing as a professional photographer and I find myself meeting up with a friend and us shooting on our Leicas. He's excited about it, and i'm happy that i'm shooting for fun rather than a job - I was commissioned out. Even over a day, my abilities to focus got better, I was also vicariously living through my friend's excitement for the camera and maybe wasn't so harsh on my 6 year mal-loved Leica with it's worn through strap. We were photographing our journey to Mr Cad in Victoria and, something clicked.  I got really used to the rangefinder focusing system which is just cumbersome and slower to the point you miss your shot unless you trust your instincts. I started to really see value in range focusing for street photography and i noticed how much more fluent i was getting. Set it to Iso 800-1600, don't shoot it wide open and keep the shutter speed high. Luckily we were shooting black and white TRIX film as i HATED the colours out of this thing.

But, as many of you know, and as i realised as i got more knowledgeable about film cameras, film processes and film stocks,  it became very apparent that it was not the Leica I hated but the lens i owned. A lesson for all is that, on a film camera, the Lens and the film used is what determines your final image. The film camera is just the box that the lens and film interact within. It was time to get rid of my cold, overly sharp 35mm 2.8 Zeiss (I had downgraded my 2.0 in New York when my bank card hit 0 given me just enough dollars to get through the trip)

Last weekend, after my street photography session, I stomped into The Classic Camera, bought the first camera strap i've ever loved and the traded my Zeiss in for a 28mm Leica Elmarit 2.8. On a rangefinder, the lens you use bring up framelines. 35mm ones are mid size, 50 is a smaller square and 90mm is target practice. The square is the area that will be your photo.  A 28mm however is the full width and height of the Rangefinder window. Immediately, i didn't have to do that extra thought process of making sure my story i wanted was inside the image area of the 35mm lens frame-lines. When you have the full width, you just focus and take the photo.

In only a few days of getting the right lens for me (warmer and more classic) and a strap that's comfortable and I like the look of (i'm so fickle) it has completely changed my enjoyment of my images from my Leica and the camera itslef. I haven't left the house without it since. 

I've gone from having a paperweight heirloom that emotionally will always have a place in my bag to something that i can put that time in with with fighting it.  i'm glad i stuck with it, i got to know it, and pushed through with it. It's by far the most complex relationship i've ever had with a camera. 

 If you have a film camera you don't like the photos from, it's probably the lens or the film lens combination you're working with. If you don't like the ergonomics of the film camera, it's time to get a new camera. 

I don't think there's much that would interest people in this article but the thing to take away is, having an emotional connection and excitement about a camera gets you shooting and more likely to take it out. t's not always the best camera, it might just be the one that feels right, suits your eye, looks good etc. Once you find that, you're going to take the best photos you ever will.

Dan X 

 

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STYLING OUT - HOW TO SURVIVE AND GROW AS A PHOTOGRAPHER

Now this is a blog about the future of photography or what i call 'Styling Out'

I'm all about stylised photography, stylised colour grades in films, photography and beautiful, decisive lighting to wrap it all up into beautiful final pieces. Stylised is defined as 'depicting something in a mannered and non-realistic style.' Styling your light in interesting, unnatural ways. 

This is where 'Styling Out' comes in.

Meet Mr Joe down the street. He's 24, he's been shooting on a Canon 5D Mk III. You also have a Canon 5D Mk III. You guys are killing it. Oh wait.. you're shooting on the same camera, same lenses.. how the hell is a potential client going to chose between you? Style. It all comes down to your style which, in modern days, is a combination of arguably eight things: Your predetermined plan, your eye, your location, your camera technique, your lighting technique, your make up, your styling, and your post production. Depending on a number of things, some of those will fall away but thank god.. eight things you can do to scupper your competition, eight things you can do to define your photography over the next Mr Joe. 

Here are two photos. Both by me but with different approaches - Both have their place and neither are wrong or 'bad'. This is the most basic way i could show  how we can visually execute the same visual into two different end results. This is what will make photography survive as an art-form. 

Interestingly, a lot of my work is all down to my post-production colour grades and retouch work. This all stemmed from starting as a photographer shooting on a shitty Nikon D70 in the low light, fast moving music pits of London as a 17 year old and fighting my equipment all the way from the shot to the edit. You just couldn't get anything editorial out of those early digital cameras in those situations. It was a total baptism of fire. As a result, i got incredibly good and efficient at retouching and editing my images. My post production was absolutely where my style existed and the initial camera part of photography became a 'get it down on paper' so we can get into the creative edit. That's still my speciality but my in camera work and art direction is as key now which brings up the production value and quality of the overall image.

If you're a photographer, amateur or professional, ask yourself where your photography style exists - break it down into those eight categories and outline your strength -  If you're an in camera creative or a post creative, a style creative or mua creative, a location creative or a lighting creative... or just an all rounder, work out what makes your photography your photography and pile everything you have into that and style it out. No one can touch you and the skies the limit. 

OPPOSITES ATTRACT - OML 1 (One minute lessons)

Today, i'm going to get into the opposites of photography. They don't attract at all.. that was a cheeky turn of words used to pull you in with something familiar. After that, this is all pure honesty.. pure reality and stuff i've happily (or unhappily) happened upon.

Shadows and highlights... ANALOGUE VS DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY. 

Now this is a real fucker for anyone trying to switch between the two. 

With digital, if you're going to get the exposure of the photo wrong (or want to retain information to save later) it's better to under-expose (not let in enough light) as the shadows preserve loads of detail. If you over-expose and let in too much light, the highlights are blown out forever never to be saved. Sadface. Therefore it's better to shoot under to later save a sky. This means you can get away with faster shutter speeds in low light and save it later. 

With FILM however, you need to do the opposite. Firstly, take a light meter reading exposing for the shadows (which means you'll naturally be over-exposing (letting in too much light for the mids and the highlights) and then overexpose a little more (+1 stop for portra and fuji 400h) - Highlights can be pulled back LOADS whereas if you don't let in enough light, the shadows retain very little if no information at all and will just get hella grainy and destroyed! Film has a lot of latitude to save an image that is overexposed if you get your exposure wrong so really it's so forgiving. 

NERD OUT OVER 

i lied. This is a photography blog. It's only just begun. sozzle xx

DIGITAL - I shot this way under-exposed and pulled up the shadow and retouched in contrast where i needed it. By under-exposing, i could retain all the beautiful colours i wanted and get the background that significantly brighter exposed properly and retouch the forground after to balance out the two elements. 

DIGITAL - I shot this way under-exposed and pulled up the shadow and retouched in contrast where i needed it. By under-exposing, i could retain all the beautiful colours i wanted and get the background that significantly brighter exposed properly and retouch the forground after to balance out the two elements. 

FILM - Here i metered for the bottom left corner on the burgundy sheet and it gave me a reading of 1/100 and F5.6 on my FUJI 400H. I then shot it at F4 to over-expose the frame and after i brought down the blacks and exposure in post to give me loads of beautiful contrast and a nice amount of grain but not too much or too little. 

FILM - Here i metered for the bottom left corner on the burgundy sheet and it gave me a reading of 1/100 and F5.6 on my FUJI 400H. I then shot it at F4 to over-expose the frame and after i brought down the blacks and exposure in post to give me loads of beautiful contrast and a nice amount of grain but not too much or too little.