Is 2019 going to be your year of gear?

Happy New Year to you! To start off I have a question: Is 2019 going to your year of gear?

Now I’ve stated numerous times I’m not against acquiring new gear. For me it has to have a definite purpose, add something you don’t already have and for bonus points be good value.

So here are my thoughts, I fully appreciate yours may vary and that’s fine. We’re all different, if we all used the same lenses and produced similar work it would get tired very quickly 😀.

I find that at the moment my needs are met by less than a half a dozen lenses. I have a 18-55mm, a wide aperture 35mm, 70-300mm and a 105mm macro lens. Notice there are two ‘kit’ lenses in there. These are fine for what I currently shoot from a hobby point of view. They provide a good weight / value proposition for me. Also bear in mind I use crop sensor (Nikon DX) gear. All the shots on this website have been taken with what I call modest equipment.

Here’s the indecision.

The two lenses I struggle with are macro and an ultra wide. Taking the macro lens first, I tend to swing a bit like a pendulum on whether I should have one. It seems when I don’t have one I miss it. When I do have one I don’t necessarily make full use of it and may even leave it at home! It would appear my close up needs are met by a Raynox adapter which is a lot easier to carry around although admittedly not quite the same.

That brings me to the ultra wide angle lens. I tend to have an on off relationship with a very wide field of view. Over the years I’ve had various lenses in the 10-24mm range (35mm equivalent)  on my DX cameras. Having been brought up on film cameras I got use to 28mm (on 35mm film) being wide. I’ve never really been able to shake that. Perhaps I need to experiment with stitched panoramas rather than trying to get everything in a single shot.

So is 2019 going to be your year of gear?

Umm….No. In a few of my posts I promote experiences over gear. To put my money where my mouth is we already have three experiences lined up this year. Well, to be fair my lovely wife already has three lined up. Two for my birthday and a big one for a big anniversary, later in the year.

Between that and some other changes in the TMMA household I’m hoping to reverse my somewhat dry spell of photography.

Have you ever noticed that photography is a bit like exercise? The more you do the more you want to do. But when you start skipping a session here and there your motivation goes quicker than the Millenium Falcon on the Kessel Run (two points if you get the reference 😀) . It can be a struggle but somehow you have to force yourself back on track.

May you have good light for your endeavours in 2019.

It’s a balancing act

It’s a balancing act these days. My new found interest in Astrophotography has resulted in a new found interest in the weather.

Keeping an eye out for clear nights is now something I do more often. The balancing bit comes in with fitting the odd clear night around family commitments.

According to the weather forecast we are looking at cloud and or rain for the next week or so. Oh well.

Talking of balancing acts, we photographers quite often have to manage compromise. How much we spend on a piece of gear versus  have much we will use it is a common one. For hobbyists it’s harder than professionals. Why? Because a pro will look at it as a tool. Does it add value to what I do? How quick will the payback be? For the rest of us it’s more a case of want than need.

How much have you got?

Another compromise amateurs make is what gear to actually take with them on a shoot. Too much gear can lead to analysis paralysis. You have some FOMO (fear of missing out) by leaving something behind. So you end up lugging a suitcase of stuff around – just in case. Chances are you will only use one or two lenses on that hike or day out. The rest is extra weight.

OK. What do you do?

Im fortunate in that I don’t have a huge amount of gear. I balance my photography needs with the needs of the family. (Plus the wife keeps an eye on the spending😀).

I’ve got less than half a dozen lenses for my Nikon DX body. I can usually leave a couple of lenses at home without too much anxiety. If I’m really unsure I might leave them hidden away in the car.

My CX kit is a different kettle of fish. I can cover (the FF equivalent of ) 28 – 300mm in three pocketable lenses with not much weight. Whenever I’m out I always carry a spare battery for whatever body I have. In reality I very rarely use it though. Theres that FOMO again.

More often than not my balancing act is do I take the DX or CX kit. If I’m going out for potential wildlife shots I.e. birds, dragonfly’s etc, I’ll take the DX kit with a CX body and FT-1 adapter. More urban adventures and I’ll take the CX gear.  Hiking it could be either. Or a combination. In some ways I’m glad I don’t have more.

In choosing the right gear your balancing what you think you’ll shoot against what you’ll actually shoot. A planned day out for photography can make that choice easier, but  how many times have you grabbed a camera bag to go out ‘somewhere’ because the sun is shining? Or your just going out anyway. I have to admit I do that all the time.

Sometimes I get some reasonable shots, others the gear just stays in the bag and I enjoy a day in the sunshine.

Whatever your up to may you achieve a suitable balance.

Where will Nikon stop?

Where will Nikon stop? With the 1 series and the Keymission discontinued will Nikon stop there or is a bigger repositioning coming?

No this isn’t about their new mirrorless camera and teaser campaign.

Nikon as well as other manufacturers have stated they want to sell more higher value items. It would appear the consensus is to sell fewer units at a higher price. Whether you agree or not there is a subtle shift in nudging prices higher.

Nikon have effectively discontinued their Keymission and 1 series cameras. DX hasn’t really seen a lot of love lately either. They seem to have an issue running three different lens ranges at the same time. CX, DX and FX fought against each other. People in the FX camp didn’t like resources being used on DX 18-xxx zooms. To be honest people in the DX camp would have liked some primes instead of those zooms as well. Same for the CX camp.

Now we have a potential new mount for the upcoming mirrorless cameras. That puts us back to three different ranges again. DX, FX and what everyone seems to be calling Z mount.

I cannot see how Nikon would be able to manage to satisfy the conflicting demands this will cause. They will want to put resources into a new release – fair enough. They will also want to maintain the FX range (for now) and keep those shooters happy.

That brings us to DX.

Has the APS-C format had its time as far as Nikon is concerned? Anything smaller and you have a comprehensive range of m43 gear to choose from with various body styles and lenses. Fuji provide a good APS-C alternative. Larger formats are also provided for. Do Nikon want or even need to compete in this market segment anymore? There is certainly volume but are the margins still there? Will they just neglect the DX range like they did with the 1 series?

Nikon D70
Nikon D70 – The camera that started my DX path.

If Nikon wanted to stop their presence in the APS-C arena, now would seem like a good time to do it. R & D effort and manufacturing could be assigned to the newer mount and mirrorless range. Production resources may also be freed up and diverted to a range that could have potentially greater rewards for Nikon. Time will tell if they are going to give up on DX, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see a shift in focus away from the smaller format. On a side note – did / has Sony done a similar thing with their A mount?

Prices are going up.

Gear prices are rising across the board. Some consumer bodies have gone up by £100 in a year. New releases appear to be asking higher and higher premiums. Lenses are seeing increases as well. We have enjoyed an era of low(ish) costs unfortunately that is now coming to an end.

Photography is getting more expensive at a time of falling sales in the industry. For pros  it could mean putting prices up to cover costs. For the other end of the market there could be a shift to secondhand rather than new. As pre owned values increase even more people could call it a day and just use their phone. Camera manufacturers still seem to be dragging their feet around the connectivity / workflow issues. Will the new Nikons address this?

I’m not convinced that the upcoming mirrorless offerings from Canon and Nikon (or the response from competitors) will be enough to reverse the downward trend on a sustained basis. Sure there is going to be some excitement for a while, but longer term who knows? Younger generations prefer a smartscreen to a focussing screen (or EVF).

Makes you wonder what we will be saying in a couple of years.

Whatever gear you have – or are about to get – enjoy your photography….

New toys

New toys  are being announced in the photography world.

First we have Nikon with their D850. Initial impressions suggest this will go down well.  Although there is slight annoyance at the asking price in different parts of the world. It seems the USA are getting the best deal at the expense of Europe and Australia. Other than that the D850 could well be a winner for Nikon.

In the Olympus world we have the pending announcement of the OMD EM 10 mk iii. This on the face of it, appears to be a somewhat lack lustre incremental upgrade to the mk ii. See, it isn’t just Nikon that gets criticism for so so upgrades 😀

I am intrigued to see what Fuji do with their upcoming XE-3. This might rekindle my interest in Fuji. I quite like the XE form factor, although I understand Fuji took some persuading to do the XE-3.  I  still think  Fuji ask a premium for their gear.

Speaking of overpriced, Apple might release not one, not two, but three new iPhones in September. There could be a new iPhone 7s, 7s plus and an iPhone 8. The 8 could be pushing the $1000 dollar mark.  Speculation on the UK pricing putting it it the same region as the Samsung Note 8, around £870 pound. That’s a lot of money for a phone, pushing £50 a month on contract. I thought phones were getting expensive when they hit £35-40 a month.

You up for anything?

I’m not in the market for the D850.

I was hoping the OMD EM 10 mk iii could be something I would look at, not sure at the moment though.

The XE-3? Perhaps, depending on connectivity ( Am I the only person who wants a dedicated GPS, from Fuji? ) but I can’t help thinking the price could put me off.

My better half might take a peek at the iPhone 7s. If they don’t do a purple version I can’t guarantee anything though 😉.

Whichever way you look at it there are some new toys coming, whatever your into, have fun.

 

It’s not just about gear or photos

It’s not just about gear or photos. Make it about the subject or the experience of just going out. I recently met some interesting and friendly people during my outdoor photo sessions.

 

A couple who had just moved to the area were paying their first visit to the local nature reserve. We were talking about the lack of dragonflies around the haunt amongst other things. Funnily enough, at another reserve a few miles away the dragonflies were quite active.

Another couple were enjoying a day out. They were on holiday.

One chap was talking to me about how the local wildlife had changed over the years. He also showed me a book he had some photos published in. Interestingly he didn’t shoot digital.

You can pick up a lot of information from people who know the local area and wildlife better than you do.

These conversations had a couple of things in common. It was obvious that people were more passionate being out and about than stuck behind a computer screen. Discussing different aspects of photography ‘out in the wild’ is always more enjoyable. Especially when it’s a gloriously warm and sunny day. There was a free and welcome exchange of ideas and information. No one upmanship here, being helpful was the order of the day.

Gear didn’t really come into it. Apart from a ‘see your shooting digital, im shooting film’. How refreshing!

Sometimes as photographers we forget that cameras are just tools to enable the taking of pictures. Without the knowledge of where to take photos, the tools become less useful.

Talking to people when out is part and parcel of the photographic journey. Sometimes I help people out, sometimes I’m learning from people with more specific knowledge on a locale or subject.

Most of the time though it not just about the gear…

Easter is here

In the UK Easter is on top of us and the children are home for their school / college break.

The flowers are starting to bloom, trees are getting their leaves and everything just feels fresher. We have had a couple of really hot sunny days, the weather now back to more normal temperatures together with a generous helping of clouds.

As photographers we never really seem to be happy. The light is not quite right, there are too many clouds / no clouds (delete as required), there are too many tourists in the shot.

It’s just not the weather that irks us either. Camera manufacturers are trying to stop declining sales. They can’t seem to set a foot right. There must be very few photographers who actually, really need what is being demanded from these companies. For most people I think it is probably a bad attack of GAS. For some reason a lot of people expect meaningful updates in their gear on a more regular basis than a smartphone.

I have seriously cut down on how frequently I visit ‘gear’ sites. Mainly because I’m not in the market for anything. Plus the fact that the more I read the less inclined I am to spend the money on something that in all probability won’t actually improve my photography.

However you spend you Easter can I encourage to get out and use the gear you have. That way at least you will know if can’t do anything with your current set up rather than just think you need something new.

Enjoy your Easter.

Don’t forget a backup. You just might need it.

Backup. Don’t forget a backup. We’ve all heard it. Many times. Backup memory cards, batteries, bodies. When you get home backup your images. At least once.

But how often do we heed the advice. I nearly always carry spare cards and batteries but a body? Generally unless I’m on a client shoot I don’t always have a spare body. I know what you are going to say next. Why not? Because when it’s just me out and about I often travel light and leave the spare at home. After all if your up the side of  a mountain and the spare is in the car is there any point in having it? And no, I’m not carry two bodies up a mountain, just in case.

Unfortunately on a recent shoot for a client I did require a spare. The body I was using started acting up. Don’t know why. After a couple of dodgy shutter actuations and no response on the rear screen I wasn’t sure if the camera was actually recording images. So I turned to the spare. Grateful that I had one and brought it with me.

After so many times of not needing a backup…..I needed one. Backups are like insurance policies. It only gets interesting 20 seconds after you need it 🙂

So I will continue carrying backup bodies, batteries, cards and everything else I think I might need for a client.

For my personal use, out on a hike?  My phone will make do for that.

 

Photography and minimalism

I don’t know why but recently I am reading a lot about minimalism.

There appears to be a multitude of ways on how to go about living with less. Some say get rid of everything except the essential and most precious items. You could even consider downsizing your house. Because it’s almost empty now, right?  🙂

Others live by the ‘ if I haven’t used it in a year do I need it ?’ philosophy. Some might go along the 33 items in a wardrobe route.  The more I read the more I relate to, at the very least cutting out consumerism and waste.

I am moving more to the idea of conscious consumerism. Really thinking about whether I need something or want it. A more thoughtful route to making a purchase, not just doing research on the product. Truth be told I’ve worked along these lines in terms of my photographic gear for a while now. It just hasn’t been ‘labelled’.

The smartphone - Ultimate minimalism for a camera setup ?
The smartphone – Ultimate minimalism for a camera setup ?

Marketing departments are always trying to get us to buy the latest and greatest. To be fair western society is essentially based on consumerism. Just take a look at the fashion industry. ‘That’s soooo last week darrrling’. Mobile phones is another one that comes to mind. Although I think you could lump them in with fashion to a certain extent.

So for a variety of reasons I’m applying a minimalist approach to my photography gear. What I have now I could call a minimal kit. It also means I don’t have gear anxiety when I go anywhere. Should I have brought that lens or this etc, as it can all fit in one bag. To go ‘really minimal’ you could also look at a fixed lens camera or even a smartphone. On occasions I just use my smartphone and it can be quite liberating. Especially when out with the other half.

Like a lot of things in life – politics, religion, jobs, lifestyle – what is right for one person isn’t right for another. But we are fortunate that generally we have a choice.

Some may not like the idea of minimalism at all, some may embrace it with a vengeance.

Who knows perhaps my minimal approach to photography might manifest itself into other aspects of my life.

 

(For further reading on minimalism you could try http://www.theminimalists.com as a starting point).

 

Belated Happy New Year

A belated Happy New Year to everyone.

I hope your end of year celebrations went as planned. We had a busy start to the year, some personal and website issues needed sorting and I think were now back on track.

This year I hope to indulge in more macro photography, we will see how that goes.

The camera manufacturers won’t want to hear this but…. I can’t really see me making any big purchases in 2017. I’m not replacing any bodies (unless something unforeseen happens) and the same probably goes for the lenses. What I have does the job for now. Although I don’t consider myself a gear head I might do an article on my current gear bag soon. For the time being I have other things to spend the hard earned on.

Anniversary year.

I will be watching to see how Nikon celebrates its 100th Anniversary. Some are hoping for a new model or two maybe even a mirrorless DX or FX. On Nikons past experience they are probably trying to figure out how to release a mirrorless without losing sales of their other models. Perhaps they will surprise us, more likely they will do the  same old, same old.

If you added to your equipment list most of all don’t forget to get out and use it.

Sometimes the period after Christmas into the New Year can be a bit …. meh.