Here is the third in a series of portraits that I’ve done this week at Austin Fashion Week. These photos were taken on Monday at the Adore Makeup Boutique and Salon. I used the same equipment as the first two salon portraits, the Canon 7D, a 50mm f1.4 lens and an external Canon Speedlite 430EX. Nothing ground breaking; the last two sessions went well so I followed the same formula for this one.
I own several different cameras (Canon 7D, Olympus Pens and Sony NEX-5) with a set of lenses for each. When I switch cameras or get a new lens, I tend to stick with it for a while. It gets me familiar with the equipment especially when I use the same setup several times in the row. The feel of the camera, the placement of the controls and the angle of view through the lens can vary a lot. I need some time with each permutation to have it stick in my head. Until recently, I’ve used my set of Olympus Pen cameras for a lot of urban architecture and street shooting. The Olympus E-P3 and the Lumix 14mm f2.5 have been my most use combination for the last several months.
My friend asked me why I wasn’t using my Olympus for the fashion week shoots. He seemed a bit surprised that I broke out the Canon 7D. Two simple reasons really. The first and most important is that I own an external flash for the 7D and I don’t have one for the Olympus. These Fashion Week venues can vary quite a bit; you never know what kind of conditions to expect. Part of the fun and challenge is to bring a well thought out set of gear to partially anticipate the situation as well as to be flexible. As much as I love my Olympus gear, I’m not setup for these kind of environments. Shooting in darker, slow-moving scenes in the middle of the city, no problem. My Olympus gear can handle that. But when I need good powerful light bounced off a ceiling, my Canon setup is already available for this sort of shooting. Reason two is that I’m having a heck of a lot of fun doing shallow depth of field portraits. That 50mm f1.4 gives me that look that my current Olympus lenses do not.
Would the Olympus E-P3 work in these venues with a large exterior flash? Probably. My depth of field will not be as shallow but the Olympus will certainly be cable of making portraits in these locations. Of course, I would have to buy an Olympus flash but it might be fun to experiment with it in the future (though I wonder if I can use my Canon flash in manual mode?). The thing is, one of the main reasons I like the Pen series cameras is because of its small size. If I attach the large exterior flash, the size advantage is greatly reduced. In addition, the balance of the camera may not work as well. The Canon 7D is a chunky camera but the bigger body with a beefier grip work better when you add an external flash and larger lenses.
I know I’m lucky that I get to choose from several cameras to shoot with. The point of this post, in addition to showing pretty models, is that there is no perfect camera. There are certainly advantages and disadvantages to all the gear; there is a set of trade offs with each configuration. While in many ways, the Olympus Pens have become my primary, most used camera system, it does not mean they work for every situation. My Canon 7D certainly came in handy this week.
Finally, there is a set of non-technical considerations. Good or bad, there is a perception created based on the camera being used. Most people consider a person with a larger camera, more professional. This is not true of course but that’s the reality I experience. When I want to be more discreet and less visible on the street, the Olympus Pens work great. At Fashion Week, walking into a venue with a larger camera commands a bit more respect or at least parity. There are a lot of pros and amateurs with big cameras, a Canon 7D is nothing impressive, it just makes you one of the crowd. So ironically at these events, using a larger DSLR makes you more discreet. Sometimes, fitting into the crowd makes everything easier, so you can just go about your business making great images.
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