The major landmarks in my personal camera history run as follows; Zenit-12XP, Praktica BX 20, Nikon D50, Minox LX, Ricoh GR1v (sadly KIA), an unknown SEM TLR model, Leica M6, Voigtlander RD-1s, Olympus Trip 35, Canon 5D Mrk I. Some didn’t last the distance, some were sold to make room for others, but most are still being used in one way or another.
They each have their good points and foibles. For example, whilst I love my M6 and think it is the best camera I have every used, but cannot justify the expense and time to use a film camera as my main body as much as I would like too. Also we have a one year old son; so whilst my 5D is still very versatile and able to cope with most situations, it is too bulky to take with me everywhere. Particularly when you add it to the entourage of teddies, toys, nappies, prams and lunch boxes parents cannot do without.
If undertaking project 365 taught me one thing it was if you want to improve as a photographer the only way to do so is take more photos, and you cannot take photos without a camera being with you everywhere you go. So I started to look for a compact camera which could accompany me anywhere without too many compromises to imagine quality. Here is what I ended up with:
A Panasonic GF1 with spare batteries, an external optical viewfinder and two lens; f1.7 25mm pancake and f3.5-5.6 14mm-42mm
So in the last 3 years mirror-less interchangeable lens cameras have become all the rage. Smaller and more compact than their big brothers; the DSLRs, these mini marvels still allow photographers to have a number of must have features.
- A respectably sized sensor so you have both a good high ISO performance and a reasonable depth of field which you don’t get with the tiny sensors in other compact cameras
- The ability to use an external flash
- P, S, A & M control over all the settings so you are able to make the decisions about the image captured rather than the camera.
- RAW capture – allowing better quality and finer grade control when processing the photograph in post-production.
A smartphone (Samsung R running Android Honeycomb)
I couldn’t live without this (I have tried) for the following reasons.
- Always on / anywhere you need it internet access – I just cannot explain how awesome this is. If you don’t have a smart phone and you are a photographer – you should. It keeps the world in touch with you and you in touch with the world. From Google to email and from weather information to travel news; the amount of information at your finger tips is stunning.
- You can post and publicise your photos instantaneously to social media or photo libraries. In today’s world the faster you are posting are more interest you will gain for your images.
- Whilst you can bemoan the quality, the ubiquity of Lo-Fi “Instagramed” photographs and lack of control over the image, I think most serious/amateur photographers would admit the camera phone is the camera which in all likelihood will be with you everywhere you go. Thereby allowing you to be able to grab those shots you might otherwise miss.
A tablet PC (Samsung Galaxy Tab 8.9) with stylus, USB and SD card port adapters
- I would say a tablet PC is probably an optional piece of kit as it doesn’t give you much over a smart phone. This is primarily because you cannot really work off a tablet for an extended period of time, I did make a damn good try at it but in the end, for me tablets can only ever supplement a PC or laptop not replace it. The lack of keyboard makes extended typing of long emails, work processing, blog posting, etc. difficult. The photo-editing apps for photographers are miles away from their desktop cousins, if you want to do anything serious like adjusting levels, messing around with layers or cloning out blemishes . Applying and fine tuning a pre-set filter is probably the tablet’s metier at the moment.
- However, as a portfolio the tablet is fabulous, especially if you have one with a high resolution. Begin able to share online photographs on a decent size screen almost makes them like physical objects again. You can hand them around, point, quickly move between photographs and discuss them with ease.
A flash defuser for the GF1’s pop up flash
The affects of built in flashes can be very harsh. Therefore the decision to spend less than a fiver to defuse the light, and thereby make that nasty little flash on your camera actually useful is a no-brainer. It is easy to fit, lightweight and a number of different styles are available to suit most cameras out there. Get one.
An off camera, optically triggered, wide angle flash
Sometimes you just need a little more fill-in flash and this delivers it in spades. To be fair it is rather crude, but once you get the distance and defusion right it is a valuable addition to your kit, adding extra umph to your photos that cannot be supplied by the built in flash alone.
A lens cloth and an air blower
Need I explain?
Two USB flash drives
If you shoot digital you can take 1000s of photos a day. Your flash cards will soon fill up and leave you high and dry. Therefore, using a couple (always always always alwaysmake a copy so you have a backup) of high volume USB flash drives you can copy you photos via your PC / tablet to your flash drives letting you shoot on without having to delete anything.
An Olympus Trip 35 film camera with flash gun, a roll of b&w film and red lens filter – I still love film photography so if I have room I always have a similar film camera with me. It is very basic, and doesn’t leave me to control much apart from framing and focusing, but if it was good enough for David Bailey then it must be good enough for everyone.
All this fits inside one bag, which actually fits inside the other bag protecting my goodies from the outside world. Allowing me to switch bags from satchel to rucksack in the blink of an eye.
What is missing?
- A horseshoe mounted flash for the GF1. I am not 100% happy with the popup flash and defuser combination so one day I will have to get a proper external flash gun for the camera. Which will unfortunately completely unbalance the whole thing.
- Two external flash guns with remote radio triggers. I do have these but they have never left the house. Just too heavy and I have so far never needed them.
- Tripod, whilst I do have one of the middle sized gorillapods that can clip onto the outer bag. I only pick it up if there is a chance I’ll be shooting at night. In addition I have found a small bean bag sometimes more useful than tbe gorillapod. As the gorillapod is so small it tends to have to be rested on something to get the right height and often it is just faster to slap down the bean bag if you have something of the right height. Of course if you don’t have horizontal surfaces the gorillapod can help if you have a handy railing, post or bar nearby. However, I always find it fiddly to keep the gorillapod tightly rapped and so point the camera in the right direction whilst gravity tries to make it take pictures of the ground.
Lastly If I 100% know I will be out at night and I have a car to hand then a far better manfrotto tripod comes along.
- Whilst the two android devices data cables also double as USB chargers I do carry three wall chargers for the camera, tablet and phone. What with the extra weight and the cables ability to spaghetti in the bottom of a bag so it is just easier to leave these at home or in the hotel room.