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kyle cassidy

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What Kind of Camera Do You Use? [Aug. 11th, 2010|05:51 pm]
kyle cassidy
[mood |accomplishedaccomplished]
[music |rammstein: paparazzi]

What kind of camera do you use?

Since this one gets asked every month or so, I'll try and give a definitive answer here.

I have an equipment problem
I'm always impressed when I see someone who takes fabulous photos who has only one camera. I realize they're focused on their art, they have a great vision, they have the tool they need, and that's it. I'm really the opposite, I'm a total equipment hog. Whenever I see a photo taken with some bit of gear that I don't have I think This is why my photos suck! Because I don't have a (softbox, beauty dish, 300 f2.8, wireless flash trigger, camera that shoots 7fps, etc) and I go out and buy one and maybe my pictures get a little better but then I'm always confused as to what to use.

Whatever it is, make sure it's digital
I went digital in 2000 when I got a Nikon Coolpix 950 point and shoot I got it because it was the only camera I could find (apart from the Nikon D1 which came out the same time but cost $5,000) that had a flash sync built in. For a while it was the only camera I really used much because digital was so convenient.

I shot this photo of Carfax Abbey with it:

Clickenzee to Embiggen

This image is a 729k jpeg taken on a 2 megapixel camera and it remains one of the best band photos I've ever done. I have a 40x50 inch enlargement of it hanging in my kitchen and nobody ever says "This looks a bit funky, did you take it with a two megapixel camera or something?" -- it's got a good idea behind it and it's relatively well pulled off.... But there were downsides to the 950 -- lousy battery life, no interchangeable lenses, etc. etc. So eventually I bought a Nikon d100 dSLR, and then upgraded that for a d200, and that for a d300, and the d300 got stolen on a train in 2008 and I upgraded to a d700 which is what I use mostly now.

Why choose Nikon?
Nikon and Canon and Pentax and Sony and Minolta all make cameras that are technically similar and for the most part as good as one another. Nikon and Canon hog the bulk of the professional dSLR market however which means that if you're in a room full of photographers and you get shot in the lens by a bank robber and the lens explodes on the floor and a robot duck runs off with the pieces of it, chances are, if you have a Nikon or Canon, one of the other photographers in the room has a spare lens you can borrow. (This is true as well for battery chargers which is probably more likely but not as exciting.) It also means that there are more Nikon and Canon lenses on the used market. Which, as far as I can tell, gives a practical advantage to owning one of those. If you're in the photo-pit at the 2012 Democratic Convention or a Lady Gaga show looking for a batter charger for a Sony Alpha you're probably on your own.

On top of that, Nikon has never (not really but practically) changed their lens mount. Which means that every single lens they've made from the 1960's until today (with a few exceptions) will fit on the Nikon dSLR you buy today. Which means you can put a manual focus 300mm f2.8 lens made in 1985 on your Nikon d700 and pay $700 for it instead of $3000 for the latest autofocus model. That's what's kept me in the Nikon camp. Your mileage may vary.

OH HOW I WANT A LEICA (but not for any of the right reasons)
Although ever since I picked up a Leica M6 I never really wanted to use another camera. Oh it's beautiful. It's like driving to work in a Formula 1 race car for a year and then you lose it and someone gives you a 1984 AMC Gremlin. You're deflated, even though the gremlin has seats for your friends, a trunk to put luggage in, it gets better gas mileage, has windshield wipers, an 8 track player and a heater -- things just aren't the same. Don't ever pick up a Leica. It's like tasting the free drugs.

Anyway, everybody who's ever owned a Leica wants nothing more than a digital Leica because, seriously, who wants to muck about with film anymore? It costs a lot, it's time consuming, and by the time you get your negatives developed, the magazine's already out with someone elses photo on the cover. So they're all like coked out junkies hitting the refresh button on dpreview.com every 20 seconds waiting for the headlines that says "AWESOME DIGITAL LEICA ANNNOUNCED!" drinking coffee and twitching like nerve-gassed wasps trying to stay awake so they don't miss it when it happens.

Leica had a few false starts at making digital cameras, most of which looked like Kleenex boxes and were two years behind everybody elses technology (they seem to have done it now with the Leica M9, which is like $8,300 on Amazon. But in the meantime, Panasonic came out with a very Leica Like camera for about $700. This was more my speed and I bought one and I love it. It's really small which makes it more likely for me to carry around and it has interchangeable lenses. Here's a photo of me looking very happy with mine.

You want advice? Forget the camera, get the cool lenses
In all of these though the camera body is less important than the lenses. There are a couple of "Sweet Barking Cheese!" lenses that I use which Rock The WorldTM and are a lot more important than the camera body. The kit lens that comes with your camera is okay for a bunch of things but awesome at nothing the bang comes from your wow lenses, which do one thing really well and everything else terribly. My current favorite wow lenses are the fisheye (the DX version is the 10.5mm and the full frame version is the 16mm), the 85 f1.8 and the 80-200 2.8.

I'd always thought that a fisheye is something you use very sparingly, it sits in the bottom of your camera bag waiting till the perfect day, but after getting one, I found that I use it all the time. Especially with software like fisheye-hemi that will un-fisheye images and make them more useful ultra-wide shots with little distortion. It's awesome for getting a whole room into a shot.

85 f.18
If I had to pick one lens, this would probably be it. (The cheap alternative is to use the 50 1.8 or 50 1.4) wide open it has a lovely shallow depth of field that just punches people in the face with THIS IS A PROFESSIONAL PHOTO. I shoot it wide open all the time.

80-200 2.8
This is the workhorse of photojournalism. There's probably no real news photographer who doesn't carry one with them ALL THE TIME. It's a beast, it's heavy, but it gets you a headshot from 15 feet back. It's the lens to photograph people on stage, press conferences, that sort of thing. The wide aperture makes it work well in low light, it's an awesome portrait lens. Most everything you can do with the 85 1.8 you can do with this, but it weighs 5x as much.

Sigma 12-24
Another lens I use ALL THE TIME is the Sigma 12-24 it's a slow, heavy lens but it's super wide and if you're shooting interiors, you may need one. I shot almost the entire Armed America book with it.

Here's Jared Axelrod and J. R. Blackwell rockin' the 12mm.

I can take a good photo with anything!
I've also gotten a bit crazy about taking photos with my iPhone. It used to be more of a challenge, but the camera on the 4g is better than my point and shoot, so I end up using it. It's still a novelty, the idea of saying "I took this with my phone" implies "I must be pretty darn cool" I like the idea of a camera you have with you all the time, I like the challenge of doing stuff without equipment

So, that's it. Feel free to chime in with your thoughts, opinions, least and most favorites, what's worked & hasn't, and do feel free to repost this or link to it.

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[User Picture]From: girfan
2010-08-11 10:08 pm (UTC)
My first camera was a 2 1/4 Yashica, but when I got the money to buy my first SLR, it was a Nikon and I've owned Nikons ever since. I do have a Fuji digital that can fit in a pocket, but also have a D40 Nikon and can use all my old lenses with it. Nikons are dependable and solidly built cameras.
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[User Picture]From: kylecassidy
2010-08-12 02:10 am (UTC)
ah, don't get me started on the medium format. i love my yashicamat 124g. it's a beautiful thing. if i shot film at all anymore, it would be this.

now you make me want to shoot film.
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[User Picture]From: briansiano
2010-08-11 11:01 pm (UTC)
I used to love my old Canon AE-1. But now, I'm in the market for a Canon T2i, mainly because of its video capabilities and qualified use of Canon lenses.
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[User Picture]From: kylecassidy
2010-08-12 02:11 am (UTC)
put a 50mm f 1.8 on a dSLR that shoots video and .... wow.
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[User Picture]From: photognome
2010-08-11 11:02 pm (UTC)
Thanks for all the insights. I love your work and I'm constantly striving to better mine. :-)

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[User Picture]From: kylecassidy
2010-08-12 02:12 am (UTC)
thank you so much!

(you seem to have a fairy beneath your fez.)
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[User Picture]From: kimmykat_______
2010-08-11 11:54 pm (UTC)

Wonderful Advice!

Thanks again, Kyle, for sharing the particulars of how awesome you are!

The tips and tricks come in handy. Now, off to find that perfect lens.

Have you been to Tempe Camera? Next time you hit this Arizona desert, maybe take a gander at the best shop this oasis has!
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[User Picture]From: kylecassidy
2010-08-12 02:12 am (UTC)

Re: Wonderful Advice!

i have not, but i've bought a LOT of stuff from collectablecameras.com in phoenix.
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[User Picture]From: harper_knight
2010-08-11 11:57 pm (UTC)
I'm no film fanatic like some of the guys at my art school, but the one thing film is good for is Large Format.. one of my favourite shots ever, I made with 4x5 B&W. In a pinhole camera made out of a plastic lunchbox, a coke can, a scrap of cardboard for a shutter and a lot of electrical tape. Even using a pinhole, I blew that sucker up to A1 and it still looks good; I could probably pull an A0 out of it if I'd had the money for printing... I might have to use a better scan.

Anyway, for everything else I use a plain old Canon 450D, which I believe is called a Canon Rebel in the states. Still using the lens set that came with it; an f4-5.6 55-250, and an 18-55. If I can ever afford to buy more lenses, an 80-200 f2.8 would be the first; that's the sort of photo I do best with a digital.
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[User Picture]From: kylecassidy
2010-08-12 02:13 am (UTC)
i'd recommend a 50 1.8 next, they're cheap and useful.
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[User Picture]From: kgb1138
2010-08-12 12:08 am (UTC)
Thank you kind sir for the photo tech. You are so generous.
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[User Picture]From: kylecassidy
2010-08-12 02:13 am (UTC)
you're welcome. i'm actually not that generous, i think of this is "ah! i'll never have to answer that one again for two years..."

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[User Picture]From: alienchrist
2010-08-12 12:11 am (UTC)
Thank you for taking the time to write this! I'm a fan of your work and appreciate the insights as someone just getting started in photography.
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[User Picture]From: kylecassidy
2010-08-12 02:14 am (UTC)
you're very welcome. i'm always overjoyed to hear that there are fans of my work. photography is a noble outlet. it will serve you well.
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From: rcmckee
2010-08-12 12:25 am (UTC)

Gotta agree with everything here

Except to add that for my day-in-day-out boil-the-pot newspaper work I can't live comfortably without my 24-70/2.8... simply because it's the most FORGETTABLE lens I've ever seen. It's a well-trained British batman... always in arm's reach, always ready for and capable of anything, totally unobtrusive, damn near invisible, and never ever makes a mistake. Makes you wonder how the hell you got along without it, while never ever taking the slightest credit for itself.

Beyond that I think the results you get from the 12-24 Sigma are somewhat better than the results I get from the 12-24 Tokina, which is good enough for newspaper but not a lot more, IME; if I were buying again I'd probably do the Sigma. Don't think it was out when I got my Tokina, though.

Don't have an iphone; if I have money soon I may get the GF1, though. Or the G1 or G2.

(Still like feeding hp5 through the M4P, though. Also fountain pens on paper. I really AM a dinosaur... I spent the evening with an archeopteryx the other day, and it was the most enjoyable evening I've had in months. He was really cool company, especially given he's been dead for 150 million years, give or take a few...)
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[User Picture]From: kylecassidy
2010-08-12 02:15 am (UTC)

Re: Gotta agree with everything here

i have a 28-70 2.8 which i use a lot. it's really sharp and i often use it with studio lights. it does a fine job, but as you said, never lets anyone know who did it.
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[User Picture]From: framlingem
2010-08-12 12:42 am (UTC)
I realize they're focused on their art, they have a great vision, they have the tool they need, and that's it.

I'm not sure about that for everyone - for me, it's that "I have this camera, it's the best one I could afford, and I blew a month's salary on it and can't afford to get more stuff, so I've worked out what the limits on it are and am focussing on what I can do well within those limits, even though one day I'd love to buy MOAR STUFFZ and experiment". (The thing I'm saving up for is a DSLR; I reckon I'll be there in about two years at current income). I have a Fuji Finepix S2000HD, which is about as good as it gets without a several-hundred-dollar price jump.

It's pretty good for landscapes, which are fun, but not so good for action shots; at least, not that I've been able to manage, which is probably as much on me as on the camera. I'd really like a DSLR so that I can use a telephoto lens and take better wildlife shots (I like birds. Birds are nervous and don't like it when I get close.)

I have a feeling that when I have a bit more money, I'll be an equipment hog.
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[User Picture]From: framlingem
2010-08-12 02:39 am (UTC)
Oh, and in terms of "what worked", I can't recommend anything to the beginning photographer (like me) more than reading the instructions that came with the camera. Amazing how much that helped. :D
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[User Picture]From: gandalfgreyhame
2010-08-12 12:43 am (UTC)
My favorite and most sensual camera is without a doubt my Leica M4. For casual use B&W film is very workable, I wouldn't want to deal with a thousand frames a month on film though.

Otherwise, yes, it's all about the lenses. My digital carry-around kit are fast 24mm and 85mm lenses and I could use just those two for quite a long while and be perfectly happy with it.

By the way, how did the behind-the-scenes shots I snapped (from your war paint shooting in Boston right before July 4th) with the GF1 turn out? I don't think I ever saw those!

Edited at 2010-08-12 12:54 am (UTC)
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[User Picture]From: kylecassidy
2010-08-12 02:33 am (UTC)
I might be back in boston this weekend for the bike run. i'll give you a shout. i still haven't really looked through anything from last time yet, they're all in focus though, i noticed that. rawk

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[User Picture]From: lawbabeak
2010-08-12 01:27 am (UTC)
Didn't your camera get stolen after you had cruelly abandoned it on a train seat, turning a tired cold shoulder to the Hello Kitty sticker pleading at you with her little eyes? I do believe you had spent a weekend photographing rock stars and were a bit brain fogged. ;P

I need a lightweight camera that's forgiving of a slight hand tremor, and the guts to start >trying< to take pictures again.
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[User Picture]From: kylecassidy
2010-08-12 02:34 am (UTC)
i had it on the seat next to me and a conductor came past and said, gruffly "NO ITEMS ON SEATS! PUT THAT UNDER THE SEAT IN FRONT OF YOU!"

and that was that.
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[User Picture]From: dilettantiquity
2010-08-12 01:30 am (UTC)
Thank you for the great post!

Heartily second the recommendation for the Sigma 12-24; it's good value for money compared to the closest Nikkor equivalent, kicks the ass of the Tokina and is generally loads of fun. I like to throw a cheap IR filter on it (oh how I love you, DealExtreme) and head out with a tripod to take gritty, eerie photographs.

The other lens that has been my workhorse for the last few years has been a Nikkor 70-300. Obviously, it's good fun for birdwatching and anything requiring a zoom, but given it's quite often the only lens I take with me when hiking, I've learned to love it for taking detail photos as well - I zoom in all the way, then back up as far as I have to so it will focus and get depth of field like this and this.

While it's true that the body is less critical than the lenses, at the moment I've outgrown my beloved old D70 and reached a level of frustration with the light sensor and focus. It was my first DSLR and taught me a lot, but I can't wait for my pro-photographer ex to upgrade his second body and sell me a hand-me-down D300. (Pro tip: marry a photographer to keep your equipment costs down!)
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[User Picture]From: kylecassidy
2010-08-12 02:33 am (UTC)
wow, you can get a filter in front of that thing? it must be the size of a pie pan.

lovey photos you have there. your d70 probably has better IR sensitivity than the d300. they've managed to filter almost all of it out anymore. sad, but it makes the pictures sharp.
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[User Picture]From: katemckinnon
2010-08-12 01:43 am (UTC)
In my struggles to choose between the currently available micro 4/3 digital cameras, the Girlfriend 1 (your Lumix) and the three Olympus Pen models, I learned an interesting fact.

Apparently the stabilization for the Lumix is built into the lenses, but the stabilization for the Olympus is built into the body. So you can strap on old yard sale and pawn shop lenses to the Oly without sacrificing stabilization. What do you think of that?

For me, the micro 4/3 format is really the only way to go, because of the lighter weight. I just have to pick one.
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[User Picture]From: kylecassidy
2010-08-12 02:31 am (UTC)
yup. you can do that. ultimately, i thought the GF1 looked nicer than the olympus and, you know, looks count.
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[User Picture]From: givemethegun
2010-08-12 01:57 am (UTC)

This is marvelous, thank you!

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[User Picture]From: albertine
2010-08-12 02:24 am (UTC)
My god the Jared Axelrod and J. R. Blackwel photo in incredible. Stunning. Question - do you think a light exposure meter is necessary? And if so, can you recommend one? Also, what flash do you use? Been saving up and was finally able to pick up the SB900 - do you think that I should stick to the 900 for the other three or it would be ok to drop down to the 600 or 800?

Thanks for your time!
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[User Picture]From: kylecassidy
2010-08-12 02:30 am (UTC)
there's an off camera flash in a sixty-three inch photek softlighter II. the light modifier is a lot more important than the light.

since i nearly always use my flashes in manual, i'd recommend you get Vivitar 285's for $85 each. I've never had a flash meter w/ digital and can't really think of a good reason to bother with one. that's what the screen on the back of your camera is for.

the sb900 works amazingly well talking to your camera, so you can use it wonderfully for on camera bouncing & whatnot, but everything else, go cheap and spend the extra $$$ on wireless triggers & softboxes.
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