We Loved Our Nikons And We Still Switched

I started writing about my feelings and why we didn’t stay with Nikon. Then I deleted everything and started again. This time I didn’t want to provide emotional excuses to explain why we did it. Except for one. I’ll be loyal to a company I believe is compromised to provide their customers with the best service and options. A few years ago I worked for a giant consumer electronics company. The owner always believe that customer service was one of the most important assets the company had. Customer service is very expensive. But the return you get is much bigger.

Earlier this year we decided to buy a Sony mirrorless camera and a lens and wait for Nikon to release their own mirrorless camera. Our Nikons had been great and we wanted to stay with them as long as they were to release a good mirrorless camera. Finally they released two. The Z6 and the Z7. They looked amazing. But we decided to still switch to Sony.

How did we make that decision?

1. Lenses. This one is big. Years ago we use to shoot with Canon. Their lenses are solid. Our Nikon lenses were never close to the built quality of Canon lenses. I’m only talking about the way they feel. And Sony lenses feel just as solid as Canon’s. Nikon is not launching a camera with a decent amount of native new lenses. Instead, Nikon sells an adapter to use legacy lenses with their mirrorless cameras. Here is where Nikon’s customer service could have gone above and beyond. It should have been free for existing Nikon shooters. We could have been using our Nikon lenses. But eventually we were going to want to change to mirrorless lenses. They were not only going to take a very long time to be released. They were also more expensive.

2. Adapters. You can use a lot of different manufacturer’s lenses on Sony cameras. It’s not the same with Nikon. It’s difficult to find adapters for other lenses to be used with Nikon cameras.

3. Only one slot for memory card. This item has been very controversial online. A lot of people just get upset to hear that anyone is mentioning it. It was important for us to have two memory cards in our camera for back up. It may not be important for other people.

4. This was their first attempt to mirrorless. I learned the hard way to not buy into a brand new generation of anything. We were going to just get one camera and wait until new generations came out.

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Does our Sony produce better photographs? You make great photographs. Our cameras are just tools. Most of them produce amazing results in the right hands. Here you see two different photographs taken with two different cameras and lenses. I can’t say one is better than the other one.

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Like all tools, we are going to find pros and cons. And we went with the tool that had the most pros for us. You may be thinking about buying any of the cameras discussed here. I gave you the reasons why we moved to Sony. Your needs and your preferences will guide you to get the camera system you need.

Searching For a New Light Meter

Several months ago I started noticing that the reading from my light meter was giving me a bit of an underexposed photo. At that point I was transitioning from Nikon to Sony. I wasn’t sure if the problem was more around the way Sony exposes.

A few weeks ago I went to use the light meter. it gave me an underexposed error when reading for a flash. Regardless the distance to the flash and the flash power. A couple of days after, it started to give me a reading. But this time was way off. And when measuring for ambient light, it was underexposing for close to two stops.

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I forgot to mention that my light meter is a Sekonic L-358. It’s been a great tool for the last, I don’t know, 10 years maybe. The meter can be calibrated to +/- 1 stop in 1/10 increments. There is also an exposure compensation setting that can be change. Both were in 0. Using a white balance target and two cameras I compensated the exposure 1 2/3 stops. I called the service department for the company that distributes Sekonic in the US and I was giving a quote of close to $90 to calibrate it. And more in case needed to service the electronics inside it. Based on the history of issues I started thinking that it was possibly not worth sending it in for service. And instead looking for a new one.

I couldn’t find much useful information about different light meters online. It wasn’t like searching for almost everything else related to photography. Camera technology has advanced a lot for the last 20 years. Cameras are doing a great job metering. But when it comes to setting up flashes I find that a light meter saves me a lot of time. I found many forums where photographers were posting that a light meter is a tool of the past and there is no need to use one any longer.

That may be why there aren’t many good options for light meters now a days. If you do a search on B&H there are essentially three manufacturers. Gossen, Kenko and Sekonic. And based on my needs, I narrowed the search to three different models, one from each brand. The Gossen DIGISKY, the Kenko KFM-2200, and the Sekonic L-478D.

Gossen had a great reputation in the past. Lately the reviews for all their light meters aren’t great. They don’t seam to have the same level of quality any longer. Based on the reviews, the plastic they use today is on the cheap side. Plus the company seams to not stand behind their products. The reviews for the DIGISKY were awful. So it was the first one to exit the list.

Kenko is producing those Minolta meters that everyone used to love. But many of those Minolta users say that they are not what they used to be. It was difficult to make a case for it. Then the price. I couldn’t find reviews for it and at $500, it was the most expensive of the three. I wasn’t ready to spend the money on it.

I got the meter I didn’t want. I got the Sekonic. After my meter failed, I wanted to try something else. I also don’t like it is touch screen. Some things are better with buttons, like a TV or cable remote. A light meter falls in that category for me.

I feel that this has been a very negative post. I feel bad. Since I couldn’t find more information about choosing light meters on the internet, I felt that I needed to write about it. It was one of those time that I didn’t chose something because I really liked it, but because there wasn’t much to choose from.

What do I like about the new meter? I like the size. It’s smaller than my old light meter. And it uses AAA batteries. I have never been a fan of CR123a batteries. They are expensive and hard to find.

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What don’t I like? I don’t like to touch screen. I still think that buttons and dials made it easier to use. Changing ISO, F Stop or Shutter Speed is more difficult. Those controls should have been bigger. Just look how my finger covers the numerical value and it’s hard to see what I’m selecting. And in most cases I go past the number I wanted. confirmed what I was thinking about the touch sensitive screen. I also liked the pouch of the old unit much better. I almost forgot. There is a boot up time for this unit. It’s only 3 or 4 seconds. If it wasn’t for the touch screen, that wouldn’t be needed. The old unit was ready as soon as it was on.

Please email me if you have questions. I’l be happy to answer any questions.

Sony A7R III. My impressions

On my last blog post, I promised I was going to give you my impressions after a few weeks of playing with it. This is by no means a review of the camera. It is just my personal opinion about it. I’ve been using it personally to get used to it and learn it. But I have also done a good amount of client’s photo shoots.

What I like:

  • I appreciate the that she is smaller and lighter than my Nikon cameras. She feels really good in my hands. I used to not to bring my Nikon due to its size and instead rely on my phone to take any possible pictures, quite often. Now I tend to bring my new Sony. It may be because it's a new toy. But I do believe that it's mostly because of its size.
  • The button layout is pretty intuitive. All the buttons are easy to get to and I have all the buttons that I need for the functions I normally use. But, there are still a couple of things I don’t like about them. I will explain that further down. 
  • Over 90% of the time I shoot tether or I use a CamRanger to send the pictures to the computer. The Nikon D750 has built-in WiFi. But it's almost unusable. The D810 doesn't even offer that feature. Sony did a much better job with the WiFi in the A7R III. I can work wireless with my phone or an iPad, I don't even need a computer. I can compose using the live view on the phone/tablet, I can change some settings and I can review the pictures. Also when I'm in the road not shooting for a clients and I snap a good picture, I can download it to the phone and share it online in a matter of seconds.
  • I love the options that I have to auto focus. I can slide my thumb through the display and select the area where I want the camera to focus. In some cases the camera has been a little bit slow to respond. I also love the joystick to select the focus point. I used to have a similar joystick on my Canon cameras. I also love the amount of focus points spread around the screen. Nikons have a great autofocus system. But they don’t cover the entire view finder. That forces me to focus and recompose.
  • I imagine I don’t have to talk too much about the image quality and low noise capabilities of this camera. It is just as good or better than the Nikons are. As well as the dynamic range. I haven’t done any night time photography yet. I know the files are not compressed. And even if uncompressed files are huge, they can give us a better opportunity to recover details on areas where we could have had a lot of noise on compressed files

What I think can improve:
Like any product out there, there are cons. In this case, the cons are not significant enough to stop me from buying it again. But I’ll still like to mention them.

  • Not everything about the WiFi is great. I think Sony still can improve how it works. When changing shutter speed, aperture or ISO, the response is quite slow. It can take a second or two to respond to a single change. It’s a lot faster to change settings in the camera itself. I can't focus using the tablet/phone. Focus stacking, silent shooting, HDR are just a few more examples of many possible features that I would be nice to have in the app.
  • I only use the auto focus button on the back of the camera. The first function I changed in the Sony was to stop auto focusing with the shutter button. The new position of the video recorded on the new Sony A7R III is very close to the auto focus button. A lot of photographers and videographers like the new position of the button. Not me. There's been many times that I have press the record button by mistake when I'm trying to use the auto focus button. In this case, I don't think time will help. The buttons are too close to each other for my taste, and I know I will keep pressing that button by mistake. It is a bigger issue than what most people will think. Mostly because it takes a few seconds for the camera to stop recording and I may lose the opportunity to take a picture.
  • Another thing I haven't been too happy with, is the menu structure. It reminds me a lot of how Cannon used to set up the menu. Menus in general regarding of what camera are use are going to be difficult. But I think Nikon had a more intuitive menu structure than other camera manufacturers I have used. In some cases she has taking minutes to find the menu items I need. There has been cases that I have to go to the sonic owners guide to find how to change something in the menu. I have spent a big amount of time trying to learn the menu yet I don’t think I would remember where all the functions I need are.
  • The lenses for it are really pricey. So far I’ve only been using one lens. It’s a Sony 90mm macro. At the time I purchased the camera, I decided that I wasn’t going to buy any more lenses until I was convinced i was going to keep the camera. Like I said before, I’ll wait for Nikon to come out with a mirrorless camera.
  • One thing that is great but at the same time it may not be as great is the viewfinder. Confused yet? Let me explain. Using an electronic viewfinder is great because it shows you how the exposure will be before you take the picture. It’s great to have that preview. Only if you are not going to be using flash. The great majority of my pictures are taken on a studio environment or I use flash as a fill light. It can get really dark in the studio and at that point I can’t see anything at all through the viewfinder. 

Feel free to email me with questions of the camera. I’ll be more than happy to share any experience I’ve had with it. That will also help me with items to write a future blog post.

I love using this camera. I had a big expectations for it, and so far she has surpassed my expectations. It’s difficult to describe why it is such a pleasure to use the camera. It may be the size, weight, the screens, the focusing. It’s difficult for me not to make the session to switch systems all over again. I don’t want to rush that decision. Maybe the biggest issue I have is the brand name. My experience with Sony hasn’t been great over the years. I don’t think Sony has the level of customer service that I will expect out of a professional camera manufacturer.

I also love Nikons. And I want to give the opportunity to Nikon to come out with a new mirrorless camera. All the reports point that they are working on one. I imagine they will also come out with an adapter to use all my lenses on those cameras. It will save me a lot of money too. And if it is just as good as the Nikon D850, I’ll just stay with them. 

Canon or Nikon or Sony or Olympus or ...

We got a Sony A7R III

I still remember the first photographed I ever took. It must have been around 1975. I'm pretty sure I took it with a Sears easi-load 310. And believe it or not, I still have that camera. The picture wasn't great. My cousin was my model and the picture was a bit in an angle. Maybe a 30 degree angle.

My first SLR was a Minolta. And in the late 80s I also got a Ricoh. In the early 90s I sold my camera gear. It was mostly a hobby and I considered film photography expensive. In 2000 I got a point & shoot digital camera. It was awesome. I didn't need to change film to get a different ISO. No developing or paying to print 24 pictures to find a good one.

After several point & shoots, in 2007 we decided to buy a DSLR. By we, I mean, my wife and I. We had a one year old son and wanted a better camera to document our family life. That is when the passion for photography came back. It was a Canon 40D. I loved that camera. I sold it a few years ago. I wish I hadn't. I would love to have one again.

We started buying lenses and accessories. Then we got a Canon 7D. And then Canon launched the 5D. We were one of the first one to order it. We needed a full frame camera for the business. In 2015 we got an Olympus OM-D E-M1. Even thought I loved that camera, we soon realized it wasn't going to work for us. We might have gotten a lemon. The mirrorless concept is great. But the camera wasn't producing a similar quality images as our Canon cameras.

In 2016 we decided that it was time to update our cameras. We started pricing out the new equipment needed in a spread sheet. When we saw how expensive it was going to be for our business, we decided to start looking into alternatives. It's hard to believe, but the cheapest alternative was to sell all the Canon gear and go with Nikon. I still don't understand how that was possible. We ended up spending what we had planned and may be a few more dollars here and there on accessories.

Why Nikon and not Sony or Pentax? I'm sure both companies were making great products. But there weren't many good lenses for Sony. And not too many accessories for either one of them. Plus photographers that shoot with Nikon, love their cameras.

It took as a few weeks to get used to using the new cameras. I think Nikon has an advantage in image quality, dynamic range, customization and menu lay out. I think Canon makes better lenses. Canon also withholds some features that are available in cameras manufactured by other companies. One of them is rear curtain sync. It wasn't available to me when I was using a non Canon wireless trigger.

Nikon has that "je ne sais quoi" about it. It feels great every time I use it. I love those cameras. And that is important for me. But sooner or later, the time to replace those cameras will come. And the replacement will be with mirrorless cameras. In the near future, DSLR cameras will not be made anymore. We have to be ready for that.

That is not the only reason we got the Sony mirrorless camera. A lot of our work is to take pictures on location. In some cases, we need to take public transportation to get to a job site. Therefore we are always looking for lighter and smaller gear that is more convenient to transport.

We only got one lens for it. We are still testing it. We don't have conclusions about it yet. I will have more to say on the next post. In the mean time enjoy a couple of pictures. One taken with our first digital camera (it was a 3MP Sony camera) and the other one taken with the Canon 40D.

Blowing Snow

If you have been into photography long enough, chances are you have heard other photographers say that they make photographs. A photographer considers many variables and options before a picture is taken. Things like camera settings, analyzing the light, composing the picture, the position of the camera, the use of filters or other tools, the time of the day when the picture will be taken and many other things. That is why I consider photography an art. 

There are times when we are just lucky. Times when, it looks like the photograph steps in front of us. That’s what happened to me in this photograph. That bench is less than half a block from my place. I’ve seen it thousands of times. And I had never taken a single picture of it. But on this big snow storm, the wind picked and when I went out with the camera, I knew I had a picture in front of me. 

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Pictures for FC Bayern Munich

A few weeks ago Global Premier Soccer (GPS) called us to take pictures for a press release FC Bayern Munich (FCB) was going to publish on their website. FCB was extending their partnership with GPS. A partnership that started back in 2014. 

Bayern Munich just won the 2016-2017 Bundesliga bringing it to a total of 27 times in history. 18 times more than any other professional team in Germany. They have also won the UEFA Champions League 5 times. It's one of the biggest Football Clubs in history. It was founded in 1900 by 11 Football players and it's based in Munich Bavaria.

You can read the entire press release "here". 

These are our pictures that got published in the press release.

Practice Makes Perfect

Nowadays, almost all of us, carry at least one camera with us all the time. That means everybody is taking pictures constantly. Just look at Facebook's picture upload numbers. Their users uploaded 350 million pictures per day in 2016. It wouldn't be happening if it wasn't for smart cell phones. And it wouldn't happen if it wasn't for digital photography.

When I changed from film cameras to digital cameras, back in 2001-2002, I remember being impressed by how quick I had access to the pictures I was taking. Back then, I only needed a computer to process those pictures and they were ready to be shared or printed.

Today, pictures I take with my SLR can even be processed in a portable device, like a tablet or a phone. There are no excuses not to take pictures all the time. Using our cameras constantly is the best way to get better at taking pictures. Practice makes perfect.

When we practice constantly we get better at many things.
We learn how to use our cameras. I'm one of those who reads an owner's guide for almost everything I buy. I also watch YouTube videos that teach me how to use the different functions in my camera. But the only way not to forget how to use the camera is using it constantly. One more thing is that our fingers learn where to go to go to press the right button only with practice.
We start seeing things with an artistic eye.
Since we are practicing constantly, we have a better chance to get great pictures all the time.
We are always finding ideas of what to take pictures of. It can be hard to find subjects initially. But it starts getting easier and easier the more we practice.

We don't only have the cameras on our phones with us all the time. We also try to bring our SLR camera everywhere we go. The picture bellow wouldn't have been possible if we didn't have it with us. We saw the girl in the hammock reading a book and we knew it was a great opportunity for a picture. 

Interior Design

We were contacted by a construction company that was designing and building their new website. They wanted to focus on building a portfolio of their most recent finished jobs. After a couple of meetings and some planning, we started the process of taking the pictures at each of the locations they chose. 

To take the picture below, we first scouted the place, turned on all the lights in the home, dimmed the brightest of them and set up the camera to get the best angle and composition for what we wanted to show. Once we had the camera in place, we set the lighting. This was the task that took the longest. We wanted to make sure that the entire place was illuminated and avoid dark areas. Most importantly, we needed to highlight the features that the constructors wanted to show. Just before we took the picture, we started the fire in the fireplace

Photographing Twins

For the last three years, we have been photographing these beautiful twins. Now I can identify them more and more by their personalities. Even though, sometimes it is hard to tell them apart . They are both very cute. They love playing with each other. One of them seems to be more adventurous than the other.  I bet, she gets more in trouble. The other one is more introvertive.   I love to see how much children change from one year to the next. How their faces change. And how their personalities start to shape. 

Family Photography

This is one of my favorites photos of one of our recent family photo sessions. I loved working with the Parson's family. Their baby was really cute. His blue and smile were beautiful. When Rachel contacted me, I got very excited when she mentioned that they wanted to include their dog in the session. Growing up, my family always had dogs. They were very important in my life. So, I can really appreciate how important it was for them to include their dog in the picture. 

Photographing Interiors

Last week I had the pleasure of taking some interior photos from a beautiful home that Cara Hulme is listing in Newton, MA. This was the first time we worked together. It was a very nice experience. The house had lots of windows and skylights that allowed a lot of natural light to come in. 

Zip Lining in Boston

What a perfect way to end February vacation! With the beautiful weather that we had this past Saturday, we decided to go to Boston for a walk along the river. The first think that our kids noticed was the new play space at the Esplanade. Of course, we had to stop there. They had so much fun zip lining and climbing the spider web. We also had fun taking pictures of them. For this particular photo, a slow shutter speed was needed to show some action of our son riding the zip line.   

Cheese And Wine

This is one of our latest work. There are many differences between photographing people and products. People can communicate their emotions and how they are feeling with their facial and body expressions. Products don't. So, we need to set them up in a way that  we can communicate the emotions and mood we want them to represent. We love doing product photography. It is challenging. 

Memories From Last Winter

Last week we decided to make our family photo book of 2015. When we were going through our pictures and selecting what we wanted for the book, we came across this picture. It is one of our favorites images from last winter. It not only brought memories of how much snow we had in February but most importantly, memories of how much our kids enjoyed playing in the snow. We certainly are not looking forward to getting that much snow, but it would be nice to have just a little bit for us to play outside.

Dreams

This is one of our favorites photos from a recent family photo sessions. I love how serene and beautiful Bella looks laying on the ground as if dreaming and enjoying the sun and the outdoors. She was great to work with. She was very sweet and had a very positive attitude towards the photo session. 

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Holiday Photo for Boston Gourmet Chefs

 

For the second year, we were invited by Boston Gourmet Chefs to take a photo for their holiday card. This year's theme was the 1920's. The goal was to send a message to their clients to celebrate with the company this holiday season,  showcasing their products. To achieve this, we researched the photography style and lighting from the era. The set up was designed as if they were together in a party with their clients. The four of them were posed around the table while enjoying  a glass of champagne. We illuminated the table from above with a softbox with a grid. Then, we illuminated  the four of them using three more lights with grids to avoid light spilling to the walls. We needed to focus on the people as well as the food. . Therefore in post production, we decided to separate the two things we needed to show by giving the photo an effect with grain and sepia colors to show some age to them. And we left the table with food with natural colors, This allowed the viewer to focus on both the people and the beautiful hors devours well.

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End of Soccer Season

It was the last day of the kids soccer season. Like every Saturday, kids were very excited to play a match. And we had our camera there to document it. This is one of our son’s teammates. He loves to play soccer and to move the ball around. He is also very athletic. His moves are strong.

We captured most of the match. It is great to photograph kids sports. And like any kind of photography, it is challenging. You need a fast shutter speed. Maybe a higher ISO setting. And you need to set up the camera to track movement when it is focusing. A telephoto zoom is a must and a monopod is a great tool to have.  Make sure you know the sport you are going to photograph. It’s important to anticipate the moment and to know what is the best angle to photograph from. Look at sports magazines to know the angles sports photographers use. Stay out of the way of the athletes. And mind the background. A beautiful picture of the athlete with a trash can on the background will ruin the picture. 

Product Photography - Smoothies for SooGood

We have a  passion for photography and a passion for good and beautiful food. Put those two together and this is what we get. We love to make food photography. We enjoy working with different textures, shapes and colors of food.  We are very detail oriented. That is key to do any kind of food photography. We are currently working on taking photos for SooGood. A smoothie and coffee place that recently opened its doors in Natick, next to Planet Fitness. 

"It's Fun In Fall"

Fall is beautiful in New England. The weather starts to get colder. Leaves start to change their colors and trees lose their leaves. Kids play in the park wearing warmer and colorful clothes that contrast with the leaves. The sun is at a lower angle. That means the light from the sun is warmer. And once we combine all of them together, it is simply the perfect time to make photography.

While I was writing this post, my son sat next to me. He read it, and said, "it needs more". He started to dictate what he thought we needed to say. "It's fun in fall. The leaves start to change their colors. It gets colder. Kids  like to play in leaf piles. It's the perfect time to have some fall fun. Also, birds fly south for the winter to survive in a warmer place like Florida. Because it never snows there or get even colder"

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Fall Family Photos

With trees changing colors and leaves falling on the ground, the scenery is more and more interesting for family photography. All around becomes warmer and inviting. It is one of the best times of the year for portraits. Also, a great opportunity for thinking on photos for holiday cards. Give us a call soon at 508-964-0430 to schedule your photo session before the colors are gone. We are offering full photo sessions and mini sessions as well.