A camera has been the vehicle I’ve used to transport me through life. It’s given me a very good source of income, a pathway to countless experiences, and a career that has never been boring. Clients continue to pay me to photograph interesting subjects, and several times a year I’m able to share and teach about a career I deeply value. I just hope no one ever realizes that I don’t consider any of it work.
“A great camera can be a frictionless part of the process, while a poor one can be a frustrating impediment.”
As I wrote a few weeks ago, a camera is simply a tool that allows me to capture light in a box and hold it there until I’m ready to see it or share it. But a camera is also an extension of my mind and intention. To that end, a great camera can be a frictionless part of the process, while a poor one can be a frustrating impediment.
My recent switch to Nikon was not undertaken without months of testing, some deep reflection about what I expect from a camera, and what I value most in a camera company.
As I’ve written, my discoveries and conclusions were a reflection of what was important to me and the kind of work I do. My conclusions won’t be important to everyone. That’s why each photographer should do their own testing and draw their own conclusions. (Many of the more than 16,000 readers of the last post were very interested in the technical aspects of the D810. I highly recommend the DxOMark database as a reference for different camera and lens combinations. It’s an outstanding resource for technical comparisons.)
The apex of my specific needs is the visual quality of the capture—primarily the tone and transparency. The last story addressed my thoughts about the D810 and why it greatly exceeded my expectations. After image quality, I then looked at the ability of the camera to adapt to my idiosyncrasies rather than forcing me to bend to it’s limitations. Choosing which direction a wheel must be turned to get a particular result, or choosing how the meter displays information in the viewfinder can make the difference between getting the picture or being distracted by mental friction caused by the camera. In this area as well, the D810 has given me more choices than I ever considered possible.
So, once I’d seen the superior quality of the files (often using my son as a test subject) and after becoming familiar with the extensive menu system and the choices within, I began to consider one other factor: the educational support of workshops and programs where I’ve been an instructor or presenter. I realized that in each case, that support has always come from Nikon. Despite the fact that I had been a Canon shooter for 10 years, my participation had been supported financially by Nikon—their direct competitor.
This was generally considered unthinkable because the very reason a manufacturer provides financial support to workshops is to build brand awareness of their brand, not the competitor’s. But, as someone from Nikon once explained it to me, “We want the best instructors no matter what brand you shoot.” In my view, that attitude says a lot about a company and their commitment to photographers—current and future.
So, my switch is now complete. After adjusting all of the new gear to the way I work, the system feels more seamless, more intuitive, more natural. And each capture is overflowing with tone and transparency. The RAW conversion process is now a playground of potential because of all of the tonal headroom contained in the files. After ten years of shooting digitally, the visual possibilities now seem much deeper than ever before.