a trick to clean your mirror

I just discovered something awesome. Maybe this was obvious and everybody else knows about it, but just in case you don’t: I used a sensor swab to clean a DSLR mirror.* Really wet, really gentle. And now REALLY clean! AF even improved!

*Try at your own risk! I am not responsible for any damages to your camera.

A win for DSLRs and people who enjoy concerts!

— Micah (@photomicah) July 9, 2013

I’ve been complaining about being hassled at concerts for a long time.  Especially when they’re expensive ones.  I’m incredibly discreet with a DSLR, and others are taking pictures with their phones anyway…why bother me?

More here at Imaging Resource.

Olympus Stylus not so Tough

The “Olympus Stylus Tough 3000” is not so tough inside. The zoom buttons are held together with some really flimsy plastic springs (highlighted and currently covered in a drop of crazy glue). I sure hope the OM-D is constructed better than this, because I want one someday.


The part that broke off is the round black thing that’s highlighted in the image.  For reference those are about 2mm across.  The plastic springs that both locate and return the round part are towards the middle.  The spring to the right is what broke, allowing the round part to flop around under the rubber button panel.  It could have destroyed other buttons too.

In fact, every button on the back of the camera is supported by a flimsy piece of plastic. Picture all the buttons being supported inside the way parts in a plastic model kit are attached to a big plastic ring. Yeah, like that, only 1/10th the size of that.  Kinda disappointing to see this type of design/construction.  I really think this is designed to wear out and break.  This could break flopping around in a jeans pocket.

The only thing pleasant about taking this apart was discovering that the built in memory was just a microSD card in a slot.P1030050

See it there?  It’s just right of center towards the bottom with a sharpie mark on it (from the factory, not me).  There’s a plastic tab attached to the board, so that even if you take the whole board out, you’re discouraged from replacing the card.  Well, an exacto fixed that!  The card didn’t appear to have any important software on it, but it did appear to have some auto-run software that will give you a manual in your language.  Copy that to a new bigger card and you can upgrade the internal memory!  My guess is that it’ll take at least micro SDHC, which is good up to 32gb.  I wouldn’t get too excited though, because the internal memory is accessed through an internal controller, which tends to be really slow.  So it’s a good emergency thing, but of limited daily use.

Still, neat to know you can upgrade, huh?  If you want to upgrade a camera that isn’t made to last.  C’est la vie.

Oh, and yes, I did put this back together and it works fine now.  I’m good like that.

D7100 practical bit-depth

More test results from this past week.  I already know that 14-bit isn’t any better than 12-bit at base ISO on the D700.  Well, let’s just make sure things haven’t changed with new gear.

There is (quite wisely) no “uncompressed” raw on the D7100.  But if you’re foolish enough to want to waste space, there are “losslessly compressed” and “compressed” modes, in addition to being able to select between 12 and 14 bit files.  My preference is the smallest file, since that helps the buffer dump to the card faster.  Lets see if I lose anything choosing 12-bit compressed (allegedly lossy) vs 14-bit lossless, first just comparing the overall scene before manipulation:


There’s a pretty good hot spot in between those trees.  Let’s dial down the exposure and see if one setting is capturing more in the highlights:

12 bit lossy14-bit lossless

Can you tell the difference?  There’s no posterization.  Now you can complain that the highlights didn’t blow, however, the point is that even in the 12-bit lossy version, there’s more highlight than I need.  Unless you’re doing something wrong, you probably don’t need 14-bit for highlights with the D7100.

Now let’s look at the shadows (artificially pulled up in post):


Not seeing anything different here.

Now the point is not that there’s no difference.  The point is that for actual real world shooting, there is no appreciable difference.  Don’t waste your time or card space on 14-bit files.  If the review sites were smarter or more honest, they’d tell you the same.

Of course, if you want to come up with a reproducible test with real world repercussions, please, by all means do so.  And share your results like I have!

Here’s my original raw files if you want to play with them yourself.

adventures in measurebation

So I finally got around to putting the D7100 through it’s paces…after a month of shooting with it!  I figured it was time to double check my raw presets and make sure that things were looking optimal, and then see how close I can get colors to match up between the D7100 and my D700.

And since I’m doing this all under fairly controlled conditions, why not share the results?

This is from daylight in my skylight on a clear day.  I set my 70-200 (which is performing sub-par these days, but look fine stopped down) on a tripod and used a cable release.  These are my presets, YMMV.  First at 12mp to make things fair for the D700:

Then, let’s compare at 24mp to make things fair for the D7100 (you may have to click the image, since WP wants to scale it down):

I’m kinda shocked at similar they look.  I could push settings either way to give one or the other an advantage.  The D7100 seems a bit noisier (as it should) but…not by much.  What I notice more is the corners look sloppier on the D700 with this lens.  Full size at base ISO for both here:

0_MG2_8103D700 @200

I’m probably going to repeat this or something similar with a friend and his D600.  I’ll post those results here when it happens.  Is this an ok way to present these results?  Feedback?

Dear Leica

Leica…silly, Leica. Let me tell you what people really wanted. They wanted an Epson R-D1 with some new lenses and a Leica badge.

If you spent marketing money on incorporating an EVF–instead of that goofy strip tease campaign–you could have sold them for $3,000 a pop. They’d have flown off the shelves.

Leica, I don’t get it. Are you afraid of selling volume? Are you afraid of success? Are you just out of ideas? Are you self destructive?

Really, lots of people love your products of old. You still make nice glass. And the new M is a great step in the right direction. But some of your other endeavors make us wonder. Toss these X cameras and this new mini M and try again. Please?

(This was written in response to the release of the Leica Mini M)

(P.S.  The more time passes, the more I want an R-D1…just ’cause.)

What I charge is between me and my clients–not me and other photographers.

I’m sorry, I’ve stayed silent on this too long.  I have to let it out.

There are some very valid reasons why photography is more expensive than many people imagine it to be on the surface.  I don’t think I can sum that part up any better than this article on PetaPixel by Nikki Wagner.

I understand the struggle to get by in this industry very well, and my heart goes out to my fellow photographers fighting to survive and continue to do what they love full time.  But I’m sick and tired of the incessant complaining about other photographers charging too little and ruining the business.

If Jose Villa charged $1 (one dollar) for a wedding, would the pictures automatically be shit?  No?  Why not?  Because price does not equal quality.  Not only are they not equivalent, there’s no strong correlation.

It’s absolutely part of sales to convince customers that a certain level of quality costs a certain amount of money.  But the truth is that we all decide our own prices.  As Scott Johnson points out, “If you want to be a Professional Photographer, there are absolutely NO qualifications or schooling required.”  There’s no organization that has the ability to monitor quality and/or enforce pricing standards.

A rich amateur could go out and buy better gear than I have and advertise prices well beyond what I can garner today and they don’t have to have a ton of success to be part of the industry.  If they get one wedding a year, they’re a professional photographer.  And their pictures can absolutely suck.  Though they might not.  Price isn’t tied to quality.

Likewise, a poor hobbyist can buy a bottom of the line DSLR and a gang of used lenses for under a $1k and go shoot weddings for $200 a pop.  And they just might make amazing work.  There’s nothing stopping them from doing so.

How good their work is depends on their skill set, not the price of their gear or the price they charge.  This is obvious.

And not only rich people get married.  Doesn’t everybody deserve good wedding photography, whether they’re rich or poor?

The market for photography in every part of the industry is undergoing a big shakeup.  In some ways, I see this as a good thing.  I feel like the digital revolution has raised the bar on quality, which is good for customers and bad for shitty photographers.  But the proliferation of photographers–the absolute glut–means there’s a lot more noise to signal when couples go hunting out the perfect photographer for their special day.  We have to work harder for every client and it’s increasingly difficult to stand out from the crowd.

Don’t confuse the problems our customers are having with our own.  Their problem is a stifling overabundance of options.  A shortage of good photographers isn’t an issue for customers at all today.  Sure there are more shitty photographers out there today too.  But included in the overall volume increase, is an increase in good ones too.

I still cringe at the out of focus shots in my brother’s wedding album from 2000.  The photog was a seasoned pro, shooting great gear (Pentax 67, which I had just used myself in the context of school), but…holy crap, so many OOF/motion blurred shots.  But lets not kid ourselves with the false narrative that gear doesn’t matter at all.  That same photographer today is instantly better when you give him instantaneous reviews of his images, effectively unlimited “film” and image stabilized lenses.  Modern gear really does compensate a bit for sloppy technique.  This is good for customers.  Whether it’s bad for us or not is irrelevant, since that’s just how it is.

Value is an issue of perception.  So is quality.  My brother and his wife don’t see the things I see.  As long as consistency is maintained from print to print, most people won’t notice minor color balance issues, exposure issues,  focus issues, sensor dust issues, or a million little things we know to QC for.  Often the biggest/strictest/harshest critic of a wedding photographer’s work is the photographer themselves.

The thing that matters most to clients is that they are happy.  That’s business.  You don’t get anywhere by arguing and making excuses.  Or by putting other photographers down for that matter.  Criticizing other photographers won’t raise their prices.

If clients aren’t happy, they’ll go to somebody who will make them happy.  Pleasing a customer is a complex thing, that certainly involves things we pride ourselves on like the beauty of our images or consistency or professionalism.  But clients also judge us on a ton of things we can probably agree they shouldn’t, like price, gender, our personal appearances, our ages, our races, our accents, our religions, our sexual orientations–heck, I’ve even been asked my sign!  Just like some people are going to pick based on gender and race, some folks will have price at the top of their list.  Get over it.  That’s all you can do.

I hear this long litany of “gear is too cheap” and “photographers working for free is killing us”, but none of it is anything you can do anything about.  Lemme make you a list of strategies destined to fail:

  • complaining about what other people are doing.  That has zero weight with your clients.  Let me reiterate: your clients don’t feel the pain of your pocketbook, only their own.
  • Bitching about “fauxtographers”.  Ok, ok, it’s a favorite pastime we all share.  I’ll admit a guilty pleasure in the occasional schadenfreude of browsing PSDisasters. But that doesn’t book me any new clients.
  • Arguing with clients about their budget.  They’ll find somebody that fits their budget, no matter how big or how small.  Trust me on this one.  This is an argument you will always lose.  This is not the same as being firm on price.
  • Telling other people what to charge.  No, really, good luck with that.
  • Complaining about the abundance of cheap gear.  What’re you gonna do, run around ProPhoto with a pricing gun?  Hack Amazon?  Gear will continue to get better and cheaper and easier to use.  Getting good results will continue to require decreasing amounts of skill.  So it goes.

Now, let’s juxtapose some tactics I see potential in:

  • Look at ways to decrease overhead.  Are you farming out your post?  Do you really need to?  Do you really need new gear?
  • Look at ways to improve your output.  Are you farming out your post?  Do you really need to?  Do you really need new gear?
  • Reevaluate your prices.  Not others’ prices.  YOURS.
  • Reevaluate your work. (sounds harsh, but even the best need to) Take a long hard look at your work and ask yourself if the quality of your work justifies your prices.  Honestly compare your work and prices to whats out there.  Put yourself in the clients’ shoes.  Enlist some objective non-photographers in this process, since most of our customers are not photographers.
  • Reevaluate your marketing.  If word of mouth/print ads/social media ain’t cutting it, explore other options.  Or reevaluate what you’re doing with those options.

Now, to be clear, I feel the pain.  I feel the squeeze.  I really do.  And it’s hugely stressful, and a day doesn’t go by where I don’t have second thoughts.

So here’s where I’m coming from: I’m new to weddings as a full time business.  I’m still sorting out all the taxes and finances and I’m a humble newb at running a business.  But I’ve been in the photographic industry for 15 years now and I shot my first wedding solo seven years ago.  I have a bachelors in photography.  I know my shit.  And I know who doesn’t.  And I see a whole spectrum of folks out there with vastly different skill sets AND prices competing for the same customers.  I’m lucky to have some very talented friends, and I’ve seen some amazing work in Portland.

But the diversity of the photography market is stifling.  It’s an assault on the customer’s decision making process.  I don’t see that changing any time soon.

Often when I hear people whine and complain about how they can’t make any money, I look at their work and I keep coming back to the same thing: there’s just too little correlation between quality and price in wedding photography.  Some people charging a pittance are phenomenal.  And some of those charging the most are marginal at best.

From what I can tell, the industry has always sucked.  It has always been cutthroat.  There have always been amazing sales people with weak portfolios competing with amazing photographers that can’t sell.  Quality has been wildly all over the place, as has pricing.  Disruptive technology has always wreaked having on established markets and business models.  A long list of acronyms has eroded the technical hurdles: C41, TTL, AMP, DSLR, ISO, APSC, m43, SDXC, P&S…the march of technology will continue.

I don’t think any of this should come as a big surprise.  There ain’t much new under the sun. The only constant is that things change.

Don’t ask “how do we stop this thing?”  Instead ask “how can I adapt?”

There are absolutely ways to address the new challenges of our field today, and I welcome any discussion on the issue.  But complaining isn’t a valid strategy.  Please, just stop.

And stop trying to tell other photographers what to charge.  That’s a discussion between a photographer and a client, and no one else.  If somebody posts a gig that you think is offering too little, just flag it.  DO NOT engage in bickering.  That is a shit fight you won’t win.

Micah…now with more megapixels.

In case it wasn’t obvious from the previous post, yes, I recently upgraded my DX body to a D7100.  I’ll be posting some tests here and sharing any observations.

My first observation shooting stills is that AF is excellent.  It is at least a match for my D700.  That’s a good thing, considering the ordeal I went through with the D7000.  I’d say it’s even a little snappier and more precise than the D300, which I didn’t expect.

So, here’s to the future!  Which seems to have more pixels in it.  (although nothing yet has unseated my D700 for low light work!)


D7100 comes with GH2 mode built in?!

Just picked up a D7100 yesterday and realized: “wait, this 2x crop mode is 15mp?  My GX1 is a 2x crop and about 15mp @2:3.  LET’S COMPARE!

So, I did:

D7100 w/Nikon 35mm/f2

D7100 w/Nikon 35mm/f2

GX1 w/Nikon 35mm/f2

GX1 w/Nikon 35mm/f2

The results aren’t exactly surprising.  They have pretty close to the same pixels covering the same area.  The base ISO of the GX1 is slightly higher, so shutter is slightly different, but: tripod, so who cares?  The D7100 is also slightly taller, so framing is a little off between the two, but I think you can still get the idea from what’s here.  In short, any differences are up to sloppy technique.

It’s too bad that the the crop mode on the D7100 is wonky for video (scaling issues appear to be resulting in low quality video in crop).  If Nikon figures out a fix for that, I’ll be back with a video comparison.  (Scaling wise, I can’t see why they couldn’t, since the GX1 is scaling a very similar amount of pixels to make 1080 video.)

For now, this tells me…well, nothing I couldn’t already guess.  But idle curiosity got the better of me and I had to try it.  Now you know, so you don’t have to waste time trying yourself.  (click the above images for original, unscaled versions).

P.S. for those too lazy to check the EXIF, this was at f4.