Even My New Camera is Used

I bought my first digital camera in well over a year. Olympus was having a sale on refurbished models, and I snagged a Tough TG-4. That's right, I finally buy a new camera, and even it is used.

You see, I'm going to Maui in September, and I wanted to upgrade my dependable, but aging TG-1. A lot has happened since I bought that camera. The most noteworthy new features are the addition of WiFi and RAW capture. (RAW in a tough pocket camera... yeah!)

I love Tough cameras in Hawaii. My wardrobe consists of board shorts, a T-Shirt, and flip-flops. If I get hot, I fall into the pool or dash out into the ocean. The Tough camera stays in my shorts' pocket the entire time. I never have to worry about it. And I never miss a shot. 

It is my snorkeling camera, sunset companion, and drinking buddy. It has a compass, GPS, and a clock display. What else do you need?

Now that the TG-4 has been out for a while, you can get it for $349. That's a good price for a great camera. But the outlet store had a 2-day sale, and I could save over $100 more, which is a great deal. Even then, I had to think about it for a few minutes.

What's happened to me? I used to spend $230 without thinking twice. 

It's the darn film camera thing. I tell you.

Since I started spending $50-$75 for classic film SLRs, my perspective has become totally skewed. Most of the cameras I feature in TheFilmCameraShop I bought for $50 or less. Yes, they needed cleaning, and sometime repairs. (That's fun for me.) So I do that and then shoot with them for a week or two, process the film, and if everything looks OK, I put them up for sale for around $75. If they don't work out, I hang on to them for parts to fix something else.

I actually caught myself haggling with a guy the other day for a $45 camera. He wanted $48, I was willing to pay $43. We both dug in our heals and the deal never happened. Have I lost my mind? I walked away over $5. Starbucks costs that much.

Actually, I think what has happened is things have stabilized in the world of photography. Film cameras are cheap. And digital cameras have reached a level of quality where we don't have to buy a new one every year. All of this feels good.  It's been a long time since I've been off the camera buying merry go round.

I know this isn't great news for manufacturers, but that's not really my problem. I'm far more concerned about my budget. And I'm glad that I have trusty friends such as the OM-D E-M5 Mark II and 5D Mark II to depend on for my work. We're comfortable with each other.

And I guess that's why I'm so excited about TG-4. I feel like I just bought a new car. In fact, the model I purchased is racing red. And I am going to drive that baby all over the island of Maui.


Video: The Other Format

For those of us who have been still photographers our entire lives, video feels like that odd friend that comes home with your son. Intriguing, maybe. Comfortable, not so much.

Video for still shooters is a byproduct of the digital age. Prior to the new millennium, you bought a film camera or a movie camera. Now, they're rolled up into one.

And so the pressure mounts to learn frame rate, mic patterns, and an entirely new workflow. Plus those files... they're some damned big.

Yet, nearly every client I have in the corporate world wants video as well as stills. And the balance of formats is tipping in that direction. Thanks to the intelligence of our smartphone cameras, customers don't value professional still photography as they did a decade ago. But professional video, well there's still some mystery there.

"Do you shoot video as well?"

"I do, short form pieces, 3 minutes or less."


I'm thinking about this because I'm heading down to San Jose tomorrow for a job that involves frame rate and shotgun mics. I'm fine tuning the audio settings today because it's an interview piece, and I want it to sound really good, but also somewhat spontaneous and natural. In other words, no lapel mics.

I'll probably shoot only a few stills the entire day. Otherwise it's me and movie mode.

It's like my son took off for an errand and left his odd friend at the house for me to entertain. I feel a little awkward. 

I was never very good at small talk.


The Nimble Photographer Workshop

I have this idea that I've been working on, and I want to pass it by you. It's called The Nimble Photographer Workshop.

I tested the concept in Chicago last week. And to be honest, it was a big hit. So now I'm thinking about the next phase. And that's where you come in.

Here's the concept. The Nimble Photographer Workshop is a one day event for up to 20 people. The location could be anywhere. I would work with a host who lives locally and who would help me with the logistics. The host would be compensated by free admission and a gratuity.

I would fly in the day before the workshop and coordinate with the host about the last minute details, lead the event the next day, then fly out that night.

The cost for each participant would be $199. And we would have a blast. I think this would be particularly good for camera clubs and other groups who share a passion for nimbleosity.

If you would like to be a host for such an event, send me mail, or use the Contact Form on this site. And let's take this show on the road.


Duck In Out of the Sun

Nothing was really going right. I was standing somewhere on Wabash Ave. without having captured a single image. Not one picture in 45 minutes of walking.

I decided to change lenses. The 14-42mm that I removed from the camera jumped out of my hand, landed on its side with a thud, and rolled down the sidewalk 15 feet before bouncing off the foot of a homeless man.

Stunned, I just stared at him for a minute. He looked down at the lens on the sidewalk, then raised his head and looked back at me. I walked over to him, smiled, and picked it up. After a quick inspection as I strolled away, I didn't see any cracks in the glass. Amazingly, it seemed OK.

But still no pictures.

I walked another couple blocks without even bothering to take the camera out of my bag. Then it hit me. Just sit down for a moment and watch.

I found a tall, concrete planter just off the sidewalk, and took a seat. My feet swung freely like a little boy waiting for a ride. I began to feel better. People walked by without a glance. But I was watching them. I started to see things. I was feeling like myself again.

I'm amused by my tendency to keep pushing when clearly no progress is being made. What I really need to do is hit the reset button. Relax for a moment. Take a deep breath. Observe. Doing so seems to balance me. Why do I forget that?

I was just about ready to resume my walk when it started to rain. The drops fell gently, and they were warm. I was fine. I pulled out the baseball cap I had stashed in my camera bag, and went to work.

Over the next hour I shot nearly 200 images. Some of them I like a lot. The combination of refueling my energy and seeing the reflections of historic Chicago in asphalt puddles inspired me.

After a while, the rain stopped and the sun shone brightly. "Damn," I thought. It was time to duck in to a restaurant for a bite to eat. 

I know that seems backwards. Most city people retreat from the rain. That is, unless they're photographers.

I'll take it easy for now, then be back at twilight.


A Moment of Truth for Photos

Next Monday, Apple will kick off their World Wide Developers Conference with a keynote address. It's always a big deal. Even though the conference itself is for developers, the keynote is for everyone.

Those 2 hours on center stage lay out the road map for the remainder of the year, and well into 2017. Most folks will be anxious to hear about hardware revelations, such as the new Macs, iPhones, and watches. Others will be curious about the evolution of the Mac operating system and iOS.

I too am interested in all of those things. But I have one additional item on my list: will there be any news about Photos for OS X?

To this point, Apple has had a pass on Photos, as they should. In part, because they've handled the transition from Aperture and iPhoto well. We can still run those legacy apps on the latest operating system. That's a nice touch and greatly appreciated.

But before too long, that will no longer be the case. There will come a day when the latest OS won't support Apple's former imaging apps. And if that day is when Mac OS X 10.12 is announced, then Photos should be ready for prime time.

Don't get me wrong. The current version of Photos for OS X is good... for a V. 1.5 app. I think back to the first year with iPhoto and Aperture. They weren't perfect either. It takes time to polish software. But now, as we're moving to Photos 2.0, we should have a better idea about where this app is going.

In all honesty, I don't know if the next version of Photos even warrants a keynote timeslot. Maybe not. I may have to comb through the press releases to find the information that I'm looking for. But when I do, I'll report back to you.

Because what Apple decides to do, or not to do, will tell us a lot about their vision for managing pictures on Mac hardware.