Take your camera!

Attention Photographer friends, your smartphone is good, but not great! I love taking photographs with my iPhone and processing them for fun. It’s a great exercise, and I generally love the outcome. With the skills I’ve acquired through the years, post processing my photos with decent software, I’ve grown to learn how to use not just fun filters and presets with apps on my phone, but even use a few apps that give me really great control over the final image.

I’ll write another post about some of those tools soon enough. But this article is to encourage you to actually take your camera with you everywhere!

I know it can be tedious. You don’t need all your lenses and gadgets all the time. Toss a good prime lens onto your camera and just keep it with you. You don’t need your bag and all the other gear. Just get used to having the camera ready. Leave the settings on your most common settings, and all you need t to do is grab and go.

My only dSLR, aka decent camera that matters, is a FujiFilm XT-1. I keep my 35mm f/1.4 lens on it, without a flash or speed light. I keep it on Aperture priority mode, set to the widest aperture, slowest shutter speed and smallest ISO, 200.

Now that you’re convinced, you should think about keeping it safe. For me, there was a time that I had a dSLR and a CCW with me at all times. (See my job history to better understand that.) So, I wrestled with having two high dollar items, one of which HAD to be concealed at all times. Through this highly practical few years of double “carrying”, I learned a few things I can pass along.

First off, I often carried my weapon “off body”. It’s an option that many women face when concerned with carrying a concealed firearm. I made this decision, and it didn’t take me too long to decide, I hated not having my gun on me. So, the method I had chosen, albeit at very good one, ended up not being my best solution.

9853b_detail

I basically carried a man purse. A Maxpedition Versipack. In a sweet deal, I contacted LowePro, and they sold me the guts to a camera bag, with interchangeable hook and loop (aka Velcro) slots inside. It fit perfectly into the non-padded Versipack. I had a quasi-secret camera bag that was truly designed for carrying a concealed firearm. It was my man purse.

The biggest thing we can take away from that experience is that you can get creative in how you transport and store your camera, in light of my challenge to you to always have your real camera with you.

I found a few articles that address what we’re talking about, and I think you’ll enjoy them. The first one is clearly geared towards women, but I think we all can benefit from the discussion.

The next two articles will contribute a little more.

I think the biggest ideas to take away from all three articles is the notion that you’re hiding your gear in plain sight. Now, I NEVER hide my gun in plain sight. If it’s not secured in a holster on my person, it’s secured in a locked safe, loaded or unloaded.

But obviously, with a camera we’re able and willing to take a greater risk. No one is going to steal our camera permanently harm someone else or themselves. After all, a camera is just a thing we could easily live without.

I have a couple of single camera LowePro cases, that are clearly camera cases. They are great. One is standard black, and the other is a nice blue. But, they don’t really encourage, DON’T STEAL MY CAMERA, from the front seat of my truck. And let’s be honest, what I’m saying is keep your camera with you at all teams, I’m saying have it ready all the time. Does that mean take it into work? Probably not. Many cannot even do that. During my career, we weren’t even allowed to have our personal cell phones, let alone a smartphone at work. (That’s a separate issue we chat about another time. Yes, I have policies that are basically named after me.)

So let’s look at what my over all point. Having your camera available all the time really does mean having it as ready as possible during the normal throws of life. When I’m on a road trip, the camera is within reach at all times. If I see something, having the camera packed away is just another excuse to NOT stop and use it. Once thing I’ve always appreciated about my loved ones is that they’ve never made me feel bad for wanting to stop and create a photograph. And I’ve tried to remain just as available for my teenage daughter, who also loves to create beautiful photographs.

So now I’m considering alternate methods of storage and transportation. Just like I might consider a center console lockbox for my firearm to be readily accessible to me as I drive, I might consider some sort of hide in plain sight for my camera.

I think I’m going to start with something low target, like a simple reinforced cardboard box, with your typical camera bag foam padding inside. Clearly LowePro offers these inserts. And as you’ll see in one of the other articles I linked to, so does a company called MountainSmith. There are others, but I’ve used MountainSmith backpacks from my earliest days of backpacking, and I will not attest to any higher quality product that takes a massive beating, and the company that backs it.

unknown

This setup will allow me to have my camera hiding in plain site, and make it less attractive for those wanting to smash and grab stuff from my unattended truck. I’m used to having a high situational awareness as it is, just carrying the valuable items I already carry on a regular basis, so this will not increase my nervousness at all. I’m already there. But now I’ll also have my favorite tool for creating great photographs with me more often.

The future is now…er…not yet.

You photographers out there are most likely aware of the alleged shift in product design for dSLR’s. The companies have banned together to deny us the viewfinder…or something like that. 🙂

Apparently when the big dogs switched from film to digital, in their SLRs, they kept the mirror. The mirror is basically necessary so we can see what we’re going to photograph. Then when you press the shutter release, the mirror flips up and the actually viewed image can be captured by the sensor, which is behind the mirror when it’s down.

We could loose the mirror, but then we’d either have no viewfinder, or we’d have to have a digital view of what’s being “seen”.

I know that’s a poor description, but it’s the best I could do with my layman’s understanding.

Enter, the mirrorless interchangeable lens camera, MILC. Yeah, I know. There are actually a few different names for these newfangled cameras, but “mirrorless” seems to be sticking.

Trey Ratcliff actually discussed all of this much better than I have even tried, on his blog, Stuck in Customs. Seriously, go read about it all there. Then come back, please.

Now that you know all about these newfangled mirrorless/3rd generation camera systems, I’ll get to my point. I picked up one!

Since I’m a Nikon guy, I looked first at the Nikon 1 series. The upcoming Pentax K-01 caught my attention as well. Honestly, I really liked what I read about both cameras. I believe that the Pentax K-01 is a better camera, and would have served me as well, if not better, than the Nikon 1 series.

However, the lower price of the Nikon J1 is what won me over. (That was a mistake. More on that later.) Plus, Nikon had just announced an adapter that would allow me to use my existing family of F-mount lenses on the new J1.

So I picked up a J1 package, with two lenses;  a 10-30mm and a 30-110mm. Both lenses have VR. I got mine at Costco, which threw in a 16gb sdcard and a case. Oh, and I chose the white model! (It comes in red and black as well.)

Nikon J1

Right away I tried using it more often than my D7000, and various lenses. It was easy, I will admit. It still is. For most life photography, it’s just real easy to grab and go. Two lenses for everything from 10mm to 110mm. (FYI, with the 2.7 crop factor of this sensor, that means 27 to 297mm, in 35mm terms.) That’s pretty much everything I’d need! Yes the speeds of the lenses are a huge factor, and so are the relatively smaller number of easily reachable features. The lens speeds, I can adjust to working around. I simply bump my ISO when I can’t get a comfortable shutter speed. Also, the VR helps with the lower shutter speeds.

The best feature, to me, is the insanely fast autofocus. It just works. It’s automagical, and it happens even when you’re not pressing the shutter release halfway down. I love it!

The rapid fire is quite cool. I can shoot 10 fps, on the special fast mode, with some limitation. The focus becomes fixed, and is limited to a semi-manually selected focus point. But the regular rapid speed is 5 fps, and that’s with the live focus! I generally use this mode all the time. BTW, they call it continuous mode. I used this mode to help capture this shot of my dad, 4x4ing this past week.

Dad 4wheeling

Overall, I like the camera, and am glad I bought it. It will serve me and my family well for quite a while. I hope to be able to use it to instruct my wife in the use of more features, to get better photos. Eventually I hope that she’ll begin using it more and more, freeing me to acquire that Pentax K-01, or whatever fits the role even better.

The single largest problem with the J1 is not any one single feature, it’s a bunch of little frustrations. The smaller sensor, really isn’t a problem. The lack of a viewfinder, I’m getting over it. Even the lack of bracketing I’ve adjusted to using the tripod and exposure compensation.

The problem is that everything I want to do is 7 million clicks deep in a menu setting. The features I want are simply too buried. I thought that the big camera companies were hoping to convince dSLR users that these mirrorless cameras are their future. What I’m feeling is that Nikon doesn’t care about the J1 being useful for me, but for the pocket camera user, as an upgrade.

******

Side note: I wrote this post with MarsEdit. I had great hopes for MarsEdit. It sucks. This would have been 10x easier within the WordPress app.

Photoshop.com Mobile App for Android!

Real quick, for those Android users envious of those iPhone users who have that sweet app by Adobe called Photoshop…

They announced it for Android today! Just use your barcode scanner on the code below:

***UPDATE:***
I downloaded the app, and quickly processed a photo I took yesterday. Not bad. Basic editing, but no special effects. I’m kinda bummed out about that. Maybe they’re just testing the waters. For now, I’ll stick with PicSay Pro. It’s a faster and smoother app.