As many photographers do, I've decided to review the year from a photographic perspective. 2013 has been a groundbreaking year for me. I have grown more in my photography this year than ever before.
Previous years have been filled with gear research, acquisitions & countless hours testing various cameras & lenses. I would then spend additional time selling those same cameras & lenses in order to purchase new gear. All the while researching & reading about the latest & greatest cameras & lenses that I couldn't wait to get my hands on.
I have been calling myself a photographer for years, but I'm probably better described as a camera & lens collector.
2013 has changed all of that. I've managed to go through most of 2013 with a single camera & a single lens. The Sony RX1. Since the lens & camera are permanently fixed, you're "stuck" with a 24mp full frame sensor & a Zeiss 35mm F2 Sonnar. But what an amazing combination to be stuck with. I won't get into a review of this camera, because there are many reviews available that are far more competent than I would ever be able to deliver. What I will share with you is how this camera has made a photographer out of a camera & lens collector.
Here's one of the first shots I took with the RX1. I remember being more concerned about how crisp & clear my son's eyelashes would look @ f2 than I was about the overall composition of the shot.
Resolution charts, brick walls & GAS
Before getting into the details of how this camera has helped turn me into a photographer, it's important to address the ugly truth about why I was a "collector". It's called gear acquisition syndrome. GAS for short. Most photographers are familiar with this term. GAS occurs when you become more obsessed with the tools of the trade, than the art of photography itself. I was so concerned about having the right equipment for when a photographic opportunity occurred, that I really never made those opportunities happen. I kept thinking things like, "if only I had a wide angle that was sharper in the corners, I would take better landscape photographs", or "That f2.8 zoom just isn't fast enough. I MUST have 3 uber fast primes to cover the same focal range so I can achieve the narrowest depth of field possible!".
At the time of purchasing the RX1, it was just another quick fix for my GAS. I pored over articles, reviews, sample photos, forum posts, etc. This was the next greatest thing in the photography world, and I had to have one!
After selling my D600 & all of my lenses, I pulled the trigger on an RX1 from Amazon. After shooting with the camera for just a few days, I knew it was something special. The image quality is amazing, the dynamic range is unbelievable, and the lens....oh man, what a lens. It was after I realized how great this lens & sensor combination is that I decided I was going to keep this camera for a long time.
I still battle with GAS. I've been eyeing the FDA-EV1MK viewfinder for months now, but I just can't justify the purchase. I've become very comfortable shooting the RX1 as a point & shoot, and I just don't think the EVF will really add anything to my photographic skills or technique. It's just another gadget to provide a fix for my GAS.
Oh, and the new A7 & A7R? Damn you Sony! Sooooo tempting.
The best camera is...blah blah blah...
For years, I had collected camera bags like I collected cameras & lenses. With the RX1, I no longer needed to hold a body, 3 lenses & every charger, filter & memory card I owned. So I picked up a small protective case, not much larger than the RX1.
It was soon after I did this that something amazing happened. I started bringing the camera with me everywhere! It practically lived in my car. I have taken many photographs with the RX1 that I would have never taken in previous years simply because I have the RX1 with me almost all the time.
"The best camera is the one that's with you" - Chase Jarvis
The 2 landscape shots below? All because the RX1 was in the car with me:
Drag a D600 around an aquarium with my 3 children, all 6-years-old or younger? No way:
Here honey, toss this D600 & these 3 lenses in the beach bag. Never would have happened:
Back to the basics
When you obsess less about the gear, you focus more on the photography. Because I spent far less time in 2013 with camera bodies & lenses, I was able to experiment more with subject matter, lighting & composition. All of which are skills that will last me forever. No matter what camera & lens I'm shooting.
A couple of cheap Yongnuo 560's, some knock-off wireless triggers, and a few inexpensive shoot-through umbrellas have expanded my knowledge of photography & lighting more than I could have ever imagined! If you're into portraiture, and you think a new lens will make a difference in your photography, do yourself a favor & go pick up some cheap, entry level lighting equipment instead. You will be amazed at what you can achieve, regardless of your camera & lens combination.
Some examples of the RX1 & my super cheap strobist kit:
Same thing goes for composition. For years, I did what I see many amateur photographers do. We use narrow depth of field as a crutch to get past the fact that our sense of composition is terrible. That uber fast, f1.2 85mm will deliver the creamiest bokeh you've ever seen, but a great photographer can make an equally interesting & engaging photograph at f8.
Don't get me wrong here. The RX1 has some wonderfully creamy bokeh. Even at 35mm & f2, the DOF can still be razor thin, but it's much more subtle than shooting with something like an 85mm f1.2. You have to balance the subject matter more consciously because @ 35mm, there's usually going to be more than just your subject in the frame.
Here's an example. The lens collector in me wishes I had a 70-200 f2.8 zoom, and was shooting from an angle where I could zoom in & see my son's face as he was about to hit the ball. The final result with the RX1 tells a much more interesting story I think:
So there you have it. 2013 taught me to keep my camera on me & focus on subject matter, composition & lighting. It seems so obvious to make that statement. But I think a lot of us get caught up in the gear, and get pulled away from the actual process & art of photography.
I hope you had a great 2013. Merry Christmas!