Gear

Top 5 Pieces of Gear Every Photographer Must Have by Adrian Galli

Sorry, I got you to click. It is a clickbait title but bear with me for a moment.  

I read a lot of technology articles and a lot of them are about photography or cinematic gear. I’m the first to admit I LOVE new gadgets and gear but I also am very pragmatic about what is needed versus what is wanted. I will spend good money for good gear but I'm also a huge fan of doing a lot with less.

A lot of articles about photo gear are all “you need this to be a photographer” or whatever... blah, blah, blah.

So here is my list:

  1. Camera
  2. Lens
  3. Memory card or film
  4. Tripod  
  5. Lens cleaner

That’s it. Don’t be duped by people telling you that your camera is not good enough or your lens is bad or whatever. Go out and shoot. If you said, "Adrian, I have $500 and want to be a photographer," I'd say, "you can get everything above."

  1. Nikon D3100 — $239
  2. Nikon 35mm f1.8g DX— $166
  3. Sandisk 16GB SD Card — $11
  4. Polaroid 42" Travel Tripod — $17
  5. Zeiss Lens Cleaner Kit — $30

A grand total of $463. It may not be superlative gear but you’ll be photographing. And that’s more than can be said about a lot of gear reviewing and blogging clowns. Check out a few examples of photographs taken with the Nikon D3100 and Nikon 35mm DX lens.

Adrian's Life Rule #56: Go out and shoot.

Nikon D500 Love Story, The Beginning by Adrian Galli

Love at first touch.

Nikon D500

My first serious money I spent on a camera was in 2009. I bought a Nikon D700. It is one fine camera even a decade later. This is thanks in part to Nikon’s tireless effort to find some of the best sensors around and build cameras for photographers. It was a $3000 purchase so one would expect it to hold up for some time. Then again, with how quickly technology changes, ten years is a long time.

A testament to its greatness, I actually never upgraded from it. I still shoot with it to this day. In fact, the Nikon D700 is still used by many—it was a camera used for several World Press Photo award winning photographs.

However, anyone who knows or follows me also knows that I really love Micro Four Thirds as a format. My cameras of choice in that family: Olympus E-M5, Olympus E-M1 Mark II. Both rival many cameras of thousands of dollars more. They are small, weather sealed, light, powerful, and fun to use. I recently shot using my Olympus system for a friend’s wedding, iPhone 8 and iPhone X launch at Apple Michigan Avenue, and many of my Geometry photographs were shot using my E-M5 or E-M1 Mark II.

My Nikon digital 35mm (FX) camera, love was never wavering. But the Nikon D700—it is a beast of a camera. Weighing in at nearly 1000g (2.2lbs) without a lens—it is also a boat anchor. I joke with friends and colleagues that I only shoot with it if I’m getting paid. That isn’t entirely accurate… one of my favorite photos, Gold and Aquamarine, was shot with my Nikon D700 and the ever impressive 70-200mm f2.8 VRII.

Gold and Aquamarine, Chicago, 2015

Gold and Aquamarine, Chicago, 2015

The point being, I love Micro Four Thirds and use it because Olympus (among others like Panasonic) have made the system powerful and feature filled yet mobile. I fell in love with the E-M5 and travel with it everywhere. My highest end camera loyalty is, however, really to Nikon. The story of how I came to own my D700 was more like something out of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. I did not choose the D700, it chose me. I picked it up and couldn’t put it down and that is important. A photographer needs to love his camera. It is a tool and an extension of his creativity and mind’s eye.

The ergonomics of the D700 were so much better than what I was consider buying (Canon 5D Mark II) and its low light noise performance was the best at the time. It didn’t shoot video, like the 5Dmk2 did, but I wanted a camera for photography and owned or had plenty of access to cinema cameras. I never regretted that decision. Even with new cameras, the D700 has been such a creative companion that long after it becomes obsolete, I’ll have it as a token, a monument to years of hard work.

My Olympus, on the other hand, sits right across from me as I write this story. With a grip, fantastic M.Zuiko 45mm f1.8 lens, and a turquoise blue couchguitarstraps strap, it will make its way out into the world soon for some photography. But for now, I needed an upgrade, and something to spark a new creative endeavor.

With 2017 wrapped months ago and A Year in Photographs ended, I had considered for some time what camera it was time to upgrade. Was it time for a D700 replacement? See what Olympus has in store for the O-MD series (E-M5 and E-M1)? 

I don’t know what came over me but I suddenly knew I needed the Nikon D500. Something was telling me it was the right move for a camera. I’ve had my eye on it for some time. But as with my instinct on the D700 drove me to buy and the same with the E-M5, this must be the right move.

Other considerations were the Nikon D810 or newly released D850. I do want to own those but at the end of the day, they are more than I wanted to spend and all that extra resolution is not terribly important to me. They are FX sensors, however and therefore really are the next logical step to a D700. 

Some have asked, “Why not a D750?” To be fair, having intimate experience with the D700 and D810, the D750 may have the ‘700’ numerical value but it is not the replacement to the D700. The D8XX has the same feel, look, weight, and powerhouse features that the D700 did in its day. As a comparison, in 2009, the D700 was the flagship, non-integrated vertical grip, FX camera for Nikon. Today the D8XX is the same. The D750 is a superb camera but maybe one small step below.

The Nikon D500 has been reveled as the best APS-C (DX). Its high-ISO performance is stunning. Its 10 frames per second puts it in a class similar to a Nikon D4 but with the resolution for the Nikon D5 (the ultimate in Nikon performance.) And that is part of the D500’s charm. How could I turn my back on FX sensors? They are superior because they are bigger! I have always argued that is a false assumption. It is a good rule of thumb but not a guarantee. Your lens is your most important camera accessory but that is for another article.

Nikon has made the D500 is in the class of FX cameras. In fact, the performance is likely partly due to the DX sensor. While sensors of different sizes have their advantages and disadvantages, at the end of the day, I’ve shots with more than a dozen formats and it is, overall, a non-issue. FX, DX, Micro Four Thirds, 1/2”, 2/3”, super35, medium format, iPhone, 1-inch, etc.—let me tell you something, and I’m not going to apologize for it, the sensor behind your lens does not determine anything. You do. You are the photographer. Any other argument is a construct of your mind—dogma from a thousand other photographers out there who can’t see beyond the technical specifications of the camera in their hand.

 
Don’t be trapped by dogma—which is living with the results of other people’s thinking.”
— Steve Jobs
 

If you can’t afford a Nikon D850 (or just don’t want to move that kind of cash) don’t. Get a Nikon D500. Or a D7200. Or a D3400 (it’s around $400). Or use your iPhone. Just go out and shoot!

I choose the D500 for a good price point, blistering performance on multiple fronts, and knowing that it will be a workhouse. Correction, a god damned battleship of a camera. I will be able to take it out in the rain, walk through the desert with it, a blizzard, concerts, film shoots, in the air, underground, all over the planet, drag it through the mud, and it will still fire and capture exactly what I see just as my D700 did for nearly ten years.

As I write this, I pick up my D500 for the first time and already recognize, I’m gonna love this camera.

Price: $1896

Find a Companion in Your Camera by Adrian Galli

Gear, specs, lenses, sharpness, depth of field, image quality, megapixels... But all that doesn't matter. Overall, they are distractions from the real issue. Ansel Adams did not have nearly the technology we have today but is no doubt he is one of the finest photographers to have lived.

Let me tell you a story of how I came to own my camera, my Nikon D700.  

I was in the market for a DSLR. I wanted more than my rugged Olympus and, while my iPhone was great, it was a time when iPhone photography was in its infancy and still had a ways to go. I started my search with the usual: Canon or Nikon? The Nikon D90 was one of the best cameras at the time. Canon was making inroads into 35mm sensors. Friends were polarized and passionate about which to buy.

I then looked at a Canon 50D, and then the Nikon D300, and then the Canon 5D Mark II... I decided I was just going to go all out and get a 35mm digital camera.  And then (!) I looked at the Nikon D700.

I walked into Ritz (at the time) and wanted to check out the two finalists: Canon 5D Mark II and Nikon D700. A friendly associate, Brandon, help me get a feel for them. Picking them both up, I didn't notice in the moment but while talking to Brandon, I continued to go back to the Nikon. The feel and the handling felt just right, it looked nice, fantastic in low light, and was destined to be mine. 

"I'm just not sure which one to choose," I said.  

"I think you have chosen," he replied, "You can't keep your hands off the Nikon."

He was right. The Canon felt chunky, and looked the part too, and while the megapixel count was higher, it didn't perfect as well in low light. The Nikon was the right camera for me and to this day, despite there being newer and more powerful cameras available, it is still my favorite. 

From PetaPixel 

Recently one of my cousins messaged me asking for some camera advice. He was looking for help choosing a new camera and wondered if I had any suggestions. Without wasting any time I started writing back a sort of stream of consciousness response.

I started with the differences and history behind DSLRs and mirrorless cameras. I wrote about size and shape and weather sealing. I covered lenses and the suggested uses for various systems. I reflected on megapixels and sensor sizes and dynamic range and ISO performance. I covered Canon, Nikon, Sony, Fuji, etc… I wrote about zoom lenses vs. prime lenses and the dangers of too much choice. I went on and on.

And then I surprised myself as I wrote that none of that mattered. That all the technical details, all the performance specs and features, all the history and lenses, all of it was completely secondary to the most important feature of a camera: how it makes you feel.
— Spencer Bailey

This true statement is why I have my Nikon D700 and love shooting with it, why I have my Olympus E-M5 and love shooting with it, and speaks to how one should always choose a camera. While I do tout that I'll shoot with any camera, any time, and get great results, the companion nature of one's camera must be respected.

1. Find a camera that you’re passionate about.
2. Treat it like underwear. You wouldn’t leave home without it.
— Spencer Bailey of Peta Pixel

One's camera is an extension of eye and mind; connect with it and make it part of one's self.  

Mirrorless Camera Myth as Debunked by Olympus by Adrian Galli

Many will speak of what you can and can't do with a camera. That a camera isn't "pro" enough, that is doesn't have the image quality of X camera, or speak of some other "can't" 'whatever' with Y camera because it doesn't meet something they have deemed as a baseline for all cameras.

I certainly don't subscribe to such things. Here is a quick read by the makers of one of the most incredible mirrorless systems around, Olympus.

 http://www.getolympus.com/us/en/myths

Micro Four Thirds vs. Medium Format (film) by Adrian Galli

A dark path one walks down when discussing technology with most photographers. This is especially true when comparing different brands, lenses, sensors, etc. I have my opinions on various technologies and such but, having worked in the technology industry for 15 years, my experience has taught me that there are few technologies that are inherently "better" than another but exist in a much grayer area.

It is no secret that one of my favorite cameras to shoot with is my Olympus E-M5 (Micro Four Thirds) camera. The quality is excellent from both a technical standpoint and imaging.

Image quality is a multidimensional thing, some of which can be quantified and some not. Still, by no measure of image quality does a good Micro 4/3 camera and lens perform more poorly than a good medium format film rig, and by some measures it performs considerably better. My overall subjective evaluation is that the aggregate image quality of Micro 4/3 today, in film terms, falls midway between 6×7 medium format and 4×5-inch large format.

Almost everyone you can find who is still arguing that Micro 4/3 can’t match up to professional film has not done substantial amounts of serious work in both media. I believe the technical term is ‘talking through one’s hat.
— The Online Photographer

The Online Photographer: Micro Four Thirds vs. Medium Format.

Let no one tell you your gear isn't "good enough" or that a "real" photographer would never use it or what you "should" be using. If they do, ignore them.