There’s a lot of emotion out there in the photographic reaches of the internet. Some of it warranted, I’m sure, and some of it just reconfirming to me that photographers can be fascinating and strange creatures indeed. Lots of feverish prose out there about mirrorless, or no mirrorless, or savvy cameras with life altering capacities, or the merits of fast glass and debates about the shape of particular pixels. At least occasionally, some of the vituperation or ascendant praise comes from folks who have never shot a picture in anger, or, perhaps shouldn’t have tried, or some who might even admit to not having much or any experience with the piece of equipment they are either extolling or excoriating. What they are relating is, you know, just what they heard on the internet.
I try to remain realistic, if I can manage it. I don’t know for sure, but I doubt many carpenters wax rapturous about a claw hammer, or that many plumbers fall faint over the anticipated pleasures of using a particular crescent wrench. To me, when I open my camera bag on location, it’s basically opening a tool box, and it is perhaps akin to an old school doc on a house call, opening their traditional leather bag, and peering inside, hoping to find the right remedy for the medical calamity at hand. All the while I’m reassuring the prospective client/patient in the best avuncular fashion I can manage that everything will be okay and they will soon stop bleeding from the ears and those nasty headaches are about to vanish. The photographer is here! The doctor is in! Or something like that. We’ve all had jobs, I’m quite sure, where the client needed so much photographic wizardry and hand-holding supervision that we felt we had to be a cross between Gandalf and Mary Poppins.
My toolbox is pretty straightforward. Couple of DSLRs, maybe a third or fourth, depending on the extent of the job. A variety of lenses, and, most of the time, not a very exotic collection thereof. And now, after a solid three months of shooting a mirrorless camera, I can say that a permanent addition to the box is the Nikon Z 7. I bought one, and have been banging on it pretty hard, and now, convinced of its worth, I just ordered a Z 6. Some measure of mirrorless will now be in the bag, all the time. It just makes sense. It gives me another wrinkle, another angle of attack on a job, another potential layer of hopefully appropriate approach.
I just worked with The Atlantic to produce a small story about a Manhattan based jazz saxophonist, Les Goodson. He plays for cash out on 5th Avenue, and also every Wednesday night at The Paris Blues Club in Harlem, which is his neighborhood. I shot it available light, high ISO, with Speedlights, with big flash, in dim conditions, hand-held, with the native glass and my F mount glass and the FTZ adapter, and, you know, it’s a good tool. It works. That, to me, is high praise.
The lightness and unobtrusive hand hold quality of it are intriguing to me. Great resolution, and in camera body stabilization also excellent. Z series glass is super sharp, and there is the promise of more to come. The “I” button gives me a heads up display in the EVF which enables me to make significant changes in approach while never taking my eye away from my subject. The image review factor in the EVF is a gift on a sunny day.
Many thanks to Les, first off, who let me into his life, and to the editors at The Atlantic. It was fun, and this new mirrorless expedition to me is simply another turn of the pages in the ongoing adventure book of being a visual communicator. It gets better and better, which is not to be confused with it getting any easier. That will never happen. But the gear, and the options, and the machinery of doing this is nothing short of remarkable. And that, dear reader, is about as emotional as I’m gonna get.