New York Photographer | Gear | Cameras
As a photographer I use three types of cameras. I use DSLR camera bodies. Mirrorless cameras are also a tool a frequently use. And for specialty projects I use GoPro Cameras.
I use Nikon Cameras
I am not a fan of the camera wars arguing over what camera manufacturing brand is the best. I also think we are way past the days of looking at how many megapixels a camera has. Most cameras from most major manufacturers can produce good photographs for whatever you want to accomplish.
I use Nikon DSLR Camera Bodies. I don’t use them because I believe they are superior to other brands. I use them because they fit a need for me. They provided a benefit for the type of photography I was interested in creating. And that is how you should choose your camera. What camera provides the best qualities to allow you to do the work you envision?
I have stuck with Nikon for very simple reasons. The gear is good. It allows me to do the work I want. I have never been disappointed. I use my camera bodies until there wear out before replacing them, for the most part.
I have also continued to use Nikon cameras because camera bodies and lenses are expensive. Once you find gear that you like and that works for you and allows you to create the work you envision, why would you change what you are working with if it is working for you? There will have to be a very compelling reason for me to change the tools I use. It is financially impractical for me to switch to something new. If I switched to Cannon cameras I would have to buy all new Cannon lenses as well.
The Reason I Chose Nikon
When I first became interested in photography I knew what type of photography interested me the most. I loved animals. Nothing captured my imagination more than wildlife photography. I wanted to create wildlife photography myself. That is where my interest in photography was.
When I started reading about photograph and studying photographers I admired I discovered what the biggest impact that choosing a brand of cameras could have on my photography was. When I started using digital cameras around 20 years ago there was variability in what size sensors different camera manufacturers were using in their digital cameras. Canon was using full frame sensors that pretty much replicated the size of an image as seen in 35mm film. Nikon on the other hand was using sensors that were smaller than the dimensions a frame of 35mm film. The smaller dimensions of the Nikon image sensor meant that a narrower field of view was recorded upon taking a photo. So in essence the smaller image sensors gave increased magnification to the lenses used in conjunction with it because they were cropping out what would have been present in a 35mm frame.
As someone just getting into photography and especially as someone who was interested in wildlife photography this was great news to me. This meant that using a Nikon camera would allow me to get closer views of my subjects than with Cannon cameras. As a wildlife photographer that is pretty much the whole game right there. Getting close to the subject is often the key.
I have used several different camera bodies over the years. The two camera bodies I currently use are a Nikon D300s and a Nikon D500. I love them and they do almost everything I could ask for. The D500 was an upgrade from a D300 that I wore out. The D500 shoots at a fast frame rate perfect for capturing the action of wildlife or other subjects without missing anything. At this point the ability to shoot a high number of frames per second is one of the main features I look for in a camera these days.
I first became interested in mirrorless cameras because I became a runner. I know what does running have to do with photography or cameras? I’m getting to that.
I’ve always loved nature and being outside. Developing into a runner especially a trail runner allowed me to see how much nature I could see by being able to go out and run. The more I went out running in the woods the more I wanted to be able to photograph the scenes around me. Advancing cell phone technology was helping with that, but I really wanted a device that is closer to the quality of a DSLR.
The problem with standard DSLRs is that they are relatively big and relatively heavy. Add a lens to that and the weight only increases. These features are really not conducive to running through the woods and stopping to take photos occasionally.
That is when I discovered mirrorless cameras. Mirrorless cameras are generally smaller and lighter than their DSLR counterparts. As someone who already used Nikon products I turned first to Nikon to see what they had to offer. And there it was. Almost exactly what I wanted. Small compact cameras that had almost the same quality image capture as a standard DSLR.
I am glad I began looking into mirrorless cameras when I did because it allowed me to discover the Nikon J series of cameras. I currently use the J4 and J5. They are pretty much the smallest cameras I could find. Now mirrorless cameras seem to be going more towards the DSLR size in the Nikon lineup with the Z series, which I am sure is great for some people. It is not what I need for my photography however.
If I had come looking for mirrorless cameras later I may have never discovered the cameras I use now. Timing is key in everything. Not just in creating images but in finding the right tools.
I often carry my Nikon 1 J4 while running so I can capture images that inspire me. (More on how I do that in a future post) I had a photography exhibit that was exclusively about what I see when I am out running and most of those images were taken with my Nikon 1 J4.
I found Mirrorless Cameras because of a desire to combine my passion for running with my passion for photography. I started using them to photograph my running adventures. Now I increasingly use them to photograph other subjects. I have used them to photograph while hiking in the forest, to photograph waterfalls, and for flowers or to simply get a different perspective than my standard gear while photographing the same subjects.
I addition to the Nikon 1 J4 I also use the Nikon 1 J5. I don’t usually take the J5 out on runs. I also use a larger lens with theJ5 frequently so it isn’t compatible with runs all the time. But it is great to have the J5 as a lightweight additional option to photograph subjects I can’t quite capture with whatever other cameras I am using at the time.
The other camera tool I employ is GoPRo cameras. The GoPro cameras serve a similar purpose as the mirrorless cameras. However, I employ them in very different circumstances.
With the mirrorless cameras I stop and photograph the scenery around me. With the GoPro cameras I photograph the scenery literally while I am running. My goal is to capture the experience of running on camera.
The most common use of GoPro cameras is probably to shoot video content. Video would do a good job at capturing the running experience, it is also what everyone is doing and I want to do something different. While I do create some videos of my running adventures, I mostly use my GoPro cameras for their time lapse photography capabilities.
Last year I ran the last person standing event, Last Rebel Survivor, put on by Rebellion Running and recorded this short video. https://youtu.be/p20SnocRbZM
I like to use the time lapse feature because my main interest is still photography rather than video. While you can excerpt a frame from a video and use it as a still image the quality is not as good as taking still photos to begin with. So I do the opposite and I create a series of still images and compile them into time lapse footage videos. They take on a very unique quality in video.
Using the time lapse feature allows me to capture way more photos than I ever could stopping and taking a single image constantly. Plus I would never get done running if I did it that way. The time lapse method also allows me to capture images I would otherwise miss or overlook or simply choose not to take because I can’t afford to take that much time.
This year I took on the Limitless Vertical Challenge from Aravaipa Running. During that challenge I ran at Worlds End State Park in PA. During this run I recorded some time lapse footage:
The GoPro cameras also allow me to capture images as unobtrusively as possible of people, gatherings, and runners because they either might not notice the small camera or they do not know that the camera is on. I can capture unique images this way.
There are two main ways I use the GoPro cameras while running. At big events I like to carry both of them into action with me, but often I will just use one at a time. I have a chest harness that I can mount a GoPro camera on and I can capture images from that perspective. I also have a couple of different handles that as the name suggests I attach the camera to and I hold in my hand while running. This allows me to move the camera around and point it in different directions and angles while I am running. I also have a head strap, but I have not used that method yet.
Four Ways I Use My GoPro
1.) Capture footage of myself and others while we run:
2.) Capture photos of the scenery around me as I move through it.
3.) One cool side effect of the limitations of the GoPro cameras in shutter speed taking still photos is that they can sometimes create these cool abstract like images that really show the motion of the camera as I am on the move.
4.) Capture a static scene with subjects moving through it.
What Would Make Me Change Camera Brands?
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