Switching systems for me was a challenging process mainly because of fears I had both real and imaginary. I hope this post helps anyone who is considering moving to Micro 4/3rds from a larger camera system. Although Micro 4/3rds began life in the consumer market, the system has matured into one that can serve the needs of most working professionals. The day of the big camera wearing photographer with a large beard and photo vest is over. With shoot budgets getting smaller and smaller, fast and efficient is in.
Fear #1 – What will my clients think?
One of my fears, probably my biggest fear and one that most pros will share when considering switching systems is “what will my clients think?” It’s a legitimate fear.
If I show up to a job and the client is expecting X and they get Y then I could lose any further jobs from them in the future.
Since photography sales is a long-term relationship based sale, not a one time retail based sale, you want to be sure that your client is confident that you will do the job right.
Since often times my client’s job is on the line if they don’t put on a good show for their company or client, looking professional needs to be a priority. If I show up looking like something they were not expecting and make them look unprofessional, then I not only risk losing a client, I could risk my client losing their job or client as well.
So how did I address this gear fear? Since photography is a “show me” business not a “tell me” business I set off to show what I could do with a small camera. In December during Art Basel Miami I shot street portraits of artists and art lovers. The shots came out great and I told all my clients about it. They already knew that I had the Pen but it was kept in my case while I was shooting their jobs with the 5DMKII.
My clients’ reactions to the Art Basel Street Portraits were very positive, so when I told them I did the project with the tiny Pen they were really impressed. What I communicated to them is this -
- The camera is fast and small, with a large chip so the quality is very high.
- Since the camera is small, the subjects were more relaxed than if I shot with a large SLR and since it was also very fast I was able to capture the moment quickly and move on.
When I asked them how they felt about me shooting for them with a small camera The reaction was positive. Here’s an actual email -
Having a camera that people are used to as being “professional” does play a role at least in an environment when your career is on the line. It takes a lot of work and resources to earn a client’s trust but it’s so easy to lose a client if you don’t handle the challenges in a professional manner.
Fear #2 – Not enough megapixels
The marketers are so good at what they do. They really sold the idea for megapixels and we bought it. When digital cameras we’re 2 megapixels (1200 x 1600) every pixel counted but in reality anything over 8 megapixels for editorial print work is icing on the cake. Most magazines interior print image area for a full page are just over 8×10” which @ 240dpi is 1920 x 2400 or 4.6 megapixels.
In 2005 I was shooting with an Olympus E1 which was 1920 x 2560 or roughly 5 megapixels and my clients loved the quality. I was shooting about 3 magazine covers and about 8 interior editorial assignments a month without a complaint.
Editorial in 2012 and beyond is a whole new world. Now you should be thinking about shooting for iPad and other tablet devices which currently need at most a 3 megapixel file. Are you starting to see the the smoke and mirrors of the megapixel myth?
Let’s look at the current generation of Micro 4/3rds sensors which are 12 and 16 megapixels and see how they compare to a larger sized print magazine.
Large Print Magazine Cover
11”x14” at 240dpi needs a file just under 9 megapixels
Print Magazine Cover
8.5”x11” at 240dpi needs a file just over 5 megapixels
Print Magazine Interior
8”x10” at 240dpi needs a file just over 4.6 megapixels
iPad 3 (Retina Display)
9.7” wide at 264dpi needs a file just over 3 megapixel
Olympus Pen cameras
12.6”x16.8” at 240dpi creates a 12 megapixel file
Olympus OMD cameras
14.4”x19.2” at 240dpi creates a 16 megapixel file
As you can tell by the information presented, 12 megapixels is plenty of resolution for most any print publication and plenty for the next generation of magazines such as the iPad.
Fear #3 – Micro 4/3 have more noise then APS sized sensors
Yes, up until the Panasonic GX1 and the Olympus OMD EM5 there was a bit of gap between the noise levels of the 4/3rds sensors and the APS sized sensors. However with the latest generation of camera that difference is very slight and in practice is not going to be very noticeable.
Even with my Pen Mini the noise levels are useable. When I shot with my Olympus E1 the files were more grainy then the noise levels I get from my Pen andy my clients did not complain. The problem is there are so many gear heads that examine the noise levels at the images magnified beyond 100% and there you will see a difference. In addition, most gear heads are looking at jpegs which only make matters worse by the time they get to the web compressed yet again.
In reality, by the time the image gets to print you don’t see much noise at all except in the most extreme situations. The solution I found is to use fast glass. Since you get more depth of field with the 4/3rds sensor compared to an APS sized chip at the same focal length and f-stop you can shoot with lower ISO and open up the lens to get more light.
In addition I’m not one to compare one camera to another in the endless quest as to what camera is best. I’m more interested in how to take the best photo I can with the gear I own and I think of the noise levels in any camera as I do with the color response of the processor which is to say its simply the character of the camera.
I think of the noise levels in any camera as I do with the color response of the processor which is to say its simply the character of the camera.
Noise levels was a fear of mine but not a large one and not one that you should concern your self with much if at all.
Fear #4 – It’s not full frame
I laugh every time I hear this because it’s just not true. Micro 4/3rds IS full frame. It is a full 4/3rds size frame. Same goes with any other sensor. The only time I don’t shoot full frame is when I set the aspect ratio to be something different such as 1:1 (square) then the image displayed is no longer full frame however the raw capture that is saved is a full 4/3rds full frame.
The argument can be said about cameras that use a 35mm film sized frame. They are not full frame if to you full frame is a 6×4.5 frame or a 6×7 frame.
The full frame argument applied in film when you were shooting with a half-frame 35mm camera such as the original Olympus Pen.
Don’t concern your self with this pointless argument. For me this fear was easy to get past.
Fear #5 – My colleagues will think I’m nuts.
In 2006 I caved into peer pressure fueled by some camera forums and sold off my Olympus gear which I loved and went with Canon. Expecting that my clients would love the “higher quality” I was getting I eagerly awaited the complimentary emails…nothing. Not one. In addition to missing my Olympus gear I had to deal with all the new challenges that came with shooting Canon at the time like cleaning a sensor, front and back focusing and soft lenses. So glad I had a reality check and am shooting 4/3rds again.
The opinion that matters is that of your clients and before any drastic change like moving to a new camera system its best to have a conversation with your regular clients. I also suggest you purchase a 4/3rds camera and test for your self. You’re going to find that there are unique challenges and many advantages such as size and speed that could help you in creating photography in new and different ways for you.Because I am in the business of visual communication I feel that to move past all my fears I needed to be in communication with my clients and take action. Strangely enough being in clear, open communication with one’s clients is contrary to how many in visual communications operate. This has always puzzled me since we are in the business to communicate. For years I’ve been an open book, which is now called “being transparent” and it worked against me. The photography world has been one of secrets and mystery. I’m here to blow the lid of that idea and to help you create the best photography of your life.
Overcoming your fears in a professional manner will build trust and strengthen the relationships with your clients, opening doors to larger and more exciting projects. As with change in any area of life there are fears. Addressing your fears and taking action is the only way to move past them, allowing areas of new opportunity to enter your life.
Photography is a beautiful art filled with endless challenges. Like any photographic system using Micro 4/3rds has its advantages and presents some challenges. I have been documenting solutions to the challenges I find and will be posting the results here.
Let us know in the comments what creative fears have you have overcome in your photography and what fears are stoping you from taking action.