Up to yesterday I was sure that for the foreseeable future I was going to be earning a living solely as a stock photographer and that I would be moving slowly but surely towards a more 'mobile workflow' probably based on high-end smartphones, with a little red dot gear thrown in to keep the Leica fanboy in me happy! However, that's all changing.
i can't go into specifics, as I'm tied to a contract and an NDA, but I'm going to be spending the next couple of years shooting Landscape and 'location scenics' of the area I live in (The English Midlands including the Cotswolds and the Stratford-Upon-Avon area) for a new project to promote 'Beautiful Britain' and the UK as a tourist destination around the world. This will be good for me both financially and in terms of exposure. It does mean though I will be required to shoot stills (and 4K video) with the highest resolution possible. This is part of the deal, so any plans that I might have had about 'downsizing' my gear will have to go on hold.
There is some seriously large reproduction involved here. Display material, banners, advertising hoardings and with some prototype gear I've been shown, digitally projected 'slide shows' literally the size of a wall, so I'm going to be looking at the highest MP count I can find and handle. Medium Format has been mentioned, but for all sorts of reasons, that's not an option for me. So I'm going to be looking seriously at both the Sony A7r II and the Canon 5Ds R. Now neither is something I had planned on buying, but the opportunity is such a good one, that any personal preference that I might have regarding the gear I use has to take second place to practicality in carrying out this project.
These are examples of the kind of images I will be producing, shot yesterday with my Nikon D750 and Samyang 14mm f/2.8 and 85mm f/1.4 lenses.
As you can see pretty 'classic' type shots showing off the heritage, history and attractions of visiting the UK. Or "English Twee' as I've often called it.
It is indeed the case that for 99.9% of my stock photography work, the smaller, lighter options that I use are perfectly adequate and indeed even somewhat over the top, but for the level of reproduction that I'm shooting for here and the need to make my images as 'future proof' as possible (Probably 5-6 years 'shelf life) this is one of the few cases where all those MP's are not just a luxury, but essential. So there are some decisions to be made.
The Sony A7r II has the advantages of being smaller, lighter and with 4K video built in. However the Canon 5Ds has a few more pixels, a much more comprehensive lens range and is indeed the preferred option of the organisation I'm working for, since all their testing and initial work has been done using this camera. Canon lent them a production model before it was available here and they also have some sponsorship deal going on. However, this is not set in stone and I can make my own choice.
There is also another option. It's one that would mean less shake up in the gear I use and has in fact had a VERY positive response when I demonstrated some samples. Because of the nature of the images required, i.e. for the most part there is no need for ultra fast AF or fast lenses, I put together some multi image stitches using my Leica T (Typ 701) See example below. (Not I would point out anything special in terms of UK travel, just the house across the road which I used for a test shot.)
As you can clearly see the resolution is pretty amazing. This image is also significantly sharper than any sample I've seen from either the Canon or Sony cameras. And of course by shooting more images I can get the resolution even higher.
As I mentioned this was met with approval and wasn't in fact something the people who are funding this were aware of. They were impressed by the fact that I used a Leica however. Now it remains to be seen whether this will work in all circumstances. It takes a while to put together 9 shots using manual focus and manual exposure. (Done to get every image consistent with the rest) and their may well be times when I only have time to get one shot off. The Public having the unfortunate habit of walking around some of the places I'm going to photographing, assuming that they have every right to do so since they paid to get in. Peasants!!!
So, to sum up - This is a great opportunity for me and if I have to make to make a few sacrifices in terms of what I would really like to do then it's no big deal. I'm constantly writing about the pictures I take are far more important than the gear I use and this is a case of me demonstrating that. I suspect that in the long term I will have to 'bulk up' the gear I use and use either the Sony and / or the Canon to get the results that are required. However, I will be using the multi-stitch option and trying a few different options. However I suspect the Leica T (Typ 701) will fit the bill better than what else I have, because of the quality of the lenses, with their edge to edge sharpness and better distortion (Lack of) characteristics. For the 4K video, I'm planning to use m4/3, unless I find that the Sony A7r II offers me a better option. Maybe I can hire one to check that out.
So, interesting times ahead and of course, as ever, I'll be writing about my progress in this blog. All of this was unexpected, unanticipated and as you might imagine a very pleasant surprise. I will probably stop smiling soon. But not yet!!!
After doing some research, comparing prices etc. I've decided to go with the Canon 5Ds. (The one with the AA filter) My antipathy towards Sony FE shows no signs of going away and I'm buying what I thought I'd never buy again, a Canon DSLR. However, you will understand why from the above.
Yesterday I went out with the express intention of trying the multi-image stitch technique I outlined above. However, working in places with people around I struggled. I stood in one place for about 20 minutes waiting for a clear 'tourist free' view of what I wanted to photograph and eventually gave up because the time I needed to put enough shots together for my stitched images that coincided with some decent light just wasn't available. So I decided that since I'm working in the UK and I'm moving towards that time of year when good light is in shorter supply, I've had to reluctantly abandon my idea. You may well have guessed that if the images I'm shooting are going to have the long term value that is required, they need to be people, fashion and any way of them looking dated, free. So in order to make life easier I've decided to go for an instant 50MP shot via the Canon. It will make life easier. (Though a little tougher on my back!!)
And to be honest, part of this is also that I can continue to work with m4/3. I would much rather shoot 4K video with my Panasonics than any Sony FE camera. For the lenses, the DOF advantage, the fully articulated live view screen and..........well simply because I like them as cameras better. I've never got on with Sony design, despite all the wonders 'under the hood.' And yes I can actually muster more enthusiasm for the Canon than the Sony A7r II. I prefer a real DSLR to a pretend one anyway and reading about the ridiculously poor battery life of the Sony has pushed me towards the Canon. It should be arriving Tuesday, when I should also get an adapter for my Nikon lenses. A while ago when I was shooting stock on 5D's and a 1Ds Mk II, I used Nikon lenses extensively and they have the same kind of dot focus confirmation as my Nikons. So it's going to be a change, but hopefully it should be fun and I won't need too many painkillers carrying this lot around! But as before I'm pretty excited by this new 'job' and looking forward to creating some huge files with the Canon.