The Power of Small Cameras

Man smoking, waiting. Olympus E-P1 at 14mm, 16:9 format, built-in art filter.

Man smoking, waiting. Olympus E-P1 at 14mm, 16:9 format, built-in art filter. I was about 2 metres from my subject.

I have recently grown much in love with small cameras like the Olympus E-P1, Leica M6, Rollei 35mini, and even the old classic legendary half-frame Olympus PEN FT, just to name some. My madness and fanaticism over small cameras is not getting any better and in fact, is getting worse… though the Leica M9 at RM25k is way out of reach. I figured that I can do the same thing by mounting my Leica lenses on my Olympus E-P1 via an adaptor and manual focus it even better than the M9 by using live view. Haha… self-consolation maybe. Or use my full-frame film Leica M6. Cheers man!

Still, I am often humbled by the fact that good images do not rely on good cameras BUT good photographers! Just browse through Flickr and you will be humbled just like me. Many of my favourite shots often come from my small compact cameras too.

Why own a perfect, what I call a “magic camera” like the Nikon D700 or D3, that when you wanna “steal a shot”, the cameras are so huge that you will be caught way before you press your shutter button! Not unless you are using a 70-200mm telephoto or even longer, and stand 50 -100 feet away. However, I also remember Robert Capa said,” If your pictures aren’t good enough, you aren’t close enough. So, I guess wide angles and standards are still my preferred choices. I like to sneak up close and personal, “steal” a shot without scaring my subjects with huge cameras, and sometimes, “ask” for a shot from my subjects. (I’ll be writing on the difference between “stealing” and “asking” for shots in another post).

So, why do I call the D700 a “magic camera”? Cause it really can continue shooting at ISO6400 or higher when all other cameras “died” in the darkest environment ever. (Of course the Canon 5Dmark2 too will continue shooting, but maybe focus blur. Kidding… cause personally I think Nikon’s AF is better).

Then the Olympus shooters will exclaim, “why shoot in such lowlight when the lighting is not even good, all flat?” And the Olympus shooters will whip out their off-camera TTL flash and boasts of the best skin tones and lighting achievable in such situations! No doubt, they will get the best-looking portraits.

I often wonder, why still shoot when all around you is so blindly dark??? Oh, then I figured that maybe you are a paparazzi or a private investigator doing your job trying to catch someone in their “act”. Lighting is no longer important, “the act” is more!

Now that I’ve been missing my big SLRs, let me try listing down it’s advantages.

ADVANTAGES OF BIG DSLRs:

1. Faster frame rates (but the loud clanky shutter sounds will give you away)

2. Size and look will boost your self-confidence or ego (if being regarded as a professional by “how you look” is more important to you than your images)

3. Faster auto-focusing (compact cameras with F8 aperture can “focus ” faster due to deeper depth-of-field)

4. More inter-changeable lens choices (an up close personal 28mm F8 shot of a stranger on the street is a 100 times more compelling than a 85mm F1.2 shot showing a reluctant face)

5. You look like a PRO, you look like a PRO, you look like a PRO. Oh, what can I say? The whole world thinks you are a PRO. You get people asking you for business cards. You don’t really have to show your images. The gear you hang on your body speaks everything. No one dares to comment openly about your images. All you will hear is,“Nice. Very professional.” (I’d rather not live in delusion)

Conclusion: Yes, I still use my big professional SLRs when the need arises (faster frame rates, lenses, etc.) But I will always want my images to speak for me, NOT my equipments.

And the power of small cameras must not be undermined! A small and insignificant camera with a quiet shutter doubles up your photographic opportunities, even triples! It also tests your communication skills with your subjects!

5 thoughts

  1. “an up close personal 28mm F8 shot of a stranger on the street is a 100 times more compelling than a 85mm F1.2 shot showing a reluctant face”
    Gosh you seriously got me cracking up there !!! Very nicely put.

  2. Hey Mr DC,i will be much interested to see whats in your daily backpack/slingbag/camera bag!!!Hee Hee, will find you yam cha 🙂

  3. Pierre Picton

    March 18, 2010

    not a bad way of putting it haha

  4. Hey.I am extremly curious about topic.Where can I discover more material about the subject? Any ideas?

  5. appreciated very much, I must comment that your site is amazing!

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