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Small Packages


Besides the obvious, albeit undeniably cute, image posted here, these are thoughts on equipment size, and the ramifications thereof.

Sometimes bigger is better. The camera system I normally shoot with is rather large; large body, grip, and large lenses that let lots of light in. The larger body makes using those lenses much more comfortable. The larger body also tends to make things more stable: more mass to better absorb movement.

As someone who tends to light things, (in general) the larger that light source, the softer the light. I have all sorts of modifiers that are not exactly compact, including a 7′ source that produces some of the most beautiful light you have ever seen.

Sometimes, however, smaller has its advantages as well.

A smaller camera is more approachable – there is less of a barrier between subject and camera. Logistics are also much easier.

What about image quality? I won’t lie to you and say they are the same. There is a reason for using larger systems, and the primary one is image quality. However, while not as good, photographic technology has progressed to the point where on many small systems – such as the pocket sized camera I used for this image – quality is still, well, good. The history of photography – as has the rest of the technology sphere – been the history of miniaturization.

This pocket camera approaches the quality of most consumer-grade DSLRs. In fact, it uses an updated version of the sensor found in a very popular mirror-less system. The fact that this camera ia also capable of large aperture exposures means depth of field (or the lack thereof) can give that “professional” look of selective focus. It is also capable of shooting raw images, meaning straight, unprocessed sensor data can be used for further processing; this means that I have the maximum amount of information available to work with.

Having a high quality small camera means it is always with me. And less intimidating than the larger camera (note that in a planned session this isn’t much of a factor – the subject expects and is ready for the fact that they are being photographed).

In terms of lighting, rarely is smaller better, although there are times when a small, “hard” light source is appropriate. Not for babies, though. So I eschewed supplemental lighting and let the ambient do its thing.

Back to our hero. This is Leo. You, know, the lion. I don’t think Leo cared one way or the other how large my camera was, but logistically it was the way to go. I chose B&W to simplify; often, I ask myself the question “Does color contribute significantly to the image?” If the answer is “No” then I generally prefer B&W.

This was shot with available light, meaning high ISO (6400 in this case). I did have to noise reduce, which in a sharpened image will appear somewhat grainy. I don’t see this as necessarily bad – it imparts a film feeling to the image, a captured moment. Which, of course, it was. The challenge with this type of shooting is also the use of slow shutter speeds (there is not a whole lot of light), handheld, and that noise. I much prefer this to the harshness of attached, direct flash, though.

In the end it was the unobtrusive size of the equipment which allowed me to get the images. Horses for courses, as the English say.

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