David Burnett Has Switched from Canon to Sony, and Will Remain a Great Photographer

A major piece of news rocked the Internet this week (and best of all, it didn’t involve Donald Trump). Our dear friend David Burnett announced that he was trading in his Canon gear for Sony. Hear it in his own words:

To “change horses” after 40 years is notable for any photographer, whether professional or amateur. Naturally, there were detractors who claimed Sony paid him off for the endorsement. I suppose they parked a dump truck full of money in his driveway, per standard operating procedure. Kidding aside, the fact remains that David continues to earn his living as he always has – by the images his hardware turns out (with some small contribution from the 8-9 inches of “bio-ware” right behind it.) It seems clear to me that David mentioned the switch for the same reason any of us might post a status update on his blog – he’s excited about what it means for the future, and he wants to share that feeling with us.

Over the years there have been posts right here on our blog about this same topic: Raj Tavadia, our technology director, posted two widely-read guest blogs describing his experience switching from Canon to Fuji, and I posted my own impressions later that year when I traded in my oldest Nikons for a Fuji X-E2. Where, may I ask, were those dump trucks full of money, then?

Rather than standardizing on one system, I have preferred to choose what feels like the “right” camera or lens for the day, whether a Nikon D series, Fuji X, Canon G, Sony RX, or Apple iPhone. Just a different way of working; you could make a strident defense of either method. And if that interests you, you’ve come to the right place – the Internet, it turns out, is better suited for almost nothing more in Creation than holding vigorous, pointless arguments with total strangers. (Thank goodness for cute cat pictures, which seem to be the only thing everyone can still get behind.)

Now I’m not going to speak for David – who has continued to turn out world-class work as much as he ever has – but I wonder if his decision was influenced by the notion that it can be healthy for one’s creativity to change his tools after a certain amount of time. It doesn’t hurt that so much of the recent progress in photography has come out of Sony, both in terms of design and manufacturing. Their sensors have powered all of the Nikon D800 series, for instance, as well as many iPhones. It stands to reason that they’d hold some of their best stuff back for their own-brand cameras. Meanwhile, Canon admits that they’re not innovating as quickly as they should.

Aside from his new adventures in Sony land, I do hope that he’ll continue to use that big, beautiful Speed Graphic as well as anything, large or small, that lets him keep creating images that stun us, inspire us, and make us laugh.

Using microGAFFER as a Force for Creativity, Concealment, and Kindness

The holidays are fast approaching, and all of us are looking for thoughtful, useful, and (ideally) surprising gifts for those special people in our lives. We at Visual Departures have been honored to see our own microGAFFER® show up several times on “stocking stuffer” lists in the years since it debuted. For photographers, theater technicians, and filmmakers, microGAFFER is almost life-changing (almost.) A 4-pack of microGAFFER weighs less than a standard roll of gaffer tape and fits in any pocket – always at the ready. When you think about it, it makes no sense that a roll of tape weighs more than your fancy new camera… right?

But that’s not the only reason microGAFFER is special. One of the key features of gaffer tape is that it can be removed without leaving sticky residue, and as a result, crafters of all stripes have found microGAFFER useful in their work. We were even fortunate enough to be noted by Michael Hsu in his “The Fixer” column in the Wall Street Journal.

One common craft you’ll see on Etsy or Pinterest — or at your local holiday marketplace — involves taking an otherwise ordinary object and jazzing it up with just the right materials and ornamentation to make it stand out from the crowd. It could be a bag, a notebook, a piece of jewelry, or even a cardboard box – but when the right customer sees it, they simply have to have it. Professional crafters spend a good portion of their time on the lookout for new materials to use (they, more than most, want to stand out from the crowd). Next to standbys like washi tape, the woven-cloth texture of microGAFFER allows another way to add variety to their creations. (And did you know about gaff tape prom dresses? It’s a thing with the kids these days.)

If you’re into home canning or pickling, use microGAFFER to label your Ball jars (don’t forget to write down the Date of Production, just in case something ends up spending a long time at the back of a shelf.) Speaking of which: if you mix up a batch of Alton Brown’s Internet-famous Aged Eggnog and pop it into some Ball jars this weekend, it’ll be absolutely sublime by the end of the year. Or the end of next year, if you have the willpower. (Good luck with that.)

But what if you’re not part of the crafting world? Here’s a tip if you’re planning to visit faraway family: Make your luggage stand out at the baggage claim by tightly wrapping some bright gaffer tape around the handles. Saves time and reduces anxiety just a bit during what’s usually a stressful moment – waiting at the baggage carousel. “Ah, here comes yet another black rollaboard… I wonder if this one’s mine…” Be sure to wrap the tape near the edges of the handles rather than at the apex in order to avoid natural wear and tear.

And should your holidays involve sightseeing in a touristy sort of place, consider “debadging” your fancy camera to make it less appealing to thieves in the sea of out-of-towners with fancy cameras… As the joke goes, “you don’t have to outrun the bear – only your hiking partner.” Anyway, the simplest way to “go ninja” is to place a small strip of microGAFFER across the manufacturer’s logo. For bonus points, layer several strips along various parts of the camera to look like it’s a beaten-up piece of junk. Above all, replace the billboard-style camera strap with something less obtrusive (and more comfortable besides.)

And if you’re so fortunate as to own lots of fancy gadgets, use a small square of gaff tape to do some judicious “blacking out” on those as well. So many electronics use those painfully bright blue LEDs these days! Is it really necessary to have your darkened living room resemble a spaceport on Star Trek? Most inexcusable are the marketing people who force the logo on your TV to light up! You guessed it – on goes a black strip of microGAFFER once again…

Whether you’re a crafter or photographer or neither, I hope this post has inspired you in some way to use microGAFFER in some unusual way. If you haven’t tried microGAFFER yet, here’s a special discount code just for our blog readers. Use the code “INSPIRED” when checking out at microgaffer.com – a little holiday gift from us to you.

And if you’re privileged enough to be reading this, please don’t forget to find a way to do charitable acts during the holidays (and ideally year-round). If you have children, see if they can get involved, too, so they grow up to know charity as a normal part of life rather than something we only remember to do when it gets cold outside. Whether you donate time or money to people in need, let’s seek to make the world a kinder, more understanding, more welcoming place for everyone… no matter who they are, where they come from, or what they believe. Keep in mind the sentiment John Watson urged in his Christmas message in The British Weekly over 100 years ago: “be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”

Old Friends, New Perspectives (or: From Exoskeletons to ExoLenses)

Over the past weekend, I had a long catching-up phone conversation with my friend of several decades, former assistant, and great photographer Jock Pottle, who now lives in North Carolina. A few years ago, I wrote in this space about Jock and his Digging Man series of illustrations…

Jock Pottle: Free Me

I still think the conception and execution of Digging Man are truly unique and the finished works are absolutely phenomenal. I also wish I had a connection to the art director of The New Yorker because that is one publication (among many) where the fit would be perfect. Hope you visit his site and agree.

Anyway, after our phone chat, Jock emailed this photo. For the life of me, I couldn’t figure out how it was done, although that may just speak to my lack of imagination at the time. Can you figure it out? (If you prefer to believe it’s simply one of the great photobombs of all time, I won’t try to stop you.)

Jock Pottle: grasshopper

On to another matter… Earlier this year, during our annual trip to the NAB show in Las Vegas, I spent time at the Zeiss optics booth. As always, their lenses for virtually every format in motion picture, television, and still photography continue to be at the pinnacle of optical design and manufacture (just look at this “sliced Zeiss” they had on display). Over the past 50 years, I’ve used Zeiss lenses on almost every camera I’ve owned and many of those I still work with.

But here’s the reason for this bit of unrestrained fan mail: I discovered that Zeiss has designed a series of three accessory lenses for the iPhone. Not one of those cheap 3-in-1 clip-on lens sets you’re probably aware of; think of these as prime optics (they certainly don’t come cheap.) The brand name on the lenses is Exo and you’d do well to check them out at exolens.com. I carry the iPhone 7, and the inherent macro capabilities of the phone’s camera are really impressive. However, mounting the Exo Macro-Zoom lens (with its integral diffuser) takes iPhone macro shooting to a whole new level.

There is a range of options for mounting the lenses to iPhone models going back a few generations. I use the case with a threaded screw mount into which each of these lenses mounts. The wide-angle and portrait (2x) lenses are just as impressive… here are some before-and-after demos of each:

This is as good a time as any to invoke the old adage that any professional photographer has used to answer a question asked hundreds of times — “What’s the best camera?”

And the answer, true now as it has always been — “the one you have with you.” And since I always have my iPhone at hand, it’s what I rely on every single day.