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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.

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.

Eclipse 2017: Let’s Be Careful Out There

Unless you’ve spent the few weeks hiding under your desk for some reason or another, you’re aware of the total solar eclipse that will cross the United States today. Whether or not you’ve traveled to a region that will experience totality, it’s critically important that you take appropriate precautions while enjoying the view.

While astronomy buffs will likely already be aware, some photographers may not realize just how powerful the sun’s rays can be. Watch as the staff of Every Photo Store tests a vintage Canon Rebel XT’s sensor with a six second exposure. Obviously, this is far too long for a solar photograph, but is a reasonable amount of time to expect an average person to stare at the sun during an eclipse. (Trigger warnings: camera abuse, dubstep.)

Lesson learned: do the research in order to find an appropriate filter for the lens you plan to use. And never look through the optical viewfinder!

More importantly, you need to protect your two most precious sensors – the ones inside your skull. Former NASA/JPL employee Rod Ryle lost significant sight in one eye as a result of ignoring safety warnings as a child:

I viewed partial solar eclipses with faulty equipment as a child, and lost nearly half my vision in one eye. Trust me, it’s not worth it. And the worst part? There are no pain receptors in your eyes, so you won’t know you are damaging them until a few days later when it’s too late.

So how do you tell whether your filter or eclipse glasses are reliable? First of all, if they’re scratched, creased, or damaged in any other way, throw them out. Then, check the American Astronomical Society’s list of reputable vendors. Their web server is under extreme strain today, but Google’s cache comes to the rescue. Sadly, thousands of subpar products have made their way to market in the past weeks from unscrupulous vendors, and a great many people across the country are now at risk of permanent eye damage. If your filter isn’t on the list, please… view the eclipse through a pinhole projector instead – a method that’s been in use for thousands of years, and a simple, cheap way to observe the sun safely.