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M43 for Wedding Stills?

Discussion in 'Open Discussion' started by bigdaddydave, Sep 18, 2011.

  1. bigdaddydave

    bigdaddydave New to Mu-43

    7
    Oct 10, 2010
    Small Chicago Suburb
    Wow, it has been a long time since I have participated here! That needs to change. I love this forum.

    Here's my question: What do you think about using the M43 system for professional wedding stills (not video)?

    Now, before I get caught in a flame war about clients deserving "the best" and "M43 is not up to it" yada yada, let me frame my question a little more.

    Professional, creative photography is - I think we can all agree - more about the photographer who creates the image than the equipment. Not that good equipment doesn't help. That said, the camera, and sometimes are particular camera, is often an extension of a photographers technique and style.

    I have found, shooting weddings with Canon equipment (40D / 7D) that I just don't shoot as comfortably and freely - nor do I enjoy myself as much - as when I'm shooting my little GF1. For me and my style, being comfortable, free to move, and enjoying myself is critical to my creative thinking and execution process. For portrait sessions it's not as big of a deal but for weddings and events, I prefer to be a little more incognito shooting photojournalism style / creative pose expressions. I cannot help but wonder if I would do better and be more creative using M43 gear.

    Drawbacks? Certainly. First and foremost, the question of digital noise comes up. No doubt there are some fast lenses available, 12 f/2, 20 f/1.7, etc but even then - with a wedding - I'm in some real low light situations. The ISO is going to get cranked up. Can the M43 systems handle it?

    My thoughts are that it really depends on what you as the photographer like creatively as opposed to the client getting the "absolute best" etc. I actually like and find usable the ISO3200 shots I get out of my Panny when properly exposed. I'm willing to bet that the newer M43 cameras are even better. I think of Riccis Valladares who shoots Leica film equipment. Few could argue his photography is anything short of beautiful, but it's all shot on film which handles noise/grain even worse than M43. But his style works because he works the grain into the finished work and using the smaller cameras free him up to work the way he likes. With my Panny, the only issues I have at ISO1600 and 3200 are chroma noise which I can easily fix in LR.

    My only other issue would be flash lighting which I use from time to time. Is there a comparable flash I could use on a G3 for example to the 580EX? Bounce , swivel, decent power, etc. Also, would my Elinchrom Skyports work Ok across the M43 spectrum? I use those to fire off camera flashes during portraits / reception dancing. I haven't yet tried on my Panny, though I'm gonna give that a shot next time I have them out.

    Finally, the kit I would probably use would be the Panasonic G3 (I think that's the highest end one now) since I need a nice viewfinder, and my GF1 w/ LVF1. The G3 would come in handy because I could use the viewfinder and still have a hot shoe available for transmitting / using on board flash. I might even use two G3's. My lens kit would likely be the Oly 12mm f/2, Panny 20mm f/1.7, and a 45mm f/1.8. That would do nicely for me. I like working with primes and there's really no fast zooms available. I might also try the new Leica 25mm f/1.4.

    So... thoughts?
     
  2. Ned

    Ned Mu-43 Legend

    Jul 18, 2010
    Alberta, Canada
    For the kit, I think you're going the right route with the G3. The LVF-1 for the GF series will not suffice at only 202k dots, whereas the G3 viewfinder is (I believe) 1.44 million dots like the Olympus viewfinders.

    For lenses, I think you've got the right ones going except I would certainly consider replacing the Lumix 20mm f/1.7 with the Leica 25mm f/1.4 Summilux if it's not far out of your budget and you want the very best in performance, as the only advantage of the Lumix over the Leica is its pancake size. Great for compact day-to-day carrying, but unnecessary when you're on the job. That's not to say that the difference is enough to justify buying a whole new lens though, unless you have the money to spare... so only you can really say if it's worth it. :)

    How about shooting those rings and fine details though? You might also consider a macro lens like the Leica 45mm f/2.8 Macro-Elmarit.

    If you want a comparable flash to the Canon 580EX, then look at the Olympus FL-50R (which includes a slave sensor if you need it), Panasonic DMW-FL500 (identical to the Olympus but without optical trigger), or the Metz-50.

    As far as high ISO, I think you should be fine with the G3. Unfortunately, internet tests can be very deceiving. I'll use the PEN system as an example because that's the system I use... The newer generation Olympus cameras (from the E-5 to the E-P3) all use a super weak AA filter and you will find that there is no chroma or luminance noise at all when cranked up all the way to ISO 3200 (and perhaps higher, but I've never bothered). The noise "grain" is normal for ISO 3200, and is not something which you can avoid at such high ISO. That can be filtered out non-destructively by any noise reduction software, as long as there is no chorma or luminance noise.

    That's from real-world experience shooting in really dark, poorly lit locations like nightclubs. What you might not realize when you browse noise tests on the internet, is that they're mostly shot in a studio setup and all they're really showing you is the amount of noise/grain. The one useful thing you can glean from those tests is the amount of detail retained, which is something Olympus is never criticized for with its super-weak AA filter (which provides very high detail retention). It's when you take these cameras out into the poorly lit conditions that the real problems with high-ISO show up - chroma noise and luminance noise. With an older generation Olympus camera like the E-3 for instance, you will see lots of blue color streaks or white streaks through the image when shooting at ISO 1600 in a dark nightclub, or you'll get specks and poor coloration of skin. These are problems which can't be filtered out easily through noise-reduction software. The E-5 and E-PL2 however, show no chroma or luminance noise, and the only colors shown are true colors cast from the lens. That, coupled with the high detail retention of the weak AA filter, is what makes for great high ISO performance... not the "look, this picture has more noise!" tests that you get from the internet shot in a studio. So the internet will tell you that the performance hasn't changed in 3-4 years because "they still use the same sensor", but the truth will show up in real-world usage - the performance of these new generation cameras are way ahead of the previous generations... at least in specific areas like high-ISO performance.

    If you were happy enough with ISO3200 shots out of your GF-1, you will be more than happy with the G3 I'm sure. I don't know if the new Panasonic cameras control color noise as well as the new Olympus cameras do, but with the more sensitive sensor of the G3 I'm sure you'll get at least another stop or two of usability over your GF-1.
     
  3. stratokaster

    stratokaster Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jan 4, 2011
    Kyiv, Ukraine
    Pavel
    A friend of mine is a wedding photographer. He recently replaced his Canon kit with 3 GH2s - he uses 2 for stills and 1 for video. He's happy with the reduced weight and overall performance, although he admits his 5D Mark II was better for stills.
     
  4. bigdaddydave

    bigdaddydave New to Mu-43

    7
    Oct 10, 2010
    Small Chicago Suburb
    This is all very encouraging, thank you! I know some will say you should never do a wedding with anything less than a 5DMkII but I think that's hogwash. Film cameras delivered a lesser grain/noise product but they of course were used for years. And yes new DSLR's may provide better technicial excellence but what is technical excellence when used by Uncle Bob who knows nothing about how to use the camera?

    I'm excited at the prospect of using a smaller system that allows me to move freely to get creative shots. At 6'2" and 235lbs, I'm ducking and side stepping all day. It's exhausting with pounds and pounds of equipment and it's tough to want to get creative.

    I'm also really excited about the Olympus 12mm. Having a true MF ring with DISTANCE SCALE!!! Awesome!!! Zone focus baby! It's wide and I can zone focus. That would be perfect for me in low light!

    Ned, good points on the macro. I'll need one. I'm far more familiar with what's out there for Canon than M43 and I'll need to do some research. Budget is an issue. I've shot M43 for a year with my GF1 but I'll need G3's (at least two) plus new glass. To do that, I would have to sell off my Canon gear and glass. I'd hate to do that only to find I hate the results. Can't afford to stock up on M43 gear without selling off my Canon gear.
     
  5. ~tc~

    ~tc~ Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Oct 22, 2010
    Houston, TX
    There are really only 2 concerns:

    - what the client will think if you show up with a "consumer" camera
    - DOF. Keep in mind 45/1.8 will have the FOV and exposure of a 90/1.8, but the DOF will be like a 45/3.6 on FF. Some times this is a huge advantage (macro, group portraits) sometimes this is a significant problem (subject isolation)
     
  6. stratokaster

    stratokaster Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jan 4, 2011
    Kyiv, Ukraine
    Pavel
    This is not right — the DOF will be like a 90/3.5 on FF which is still pretty shallow. One of my favorite lenses of all time was Voigtlander APO-Lanthar 90/3.5 and it was really good for portraits.
     
  7. linkedit

    linkedit Mu-43 Top Veteran

    649
    Aug 6, 2010
    New Jersey, USA
    If these guys could shoot a wedding with an iPhone, why couldn't you use a G3?

    <object width="640" height="360"><param name="movie" value="https://www.youtube.com/v/yviV-HB6poQ?version=3&amp;hl=en_US"></param><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true"></param><param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always"></param><embed src="https://www.youtube.com/v/yviV-HB6poQ?version=3&amp;hl=en_US" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" width="640" height="360" allowscriptaccess="always" allowfullscreen="true"></embed></object>

    It's all about what you're going to do with the images I guess.
     
  8. bigdaddydave

    bigdaddydave New to Mu-43

    7
    Oct 10, 2010
    Small Chicago Suburb
    This is, of course, a concern, which is why even with my 40D and 7D kit I tape over the camera brand and models with black electrical tape. I don't even want the topic to come up.

    Presumably, clients would have seen my work ahead of time, liked it, and chose to utilize me. With the exception of the first couple shot with M43, they would have seen the results. If they don't like what I use when I show up on wedding day, hopefully a simple reminder that they hired me for my results not my equipment would suffice. Otherwise I suppose I could always tell them to have Uncle Bob fill in and I'd be happy to go home :p (kidding).
     
  9. Ramon

    Ramon New to Mu-43

    2
    Sep 18, 2011
    I read these forums everyday, but I just signed up to reply to your question, cause it's one close to the heart. :) I've been a wedding photographer for about 5 years and shot about 150 weddings. The way your describe your style is exactly how I would describe our own; not too much posing, documentary style, creative angles etc. (for pics check our site, www.monetmine.nl )

    I'd like to reverse your statement, because I don't think your camera needs to change. I think wether or not you'll be incognito has much more to do with your own personality and state-of-mind during a wedding than your camera.

    The most important thing about not being noticed is body language. When you know your camera and know what's going to happen, you're relaxed and people won't notice you. When you're stressed out, fidling with your camera, running from one spot to another, people will.

    I think that when you pick up your GF1 you don't feel like 'The Photographer' anymore, with all the responsibilities that come with that title. But truth be told, you DO have those responsibilities. It's important that you deal with them. The means: shooting alot of weddings, but also letting go the notion that you must capture every moment. Inform your clients that you tell the story YOUR way and that it's impossible to capture every moment.

    Also, be honest... what's really the difference between a G3+prime and a 7D+prime? The G3 still looks like a small dSLR, especially with a flash on top. You'll still be seen as 'The Photographer' by the guests, and therefore still feel awkward.

    My advice would be: keep shooting weddings with a light and small dSLR kit (7d+prime). Work on your camera- and on pre-visualization technique.

    If you have any questions, feel free to ask.
     
  10. bigdaddydave

    bigdaddydave New to Mu-43

    7
    Oct 10, 2010
    Small Chicago Suburb
    Ramon,

    I appreciates you comments. To be honest, I usually am pretty relaxed during a shoot. It's not so much that I think a different kit will help me capture MORE, as much as I believe it will lighten the load allowing me to shoot the way I like. Minimilastically. Like it or not, the size and weight of your equipment can and does get in the way... at least for me.

    I do agree that the client can have an effect. During the last wedding, I made it clear up front how I shoot and that I shoot my way. No matter. On wedding day, the bride and her moms (yes plural) were very insistent - all day long - on getting shots they wanted when they wanted. We budgeted a certain amount of time ahead of time to shoot one big group shot of the wedding party and then spend thirty minutes on just the B&G. Day of, she let her moms run the show - and she kept asking for extra stuff too - that we would up with 8 minuts... 8 minutes to shoot her and her groom creatively at the church. I'm not going to fight with the bride on her wedding day, but in the future, I'm going to make it even more clear and spelled out that I do it my way and if family gets in the way they'll be told straight up no.

    That being said, that was just a difficult client. The wedding just before that one - they let me shoot my way and left well enough alone. Ah well.

    Anyway, I'd like to walk away from a wedding without carpal tunnel in my wrists from all the weight of two bodies + big lenses + flashes + battery grips. It's cumbersome. i want more freedom... like when I shoot street photography. That's my thought. I shoot weddings like I do streets. Why not use similar equipment?
     
  11. Linh

    Linh Mu-43 All-Pro

    Apr 14, 2009
    Maryland, US
    I will add getting used to how the shutter behaves. My timing is still a bit off as I'm used to my 5d and 40d.
     
  12. Ramon

    Ramon New to Mu-43

    2
    Sep 18, 2011
    Ah, thanks for clarifying your position a bit more. :) Have you shot a full-wedding with your GF1 yet? I would definitly do that first, or maybe second-shooting one.

    The more I think about it, the more I believe you should go for it. The wedding photography market is already saturated with people that are doing practically the same thing. But if you go for it, do it well. Really try to define your style. Perhaps ditch the whole posing session all together. Yes, you'll lose some clients, but you'll also gain some.

    I unfortunately know that situation with bride/mother all too well. It disappeared mostly about a year ago though, when we raised our prices quite a bit. Since then people book us for our pictures, not just because they need a wedding photographer.

    Do you know Otto Schultze ? I think you'll like his style. He photographs weddings much in the same way as he does street. He's also a big fan of Leica. ;)

    Have you thought about going the Leica way? I don't know if your budget allows you.. but a full Leica system is not that much more expensive than a full Canon/Nikon system. If a digital Leica is too expensive, what about going back to film? A nice M6, with a 35/50/85 set will get you very far. One of the most popular wedding photographs at the moment, Jose Villa shoots film only. He doesn't have a documentary style, but it does show that there's a market for it, even in these digital times.
     
  13. flash

    flash Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Apr 29, 2010
    1 hour from Sydney Australia.
    Gordon
    Finished my 5th m4/3 wedding on Saturday after having traded a three body Canon system (2x 5D2 and a 50D) for a Leica and GH2s. I've gone from 16kg of gear to 6-7kg overnight. And I'm loving it. I shot over 600 weddings with Canon.

    I'm using a 7-14 f4, Oly 4/3 14-54 f2.8-3.5II, 45-200, 20mm and the PL45 macro. This was designed to replace my 50D kit, which it does brilliantly. I got the Leica to replace my primes. I still need a 135. The GH-2 will look remarkably like your 40D but with a slightly sharper shoulder for highlights. Be careful there. I'd also look at the GH2 as you can set the aspect ratio to be a native 2:3 not a cropped version. Plus the lack of an eyepiece sensor would drive me batty.

    Image quality is more than good enough. It's not the same as a 7D but if you manage client expectations there won't be any problems. We still have large prints in studio shot on 10Ds and D60s and they still impress.

    If I had the new primes I think I could get away without the Leica, but I enjoy using it so much that I'm keeping my kit as is. At the last wedding I shot 250 shots on the Leica and nearly 700 on the GH2. The only lens I currently need for the Panny is a faster long zoom. But as I shoot with a partner and he still has his 70-200 we're well covered.

    For the flash I'm using a pair of Metz 58AF2's. They certainly have the power, but the TTL system in the Panasonic is not very good, compared to Canon. There is no separate sensor for the flash to meter off. It meters off the main sensor. This leads to an unacceptable shutter delay as well as very inconsistent metering, especially for backlit scenes. The solution is to switch to auto, where the camera still sets the aperture and flash zoom, but the exposure is calculated from a sensor in the flash. This works very well for me and is very predictable.

    I too was worried about client perception. So far it hasn't been a problem. But that may be because my partner is still there with his humungocams. I do tape my Panasonics. I doubt that it does anything, but it also doesn't do any harm. When I shot with the 5D2 uncle Bobs still turned up with 1 series cameras. I've seen those shots. No problems there.

    Since you use cropped cameras you're only going to see a small increase in DOF anyway. About 2/3-1 stop. It's not a big deal going from an APSC sensor to m4/3. The real negatives are:
    - battery life. You'll need lots, compared to one for the Canon.
    - build. Not an issue for me but it is for some. I haven't broken anything yet.
    - dynamic range. Compared to your 7D. You'll need to meter differently.
    - tracking AF. Don't bother.
    - lack of constant aperture zooms and the standard zooms are hohum.

    The positives.
    - size and weight
    - the touchscreen. Absolutely brilliant to be able to select focus point by touch.
    - being able to focus almost anywhere on the screen with the same accuracy and speed.
    - focus accuracy. No micro adjust needed.
    - live view that works.
    - live histogram. Yay. Accurate exposures nearly every time.
    - Articulated screen.

    So, I'm happy with the switch. But, as you realize it's an individual decision based on individual needs. But from an image quality and perception point of view it's not an issue. And your back will thank you. I'm behind this week, but if I get a chance I'll post a few.

    Gordon
     
  14. Ned

    Ned Mu-43 Legend

    Jul 18, 2010
    Alberta, Canada
    Psh. The PEN is a system camera. If you show up with a PEN and a whole bunch of pro glass and accessories, nobody will know (or care) that your body was bought at Best Buy. xP

    The body is a minor part of a professional photographer's equipment setup.
     
  15. ~tc~

    ~tc~ Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Oct 22, 2010
    Houston, TX
    Hey, I didn't say I agree with it - I just know that the average person is going to expect you to have a viewfinder that's part of the camera. Even a Leica is foreign to 99% of the people at the wedding.

    My point is simply if you want to use "alternative" equipment, it's a question you need to be prepared to answer.
     
  16. flash

    flash Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Apr 29, 2010
    1 hour from Sydney Australia.
    Gordon
    No. That's not true at weddings. People do care. Guests at a wedding haven't seen your work. They judge you by your attitude and actions and the camera hanging from your shoulder. We book more referrals based on how we act and look at a reception than anything else. More so than the actual images. We don't kid ourselves that we're the only one's in the area that can take a decent photo. Client perception is vital in weddings, especially if you book mostly from referrals and guests at other weddings, which is where we get 70% of our work from.

    With a 58AF2 on a GH-2 it still looks like a serous camera, so it's not an issue. But I take great care at client meetings to explain that I use small cameras that do great things, just so there's no disappointment when I turn up with a tiny camera bag.

    Commercial work is certainly different. But how you present yourself at a wedding (including the gear you have) is absolutely vital to long term prosperity.

    Gordon

    p.s. For those that want a Pen to look real serious, real fast, it's actually very easy. Put a leather half case on it and a nice Gordy strap. It's unbelievable how that changes attitudes to the Pens and Leicas at weddings.
     
  17. flash

    flash Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Apr 29, 2010
    1 hour from Sydney Australia.
    Gordon
    OK. Here are some samples. All taken in the last month and all on the GH2, with various lenses. The last one is interesting as it is under exposed by about a full stop. I have others exposed correctly but like the expressions in this one. It completely falls apart in black and white, so it will have to be colour. The last shot was also shot with a CV 75mm 1.8 Helliar. Thats why there is no exif.

    Feel free to tear them apart, criticise them and discuss why I'm a crap wedding photographer. But please NO comments on the subjects. Some are younger than you might think and they're all friends now. I don't want to have to pull them down.

    7-14mm
    001-AMSRS_by_Flash_GordonPhotography.

    14-140mm
    002-AMSRS_by_Flash_GordonPhotography.

    14-140mm
    004-AMSRS_by_Flash_GordonPhotography.

    14-140mm
    006-AMSRS_by_Flash_GordonPhotography.

    14-140mm
    007-AMSRS_by_Flash_GordonPhotography.

    Oly 14-54II
    008-AMSRS_by_Flash_GordonPhotography.

    45-200
    009-AMSRS_by_Flash_GordonPhotography.

    PL 45 macro
    010-AMSRS_by_Flash_GordonPhotography.

    Oly 14-54II
    012-AMSRS_by_Flash_GordonPhotography.

    Oly 14-54II
    013-AMSRS_by_Flash_GordonPhotography.

    CV 75mm Helliar Classic
    014-AMSRS_by_Flash_GordonPhotography.
     
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