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The Unintended Results of Using a Smaller Camera Rig

Good cameras used to be huge because, well they had to be. Film was big, technology was old, which means it was bigger, and in order to be rugged, things had to be, well, bigger.

Today things are different. Much of what the iPhone can shoot will be light years better than anything made before 2005 with a digital camera. It can shoot full HD and super slow motion. There are cameras that cost thousands of dollars that can’t do that today.

Granted, there are other reasons why some cameras cost more and some less, but if we’re going by pure image quality, the digital camera has matured and you would have to work very hard to find an example of poor quality.

Sometimes you want a big camera. If you are a stills photographer and you want people to know that you are a professional (even if it’s not true), nothing does that better than whipping out a Canon 70-200 f2.8. It’s big and white and everyone recognizes them from every sporting event ever.

The problem is that when you impress people with your equipment, and especially when said equipment looks more like something you would see on a tank, people change. If your camera is big and loud, people will react to it. Of course, on a set with trained actors or models this won’t be true, but for everyone else, the bigger your camera rig looks, the scarier it will be for them.

I learned this over years of shooting the same assignment with different equipment. For the first few years when I was starting out I had a Canon 5d Mark II with big L series glass. I loved it. People seemed impressed by my stuff and that made me feel impressive. The pictures I got were good – nothing to write home about, but good enough for my clients, and that was that.
However, lugging all of that weight around began to take its toll on me and I began looking into smaller systems. I tried the Panasonic GH4 with some Leica lenses and beyond being much, much smaller and lighter (which I loved), I noticed something magical. Since the GH4 has a silent shutter and a swivel screen, it never looked like I was taking a picture. This completely changed my results. I could capture real moments without interfering with the activities I was covering, and after a few minutes of people getting used to my presence, it was as if I didn’t even exist. And more importantly, my clients were in shock with how different my results were.

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