When you make a living as a photographer, in the ever changing landscape that is photography, it's very easy to be afraid of change. After all, with the rise of digital cameras, tablets and smartphones it seems nowadays everyone is photographer. I hear it all too often from my photographer friends, "I wish the people would just leave it to the pros", "They're stealing my shots with their cell phones," "How can I make a living when everyone has a mobile phone," I almost always also hear, "What crap", "Smartphones will never take the place of my pro camera", "Ohh how cute they think they're a photographer" I've heard it all. The mean spirited jabs, the snarky comments, the fear of job loss, all of it.
Trust me, I've been through the time, effort and money when it comes to gear. I think I drove my ex-wife crazy with all the times I changed gear seemingly every week. First dslr? The first Canon Rebel, First point and shoot digital? A Canon Powershot G4. Need a serious camera? I bought a Canon Mark II N with a bunch of L glass. I even went through my medium format digital back phase with a Mamiya 645 and a Kodak digital back. Good lord that thing was expensive, slow, clunky and stayed around the house for about 6 months until I came to my senses, and went back dslr's. I had a Leica MP with one lens. I couldn't afford a German made Leica, due to my camera switching habit, and had to settle for an M made by our friends north in Canada. You see, I've shot a bunch of cameras in a bunch of different environments and different places. But photography, although popular, was an expensive habit and expensive career. I felt entitled to have the best gear and now people are whipping out their smartphones and taking photos? Where is the dues paid in that? The nerve!
Well, I'm here to tell you.....take a deep breath folks...embrace change! Be happy that everyone is enjoying making memories and has the ability to do so, sharing their experience in an instant fashion. Just because somebody whips out a mobile phone does not mean they have any plans to make a living as a professional photographer. But as a photographer I feel it's my duty to stay current with the changing currents and tides in the imaging sea. It's always about having the right tool for the job and I must say that a smartphone is great "Swiss Army knife" you should be using with your image making. Besides, do you really want to be lugging around a heavy camera all the time? If I pull out my smartphone I get to be like everyone else, which is a good thing, I blend into the crowd. Which brings to my little experiment. Using a smartphone, the Nokia Lumia 1020, as the only camera on a job.
I'm a freelance photographer that currently is lucky enough to have a "day job" as the Chief Photographer for the University of Kansas in the Office of Public Affairs/Marketing Communications. We are essentially the public relations and advertising arm for the university. We're all about recruitment of new students, event coverage and ad work. Our office also takes care of all the official social media feeds for the university. Great bunch of people to work with and varied enough assignments not to make the place too boring. I've covered governors, Supreme Court Justices, the President of Colombia, educational leaders, authors, athletes, classroom photography, student lifestyle, studio portraits, seasonal campus color, landscapes, etc. You name it and more than likely I have shot it.
I've carried, as most of you have, an iPhone or Android phone and snapped shots with them. It was fun...it was instant...it was for Instagram or some other social feed. One thing I noticed as I started to do mobile photography was how much I love the ability to be free of my gear and just shoot. To just look like everyone else with a cell phone snapping happily away sometimes is a good thing. Then I noticed a new smartphone introduced by Nokia, the Lumia 1020. It's a windows phone that has all the awesome features of new windows, such as live tiles. Great stuff! Coming from an iOs device it is totally refreshing and a well thought out user interface. I heard the rumors like everyone else and I heard the nay-sayers. 41 megapixels??? No way...it's some marketing hype to sell a few phones. No way to can compete with a traditional camera.
What made me really stand up and take notice was a website by National Geographic and co-sponsored by Nokia. Nokia had given Stephen Alvarez, a Nat Geo shooter a Lumia 1020 and had him take 10 days in the Southwest with just the Lumia. The results were AMAZING! Check out the video below and see why I got so excited about the Lumia 1020.
I couldn't get enough information. I read stories upon stories at the Nokia Connects website. Stephen Alvarez, Bruce Weber, David Bailey all tried out the Lumia. Nokia seems to have a connection to photography. They are excited about the prospect of mobile imaging and have a passion for it. They keep their website and social feeds always current. I believe these folks LOVE photography. So I switched cell phone providers, went to AT&T and bought a Lumia 1020.
Within a month the folks at Nokia did something astonishing, they updated the camera with the ability to shoot in RAW. They also choose standard Adobe DNG. I've been a huge proponent of the DNG standard for years. Now I have an imaging device that shoots RAW and happens to be a good cell phone too!
So, after shooting the Lumia for about a month, taking nice outside and well lit shots, I decided to put it to the test in a harsh environment. As I stated before, at KU we cover all kinds of things and of course this also means the rich historic tradition of KU Basketball. After all, our first coach was the Dr. James Naismith, the inventor of the game. Why not put a modern piece of technological wonder in a historic building that houses the most storied college basketball program in the country. Makes sense...right? Which brings us to the center of the college basketball universe for this little smartphone experiment. Historic Allen Fieldhouse.
When you attend a game at Allen Fieldhouse it is something of magic. The screaming fans, the historic halls, the trophy cases and of course the Rock Chalk Jayhawk chant. That chant gives me goose bumps every time I'm there. Of course this is a college basketball area which means the lighting is not even. The floor is bright while the upper areas of the arena are like a cave. Think of a well-lit cave floor with a shaft of light beaming from the top but all the sides are basically pitch black. I couldn't think of a better place to put the Lumia through its' paces. The results? AMAZING!
Our office covers the fan experience, all of things except for the actual game on the floor. While I'm on the floor many of my friends are shooting the game, which pains me not to, I run around shooting the experience. The screaming students, the band, the cheerleaders, our mascots Big Jay and Baby Jay....all of it. I'm really a photojournalist, so this type of shooting is my thing. I cover the game day from start to finish and document what I see. What a great gig!!
With all the manual controls available on the Lumia and different modes/lenses such as Panorama and the Smart Camera function the shooting was surprisingly easy. Is there noise when shooting at say ISO 4000? Of course. Is it manageable? Absolutely! I never found myself once going back into the media room, opening up my camera bag and pulling out a "traditional" camera. I love lens flare in shots and as you can see with the samples the flare is very pleasing. If you're careful and slow with your shots you can achieve cinematic type of flares with this sensor and lens combination. Next time I'll shoot video of the experience and post some footage with the 1020.
For all your pixel peepers you can head over to my Flickr feed where you can see the full res jpgs that were processed from the DNG files.
Exciting times for photography as the Nokia Lumia withstood the test of historic Allen Fieldhouse. Any questions please feel free to comment and drop me a line on Twitter!