Getting The Shot

When it comes to our choice of camera equipment, the only thing that ultimately matters is ‘getting the shot’… regardless of the brand of gear used. Many internet chat rooms and YouTube channels still seem glutted with discussions/arguments about camera specifications and the relative advantages or disadvantages of various camera models. Some even tout ‘battles’ between brands/models. *sighs*

What seems to be overlooked much of the time is whether a photographer was ‘getting the shot’ with the equipment they owned… regardless of sensor size, brand or model.

NOTE: Click on images to enlarge.

NIKON 1 V2 + NIKON 1 CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm, ISO 400, 1/160, f/5.6

I’m currently working on a handheld bird photography eBook and have been spending some time going through volumes of my previous bird photographs. It has been an interesting experience to peruse through a collection of older photographs trying to identify ones that may be relevant for the eBook.

NIKON D800 + TAMRON 150-600mm f/5-6.3 @ 600mm, ISO 6400, 1/80, f/6.3

As I was reviewing photographs my mind wandered back in time to the days when I was photographing birds with a Nikon D800 and a Tamron 150-600 mm f/5-6.3 zoom lens.

NIKON D800 + TAMRON 150-600mm f/5-6.3 @ 600mm, ISO 800, 1/1000, f/8.0

This led me to think about the importance of each of us of ‘getting the shot’ when we’re out with our camera gear. In that precise moment when we fully depress our shutter release nothing else matters except getting the shot. It is an experience indelibly painted by the emotions of trust and confidence.

NIKON D800 + TAMRON 150-600, f/8, 1/2500, ISO-800, 420mm

Obviously subject matter can play a part in our choice of camera equipment. This is one of the reasons why some folks shoot with more than one camera system. Some equipment is a better fit for their needs than other gear in specific situations.

Nikon 1 V2 + Nikon 1 CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm (efov 810mm), f/5.6, 1/3200, ISO-2000

I’ve always preferred to use one dedicated interchangeable lens camera system. There have been times when I’ve been in a transitory stage moving from one camera format to another. The time frame for these changes tended to be fairly short.

Nikon 1 V2 + Nikon 1 CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm, efov 810mm, f/5.6, 1/1600, ISO-1000

Getting the shot in terms of selecting equipment includes a range of camera gear considerations. These can include some issues like low light capability. Auto-focusing performance. Sensor performance characteristics like dynamic range and colour depth. Weatherproofing. Overall reach. Frame rates. Buffer size. EVF experience. Battery life and so on.

Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 141mm, efov 381mm, f/5.6, 1/3200, ISO-720

New computational photography technologies are increasing being included in our list of criteria. The cost of camera equipment… its size and weight… as well as comfort, handling and ergonomics, can also be important considerations when selecting camera gear.

Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 241mm, efov 649mm, f/5.6, 1/125, ISO-450

How we intend to use our images can also be an important factor for many of us. There certainly are differences to be considered if our images will primarily be used online versus being printed in very large formats.

NIKON 1 V2 + 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm, ISO 250, 1/250, f/5.6

At the end of the day, each photographer needs to determine for themselves how much dynamic range, colour depth and low light performance they need for the work that they create… as well as a host of other factors.

Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm, efov 810mm, f/5.6, 1/2500, ISO-720

I do find it rather odd how fixated we can get about sensor size and related sensor performance. For example, I don’t recall Canon full frame cameras like the 6D Mark II… which was introduced in June 2017… getting incessantly criticized because of its dynamic range performance. Even though, at base ISO-100, it measured 11.9 EV based on DxOMark test scores.

OM-D E-M1 Mark III + M.Zuiko 75-300 mm f/4.8-6.7 II @ 300 mm, efov 600 mm, f/6.7, 1/5000, ISO-800, Pro Capture H, cropped to 2677 pixels on the width, subject distance 5.7 metres

By comparison the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II, which was introduced in September 2016, had a dynamic range of 12.8 EV at its base ISO-200,  according to DxOMark testing.  Since it had a small M4/3 sensor it faced constant criticism even though it scored better at base ISO than the Canon full frame 6D Mark II in terms of dynamic range.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 229mm, efov 618mm, f/5.6, 1/320, ISO-6400

The Nikon 1 system was always something that critics loved to hate. They overlooked the fact that the Nikon 1 J5… which was available on April 30, 2015… had a better dynamic range test score (i.e. 12 EV at base ISO-160) according to DxOMark) than the full frame Canon 6D Mark II did at base ISO-100.

Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 212mm, efov 571mm, f/5.6, 1/4000, ISO-800

The point here is simply that if 11.9 EV of dynamic range was acceptable in 2016 for the folks who bought and enjoyed using the 6D Mark II, very little has changed with how we use our photographs today. Other than perhaps an increase with online use.

Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon 70-300 mm f/4-5.6 @ 300 mm, efov 810 mm, f/5.6, 1/5000 sec, ISO-1800

In fairness we need to point out that Canon has upped its game considerably in terms of sensor performance since the time of the 6D Mark II.

Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikon 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 192mm, efov 518mm, f/6.3, 1/2000, ISO-1000

Regardless of what camera gear we may choose there is one unalienable truth. If we are unsuccessful ‘getting the shot’ the size of our camera’s sensor and its imaging performance. The amount of money we spent on our equipment. Or the number of rave online reviews it garnered… are all irrelevant. The stark reality of missing the shot will be staring us in the face.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS @ 400 mm, efov 800 mm, f/7.1, 1/4000, ISO-6400, Pro Capture H, cropped to 3880 pixels on the width, subject distance 6.2 metres

I know there are photographers who enjoy owning the latest and greatest camera gear. For some people, what they own can be more important than what they are able to create with it. Each of us is entitled to our own priorities and preferences… which should not be subject to criticism.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 75-300 mm f/4.8-6.7 @ 300 mm, efov 600 mm, f/6.7, -0.7 step, 1/4000, ISO-5000, Pro Capture H

Owning the latest and greatest camera equipment doesn’t guarantee that we’ll be successful ‘getting the shot’. Nor does sensor size… larger or smaller… guarantee success. It all comes down to how well we understand and use what we have, and how well that specific gear fits our individual photographic needs.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 560 mm, efov 1120 mm, f/9, 1/1600, ISO-2500, Pro Capture L, Bird Detection AI Subject Tracking, cropped to 3250 pixels on the width, subject distance 57.5 metres

As I was reviewing the images featured in this article, I realized that after using a number of different camera formats over the years, my preference for bird photography has always been skewed to gear that offered high frame rates, and was smaller and lighter on a relative basis.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 with M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 300 mm, efov 600 mm, f/7.1, 1/3200, ISO-3200, Pro Capture H, cropped to 4196 pixels on the width, subject distance 6.4 metres

Every piece of camera gear comes with advantages as well as trade-offs. It isn’t easy to ignore all of the online chatter and noise about camera specifications, and to stay focused on the most critical factor which is ‘getting the shot’.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 560 mm, efov 1120 mm, f/9, 1/4000, ISO-10000, Pro Capture H, cropped to 3370 pixels on the width, subject distance 16.7 metres

Understanding what factors are critical to us individually ‘getting the shot’ helps each of us choose the best camera gear for our specific needs.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 381 mm, efov 762 mm, f/8.7, 1/2000, ISO-800, Bird Detection AI, subject distance 46.5 metres, cropped to 4866 pixels on the width

So, buy and use whatever camera gear makes the most sense for your specific needs… and ignore all of the online chatter. As you whittle down your choices if you’re still unsure, see if you can go out with friends and try out their camera gear. Nothing beats having a camera in your hands and experimenting with it.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS @ 400 mm, efov 800 mm, f/6.3, 1/5000, ISO-2000, Pro Capture H, cropped to 1604 pixels on the width, subject distance 19 metres

Technical Note:

Photographs were captured handheld using camera gear as noted in the EXIF data. Images were produced from RAW files using my standard approach in post. This is the 1,238 article published on this website since its original inception in 2015.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 560 mm, efov 1120 mm, f/9, 1/1600, ISO-1250, Bird Detection AI Subject Tracking, Pro Capture L, cropped to 3991 pixels on the width, subject distance 37.8 metres

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6 thoughts on “Getting The Shot”

  1. I’m still amazed by the photos that you captured using the Nikon 1 system. You’re proof that a larger sensor is not always needed. Good article.

    1. Thanks for adding to the discussion Lewsh.

      I purposely used images from various camera systems in this article to help illustrate the issue that you noted in your comment. It’s been my experience that for bird photography frame rate and overall reach are often more important than sensor performance.


  2. Great article. Thanks for keeping me level headed. Looking forward to the new eBook.
    Keep up the great work.

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