Sep 17, 2021
8 mins read
I know people are going to ask questions (and probably make incorrect assumptions) so I am writing this post to try to address a big change coming in my life. I will not be serving as an Olympus Visionary after September 17, 2021.
It has been the honor of my life to be asked to be an ambassador for a major camera company. The people at Olympus have been very kind to me and Olympus has helped me to become a better photographer. I have in particular enjoyed some of my fellow Visionaries. They are a super talented bunch. But to everything there is a season.
For more than five years I have exclusively used Olympus cameras. Most of that time I has served as an Olympus Visionary. But my use of Olympus gear goes way back to long before the digital days. I've used Olympus cameras and lenses on and off since 1973.
I started using Olympus cameras for bird photography when the OM-D E-M1 MK II and M.Zuiko 300 f/4 lens came out.
But now, my career is changing in a major way. From a business point of view, over the last five years, calls for still images have fallen and requests for me to do more video have increased. I have dabbled in video for more than 10 years and during the pandemic, I even learned how to use Final Cut X which greatly added to my skillset.
Beginning in 2022, I'll do about 85% video and 15% still photography. THIS IS NOT MY PREFERENCE! I prefer stills. But the market wants video. As many of you have heard me say, "Beauty is in the eye of the checkbook holder."
I need to make a change in my gear to accommodate the new demands for video. But before I get into that, I'll mention that in general, before my time as an Olympus Visionary, I have always considered myself a camera agnostic. I would use whatever tool was best for the job without regard for brand loyalty. There were several years when I used both Nikon AND Canon. I also often used third-party lenses from Lensbaby, Tamron and Sigma. (My most famous photo, "Cranes in the Fire Mist" was made with a Sigma lens.) As technology changed, so did I. When one brand came out with a lens or a camera feature I really needed, I'd either switch to or add that product to my gear bag. I have often said on podcasts and in blog posts that I am not married to one camera. If a company comes out with something that is better suited for the work I want to pursue, I will switch. For a long time, I couldn't find anything other than Olympus which would suit me better but now that has changed.
Some more history before I fully explain...
My strong feeling has always been that we should put our attention on the result (the photograph) and not the tool that makes it (the camera.)
In 1998 when I started Photofocus.com, I had the chance to call it Camerafocus.com. But I always thought the photo was way more important than the camera. I still feel that way and frankly, have always been slightly conflicted about being a camera brand ambassador. I have tried to balance the two points of view by being brutally honest about the fact that while I use Olympus, there are other tools that would do the job and people should just pick what they like.
There have been many upsides to being an Olympus Visionary. But that honor also requires brand loyalty. I have decided that I need the freedom to use many camera and lens brands. And regardless, my new job requires it. It is not fair to Olympus for me to use multiple brands, so for that reason alone, I need to move on.
Also, being totally transparent - my health is not great and I need to have more time to work on my health. In the past, I have poured myself into my work and my Visionary duties. I wouldn't want to take on that title if I didn't think I could be healthy enough to do the job with the vigor it requires, so that is another reason for my decision.
Let also me say by way of disclosure, that I have no earthly idea whether or not Olympus planned to retain me as a Visionary in 2022. Our contracts are year-to-year. Beyond year one, there was never any guarantee. I believe I was going to be invited to stay. But I don't know that for sure. Either way - They have been loyal to me and I to them. But now my new job requires me to move on.
And if you haven't figured it out by now, let's be clear on one other thing. I do love Olympus. I love their gear. I really do. I have not one bad word to say about Olympus or their cameras and lenses. I have not one bad word to say about my time as a Visionary. I am grateful for the opportunity and did my best to make the most of it. I will still be an Olympus fan. But in my new pursuits, Olympus gear will not always be the best choice for me. I will not be using Olympus as my main camera system. I will still shoot Olympus from time-to-time. And I will be available to help Olympus users who have questions, even though I will no longer be paid to do it. And when I see Olympus do something right, I will continue to advocate for the brand. But not exclusively and not as a Visionary.
What will I be using? A week ago I would have said Sony. But the producers I am working with decided to use Sony gear as BTS only and we're going to be working with the Blackmagic Design and their Pocket Cinema Camera 6K Pro (https://bhpho.to/3Cp9go5) and the Blackmagic Design URSA Mini Pro 12K (https://bhpho.to/3CkbsgC) Both these cameras deliver files in 6K and the URSA 12K. Turns out these are requirements for the production and that's the main reason I am switching. My new title is cinematographer. It's a different skillset, with different gear demands. Had I not been offered this opportunity, I wouldn't have switched.
So in addition to the cameras mentioned above, I will be using lenses from Sigma, Canon, SLR Magic and Xeen. Many of the lenses I will be using are cinema lenses. It will be new and exciting and I am looking forward to learning more and more about storytelling with a camera.
The reason for this announcement is simple. I am letting everyone know before the Internet sleuths starting noticing different EXIF data in my content. Yes, I am going to be using several different cameras and lenses that are NOT made by Olympus. And to reiterate - no, I am not mad at Olympus nor do I think their gear is inferior. I just need DIFFERENT tools for my new job.
You might be curious how I will deal with all this heavier gear. Thankfully, in my new job, I will have an assistant handle all the heavy lifting. I will be doing the creative work. I will have technicians operate cameras, pull focus, set things up, etc. It's a different job from what I used to do and it's a good thing. My tired, old, broken-down, body was ready for a rest.
I'll be posting a new gear guide soon and also one dedicated to the video tools I use. I'll be updating my existing stills gear guide to reflect the new gear I've purchased. And I'll be talking more about video so stay tuned for all that if you have interest.
THINGS I WILL MISS
To be sure, When using other gear I will miss some Olympus features. Chiefly, the amazing, the death-defying, the one and only M.ZUIKO 150-400MM IS PRO Lens. No lens on earth can compete with this one for birds/wildlife. Olympus has a hand-built production process for this lens and continues to experience extraordinary backorders, and I am lucky to have received one of the first to ship. I can get close to the same reach with other lenses available to me, but it's still not quite the same.
The other thing I will miss is a bright viewfinder. Few cameras offer viewfinders that are as good as the Olympus viewfinders. Don't ever take the Olympus viewfinders for granted.
I will miss not having to clean my sensor. In five years of using Olympus gear, I've only had to clean my camera sensor once! I know that is going to change.
Lastly, I will miss the Visionary summits we had. All the Visionary team got to meet every year or so (pre-COVID) with the employees at Olympus who are in charge of imaging. We got to exchange ideas, offer critiques, give the R&D folks a wish list, eat a lot, go out on photo walks, and generally enjoy each other's company. Of all the times I had as a Visionary, I will cherish those meetings the most.
In closing, I want to say thank you Olympus. Thanks for believing in me. Thanks for the support you showed to me. Thanks for all the hard work you put into helping photographers create better photographs. Thanks to all the people I worked with at Olympus who helped me fulfill my Visionary duties. And thanks to all of you Olympus users who rallied behind me as a Visionary. I am sure you'll quickly find someone else to help in my place but if you don't, just send me an email - [email protected] - and I'll be glad to try to help any way I can.
If there's a lesson to be learned in all this it's simply this. Don't get too stuck in your ways. Don't fear change. Improvise, Adapt, Overcome! That's all for now. Good luck to us all.