Often finding myself replying to questions about lenses and having picked up a new camera recently, I thought it was about time that I did a round-up of my camera kit and explained what I use and when. Before I started blogging, I was always interested in photography, so much so that I saved up months' worth of Saturday job wages, birthday cheques and pilfered sofa coins to buy my first DSLR, purely so I could experiment and take photos of my friends. Even before that, I used to stage mini-photoshoots in my bedroom whilst a £15 Argos fan blew intermittent blasts of air into my chosenvictims face and hair.
I'm by no means the most talented photographer, and I also have very little knowledge in terms of the technical side of things, but I certainly dp have the passion for it and it's probably one of the elements of my career which is most exciting to me. Recently I became a little restless with the camera equipment I had, wanting to take a step up in terms of capabilities as well as quality on screen, and so I made a big purchase and went for the camera I'd been lusting over for years. Now begins a new chapter of "oh fuck, what does that button do?" and "have I even turned this on properly?", but before I get any further stuck into that, I thought I would break down the two different cameras in my life, alongside some pros and cons to hopefully answer your questions and maybe guide you along the way if you too are thinking about grabbing something new.
P.S. Do you have a photography related question for me? Pop it in the contact form down at the very bottom of this post, and I'll do my best to get back to you ASAP.
SHOP THE OUTFIT
Hailed as the ultimate blogger camera, Olympus themselves describe the Pen as a "fashionista must have", referencing Instagram game and blogger lifestyles in their item breakdown. If there was ever a camera so acutely tailored to the burgeoning blogging industry, this is it.
The Olympus Pen is a Micro Four-Thirds compact system camera, featuring a simple and sophisticated design and easy-to-use controls. The defining characteristics of the Pen are it's flip-down screen (perfect for taking 'chestfies' and sitting down outfit shots) and its Wi-Fi capabilities, allowing you to send images straight from your camera to your phone. I have the Olympus Pen E-PL7, and these are what I see as the pros and cons:
Compact: One of the biggest lures for me with the Pen was its size. It's compact, and so slips easily into even the smallest of bags, making it perfect for shooting on the go and in particular, as an accompaniment to any kind of travelling. You can also buy protective cases for the Pen if you're so inclined, which means you can still pop the body and lenses into your normal bag without worrying about scratches or abrasions. I never did this and my Pen looks well-loved to say the least, but if you're thinking of selling it on in the future, it's worth bearing in mind that an immaculate exterior will yield a much better price.
Easy to use: For those who aren't too keen on learning the technical side of photography, the Olympus Pen's easy interface and control system means you can still capture clean and crisp imagery without endless Google searches and YouTube tutorials. This makes it a great beginner camera, too, as you are able to get to grips with the essentials of the Manual setting, which will enable you greater control over your imagery in the future, not just with the Pen but with other cameras.
WiFi: Being able to send images directly from your camera to your phone without having to upload and edit on a laptop first is a huge plus point. This is particularly useful, again, if you're traveling or shooting on the go, and also if you focus a lot on Instagram as opposed to written blog content, then this makes the transition from camera to VSCO etc. so much simpler, enabling you to upload and complete campaigns far more quickly.
Range of affordable lenses: If you're looking to take a step up from the kit lens that comes with the Olympus Pen, there are a few options for relatively affordable lenses. The 45mm is a cult favourite, with an f stop of 1.8 which will enable you to achieve that desirable depth of field for both product and outfit photos. The 45mm retails at £249.99 which, still, is pretty pricey, but because so many people opt for this lens, there are plenty of second hand options available so you should be able to pick one up at a fraction of the RRP.
Price: I have the Olympus Pen E-PL7 which has since been replaced by the newer Olympus Pen E-PL8. The E-PL8 retails new for £549.99, which is obviously a big chunk of cash. When I picked my E-PL7 up I actually bought it on finance from Very, which meant I could pay £40 a month over the space of a year instead of forking out the total in one go. (Be warned though: my 12 months was interest fee, but being the lazy person I was, I left it until one day after this had run out to finally pay the final wedge, and thus had to pay a year's worth of interest as a consequence. Ffs.) Now the E-PL8 is out, it might be worth tracking down some discounted or second hand E-PL7 models, as the cameras are relatively similar and you'll probably be able to bag one for a much cheaper price.
Sharpness: I love the Pen, but I do find that when posted online, the images lack a certain level of sharpness and detail that can be quite disappointing. This depends on the file size, how you save your images for web, what settings you've shot with and how large the images are blown up online, so this may or may not be an issue for you depending on the type of photography and purpose. Quality isn't affected for Instagram however, and any photos posted here will still look beautifully crisp and sharp.
Colour: I'm not a huge fan of the colours that the Pen picks up, and I've always found myself desaturating whilst editing and toying with the colour balance. This is a gripe that I know a few other bloggers with the Pen have had also, but I do think this con is specific to those looking for a certain style of editorial fashion photography and so is subjective to the individual.
Filming: Whilst the Pen is great for video (I still use this and the kit lens for my YT videos), the screen doesn't flip outwards so you have to buy an additional accessory in order to see yourself whilst filming on a tripod.
The 14-42mm Kit Lens: The 14-42mm is the 'kit lens', meaning it is the lens which comes with the body when purchased. The kit lens is a great all-rounder for beginners, enabling you to take flat lays, selfie outfit shots and a range of other imagery, and is also a great lens for vlogging or filming sit down videos at home. The quality and distortion of the kit lens aren't the best that they could be, and it's certainly not a lens I would recommend for high-spec outfit shots, but for product photos or make-up details, this should see you through until you feel ready to upgrade.
Perfect for: the everyday, flat lays, selfies or top down outfit shots, filming
The 45mm Lens: The 45mm is renowned for being the next step up for those looking to improve both the quality and depth of field in their images. As I said before, the 45mm is relatively affordable if you can pick one up second hand, and you will be able to recognise a noticeable difference from the kit lens to this. Whilst the 45mm will improve the quality of your Pen images, again, when blown up for web, you may start to notice a little blurring and lack of sharp detail. Sometimes I notice this more with the 45mm, in fact, over the kit lens.
Perfect for: Portraits, fashion shots and stepping up the overall quality from the kits lens
The 75mm: The 75mm is pricey, retailing at £849.99 (although I picked mine up for £650-£700 from Jessops, I believe, so if you are interested, then definitely shop around), but it will take you from zero to hero in terms of image quality, image control and depth of field. The 75mm promises low aberration, which means your photos will retain a crisp focus in lines and edges, and this translates to a much sharper image online. If you're keen to get that editorial aesthetic but you don't want to carry around a bulky or immensely expensive DSLR, the 75mm is perfect for achieving the same look, but allowing you to retain the camera body you already own, and keep it all fairly compact. That being said, the 75mm is a bulky and heavy lens, so you may not be able to slip it into your bag as easily as before, and due to its focal length, you'll have to stand a thousand foot away from the subject which means it isn't great for working inside, close product shots, flat lays or events. It's also expensive, as I said, so you'll want to take greater care to ensure the glass doesn't scratch and you don't end up throwing £££ down the drain.
Perfect for: Street style and fashion shots, editorial aesthetics and depth of field
My latest - and most beloved - investment, the Canon 5D Mark III me moving back to DSLRs, having previously owned a 60D and 650D (which my Grandad now uses to capture his favourite Saturday league football photos on, adorably enough). It was a big purchase, but one that I was ready to make as I wanted to dedicate more time, attention and care to my photography now that I'm blogging full-time, and I found I was growing restless with the restrictions of the Olympus Pen. The Canon 5d Mark III is a professional grade, full frame camera, originally released in 2012 (just so you know, y'know).
Image Quality: As a full frame, professional grade camera, the quality is a huge step up from that of the Olympus Pen which is an amateur, Micro Four-Thirds camera. I was particularly driven by how my images were going to be displayed online as, like I said, I felt I was lacking a lot of detail and sharpness and this was negatively affecting the quality of my photographs. Zoomed in and comparing side by side, the lines and details captured by the 5d Mark III are much more crisp than the Pen, although the 75mm lens does still do a very good job. The colours are also much more to my liking, and I've found I spend a lot less time in post-production than I previously did.
Diverse Range of Lenses: There are a huge range of lenses available for this Canon body, either directly through Canon or through an alternative such as Sigma. This means that you can both hone in to your intended purpose and pick up a variety of lenses tailored specifically for your area of interest, and diversify your lens range enabling you to utilise the camera for a number of different intentions (e.g. for both moving street style shots and wide angle travel shots). As there are such a diverse range of lenses available, you're more likely to be able to find the best lens for you at a workable budget, rather than the 75mm for the Pen, on the other hand, which I feel is the best fashion lens but comes with a huge price tag.
Advanced Control Capabilities: I'm still very much getting to grips with learning how to use this camera, and I've barely scratched the surface when it comes to what the camera can do, but I'm already benefiting from the advanced control capabilities. For example, there are a wealth of AF (auto-focus) options which means I'm able to better tailor the focus when I'm trying to capture moving, street-style shots. As I said, I've barely scratched the surface, but already I have a greater control of exactly what I'm capturing and when, as opposed to the more limited options within the Pen.
Price: The Canon 5d Mark III has since been replaced by the Canon 5d Mark IV, and so, like the E-PL7, would most likely have to be bought second hand. I purchased mine from eBay with very, very minor cosmetic wear and a relatively low shutter count for around £1,300, but this was for the body only and came with no accessories such as a camera bag or lens hood. Even as an older, second hand model, this camera is a serious investment for anybody who isn't raking in the big bucks, but I saw it as exactly that - an investment. So much of my career is based on the visual, and so I felt, in order to continue growing and developing, it was an investment I was willing to make for the sake of my business.
Complex: The 5d Mark III is a professional-grade camera with the capabilities and functionalities to boot. It's by no means and easy camera to work and I'm in the process of learning through YT videos, written tutorials and trial and error. It takes time and patience to learn how to best use the camera, but it's complexities are also what enables you to capture superior imagery.
Size: It's large, heavy and expensive. This doesn't add up to make the perfect solution for blogging on the go, but again, in order to achieve the level of quality that the 5d Mark III allows, the body needs to be larger and you have to be willing to compromise. Ya cannae have it all!