Thursday, November 7, 2013

Canon to the Rescue

My 5D Mark III and 50mm f1.2.

I've written a couple of times about my quest to find a smaller camera to equal the quality of my Canon 5D series bodies. I use Micro 4:3 gear for my smaller cameras and more and more I like them a lot. 

They're not yet a complete replacement to my Canons. The Canons are faster, have better bokeh and are better in low light. But M4:3 cameras get better all the time - the new generation of bodies like the Panasonic GX7 and Olympus Pen E-P5 are really nice. I think they could replace big (and heavy) digital SLR bodies like the 5D Mark 3, Canon 1D series or equivalent Nikons for many assignments, especially travel, reportage and portraits. 

There are some things - sports and wildlife - come to mind, where M4:3 has a lot further to go to makeup the difference. There are none of the big lenses, like the 300mm f2.8, 400mm f2.8 or 600mm f4 lenses sports photographers rely on, in the M4:3 universe (although a M4:3 150mm f2.8, the equivalent of the 300mm f2.8, is supposed to be in development) and the autofocus and low light capabilities still have a ways to go. Even though M4:3 has gotten a lot better in the last several years, Canon and Nikon have also improved their cameras. For me this means I need to keep my Canon gear around for the indefinite future. I use the M4:3 whenever I can, but keep the Canons handy for those times that I'm not comfortable relying on the M4:3.

There is one feature though that is likely to keep me firmly in the Canon camp for a while. 

Canon Professional Services (CPS) is the most important but least talked about tool in my Canon kit. Canon provides expedited and discounted repairs and other features like loaners and telephone tech support  for members. 

I've been a member of CPS for probably more than 25 years. Back in the old days (i.e. manual cameras) I mostly used it for expedited repairs and to borrow equipment when I was on assignment.

I've never owned really big lenses because I never considered myself much of a sports or wildlife photographer. When I worked in Florida I covered several space shuttle launches. I never had a lens up to the task but Canon always set up on site at Cape Kennedy and loaned long lenses to CPS members covering shuttle launches. It was the same at political conventions. Canon (and Nikon for photographers who belong to their professional support organization) always had on site representatives who could make minor repairs and maintenance and loan out equipment. If you only needed specialized gear a couple of times a year, it was a huge help to know I could borrow it from Canon and didn't have to buy it myself. 

Back in the day, CPS membership was free. Alas, it's no longer free and qualifications for membership are tighter but it's still one of the most important tools in the kit. 

When I came back to the US from Thailand, I sent my camera bodies in for "clean and check." Canon provide the clean and check for free and returned the bodies to me in less than a week. 

One body needed more than a "clean and check" because somehow covering Ganesha in Bangkok I got rice pudding into the camera. About a week after the rice pudding incident the camera locked up and wouldn't work. I sent it to Canon, simply telling them it was broken and not mentioning the rice pudding. I got an email confirming receipt of the camera, outlining the repair and estimating that it would be free. About 20 minutes later I got a second email from Canon saying they had opened the camera and found evidence of rice pudding inside it. They said they would try to repair it for free but the presence of rice pudding in the camera might complicate it. 

Two days later the camera was back in my hands, repaired for free. 

I don't use zooms much but I still have an old 70-200mm f2.8 zoom. I tried to use it once in Bangkok, when I discovered the autofocus on the lens didn't work. I sent it to Canon Thailand and they quoted me $800 to repair the lens. I seldom use zooms and it wasn't worth $800 to fix it so I held onto the busted lens. When I got back to the US I sent it into Canon USA and told them Canon Thailand had estimated $800 to repair the lens. I asked for a second estimate. Two days after Canon USA received the lens I had it back in my hands. Total repair cost $250. 

Keeping gear in good working order is an important part of being a professional photographer. You can't tell an editor or client that you don't have pictures because your camera broke. That's why I have three working Canon 5D series bodies. Plan for the worst and hope for the best. Canon Professional Services gives me the backup I need to keep my gear in good shape. Unfortunately, there is no pro support yet for the M4:3 gear making it difficult to rely exclusively on M4:3 for mission critical work. 

Finally, most of the photos in my archive are available for editorial use or self fulfillment as prints. If you see something you'd like to use or just hang on the wall, click on the "Add to Cart" button and follow the onscreen prompts.  

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