THE DAYS OF having to hunt around to find good quality used camera gear are, thankfully, long gone, and the second-hand market is thriving and is packed with bargains that can make upgrading kit affordable at a time when everyone is watching their outgoings.
Trailblazing companies such as MPB have helped to simplify and safeguard the entire process, by taking a fresh approach that has made trading up gear strikingly straightforward. The process whereby you once had no alternative but to scour the small ads or head online to an auction site to buy used kit that came with no guarantee and the risk of scammers has thankfully evolved, and you can now hit the MPB website to browse the substantial stock that’s held, check through images of the actual kit you’re looking to purchase and buy in the knowledge that the product you’re acquiring has been checked over and comes with a six-month warranty.
It’s also super-easy to trade in kit you might no longer be using, giving you the opportunity to raise money towards the upgrades your business needs. It’s good for your pocket, brilliant for the environment and it’s a whole new way of working that more and more professionals are embracing in these cash-conscious days.
We’re celebrating this approach by working with MPB to offer readers of Professional Photo the opportunity to borrow gear from their fully stocked warehouse that they might be looking to try out. It’s a chance to potentially trial a new format, a different system, an upgrade on your current camera model or to take a dream lens you might have always wanted to try out on a live assignment. It’s atantalising offer, and we’ve already had a great response, so feel free to get in touch if you want to be a part of it all.
Charlie already had a couple of Go-Pro action cameras, which are perfect for many skydiving tasks, and these can work well if the aim is simply to film someone having the experience of a tandem jump, which the participant then pays an additional fee for. However, as he’s been getting more involved, the airfields he’s been working with have requested he use a camera that can offer higher resolution results, and so an upgrade was clearly required.
“I asked some of the other skydiving photographers what they were working with,” says Charlie, “and everyone seemed to be using with something different, ranging from advanced interchangeable-lens compacts through to DSLRs. “When I looked further, however, it was obvious that mirrorless was the way to go, since these were much smaller and lighter than their DSLR counterparts. I borrowed a Panasonic GH5, but this was still too bulky, and then someone suggested that a MFT camera such as the E-M5 Mark III might be perfect, since it’s so compact. I needed a lens to pair it with, and the Panasonic 7-14mm looked to fit the bill, since this was also really light and compact.”
Twenty-year-old Charlie is a trainer at an indoor skydiving centre, but is also an experienced skydiver, with several hundred jumps to his credit. He’s recently started working as an air-to-air photographer and videographer, and he sees this role increasing substantially in the future.
❚ Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III, MPB price £714, Like New Condition
❚ Panasonic Lumix G Vario 7-14mm f/4 ASPH, MPB price £409, Excellent Condition
Being a MFT model, the Olympus E-M5 Mark III is ultra-light and compact, exactly what’s required when the camera is going to be helmet-mounted, and yet it’s still packed full of features, with a high-performing 20.4MP sensor at its heart. It’s capable of continuous shooting at up to 10fps with a mechanical shutter and 30fps with one that’s electronic, and it can also deliver UHD 4K video footage, so a good fit for when aerial filming assignments are being tackled.
Meanwhile the Panasonic 7-14mm f/4 is the perfect lens for photographing other skydivers, since its ultra-wide angle of view (equivalent to a full-frame 14-28mm) enables the tandem jumpers plus the aircraft they’ve just left to all be included in the frame from close-up. It’s also fast and compact, and capable of high-quality results.
Charlie had already invested in an open-face helmet that was designed to be paired with a camera mount, the top being flat rather than rounded. There were spaces for both of his Go-Pro models to be fitted, one above the other, and room at the top for a larger camera, and the E-M5 Mark III and Panasonic 7-14mm once they arrived from MPB fitted snugly in that space. Even with all three cameras fitted the complete ensemble remained light and comfortable.
Learning the ropes in terms of how to tackle aerial photography is very much a case of trial and error. Some of the experienced photographers passed on tips, but ultimately it was a case of taking the kit out on personal jumps and acquiring the necessary experience that way. Charlie operated his camera using a mouth-controlled remote, which fired a burst when he bit on it, and he also attached a target that sat in front of his eye, so that he would simply aim this towards the subject he was looking to photograph or film.
“The way it works is that I get out of the plane first and then hold on to a handle at the side of the door,” says Charlie, “so that I’m in position once the tandem jumpers are ready to go. I get the signal that they’re about to jump and then have to time things so that I can photograph them as they emerge from the plane.
“I have my two Go-Pros set to film the entire descent – one being a back-up to the other – and used the Olympus and Panasonic combo to shoot stills for those who’d booked the stills and video package.
“My job is to provide some variety, so I’ll shoot pictures just as people start their jump, with the plane in the background, and then I’ll get above them to show them against the backdrop of the ground. The whole freefall part of the jump is over in around 45-seconds to one minute, depending on whether they’ve jumped from 10,000 or 15,000 feet, and so I have to work quite quickly to get what I need.”
Charlie’s verdict on the how his borrowed kit performed? “It was brilliant,” he says. “The Olympus is a great camera, much smaller than most of the models the other photographers are using and yet the results are just as good. Meanwhile the Panasonic lens was also the perfect choice. Because it’s a zoom I could set it to offer the same field of view as my Go-Pros, holding this in place with a piece of tape to ensure the zoom setting didn’t change on my way down. For formation jumps where I needed a wider field of view, I could just zoom the lens out to its 7mm maximum to make sure I could still get everything in.”
For Charlie the experience has proved beyond doubt that his camera and lens choice is the right one, and this is definitely the way he’ll be looking to go. “I thought it would work,” he says, “and it was just the perfect set-up: even the
other skydivers were impressed! I’ll definitely be making the investment down the line, and it just means I’ll be able to get my kit sooner if I choose to go down the used route, which I’m more than happy to do.”
What Kit Do You Fancy?
If there’s a particular piece of kit that you would like to try out then get in touch at email@example.com, let us know what you’d like to borrow and you could be part of this exciting new series!
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