A renowned food and still life photographer, Gareth is at home shooting carefully constructed arrangements based around form, shape and colour. Quality is key, with clients in the editorial, advertising and commercial areas requiring images that can be used in everything from magazines through to billboards. Like many other pros Gareth is increasingly asked to produce film footage and now reckons half of his output is moving imagery, ensuring that he’s increasingly looking for gear that can deliver a hybrid solution.
Times are changing and the days when a professional photographer could be pretty sure they would only ever be required to deliver still images to their clients are in the past. Now video is a crucial part of the mix for many and, along with the extra skill set that’s having to be learned, there’s the business of having to invest in gear that can achieve the quality of footage that’s required.
Those, such as food and still life specialist Gareth Sambridge, who have embraced this move are finding it both an enjoyable and potentially profitable way of working and they’re relishing the opportunities presented to those who are running a more rounded creative business that’s geared towards the requirements of a modern multimedia society.
I would say that it’s reached the point where I’m now working roughly half and half in each area,” Gareth says. “My primary work has always been studio and location still life, where I’ll shoot tethered with a medium format camera and be in full control of the arrangement in front of me. More recently the requirement for video has meant that I’ve had to acquire filmmaking skills and I’ll often work with a Panasonic GH5 or an Arri Alexa Mini if I need to crop into my footage at the editing stage. I’ll be shooting in 16:9 but might also have to edit to a 9:16 format and the larger sensor in the Arri can cope with that, but it does mean there’s an extra cost involved since I’ll need to hire it in.”
Given this background the opportunity to work with a hybrid-focused Panasonic S1 full frame mirrorless camera plus a pair of lenses – the 50mm f/1.4 and the 24-105mm f/4 – as part of Panasonic’s current S-Series professional loan scheme was too good to miss and Gareth relished the opportunity to use the kit alongside his regular cameras on a series of professional and personal assignments. It was an enjoyable and enlightening experience that introduced him to the professional qualities of kit that’s been designed to stand up to the rigours of working life.
BELOW: Cheese Selection. 50mm, 0.4secs at f/11 This classic food still was set up by Gareth in the studio and lit to almost deliver the look of an old master. Click to open in lightbox.
BELOW: Tomato Selection.
50mm, 1/100sec at f/1.4 Used wide open the Panasonic 50mm f/1.4 lens delivered a beautifully shallow depth of field.
Having encountered rival full frame mirrorless models Gareth’s was initially surprised, albeit in a positive way, by the size and weight of the S1. “Some of the competitors have felt a little flimsy in the hands,” he remarked, “whereas the S1 really felt like a solid and well-made piece of kit. It was not overly heavy and it was nicely balanced in the hands but it certainly felt like it had professional credentials and I found that immediately reassuring. It felt the same as a full size DSLR might and was a lot lighter than my everyday medium format kit.
“In any case weight isn’t really a huge issue for me since I tend to work both in the studio and on location tethered to a laptop, and I worked with the S1 as my B-cam so that I could see how it handled alongside my regular camera. I found
myself at home with it right away since I’m so familiar with the Lumix GH5 and this just felt like its grown up big brother. All of the Menus were straightforward to use and easy to get my head around and I found myself being comfortable with it really quickly.”
In terms of quality it’s not strictly a fair test to put a 35mm full frame sensor up against one that’s medium format in size, but even so the S1’s 24.2MP CMOS sensor delivered results that were full of detail and resolution and Gareth was impressed with what he was achieving. “Perhaps if you were shooting for use on a billboard you might need to look at a camera such as the S1R, with its 47MP sensor,” he says, “but for many professionals what the S1 can deliver would be good enough, and certainly on a par with what a full frame DSLR could offer.
“I was also really happy with the two lenses I used, particularly the 50mm prime, which is a really excellent piece of glass that reflects its Leica heritage. It’s f/1.4 maximum aperture is really good to have on board as well and I worked with that at times to achieve a narrow depth of field and excellent bokeh, something that’s very useful to have in the studio. Being someone who shoots a lot of still life I didn’t use the zoom as much but it’s still capable of a job and it was useful to have. For the same reason I focused manually most of the time rather than using the AF, but on the occasions when I did switch this on it seemed to work well.
“I also enjoyed using the S1 on location a few times as well. Sometimes medium format in the field is a bit like taking a sledgehammer to a walnut because it’s so bulky and awkward to handle, but with its more compact form factor and reduced weight the S1 was easier to handle.”
“I was also really happy with the two lenses I used, particularly the 50mm prime, which is a really excellent piece of glass that reflects its Leica heritage.“
RIGHT: Line up of Oysters.
50mm, 1/5sec at f/9 The art of the food photographer is to achieve evocative results from everyday subjects, and this oyster study is a celebration of tones and textures.
“The S1 really felt like a solid and well-made piece of kit. It was not overly heavy and it was nicely balanced in the hands but it certainly felt like it had professional credentials and I found that immediately reassuring.”
However, for Gareth the most exciting thing to take on board about the S1 was its much-touted hybrid qualities, which sees the camera have a raft of high level filmmaking technology on board, now greatly enhanced via the recent v1.2 firmware upgrade. “The fact that it’s offering 4K 60p and 50p recording 4:2:2 10bit output via HDMI and full V-Log is interesting to me as a professional filmmaker,” says Gareth, “and it means that I don’t have to plug the camera in to an Atomos monitor in order to achieve that quality. This filmmaking ability is definitely something I would be interested in trying out more since I feel that the S1 has the potential to do a job for me on this front.
“I think it’s great that this camera is offering those who are working across both stills and video disciplines such a high level set of tools and Panasonic, with its GH series, clearly has a track record in this area. Down the line I’ll also be wanting to take a closer look at the new S1H with its more cinema-focused set of tools and I think this could be even closer to being the ideal camera for me.”
RIGHT: Portrait of chef Elizabeth Haigh.
50mm, 1/60sec at f/4 While testing out the Panasonic S1 Gareth also used it alongside his regular kit on a portrait shoot with Elizabeth Haigh, once a contestant on Masterchef who has now gone on to earn a Michelin Star. She was photographed at Blenheim Forge in Peckham, which has been commissioned by Elizabeth to design and make a set of chef’s cleavers.
Try it Yourself!
Panasonic is offering professional photographers and videographers the opportunity to try out the S-Series cameras and lenses for themselves for up to a two-week period free of charge, so perfect to use on a professional job or a personal project.
The LUMIX S1 and S1R will be available to loan on the scheme, as well as a choice of S Series lenses: 24-105mm standard zoom lens, 70-200mm telephoto zoom lens or 50mm fixed focal length lens. LUMIX S1 samples will contain the new SFU2 firmware programme, unlocking the full video capabilities of the camera for testing. The SIGMA MC21 converter will also be available as part of the scheme.
To sign up for a loan, visit here. Terms and conditions apply.
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