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According to Seth Resnick, camera companies have very loyal followings. “Nothing that happens is going to get in the way of a fan’s Canon, or their Nikon,” he says.
While generally considered a positive attribute, loyalty does have its drawbacks. “On the positive side, fans are so loyal, but on the negative side, it becomes hard to really accept things that are necessarily wrong with a product,” he notes.
Although Resnick’s 2013 switch from Canon to Nikon had less to do with product faults than politics, he admits, “If I had to be completely blind and pick based on what I now know, I would go with Nikon.”
This is the sixth in a series featuring the many stories and myriad reasons prompting users to switch camera brands. Make sure to follow the links at the end to read about other photographers who switched between DSLR brands, from DSLR to Mirrorless and from digital to analog film. The following views expressed are those of the interviewee and do not necessarily represent that of B&H Photo.
Photographs © Seth Resnick
For 18 years of his prolific career, Resnick held an enviable spot as one of the first 50 photographers selected for Canon’s worldwide Explorers of Light program. He had started out a Nikon shooter as a student at Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications. After graduation in 1979, he quickly ascended the ladder of the editorial world, mixing a full-time position at the Syracuse Newspapers with magazine freelancing and the lecture circuit.
In January 1995, while chatting with Arnold Newman and other luminaries at the Palm Beach Photographic Center’s FotoFusion conference, he met Canon’s Michael Newler, who promptly asked what it would take to get him to shoot with Canon gear. Resnick responded with, “Send me a bunch of gear to start with,” figuring that would put an end to the matter. Soon thereafter, a stack of large boxes arrived on his doorstep, filled with Canon bodies and lenses. Newler’s prompt to “try it, you’ll like it,” and a subsequent invitation to join the ranks of Canon’s legendary Explorers of Light program was encouragement enough for Resnick to make the leap.
“The deal was interesting,” he writes in his blog. “We would not get free equipment… but the sponsorship would allow us to do speaking engagements and to be paid. It was an incredible way to talk about the business of photography and speak to trade groups about the power of the Internet and creativity. I accepted the deal and sold my Nikons, and started the adventure of a lifetime...”
Fast-forward to 2013—Changes were at work at Canon to transition some of the Explorers of Light, including Resnick, to an Emeritus status, which compelled him to look for another home. “I knew that I was going to have to bite the bullet,” he says. “It was a tough decision… but this is business and I simply could not go on supporting a company [under those conditions].”
Another factor fueling his decision was a conversation he had with a Canon employee, who explained that the company was placing its hopes for the future in video. To Resnick, this signaled a total lack of understanding of the medium. “Just because I have a camera that shoots motion, doesn’t make me a cinematographer,” he says.
[B&H contacted Canon for comment, and the company denies this, stating, “Canon would never make such an overarching claim. We are committed to supporting photographers, filmmakers, and all creators who work with our products.”]
He started looking for a new home, trying a lot of other brands in the process. “But I was looking for a lot more than a brand,” he explains. “The cameras are tools and the tools help, but it is our wetware that creates the images, and it is people that make a company.”
During his search, Resnick asked his Nikon contacts for their views on DSLR video. “It was one of those critical moments for me,” he says. The answer he received from Bill Pekala, then manager of Nikon Pro Services, was heartening. “We have to include video, because it’s something that the other guys are doing,” said Pekala. “It’s something that we need to do, but our commitment is to the still image.”
His learning curve was practically instantaneous. “I was worried about focusing the wrong way and all that,” he says. “But, you make the mistake of turning the lens the wrong way once or twice and then it clicks in.”
Most important, the switch reawakened Resnick’s sense of exploration. “The fun part was the discovery of things that one company has, but the other guy doesn’t. You’d probably not even investigate a lot of these details unless you make the switch,” he admits. “But I think it’s healthy to try another product for real, and see what some of those benefits are. I’m now more aware of certain features that I wouldn’t have taken advantage of otherwise.”
One distinction between brands that makes Resnick appreciate his Nikons more is the individual nature of the two different bodies he uses. “A lot of people buy two of the same body. In fact, Nikon suggested that I do that so the menus would correlate, but I actually like shooting with two different camera bodies,” he says.
He found there to be less of a distinction between the various Canon models he worked with. “The quality was good all the way around and it made more sense to have two of the same camera,” Resnick explains, “whereas with Nikon it makes more sense for me to have the two different cameras.”
He elaborates, “Because the D5 shoots 14 frames a second, it’s my camera of choice if I’m walking around looking for a guttural response to the environment,” he explains. “When I’m shooting key moments, the ability to get every part of that key moment three times is pretty amazing.”
Yet, when he really has time for composition, Resnick favors the slower pace of the D810, with its larger file size and more megapixels. “For example, when I’m in a Zodiac in Antarctica with long lenses, I go right away for the D5. But when we pull up to an iceberg, and we’re going to be there for a while, I want the D810 with a wide-angle lens, because it’s really about composition.”
Another perk to Resnick’s new gear is the fact that both cameras use the same battery charger, especially since his travels to remote locales entail challenges such as severe weight restrictions. “Literally, we’re only allowed 50 pounds, including all our clothes, expedition gear, and the cameras,” he says. “Little things like not having to pack two complete sets of gear are a big plus for me.”
Resnick has a penchant for working in extreme climates, and during a recent trip to Africa he encountered sandstorm conditions that really put his cameras to the test. “The sand is so fine that it gets in your own physical body all over the place,” he says.
Yet, after cleaning his cameras on return to the U.S., he notes, “I think the camera seals have gotten significantly better. It’s pretty remarkable I didn’t seem to have anything on the sensor or inside the chamber.”
This was particularly true of his D5. “The D810 needed a little more work,” he says, “but the D5 was really like the old workhorse from the days of the Nikon F. When I shot with Canon, however, it did penetrate, sort of everywhere,” he points out.
In another instance, this time in Antarctica, Resnick was leaning over a Zodiac with two cameras when he suddenly discovered his D5 dipping into the Antarctic Ocean. “The camera still worked, so I washed it off with fresh water as soon as I could,” he explains.
It continued working for the rest of his trip, but Resnick sent it off to Nikon when he returned, figuring they would find corrosion or other damage. “They actually wrote back saying the camera was perfectly fine,” he notes. “I’m really amazed at how durable they are,” he adds. “My Canon cameras broke more often.”
Resnick has also found his Nikons to have a longer battery life, particularly in the extreme cold. “I had to keep my Canon batteries in my pocket and swap them out, but the Nikon batteries seem to be just fine without having to warm them up on a regular basis. That’s sort of huge,” he says.
Since growing up on Kodachrome film, Resnick is a self-described old-school-type shooter. “I think in those low ISOs, and like the results of low-ISO images, with better shadow and highlight detail,” he says. “I’ve never been psyched about products that claim they can do ISOs of 40000 or 100000.”
When shooting with Canon, Resnick found that he could go up to ISO 400 and still be very happy with the results, and he could even push the limits up to ISO 1000 by doing a lot of work in the shadows.
But since switching to Nikon, he says, “I’m finding the higher ISOs are much, much cleaner. It’s been a whole new way of learning for me. I’ve done side-by-side testing, especially of night photography and star photography where noise is really more prevalent,” Resnick explains. “I’m very comfortable saying there’s pretty close to a stop and a half of difference in dynamic range between a high-end Nikon and Canon’s version.”
He was also impressed by some Nikon D5 images he shot indoors at ISO 10,000. “If someone else had shown me the results, I would have asked to see the raw files to convince me they didn’t go through Photoshop. When there isn’t harsh light, it’s really amazing.”
Resnick has a complicated relationship with his cameras’ autofocus capabilities. “I’ve always felt that autofocus is fantastic when it works,” he says. “But it absolutely drives me nuts, with both systems, when you’re poised to shoot, and it’s all about the moment, and then you get that whirring sound of the lens trying to find its focus after pressing the button. For a long time, I actually manually focused. Period,” he points out. “I trusted my own abilities more than the autofocus.”
After Resnick switched to Nikon, a tech rep showed him how to operate the autofocus override that correlates to the camera’s back focus button. “You press that button to autofocus but, if for any reason, it’s not operating the way you want, it goes into a manual override as soon as you rotate the lens barrel,” he explains. “It’s been absolutely amazing to have that feature, where you’re getting the best of autofocus and an instant ability to override it when it doesn’t want to work right. I was able to do that with Canon, but I had to disengage the autofocus first, and the spontaneity of the moment was gone.”
About the only challenge Resnick encounters with his gear (both new and old) is something he terms, “The implied perception of the expense. The cameras look expensive,” he says. “As soon as somebody sees Nikon, or Canon, they want money.”
To counter this, he covers the brand names with black tape. “It really makes a difference when you’re out photographing people,” he notes. He also doesn’t carry a camera bag. “I tend to take one camera and one lens in those people environments, to try and tone things down.”
One aspect of today’s DSLRs that Resnick views as overkill is the profusion of buttons and camera menu settings. “There are so many options on these cameras that unless you carry the manual and become more involved with the technology part than with shooting, you can’t remember all the stuff they do, nor does it apply most of the time,” he points out.
High on his wish list for camera manufacturers is, “to put more emphasis on removing some of the buttons, or making them optional in a stripped-down version of a pro-level camera that just covers the basics. When you really understand technology, you realize that if you’re shooting raw, the only thing that matters is ISO, shutter speed, and f-stop,” Resnick explains. “The other 10,000 buttons are all basically about a camera shooting in a JPEG mode.”
Looking beyond buttons, his biggest desire is for all camera companies to offer a unified file format, to eliminate the problems of waiting for software. “I was really psyched to see Apple offer a DNG format in the iPhone 7,” he says. “That’s a game changer.”
He sees Apple’s move as a wake-up call to camera manufacturers, but questions whether they have really taken notice. “Going forward, I worry that both Canon and Nikon have lost the idea that the competition is now with an iPhone,” he says. “Part of that is the Japanese mentality, which is slow to accept change, but by the time they figure it out, it’ll be like Kodak and they’ll be surpassed.”
Ultimately, however, the matter of a unified file format is all about the challenge of maintaining a permanent archive. “My big fear is that, as amazing as this technology is, I can still take a glass plate negative and turn on a lightbulb and process it,” says Resnick. “But as operating systems change, will we be able to open these proprietary file formats in 50 years, or even in 10 years from now? Until we have a standardized format, it terrifies me to think about that.”
To learn more about Seth Resnick, click here to visit his website.
To read the other stories in our series, Why I Switched, click here https://www.bhphotovideo.com/explora/p/why-i-switched.
Do you have a story or some insights to share about switching brands? If so, please add your voice to the Comments section, below.