Kev Pearson is a full-time landscape photographer and workshop leader based in the exotic and beautiful Somerset town of Glastonbury, where he also has a shop on the high street. As he explains, he now only buys second-hand cameras and lenses, and it is proving to be real time and money saver.
We have this idea as landscape photographers wanting to be at the cutting edge of camera technology, with high-resolution full frame sensors so they can print very big, but it’s not the case with you, right?
I’ve owned about 17 Nikon cameras and when I first started out, I was still working full-time with a ‘proper’ job as an engineer. So I bought everything new as I had more money than sense! It was only when I got bored with them after six months and wanted to sell or upgrade that I realised how much money I was losing. So when I upgraded, I would go for a two or three-year-old used camera rather than a brand-new one. It was still high-enough spec for what I needed – maybe it was my Scottish heritage kicking in, wanting value for money!
So I have been ‘approaching’ the cutting edge in terms of sensor and noise performance, etc, but without going overboard, and buying the D5 when it came out, for instance.
What are your best used buys, in terms of camera bodies and lenses?
My best piece of kit is my Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 lens. I bought as a refurb and dropped it at one point but the lens is very well made. It’s a real ‘piece’ of a lens, and is going to stay with me for life. It is so sharp and I still treat it with kid gloves. You can do night photography, star trails, portraits, conventional landscape work…
In terms of bodies, I am most impressed by my most recent purchase, a Nikon D3s bought from MPB. I have been holding out for one for years. Most are quite ‘high mileage’ and tired, but this has a sub-20k shutter activation count and is minty.
Obviously the D3s is fast and tough as nails, but was the relatively low resolution (12.1 megapixels) a worry as a landscape shooter who sells prints?
It once was – I have owned D800 and D810s in the past. All that extra resolution did for my photography was to slow down my workflow. The file size, working with layers in Photoshop… it was affecting my through-put, particularly if I had come back with a lot of shots. With my prints I find I can even scale 10Mp images up to A3 and it still looks ok. I am not a pixel peeper and the customers aren’t either, nobody views a print from 2cm away. Megapixels are immaterial, you just need sharp shots. And a good lens. Whether you are a buying used or new my best tip for beginners is to buy a really good lens.
What else do you use?
I also have a Nikon D5500, which I bought used for the handy flip screen and great noise performance. I do a lot of shots low to the ground, and my knees aren’t great, so the screen is useful. It is good for long distance too; put a 600mm lens on and you benefit from the crop factor. So I just use that at the D3s: an odd combination but it works for me!