Parachut Gear Drop 1

A well-known photographer once claimed that painters don't spend hours arguing about brushes. He's totally off the mark. Every time I tell my artist friends about that statement, they get the giggles. Painters totally spend hours arguing about brushes, snap, bristle material, shape, size, selection, etc. They talk about how this one brand used to make great brushes, but then they screwed it up and so all of the books from ten years ago that called out that one particular brush are now wrong. And they also talk about paper and paints and the optimum table or easel to use and all sorts of stuff. And they also look with disdain at cheap student-grade materials but at the same time know that that's all some folks can manage. And they know that an artist-grade brush won't rescue a bad painting. So, instead, I think I'm going to say that there's a basic economic principle in being an artist: You want to get the best materials and tools in your hands and spend the least amount of money to do it.

In the days of yore, you could go to a local high-end camera store and rent some gear. Most of these were clustered around the larger-markets and, even then, the selection was generally confined to a fairly small number of gear mounts. This worked well for well-funded pros with an existing investment in one of the chosen systems, but not nearly as well for semi-pro folks in the middle of nowhere.

Then online rentals came to be. This changed things quite a bit because suddenly it made total economic sense to support the other mounts. And you could live anywhere it was cheap enough to do a rental. I'd thought about it, but I looked at the prices and thought about the difficulties of scheduling a rental for the exact time period I'd wanted it. That gets really annoying when I'm booking models because they flake. Nothing worse than getting a really cool bit of gear for a weekend and then not using it.

Then I heard about Which turns things around yet again, applying the Netflix model to things. The initial press said that you'd be able to spend $99 a month and get some selection of gear, but wasn't very specific. I figured that, even if the whole model tanked, I'd at least give it a try and use it as an excuse to write some stuff.

It took a while before they got themselves into a position where they could actually start operation. I was wondering what that would end up meaning. Would they go all BirchBox on me and I'd get some gear that they'd guarantee I'd be able to use but I have no control over? Or would I be selecting some gear and getting it in indeterminate order?

The a few months ago, they finally told me that it was ready to go.

The way it ends up working is that you end up paying a monthly fee for a dollar amount of gear that's more-or-less equivalent to the actual cost of the gear.

If I compare it to the equivalent rate from a 'normal' rental place, it's cheaper. I'm assuming that they've worked out the economics and how this shifts the way the money flows pretty much in the same way that Netflix was able to. And, although it's a game I play with myself, I'll feel less bad about renting a lens within the one month swap period for a series of scheduled model shoots than I would renting it for a month and then getting really annoyed at a model who ends up flaking.

It took a few days for them to get me in contact with my Parachut Pro, then a few days after he and I agreed on my first Chute Drop to get it on the way. I'm assuming things will go faster-ish in the future, once they get everything actually rolling. Pretty much, I listed off one lens that I'd really wanted to try and then threw in another lens that sounded fun.

On the anointed day, about 2 days in shipping time, I received my first 'chut drop. Two lenses. It was a recycled Amazon box, which was a mild surprise, but it probably makes sense for them. Both lenses came with all accessories present.

The Olympus 12-40mm f/2.8 ED PRO

First impression: The feeling of solidity. I've got a few lower-end Olympus lenses and they are pretty solid, but not nearly as solid as the Pro lens. The lens hood latches on with a locking mechanism. They come with a nice fabric bag.

The second impression: Oh my, this makes my 14-150mm lens look bad.

If I had my 14-150mm on while walking around, I'm shooting at f/4.0-5.6. The 12-40mm is somewhere between a stop or two faster, plus it's a smidge wider, and the 2mm of wide turns out to be more useful than the entire 40-150mm range when I'm just wandering about, so situations that I'd otherwise grab for my 9-18mm were covered at 12mm.

Subjectively, it feels like a better optical performer. I'm not the test-charts type, so we'll leave it at that. It felt like the image quality you'd get from a standard prime lens, instead of the not-quite-as-magical-but-still-quite-good image quality that all of my existing zoom lenses produce. At least some of it felt like a contrast improvement, less light being scattered inside of the lens, all that.

During the months I've had the 12-40mm f/2.8, it spent a LOT of time on my camera and the 14-150mm got very little use. I took it on a vacation, did a model shoot.

By comparison, it didn't feel like much of an improvement over my prime lenses. My 20mm f/1.7 pancake still is better for food porn and captures even more light still. I did a model shoot with the 12-40mm and I still felt like I'd be perfectly happy sending it back because my Olympus 45mm f/1.8 still rules that roost, largely because of the extra amount of bokeh I can do wide-open.

It doesn't ruin the smaller lines of the camera. It's still small and light compared to the equivalent normal-zoom pro prime from the SLR makers.

There's a part of me that kinda wants my very own copy of this lens.

Caesar's Palace, Las Vegas

Baz at the Palazzo in Vegas

Steampunk corset

Nanoha 5x Ultra-Macro for Micro 4/3

This was me taking advantage of the random silliness of being able to borrow whatever.

First impression: Really hard to use this handheld. The farthest away distance is still really close, any motion ruins things, etc. Even with the ISO bumped up all of the way, it's really dicey.

It pretty much only does the range from 4x to 5x. The Canon MP-E 65mm is supposed to be able to start at 1x and go all of the way to 5x, which is quite different.

When I pulled out a macro focusing rail and did things that way, it was a lot easier.

It's got a little Mini-USB port on the side to power the little LEDs. The lights are generally enough for the shot, not just focusing, so you can skip the flash at least some of the time. It comes with a toy-grade Li-Ion battery, but I just used the industrial-strength battery I use to charge my phone and GPS while off on an adventure.

I think it's just not quite my jam, at this phase of my life. I feel sad about that. I'd use it more if it wasn't just 4x-5x, but I did some macro work and it just didn't resonate with me in any particular fashion, plus getting the focus right even with a macro focusing rail was annoying.

Onward to Gear Drop 2

I'm sending those two off. The first time, I told the guy what I wanted. This time, I gave him some thoughts and decided to see what sort of advice he'd give me...


On drawing, I always recount the time my teacher took my eraser away, which improved my drawing immensely.

That's probably a larger metaphor for things.

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