Losing your gear is heartbreaking. Faced with that nightmare, professional photographer and Olympus Visionary John Nassari took the bold decision to switch system – and hasn’t looked back since.
At the age of 13 John Nassari was given his first camera by his stepfather. He went on to pursue photography both academically, gaining a PhD and teaching at university level, and professionally, establishing a career as an advertising photographer. His photography has been exhibited at the National Portrait Gallery, and he was named as one of London’s Top 13 Wedding Photographers by the Evening Standard last year.
Now focusing on weddings, John also shoots portraits, interiors and documentary. One of his more recent projects saw him spend ten months photographing behind the scenes at the Mandarin Oriental hotel in Hyde Park. The images were published in a book, 80at80 and exhibited in an exclusive private view in the hotel’s ballroom.
Originally a Canon shooter, John switched to Olympus when his studio was broken into in 2013, and £36,000 worth of gear was stolen – a photographer’s worst nightmare.
After receiving a cheque from his insurer, John realised that he had to start all over again and began to review what gear he actually needed and what it was that he wanted from it.
“I realised that I was looking for smaller and lighter kit, a more compact system, a system that I could take around with me in a single medium bag, a bag that I could take on a plane as hand luggage,” John recalls. It was then that he also came to the conclusion that he had been ‘over gearing’ on a number of jobs. “I was taking enormous heavy cameras for PR jobs and the images were only being used online, or I was shooting a wedding and getting backache at the end of it, when the pictures were only going to be printed in an A3 book.”
With all this in mind, John decided to move away from bulky DSLRs. Having heard good things about the Olympus OM-D E-M1, which was about to be released, he wanted to see what all the fuss was about.
“I put the camera through a lot of tests; ISO and noise tests, speed tests, tracking and flash tests, file testing, JPEG tests, macro etc. When I look backed at the images and analysed them I was shocked at the results,” he declares. “The files were smaller than those of the Canon EOS 5D Mark III, but when making a print I realised that the OM-D E-M1 could deliver for 90% of my work.”
Mainly shooting large-scale weddings John and his team now all use the Olympus system. John has an OM-D E-M5 Mark II as well as the OM-D E-M1 and a wide selection of lenses, which includes the M.ZUIKO 12-40mm f/2.8 PRO, M.ZUIKO 25mm f/1.2 PRO, M.ZUIKO 40-150mm f/2.8 PRO and many more. “The cameras are remarkably robust. In three years some have been dropped and they always work fine. I’ve never had any problems with the electrics either and I get them serviced every year,” he says.
As you’d expect when switching camera systems after a long period of loyalty, there was a short period of adjustment. The most challenging aspects for John were getting used to the lack of mirror and the inclusion of an electric viewfinder, but he soon got the hang of things.
“My first impression was that the OM-D E-M1 was small, quiet, beautiful and discreet!” he says.
When it comes to features John highly rates the 5-axis image stabilisation. “It is amazing in low light, giving me five to six stops more light. I can hold and shoot a room at 1/20sec and it’s all sharp.” He also loves the peak focusing which allows you to zoom in really close to focus on a particular area; it’s great for focusing on a bride’s eyes, for example, when she is taking her vows.
It’s not just his wedding work that John uses his Olympus kit for, he also shoots portraits and interiors. When shooting interiors he takes advantage of the high res mode, allowing him to produce a 40-megapixel file.
As a photographer who regularly travels across the globe, John doesn’t regret a thing and is delighted that he switched systems. “I can get on a plane and have all of my kit – two cameras, lenses, flashes – in my hand luggage and I don’t get anxious about whether my bag is too heavy or if it’ll fit.”
What other effects has the change in system had on John’s work? “I am less conspicuous, I really can argue with great effect that my shooting approach is discreet, unobtrusive and quiet. I can’t imagine carrying two enormous DSLRs with huge lenses, making a loud mirror noise and putting my back out and banging my hip with bodies when I walk any more.”
With the recent release of the Olympus flagship, OM-D E-M1 Mark II we asked John if he would be making the upgrade. His response: “Definitely, I used one at a pre-launch session and it blew me away. It’s a massive jump in so many ways!”
Article featured in Photography News Issue 41 and Professional Photo Magazine Issue 128