Of course you want to know about the equipment. You DON'T want to know about the hours spent waiting in the cold, the heat, the rain, the overcrowdedness. You don't want to know about the randomness quotient that means no matter how good your spot is you have no guarantee of a decent shot. You don't want to know about the low success rate, about how often you'll fail because your reflexes weren't quite good enough, your anticipation wasn't quite sharp enough, your attention was focussed elsewhere when something cool was happening in front of you. Plus you don't want to know about how even a good camera's autofocus can be flummoxed by the distracting lights, the stream of people moving back and forth and around the object of your attention on the carpet, the mobile phones and compact cameras held up high-and-blind by everyone around you, the pictures, posters, DVD covers and other movie memorabilia desperately shoved in front of stars....

You don't want to know how many premieres it takes before you start getting an idea of what goes on, about how much you get pushed and jostled, and how many times you get home cold and wet and reheating leftovers so you can sit down for several HOURS sifting through your photos, culling hundreds and hundreds of them down to a representative thirty or so, editing them and then writing a journal of comments while sleep-deprived at midnight, posting them to The Acclaim of The Internet (seriously... less than 50 views for Sony's latest Spider-Man reboot? Seriously??).

You probably are a bit confused as to Why Exactly I Do This In Light Of The Two Paragraphs Above. Very good question.

But No, you probably just want to know about the camera and lenses so you can nod and go 'ah.... that explains it'. Well, actually it doesn't explain much. But that said....

It started with one camera and a ... macro lens?

Pentax K10D : 2008 - 2011(retired, with full honours) The mighty K10D with its 'adapt or die' 90mm f2.8 Macro Lens... because premieres in London are invariably DARK and I'll take a good quality prime over a kit lens with reach. Oh, and it's weather-sealed because when it starts to rain you don't want to go home or pack away your mobile phone or lesser camera. 3 frames per second and a limited buffer means you have to get good at anticipation... a buffer that small will not save you.

Pentax K10D : 2008 - 2011(retired, with full honours)
The mighty K10D with its 'adapt or die' 90mm f2.8 Macro Lens... because premieres in London are invariably DARK and I'll take a good quality prime over a kit lens with reach. Oh, and it's weather-sealed because when it starts to rain you don't want to go home or pack away your mobile phone or lesser camera. 3 frames per second and a limited buffer means you have to get good at anticipation... a buffer that small will not save you.

And Then it died in the the line of duty and I got an upgrade.

The K10 lasted a full tour of duty in London, only to fall at a (rare) premiere in Sydney. So I replaced it with the Pentax K-5. New and Improved, fresh with More megapixels. Faster autofocus. Better frame-per-second rapidfire shooting. More sensitivity at high-ISOs. And damnit if they weren't right about the 'Improved' bit. Especially in low light. And screw it... I had a dayjob. Throw a 70-200mm f2.8 onto that camera (Tamron.... 'cause I'm not made of money)

 

Pentax K5 : 2011 - present (occasionally semi-retired) The even mightier K-5. Now with 60% more frames per second, same great weather-sealing, and better autofocus. The 90mm f2.8 macro gets retired and replaced with a 70-200mm f2.8 for added quality and reach. I also have a short-range prime for (rare) indoor premieres, and a waterproof kit lens in case things get really grim. (They don't usually get really grim)

Pentax K5 : 2011 - present (occasionally semi-retired)
The even mightier K-5. Now with 60% more frames per second, same great weather-sealing, and better autofocus. The 90mm f2.8 macro gets retired and replaced with a 70-200mm f2.8 for added quality and reach. I also have a short-range prime for (rare) indoor premieres, and a waterproof kit lens in case things get really grim. (They don't usually get really grim)

And then I thought... why not a second camera?

Why spend valuable microseconds changing lenses in a crowded place when I can have two cameras on me at all times... in a crowded place? And why not have a secondary camera that almost anyone would agree is a better camera than my PRIMARY camera? These are very good questions you're asking...

 

Nikon D700 : 2014-2015 (retired, with honours) A Nikon. An actual professional camera. Superb autofocus and High-ISO performance, but since I have legacy pentax K-mount lenses for all the important focal lengths, it's got a 50mm f1.8 stuck on the front. It's a superb lens, I will say one thing though : the D700 meters like a DIVA. I've never seen a camera so reluctant to go with the flow in a variable-light-conditions event. (.. you know, like a Premiere). The Pentax is pretty goodnatured in all conditions (you might call it 'lazy' but I'm going with 'goodnatured') but the Nikon? One moment there's a light switched somewhere in the background and it underexposes like a supernova went off, other times the lights dim and it suddenly overexposes like somebody put a bag over its head. Still..... surprisingly good highlights and shadow recovery

Nikon D700 : 2014-2015 (retired, with honours)
A Nikon. An actual professional camera. Superb autofocus and High-ISO performance, but since I have legacy pentax K-mount lenses for all the important focal lengths, it's got a 50mm f1.8 stuck on the front. It's a superb lens, I will say one thing though : the D700 meters like a DIVA. I've never seen a camera so reluctant to go with the flow in a variable-light-conditions event. (.. you know, like a Premiere). The Pentax is pretty goodnatured in all conditions (you might call it 'lazy' but I'm going with 'goodnatured') but the Nikon? One moment there's a light switched somewhere in the background and it underexposes like a supernova went off, other times the lights dim and it suddenly overexposes like somebody put a bag over its head. Still..... surprisingly good highlights and shadow recovery

And then I thought... why not upgrade AGAIN? (on which note, some advice : don't just upgrade for the sake of it. Like... SERIOUSLY)

Pentax K3 : 2014-2015, and 2016 (dishonourable and permanent discharge) Meet the only camera in history that was NOT as good as its predecessors because its autofocus is worse, and on top of that Pentax replaced the three-point AF lever with a two-point AF lever so you have less choice in which of the worse AFs you want to choose between. I used this camera for a year and then went back to using the K5. I gave it another chance at the Rogue One premiere where it failed so completely I made sure it would never disappoint me again. I don't miss it - just like I didn't miss the f**king brick wall I threw it against more than once. Apology accepted, K3.

Pentax K3 : 2014-2015, and 2016 (dishonourable and permanent discharge)
Meet the only camera in history that was NOT as good as its predecessors because its autofocus is worse, and on top of that Pentax replaced the three-point AF lever with a two-point AF lever so you have less choice in which of the worse AFs you want to choose between. I used this camera for a year and then went back to using the K5. I gave it another chance at the Rogue One premiere where it failed so completely I made sure it would never disappoint me again. I don't miss it - just like I didn't miss the f**king brick wall I threw it against more than once. Apology accepted, K3.

And then I was given this to use:

Nikon D4 : 2016 - present. Holy Shit. The Nikon D4 is awesome. It's the one camera I can not and will not complain about. Consider this : it took me years to even partially integrate the D700 into my premiere photography as a second camera. I'm not good with change and adjusting my shooting to match equipment. So imagine even my surprise when the Nikon D4 became indisputably my permanent main camera for all premieres.... after just ONE PREMIERE. There was no question about it. This is the camera that alters the way you take photos because things like instinct and timing become almost irrelevant : the camera is fast and responsive, the autofocus is spectacular, the buffer is basically infinite : anecdotally I estimate that due to sheer speed and accuracy on autofocus alone, I now take photos as if I'm responding half a second sooner than I used to, and in candid portraiture that half a second is EVERYTHING. And yet... if art is about making choices and overcoming obstacles, the D4 kind of destroys 'art' because there are almost no obstacles to taking photos. And, yeah, that *is* kind of a criticism, but perhaps this is the camera that shows I'm not really an artist : just somebody who points a camera and presses a button. Before the challenge was taking the photo.. now it's about choosing which ones to use. With the Pentaxes above, I had to know what I was doing, prefocus, watch my timing, know the buffer size, be attuned to precise movements in the autofocus adjusting, switch between modes dynamically, watch my ISO headroom.... even carry spare batteries. With the Nikon these are almost irrelevant skills, and I'm still struggling to come to terms with what that means. Perhaps the one thing I'd say in summary is that unlike (say) the K10D and K5, I actually don't love the Nikon. It doesn't seem to have a soul. It's just a tool. ... the greatest tool ever.

Nikon D4 : 2016 - present.
Holy Shit. The Nikon D4 is awesome. It's the one camera I can not and will not complain about. Consider this : it took me years to even partially integrate the D700 into my premiere photography as a second camera. I'm not good with change and adjusting my shooting to match equipment. So imagine even my surprise when the Nikon D4 became indisputably my permanent main camera for all premieres.... after just ONE PREMIERE. There was no question about it. This is the camera that alters the way you take photos because things like instinct and timing become almost irrelevant : the camera is fast and responsive, the autofocus is spectacular, the buffer is basically infinite : anecdotally I estimate that due to sheer speed and accuracy on autofocus alone, I now take photos as if I'm responding half a second sooner than I used to, and in candid portraiture that half a second is EVERYTHING. And yet... if art is about making choices and overcoming obstacles, the D4 kind of destroys 'art' because there are almost no obstacles to taking photos. And, yeah, that *is* kind of a criticism, but perhaps this is the camera that shows I'm not really an artist : just somebody who points a camera and presses a button. Before the challenge was taking the photo.. now it's about choosing which ones to use. With the Pentaxes above, I had to know what I was doing, prefocus, watch my timing, know the buffer size, be attuned to precise movements in the autofocus adjusting, switch between modes dynamically, watch my ISO headroom.... even carry spare batteries. With the Nikon these are almost irrelevant skills, and I'm still struggling to come to terms with what that means. Perhaps the one thing I'd say in summary is that unlike (say) the K10D and K5, I actually don't love the Nikon. It doesn't seem to have a soul. It's just a tool.

... the greatest tool ever.

Oh, and....

GoPro Hero3 : 2014 - present (not so much at nighttime premieres) When it all fails and torrential downpours happen or pr1ck French people start waving A3 sized placards and the gaps between waving hands, mobiles, posters, DVD covers and autograph books get microscoping, sometimes you just gotta go with a small camera with a wide-angle view. I don't like the battery life, and I wish it was more resilient in its metering, but other than that : it's truly The Last Line Of Defence.

GoPro Hero3 : 2014 - present (not so much at nighttime premieres)
When it all fails and torrential downpours happen or pr1ck French people start waving A3 sized placards and the gaps between waving hands, mobiles, posters, DVD covers and autograph books get microscoping, sometimes you just gotta go with a small camera with a wide-angle view. I don't like the battery life, and I wish it was more resilient in its metering, but other than that : it's truly The Last Line Of Defence.

So that rounds out the equipment. Nikon, Pentax, if you're reading this : give me an excuse to go monogamous and I/you could make it worth my/your while. Just fix your metering and autofocus, respectively. GoPro? You kind of rock. I just wish it could be a little *more* discreet!

 

Wanna do this kind of thing yourself? I recommend the following:

1. Fast lens (forget using a flash unless you're into upclose portrait photography) - if you can.

2. Good High-ISO performance (refer above for flash) - even more important than a fast lens.

3. Weather-sealing (if and when it rains) - but I've learned that most cameras are pretty well-made these days.

4. Good autofocus (and/or learn how to prefocus)

5. High Framerate (and/or learn how to anticipate)

6. Spare battery and Spare Memory Cards (format card before every premiere. blame no-one if your run out of batteries)

7. Warm and waterproof clothing (in autumn, winter and spring)

Patience, luck, perseverence, lots of harddrive space, resilience... probably helps if you enjoy movies and photography.

And at least try to look like you're having fun! Otherwise people will think you're REALLY weird.