Oli Sansom

Hiya. I’m Oli, and I live and work out of Melbourne Australia. I photograph weddings wherever I can, and try to spend the rest of the time on other non-commercial projects: more recently trying out street shooting, and now some other projects that involve stop-motion & much more planning.

I don’t have any deep, profound, or arty segue into photography, despite growing up working as an illustrator/animator, and then a career as a creative lead at digital agencies. The initial attraction to photography, honestly, was the “blurred background” thing a few years ago (pretty high-brow, huh?).

What is this, how do I get it?

So I did a little research and wound up with a Canon 40D, a Canon 50mm f/1.8, and a Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8. This setup saw me through my first trip overseas, and enabled me to get my head around the DSLR & manual thing in late 2009. I took heaps of amazing images of selectively-focused cups of coffee on that trip.

Following that, I rode the buy-sell-buy-sell curve, trying out new kit and endlessly upgrading. Finally, I settled on my ideal digital setup 2x Canon 5D MKII ’s, a Canon 35mm f/1.4L, and a Canon 85mm f/1.2L. One of the MKII’s has since been upgraded to a Canon 5D MKIII, and there was a Canon 135mm f/2L purchase in there too (since lost/stolen… RIP).

I’m not really a purist, I use primes because I like stripping away layers that get in the way of taking an image. For me, zoom is one of those layers. Simplicity of gear lets me get more creative with the actual images. It’s for that reason that I’ve moved towards larger & slower film formats for non-wedding work.

Recently through a competition I won a Fujifilm X-E2 with a Fujifilm 18-55mm f/2.8-4 lens. I wasn’t sure, honestly, that it would fit into my workflow. After 5 minutes testing it out and scrutinising the files, I was hooked, and decided my Canon 5D MKII had seen its day. I since sold the Fujifilm 18-55mm f/2.8-4 zoom and replaced it with the Fujifilm 35mm f/1.4, and it’s now the perfect second camera to accompany the heavier MKIII. The focus is fast enough (certainly no slower than a Canon body with the amazing Canon 85mm f/1.2L), and the files are super clean.

Soon I’ll be looking to move away from larger DSLR’s completely, so I’m not yet sure if the Fuji system or Nikon DF will be the answer to that.

I recently sold my Macbook Pro 13”, and upgraded to a Macbook Air 11”. I always knew that it’d be the perfect size before buying it, and was happy to see that was the case when it arrived. The loss of resolution is minimal compared to the Macbook Pro, and the size & weight make it perfect for travelling. The more I travel to shoot, the more I’m keen on going about it as minimally as possible. I’m travelling for 6 weeks now with just a single backpack that I can take on the plane. It’ll fit clothes, all my cameras, and the new Macbook Air. Poifict.

It’s pretty amazing to think how this could be in a few years for the digital minimalist: Lugging around just a couple of mirror less bodies, 2 lenses, and a hotshoe flash.

Here’s a rundown of my current gear. Lowepro Passport Sling: This is my bag for weddings & travel: it fits 2x SLR’s, my lenses, speedlite, and all the other bits and pieces. Incred.

Lowepro Fastpack 250: This is when i need to carry a larger setup, aka recently: a trip intestate with a bunch of film photographers. This fit my large 4×5 field camera and all the film I needed.

Canon 5D Mark II: I’m yet to use the Fujifilm XE-2 at a wedding, but until then, the Canon 5D Mark II is literally just my second-lens holder at a wedding. I’ll use it for about 5 minutes when the bride is coming down the aisle, but for the rest of the day this is just used to hold the lens that isn’t on my MKIII. People look at me as if i’m a bit unhinged when they find out it’s just a lens holder, but I don’t like Shootsacs, so with the Fuji now in the mix i’ve gotta look at an alternative way of holding my second lens.

Canon 5D Mark III: my main wedding workhorse. I no longer use this for anything else really, apart from the odd bit of commercial work where digital is a necessity. Can’t go wrong with this, but i’m looking for gear that’s easier on the hands now.

Gundlach Korona 4×5: A wooden grand-daddy from the 1920s. Fitted with a Copal 165mm lens. On a recent 8-day trip to the Northern Territory, I decided to take just this. Not sure I’d do it again, but its a beautiful piece to have around. This camera repelled bad attention when out shooting the streets (people really have no idea what you re doing), and attracted the good attention – curious folk that engaged and then were happy to be snapped.

Crown Graphic 4×5: Recently back from a service, this is my go-to 4×5 now. Fitted with a Kodak Ekta 127mm lens. Speed graphic 4×5: Fitted with the almighty Aero Ektar lens. Not mine, but an extended lease from a friend.

Hasselblad 500CM: I have this kitted out with a Hasselblad 80mm f/2.8. This will be my main personal and travel camera. Square format is one of my favourites, and the 500CM is a beautiful thing to use.

Yashica 635G: Currently broken, but this was my main personal-work unit, now replaced by the 500CM. Truth be told i’ll probably fix this and sell it. It’s a brilliant TLR, but I’m now struggling to see how I’ll apply it. Super light, and pretty well engineered for what I guess is a poor-mans Rolleiflex.

Canon 135mm f/2L: RIP – i’ll be re-purchasing this ASAP. This is a quick lens with beautiful colours and incredible subject separation. I’m missing this enormously. If you have my copy, please return it. I have cookies and make an excellent poached egg on smashed avocado, and you really really want that.

Canon 85mm f/1.2L: Say no more. What a beast. Slow as hell, this lens makes me work harder than anything else, but I love using it at all points across the day. It’s also the perfect focal length for creating stitched images, and It’s a dreamboat to free lens with. It’s less fun watching time slow down as it heads south towards a marble floor after falling off my MKII, but fortunately it’s a beast and, you know, can just handle stuff like a boss.

Canon 35mm f/1.4L: Old faithful, on my camera most during the day. I can’t wait for Canon to upgrade the body of it though, so we aren’t paying premium price for beautiful glass in a plastic tube that’s about as resilient as a sundried decrepit eggshell.

Canon 580EXII: Yeah, it’s a flash. Does it’s thing, super well. Flashtastic.

Pentax 67II: I have this with the 3-lens kit: 55mm, 105mm, and 165mm. I purchased this purely for a single project. Once that’s done, i’ll probably sell this too. I don’t need more cameras than I actively use. This is one of the most amazing systems i’ve ever used. The mirror throw inside it is insane, so every click is pretty satisfying. Ka-thunk.

Fujifilm X-E2: Ideally the only digital camera i’d used when it called for it. This will be my second camera for upcoming weddings. Fitted with a 35mm 1.4 prime.

Nexto DI Portable Backup Drive: Throughout the day I throw a CF/SD card into it, and it pulls off the most recent images. It has 500GB storage, is never physically on me when at a wedding, so if I get eaten by a swam of carnivorous earthworms getting “the shot”, I know my images are backed up onto this. My couple won’t know how to get the images off it, but I’ll be dead, so whatevs. Thanks Jesse Hisco for the heads up with this! if I die on the job, i’m tasking you with helping my couple out.

Lacie Rugged 1tb HDD: As well as backing up onto my NextTO when shooting away from home, a copy goes straight onto this, which is kept in a separate bag.

Hahnel Unipal Plus: I only got this because my local store was out of Canon chargers (i lose gear, often). Turns out it charges just about any battery, has a car adaptor, and a USB plug to charge my phone. Sweet.

All the rest: Almonds, batteries, sticky tape, lip balm, power conversion plugs for overseas shooting.

www.olisansom.com

Inside Oli’s camera bag:

If you’d like to hear more about Oli, how he does business, gets bookings, markets his photography… then check out the interview with Andrew Hellmich on Photo Biz Xposed – if you add your details on this page he’ll send you the premium version of the interview.

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