Bucket List Item Checked Off

July 22, 2012 | News Uncategorized

I’ve been a big fan of these fine folks for some time. This is Lok, Kai, and Alamby who make up the DigitalRev team. It’s hard to describe exactly what they do but suffice it to say that they are the Top Gear of photography. Or should I say, Top Gear is the DigitalRev of cars. Kai (in the center) is the mastermind behind the most subscribed to photography channel on YouTube. He’s irreverent, hysterical, and completely brilliant. Lok and Alamby are perfect  and grounded compliments to Kai’s insanity. They are my favorite photography personalities ever. It’s the understatement of the year to say that I was honored to get to meet them and take part in their ongoing “Pro Photographer. Cheap Camera.” series.

I met up with the trio in the Mong Kok area of Hong Kong this week to find out what my challenge would be and what cheap P.O.S. camera I would be armed with to meet their challenge. Kai showed up with an old Kodak C142 point and shoot and an old Nikon flash. My challenge was to shoot people on the street but I had to use the flash. The first challenge was figuring out if I could get the flash to sync with the camera. Once we found a way to get that going then I had to find subjects in low light areas so the flash on the camera would fire. I could not force it to fire at all times. There was zero exposure control on that crap ass camera and zero control as to where it would focus. It was the kind of camera that makes you wonder how point and shoots ever progressed and was a good example of why Kodak failed in the Point and Miss category of cameras.

So here is the result of my challenge. It was so much fun. I sort of went all fan boy on them when I saw them! A selection of images follows the video.


More images after jump…








A big thank you goes out to Kai, Lok, and Alamby. I want to get this crew to NYC at some time. Who would be up to do a fund raiser with me?




  • Matt said on July 23, 2012

    Awesome!!! DigitalRev rocks. Super jealous you got to hang with them.

  • Maura van der Linden said on July 23, 2012

    I love DigitalRev. You definitely should try to get them to NY. Maybe task Kai with some sort of NY photo scavenger hunt!

  • Jay said on July 23, 2012

    I was very anxious to see the results! Nicely done! You made that POS camera work but moreso, you convinced the people to let you make a portrait of them. I desire your people skills, Zack.

    Don’t take DH too seriously when he pokes at you for not learning a few basic words before starting to ask to make a photo.

    Well done!

  • Hub said on July 23, 2012

    Terrific show you put up with them. Yes, having them come to North America to do a special would be awesome.

  • Caesar Espejon said on July 23, 2012

    Kai, Lok and Alamby in New York.. That sounds great, man. Btw, what camera were you carrying around in the video? The one that you didn’t get to use while doing the challenge.

  • Andrew said on July 23, 2012

    The butcher shop was my favorite part of the video.

    Excellent photo of the DigitalRev crew.

  • albert said on July 23, 2012

    *love* the photobomb in the meat photo

  • Will said on July 23, 2012

    Awesome challenge. Congrats on a nice set of images and not getting caught by the mob! It’s funny how basic P&S require a steep learning curve when you are used to having full control.

  • Michael Anthony said on July 23, 2012

    Your shots rock man. The one of the man smoking is fantastic. I am so pumped that you got to do a cheap cam challenge. I was wondering if you would be on digrev anytime soon. Is Kai really how I think he is in real life?


  • Megan Dougherty said on July 23, 2012

    This was great!! One of my favorite photographers in one of my favorite cities (and one that I’ve always wanted to visit). I love seeing the interaction with you and your subjects, even across the language barrier, you were genuinely friendly and they picked up on that. My favorites are the kid with the “amazing hair” in the white t shirt, and the guy smoking. Just awesome!

  • Stephen T said on July 23, 2012

    You rocked this episode of Pro Photographer, Cheap Camera!

  • Tim Skipper said on July 23, 2012

    Very, very cool.

  • don said on July 23, 2012

    Zack, I bow down to you, man. How you were able to keep your composure and pull off those amazing shots with that POS camera in the face of Kai’s hysterical lunacy is beyond me. A lesser man would have dropped kicked the Kodak into Victoria Harbor and just call it a week.

    And through it all, every one of your shots still upheld your first law of portraits: HEAD IN A CLEAN SPOT.

    Too much awesomeness.

    Hong Kong loves you.

  • Michael said on July 23, 2012

    Saw this on Digital Rev and it was awesome, shows it isn’t the gear but the person behind the gear, inspirational even with the crap ass camera.

  • Daniele said on July 23, 2012

    Man, your approach to the problems and to the subject is an inspiration to amateur photographs like me. Next time I will even think about complaining for stuff like “damn my 3 thousand dollars dSLR doesn’t measure exposure right, sync right, the colors are off, the noise is bad that’s why the picture sucks, I need better equipment!” I will remember this, bite my tongue and focus harder on what making a good picture means. It’s all in the photographer, not in the camera, everybody with a passion for photography knows that, but I didn’t fully realize until I saw this video. Thanks.

  • don said on July 23, 2012

    I second the suggestion to get Kai to come over for a challenge state side. He needs an even bigger audience. He’s too damn funny.

  • Chung said on July 23, 2012

    Well done, sir!

  • Libby said on July 23, 2012

    I saw this yesterday. Hilarious. This is actually something that I try with all the point & shoots that pass by my desk. Yesterday I tried my new Canon Elph 100 HS Pink Girlie Cam with a Nikon Sb800 and yes it works in SU 4 mode. You can actually have some great fun playing around like this.

    I bow down to you – you have taken the seemingly impossible to a whole new level 😉

  • Tim A. said on July 23, 2012

    That was a very fun video to watch and the end results further prove the “it’s not the camera” saying (though it helps) :) I can pretty much guarantee you that if you start a Kickstarter campaign, you can probably raise the funds to get them stateside pretty quick and the only thing you will probably need to offer are some prints and such. Worth a try!

  • Corby said on July 23, 2012

    Technical camera skIlls aside I am blown away by your interaction with your subjects. Interacting and directing subjects is the most difficult part of photography for me and you make it look easy.

  • Tony Wilkins said on July 23, 2012

    Big fan on Digital Rev TV – the Top Gear of cameras (instead of cars). Great work with that work-around and some funny stuff.

  • Scott Gant said on July 23, 2012

    You were really cracking me up Zack. Especially when you said something about taking a Chinese boy to a dark place so you can flash him. Laughed my butt off to that.

    It’s great watching you thinking of your feet like that. Kai hit the nail on the head when he said that photographers were problem solvers, and I love how some of us can work around limitations thrown at us.


  • Michelle Y said on July 23, 2012

    You are the most Funny and professional Photographer I ever seem, Respect!!!!!

  • don said on July 23, 2012

    Zack, I do have a technical question. When you were testing to see whether or not the Kodak would sync with the SB-26, did you find a max flash output level that the camera would sync at? On my fully auto p&s (i.e. like the Kodak, no manual setting option), I find that I can only sync at 1/8 power and lower. When I go up to 1/4 or higher, the off-camera flash ceases to contribute to the exposure — I’m guessing due to the longer flash duration of the higher output?

  • Kevin Buchanan said on July 23, 2012

    My wife and I just watched your DigitalRev episode tonight, Zack – totally entertaining, and those images are wonderful. You captured so many great little stories with them.

    This being my first time seeing you working, I am impressed by the natural way you have with people – you’re helping to inspire me to get out and really get my feet wet in street photography.

    Great episode – and how cool is it to get to hang out with Kai, Lok, and Alamby? Totally awesome.

  • Azhar said on July 23, 2012

    Super fantastic images you cooked-up there in HK Zack! The technical bits are at your fingertips. What I’m most impressed is how you communicate to your subjects and get them to trust you. Thanks for the video Zack & DigitalRev Team!

  • mark kane said on July 23, 2012

    Great light heartedness,big fan of Zack and Kai,all that seriousness with cameras ,sensors,etc.etc. Great ideas
    do really come in small packages!!!!!

  • s.c. said on July 23, 2012

    I just posted a picture I made 12 years ago with my first digital camera a olympus C960 with 1.2 million pixels. The photo is still stunning in my eyes and I placed a comment that it is not the camera but the photographers brain that makes the photo. This digital rev. episode just proof this as are your portraits.

  • Rick said on July 23, 2012

    I saw the episode yesterday, totally inspiring. An other clear example where the camera takes a second role. The ideas, composition and subject engagement…

    Great job Zack.


  • Ryan said on July 23, 2012

    Watched this last night on DigitalRev. I’m a big DRev fan, and pro tog cheap cam is simply a brilliant concept. You rocked it…now I just need to find out where to get a Kodak C1-niner142 so my photographs can be as good as yours. Cheers Zack!

  • michael anthony murphy said on July 23, 2012

    Awesome challenge. I too think Kai is brilliant. At first, I thought I did’t like him but after watching a bit more, he started to crack me up. Now I’m a huge fan of that show.

    As for the challenge. . . clearly proves the familiar motto, “GEAR DOESN’T MATTER!”

  • matthew said on July 23, 2012

    your portrait of the DigRev guys is fantastic!

  • fehephoto said on July 23, 2012

    Pink m9-s FTW :))

  • hernan zenteno said on July 23, 2012

    Very very funny. This show what happen all the time, the really difficult thing is get connected with the people. The odd or curious always comes from that part. About the equipment, maybe you could get a way to shoot the in camera flash taping the photometer. I used to do that in old pocket film cameras. But I don’t know the Kodak model you used. Thanks for share

  • Nick said on July 23, 2012

    Hi Zack,
    you should join them in camera stress test episode, like what they did to that 7D..lol..
    hell yeah, that would be awesome !

  • Steve said on July 23, 2012

    If you ever need proof that gear doesn’t matter, this is it. Fantastic shots.

  • Huso said on July 23, 2012

    Zack I like your spirit and I love your work.

    I am a big fan. Great work, keep it flowing!


  • Mike Padua said on July 23, 2012

    Today’s the day that prices on Kodak EasyShare C142 cameras inexplicably jump on Ebay.

  • Chris Gachot said on July 23, 2012

    Hey Zack, great to see you in action, even it it is with that shit camera. I would love to help with a fund raiser to get Kai and his crew over to NYC. Shoot me an email, which you can find on my website. chrisgachot.com

  • Aurora said on July 23, 2012

    So awesome! I would love to meet them & you!

    You are a true talent sir! Great shots and I applaud you for taking on that challenge.

  • jay said on July 23, 2012

    This is the best from the pro photographer/cheap camera series on DigitalRev for sure. Seriously man, watching you work is truly inspiring for a n00b photographer such as myself. How you approach and interact with subjects/challenges is remarkable.

    Thanks for proving that the equipment is not the reason for making shitty photos, rather the person controlling the equipment!

  • lynn said on July 23, 2012

    The guy photobombing in the butcher photo looks like an asian Dwight Schrute.

    These are great. :)

  • Matthew Wagg said on July 23, 2012

    Aww that has to be my new favourite video from Digital Rev. My photographic hero hanging out with my photographic entertainers. The Chase Jarvis one was awesome as well but I think you beat Chase rocking the unconnected no sync flash gear. Absolutely made of win Zak.

  • James said on July 24, 2012

    You really did a great job master zack :) you really proved to the world that photography is not all about having those fancy DSLRs, rather, it is all about how you view and do your composition with your subject. you really nailed that challenge. i hope to meet you some time. :)

  • James said on July 24, 2012

    That camera takes awesome pictures I need to get one (I hope my sarcasm comes across the internet alright?!?!)

    Zack you can take me someplace dark and flash me any day!! Wait what did I just say???

  • Mark said on July 24, 2012

    Zack–just checked out the DigitalRev video and am really impressed! I am really inspired by what you did with a cheap camera and an old speedlight. I am more impressed by your sense of humor and your way with folks.

    Well done! I bet working with Kai was a hoot.

  • kristi said on July 24, 2012

    such a great segment, zack. You truly are a master.

  • Sam said on July 24, 2012

    I love the opening photo for this blog post. It looks like you’ve taken the shot to portray them as ‘superhero like’. The DigitalRev team are definitely a ‘cut above the rest’. Loved the episode as well 😉

  • Max Almonte said on July 24, 2012

    Digital REV in NYC, were do we submit the funds? Great work with that POS camera Z. It shows two things from this challenge, gear does not matter is what people skills you have that matter. You should start a kickstarter for the funds and grant some goodies to those that support. Whadda ya say Zack?

  • jonathan said on July 24, 2012

    Great video! The zany east meets west kinda thing. Made me appreciate my gear that much more.
    Another post to show that it’s not the gear… i think i have a point and shoot lying around somewhere… thx for the post.

  • j.Lotz said on July 25, 2012

    I’ve always loved the DigitalRev team and their reviews. So entertaining and informative and always makes me laugh. Great to see you (Zack) hanging out with them and doing your thing.

  • Greg said on July 25, 2012

    Wow. You were a great sport accepting the challenge. You rule. Were the B&W pics in camera or post processing? Thanks for sharing your amazing talent with us.

  • skipow said on July 25, 2012

    my fav so far! so fresh. thanks.

  • James Dyas Davidson said on July 25, 2012

    Inspiring but fun – great combination. Amazed at the quality of the picture (on a screen anyway). Did you have to do a lot of post processing? Could you do any post processing?

  • Zack said on July 25, 2012

    @James – They were jpgs. Just the usual contrast and color tweaks. Nothing massive.


  • Brad Calkins said on July 25, 2012

    Brilliant! My favorite quote “It turns out Zack doesn’t know Cantonese…”

    Great to see you working with strangers on the street!

  • ray said on July 25, 2012

    awesome…. the “Z-MAN”….:>

  • Ziv said on July 25, 2012

    Photography Rule #27 – “Whenever possible, avoid having a pig’s penis hanging in the background.” (see pic 5) .

  • drew said on July 26, 2012

    So Zack, did you set the flash at like 1/4 and leave it for all your pics? I think you’ve convinced me to live with a single flash and a single shortish prime on my dslr for the next year and finally figure my shit out. More gear mojo. Thanks for that lesson.

  • Zack said on July 27, 2012

    Set it to 1/64th power. Worked most of the time.

  • John F. Williams said on July 27, 2012

    Really enjoy DigitalRev and am a big fan of this ongoing series. I like how it forces you to think past the piece of gear in your hand and truly solve problems. Something professionals have to do all the time.

  • Vic Román said on July 27, 2012

    So rad!
    Photography sites I check out often are …

    Zack Arias
    Digital Rev
    Fro Knows Photo

    Great photography possible even with a crappy camera.What language barrier? Comfy subjects.Great pics.
    it in an interesting wayy

  • Fotografo em Belo Horizonte said on July 27, 2012

    Very nice. The frezze pictures, very, very FREZZE

  • Mister Nasty Clamps said on July 27, 2012


    DigitalRev really is one of the best things out there on the internets, especially with the oh-so-droll Kai working as ringleader.

    One quick techie question for you: I know that the P.O.S. P & S camera you worked with was auto everything. How is it possible that the flash from your strobe was not overexposing the subject? I would assume that the camera auto exposed the scene based upon the ambient light levels AND the light coming straight out from the lil’ built in camera flash. Wouldn’t the light from your hand-held strobe kick in too much light, even when dialed down to the lowest setting?

    No matter what sort of technical magic was taking place between the camera and the strobe, your shots were great, and this episode of DigRev was – more than anything – a testament to your artistic skills.

  • Zack said on July 27, 2012

    The flash set to 1/64th power seemed to work. No idea how the camera dealt with exposure so I set the flash to a low power.

  • Jeremy Walpole said on July 27, 2012

    Great video Zack. I love digital rev and thought it was great when Chase was on there. Yours was amazing aswell. Nice problem solving skills as always. Your work is amazing and you have inspired me in my work.

    I even spoofed you in a contest video I did for a Canadian photo shop.
    Mine is under jeremy w and hope you don’t mind my fake beard :)
    Your awesome!

    (mine s under Jeremy w)

  • Jim Cutler said on July 27, 2012

    I almost fell over when I saw you on the recent episode. I check them out every week, and I follow you…the streams were crossing! Fun. Great job. Man that’s hard not having people in the street get mad. :)

  • Oud said on July 28, 2012

    your images are so lively. Thanks for put up those hi res on here. I’m so inspired by your way of photography.

  • Drew said on July 28, 2012

    I always enjoy DigitalRev and when you posted you were in Hong Kong I figured you’d be the next pro featured in the cheap camera series. Grat job rocking the Kodak with one light. Also it appears you found the Hong Knog doppelgänger of Dwight Schrute in the meat market shot.

  • davis said on July 31, 2012

    psshhh New York, get these folks to Atlanta!

  • Jeremy Meier said on July 31, 2012

    Zack, Awesome show on DigitalRev! Should have rotated the flash head so you could keep the optical sensor of the flash towards the camera and got more shots in the daylight! He he… Awesome shots BTW… I’m a huge fan of Kai, and a huge fan of your work, so this was a fantastic episode to watch. Thanks Zack!

    – Jeremy D. Meier

  • Zack said on August 1, 2012

    @Jeremy – It wasn’t an issue with the slave not working. The on camera flash was auto only so I had to find areas where it would flash. Couldn’t force it to flash.

  • Yair Haim said on July 31, 2012

    Zack you are the best!!!

  • David H said on August 1, 2012

    Loved the video!

    Kinda rando, but how did you process the opening b&w pic of the DR gang?

  • Zack said on August 1, 2012

    Plain ol B&W in LR with a vignette.


  • Chris said on August 1, 2012

    Just saw this vid the other day. Awesome work! Looks like you had a blast and was fun to see the way you interacted with all the different people. Mr. Butchers Knife Man looked like he wanted to serve you up to his customers!

  • Marco said on August 1, 2012

    ahahahahha I was waiting this challenge with the DigitalRev folks :)
    I use to watch almost everything of them…and you Zack did the funniest cheap camera challenge! I mean you was really simple and humble as always 😉

  • Josué Braun said on August 2, 2012

    This was very funny to watch. Good job, Zack. You have shown us that you can do great pictures with any kink of gear. But we already knew that, right? Regards.

  • Alex Sablan said on August 3, 2012

    I watched the video on YouTube earlier in the week and it was highly entertaining to me, but my coworkers probably thought I was insane. Every few minutes I would seriously bust out laughing watching you with that little camera and the flash try to get non-English speaking people to pose. The shots turned out very nice, I think you succeeded. Good job.

  • Bill Dowis said on August 3, 2012

    I get nervous as hell talking to strangers, much less asking to take there pictures… all while they speak a different language.

    This is a great video and makes me want to just start taking pictures of anyone I see.

  • Gennadi said on August 7, 2012

    It was funny to watch, Zack. I feel the same shooting in Chinatown, NY. Some people jump off the frame (especially ladies) not to be photographed. At least a lot of them speak English.
    I was surprised with quality of your images…
    Thank you for sharing.

  • Matt Stallone said on August 7, 2012

    Great video Zack,
    Really makes me feel like I can go out and try some street shots. I’ve always shied away from it, even though I’m in NY and it seems to be one of the best places for it.

  • stan said on August 7, 2012

    This was an interesting coverage of the down to earth side of ZAch.I must say I have learnt a lot from your one light workshop.

  • Marc said on August 8, 2012

    Best prove its not only the camera, the equipment nor the photographic creativity of the photographer but also the people skills of the photographer which are important. Always hilarious to see Zack making a fool of him self…meaning being hard at wrok showing of his people skills. Nice video again


  • Clueless Wanderer said on August 9, 2012


    The main picture ‘The_Photo_Trinity_Blog’ I noticed it was taken at 1/7 shutter speed. Was that hand held!? If it was that’s some fierce technique…

  • daniel said on August 9, 2012

    Hi Zack,

    it was a great display of skill. Both technical and people.

    One question, do you ever consider giving them a print as a thank you?

    I suspect some of the subjects are untraceable, but the shop employees/workers, I am sure they are.


  • Derek said on August 10, 2012

    Goes to show that its really the photographer that counts, not the gear. Loads of respect for your work and attitudes toward photography and life in general. I’m also irrationally happy to see one of my favorite photographers still using my favorite camera of all time, the x100! Mad props.

  • ableslayer said on August 11, 2012

    This is not taken with a cheapo cam. Impossible! (drools) Zack won in all Pro Photog Cheap Cam challenge.

  • Zan said on August 20, 2012

    Nice work Zack. You crushed it!

  • Kerry said on August 21, 2012

    Hi Zack,

    Great work in HKG.. I live in Tokyo and would love to see you do a workshop here sometime in the future but the lack of English skills would present a wee challenge to say the least..

    BTW, in the video you are using a pretty cool looking camera strap for your X100. I have the XPro and would like something similar. Can you share what brand this is or was it a homemade?


  • Zack said on August 25, 2012

    @Kerry – The strap is the Black Rapid SnapR. It comes with a bag. I ditch the bag and just use the strap.


  • TanaT said on August 23, 2012

    I was cracking up the entire time and still felt like I learned something by just watching you work with just the basic of the basic. You rock.

  • Marcin B said on August 23, 2012

    This is the last proof that it’s not camera – it’s a photographer who takes picture!

  • Neil Kemp said on August 24, 2012

    Well done. I did not know how you were going to do it with that little Kodak.
    Great work!

  • Matt Cain said on September 12, 2012

    While I’d heard your name in the past (and, indeed, seen some of your images a few times), I hadn’t really looked at your blog. Now I’m disappointed that I hadn’t done so before.

    I’ve been a semi-regular watcher of DigitalRevTV for quite some time and that started with the cheap camera pro photographer challenge but the irreverent antics of Kai got me hooked overall. Thanks for doing this with the team at DigitalRev and for getting me to your site to look into your philosophy and your images. You’ve given me lots of food for thought.

    Keep up the good work and keep inspiring us with both your words and your images.

  • Paul Keppel said on September 17, 2012

    Great set of images, I was passed the video on facebook the other day funny enough, just goes to show what you can do with a cheap camera and a slaved flash.

  • Lu said on September 18, 2012

    Oh no Zack, with all due respect for both digitalrev and you, you should not say that TopGear is a digitalrev for cars. Only vice versa. Only.

  • Alex Sablan said on September 18, 2012

    Great video and awesome results. Who needs big expensive cameras anyways?

  • Nick Duijnstee said on October 3, 2012

    That episode was awesome, You really conected with the people.

    to see that it’s still possible in parts of this world.

    Keep up the cool stuff 😀


    Nick Duijnstee

  • Andrea said on October 28, 2012

    Just saw your video with Digital Rev Team it was great!!! It’s incredible how small is world is. I saw you speaking recently in NY at the Photo Plus Expo and I have seen the Digital Rev Go Pro video. Now to see the two of you in a video shows me how small the world it! I also must commend you on trying to communicate with out language. I was living in Spain for about 4 1/2 years but never spoke Spanish for the first year, so I felt your pain! I was also a English Teacher for that time as well. I can’t wait to follow you in the future and see your amazing projects!

  • Jan Groningen said on November 11, 2012

    Great video and love the way you handle these challenges. Never a dull moment witk Kai.

  • Stephen Scharf said on November 15, 2012

    Zack, great challenge and great execution! Your friendly demeanor and creative energy were just the thing for this challenge! Your video with Kai was tons of fun to watch as well as informative…the best of both worlds.

  • suresh said on November 20, 2012

    You are an awesome photographer….Just loved that show in DigitalRev

  • Martin G said on January 11, 2013

    Dude! You totally rocked it! I will never have anything to complain about. I thought my D80 was a poor quality camera back in the day. You are an inspiration truly bro!

  • Gabe said on February 22, 2013

    I’m big fans of both DigitalRev and you Zack. The top gear reference is spot on. I’m so happy that you’re career has taken you to a place that you get the chance to do things like this.

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