Not the most obvious comparison, but I had the opportunity (thanks to Sony for the A7rii) to play with both on a couple shoots and tests last month.  FWIW, I thought I’d share my un-biased-ish thoughts.  I shot both alongside my Canon 5d3’s for comparison.

Canon 1dx mk2
Holy crap this thing can shoot fast.  It makes you jump the first time you release the trigger on continuous.  I’ve been shooting a mixture of portraiture and action and I’ve been wanting something that can pull focus better, faster, more consistently than my 5d3’s.  This can do it.  Shooting a runner on a track running straight at me full speed on the straightaway, I missed 1 frame out of 20.  I’ve also been looking for something that will miss focus less often when the background is blown out.  My 5d3’s back-focus in this situation most of the time (sharp ears at f4).  The 1dx mk2 was better, not perfect, but better.  File size – a few hundred pixels smaller than the 5d3 files, but not enough to be concerned about.  I tested ISO up to 1600 and noticed it looking a little better than the 5d3s.  This camera is supposed to have better shadow detail as you get up there because of it’s low light greatness.  Personally I never get up over 2500.
Will I buy it?  Yes.  I’m going to wait a few weeks until the next job I have calls for fast action, but the consistency of this is well worth it.  I’ll normally have a running model run a stretch of trail 20 times, but with this camera, I feel I have the shot after 5 or 6 passes.  You are definitely shooting more frames per second, and so I thought the edit would be a nightmare, but because I didn’t have to shoot as many passes, I had a similar number of frames to review as normal.  Price $6K.  I’m planning to unload my Canon 5dsr which was never a smart purchase on my end.  Nice large files, but I’m not convinced they are any better than a 5d3 file up-res’d.  Every time I use the 5dsr it feels like I’ve hit the max on the ability of the lenses to remain sharp.  Or, perhaps it’s the 50 megapixels showing the slightest bit of lens movement during the exposure.  This and the fact that it’s slower to focus and operate makes it really not worth it’s space in my case.  If I shot landscapes, or architecture, maybe, but even the ads I did with it could probably have been better shot of the 1dx2.  Now, a 35 mega pixel 1dx2 would be the perfect thing.
Canon 1dxmkii

Canon 1dxmkii

Sony A7r2
Granted using this camera as a sports camera was pushing it outside it’s comfort zone.  My first impression was that the lenses were sharp.  I thought it focused well, but it’s not going to work for action.  Great files and lots of resolution.  I could see this working well in a static portrait, architecture or landscape setting.  It has the same tendency as the 5d3s to back-focus when the background is hot.  But, when it nails it, you have a better file with great resolution than the Canons – event he 5dsr in my opinion.  However, you have to get past one Major problem – it does not shoot like a professional camera like you’re used to.  It feels like you are using a point and shoot.  When you want to change the ISO on the fly, you need to hit a button on the back and use the menu screens – same with f-stops.  Yes, there are wheels you can rotate, but the screen-based-non-real-viewfinder-situation of the whole camera would take me a lot of getting used to.  I think you would have to switch completely and adapt to the new system.  I’m sure you could do this, and learn to milk what has the guts of a great camera.  But, I cannot get past the ergonomics.
Things that bugged me:
  • It displays the image you just shot in the viewfinder – not just the screen in the back but up in your eye.  I’m done with that shot, I want to see my subject not what I just shot.  I’m sure you can turn this off, but again – back to non-intuitive menus to do so.
  • Changing ISO while shooting – I do this a lot, and people were standing around while I struggled to remember how.
  • Quick change of f-stop – again, it just feels like it’s not where it should be.
  • Batteries – don’t expect to go out for a day of shooting.  You’ll get about an hour of heavy use before needing to switch.
  • Little SD cards – yes, they are small and I can stick them in the side of my laptop, but they just don’t feel fast.
  • Burst speed – you need to sit and wait for the camera to catch up with you.
  • Follow focus – not it’s strong suit.
Things that are crazy amazing:
  • If you want it will make no noise whatsoever.  You could put this next to a sleeping baby’s ear and it wouldn’t wake up – even a cranky-holy-crap-would-you-just-stay-asleep kind of sleeping baby.
  • Lenses – sharp, they get it right and look great.
  • The 70-200 f4 is great at f4 – like using a Canon 70-200 f2.8 and shooting at f4 cause you know if you shoot wide open you’ll miss focus.
  • Files – Nice, though Lightroom would take some tweaking to get a good color starting point.
  • It’s compact, light and small.
Will I buy it?  No, not for what I shoot.  I could see renting it for a very specific purpose.  If I was shooting on a set and needed to be quiet – hands down, yes.  If I was shooting landscapes and needed great files but didn’t have a medium format budget, yes.  Carrying this in a pack where weight is a concern – maybe a good choice, but you need to remember the battery won’t last long.
Sony a7rii

Sony a7rii

Portrait of a man with morquio syndrome

The theme for Rare Disease Day a few days ago (feb 29) was: Join us in making the voice of rare diseases heard.

In honor of that I wanted to post a few images from a project I started years ago.  The story is of my friend Nick, and inspiring man with Morquio Syndrome who I first met while taking pictures for a pharmaceutical company.  Every year I return to the small town in rural Louisiana to spend the day with his family.  This year I’ve pulled the first few years of images together on my site.

The full story will be a decade in the making.  <the gallery>


Portrait of a man with morquio syndrome Man with Morquio Syndrome takes a selfie with his daughterMan with Morquio bikes with his son



Fitness model photography

Recently we had the opportunity to do a fun project with fitness model Natasha Ward for women’s sportswear company, Title Nine.  We photographed on location in Marin County and at the boathouse in Greenbrae.  Rowing machines, boats, running, pull ups – she was working hard.  You may have seen some of these in the mail in the recent T9 catalogs or on banner ads.


Fitness model photography female running female running Title Nine - Spring 2016 Fitness photograph of a female model doing pull-ups. woman doing pull-ups at an outdoor fitness club female athlete using a rowing machine

International Photography Awards recognizes Robert Houser and his project Facing Chemo for 2015 award.

The International Photography Awards selected my series Facing Chemo Before & After in their Social Cause division.

International Photography Awards recognizes Robert Houser and his project Facing Chemo for 2015 award.

IPA award winner


Photograph of a young boy on a bicycle

We had a great opportunity to work with the folks from GA Communications on a project for BioMarin this past fall photographing a series of patients.  We spent three days on location around the Bay Area making images that had to have a strong sense of flared backlight.  While we couldn’t shoot all of the images late in the day, we made use of both ideally placed sunlight and a strobe set far off in the distance.  For the swing shot I made a swing from an old piece of redwood and some nice looking hemp rope.  Using high rollers for a large silk above, we slid medium rollers underneath with a speed rail tube across so that we could place the swing wherever we wanted.  I knew we weren’t going to find a perfectly placed low hung tree branch : >

Yes, I got into the pool.  I had to.  With the tether cord held by an assistant and connected to a computer on dry land, I shot with a long lens handheld.  Most of the project was photographed using Canon’s new 5dsr 50 megapixel camera and a ProPhoto B1 in the trees.  And, lots of large silks.


Photograph of a young boy on a bicycleTwo boys for a pharmaceutical adHealthcare photograph by San Francisco Advertising photographer Robert Houser for a California based pharmaceutical company



woman lifting weights

OK that was a busy fall.  We were thrilled to do a series of pharmaceutical projects here in the San Francisco Bay Area, San Diego, Toronto, Wisconsin and Denver.  On top of that I was back and forth to LA for some portrait work and we wrapped it all up with a number of fitness projects for Title Nine.  As if the busy shooting schedule of the year wasn’t enough, we did a lot of work at the ranch (pictures to come) — completing the client/makeup room and redoing a kitchen.  The goats are still here, chicken count is up to seven, and a new golden retriever pup is now following Taco around the farm — Luna is sure to have a starring role on this blog.  The reclaimed redwood slab built-in table in the makeup room is a thing of beauty.

Some fitness images from Title Nine’s Spring marketing.  Always fun working with Alix Tillet!

woman lifting weights

Fitness photography by San Francisco Advertising photographer Robert Houser photograph of a woman working out in a crossfit gym photograph of a woman doing crossfit photograph of a woman running advertising photograph of a woman laughingadvertising photograph of a woman laughing

The Facing Chemo project has gotten a lot of press this week after being featured on BuzzFeed earlier in the week.  We are honored to have these moving portraits touch so many.


July has already brought us to Tahoe for a few days shooting with my favorite crew at Title Nine, then tech firm identity work in both Los Angeles and San Francisco.  Looking forward to another trip to LA this week and Denver later in the month for healthcare pharma BioMarin.  Our recent work was highlighted this week at AltPick.  And, we still have space in my upcoming workshop on Available Light Portraiture July 25th – come join us at the ranch.



Bob is back from a recent shoot in Moab and we are prepping for the next Title Nine shoot in Tahoe. It made me think to show some of my favorite work we’ve done for this client recently. This image is so fun I had to share.


Title Nine Summer 2015

Title Nine Summer 2015

Here are a couple more. Enjoy

Title Nine Summer 2015

Title Nine Summer 2015

Title Nine - Summer 2015

Title Nine – Summer 2015


So many great images this month – April has been the true definition of spring.  We’ve spent many days shooting new material and cleaning up portfolios. It’s exciting to get fresh images onto the site and have a sense of moving towards a story driven, lifestyle approach to photography. These images are among some of my favorites. Enjoy!..and pop over to the site to see all of the changes we’ve made.  64890002 Giro Sport Fatherhood Beach fitness Beach fitness