In my last post (click here), I declared that I had moved away from my traditional Nikon DSLR rig and into the micro-4/3 realm. This was not, I implied, a toe dip… rather, it was a full on belly flop.
First of all, it’s worth pointing out that internet fora are buzzing on this very topic, with some posters stating that this newer format is the perfect step-up from a basic point and shoot camera for the person who wants to take it up a notch or two. Others argue that micro-4/3 is great for someone who wants an entry level camera and the flexibility of interchangeable lenses and higher image quality. Some write that they are ditching their expensive DSLRs and all of the associated peripheral equipment in order to shed pounds and save their backs. And some declare that it’s the perfect travel cam, noting that they would never trade in either their smaller compact or their bigger and better system.
I myself have contemplated all of these various points of view and, at times, felt as though any one of them might push me into the micro-4/3 camp. Ultimately, here are the five specific factors that drove me over the edge:
My shooting style has evolved over time. My start in photography began as photo editor of my high school newspaper. That meant a wide diversity of shooting situations, most notably sports. I loved taking action shots from behind the baseline or from the edge of the goal line and developing them in my darkroom to create beautiful, sharp black and white prints. All this was done with my manual exposure, manual focus Pentax… typically using slower (i.e., smaller aperture) lenses. Yet somehow, I developed a broad portfolio of competent sports photos. For the most part, rarely have I shot things that move fast since. Despite that reality, however, I’ve been clinging to the notion that I ought to have cameras and lenses that would allow me to do so “for when that time comes”.
Recently, I’ve assisted my own son who is now shooting high school sports. As he’s been working, I’ve been taking my own photos and feeling pretty good that my equipment set-up allowed for fast autofocus, rapid continuous shooting, and great low light performance. But in looking at my photos, it has become quite clear to me: this is not a style of photography I enjoy any more, I don’t know that I’m any good at it, and my opportunities to shoot in these settings are waning over time.
There are other fast action opportunities (e.g., birds in flight)… but long ago, I decided that that’s not my cup of tea either.
In short, I’ve possessed greater technical capability than I’ve actually required.
Reviewing my portfolio taught some very valuable lessons. I have well over 12,000 photos in my Apple Aperture library, and I’m one to clean out often. If there are photos that aren’t worth keeping, I don’t. Recently, I spent several hours looking through my portfolio and was quite surprised to see that nearly as many of my favorites were shot with lesser (e.g., advanced compact and point and shoot) cameras than with DSLRs. Here are two recent examples:
The first is a composite HDR photo taken handheld with a Canon Powershot S95 and the second (previously posted on 2 Guys Photo) with a lowly Panasonic point and shoot camera. Neither cams are low light all-stars, but my post-processing techniques, including the conversions to B&W, have actually introduced digital noise or grain. Better cameras, including most DSLRs, excel at reducing the amount of noise/grain… and here I go adding it for effect.
I’m happiest when I’m moving. I don’t shoot in a studio and I’m no Ansel Adams when it comes to setting up a camera on a tripod and then waiting for the perfect light. I have neither the patience nor talent for such a technique and prefer instead to rove, whether hiking across a national park, roaming through the boroughs of New York City, or strolling around the park a few miles from my home. This style appreciates small and light, never big and heavy. On many occasions, when walking with my DSLR and one lens, I stop and wonder how a scene might look through a wider angle lens or with further isolation of the subject via a wider aperture. But alas, those lenses frequently are in the bag… at home.
A much smaller and lighter kit would, I’ve concluded, suit my shooting style better.
Simpler is better. Many have touted the benefits of simplifying your approach to photography… and to life. A google search reveals that this has been a frequent topic for reflection. Counter to the pursuit of simplicity is the pursuit of perfection and a usually false sense that something newer is always going to be something better. I’ve heard it said that we’ve moved so far in the direction of eliminating any kind of noise or static or “imperfection” from audio recordings, that we may have made the resulting sound less attractive, not more. As such, more and more recording artists are jumping back to analog technologies or even introducing digitally created noise back into their recordings. In similar fashion, many photo post-processing programs allow for the use of various templates or pre-sets designed to achieve a specific look… a look that frequently includes the introduction of noise (see my second point above).
All this points to going with equipment which, while still quite capable, might not actually be up to snuff compared to the current (and always evolving) best-in-class.
Getting off the merry-go-round. There’s an inherent problem associated with trying to optimize the equipment you own rather than always desiring the equipment you don’t. Camera makers and the multi-billion dollar support industry (including some of the most popular website forums) live and die off how fast the I-want-more-and-better merry-go-round turns. Unfortunately, the spin is perpetual and the ride never ends. Something better, that proverbial brass ring, will always be around the next turn and it’s easy to whip yourself up into a near maniacal frenzy thinking that as soon as you grab that ring, all will be well. All will be right.
Trust me, I know.
So, these are the five reasons for my switch. In Part 3 of this series, I’ll let you know how it’s going…
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The Olympus EPL2 can be found here.
Posted by Rey