The internet is on fire. Which camera to buy: the Olympus OM-D E-M5 (that’s a mouthful) or the Fujifilm X-Pro 1? Sure, Canon has released the successor to its ridiculously popular 5D II and Nikon’s newest twins, the D800 and D800E, are all the rage… but why is everyone talking about these two mirrorless cameras, from companies considered much lower than the Big Two on the photographic food chain?
And since we’re asking good questions here, why would anybody think that a compare and contrast exercise between these two system cameras might make any sense at all? They are, after all, quite radically different from each other.
Conventional wisdom would suggest that each is the latest entrant in the frantic mirrorless race, a competition that has suddenly become interesting. Canon and Nikon, both fearful of cannibalizing the sales of their main offerings, have treaded lightly in the smaller and lighter camera system arena. Canon has mostly stayed away, offering only a fixed lens iteration of their venerable G-series, complete with a 4/3-ish sized sensor, and Nikon has offered the 1 Series in two bodies, the J and the V. These include a sensor that is much smaller than even the micro-4/3 one and though Nikon’s massive distribution machine has helped the 1 achieve respectable sales stature, most photogs I know have shied away. That leaves room for companies such as Panasonic, Olympus, Sony and Fujifilm to offer up their best to a public that apparently eagerly awaits. The sales tallys suggest that the smaller and lighter system camera market is important. And growing rapidly.
Enter the Olympus, modeled after the company’s one-time hit, the OM film cameras. Fujifilm has followed the success of its X100 with an interchangeable X-Pro series. The web forums are alive with discussion: which camera would you chose and why?
2 Guys Photo is going to try to answer that question and user reports for both systems will follow. But that’s not the point of this post.
I believe that the distinction has more to do with the manner in which each camera allows you to shoot… and I think that’s the real question here.
Which reminds me of what happened to me twenty years ago this past week. Playing competitive basketball landed me in a hospital emergency room, having fallen on both of my hands. My left hand was described as having a “broken hinge” and a shattered scaphoid bone. Think about the worst thing you can do to your wrist and… that’s just about what happened. My right hand suffered a thumb relocation and damaged joint socket. Eight hours of surgery later, I emerged with two hands in casts. Side note: you’ll never believe what you can learn to do without the use of your hands.
During the recovery process, when I was struggling to rehab some of the most basic functions, including writing, my hand surgeon suggested I try using a fountain pen. It requires far less pressure on the pen to work and the angle of writing is completely different. Over time, I learned to prefer using fountain pens to conventional ballpoint pens. Sure, the ink supply doesn’t last very long. They sometimes clog and leak. And they can be more expensive to use. But fountain pens force me to slow down my writing pace, which helps me to write more precisely, more effectively.
The appeal of the X-Pro 1, to me, is very similar to the experience of using a fountain pen. It demands a slower pace, a more deliberate style of shooting. The OM-D is far more versatile, durable, and flexible. It’s the ballpoint pen of cameras.
Which style of writing… er, shooting… do you prefer?
Stay tuned and I’ll let you know what I think of both systems.