Photographers Have Options for Reducing Weight
In this past year I have read many blog articles about how some photographers no longer like to carry big heavy DSLRs when they are out walking and/or just shooting for their personal pleasure. They are suffering from having carried heavy camera bags their whole life. Their backs are giving out. All of them are getting older, just like all the rest of us, and it seems that many are making a change in their cameras as they age. Some replace their big heavy DSLRs with smaller, lighter, mirror-less compact system cameras such as the Sony NEX or Olympus or Panasonic micro 4/3 system cameras while others keep their big DSLRs for their business use, but get lighter cameras for their personal use. In all the cases that I have read about, they put the emphasis on downsizing the camera; but, I would like to make an observation that there are other variables in the equation for reducing the amount of weight carried.
I speak from experience. As I started having problems carrying my Pentax K-5 and lenses, and eventually had back surgery, I made the decision to sell my DSLR system and replace it with something lighter. I tried many micro 4/3 cameras and lenses. I found they reduced the amount of weight that I was carrying around but they also decreased the quality of my pictures in low light situations and created adverse problems for me with camera ergonomics … a case of arthritic fingers vs. small buttons too close together. Since I did not like the negative aspects of the downsizing route that I had taken, I went back to a K-5 DSLR camera as well as lenses for it, and sold all of my other cameras. I decided to make other changes to reduce the weight and increase the quality at the same time.
I agree with many older photographers that it is necessary to reduce the total weight of the gear that we carry with us … it is just a fact of getting older, especially for those of us with back problems. But I decided to keep the advantages of my DSLR and to reduce the weight in other ways. I’m in the process of using my heavier, longer zoom lens less and less and using prime lenses more and more. As I mentioned in my last article, I added a Pentax 21mm prime lens to my set of options. If I find that I can’t carry my 55 – 300mm zoom lens as much as I did (was on my camera the majority of the time), I will also change what I photograph as well. It might mean fewer pictures of wildlife. I hope to primarily use my 21mm, 35mm, and 50mm prime lenses and change the type and style of my photography to fit that choice of lenses.
I haven’t had an opportunity to really try my new 21 mm lens, but I did take one picture with it yesterday when I made a quick trip to a market.
The lighting in the market wasn’t the best so the above picture was taken at an ISO of 400, f/4.5, and 1/50 sec with the 21mm lens. I’m thinking that this lens will make a nice travel lens since it is light-weight, very small (only 1 inch long), and makes for a more discreet camera-lens combination for carrying while touring. One advantage of the lens is that it also gives me nice depth of field coverage and it crop-zooms fairly well as noted in the following crop from the center of the above picture.
In addition to having smaller, lighter gear to carry, it also allows me to carry it in a smaller, lighter bag as I make another change. I have found that having a strap on my camera creates problems. In the first case I decided that carrying a camera on a strap around my neck or over one shoulder was one of the problems relative to my back pain. In the second case, I found that the strap attached to the camera lugs also occasionally got in the way of my hands … even when using a wrist strap. The solution that I’m now trying is neither a neck, or shoulder, or wrist strap. I have gone back to a system that I tried two years ago in which the camera is attached to my camera bag by a tether. It is the system as shown in an earlier blog article (click here). The picture in the article shows my older K-7 camera but the size is the same as my current K-5. I’m also using the same bag as shown, but I might try some other bags before I deem the one shown as my preference. It will depend on how many lenses I take with me.
At the beginning of this article I mentioned that all the photographers complaining of the weight of their system only talked about changing cameras … not lenses; but I don’t think that means that they haven’t also changed lenses. Several photographers have switched from their heavy DSLR cameras to cameras like the Fujifilm X system. Since these cameras currently don’t have long zoom lenses available yet, it either means that the photographers didn’t use long zoom lenses before or else they have also made a change in focal range as I am trying.
In reality, photography isn’t any different than other aspects of life. As we get older we have options relative to reducing the burdens on our life. Photographers can change cameras or they can change lenses, or/and they can change what they photograph. All of us, photographers or not, will have to make similar changes in our lifestyle to reduce the impacts of our non-sustainable lifestyles. We will all end up making changes and downsizing. We will have to cut back and do less with less. It’s time to make changes while we are able to adapt.
I really love your market, do you get to barter over things? I so understand about adapting as we age, not always to my liking though.
Some will barter depending upon how good a customer you are.
Part of the magic of m4/3 photography for me is the way the camera seems to disappear when I’m carrying it but not using it. It’s not just the weight; I enjoy being inconspicuous and not looking like a photographer. There are lots of places where I’m comfortable bringing my m4/3 camera (dinner out, etc.) where I’d feel out-of-place with a DSLR. Some would suggest a system combo of an enthusiast compact camera plus a DSLR. However, I’m not satisfied with snapshot quality photos in any situation. I believe there are great photographic opportunities virtually everywhere I go. I can’t go less than m4/3 for my everyday IQ. I am frustrated, at times, by the ergonomics. I think the ideal solution for me might be some type of two body system (full size and compact) with shared lenses. Unfortunately, I don’t think there are any good systems for this yet. Canon’s new EVIL system looked promising, but needs a couple more years of development I’m afraid. This post definitely challenged me to think outside the box and perhaps even re-evaluate my own approach to my camera system.