I took this picture while I was seeing how well the Sigma 17 – 70 lens focused up close, and while looking at the result I was reminded that I should probably tell you some more about why I have pursued a lighter, more easy to hold camera system that still lets me practice photography. You have read enough about my back problems, but it isn’t the only problem. My hands are also a big problem, and at the moment they are giving me more grief than my back. I have arthritis in my back and hands.
Have you ever found yourself using both hands to lift a can of beer at the end of the day? I sometimes find myself doing that to keep from dropping it, especially if I have carried and used a camera much during the day. This is another reason why I am exploring lighter-weight cameras with better grips and changing what I photograph to fit an easier to use format.
There is a positive side to my life. Physical changes force me to try new things. I have gotten tired of photographing the same things in the same way, and I now have an excuse to look for, and try new things … new cameras and lenses and new subjects and techniques.
These are pictures of my latest acquisition. Those of you who have followed me for many years will be surprised to note that it is a Canon, and the least expensive and smallest DSLR that they make. I am now going to tell you why I got it. I will have to use it for a longer period to know if it was the right decision.
I have wanted to buy the Fujifilm X100T, but hesitated for many reasons. I had an X100, the first version that came out, and I loved it, but always worried about it having an effective 35 mm focal length and being tough to focus quickly and accurately. When I had the X100, the focal length usually worked well for me but, I did a lot of crop-zooming. I also found that it usually took two hands to hold and use the X100. In addition, I am now hesitant about spending so much money on another camera. So, I looked around for something else and started looking more carefully at the Canon EOS SL1 Rebel.
The SL1 uses interchangeable lenses, and I noted that Canon had two pancake lenses. I found that both the 40 mm and the 24 mm lenses were both small and light-weight, quite inexpensive, and highly rated in reviews. I also realized that the Canon SL1 with the 24 mm lens attached weighed about the same as the X100T, and was about the same size except for the depth; but at about half the cost! In addition I would have effective focal lengths of about 38 mm and 64 mm with the two Canon lenses.
The SL1 has another advantage for me in addition to the cost and weight. It has a nice handgrip and with the arthritis in my hands that is a significant advantage. I have posted the above pictures so that you can see the handgrip. Many of the on-line pictures don’t do a good job of showing the handgrip. If you are interested you need to try it. All hands aren’t the same, but I have found that it works very well for me.
This Canon Rebel isn’t as sexy as the X100T, doesn’t have the perceived quality, doesn’t have the dial controls, and doesn’t have the X-Trans sensor, but it is a lot cheaper, and I think more versatile for my uses. Time will tell.
The geese in the above picture know that they have to keep changing the leader in order to preserve the stamina of the entire flock.
People have polluted the atmosphere with carbon by wastefully burning carbon-based fuels. Even those who accepted climate change didn’t worry about a few degrees increase in temperature; but they didn’t realize that major shifts in extreme weather patterns comes along with small increases in the global average temperature. It may already be too late to keep things as they are, even if we change now. We should have changed much earlier to keep the weather patterns of old.
Many cultures and governments are currently learning that they have to change to keep things the way they were. We have collectively moved toward global commerce and now some wonder if that was the right way to go. Is it too late to make the changes necessary to preserve the cultures of old?
If I want to keep things photographically as they are, I will have to make some changes. If I hope to keep walking and carrying a camera I have to make changes. I have been assuming that the pain in my knees was due to arthritis, but I just learned that I have no sign of arthritis in my knees according to recent x-rays that I had. It is my back that is pinching the nerves to my legs and creating my balance problems and pain in the knees. Hopefully I won’t have to have more surgery. I had one lumbar fusion in 2010 because of this problem.
I tried to change my style of photography and switch to smaller micro 4/3 cameras to circumvent problems I was having with carrying and holding heavy camera-lens combinations. But that only partially worked. There were two problems with my small camera approach. One, the low-light image quality with the smaller sensors was forcing me to consider giving up some of my photography, and second, most of the subjects of interest outdoors required long lenses and use in bad weather; so, I decided to try to go back to what worked well for me in the past with a Pentax K-3 DSLR and longer zoom lenses.
I am also really a one-camera person. I don’t like switching back and forth since I often have to stop and think about, or look at, the controls to make a change and then often miss the shot. I found that it is limiting to only use a small camera and I keep going back to multiple cameras. Maybe with the K-3 and multiple lenses I can cover more types of photography and learn to make control changes by feel without stopping to look. Of course that means that I have to use one camera long enough to learn … which hasn’t been the case with my continual trying of cameras. This is really a bogus idea since I will still occasionally use my E-PL5 with prime lenses when I need something smaller in sufficient light.
The “twist” part refers to me learning to use the heavy K-3 differently than I used the K-5 in the past. What I am thinking about is using the car to go places and then only carrying the camera a short distance. I am also thinking about using a monopod or tripod and taking my walk-stool and sitting in one place for a period of time. If I choose to walk further with the K-3, I will do it with a lighter-weight prime lens.
In the past I used a K-5 with heavier zoom lenses to take pictures of the horizon and clouds just by stepping outside and only walking a few feet. In those cases it wouldn’t be difficult to grab and use a heavier camera like the K-3 with either the 18 – 135 mm or the 55 – 300 mm lenses, especially in bad weather for short periods of time.
I am now waiting for the K-3 and three lenses to be delivered so that I can try again. I may be grasping the last straw but I am going to try.
There are several techniques that aging photographers can adopt so that they can keep on photographing after they no longer wish to carry or hold their heavy DSLR camera. They can switch to lighter, smaller prime lenses and change what they photograph; i.e. stop photographing wildlife with big heavy long zoom lenses. Or, they can switch to smaller lighter cameras with smaller sensors. Even Saul Leiter moved “down” to micro 4/3 cameras and he hadn’t been shooting with a heavy DSLR camera or long heavy zoom lenses. I have mentioned these techniques before as I adopted them. This article is about a third scheme … using a lighter, smaller entry-level DSLR with a prime lens in order to cut weight.
One characteristic that I have noticed with my arthritic hands is that a lighter camera-lens combination is a big help but having a lighter camera-lens combination with a good hand-grip and buttons that aren’t too small or too close together is even better. In addition, I thought that an appropriate hand grip would compensate for a little more camera weight. For that reason I ordered a Nikon D3300 camera with a 35 mm prime lens to try. My hope was that the hand grip would compensate for the heavier camera with an APS size sensor and lenses and mirror. My motive for trying this approach was that I wanted to get a little better image quality in low light than I can get with my micro 4/3 sensor camera. I also hoped that the 24 MP sensor would enable me to do more crop-zooming with the 35 mm f/1.8 DX lens.
Well, I tried this third approach and rejected it. I didn’t find that the larger sensor was much better and I didn’t like the focus capability of the D3300. It focused fast enough in good light but it needed to use the focus assist light in low light and I didn’t like shining a small spot light on my subjects. The real killer was that the 35 mm lens back-focused about an inch. Having this problem along with the camera-lens combination being larger with few external controls was too much to warrant me keeping it. I returned it.
Another more subtle problem was that I didn’t find the cheap quality of the camera to be pleasing. I need to like my cameras. They have to feel and look like they have been well-engineered and constructed. I think I have learned a few lessons. One, I am done with the DSLR cameras and their large lenses. I have sold mine with a few attempts to try others one more time, but this was the last time. Two, going cheaper is not the solution.
Sometimes the old needs replaced because it is broken or worn out or just no longer will do the job, and sometimes it is for other reasons. The reasons are obvious in the above picture, but not so obvious in my latest camera change.
I sold my Pentax K-50 and lenses. I didn’t do it for any of the above reasons. I loved everything about the camera. I was the problem, not the camera. I guess I am getting worn out. Those who have followed my blog know that I have had many Pentax DSLRs and have sold them and gone back to them several times. I left them after I had back surgery many years ago since it just wasn’t comfortable for me to carry and use a DSLR with larger and heavier lenses. After I improved and found that I regained my strength, and missed their capabilities, I went back to a Pentax DSLR. Now I doubt that I ever will return to heavier, larger DSLR lenses for APS size sensors. My arthritis in my back, knees, and hands just makes it too uncomfortable.
I am in the process of trying the micro 4/3 system again. There have been a lot of improvements in micro 4/3 gear since I used it many years ago. To ease back in this direction, I purchased the Olympus E-PL5 along with the kit lens and the new 17 mm lens. The new 17 mm lens is a lot better than the older one that I used in Tunisia, etc. I haven’t decided whether to use the E-PL5 with longer focal length zoom lenses, but I will try it. I may also obtain some other prime lenses for it, but I am not ready to decide yet. I still have my Fujifilm X-E1 and multiple prime and zoom lenses, but they haven’t been getting much use or love since I got the E-PL5. The X-E1 has superior image quality but I may eventually decide to replace it and the lenses with a smaller and lighter system. That decision will have to wait until I see how I like the micro 4/3 system for different types of photography.
For those who are wondering, the above picture shows the flowers on the chives that my wife planted in her flower garden. I was trying out my new camera, the Olympus E-PL5. It is not a new camera since it has been out for around two years, but I have a new copy which I obtained recently during a sale prior to its replacement being announced. I had a trial copy back in 2012 when it first came out, but I returned it since I was then on a campaign to get the best image quality I could get within my price range. My new campaign is to own and use a sufficient camera that is small, light-weight, and affordable, and provides me the most utility while increasing the odds that I can handle it and will more likely carry it most of the time.
I feel reasonably comfortable in taking this “backward step” for two reasons. First, my recent look back at the pictures I took in Ireland with an older version of this camera reminded me of what can be done with a few micro 4/3 prime lenses. Second, I have learned a lot about the use of cameras and Adobe Lightroom software in the last few years. I now realize that my problems with the first copy that I had were really due to the lens. It now has an improved kit lens and in addition I bought the Olympus 17 mm prime lens.
While this camera has a smaller sensor than my Fujifilm X-E1 and Pentax K-50, I am finding the quality to be quite good. In addition, I am willing to step up to the challenge to learn how to use it better and if necessary, change what I photograph to fit my abilities with a smaller camera and fewer lenses. When I grow more comfortable with this change I will incrementally start selling off my Pentax DSLR and other gear. My goal is to simplify my camera gear until I reach a level of sufficiency that matches what I feel comfortable doing, even if that means photographing less, or different things, than previously.