Rain + pollen = yellow soup : Camera + Subject + Photographer = Picture
If you have no subject to be photographed, I guess the concept of photography reduces itself to nothingness. I’m beginning to think that might apply to my photography more and more. It’s like the question of which comes first, the chicken or the egg? I guess without either of them you have nothing, at least in the long-term. If you have a subject plus camera plus photographer you have pictures. Without any one of these you don’t. But that’s not what I want to discuss first since that is a scary rabbit hole to go down. Today my mind is rummaging around the relationship between the camera and pictures.
In the past if you wanted to capture up close details you needed a macro lenses mounted on a DSLR with interchangeable lenses. Yes, I know that is not totally true. A lot of compact cameras, like my LX7 for example, take pretty good macros, but today I’m limiting myself to higher quality pictures made with larger sensor cameras to focus on one aspect of some changes within photography. With today’s higher mega-pixel cameras it is possible to crop-zoom and get pictures like the above. It isn’t as good as what could be gotten with a macro lens, but maybe it is good enough.
Likewise, if you wanted to record details of a subject that was off in the distance, you needed a long focal length lens; but today with crop-zooming you can, to a degree, avoid the need for such lenses. Long focal length lenses are also generally a lot slower so they also need cameras with sensors that are capable of working at higher ISO levels.
In the past a photographer had to decide what type of photography he or she wished to pursue before getting the camera and lenses. This also generally meant that they got a DSLR with the ability to use multiple lenses. For these reasons, a DSLR is a general purpose camera and many even use them for family pictures, street photography, etc., even though they might not be the optimum choice in all cases … especially if you need a smaller, lighter, more discreet camera.
In the immediate future, longer focal length lenses, heavier DSLR cameras, multiple lenses, etc. might not be as necessary in some cases. In some cases (it is a matter of degree), a single discreet camera with a fixed lens and higher mega-pixel high quality sensor might suffice.
There are other aspects of the relationship between cameras and pictures. They too are related to what most people think of when thinking of what came first, the chicken or the egg. The camera and lens combination sets limits on what a good photographer can take pictures of. Without the macro lens or the really long focal length lens, the photographer is limited in how much cropping they can do to compensate. In addition, the camera-lens combination has a minimum focus distance that affects the macro capabilities. The speed of the camera in focusing, etc. also limits its use for sports and action shots, etc. And there are many other aspects which limit the use of a camera. Knowing these limitations of your camera causes you to look for only things you can photograph with it. For example, if I go out with a wide-angle lens on my camera I don’t look for distant wildlife to photograph.
Since I have been interested in photographing as much as I can, I have acquired multiple cameras and lenses for use in different types of photography, different subjects, different lighting, etc. But I’m thinking of changing that. I’m considering chucking all of my cameras and lenses and starting over. I’m thinking about getting one camera and only a lens or two and then spending my time learning how far I can push it to take all the pictures possible and not worry about those beyond the limits of the camera. If you look back through the history of photography, you will find that the good photographers only used a few cameras and lenses in their lifetimes and they tended to concentrate on only a single type of subject. Most of them spent a lifetime learning and specializing on one type of subject, etc. Another way of looking at it, is that I don’t have 20 – 50 years ahead of me nor do I have endless funds to keep trying something different.
This isn’t a new idea of mine. I have toyed with this idea for simplifying my photography over and over. Usually it comes down to I really don’t wish to spend such a large sum on one camera that I would really prefer to have and carry so I keep adding lenses, etc. to what I have, but in the end I end up spending even more money over time. It is also a question of “can I make it work for me?” Can I satisfy myself with one camera? Over the last few years I have experimented with this idea. I even went down to just one camera for a short period. In addition I have tended to select one lens and one camera and then use them exclusively over a period of a week or two. Another issue is that I haven’t figured out what that one camera and lens would be. I have waited and watched as new technology resulted in better and better cameras thinking that the next one will be the one. That kind of thinking doesn’t work since there will always be something better.
Before I make such a drastic change, I have a few more questions to answer. I think it comes down to deciding when the risk is worth it. Should I pick a camera, sell my existing ones, and start over? Do I know enough now to pick the one camera? Has technology progressed enough for me to do this? What are the odds of me ending up spending less money in the long run and getting sufficient enjoyment out of my photography? Will I be cutting off my potential supply of subjects to the point where I find little to photograph and end up killing my hobby?
A few posts back I mentioned that all pictures should mean something. I’m sure that the above picture doesn’t mean much to you without an explanation … but it means something to me. It rained all day yesterday off and on and is forecast to rain until Thursday, so I have been using my time to continue my thoughts about cameras and lenses. Yesterday I probably took two dozen pictures of those and other rain drops and bubbles using many different lenses on my K-5. The above was taken with the Pentax 18 – 55mm WR kit lens at the 18mm focal length. I don’t use that lens much since I haven’t been pleased with it; but since it is my only weather resistant lens (WR), I thought I would check it out under different conditions. What I figured out is that it is a fair lens at the 18mm focal length up close, is OK for intermediate distances at 35mm, and is worse at 55mm at all distances. But that’s not what I was really thinking about. I have been thinking about using my prime lenses a lot more and I was comparing them to each other as well as the kit lens.
I’m seriously thinking about just using Pentax DSLR cameras. I started out thinking that I would replace my Sony NEX-6 with the Fuji X100s and that led me back to wondering why, since I have the K-5 and quite a few lenses for it. The X100s is smaller, lighter, more discreet, and a lot more expensive … but maybe I don’t really need it as long as I use my prime lenses on the K-5. In addition, since I like to leave the 55 – 300mm lens on the K-5 so that it is ready to go quickly, I’m also thinking about getting a Pentax K-30 primarily for use with primes and to back-up my K-5 rather than the Fuji X100s. The K-30, even though it is less expensive, has a better live view function and better video capability than my K-5 and I’m thinking I might need those capabilities more in the future.
If you have read my blog for a long time you will remember that I have had problems with the weight of the K-5. At this time I’m not having as much of a problem with the weight especially when I use prime lenses. I contribute this situation to the excellent ergonomics of the grip. The X100s doesn’t have a grip, weighs less, is a lot smaller, and has a fixed equivalent 35mm lens. With a Pentax DSLR I have different focal length options with different prime lenses but a much larger system. I have decided to try using the prime lenses for a while, especially around people and inside buildings, and then come back and revisit my situation. In the past I had used an X100 or various micro 4/3 cameras when photographing inside buildings around people and haven’t really used the K-5 that much inside other that at home. The few times I have used it up close to people they have reacted badly … but maybe they will get accustomed to it.
I have serious doubts as to whether I will make this work unless I give up always having a camera with me (other than the LX7). I don’t mind using a DSLR camera when I’m deliberately out to take pictures but I haven’t wanted to carry it just in case I see something. A while back when I had the X100 I would carry it under my jacket. Will I carry a DSLR instead? Just to frame the image for you as to how unusual it is to see a DSLR around here … I have never seen anyone else using a DSLR to photograph anything, at any time or place since I moved to Hanover a year and a half ago. Hmmm, maybe I should just buy an iPhone or iPad mini if I want to blend in.
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 wish the above was an all-seeing eye that could look into the future, but it’s only a small shell we found in Ireland. For looking into the future I can only look at current trends in conjunction with the changes in the environment, and I include all aspects under the environmental umbrella. Those aspects include everything from political, to natural resources, to fiscal, to climate, etc. … including declining physical abilities as we age.
For cameras in general, I expect that we will see the size of sensors grow with the demise of very small sensors in P&S cameras. The cell phones will use the smallest sensors and replace most of the small P&S cameras. I expect to see larger sensors placed into smaller cameras, but I don’t see the size of cameras dropping much, if any more, due to ergonomics. The 1 inch to micro 4/3 sensors will be the new smallest size sensors in cameras with the APS size sensors taking over in the small to medium size cameras and eventually the so-called full frame sensors growing in number in the better equipped cameras. I also think that the low-priced entry-level DSLR cameras like the Nikon D3200 and the Canon Rebels will be displaced with smaller mirror-less cameras as prices of mirror-less cameras drop with volume sales.
The biggest change that I think we will be seeing will be the continuing computerization of cameras. They will become (now are) small computers with no moving mechanical parts other than lens components. The shutters, focus, and zoom mechanisms will be all-electric. The biggest change will be in the on-board processors. They will become more like general purpose computers in the sense that we will be choosing functions by acquiring software and loading it on our cameras. As the cameras have fewer mechanical parts we will update our cameras by updating the software in them. This could enable us to keep our cameras longer with less need to replace the camera, but we will have to wait and see how the manufacturers react to this possibility.
Another change that has been evolving is the shrinking of lenses. I originally switched from an APS DSLR to micro 4/3 cameras since in addition to the cameras being smaller and lighter, the lenses were a lot smaller and this resulted in smaller, lighter systems to carry around. Now the APS size sensor cameras are also getting slightly smaller and lighter lenses since the cameras are mirror-less and are using electric motors to control focusing and zooming and not the older mechanical systems.
My decision is to decide how, and when, I will react to the above. I have no doubts that my Pentax K-5 DSLR and its’ lens system is going to become the dinosaur of cameras. It will grow heavier, relatively speaking, as I get older and it is probably the last of the old style mechanical cameras that I will purchase; but, for now it does a good job. If you have read my blog for any time, you also know that I have had a desire to reduce the number of my cameras to one so that I can better learn and use it without having to remember and think about the differences in controls and settings, etc. At one time I thought that micro 4/3 cameras were the solution for me … until I had problems with the size, control layouts, etc. and I started to have doubts about the sensor size relative to future capabilities. All of this leads me to thinking about another solution … another camera.
I’m thinking about switching to Sony cameras. Given my beliefs about the computerization of the camera, I’m thinking that going with Sony might be the best technical and most economical direction. Besides, almost all the camera manufacturers are now using Sony sensors … from Olympus to Nikon to Leica. The Sony NEX-6 has an APS size sensor packaged in a camera about the same size as my previous micro 4/3 cameras and the ergonomics with the hand grip and controls looks like it might fit my needs better. Up to now Sony’s downfall with their cameras has been the size, quality, and quantity of available lenses. Recently they have rectified this problem and other third parties have started producing lenses in their E-mount, so I don’t think this will be a problem going forward.
My big problem is that no one near where I live carries the camera so I have to order one to see how it works in my hands. I will also have to wait until I see some reviews of the camera after it starts shipping, which probably won’t be until Nov. before I make up my mind. Hopefully I’ll have an answer by late Nov. since I have my order in for the Sony NEX-6 camera so I can try it.
And the saga continues. The new K-5 that I ordered arrived. As I have discussed earlier, I have had problems with accidentally pushing the buttons on the rear of the micro 4/3 Panasonic G3 camera. The reasons for this are two-fold. First, as you can see in the photo below, there is no room on the right side of the rear of the G3. Second, I have arthritis in my right hand, especially the thumb joint, and I no longer have as much gripping power with my extended thumb. To compensate for that loss, I have used the base of my thumb, or the palm, to hold the camera while only resting the tip of the thumb lightly against the camera in conjunction with the hand grip on the front of the camera. Unfortunately, this results in my occasionally “mashing” the controls on the lower, right – rear of the G3.
While seeking another camera with better ergonomics, I found that the above control situation is prevalent on all smaller micro 4/3 cameras. The only cameras with sufficient “real estate” for my situation are the larger DSLRs. I tried both Canon and Nikon DSLRs but found that the Pentax K-5 fit my hand better, so I decided to give it another try. As you can see below, it has just enough space for me to use my palm to support the camera, but it weights quite a bit more. So much more, that I thought that the G3 would serve me better … until I found the ergonomics to be frustrating.
Panasonic G3 …. Pentax K-5
Since my primary use for the G3 has been for shooting wildlife with the Panasonic 100 – 300 mm lens, I also ordered the Pentax 55 – 300 mm lens for my comparison studies. As you can see below, these are of comparable size mounted on their respective cameras … but not equal in their range. With the G3, the end of the zoom at 300 mm is effectively equal to 600 mm while 300 mm on the K-5 is only effectively 450 mm. You can see the differences below. (You can also see that the K-5 has a better grip on the front.)
Panasonic G3 …. Pentax K-5
G-3 and 300 mm
K-5 and 300 mm
While gaining better ergonomics with the K-5, I would be giving up focal range and gaining weight. The G-3 with the 100 – 300 mm lens weighs a total of 925 gm. The K-5 with the 55 – 300 mm lens weights 1210 gm. Both of those weights include the batteries and memory cards.
I’m now faced with trying to decide whether the change is worth it. With the K-5 I gain a rugged weather resistant camera along with faster focusing, faster shooting, better sensor, and better ergonomics at the expense of added weight to lug around and a shorter focal range.
I need to comment that having this added weight would not be practical for me if I didn’t also have a lighter weight better camera … the Fujifilm X100. It has a fixed effective 35 mm lens. I sold my Olympus E-P3 and replaced it with the Fujifilm X100 … thus I have already made a partial move from micro 4/3 to APS size sensor. The X100 is, and will be, my preferred choice for a walk-about, travel, etc. camera when the primary use is not shooting wildlife and the ruggedness, weather resistance, zoom ability, etc. features of the K-5 are not needed. The weight of the X100 is only 470 gm and the size is more suitable for taking pictures in crowds of people. You can see the differences in physical size below.
Fuji X100 … K-5 with 55 – 300 mm lens
470 gm vs. 1210 gm
My problem now is to decide whether the added weight of the K-5 warrants replacing the G3 and lenses with the K-5. I do have another option which is weighing on my decision … give up heavy cameras and heavy long zooms and give up shooting wildlife; i.e. become a one camera — one lens photographer.
The following are three pictures I made while traveling in West Virginia last week with my brother. The first one was taken at the Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge and the other two were taken in Braxton County.
I used my Panasonic G3 with the Panasonic 20 mm lens. I have a love-hate relationship with that camera. I love the small size, low weight, and picture quality, but hate the handling of the camera.
Those of you who have followed my blog have seen me go from my Pentax DSLR cameras to my Olympus and Panasonic micro 4/3 cameras. As my physical problems progressed due primarily to arthritis, I found it advantageous to sell my heavy DSLR cameras and switch to lighter micro 4/3 cameras. As I acquired lighter cameras they also got smaller, and to a point I really like the smaller cameras since it is easier to pack and carry them especially while flying. The downside is that as they got smaller, the ergonomics became worse. The buttons and the space for my hand got smaller and I have found that I have been accidentally pushing the buttons on the G3 and thus changing the camera settings. Sometimes I realized the changes and corrected them before I took the pictures and other times I didn’t realize that there was a problem until after I got home and looked at the pictures on the computer.
Because of the poor ergonomics with the G3 I have investigated other cameras. Since I take the majority of my pictures with a single prime lens, I have thought about getting something like the Fujifilm X100 or maybe the X-Pro1 with one lens, but that is an expensive route to take and I would be lens-limited if I ever need a different focal length.
I’m also looking into getting a small light-weight DSLR … maybe the new Nikon D3200 or the D5100. Both of these DSLRs are lighter than any of my old Pentax DSLRs and they might be suitable for a large percentage of my pictures while using the Nikkor 35 mm f/1.8 DX lens which is quite small and light in weight.
Some other alternatives are to wait and hope that a new micro 4/3 camera will be made that has better ergonomics. Another alternative is to make-do with what I have and maybe learn to hold the G3 differently.
Whichever alternative I choose, I will probably keep the G3 or another micro 4/3 camera to use with my long zoom lenses since that is the only way to keep the size and weight of the long lenses down to a manageable size. My problems have driven me to learn that I can use a single prime lens for most of my travel photography and that is what has opened up the possibility of using a larger, but light-weight DSLR camera with a prime lens for the majority of my photography. The added advantage of a DSLR would be a larger sensor and better low light capability while shooting at high ISOs.
Since I prefer a smaller camera that I can easily always take with me and since I have several lenses for micro 4/3 and since I have expressed a desire to end up with one camera for the majority of my work, it seems that the logical thing is to wait and hope that someone will produce a micro 4/3 camera with a larger hand grip and better ergonomics. But being realistic, it is unlikely that I will ever find one camera that satisfies all of my desires and I will likely always have more than one camera.
I haven’t decided what to do yet but I’m sure you will be reading about it one of these days. If anyone has any recommendations relative to a light-weight but large enough camera to easily hold and use and that has good image quality in low-light situations let me know.
I wrote this article in response to some comments that I have received about my Hawaiian pictures. Several have indicated that they can’t wait to buy an equally good camera, but is that necessary?
I took the following picture with my K-5 DSLR using the 18-55mm zoom lens. I took the shot at 180327 … 3 minutes and 27 sec. after 6 pm. The particulars for this shot were ISO 200, f/5.6, 1/320 sec.
(As with all of the pictures in my blog, you can click on a picture and then click above the picture to see it larger)
Bob, my brother-in-law, was standing right next to me and took the following shot with his Cannon SX200. He took the shot at about the same time I took the above shot. The particulars for his shot below were ISO 80, f/4.0, 1/320 sec.
The differences in color are due to the differences in camera sensors, the zoom ratio/composition, the slight time differences (note the different positions of the sun relative to the clouds), and the fact that my shot was taken as a raw file while Bob’s was processed in camera as a jpeg. Since my picture exists as a raw file I could change the colors, but I didn’t. My shot is as processed by Light Room software without me doing anything to it other than the original LR conversions. But the color variations are not the reason for this article.
Note that Bob captured the flock of birds as they flew by. They were not in my picture nor were they in any of my many pictures taken right before and after Bob took his. The reason the birds aren’t in my pictures is that I never saw the birds. Our cameras were not matched to the exact sec. but any slight time differences are not relevant except for the color shift. I had my eye up to the viewfinder on my camera the entire time while Bob was shooting with his camera at arm’s length which enabled him to stay aware of the surrounding scene outside his LCD viewer. Throughout the entire time we were standing in the same spot, I never saw the birds.
Which picture do you wish that you had taken? More than anything, I think that these two pictures show that a more expensive camera isn’t often the advantage that many think it is. Go back and look at the larger versions of the pictures. In my case I had spent a lot more for my camera, was lugging around a much larger camera that weighted a lot more, and was consuming many GB of storage on my memory cards since I was shooting raw files. Did any of this work to my advantage? Not in this case.
It is the photographer who makes the difference. It’s his ability to be at the right place at the right time, to be observant, to have an eye for composition, and his ability to capture the decisive moment that makes the difference.
In an earlier post I told how I sold my Pentax K-7 DSLR and replaced it with a micro 4/3 camera … and now I have decided to expand my camera systems by getting another Pentax DSLR. Before I tell you why, I think I had better first explain why I sold my K-7 in the first place.
A year ago I was having a lot of pain in my right knee, leg, and lower back and was only able to walk for short distances. It got progressively worse and got to the point where I couldn’t carry my K-7 and often had to use a cane. In fact it got to the point where I was wobbling and had trouble walking even a little. After seeing various doctors and having an MRI of my back, etc., I learned that my second and third lumbar vertebrae were making bone on bone contact and crushing a nerve. This resulted in my having a lumbar fusion … which was quite successful. Immediately after the surgery all of my knee & leg pains and problems walking disappeared. Then just as I was starting to think about getting back to adventure travel, I learned that I had prostate cancer. This resulted in my having my prostate removed … and I’m happy to report that it appears that this was also quite successful and that the cancer was confined to the prostate. Finally, I can now think about adventure travel again, even though I still have a torn meniscus and some arthritis in my right knee.
Over the years I have developed a photography philosophy that there is no such thing as the perfect camera, but I must admit that searching for it is still a lot of fun. As a result, I have managed to acquire a number of cameras over the years and now have three basic systems. I have a Canon S95 as my pocket camera to use when I don’t have one of the other cameras with me. In addition, I have the micro 4/3 Olympus E-P1 & E-PL2 cameras with numerous lenses ( I used the E-P1 to take the above picture). I use them when I don’t wish to carry a bigger camera, when I need a discreet, but capable system, and when I travel by airplane and need to travel light with only a carry-on bag. For example I used micro 4/3 cameras in Tunisia and Ireland. I also always take more than one camera with me when I travel and the above give me various options for a backup camera (I haven’t been on a trip yet where someone didn’t have a camera problem). And now I have expanded my systems by adding a bigger DSLR. I wanted a camera that was more rugged, more weather resistant, with longer zoom lenses that I could use for taking pictures of wildlife, that I could use for car trips, and that I could use while traveling in more adventurous areas like in the Amazon rain forest, etc.
I’ll be sharing some of my reasons for why I got this particular camera, how/when I will be using it, etc. in future postings after I have a chance to use it some … so stay tuned.