Since I haven’t been taking many pictures lately, I have been using my time to try to decide what I’d like to do when it warms up next spring. I am thinking about what I would like to photograph and what camera I would prefer to use. I thought that one element of this process should be to look back through some of my older pictures and pick out what I liked and so I did. The above are one set of results. I liked their simplicity and color and that they all had black in them.
I deliberately didn’t look at what camera I used or any other details about the pictures until I was done. Looking back later I noted that a different camera was used for all four of the above, but that they were all taken with a long focal length lens. Probably the only thing significant about the different cameras is that I have used many different ones; but another possible factor is that it indicates that the particular camera didn’t matter.
The long focal length is more troubling for me. I have liked long focal lengths since they enabled me to extract details from around me while blurring out the backgrounds. The troubling aspect is that I have had more problems with heavy camera-lens combinations. As a result of that, I have been carrying around and shooting primarily my Ricoh GR with a fixed effective 28 mm lens.
The problem that I need to resolve is that I prefer small light-weight cameras with prime lenses like the GR or a Leica X2 or the Fujifilm X100T while at the same time I preferred images made with long focal length lenses. This presents a real dilemma for me. Should I use a camera I like to hold and carry and seek out new compositions that I might like, or choose a camera with a long lens and shoot images like above? If I use a long lens, I might need to use a light-weight camera lens combination with a smaller sensor and lower image quality to keep the weight lower.
I have been thinking about what has changed and what it means for my photography. Some of the changes are: 1) Winter has arrived and it is cold and often windy. 2) My back got worse but I have learned that if I don’t stand too long, don’t lift much, don’t bend too far, and especially don’t twist even a little, and do my exercises with the help of some new medicine, that I can continue to function with little discomfort. But that is a big “if” and so far, I have occasionally been doing too much and paying for it. 3) I have been taking more pictures of people and things here that I can’t put on my web.
As far as my cameras are concerned, I have found that I should use my Pentax K-3 and lenses less due to the weight, size, and focusing and shutter noise around people. When I go out anywhere I usually just take the GR in a pocket and mostly just use the K-3 as a grab camera to run out the door to take pictures of clouds like above. I don’t walk much anymore with the K-3 or shoot for long periods with it due to its weight, and I don’t use it around people due to its lack of discreetness.
I can use the GR with its effective 28 mm focal length along with the E-PL5 with the effective 40 mm or 90 mm focal length lenses for most of my indoor pictures around people, but I sometimes miss having a zoom lens. I need to use prime lenses to handle the lower light and shutter speed requirements and achieve suitable image quality while indoors. I will continue to carry the GR with me in my pocket whenever I’m out as my “just-in-case” camera. It has been a big improvement over using my E-PL5 and 14 mm lens for that purpose. The GR is lighter, fits in a pocket better, and has better image quality.
Another concern at the moment is what to use outdoors if I can’t carry the K-3. I might eventually replace the Pentax gear with another micro 4/3 camera, and finally leave the big DSLR camera behind and make the switch to mirror-less cameras. I tried to do that once before and reverted back to the Pentax DSLR, but I think I am now about ready to make the final switch to mirror-less cameras. I like to keep a wide-to-normal lens on one camera and a longer zoom on another camera so that I don’t have to change lenses as often. Having two micro 4/3 cameras would enable me to make better use of my micro 4/3 lens collection, but I’ll have to think some more about it.
Another option would be to get an APS-C size sensor camera with one good normal range zoom lens and use it for all of my indoor work as well as shorter range outdoor shooting and use my 40 – 150 mm micro 4/3 lens on the E-PL5 for long-range shooting outdoors. The advantage of going this route is that I would have better image quality than I can get with micro 4/3 camera for my indoor work and I would have a better all-around single camera. That was what I was thinking about when I had the Fujifilm X-E1 with the 18 – 55 mm lens, but it was early in the process before they made some significant upgrades in the software, etc. Or, if I replaced the K-3 with the Fujifilm X-T1 and the 18 – 135 mm lens it would weight around 930 g. vs. the 1205 g. of the K-3 and the 18 – 135 mm lens, but I’m not sure if that weight savings is enough.
Other questions: Will I really be shooting much with zoom lenses, and if not, which prime focal length will I use most of the time? Would I rather have an APS-C sensor camera with an effective 35 mm focal length lens for better image quality or is my Panasonic 20 mm lens (effective 40 mm) good enough with a micro 4/3 sensor?
My main concern is how I am going to photograph scenes that are suitable for my blog, and more importantly, make pictures that I really like. The camera and lenses are not the main problem. I need to figure out what and where I will be shooting.
I am still pondering which camera to use when and whether I need all of my cameras. I used my Panasonic LF1 to take the above image early one morning along Plum Creek. That camera has the worst image quality of my cameras but is the smallest, has a nice zoom out to an effective 200 mm, and is easy to carry in a shirt pocket.
My most recently acquired camera is an Olympus E-PL5 which is a micro 4/3 camera. It has good enough (most of the time) image quality as long as I photograph in raw format and then process the images in Lightroom (LR). It also has a nice collection of very good lenses and I currently have the range covered between an effective 28 mm and 300 mm with both zooms and prime lenses. Its biggest advantage is that the lenses are small and easy to carry and use.
My third camera system is my Fujifilm X-E1 with a range of prime and zoom lenses that cover the same range as the above E-PL5; but the camera and lenses are larger and heavier. Its advantage is that it has the best image quality of the three camera systems and is best for photographing people indoors in poorer light.
I bought the Olympus E-PL5 when I stopped using the Fujifilm 55 – 200 mm lens because it is too large and heavy. It was spending all of its time sitting in a camera drawer. My original intent was to get a relatively less expensive micro 4/3 camera to primarily use with longer lenses, like with my 40 – 150 mm zoom lens, and then to use the X-E1 with a few prime lenses. But I found that I liked the size, weight, capabilities, image quality, etc. of the E-PL5 micro 4/3 system so well that I have bought wider prime lenses as well as zoom lenses for it. Now I am not so sure that I really need the Fuji camera and lenses.
The question is whether, or not, micro 4/3 sensors and cameras and lenses are sufficient for my photography? The Fuji system has superior image quality but at the added expense of more weight and size, especially when you consider the lenses. I chuckle when I read the many blog articles about people switching from Nikon DSLR systems to Fuji to cut weight and increase the likelihood that they will carry a Fuji system more often. The problem is relative.
I switched from Pentax DSLRs to Fuji to cut weight, and now I’m considering taking the next step and ditching my Fuji system for micro 4/3 to cut more weight and get back to one system. As technology improves and size and weight goes down, a sufficient system gets smaller and easier to use. My move to the Fujifilm system was probably a step past my point of sufficiency.
I took some comparison pictures between the Olympus E-PL5 with the Olympus 40 – 150 mm, M. Zuiko F4 – 5.6 R lens, and the Fujifilm X-E1 with the Fujifilm XF 55 – 200 mm, F3.5 – 4.8 lens. The above images were made at the extreme long end of both lenses which is an effective 300 mm focal length. I then cropped both images down to what you see above which is not quite down to 100%. Both images were taken in the program setting and were handheld. They both were at f/8 and ISO of 200. The WB, exposures, and the black and white points were slightly different so I adjusted then to make them similar. The Fuji camera has an APS size sensor with no filter. The Olympus is a micro 4/3 sensor (smaller) with a filter. Both images were taken in raw format and processed in LR5.
The Olympus combination weights 535 gm and costs (22 May 2014) $698. The Fuji combination weighs 950 gm and costs (22 May 2014) $1268 and is much larger in size. The difference in just the lenses is even more extreme. The Olympus lens cost $199 vs. the Fuji cost of $699. The image qualities are different but I will let you decide whether it is worth the difference in cost and weight. To be fair you have to realize that this comparison was made under ideal conditions. I will also have to compare them under low lighting conditions. Under that situation I expect the differences to be more pronounced.
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.
In addition to the things I mentioned in an earlier post, I also like to show stories; therefore, I am thinking about doing a series on craftsmen in action at Homewood. My next long-term project hopefully will be photographing the Model Railroaders at Homewood at Plum Creek as they build a new portable display. I hope to follow their progress weekly as they design it, build it, and display it to the public. I won’t know how I will present it until it is finished, but I am thinking of an article for print and a video show. One problem that I have is that it probably won’t be completed until December and during the interim I doubt that I will be posting many of the pictures on my blog. Depending upon the number of long-term projects I pursue, the amount of time they consume, etc. could result in fewer, less-frequent posts on this blog, so if you see gaps in my posts it isn’t because I’m not taking pictures. It will be due to the length of time required to photograph and finish projects.
I prefer to make images that are independent of specific places. I like landscapes. I like images that make me think or raise more questions than answers. I like to make images that the normal snap-shooter doesn’t see/make. I prefer calm, quiet, and simplicity.
In addition, I prefer to take pictures with a small camera and lens, and to always have it with me. With the cameras that I have, this generally means photographing with a small prime lens; but, if all I have are distant details to photograph it means a long zoom lens. This doesn’t make for a simple or light-weight setup. I will write later about how I am trying to reduce this complexity and what I am trying to do to achieve sufficiency and simplicity.