Those of you who have been reading my blog for years know that I previously owned Pentax DSLR cameras and lenses and then gave them up. I gave them up for basically two reasons. One I was searching for one camera system that would enable me to take pictures of Homewood events in poor light and that would be silent; i.e. no loud flapping mirror and shutter, as well as satisfy my other desires with my personal photography. Second, I was searching for a lighter camera and lenses that I could more easily handle with arthritis in my hands and back. Since no Pentax DSLRs met all of those needs, I sold them and tried several other systems including a series of Fujifilm cameras and lenses, and finally settled on a micro 4/3 system and the Olympus PEN-F and E-M1 Mk II cameras.
My micro 4/3 gear meets my needs for photography of Homewood events and activities and it is a lighter, smaller system for my walks; but, I felt that something was missing. While I wasn’t sure of what was missing, I suspected it involved the size of the sensor. The best way to reduce camera system size and weight is to reduce the size of the sensor (as I had done) but that doesn’t come without other issues. I just felt that I didn’t have the aperture DoF effects and resolution that I had with previous Pentax DSLR cameras.
Recently, I purchased another used Pentax K-3 and a couple of WR lenses with the idea that they would give me a “knock-about” weather resistant system that I didn’t have, and that I would try them again and see if I regained whatever I had lost after selling them before. Since getting them, I have been making pictures with them. The ones at the top are examples of using the Pentax gear for closer work. I have liked the results.
I have also been using the Pentax gear for distant shots, like for the ducks in my previous posts. The following images demonstrate another capability that gives me better results than with the micro 4/3 gear. That is the resolution and IQ for severe crop-zooming. I took the picture below, handheld, from my back porch at 300mm focal length (an effective 450mm). I then severely cropped out a portion of the bird walking near the center, and then upsized it from 758 pixels wide to 2100 pixels wide to make the second image shown below.
Based on my tests so far, I have decided to keep the Pentax gear to use outdoors when I don’t have to carry or hold it for long periods. In essence, I have given up on a one camera solution. I will use my micro 4/3 gear and excellent fast lenses when photographing for Homewood around people and use my Pentax for some of my personal outdoor photography as long as I don’t have to roam far from my car or home. The Pentax K-3 has the best ergonomics and fit to my hand of any camera I have ever held. It is also the most weather resistant for the size, weight, cost, and image quality of any camera I have seen.
The problem I now have is maintaining two totally different systems, but it is one I will deal with, as long as I don’t go overboard buying lenses for both.
I am playing with another Pentax K-3 DSLR and the 18-135mm lens. The whole package is very weather resistant and is like what I once had before. After having sold the previous ones I decided that I might get another set for outdoor bad weather photography. I would like to do more than I can do with the pocket WP Olympus TG-5 camera.
As I am checking this copy to see if they are worth keeping, I am also trying some different focus affects. I thought about getting a Lensbaby Velvet lens but doubting that it was worth the cost, I am trying some software applications in these images. You can see that I have played with different amounts of outer edge out-of-focus vignetting.
I could do everything with the Olympus E-M1 Mk II and lenses but since I need them for my Homewood photography I have been afraid of damaging them. If I keep the Pentax camera I will not be afraid to use it in all kinds of weather nor worry about knocking it about outdoors. It is very sturdy, and I tend to think of it as my apocalypse camera. In the past I owned many different Pentax cameras and loved them and missed them. I didn’t stop using them until I needed a good lighter camera and lenses that I could use indoors silently while photographing events in poor light. The Pentax is everything but silent with the noisy mirror and shutter slap. It is also much heavier, but I don’t plan on using it in-hand for hours at a time like I use the Olympus cameras.
I accumulated too many cameras and lenses. I primarily did that while trying to cover many different photographic situations and trying to figure out what I wanted or needed. The above are what I had when I started my recent purging, and you will note that I had a lot of overlapping systems. It doesn’t include all the other cameras I tried and sold previously. Lately, I have spent a great deal of time trying to figure out what I want to do, can do, and will do, in my future photography so that I can simplify. By-the-way, there are a lot of differences between “want to do, can do, and will do”.
The unmarked camera in the picture at the top on your left is the Canon SL1. At the time I took the picture I had black tape over the lettering. I had one other camera in addition to the above cameras that I used to take the picture. It was the Ricoh GR.
I have given up on reducing down to one camera for the time being, but I am reducing the number of different systems that I have and selling off some of the above with the goal to end up with fewer options. While trying to decide which way to go, I cycled through each of the above cameras and used them to remind myself of their individual characteristics and why I got them in the first place. Each has a particular strength and capability so my decision process came down to deciding what, or how, I will not be photographing in the future.
I have tried to pick a subject to concentrate on. I first thought it would be Hanover streets and buildings, and it might still be; but I have concerns. In some of my trials I have had minor confrontations which I have been able to walk away from so far; but I am concerned that the confrontations might increase, especially if I use a DSLR camera with a long zoom lens.
I would like to do something with a rangefinder style camera with a focal length of 35 or 50 (e) mm; but that usually means photographing people, and is not likely … in town or within Homewood. But, that doesn’t rule out such a camera for buildings, landscapes, etc.
What about other possibilities? The big one is travel photography but for several reasons, that is not likely for me. Another possibility would be nature, wildlife, etc. We have limited wildlife but it is still a possibility. There are also weather, clouds, etc. but that is limiting from an opportunity perspective. I can’t photograph the weather effects when I wish since it is dependent upon the whims of the weather.
I am still trying to decide what it is that I mainly hope to photograph, but in the meantime I am going to concentrate on what is most likely. The picture below shows what cameras and lenses I am currently using after going through my initial simplification and concentrating on what will most likely be available for me to photograph.
The Pentax gear and the Lumix LX7 have been sold. The rest have been boxed up for sale or storage. I haven’t sold the micro 4/3 gear yet since I haven’t yet decided to give up on micro 4/3. I like my micro 4/3 gear but I can’t do everything (especially in low light) that I would like as well with it. You will also see my latest acquisition, the Canon 70D with the 18 – 135 mm lens attached that I am trying for 30 days. Yes, the Canon is heavy (just slightly lighter than the K-3) but it has advantages and uses that I would rather not give up. I really like the articulated LCD and fast live-view focusing. In order to deal with the weight, I might not carry it far or often, and if necessary, I could get a 50 mm lens for it and back off using the longer, heavier focal length lenses. Currently I am trying the Canon 70D for certain uses like clouds, wildlife, some internal Homewood projects, etc., and using the Ricoh GR for my pocket camera while walking about as well as for several projects close to people, etc. where all I need is an effective 28 mm focal length.
My objective is to just use the Canon 70D and the Ricoh GR for a while as I continue to evolve my future photography over time, and later replace one or both with a camera that is better for a more limited style of photography when, or if, I decide or find I need or want to reduce further.
I am considering slipping into two different modes for much of my photography. One mode tends to be sharp, clear, and documentary. I will use this mode for my Homewood and Hanover related projects. These types of images will probably be primarily made with both my Canon SL1 using the Sigma 17 – 70 mm lens and my Ricoh GR with its effective 18.3 mm lens.
Another mode that I like is similar to the images shown above. These types are limited, collapsed perspective images made with long focal length lenses like the above made with an effective 300 mm lens. Due to the necessity of a long focal length lens while at the same time desiring to keep weight and size to a minimum, I am considering using a micro 4/3 system. I used my Olympus E-PL5 with the Olympus 40 – 150 mm lens for the above images. My problem is that the camera I used, the E-PL5, doesn’t have a viewfinder and that is a limiting factor for long focal length lenses since it is hard to hold the camera-lens combination steady enough. In addition, I tend to accidentally hit buttons when I use it vertically, especially when shooting quickly.
My other option is to expand my use of the Canon camera and get a longer lens for it. The advantage is primarily using one Canon system; the disadvantage is the increased weight and size. In addition, if I found a lens I liked and could handle with the SL1 camera, I could potentially sell all of my micro 4/3 gear and Pentax gear.
And then there is the “big option” … my Pentax K-3 with the 55 – 300 mm lens. The advantage of it is that I have it and the lens is better and longer (effective 450 mm at the long end). Other advantages are that I also have a vertical grip for it and I prefer the vertical/portrait orientation with this style of image, and it a weather resistant system. The disadvantage is that the K-3 and lens and vertical grip is large and heavy.
I have been pondering two things … what will I photograph in the Borough of Hanover and what focal length lens will work best. I really need to find the answers in order since what I photograph determines what camera and lens I need; but maybe not. Since I have already photographed the most interesting areas, I have been exploring some of the back areas.
I was standing in one of the public parking lots when I took the above pictures. My reaction was that there was nothing of interest around me but I took some pictures anyway so I could continue my evaluation of the Canon SL1 camera with the 24 mm lens. Even after studying them, I found nothing of interest, unless it was the thought of what was missing. From the size and age of the trees along with their locations I imagine that these lots were previously plots where buildings once stood. They were probably vacant and falling down so the Borough acquired the lots, tore down the buildings, and paved the lots for parking. This parking lot is typical of many such lots through-out the Borough. I am guessing that what is missing was of more interest, but I can’t photograph that.
I then tried cropping a section out of one of the pictures, and converted it to monotone. You can see the results below.
And the answer is, using an old phrase, “you can’t create a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.” I found nothing of interest in any of these pictures and it means that I will have to work at making images around Hanover. I have already photographed some of the “noted” areas that others think of since they are on the main roads and that is why I have been, and will continue, looking for the unusual and mostly not seen areas.
I still have no idea as to whether to concentrate on details or the bigger picture; but if I wish to concentrate on details I will need a longer lens. The problems are that longer Canon lenses are heavier, larger, and expensive if they are good fast lenses. That means more compromises if I get a long Canon zoom lens and my gut reaction is that I have little interest in more compromises that will probably end up as wasted money. I might just use my K-3 and 55 – 300 mm lens and shoot from close to the car so that I don’t have to carry it far. If not that, I might use a micro 4/3 or one-inch system.
I haven’t just been using the Canon SL1 while I have been learning, and deciding, how to best use it. For the above pictures I used my Pentax K-3 and made these images at a focal length of 300 mm, or effective 450 mm. I am still concerned about not being able to take such images if I mainly use my prime 24 mm lens on the Canon SL1. I have decided that I really don’t wish to carry the heavier K-3 and 55 – 300 mm zoom lens, but that I still would like to be able to make such pictures in the manner of the above. My indecision is what to do about it.
I may give up long focal length photography or I might compromise and look for a lens to use on the SL1 that is lighter. Another choice might be to use my micro 4/3 Olympus EPL-5 with a long lens. For some reason, I keep “walking away” from my micro 4/3 imagery. I liked using it for my most recent long-term project of photographing the model railroaders here at Homewood, but my primary outlet for those pictures will be a video/slide show made with shorter focal lengths. My problem is that I would like a higher quality longer focal length lens. I have been using my low-quality 40 – 150 mm f/4 – 5.6 lens. If cost was not a concern, I could try the new Olympus E-M5 II and the Pro 40 – 150 mm lens; but I don’t wish to spend that much money for such limited use.
Another “discomfort” that I have, is switching back and forth between cameras with totally different control and menu set-ups. That and the need for multiple lens collections for different systems is a drag on my photography and finances. Resolving these issues requires owning just one system; but, which one? I now have Pentax, Canon, and micro 4/3 systems. I would prefer to use one. Should I replace the non-Canons with another Canon DSLR with some longer lenses to supplement my SL1?
I would like to consider my next system as my last one … one that will serve my needs into the future. I doubt that I am alone relative to this issue. Does anyone out there have any recommendations?
Which cameras I keep and use depends upon what type of pictures I plan to make and how I use them. As much as possible, I would like to downsize relative to weight and number of cameras, but I don’t want to go too far down relative to image quality. The question is, how far is too far. As an example I was out walking Misty early on a cloudy day and had the Lumix LF1 in my pocket which I used for the above image. It was at an effective 200 mm and then cropped severely and resized up to this full size. I then worked with the raw image to create this painterly effect using Light Room.
The LF1 might work for images like above, but it doesn’t work to get good, quick pictures of events around here. I also don’t use it on the streets. It is certainly small, easy to carry, and discreet, but it isn’t easy to change settings and shoot quickly. It takes too long to zoom the lens. For most events and on the street and for better quality landscapes I hope to use the Canon SL1 with both the 24 and the 40 mm prime pancake lenses. I won’t know for sure until the weather improves and I take a lot more pictures with it.
I still have my Olympus E-PL5 with many micro 4/3 lenses which I think work OK for travel since they pack small and are light for international travel. Since I am not doing that kind of travel anymore I am not sure how I will use them or even if I will keep them. I did use it a lot for my most resent indoor project here at Homewood, but that was before I got the Canon SL1.
I also still have my Pentax K-3 along with three lenses. At the moment it is the most unused of the lot. I might keep it and use it with a smaller but still weather resistant lens for photography in bad weather. Since I find it too heavy to use but for short periods with long focal length lenses, I might just give up that type of photography. As an alternative, I might try a long zoom on the Canon SL1. I don’t think it is a good camera for such use due to its size but it might work better than I think. It also depends upon how good I get at using the controls on the Canon SL1 to get the effects I desire. I might also just use a micro 4/3 camera with a long lens for long-range photography.
One of the least costly ways for me to downsize is to limit what I photograph and use the cameras and lenses I have. If I stop photographing with long zoom lenses, and outdoors in rain or snow, I could possibly shrink down to just three cameras, or maybe even less. At the moment I am considering using only my Lumix LF1, my Ricoh GR, and my Canon SL1 (with both pancake lenses). But I still entertain thoughts about limiting what I photograph to what I can make with one camera and one lens.
All of my trials are to determine what I want to photograph with what type of camera and focal length lens, and then, if necessary, buy a higher quality camera-lens combination and sell the rest.