Tagged: Pentax K-7

Where Does this Path Go?

6th century Clonmacnoise Monastery in Ireland

When I look at this picture I have three different thoughts about where this path goes.  The first is about life in general, the second is about the economy, and the third is about my photography.  Since I have readers interested in all three areas and I couldn’t make up my mind about which to write about, I have decided to make this a three-part article.

Life in General

The first thing that this picture reminds me is that all life follows a very short path and the end is always the same.  All life dies in its due time and the only unknown is how soon; but, others will remember us.  It is our responsibility to make sure that we are remembered for making the best contributions that we can to the long-term evolution of humanity in the short time that we are here.

The Economy

This path reminds me that eventually we will probably have to take a step backwards in time to achieve a sustainable, stable system.  If the correct decisions are made in time, we will essentially hold steady in a very low, to no-growth economy and we won’t need to change much; but, I don’t see that happening.  As I noted in previous articles, I don’t think that the necessary minor changes will be made in time and that we will put off making any major corrections to our economic system and way of life until big changes are needed.  The world has no choice but to step back and recover from its’ debts and make the adjustments to continue in a sustainable way.  The only uncertainty is how soon and thus how big of a change.

My Camera Path

Those of you who have followed this website have seen me go from small sensor P&S pocket cameras to small sensor travel zooms, to the Pentax K-7 DSLR, to the micro 4/3 Olympus Pen cameras, the E-P1, E-PL2, and the E-P3 and the Pentax K-5 DSLR, along with a side excursion to the Canon S95.  In this last year or two I have oscillated back and forth between the K-5, the Pen cameras, and the S95 while seeking a one camera solution.  I have been on a path towards finding & choosing a single light-weight, smaller all-purpose camera with adequate image quality that I can carry with me wherever I go.  At the moment, I have paused along the path and settled upon my Olympus E-P3 along with the Panasonic 14 mm and 20 mm lenses, the Olympus 14 – 42 mm zoom, and the Olympus 14 – 150 mm zoom, but I have kept the Canon S95 for use as a small shirt pocket camera and the Pentax K-5 with the 18 – 55 mm zoom for inclement weather and with the 50 – 300 mm zoom for wildlife shooting.

I’m still on a path towards having one camera along with a simplified choice of lenses.  I’m still trying to decide on whether I wish to use zoom lenses on my E-P3 or to just use faster prime lenses such as the 14 mm, the 20 mm, and a 45 mm.  At the moment I’m leaning toward using the 14 – 150 mm, f/4 – 5.6 zoom most of the time along with the 20 mm, f/1.7 prime for when I need low light capability or to keep the camera under my jacket or in a vest pocket and/or for when I wish to be a little more discreet.  Ultimately, the choice will probably be driven by how fast a lens I need.

I have paused on my path to find my one-camera solution until I learn whether I can get along with just the E-P3 and until I see if there is another new camera coming out that will be worth the cost for my single camera; but I’m thinking at the moment that I will settle for a while with just the micro 4/3 system as it seems to be an excellent compromise on flexibility, quality, size, weight, and cost as the best camera for recording my views along my path through life.

Looking Back at 2011

I have gone through some major changes this past year.  I’m not even going to address the physical changes or the move from Bowie, MD where we lived for 45 years, or the move to Homewood at Plum Creek in Hanover, PA.  While those events were quite remarkable in themselves, in this article I’m only going to write about the changes with my photography and cameras.

Some will probably think that I have gone in a complete circle, or series of circles, but I believe that I am making progress … it just hasn’t been in a straight line.  It’s more like I’m spiraling in towards my more minimal set of cameras … or camera.

I started off the year with the Pentax K-7 DSLR and Olympus E-P1 cameras.  When I traveled to Tunisia the previous year, I had taken the E-P1 rather than the K-7 due to weight restrictions, and the results firmed up my feelings about the benefits of the mirror-less micro 4/3 camera-lens systems.  In fact I was so pleased with the E-P1 that I added the Olympus E-PL2 to my collection of cameras and took both it and the E-P1 to Ireland in May of this year.  The E-P1 became my backup camera.

To further reduce the weight and size of my gear, I tried shooting primarily with prime lenses while in Ireland and found that they worked quite well.  I determined that the Lumix 14 and 20 mm lenses on the E-PL2 made a great travel system, but I began to think that carrying two Olympus Pen cameras (one for backup) was heavier than necessary, so I bought a Canon S95 to use for backup and as a true pocket camera for other times.

But, while the two Pen cameras performed OK in the hot, dusty climate of Tunisia and the wet, windy climate of Ireland, I still had some doubts about using them in even harsher climates, so I purchased a Pentax K-5.  My intent was to use the K-5 in future trips to places like the Amazon rain forest or the wet tropical areas of Costa Rica.  I then took the K-5 to Hawaii for a couple of weeks so that I could get more accustomed to using it and to see how well I liked it.  The bottom line is that I liked it a lot, but I could have gotten along just as well with the E-PL2.  For now, I’m keeping the K-5 in case I make any future trips back to the rain forests and/or need an effective 450 mm reach for wild life.

Since the E-P1 and the E-PL2 performed so well and since I have fallen in love with the Olympus Pen system, I decided to replace both of them with the E-P3.  The more I use the E-P3 the better I like it.  If all continues to go as I expect, I will be using it as my primary camera with the S95 and K-5 relegated to collect dust sitting on the shelf.

There have been other changes relative to photography in the past year, but they have been more subtle.  I have come to realize the photographer is much more important than the camera and that having a smaller, lighter weight camera with me is more important than having a DSLR APS camera at home sitting on the shelf.  A continual search for my next camera is an endless pursuit with limited benefits, and I’m tired of reading web sites that compare the minute changes in image quality, etc. for each and every new camera that comes out.  I would be a lot better off devoting more time to getting out and about and taking pictures and perfecting the use of what I have.  Finally, I have embraced shooting all of my pictures in the raw format and using Lightroom (LR) to develop all of my pictures.

Bought a Pentax K-5 DSLR

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.

Lightweight Travel Photography

If you have read my blog you realize that I have moved from a heavier Pentax DSLR, the K-7, to a couple of Olympus micro four-thirds cameras.  I have been downsizing the weight and volume to a level that is more manageable for carrying while at the same time maintaining sufficient image quality with my cameras.   My intent was to carry two Olympus cameras, the E-P1 and the E-PL2 with me as I travel to have total interchangeability and a backup if anything goes wrong with a camera or lens.

While my latest micro four-thirds camera, the Olympus E-PL2, is quite small and very good, it is still not a pocket camera … unless it is a jacket pocket.  While it is smaller than the K-7 system, the camera still feels like you have a small brick in your jacket pocket.  In addition there are times when I don’t expect to be taking pictures, but still desire to have a camera with me, so I started thinking whether I could reduce the volume and weight even further … and found that I could.

If I replaced one of the micro four-thirds cameras in my travel bag with a point & shoot (P&S) camera I could go lighter.  The problem with this approach is that while I have had many P&S cameras over the years I always eventually became dissatisfied with their image quality; but, I decided to take another look.  I started researching current P&S cameras (those with much smaller sensor sizes) to find which was the best and if they were good enough.

I found in the literature that the Canon S95 is the smallest, pocket-able camera with the highest image quality.  Another feature that was desirable was a camera that took raw files as well as jpeg since that would give me a little more leeway to process the pictures and the S95 does.  Rather than for me to go into the specifications of the camera, etc., I suggest that you look here: S95 on the web.  Make sure that you look at its’ competitors since they all have something different and the S95 might not be the best for you.  In particular, this ePHOTOzine article shows some of the differences quite well.  For me, the Panasonic LX5 was not as easily pocket-able due to its’ slightly larger size along with the protuberances, and the new Nikon P300 doesn’t take raw pictures.  I also looked at the Olympus XZ-1 but it is also larger than the Canon S95, more expensive, and there are some questions about the XZ-1’s image quality.

One of my favorite web sites has this article about the S95.  It pretty well sums up the advantages as they relate to me.  But, it takes more than a good review to convince me to spend that kind of money on a P&S.  I was still concerned about the kind of images that could be taken with it by ordinary photographers, so I kept looking for more information and came across this web site … s95.com.  It has many pictures submitted by S95 users.  Take a look through the pictures and I think you will see why I decided to give the camera a try.

The following is a photo of the S95 along with my E-PL2 and the lenses that I most use on it.  As you can see, the S95, with 28 – 105mm effective optical zoom, is smaller than the E-PL2 with its’ lenses.  I just got the S95 and haven’t taken any pictures yet.  I’m still waiting for the weather to warm up and stop raining so I can put it in my pocket and go for a walk.   While you can see the size differences below, it also translates into a noticeable difference in weight when carrying in a pocket:  193 gm for the S95 versus 480 gm for the E-PL2 with the 20mm lens.

From your left is the 14mm lens for the E-PL2, then the Canon S95, then the E-PL2 with the 20mm lens on it, and on your right is the 14 – 150mm lens.  Notice that I have the wrist strap on the E-PL2’s left side.  I have done that since I find it easier to carry it in my left hand by the lens when the 14 – 150mm lens is on the camera.

These are the lightest, smallest, travel-light, walk-about camera systems that I have found (so far) that gives me sufficient image quality.  When I’m not expecting to be taking pictures I can just put the S95 in a pocket in case I do see something.  When I’m traveling, or just out to take pictures, I will use the E-PL2 with one or more of the lenses shown above with the S95 for backup.  I won’t take the 14 – 150mm zoom unless I know I will need it since I’m growing more fond of just shooting with primes.

Replaced my Pentax K-7 with an Olympus E-PL2 Micro Four-thirds Camera

I finally mailed off my Pentax K-7 and all of my lenses for it.  While I loved the camera for its capabilities, I decided that I wasn’t going to carry it with me enough to justify keeping it.  Even though it is one of the smallest weather resistant DSLR systems (including lenses), it is still a very sturdy and heavy camera system.   It feels like a miniature tank, so if you are off to do serious battle, it’s a great camera.

After deciding to sell the K-7, I was down to having only one camera and no long focal length lenses.  I only had my micro four-thirds Olympus E-P1 which I love, and since I never travel without a backup camera, I needed to find a replacement for the K-7.

If you have read my earlier postings, you know that I have always carried the weather resistant K-7 or a small waterproof P&S camera for backup and to use in the rain or during extreme dust conditions.  Since I don’t like the weight of the K-7 and I don’t like the image quality of the waterproof P&S cameras, I was faced with a dilemma.   After much thought, I decided that in all reality I wasn’t going to be traveling as much in the rain forests or deserts in the future, and that if I bought a small camera I could suitably protect it inside a zip-lock plastic bag, and just not take pictures in hard rain or dust storms.  I decided that the merits of having an interchangeable system out-weighed the weather protection qualities.  I decided to stick with the micro four-thirds system and expand around my E-P1.  I bought the latest Olympus, the E-PL2.  I decided to get it rather than the E-P2 since it was lighter and had some other features I liked, and since I already had the E-P1.

Rather than for me describing the virtues of the E-PL2, it would be better if you read the review in dpreview.com so that you can decide if the camera will work for you.  I have included their picture of the camera along with a few of their final words below and you can click here to read their review.

“Life is full of compromises and buying a new camera almost always inevitably ends up in one. Before the arrival of the mirrorless camera you could either get a DSLR with lenses that would give you great image quality across the ISO range and a comprehensive control interface, but would require you to carry a camera bag and possibly result in severe back pain after a long day of photography. At the other end of the spectrum you’d find compact cameras that would easily slip into a shirt pocket but offer, compared to a DSLR, mediocre image quality at best.

Mirrorless system cameras have given consumers a third option, providing DSLR-like image quality in a more compact package. None of them have been able to totally solve the dilemma described above and buying into a mirrorless system might for many still be a compromise. However, in the case of the Olympus E-PL2 it’s not a bad one at all.

Its image quality in good light is excellent and at higher sensitivities is pretty much on the same level as many entry-level DSLRs. The focus speed has noticeably improved over previous models and is now amongst the best in class. The camera is more customizable than many entry-level DSLRs and you get all of this in a camera/lens package that is currently as small as it gets if you want a large sensor in your camera.”

In addition to getting the E-PL2, I got the new 14 – 42mm collapsible kit zoom lens, and the 14 – 150mm longer zoom lens.  These lenses give me an 35mm effective focal range between 28mm and 300mm.  Since all of my lenses and cameras are now interchangeable, I can switch lenses around on either camera depending upon the travel situation and always have a backup system to use if anything happens to a lens or camera.  I can also keep a zoom lens on one camera as a walk-about system and the 20mm lens on the other camera for use inside museums and at night and not need to be changing lenses out in the field.

To summarize, I now have a totally interchangeable light-weight, small, micro four-thirds system which includes:

  • Olympus E-P1 and the E-PL2 cameras,
  • Olympus 17mm, 14 – 42mm, & 14 – 150mm lenses
  • Panasonic 20mm lens

Downsizing from APS to Micro Four-Thirds System … Selling my Pentax K-7 DSLR

The picture above was taken in the Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylum in Weston, WV.  It represents, in many ways, the decision path that I have been on relative to my future.  As I have been pondering my photography path, I have been lured into many options, as represented by the many open inviting doors.  I even contemplated taking the exit to the right and giving it up.  But hopefully, I have succeeded in making the right decision.  I think that I am managing to make progress in reaching the light at the end of the hall.

As I indicated in earlier articles, I have swayed back and forth between my Olympus E-P1 and my Pentax K-7 cameras.  The K-7 is a nice compact, weather resistant DSLR camera system, but it’s still not what I would call light-weight.  Since I had grown less fond of my 18 – 250 mm lens for it, I purchased the Pentax 18 – 135 mm lens for use as a slightly lighter, smaller walk-about lens; but, after trying it out I wasn’t satisfied with the image quality.  My test images were not bad, but they tended to be a little on the soft side and I wasn’t able to process them to my satisfaction with LightRoom.  In all fairness, this was probably because of the image quality (IQ) that I have become accustomed to with the Panasonic micro four-thirds 20 mm prime lens.  Yes, I know better than to ever expect a zoom lens’ IQ to equal that of a prime lens, but I expected them to be more comparable due to the larger sensor in the K-7.  It wasn’t; I’m sending the 18-135 mm lens back.

In addition, while carrying the K-7 camera with the 18-135 mm lens on a walk, I began to feel like the camera bag was growing heavier.  [By the way, I was using my bag with the tether arrangement as shown in an earlier article with the bag strap across my chest.]  I have back problems and been recovering from a Lumbar Fusion operation and while walking with the camera bag, my back began hurting.  I probably shouldn’t have carried it the whole time on one side; but this aggravation with carrying a heavy camera isn’t new for me.  For some time I have used my lighter Olympus E-P1 camera more often (like on my trip to Tunisia) than my K-7 camera since the E-P1 is much smaller and lighter.  The K-7 with the 18-135 mm lens and battery weighs 42 ounces.  The E-P1 with the 20 mm lens and battery weighs 17.5 ounces.  Note that I’m comparing totally different systems.  Not only are the cameras different sizes, with different capabilities, but I’m also comparing a zoom lens with a prime lens.

As a result of all the above, I have decided to sell my Pentax K-7 DSLR and all of my lenses for it, and use micro four-thirds cameras.  I’m thinking of getting either the Olympus E-P2 or the E-PL2, or maybe waiting for the next new version, to compliment my E-P1 camera (It’s a classic keeper).  I’m also considering getting the Olympus 14-150 mm and/or the new Olympus 14-42 mm zoom lens and/or the Panasonic 14 mm prime lens for it. Part of my future decision process also deals with carrying a zoom lens vs. a few prime lenses.  Also as I have mentioned in previous articles it depends on what I intend to photograph.  I’ll let you know what I end up getting in future articles.

Basically, I have found that I’m not alone and that there is a good reason that many pros leave their big DSLRs at home when they aren’t working and take smaller cameras with them when they travel for pleasure.   I urge you to read “Leica M9 as a Landscape Camera” by Jack Perkins about his even bigger change.  While Jack went down to a Leica, I can’t afford that, but the micro four-thirds cameras serve a similar function for weight reduction for the rest of us.  Also note that with the micro four-thirds system you gain the size and weight savings and retain auto focusing, without the need to forgo some of the other things Jack discusses.

It isn’t that the camera alone is so heavy … it’s the camera plus all that heavy glass in those lenses!  Going to a slightly smaller sensor and eliminating the mirror enables the manufacturers to also make much smaller and lighter lenses.  A big difference in weight is in the lenses.  There is no reason to continue building digital single reflex cameras similar to the old film cameras.  This is the age of digital electronics.  We no longer need mirrors and large heavy lenses for our new-age cameras.

Now is the time to downsize.  With the unsustainable demand on the earth’s resources it is time that we learn to not only live with less but to also reduce the weight and size of what we do use.   Less stuff also means smaller stuff.

How Versatile is the Panasonic 20mm lens on the Olympus E-P1 micro 4/3 system?

As I discussed in my previous post, I am considering moving to the micro 4/3 system for my primary camera system, and I’m still pondering that choice.  At the moment I am concentrating on how well the Olympus E-P1 camera will work for me in Ireland.  I am also considering getting the new Olympus 14 – 150mm lens to use while walking about and then using the Panasonic 20mm lens while inside buildings or during the evenings.  I really love that 20mm lens.

This morning I decided to really test the 20mm lens under conditions that aren’t ideally suited for photography.  It is very overcast, with a bit of moisture in the air, and snow on the ground.  Other than for the snow (and trees) it might be representative of dreary days in Ireland.  To test it out under field conditions, I decided to see how well it would do as a replacement for a wider lens.  In other words, what if I had it on the camera when presented with a wide view that really required a much wider lens?  To check out an alternative, I took a panorama by taking 4 pictures of my backyard and then stitched them together using the Olympus software.  As you can see below, the Olympus software did well at stitching them together.

You can click on the picture to see a larger image.

My next test was to go in the opposite direction.  What if all I had with me was the 20mm lens and I needed to zoom in on the scene.  The picture below is the original picture which consists of the right hand section of the above view … all that I would normally get with the 20mm lens.

You can click on the picture to see a larger image.

I then did a “digital zoom” on the picture by cropping down to just a small portion in the center of the above picture.  You can see the results below.

You can click on the picture to see a larger image.

It’s pretty good for use in my blog or for the usual slide shows that I make.  When using the panorama function and the cropping function, I have a wide range of latitude with just the excellent, very small, Panasonic 20mm lens.

I now feel a lot more comfortable about walking around with my E-P1 camera with just the Panasonic 20mm lens on it since it is good enough for making panoramas or for cropping to frame in on just a small section of the picture.  Does it negate the need for a zoom lens?  No, but it is a reasonable substitute when I only wish to carry a small, lightweight camera.

I’m still thinking about ordering the Olympus 14 – 150mm zoom lens and then repeating the above test with the 20mm lens under brighter conditions and comparing the results to what I can get with the 14 – 150mm lens.  Given the cost of the 14 – 150mm lens along with the above results, I might just go with the 20mm lens … now that would really make a small lightweight system.  If the results continue to please me I will be on my way to just using a micro 4/3 camera and carrying a lot less weight around.

Camera – Lens Dilemma … all micro 4/3?

Lately I have not been able to see the forest for the trees.  By this I mean that I have been in a dilemma relative to future cameras and lenses without a chance to buy some alternative lenses and travel to try them out while taking pictures.  I have just been sitting here looking at my cameras and pondering.

As you know from previous articles, I have two separate camera systems.   I have a Pentax K-7 DSLR with the 18 – 55mm, f/3.5 – 5.6 WR zoom, a prime 40mm, f2.8 lens, and the 18 – 250mm, f/3.5 – 6.3 all-purpose zoom and I have a micro 4/3 Olympus E-P1 with the Olympus 17mm, f/2.8, the Panasonic 20mm, f/1.7, and the Olympus 14 – 42mm, f/3.5 – 5.6 lenses.  For my trip to Tunisia last April I took the E-P1 system with the 17mm and the 14 – 42mm lens since I needed to travel with no more than 11 pounds carry-on (I never check my cameras).  For my trip to West Virginia last October I took my K-7 system since I wasn’t walking much, was working out of my car, and felt like I had neglected my K-7.

My reasons for selecting the Pentax DSLR rather than a Nikon DSLR were due to the smaller size of the Pentax camera, the excellent prime lenses that they have, and because the Pentax system was better sealed against rain and dust.  I wanted to have a good, but small and light camera for walkabouts either in the U. S. or in foreign countries as well as the ability to use the camera in rain and have the ability to put a long lens on it for taking wildlife pictures in the rain forests.

After I committed to the Pentax DSLR system, the micro 4/3 Olympus E-P1 camera became available.  Before going to Tunisia I bought my micro 4/3 system and tried it out and found that I liked it a great deal and that it was much easier to carry around.  In addition I found that for the type of pictures I usually take in dry countries and for the way I display them (on the web) that the micro 4/3 system was quite good.

My dilemma now is: Could I make do with just the micro 4/3 system for all of my photography?  At the moment I need to use the K-7 in rainy weather and when I need a longer lens.  If I were to go back to the rain forests in the Amazon, or to Costa Rica now, I would definitely take my Pentax system.  My problem is:  I don’t know if I will be doing that again.  While traveling, I usually like to go to new places where I haven’t been.

Assuming that I will only be taking pictures in good weather, I could acquire a micro 4/3 all-purpose long zoom for my E-P1 … the Olympus 14 – 150mm lens or the 70 – 300mm lens.  The 70 – 300mm lens would actually give me more reach then I have with my longest current Pentax lens since the Olympus effective zoom range is from 140 to 600mm and the Pentax effective zoom range is from 28 to 375mm but it wouldn’t be practical without a tripod or at least a monopod … which just adds to the weight and volume of the system.  The 14 – 150mm (effective 28 – 300mm) lens would make a nice all-purpose travel lens … at least in good weather; but I didn’t miss having no more than an effective range of 84mm while traveling in Tunisia from the Mediterranean to the Sahara desert.  You can see my Tunisia pictures, in earlier articles, by looking under “Category” (top right of this page), just select Tunisia.  There are some 20+ different Tunisia selections.

We are considering traveling to Ireland this year and that is adding to my dilemma.  My expectations are that I won’t need a long lens (no wildlife & no distant mountain ranges) but I should expect touring in the rain.  If we were to go tomorrow I would probably take the K-7 and the 18 – 55mm weather resistant lens along with the E-P1 with only the 20mm lens for inside, low light shots; but, I wonder how often I would want to take a picture in a hard rain, and the smaller camera would be easy to keep dry under my rain jacket … hmmm, I wonder if just the 20mm lens would be enough … maybe a wider lens, the 14mm?

In the meanwhile, I am just going to continue pondering.  I also expect that my options will expand in terms of new micro 4/3 cameras and lenses becoming available this summer.  But, for now, I heartily recommend the micro 4/3 system for lightweight, small, high quality travel cameras and I’m leaning towards eventually making it my one-and-only system.  See this field review of the Panasonic GF1 (a competitor to my Olympus E-P1 micro 4/3 camera using the same 20mm lens I have) as a travel camera while traveling in Nepal.  Make sure you read past the ads clear to the end and some of the 100’s of positive comments if you have the time.

PS, I still prefer the Olympus system with the in-body stabilization system, but there are now lots of new ones to consider (click here), and more coming in the next six months.

Changes in “My Vision” for 2011

Street scene in Tunisia

Photography Opportunities

In the past I have mostly taken pictures while traveling but since I probably won’t be doing as much international traveling as in some of the past years, I hope to expand my shooting to other venues and subjects closer to home.  The changes are still a plan-in-progress and I hope to be showing you and telling you more in later articles.

Camera Gear

I have decided to continue with my photographic preferences and that is to keep my gear small and light using equipment and techniques suitable for traveling light … whether internationally or locally.  In addition, I plan to try to always have a camera with me and move towards simpler solutions and approaches as I make changes in the future.    I have recently been using my time to analyze whether I needed to upgrade or expand my cameras and lenses.  Since my cameras aren’t that old and are still more capable than I am in using them, I have decided to not get any different cameras at this time … but that is dependent upon future changes in subjects and travels.

The issue relative to lenses wasn’t as easy to resolve since it depends a lot on where and what I will be shooting in the future.  One of the things that I did was to analyze what focal lengths I used the most in the past.  Since I have used different cameras over the years and locations, all the focal lengths quoted in my review are shown as effective (e) 35mm lengths.  In Tunisia I took over 61% of my pictures at 28 to 40mm (e) and a little over 19% at 80 – 84 mm (e).  In Costa Rica in 2007, 35% were taken at 40mm (e) (the widest I had with me) and 32% were taken at 440mm (e) (the longest that I had).  In West Virginia in October, 35% were at 28mm (e) and the rest were all over the spectrum between 28 and 375mm (e).  Basically all that I learned was that if taking outdoor landscapes I mostly have used a wide lens of 28 mm (e), if taking a mix of street scenes, ruins, people, etc. I have mostly used focal lengths of 40 mm (e) and below, and if taking wildlife shots, I mostly used 375 to 440 mm (e).   That was helpful, but only if I know the type of shots I will be taking in the future.

Basically the above told me that for a good part of my shooting I have tended to use the two extremes of the focal lengths I had available … either as wide or zoomed in as tight as I could.  What it didn’t tell me is “What would I have used if I hadn’t been limited by what I had?” nor did it tell me “What focal lengths would I have used if I had taken more time to compose the scene?”  Most importantly, since I am not sure as to what kinds of shooting I will be doing this year, I have decided to proceed with the following equipment until I develop my vision and techniques some more.

I will be continuing to stick with my Pentax K-7 while using three lenses:  the 18-250mm zoom, the 18-55mm weather resistant zoom for inclement weather, and the 40mm for light weight and compactness while using the K-7.  This camera has a 1.5 crop factor which means that the effective focal lengths are 1.5 times the actual focal lengths of the lenses.   This system is just about the smallest, versatile, economical DSLR package which is weather resistant that I can put together.  Depending on whether I will be shooting wildlife in the future, I might replace the 18-250mm zoom (which tends to creep quite a lot) with a 50-300mm zoom of a little higher quality.  My previous article showed you my new preferred small bag-carry system for carrying my K-7 camera and lenses.

In addition, I will be using my Olympus E-P1 micro 4/3 camera as my small, easier to always have with me camera.  I have two lenses, the 17mm and the 14-42mm, both of which I used for the trip to Tunisia.  This camera has a 2.0 crop factor which means that the effective length of the lenses is 2 times the actual focal length of the lenses.  If I need to travel as light as possible I will probably continue to use this system.  But, I have decided to make one change and that is to get and use the Panasonic 20mm F1.7 lens with the E-P1 rather than the 17mm F2.8 lens.  I like my compact package with the 17mm Olympus lens, but I wanted something equally compact but with a faster lens and a little better quality for low light shots as my small, always take with me system, especially since it doesn’t have a flash.  At this time, that is the only change that I have planned in equipment.  I’ll be telling you my impression of the 20mm (effective 40mm) lens for my future uses in later articles.  A lot of its’ utility for me will depend on the type of shooting I will be doing with it.


You may see changes in my photography in the future (maybe this spring when it warms up), but for now I just wanted to let you know my current views.  The only thing that is definite is that there will be changes but to what degree I’m still not sure.  Hopefully you will start to notice positive changes in my pictures and my blog.  This year I expect to make changes in my photographic style, techniques, and subjects while working on perfecting and expressing my vision.

Using a Camera Tether for Safety while Traveling … or How to Avoid a Camera Strap Around your Neck

This is an update to an earlier article I wrote about how to safely and easily carry a camera while touring.  I won’t repeat my reasons for trying a tether rather than a strap so make sure you read the earlier article (click here).

After trying various approaches as indicated in the earlier article, the above arrangement is the one I settled upon.

I decided to use the Domke 5XB bag and a strap which I happened to have from another Domke bag.  This arrangement was a no-cost solution for me but you can use other bags and home-made tethers … I’ll show you how below.  With the Domke 5XB bag, I can put my Pentax K-7 in the bag on its side with the hand grip facing up.  That leaves room for another lens or my Olympus E-P1 along with spare batteries, lens cleaning cloths, a flashlight, plastic bag, etc.  The bag has a very secure zipper as well as the Velcro, but I usually only zip it closed while in transit.  Often while walking I leave it un-zippered with the flap open and hanging behind the bag so that I can quickly take the camera out.

As you can see in these pictures, the camera is securely attached to the bag strap by the tether.  I am using a carabiner fastener on the strap so that I can easily transfer the tethered camera to any of my different camera bags.  The tether is short enough that the camera cannot hit the ground if I drop it while walking and it easily slides up the bag strap as long as the strap is worn across my chest.  I wear the bag with the strap diagonal across the chest with the strap short enough that the bag hangs about belt height so that it doesn’t bounce against my legs or hips while walking.  The Domke 5XB bag also has a generous belt loop on the back so that I can also wear the bag on a belt.  If you wear it that way without a strap, you can attach the tether to the bag rather than the strap; but make sure that your tether length is appropriate.  I just leave the strap on the bag and wear it even if I’m also using a belt.  That gives me options depending upon the terrain, vehicles, etc.

As I mentioned above, there are other things you can use as a tether if you wish to make a similar arrangement for your bag.  Note the ingredients below:

The carabiners are widely available at stores like REI, etc.  Instead of a strap for a tether like I’m using, you can make a tether out of a nylon cord like shown above.  You can either tie it to the camera or use a clasp as shown above.

I encourage you to try a similar arrangement.  It works especially well when carrying the minimum of camera gear while getting in and out of boats, on and off of horses or camels, in and out of tour vans, or anywhere you are concerned about banging or dropping your camera.  And it’s a lot cheaper than buying and trying various camera straps, and I find that it makes carrying a camera a lot more comfortable.