Well, that didn’t take long. What has it been, 7 months? Here we see my “new” Canon 30D (bought used from B.H. Photo) and Canon 17-40mm f/4.0 L USM lens next to my “old” Olympus E-P1 PEN with the 14-42mm kit lens it came with. The PEN kit is currently for sale on eBay and will be gone in a couple of days. I already sold the wonderful little Panasonic Lumix 20mm f/1.7 lens through a micro four thirds user forum. So, what happened?
The PEN was a great little camera but, in the end, it turns out I’m a DSLR kind of guy. The PEN did everything I asked of it. It was compact, easy to take everywhere, relatively easy to use, and generally took high quality photographs. The problem is that I found myself uninspired by it. It’s a bit hard to explain but there’s just something about peering through the viewfinder of a DSLR that makes photography compelling for me.
When I decided to trade my bag full of Pentax gear for the little PEN I waxed poetically about “improving the photographic experience.” On one hand, the PEN easily lived up the the easy-to-take-anywhere-full-featured-camera aspect of what I was looking for. Equipped with the diminutive Panasonic 20mm pancake lens I would hardly notice it dropped into my briefcase. However, I quickly discovered that the small size also comes with drawbacks. As you can see, all of the PEN’s primary controls are arranged on the back of the camera:
Those dual control wheels that allow independent aperture and exposure compensation control that I find so important proved to be a bit of an ergonomic challenge to use in practice. Holding the PEN with my right hand I found it was comfortable to hold and operate the shutter. However, if I moved my thumb to any of the controls I immediately found that I had to use my left hand to support the camera. The problems are that A: all of the controls are located inside the normal range of motion for my thumb and, B: with no front grip section I could not support the camera with my fingers if I lifted my thumb to make an adjustment. Bottom line: it is nearly impossible to control and shoot the PEN with one hand.
Compared to the Canon 30D it’s clear to see the advantages of the extra space a full sized DSLR provides. Sure it still takes two hands to shoot but it’s much less awkward to do so.
There were a number of other subtle differences between the PEN and a full sized cameras that led me back to a DSLR. But, the ergonomic shortcomings and lack of an optical viewfinder were the main things that I couldn’t get over. So, why a Canon and not another Pentax? Well, as I have said time and time again, it’s the lens system that matters the most in any camera system. My goal is to get back to another full frame body and IMO Canon has the best selection of high quality lenses that meet my needs without breaking the bank. I came very close to making the jump to Nikon but I have zero experience with Nikon DSLRs making Canons more familiar to me, and Canon has a better selection of affordable fast primes.
I chose the 30D because it has the basic features I want and was affordable enough to provide a good platform for me to start building my Canon lens collection. The 17-40mm F/4.0 L lens is a huge upgrade to the typical 18-55mm Canon EF-S kit lens and will become an awesome super wide zoom some day when I upgrade to a full frame body. I do miss the in-body IS of my old Pentax K10D and the PEN, but I’m looking forward to experimenting with the new limitations and opportunities this new hardware provides.