Back in July of 2010 I unloaded my entire Pentax K10D kit and purchased a then state-of-the-art Olympus E-P1 PEN camera with a 14-42mm kit lens and a Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 pancake lens. I was looking for an improved photographic experience. What I found was a bit of a mixed bag. The PEN opened up new creative avenues for me but was often very frustrating to use. The poor ergonomics got in the way, the fixed LCD limited the usefulness of shooting with an LCD, and the poor high ISO performance greatly limited when and where I could shoot. I did capture some wonderful images with the PEN, some of which can be seen here.
A mere 7 months later in early 2011 the frustration won. I gave up on the PEN and went back to a Canon DSLR . I say “back” because my first DSLR back in 2005 was a Canon Rebel XT, followed by a Pentax K10D in 2006 and then a Canon 5D MK I in 2007. My second K10D came in 2008 after I sold the 5D kit to help fund my return to college in 2008-2009. The original goal when I picked up the 30D was to build a full frame lens collection and eventually upgrade the 30D body to a full frame body. My lens collection quickly stalled out with “only” a Canon 17-40 f/4 L and 50mm f/1.4 USM- both great lenses on the 30D, but a rather limiting collection in full frame.
Fast forward to December 2012 and I found myself faced with a dilemma. I had managed to save up $2,000 and was heavily weighing the choice between picking up a brand new Canon 6D or a lightly used 5D MK II. Or, should I just drop my cash on a 70-200 f/2.8 L lens and start saving for a new body? I started going back through my Lightroom library from the past few years trying to make sense of where I had been, where I was going and what type of camera really made the most sense for me. That’s when I made a rather interesting discovery:
- 2008: 8,046 total photos (Canon 5D: 2,233; Pentax K10D: 4,757; other: 1,056)
- 2009: 11,920 total photos (Pentax K10D: 11,119*, other: 801)
- 2010: 9,610 total photos (Pentax K10D: 5,462; Olympus E-P1: 3,043; other: 1,105)
- 2011: 8,487 total photos (Canon 30D: 6,536; other: 1,951)
- 2012: 5,107 total photos (Canon 30D: 2,413; Olympus OM-D: 694; other: 2,000)
*In 2009 I was a full-time student and had both ample time for photography and took several thousand photos documenting student design work.
So why the big drop off in 2012? And why the steady growth in the “other ” category since 2010? Looking through the images I found two things. First, I changed jobs in March of 2012 and my new job hasn’t required the same amount of photography so far as my previous jobs did. Second, I have started leaving my DSLR kit at home more and more when I travel. In fact, in the last year I have taken a dozen or more domestic trips and even a two week trip to Asia where I didn’t take my DSLR kit. Thinking back I can definitely recall making the conscious decisions not to take my DSLR kit with me because A) it was just too big and cumbersome to haul with me, and B) I knew that I could get the photos I needed/wanted with my pocket camera and/or iPhone 5.
Obviously, I put a lot of effort into rationalizing my camera purchases. My poor wife, God bless her, spends countless hours patiently listening to me drone on and on about the pros and cons of each camera I’m considering. She knows it’s just all part of the process as I struggle to work out all of the options in my mind. Over the past few months I have subjected her to musings about the pros and cons of the Canon 6D’s newer sensor, built-in WiFi and GPS vs the 5D MK II’s track record, professional build quality and falling price- and a deeper discussion about whether or not either camera would actually see enough use to justify its purchase. That discussion led to a disruptive introspection about how I use my camera equipment and why the 30D has seen such little use over the past 2 years.
Now, I don’t meet the definition of a professional photographer. I don’t derive any significant income directly from my photography. I do sell a few images off my SmugMug site and I take pictures regularly for my work, some of which find their way into print or onto the web. Mostly, I’m just an enthusiast photographer that has honed my skill over the past decade or so by taking lots of photos. At the end of the day, my camera has become simply a tool by which I am able to capture the images I want. Like any other tool, the combination of design and features dictate how efficiently that tool works.
The conclusion was I didn’t need or want another full-sized DSLR that I would have to lug around. I wanted something that was more easily portable, delivers a more flexible photographic experience while still providing DSLR-like image quality and shooting controls. This realization then led to additional lectures to my wife on the comparative tradeoffs of the Fuji X-Pro 1 hybrid viewfinder vs. the X-E1’s electronic viewfinder (EVF), accompanied by a sidebar discussing whether either camera’s autofocus system was up to snuff. Next up for a single-sided debate was the various Sony NEX cameras (pardon the pun) and why such a compact collection of camera bodies would be coupled with such a crappy selection of lenses that are entirely too large in comparison?
This continued ad nauseam, and I will spare the gory details, but in the end and at the begging of my wife to just write down what I really wanted, I was finally able to formulate a wish list for my next camera:
- Compact and light body with high-quality build, multiple manual controls and decent ergonomics, weather sealing a plus
- Megapixel count wasn’t an issue (actually, the smaller the better) but the sensor needed to be usable to at least ISO 6400
- In-body image stabilization highly preferred
- High resolution LCD (900K+ dot) with articulation
- High resolution EVF (900K+ dot) or optical viewfinder with electronic assist
- A good collection of compact and fast prime lenses
If you have done similar research, and as evidenced by the photo at the top of this post, you surely know that there was only one camera choice for me: the remarkable new Olympus E-M5 OM-D. So, right after Christmas I ordered up an OM-D along with an Olympus 45mm f/1.8 lens and Panasonic’s 14mm f/2.5 and 20mm f/1.7 pancake lenses. Over the first 3 weeks I have already logged over 2,000 shots on the OM-D and have sold my 30D kit on eBay. I can tell you that the OM-D is really quite an amazing camera system. But, as this post is intended to set up the story for the next post, the details on what I think makes the OM-D so great and a worthy DSLR replacement will have to wait!