On Having Too Many Cameras
Just a short aside from my series on a Linux-based photography workflow to wrap up a couple of other topics. I mentioned previously that I had gotten an Olympus EP-1 body on a bargain sale a few months ago; I have been shooting almost exclusively with it since that time. Meanwhile my Panasonic GH1 has been sitting mostly idle and my small, carry everywhere Ricoh GX100 has seen almost no use at all.
I think something has dawned on me, finally. This has, for maybe the first time ever for me, put me in the position of having too many cameras. Previously, I’d always had at most only two cameras. Every couple of years I’d upgrade, and phase out the old one and slowly gravitate on to the new one. The old one would become the backup camera, and the older ones would be sold, given away or retired. But digital camera tech is maturing, and my current oldest camera is still a great camera to shoot with. With the acquisition of the EP-1, I was in a situation where I had 3 good cameras to choose from. I thought that this was no problem, why not just have a nice little collection of great cameras and just pick out the one I want to shoot with today? But what I found was that it was hard to switch between systems. The menus are all different, and each camera has it’s limitations and/or particular ways of working. While breaking in the EP-1 I had tried to use the other two cameras, but I felt oddly out of sorts with those very cameras that I had become quite comfortable using. I now begin to understand why one might choose a brand and stick with it (aside from the question of lens investment). This phenomenon is probably well known to most people, but because I’m quite comfortable with tech, I guess I assumed that I could easily master each camera. But ultimately I think it is a barrier to my photography. I need to be able to react to a vision without fumbling around trying to remember what is different on this camera or that. I need to be able to adjust the camera almost without conscious thought. Long story short, I’m going back to one camera as my primary camera.
So which will it be? The EP-1, the GH1 or the GX100?
It has been interesting to compare the two m4/3 systems. I think that I’m finally at the point where I can say that I prefer the GH1. There are a couple features I really like in the Olympus, but all around I find the GH1 better in almost every way. If I had to name just one thing that really tips things away from the EP-1 it would be the autofocus. And it is not that fact that it’s slow. That has been widely reported on, but it is not so important for my type of photography. It’s just that the focus points are too large, and I can find no way to adjust them. With the GH1, I’m able to configure a central autofocus point that is quite small, and use it to quickly and accurately set focus. With the EP-1, I’ve come away with several shots that look back- or front-focused. This is primarily with still-life type shots made at close distance, with wide apertures, such as this one. While it is possible that I am actually experiencing back or front focus, I attribute it more to the fact that the autofocus square covers so much area that when using large apertures these subtle focusing errors are revealed. I’ve ended up using manual focus a lot, which I don’t mind doing once it a while, but I certainly don’t like being forced into it.
In those aspects that were supposedly touted to be better for Olympus I’ve not found any significant advantage. JPEG color, especially, seems no better than on the GH1 (to my eye) and the GH1 has more interesting in-camera options for tweaking that. Although the EP-1 is smaller than the GH1, it is large enough that it still doesn’t carry quite as comfortably as a compact camera. And because of the metal build of the EP-1 it feels easily as heavy as the GH1, meaning that it’s about the same amount of bother to carry either of them. And the GH1 has the great viewfinder.
And the GX100? I have had a very good relationship with that camera. The GX100 will continue to be the one I carry when small size is paramount. But I’ve gotten used to the more interesting creative possibilities of the GH1, the prime lenses, and above all the dynamic range that comes with bigger pixels. So the Panasonic GH1 becomes my to go to cam again, with the EP-1 reserved mainly as a backup body for the m4/3 lenses.
I guess sometimes less is more, after all!