Hearken ye! I'd like to blather just a bit about a very old word, yeoman.
But first: I'm being kind of a stumblebum this year. A sluggard. What used to be called, back in the dim, swiftly receding days of the 'nineties, a slacker. I posted Part I of the "Recommended Cameras" list way back on December 6th, and haven't even gotten around to writing Part II yet. (This isn't that.)
I hate it when I do things like that. I think at some point during my fifties, my get up and go got up and went.
I'll work on that soon. (The list, I mean, not my gumption, moxie, work ethic, spirit of enterprise, etc.—my current activity level is age-appropriate. As the great Uncle Arthur Kramer used to say, I'd work harder, but it would interfere with my nap.)
Meantime, it struck me that like many reviewers, I naturally concentrate on talking about high-level cameras in every line. The ones that offer the highest performance and the most appealing "it" factor. Before it arrived, I assumed I would include the new Olympus E-M1 Mark II on the TOP list.
But when it arrived on the scene, I was taken aback by the price. Two thousand dollars. For a Micro 4/3 body? You can get a Panasonic GX8 for $800 less even when it's not on sale. Same for Olympus's own Pen-F. You can get a full-frame Sony A7 Mark II mirrorless for $500 less.
So is that...smart?
Granted, it's an "overdeveloped" camera, as Olympus told DPReview. Granted, it's targeted at pros, who might like a striver's level of snappy performance and to whom a few hundred dollars tacked onto the purchase price might not matter in the grand scheme of the financial statement. Granted, its level of performance is class-leading in many ways. And it's well designed and pleasant to use, despite having its On/Off switch in an annoying place. I liked the Mark I, which I owned briefly. (And which is still available. For a nice price. You can get it in a kit bundled with the $700 12–40mm ƒ/2.8 zoom for $1,300—$700 less than the Mark II body with no lens.)
But...two grand. It made me think twice, and then think again. Is the E-M1 Mark II truly recommendable at that exalted price?
I know people who will buy it, many of them gladly. But what about people for whom the value equation is important? That includes a lot of us. It even includes a lot of people who could afford an E-M1 Mark II if they wanted to.
The E-M1 Mark II's stabilization may be the best of any camera's.
It's so, so tempting to chase the latest and best. Top models of anything are "no apologies." (Well, at least for three or four years, until they get superseded.)
But it might be smartest, just in terms of spending your money intelligently, to pick the lineup you like the best and then buy the next best camera, whatever that is. Thus:
- E-M5 Mark II rather than E-M1 Mark II.
- D7200 rather than D500.
- A6300 rather than A6500.
- 6D rather than 5D Mark IV.
- X-T10 rather than X-T2.
- A7II rather than A7rII.
And so on. You get the idea.
The strategy might not be sexy, but it's sound.
And now for "yeoman," and you can stop reading right here unless you enjoy reading my nonsense.
Yeoman is a tough word to get a handle on—it means many things, and none of them seem to quite relate to each other. A class in England below the gentry. (Not very helpful, given that most of us are hazy about what "gentry" means, too.) A clerk in the Navy. The owner of a small farm (we have lots of yeomen around where I live, if that's the case. Or can you be both Amish and a yeoman?). In medieval times, a servant ranking higher than a page but not quite as high as a squire. Without getting into a tangle of etymology, competing meanings, and mildly conflicting mental images, I think basically yeoman means one who serves, but solidly; a stalwart; someone who is loyal, dependable, and responsible. Someone who does drudge work because it needs to be done, but works well.
Anyway I think one might call these second-tier, near-top-of-the-line, more value-oriented, second-rank cameras yeoman cameras.
Okay, that name won't catch on. I'm not good at naming things. But you get the idea. From these yeoman cameras you get 80% of the performance of the glamorpuss line-leader cameras, but for more reasonable prices. They're reliable. Sensible.
The smart buy.
...Because sometimes, you'd like the top of the line, but you just don't feel like parting with two grand for an electronic device that's going to be yesterday's news three to five years from now.
Nothing against the noble Olympus E-M1 Mark II.
Original contents copyright 2016 by Michael C. Johnston and/or the bylined author. All Rights Reserved. Links in this post may be to our affiliates; sales through affiliate links may benefit this site.
(To see all the comments, click on the "Comments" link below.)
Featured Comments from:
Luca: "Cameras are now computers, and with computers the smart strategy has always been exactly the one you just described, i.e. buying the 'second best.' And frankly unless you're a sport / war / extreme situations in general shooter I don't see the point to have an ultrafast camera (and even then something like the A6500 or the A77 II could be all you need anyway). Essentially, maybe 0.1% of us 'need' (as opposed to 'want') an EOS 1Dx, a Nikon D5 or even an Olympus E-M1 Mark II.
"And the X-T10, by the way, is an awesome camera!"
Marcelo Guarini: "I was waiting for the OM1 Mk II, but after reading its specifications I realized is not my camera. I don't need a camera for fast action, sealed for Mars sandstorms and freeze-proof for the dark side of the Moon. Amazon had the Pen F for $945 during a couple of days in November, so I got one and I couldn't be happier. Image quality is better than my OM-1 and so is the in-camera stabilizer. Last night I took several perfectly sharp handheld half-second shots. I'm loving this little camera."
Gordon Lewis: "Whether it was wise for Olympus to price the E-M1 Mark II at $2,000 and whether it's wise for someone to pay it are two different issues. The issue is moot for me because I can't justifying paying that much for any camera. I'm doing what you suggest in your post: looking at cameras that do most if not all of what I need a camera to do, at a lower price than the top of the line. Instead, I'll use the money I save to spend on high-quality lenses. As you say, cameras come and go, but good lenses are good for a lifetime."
Mike replies: I agree with you entirely except for the very last word of your comment. Seems to me the only lens line I could have used for my lifetime—mine being similar in span and era to yours—is the Leica M line. And with that there are, and have been, many other compromises. Seems to me when you and I were young we could have invested in the Canon FD lens line, and, while those are newly "good" again—on a full-frame mirrorless digital camera—there have been significant stretches of our lifetimes during which they would not have been good.
But if you had said "for a longer time" or even "for a long time" instead of "for a lifetime," then we would agree.
Dennis (partial comment): "I've noticed many times that I tend to be happier with things that I've paid more than I've wanted for than I am with things where I've compromised out of frugality. I love a good 'price performer' but over time, I have far more regrets about bargains than I do luxuries. So my recommendation is don't buy based on perceived value nor just because something is state of the art—buy what you want."
beuler: "It seems to me that Olympus is putting the E-M1 Mark II up against the Canikon 1D X Mark II / D5. Brave but stupid? Let's wait and see. In any case it is the cheapest of the three."
Arg: "One only needs to read the featured comments by Dennis and Gordon to confirm that the real driver here is one's personal values. By which I don't mean anything unique, but rather the common value sets. For example, valuing exclusivity highly is a common set, as is valuing economy."