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Sunday, 13 October 2013


At least 90% of the readers are men. The E-M1 is probably a camera that is unlike the other fourthirds macho enough for them.

There's a serious hands on review of the new Olympus (in 3 parts) at
I think people bought its predecessor and will buy this one because it has the aura of DSLR about it.
FWIW I'm still not convinced by Micro 4/3, especially now Fuji has upped the mirrorless game. Staying with my Samsungs and excellent, tiny, inexpensive pancakes.

I'd say you are more likely to be unfocused while traveling than at home. Maybe the freshness of a new place would help inspire, but it is unlikely you could get much of meaning if you are not somewhat familiar with the place--especially different countries/different cultures.

On the other hand, over-familiarity with an area can lead to staleness and a tendency to take the same type of photos over and over. At least it does for me.

To try to get out of a slump, I took the advice of a fellow photographer---a fellow who is good enough to be exhibited at home (Tokyo) and internationally: Go someplace new, have a nice lunch, then go out and photograph. Well, it helped.

And yes, I have pretty much settled on the type of camera I like for most "street" photography, as well as the lens. (Lenses, if I must.) I don't know about the States other than the statistics, but most folks I know in Tokyo---or even meet when out shooting--who are serious enthusiasts are using some sort of mirrorless. People with dSLRs (and they are everywhere) seem to be normal sane people out to take snapshots. Guys carrying a huge dSLR and lens and a backpack full of more lenses and maybe a 2nd or 3rd back-up body to take photos that you could take with a compact look like a beginning enthusiast before he learns his lesson.

(Of course I am not talking about wildlife photography etc, where a good dSLR is needed. I still have mine for that.)

E-M1's are in the hands of single-digits worth of lucky folks who got them from shops holding a vendor event in the UK, but B&H still shows "Pre-order." I have had a pre-order in with B&H for about a month and received an email a day or two ago that no stock had yet been received. Patience is a virtue, isn't it?


I really hope that the sales in the West are not weak enough to hurt the progress of Micro Four Thirds. I really believe it is the 35mm format of... I almost said the 21st century, but things move a lot faster now, so the period will be shorter.

I would also need more than one lens. But if pressed, I'd go against the flow of picking the sharpest lens. I'd take the new Panasonic 14-140mm. I have great experiences with that kind of flexibility. And this lens is way better optically than the corresponding lenses from at least Nikon and Pentax, both of which I also have. I could use it for exhibition pictures, over the whole range. And it's astoundingly compact.

For me, traveling MEANS street photography. Nothing changes except perhaps the environs and landmarks. By far, my favorite city for street photography (so far) is Paris.
But, as we live in Mexico, Baja affords the same infinite and intimate photographic opportunities.
But, that was an interesting proposal Mike and many thanks.

Re mirrorless not doing well in the US and some other markets, I am interested to see how the Sony A3000 fares. It's really mirrorless, but looks like an SLR (and Sony markets it as such). If it sells better than comparably priced and featured NEXes, then I think we'll have some good evidence of bias in favor of SLRs. Although whether for looks alone, or for other considerations such as ergonomics, we may not know.

@ s.low: "At least 90% of the readers are men. The E-M1 is probably a camera that is unlike the other fourthirds macho enough for them."

I didn't choose this camera, but what do I need a macho camera for, when I ride a motorcycle? : ]

My job takes me to many countries, and I usually spend several months wandering seismic exploration lines in each. My favorite has been northern Morocco where I have just returned after seven years in other places. My project here would be wild haired country girls that are still young enough to leave the hair uncovered. In theory I am working here so can only bring a pocket camera. Last time a F30, now a RX100. A 55-200 Sony on an A57 or anything similar and I could spend months here.
If I was in another country I might want something completely different, but never Leica. Have fond memories of Olympus, though.

I received my E-M1 and reviewed it on my new blog. Hope you like it.

Here now comes mirrorless and with it a resurgence of the inconspicuous camera. The change is welcoming but, whether street, landscape or sport, a photographer's ability to "see" is still dependent on tools that are effortless in the hand and easy at the eye. I'm about to forsake my DSLR Canon and heavy L lenses and go small. I figure 20-24MP in any guise will do as long as it feels comfortable and works without a great deal of fiddling. My range of seeing isn't too broad so a vast array of glass won't be necessary but I will look for best possible optical quality. Overall, I do wonder about sensor quality and my experience so far with Sony sensors is very positive, better than my Canon and a Nikon D800. So I look forward to Sony's FF camera and hope it meets the aforesaid criteria. If not "handy", I may just be happy with a discount on the NEX7 and some Zeisses which I've used and really liked.
As always, I enjoy your musings, especially your life-affirming-road-to-excellence in all things pool.

Tony Roberts

For me and I suspect others it courage and energy rather than opportunity and direction, that limit my work.

Oh, and the last week has persuaded me that an M-240 and 35f1.4 are indeed a fine rig - which is a great relief as I've already paid for them.

The "large mindshare" for Leica probably comes from people who get a certain sort of result from them. I could never get that from micro 4/3rds but that was several years ago. Leica has made great bounds in that time, maybe MFT has too?

In terms of cameras, I noticed a bi-modal distribution of answers.
One group wanted the latest and greatest or at least unobtainable equipment (Hubble space telescope? - I would have gone for a Keyhole http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/KH-4 myself)

The other group seized on the film+lab+assistant offer to propose large or medium format film cameras. I have a couple film cameras that I either can't afford to use or the film is simply unavailable outside of the occasional 20 year old surplus find on e-bay.

I use a mirrorless NEX all the time, but I have a 16x20 camera and a 70mm camera, either of which I'd rather be using.

Wherever I go, there go I. The camera and lenses are a tool, nothing more. When I see a great photograph that moves me, it's the artist's vision that does it. Whatever tool I'm comfortable with and will allow that vision to happen is the right one for me.

I agree that a very large number of cameras are bought on "image" (pun intended). Time and time again I am asked for help from people wearing a dslr who never move beyond the "auto" setting and have only one or perhaps two lenses for their camera. I met a Sony dslr user recently who was wishing she had bought a Canikon so she could buy a tele lens for it. Those big wide neck straps with Canon or Nikon on them proclaiming your superiority to others are essential to many people.
And I would agree that top end mirrorless are the Leicas of the current period. They have the same form/function reasoning as the Leicas of old and it is rare to find one (top end model that is) in the hands of any but knowledgeable enthusiasts.
Lots of rumours going around Sony circles that the Sony/Oly partnership is developing further and that the soon to be released next generation Sonys may share a lot with the new Oly. I like the sound of Oly/Sony /Zeis (Zeis are clearly working closely with Sony these days) and i am keeping my powder dry until I get a look at the new A7/FF and RX1/RX100 developments.

I am not one who responded but had I done so I would have said I would keep my Canon 7D but get a more versatile lens than the 18-135mm that I have. I wasn't looking at it as an opportunity to get a "dream" camera, in part because I'm not at all sure my dream camera exists but also because if I am to be limited to that one camera for the next year I want one I'm sure works predictably for me. Jumping to some camera I've never even held in my hands and committing to it and it only is sort of like marrying someone you read about on a dating site but have never met or had a conversation with.

As for the project part, I would not be dashing off to parts unknown or rather already overknown, as in photographed to death. Not that I wouldn't like to visit those places any more than I wouldn't like a full frame or perhaps a MF digital camera. Again it is a matter of choosing to work in the place I'm near and that I know more intimately than someone from afar does.

I think I've described my dream camera in these comments before. It would be a square sensor MF camera along the lines of the Mamiya 6 with both an LCD screen and a viewfinder (high rez EVF). It would have to shoot RAW files, diredtly to DNG would be great.I'd need a zoom if limited to one lens but most of the 'features' they put in digital cameras, including video, I neither need or want.

Travel and well honed projects are definitely not the same, but the limitless travel portion of your proposal was just too out there to ignore.

One thing I will say however is that travel (particularly when alone) does make one think and reflect both on the new things that one finds and sees, and how they relate to what you experience back home. I remember riding a train in France and regularly seeing all these incredible statues and monuments right in the middle of agricultural fields and farmlands, and wondering why I have never seen an essay on them- never even knew they existed! Makes one wonder of all the things hidden in plain sight right at home.

I too have read the statistics about m4/3 not selling in the US & Europe, and it's probably true, however mirrorless cameras have provided 110% of the excitement in the camera industry where sales are down across the board.
To my eyes they have iterated almost too quickly to let any camera get a real foothold.
The one exception seems to be fuji. Go to any professional photographer event or conference and it seems like there is some Fuji on 80% of the shoulders. I'm sure that's an exaggeation, but it seems like a sea change to me.
I do not (yet?) own a mirrorless camera.
I too am intrigued by the Fuji (x100s) for 3 reasons, small/light, excellent sensor, and near universal synch.
We use both Canon & Nikon systems in our business and don't see that changing in a big way, but perhaps a small way.

There is another reason that I think the Fuji's are popular with that group, --It's the Leica Gestalt with auto focus.
I've owned a Leica M3 kit for 40 years, and as much as I love it and the style of photography it represents, I have never been able to focus it quickly. I think there is a gene for that which I am sadly lacking. I also suspect, I'm not alone.
The one hesitation I have with m4/3 despite the truly excellent capabilities of some of the latest offerings, is that the future may hark back to film where after a point if you wanted more quality you shot bigger film.
We may be reaching some physical limits, which may be why both Nikon & Canon have filed patents and been the subject of persistent rumors of MF
On the other hand current sensor technology at every level is more than good enough for most expressive work.
There has been a pause in the action, --interesting times ahead...

Without intending to argue, but merely to offer a point of discussion, can I be someone who defends travel for its own sake as a photographically legitimate enterprise? Many of us were brought up with National Geographic articles or own, or have enjoyed in a library, large books of excellent photography. Often these had only a nameplace for a title (country, city, town, region) and one gets the sense that the photographer arrived as a blank canvas and began filling it in by looking and learning. Then, I imagine, and granting that the artist most likely had pre-conceived ideas about where to go and what to watch for, a theme or a story arose from that, fresh and unforced.

It's a subject close to my heart, because traveling for the purpose of inspiring my photography, when I'm able, is what I've done over the last 25 years. A few times to Mexico (once lugging a Mamiya C23 Press and a bunch of B&W film on second-class buses), once each to SE Asia and Costa Rica, and several more local ventures in my native Canada. Now, I'm just a hobbyist, not a pro or a published author, and I'd have to admit to a bit of laziness and impatience when it comes to making an artistic plan. On the other hand, I could scratch the mea culpas and call my approach Raw Documentary - a legitimate style based on chance observation yielding pictures that would have been unavailable had I followed a tightly-focused agenda.

And a theme, I believe, has emerged over the long arc of these many forays. That is, life has its own normal in foreign lands. It's not necessarily miserable or exotic or politically fraught. People go about their lives and their work according to their culture and they're content to do so. Standards, methods and technology may differ, but societies mirror one another in ways that are both mundane and fascinating. Who better an observer than a foreigner himself, a phantom weilding a camera, to capture these snippets and piece together a larger portrait?

I hope that's not too pretentious. Like I said, I'm no master and I struggle every step of the way. Mentally, mostly, (the physical challenges are always overcome and make for good stories) because this open-ended approach leads to frustration and aimlessness. A missed chance, certainly a masterpiece now unobtainable, because the camera wasn't ready or my timing was off. And the constant question: should I stay or should I go?

I agree, tightly focused is good, but I'm not built that way. Just wanted to make the case for non-pre-conceived and its potential value. Some day I'll finally get my s**t together (I'm a working stiff, progress is maddeningly slow) and shepherd all this material - a series of websites, a book! - into something resembling a project.

I didn't respond on the original post, but I'll weigh in here re: which single camera and lens I'd use. And my answer is the camera I'd use is a mystery to me. If I could use either an Olympus OM2Sp, or a Contax Aria, but in a digital incarnation, I'd be just about as happy as could be. On either, I'd use a 50 f 1.4. The reason I'd want digital instead of film is modern sensors have out-paced film above ISO 400. I don't desire black cat in a coal mine performance, but good performing 1600 or 3200 would expand my shooting nicely. I could take or leave autofocus. It is great to have, but the 50 Planar has a visceral effect when the scene falls into focus and is quite easy to focus.

Oddly, since this is a hypothetical camera I'm talking about, anything from 1" or larger sensor size would probably perform well enough to match what I want. I just really like the size/controls of those two cameras. Obviously in the transition to digital there would be a few more controls (WB is the only strictly new control needed since this fantasy camera just automatically shoots RAW+JPG).

"...a resurgence of the inconspicuous camera..."

I've never found I'm particularly conspicuous with my 5D3 and 35/1.4L - or the 5d2 and 5D1 before them.

It has more to do with how you act than the size of the camera.

> it did seem that Leica was disproportionately mentioned. [..]
> did an awful lot of people pick the OM-D E-M1 for their one camera?
> What's up with that?

Could it be because we unconsciously recognize that both Olympus' and Leica's offerings are in the sweet spot of what a proper handheld camera's size should be ? ;-)

There are things I need and things I lust. Although I really want an EM-1, as I already have a EM-5 and 5D3, there is not really anything in the EM-1 that allows me to justify the purchase on the basis of need.

So, perhaps sadly, the money I could have used for this has just been spent on a needed computer replacement.

...but the purpose was to see how many people already have their dream cameras.

Hmm - I didn't read it that way. I opted to use equipment I knew well and was "good enough", so that I didn't waste the opportunity messing around with new gear. Maybe I'm growing up - I found the hypothetical assignment more interesting than the hypothetical toys.

I appreciate and agree with Eolake Stobblehouse's comments. I also think that is a great name!

Thanks for telling us what you were actually studying. It's fun to speculate, but more fun to compare the speculations to the reality, and that's only possible if the pollster tells us.

I think the single lens was a red herring, in that case; for example it rules out most serious sports photography (or at least drastically limits it), and the same for wildlife. In general, it rules out wide areas of photo projects.

Eolake - Thank you for your comment. There certainly is a fundamental difference between unfocused and defocused. If you haven't read it already, I think you'd be interested in Minor White's essay, "The Camera Mind and Eye", where he says:

"For those who would equate “blank” with a kind of static emptiness, I must explain that this is a special kind of blank. It is a very active state of mind really, a very receptive state of mind, ready at an instant to grasp an image, yet with no image preformed in it at any time. We should note that the lack of a pre formed pattern or preconceived idea of how anything ought to look is essential to this blank condition. Such a state of mind is not unlike a sheet of film itself seemingly inert, yet so sensitive that a fraction of a second’s exposure conceives a life in it. (Not just life, but a life.)"

The full text is at: http://shadowlandia.com/?p=229

Funny how we are programmed to recognise familiar self-affirming identifiers in any rapid scan, which is why I saw so many Fuji and D800 preferences.

Given Fuji's TINY market share, I was amazed to attend the Gulf Photo event in London recently where a packed auditorium of at least 600 folk came to see Zack Arias and Dave Hobby wax eloquently about Fuji's new cameras.

I am not saying that these choices outweigh MFT or other cameras in the posts, just that my eyes were immediately drawn to them. Funny people, humans ;-)

Further thoughts on Sony /Olympus. The new Sony is supposed to be released in the next couple of days. Leaked pictures look very similar to the new Oly and of course Sony and Oly are now financialy linked and Oly now use Sony sensors.
I don't think the bump on these cameras is a "retro" feature. A Sony engineer once stated that the Nex range had OIS rather than IBIS because of heat issues with the bigger sensor in a very small body. I'd bet that the bump is keeping some heat generating components away from the sensor and that the new body design disperses heat better than the Nex body shape. With a ff sensor in the new Sony, this would be even more critical.

Regarding the E-M1 not being out yet, not true. I have had mine a week now. I preordered it from my local shop. The first shipments seem to have gone to brick & mortars. If you don't support your local camera store it is doubtful they'll be around much longer.

I quite like the new camera. It seems to answer most every quibble I had with its predecessor, the E-M5. The menus still have quite a lot to them, but once you set up the camera there is little reason to go spelunking again. Luminous Landscape did a nice write-up on it a little while back.

"the purpose was to see how many people already have their dream cameras"

Note: you asked for what we'd use with one lens only. If I had that limitation, I would probably own the camera that I chose. That doesn't make it my dream camera.

I think everyone who picked a single location to travel had a project in mind--by implication, if nothing else. Certainly, my own wish (a year in the Great Dismal Swamp) was made with the thought that I'd produce a coherent body of work.

The E-M1 is the current equivalent of the Nikon F4. Same gestalt: a sturdy, reliable workhorse which can host a large variety of nice lenses and seems ready for the road. Not the "best" for image quality (medium format was much more common in the 20th century), but capable enough for anything.
If you had run such a survey two or three decades ago the F4 would have been a popular choice, I'm sure.

Have to confess I've yet to see another person using a M4/3 camera in the UK. A few months ago I was using my M4/3 and an "expert" (presumably owner of a large Canon or Nikon) started advising me how I should be taking my pictures. This caused me a certain amount of wry amusement, but I'm sure it made him feel better!

I think there could be something cultural in the mirrorless thing. In Asia, it is acceptable to pay a premium for the latest, smallest gadget. However, Anglo-American culture seems to edge towards bigger is better.

If mirrorless is to make it in western markets, it will need to undercut entry level dSLR prices by a decent margin.

Hi Mike,
I think you set the parameters too wide. As a nature photographer/Geology geek I'd be a mug to turn down unlimited travel/transport to volcanoes,especially as I'm retiring in 3 years and will have plenty of time for personal projects, they are all seasonal though, living in temperate climes.

I've got all I need although a K3 upgrade for my aging K20D will happen at some point.

Can I ask what you'd do if you had that offer?
(the idea of a year photographing random strangers with wide angle fills me with dread.

best wishes phil (amateur-demoted-to novice [g] }

You asked a fairly open-ended question so you got some open-ended answers. As regards your "People do realize, right, that travel isn't the same as a project?": Sure, and you realize that you have some NatGeo aspirants in your commentary stream, right?

So let me state why travel would be so high a cost for my "project". The more I travel in Africa, the more I'm aware of environmental differences and the role they play with the animals. Just speaking of elephants, we find them in deserts, forests, jungles, savannahs, and more. Behaviors are different in protected areas versus non-protected.

Much as Galen Rowell once documented the sameness but differentness of the Arctic and the Antarctic, I'd be looking at trying to document these differences. Probably in only one animal ("focus"). But even if I picked something like hyena, which can be daytime hunters in Eastern Africa but nocturnal in Southern Africa, the travel costs add up pretty quickly.

Finally, I'd point out that there are two ways to "focus." One is to pick something nearby and familiar and attempt to improve upon and document that familiarity. Another is to pick something that's new to you and to which you'll have a spontaneous reaction to, and that tends to have to be far away, otherwise you'd be familiar with it ;~). Both tend to produce equally interesting photos, done right. In the former you're trying to bring your familiarity to visibility to all through your photos. In the latter you're trying to bring your reaction to something new to life.

My E-M1 arrived Friday evening so I'm testing and learning it now. First impressions are that it's a very responsive performer overall and can see in the dark very nicely. Beyond that, well, a little more time will have to pass as I explore and use it. What I see is encouraging so far.

I didn't respond on the original poll, but one way I'd go with this assignment is a Polaroid Spectra SE, with remote, close up lens, and copy stand. Add about 200 Impossible Project film packs, either B&W or color. Working with something like that will focus you on seeing and getting the most out of your equipment.

It was a good question; I realized that while there are certain cameras I like, there's not a single favorite and that I need more well-defined and focused projects. Gear is fun, but there tends to come the time to focus on the pictures.

Thank you to Joanlvh and Dave. Very kind.

I will read the White essay with interest. How creativity and aesthetics happen has always had my keenest interest. I think they go well beyond our normal human mental grasp.

Thanks Eolake. You have explained it very well.

I would be torn between Olympus E-M5 with Panasonic 25mm and Olympus OM-1 and 50mm. For scope/location, big metropolitan areas: Tokyo, Beijing, New Delhi, Capetown, Paris, London, New York, Los Angeles... all with their distinct flavor. B/W or Color shots as the situation will require.

Interesting survey but I dont agree that you will find everybody's dream camera through it. You had the limitation of one camera and one lens. In real life we are not limited by that. I could trade in all my cameras and lenses to get a Leica S and a standard zoom but I would not be at all happy with the trade off. I could in fact buy the S and couple of lenses but I have not done so because I don't think it represents good value for money. But to get one for free for a year, sure I would try it.

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