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Thursday, 15 December 2016


I've always chosen camera formats according to the task at hand. These days I've found Micro 4/3 cameras to be up to about 95% of the things I want to do. And I love the small and reasonably priced lenses. The Panasonic GX8 is pretty much the perfect size for a camera.

Recently I've been thinking about adding something to the kit for that other 5%. I've always been primarily a Nikon guy, so the D810 (or maybe whatever replaces it, maybe with an EVF, please Nikon). But, depending on the price, that Fuji looks very interesting.

It's fun that now that the sensors have reached a level that is completely adequate, I can once again start thinking about adding a camera of a different format instead of saving for the next replacement body for my main system.

If we can geek out on words a bit, here's a great list of words that are their own opposites-http://mentalfloss.com/article/57032/25-words-are-their-own-opposites

It's quantum grammar!

My needs are simple: All I want is the very largest sensor and the smallest/lightest camera; the fastest possible aperture and a superzoom lens; the fastest possible apertures in the lightest/smallest lenses; the hugest print sizes and the smallest file sizes. All of this in an inexpensive package.

The only thing between me and my ideal camera is physics.

"**Acknowledging that Ctein used to say, "all else is never equal.""

Why do you think economists say ceteris paribus instead? First because hardly anyone understands it and second because things sound better in Latin even (especially) if they're rubbish.

I love small cameras. Even my medium format (Mamiya 6) and large format (Chamonix 4x5) cameras are relatively small and, more to the point, easy to handle. But gosh, I really love very small cameras with great lenses. My favorites are the Minolta TC-1 and Rollei 35S.

I forget where I read this but somebody once said "you can focus a pop bottle if you know the math".

Does that make it a good lens? How should we value that lens if the image is the product of an algorithm and in-body processing rather than optical quality? (Olympus did that with their m4/3 and Pro line in their rush to dump their not-so-small SHG line of lenses. Their flagship EM-1 didn't even support 4/3 lenses at the start)? Half-seriously, even with the quality of the images produced, how should we value that image if it's not what we saw but a representation of the camera software? More importantly, how do I use that lens years from now when my camera/computer is no longer supported?

Many will say it won't matter because cameras are actually consumer electronics now and I'll want the newest camera/lens system by then. I get it but in the same vein, I have a basement full of old 286/386/Pentium computers etc that I can't bring myself to throw out.

Digital brings a lot of new freedom to the table for us to explore but we prostitute ourselves somewhat in it's adoption. I enjoy my new cameras as much as the next person and certainly nothing beats a restful couple of hours photo editing but if anyone has a Dallmeyer No. 3C Portrait lens they want to sell, let me know.

I just obtained a GX8, and I concur with your previous comments on it. The design of this thing as a tool is near-perfect.

After some basic customization, I find myself flipping the LCD to its closed position, removing all info from the exceptional EVF other than SS/f#, and the camera becomes nearly transparent. Pretty close to my Leica M6 experience.

Two point on your last paragraph. 1. Smaller sensor/lens photographers also give up something with their choice and 2. If you can afford a Leica SL or a system with a Zeis Otus then it's likely you can also afford to have a smaller system for portability. Or maybe a larger one which makes the 50mm Summilux feel nimble. If you have an SL your other system is probably getting used when you need portability.

We should rejoice that we have so much choice. Has there ever been a time in photography when the lover of the craft had so many interesting options in standard lenses?


Throughout my 50+ years of photography, whether it was just for fun or for a few bucks in the pocket, I valued quality as the most important aspect of the gear I purchased. I once had a little pelican case filled with 9 Leica lenses and an M6 body (all of which I sold thinking Leica would never go digital - sigh!). That was after I had carried a Hasselblad 500C and 5 lenses to the remotest points of wilderness in several states - with backpack weights greater than 50 pounds.

But as time moved on and as I marched my way through a gaggle of Nikon digital camera bodies, I began to co-favor size & weight with the quality. This led me to Fuji, where I now sit (though there was one m4/3 venture, an Olympus that was nice but too small).

With yet more years behind me, I still want the quality but want it in the form of ONE lens only. I think I have found that too.

So I'm nearing the end of the equipment "chase" and can amusingly yet enthusiasticly watch technology give us better and better cameras and lenses but which, once again, are making some of those camera bags heavier!

I just purchased the iPhone 7 Plus for purposes of having fun taking picture with it. Gosh, I'm back to 2 lenses again :-)

The discussion of M4/3 vs. APS-C/Full-Frame is the same as 35mm vs. 120/4x5. Yeah, the larger sizes can give better quality, but for most people 35mm was good enough. Same with digital, especially now that so few people make prints.

P.S. My workhorse camera for weddings and aerial photography in the 90s was a Pentax 645. Fabulous ergonomics and image quality, unsurpassed till APS-C with good lenses.

Like Mike, I try to find the smallest cameras and lenses that will fit my purposes. But since I also want the best optical viewfinder possible, and the smallest models don't provide that, I found the next-smallest alternatives: a Fuji X-Pro1 and Pentax K-1. With smaller lenses, those cameras maintain a reasonable size and weight. The common Fuji XF kit zoom, a Touit 12mm and a selection of Pentax film-era zooms and primes gives the the results I need without the aches and pains of hauling ƒ/2.8 "pro" zooms around.

But that's not the world we live in today. I'm an outlier, aiming for the rational middle ground. In today's world, at least in my own USA, everything's polarized and divided. To avoid grim political discussions, I'll use the automotive metaphor. Take your choice, a high-riding, three-ton pickup truck/SUV, a muscle car, or a Prius? It's getting harder and harder to find mainstream vehicles, especially the happiest of medium options, the station wagon.

Just as suburban drivers have bulked up to face their fears of traffic, I suspect that many aspiring photographers will always respond favorably to the lizard brain's impression that bigger is better, more powerful, more valuable and desirable. They see how others respond, stepping aside for the pro at work. And with the other 90% of us carrying smartphone cameras in our pockets already, we're lucky that there are still mid-sized cameras available.

I want so badly to be able to use an Olympus OMD-sized camera for my day to day work. While I am fully invested in the Olympus system, I still feel compelled to shoot with a Nikon D5 for my daily work - despite the size of the camera which I find to be unnecessarily large and heavy. Two issues: The continuous autofocus on the m43 cameras is barely usable - still! And second, I happen to shoot lots of available light in the 1600-3200 range and the difference between a D5 and a m43 body is quite significant. Is the autofocus issue solvable?

"I poached my 11-year-old cousin Katie's Christmas present and used up all the film that came with it, much to her wonderment"

'Her wonderment'?? LOL. Either your cousin was a saint, or "wonderment" is a euphemism for "rage". :-)

I've bought more cameras than reasonable, primarily because of this factor; that a similar quality could year-over-year be gotten from smaller cameras. Today I use MFT or 1-inch cameras, and I can't believe that I once bought the collossal Nikon D2X (with the similarly huge 70-200mm 2.8) because it was the first "affordable" 12MP camera.

Having borrowed my wife's 1 inch Sony RX-100 mk 2 for a recent trip, I have decided that it is capable of 90% of my photography. So for an Xmas present to myself, I am going to purchase a RX-100 mk 5 and I'm going to run a variation of your OCOLOY for next year with it (the variation being that it has a zoom) to see if (a) I am right, and (b) how much I really care about the other 10%.

For small(to me, now, that's anything at or below 16x20 inches), intimate prints, today we are fortunate to have many options.

Larger than that, which is now a distinct possibility in a way it wasn't before, you just have to be willing to suffer a bit for your art. So, lug that 645Z---what an incredible camera!---and smile.

Oh, btw, old Ansel had himself a woody wagon with a roof platform (just to make sure the shots didn't look like they were just from the side of the road...and I've used my truck the same way), or a burro (gotta get me one them!). Just sayin'

I enjoy my Panasonic GM5, a tiny m4/3 camera, but the never ending DOF can be tiresome. With the 12-32mm f3.5-56 kit lens which is quite sharp, the foreground to background transition can look like a paste up of separately taken pictures, all equally sharp so there's no sense of depth. I bought a 2 stop ND filter to use with the Panasonic 20mm at f1.7 (wide open.) So I'm keeping my full frame Nikon system with which lenses have more of a say.

I have just returned from my second major trip taking only a m4/3rd's camera. There was one trip in between were I lugged my FF DSLR and assorted lenses (yes including the boat anchor 80-200 f2.8). I have now come to the conclusion that henceforth I will only use the 4/3rd's cameras. My Nikon gear is worthless as it's more than 2 weeks old so I will hang on to it. I was fondling a Panasonic GX85 in my local camera emporium today and will probably buy it or something similar in the new year. The ultra shallow DOF craze holds minimal sway with me so any sensor larger than m4/3rd's holds little appeal.

After using FF for 6 years, (5DmkII, L glass),I tested the waters for going back to APS-C, image quality wise. The Fuji X series proved that indeed image quality had caught up for my needs. The mobility gain for hiking has been a big plus and the 24"x36" print over our living room couch is all the validation I needed that Fuji delivers details that satisfy my viewing enjoyment... even up close.
Hats off to those who want the big lenses, but I'm quite happy with the X series cameras and Fujinon lens quality. I'll still watch the industry developments, but shoot daily with what i have for some time to come.

I seem to remember that Ctein, when last heard from, was using an Olympus OMD-EM5 camera and was on record as saying that the image quality was better than that of the Pentax 6x7s he used for many years.

I started with the OM4T, then to Leica because I have small hands.

Then 2012, I bought a 617 camera, then a few 4x5... and honestly, it's tough to go back when my largest prints are 4x5 feet....

People must really love forcing themselves to make choices. They set up all kinds of obstacles to happiness. This lens is too big, this sensor is too small, all this agonizing over a few hundred dollars, when they could buy both and use whatever is appropriate on the day. To those who complain that this would be too expensive, just do a rough calculation of how much you've spent upgrading multiple times in the last decade and a half.

Does anyone own only one pair of shoes? We don't even stick to having one wife for life anymore. Go nuts, own more than one system, you've probably switched several times from one to another anyway. You know you want to...

"Olympus E-M1 and two primes... and two zooms ... are still very heavy at 5,350 meters altitude..."

Hear hear. I go trekking to similar altitudes often, and for such applications anything bigger than a pocket point-and-shoot is a pain. I'm currently using a $100 crappy little waterproof compact, image quality is horrendous but just not having to worry about the camera at all, weightwise or weatherwise, is incredibly liberating (plus it can go in a chest pocket which is super accessible). Like your DMD, I have a recipe for the ultimate hiking camera: something like a tough, weatherproof version of the Ricoh GR (1" sensor is fine but body can't be bigger) with a non-extending lens, as flush with the body as possible. Not a GoPro, that's a separate niche.

Pentax Limited Lenses.
That's all I have to say about that, even if said in a fanboy type of way.

I understand the 'too small' feeling, as my large hands were not quite comfortable working with my Fuji X100T, until I bought the Fuji Arca/Baseplate/Grip for it. Yes, for additional $$$, but its leaf shutter makes it a camera I'm hanging on to, at least until its X100F replacement appears early in the new year. The wonderful IQ moved me to pick up the XPro2 last April, and yes, I bought the Arca/Baseplate/Grip for it, too. And still, my Fuji bag w/ both bodies and 5 primes weighs less that my 5D IV w/ 70-200 f/2.8 attached (not to mention the rest of my Canon kit).

I agree with you when speaking about bodies, but I am not convinced that APS-C lenses are really much of an advantage over Full-frame/35mm lenses, if at all.

I always consider the whole system lens/sensor when making comparisons between different camera systems. I have just recently bought the Fuji XT-2, a great new body, svelte and light, and I have a trusty a Canon 5d 3, a beautifully ergonomic and robust, reliable brick.

I have taken lenses that I consider as very close equivalents with regard to fov, dof possibilities, and speed (the Canon sensor is a stop less noisy, meaning I can use a higher ISO).

Some concrete examples:

Compare the Fuji 23/1.4 to the Canon 35/2 IS. The Canon lens is cheaper, almost the same size, an exact equivalent when used on FF, and even has IS. I have both lenses, and very much prefer the rendering of the Canon, it is sharper at f2 than the Fuji equivalent f1.4.

The 70-200 f4 IS is cheaper, smaller, 235g lighter, more robustly built, faster to AF, and just as good as the Fuji 50-150 f2.8. Where is the saving on the Fuji system?

The Canon 24-70 f4 IS is shorter and lighter than Fuji’s 16-55 f2.8 but it also has IS. It is also sharper wide open. So where is the advantage of the Fuji?

Even if you want a compact pancake lens - The Canon 40/2.8 is the same size, a little heavier than Fuji's 27/2.8 lens, but it is half the price and a whole stop faster.

Of course it is possible to buy enormous ff lenses, but one does not always have to carry them with you. If one selects ff lenses with care, thy need not be so large.

I will sell one of the systems, and at the moment I think it will be the Fuji.

Recently I switched from an OMD-EM1 to a Pen F and a few small prime, Olympus and PL, lenses. Now I can carry my system the whole day, very light, and image quality is yet a bit better. I'm enjoying photography like never before. I have had many cameras in my life, and still have two film Leicas, a 503 CW Hasselblad, two Olympus OM4-T, a beautiful Ansco 8x10" view camera, and several digital cameras. I also have a 24" Epson printer and do large prints for me and my friend photographers. Aside from carefully scanned 8x10" film, the Pen F file allows me to do the most beautiful 21x28" so far, impressively sharp for such a small camera. But sharpness, the surgical sharpness so common today in many, many large photographs in exhibits, that say nothing photographically except that they are sharp and large, don't move me a single bit.

For me it's "the biggest one I can afford".

It either fits in my pants pocket (like a phone), or it doesn't. If it doesn't and I have to carry something separately, then the damage is already done, might as well go all-in and not compromise on image quality—an unavoidable consequence of smaller formats.

"The great advantages of digital" have no purchase on the physics of depth-of-field (until computational photography does it anyway, one day). I want it as narrow as possible, so thanks for smaller formats, but no thanks.

I, too, have migrated from FF equipment to Panasonic as I grew older. But almost invariably the pictures that will be most meaningful when I lie in a nursing home have been taken by cameras that I have carried in my pocket such as the Konica C35 or the current Sony RX100. Today the latter was what I grabbed on my way out the door to go to the hospital to see my new granddaughter.

For myself, I am a big fan of classic film-era 35-mm screwmount lenses that I use with an adapter on a recent Pentax DSLR, the K3-II. I love having a set of Carl Zeiss and Takumar manual-focus lenses in a whole host of focal lengths for small dollars (for some reason the world thinks manual focus lenses are obsolete and the prices they fetch reflect that).

My goal is to get the full-frame Pentax K-1 for one main reason: I want to see the visual story these lenses were designed to tell, and I can't do that on a cropped-sensor camera. These lenses were designed more by individuals than modern lenses are - I think that's fair to say, though you and your readers may have more to say about that, Mike - and my hunch is, there is visual meaning in the reduced sharpness at the edges of the frame. Perhaps I am rationalizing things just a little here, but my point may be valid anyway. They made these old lenses for a particular size of image-sensor area, film of course at the time - and I think that relationship should be respected. Naturally, check back with me in a few years after I, hopefully, have purchased the full-frame Pentax and used it for many, many pictures. I will know better at that point whether my theory is hooey or not. By then the smaller cameras you favor may be far better in results than what I am using - so I guess I am going out on a limb here. So be it!

I'm not sure even Ansel Adams actively liked large CAMERAS? He certainly liked large negatives, and that required a large camera. More accurate might be that he liked large negatives more than he resented large cameras, but he often tried to reduce system weight in various ways(although not when shooting from the car - a surprisingly common occurrence for someone as closely associated with wilderness as Adams).

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