I don’t generally discuss my cameras, as I don’t believe that the camera one uses is that big a deal, but anyone that has read my posts and is interested in photography would have realised that my system is Olympus digital. I started using Olympus digital SLRs in 2004 after attending an expo where I watched a salesman at a camera stall put the very first Olympus digital SLR, an E-1, repeatedly under a indoor waterfall, wipe it off with a towel and take shots. I was intrigued by this waterproof marvel and ended up buying one. The rest, as they say, is history. Despite Olympus cameras often lagging the major brands in some aspects of technology, I just loved how the cameras performed, especially the wonderful colours, and have stayed with Olympus through all of its trials and tribulations. I still have that very first E-1, and it still works as well as the day that I bought it, even though it’s pretty much gone through the wars and looks rather tatty on the outside.
No matter how much better life, in general, tends to get when it comes to technology advances, it never seems to be enough for many people. As soon as the latest product is announced, not even released, the internet is abuzz with what the ‘next’ iteration may provide, or people will immediately commence to tear apart the newly announced product, identifying all the flaws and omissions and complaining that it’s not good enough for them. Internet photographers (or just insert your favourite forum) seem to be the worst of the lot for never being happy with what they have. It’s not even a matter of the grass being greener on the other side, people complain about the paddocks they can’t even see.
Earlier on, I mentioned that small size is not everything, or always the best thing, when it comes to m4/3 cameras and lenses, especially lenses. A few months ago, I did a favour for a friend that at the same time enabled me to do some aerial photography from a helicopter (Jayrow Helicopters), which I hadn’t done for some time. The job involved specialist equipment being lowered onto the rims of the Yallourn Power Station cooling towers by helicopter, so that maintenance work could be undertaken on the tower surfaces.
The interwebs are once again aflame (sarcasm alert) with a recent post on Digital Photography Review concerning digital camera ‘equivalence’ (no, I’m not going to provide a link, find it yourself). Ever since digital cameras were introduced, professional-amateur photographers (an oxymoron if ever there was one), have spent half their lives debating why one format is superior or inferior to another. Most of the mass debating is done by those who have the most extensive portfolio of duck photographs one can imagine.
Since my news photography days, I’ve tended to always carry one camera and appropriate lens wherever I go and I used to take just about my entire setup with me everywhere in the car, just in case something interesting happened. Then I became a bit more sensible and left just the E-P1 in the car as a permanent camera, but just about every time that I wanted to use it, the battery was dead.
One of the big debates (disputes?) on today’s digital camera forums is whether Electronic Viewfinders (EVF) are better or worse than Optical Viewfinders (OVF). On the one side are the entrenched OVF users that swear black and blue that absolutely nothing beats an OVF and on the other side are the EVF users who have converted and become ardent supporters. And thus the flaming ensues from both sides.
One thing a number of m4/3 users lament, on an all too regular basis, is the fact that they can’t achieve the same shallow depth of field that one can with say full frame cameras. They want to emulate that razor thin depth of field experience where, if you photograph a beautiful model, only one eyeball is in sharp focus and everything else is blurred.
As I mentioned earlier, one of the main reasons why the Olympus system struck a chord with me was it’s amazing environmental sealing, not just of the body, but also the lenses. Now this doesn’t apply to all bodies and lenses, but Olympus has provided, from day one, at least one body and numerous lenses that are effectively fully weatherproof. This has been an absolute boon over the years when I’ve had to photograph sports in woeful, wet, conditions.
One issue that crops up fairly frequently on various photography blogs and forums, for those new to Olympus cameras, relates to the Olympus camera menu system. Some get it and others have the devil’s own time trying to decipher what it’s all about. Admittedly, the menus can be complex, but that’s mainly because they allow so much camera customisation, especially with the E-M1, that it needs the depth in order to allow all of those options. What makes things worse, is that the Olympus camera manual is pretty poor when it comes to explaining all of the adjustments available, which doesn’t help people from seeing the entire menu system as a car wreck.
One of the things that is so misunderstood and which has clearly held back m4/3s (and the earlier 4/3s) from wider adoption is the belief that the sensor is too small for ‘professional’ photography and by default, amateur photography (that was intentional). This is a meme that has been hinted at by competing manufacturers and vociferously shouted from the rooftops by ill-informed amateur photographers, who make lots of noise on photography forums. That perception is slowly changing and more and more professional photographers are adopting m4/3s, if not for all of their photography needs, at least for some.