During our most recent trip west I was carrying two cameras: my “old” Canon 5D MK II and the more recently acquired Olympus OMD EM5. At the time, I was absolutely convinced that the Canon would be my primary camera. The EM5 would simply be the backup, except for those occasions when it would become the “primary” because of its light weight. That was the case. of course, when I hiked into the Narrows in Zion NP. The Canon stayed in the hotel. As I’ve said before, that was an eye-opener. Prior to that little excursion, I was certain that the 5D MK II was the better camera. It’s a full frame camera, has a much larger sensor, and theoretically has more resolution (just in case I wanted to make some really big prints). It should also produce less noise – especially at ISO’s at or above 1600. The only downside is its size and weight. Put a big lens on it (like the 70 – 200mm f/2.8 IS) and it gets really cumbersome. Strangely, it seems to get heavier and heavier as I get older (and maybe weaker?). Maybe gravity is getting stronger……….. or something?
When I finally saw the Narrows photographs on a large screen I was astounded. Most were as sharp and clear as anything from the 5D MK II, and most were taken at shutter speeds slower than 1/25 sec. Some were at or below 1/10 sec. Without a tripod. I was using a monopod, but the camera wasn’t exactly immobilized. I’d read that the EM5’s in-camera stabilization was very, very good, but I really didn’t believe it. I half expected to come out of the Narrows with a bunch of not-so-good images.
Again, as I’ve said before, all those assumptions were incorrect. The EM5 performed much better than I’d expected. It was at least as good, I thought, as anything I could have done with the 5D MK II. And it was so damn easy to carry. So now I had a dilemma. Which camera would be my “primary”? More specifically, should I even keep the Canon? Should I get rid of the camera and the lenses and all of the other Canon stuff? The problem is I’ve been a “Canon guy” for quite a few years. I’m comfortable with Canons. And I understand all the menus! I can do mirror lock-up in my sleep. All of which resulted in me not being able to pull the trigger. I just couldn’t sell all that stuff. I figured that at heart I was just a status quo kind of guy, not likely to head off in any new directions anytime soon.
But just when I thought the dust had finally settled, Olympus stirred it all up again. By introducing the OMD EM1. My indecisiveness crumbled. I took delivery on one just last week.
And yes, the Canon stuff is being sold (I’m spending a lot of time these days on eBay and at the post office). I’m no longer a DSLR person. I’m a Micro 4/3 person. For me, it’s still a scary transition. Like moving to a new state. Or like having to get a new car when the old one hits 150,000 miles or so. You’re saying goodbye to familiarity.
Well yeah, that’s overstating it just a bit. It’s just a new camera. A different way of looking at photographs (I’m still not used to the change in aspect ratio, for example). But I do think there’s a bigger picture here (no pun intended). I’m probably a little biased at this point but I think that the big full-framed DSLR is going to start to disappear. I think cameras like the EM1 are going to gradually eat into the consumer market and push the DSLR’s out. Especially with respect to us “old” guys. Why carry a big heavy camera and multiple heavy lenses if you don’t have to? If there’s no real advantage, what’s the point? I just read, for example, that when testing dynamic range both DXO Mark and DP Review found that the sensor on the EM1 was as good or better than the sensor on the Canon 5D MK III. Image quality was indistinguishable. It was only at very high ISO’s that the MK III looked better, but it wasn’t a huge thing. If you’re not a die-hard pixel peeper, you ain’t going to see it.
For me, it’s all about the weight. And the incredible in-camera stabilization. And the weather proof body. No more worrying about the weather forecast. Heck, I’ve seen videos that show this thing sitting in a running shower and then still working fine. Most DSLR’s can’t make that claim.
In case you’re wondering, the image above came from the Canon. We’d found a short slot canyon near St. George, Utah and decided to explore it. Turned out to be a dead-end. It was also very dark in there (much darker than the picture). I took quite a few pictures like this one (handheld) at a high ISO (1600?) with a shutter speed in the 1/10 of a second range. Most wound up too fuzzy. This one’s OK. This was prior to going into the Narrows with the EM5, by the way. So I wonder: Would I have had better luck with the EM5 on a monopod? I think so. As time goes on, however, I’m certainly going to find out.