Top photo: Commerce Street. San Antonio. e300/ 25mm
Majestic Theater Box Office Detail. San Antonio. e300/ 25mm
The Emily Morgan Hotel. San Antonio. e300/ 25mm
My Father. San Antonio. e300/25mm
Downtown San Antonio. e300/ 25mm
Ben with Raspa and Pentax digital camera. San Antonio. e300/ 25mm
The Alamo. San Antonio. e300 / 25mm
The Emily Morgan Hotel and Street Light. e300 /25mm
Fence detail at Austin Power Plant. e300 / 14-54mm
Austin Music Hall. e-300/ 14-54mm
Crane, Downtown Austin. e300 / 25mm
I remember the real moment that digital camera lust sunk its teeth into my hide. I was shooting with a Nikon D70s and Nikon announced the D200. The math major that lives in part of my brain started making impassioned noises about the clearly superior resolution that I could obviously expect if only I had the courage to upgrade (spend more money) on my stuff. Then when my D200 started back focusing and had to be sent in to repair the little math voice convinced me that the D2x was a superior solution and I should rush out and get one of those "for the sake of" my clients. And of course I did.
Recently the siren call of the D700 reached my unwaxed ears and my math major segment teamed up with my science guy (who lurks around in my brain with that guy who knows "everything") and bullied me into believing that full frame finders and clean files at 3200 were the final keys to the holy grail of photography. And I plunged headlong into the full frame abyss. But it didn't make a damn bit of difference in my photography.
That's when English major/Art student guy came to the front of my brain to play "bombastic, chaotic change" tunes with my photographic obsessions. "Purge it all!!!!" he screamed, and I did. And when the last gleaming Nikon lens and the last hallowed body left the studio and was consigned to someone else's tender care I breathed a sigh of relief and wrote about it in a blog.
When people found out that I bought some Olympus gear to replace the gear I no longer wanted they got the underlying message all wrong. They thought I was saying that Olympus trumped Nikon for some obscure matrix of reasons and that I was into the discovery of some new equipment paradigm. Nothing could be further from the truth. On paper the Nikon bodies trump the Olympus cameras at almost every turn. Sharper files. Better noise characteristics. Faster processing. More bit depth. Greater lens selection. etc.
But the silly truth is that none of these are especially cogent anymore. We've hit a spot that's analogous to the car market. You could buy a Lexus, a Honda, a Toyota, a Buick, a Ford or a BMW and all of them will commute to and from work quite well. All of them will easily go the speed limit. All of them will easily go much faster than you will ever need. And they will do it with nearly equal levels of quality and efficiency. Choosing is now mostly a matter of budget and taste. One way or another you'll get from north Austin to South Austin on Loop One at the same 15-30 MPH (during our famous rush hours). And you'll arrive at your destination at about the same time.
I think we're there with cameras. Most applications for images are going to the web. File sizes are small. Bit depth is small. The only important metric/function anymore is the vision of the person behind the viewfinder. The vision they bring to the table. We did perfectly wonderful portraits with Nikon D100's. We did perfectly wonderful sports shots with Canon 1D's and Nikon D2H's that sported all of four megapixels.
Well, I could talk about this on and on but for me the proof is in the pudding that I make. With no great inventory of cameras ( I have the following Olympus cameras: e30 ($900, 12 megs.), e520 ($350, 10 megs.), and the e1 (currently $350 and 4.9 megs). I like the cameras and used them recently to do manmade landscape photographs for a road authority. At the sizes the images will be used the images from all three cameras are pretty much identical. The two cheaper cameras have the best feel. The colors and exposures from all three are just fine (I still shoot in manual for all my jobs).
So I'm happy to have the equipment I do for the jobs that I take. But do I really even need these cameras?
I started thinking about it in earnest and the opportunity came up to buy an older Olympus camera for $150. I wrote a check (how last century is that?) and I became the proud owner of an e300. It was the second e series camera that Olympus made. It's claim to fame is the 8 megapixel Kodak chip. Otherwise there is not much to recommend the body. But it is endearing in a very dorky way (a nod to the engineer that's burrowing into one of my cerebral lodes ) with it's squat and wide design and it's sideways mirror movement.
I put on a 25mm lens and spent the day shooting with the camera. I was stunned to find out that the color, contrast and indeed, even the sharpness of the files was much more pleasing to me than the files from all my other cameras. All the images I've included here come from that camera and shooting for just a few hours. I am smitten. The age and purchase price, coupled with the stellar performance totally repudiates the vicious amounts of money I spent previously in keeping up with every stumble forward by the camera industry. If you print to moderate sizes you will have gained precious little in the obsessive replacement of model after model since 2004.
I'm certain that a small handful of photographers can make good and compelling arguments for more pixels and better noise performance. But let's be frank and understand that they are specialists and that for the great majority of us who print 12x18 inches, at a maximum, the benefits of ownership are far outweighed by the reality of our craft capabilities and our chosen output.
All of the images here are from the e300. I curse myself for writing this as it may cause a run on the used inventories of this camera. Anyway. The images above work for me. Your mileage may vary. And again, I'm not suggesting that you liquidate whatever system you have to buy something else. I'm just suggesting that we've reached a point where, perhaps, the next upgrade that comes down the pike is anything but crucial.
I've downsized the images for the web but if you click on them you'll be able to see them at 1500 pixels. I'll continue this exploration. I have a commissioned portrait to do tomorrow so let's see how the $150 body handles studio strobes and flesh tones. Till then, stay cool.