Just reminding myself that the fun part of photography is making photographs.

Good clean fun with a cheap normal lens. The Panasonic 25mm f1.7.

Le Politique on Second St. tries hard to emulate a Parisian café.
Hanger steaks and frites with a bottle on wine while sitting on
the sidewalk in the valley of modern office buildings?
Mixed metaphor, for sure....

Whether you own a full frame DSLR, a mighty APS-C camera or one of the whimsical micro four thirds cameras there's one thing that's more or less a constant; and that's how great the inexpensive 50mm (equivalent) lenses are for each system. I've always been a big fan of "normal" lenses and it's probably because the first two cameras I owned had variations of normal lenses before anything else. 

I spent my morning creating estimates for project bids, ordering new audio machinery and getting my car serviced. I'd put in some extra time doing post production last week and felt as though I deserved some free time to walk around the downtown area with a camera. So I did. (Don't tell my boss --- he thinks I was doing "research"). 

If the day had been bright and sunny I would have taken the Panasonic/Leica 8-18mm lens with me, mounted on a GH5, but it was cloudy and flat outside so I opted for the normal lens instead. Bright afternoon sun would have made for good sample shots at various wide settings with the zoom but when it gets "wintery" I'm alway in the mood for black and white images taken at an elegant focal length. 

I ate lunch at Whole Foods where the sushi is a right good bargain, and then I headed over to the new, six story, $130 million library which just opened in the heart of downtown. It was packed with the homeless, the hipsters and a huge swarm of young, eager corporate types, armed with phones and laptops, who were obviously glad to have a new venue with free meeting space. They tried to look casual and cool and give off the impression that they emoji candidates they were busily debating would be mission critical to client X. Everyone in the corporate clique had coffee. Lots and lots of coffee.

Want to see a cross section of Austin's new arrivals? Go skim through the six floors and the rooftop gardens of our new library. Don't miss the bicycle garage in the basement; my triathlete friends seem to talk of nothing else.... (Library - Austin - so, of course, a bike garage. Might even be a bike valet...).

I had my camera set up to use "filters" which are the same as presets or looks. I chose "dynamic monotone" and I must say I am pretty happy with the look. Like most 50mm equivalent lenses the 25mm f1.7 is bright and sharp. Even wide open it's pretty darn good. Stopped down to f5.6 it becomes almost analytical. While the lens usually sells for around $250 it sometimes goes on sale for $149. I was in the market for the lens but my sales person at the local camera store counseled me to wait a week or two. I did. He called to tell me the price had dropped again and that he'd put one aside for me. Nice.

Stay tuned, the 25mm price usually drops right around the time Panasonic announces a new body...

I did a circuit through the city's downtown and for some reason it was packed with people today. Mostly people walking down the sidewalk in little groups of two, three or four, all walking side by side, all staring at their own phones held, almost prayer-like, just in front of them at chest level. Here's an observation after watching this phenomenon for nearly two hours: Men cannot simultaneously look at their phones, walk down the sidewalk and also talk to other people in their groups. Women can and do all three things simultaneously. Almost as though it's mandatory.  It's interesting. 

I wonder what the next trend will be. I'm presuming everyone will get phone implants so that the physical handling of the phones becomes unnecessary. Just walking through the chattering hordes made me feel like an anachronism. There are no dedicated use cameras left in public anymore. None. They are all gone. Well, that's not exactly true. There was one guy with a Nikon or Canon slung around his neck. He was even older than me..... 

Ancient Trees. Just hanging on for dear life...

My favorite "point and shoot" camera is also a "serious" camera.

I think we can pretty much agree that the traditional "point and shoot" camera is nearly extinct. The all-in-one configuration that, in days of film, were mostly 35mm cameras with fixed mid-range zoom lenses and optical finders  set up in the rangefinder style. The reason they were popular was a combination of convenience and, surprisingly, image quality. The lenses rarely got fancy and stayed in a focal range and speed that made designing and manufacturing easy. The large size of the 35mm film was also a benefit and the "noise" profiles of the "camera files" could be improved in seconds by loading whatever the latest, best fast film of the day happened to be.

So, why did the "point and shoot" start its decline and then fall off the map in the recent days of digital photography? I think that's a pretty easy question to answer: The bulk of the digital point and shoot cameras used tiny, tiny sensors that were far worse than film in anything other than blazing daylight. Then there was the race for longer and wider zoom lenses which led to an actual decrease in optical quality that even a rank consumer could gauge. Finally, the screens on the backs of the basic point and shoots were mediocre while the early EVFs were atrocious. The real question might be: Why would anyone buy one of these cameras in the first place?

There were always exceptions to the sallow picture I've painted in the previous paragraph. The Sony RX100 series. The Panasonic LX series and even, to a certain extent, the likable Canon G series (at least the 9 and 10). But for the most part the digital equivalent of the film point and shoot was a miserable product.

At the high end it's been replaced by cameras like the Sony RX1 line, the Fuji X-100s and a few others.

It seems to me that the true replacements to the point and shoot cameras we used to love are the new entry level cameras from the mirrorless camera makers. The one I gravitated toward is the G85 but it is similar to the Olympus EM10iii and even the Fujifilm XE-3. If you want a true point and shoot you'll probably gravitate toward the Sony RX100V but I wanted a few more things that the Sony doesn't provide.

I wanted enough grip space to be able to handle the camera comfortably in the same way that I hold and use my cameras when working professionally. I wanted a camera with interchangeable lenses that would allow me to play with older lenses but also access all the new stuff I'd bought for the GH5s. I also wanted a camera that would share my existing cache of batteries that I use with the FZ2500.

That led me to the G85.

The camera is a micro four thirds model. It's set up like a traditional DSLR, with a vestigial pentaprism hump and all the basic design cues. While the sensor isn't state-of-the-small-camera-art when it comes to resolution the color character is of the moment and the sharpness is superb. It's probably a result of removing the anti-aliasing filter from the sensor array.

I spent $899 for the camera when it was on sale. That included the 12-60mm kit lens which features the dual image stabilization capability which gives the camera+lens a stability approaching the market leading Olympus cameras. The range of the lens is great and the optical quality is very good. Not as needle sharp and contrasty as the Olympus 12-100mm I've been using almost non-stop, but very good for a kit lens.

The G85 starts up quickly and the EVF is very well done for a camera in this price class. The camera is solidly built and gives one the impression of workmanlike reliability and purpose.

But why would I even need/want a camera like this if I have two GH5s and a nice selection of more esoteric zoom lenses?

If I were less timid I'd just use the GH5s for everything and replace them if they are destroyed, stolen or used up. But I'm always thinking that I want to preserve them for working projects. For jobs that generate money. The G85 gives me 90% of the potential of the GH5s (for still work) in a mini-system (camera+lens) that's about a third the replacement cost of the GH5+lens.

The G85+kit lens is also much smaller and lighter than its bigger sibling which makes it more pleasant to carry constantly when serious photography is not the priority of the day.

I'm currently shooting for work and pleasure with mostly just two camera models; the G85 and the GH5. They share lenses and they share menus, for the most part. I still have the FZ2500 but use it sparingly now that the GH5s have taken over most of the heavy lifting in video.

This represents the smallest number of cameras I have ever owned since started out as a hobbyist in 1978. It's a very freeing experience. There's little of the indecision about what to take to work that used to haunt me. After working with the Olympus 40-150mm I'm also thinking about selling the FZ2500 which would get me down to just three cameras. The Olympus lens does a great job supplying a "long lens" solution and I could apply the proceeds of the sale back into more lenses.

But the G85 is a bit of a linchpin. It gives me a "what-the-hell" camera to take out in the rain, in dust storms, during hipster stampedes, and other situations in which having to watch out for your money making cameras kills the mood and hampers risk taking.

In the end the GH5s cement their position in my work universe every time I use them. The G85 is expendable. Fun but expendable. Everyone should have a capable camera whose demise would not break one's spirit or one's bank account. For everything else there is the iPhone... But the G85 might be cheaper to buy and is cheaper to operate......