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[OM] Systems Rationalization

Subject: [OM] Systems Rationalization
From: Ken Norton <ken@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Tue, 8 Sep 2020 10:50:36 -0800
Now that I've augmented the Four-Thirds system to a point of
sufficiency, there comes a point where I need to rationalize the kit a
bit and determine "what next" or "what goes". The problem with "what
goes" is that most Olympus gear is priced in the "scrap metal"
category, so it really is a matter of just gifting others that are
even more mentally disturbed than I am. I have done quite a bit of
rehoming, especially with all of the darkroom gear, and duplications
of OM stuff. There is still a lot of rehoming to go, but the majority
of the kit actually has some purpose in life.

I purchased the Sony A7 Mk2 to best utilize the OM Zuikos. That is a
decision and kit that serves a fantastic, but limited purpose. The
image quality from that kit is second to none, and absolutely superb.
However, it isn't for all applications, and the kit can get quite
heavy. I do enjoy hiking with it with just a pair of lenses. The 28/2
and a 100/2 or 100/2.8 makes a good walk-about kit. However, I know
that it won't make a good winter kit because of battery life and
weather-proofing. It's a great camera for working from around the car.
It's basically like a medium-format camera system for today. What is
weird about the Sony is that it's a wonderful camera, but it just
lacks something. You would think that the Sony would be the first
camera I would grab when I'm heading out the door, but it really
isn't. Part of that is the EVF which is nearly impossible to
comfortably see when shooting outdoors. However, indoor, low-light
photography? Lock on that OMZ 28/2 or 50/1.4 and Bob's Your Uncle. The
focus-peaking is extremely good and with those lenses, there is
nothing I can't photograph handheld indoors. THAT is the absolute
sweet-spot for that kit. My enjoyment with the Sony and the F2 lenses
for indoor photography has never been greater. (And the Sony with the
OMZ 300/4.5 is bonkers good for mountain landscape photography).

All year, I've been going back and forth on the Four-Thirds system. I
was set to completely abandon it, then I augment it, then I go to
abandon it, then I augment it again! At this point, I am convinced to
keep it going and tag a couple more items to the kit before calling it
capped (for now). It's big, heavy (except for the E-400 kit), and
doesn't have the latest/greatest sensors, but honestly, this system
"delivers the mail". I've got bodies and lenses for all occasions. For
portraiture, there really is no equal to Olympus
Four-Thirds--especially with the CCD sensors. (Some exceptions do
exist, with caveats). The addition of the SWD lenses and an E-3 not
held together with duct tape (literally) really brings the system up
to a level of usability that I was lacking, but overcompensating for.
I would like to add one more camera to that system, being either the
E-5 or an E-M1 Mk2 with battery grip. Or both. No hurry, I'll be
patient. For winter photography, The E-system is the best as it not
only is weatherproof, but it actually functions at -20F temperatures!
I'm usually getting an hour out of a battery regardless of how many
pictures are taken. Best of all, the viewfinders of the E-bodies are
generally visible and usable in any condition, with the E-3 having a
rather gloriously large viewfinder. Resolution, even with the E-1, is
not much of an issue as I do a LOT of multi-image stitching in
Lightroom. Ultimately, I'd like to have this kit upgraded/reduced down
to an E-1, E-5, E-400, and E-M1 Mk2.

The Micro Four-Thirds system is rather interesting. Honestly, I
absolutely love that little GX85 with the Lumix kit lenses and 25/1.7.
My total investment in that kit is next to nothing. It's so small and
lightweight it can go anywhere and everywhere with me. It's been my
primary hiking partner this year. (The E-400 with 14-42 and 40-150 is
also a great hiking system). I've thought about augmenting this
system, and doing a whole bunch of lens upgrades and additions, but
have realized that it would defeat the purpose of the system--which is
to be light and small. I'm not particularly interested in a slightly
smaller/lighter version of the Four-Thirds system that is essentially
a duplicate. When I want serious glass, I can always put any of the OM
or Four-Thirds lenses on the GX85. The GX85 kit goes everywhere
precisely because it is what it is. If I start swapping out lenses,
and buying a whole bunch of lovely primes and better bodies, it will
no longer be that "go everywhere" kit.

The question is whether or not to abandon two of the systems and
consolidate into one. If one, which one? Obviously Four-Thirds is a
dead-end, and Micro Four-Thirds is highly likely to be one too. Sony?
Panasonic? Canon? Nikon? Fujifilm? Eventually, I will abandon all and
settle in on some new-shiny 100% native kit, but I don't see that for
a while yet. In the meantime, all three systems actually work
together, with the only real exception of the Micro Four-Thirds
lenses. But my investment in those three lenses is tiny. I've got $550
tied up in Micro Four-Thirds between the GX85, 12-32, 45-150, 25/1.7,
and extra battery. That's it. All purchased brand-new! What an
incredible bargain! That 25/1.7 was on sale for something like $100
and is actually a VERY good lens. I was able to justify the 4/3 SWD
lens additions because of the compatibility with m43. I can put a big
honkin lens on the Panasonic when I want to, but only when I want to.

A lot of the "indecision" really involves my current unique living
situation. I'm essentially on an "extended paid vacation" in one of
the most beautiful places on earth. I get to experience all two
seasons here (Winter and Tourists) which complicates matters quite a
bit. If I was planning a two-week vacation in Alaska in summer, I'd
settle in on a kit that is best for "from the scenic turnouts"
photography that covers all the expected bases. Give me a couple of
bodies, and lenses to cover from extreme-wide to extreme-telephoto, a
big tripod, and several hundred GB of cards. I want maximum coverage
with a kit that fits in that high-intensity "drive, shoot, drive,
shoot, drive, shoot" environment. I'd spend a fortune on cameras and
lenses to capture the "Great American Landscape" photograph to hang on
my wall. But living here means that I get to do the same pursuit as
any other photo-tourist, which requires a similar kit, but I get to do
the other things that tourists can't generally do, and that's spend
time on the trails, climbing mountains, hiking into ravines that may
or may not yield anything exciting, and just take the time to let the
clouds and light do their thing. The preferred kit MIGHT be the same
as the road-trip kit, but it might not either. I'm not afraid to say
"hey, let's go for this day hike up a mountain and only bring a 28/2
len on the Sony". A two-week vacation photographer would never allow
him/herself that luxury. Winter photography has entirely different
requirements too, when you're out in -20F temperatures (heat wave)
drudging around on snowshoes, wearing thick gloves and eye-protection.
And I do shoot (well, not in 2020, but that's another story) events
and portraits, so there is the need for a competent kit there.

So, for now, I'm satisfied with the triple, but interactive systems.
It really is an embarrassment of riches. I get to choose what is best
for a given situation. In the past two weeks, I've actually hiked with
four distinctly different systems. Which one was my favorite and
yielded the best results? All of them, but for different reasons.

AG Schnozz
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