The Lure of Smaller, Lighter, Quiter
After decades of toting “big iron,” (35mm full frame Nikons), I have eagerly been responding to the sirens’ songs of Olympus, Sony and Panasonic that promise high IQ via packages with less size, heft and noise. For some time now I’ve shot extensively with various Micro Four Thirds cameras as well as Sony’s diminutive but full frame A7.
Results generally have been positive. I’ve sold most of my older gear except for one D600 body and several lenses and these pretty much sit, unused, on a shelf.
Instead, the majority of my still photography is produced with the Olympus E-M1 and an embarrassingly large collection of M43 glass by Olympus and Panasonic. My go-to lenses are a 12-35mm f/2.8 and a 35-100mm f/2.8, both from Panasonic. Both are small, light, reasonably fast and super-sharp and the two take care of 90%+ of my needs. I’ve recently acquired the “Leica” DG Nocticron f/1.2 and have just begun to explore its low light and bokeh possibilities.
Having said that, I still am enamored of full frame sensors and consequently have been experimenting with the A7. The size is right but its autofocus is too sluggish to effectively and efficiently capture fast-paced action. Also, in my opinion, its shutter is too loud and intrusive. The forthcoming A7s is said to include a virtually silent electronic shutter in addition to its mechanical one but that feature undoubtedly will come with some caveats.
Of course, the cliches hold true; the best camera always is the one you have with you, virtually all “serious” modern cameras in skilled hands are capable of extraordinary quality and the image is more important than the device used to capture it. Still, I admit that I love monitoring the evolution of the gear and obtaining certain pieces when they’re affordable. I’d argue that for some of us, streamlined equipment might yield better pictures.
I’m not prepared to completely abandon the big iron but each new, iteration of these smaller, lighter, quieter cameras suggests that the day is coming when I likely will.
The following were taken with smaller, lighter, quieter cameras:
Olympus E-M1, Olympus 75-300mm
Olympus E-5, Olympus 70-300mm
Olympus E-5, Olympus 75-300mm
Sony A7, Sony Zeiss FE 35mm
Olympus E-M1, Lumix 35-100mm
Olympus E-M5, Olympus 75-300mm