Reversing a Decision

This post is about me and my cameras but it could be about a wide variety of other things other than cameras but the principle is the same perhaps, knowing when to quit one course of action and instead do something else !

The story starts around 15 months ago when I decided to “churn” all my existing photographic kit and the header picture above of a particular camera is what started it off though the journey has had a rather different ending from the one I imagined at outset…

The Background

I am a keen photographer and going back to 2000, had ‘bought into’ the Canon system of DSLR cameras. The description of ‘buying in’ is accurate because in the age of digital cameras, the bodies come and go over time, it is only the lenses that remain. So that in due course, you tend to build up a lens collection and it is this more than anything else that ties you into a particular brand and camera manufacturer.

Camera bodies as with most consumer goods, don’t tend to have a big trade in value so I had never bothered with trading in far preferring to give old kit away to anybody who could use it. The consequence was that I had a lot of kit that I no longer used knocking about and in addition I realised that of my lens collection, there were quite a number I never used any more. They had been bought before my interests and therefore type of photography had settled down or, they came as part of a deal.

The final piece of this jigsaw puzzle came in a camera I bought at Christmas 2015. There had been during 2015 a lot of fuss about “mirrorless” cameras and whilst curious, I wasn’t prepared to put too much money into exploring them but I got lucky. Panasonic did a camera called the G7 with a kit lens with a list price of £529 but were doing a £100 mail in rebate whilst at the same time the store was also doing a £100 in store discount promotion so the camera cost me only £329 which was fine. So all the above was the starting point.

What Happened Next

Over the next 9 months or so, I used the G7 alongside my other cameras, it could do tricks they couldn’t but overall, it wasn’t going to replace my other gear but was a useful addition to them especially as a video camera. It really came into its own because of it diminutive size and light weight on a trip to the US to visit my 93 year old Uncle, much better than hauling all my DSLR gear. Not wanting to put big money into another glass collection, I used adapters to mount my existing Canon glass on it as well as some vintage FD glass but ‘native’ is always better so I picked up a couple of spare Panasonic lenses second hand.

Whilst playing with 4k video and the built in time lapse facilities was fun, I never was totally convinced about it as a stills camera. On my return from the USA, Panasonic announced the imminent arrival of the upgraded version, the G80 but this time the price with a much better kit lens and build was to be £800 however, by trading in my G7 and some other surplus kit, I got the camera for nothing. Okay, you have to forget what you originally paid for the kit you trade in, it is what you can get that counts and in due course the G80 arrived and I was at ease with trading redundant kit.

In fact over the following year, I went rather berserk in the sense that piece by piece I churned all my gear, bodies and lenses for better stuff, albeit second hand gear, I was delighted with the result and learned a lot in the process. The biggest lesson being that there is a damn good reason why Canon charge a lot more money for their professional grade lenses and they are worth it too when it comes to the results you get.

The Tipping Point

During this period of time I also traded a couple of the more expensive Panasonic lenses and could see that you needed to pay the money there too to get the quality and that started me thinking and asking just one question; “Are you going to go down this route too in parallel with your Canon lenses ?”

The answer was a reluctant no, I’m not because as a photographer in an “either/or” scenario, I would take my Canon kit over the Panasonic and as far as 4k video is concerned, I need to master my storytelling and editing on HD first before I worry about 4k. There was an overall financial issue too which I will return to at the end of this piece but for now to put the final piece in place.

I have over the years often had a “back up” type camera and the Canon G series of fixed short zooms has been a favourite, I’ve had about 3 of those but today there is a better option, the Canon M series of small mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras. By an odd series of coincidences, I ended up with an M6 at a ‘reasonable price’ and what I soon discovered was that it was a far better ‘fit’ for me than the G80.

Now I’m not saying that the M6 is a better or worse camera than the G80, each has its own strengths and weaknesses it depends what you the photographer/film maker want but for me, the M6 works better. It is not even because with an adapter I can use my EF lenses on the M6, I can but as the G7 and G80 taught me, heavy lenses on small camera bodies really don’t work out that well, native lenses are far better. That said though, when I mounted a couple of old Canon FD lenses on the M6, I was quite amazed to find that the manual focusing aids on the M6 were far superior to those on the G80.

In the end the G80 and all its associated kit and lenses got traded to give me a second hand Canon full frame body and another Canon short zoom L lens, brilliant I am a happy bunny because I have the kit options I dreamed of not so long ago. Then perhaps more so because of the following which I only put together afterwards…

The Right Instinct

As I was arranging the trade, I noticed that there was a rumour about a new Panasonic camera due, an upgrade or replacement (?) for the G80, a few days later though not shipping until the New Year, the G9 was announced. Obviously the media mob have had a preview some days/weeks previously because the web is full of “first impressions” videos the day of the official launch and yes, the G9 looks a stunning bit of kit but oddly, it has just confirmed that I personally made the correct ‘jump’ at the right moment in time on financial grounds alone.

We start with the cost of the G9 body now: £1,500, which is over twice the price of the G80 which can be got as body only, £630. My original G7 still seems good value including kit lens at £500. However whilst you can bitch about the price for the body of the G9 that is not really where the problem lies for me because the real ‘kicker’ is to contemplate the cost of a lens setup. Even though the mega pixel count has gone from 16 to 20 as with any system you need the lens collection to give you the best and the following would be my selection for versatility:

  • Panasonic/Leica 25mm 1.4 – £460
  • Panasonic 8-18mm 2.8-4 – £1,050
  • Panasonic/Leica 12-60mm £880
  • Panasonic 100-400mm £1,300
  • Panasonic/Leica 200mm 2.8 £2,700

The point is that complete with body, the whole kit would cost the best part of £8,000 which is a lot of money. Without getting overly complicated about crop factors, Micro 4/3rds is x2 as opposed to my crop sensor cameras at around x1.5 and my full frame at 0, I can match all of the above on quality with the Canon DSLR glass I already own and have paid for. So my point has nothing to do with the quality of the G9 which I am sure rather like the Olympus OM-D E-M1 MK II will be brilliant but I am happier sticking with DSLRs for now.

Mirrorless vs DSLRs

There is a lot of noise about whether one is better than the other and I am lucky to have lived with a couple of mirrorless cameras over two years so that I have a clearer view and yes, there are definitely some advantages and some trade offs in both technologies. Will the ‘flapping mirror’ of the DSLRs survive, I doubt it, it is mechanical and costs money to engineer, if they can replace it with a couple of electronic chips, they will do so if only to save costs and keep warranty claims down but first they must defeat the ‘blackout’ which as demonstrated by the Sony A9 can apparently be done.

However, if you step aside from all that technology and whether it is ready for prime time yet plus the inevitable arguments about this brand or that at the end of the day it all comes down to people like me and whether we are prepared to switch systems and in this case at a cost of near £8,000. This amount is way too rich for my blood and there is no great incentive to force me to change, after all the expense would my pictures suddenly get better ? I don’t think so and I don’t consider that my job is to keep buying hardware either, my job is to take pictures and the camera you know is likely to be the best one to help you do that.

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