Anybody who shoots some half decent photos (and probably many people who don't) have been asked "What camera do you use?" - and the answer is easy, the model number is probably printed on the body.
But that's never the whole answer. If it comes to this topic, I usually try to engage in a conversation to understand the objective for the question, and hence be able explain why I made the camera choice I did in the right context. To give everybody who comes across my photos this explanation and maybe some thoughts for their own gear choice, I've outlined my equipment below and provided some narrative as well.
- Olympus OMD EM-1
Why not Canon / Nikon? Why not full frame? - These two questions are among the most common ones I hear. My answer requires some understanding of the camera landscape nowadays, which is essentially grouped in four areas (I am speaking in broad terms here. The reality is not always as simple as below):
- SLR full frame - the biggest, most powerful, most expensive cameras with a mirror system and interchangeable lenses.
- SLR with crop factor - smaller versions of the above, but still with a mirror and interchangeable lenses.
- Mirrorless - similar technology as above, but no longer has a mirror and sports interchangeable lenses.
- Compact cameras - small, less powerful, fixed lenses.
Let's ignore the differences between 1 and 2 for the moment, and also ignore the Compact cameras (which to me are being replaced by smartphones anyway) and zoom in on the difference between SLR and Mirrorless. Take a look at the image below.
This shows the fundamental differences: No mirror, no optical viewfinder. This results in big size reduction and coupled with the smaller sensors it also means much smaller lenses. This explains the fundamentally different approach between the systems, but there are also a few specific points why specifically Olympus for me.
To give you some background: I've been shooting with Olympus - the Four Thirds system at the time - for the past 10 years, which means ever since I started out with photography. The reasons at the time were coincidental and a combination of price, availability and some word of mouth. Towards the end of the Four Thirds era, it became much easier to justify the choice as the correct one for myself, as Olympus was able to differentiate itself in various areas. With the introduction of the Micro Four Thirds, the mirrorless version of Four Thirds, the differentiators amplified significantly and nowadays it's very easy to explain to someone why I like the EM-1.
The main benefits are:
- Size: Half or less the volume of comparable SLRs
- Weight: Half the weight
- Image Stabilisation: This is amazing, a true killer feature. Since the camera has stabilisation built in, any lense benefits from it. I get sharp handheld shots with 1 second exposure!
- Weather Sealing: Water, sand, dirt are all no longer your enemy.
- Lenses: More on that below.
There are three downsides to me - albeit the latter one being lower priority.
- High ISO performance: More than ISO 3200 is very problematic, which means less flexibility in low light photography (the lenses can make up for that though)
- Bokeh (the creamy blurry background you sometimes want in Portraits, for example) is less pronounced compared to full frame cameras.
- Video: Not a major factor, but the EM-1 is not as strong as some other competitors here.
As is often the case, making the right choice for yourself depends on what you want to do, and the priorities resulting thereof. My gear meets my needs very well right now, and the downsides are acceptable tradeoffs.
- Olympus M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 7‑14mm 1:2.8 PRO
- Olympus M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 12‑40mm 1:2.8 PRO
- Olympus M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 40‑150mm 1:2.8 PRO
- Olympus M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 8mm Fisheye 1.8 PRO
- Olympus M.ZUIKO DIGITAL 45mm 1:1.8
t's been said before, but lenses are more often than not the crucial factor in the shot you want to get, as their focal length influences the amount of scenery you can capture (wide angle or zoom) and the aperture controls the amount of light and depth of field on your photos.
I am carrying five lenses with me when I go for longer trips. Obviously for small shoots I don't always take all of them, as the EM-1 with the 12-40mm is an excellent allrounder in a very small, almost pocket-sized, package, for instance.
While 5 lenses sound quite a lot, here is another key strength of Micro Four Thirds. These lenses weigh on average half the amount as comparable DSLR lenses and are significantly smaller than their counterparts.
With the first three I can cover anything from 7-150mm at a constant 2.8 aperture. It's worthwhile nothing here that Micro Four Thirds have a crop-factor of 2.0, which makes these lenses the equivalent of 14-300mm on full frame cameras. This range covers anything but the most extreme circumstances, and all of that with excellent image quality - Olympus has always been known for its outstanding lenses.
I then carry two "specialist" lenses. The 45mm F1.8, which is extremely light with excellent value for money. Its large aperture is ideal for portraits and low light photography. The Fisheye lens can give you very creative angles for architecture and landscape photography.
There is not much more I would ever ask for in terms of lenses, the only gap I have is an excellent macro lens, but I have not played with macro photography a lot. If that happens, my choice would most likely be the M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 60mm 1:2.8 Macro.
- M.ZUIKO DIGITAL 1.4x Teleconverter MC‑14
- Manfrotto Tripod 190XProb with Ballhead 494RC2
- Gorillapod Medium
- Tarmac Bag (unsure of the mode)
- Olympus Battery Grip HLD-6
- SanDisk Extreme 60MB/s
- Olympus FL50R Flash
- Merlin Pan and Tilt Head
- Dynamic Perception Stage One
- Dynamic Perception MX-3
- Manfrotto Three way head 804RC2
For my timelapse stuff, I like using the dolly to get more interesting movement into the shots. I switched from Dynamic Perception's Stage Zero to the Stage One due to the much more convenient, flexible and lighter construction and at the same time also got an MX-3 instead of the MX-2. I made some custom mods to control the Merlin with the MX-3, this is not supported out of the box but wasn't too difficult. It's still the cheapest tilt and pan solution out there by far. I am very keen to move up to the NMX, the digital solution Dynamic Perception now offers, but at the moment I am not shooting much timelapse and I also still want to master Hyperlapse first.
- DJI Phantom Vision 2+
Ah, the most controversial photography tool out there. I got a Phantom Vision 2 early in 2014, where they were not as common yet and I absolutely loved it. It's a lot of fun, brings immediate results, easy to use, great product. I did - of course - manage to crash it and sunk another one into a lake, so upgraded to the Vision 2+, which has an amazing built in Gimbal. Would love to shoot more with it, but nowadays the legal risks stemming from the lack of regulation and clear rules are a potential drawback.
- MacBook Pro 15" Touch Bar (Late 2016)
- Dell P2415Q
- Aperture 3
- Final Cut Pro X
- Adobe Photoshop CC
I just love Aperture's workflow and UI. Unfortunately it's been discontinued and I may have to look at Lightroom soon, but I am dreading it. Luckily, Final Cut Pro X is unlikely to suffer the same fate and I use it for my video edits. While I've started playing with After Effects, Motion and Premiere Pro, they are not really part of my workflow yet.