This year I have acquired two new Micro Four Thirds cameras. Not just any old cameras, The creme de la creme, the bees knees, the dog’s bollocks of Micro Four Thirds cameras, £4,000 worth! Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the Olympus E-M1 Mark II and the Panasonic GH5.
No question, great cameras both of them. Probably overkill for most photographers. They certainly are for me. I don’t really need 60 frames per second burst shooting. In fact, there is nothing I need that isn’t catered for by a Panasonic G80 or an Olympus E-M5 Mark II,
Yet there is always something seductive about top of the line equipment. For some photographers it is a matter of prestige and for a few a matter of necessity but I reckon for most it is a matter of curiosity more than anything else.
What does the best feel like? When a reviewer says the EVF is fantastic, how fantastic is fantastic? And how does it compare to the EVF in my own camera? If I want to shoot my dog jumping a hedge, does 60fps mean I can’t miss the picture? And is the C-AF so fast and accurate that they’ll all be pin sharp? Does the new sensor make 12,800 ISO clean enough for daily use?
There are three ways to find out. Borrow one, hire one or buy one. The truth is that with cameras as sophisticated as these, a couple of days hire or loan won’t even get you familiar with the control layout, let alone the performance. Sitting on the sofa with the camera pointed at the mantelpiece and whopping off 60fps won’t tell you much. Except that 60fps is an ideal conditions theoretical maximum more than an exact setting . A bit like that 62.6 miles per gallon your car will do.
So in the end, the only way to find out if you really want one is to buy it, play with it and shoot with it for a few months until it becomes familiar. Then you’ll know. But what if you don’t like it in the end? What if you only use that 60fps capability because it is there? And what if, when showing the results to friends on your tablet, the 20Mp files look no different to 16Mp ones?
Selling it will lose you a lot of money along with the eBay fees. So you’ve spent a shedload of money on something you don’t really want. To say nothing of all that time validating it to your partner.
Don’t worry, it won’t happen. You will like it. Nobody spends that much money on a camera and admits to themselves, let alone anyone else, that it was a mistake, You’ve spent so much time justifying it that even if, in your heart of hearts, you feel a bit…. well, disappointed, you won’t acknowledge it because you don’t want it to be so.
You’ve bought into a dream. I had that dream many years ago when I hankered after my first Leica. I thought it would make me Cartier-Bresson. Or rather, I thought I couldn’t start out on the road to Cartier-Bressondom until I had the Leica. Me being me, all that buying a Leica did was teach me that I was not Cartier-Bresson and that I didn’t like Leicas. It was a bit unfair on the Leica really. As Rose’s lover remarks in Steely Dan’s song ‘Rose Darling’, “all I ask of you is to make my wildest dreams come true”. It’s a bit of an ask.
I’m over all that now. Using all kinds of cameras day in and day out in my professional life, I came to see them as the tools they really are. Beautiful, intriguing, desirable, tactile tools. I love them and always have. I’ve been lucky to have worked on a daily basis with some of the world’s best, most expensive cameras . It has made me quite blasé about the best, the high end, highest performing cameras. That ought to be a bad thing but I don’t think it is.
I’m in an unusual (but enviable) position in that at any given time I have a selection of around half a dozen Micro Four Thirds cameras to pick from when I go out. My dilemma, Having both the E-M1 Mark 2 and GH5 to choose from, ought to be which one of them will I take? it isn’t.
My head says, these are the best there is. Why would I choose something not the best? I don’t know but my heart and hands just instinctively prefer the G80 or the GX80. Being blasé, I don’t feel pressured to use something because it is ‘the best’. Right now, If I had to choose just one Micro Four Thirds camera to keep it would be the G80. With the 12-32 and 35-100mm small zooms it’ll fit a shoulder bag. Fit the battery grip and with the 12-40 and 40-150mm Olympus Pro zooms it’s a meaty picture making machine.
Would I miss anything from the two big boys? From the E-M1 Mark 2, the supremely comfortable hand grip and the machined from solid metal feel. It has the same satisfying gun like precision as the Hasselblad.
From the GH5, the focusing joystick and the My Menu function. To have a menu consisting only of items you personally place there is sublime. I have long advocated a menu system where you only add items as you need them. That way, none of the stuff you never alter even gets in the way. On the other hand, if you find yourself daily resetting the AF Focus Adj. Lens Data set or the Master Pedestal setting, you can put them right up there at the top of your menu.
The joystick, all I can say is that it is simply the best way to focus bar none. Move the focus area around the screen intuitively, press it once and it re-centres the area, again and it leaps back to the last position it was in.
So there it is. I have a choice of lobster and caviar and I pick the cassoulet. For those of you who don’t know cassoulet, it’s a French peasant dish, their version of pork and beans. The funny thing is that the freedom to pick what I like, not what I ought to like, that is the real luxury.