Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Confessions of a System Switcher

I started DSLR photography (aka - really serious into getting photos) around March of 2008.  At the time I didn't have much money to invest into a system, so I got myself a Pentax K200D with a kit lens.

All was okay for a while, but I kept reading about Pentax's top model at the time, the K20D - it seemed to offer way "more" than my K200D, so naturally I just had to upgrade because surely it would make my photography better.  Fast-forward past selling my small pickup and I had myself not only the K20D but a few lenses too (included the outstanding 50-135 f/2.8).

Well, that was almost 4 years and 8 or 9 (I've lost count) complete systems ago.  It seems I'm as fickle as they get when it comes to photographic gear.  Let's go through my reasons of why I bought into certain systems, only to sell them a short time later.  Hope you've got some time :)

The Beginning - A Pentax User

At the time the K200D as a kit was only about $699, which was a great price for me.  I liked the weather sealing and in-body anti-shake, and the fact it could mount older lenses (whatever that meant -- I was a complete neophyte and never once mounted an older lens to the system).

What I didn't like was noise - well, I thought I didn't like noise.  Had I stepped back a moment, I would have realized I was pixel-peeping just for the hell of it and it was angering me.  Let's ignore the fact my prints from the Pentax system showed not an iota of noise - I was concerned it was there and by God I was going to do something about it!

One legitimate complaint I had, though was the AF system - it was just dog slow in lower light.

The Beginning of the End - The Selloff

Soon enough I found I could sell gear at FredMiranda's or PentaxForums (avoiding Ebay fees), and off I went.  I was simply convinced I was going to be a Canon shooter and I was going to shoot weddings for BIG MONEY!

So after the Pentax sell-off, I got myself a Canon 40D system (and getting a Pixma Pro for practically free didn't hurt).  I used the Canon for a while, great camera, but found another excuse to drop it - I didn't like the focal lengths of the lenses I had bought, and I hated shooting much for that idea.

Then came Nikon, then Sony, then Nikon again, then Olympus, then Nikon (or was it Canon?), then the opposite of whatever the former was, and now I'm at Canon.  I'm sure I missed a few systems in there somewhere.

The End of the End - The Realizations

Right now my gear is quite modest - A Canon 5D (the first one), a good and cheap Tamron 28-75 f2.8, a Canon 70-200 Mark II (outstanding lens), and a 430EX II flash.  That's it.

It makes great images.  It's mostly good enough for what I do.  Yet I want to sell it all off.

You see, it doesn't have an articulating screen - and apparently I really, really want one of these.

Tools are a Good Thing:

Like a lot of the elitists photographers out there, I initially poo-pooed the articulating screen - it was a feature not found on "real" cameras but on point and shoot cameras, and we all know point and shoot cameras are for novices.  I was a pro!  (or at least an advanced amateur).  You wouldn't catch me dead with an articulating screen!

Then came the Olympus E-5.  I bought into the Olympus 43 system because, well, I had never shot it before and since I can't even dream to afford a Leica system, Olympus was the only one left.  Also, the 43 lenses have an almost legendary status as being very sharp, so what the hell...I decided to get the then just-released E-5 (actually, I got it before the official release!) and a slew of lenses.

The Olympus E-5, image from Olympus USA's site.
Olympus USA

The E-5 included a pivoting screen - a feature I thought I would 'forgive' Olympus for putting on the camera.  Well, turns out it's a really good feature to have.

All of a sudden, I wasn't crawling on my belly in the mud trying to get the head-on flower shot.  I could actually frame the knee-high shots without either killing my back or squatting and (the next morning) paying for it in my knees -- Let's not forget the overhead shots, which I started using more of, just because I finally could without dragging a ladder around.

Fast-forward a few systems later and I find myself really wanting an articulated screen in a prosumer body.  Therein lies the conundrum - who offers such a thing?

I thought Sony would scratch my itch with their NEX-5N - here was a very small but comfortable to hold camera with great IQ, great low-light capability, and a swivel LCD.  I got the system to replace my wife's D90 setup (which she actually prefers for whatever reason over the 5N - how did I know she'd actually like using a viewfinder?) and I thought I would use it also because of the screen.

Sony NEX-5N, courtesy Sony USA
Sony's Site

Well, I do use it because of the screen....but certainly not because of the autofocus.  Here we go again - a camera that almost has it right, but would have trouble tracking anything faster than say...a glacier.

I eventually ended up with the Canon 5D and lenses mentioned above - a good kit by any measure, but one that doesn't scratch an itch.

The Realization

As I'm browsing the internet the past few days, I come to the realization what I have to do - Sell off the system yet again so I can finance what I really want - A prosumer, high-performance body with a swivel LCD.  Nobody has this in a camera except the Sony A77.

There are other reasons, of course - I want the higher pixel count for when I do tripod work and landscapes (I'm a pixel junkie, I admit).  I'm no longer afraid of noise because I know how to control, mitigate, or just downright ignore it.

But mostly, it's the screen - well, and the feature set that also comes with an acrobatic screen - Lots of cameras have screens that twist and turn, but there's only one with the specs I want that does it.

Alas, off goes the Canon system.  I like it a lot, even for all its quirks - there's no denying the 5D outputs some beautiful imagery.

My Daughter, Canon 5D with 135L
See it at flickr here

So although I absolutely love the Canon's image quality, I loathe having to use the camera for off-angle shots - Even if the camera had live view (which it doesn't), I would't be fully satisfied because some compositions are just really hard to get without an articulating screen, and apparently I'm a real fan of said compositions.

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