Brian's Photo Blog — Article 519
<< PreviousNext >>Blog Index
I Do NOT Need to Upgrade My Photographic Equipment!
Monday 22 February 2016   —   Category: Equipment
In the summer of 2012 I dumped my heavy, bulky Sony APS-C camera system and built a new Micro Four Thirds (µ4/3) system around the then-​new Olympus OM-D E-M5 camera. For the past three and a half years I have been very happy and satisfied with my E-M5 and µ4/3 lenses. During that period I have taken about 12,000 photos; the best 3,311 (so far) are presented on this Web site.

While I have been busy enjoying photography with my beloved E-M5, Olympus and Panasonic — the two primary manu­fac­turers of µ4/3 equipment — have been busy creating new cameras and lenses. In our modern consumer society, manu­fac­turers are constantly telling us that we need to “upgrade” to their newest and “best” products. And it is so easy to feel like we are missing out and being left behind if we refuse to keep up with this upgrade-cycle treadmill.

Here are some of the major gadget-lust temptations Olympus and Pana­sonic have dangled in front of me over the past couple of years:
When the Olympus OM-D E-M5 came out in 2012, it was a ground-breaking advance in the four-year-old µ4/3 system, taking µ4/3 from the not-quite-ready-for-prime-time consumer/hobby level to the semi-pro level. At the same time, Panasonic introduced some pro-level zoom lenses and Olympus brought out some pro-level prime lenses — many of which I purchased as I built my complete µ4/3 lens kit.

Since then, the improvements in Olympus cameras have been more evo­lu­tion­ary than revo­lu­tion­ary. Sure, they have added some nice features and capabilities which my E-M5 lack, but they have not really broken any new ground — they have merely cultivated the ground which the E-M5 already broke. It is definitely not worth a thousand (or more!) of my precious dollars to upgrade to a newer-model camera just for some minor improvements.

On the lens scene, Olympus has come out with a set of pro-level zoom lenses (listed above) to compete with Panasonic’s existing offerings. And Panasonic has come out with a new pro-level 100-​400​mm this year, which is a tempting replacement for their mediocre consumer-level 100-​300​mm that I had purchased soon after I got the E-M5.

All of these new lenses are excellent lenses with better quality and performance than the lenses in my kit. But such high quality does not come cheap! They range in price from a “modest” $800, to $1,000, $1,300, $1,800 and a whopping $2,500 (for the 300mm prime). Are they really that much better than the lenses I already own? Furthermore, money is not the only cost when it comes to quality. These wonderful new lenses are both heavier and bulkier than the comparable lenses in my kit.

The quest for lighter and smaller camera equipment was the whole reasons I dumped my high-​quality and expensive Sony camera system in the first place. When on a Silver Falls summer solstice hike in 2012, I nearly collapsed under the strain of lugging my ponderous camera system seven and a half hours over the nine-mile trail in 80°F heat. There is no way I am going to torture my body like that again! And I for sure don’t want to get DSL-ARM!

So it makes no sense at all for me to transform my svelte, bantamweight µ4/3 system into a cumbersome heavyweight, resembling the Sony system I rejected, by “upgrading” to a larger and heavier µ4/3 camera body (like the OM-D E-M1), or by replacing my existing lenses with larger and heavier ones. That would be going in a direction opposite the one I wish to go.

Our modern upgrade-mentality treadmill is a vicious cycle that entices us to replace perfectly good equipment with the “latest and greatest” model. Would spending multiple thousands of dollars on replacing all of my photo equipment with “new and improved” versions really, truly make my photos that much better? I highly doubt it! As I wrote in my very first article on this site:
In the end, the quality of the camera equipment is not the most important issue. You can have a top-of-the-line professional camera system, and still take mediocre photos. And there are people who take awesome pictures without having awesome camera equipment.

When it comes down to it, really, the most important equipment is not the camera or lens, but the inner photo­graphic eye. That reality takes a lot of the pressure off to find the “perfect” camera system. I simply need to let my photographic eye lead me, no matter what equipment I happen to have in my hand.
I am very content with my three-and-a-half-year-old camera and my current lens kit. This µ4/3 equipment meets my needs, makes wonderful-quality images, and is about two-thirds smaller and lighter than my previous Sony APS-C system. My happiness with my camera system is evidenced by the fact that I went on 24 photo outings to Portland in 2015, resulting in 34 articles and 27 photo albums — so far.

I say “so far” because unfortunately I am so backlogged that I still need to sort and edit nearly 1,200 photos from eight of those outings. Apparently my camera equipment and photographic eye are working just fine! Who knows? It just might be that after a ten-year quest I have finally achieved photographic-equipment nirvana!
Brian's Photo Blog — Article 519
<< PreviousNext >>Blog Index