My Ten-Year Quest for Photographic-Equipment Nirvana
Tuesday 23 February 2016 — Category: Equipment
When I was a teenager I had such a passion for photography that I bought myself a Pentax SLR and a few lenses. Unfortunately, over the following decades I let that flame fizzle into a heap of ashes. But like the mythical phoenix, my passion for photography was reborn 10 years ago in 2006 when I bought a Panasonic FZ50 bridge camera. Since then I have been on a quest to reach the elusive state of photographic-equipment nirvana.
After four or so years with my fixed-lens camera, in 2011 I purchased my first SLR in 25 years — and this Web site was born at the same time. When I was deciding which camera system to buy into, I dismissed Micro Four Thirds (µ4/3) as not ready for prime time, and full-frame cameras as too big and expensive. So I ended up building a system around a Sony Alpha α55 with an APS-C sensor. By 2012 I had moved up to the Sony Alpha α77 and had spent a lot of money on some nice lenses.
There was only one problem. When I took all of this camera equipment on an outing, it was so heavy (12.6 lbs, 5.75 kg) and bulky that it filled a large, heavy backpack. And each time I changed lenses (which was frequently), I had to take the backpack completely off, set it on the ground, and rummage through it. Once I added water, food and other day-hike supplies, the total weight on my out-of-shape, five-decade-old body was around 40 pounds!
On the summer solstice in 2012 I nearly collapsed under the strain of lugging my ponderous camera system for seven and a half hours over the nine-mile trail at Silver Falls State Park. You can read all the pathetic details in my Silver Falls Summer Solstice article.
There was no way I was going to torture my body like that again! Only 18 months after buying my first SLR camera system in 25 years I was already contemplating getting rid of it and starting over! My great camera quandary was this: which interchangeable-lens camera system would give me both high-quality images and minimal weight and bulk.
As fate would have it, at that very moment Micro Four Thirds came of age with the release of the groundbreaking, award-winning Olympus OM‑D E‑M5. Soon I was stepping into a brand-new Micro Four Thirds world and building a new µ4/3 lens kit.
At first I thought I might keep both camera systems, but it took only a short time using my awesome new Olympus camera for me to realize that I would never want to use my heavy, bulky Sony equipment again. I prepared to sell it all, but then I decided to give it all away to an aspiring college photography student.
I had not bought any prime lenses for my Sony system, but since µ4/3 lenses are so much less bulky, heavy and expensive, I decided to indulge in putting together a nice collection of prime lenses. However, I neglected my prime lenses for nearly two years before I really started to use them.
After three prime-lens-only photo outings, I evaluated my experiences in order to reach my final verdict on prime-lens-only photography. And the verdict was: my µ4/3 prime lenses needed to go! By selling three lenses as well as some other photography and computer equipment I didn’t use any more, I was able to recoup about $3,400!
There is one prime lens which I have been trying to sell for the past year. Because it had been dropped (but is still in great condition), I am selling it locally on Craigslist instead of on Amazon or eBay, so any potential buyer can try out the lens in person.
I still have two prime lenses which are keepers. I love close-up photography, so there is no way I am going to get rid of my macro lens. I am also holding onto an old prime lens from my grandfather which I adapted for µ4/3 use.
In November 2012 I had a short-lived fling with a Panasonic G5 as a second, backup µ4/3 camera. That affair turned out to be a great disappointment, but it did serve to increase my love for, and appreciation of, my wonderful Olympus OM‑D E‑M5 camera.
I haven’t even mentioned my quest for the ideal pocket camera — for those occasions when my µ4/3 equipment is not small, lightweight or discreet enough. I made a number of unsatisfactory purchases — a Canon Powershot S100, an Olympus Stylus TG-2 iHS, and a Fujifilm FinePix F900EXR — before finally finding contentment with a Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS50.
As we have seen, in my attempt to reach photographic-equipment nirvana there was a flurry of acquiring — and getting rid of — thousands and thousands of dollars worth of camera equipment during 2011 through 2015. Merely summarizing all of this activity makes me breathless and dizzy! So where does all of this leave me?
In my last article I wrote that I am very happy, satisfied and content with my current OM‑D E‑M5 camera and µ4/3 lenses, which are two-thirds smaller and lighter than my previous Sony system. I feel absolutely no need to “upgrade” my equipment to any of the “latest and greatest” offerings from Olympus and Panasonic. I can simply focus on using the equipment I already have to take on outings and make great images, rather than battling gadget-lust and worrying about the state of my bank account.
Nirvana is defined as “freedom from the endless cycle of personal reincarnations, with their consequent suffering, as a result of the extinction of individual passion, hatred, and delusion ... a place or state characterized by freedom from or oblivion to pain, worry, and the external world.”
In terms of photographic equipment, nirvana could be defined as “freedom from the endless cycle of equipment upgrades, with their consequent suffering, as a result of the extinction of gadget-lust and delusion ... a place or state characterized by freedom from the pain and worry of the upgrade-mentality of the external world.”
With this understanding in view, I think I can truly say that after a ten-year quest, I have finally reached the state of photographic-equipment nirvana. It is a peaceful and blissful place to be!