I have done a number of camera club presentations recently and it’s very clear there are a lot of people who really get the concept of Lightweight Photography. I have to say that it’s usually the women who appreciate this most and appear much more accepting of this new approach. Many of the men seem to be stuck in the paradigm of using an SLR for ultimate quality (sorry chaps, but you need to wake up and smell the coffee).
Much of the resistance to the idea of using lightweight equipment is that the quality isn’t there but this is a myth. I easily dispel this by showing some of the prints I have made from Micro 4/3 cameras and asking people to comment. Somehow people seem to equate heavier SLR cameras with quality and distrust anything that is lightweight, even when the evidence is in front of their eyes.
I thought therefore that I would share my top 5 reasons for using Micro 4/3 cameras:
Size – these cameras are much smaller than SLR’s and consequently much more portable. It’s easy to hold and shoot with such a camera only inches from the ground or high above your head. It’s easier to experiment and be creative with these in comparison to using an SLR. Interestingly small also equates to less of a threat in the minds of the public. People tend to ignore me when shooting with a small camera but point an SLR in their direction and they react – something you don’t want.
Weight – these cameras are much easier to carry around so you are more likely to take them places and more importantly use them. It also makes them much less tiring to use which should be reflected in better and more enjoyable photography.
Depth of field – because the sensor size is half that of a full frame camera, the depth of field that can be achieved is greater. Try it out and you will be amazed by how wide the aperture can be and still allow you to achieve a full depth of field in your image. I now regularly shoot at between f/5.6 and f/7.1 and seldom need to stop down beyond f/11.
Quality of image – this is related to the previous point. Not needing to stop the aperture right down helps me avoid diffraction which can lead to soft images. Having a wide aperture keeps lots of light entering the lens, the shutter speed fast and the aperture within the area of best performance. Also it allows me to shoot handheld and still keep the ISO low. All these points add up to great quality in the final image.
Price – I am sure this will change as there is a shift to these cameras, but the cost is generally lower than equivalent SLR kit. At the time of writing I can by a 16Mpixel GX1 for less than £400 which is about the same as an entry level SLR. For around £150 I can buy a 14-45mm lens which is superbly sharp. Then there is the 45mm Olympus prime which is under £300; to get anything like this for the Canon 5D would cost 3 times as much if not more.
There are other benefits to the Micro 4/3 camera but to stop you from dumping all your gear on eBay right now I will stop there. If however you have your own reasons for loving Micro 4/3 that I haven’t covered, why not add a comment to share this.
Whilst I love photography, one of my other passions is hill walking. I can’t think of anything better than being out in the mountains with the exception of being out in the mountains with a camera. And that’s where I was at weekend, up in the mountains of the Lake District. Unfortunately I didn’t get too many pictures as for most of my walk the visibility was less than 10m – thank goodness for my map, compass and GPS.
At the moment I am trying to put in some serious miles as I have an Alpine trek coming up where I am trekking from Monte Blanc to the Matterhorn at altitude. The other Saturday was therefore spent completing a 20Km walk around the Newlands Horseshoe taking in Maiden Moor, High Spy, Dale Head and Hindscarth and extended by including Catbells. Despite only being 20Km it was quite demanding with a good amount of ascent and decent so the day stretched out to 8 hours (not helped by the thick fog reducing visibility to less than 10m).
As I said above I can think of nothing better than taking pictures on these treks so I took my lightweight kit with me which consists of a Panasonic GX1, 9-18mm Olympus lens, 14-45mm Panasonic lens and 45-200mm Panasonic lens. Reducing my equipment down to this level makes my backpack much lighter and the walking much more enjoyable. There is also a further benefit of this lightweight equipment that I wanted to highlight and that is the carrying of the camera itself.
I tend to like my camera hung around my neck as I walk or sometimes slung around my neck. Over the years this has actually caused me a lot of neck problems and I know of a lot of others who also suffer because of this. The lightweight camera gear I now use is much more acceptable to carry in this “always ready” way and I now notice how much better my neck and back feel the day after a walk.
So my plea is to those of you who are reading this and are young enough to think this problem will not affect you. I want to tell you that it will, it’s just a matter of time. I therefore want to save you time, pain and money spent on Physiotherapy bills and say don’t carry your camera around your neck unless it’s lightweight. Even then, invest in a longer strap and carry the camera around the neck, with one arm through the strap so the strap comes across your body. I would hate to think you read this in 20 years time and think ah yes, he was right.
One of the benefits of the Lightweight photography approach is as the name suggests that it’s lightweight. This becomes particularly true where you are engaging in another activity which compliments your photography but which is physically demanding. This is certainly the case with one of my other pursuits, Hill Walking. You need to keep equipment small and light so that you are able to carry it along with other essential equipment for the hills and mountains.
On a few of my recent treks I have found that I am keeping pretty much to using one lens, a 14mm-45mm which is equivalent to 28mm (wide angle) to 90mm (telephoto). There have been a few times where I have thought that I should switch to a wider lens and a few more times where I have thought that I should switch to a longer lens than 45mm. In all of these occasions I have had suitable lenses with me but they have been in my backpack so changing lens means stopping and removing the pack. As this is inconvenient for both me and anyone walking with me, I tend not to change the lens.
On my last outing I decided it was time to perhaps switch to a super zoom lens. I know Panasonic produced a 14-140mm lens which would give the equivalent of 28mm to 280mm (a huge range). Looking up the lens later I found it was around £500 and had a size and weight that was suitable for my use. The lens really would open up a lot of opportunities and be far more convenient for me and there were a lot of reviews from people who were very happy with the performance.
Now it’s not that I distrust the views of others but I am highly critical when it comes to image sharpness and the resolution of lenses so I went looking for some sample images for download. I found plenty of sample images but unfortunately all were JPG; not a RAW file in sight. Looking at the JPG’s, all of them displayed the usual softness that in camera JPG’s usually do. Is this the lens or is it the camera? I suspect it’s the camera but without the RAW file I can’t judge how sharp the lens actually is. I’m also reluctant to splash out £500 to find out if the lens is good or not.
I really want to lighten my equipment further but not at the expense of image quality. My plea then is does anyone have any sample RAW files at 14mm, 75mm and 140mm using this lens, or know where I can find these? If you can help either add a comment to this blog or email me using firstname.lastname@example.org.