Exit APS-C, Enter Micro Four Thirds

As a teenager, I took a photography course in high school and so began my life-long interest in making pictures. My first camera, of course film, was a Pentax something or other. My folks got me a couple inexpensive lenses and I took a lot of crappy shots and got lucky with a few others. I even managed to get one in the yearbook – full page – and I wasn’t on the yearbook staff. Unheard of in my school.

I joined the military right out of school and after a year or so, got the itch to shoot my travels. The military helps members out by running what they called Audio/Visual stores. This was long before any commercial Internet, of course. The A/V store offered stereo system gear and camera gear. From the cheapest of both types of stuff, the kind of gear you’d find at any consumer store, to the finest items not normally found in any but true high-end specialty places. And all at fantastic discounts.

So I bought a Canon AE-1 and some good glass. That lasted till the A-1 entered my sights. Plus a lower-priced Bronco medium format.

The base also had a A/V club, which, unlike the one in your high-school, was actually cool to belong to. Completely outfitted with darkrooms and everything else a photographer could need. I don’t know if either the stores or clubs still exist, but they were just part of the wide-ranging group of services we had access to. So I shot a bunch more crappy shots and the occasional decent capture.

Then I went without a camera for about twenty years.

Bought a Minolta slr and a couple cheap zooms. I had never used auto focus until the Minolta. Didn’t matter – still shot a lot of crappy pictures and managed to make a few decent ones.

Flash forward two years and I decided to try one of the now affordable dslr models from Canon. I followed my routine of adding a couple cheap zoom lenses. Then things changed. The Internet offered lots of information and opinions. I upgraded from my Rebel to a 30D,then a 40D. Plus every quality lens offered by Canon. And Sigma. And Tokina.

Then Canon seemed to falter. Nikon opened a gap in body design and quality. So I sold all my Canon gear and moved to Nikon. I made a mistake and didn’t check the lens lineup. Turns out that while Nikon had made huge strides in body technology, the lens lineup, at least the newer, constant-aperture lens lineup had not. Canon users enjoyed – and demanded – high-quality professional grade constant-aperture lenses and Canon delivered. Nikon users, on the other hand, used consumer grade variable-aperture zoom lenses. And seemed to like it! Truth be told, a lot of them were and are pretty decent.

Nikon has made huge strides to address this and now has, like Canon, two lines of professional grade lenses in f2.8 and f4. They’ve differentiated themselves by offering pro-level lenses targeting APS-C users where Canon insults their APS-C followers by making those offerings low-quality, yet high-cost. The 17-55 Canon was one of the reasons I jumped ship to Nikon.

Okay, so what the hell does any of this history lesson have to do with the title of this post? Well, I guess you could say that the more things change, the more they stay the same – even when…um, they are changing.

Wanting something smaller and lighter to take on my daily dog walks, I started looking for a second camera. Typical for me, I started researching. The idea of a second body, probably a point and shoot, grew into a must-have everything second body. Size grew. Went from point and shoot to one with interchangeable lenses. I looked at Fuji but too many people commented, negatively, about focus speed and a lack of a total system. I looked at every mirror-less system out there and settled on M43 – Micro Four Thirds.

I chose the Panasonic DMC-GX7 with the kit lens. Like the move from Canon to Nikon, rather than get comfortable before committing, I jumped feet-first into the fire. Sold the whole Nikon lineup – including my month-old D7100 – and went with a Leica 25/1.4 and Leica 45/2.8 macro and a Panasonic 35-100/2.8 to go with my GX7.

My hands are large. M43 cameras are not. Oops. I really don’t like that electronic viewfinder too much. Oops. Since the LCD is touchscreen, you can’t put a screen protector on it. And, unlike most Panasonic M43 bodies, the GX7 doesn’t allow you to flip it around to protect it. Oops. No M43 maker has a decent flash unit. Oops.

So. I am trying to like it but it is a challenge. I took it out today and shot my dog. As she ran and I shot her, the EVF blackout bugged the heck out of me. I kept shooting and, surprisingly, got some decent captures. Lots of crappy shots, too. So what’s new!?

So, I jumped ship on the spur of the moment – again. I found out – after – that there were things I should have known before. I’ll adjust. I’ll sell the GX7 and get a Minolta EM1. Probably find out after there was something I should have known before.

Some things never change: spur of the moment decisions, partial research – the part I’ll do will border on the obsessive, the part I’ll miss will border on the negligent and lots of crappy photos. But I’ll get to use another system and while I do, it will mature. Someone will release a great flash. Another player will jump in and make a body incorporating all the good parts of both Minolta and Panasonic and add the missing pieces that neither offer yet. And I will make some great pictures.

Till something new comes out and I do it all again.


















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