I ran across a youtube video by someone that shares a name with me… no need to mention who. They had the most interesting opinion. The end of Micro 4/3 was near. Fancy that. The “end” of micro four thirds. As a system? Really?! Just my opinion…but I think this was superly clever to generate some buzz. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, and I completely respect that. And people can think whatever they like for whatever reasons. It did what it was supposed to…it got me thinking. I have invested heavily into M43, and my clients pay a lot of money for me to deliver the best work I can. And I trust m43 for that…do I have any future in this…and have I been mistaken this whole time? So I thought about it. And thought some more. I want to share some of my mental ramblings with you.
Based on what many of the arguments for “full frame” are and where the industry is “going” … lets run that scenario. Lets pretend cell phones keep taking over the world of photography and manufacturers need bigger and bigger to stay relevant. Where do we go with this train? Let’s look at the current new offerings and progress forward.
Everyone is putting out 35mm sensor cameras. High megapixel counts rule, and lens makers are building larger more exotic glass to get the best from these sensors. Canon, Sony, Nikon, Panasonic, etc… Leica might soon start feeling encroached upon in their lonely at the top stratosphere. Meanwhile medium format cameras are coming down in price and into reasonable to use bodies, Fuji, Hasselblad, etc… Still expensive, as are the lenses.
Ok so what is next… lets keep going with bigger glass, higher megapixel bodies and a heavy battle to distinguish 44mm medium format from 35mm cameras. More horsepower in the cameras to deal with massive megapixel counts. Bigger lenses to deal optically with the sensor demands at 100+mp. Now you need bigger and better computers to deal with the files. Now you need bigger storage to deal with all the data. Now you need more funds to deal with the rising cost of pro-level cameras and technology which accompanies it. Maybe everything moves to medium format and then medium format companies start building 6×9 sensors and 4×5 sensors. Let’s just keep on going…. right?
It’s your $1,000 cell phone or your $15,000 camera kit and $5,000 computer. You choose.
Ok stop right there. Why does this feel like a bad dystopian movie. Because it makes no sense. Let’s use cars. Just because the trend for a long time was SUVs doesn’t mean the market for sports cars or compacts died.
4/3 has been around just as long as full frame cameras roughly. Olympus has been around this whole time. They are not going to just axe the system. They will evolve. Our big problem is calling it “micro” four thirds. I think they should have just continued to call it four thirds from the very beginning. Yes, pro lenses and bodies might get larger…but I think the beauty is in the options. A Pef F and primes is a tiny kit. Even my E-M1 with a prime is TINY. A gripped E-M1 with L bracket and a 300 F/4 is not. I like my options. I don’t NEED my gear to be micro. I’m not after micro, i’m after a whole system. As a system, I am getting everything I need, options, and a size that is convertible to my needs. Especially when it comes to weight and space needed to carry.
Regardless, lets go over a few more points that popped out from that video I watched.
-So…Cameras are not really an investment. You won’t be getting all your money back. Sorry. They are tools. And tools change and grow with us, with technology, with needs, etc…If you want to invest, go play with rare exotic Leicas. Cameras are disposable tools. If you USE it…it will wear out. That is not an investment. Don’t buy into cameras expecting you will never lose money. You will. Like anything else. If later it no longer serves you, move on. For professionals, a business is a business and you cut losses and buy what works. For enthusiasts however…when you spend $10,000 on a kit…that can be a lot of money you feel like you may lose. Well…its the use value. Use your equipment, make pictures, get the value out of your spending my making images you will cherish. Do something to ensure the money you spend was worth it. Get your moneys worth out of what you buy.
-So our vlogging friend did state that results don’t come from the camera…and M43 is very capable of producing results. Very true. I can’t wait for some projects of mine to complete so I can share the work I have been making with this system. Freaking amazing. What blows my mind is how effortless this system works to get the job done. It makes my life easier. Oh and if you haven’t tried shooting an electronic viewfinder with LED lights instead of strobe… you really should. Final image right there in the viewfinder. Whole new world. No guessing!
-Don’t define a camera by its sensor. Sensors don’t make photographs…they just record light. They are the flavor that helps define the photograph we make. Sensors are like audio recorders and mics are like the lenses. Everyone is using different gear and getting amazing results. Use what gravitates for you. Take a look at the general level of image creation lately…we have really stepped up all across the board. And people are using every system out there and producing the same. When will we believe our pictures instead of our brains.
-If the gear works now, the gear will work in 10 years. (assuming no electronic failure) If technology is so far advanced and the system is over…cut the loss and see what tools work for you best at that time frame. The camera environment will be totally different. You will also be different. Re-evaluate who you are, and the kind of imagery you are making. Maybe something else will work better at that time. Or maybe you just keep using what you have.
-Equivalency yes… a 5.6 full frame lens is the same size…sure… Remember though, F/2.8 is STILL f/2.8. And my shutter speed will be two stops faster still. I LIKE to have extra depth of field. Not everyone needs the entire background blurred like jello 100% of the time. Horses for courses as they say. All I know is that my 45mm F/1.8 is a tiny little portrait lens that delivers. I don’t care if a 45mm F/3.5 pancake is smaller on a full frame…I am getting F/1.8 on my lights with a faster recycle time. F/1.8 is 1.8… depth of field is not everything.
-Cellphones killed the compact…but they won’t kill the system camera as a whole. An iphone is not a replacement even if the quality is just as good. (which it certainly isnt…I have an Iphone XS and the image quality is a joke in comparison to crafted photography…but the images look great on a phone screen!) Handling, menus, customization, view of the world, lenses, etc… all play a role. A camera puts us into a different mindspace. Let me repeat that… A camera puts us into a different mindspace. Just because my phone is also a VERY capable multitrack audio recorder doesn’t mean the professional recording studio is broke. It puts you in a different mindspace. The camera as a tool for those that wish to create is indispensable still. The photographic craft for those that wish to pursue it cannot be replaced by a camera phone. That device has changed aspects of the photographic world, and created a new way to work the craft…but it’s just another path along that road. Not a re-paving of the existing.
-Bigger glass is always better? Is it? You still have to carry it. And support it steady. Plenty of wildlife photographers I know are making mind blowing work with out the bazookas lately. Every had to fly with those lenses? Yeah…have fun. I can fit my telephotos in my vest pocket.
-All of life doesn’t revolve around high ISO noise and shallow depth of field. Everyone’s needs are different. If bigger is better, than why aren’t we all running around screaming for everyone to jump on the Medium format bandwagon and by the new Phase One IQ4 150 sensor? Bigger glass, bigger sensor, etc… Actually mind blowingly better detail capture than “full frame.” The sensor is well over twice the size and resolution is 3x the current batch of sensors. Because it is a slow hulking monster to use. Bigger doesn’t mean better. It comes with complications. That’s why in the video world a GoPro, a GH5, an Iphone, etc… all have their place next to large cinema cameras and rigs. Bigger comes with baggage. Bigger comes with limitations. Bigger is not always the answer for your needs. How many people that live in a crowded city do you know that drive a 3 row-SUV? How many people have a scooter, or a bicycle. Yeah.
Every one has yelled about Olympus “dying” forever. Olympus has remained, innovated, and continued to be a viable system that grows and evolves. From 4/3, to the maturing of that vision into M43, to what the future holds next. I believe Olympus will continue to be the smaller format that punches WELL ABOVE its class, continues to innovate, and continues to be an excellent choice for those that find expression in this system. Their lens line is strong, competent, and frankly a lot more attractive than many other lens systems out there. I think there is plenty more to come.
Find the right tool that gives you what you need and empowers and enlightens your vision to express. No two people are the same in this regard. For years I used a custom 37-fret 7 string guitar with a rotating neck (yes it actually rotated with my hand…) and it was huge and insane and needed a custom flight case just to carry around. It was RIDICULOUS. And I loved it and it served my art perfectly then. I have since found my new love in a small, light, headless guitar, that is a feather in comparison. I’m at a different point in my life, i’m different as a musician, and this new instrument is serving my needs better today. I didn’t “lose” my investment. I grew. And the money I spent today was in my further growth, not in the loss of an instrument. I still have it, it still plays great…but its just not me right now.
Use what serves you, your expression, and your voice. Don’t worry about what will be, or what else, or other people. Just use what suites you. And sometimes it’s not what your brain is yelling for, or what you were hoping it was. That is ok. Use what your heart loves and frees you when creating. Use that. Use what gets out of your way and becomes an effortless part of your expression. Use what pushes your growth. That will serve you…and when it doesn’t, something else will. It isn’t about the tool…it is about you.
It is about YOU. Let’s stop making this about gear companies and what they are releasing…and let’s get back to YOU. The human BEING, the creator, the artist, the playful spirit, the love, the anger, and all other emotions, the storyteller, and the reporter.