Thursday, December 26, 2013

Marine Corps training and photography

I was only in the Marine Corps for three years, but they were from the age of 17 to 20, and many of the things I was taught back then I still consider useful and important.  Perhaps I’ve mentioned some place that my experience as a rifle instructor applies to photography.  "Hold them and squeeze them" applies to snapping a shutter as well as pulling a trigger.  Also, I am accumulating cameras and lenses in the same way I used to accumulate guns:  A battery comprises a gun for every purpose one can reasonably imagine.  I don’t accumulate guns any longer, but I am building something like a battery with cameras and lenses.  Guns, will never wear out if they are properly cared for, but that isn’t necessarily true of DSLR cameras. They have only been around for a little more than a decade; so it is too soon to tell; so to be on the safe side, and if the price is right, it is prudent to back up the cameras one is especially fond of. 

Also, I am constantly reminded that I never felt especially comfortable with a new handgun unless I had fired perhaps a thousand rounds through it, over a period of time, of course.  I feel the same sort of thing in regard to cameras.  I need to spend a lot of time with each camera before I feel adept with it.  I was perhaps up around 10,000 shots each with the E-1 and E-520 before I decided the Olympus DSLR cameras were pretty good.  And thanks to the influence of marketing, plenty of camera users were willing to unload their "obsolete" Olympus cameras with 100 to 500 shutter actuations in order to "upgrade".  Why should I buy a new camera, whether an EM-1 or any other new camera when there is a thoroughly tried and proven camera available with just about everything the new camera has minus the bugs and in near new condition?

My “battery” rationale may be fairly weak.  I do like to try new systems, but have no wish to try the latest and greatest according to marketeers and their reviews.  I'm a hiker and when Olympus quit making DSLRs I found the Pentax K-20D, K-7 and K-5 to my liking.

As to the Micro 4/3, for the most part that is too new a system form me to switch to or try in any big way.  I did however find an EPL3 on sale with the 14-42 kit lens for $199 and couldn't resist that.  I've probably put about 500 shutter actuations on it and can think of niche situations where I'll be happy with this light-weight little thing.  Choosing an EM-1 over a K-5 is another matter.  I already have the K-5 and don't find the EM-1 at all tempting, even if the price were comparable to a K-5, which it isn't.  I was acquiring only Olympus DSLRs, but when Olympus quit making them I began adding Pentax DSLRs, and the camera I'm most likely to buy next isn't the K-3 but the K-5ii or K-5iis.

I have added a third system when I acquired the EPL3.  I like the idea of being able to look down into the articulated LCD screen in the manner of the old Kodak Duaflex camera.  I don't have any "gritty streets" to walk in order to photograph "gritty street people," but I do find some interesting scenes when I'm not on a hike; so I fancy the EPL3 will come in handy.  Maybe one day if the price drops low enough I'll acquire the EPL5.  Will Olympus make an EPL7???

Sunday, December 8, 2013

On Olympus Cameras and Philosophy

I have over a few years gotten immersed in the goings on of an Olympus DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) forum.  I have a number of these Olympus DSLRs (which are in the 4/3 format) and all the lenses I need.  No doubt I could have become equally attached to any of the brands.  They are all good, but I chose Olympus.  And then Olympus decided to quit making DSLRs. 

Olympus-forum angst hit almost everyone.  I argued for a while that the existing cameras weren’t going to wear out anytime soon, but one could prudently ward off running out by buying backups at low prices from eBay, KEH, and elsewhere.  One need never run out of them even if one lived another 100 years.  But I discovered that there was an emotional price to pay for hunkering down with the old stuff.  It was akin to hiding out some place and waiting to die.  One needed a future.

Olympus came out with mirrorless cameras in the Micro-4/3 format and these cameras got better and better.  They were a small step up from Point and Shoot cameras in size but they had interchangeable lenses.  The lenses weren’t quite as good as the old 4/3 format lenses but Olympus compensated for their flaws with software.  Many refused to buy the early Micro-4/3 cameras because they didn’t have OVFs (Optical Viewfinders); so Olympus created an EVF (Electronic Viewfinder) that simulated the OVF.  Many Olympus users made the transition to the micro cameras, but not all.  I was one who didn’t.

Why didn’t I make the transition?  Since the early micro cameras didn’t have viewfinders, one needed to focus a camera by looking at the LCD screen in “Live View.”  I never liked the Live View approach.   I prefer the Optical Viewfinder.  So I chose Pentax to obtain my “future.”  Beginning with their K-20D camera they made relatively light weight (compared to the Olympus E-3) rugged, good performing DSLRs, and the announced intention was that they would continue to do so.  I didn’t get rid of my old Olympus cameras and lenses.  They are still functional and I still like them, but I acquired Pentax K-20D, K-7 and K-5 cameras and a selection of lenses suitable for hiking.  I had become a “two-system” user, Olympus 4/3 and Pentax DSLRs.

It is difficult to avoid “brand loyalty.”  There are Nikon, Canon, Sony, Pentax loyalists as well as others.  One tends to “ride for the brand.”  Loyalty is not usually as extreme as that found in response to British Soccer teams, but some of the Micro-4/3 people are approaching that level.  Micro evangelists came after many of us on the Olympus 4/3 forum urging us to get with it, buy the Olympus micro cameras and support the brand (Olympus).  One doesn’t become a “traitor” if one adds a second brand.  Many 4/3 users have done that. They refer to their Canon or Sony cameras and I have met several Olympus users on the Pentax forum.  But in the view of the Micro evangelists one needs to support the Olympus brand as well.

Years ago I started work at Douglas Aircraft Company and we competed against McDonnell Aircraft company.  I remember riding for the Douglas brand back then; but then Douglas merged with McDonnell and I was subsequently working for McDonnell Douglas.  After that we competed against Boeing.  I was riding for the McDonnell Douglas brand although I never shook off the irony of it.  And then Boeing bought McDonnell Douglas and I seamlessly began working for Boeing.   I can’t say I ever (mentally) rode for the Boeing brand because the real Boeing was in Seattle whereas I worked on the C-17 program (which was begun by McDonnell Douglas) in Long Beach. 

Companies, whether Boeing or Olympus strive to develop a loyal base, but the people who run the companies are more cynical about loyalty.  They are willing to merge or sell a company if those acts will enhance their individual portfolios.  A tried and true method of enhancing a company’s stock price is to lay off as many employees as possible.   The loyalty of the laid off employees doesn’t influence that decision.

I am not cynical about owning Olympus 4/3 and Pentax cameras and lenses.  I enjoy taking them on hikes.  I make a selection depending upon the weather and whim and head out on a hike with the dogs.  But I am cynical about the baying of the micro evangelists who (to continue the metaphor) snap and snarl at anyone not furthering the Olympus bottom line.  They perhaps fear that not enough people will buy the micro 4/3 cameras and Olympus will discontinue those as well; so they treat the Old Timers as semi-retarded and in the need of direction which they feel eminently qualified to provide. 

I was offended by these micro-hounds; so I probed about the forum to take the emotional temperature of the other Old Timers.  I discovered that they didn’t care.  Yeah, they are bothered a bit, but they just hit their delete buttons and move on.  They urge me to do the same. 

Years ago I was influenced by Marcus Aurelius and Epictetus.  They strove not to be affected by matters they could do nothing about.           They purportedly were quite successful.  I agree with the Stoics and do indeed strive not to be affected by matters I can do nothing about, but unlike Marcus Aurelius and Epictetus I have not been very successful.