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. 

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