A funny thing happened on the way to the studio, or so the story begins. For some time my wife, along with a few close friends and employees, had basically nagged me senseless to look at purchasing a camera system that would be radically different to my work gear.
Why? Because they wanted me to start to enjoy photography outside of work. To gain the interest and drive for personal projects I used to have forty years ago. I only ever pick up a camera for client driven work nowadays, and they wanted to address that. The reason they felt it should be a different system was so I had to think differently when picking it up. Buttons in different places, menu options in a different order etc, etc, etc. All with the intention to slow down my pace and make me think about what I was doing and how I was doing it.
OK, I wasn’t exactly bullied into it (My wife made me type that bit), as it was something I had talked about for a number of years when reminiscing about my youth and the evenings and weekends spent roaming the hills and towns looking for inspiration. I talked a little more about it after the Olympus OM-D E-M1 was launched at the end of 2013.
Finally, August 2015, I stopped talking about it and bought an E-M1, a battery grip and a 12-40mm f2.8 lens. That should do the trick!
After charging the batteries, I loaded them and mounted the lens. Not at all what I expected.
This was to be my weekend warrior kit. A one night a month out in the hills, or dragged around the woods occasionally kind of camera. You know the type. There if you need it, and no grief if you don’t.
It’s not supposed to nag incessantly at the edge of your thoughts, dragging your attention away from the all engrossing social media posts from your friends who have to tell the world what they ordered at the restaurant, and show images of their cats and dogs. OK, I like the cats and dogs thing.
I found myself picking it up, fondling the grip and buttons. Squeezing the shutter and roaming through the menus. I needed to shoot something, and I just had to do it soon.
I had a food shoot the following day. Yes, it was work, but my wife didn’t need to know. What could possibly go wrong?
The 12-40mm Pro lens demonstrated exactly why it is labelled as such. Ultra close focusing ability, and the depth of field is a real boon for food photography, as is the In Body Image Stabilisation.
I came back from that shoot and ordered the 40-150mm f2.8 lens, along with the dedicated 1.4 teleconverter. I’m not sure I told my wife about the purchase for a few months. How do I explain a fast tele-zoom as being part of an ad-hoc weekender kit?
The Olympus went with me on every assignment, gradually becoming the weapon of choice and the first kit I would reach for. Twelve months later, a second E-M1 and grip appeared. (No dear, I’ve had it ages!).
The Olympus kit came into its own when I had a couple of shoots in the USA a few weeks ago. Did you know two gripped E-M1 bodies are the same weight as a single D4? I kid you not.
I originally began by looking for its strengths, only to struggle trying to identify its shortfalls. I shot everything! From food to vehicles, portraits to bridal brochures and products to landscapes.
The only area that caused any kind of stumble was high ISO in low light. And that kinda irked me. A wedding will always need a first dance, and a first dance will always be in a low lit scenario. And if you ever have to work with some of the DJs I bump into, low light can be read as No Light! Seriously!
So basically, for the last twelve months I’ve held onto a full frame kit, with backup body and lenses, along with speedlights and all the tripe you tend to pack, purely because of the need for the first dance.
Until the 26th November 2016
Sarah at Cambrian Photography gave me a nudge, pointing out their Christmas show would be on, and Olympus would be present with their E-M1 mkII. I’d already pre-ordered it, as the specs looked amazing and certainly as far as I was concerned, it was worth the cost. Especially with the dual cards and the extended battery life.
So, I trundled through to Colwyn Bay and made my way through the throng of customers, all ooing and ahhing at the latest cases, tripods, lenses and a myriad of other stuff on display. I finally stood before the Olympus stand, and there was the object of my desire. My wife, holding the E-M1 mkII (you work it out!).
Yep, everything seemed as it should. It nestled firmly and comfortably within my sweaty hand and I discussed at length my hopes and fears with the nice young chap from Olympus. And then we broached the dreaded high ISO and low light. A very broad grin from my new found friend as he spun the command wheel and selected ISO6400, the value I usually end up shooting at when photographing the first dance. A couple of frames examined very closely indeed, and my pulse raced. I managed to keep a fairly straight face as I handed the camera back and thanked him.
I drove home, packed the D4 and posted it to a close friend who had been asking to purchase it for quite a few months. The rest of the full frame gear is going on ebay shortly.
Goodbye to a long standing and reliable friend.
Hello new methodology, creativity and opportunities.
I have already received the new 25mm f1.2 lens from Sarah (If you want to talk about camera porn, this is the starting point), and the mkII with the grip and batteries will arrive around mid December.
New horizons beckon.
All images are shot with an E-M1 and generally the 12-40mm f2.8 Pro.
Yeah, I know I’m still only shooting for clients, just don’t tell my wife.
Many thanks to Sarah for the nudge. In fact, thanks for far more than that. Cambrian Photography is a camera shop owned by a photographer, staffed by photographers of varying abilities and interests, which makes it an incredible resource for all of us. They can be found at http://www.cambrianphoto.co.uk/