SPEAKING OF CAMERAS

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Taken with the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ200 from hundreds of feet away. Great lens!

Some photographers use a favorite camera all the time. Others use various cameras, depending on what they are doing. I’m one of the latter.

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On some level, I’m always shopping for a camera, lens, a bag, an accessory. Shopping for equipment is as much of a hobby as taking pictures. I guess this counts as a confession. Of sorts. I suspect it’s true for many of us.

We love equipment, the discovery of something new to play with. And, I’m always looking for the perfect camera. The perfect lens, bag. Something.

Swans battle geese

Meet the Super Zoom

I like taking pictures of birds. Doesn’t everyone need a super zoom, at least sometimes? There is no super-zoom lens for my Olympus or Pentax. It’s not even an issue of price. The lens I want doesn’t exist for my interchangeable lens cameras.

My solution is the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ200. It’s got a 24x f2.8 Leica lens. In 35mm terms, that’s 24 to 600 mm. In technical terms, it’s a helluva lens. Faster than the usual glass on a point and shoot. Faster than most long lenses you can buy for big money. It’s a big camera. Not a pocket-size point-and-shoot.

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I love this camera and have loved it from the first day I owned it. Panasonic makes longer zoom lenses, and much more compact versions of this camera. But none of them are as fast as this camera … or can do as much. Did I mention that Garry uses a slightly older version of the same camera? And loves it?

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OLYMPUS PEN PM-2 and PL-5

The backbone of my camera collection are Olympus PEN 4/3 cameras. I have two PM-2, a PL-5, and a PL-6. Why so many? It’s easier and faster to swap cameras than lenses. The PL-5 and PL-6 both have adjustable LCD screens. The recent entry into the U.S. market, the PL-6, has a touch the screen focus-and-shoot function I love.

PL-6 focus test

PL-6 focus test

Finally,I can overcome auto-focus’ programming which defaults to focusing on the foreground. The PL-6 lets you touch any part of the screen. The camera focuses there and snaps the picture. Fast. Of course, all Olympus PEN cameras let you manually focus, but my eyes are not good enough. I have to rely on auto-focus. Age is a bitch.

pl-6

The PL-6 was released more than a year ago in Japan, but never released in the U.S. Until mid-April when for reasons best-known to Olympus, they released at $299.  At which price, it’s a bargain, especially if you have a few credits available to apply.

The quality of the lenses is great and Olympus color is the best. I have five lenses, three “normal” zooms which came with cameras, one medium zoom, and three primes.

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My favorite lens is the Olympus 45mm f1.9. It has a wafer-thin depth of field and gorgeous bokeh. I always say you can’t take a bad picture with that lens. It’s not entirely true. Close.

Really, I’ve taken plenty of bad pictures with every lens. Don’t we all?

PENTAX Q7

Replacing a point and shoot compact camera as my carry-everywhere, the little Pentax Q7 has put the fun back into photography. This little camera is unlike anything I’ve used. It’s better than I expected and different. Hard to explain the difference, but you can see it in the pictures. There’s something about them …

Pentax Q7 plus lenses camera

Specs don’t always tell the story. The Pentax Q7 doesn’t sound like a big deal on paper, but in fact, it’s a great little camera. Tiny, light, it does almost everything its bigger brethren do.

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Low light test on the Q-7

The resolution is startling. You can’t make poster-size prints from these files, but 8 X 10, and 11 X 14 prints are no problem. The focus is fast. The gyroscope level is a great help. Most important, it gives me pictures that are crisp, clear, and true to color.

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Pentax put out a new version recently, the Pentax QS1 but the Q7 is still available on Amazon and other sites.

It is the smallest camera I own — the smallest interchangeable lens camera anywhere. I carry it in a padded insert in my tote. Which is how come it gets used more my other cameras.

Portability is an issue for most of us. I am always searching for the most camera in the smallest package. The Q7 comes very close to it. The camera with 3 lenses weighs less than most compact cameras. But … it isn’t right for everything.

Pentax Q7 camera inset in bag

No Camera Does Everything

No camera is good for everything. The camera industry is based on this fundamental truth. If one camera did it all for everyone, business would be very slow.

1) The Q7 takes gorgeous landscapes and is great for street photography, but it would not be my first choice for portraits, and none of its lenses is long enough for birds or other wildlife.

2) The FZ200 is a great all-around camera, but too big to carry all the time.

3) The Olympus 4/3 cameras are amazing, but I need lenses that don’t exist or at are too expensive for me.

When I combine all the cameras, one is usually just right for the job at hand. If I’m not sure, I default to the FZ200.

From across the pond with the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ200

From across the pond with the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ200

THE BEST CAMERA

The best camera is the one you have when you need it. Whatever you choose, keep it close.

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Comparison Shopping – THE ONLY Way To Go

I only paid full price for a camera once. These days, it’s hard to tell if there is a “full price.” You can find two identical new cameras online, one for $350, the other for $700.

Before you buy a camera or lens, check at least two camera sites, plus Amazon. Buy from a legitimate site, but don’t overpay. You’ll kick yourself when you discover you could have gotten it for hundreds less if you’d looked around.

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Using the art filter setting on the Olympus PEN PL-5

How Will I Know It’s the Right One

You won’t know for 100% until after you’ve used it for a while. You can read every review, get advice from every photographer you know and still discover it’s not exactly right for you.

No matter how carefully you do your research, you may not love the camera you buy. There’s no logical reason. It’s like finding the pair of jeans. They look the same, but they don’t feel the same.

We take better pictures if we love the camera. Seriously, we do. The search for perfection is ongoing … and fun.

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Wide-angle normal on the Pentax Q7

ME AND MY CAMERAS

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Taken with the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ200 from hundreds of feet away. Great lens!

Some photographers have a favorite camera they use all the time. Others use various cameras, depending on what they are doing. I’m one of the latter. Cameras come and go and no doubt always will. I have slots to fill. I don’t have much money, so I have to hunt for bargains.

Olympus PEN E-PM2

Olympus PEN E-PM2

I always need a camera with a long telephoto lens for shooting wildlife. Birds. My first choice was the Panasonic Lumix DMC FZ70. It was cheap and turned out to be worth less than I paid. The lens was crap. Bells and whistles don’t make up for bad glass. I gave it to my son and got a Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ200. With its f2.8 24X Leica zoom, if it weren’t so big, it would be the camera. But, compact is the one thing it isn’t. I got a great deal on it, before word got around and its price tripled. I could not afford it today.

NOTE: If you are looking for a camera that does it all, size isn’t an issue, and you don’t shoot RAW, check out the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ60.  With 25-600 f2.8-5.2 Leica lens shooting 20MP, it’s a great camera. Nearly identical to the FZ200, but faster. It’s out of production (the entire FZ line is out of production), but Amazon has some. 

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ200

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ200

The backbone of my camera collection are the Olympus PENs. I have three of them: two PM-2, and a PL-5. I had an Olympus PEN P-3 which recently moved to a new home. I got the Olympus PEN PL-5 in return. Why so many? I find it easier and faster to swap cameras than change lenses. And the PL-5 has interesting bells and whistles I actually enjoy using. It’s the first time I’ve ever used built-in camera effects.

Olympus PEN PM-2 with Olympus f1.8 45mm lens

Olympus PEN PM-2 with Olympus f1.8 45mm lens

I replaced my go-everywhere camera, a compact point-and-shoot Panasonic Lumix ZS19, with a newer Panasonic Lumix ZS20. On paper the ZS20 is a better camera. Jazzier interface. Cooler bells and whistles. But it focuses slower than its predecessor (especially in low light), and burns through batteries twice as fast.

Pansonic Lumix ZS20

Pansonic Lumix ZS20

Specs don’t always tell the story. I lean heavily on my compact camera. It’s the camera I keep close. On the advice of a fellow blogger, I picked up a Pentax Q7 kit. It is tiny, light, yet does almost everything its bigger brethren do. Now that I’ve figured out how to use it (blame the delay on bad documentation and a stubborn unwillingness to ask for help), I’m hoping it will be my go-to compact. So far, so good.

Olympus PEN PL-5

Olympus PEN PL-5

Except for the Olympus PEN P-3, I’ve never paid full price for a camera. Sometimes I stumble on sales. More often, I get an email from a fellow blogger telling me there’s a “flash” sale on a camera, lens, or software.

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Using the art filter setting on the Olympus PEN PL-5

These “flash” sales sometimes last as little as a few hours. I got one of my Olympus PEN PM-2 cameras for about $150 because I would take it in white. Otherwise, the price was $450. I got a second PEN PM-2 the same way. In both cases, I got an email from an Internet friend telling me to grab one, they wouldn’t be available long. I did. They weren’t.

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Pentax Q7 kit

Cameras are intimate items. I would rather share my toothbrush than my camera. Not every camera is right, no matter how carefully you do your research. The P-3 was never right, even though it was a great camera, maybe the best of the modern Olympus PENs. It never felt as good in my hands as the cheaper, lighter PM-2. There’s no logical reason. It’s like finding the pair of jeans. They all look the same to someone else, but they don’t feel the same to you.

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Wide-angle normal on the Pentax Q7

It’s hard to explain to a non-photographer the buzz you get from holding the right camera. I’m convinced cameras work better if they feel our love. And we take better pictures if we love them. Seriously, we do.

DAILY PROMPT: KEEPING UP WITH MYSELF

Since you asked …

I want the Voigtlander Nokton 42.5mm f/0.95 Micro Four Thirds Lens at a mere $999. It’s never on sale. It would be perfect paired with a new Olympus PEN E-P5. Also, I would very much appreciate the Panasonic 25mm f/1.4 Leica DG Summilux. These two lenses in combination would let me shoot in very low light without flash yet get fantastic quality.

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I don’t know about the Jones’. Are they photographers?

I don’t expect to get either lens or the new camera. I’ll gratefully work with what I’ve got, my latest addition being a long yearned for Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 Lumix II. It has turned out to be as good as advertised and I’m having a blast with it. I’m basically a happy camper, photographically speaking. Of all the things I own, my cameras give me the most joy. Hard to regret them.

But … oh … those lenses. And the new line of Olympus 4/3 cameras are so sweet. I’m allowed to yearn, aren’t I?

 

There’s always something new …

Just when I thought it was safe, that I have every camera I could ever want, out comes the new Olympus E-P5. There’s some kind of law that as soon as I buy the camera I’ve finally saved up for, out comes the next generation that’s got all the nifty features I hoped to see.

Olympus E-P5

Actually it isn’t coincidental. I wait until the price on the equipment I want drops before I buy it. The price drop nearly always signals the imminent release of a new generation of equipment, or at least a new model. So I’m likely to remain at least a generation behind in camera technology.

That’s what happens when one lusts for the coolest newest stuff, but don’t really have the money to buy it. Moreover, I have nothing more than the flimsiest excuse to get another camera, even with my rationalization engine turned up to full. Lucky for me there isn’t much the P5 is offering that I don’t (more or less) have with the P3/PM2 combo. So it’s lovely, but I can resist it.

On the other hand (trumpets and a drumroll) … the new Panasonic (Leica in all but name) LUMIX DMC-LF1 was announced this afternoon. She’s lovely, scheduled for delivery in June. Just a few short weeks from now.

Lumix DMC LF-1

Lumix DMC LF-1

It’s got a built-in (be still my heart!) optical viewfinder, shoots in JPG or RAW, has a fast Summicron F/2.0 medium-long telephoto lens. At $499, it is almost affordable. Could this be the perfect do-it-all camera for which my soul yearns?

LUMIX DMC LF-1 (back)

I have a longstanding policy of never buying a new model of anything  (cars, cameras, computers, software) until I’ve heard from regular users, not the PR spinners. I want to feel the love before I start hoarding my pennies and quarters.

Since it won’t even be available to regular users until next month, I figure it will be a while before feedback starts coming in. There’s a strong possibility by the time I might be able to afford it — assuming I hear really good things about it — my computer will stop having intermittent seizures and quit working entirely, ending any chance of getting another camera no matter how wonderful.

Somehow, I think I’ll manage anyhow.

It’s new, better, exciting, cool. But if I miss it, there will be another — and another after that.

Because there’s always something new on the way. Trust me.

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