Image quality or ease of use?

Ray Sachs

Legend
Sep 21, 2010
Not too far from Philly
you should be able to figure it out...
I am a tragic cyclist and I won't bore you with the parallels in cycling except to observe that $280 for 12 grams shaved off the weight of a pair of pedals is about the measure of it.
I've spent the last 15 years as a cycling junkie. When people asked me how many bikes I owned I couldn't honestly tell them with all of the frames and components I had in various stages of built up and torn down. I wasn't even a weight weenie or into particularly high end gear (except for a couple of custom frames), but I still had more money tied up in cycling gear than I could imagine spending on photography - unless I suddenly developed a serious Leica problem.

Now I just ride and spend only on tires, chains, bibs, etc - consumables. I recommend it - frees up funds for all sorts of other stuff and the riding is no less fun.

-Ray
 
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Pelao

All-Pro
Jul 11, 2010
Ontario, Canada
Stephen
Great thread.

In the last 10 days or so I sold my dearly loved 5D and it’s devoted family of lenses. Great camera. Great lenses. It was a decision that was made in my mind some months ago, but my heart was experiencing time lag, which then cycled around to my mind and created doubts. Round and round we went.

You see, the 5D was the camera I wanted. Unlike many cameras in my life, it actually lived up to expectations. When the pathetic piece of carbon holding the camera got his act together, it produced images with a gorgeous depth and tonality that touches me in all the right spots.

I just loved the image quality.

So in my response that’s where I’ll start. I think it’s important to define for you what you mean by image quality. That does not necessarily mean settling for ‘good enough’. It does mean really thinking through what really works for you. For me, a photograph is best when printed. It can be enjoyed in other ways, but just like certain foods, there is a way that each dish tastes just right for me.

I like big prints. I like small ones too, but I really like big ones.

The thing is, I love everything about photography. I even enjoy the tension and challenges of a formal commercial shoot. Yet with the realities of life (crazy hours, beautiful family, grass to cut, sleep etc.) photography was squeezed into a corner. I could not stop this terrible habit, yet had to fit it in to the rest of my life. My 5D just could not manage this. It was big. It was bulky. It scared people when pointed at them.

The truth was, as always, staring at me from every corner of our home. You see, I have endless photographs shot with cameras of all sizes and shapes stuck on every wall. From the digital age some are from a 300D, and a great mass are from a 20D. Measly 6 and 8 megapixel cameras that gave really good prints. Many of these are, to me, great photographs. They tell stories and are a delight to look at.

I searched for a smaller camera to have with me all the time. The Canon G series beckoned. Great manual controls, fine lens, reasonable output. Then along came MFT. I bought one. I made some photographs. I printed some. I printed some big ones. They are better than what I could achieve with the 20D, and some of the photographs I love the most came from the latter.

I do love good cameras. I love good design, and a well thought out user interface is a joy for me. I will no doubt purchase and play with many more cameras and lenses.

But most of all, I love the total experience of making a photograph, from choosing the lenses to pack, through all the steps of capture to holding the print. I certainly do see differences in character between photographs from my 5D and GF1. The question really was, and remains, what is the camera that will give me the most opportunity to make the output I want and encourage me to grow as a photographer – just by being there all the time?

What I value most is being able to indulge and enjoy photography as much as possible, and deliver an ever greater variety of prints, and experience an ever greater variety of photographs in which I miss the mark and have to grow my skills and try again and again. My GF1 is always there, ready to work.

I know what I value in a camera. Image quality must be excellent for my goal: photographs that capture enough detail to express what I saw, and can be printed to the sizes I enjoy. It must allow me to access the controls I need without me having to think too hard. I can adapt to any camera, but I should not have to be uncomfortable in the end. So that ease of use thing is important to me.

I accept and enjoy the differences and nuances in image quality from different cameras and lenses. I also accept that it is no longer difficult to find the quality and nuances I value. It is much more of a challenge to find cameras that put me, the photographer, in the driving seat with controls designed to be intuitive and a pleasure.

Tonight I printed some stuff from my GF1. I printed big and it feels great to hold those prints. They are as good as anything that ever came from my 5D, but many are distinctly better in one significant factor: they would never had been made without my MFT camera because I would not have had a camera with me.
 
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Jeff Damron

Regular
Sep 2, 2010
Kentucky, USA
A fascinating post and discussion. I am glad to know that I am not the only one that goes through this. I thought I had made the best decision for me a couple of years ago with the Olympus E-420, but I often wish I had a DSLR with better IQ, and I often wish I had a compact that was easier to take everywhere. Of course I also want a large format film camera even though I know from past experience that I would be unlikely to use it. So, without regard to the large format film behemoth, I suspect I really need to trade my Oly in on a bigger, better DSLR and a really good compact. So if anyone has those and wants to do an even swap with me, let me know. :)
 

Lili

Hall of Famer
Oct 17, 2010
Dallas, TX
Lili
So the dilemma appears to be more about the intrusion of gear on your vision.
For me it's as simple as... If a camera creates an intrusion on my vision, I move on without it.
If it doesn't create much intrusion, it moves on with me.
The used market is flooded with cameras from me.
It always was and always will be.

Don
Don, you hit the nail on the head here.
 

Amin

Hall of Famer
Jul 3, 2010
A fascinating post and discussion. I am glad to know that I am not the only one that goes through this. I thought I had made the best decision for me a couple of years ago with the Olympus E-420, but I often wish I had a DSLR with better IQ, and I often wish I had a compact that was easier to take everywhere. Of course I also want a large format film camera even though I know from past experience that I would be unlikely to use it. So, without regard to the large format film behemoth, I suspect I really need to trade my Oly in on a bigger, better DSLR and a really good compact. So if anyone has those and wants to do an even swap with me, let me know. :)
I went the other way around. Had a big, high end DSLR (Nikon D700) and a nice advanced compact (actually a few of them in succession), but when I picked up my first Micro 4/3 camera as a "tweener", the other cameras stopped getting much use.
 

Country Parson

Top Veteran
Apr 5, 2011
North Carolina
Dan
Since we are telling stories, I too started out with film. For a few years between other life changing events, I made my living with cameras. I used Nikons, a big bag full of the best lenses, and Hasseblad medium format cameras. In those days it was Kodachrome, Velvia and sometimes B&W film. It was all about IQ, creativity and of course pleasing clients. Now all of my film cameras are long gone, and I have only recently gotten back into photography in the digital age. Naturally I started with what I knew, Nikon DSLRs. But then I made some discoveries. I had a lightweight Panasonic small sensor camera that I got to keep in my car at all times, and to use when I did not want to carry more stuff. When I began submitting images from that camera to my stock agency they were accepting some along with images taken with the D700, D90 etc. Last summer I won a prize with a 16x20 print from that same small sensor camera. So I began experimenting with micro 4/3rd and an LX5, and have now moved to the NEX and the X100. If my agency editors like the work they keep it in their files and it does not seem to depend upon which camera I was using. This has given me the freedom to use the heavy mirror-slappers much less, and to enjoy the smaller easy-to-carry mirrorless varieties. This has given me a fresh perspective, more freedom and the joy of experimentation, much like when I first began photography in what now seems like another life.
 

Luckypenguin

Hall of Famer
Dec 24, 2010
Brisbane, Australia
Nic
I know I should be giving a testimonial to compacts given the nature of this site, but I'm going to go against the grain here by saying that while I enjoy messing around with smaller cameras, my one favourite camera to use and carry around is a big honking Canon DSLR. Despite weighing close to 1.5kg kitted with a lens, I can hold and operate it all day because the grip and controls have been (presumably) ergonomically designed. I can actually grip it with my hand rather than pinch it (which is how it feels to hold most smaller cameras) and the controls are all laid out just so. It is actually less comfortable for me to use something the size of a Micro 4/3 camera for long periods, and now Panasonic continues to try to make them even smaller with the GF2 and G3!

I personally feel that mirrorless cameras have a poor weight to size/comfort ratio if I can create a standard of measure for it. Even the mini-DSLR styled cameras feel awkward and to tell the truth are no easier for me to hold than the E-P1. They're either too small for their weight, or too heavy for their size. I'm happy not to carry the increased weight of the DSLR, but the trade-off in handling virtually negates any advantage they have and is the reason why I have no intention of selling my DSLR gear anytime soon.

This may sound a bit heretical given my connection to mu-43, but while I find Micro 4/3 cameras fun to use they can be a pain to handle at times.
 

soundimageplus

Top Veteran
Jul 6, 2010
I'm happy not to carry the increased weight of the DSLR, but the trade-off in handling virtually negates any advantage they have and is the reason why I have no intention of selling my DSLR gear anytime soon.
This may sound a bit heretical given my connection to mu-43, but while I find Micro 4/3 cameras fun to use they can be a pain to handle at times.
I know exactly what you mean. For me its always been about weight and not size. Its why I bought this grip for the GH2. Its virtually weightless but improves the handling no end.

 

Luckypenguin

Hall of Famer
Dec 24, 2010
Brisbane, Australia
Nic
Thanks David, that looks just about exactly what the G/GH bodies need. I'm reminded of how many Canon 300-600D bodies (a series that has always been widely panned for it's grip) that I see fitted with battery grips. It's not for extra battery capacity (seriously, just carry a spare in your pocket), and I don't know how many get used that often as a portrait grip, but in a lot of cases it is just for better handling i.e. "somewhere to put your pinky".I would gladly take a bit of extra volume if it made the camera easier to handle.
 

Lili

Hall of Famer
Oct 17, 2010
Dallas, TX
Lili
Understand about fit/ergonomics
Two cameras have fit my hand like they were made to it; the Ricoh GRD, perfect combination of size. weight and controls. and the e510 with its big grip, huge battery and perfect balance when fitted with the 25mm pancake lens.
I love the fine film-like grain/noise both camera produce.
 

kevenv

Regular
Apr 28, 2011
I ditched my Canon dSLR and L lenses for the EPL1. Though I loved the camera and quality of pictures (especially from my 24-105), I rarely could be bothered to carry it everywhere with me. For me the inconvenience out weighed its usefulness. It most often was left at home. I finally did some serious reflection on IQ vs ease of use and the EPL1 won out. I carry it way more than I used to carry the Canon. It is quite unobtrusive and there when I need it. As I don't make a living with my pics I find the IQ to be more than satisfactory for me (I use the 20mm 1.7 95% of the time).

Ultimately I think the best camera/format for someone is the one that they don't mind carrying with them most of the time. Really a choice and reasons that will be different for each person.
 
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dixeyk

Guest
I am clearly not even close to anyone in this thread with regards to skill or experience.

That said, I do think that many of us (myself included) tend to get caught up in minutia when we should be concentrating on the artform. The closest thing I can think of is when I first studied Japanese sword. A lot of students would spend big bucks getting themselves very nice iato (training blade with no edge) and live blades. It didn't do anything to advance their skill and sometimes it was a real hinderance. They get caught up in the bits and pieces and lost sight of the art of swordsmanship. I know because I was one of those students. It wasn't until I got rid of all of my blades and fancy boken (wooden swords) and go back to the "do" of it that I really started to understand the sword. It's going on 20 years now and I have 2 boken. One is a very nice rosewood boken I got as a gift and the other a $10 white oak boken I got off the internet (and that I use to teach my student). In my hands the $10 boken can do everything the fancy one can. Sure the fancy one is weighted better, has a nicer shaped handle and has a better (more traditional) shape but the $10 one is just as effective and in all honesty if I needed to use one to protect myself I'd probably grab the cheap one because it' has a certain live quality that I quite like.

I recall my teacher (one of them) showing me how to defend against an attacker with a knife and he used an empty paper towel tube instead of the short club we were all training with that day. In his hands that paper towel tube may as well have been a light saber. I know photography is very different but in my mind its all about the art and the tool you use is immaterial. If you have a preference for one or the other that is your business but the greatest determining factor in the tools effectiveness is you.

I use an E-P1 (figured I needed to bring a camera into this at some point).
 

Lili

Hall of Famer
Oct 17, 2010
Dallas, TX
Lili
I am clearly not even close to anyone in this thread with regards to skill or experience. I do however think that many of us (myself included) tend to get caught up in minutia when we should be concentrating on the artform. The closest thing I can think of is when I first studied Japanese sword. A lot of students would spend big bucks getting themselves very nice iato (training blade with no edge) and live blades. It didn't do anything to advance their skill and sometimes it was a real hinderance. They get caught up in the bits and pieces and lost sight of the art of swordsmanship. I know because I was one of those students. It wasn't until I got rid of all of my blades and fancy boken (wooden swords) and go back to the "do" of it that I really started to understand the sword. It's going on 20 years now and I have 2 boken. One is a very nice rosewood boken I got as a gift and the other a $10 white oak boken I got off the internet (and that I use to teach my student). In my hands the $10 boken can do everything the fancy one can. Sure the fancy one is weighted better, has a nicer shaped handle and has a better (more traditional) shape but the $10 one is just as effective.

I recall my teacher (one of them) showing me how to defend against an attacker with a knife and he used an empty paper towel tube instead of the short club we were all training with that day. In his hands that paper towel tube may as well have been a light saber. I know photography is very different but in my mind its all about the art and the tool you use is immaterial. If you have a preference for one or the other that is your business but the greatest determining factor in the tools effectiveness is you.


I understand what you mean. I do archery. My first Bow was an ancient, solid fiberglass deflex/recurve with which I grew deadly accurate. I shot a 265 out 300 with 20 x's using that bow in an indoor league. I then went on to buy expensive compound bows and sights in the euipment arms race.
Then graduated back to a simple Longbow.
Much happier now :)
 
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dixeyk

Guest
I understand what you mean. I do archery. My first Bow was an ancient, solid fiberglass deflex/recurve with which I grew deadly accurate. I shot a 265 out 300 with 20 x's using that bow in an indoor league. I then went on to buy expensive compound bows and sights in the euipment arms race.
Then graduated back to a simple Longbow.
Much happier now :)
I have always wanted to study Kyudo. I think the bow is an amazing art.
 
D

dixeyk

Guest
It is, i had a brief chance to study Kyudo and treasure the memory
Fun...a few years back (when I started to move toward Taoism) I began the study of the Chinese sword (Dao and Jian) and that has been interesting. It's so different...much more free flowing and passionate. I like it very much. I'm not sure I'll every stop with the boken as it has become a part of me but the Jian is really seductive.
 

flash

Veteran
May 6, 2011
Gordon
Interesting that you (David) just inspired (well, more like the final straw but inspired is nicer) me to sell all my DSLR gear and buy an M9 and order a GH2 as my "AF system". For my uses, most camera meet image quality requirements. But I've become far more picky about quality of use requirements. For me, if it's on a shelf it has poor image quality because it's not making images. First, I found myself carrying my Canon 5D2 without the grip. Then I stopped carrying zoom lenses. Then just a 50 1.2 and an 85 1.2. The switch to a rangefinder was a simple one. I need a half decent AF system, so I ordered a GH-2, but the M9 and an EP-2 are happy to share a bag on my personal trips and 80% of my work.

The 5D2 is an amazing thing. I loved it when I got it and I'll miss just a little bit. Prints were stunning. My clients never understood how good it is, but I did. That's why I used it. My stable of L series lenses (9 in all) are the best of their kind (fast, AF primes). They produced images with dazzling detail and wonderful range. However they have, for the last couple of years, begun to get in the way more and more. I'm not sure what piece of new, expensive gear it was that was one lens/body/flash/stand too many, but rather than having the flexibility that unlimited options should give, I became weighed down by the sheer weight (literally!) of my kit. So more and more they stayed at home. I used m4/3 for anything I could, personal and work. It was liberating. I started to wonder how to fill the gaps that m4/3 had in my work with something much, much simpler. Then I revisited the idea on an M9. I'd been leaving the big Canon zooms at home or in the car for months, except in dim receptions where the EP series AF completely fails. But now with the GH2 that's no longer an issue.

My Canon gear is being shipped to it's new owners this week. My M9 and two lenses arrived Friday and my preferred 50mm should be here late this week.

The M9 replaces my 5D2 and three primes. The GH-2 will replace 2x 50D's and zooms. I've just traded a 20kg kit for 6KG kit, with no loss in productivity.

I've got less system flexibility than I've had in years, yet I've never felt this free, photographically.

Gordon
 

Pelao

All-Pro
Jul 11, 2010
Ontario, Canada
Stephen
Interesting that you (David) just inspired (well, more like the final straw but inspired is nicer) me to sell all my DSLR gear and buy an M9 and order a GH2 as my "AF system". For my uses, most camera meet image quality requirements. But I've become far more picky about quality of use requirements. For me, if it's on a shelf it has poor image quality because it's not making images. First, I found myself carrying my Canon 5D2 without the grip. Then I stopped carrying zoom lenses. Then just a 50 1.2 and an 85 1.2. The switch to a rangefinder was a simple one. I need a half decent AF system, so I ordered a GH-2, but the M9 and an EP-2 are happy to share a bag on my personal trips and 80% of my work.

The 5D2 is an amazing thing. I loved it when I got it and I'll miss just a little bit. Prints were stunning. My clients never understood how good it is, but I did. That's why I used it. My stable of L series lenses (9 in all) are the best of their kind (fast, AF primes). They produced images with dazzling detail and wonderful range. However they have, for the last couple of years, begun to get in the way more and more. I'm not sure what piece of new, expensive gear it was that was one lens/body/flash/stand too many, but rather than having the flexibility that unlimited options should give, I became weighed down by the sheer weight (literally!) of my kit. So more and more they stayed at home. I used m4/3 for anything I could, personal and work. It was liberating. I started to wonder how to fill the gaps that m4/3 had in my work with something much, much simpler. Then I revisited the idea on an M9. I'd been leaving the big Canon zooms at home or in the car for months, except in dim receptions where the EP series AF completely fails. But now with the GH2 that's no longer an issue.

My Canon gear is being shipped to it's new owners this week. My M9 and two lenses arrived Friday and my preferred 50mm should be here late this week.

The M9 replaces my 5D2 and three primes. The GH-2 will replace 2x 50D's and zooms. I've just traded a 20kg kit for 6KG kit, with no loss in productivity.

I've got less system flexibility than I've had in years, yet I've never felt this free, photographically.

Gordon
Hi Flash

Thanks for sharing. Glad you have found yourself in a good place photographically. Enjoy your M9!
 
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Luckypenguin

Hall of Famer
Dec 24, 2010
Brisbane, Australia
Nic
Gordon, how do you find the control interface and handling of the GH2 compared to the Canons, especially in your line of work where I'd imagine you'd need to be able to adjust settings very quickly?

I just picked up a refurb GH1 (same, same, but different) and while it's still very early days the camera and I aren't talking the same language yet and I'm to trying to adapt to the shrink-fit size.
 

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