The Separate Ways of Nikon and I a.k.a. Why I Bought a Mirrorless Camera System – Part II

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Editor’s Note: This is a syndicated blog post from Erwin Van Asperen. We are publishing the text and images with permission. 

In my last article I wrote about the divorce of the Nikon D90 and I. I loved that camera–however, to quote Chet Baker in his rendition of the classic jazz tune Not for me, “I guess she’s not for me”.

Seriously, she was not for me because of the following reasons:

  1. Too big, bulky and heavy
  2. Too slow in terms of autofocus speed (with most cheaper Nikon lenses that is)
  3. The color rendition was too natural or too neutral

But wait, a bigtime friend and photographer of mine said all too common the wise words: “The best camera is probably the one you already own.”

In other words: It doesn’t matter which camera you have. That is very true. Heck, I have shot plenty of nice photos with my smartphone (that is pretty much the only thing I like about a smartphone anyway). It is never really about the gear anyway.

From that point of view: YES, I could have bought better lenses for my DSLR so I would have the faster autofocus, though I asked myself if it was worth it. Is this the system I truly want? Buying better lenses would eliminate one of my three main concerns about the camera:

  1. Too big, bulky and heavy
  2. Too slow in terms of autofocus speed (with most cheaper Nikon lenses that is)
  3. The color rendition was too natural or too neutral.

Though, then, the system would still be big. I wouldn’t like the weight of the package. I would have no guarantee the AF-speed would be fast enough for me and the color rendition would still be very (too?) neutral, or actually, a bit dull.

Did take my sweet time to get some nice colours in this pic...
Did take my sweet time to get some nice colours in this pic…

Another note, regarding this matter, here is a funny thing: There are quite a few articles spread around the internet where professional street photographers are given a cheap camera to shoot with for a day. And I mean cheap cameras you can get for less than $50.

The results are pretty much always astonishing. You know why? The obvious reason would be that they know what they’re doing. That is, of course, probably the main reason. Though putting that aside, are there any other reasons why it worked out so well?

Sure there are:

  1. The camera they were given looks pretty much nothing like a “pro” camera – therefore it is discreet. Nobody cares about a guy holding a piece of pink plastic with little dinosaurs on it (…or put your own imaginative design here)
  2. Those “toy” cameras made them truly think about what they were doing. It forces you to think creative, because their gear is probably so flawed.
  3. The camera they are given is probably so bad in terms of everything, it won’t necessarily capture something the way you want it to capture. Once you get a hold of that, the results are flawed from what is “normal”. Photography is a form of art. I think art is a lot about expression.

From that point of view, here is a question for you:

Do you want to:

  1. capture a scene exactly the way you see it, though it could leave you with boring results?
  2. capture a scene feeling, leaving you with more interesting results?

Again: art is about emotion and expressions. Sometimes the search for a certain result is the actual result itself, and the recognition of that is the thing that matters in the end.

 

Search for your results...
Search for your results…

Back to my ex-DSLR: Buying more and better lenses and accessories for my DSLR would not necessarily benefit the discreetness nor my creativity.

Because, you know what I would actually quite like? Taking pictures without any tool at all!

That is why you sometimes see pro photographers think first, SEE first (and not just look) and, last but not least, frame first with their hands or anything for that matter, before taking a picture.

Look at it as if it were a painting with a frame on it. Why did the painter decided he would like to paint that frame? Ask yourself that question… Why would anyone want to see this frame? What is interesting about it?

Frame, frame, frame
Frame, frame, frame

So here you are, reading this article, questioning my arrogance, conclusions, asking yourself the big question:

If tools are that unimportant to this guy, why does the fool keeps on whining about ditching his DSLR for another camera? Couldn’t he just keep it? It is because I do not want the tool I use for taking pictures getting in the way between me and my creativity. I want my tools  – yes here comes the cliché – to be both a physical and mental extension of me.

What do I want then?

I want to be able to:

  1. Frame quickly
  2. Shoot quickly
  3. Quickly obtain images that convey the feeling at that given time (without much post-processing hustle)
  4. Not miss a shot (that often ;) )

So, given that I need a camera for that.

What do I need to:

  1. frame quickly?

Answer: Good framing options such as:

– A proper viewfinder

– A good live view screen

– Tilt/shively or articulating screen.

  1. shoot quickly?

Answer: Little delay between finding the shutter, pressing it and the actual capturing of light, translated into an image.

For that I need:

– Fast autofocus;

– Fast metering;

– Proper ergonomics.

  1. quickly obtain images that convey the feeling at the time (without much postprocessing hussle)?

Answer:

– Proper metering.

– Good auto white balance capabilities;

– Good color rendering.

  1. never miss a shot?

Answer:

A package that I can carry pretty much anywhere I go, otherwise I cannot take the shot anyways, that said, I needs a:

– Easy-to-carry, lightweight solution and  camera that is not too noticeable for my photographable subjects.

So then…. What kind of system is able to suit my needs…?

Admittedly, DSLRs (especially the expensive ones) would suit almost all of my needs except for that one need: it IS noticeable, it is NOT that lightweight, and it is NOT the obvious ”easy-to-carry, take it with you anywhere” –kind of solution.

So a compact mirrorless camera would probably be “it” then.

Would it not be? But which one?

You’ll see in part III…