Best Camera = The One You Always Take With You

April 20th, 2010 § 0 comments § permalink

Sunday Sunset Ride. Taken with my wife’s HTC Magic mobile phone.

People who know me well know what a big Chase Jarvis fan boy I am. But I’m an irreverent fan boy, and I must say that before Chase came out with his “The Best Camera Is The One That’s With You” dictum, I’ve already heard it from the equally irreverent and blatantly partial Ken Rockwell. But who said what first is irrelevant. Both Chase and Ken are 100% on the money. And I’ll raise Chase’s brilliant marketing statement by paraphrasing it into something more active — The Best Camera is the One You Always Take With You.

Right now, the camera I always take with me is my Nikon D200, which I usually fit with a 35mm f2 Nikkor. If I’m on assignment, I’ll probably take my 20/2.8 and 85/1.8 as well. But for everyday shooting, the D200+35/2 is all that I need. This combo is compact, lightweight, and inconspicuous — just the way I like it. But on days when all I want to carry is a small beltbag or my Think Tank Skin 50, this configuration feels oversized and clunky. Now, if I just want to take pictures for my blog, my Sony Ericsson W350i, just like Chase’s iPhone, is certainly up for the challenge. But for images I can eventually submit to my stock photo agency? Probably not.

Just recently, a friend of mine finally stepped over to digital and bought himself an Olympus E-P2 — and blew open the world of Micro Four Thirds for me. In Micro 4/3 cameras, the pentaprism and mirror assembly are removed, paving the way for smaller and lighter camera bodies. The Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF1 is currently the smallest Micro 4/3 camera at 4.69 (W) x 2.8 (H) x 1.43 (D) in. Comparatively, my D200, without the 35/2 lens, measures 5.8 (W) x 4.4 (H) x 2.9 (D) in. With the 20/1.7 pancake lens and battery attached, the GF1 weighs in at barely one pound. The D200 with battery but sans lens? A little above two pounds. Go figure. Does the GF1 perform? Here’s an article about a 16-day field test in the Himalayas. Personally, I’m impressed.

Of course, like all other cameras, the GF1 is not perfect. Among others, people complain that the GF1′s 20/1.7 lens lacks image stabilization (the E-P2 has image stabilization built into the camera body). I’ve also stumbled upon some lens compatibility issues. But the backbreaker (for myself, at least) has got to be in the arena of High ISO performance. Neither the GF1 nor E-P2 can hold a candle to Nikon’s new generation of DSLRs. But in good light, the GF1 can give the D700 a run for its money.

All right, it’s pretty obvious that I adore the Lumix GF1. The E-P2 is no doubt an equally capable camera, but in my book, “feel” and affinity are what ultimately tip the scales. I “feel” that the E-P2, with its retro styling, is too much of an “urban” camera for my tastes. The GF1 proved itself every inch an adventurer’s camera by surviving 16 days in the Himalayas. That’s a sales pitch in my language right there. If I could, I’d fly to Hong Kong right now and get one in a heartbeat.

But even if I could, I won’t. Not yet, anyway. Going back to “feel,” I “feel” that Micro 4/3 technology has not yet reached the level where its cameras can replace my Nikons as my work cameras. But the door to the Micro 4/3 system lies wide open in front of me. I have seen the future, and it’s where I want to go. Also, no doubt Panasonic is cooking up a GF2 in the Lumix oven as we speak. I’m sure it’s gonna be awesome.

So what about getting a camera I can always take with me? Oh, do I have my sights set on a real beauty right now. Everyone’s gonna know when I finally get the GF1′s amazing little brother, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX3.

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