When big isn’t always better

OK, I did have a big one but recently decided to do something about it and now it’s much smaller.

I’m talking about my camera of course!  But first a little background..

I was a relatively late comer to photography but quickly developed an interest in 2003 when I bought my first compact(‘ish) but fully manual digital camera, an Olympus C5050.  Now this camera wasn’t an SLR or even support interchangeable lenses however it did allow me to learn about using the cameras manual controls to ‘create’ a photo, rather than simply pointing and shooting to ‘take’ a photo.  I was hooked and in 2006 upgraded to my first dSLR which was the Nikon D200.  Great learner camera, with a cropped APS-C sized sensor, and I had a ball pushing myself to learn more.  I even had some success selling some of my early shots, however over time I did run into a few concerns being:

  • The ISO capability of the camera wasn’t great and in my opinion anything over 800 ISO was too noisy to use; and
  • I really struggled to get consistent, sharp shots however this wasn’t an issue of camera, rather it (I think) was my lens, the Nikon 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6.

So in 2009 I upgraded again to the ‘bigger’ Nikon D700, full-frame dSLR with a new suite of lenses, namely the Nikon 50mm 1.4, Nikon 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6 and a Tamron 90mm macro 2.8.  In case you’re wondering why upgrade the lenses as well as the camera body, well the lenses I had previously were “DX” format lenses, designed for cropped, APS-C sized sensors and they wouldn’t fully resolve an image on the D700’s larger, full frame/35mm sized sensor.

I loved my D700, we took some amazing shots together.  It was robust, reliable, rugged and other words starting with R that I can’t think off, however it was big and heavy.  Particularly when it was paired up with my camera bag of filters, panoramic tripod head and my Manfrotto tripod (055MF4).  So whilst I loved this camera I found I was only ever using it when I went somewhere with the specific intention of taking photos, such as camera trips or family holidays.  For 90% of the time it sat in my camera bag at home.  For whatever reason, most likely laziness, I rarely thought about it or got it out to take ‘snapshots’ around home.  Also Jules (aka ‘the wife’) was not interested in learning how to use it, even though it has a P (auto) mode, she’d rather (and did) pick up a crappy point’n’shoot’, or more recently her smartphone and take a pic.

After my last camera trip to Karijini National Park with a few camera buddies, where we took some amazing pics by the way, I started thinking about either upgrading my camera to the latest full frame dSLR, at that stage the Nikon D810 -OR- downsizing completely to a 4/3rds, mirrorless system such as the Olympus OM-D EM-5 mkII.

To upgrade or downsize, that is the question….

Upgrade to Nikon D810 Downsize to OM-D EM-5 mkII
Pros >get latest features inc. video
>keep full frame sensor
>reuse existing lenses
>more megapixels on newer camera
>already familiar with system
>get latest features inc. video
>more (but not as many) megapixels on newer camera
>smaller and lighter camera
>great in-camera image stabilisation
Cons >still big and heavy (twice as heavy as EM5)
>wife still wont use it
>body costs a lot more (but I wouldn't have to spend as much on lenses)
>new lenses required
>new system to learn
>smaller sensor means picture quality lower

I suspect you already know just by reading the title of this post what decision I made?  Yep, I downsized, despite the seemingly better pros and manageable cons of the Nikon D810…  The primary reason why, being I wanted to “use my camera more” by making it “easier and more accessible”.  Also whilst I love taking photos, the reality is I’m not going to give up my well paying day job to pursue a professional career in photography, so given this I don’t really need every last megapixel available in a full frame camera, or the pro/prosumer dSLR features.  What I need is a camera that’s small, easy and accessible enough for me to take pics whenever/wherever I am and for the camera to give me full creative/manual control with good quality pics.  Some of the best pics you see at the moment are taken on peoples smartphones and whilst you wouldn’t want to print these images at poster size, at least they’ve captured that moment.

I’d like to say I’m 100% convinced and happy about my decision to ‘downsize’, but I’m not, not yet anyway…  I only made the move in the last few months and I’m still learning the new system however it’s my hope that once mastered I’ll live up to my own promise and try to carry my Oly EM5 with me wherever I go, giving me every opportunity to grab those special moments, but at a higher quality than my smartphone.  I’ll keep you posted on my journey.

In case you’re interested in checking out my photos, right from my original Oly C5050, then Nikon D200, Nikon D700 and now the Oly EM5, you can do so at

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