Sunday, September 27, 2015

Costing a system

As I've been saying for many moons, I'd love to have a smaller, lighter, more versatile system. Getting there though is somewhat fraught.

Many moons ago, I allowed myself to be swayed in my opinion about the laughable worth of photography as a business. There really was no dissuading the other party and to keep the peace I allowed myself to be swept along. Thus I ended up with way more camera gear than I needed or wanted. Casting my mind back, I had a load of stuff that I've since sold. Let's see. ..
8 umbrellas - four white, four black
4 light stands with attachments for flash and hotlight
4 hotlights with spare bulbs
A big background stand
Two backgrounds
An STE2 flash controller
2 canon 580EX2 flash units
A 420ex flash unit
A 430ex2 flash unit
A Tamron 28-75 lens
A Canon 50mm lens
A Canon 18-55 kit lens
A Kenko macro ring set
A Tamron 17-35
A Tamron 70-300
A battery grip for one camera

It was several thousand dollars worth of kit, brand new that barely had any use. Buying it did buy the peace temporarily until the inevitable reared its ugly head - that photography as a business is a suicidal business to be in.

Having sold all that lot at a massive loss, the relief of having sold it was instantaneous. The relief outweighed the financial loss. I was frustrated having to house stuff I didn't want and didn't need and honestly didn't want in the first place.

I am left with two very elderly camera bodies, two lenses and a very heavy tripod. Although the tripod is heavy, that really is the only way a tripod will be sturdy and vibration free. As far as what I'd get for

So, I know I can sell the last two bodies and lenses but would get hardly anything for the bodies. As that lot still takes darned good pictures I've been hanging onto it. Perhaps though, I should have sold it all at the same time?

I keep going on about smaller, lighter systems and don't really see any need for a backup camera any more. I have a cellphone that takes good photos. Should a camera fail, I have the cellphone as my backup!

Irregardless of how much I'd get for selling the last of my old system, I have been looking at how much a new system would cost. Never again will I buy new. I never bought new before and never will again. That Canon setup was an aberration of my principals.

One problem I can foresee is that a new system might be incompatible with my ailing macbook. I really do need either to replace it or get it fixed as its currently unusable. A new macbook is not truly in the budget however a cheap laptop with Linux installed instead of Windows is a distinct possibility. There are some very nice cheap Windows systems that use solely flash drives. The specification for a sub $200 laptop are really quite impressive!

As far as a camera goes, I think the Olympus/Panasonic micro four thirds mirrorless cameras offer quite a lot. Now I've already sung the praises of the Nikon 1 system but for night exposures, its really not quite there yet.

Thinking about the lens range I use, I use mostly 17 - 85 or in Canon terms, 27 - 136 with the occasional 70 - 300 (112 - 480). In my film days I generally preferred to use 28, 50, 135, 200 prime lenses. My philosophy was that a prime was lighter and of higher image quality. Indeed, having seen the mushy soft corners of my Tamron 17-35 at 17mm, I'm still of that opinion!

Just look at those corners! Enough said about that. That's why that lens was sold.

I have been interested in taking more and better night sky images. To do that I need to get a fast lens. My 17-85 is too slow. Thus I looked into getting a lens. The ideal candidate seems to be a Rokinon 14mm at $324 new or I have seen them for $250 secondhand. 14mm would be about 22mm. That's a fair chunk of change and would lock me further into a system I'd like to change out of.

Using solely one local secondhand dealers website, I see interesting things in the micro four thirds system. A good walk around lens such as the 17 - 85 would be a 14 - 42 at about $90. That would give the equivalent of 28 to 84. It's about the same on the wide end but a little shorter at the long end. A longer zoom from 45 - 200 would be $150. That would give the equivalent of 90 - 400 or a bit shorter than my existing long lens.

Looking at cameras, there are several micro four thirds cameras available at $80. They have faster high ISOs than my existing cameras by two stops, 50% more megapixels and the whole system equivalent to what I have now would be $320. It'd also mean I could sell my Canon camera bag!

In terms of primes, if I were to follow the primes route rather than the zoom route then I'd be looking at duplicating my 35mm system with lenses such as:
14mm $190
30mm $145
45mm $240

Clearly primes are more costly but having used zooms, I'm really not that keen on the mushy corners. Cost wise I couldn't really afford to switch to an all primes system straightaway. If I were to sell then I can say I'd probably get the
14 - 42 at $90
Ep1 at $80 - ISO max 6400

Or an epl3 with a 14-42 for $200 - ISO max 12,000ish
Or even an epl1 with 14-42 for $150

It's almost worth buying to test the waters before selling my Canon kit at that price!

Ages ago, back in the film days I started to build a system based on the Fed 2 camera on the basis the Fed could take Leica screw lenses. I'd become somewhat tired of SLRs and wanted something smaller and lighter. I'm looking at these mirrorless cameras as being pretty much the modern equivalent.

The downside of a mirrorless camera would be the LCD and viewing it in bright sunlight. The ep1 gets around that with an optional viewfinder (which might be hard to obtain). On the other hand, a cap or a hat would help with that. Another downside is the really sucky battery life. On the other hand there are plenty batteries available.

In some ways parting with a familiar camera feels like surrender but on the other hand, its a victory that allows me to move forward. I'm all in favor of smaller things - except paypackets!

The entire catalyst for change is my desire to take better sky photos. If I were to return to high speed photography then the smaller micro four thirds format should increase depth appreciably. I can see a lot of benefits to an upgrade.

In terms of image quality, I have heard that APSC has a slight edge over the Micro Four Thirds format. Does it have any practical or appreciable difference? None that I'm aware of.

Going back some years, I almost bought into the Olympus four thirds system. I'm sorry I didn't, now. The four thirds cameras were smaller and more practical. Indeed, I can see the Olympus e-500 for sale for $76 right now! It is, of course, too late to switch to four thirds when micro four thirds looks to be the future. Indeed, I'm not even sure that Olympus still makes four thirds cameras.

So, it looks like a change in camera systems is in the future. Maybe even a change in computer systems too.

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