Part 2 of the report on my photographic year concentrates on the equipment – cameras, lenses, accessories, computers and software.
As in previous years I’ve used Lightroom to look at the statistics regarding the cameras and lenses I’ve used most in the year. So far this year I have 13671 photographs – rather inflated by the fact that when I use ‘art filter’ settings on the Olympus cameras I shoot both a RAW and a JPEG image, and I’ve also done a couple of time lapses. The health problems I mentioned in Part 1 have of course reduced the number from what I would otherwise have taken – for example I’ve not been to Dudley Zoo at all in the last 6 months, and I’ve been to the Black Country Living Museum probably less than half as many times as I would have gone otherwise.
The single camera which was used for most images was the Olympus OM-D E-M1, with 3254, and the figure rises to 5445 if the E-M5 and E-P3 are included. Next comes the Panasonic GX7 at 1009, which rises to 2434 if the other Panasonics are included. The GH models did not score very highly, as they tend to be used for video rather than stills, and the LX100, bought at a good price as late as Cyber Monday, managed a very creditable 249. I’m very impressed by the LX100 – small enough to regard as a P&S, but with a four thirds sensor and a really excellent lens. I’m finding the rather short longest focal length much less of a problem in general use than I expected, and the 24mm equivalent at the wide end is coming in useful.
The other reasonably high scoring cameras were the Fuji X-E1 and X-T1, which managed 1738 between them – the X-T1 arrived a quarter of the way through the year.
In terms of how much I enjoy using the different cameras, I think that it is difficult to choose between the E-M5 and the X-T1. The touch screen and size/weight of the camera incline me to favour the E-M5, but it lacks wireless and tethering options, while the X-T1 has beautiful controls and excellent glass, but no touch screen, and the buttons surrounding the rear control wheel are definitely too recessed – the opposite of the usual problem with cameras where these buttons are too easy to press, and can completely change the cameras settings without the user being aware of it. It is particularly odd that Fuji did this on a camera where these buttons are used almost exclusively to move the focus point, and a good array of separate buttons are provided for controlling other settings. Neither of these cameras is very good for video, so the Panasonic GH4 is the camera of choice if that is what I need or may need to shoot. The new LX100 is very impressive, though of course lacking at the telephoto end of the lens range, and, unlike the Fuji, it is FAR too easy to accidentally rest the thumb on the rear controls, resulting in accidental major changes to the camera settings. It also fooled me for a while when I must have apparently pressed the ia button, and lost almost all manual control. A suggestion to Panasonic – a firmware option which will allow the ia button to be disabled, or set to some other function, or to have the rear control buttons disabled unless the ia button is also held down!
The lenses I used by far the most were the Olympus 14-150mm and the Panasonic equivalent 14-140 mm – 4319 pictures between them. They are so convenient to use – no need to mess around changing lenses all the time, risking dust getting into the camera, and although they aren’t particularly fast in terms of aperture, and the image quality is not the ultimate, they are more than adequate for most of my work. Surprisingly 14-42mm lenses were used for over 1000 pictures – probably mostly on the E-P3 when I used it as a P&S camera. The 18-55 on the Fujis came next at 743. The prime lens I used most was the Olympus 60mm macro.
2014 has not been such a good year in terms of reliability of photographic equipment. The X-T1 was a very early model (bought at the Photography Show), and it turned out that it had the light leak problem. Fuji (unlike some other camera manufacturers!) immediately put up their had when people reported this issue, and offered an immediate repair – very fast turnaround. The E-M1 suffered a problem which meant that the remote cable release would not work, and had to be returned to Olympus. Again the turnaround was very fast – it involved a main board and seal replacement. A few weeks later some marks appeared on the images from the E-M1, and a blower had no effect. As the Olympus floats the sensor this was NOT a job to try a swab on!, so it went back to Olympus again. I got it back almost by return post, with the sensor cleaned, and no charge. The final equipment problem occurred just a few days ago – the diaphragm of my old 20mm Nikon lens (bought when I had the D100, and they did no have any of the 18mm-to-you-name-it lenses, just the 24-85mm zoom, which was limiting at the wide end) stopped working. This lens is actually potentially quite useful, as I have a tilt-shift adapter which allows me to use it on some micro four thirds bodies (unfortunately the adapter won’t go on the cameras with the pseudo prism housing). I’m not sure what I am going to do about this, as any repair is likely to be frighteningly expensive, and with the builders still at work here I am broke!
On the computer side, I still mostly use Macs, and the same ones that I have had for the last 2.5 years or more (the oldest has a Power PC processor!). One has had an upgrade to a SSD and 16G of memory – fortunately or otherwise I invested in this upgrade just before all the remaining available money was spent on the house. I also added another couple of 2T external hard drives earlier in the year. One of my file servers, which runs Linux, actually dates from the last century (I don’t use either of the file servers on a regular basis).
Software has not seen many changes either – the vast majority of my image management and processing is still done in Lightroom, with a few images going out to Photoshop and rather more to Silver Efex for additional processing. I continued to use Aperture for some images until Apple announced they were abandoning it, at which point I stopped using it altogether. I could have been very angry about Apple doing this if I had only been using Aperture, but as it is I have lost almost nothing. In November I started experimenting with Capture 1, partly because many people rate it better than Adobe for handling images from the Fuji X sensors. I quite like it, and, like Aperture, I find I prefer the processing results to Lightroom sometimes. However, I do still find LR more convenient for managing images, and Capture 1 is much slower to support some new cameras (eg the LX100) than LR. Lens support is also very limited – and furthermore, it does not appear to apply any camera-related lens corrections either to RAW images.