I’ve lost count of the number of cameras I’ve owned over the past 35 years. Some, like the Sony RX100 Mark I, were good friends. Others, like the Canon EOS 300, were just brief flirtations. Yet more are long forgotten, like the anonymous APS which I used for a few years in the late 1990s.
Featured image: San Giorgio Maggiore from St Mark’s Square, Venice. Handheld using Sony RX100 in ‘handheld twilight’ mode.
The problem is part technology, part personal. Technology, because the Olympus E-500 that I used in 2005 is easily surpassed by any mirrorless or SLR on the market today. Personal because – frankly – I was rarely held back by the technical limitations of the E-500 13 years ago, and it’s still capable of capturing great pictures today. But sometimes I want something new to play with, and that’s how I ended up, during 2018, using around a dozen different cameras.
Realistically, I know I’m never going to restrict myself to a single camera, because I enjoy the experience of shooting different formats. But 12 is too many. Every camera has its quirks. As you use a camera, you learn how to get the best from it. If you’re constantly swapping between so many cameras, how can you keep all of those variables in your head?
So I’ve rationalised my collection, and I’m down to four cameras. I don’t think I can go any smaller.
I learned photography on a film SLR, and I can’t imagine ever giving up the format. Film SLRs give you that beautiful full-frame bokeh at a fraction of the cost – or the bulk – of their digital counterparts.
Most of all, I love the very last generation of film SLRS. Even the most budget model offers a user-friendly combination of ease of use and great image quality. My Minolta Dynax 4, from around 2003, cost me £14 in mint condition. I only have a single lens – a Minolta 24-50mm f4 – which cost me five times more than I paid for the camera. Yes, it’s a slow lens, but the focal range is perfect for urban photography.
My other film camera is an Olympus XA2. Technically, it’s a rangefinder, but it’s so small, and so simple to use that it feels more like a compact. It’s my current favourite camera, and possibly my favourite camera of all time. The 35mm f3.5 lens is a delight: the ideal focal length for a walkabout camera. Sometimes, I just want to capture the moment without thinking about camera settings. The Olympus XA2 is the right tool for the job.
My main camera is an Olympus OMD EM10 Mark II – an SLR styled mirrorless camera. It’s small enough to use when I’m hiking, flexible enough to completely replace the Nikon SLR which preceded it. There’s been a lot of chat recently (looking at you YouTube) that micro four thirds is a dying format. Not so. But the small sensor, and small form factor, mean that it’s a niche format, and it’s a niche I’m happy to support.
My backup camera is an Olympus Pen E P5 – a rangefinder-styled mirrorless camera. It uses the same lenses as the EM10 and it’s similar enough, in terms of usability, that I can use the two cameras interchangeably. The size and weight of the P5 mean that I can carry two cameras in a small messenger bag, so there’s less need to change lenses when I’m out and about.
Any other cameras I want? Well, I wouldn’t mind swapping the P5 for a Pen F, but I certainly can’t justify the cost. And a manual focus film SLR like an Olympus OM1 or Minolta X700 would be fun occasionally. But they wouldn’t make me shoot more film, and I’d be back down the rabbit hole of ‘just one more camera’.
No, four cameras is enough. Until I see that elusive Leica at my local charity shop.