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My Journey from DSLR to Medium Format to Micro Four Thirds

On a recent expedition to the South Pole I was enlightened. It was like one of those aha moments. I was attending a class on the Nat Geo Explorer on getting it right in the camera first. Wasn’t sure what the class would be about but I attended.  During the class, the teacher said in the digital world we can either process our images in the camera or out of the camera.  For the past two decades I have been a manual shooter and processed all of my images in Photoshop. Now I was being challenged to think differently.

DSLR as the Gold Standard

Traveling back in time, I always thought that the DSLR was the camera to have and stayed with Canon for decades until I was enlightened to the imagery of medium format.  I never knew too much about film medium format cameras and even when I was in high school and college, when I had a dark room, I was always shooting DSLR.  So it wasn’t until later in my life that I fell in love with the digital medium format experience.  And let me tell you, I fell hard.  How couldn’t you – the richness, the depth and perspective and the feeling of just being in the scene, sort of like a 3D image. Digitally, when zoomed into 100%, it was nirvana!  But did it really matter?

Pixel Peeping with Medium Format

I finally broke down and purchased a PhaseOne XF with an IQ160 and sold all of my Canon gear.  Thought I had finally arrived with this monster camera that weighed almost as much as my first grand-daughter.  Any way, I shot with this beast for five years both in the studio, on the street and really anywhere and the images did not disappoint.  But at what cost?  The digital images on screen and printed were just mind blowing.  If you are a detail monger, pixel peeper or just want the best image, I had it. But does it matter?

The Lightest Camera – Micro Four Thirds

So, on my 2016 Expedition to the South Pole, I struggled with the strategy of camera gear to take.  What was the minimal gear I should take.  After talking with too many people and getting too many opinions, I settled on bringing the PhaseOne Gear with a long lens and converter and a Leica Q with a fixed 28mm lens.  This trip taught me a lot about my workflow and other possibilities to consider.  I have always been a manual kind of guy with maybe some aperture priority thrown in, but never a program, all automatic one.  But because of this instructor, he challenged me to think differently.  He also saw me for two weeks, struggle with the PhaseOne.  As a Lumix ambassador, he was traveling with 5-6 bodies and 10-12 lens.  I had never heard of Lumix but what I learned from him on this trip blew me away.

As soon as be gave me a Lumix body to hold, I knew I was making a change real quick.  When I returned from Antarctica, I headed to B&H and purchased the Lumix GX-8. The fact that the weight and cost was a fraction of that of the Phase was a big factor in buying this camera.  I know some of you may think that this is like comparing apples and oranges and your are right.  At this stage of my life, not spending a lot of time in the studio, the Phase was not for me anymore.  I can’t tell you how happy I was with the GX8.  It was fun, easy to travel with and the images were perfect, even in program mode most of the time.  Nowadays, I shoot my 5 granddaughters and their families and the hassle of that PhaseOne had to disappear.  Finally sold the Phase. (did buy the Hasselblad X1D which is a delight)

My photography life now is all about simplicity and I am so happy I made the changes.  Also happy that I don’t have to lug the Phase around anymore and deal with some of the issues of that camera.  Outside of the studio it was a tough camera to navigate on the street and traveling.

Old dogs can be taught new tricks.  I am living proof.

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