Photographers and smaller cameras.

Canon 550D Leica X1

An article by David Muench - Landscape Photographer.

A quote from National Geographic and Magnum Photographer Steve McCurry
"I continually see photographers walking around with huge camera bags on their shoulders and I just wonder how can you stop and smell the roses and observe life when you have a 20-pound bag hanging off your shoulder. It just mystifies me."

A quote from another photographer:- 
"don't try and tell me that a smaller sensor is superior to a larger format! Because that isn't, and never will be, true."

We're into another of those photographic controversies about new v old, small v large. The 35mm versus medium format and digital versus film debates of the past have been replaced by a small camera versus large camera debate. In all of these there is one theme. Can something that makes our life easier as photographers give us comparable quality to something that is more difficult to use? As ever there are people who embrace the new technology, and those who resist it.

Olympus E-P2 Olympus E-PL1 Leica X1 Leica M9

It goes without saying that when two cameras give the same performance the smaller, lighter and cheaper alternative becomes very attractive. But what about when thats not the case? A Nikon D3X has incredible resolution, will do virtually anything that a camera can, is built like a tank and produces image after image that will satisfy the most demanding of users. So why when I had one, did it sit on the shelf most of the time? If I am serious about my photography, and I am, then why didn't I use it all the time? As has been written here many times, the answer is that it was way too big, and way too heavy for me to use for any length of time. 

Mercantour National Park Provence France
Mercantour National Park, Provence, France. 35mm film.

Its interesting, but no surprise, that landscape photographers are in the forefront of this move towards smaller, lighter cameras. Those of us that make our living doing it have been carting huge amounts of equipment around for many years, and in my case are starting to to suffer the consequences. In my own case I have a body that has to be "managed" rather more than it used to be. Hauling a medium format camera, lenses and a tripod up hills is no longer an option I can consider, and my enthusiastic embracing of camera systems such as micro four thirds is a matter of self preservation above all.

View from the Quiraing Isle of Skye Scotland
View from the Quiraing, Isle of Skye, Scotland. 6x4.5 film

The photographer quoted above is correct when he indicates that a larger sensor is superior to a smaller one. There is no doubt that my D3X produced images that were of a higher quality than my m4/3 cameras in almost every way. But the fact is that I would never have carried the D3X the distances that I can carry my m4/3 cameras, or indeed my Leica M9, which certainly can stand comparison with the Nikon.

We all make our decisions based on what works for us at any given time. I'm no longer prepared to have my photography become an endurance test. It seems more and more photographers are coming to the same conclusion.


Chartreuse Alps France
Chartreuse, Alps, France. 6x4.5 film