So how did I end up with this? And keep going on about how good it is. And why did I sell the Leica M9 and my Nikons?? - Part 2

Sony NEX-5n 16mm, 30mm, 18-55mm, 55-210mm and 18-200mm lenses
Sony NEX-5n 16mm, 30mm, 18-55mm, 55-210mm and 18-200mm lenses

Continuing the story of my latest gear "rationalisation". 

The Nikons went when I got the a77. Nothing wrong with either the D7000 or D5100, but again its a megapixel advantage. Whether or not the Nikons produce better images, or are better cameras, is in many ways immaterial. In my line of work the more MP's the better. It means I can sell images for higher fees, the people who buy them can use them at larger sizes or crop them.

The raging debates on the merits of one camera system versus another on forums are basically splitting hairs. The websites who sell my work like more MP's, the people who buy my pictures like more MP's. With the a77 I can provide these. It happens to be a very good camera and the image quality is excellent, but it has to be said, even if the pictures it produced were inferior to the D7000 (and at everything bar high ISO they aren't) they would still be more commercial because of the higher pixel count.

If I was a sports or news photographer, other things would come into the decision of what camera to use. How fast and resposive is it? Does it have a wide lens choice? Is it good in low light? When these considerations are taken into account, a camera like the D3S with its 12MP sensor is the camera of choice for many. However since I shoot landscape, location and travel shots, my needs are different, and the a77 is perfect for me.

The main reason for all this changing around is something else though. It also revolves around a camera that I don't even have yet. The Sony NEX-7. 

As soon as this was announced, it seemed the perfect camera for me. I often talk about how I can manage cameras like the D7000 and they are not that heavy. But in reality I do have real problems. At the end of my last big 10-day trip, I was having to lie flat out on the ground to let my back recover, every half hour. This as a result of hauling a Nikon + zoom lenses around. I write all the time about about how weight is much more important to me than size. I'm an outdoors photographer and what I take pictures of involves a lot of walking. So I have to carry everything with me. Doing this day after day has repercussions and I've been doing this now for over 20 years, so there's a fair amount of wear and tear on my back muscles. I'm glad to say that my stamina and fitness are holding up but many of the muscles I use to carry this gear and shoot with, have taken to complaining quite vigorously.

So the NEX-7 looked (and still does) a godsend. A light small camera, with a huge sensor. It is still my plan to get one at the first available opportunity. Since it shares a sensor with the a77, I've had a good opportunity to assess that, and I'm very pleased with it. I've also taken the opportunity to look at the OLED viewfinder in both the a77 and NEX-5n and I'm very happy with that also. So unless there is some significant other problem with the NEX-7, I've basically done the research and the camera should be just what I'm looking for.

Along the way I've been impressed by the a77 and am planning to keep that for all those situations when I need a DSLR (lookalike!) and I've also been very impressed by the NEX-5n, with regard to its overall handling, image quality and high ISO performance. It therefore strikes me that it makes sense to go with these three cameras, add in the new SLT adapter so that I can use a-mount lenses to fill in any gaps in the NEX system (and there are quite a few) all of which gives me an integrated system and one that I think will provide me with the best compromise between useability, portability and image quality that I can achieve with whats available currently.

It also frees up some of my equipment budget and means that I don't have so much money tied up in very expensive systems such as Leica and Nikon.

So where does this leave my m4/3 gear?

I tried writing a piece on this a few days ago and I got such a heated and in some cases, downright nasty, response that I ended up removing the posts and the comments. However I am going to discuss this again, but in order to prevent a re-occurance of what happened previously, I've disabled commenting on this post.

Micro Four Thirds has served me well, in fact it has been my main system of choice for the past 2-3 years. Not so much in recent months however, for reasons I will come on to. 

Its been light, portable and provided me with the quality I need. Its been a bit short on the megapixel front, but I've got round that by shooting stitched multi-image panoramas. There are also some superb lenses available. However things move on, and I get the impression, rightly or wrongly, that the development of the system is somewhat stalled. Stalled in the amount of pixels that they are able to get on the 4/3 sensor and stalled in the way that every new model that is introduced seems to be only a marginal improvement on the previous one. I also get the feeling that I'm now some distance away from who they are targeting these cameras at. I've written enough times about how I dislike the ever decreasing size. A GF3 with a pancake lens may be a miracle of engineering and take really good pictures, but without a viewfinder (and the current Panasonic one is mediocre at best) I find something like that really uncomfortable and difficult to use.

It could be argued that the Sony NEX-5n is even smaller, but when the viewfinder is added and a NEX lens fitted, it suddenly turns into something else for me. There are lots of complaints about the size of the NEX lenses, but I like the fact they are bigger. My 5n with the 18-200mm fitted feels great to me. Because of the way I hold a camera and because of what I'm used to I feel very comfortable with this. Yes it looks all wrong, but looks aren't everything.

Sony NEX-5N 18-200mm

Sony NEX-5N 18-200mm

And of course for the bulk of my work, this is all I need. I shoot in good light outdoors, with low ISO's for the vast majority of my work. Substitute the NEX-7 for the 5n and that will be my workhorse. And if it starts to get a bit heavy I've got alternatives. The 30mm and 55-210mm outfit I used the other day is very light, and for the first time in a long time I finished my shoot with no back pain. Then there's the ultra-light 16mm and the upcoming Zeiss 24mm and 50mm lenses. Again neither of those is very heavy.

So it seems that I may well be moving away from m4/3. Its been happening gradually over a period of time anyway. I didn't even take any of my m4/3 gear with me for my recent trip, preferring to use the Leica and my Nikons.

There is one problem though!

Olympus E-P3 12mm f/2 45mm f/1.8 Lens Hoods
Olympus E-P3 12mm f/2 45mm f/1.8 Lens Hoods

This is the most gorgeous camera outfit I've ever owned. To my eyes it is truly beautiful. If I didn't have to earn my living from photography, this is what I would use. To be honest this is going to be almost impossible to get into a cardboard box and take the post office. Far more difficult to sell than my Leica. I just don't want to sell it. My nephew suggested that I needed something to take pictures of for tests with all the other cameras! So I imagine this outfit will be staying. I don't think I'll use it that much, but everybody needs one indulgence and this is mine.