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mid life crisis

in General Rants , Tuesday, November 23, 2010

So why bother, really? Photography, I mean. Spending hours sifting through literally thousands of of globs digital dross in the hope of finding some kind of gem - always assuming I be able to recognise a gem if I found one, and of course ignoring the point that the question should be addressed before pressing the shutter. It often feels more like an obssessive compulsion, this hobby of mine, rather than a source of satisfaction and fulfilment. I do usually enjoy the process of taking the photos, but that may be more to do with place than process. And when it all comes down to it, I’m left feeling that it is all chaotic, purposeless, blindly repetitive: in summary, I just haven’t got a clue. At all.

Successful photography has direction and theme. In my opinion although individual photos may be successful, even greatly so, successful photographers need to demonstrate, repeatedly, that they can assemble a coherent body of work. They need to be able to convince the audience that they have pursued a well formulated intention. Throwing together a few photos after the act just doesn’t cut it. In other words, developing a conscious style is fundamental, and that’s where I really run into the buffers.

I’m pretty sure than any style I might be perceived to have is dictated by the camera. I mean, I’m pretty likely to take 4:3 ratio photos with an Olympus DSLR, and I’m going to tend to go for well lit and/or fairly immobile subjects.  I suppose I could argue that it was a conscious choice, but really, I just like the physical look, feel and style of the E-1 and it just carried on from there.

With the double blows of broadband internet and affordable digital cameras, photography has become very, very competitive, and is becoming much more about the photographer than the photograph. In fact there’s precious little danger of the camera being more important than the photographer these days - the camera is just another prop for the narcissistic. Just take a look at the most popular accounts on the major photography sites, and tell me that it isn’t all about ego and self-promotion. I mean frankly, are Rebekka’s photos that awesome ? Basically, no, they’re pretty average, actually sub-average considering the raw material she’s got to work with. And I don’t have anything against her (well, apart from the fact that she irritates the hell out of me), it’s just an example - but really, her fame has more to do with her, shall we say, personal characteristics, than her photography.

Whatever. Should it bother me? No. Does it? Well, clearly it does, to some degree.

The problem is there is just so much pressure to compete, and the sheer impossibility to stand out, or to do anything unique, or be part of any kind of meaningful community, is just wearing me down.

Of course, I’m starting to ramble. I’m losing the thread. I’m engaging in unwarranted and unfair diatribes against a person I don’t know in any way. I guess it’s symptomatic of the frustration of being unable to progress, unable to get noticed, unable to decide if I want to get noticed, and unable to decide if what I do has any merit.

Hey. Maybe I should buy a new lens.

 

Olympus EP-2

my preshussssss!

in Olympus E-System , Friday, November 12, 2010

I’ve been meaning to write more about the Olympus EP-2 for a while, but for various reasons I didn’t get around to it. One of these is that I wanted to compare with the E-3, but I haven’t got a lens adaptor for the EP-2 yet, and in any case, I’m not really into doing “tests”. Anyway, there’s little point: it is glaringly obvious that in terms of image quality, the EP-2 is way ahead, even with the 14-42mm kit lens.  I say “even with” ... to be honest, I seriously doubt that the vast majority of web chattering about lens quality is based on any sort of objective evaluation of real-world use. This lens certainly isn’t limiting my photography.

Oh, and it’s great fun to use.

drm_ep2_20101017__A170345.jpg

An EP-2 photo using the Fake Hasselblad preset

There are a few things I don’t like so much about the camera, and all of them are concerned with handling and the user interface.  The control dial is pretty horrible to use. You have to be very, very careful to not completely change the setup when you were intending to dial in +0.3EV. The various ways of changing settings, through the menu, the super control panel, or the info layer (if that’s what it’s called) are just too confusing. At least one of them should go, and actually, although I’m very familiar with it, my choice would be to deep-six the super control panel. As I get used to the info method I’m finding I hardly ever use the control panel. I wonder if it has made it through to the E-5, or if Olympus consider it to be a “consumer” feature ?

drm_ep2_20101027__A270354.jpg

Another pretty picture

There are a lot of things I do like. First of all, in my experience so far this camera has by far the most accurate auto-exposure of any Olympus E-System camera I’ve used. Very good and very consistent, unlike the E-3 which frankly seems to use random guesstimation as it’s baseline method. Second, dynamic range is also much better. The photo above would have caused my all sorts of problems with the E-3. With the EP-2, it’s just routine. The EVF is excellent, and without it the camera would not be anywhere near as useful or enjoyable. It would be nice if it were orientable in two axes, like the E-3’s screen. The general feel and construction of the camera is very good, and personally I love the design. It is so much easier to carry this camera around than a DSLR, although it is notable that it is only slightly smaller than the E-400. I like the shutter sound, although it would be nicer if it were a touch quieter. Oh, and I really like the AF-C Tracking Mode - this is fantastic when combined with “focus and recompose” shooting, although I suppose that wasn’t quite what it was meant for! It might not be quite so hot with fast moving targets - I don’t know, I haven’t tried - but it works fine for motionless inanimate objects. 

I’m not quite so keen on manual focus.  I’m still not entirely sure how to pre-set the focus point: I found out once, and then forgot (manual ? what manual). And moving the focus point while zoomed in in MF mode is probably the most frustrating and curse-inducing activity I’ve encountered on a camera in many years. But then again, who cares when you’ve got AF-C Tracking Mode ?

So, I won’t be selling it. In fact, since I bought it, I haven’t picked up the E-3 (or E-400) once. Obviously in some cases the E-3 will still be the better tool, but in general I can see it settling on a quiet semi-retirement.