Pen-F, why now?

Besides having a G.A.S. attack, why did I buy a Pen-f now? The Pen-F has been out for a year and a half. So this is not the most opportune time in the product lifecycle to buy a one. I should have bought it a year ago so I could have had the latest and greatest for that much longer before it goes obsolete. (Well maybe obsolete is too strong of a word, but you get the idea.)

When the Pen-F did come out, I was unemployed, so it was a bad time for me to be spending money on gear I didn’t need. And I was also going through a phase where I wasn’t into photography. So in the winter of 2016, buying a new camera wasn’t in the cards for me.

But now I am taking more pictures, and I’ve been working for a few months so I can justify the purchase based on rewarding myself for going to such a boring and meaningless job five days a week, at least eight hours a day.

I don’t foresee there being a Pen-F Mark II for another year. It took Olympus two years and eight months between the Pen E-P5 and the Pen-F. Based on that timetable, maybe Olympus will announce a Pen-F Mark II next August.

And then there’s the Olympus August sale. If you buy a Pen-F, you can get $300 off on up to two prime lenses. So I bought a 12mm f/2.0 and a 25mm f/1.8 lens with the camera, for $500 and $100 respectively. I didn’t especially need the 25mm because I already have the 25mm f/1.4, but hey, for only $100 it’s probably worth buying.

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Read my next Pen-F post: Pen-F review, part 1, aesthetics and first impressions

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Pen-F G.A.S. attack

I bought a new Olympus Pen-F camera, and I’m going to be writing about it a lot in the coming days.

This is not a camera that I in any way needed. I’ve never taken a photo worthy of the gear I already have, so I certainly didn’t need to buy better gear. Pictures of the streets of New York City are fine for an ironic Instagram feed, but they are not great art or anything like that. There are zillions of people taking the same pictures.

Nope, my purchase is purely a case of G.A.S., that’s gear acquisition syndrome, a disease which plagues amateur photographers and makes them long to buy gear they don’t need. In my case, I’m a pixel peeper (another bad form of photographic behavior that you should avoid if you can), and it filled me with great sadness every time I took a picture with my Olympus E-P5 knowing that there’s a camera out there with slightly more pixels and slightly greater dynamic range that I could have been using instead.

I have a job that pays more than a hundred thousand dollars a year, and I already have a few hundred thousand in assets, and I don’t have any children that I need to send to college, so in my case I can afford the purchase and not do much harm to my future retirement. But one of the problems with photography websites is that people who really can’t afford to buy more gear read reviews proclaiming how awesome the new gear is, and then they get G.A.S., and then they buy gear with money that they should have used to pay off their student loans or pay for their own children’s education.

Also, in theory, I disprove of the modern materialistic lifestyle in which people toil away most of their lives for greedy corporations, and then spend all their meager salaries on unnecessary acquisitions and expensive vacations.

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The photo above was taken today, one of the first pictures I took with my new Pen-F and the new M.Zuiko 12mm F/2.0 lens that I bought with the camera.

The red banner on the left side is above the entrance to the Aperture Gallery. That’s a place where you can see real photography by photographers who are doing real art and not just taking meaningless pictures of the streets of Manhattan. (And free admission! The best bargain in Manhattan.)

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Read my next Pen-F post: Pen-F, why now?

The Olympus E-M10 Mark III will only have 16MP?

According to the rumors guy, it’s true.

Being the shameful pixel-peeper that I am, even though it’s wrong to be a pixel-peeper, I was excited about the possibility of a new Olympus E-M10 Mark III camera with 4 MP more resolution the 16MP Olympus camera that I currently use, and maybe getting rid of the anti-aliasing filter, thus being that much better able to appreciate the sharpness of sharp lenses like my recently acquired 12-40mm f/2.8 “PRO” lens.

Of course, this is a case G.A.S. (gear acquisition syndrome), and you readers at home should not be influenced by this and buy unnecessary gear.

But anyway, I can’t believe that Olympus would give the new camera only a 16MP sensor when Olympus’ previous two released cameras both have 20MP, and with most of the APS-C competition now having 24MP sensors. I get no G.A.S. for a 16MP sensor. This is Olympus saying “don’t be a cheapskate, if you want 20MP, buy a camera that costs at least $1200 like the Pen-F.” Shame on you, Olympus.

G.A.S. attack (Olympus 12-40mm lens)

12-40mm lens

I have succumbed to G.A.S., that is Gear Acquisition Syndrome, and purchased an Olympus M.Zuiko ED 12-40mm f2.8 PRO lens. This violates everything I’ve come to believe about photography. I’ve never taken a single photo worthy of any of the other gear that I own. And furthermore, I like cameras that are small and light. This lens, weighing in at 13.5 ounces, is heavier than any other Micro Four Thirds lens that I own.

So how did I justify buying it? (Besides the $200 off sale?) The one thing that has disappointed me about Micro Four Thirds photography is the lack of sharpness. Besides my 17mm f/1.8, none of the other lenses are sharp from center to the corners. (And the sharpness of the 17mm f/1.8 is controversial on internet forums where many believe it’s a lousy lens.) Everyone on the internet says that the 12-40mm is the sharpest lens, especially at the wide end which is where I’d primarily use it (because photos taken at focal lengths longer than normal, that is 50mm-equivalent, are ugly and to be avoided). Look at this review at Lenstip showing that this lens has insanely high corner sharpness for a zoom lens, even at its widest focal length of 12mm (equivalent to 24mm, but actually equivalent to a less impressive 26mm if you crop the photo to a 2:3 aspect ratio). Even harder to believe is that at 12mm, the corners are sharper wide open than stopped down!

But why does it matter how sharp the photos are if I never take any photos worthy of being sharp? Alas, this is a fundamental problem of photography these days, so many people with thousands of dollars worth of gear, some even going into five figures, taking lousy meaningless and pointless photos of sunsets, flowers, over-photographed tourist attractions, and pictures of their kids that no one else wants to see. (Regarding the last, I have no idea what I’m going to do with the thousands of slides in my parent’s closet when it comes time to deal with that.)

Yet somehow, looking at a picture at 100% in Photoshop that’s not sharp fills me with sadness. And that’s why the Ricoh GR brought me such joy, because every picture taken with the Ricoh GR is pin-sharp, even at the extreme corners. I can’t compose anything outdoors with the dim LCD screen, and half the time I get the exposure wrong with it, but damn, those pictures are sharp! (And it fits in your pocket too.)

Is camera gear an “investment”?

This post was inspired by this thread at dpreview.com.

On gearhead-type photography forums, such as dpreview.com, we often see people saying something like “I want to invest in a new camera” instead of just saying that they want to “buy a new camera.”

The standard definition of an investment is “to commit (money) in order to earn a financial return.” Traditional investments are things like stocks, bonds, mutual funds, real estate, etc. Camera gear does not fall into the category of an investment!

But yes, I understand that the word investment has alternate uses. The example given in a dictionary is: “to make use of for future benefits or advantages – invested her time wisely.”

I often hear people talk about “investing in a college education.” Using the word “invest” in such a sentence always implies that the person using the word approves of the thing being “invested” in. And with the college example, there is the additional expectation of pecuniary benefits of higher paying jobs.

Camera gear is like a television and not like a college education. A television may give you many years of entertainment, but you don’t invest in a new television, you simply buy a new television. For the vast majority of people who post on dpreview.com, camera gear, like the television, is being purchased for entertainment.

When people say they are “investing” in camera gear, what that generally means is that they are aware, perhaps on a subconscious level, that they are spending too much money on camera gear given their financial situation and photographic abilities, and they are trying to convince themselves that it’s actually a wise thing to be doing. And then they are posting on dpreview.com because they want additional public validation.

The only exception is if you are able to depreciate your camera on your tax returns. And some professional photographers can do that. In that case, because it’s a legit capital expenditure, you have my permission to call your camera purchase an investment, because technically it really is an investment, even though I still think it’s a tad pretentious to call it that.