Why I Switched to Olympus

March 03, 2017  •  2 Comments

OM-D E-M1 Mark IIOM-D E-M1 Mark IIThis was the camera that convinced me to switch to Olympus for my professional work.

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I've been getting a number of inquires about my switch to Olympus. I can start off by saying, yes, it surprised me too, and I couldn't be happier!

I've been shooting canon since high school, and headed to college with my first digital rebel.

I slowly upgraded as I was able to justify. While I am VERY grateful that in my early days, my parents were able to help get me started, I was a college student with a full course load and a part time job and an unpaid internship, once I went full time it was important to me that photography wasn't a hobby that was funded by other jobs or gifts, but that every lens or camera upgrade fit two criterion: 

1) Something I could afford. Not as a personal expense, but as a business expense. Saving a percentage of every assignment into a fund for new gear be it camera equipment, or accessories, or hardware/software. Car loans, college loans, home loans are good debts to have, but if you have to buy camera gear on credit that you can't immediately pay off or really approach as an investment, you aren't running a sustainable business. Not only do you need to be able to afford the gear in the moment, but it also needs to be able to "pay for itself" in the work that you will get by upgrading.

2) Something that was going to make a difference in the way I was able to create images. This could be faster frames per second, higher ISO, a focal range that wasn't part of your arsenal, a roller bag that makes going to-and-from games less exhausting than carrying a backpack, a laptop that has a faster processor, any number of things.

When the 1D-X came out, it qualified those categories. I was able to trade in some gear to offset the cost, I bought it used, and the ISO meant that there were photos I could take that I just simply could not capture on other models.

But as my "new gear fund" grew, I had to debate do I buy the 1D-X Mark II, do I buy the 200-400 f/4, do I upgrade my 300mm to a new lighter 300mm or 400mm, do I buy a new wide? But none of that gear was something that really qualified both of my criterion.

I had purchased Olympus gear in 2015 because my "new gear fund" had enough money that I was CRAVING some kind of new purchase but didn't have enough for any new canon gear. At less than the cost of a new lens, I was able to get basically an entire kit. It was in a gray area of my criterion because I was planning to use it for more personal projects than sports or corporate shoots.

I brought it on a train ride to Seattle, then Hawaii, then Europe.

I entertained the idea of them being my full kit, and I covered a swimming event with them and it was do-able. Then I covered a volleyball game. I still had a setting where the image would play back in the EVF for a second after each frame which TOTALLY threw me off, but it just didn't have the ISO or focus capabilities that I was accustomed to with my canon gear.

So I continued to enjoy the Olympus system for fun trips, but I still took my trusty durable 5D Mark III for my Burning Man adventure. Partially because it was insured and I knew I'd be sending it to CPS for at least dust removal. I didn't want to be a two camera system person but I loved walking around with my little E-M5 Mark II, looking like a hipster and using built in wifi to send to my phone.

Then, the game changed. Olympus introduced the O-MD E-M1 Mark II. Updated EVF, higher resolution (still an argument if that really matters, but as numbers game, we'll say yes) 18fps, wifi, significantly lighter and whole new lineup of f/2.8 lenses. I more or less pestered everyone I knew at Olympus to get my hands on a loaner figuring at worse, it would be a nice addition to my personal kit, but at best, maybe, just maybe, it could replace my canon gear.

Of course I borrowed it on a weekend of pouring rain. I ensured the tech rep that I would cover it and he responded "no need to". Weatherproofing alone could sell me on the system. But it performed outstandingly across the board.

I feared I've have a honeymoon phase with it (as I did the canon 7D, yikes!) so I gave myself plenty of time to ensure that I wasn't so enamored with the weight, wifi, and waterproofing that I could have been blinded to any of the drawbacks that would later reveal themselves to be significant.

But here I am, in my 3rd month of exclusively using the Olympus camera and I am still incredibly pleased. It fits my criteria:

1) It is SIGNIFICANTLY less expensive. Let's compare a basic set up. To be a sports photographer in my mind, you need at least two bodies, a wide angle, a zoom and a fixed long lens. So using B&H Photo prices

If we are going canon:

bodies: 1D-X ($4,599) 1D-X Mark II ($5,999) not to include in calculations but if you don't primarily shoot sports, you could have the 5D Mark III ($2,499) or Mark IV ($3,499) as a second body

wide: 16-35mm f/2.8 ($1,449)

zoom: 70-200 f/2.8 ($1,949)

long: 300mm f/2.8 ($6,099) or 400mm f/2.8 ($9,999) or 200-400mm f/4 ($10,999) or 600mm f/4 ($11,499)

So assuming you get a two camera three lens set up with the LEAST expensive options, you are at: $16,895

If we are going Olympus:

E-M1 Mark II ($1,999) - not to include in calculations but again the E-M5 Mark II icould be your second body for wide any team huddles and what not, plus it's fun and hipster ($899)

wide: 7-14mm f/2.8 ($1,199)

zoom: 40-150mm f/2.8 [80-300mm 35mm equivalent] ($1,399)

long: 300mm f/4 [600mm 35mm equivalent] ($2,499)

Leaving you with a grand total of: $9,095

That's a difference of: $7,800

Now, if you consider the 40-150mm covers you to effective 300mm, and didn't get the M Zuiko 300mm, the difference would be: $9,939

If you like the 600mm range and went with the M Zuiko 300mm (600mm equivalent) and canon 600mm instead of the 300mm, the difference would be: $14,997

No matter which way you shake it, it's SIGNIFICANT!

Yes we can acknowledge that while f/2.8 on mirrorless is not true 2.8 depth of field, it is f/2.8 in terms of light allowed onto the sensor which is where I really argue the biggest need for f/2.8 comes in. And yes we can acknowledge the general difference in ISO capabilities based on size of sensor again. But I don't feel like any of those truly sacrifice quality or are worthy of a nearly double price jump for a system.

2) It makes a HUGE difference in the way I create images.

Weight: Because the system is lighter I can run up and down the sideline much easier, meaning, unless I'm blocked by the TV crew, after a long pass in football, I have no trouble running to get to the other side of the bench without moving slow being weighed down by gear. Also the end of the day whether it's sports or corporate, I'm not hunched over or having to lay down to try and relieve my back. How many photographers do I know that have resorted to bringing only one camera on assignments? How many fun adventures have I had before where the only photo I have is from my iPhone because bringing a 5D just wasn't worth the weight and bulk, and I'm catching an epic bay area sunset on a iPhone?

Wifi: Today's modern client wants images immediately. Whether I'm covering a corporate event that wants to promote to their social channels during the event, or I have a wedding client that wants the first image of their big day not be a blurry lopsided iPhone photo taken by a well meaning uncle, or I just want to send my wide angle foot photo to my phone during a timeout, built in wifi is CRITICAL for the modern camera.

Waterproofing: I've been on hikes where I kept my camera at home because it was raining. I've been at games where I left some of my cameras in my bag because I didn't want to bother putting rain gear on everything and even though Think Tank Photo makes some fantastic Hydrophobia products, it's so much better to not have to worry about rain at all. Bring on the rain!

Canon isn't a bad system by any means, nor is Nikon, or Sony or Fuji. Even iPhone will do you just fine for a quick photo to text your mom. But if you want to be creating images with a reliable system that offers you greater control of camera settings and accessibility, ability to send direct to your phone without cables, and save your back and shoulders from excessive weight of a DSLR, Olympus is the way to go!




Kelley L Cox
I'm optimistic:
Jacob D(non-registered)
What do you think about the future of Olympus now that they have sold to JIP
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Thanks for stopping by! I am a photographer based in the beautiful San Francisco Bay Area. Berkeley to be exact. I photograph sports, love, corporate, adventure... and my feet.

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