I got a new Olympus E-3 and a pair of Zuiko Digital lenses to go with it for Christmas.
I've been an amatuer photographer since I was a senior in high school. At that time I was given a Yashica Electro 35 GSN rangefinder by my dad. He had a Yashica TL Electro SLR at the time, along with a couple of third-party lenses, one of which was an impressive telephoto (or at least I thought it was impressive).
Since that early Yashica I purchased and used Minolta (SRT-SC, XE-7, and XD-11), a Mamiya C330 Pro f, an Olympus OM-4, and a Nikon N90 (the last film camera I purchased). Of all the cameras I felt the OM-4 and Zuiko lenses where the best, followed closely by Minolta. Very closely. The Mamiya, with it's 2 1/4 film size, was a great black-and-white camera, especially shooting low-ASA speed films like Plus-X and Pan-X. Even Tri-X looked really good. For all the other cameras I shot Kodachrome 25 and 64 almost exclusively.
But time passed and I slowly stopped shooting, especially around 1993. I would pick up the Nikon on occassion and take the occassional family photo, but the 'fire' was out. Then, about six years ago, Judy bought a Canon Powershot A300 for me for Valentine's day. It was tiny and easy to use. It 'only' had 3.2 megapixel. But it took compact flash cards and ran on two AA batteries. It was so easy to take pictures. Most importantly, even critically, it allowed me to view the results almost immediately on the back of the body. That one feature drew me back into photography and re-ignited the 'fire'. I stated taking more pictures, up to the point I wanted to 'graduate' to a DSLR.
So three years ago I started looking for something affordable that was a real step up from the Canon. I wanted reasonable high resolution, decent SLR performance, and interchangable lenses. I started by looking for a Minolta DSLR, but the brand had been sold to Konica and I was concerned that it was on its last legs. The Konica Minolta camera and IP was in turn sold to Sony, but I was still concerned, so I started looking at Nikon, then when I didn't find anything there I liked, I looked at Olympus.
I remembered the quality of the lenses from my OM-4 period. While there was nothing particularly wrong with the Nikon I believe to this day I should have never given up my OM and purchased the Nikon. It wasn't "right" for me. So I started looking at Olympus DSLR reviews and was struck how the reviewers spoke glowingly of the Oly lenses, or glass. I started to look closer, and talked to my Dad. My Dad had purchased a lot of Olympus film cameras, from the OM-1 up to the OM-4t, as well as a number of lenses. He'd purchased an Oly E-300 kit that came with two lenses, a 14-45mm standard zoom and a 40-150 tele zoom. He was happy with the results. So I started to look for the same kit at the lowest price. I found the kit at Newegg on sale at the time for $600 and purchased it. The E-300 was probably the best (for me) camera I could have purchased at the time.
For the last two-plus years I've shot thousands of pictures all over Florida as well as everywhere I've traveled around the country. It was a great source of personal satisfaction. What's more, it didn't have the mess of film photography (darkroom film development and printing). I only printed what was absolutely necessary, it was easy to store digital pictures, and I could easily experiment with composition and exposure and get immediate feedback right there before I left. It was a great experience, as great as when I was in late teens and twenties with the Yashica, Minoltas, and Mamiya.
The E-3 pushes enjoyment and creative capability much, much farther. There is a four-year design gap between the E-300 and E-3, and it shows. While the E-300 remains as a backup body (and still takes beautiful photos), the E-3 is a far more rugged and sealed body, with advances in in-camera processing that I can actually see. I also got the 12-60mm SWD and 50-200mm SWD lenses, which are some of the best lenses I think I've ever worked with. The whole package is sealed against moisture (rain) and dirt. Since I shoot outdoors a lot it's nice not to worry that I'll ruin my camera if it rains (I never had problems with the E-300, but I was concerned).
Just as the E-300 traveled with me "just in case", so the E-3 will travel with me as well (and properly hidden in the car). I'm going to be shooting a lot more, and creating High Definition Range (HDR) images. It's going to be an interesting 2009 photographically. And a big welcome shift away from the Linux ideology wars.