Saturday, March 26, 2011

Used is the New New

Making a measurement
"Making a measurement"
Olympus E-1 with Zuiko OM 300mm
1./500s, f/5.6, ISO 100

I have, over the last five years, purchased five Olympus E-series bodies in the following order: E-300 (early 2006), E-3 (late 2008), E-P2 (early 2010), and two E-1s (2011). I gave the first E-1 I purchased to my youngest daughter, to supplement the E-300 I had bequeathed her when I purchased the E-P2. The second one, which came in mint condition with the HLD-2 grip, I kept for myself

I purchased all but the two E-1s as new. The two E-1's came to me used. The first E-1 came from KEH, while the second I won in a bid on e-bay. What is remarkable about both are the prices. The KEH copy was $250, while the ebay copy with grip was $200.

Along with all those bodies I have a few FourThird mount lenses, all of them purchased new as well. I have exactly two µFourThirds lenses, the original kit lens that came with the E-P2 and the M.Zuiko 17mm pancake. Every other lens is used via adapters.

Ugly Road
"Ugly Road"
Olympus E-1 with Zuiko OM 300mm
1/500s, f/5.6, ISO 100

After spending a fair sum of money on all-new equipment, I looked at what was happening and started to balk at how much I'd truly spent. Photography is more a passion for me than a profession (although I use photography as a tool for documenting some of my work). It looked like my passion was beginning to cost a lot more than it should have.

That's when I discovered the practical joy of older, used film lenses, and in the process I discovered another joy, the joy of not having to plump up large sums of cash for capabilities that would have cost a pretty penny with the newer digital lenses.

E-1 glamor shot #3
The second E-1 w/HLD-2 won on e-bay.
Along with the appreciation of used lenses, I developed an (almost irrational) interest in the E-1, the first FourThirds body that Olympus released. When it was introduced in 2003 it cost a cool $1,700. Back in 2003 my oldest was a senior in high school, and we were preparing financially to send her off to an in-state college. Mom would not have appreciated me dropping $1,700 on a camera body, let alone the hundreds (and in some cases, thousands) of dollars for additional lenses and peripherals, such as the HLD-2 vertical grip.

Instead, what I got that year was a small Canon PowerShot A300. Even though it was a point-and-shoot, it was more than enough for me to get my feet wet in digital photography. Up to that point I was film only, with an aging Nikon N90.

That little Canon was surprisingly sophisticated, and for what I was capable of producing at the time, it amply satisfied my needs. And my wife, wise woman that she is, probably knew that the Canon was the better way to get introduced to digital photography without putting a crater in the family finances.

The A300 was a good camera, producing thousands of photographs, and was used by all members of the family (including both girls) up until 2006, when I purchased the E-300 (in a two-lens kit, and heavily discounted). The rest, as they say, is history.

I will write about my experiences with the E-1 in a later post, but for now, continuing with the lenses...

One used lens in particular that caught my eye was the Olympus Zuiko AUTO-T 300mm f/4.5 telephoto lens. This lens was for sale from a fellow Olympus photographer who decided to sell her copy through a forum we both frequent. Not only did I want a 300mm, but I wanted this one because of the very low price relative to a new Olympus Zuiko Digital 300mm, which currently goes for $6,500. If I were a working pro, I could probably justify owning such a lens. But as a regular working stiff, I can't justify spending the same amount of money on a lens I spent re-roofing my house. And so I turn to the used market, looking for inexpensive, used, forgotten treasures that are still quite good if used properly.

Flowers 1
Flowers 1
Olympus E-1 with Zuiko OM 300mm
1.500s, f/5.6, ISO 100

When the 300mm arrived, I immediately mounted it on the E-1 body (with an MF-1 adapter) and started taking photographs out in the back yard. The photo below was one of the first I took. It won't win any awards, but it certainly delivers what I want, and on what many dismissively consider an inferior camera, the E-1. To my unsophisticated eyes the E-1 with the OM 300mm is a potent photographic combination, producing remarkably good results. And the combination just feels right in my hands.

Backlit Orchid Tree Bloom
"Backlit Orchid Tree Bloom
Olympus E-1 with Zuiko OM 300mm
1/500s, f/5.6, ISO 100

I'd like to take a moment to say thank-you to my wife. If it wasn't for her, I wouldn't have the camera gear I currently have. She's my biggest fan and supporter.

Thank you Judy for this, and so much more.

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