In a rare move on my part I actually pre-ordered the camera. But while I was basking in the glow of this new camera's advertising, dreaming of all the fabulous photographs I would take with this not-quite-released E-M5, life came along as it tends to do and dumped a cold bucket of reality all over my warm dreamy plans. The money I had budgeted and committed to this new camera wound up being needed somewhere else. And so, as always, plans were changed, funds were shifted and the higher need was served.
But it just wasn't Olympus that was releasing new gear at that time. Canon and Nikon each released updates to all their flagship cameras, from Canon's 1D-X and 5Dmk3 to Nikon's D4 and D800/E. Fabulous cameras to be sure released at frighteningly high prices, starting at $3,000 and moving up to just south of a cool, cool $7,000 for just the bodies. My pre-ordered Olympus E-M5 plus M.Zuiko 12-50mm wasn't all that cheap; including the grip, the total was around $1,500. Certainly cheaper by far than the Canon's and Nikon's, but for a guy on a budget who isn't a full-blown pro, it was a chunk of change none-the-less.
Don't get me wrong; this isn't the first time I've shelled out that much money. I paid full price for the E-P2 kit (body + zoom + VF-2) when it was released. And even though I got my E-3 and 12-60mm 'kit' lens at a considerable discount in 2008, I still paid a fair amount of money. And that's the problem. All this is costing a fair amount of money, and it truly adds up over time.
I know what you're going to say. Nobody held a gun to my head and forced me to spend all this money. It's a hobby, like golf. For me, it's not a hobby, but a powerful creative tool. For me it's not about the new-camera smell or being one of the Cool Kids with the latest model. If it were I'd literally mortgage my life for a Canon or Nikon "full-frame" (35mm film sized) sensor camera and buy every upgrade that came out. I keep buying to pick up the latest features that make photography that much more convenient to help me be creative. I want the revolutionary/incremental upgrades to basic features that only come when you buy the latest body.
In addition to the evolutionary reasons I want a second µ4/3rds body to hold a second lens because that's the way I shoot. I "grew up" with a two-camera system, with a wide-angle lens on one body and a short telephoto on the other. And then I would use my eyes, my mind, my feet and one of the bodies to compose the shots. That's why I picked up the used E-1 (in mint condition) to use with my E-3. That, and the fact I wasn't in the market for another costly E-3 or E-5.
As I was getting ready to put in my order all over again for the E-M5 by the end of May to take advantage of the free weather-sealed MMF-3 deal, Leica released a $8,000 black and white M-9. And that's when I finally popped some tiny biological/mental circuit breaker deep in the folds of my mind, and I dug in my heals and put my wallet back in my hip pocket.
I have never owned Leica because I've never been rich enough to own one. I worked for a Leica camera store in Atlanta in the mid-70's by the name of Wallis Kamera Haus. Bill Wallis was a great guy, and I'm glad I had the job. But I never believed I'd ever make enough working for him to purchase a Leica, even a used one. As beautiful as those M3s and M4s were sitting on his shelves they were incredibly expensive to own, even in 1970 dollars. Instead I used a Minolta SR-T MC and a Minolta XE-7 that I'd picked up on employee discounts while working a second job at J.C. Penney (yes, Virginia, once upon a time J.C. Penney used to sell cameras, and had a very extensive and capable camera department). Both those cameras were a fraction of the price of the Leica's, even though the XE-7 was the basis for the Leica R3, which also cost dearly. Of all the cameras I've owned before and since, I still have the brassed body of my Minolta X-E7, although it's not working anymore. One day I will get it fixed - again. But I digress...
To add insult to injury (as it were) Leica announced a $7,200 2/50mm APO-Summicron-M. I just sat there in absolute amazement that Leica is deliberately pricing themselves into a market niche so high that they truly are, as Mike at The Online Photographer has said more than once, a Veblen good.
Leica X2, the fixed lens APS-C 16MP camera that finally, finally has a
That EVF looks familiar, don't it? I pulled out my VF-2 and compared the two most carefully. The lower half that attaches to the camera is identical. The upper half is different. And more than just a white "LEICA" printed on the front, but not much.
Why, if I'll never own a Leica, any Leica, would I carry on such a rant? Because it appears that everybody else in the camera business wants to follow in their footsteps, i.e. produce outrageously expensive Veblen camera goods. Canon and Nikon are certainly on their way, and Leica, with their M9 and even more astronomically priced S2 at a breath-taking $23,000 (again, body only) have produced cameras that only the very rich can afford. The 1% of the 1%. I don't care if you are one of the very few pros who have a business that can support the purchase of such equipment; that kind of pricing is nuts.
That's why I'm going out and, for a paltry $150 (or about 1/3 what the 6% sales tax would be on the Leica if I purchased one in Orlando), picking up a new Olympus E-PL1. I don't give a damn that it's not an OM-D. I don't give a damn it's not a Canon or Nikon or the latest Leica. I'm buying this little camera because it has a slightly weaker AA filter, and its autofocus is actually a little faster than the higher-end E-P2. Or at least that's what I've read. But more significantly I'm buying it with its minimal controls because it's the same 12 megapixel resolution that Nikon staunchly stood by with their D3 series and D700, higher than the 10MP resolution that was in the 1D Mk 3. Yes, I know, I'm an utter fool to compare any µ4/3rds camera to either Canon or Nikon high-end camera, or so the conventional wisdom goes.
But then the conventional wisdom that everybody likes to spout is that it's not the camera it's the photographer. I've heard that so many times, tumbling out of the mouths of all those ultra-high-end camera buyers, the same buyers looking for little more than bragging rights and forum fodder, that I'm truly sick of hearing it. I'm purchasing this camera, and I'm going to master it like no other and like nobody else. In the process I'm going to master myself.
I'm going to shoot until the shutter falls out of the body from use. And when it does I'm buying something equally cheap. I've been going through this ennui lately about photography, looking for "motivation." For whatever reason, all this conspicuous wealth has lit a fierce motivational fire, fueled in part by my deep streak of egalitarianism. No more $1,000 cameras from anybody. Instead I'm spending the rest of my time on this earth learning to produce the best photography I can possibly produce with the most utilitarian low-cost cameras I can find; leading edge photography with trailing edge gear.