Seamus Phan signature

I read a great article on whether one really needs a DSLR, which resonated exactly with my views and my needs. If you love photography, it is really about bringing your perspective to others. It is not about how expensive your gear is.

I read an article by William Porter on TechHive, and his article resonated deeply with me. Photography is really about capturing a moment or an image in time, and not about megapixels, f-stops, price, brands, etc.

I have been dabbling in photography since my teens. I have used a Minolta SLR in the early days with a single prime lens. When I started working, an old professional photographer introduced me to medium-format photography – by selling me his old Mamiyaflex C220 TLR. That TLR changed my entire view of photography, and I managed to use that to shoot professional-quality portraiture and nature on 120 film, and I absolutely loved it. The suspense of shooting a whole roll of film and then anticipating the outcome, was what made photography magical for me.

Then life caught up with me, and I lost touch with photography. But photography is really part of the genetic makeup of me, being a creative and a designer at heart.

Eventually, the digital revolution came, and film photography was slowly and steadily eroded by digital photography. I too, took the plunge. I made many purchases along the way, and went from compact cameras to chunky DSLRs alike. But it was difficult to find a camera that really suited my needs.

Recently, I found the Olympus OM-D EM-5, a digital remake of Olympus’ own OM film cameras, with the same classic look and feel, and equipped with great image stabilization technology. Although “merely” a micro 4/3 (MFT) camera with a sensor much smaller than a full-frame 35mm sensor or even an APS-C (I own a Fuji X100 with a APS-C), the OM-D is great when you need images captured fast, with good image quality that rivals some DSLRs, and is light enough to bring around, with plenty of lenses to choose from.

I am getting on with age, and with time, heavy and chunky DSLRs that are also very expensive, do not appeal to me. I need a nimble camera that can easily capture precious moments or images on time, with little fuss, with good image quality, that do not depend on sheer muscle to lift or move the camera, or even stable hands or pristine eyesight to capture decent images.

Technology moves so fast that even stalwarts like Leica are wising up to the modern era, with the recent launch of their new M and M-E, catering to HD video needs and smaller price tags. The competition is fierce. You have Fuji, Sony and other makers clamoring for the same field, and DSLR stalwarts like Canon and Nikon flooding the market with appropriate wares that cater to their audiences as well. It is a crowded space with ever-improving image capture, stabilization, video and extensibility functions.

Put a samurai sword in the hands of a young child, and the outcome is disastrous. The tool complements the artist, and the tool does not make the artist. It is about perspective. Put a US$30,000 camera in the hands of a person with no aesthetic feel, and you can get boring, uninspired (albeit sharp) images. Put even a simple smartphone in the hands of a professional photographer and artist, and you can get inspiring images (see fashion photographer Chuck Jackson at work with just a smartphone – amazing!)

Choose a camera that suits your practical needs, congruent with your desired outputs, budget, and state of health. And start capturing the precious moments and images in time. That is really what matters.