Full frame or not full frame?

The new year is now well and truly with us and as I have already looked back on 2012, its now time to look forward to 2013 and make some decisions and plans about what I would like to try and do and achieve in the next twelve months. I will elaborate on my future objectives in another post but for now I want to write about my choice of camera equipment.

As far ‘camera gear’ is concerned the first decision to make is whether or not to go full frame. This has been playing on my mind for some time, really ever since some very capable full frame DSLRs came to the market superseding older models. Last year Nikon introduced two new full frame cameras, the D800 (and 800E) and the D600. Whilst Canon upgraded their 5D Mark II and introduced the 5D Mark III, as well as releasing the 6D. Since their launch the prices have started to fall, so I know I made the right choice not to do anything the day they first hit the streets. Besides it was only back in the Spring when my high regard for the Olympus Micro 4/3rds system became a reality and I bought the E-PL3, shortly to be followed by the Olympus OMD EM5. For me both cameras, but particularly the EM5, produce great results and given that I do not want to print larger than A3 or possibly A2, why would I need a full frame camera and all that extra weight, not to mention the added expense? Providing you couple the best lenses for the Micro 4/3rds system with the EM5, then for a humble amateur who only shoots for pleasure and not for profit, I am very happy. I ought to add that there are some stunningly good lenses for this system and I am confident that more will be released by both Olympus and Panasonic in the future.

On the subject of new lenses, Panasonic did release two new zoom lenses during 2012, both aimed at the top end of the Micro 4/3rds market. The 12 – 35 f2.8 and the 35 – 100 f2.8. Both are beautifully constructed, dust and splash proof and replicate their ‘classic’ full frame equivalents of 24 -70 and 70 – 200 with a wide aperture opening of f2.8. Whilst prime lenses are fast, small and very sharp they do require the user to switch lenses on a regular basis to achieve the required focal length. This is fine when you have time on your hands, but a fast zoom lens covering the range of focal lengths offered by these two lenses can’t be beaten in certain photographic situations. Yes, the kit lenses are good but they are nothing like as sharp nor as fast. Unfortunately both these lenses come at a price.

The 12 -35 lens with lens hood attached
Mounted on the Olympus OMD EM5

Fortuitously luck was at hand when I spotted the Panasonic12 -35 lens in the window of my local camera store. I don’t know if it was an unwanted Christmas gift or being sold for some other reason, but it was virtually brand new, and the price heavily discounted compared with the cost of a new one. I took a few test shots outside the shop using my EM5, negotiated down the price a little more, traded in a Nikkor lens that I no longer wanted and the rest is history.

Panasonic 12 – 35 lens compared to Olympus 12 -50 kit lens

First impressions – well its a great lens, much faster and nicer to use than the 12 -50 kit lens, plus it is much sharper across the whole range of focal lengths.. It does suffer from chromatic aberration at 12mm (but I have read this is fairly typical of any zoom lens). With one click in Lightroom it can be removed and as I shoot mainly in black and white its really not an issue. I can’t wait to get out and about in the weeks to come and put it to the test.

Of course this purchase has finally put the final nail in the coffin as to whether or not to go full frame. I couldn’t wish for a better selection of lenses for my Olympus Micro 4/3rds system. The quality of the results is now down to me taking good pictures, good post processing and not down to the equipment I use. Great images have been taken on old, inexpensive cameras  and I realise how fortunate I am to have what is in my camera bag. So full frame is off the agenda, at least until I win the lottery or I turn professional, neither of which are very likely! So I’m off to take some photographs with my fantastic, lightweight, Micro 4/3rds system which is a joy to use.

Happy New Year!

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