A few weeks ago I attended a photography lecture given at the Blanton Museum of Art on the University of Texas campus. Peter Turnley was the guest speaker at the Icons of Photography series hosted by ACP, The Austin Center for photography. I got there an hour early so that I can take photographs, a consequence of having a photo blog; you need a constant source of new images and it forces me to get out there and shoot all the time. That night I brought one camera and one lens, the Olympus E-P3 with the Panasonic Lumix 14mm f2.5. The 14mm prime is probably smallest lens in the micro 4/3 line up. When paired with the E-P3, it makes for a very compact and stylish retro-modern camera.
During the pre-lecuture get together, I noticed an abnormally large number of Leicas, carried by the attendees. Very strange, even if I knew the ACP events tend to attract the more serious, photography purists. It turns out that this particular event was co-sponsered by Leica and some Leica camera club members from out-of-town made the trek to Austin to hear Peter speak. Peter Turnley, a photojournalist who shot for Newsweek, uses many different kind of cameras but some of his famous, early work were shot in black and white and with a Leica. With the Leica connection established, I now understood the atypical skew of photography gear. And the Leicas looked very comfortably at home in a place like this; they look beautiful, classic and not oversized. The few DSLRs at the pre and post lecture gathering looked out-of-place. The people who used them look like event photographers at a corporate media shindig. The size of the DSLR attracted attention and didn’t seem to fit the vibe of the place or the gathering.
My E-P3, however, worked perfectly. It was small, good-looking and didn’t stick out. While it didn’t have the Leica’s range finder style, the retro curves and small 14mm lens echoed the same feel as a classic rangefinder. while Leica users might disagree, I find the Olympus eminently more usable. It auto focuses, quickly and quietly. I can shoot away and experiment without worrying about film. Its high ISO capability is better then the digital Leica M8 or M9. All this and my Olympus E-P3 was considerably smaller than the Leicas. Now I do know the Leica have their strengths. Their optics are legendary, the full frame film or sensor (in the M9) is going to have more shallow depth of field and in good light, they can take some amazing photographs.
But here is the deal. For a small fraction of the Leica price, I have a camera that’s arguably much more functional. It fits in at the same type of places without standing out like a DSLR and I can shoot and keep shooting. I believe cameras are made for creating photographs. And no matter how beautiful Leica makes them look, why carry a camera around if you are not going to shoot it. With the exception of my friend Gary, who shot so much with his film Leica, I thought he had a digital M9, I didn’t see much photography going on. Now to be fair, maybe taking photographs at a gathering is not their style. After all, while street shooters might like this environment, fine art photographers may find it uninteresting, photographically. Perhaps the Leica owners thought it was a waste of their film and their money to shoot there. But with all these awesome, beautiful cameras around, I found them somewhat underused. And that is what separates my E-P3 from the sea of Leicas. My camera gets used extensively to feed images into my blogs but more importantly I enjoy creating images and improving my photography.
Truth be told, I’m also somewhat guilty of having a Leica on display and not shooting it. My father gave me a beautiful Leica M3, which I have in a display cabinet at home. I don’t shoot film and while I admire the M3 for its beauty and craftsmanship, I’ll take an Digital Olympus for its ease of use and lower ownership cost. I may shoot the M3 someday, if it still works. For now, my E-P3 and other Olympus digital Pens are my cameras of choice. And if I ever shoot in a sea of Leicas again, I may have to put a bumper sticker on my Olympus that says, my other camera is a Leica M3.
I took these photographs with my Olympus E-P3 with the Panasonic Lumix 14mm f2.5. Please make sure to click on a photograph to see a larger image and hover over the photo to see the exposure details.
See more images taken with the Olympus E-P3 at mostlyfotos, my one photograph per day photo blog.