A number of years ago while living in eastern Ohio, I earned my private pilot’s license and enjoyed spending my weekends in search of the “Hundred Dollar Hamburger,” which was what we called a trip to a somewhat distant airport in a rented airplane for lunch. I now spend most of my weekends on the ground, and my equipment is, at least in theory, a bit less expensive.
One winter Saturday, a good friend and I started off on a longer trip to a much more distant airport in central Pennsylvania, hoping to hone our navigational skills on the 3-hour flight and to visit a little restaurant that we had heard good things about. After an hour or so of flying, we started getting into some winter weather. It was nothing heavy, but neither of us was instrument rated and it was just enough moisture to have us concerned about icing. My friend, who was flying the plane at the time, told me half-jokingly, “I think we ought to make a 360 and get out of here.” He was of course referring to making a 180, but I knew exactly what he meant and quickly agreed. We headed back to our home airport under sunshine and blue skies. We never did get to that airport, because soon after that I moved to North Carolina and I haven’t flown a small plane since.
As I’ve mentioned previously, I have been seriously contemplating a move to a compact camera system to replace my “aging” Canon 5D and associated lenses. The decision process has been far more difficult than the one I faced over western Pennsylvania those many years ago, and the answer is much less obvious. By comparison there are many more possibilities and many more acceptable outcomes than flying a single-engine airplane into a snowstorm. My primary motivation for making the change is that I would like to have a smaller and lighter camera, reasoning that I would be a lot happier taking a nice light backpack when I travel, as opposed to my overweight, carryon-illegal Think Tank bag that I can barely lift into the back of my car and that an airline would never let me carry aboard a plane. The second motivation is that I am running way behind in technology, and I reason that something newer will give me more up-to-date dynamic range and image quality. I really am due for an upgrade of some kind. The challenge is figuring out what to do.
In the last week or so I started making serious inquiries about what kind of jackpot I might expect by selling some or all of my gear or trading it in with a dealer. I have never bought or sold on eBay or Craigslist, and have no interest in making my debut by selling potentially valuable gear in a reputedly shark-infested market. I know a lot of people do it with no problems, but I’ve heard just enough horror stories to convince me that if I decide to “dip my toe” I’ll do it with something far more harmless, like some old NASCAR die-cast that I’ve been holding on to for too long.
The answers I have gotten back have been nothing short of depressing. Knowing how well my gear still performs, and knowing what I have invested in this gear over the last 8 years, the amortization has been pretty high, to the point where I am now convinced – again, for today, at least – to stay with what I’ve got for a while longer, perhaps looking to pick up a newer used body to get me closer to the current technology. And Canon’s got some Big News scheduled for this coming Friday, so who knows? Would I like a 5D Mark III? Perhaps. We’ll have to see.
Part of the reason for the angst is that Kathy & I have a big trip planned for May. Just like pilots have to be careful of suffering from “Get-There-itis,” I seem to be suffering from a related ailment called “New-Gear-itis.” We’re taking a 10-night cruise to Alaska from San Francisco, finished off with 4 days in California exploring Sonoma and the Russian River wine regions, perhaps with a visit to Napa. We’re more Sonoma people, we’re told, so we’ll probably stay on the western side for the most part. But I’d like to be able to do it with less gear, which is why I was feeling pressured – all internal, of course – to buy something new. But now I’m thinking that maybe I just need to look at my existing equipment and to just be a little more selective about what I take. There’s more than one way to take less stuff, right?
I’ve done a lot of thinking on this, and figure that anything I do is going to be a compromise. I’ve been looking at a Fuji X-Pro 1, and while it certainly has the size benefit over the Canon, the longest lens offered is a 60mm macro. There are more lenses in the pipeline but the 70-200 zoom is more than a year away. The cost of the body and 3 lenses would require that I sell virtually all of my existing gear. That’s more risk than I’m willing to take for a brand-new and unproven camera.
The new Olympus OM-D looks very promising and I think it’s going to be a great little camera. It’s more affordable than the Fuji, certainly has the size benefit I’m looking for and has a number of lenses available, so I could have all of the focal length I’m looking for. But again, it’s a brand-new camera and I’m not inclined to drop that kind of money for something that is unproven.
So where does that leave me? If I decide I just need to have something newer, I could quickly and easily pick up a 60D, a 7D or even a 5D Mark II. There are bound to be a lot of Mark II owners getting itchy over the Mark III. Maybe I’ll find a good deal on a newer used camera, then later on I can jump on the Mark III bandwagon once it’s been out and I’m sure it’s worth the money.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, of course, and I’m sure these new cameras are going to be great. But I think that – once again – I’m going to just sit back and see what happens. The last time I went to Alaska I took great photos with my 20D, so I’m sure that whatever camera I go with this time will be just fine. And once I get to California I’m planning to spend most of my time drinking wine, so even if there is a difference I might not care!