Decisions and Indecision

Fog Rising from the Bay, Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve, Alaska - Canon 20D

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!

7 thoughts on “Decisions and Indecision”

  1. It’s surprising how I can lay awake at night, tossing and turning, as I pre-visualize how I’d pack gear, which I do not yet have, into bags, I do not yet have. 🙂 It’s our curse as photographers who lean to the gear side. I’ve gone through the same thought process and I’m assuming several other readers have also.

    Since I have travel privileges I can get on a plane (standby though) and fly to some destination for 2-3 days explore. This past November I made a 3 day trip to Seattle with nothing but a small day pack and my Canon G12 around my neck. It worked but there were those times when I wished I had the 35 mm f1.8. I suppose I will always be that way, again the curse. I enjoy the G12 and think it takes quality images but ……

    A couple months ago I purchased a second D300, feeling it is best suited for me and my style of work. That camera has felt like part of my arm since the day I took it out of the box. It still has a lot of life left in it. It is my task to put it in to good use. I’m the only obstacle to making great images with them. I’m planning another 2-trip and will take the D300, Tamron 17-50 mm f2.8, Nikon 35 mm f1.8, and the Nikon 50 mm f1.4 lens. These will go in the Lowerpro Photo Sport 200. Two days worth of clothing will fit in the top half and the camera gear in the lower half. I will use this as my daily bag as I walk the streets for images.

    After saying all that I must admit the lust I have for the Fuji X-Pro 1. It would be nice to have as tool in my arsenal but I know it will not make me the better photographer I yearn to be. And, the cruise with Kathy to Alaska sounds awesome!

    1. Monte, that’s a funny picture but sounds just like me! “If I take this lens, then I need to take this polarizer, and it also fits this lens so I’ll take that, then maybe a second body so I won’t have to change lenses…” and on, and on!

      I’m a firm believer that for certain situations – and many more than we give them credit for – the compact cameras like the G12 and X10 are very worthy tools, and I don’t hesitate to carry them along. But I can’t imagine taking this trip with only a compact camera. Something tells me I’m going to want to have a 70-200 or a 100-400, regardless of which body I ultimately take.

      I have no doubt that the X-Pro 1 is going to be a fine camera. But I don’t see it replacing the gear I have for certain situations. As Paul found with his M9, as good as it was, there were enough situations where it wasn’t the right camera that he wasn’t using it enough to justify having it. I think the advantage of the Fuji over cameras like the M9 will be the autofocus, especially once they come out with some longer glass (provided it isn’t so big it overrides the whole idea of the compact camera.

  2. Yep. That’s always the problem isn’t it, choosing gear. 🙂 As I sit here, I’m waiting to hear back from Adorama on an offer for my M9. Six business days (they said 4-6) and still no word. I’ve been guestimating what it will be based on the condition and going price for the M9s in the used market. I’ve sold a few items on eBay and have had good results; however, as they have become so pro-buyer, I’m not interested in putting such a high priced item on there.

    I’ve come full circle from a Nikon D2x, their flagship at the time, to a D300, because I got tired of being on the wait list for the D3, to lighter cameras, to film, back to lighter, to the D300 and not considering a D700, which I’ve always wanted. I figure that as soon as the D800 hits the market, the D700’s will start to slide in price.

    Anyway, I think that you’ll need/want both a heavy duty camera, like a 5D Mark II, or III, and a good traveling camera, which I think you already have in the Fuji that you have. Anyway, those are my thoughts. So, now I have a D300 and will probably have a D700 (Dang! Need new lenses!), and a Canon S90, unless I get the new Nikon P&S, the P510, with the 24x zoom. 🙂 Always something to be had. It’s a hobby. It’s expensive. It’s fun.

    1. You’re right about the rental idea. Probably not for this trip but maybe something a little later when I can actually get my hands on one.

      Today a friend at work offered to let me borrow his 7D for our May trip. He said he was serious but we’ll see when it actually comes time! 🙂

  3. My wife and I did a 10 day cruise to Alaska in 2008, departing from Seattle followed by several days of exploring in the NW on return…a wonderful trip that I wouldn’t mind doing again someday. Have fun and bring back some photo to share. 🙂

    As far as cameras…there’s not any bad choices of those you’ve mentioned. Marvelous times we live in. It simply comes down to personal choice.

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