I am a freelance travel and landscape photographer. I do it for fun, I occasionally get commissioned to shoot travel guides and I sell images for stock and editorial use. I normally use 35mm digital equipment by Canon, currently a 5D MkII. This kind of kit weighs quite a lot and although its one thing using it for a specific and potentially lucrative job, for daily use and travelling, it’s a substantial load to carry around.
In Autumn 2009 Panasonic launched the GF1, a “micro four thirds” format body, a small camera with a relatively big sensor. Having used their LX3 compact camera for the previous year when wanting to travel light, I bought a GF1 and sold the LX3. The GF1 with its compact 20mm f1.7 lens was intended to be the sort of camera I could use in the same way, to take to restaurants, parties, days out etc, when you didn’t want to turn up with a great big DSLR and several lenses. In practice however, I have found it has become substantially more useful than that, to the extent that I now no longer feel the need to use my DSLR on a daily basis! I currently mostly use the Olympus EP2 which is a similar camera to the GF1 with a few tweaks.
This purpose of this blog is to detail my experience with this new format, to show how competent a photographic tool it can be, and hopefully to encourage others who feel weighed down by 35mm gear to take the next step to a more liberated and enjoyable form of photography. It’s not just that the equipment is much smaller and lighter, the ability to utilise the very high quality Leica manual focus lenses, combined with a high resolution viewfinder (EP2) which allows you to look down on the camera instead of straight at the subject, affords a completely new experience much more like that of the twin lens reflex cameras used by many of the great street photographers of the past and being re-discovered by a new generation of film enthusiasts.
Micro Four Thirds cameras are of course much smaller and more discreet than digital SLRs, making them more suited to street photography. The latest high-res electronic viewfinders now offer even greater focus precision than the waist-level finders of a TLR, whilst still allowing for a ‘degree of uncertainty’ in the subject which can often provide just enough time to focus properly and can result in some interesting expressions. The exciting and challenging nature of these few seconds and the subsequent rewards of these spontaneous captures, has led me to take more of this type of image. The fact that this format has both the quality to produce excellent landscape photography, be a highly competent candid/street shooting tool and weigh less than any system which has come before it, must be the MFT systems greatest benefit.