June 30th, 2024

30,000 steps and the M43 fever breaks

Yesterday Al and I sat out on a plan of getting her X-700 set up, grabbing brunch downtown, and putting 36 exposures of Kodak Gold 200 through her camera on  a walk up to Pro Photo Supply from downtown.

We ended up doing that, then looped back down through downtown, along the waterfront and finally back to the car. At that point we probably had 25,000 steps. We stopped at Afuri Izakaya on the other side of the river then headed for home.

The remaining 5,000 steps for the day came from Ben wandering in and wanting to take a walk, so I did a few laps of  the neighborhood while he talked about his roommates in Eugene and why he thinks letterboxd is more reliable than Rotten Tomatoes.

Once I was home again, we watched May December at Ben's recommendation, and that was quite a lot.

All in all, a pretty wonderful day.

I think my favorite part was maybe seeing Al see the photographer-me she's had to put up with over the years in a new light. As we set out on our walk, I'd notice her falling behind and I'd turn around and she'd be trying to figure out how some shadow might work, or hoping to catch me in a candid moment. She'd apologize and I'd say, "no, and you can tell me to hold a pose or keep walking or whatever."

Well into the walk, after we'd come down out of the Alphabet district, Al said "I get why you're always willing to just walk and walk and walk now."

I had the PEN-F along for this outing. I figured out a few more things about it:

I have become very dependent on an AF point joystick, like the kind I have on my X-T5. The PEN-F requires you to toggle the camera into a point/area selection mode before you can use the d-pad. You can set the point with the touch screen by sliding your finger or thumb around on it when you compose through the EVF,  but I have found that inconsistent and a little fussy.

In terms of absolute size and weight, yes, it is smaller than even an X100V, and definitely smaller than an X-T5 with a typical Fujifilm lens on it, but considering I've done 16-mile hikes with an X-T4 and a chunky lens on it, there's something about the "all day carry is now possible" thing that doesn't resonate so much. Maybe, I suppose, if I wanted to carry around a big zoom for just in case, but I seldom do.

Now, the better X-mount lenses are comparatively huge compared to their inexpensive counterparts in m43-land. By that I mean the faster versions of the 16mm, 23mm,  ~35mm, and ~50mm in the Fuji lineup (vs. the "Fujicrons").

The Fujifilm 28/2.8 pancake is close to the  Panasonic 20/1.7. The "Fujicron" 23/2 is close-ish to the Olympus 17/1.8. The "Fujicron" 35/2 is comparable to the Olympus 25/1.8.

So on Fujifilm's low end, in each case the M43 lenses are all faster and smaller, but they give away weather sealing. And for me, I guess weather sealing is a big thing.

Yesterday we walked around in the sun all day long. After dinner we were going to walk down to the warehouse district on the southeast side of the river, but it started raining just enough for me to think "well, what's the point ... can't get this camera wet." If I'd had along the X100V or the X-T5 with one of the Fujicrons on it, I wouldn't have been concerned. And it's nearly July!

I thought through all of this last night, because I started feeling The System Completionist Urge sneaking up on me. I've got this PEN-F, and I generally like it, and I like the tininess of the M43 lens lineup, but I'm very hung up on some kind of weather resistance for my bodies and lenses.

Most people should stop here, but I thought about all this so I might as well write it down ...

So I started researching, and it looks like the  OM-5 is about the most economical, weather-sealed, features-correct-for-me current M43 machine going. At $999 MSRP, it seems like a pretty good deal. Not as modernized as the OM-1, and it's sort of weird that OM punishes its lower tier with a step down in UX by using a dated menu system, but it's pretty cool that Olympus is willing to weather-seal its mid-tier like that. Fujifilm won't and never has: I'd probably be perfectly content with the specs on the XT-double-digit, XS,  or XE series, but none of them are weather sealed so they're non-starters in this climate.

But if you think "OM-5 it is, now what are my WR lens options?" well, size comes back into the picture, the price soars, and you realize that Fujifilm is a very nice system for prime shooters: Small, sturdy primes with WR sealing and great optics; and a second tier of larger, optically fantastic primes with WR sealing, as well.

And, you know, CameraDecision is a great resource for pulling you back down to Earth on this stuff. It believes a few things that I assume only a machine-generated comparison that uses a word bank to populate the prose would believe — like "that extra 150 grams will make your aging knees turn to dust in no time" — but it also provides illustrations.

Fujifilm X-T5 size comparison with OM System OM-5, courtesy CameraDecision
Fujifilm X-T5 size comparison with OM System OM-5, courtesy CameraDecision

Nope, even on a 30,000-step day, I am not going to notice 143 extra grams hanging at my side. To get even more fixated on it, let's just look at the lenses I'd likely carry.

On the X-T5, it's going to be the 35/f2 "Fujicron,": 170 grams, 60.0mm x 45.9mm dimensions, for a total "rig weight" of 727 grams (or 1.6 pounds).

On the OM-5, the 25mm lens I've got is this M.Zuiko 25/f1.8: 137 grams, 57.8 x 42mm, for a total "rig weight" of 551 grams (or 1.21 pounds).

Looking around for comparisons, it's the difference between carrying a bag with 130 quarters in it vs. carrying a bag with 100 quarters in it, and I've lost the weather sealing.

So maybe the M.Zuiko 25/f1.2? 410 grams, 70mmx87mm, for a total rig weight of 824 grams (1.82 pounds). I'd also be out the $1200 to get my new OM-5 to WR parity. Yep, I've picked up a few stops of speed. So ...

There's always the XF33/f1.4! 360 grams, 67mmx73.5mm, for a total rig weight of 774 grams (keep up, that's 50 grams less, or the weight of nine quarters!) and that's $800 were I to have to go out and buy it, which I don't.

And all this is before we get into the fact that the X-T5 out-specs the OM-5 by quite a bit. Which it should, since it's the much more expensive camera. But it also happens to be the one I already have, and I like the ergonomics better.

If I'd started out with M43 all those years ago, I think I'd feel pretty well served by the OM System lineup as it evolved, though I do take a point I saw someone make on some forum somewhere, which is that M43 lens makers are trading away the size advantages to chase spec parity with full-frame and even APS-C systems.  The people around me, on the other hand, seem to be saying lately "full-frame cameras and their lenses are huge and who even needs that?" (Cue throat-clearing from assorted professional and unspecified others, who are not the people around me.) 

So, the PEN-F is going in the garbage can. Fuck it. If I can't be all-in on M43 I refuse to shoot with it? 

Nah. It's a pretty fun, solid little camera. The weight differences are small between it and a smaller  X-T5 carry, but it is a bit more compact. Easy to stick in a 3-liter sling, slightly less obtrusive, slightly more analog-looking. So it's a little less conspicuous, and I value that. 

And it's a change of pace, which is fun because it helps me start seeing colors and tones a little better as I shift back and forth between systems. It's just not enough to convince me I need to sell all my Fujifilm kit and go all-in on M43 or another Olympus camera.