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Cheap Photogear: I


Photography can be an expensive hobby for those who don’t make much money selling their work. In my photostore days I would often see people come in with very specific thoughts on what a camera should do for them, they would then walk out again after splashing a whole bunch of money on a camera that probably outfeatured the things that they would in reality use the camera for. But what else can they do? New cameras are super expensive and if you ask for advice the salesman will sell you the camera that best suits your expected needs, and those needs often make for some expensive-ass gear.

But life as an amateur photographer doesn’t necessarily have to be such a pricey proposition, if you are willing to be that guy/girl using yesterday’s gear. Well I most certainly am! There was a time when I would spent irresponsible amounts of money on a new camera. I was completely convinced that that piece of equipment (say a €2000,- X-pro1) would be the Leica to my Cartier-Bresson. Which is complete bollocks of course. I mean, a photographer needs his camera, granted. But a camera is nothing but a tool used for capturing images, it needs an imaging sensor, a means of composing the image and some glass to bend the light the right way. There you go, that’s it, everything else is extra. I am aware of the fact that you do need good quality image sensors and decent glass for pictures that stand out from the smartphone crowd, but trust me when I say that a €100,- 7-year old camera is just as capable of helping you take those shots as a €1000,- modern-day one.

(Amsterdam Protest. Canon EOS 5D mk I @50mm f/1.8. ©photovitalis)

This all occurred to me when I owned an, at that time, relatively expensive canon camera. I then bought another much older one as well because it came with a bunch of nice lenses that I could use on my camera. My intention was to sell the old camera that came with those lenses as body-only. I decided to try that old camera out before selling it. I was quite surprised to find the images from that old sensor were much more to my liking than the images that came from my much more modern camera. Perhaps they had a more film-like grain in them, or maybe the entire shooting experience was simplified and therefore much more pleasing but all I know is that much more of the photographs I made with that old camera have been keepers as opposed to images shot with the newer one. And that to me is what makes a camera, a good camera. And to take that as your main criteria for your photo-gear purchases, means you can start saving loads of money. If the camera feels right to you as a photographer, you will be much more likely to take it out. If the images coming from the sensor feel like they have exactly the right look for you, you will be much more motivated to keep shooting.

My ever growing quest to shoot the cheapest gear has led me into the mirrorles world of micro-fourthirds cameras. This cameratype started its succesfull existence in 2008 with the introduction of the Panasonic G1 and slightly later the Olympus Pen E-P1. So over the past 11 years this system has produced too many cameras to count

(Olympus Pen E-P1 with 1st gen 14-42mm lens)

Older models like the Pen E-P2, E-P3 or the Panasonic G3 and GH2 can now be bought for extremely low prices. But paired with the right glass and the right photographer of course (that will always be the most important part of the entire set-up) these little cameras are super capable of producing beautiful images. In my next Cheap Photogear post I will review the Panasonic G3 camerabody which I bought for no more than €50,-!

fifty euro Panasonic G3 with 28mm (eq. 56mm) vintage lens

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