The End of an Era

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This is the first time in 9 years that I haven’t owned a DSLR.  In DSLR terms that is a lifetime.  Starting with the Canon D30, (no, it’s not a typo) back in 2003, I’ve always had a DSLR of some type in the house.

It all started with the Canon D30 then I skipped the D60 and 10D and got the 20D which as an enormous jump in image quality and performance.  I was in heaven for quite some time, until I started hearing rumors of a consumer level full-frame digital camera.  Well, eventually the 20D was sold off and the 5D found a home around my neck.  I was in love the full-frame sensor and the high ISO capabilities of the 5D.  Then, like all things digital, as soon as you buy one thing it’s obsolete.  There was talk of a 5D successor that would do, of all things, shoot video.  I had to have it.  The 5D found a new neck to hang around and the 5DII became part of my newest kit.

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Like all 5DII users I dabbled a bit with video and found that I had a LOT more respect for all the cinematographers of the world.  Shooting video is best left to me and my iPhone now.

Eventually, going out with a 5DII, battery grip, 85mm f/1.2L and two other fast L lenses in the bag, became a burden.  I started going out with prime and dropped the grip and still felt like I was being dominated by my camera gear.  The next rumor was just around the corner, the micro four-thirds craze was about to hit.

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Finally I thought, an SLR type body, that was smaller, had a few good primes and still met my needs for image quality.  I couldn’t wait to see what Panasonic and Olympus came up with.  For whatever reasons, I passed on the GF1 and bought the GH1.  I guess it still satisfied some of my idea of what an SLR should look like and I really liked the tilt/swivel screen.  (I was always a fan of the Canon G series cameras until they killed the tilt/swivel screen on the G7, thankfully it’s come back now.)  The GH1 was amazing, had a few good lenses to go with it and it still tempted me with its video possibilities.

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Yes, the GH1 was almost perfect, almost.  I had the need to slim down yet again and fell in love the with looks of the Olympus E-P2.  It was a great camera that had a few flaws, but I loved it.  After shooting the micro four-thirds system for a while I became interested in more exotic lenses.  A quick side note: The micro four-thirds system with its short throwback to the sensor opened up endless possibilities for using older lenses.  Adapters for every imaginable mount was produced for the micro four-thirds system.

I started to get interested in higher quality manual focus lenses.  This is where the journey gets very expensive.  I wanted a great lens for my E-P2.  Who makes great lenses that are compact and beautiful?  Leica makes great lenses that are compact and beautiful.  I bought the somewhat newly released 35mm from the Summarit line, mounted it to my Olympus and started enjoying shooting manually and started getting a better appreciation for the amazing IQ I was getting from this little Leica.

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The problem is that as I started enjoying the images the E-P2/Leica lens combo was giving me, the more intrigued I got about how far I could push IQ with the Leica lenses.  The only answer is that you can’t push the IQ any higher than matching a Leica lens with a Leica body.  A film body was out of the question for me so the highly regarded M6 and M7 was not a choice.  The M8 seemed too pricey, but I had no other choice I needed to find a way to fund one.

I ended up trying out an M8 on several occasions at the Leica store and started getting used to the workings of a rangefinder and then it happened.  There was a silver M8 sitting in the case for what seemed like a reasonable price.  It was mine and I came home with my silver M8 and 35mm Summarit lens.  What a day.

Finally, I had found an answer to several problems I wanted answers to.  I wanted a smaller body. The M8 with a 35mm Summarit was not much bigger than the E-P2.  The M8 with the tiny 35mm was undeniably beautiful.  And, the image quality was outstanding.  It sounds like a good place to end the story, but it’s not.

I missed a full frame camera.  Can you guess where this is about to go?  Now I need to step back a little and share a quick story.  In February 2010 I was lucky enough to picked up a Leica X1.  This became my gateway drug for Leica products.  As I was making the purchase, my father said that I’ll be getting the M9 soon.  “No way,” I said to my father, “it’s way too expensive…no way.”  Ok, back to the full frame story.  Nine months after buying the M8 I bought the M9.  I should have known better.

The DSLR era served me well.  I made enough money to pay for a lot of the gear and enjoyed the high quality images, but now it looks like I’ve parted ways with the DSLR for quite some time.  Put the M9 in my hands with a 35mm Summilux and I can shoot anything I need.

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