New Year, New Camera

Me and My Olympus
The day before our annual sales conference in Las Vegas began, a small group of my colleagues and I decided to take a visit to Red Rock Canyon for a photo walk. I had been to the park a couple years prior, but only for a short time. 

This year in particular, I made the conscious decision to only bring my ultra compact Panasonic GF7, my iPhone 7+ and my Moment lenses. On that very bright, very sunny morning I was once again reminded of one of the main limitations of my little Panasonic camera; there was no viewfinder; only a screen, exposed to ambient light. Needless to say, composition and selective focus were challenging.
Not bad, considering it was nearly impossible to see the view screen during composition.
While I came away with some great shots, (Including many accepted by Adobe Stock) I also realized that I needed to update my travel camera. The Panasonic is incredibly portable and that feature was one I wanted to retain. But I also wanted something with more flexibility and - most importantly - a viewfinder. 
Step 1 - Research
I started my research by looking into the updated models of the GF7, which were the G85 and G95. After having a look at those models in my local camera store, I was guided by the sales rep to consider the G9, an older camera, but with a lot of functionality. I left the store with more research in my future. 

After reading multiple reviews, I was starting to lean towards the G9. Although an older model, it was more feature rich than the G95 and had just received a recent feature-bearing firmware update. And it was also around the same price as the G95. I  went back to the camera store, camera bag in hand, to test portability. 

I have two camera bags that I regularly use - a 30-litre Peak Design Everyday bag which is normally my Nikon kit carry all/carry-on and a much smaller 5-litre Peak Design Sling bag for my travel camera, which fits in my carry-on or on the top shelf of my 30–litre bag. It was important that this new camera fit comfortable in the smaller bag, with room for additional lenses and a couple other accessories. 
I knew the G9 would be much bigger than my tiny Panasonic, but A quick physical comparison between the G9 and a Nikon D750 revealed that they were very similar in size. The G9 was remarkably lighter than the Nikon, but took up almost as much space. The G9 was out of the running based on that detail. I mentioned to the sales rep that portability and flexibility were my two top priorities, and she mentioned that if portability was key, I really needed to consider the Olympus, specifically the E-M5. A quick visual comparison on the camera store counter made that point very apparent. 
Step 2 - More Research
Back to the research board I went. However, in this case I wasn’t going in totally blind. My cousin, a solid photographer in his own right, owned an Olympus E-M5 Mark II camera and swore by it. More importantly, I had seen large scale prints from that camera. So I knew image quality would be quite acceptable.

As size was a concern, I had two choices in Olympus. They older (and now cheaper) E-M5 Mark II or the very recent (and noticeably more expensive) Mark III. So, as before, off to the web I went, searching technical and user reviews of both cameras, along with comparisons between the two. After a lot of reading, I opted for the MarkIII, primarily because it was current technology and it had better video capability. As a long time stills photographer,  I’m constantly trying to incorporate more video into my workflow. The best way for me to do that is make videography as easy/simple as possible. The Mark III seemed to fit the bill in that department, too, but honestly, only time will tell in that regard. 

Other than video, two features of the camera were of great interest: the purported 5.5 stops of in-body image stabilization (IBIS) and the Live Composite bulb mode. 

Below, I've included some size comparison shots of the three cameras. The Lumix is now proudly owned by my wife. The Nikon D750 and my new Olympus camera are now my primary and secondary cameras. While not as small as my Lumix, the Olympus is still noticeably more compact than my D750. Granted, we are also comparing full-frame to Micro 4/3. But as I mentioned early, the Lumix G9 (also M43) was nearly the same size as the my D750...
Photography Time!
At the time of this writing, I have not had the opportunity to test out the Live Composite mode, but I’ve frequently experimented with the IBIS. I've shot as low as 1/10th of a second, handheld, with surprisingly good results. 

The chances I’ve had to shoot have mostly been wintery, and I like how the camera handles both contrast and subtle tonal ranges. Granted, I only shoot in raw, so this in itself is helpful.
While it doesn't look like it, this image was shot around 7:30 in the evening, handheld at 1/10 sec, ISO 3200. It was much darker than seen here.
Rice Lake
The images in the series below were shot on or around New Year's Day, at Elmhirst's Resort on Rice Lake. Again, I spent a little time playing with the IBIS, but from a different approach. The raw captures pulled in a lot of highlight detail (something my little Lumix had trouble with from time to time) and even at 1/6 sec, the blowing grasses retained sharp details in unmoving areas.
Shooting the Big Apple
On a recent business trip to New York, I carved out a little time to go shooting with the new camera. Walking around near Union Square, I happened upon Grace Church and spent some time exploring the exterior. While technically, the images were fine, they really did not start to shine until I began processing them. I'm especially fond of the black and white images.
A Good Photo is Where You See it
I'm a big supporter of finding the unique in the everyday, like many photographers. From time to time, I put myself in fairly mundane scenarios, and push myself to find compositions that are visually appealing. Below is a perfect example. While I waited for my wife to come out of a medical procedure, I calmed my nerves with a walk around the hospital, camera in hand. The hospital backs onto a ravine, and there are many places where staff, visitors or patients can sit to relax, when the weather is a little nicer. In the middle of winter, these spaces are abandoned for the warmer climate of the hospital lobby or waiting room. I wandered around these little park areas for about 30 minutes and came away with some solid captures.
Wrap up
Overall, I'm pretty pleased with my purchase. I'm itching to try out some night photography with the new capabilities of this camera, and can't wait to take it on my next trip. Which will be Utah, as it turns out. Stay tuned!

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