I started this blog exactly 7 years ago on this very day with a post called Start of the Affair. In that post I related how I had fallen in love with the, then, revolutionary new micro four-thirds camera from Olympus, the OM-D E-M5. This not only rekindled my interest in photography but became my mainstay camera for over a year until it’s bigger and more professional sibling was released, the Olympus OM-D E-M1. Even then I hung onto the EM-5 as my backup camera and, as you do, started to acquire a set of M.ZUIKO lenses from Olympus. Over the years I bought and sold several of their fine lenses culminating most recently with the fabulous M.ZUIKO 45mm f1.2 PRO lens – without doubt an amazingly sharp portrait lens.
So what went wrong, why is the affair now over?
I guess we photographers are a fickle lot. Whilst we love our gear and claim great brand loyalty we are always secretly eyeing up the next great thing, wondering if last years model is still good enough and dreaming of how having more megapixels, better lenses or higher maximum ISO would enable us to capture better images than our now ‘ageing’ model.
And so it has become with me.
I guess the cracks in my relationship with Olympus started to appear when my eye was turned by the Fujifilm X100T. I wanted a small, carry anywhere, quality camera that would enable me to always be ready to capture images and loved the retro styling and handling of the X100 range of cameras. So much so that I replaced the X100T with it successor the X100F whilst keeping my Olympus cameras for my main business of portrait photography. I still loved the quality of the images they produced (as long as the lighting did not fall too low) as well as the amazing quality of the lenses.
Toward the end of 2018 however I began to realise my E-M1 (still the original) was in need of an upgrade. I had taken a lot if images and it was showing signs of wear and was frequently not working with external flash in the studio when I was using the vertical grip, something I had begun to depend upon for taking portraits. Whilst the E-M-1 Mk II had been out for a couple of years I had resisted buying it as I did not consider the additional features were worth the money. As time went on it was also becoming increasingly less worthwhile to upgrade to that model knowing that a Mk III would be imminent. I decided therefore to wait it out for the Mk III release (hoping my Mk I would keep going in the meantime, a somewhat high risk strategy I know).
It so happened that 2019 was the centenary of Olympus and rumours abounded that there would be a new ‘flagship’ in the OM-D range to celebrate this milestone in the history of the company. What was announced in January of 2019 however was not what I, and many others, expected though. Rather than the assumed E-M1 Mk III, a new increment in the E-M1 line, what was announced was the OM-D E-M1X. For Olympus at least, a relatively ‘monster’ of a micro four-thirds camera and for me, a machine that went against the whole ethos of this format of camera. Unlike its predecessors this E-M1 had a built in grip which whilst giving you two extra batteries and more controls meant that the camera looked and handled more like its bigger, full frame brethren from Nikon and Canon (with a price to match). Not only that, the camera seemed to be aimed at wildlife and sports photography, neither of which I was particularly interested in. Whilst I enjoyed having the ability to use the vertical grip on my E-M1 I also enjoyed more that fact that it could be removed and was not permanently ‘welded’ to the camera body. This I had to say, was a big disappointment to me therefore.
The inevitable therefore happened. I was now not just eyeing up the competition but now actively staring at it with blatant disregard to the brand I had grown to love over the last six years. That’s why, at the Photography Show in 2019, I found myself hovering around the Fujifilm stand as well as going to several of Fujifilm’s sponsored talks. Based on my experience of the X100F I had grown increasingly in awe of how Fujifilm’s cameras looked and handled as well as the great images they produced and so made the decision there and then that my OM-D E-M1 upgrade would actually be the Fujifilm X-T3!
For the last year I’ve been using the X-T3 and E-M1 in tandem. I had complementing Fujifilm and Olympus lenses and so it made sense to work this way. I still had the same basic issue however, the E-M1 was now very old and in need of an upgrade. It was quite a relief therefore when the ‘true’ replacement for this was finally announced in February. The main attraction for the OM-D lineup for me was the amazing 5-axis in body image stabilisation these cameras had and was something I missed in the X-T3. The new E-M1 (which offered even better stabilisation of up to 7.5 shutter speed steps) looked as though it was going to be a no-brainer. Until, that is, just a few weeks later Fujifilm announced its successor to the X-T3 which this time was going to contain in-body stabilisation also.
What to do? Two of my favourite brands and models both vying for my attention? I guess from the title of this post my decision (after much deliberation) is obvious. Although I will always have a soft spot for Olympus (my very first real SLR was an Olympus OM-1) could definitely say our relationship has been somewhat tempestuous, sometimes on and sometimes off. Sadly, for now at least, it is off again but maybe one day… who knows? For now though, it’s au revoir dear friend.