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The Great Not-DSLR Experiment

I remember a time when buying a computer was complicated. It took a lot of research. Now, unless you’re doing specific, high-end activities it’s pretty hard to make an error. Computers have become commodities for the vast majority of uses. The options are pretty ubiquitous. I am glad those complex times are over, so glad I’ve saved a fortune due to not wanting to get into the transaction costs associated with purchasing a gaming rig.

Digital cameras, once you decided you might want to experiment past point and shoot? Nightmare, very much like buying computers in the 90’s. I looked beyond the point and shoot and I found the choices bewildering. It’s quite easy to buy something you won’t use. Way easy to over invest in too much camera you don’t need (I suspect many, many people do this) or be lumbered with something too restrictive.

The transactions costs are very high.

It started quite simply: point and shoot has become superfluous due to my phone and the fact I can instantly upload, but I wanted a beyond point and shoot camera to experiment with? Make it fun and to take more photos.

Probably, like a lot of people, I instantly jumped to: I need a DSLR, right? I went down that route for a while, but it started to frustrate me. They can be a bit big. A bit heavy. Not all, but most. I certainly didn’t like the sound of my camera equipment becoming a pain. I may want to take more photos but I’m not seeking for it to become some sort of major focus of my life. It started to dawn on me it all had to be convenient. If it wasn’t it would sit on a shelf. The narrative around life with a DSLR didn’t sound easy and convenient. It sounded a bit like World of Warcraft, but for cameras, involving some things that didn’t sound like fun to get to the fun bit?

So, I need a bridging camera, right? These seemed to be the next best thing. Directly marketed for people wanting to get beyond point and shoot. Perfect. No so much. They seem to be point and shoot cameras but with a massive zoom on them? Ridiculous zooms. Unless I am missing something, unusable zooms due to the shaky hands of the user? Okay, some of them allow more setting tweaking, but then so does my old Canon Powershot 640 but it was still a bit frustrating in terms of actual options and operational speed. So, probably not a bridging camera then. In fact, all the bridging cameras did was lead me down the rabbit hole of why a bridging camera can have 60x optical zoom but a DSLR always seemed to be a 3x with all this mm lark? Yeah, I know, but what did I say about transaction costs?

Conundrum. What to do? Well, this is where the mirrorless camera comes in, or Compact System Camera (CSC) or Digital Single Lense Mirrorless (DSLM) camera depending on the acronym that is flavour of the month. One thing you’ll learn is there is a lot of acronym decoding when you start looking beyond your point and shoot.

It took a bit more to research, to ensure I wasn’t buying the Betamax of camera technology, but I’ve actually come round to thinking they might well be the future. They are lighter and smaller across both the camera and lenses. They also come in various sizes from ‘larger compact’ size to the typical bodies of DSLR cameras just less bulky. Electronic viewfinders sound cool, so does the idea of the camera being built around using the touch screen. Professionals have also started using them, with a number switching completely to mirrorless and getting off the DSLR bandwagon. They seem to offer almost DSLR quality in a much more fun, probably used more often package. Perfect for me. I fully believe for the vast majority of people, beyond a community of professionals taking certain types of pictures (and only a few types), the DSLR will soon not need to exist.

I finally went for the Lumix G6.

There was other options, but they started to get more expensive (the Olympus camera is nice but expensive, for example) and I wasn’t wanting to gravitate towards the £1k mark. There was also a few things I wanted: a DSLR-like body, an articulated LCD screen (as I got too used to them on the Powershot cameras), the option to play with an additional lense from the start while sticking to my price range and one of these new-fangled electronic viewfinders and, overall, a camera at the top end of enthusiast to give me room to fiddle (and also because the chances I’ll go for a camera in the professional range is extremely small and I suspect many people who have one don’t need one).

Trying it out in a store proved…difficult. The consolidation of electronics stores doesn’t give you much options these days (and the shrinking of Jessops). Not only that two other factors kick in to make buying certain highly rated cameras difficult. That’s right, a universally praised, gold awarded camera across numerous magazines and websites, is hard to purchase. First, the chain stores only seem to stock a big enough range in the superstores. Across PC World, so I also assume Currys, the Tesside store was the only one with a Lumix G6 in, which was lucky! Then, when you get in the store, you have to avoid all the Canon and Nikon branded staff and hired enthusiasts who will try and persuade you buy something else.

There was a lot of discussion around how the sale of mirrorless cameras at the top enthusiast and professional end has faced resistant due to the big names like Canon and Nikon being slow to move, the fact it takes individual mind sets time to shift, the image of ‘professional’ meaning big, DSLR camera and the key factor: Canon and Nikon invest heavily in store presence. This happened to me. Initially on going into the store I was pulled straight to Canon’s first attempt at a mirrorless camera as my criteria match mirrorless and I’d mentioned being really interested in the Lumix G6. Of course, he couldn’t demo me the EOS-M because it wasn’t charged (but I am sure all the DSLR’s were demo ready). I literally had to go out of the store and come back when the people in Canon and Nikon shirts seemed to have reduced so the shopping experience had less..frustrations.

Easy to see how people end up buying certain models and technologies if they go in less focused.

The camera has been ordered on next day delivery to store, once it arrives the experiment can continue!

About Ian O'Rourke

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