A few years ago I started off with a pocket-sized, Canon point-and-shoot camera. On a trip to New York in 2012, I couldn’t get the type of night shots I was looking for and set about trying to fix that in two ways. Firstly, by looking at a camera that would help me achieve better night shots. And, secondly, by learning how to use the camera and how to take photos. I eventually settled on a combination of body and lens that I was happy with and used it as much as possible when I was out and about, learning from people I followed on Instagram and flickr.
Current camera/lens – Olympus OM-D E-M1 (mark ii), 12-100mm f4.0 lens
I’m using an Olympus OM-D E-M1 mark ii with the 12-100mm lens. The lens is outstanding in so far as I can’t see any reason to use another for now. It covers a great focal range and I don’t have any reason for a wider angle or telephoto lens.
The E-M1 mark ii is a gem of a camera. I say that from the perspective of having used an Olympus camera for six years so the often-maligned menu system is second nature to me. Auto focus is generally spot on and is lightning quick, the ISO is useable up to around 2,000, the IS is like some kind of sorcery (hand-held long exposures!), and shadow recovery is excellent.
With my previous camera, the biggest challenge I had was the Northern Lights, aiming to get a decent foreground and the aurora in near total darkness. The camera sensor was never designed to cope with that but I think my efforts were okay given the limitations. To date, I haven’t had a chance to test the E-M1 mark ii in a similar situation but look forward to seeing how it compares.
For now, I’m pretty happy with this set up. Unfortunately it’s a lot bulkier than I’d like which goes against my original idea with a MFT system for light travel but it’s a capable camera and versatile lens.
Olympus OM-D E-M5 (mark i)
In 2013 I bought myself an Olympus OM-D E-M5. At the time it had rave reviews and was a compact little system which proved to be incredibly versatile. The 12-50mm kit lens was quickly sold on and replaced by the excellent Olympus trio of the 12mm f2.0, the 25mm f1.8 and the 45mm f1.8. They are, and remain, outstanding lenses and cover the range needed by most amateur enthusiasts.
I eventually sold on the trio and replaced them with the bulkier Olympus 12-40mm f2.8. This ended up with a combo which took up as much space as the body and three prime lenses combined, but after hastily changing lenses in -28C in the Arctic and exposing the sensor to obscene weather conditions, I realised how daft it was to continue with primes which I was swapping around regularly.
The trusty E-M5 was sold on in 2018.
Canon PowerShot SX230 HS
I don’t recall when I bought the PowerShot but expect it was around 2010. I used it mostly around Scotland and on a trip to New York, but never really paid much attention to what I was doing with it, or making much of an effort to learn more. It was a simple, ultra compact camera which did the job and worked fine in daylight. Naturally the camera had extreme limitations in low light.
Like everyone else, I can be snap happy with my camera phone. I used to have an annoying habit of taking a photo with my camera and then following up the same shot with my phone, for… whatever reason. I’m past that now, thankfully, but do tend to take some snaps with my phone still.
The Google Nexus 5 was an excellent, durable phone which covered everything a smart phone needs (even to this day, I would argue). The camera was panned in reviews but was absolutely fine, if a little low res compared to other phone of the time. But it did the job and was a regular photography companion on my trip from Glasgow to Tokyo.
Reviews for the Apple iPhone 7 raved about the camera at the time. While I think it’s great for video, it doesn’t stand up to competitors when it comes to taking photos. And compared to the more modern cameras on phones, some of which have great low-light capability and software manipulation, it is good but not great.