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Camera setup for 2019: Olympus E-M5 Mk II + M.Zuiko 25mm f/1.2 Pro

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Is one camera and one lens sufficient for all my photographic projects? Will the Olympus E-M5 Mk II and the M.Zuiko 25mm f/1.2 be the right choice for 99% of the photographs I make?

Minimalism

Minimalism - This will be the concept behind most of my decisions in 2019.

Whether in the field of photography or in everything else in my life, over the years I've naturally been accumulating things, some that were necessary in the past but nowadays they are no longer, others simply because I "wanted" them, as opposed to "needed". More and more the word Minimalism begins to be part of the vocabulary of many people. For example, The Minimalists continue to have a legion of loyal followers and Marie Kondo's Netflix series is a success. These are just 2 examples, but they are the reflection of the times that we live, in which all the stimulus for mass consumption reached intolerable levels.

Whether on a personal or professional level, I feel that I need to make life simpler. Free the house from everything I don't need and that surely I won't need in the future too. "I may one day still need it." - Who never said that?

At the professional level I'll try to use the same principles. After a transition period,  I definitely no longer work in the engineering field, in which I have worked for more than 15 years. Now I dedicate myself full time to Photography and to the Olympus Passion project, of which I am Co-founder and editor, together with Maurício Reis. Over the years my office has been slowly filled with equipment, cameras, lenses, bags, accessories, plus all these boxes carefully stored. For some time I've been thinking that it's time to simplify my workflow, reduce the work tools I have and free some space in the office, selling/donating what I no longer need and keeping only the essentials.

Sony A7II | Olympus E-M5 II | Fuji X-E3

Sony A7II | Olympus E-M5 II | Fuji X-E3

My equipment needs

Since 2012 that I use mirrorless cameras. I can say that I was one of the early adopters of this type of equipment, which at the time everyone said were not capable, not professional... Time came to give me reason.

I started with the Sony Nex-7 and the fantastic Zeiss 24mm f/1.8 lens. Later I upgraded to the full-frame Sony A7II and the Zeiss 55mm f/1.8. After that, the Fuji X-Pro1 and the X-E3, with the lenses XF 35mm f/1.4 and XF 23mm f/2.0. Sony and Fuji are 2 completely different systems in every aspect, each with its advantages and disadvantages. The Fuji are very intuitive and a pleasure to use for stills. But for video I prefer the image quality of the Sony A7II. With the advantage of having a flip screen and the in sensor image stabilization (IBIS) as an added value. So, for a while I used Sony mostly for video and Fuji for photography. Two different systems for two different needs. All ok then... or is it?

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Enter the Olympus E-M5 Mk II

With 2 different systems I covered all my needs, be it photography or video. But the arrival of the Olympus E-M5 Mk II came to change all that. With one system only, I do everything I did with the other 2 and more. Let's check:

  • Mirrorless camera with a compact body - Approximately the size of the Fuji X-E3 and significantly smaller than the Sony A7II;

  • Weather sealing - The Fuji X-E3 hasn't. The Sony A7II does, but the weather sealing of Olympus is admittedly better than any other brand in the mirrorless market.

  • IBIS (in body image stabilization) - The A7II has and the X-E3 doesn't. Still, the IBIS from Olympus is a lot better. There is no brand on the market that comes close to the Olympus stabilization system, not even Panasonic/Lumix.

  • A 50mm high quality lens - In the Sony I have the Zeiss 55mm f/1.8 and in the Fuji the XF 35mm f/1.4. Both excellent lenses, but only the Zeiss is weather sealed. In the Olympus I have the M.Zuiko 25mm f/1.2 Pro that, not only has superb image quality, but also has weather sealing. Due to the sensor format and the respective crop factor, all the 3 are roughly in the intended range.

Therefore, the small Olympus E-M5 Mk II potentially has the ability to replace the other two systems.

Now I would like to make a pause here with some important clarifications for the interpretation of my decision:

  • The Fuji X-E3, although priced very similar to the E-M5 Mk II, does not belong to the same segment. And I know perfectly well that cameras like the X-Pro2 or X-T3 have a more robust construction than the X-E3. However, given the similarity of prices, I have to make this comparison. The Olympus E-M5 II is on a different level, clearly above the Fuji X-E3. When I first picked up the X-E3, I immediately noticed that it was from a range below my X-Pro1, which is far from a reference in terms of robustness. With time, I've adapted fairly well to X-E3 and it turned out to be a lot of fun to use, but there's no doubt about it, although it has the same X-Pro2 / X-T2 sensor, it's a camera designed for a lighter use.

  • The build quality of the Sony is obviously at a level higher than than the Fuji. Its totally metallic body, the rubbers used, the firmness of the buttons. What you would expect for a camera of this price. Not everything is perfect, the eyecup comes out easily and I already had to buy a replacement. And the black paint, while not bad, is not as tough as it was on my original Sony Nex-7.

  • But the Olympus E-M5 II wins in this matter, with no margin for hesitation. It's a small, solid, metal block, superbly constructed and transmitting a feeling of robustness clearly superior to the other mirrorless cameras (and I've used a few). All buttons have a firm but extremely precise touch. An engineering masterpiece.

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Conclusion

Using just one camera and one lens for all my personal photography projects is an ambitious goal, but I'll do my best to keep it going. The (full-frame equivalent) 50mm focal length may be a bit limiting, but it's one I've been used to for years when I was still using film cameras.

A lot of the photographs I made in Angola were with this focal length and at the time I didn't feel that I had lost photographic opportunities for that reason. So, who knows in a year from now I am making the final balance and agree or disagree with this option.