Downsize, downsize, that is the cry I hear a lot these days. I should know. I’ve been through this process several times in my photographic journey. Been there, done that: Bulky SLRs and heavy lenses, followed by an abrupt change to a lightweight film camera with fixed lens. Then the DSLR, a reason to go digital, a bagful of lenses and the system grow’d like Topsy. Eventually, yet again, I reached the point where I felt I just couldn’t manage to schlepp all this gear around, especially on overseas vacations. Then again back to basics with Leica M film camera, a dalliance with Nikon’s less-than-perfect Nikon 1 and a return to the M8/M9 and mirrorless cameras from Fuji, Sony and Olympus/Panasonic.
Simply put, when you have a compact system you feel you are missing something. Maybe that bigger sensor, that bigger lens must have some advantages after all. Then, with the heavy rig in hand (such as in the case of my recent love affair with the Leica SL) and reality sets in. Age plays a big factor, of course. Were I 20 years younger I would probably still be happy to carry around the SL or, even, a big DSLR kit.
Now, I have finally accepted that I definitely do not want a big, bulky DSLR, medium-format (sorry Hasselblad, Fuji) or, even, a top-flight mirrorless such as the SL. The M10 and full-frame sensor is as big as I want to go in camera and format. And, increasingly, I am appreciating the lightness of m4/3 and Leica’s own T system.
One guy who has looked carefully at the senior camera scene is Thomas Stirr of the PhotographyLife blog. He believes that it is not only ‘mature’ photographers who can benefit from downsizing, it is probably something that would appeal to most photographers in one way or another. After all, performance of smaller sensors is improving all the time. The success of micro four-thirds has shown that you don’t need bulky gear to produce good photographs. And smaller sensors mean smaller, lighter cameras and lenses to go with them — especially when you are talking 1in as in these Nikon examples.
According to Stirr, many seniors don’t make a complete and sudden change. There’s always a transitional period: “Anecdotally, replacing their entire camera system doesn’t seem quite as popular as adding a cropped sensor body for many seniors. For those seniors who told me that they have switched systems completely it appears that one of two approaches was most commonly used. The first was to switch from DSLRs to a cropped sensor mirrorless solution. Quite often brands like Sony and Fuji were mentioned in this scenario. People that made this switch most often cited their need to maintain image quality with a cropped sensor body, but also shedding some weight by going mirrorless as their main determinants.”
Practising what he preaches, Thomas Stirr has illustrated his article (link below) with results from the Nikon 1 J5, successor to the original one-inch-sensor Nikon. They’re mightily impressive and illustrate what you can achieve when you no longer wish to cart around an enormous full-frame system.
I decided to dig out some of my own Nikon 1 photographs to give a bit of colour to this review. Thomas’s are better, though.