Home Opinion More acronyms and the OCOLOY challenge. What about the Lumix G9?

More acronyms and the OCOLOY challenge. What about the Lumix G9?


I think I’m right in saying that photography blogger Mike Johnston invented the OCOLOY concept — one camera, one lens, one year. In March 2016 I wrote about reader Stephen Jenner’s year-long experiment with a Leica M2 and 50mm dual-range Summicron. 

  Panasonic Lumix G9 and the G Vario f/3.5-5.6 12-60, a cheaper alternative to the faster Leica DG 12-60
Panasonic Lumix G9 and the G Vario f/3.5-5.6 12-60, a cheaper alternative to the faster Leica DG 12-60

Mike is now considering choosing the Panasonic Lumix G9 — just considering — as his one camera for 2019. He hasn’t yet decided on the one-lens to go with the rest of the acronyms. But it’s an interesting choice of camera and I set to thinking whether or not it could be my choice.

  The Panasonic G9 is a great choice for sports and wildlife photography, especially with one of the long but compact and relatively light zooms —the overwhelming advantage of the m4/3 system. But is it a one-camera for one year choice?
The Panasonic G9 is a great choice for sports and wildlife photography, especially with one of the long but compact and relatively light zooms —the overwhelming advantage of the m4/3 system. But is it a one-camera for one year choice?

The G9 is a camera I own, but I’ve pared down my m4/3 lenses to just two excellent zooms, the f/2/8-4 Leica DG 12-60 and its sister, the f/2.8-4 50-200. This combo gives a 35mm-equivalent range of 24mm to 400mm and turns the G9 into a versatile all-rounder. Whether I could use it as my only camera, I don’t know. 

  Stephen Jenner’s OCOLOY challenge in 2015 — a Leica M2 and dual-range Summicron. A real back-to-basics choice
Stephen Jenner’s OCOLOY challenge in 2015 — a Leica M2 and dual-range Summicron. A real back-to-basics choice

For a micro four-thirds camera, the G9 is larger than I would like for general carry around purposes — street photography, if you like — even when twinned with a compact prime.

I don’t do sports photography or attend the sort of events where fast AF and long lenses are a priority. As a result, the G9 hasn’t had as much use as it deserves. I feel guilty about that. As for choosing it as the one camera, one lens, I feels zooms are rather cheating if we stick to the spirit of the challenge. It ought to be a prime and I now don’t have any (other than using an M lens with adaptor).

If I were to choose just one camera and one lens from my current stable, I suspect my choice would be between the M10-D and the Leica CL, both with a suitable 35mm or 50mm prime.

Oh, and did I mention the venerable Leica X1 and X2? I could well imaging adopting the X2 for a one-year, one-camera experience. But I don’t think so; I would soon run out of stories to write for Macfilos and we all need a bit of variety.

As I wrote in the 2016 article, however, I like being able to wake up and choose a camera and lens for the day. I fully accept that restricting myself to one camera, one lens for a whole year would be a cathartic experience. But it is probably one that I will have to pass on.

What do you think? Have you considered joining Mike Johnston’s OCOLOY challenge? Or, better still, have you done it in the past and what are your conclusions?


  1. I challenge you do to the X2 for a year… that would be amazing. Remember my first X typ 113 article, that was after a year of solely using that as my main camera. I ended up doing over 18 monhts by the time I bought the Df in the latter part of last year. And I am still carrying around alongside the Df everytime I leave home with my camera bag.

    I reckon you could still come up with articles, and no doubt someone will loan you a camera to test, or tinker with for an article. So you could break the rule, but just not with your own camera.

    It would be fun.

    Dave S

  2. What an interesting thought, Mike! I am sure that if I had fewer cameras I should be a better photographer (and I’m equally sure John Shingleton would agree – though even he spreads over three nowadays, if my count is correct). Does your self-challenge have to be with a prime lens? That would rule out the X Vario – otherwise the most likely candidate in my stable, unless I blew caution to the winds and said it had to be the Digilux 2 ! And would it be permissible to say a three-month trial period in the first instance?

  3. Why?

    Why restrict yourself to just one (fixed focal length) lens for a year?

    THTS LK WRTNG NL N CPTLS. R WTHT VWLS FR YR. that’s like writing only in lower-case courier font for a year. That’s like going round only left-hand corners for a year, but never to the right.

    That’s like eating only cheese for a year. Or just Mars bars.

    You’ll become adept – one hopes – with that one lens (..though not necessarily ..that might depend on how often you use it). But would you be able to catch the pictures you want? Might you not have to trim your expectations to only those which you can manage with just that one lens?

    If it’s a ‘standard’ or ‘normal’ lens ..no wide-angle pictures, then ..unless you can walk backwards far enough.

    But long ago (..early seventies..) I found that when using just the one lens (on a Polaroid snapshot camera, then on a Rollei 35, then on a Praktica with a sharp 50mm Tessar) ..after a while all my pictures began to look alike. (And that’s not counting the fixed-lens Kodak Brownies from the 1950s and early 60s.)

    I think it’s necessary to remember that Michael Johnston, like many people who write photo blogs, is a blogger. That’s to say, he’s a wordsmith, and not a photographer.

    He’s a dilettante. He likes playing with cameras, but doesn’t earn his living taking pictures with them. He earns his living by painting pictures with words.

    It’s an interesting concept for an occasional photographer: use one camera and one lens for a year. But is it interesting for someone who really takes photos, rather than who plays with words?

    Not in my case. I use a 21mm or thereabouts – or wider – for many pictures, but for others I choose a longer lens. And I generally use zooms, so that I can vary what the pictures look like. And I use different cameras for different purposes: low light? Sony A7S. Faces? Canon 6D with Canon 85mm f1.2. Most other things? 14-28mm zoom, or 21mm f2.8.

    You’ll learn a lot about one lens if you use that one frequently. Maybe you’ll develop your own “style” with it ..Mike Johnston might point to Peter Turnley, or Cartier-Bresson.

    But so what? I could point to Jay Maisel, Mike Abrahams, or to Michael Evans.

    You may learn a lot about that one camera, and that one lens.

    But think of all the pictures you couldn’t shoot!

    • I think you might like to spend a bit more time researching your potted history of Mike Johnston, before you make your comments David.

      As I understand things, he was a professional photographer, printer and teacher of photography before he became a blogger. His blogging was started as a form of recovery for a recovering alcoholic, and he has created one of the most durable and widely read blogs in the world.

      Apart from Macfilos of course.

      As for the OCOLOY it was originally more of a throwaway comment originally, but people like me, ran with it. For me, it was a way of justifying to SWMBO that I really needed to buy a Leica again.

      As for its efficacy, it teaches the photographer to move around in order to get the best composition given the self imposed limitations.

      And then, here is the bit that Mike never mentions, develop and print at least one of those compositions each month and slap it on a wall somewhere. Make sure that you keep looking at it.

      The conjecture is that one can learn more about tone, composition, printing and development in a year than someone can learn during a three year college course in photography.

      Of course, as a teacher of photography, he would know.

      • Yes, Stephen, I’m aware of his history. Yes, he did teach photography, I believe (..but then so did I, and so do I ..just signed up for Greece again this June/July, and the Isle of Wight (UK) in March, and it was Venice last year, or was that the year before? ..and if I can teach photography, that sets the bar pretty low, don’t you think? [wink, wink]..)

        But what I was saying is that nowadays he sits at home and writes ..and I think his photography consists now of pictures of the dog, and of the weather, as far as I can tell. As I said, “..He earns his living by painting pictures with words”.

        Now I don’t earn my living any more by taking photos (..although I did back in the seventies for a while..) but I am still active in taking photos, and teaching about taking photos, and not just simply writing about them.

        Your point “..develop and print at least one of those compositions each month and slap it on a wall somewhere. Make sure that you keep looking at it..” is good; I print – at least – one Blurb book a year, each of about 100 photos, and I do keep looking at them: I keep looking at the last 8 books (800 pictures?) and I keep looking at others’ pictures – from several of the books which Mike Johnston has recommended over the years ..here beside me are a couple by Garry Winogrand, and a couple of Richard Avedon’s, and one of M. Lartigue’s, and that big Leica book “Eyes Wide Open”. And, though I don’t have a book of prints of his, I do look online at Mike Abrahams ..oh, and here’s the book I gave my Beloved of Matt Stuart’s pics: “All That Life Can Afford” ..and oh, there’s Peter Turnley’s “French Kiss”!

        So I look at theirs, and I look at mine, and I think “are mine any good?” ..and then I look again at this (rather surreal?) last one on this page http://edituk.com/Photos.html and I think, yes maybe some of mine are OK.

        But, as you can see, they’re taken with a real variety of different lenses (..and of different cameras, which – of course – you can’t see..) and never just one camera, one lens, one year.

        Yours with best wishes,

        • David B.
  4. I think a year is a bit much. A day, an outing, a trip? Absolutely, but not a year.

    A few years back I went on a two week trip to South Korea and took just the M Monochrom and 50mm Summilux. Last year a long weekend in Vancouver, Canada had just an M10 and 35mm Summicron.

    I’m planning a trip to France and Switzerland this coming May and will definitely take only one camera, my Leica M-D, but am not sure about one (Zeiss 35mm f/1.4 Distagon ZM), two (Leica 50mm f/1.4 Summilux v2 AND 28mm f/2.8 Elmarit v2) or three (add my newly CLA’d Leica 35mm f/2.8 Summaron to the 28+50 kit) lenses.

    2017’s two week trip to the UK was a two lens and one camera trip that worked out very well (28mm+50mm).

    Decisions, decisions.

  5. I spent much of two months in Europe last year with just the M10 and a 35/1.4 old style Summilux; I did have my CL with its 18-56 as a back up though – I took that one for a week to Greece. Otherwise it stayed home in Paris in favor of the M10. I can’t imagine restricting myself to one camera and one lens for much more than a few weeks though. My walk around in NY is the exceptionally slim package of the TL2 and the 18 pancake.

  6. A camera a year? that’s a question that gives food for thought. I’ve done it many times in the past. When I had the leica

    CL I only had a 40 mm lens and was happy with it. When I turned to the contax G1 I had 3 lenses 28,35 & 45mm but I

    found I ended up using the 35mm almost exclusively, the same happened with the R9 and 35mm summicron. Enter the

    M8 I only had a 28 elmarit. Then came the Ricoh with its ability to crop 35 and 47. It’s been the only camera I used for 2

    years and lived happily with it. On the one hand it’s certain that having one lens can be pretty limiting and one may have

    the impression that all the images we take look alike, but on the other it gives a kind of unity to the body of photos you

    take. You instinctively know what angle to choose with just one lens. Since buying the X2, I almost use it exclusively but

    have a few breaks with the ricoh while it’s still in working order. I did live with the X2 for 4 months at a time and didn’t feel

    the need for another camera. Now if I could fund it I would certainly buy a Q (after trying it for an afternoon) and be happy

    with it. I guess the trio 28,35 and 50 mm covers most of a photographer’s need (if you don’t do sport or wildlife photo).

  7. The other side of the argument is people prefer ocol or that is all they can afford. Me I Happy w x’s And when I got the beast the 850 I chose 24/70 because my x’s don’t zoom. So far I just use wrist strap and it is not something I walk around carrying all day. The x’s Are perfect walk around but if I need extra reach I use Nikon combo. A friend of mine walks around w 810 w 150/600 that would kill me, but he is a pro and makes a living off landscapes and wildlife. The OVF is my preference, never tried EVF. If I were to get another. Just my two cents worth, still thinking about a Df but I wish Leica would fix that Cl focus deal.

  8. Mike,
    What I like the most about the ocoloy concept is that it’s zen. You become the camera, or is it the other way around? I’m considering an ocoloy with a twist- an M240P with a 35/2 ASPH v2 and an M246 with a 35 FLE.

    Goal is to become one with the 35 fov.

  9. Although I have a few more possibilities than I had when I ran with the OCOLOY, and have been through countless others in the meantime. I believe that the concept actually worked for me, not only am I happier with some of the pictures I make, I have a lot of fun and exercise into the bargain, both were retirement objectives.

    I have somehow carried on with manual photography using film, along with a few vintage primes, chosen because I like them, not for any other reason, and when I go out snapping, I usually take one camera with one lens, although I have been known to carry one of the pinholes too. I enjoy the process of developing and scanning, or wet printing from my own negatives.

    However, when I go on holiday, or I am playing happy families, I nearly always opt for the digital CL with the kit zoom, or perhaps the iPhone.

    N.B. I omitted to mention in my earlier comment, that Mike Johnston was also a seasoned professional journalist for one of the major American photo magazines, and as such has interviewed and written about a good number of top world pro’s… Like Mike Evans, he is more than “just a blogger”.

  10. Hi Mike, a good stir the pot article and great fodder to stimulate thoughts. I thing one camera and one prime lens is important for an aspiring enthusiast to learn perspective and so on. I see too many images with distortion where the zoom focal length was incorrect for the subject (big nose and so on.). I treat my zoom as a prime lens and pick my focal length and then move my position with my feet.
    I see limiting to one camera and one lens as a useful short term exercise for medium to advanced or masters however that is somewhat like limiting a watercolour painter to one brush. I have the Panasonic G9, Leica Q-P and Hasselblad X1D and pick a subset when I go out and look for capturing images with an objective in mind and appreciate subjects that I did not plan on. Lenses are like brushes with their various renderings and I try to previsualize what I am looking for and prepare with the appropriate tool(camera and glass). I personally would not limit myself to one camera and one lens – I do not know how many days I have left but I am going to make more time for my photography.


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