Four handshakes with the hot new cameras, but only one kiss

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John McMillin
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Four handshakes with the hot new cameras, but only one kiss
3 months ago

Today I dropped by the local camera shop (amazingly, there is such a thing here) to find a new Today I dropped by the local camera shop (amazingly, there is such a thing here) to find a new battery for an old Nikon FM. They had it, and also four interesting new models I've been reading about. I'm not in the market now, but I was curious.

The last few cameras I've bought were premium compacts: an LX5, then the x10 for the OVF it lacks, an LX7 for the aperture ring, and an X200 for my wife, the rookie birdwatcher. So I asked first to handle the Olympus Stylus. It was a dandy little body, but not so handy. I've trained myself to a two-handed hold, and the lens' control ring gave my left hand another reason to be there. But my fingers kept butting into the sharp surfaces of that built in pizza-slice lens cap as it folds open. That gave an odd attraction/repulsion sensation, like feeling for a fine fur stored in a box of knives. I couldn't imagine getting used to that, and the cap's attached to stay, so no other virtue of that camera matters to me now.

The store was well stocked. I asked to see the a7, Sony's intended trump to my beloved a850 lump. But the a7 hand position felt all wrong. Why's the shutter button up there, I thought? But that camera ceased to matter when it took over five seconds to turn it on and bring it to life. The salesman tried the a7R beside it, and found the same. My ancient 2006 DSLR needs less than two seconds to start, so this is progress?

Do you have the Nikon Df, I asked? I should handle it, since I've already criticized it in several forums. The last camera I'd touched before the store visit was an FM, after all. I found no resemblance between the two, aside from the logo panel on the pentaprism. The Df had piles o' dials, and I like dials. I'm even not afraid of seeing numerals on my cameras, though it must be a turnoff to the math-averse multitudes. But putting Exp Comp on the no-man's land of the left top panel brings back the worst of retro design. It didn't work then, and it doesn't work now. The shutter button position is awkward, especially since there's no mechanical need for it to be there. Overall, it was a big, clumsy, bloated imitation of the original. The FM was beautiful because it was clean, sleek and simple. It hid its controls, not flaunting them, and the F3 I preferred was the same. I feel like I'm piling on, too long after the pay ends, so I ope it's no foul-- but this is a jackalope of a camera, neither fish or flesh, but slightly foul.

Last but not least, I asked for the Olympus OM-D EM-1 IRS ASAP whatever it is, that one of the left. Call it the OM5D, that would make more sense to me. In one obvious retro touch, the big on-off switch  there in no-man's land was precisely like my old OM2S. But after that graceful introduction, the rest of the camera was clean-slate fresh. Everything fell right to hand, as they say. I had to give the camera back, quickly, because I was getting a first impression that I will own this camera, one of these days. I love the 4:3 aspect ratio, and someday I may decide that the latest EVFs are good enough to be a necessary EVIL. For sure, I'll be hoping for the good health of the Oly brand over the new year.

Thank you, Mike's Camera in Wheat Ridge, Colorado! In five minutes time, you helped me avoid wasting plenty of bucks in postage I might have spent through several purchases, trial periods and returns. I'd encourage everyone to put X camera in hand before wasting a lot of time with reviews and discussions. These ergonomic factors are probably the biggest working distinctions between models, and which factors matter to you are highly individual and not found on spec sheets or reviews.

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