Precison Camera, Austin TX (Review)
Holding a camera makes such a difference. We were driving through Austin and I convinced my fam that Noodles & Company was the perfect lunch time stop--it's right across from Precision Camera.
Being a small town guy, I don't get to a lot of large camera stores. Man, what a playground! The employees were friendly, seemed to know their stuff, and I enjoyed talking with them. Best of all, I was able to play with the cameras that really interest me the most these days and for those interested, here is my very subjective viewpoints based on a little bit of shop time.
I really wanted to "feel" the OM-D, K30, K5II, and A77 in person. The Pentax cameras I handled at Camera Exchange in San Antonio. It was a nice store, but not as large and the staff are not as well informed (based on my very short experience). Camera Exchange didn't carry Sony.
The OM-D is tiny. The lenses are tiny. The body, especially the grip is too small for me--I would want the added grip. I think a GH3 would be a better fit for me if I went mirrorless. I didn't find the buttons too small or too squishy. I'm a right eye shooters, so VF placement was fine. Control interface seemed find. I can also tell right away, both with the OM-D and A77 that I would have to live with the EVF for a while before fully "getting" it. I don't like that it takes a second to transition when I put my eye to the VF and the view really took me some getting used to after being accustomed to the OVF of my E-1/E-3. After playing with the OM-D for a short time it was easy for me to see that it would make a fantastic second camera, but that I wouldn't be giving up DSLRs any time soon. In fact, since my visit I can see much more clearly that DSLRs are not going anywhere anytime soon. Mirrorless is an exciting new advancing technology and I'm all for it, but those who are going on about the demise of DSLRs are armchair warriors who need to get out more. After handling many cameras, it's very clear to me that there is a clear market for both going forward and if only one platform could "win" the day, it would be the DSLR. Thankfully, I think both can be a winner and with that said, I think we will most definitely see new DSLRs coming from Olympus. The salesperson was adamant that it would be worth holding on to my lenses for forthcoming Olympus DSLRs. This is a guy that has moved to Nikon, but has at one time owned the 90-250mm and some other sweet Zuikos. He seemed very interested in where Olympus is going and was without a doubt positive about the future. He related to me that an Oly manager (guy above the rep) visited the store recently. His comment was that R&D has been invested in the next E-x and with the cash infusion from Sony, things are happening again with 4/3rds after a long dry spell. So for what it's worth, that is the talk in the big shops. Sounds like I better start saving for the E-7 after all.
A few comments on the Pentax K30 and K5ii. The K30 is a great deal and would probably be a very good first body. Seemed easy to use and responsive, however, after owning an E-3, the K30 body just felt cheap. I could adjust, but it would a downward adjustment as far as the body goes (for me at least). Something I found though was most cameras feels like a joke after owning the E-1/E-3 in succession. The E-3 climbed several notches up in my head after handling the OM-D and K30. The E-x just feels serious and we need an E-7 that has the requisite performance to match the feel of the E-x line. On that note, the K5ii doesn't disappoint. It feels like the real deal and would be the Pentax I'd go for if moving in that direction. It's a very well sorted body and I can see why people love it. That said, I don't know if it would win out over the E-7, A77, or D7100 for me. I'd have to try the Pentax lenses (and they didn't seem to stock as many lenses at Photo Exchange).
The Sony A77 was a first SLT experience for me and I was very impressed. The body feels great, the AF seemed very very fast in both stills and video. The AF in video is a clear with and makes SLT attractive if video AF performance is a priority for you. Again, the EVF would take some adjustment. I don't like how it blanks out after a shot, though that might have been because of my slowish SD card. Still, there should be in-camera cache to minimize this while files save to the card. I also found the 70-400mm G series Sony lens to be very competitive. They did have the new 80-400mm Nikkor in stock which is $1000 more expensive. Also impressive, but the A77 + 16-50mm + 70-400mm would work for me. I would buy this camera.
These are the cameras that really interest me. I glanced at the D800, D4, Fuji mirrorless, and a couple of others. I also checked out their selection of tripods--none of which really held my attention. I didn't want to keep my family waiting for too long. I took away some shots and video on my card from the A77 that I will check out later.
Synopsis: The OM-D would be a great side kick, but I'm probably back to the E-5 and then E-7 as an upgrade path. I was convinced that waiting for Olympus is time well spent, and mirrorless just can't get replace a DSLR yet. Also I realized more fully that DSLRs are not going anywhere. The performance is still much more satisfying to me at this point than an OM-D. That could be my lack of sufficient shooting time with the new system though. I do really dig the 60mm macro and 45mm. The A77 gives some of the best of both worlds. Kudos to Sony for a very compelling video/photo solution for a serious multi-media shooter. There is simply no bad apple and it comes down to preference. It makes so much of a difference to hold them in your hands and work with the bodies in person. They didn't have an E-5 in the store--so I've still never seen one of these. I was hoping to take away some comparison shots with my E-3 and see if it's worth the upgrade. The salesperson said I should keep my eye out for a good used E-5 and that I would not be disappointed. His estimation was that he had no qualms about shooting ISO 3200 on his previous E-5. He also thinks the E-7 will be well worth the wait. That makes me happy if true. Be looking for an E-7 in the fall.
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