It occurred to me as I was penning (!) that last post, that two of the reasons I have connected to Olympus and the Micro Four Thirds format, are visual but also very different. They are the look of the cameras and lenses and the look produced by the camera and lenses.
The EM5 mk1’s took me straight back to my roots. At first it was a connection to everything old, older even than my first actual cameras (Canon T90’s). They took me back to the 70’s and 80’s, to the creators of my first influences.
The second visual attraction came from the slightly flawed, less than digitally perfect, but still very capable files. They were not afraid of a little grain, if the end result has added clarity, acutance and tonal range. I felt for the first time in a long time that I had a film-like, semi limited imaging process that could produce beautiful images within an envelope of realistic expectations.
Ironically, the handling of the cameras lacked the simplicity of a true film camera, but my first impression of them stuck all the way through, and still does six years later.
The file charm has also stuck with me. Not a huge fan of the base colour of Olympus files (possibly a product of their adaption of the Sony made sensors that have a few issues natively with colour), I adapted and found plenty of room for improvement, the digital equivalent of darkroom tweaking.
The newer cameras have added both greater charm and performance and the sensors are better, but I have not forgotten the natural, restrained beauty of the first 16mp sensor.
The designers wanted to make an impression with the first OMD cameras and they did cosmetically, but I feel the real hook was in the results. How many times has something been dressed up to look like something that has worked in the past, but failed to follow through?
Of all of the brands out there, I feel Fuji has the most direct connection to modern photographies roots, with film algorithms literally built in and handling closer than most others to tradition. The Olympus files however seem even more old fashioned. They remind me of National Geographic style Kodachrome more than any other files I see. Being technically better than 35mm film (closer to 6x7 in quality and ration) does not hurt, but not being 40+ mp super files keeps their feet firmly grounded.
For me the future is here. I do not want time to stand still, but I will hold on to what I have for as long as I can, as it satisfies my creative soul on a deeper level than It has been for many years.