Simplify, Then Add Lightness

Today’s Post by Joe Farace

If you don’t already recognize the quote, it is from Colin Chapman (1928-1982) the legendary designer behind the original Lotus motorcars and racing machines. (From the Lotus website) It was his philosophy, way before ‘minimalism’ became fashionable. “Adding power makes you faster on the straights; subtracting weight makes you faster everywhere,” was another of Chapman’s premises.

This message seems lost on today’s car makers. The original Mini Cooper weighed 1,407 lbs; a 2016 Mini Cooper hardtop weighs 2,605 to 3,035 lbs depending on trim levels. And yeah, I know about airbags and bumpers and crap like that…

This fact also seems lost on today’s camera makers too. The legendary Nikon F2 body weighed 1.85 lbs, while the Nikon D5 is 3.12 lb. Yet the top of the line Panasonic Lumix GH5 weighs 1.6 pounds and heck, my Olympus EM-10 Mark I weighs in at 0.76 lbs. What’s wrong with this picture?

Alas the lens makers are getting into this act too. I recently tested a 85mm lens for Shutterbug Digital that was about double the size of my Canon system’s 85mm lens. It weighed 1.45 lbs compared to the EF 85mm’s 0.93 lbs and the Canon costs half as much. But my Olympus 45mm f/1.8 lens (90mm equivalent field-of-view) weighs 0.25 pounds and delivers spectacular results when used under the same kind of lighting conditions as those bigger, heavier brothers.

Don’t get me wrong the larger, the more expensive lens has more technology, such as image stabilization (like the new Mini’s airbags, etc) and is one hell of a lens sharpness wise. I used to own a Mini Cooper S Clubman and it was one helluva car too as far as driving went; reliability was another story.

OK, I’m not naive enough to realize that if you need to shoot billboard-sized images or sell 40×60-inch—or bigger— fine art prints maybe, just maybe*, you need the biggest sensor and the most megapixels and if that means schlepping around a big camera and a heavy tripod to get those kinds of results, I understand. But that doesn’t describe most of us.

So the question I’m asking myself and you too if you’re interested. Am I a better photographer if I use the camera on the left (above) or does a camera that weighs less is the one that’s more likely to get used. In fact, the EM-10 Mark I was one of the cameras I used on my trip to New Mexico for that very reason— Simplify, then add lightness.

*Look for posts about big prints from small sensors next month…