Why Jay Dickman chooses Micro Four Thirds camera gear
Lightweight and packable size are essential to the road warrior
Jay Dickman, who got into photography as a teenager in the 1960s, eagerly transitioned to the digital age as it dawned in the early 2000s. When shooting, he says, “I want the camera as out of the way as possible,” and technology allows that.
It’s for that reason he’s a fervent advocate of the Olympus Micro Four Thirds (MFT) line of cameras. He's been an Olympus Visionary since 2003 and extols the company frequently in conversation. But as he explains his devotion, the affection proves genuine. That’s because the MFT system contributes to Dickman’s agility as a near-constantly traveling photographer.
“You use the equipment that’s applicable to what you need to do,” says Dickman, who counts among his accomplishments a Pulitzer Prize as well as nearly 30 years with National Geographic. “Technology has gone so far forward that the differences are so minimal now that I’m not going to carry a massive DSLR anymore. It kills your shoulder.”
With the smaller sensor, the field of view on an MFT lens is the same as full-frame lenses but with twice the focal length. This allows for smaller, lighter lenses. Dickman usually carries two E-M1MkII bodies on a BlackRapid Double strap, allowing a camera to suspend from each shoulder without the strap slipping. On one camera Dickman mounts an Olympus 12-40mm f/2.8 (which with the MFT system is the FX equivalent of a 24-80mm), and a 40-150mm f/2.8 Olympus Pro lens (an 80-300mm FX equivalent). “With those two lenses you can cover 99.9 percent of everything you need to cover,” he says, except sports or wildlife photography. He keeps a couple of extra batteries in a cellphone pouch that he clips to the his strap.
With the smaller equipment, he can fit everything into a ThinkTank Airport Advantage bag, which is carryon capable even for commuter flights. “It’s becoming more and more difficult carrying equipment these days,” he says. “Full-sensor cameras are great, but they are big. Until the laws of physics change, the size of the lens dictates the camera bag.” And he doesn’t need a camera bag in the field, carrying two bodies and perhaps an extra lens in his pocket (say, an 8mm f/1.8 fisheye for big sky shots, or a 7-14mm f/2.8). “I’m minimizing what I’m carrying, and then it becomes about the photography, and that’s what it’s supposed to be about.” He also takes ISO out of the trinity of aperture, shutter, and ISO. “I shoot a lot in shutter priority because to me everything is about the moment.”
Dickman says that when Olympus first reached out to him, he hesitated because he had a relationship with another company in his film days. “Olympus gave me a roadmap of where they were going, and it was back to small,” he says, pointing out that “35mm photography was built around small, inconspicuous, there when you need it. Smartphone technology is another example of going small. The industry needs to look at that.”
Eric Minton is a writer and editor in Washington, D.C.