I recently took part in a photography workshop session with around ten other landscape photographers. After we'd all settled in and had a chance to get to know each other, the conversation turned unsurprisingly to 'kit' and what hardware we were all using. The basic question seemed to be 'Are you Canon or are you Nikon?' - and sure enough, everyone but me was either one or the other. In fact one person had both, which the rest of us all agreed was a recipe for total confusion! Hats off to anyone who can get their head around both systems simultaneously.
Anyway, as we went round the table it became clear that the question would fall to me eventually, and sure enough, there was a brief silence when I said 'Panasonic Lumix'. And an almost audible intake of breath when they realised this meant that it also wasn't going to be a DSLR - shock, horror! Yes, that's right - I made the choice, when moving from the multiple bridge cameras I'd had over the years, to go down the Compact System Camera or 'mirrorless' route - with a Lumix micro four thirds camera - the brilliant G5.
For me, photography is all about practically and portability, without compromising on quality. Yes of course there are cameras with bigger sensors or more megapixels out there, but the same can also be said of many DSLRs. So everything sits on a sliding scale - as Zack Arias puts it so brilliantly in his article 'Crop or Crap'. For me, the micro four thirds option gives me excellent quality, with image files that are plenty big enough for what I need - coupled with maximum portability and flexibility.
As a travel photographer as well as a landscape photographer, this combination makes all the difference when travelling. On our recent tour I had to pick our leader's rucksack up at one point to move it out of someone else's shot, and I could barely get it off the ground! For me, carrying that lot around all day on a shoot would just totally affect my enjoyment of the experience. A lighter camera means a lighter tripod - I use the excellent Manfrotto Befree - and a smaller camera means I spend far less on filters. I use the LEE Seven5 series instead of the full sized ones, which do everything that I need for about half the cost and half the space. So when I'm getting on an aeroplane, the issue of transporting kit becomes far more manageable.
One last factor which keeps me away from the DSLR route is that I know I'd miss my Electronic Viewfinder. Having come up through the ranks of the bridge camera world, I'm too used to being able to see the shot I'm about to take, or have just taken, in the viewfinder if necessary - especially on bright, sunny days. When I see my DSLR companions squinting at the backs of their cameras, trying to see if the shot they've just taken looks anything like they were expecting, I just can't imagine losing my EVF. It's so much easier to assess what you've just achieved and make adjustments where necessary, while you're still set up for the shot. I know the purists will say I'm a heathen, and that there is no substitute for an optical viewfinder, and I do get that - but again for me it's all about that sliding scale of gain and loss.
So there you have it. For the foreseeable future at least I'm going to stay a CSC girl, and stick with the Lumix. I'm not saying that I'm right and everyone else is wrong on any of this of course. This is just my preference, and maybe one day I will change my mind, but so far I've not been convinced!