Personal gear review

agentlossing

All-Pro
Location
S. Oregon Coast (the Northernmost-Cal of them All)
Real Name
Andrew Lossing
Hmm, is this a personal gear review thing? I went and handled a few different cameras that I've had lingering thoughts about, just to see where they stood in terms of ergonomics and overall feel - how much I would enjoy shooting with them. I was in Seattle over the weekend and they have a couple of decent brick and mortar shops, so I went to both (Kenmore Camera and Glazier's) as well as a used camera store, looking for anything decent for my Bessa in addition to digital considerations.

The latter experience first, that used shop was chock-full of SLRs and little else. They had a few Pentaxes but no MX or LX, which I'd wanted to see, and a few Barnack Leicas and a Canon 7, but no lenses beyond a few overpriced Canons, Soviet lenses and one or two old Leica collapsible fifties which were also overpriced. But I did get a chance to put my eye to two of the turret viewfinders, and older Leica one and the Nikon one - confirmed my suspicions that they don't work for me. You need to literally poke the eyepiece into your eye to see the whole frame. Oh well. The guy in the shop admitted to the customers he was helping that he has over 450 cameras himself, and could open his own store. Yeesh. Glad I'm not in his shoes.

I handled a Fuji XE-4 kit briefly, just to see what was going on with it. I'm surprised that, even though this is the "little" camera for Fuji, the size is still pretty chunky. It's surprising that they're not putting IBIS in these bodies yet. Given even the miniscule GRIII can move the APS-C sensor around, there's no reason the XE4 couldn't have IBIS or even slim down a little more. It also didn't feel great to me, the weight and materials of the top plate feel nice but the stiff textured stuff on the non-existent grip persists in giving the camera a bit of a "cheap" feel. I can't believe how long it has taken Fuji to get over their cameras having a bit of a hollow and cheap feel.

I also handled a Panasonic G95, they had a decent deal on the 12-60mm kit that was used, but felt like new. I instantly took a bit of a dislike to that camera, though. It feels like it belongs in a vlogger's setup, just doesn't give a pleasant grip or feel for shooting stills somehow. I think part of it is just how angular it is, I don't know why they changed it up so much from the G85. Plus it's as big as the EM1 series. G9 looked even bigger, and I didn't even handle one. It's a terrific camera by all accounts, but there isn't a point for me in my shooting to go with that large of a body since I'm always gravitating to small wide to normal primes.

There was a like-new EM1 mark II, however, and that camera - wow! It is super nice. Focus, frame rate, EVF, build, everything about it was basically ideal. And that grip, ugly as it is, fits the hand almost better than any other camera I've tried. I was almost brought around to getting it, but it would have necessitated selling something else that I use frequently, and I decided against breaking up my go-to kit yet again, for a while at least. I also tried out the EM5 mark II, which is kind of the body I've thought about getting the most. I'm not sure why I didn't care for it. In theory it's almost perfect for a tiny kit - build quality is about the best that Olympus has gotten to (sorry, they downgraded for the EM5 mark III), but the angles are all wrong in the grip and on the back where my thumb rests. The original EM5 is better in the hand. And that's what I ended up getting.

I sold on the Olympus OM-1 kit that I had for a short while, after carrying it around in my hand for a while and shooting a couple rolls, I realized that it's just not likely to see much use, and I didn't want to let it gather dust. The slightly beat-up EM5, which I hope will continue functioning without problems, is more fun to use, with instant results of course since it's digital, and is a gateway to shooting with the 20/1.7 again, and Olympus colors, which just look more like slide film than most digital cameras output.

I shot a single roll of film on the Bessa T when I was in Seattle, as well as some with the GRIII and then with the EM5 after purchasing, but I didn't go to my usual haunts around Pike market. There were just too many people, and, I don't know whether this was good or bad, but I just wanted to think about and look at gear this weekend, rather than take lots of photos. Strange!
Ironically, the follow-up post to this one about M4/3 cameras is that the original EM5 didn't work out due to shutter defect, and the EM5 mark ii is what I ended up with, despite my not-so-glowing review in the above post. I still agree with my former self: the handling of the EM5ii just isn't as good as the EM5, even though the mark ii feels better-made. There are just too many buttons on the top plate, and the new slope at the top of the grip in the front seems awkward. It's a higher-end camera, and I appreciate the level of design effort and construction attention to detail that went into it. It's just a shame that Olympus went down a tons-of-tiny-buttons route for a while.

On the other hand, the positives of the mark ii body: I like the articulated LCD, as closing the screen on itself just makes me happier. I like my thumb pretty far forward on the back of the body with film cameras, and now I can do that with a digital camera too. The customizability of the aforementioned mess of buttons is so complete that I can pretty much just turn them all off, and if I can get muscle memory to function this way I can just ignore the existence of the buttons on the top plate. I haven't settled on a configuration yet. It doesn't look like there's a function to just lock down everything, that might have been nice. But I'll figure something out. I may get a half case which should make it easier to handle. As long as I can keep it small.

Had I decided I "needed" an EM1 mark ii, in addition to spending more than twice as much as I did on the EM5 mark ii, I would have wonderful ergonomics but zero pocketability. As it stands, I'm still able to stuff the EM5 and 20mm into my jacket pocket. Not that I will tend to use this as a pocket camera, that's what the GRIII (and XA!) is for, but sometimes it's very convenient to make a camera disappear for a bit to carry stuff or juggle keys, etc. I may slowly expend with a couple more primes, I am thinking the 45/1.8 might be next. I might even force myself to shoot street with that 90mm focal length to stretch my tele abilities.

Having as much experience as I do with the 16MP M4/3 sensor, I decided that rather than obsess over exposure trying to get within the ideal dynamic range with this sensor, I'm just going to shoot on manual, full simplicity, and eyeball exposure for the highlights, keeping a low ISO. It's a nice way to shoot, the closest I can get to a film-like experience in a M4/3 camera. Perfection in the results can go hang! This is for enjoyment.
 

drd1135

Zen Snapshooter
Location
SW Virginia
Real Name
Steve
I'm really starting to realize that there is a bit of a (expensive) disconnect between the cameras I like to buy and the cameras I like to use. I really like smaller cameras and will grab those on the fly. I also need to only buy fixed lens cameras with zooms. Fixed lens tends to be 28 or 35 mme, and those just aren't my favorite focal lengths. OTOH, I can have a an ILC with 50 mme and never change the lens. Sigh. I also tend to avoid cameras I probably would like, e.g., the SONY A7C with its really nice tracking AF-C. Sigh redux.
 
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serhan

Hall of Famer
Location
NYC
+1. After using m43 & m lenses, I like the smaller combos... Sony finally figured out with A7C and smaller 40-50mm 2.5 with aperture on the lenses. They are not hot sellers like 50mm 1.2... You can try greentoe to get deals on them. Also I like what Sigma also did with the smaller dn lenses which Sony copied....

Sony_FE24mm_F2p8_G_40mm_50mm_a7C.jpeg
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I'm really starting to realize that there is a bit of a (expensive) disconnect between the cameras I like to buy and the cameras I like to use. I really like smaller cameras and will grab those on the fly. I also need to only buy fixed lens cameras with zooms. Fixed lens tends to be 28 or 35 mme, and those just aren't my favorite focal lenses. OTOH, I can have a an ILC with 50 mme and never change the lens. Sigh. I also tend to avoid cameras I probably would like, e.g., the SONY A7C with its really nice tracking AF-C. Sigh redux.
 

agentlossing

All-Pro
Location
S. Oregon Coast (the Northernmost-Cal of them All)
Real Name
Andrew Lossing
I put my Sigma 17-50/2.8 up on eBay the other day, and it just sold. It was a truly bargain lens, and had that going for it along with very decent IQ. But it's just so heavy, for a light camera person like me, I found myself very unlikely to use it. Now that I have a M4/3 body again, along with the 12-32mm lens that I can always steal from my wife's camera, I don't technically need a zoom like that. Actually, the biggest reason that led into my decision was that I found my copy of the Sigma to produce a lot of purple fringing, which it was a bit hard to reliably remove.

I think I'm back to my original surmise, that the Pentax KP is best with small primes.
 

gordo

Top Veteran
Location
Arizona
Real Name
Gordon
I set the Pentax stuff aside for a while. I've picked it up a couple of times over the last month. Each time I've picked it up, it felt great in the hand. Then I put the cameras to my face and became frustrated again. Mainly the K-3III OVF. So dang close, but not right for my eye.

If this happens again, I'll make the call. I'm supposed to be reducing stress and frustration, and the gear isn't helping with that anymore. The Fuji ILC stuff isn't really fun to shoot, but it's not frustrating me like the Pentax stuff. The X100F is closest to being transparent, I find myself fiddling with it much less than the X-H1. Other than adjusting basic shooting settings, most I have to worry about is which metering mode I want to use. Not sure if I'll keep the K-1 for landscapes, or even if I'll stay with Fuji.

Changing things up could be in play. How, or when, I'm not sure. Not really looking forward to the expense of a change, but if it can dump more frustration and bring back some of the enjoyment... I think I've previously mentioned the possibility of dumping everything except the X100F and taking some time to think before making a move.
 

John King

Regular
Location
Beaumaris, Melbourne, Australia
Real Name
John ...
I set the Pentax stuff aside for a while. I've picked it up a couple of times over the last month. Each time I've picked it up, it felt great in the hand. Then I put the cameras to my face and became frustrated again. Mainly the K-3III OVF. So dang close, but not right for my eye.

If this happens again, I'll make the call. I'm supposed to be reducing stress and frustration, and the gear isn't helping with that anymore. The Fuji ILC stuff isn't really fun to shoot, but it's not frustrating me like the Pentax stuff. The X100F is closest to being transparent, I find myself fiddling with it much less than the X-H1. Other than adjusting basic shooting settings, most I have to worry about is which metering mode I want to use. Not sure if I'll keep the K-1 for landscapes, or even if I'll stay with Fuji.

Changing things up could be in play. How, or when, I'm not sure. Not really looking forward to the expense of a change, but if it can dump more frustration and bring back some of the enjoyment... I think I've previously mentioned the possibility of dumping everything except the X100F and taking some time to think before making a move.
Gordon, perhaps an Olympus E-M1 MkIII plus f/4 8-25, f/4 12-100 and one or two f/1.8 primes would suit you? Depends on what, and how, you shoot, really.

The 12-100 is the best lens I've owned in over 60 years, and I've owned some crackers (e.g. Leitz Summicrons x3, plus a lot of loaners).
 

gordo

Top Veteran
Location
Arizona
Real Name
Gordon
Gordon, perhaps an Olympus E-M1 MkIII plus f/4 8-25, f/4 12-100 and one or two f/1.8 primes would suit you? Depends on what, and how, you shoot, really.

The 12-100 is the best lens I've owned in over 60 years, and I've owned some crackers (e.g. Leitz Summicrons x3, plus a lot of loaners).

Thanks for the thoughts John. The other part of the equation is things have to fit my odd hands and issues with arthritis. My X-H1 is the smallest DSLR style that I've been able to use, and still some of the controls are difficult for me to use. I've handled Oly and Sony etc... Nikon Z full frame works better for my hands/ fingers than the X-H1. Still have the issue with viewfinders. Rangefinder-style cameras are the only ones that fit into my eye socket area well enough I can see the whole image, unless I want to shoot everything in portrait mode.

The X100F works (mostly) simply because of the placement of the controls, and I have added the RRS base plate/ grip/ L-bracket combo. I still have issues with a lot of unintentional activation of the Q menu due to button location vs my arthritic thumb. It was so bad on the X-H1 I had to completely disable the Q button.

It's frustrating. So many cameras, very few work for my hands/ fingers and my eyes.
 

gordo

Top Veteran
Location
Arizona
Real Name
Gordon
LOL, the continuing saga continues.

Main reason I've been keeping longer tele primes and tele zooms was to get bird photos from the apartment. Nice tree right off the balcony, able to get nice tight shots on mid-size birds, minor cropping for the small ones. Convenient. Apartment acted as a blind. Easy use with tripod and monopod, no lugging heavy gear.

A couple months ago a leak developed in the water line to this part of the apartments. When maintenance dug to find the leak, I noticed they were having to cut roots out of the way. Some were substantial in size. I kind of figured at that point there was a chance the tree would be brought down.

There have been several outfits brought in to evaluate and bid. And yesterday maintenance started taking down the tree. They finished removal today, and the ground and sidewalks have spray-painted markings. I'm sure a plumbing crew will be in here soon with equipment to dig up the area and replace the bad water line.

No more bird shots other than maybe hummingbirds, Verdin and woodpeckers. Except the woodpeckers have claimed the hummer feeder and mostly driven the hummers away, rarely see hummers at the feeder any more. Health isn't good enough to go roaming with heavy gear. Not sure when, or if, that will change.

So, seems as good a time as any for a change, take a different fork in the road, and see where it leads.

I'll be downsizing the amount of gear I have. Take a year or two, see if my health improves, where I land if I end up having to move, and what happens with the photo industry over that time. Initial thoughts are to keep X100F, X-H1, 90/2, and pick up the upcoming 56mkII - back to a 35/85/135 trio. See how that works and adjust from there. Or maybe do the YOLO - finish selling other hobby gear, household stuff, and one vehicle in exchange for a Q2M.

Feels good to have the beginnings of a plan.
 

mike3996

Hall of Famer
Location
Finland
As I walked in the hot sun today with the M9 -- strapless, I might add (how very risque of me) -- I found myself surrounded in thoughts:

If someone offered me a paid gig or even simply asked for portraits, what would I grab for the session? I didn't have to rank my existing gear for very long. The first choice was rather obvious for me.

  1. Panasonic GX80
  2. Nikon Df with AF lenses
  3. Leica M
  4. Nikon Df with MF lenses


If someone who knew me better and perhaps shared my taste, for those kinds of cases I could easily elevate Leica and Nikon (MF) to top positions.
 

agentlossing

All-Pro
Location
S. Oregon Coast (the Northernmost-Cal of them All)
Real Name
Andrew Lossing
As I walked in the hot sun today with the M9 -- strapless, I might add (how very risque of me) -- I found myself surrounded in thoughts:

If someone offered me a paid gig or even simply asked for portraits, what would I grab for the session? I didn't have to rank my existing gear for very long. The first choice was rather obvious for me.

  1. Panasonic GX80
  2. Nikon Df with AF lenses
  3. Leica M
  4. Nikon Df with MF lenses


If someone who knew me better and perhaps shared my taste, for those kinds of cases I could easily elevate Leica and Nikon (MF) to top positions.
Yes, but isn't that a question of what gear functions the best to help you, the photographer, complete a task given to you? That doesn't necessarily have the same answers as "what speaks to you the most when you're using it."
 

mike3996

Hall of Famer
Location
Finland
Yes, but isn't that a question of what gear functions the best to help you, the photographer, complete a task given to you? That doesn't necessarily have the same answers as "what speaks to you the most when you're using it."
Yes, indeed.

It is a question about an elusive situation I am not likely to find myself in, any time soon.

What struck me as interesting is how easily I found GX80 climbing to the pole position, even for portrait work. Panasonic G9 really hammered in how in a way reliable their cameras are, really dependable for a lot of things. Of course, GX80 shares some of that DNA.
 

theoldsmithy

Hall of Famer
Location
Cheshire, England
Real Name
Martin Connolly
After using an E-P5 for a few months, and sharing a couple of primes between it and the E-M1, I have realised that my heart lies with compact cameras and zoom lenses! So with that in mind, I have sold the E-P5 and my primes, and bought an RX100 Mk 4.
(It just arrived today and I can see straight away that it operates faster than the Mk 3 I had a while back, plus the EVF is nice and sharp). My Panasonic 12-60 is being replaced by an Olympus 14-150. I love the E-M1 so will be keeping that with the 14-150.
 

drd1135

Zen Snapshooter
Location
SW Virginia
Real Name
Steve
After using an E-P5 for a few months, and sharing a couple of primes between it and the E-M1, I have realised that my heart lies with compact cameras and zoom lenses! So with that in mind, I have sold the E-P5 and my primes, and bought an RX100 Mk 4.
(It just arrived today and I can see straight away that it operates faster than the Mk 3 I had a while back, plus the EVF is nice and sharp). My Panasonic 12-60 is being replaced by an Olympus 14-150. I love the E-M1 so will be keeping that with the 14-150.
I’m always tempted by the VI and VII. They have such a good zoom range.
 
A few years ago I sampled Fuji and slowly built up that kit and sold my Nikon DX DSLR and lenses. I have enjoyed the size and weight reduction. I now find myself more likely to just take an iPhone along when I want to travel lightly. So, I’m considering selling the Fuji kit and going back to a DSLR for birds, wildlife, landscape. I do miss viewing through glass and the better ergonomics on the Nikon. Has anyone else gone through this process?
 

MiguelATF

Hall of Famer
Location
Talent, Oregon (far from the madding crowd)
Real Name
Miguel Tejada-Flores
A few years ago I sampled Fuji and slowly built up that kit and sold my Nikon DX DSLR and lenses. I have enjoyed the size and weight reduction. I now find myself more likely to just take an iPhone along when I want to travel lightly. So, I’m considering selling the Fuji kit and going back to a DSLR for birds, wildlife, landscape. I do miss viewing through glass and the better ergonomics on the Nikon. Has anyone else gone through this process?
A number of serious bird photographers have been using Sony's RX10 Mark IV - which has a remarkable Zeiss zoom lens that gives the equivalent of 600mm. The RX10M4 is about the size of a traditional DSLR - but the quality of the lens, coupled with Sony's great 1 inch sensor - has yielded some impressive results among the aficionados.

Probably a DSLR with certain lenses will still give you better quality, when all is said and done. And there are a number of superb wildlife and avian photographers who seem to have embraced the newer Olympus E-M1 bodies - including the large-isn E-M1x which a number of bird people swear by. And, even though it's not exactly mainstream, Pentax's newest APS-C flagship the K-3iii - which has much better (and higher-speed) AF capabilities, not to mention a fine viewfinder and thoughtful ergonomics - has become the camera of choice of a small number of truly fine bird and wildlife-nature photographers.

I think you're totally right to mention ergonomics, something which often is left out of conversations. A camera should truly feel good - and right - and usable (for whatever uses one intends) in your hands... without that, one is in for problems.
Whatever you choose and decide - good luck with it!!!!
 

tonyturley

Legend
Location
Scott Depot, WV, USA
Real Name
Tony
It seems I'm about to shift gear again (see what I did there?). If the trade I have in the works goes through, I'll be going back to the X-T2 I had before the E-M1 II, except this time it's black & silver. (I had a shot at a graphite X-T2 and blew it). The only lens I have presently that will work with the X-T2 is my old Pen F 38/1.8, a trusty workhorse that has resided on the front of numerous cameras. I do intend to get a single Fuji lens, but this time I'm staying away from zooms. Looking through my photo history, I think I could best describe my photo style as "environmental documentation". My attempts at wildlife and birds have been average, at best, and I've never enjoyed carrying longer lenses while bike riding, at least not for long. Thus the Fuji 55-200, 50-230, and similar lenses for other platforms didn't stay with me for long. The E-M1 II and the pair of Panasonic zooms are going. I like the X30, so I intend to keep it for those times I want to walk with a small, discrete camera. My kit is going to be about as minimalistic as I can get without going to a single camera.
 
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