Personal gear review

Something coming up on the near horizon is a trip to Athens for my wife and I: about a week there, not counting the flights (which sound miserable, but I'll steel myself and hopefully survive being cooped up for so long). This coming January is our tenth wedding anniversary, and Greece seems like one of the decent spots to visit in the winter where we can soak up some old world culture and sights. Obviously, it has me pondering gear, trying to decide where to come down on the balance between size/weight/amount of gear packed to image quality and versatility. Plus, we're going to pack light (carry-on size bags which can be checked if needed, as one of the airlines seems to have more restrictive dimensions and rules than the others).

The first question I have to answer, then, is whether I want to bring my Pentax gear. I asked for advice on Pentax Forums, and also took my K-1 II with the 31mm Limited and new-to-me FA 50mm f1.4 - and threw in the cheap DA 55-300mm which I still have for some reason - on an overnight trip to Victoria, British Columbia. The verdict (from a lot of the PF users as well as my neck/shoulders after lugging the Pentax gear on a lot of walking over the weekend) is that I should probably leave the K-1 behind. It's not a good kit for running around a foreign city (even one where I can read all the signs and understand how to navigate the streets). My Brevite backpack makes accessing the camera somewhat painless, but the straps do disagree with me after a while, changing lenses is conspicuous and takes too long, and it's both noticeable and a bit loud, so I am not about to start taking photos of Athenians when there's a language barrier.

Quite a few people recommended I just take the GRIIIx. It does appeal to me from a simplicity standpoint, and I'd enjoy the challenge of seeing a brand new city purely through the 40mm lens. However, because it's Athens, I think the lack of anything wider would ultimately leave me with regrets, unless I could possibly stitch together wide shots from the GR. I should try that out, in advance of making a final decision, actually. There will be architecture and scenery which I really won't want to be unable to fit into the frame or capture in a way that I like.

Casting my thoughts about, I suddenly remembered that I still have the little Olympus EM5 II, though the only lens I have for it presently is a manual TTartisans 23mm, which is heavy for its size and slow to use. But the excellent IBIS and the still-good output of the 16mp sensor are positives. I am heavily leaning towards getting a versatile zoom for the EM5 II and bringing that along with the GR, and calling that very small but capable setup sufficient. Even if I didn't keep the zoom long-term, it would be a good investment for this need. I'm leaning towards the 12-45mm f4 Pro, which I've tried out in a shop. Extremely nice IQ in a very small size. I initially pooh-poohed this lens as an f4 maximum aperture in M4/3 world is really slow... but when you get sharp, great looking shots at f4 all the way through the zoom range, it gets a little better. 24mm is maybe not even wide enough for some of the opportunities I might find for myself, but it's a better way to capture a church interior in a pinch (on a small, quiet camera with fantastic IBIS) than nothing.

Thoughts still developing. It would be nice to bring film gear, as I feel there's something special about exploring a new place with a film camera, but it comes back to size/weight issues.
Andrew, I can also vouch for the 12-45/4 combined with IBIS, you can get great interior shots with low ISO at f4, a very sharp lens. Honestly though, the lowly 14-42EZ does well also and is super compact and light and can be found used for cheap if you are not looking to spend a lot. Another great small option is a used Olympus 9-18. Again, I have got some very nice interior shots in Europe with that lens, small and light. The other wide possibility is the Laowa 10/2, cheap and small, shoot, combine it with the Lawoa 17/1.8 can be had new for $149 at B&H right now. If you like sunstars, both of the Laowa's have nice ones. I love my Laowa's for a small prime for when I want to go super light. I always carry my GRIII, it simply can't be beat for size and image quality.

I love the Olympus Pro lenses but reality is, I can get some great images from the non-Pro lenses which are smaller and lighter which makes for a much more pleasant day out. The 12-45/4 is an exception though, it is small and easy to carry all day. Stitching with the 12-45 can eliminate the wide need with ease.

Good luck deciding! Lots of choices!
 
Andrew, I can also vouch for the 12-45/4 combined with IBIS, you can get great interior shots with low ISO at f4, a very sharp lens. Honestly though, the lowly 14-42EZ does well also and is super compact and light and can be found used for cheap if you are not looking to spend a lot. Another great small option is a used Olympus 9-18. Again, I have got some very nice interior shots in Europe with that lens, small and light. The other wide possibility is the Laowa 10/2, cheap and small, shoot, combine it with the Lawoa 17/1.8 can be had new for $149 at B&H right now. If you like sunstars, both of the Laowa's have nice ones. I love my Laowa's for a small prime for when I want to go super light. I always carry my GRIII, it simply can't be beat for size and image quality.

I love the Olympus Pro lenses but reality is, I can get some great images from the non-Pro lenses which are smaller and lighter which makes for a much more pleasant day out. The 12-45/4 is an exception though, it is small and easy to carry all day. Stitching with the 12-45 can eliminate the wide need with ease.

Good luck deciding! Lots of choices!
Thanks for the advice, the 9-18mm has been on my radar for a while as well. I'm resisting the urge to completely kit out the EM5 II, trying to think of it as a one-lens backup for the GRIIIx when the 40mm focal length doesn't suit. I'll need to do some actual field testing to see whether that's workable, however. Maybe the 9-18mm makes more sense in the end as it's specifically covering the wide end below the GR. And I could always pick up a cheap tele, m4/3 is full of inexpensive ones. I'd still have to change lenses, but it would be reduced to only doing so when going from wide to telephoto is necessary.
 
Thanks for the advice, the 9-18mm has been on my radar for a while as well. I'm resisting the urge to completely kit out the EM5 II, trying to think of it as a one-lens backup for the GRIIIx when the 40mm focal length doesn't suit. I'll need to do some actual field testing to see whether that's workable, however. Maybe the 9-18mm makes more sense in the end as it's specifically covering the wide end below the GR. And I could always pick up a cheap tele, m4/3 is full of inexpensive ones. I'd still have to change lenses, but it would be reduced to only doing so when going from wide to telephoto is necessary.
The 9-18 covers a nice range, and you are right. the GRIIIx takes care of a longer lens, plus the GR files are pretty good for cropping.
 
What I’ve done previously was a 2-camera setup with a 40mm-ish compact and a super-zoom on a 2nd camera…

The goal is to get as much as possible with the 40mm - but to have the option for longer/wider if needed.

In case you can live with 28mm on the wide end, that could be something like the Olympus 14-150mm on the EM5 II
 
I picked up a used 12-45mm f4 Pro from a local shop, it was a decent price ($349 plus tax) but still a little rich for my blood for a kinda sorta slow zoom.

But it's hard to argue with the IQ so far. I notice I'm not using the wide end much yet. This may run opposite to some preferences, but I don't like 4:3 as much for wide shots, since in landscape orientation it forces you to work harder for sufficient fore/background. I could switch to 3:2 or crop later, of course, but I haven't started seeing wide again yet. I'm sure that will come, if I keep using this (or similar) lens.

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I picked up a used 12-45mm f4 Pro from a local shop, it was a decent price ($349 plus tax) but still a little rich for my blood for a kinda sorta slow zoom.

But it's hard to argue with the IQ so far. I notice I'm not using the wide end much yet. This may run opposite to some preferences, but I don't like 4:3 as much for wide shots, since in landscape orientation it forces you to work harder for sufficient fore/background. I could switch to 3:2 or crop later, of course, but I haven't started seeing wide again yet. I'm sure that will come, if I keep using this (or similar) lens.

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That is a great price for that lens, enjoy!
 
The 12-45mm F4 Pro is definitely a great lens, very well-balanced on the EM5 series cameras and very sharp. It has a very clinical rendering, so there's not a whole lot of charm to the files, but the camera body, being Olympus, does put some character back into them with its excellent colors and the overall organic feeling of the 16mp sensor in the EM5II.

I've realized that I oscillate between the fun in photography being shooting process versus coming back with a lot of photos which I like. Right now I seem to be on the latter end of the pendulum, but that's not a bad thing (especially since I won't get another chance to go to Greece for quite some time, and I'm sure I'll look at the photos I get for a long time). The 12-45mm, and zooms in general, aren't a whole lot on the fun side of process, but they can get good images. Also I am enjoying being on the long end lately as opposed to shooting standard or wide-standard.
 
2023 End-of-Year personal gear review.

The last six months have been interesting. Fun with a side of slap-in-the-face stupidity.

Overall the move back to mostly Pentax has been fun, especially regarding the K3III Monochrome. Having a companion color camera that feels and operates the same, shares accessories and lenses, has been absolutely great.

But.

Even though I was fully aware of the Pentax OVF + SR (IBIS) + no lens OIS dynamic, I somehow failed to consider that in my pro/ con calculations before making the move. Which became painfully obvious when I began using telephoto.

"Oops."

I had picked up a Nikon Zfc earlier as well. For some reason, I haven't been able to gel with that camera. Which doesn't make sense to me, as the design is close enough to some Fuji cameras I enjoyed that I should have no issues with the Nikon. I've been setting it aside for a month or two, then picking it back up to try, again and again. Still, no gel. Not sure if it's the rear LCD (fully articulated screen, which I hate) or the cheap feel of the Nikkor DX lenses. Optically, the lenses are fine, no issues with IQ although I'd prefer some faster glass.

Seeing as being able to hold the camera without dropping it has been a continuing issue, I finally broke down and ordered the SmallRig grip and will be trying that for a few months.

This spring I'll have to look at where I want to go with my photography, and make some decisions. Regardless of any other movement of gear, I'll be keeping the Monochrome and some glass. I'm really loving shooting with this camera.
 
Regardless of any other movement of gear, I'll be keeping the Monochrome and some glass. I'm really loving shooting with this camera.
Really glad to hear that. It continues to whet my desire for this camera, even if it does nothing for my budget :LOL: Just glad to hear that users don't find it to be a gimmick. Of course Leica Monochrom people don't consider that camera gimmicky, but then Leica Monochrom people are also in a different league than I am, in several ways...
 
Really glad to hear that. It continues to whet my desire for this camera, even if it does nothing for my budget :LOL: Just glad to hear that users don't find it to be a gimmick. Of course Leica Monochrom people don't consider that camera gimmicky, but then Leica Monochrom people are also in a different league than I am, in several ways...

I'm an odd duck, so I guess Monochrome cameras kinda fit me by default. :LOL: Not a gimmick, definite benefits (and drawbacks), just depends on what you desire/ can afford. IMHO.

If I only used one focal length and could afford the Leica tax, I could be perfectly happy for a very long time with a Q3 and a Q3 Monochrom when (if?) they release one.
 
Over the past year I have realised that my favourite genre is architectural fine art. I have been pushing ever wider in focal lengths on Fuji but I hit the buffers. Really, I need to be able to use shift lenses, and there just aren’t any good options for that with the Fuji.
So, I have picked up a Sony A7 and a Sigma MC-11 Canon->Sony adapter, which I will use with a Canon 24 Tilt Shift lens someone will loan me.

After researching, I am also getting a Sony 20mm f/1.8 G as it is apparently very sharp and has an aperture ring - this will be my walk around lens. For longer landscape I picked up the cheap Samyang 75/1.8 AF as it should be sharp enough for what I need. And for UWA I have ordered a Nikon fit Laowa 12/2.8 manual lens (Nikon fit because they had a bargain used one in Nikon). I chose that Laowa because for 200-300 quid I can get the magic Shift Adapter which will convert it to a 17mm f/4 shift lens.
 
I'm back from an excellent week in Greece, where photography was only a side objective, not the main one - but I still took probably 4000+ photos. I found that my mindset changed, and maybe this is normal for world travelers (but it was the first time I've been in Europe), but I felt I needed to take plenty of photos just to augment my memory. Since there was so much to take in each day and a lot of attention was devoted to figuring things out, I didn't feel like I had a lot of time to soak it in some of the time. I will definitely relive moments through the photos.

I took the previously determined kit: the EM5 mark II with 12-45mm f4, and the GRIIIx. Most of the time I had the Olympus on a shoulder strap and the GR in a pocket. It worked really well, though I was surprised how few photographers I saw, and the camera on a strap probably pegged me as a tourist (not that that's a bad thing, but it's not the way my wife and I like to experience new places). We arrived on a Sunday and left the following Sunday, and I saw a lot more tourists on Friday night and Saturday than during the week. there were a lot more cameras out on Saturday.

The Olympus did a really great job. Looking at the photos afterward I am pretty pleased with them overall. DXO does a nice job with most of the editing, including a light application of DeepPRIME NR on most of the files, since M4/3 often has some slight perceptible noise at ISO 200, and part of the time I was shooting at 400 and 800... mostly 200 though, since I knew I could rely on the Oly IBIS. There are of course the limitations inherent with 16mp files from the M4/3 sensors, but this iteration in the EM5II is one of the best implementations overall and I'm still really happy with the image quality.

The GRIIIx was a good fit a lot of the time, not so much for the big monuments like the Parthenon or the Stoa at the Ancient Agora, but for the small streets in Athens and scenery when we went outside the city. I found I gravitated right back to positive film, which fit the bright colors and sun a lot better than the more gloomy Seattle clime, where I've been using B&W on the GR a lot more.

There were moments where I missed having the Pentax K-1 II, but overall I'm glad I didn't take it, especially since our carryon bags had to go as checked luggage on a couple of the connecting flights due to more limited cabin space. I could have lugged it in my backpack, and actually do think I could have packed even lighter than I did overall. But I think I took the right kit. The performance of the Olympus and the 12-45mm f4 even had me briefly looking over the OM-5 again, as a possible upgrade path eventually. It's a nice camera, though I still have a few quibbles with the design, such as the recessed location of the rear dial, which feels harder to get to with my thumb than the one on the EM5II. The grip on the OM-5 is slightly better for holding the camera than the EM5II. It is a good thing there is at least one great smaller stills-oriented M4/3 camera that's fully modern.
 
My newish E-P7 + 14-42 EZ are scheduled to arrive tomorrow. Looking forward to putting them to use. I want to keep my MFT kit as light and unobtrusive as possible this go-around. I've never had a digital Pen series camera other than the Pen F, so this will be a learning experience. I've had both the O 25/1.8 and 45/1.8 in the past, but I'm thinking hard about the Lumix 35-100 f4-5.6. Not much mention of it on this forum, but samples on flickr look good, and I've watched several YT videos where the presenter sang the praises of the little 35-100.
 
My newish E-P7 + 14-42 EZ are scheduled to arrive tomorrow. Looking forward to putting them to use. I want to keep my MFT kit as light and unobtrusive as possible this go-around. I've never had a digital Pen series camera other than the Pen F, so this will be a learning experience. I've had both the O 25/1.8 and 45/1.8 in the past, but I'm thinking hard about the Lumix 35-100 f4-5.6. Not much mention of it on this forum, but samples on flickr look good, and I've watched several YT videos where the presenter sang the praises of the little 35-100.
Mike3996 has beautiful examples of photos with the 35-100 f4-5.6. I’m impressed with the way it renders.
 
Mike3996 has beautiful examples of photos with the 35-100 f4-5.6. I’m impressed with the way it renders.
You're right; I had forgotten about his Dear Giary! thread, which I had stopped following because I had sold all my MFT gear. Thanks for the reminder. Searching the site again using the proper search terms yielded some good info on the 35-100.
 
Last week I bought a brand new X-T5 to replace my X-T3. Probably just because I could afford it, and there was a rather good sale.

The obvious new features are IBIS, 40 MP, better autofocus. As it turns out, and somewhat to my surprise, I have not found IBIS particularly useful so far. My subjects (kids) are always moving fast enough that stability was never a problem. The 40 MP do not seem to make a difference to my kinds of pictures, either. Nor did I find the new camera to be appreciably lighter or smaller. The deeper grip is nice, I suppose, although I wasn't unhappy with the old one either. The bigger battery is wasted on my as well, as I habitually turn off my camera, and could go through entire vacations on a single old battery.

You might surmise that I therefore regret my purchase, being that I dismissed most of the new features. However, there were two things I found surprisingly useful: the new autofocus subject tracking was a bit of a revelation, to be honest. I always figured that I don't lose all that many shots to missed focus, so what's the big deal? But I was wrong. Tracking AF is all about the confidence that the camera can hold on to my subject without my help. No longer do I need to position the focus box manually for every shot. No longer to I focus on noses instead of eyes. It's actually really nice! And I really like Nostalgic Neg.

I'm still dragging my heels a bit with selling the X-T3. Mostly because there are still fun camera comparison shenanigans to be had. But the X-T5 is a really solid upgrade, and I'm glad I bought it.

The only problem being: now that I own Fuji's best, what next thing will I lust after? If history is my judge, this may actually cure a bit of my GAS for a while. I sure hope so.
 
Mike3996 has beautiful examples of photos with the 35-100 f4-5.6. I’m impressed with the way it renders.

You're right; I had forgotten about his Dear Giary! thread, which I had stopped following because I had sold all my MFT gear. Thanks for the reminder. Searching the site again using the proper search terms yielded some good info on the 35-100.
This lens is a peach! On bad days it may look a bit its role as a cheap kit lens (when shooting wide open). And I keep thinking, it may not have the pixel sharpness of a big Sony GM lens but my goodness does it just weigh nothing! On good days, it's an equal tool next to my Leica M lenses.
 
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