Gear Talk 2011

Micro 4/3rds Kit

Key: R20110905-165931

Pany 14mm f2.5 (28mm eqv), Pany GH1 w/20mm f1.7 (40mm eqv), Leica(Pany) 45 mm f2.8 macro Elmarit, Crumpler Quarfie.

…chickens sold separately.

Usually I’m not too keen on Gear Talk, although I’m certainly guilty of it from time to time. I’d prefer to talk about inspiration and the process and results of living a photographic life. And yet, gear is sometimes a part of that.

I thought I would make a post about what camera gear I am carrying and using these days, in as much for my own historical interest in the future as for my blog-reading friends out there in the here and now.

My camera of choice these days about 98% of the time is the Panasonic GH1. I find the 12 megapixel sensor is easily big enough for almost anything I want to print and I can print up to 20 inches (about 50.8 cm) a side no problem. The frames for these prints dwarf the expense of printing them, and I don’t have lots of room for these size prints in my home, so I don’t really feel the need for more megapixels. I do appreciate increases in sensor sensitivity and dynamic range, so that would be my main reason to upgrade to a newer u4/3 system from Panasonic or Olympus in the future. But for now I remain quite happy with the GH1.

I have a selection of u4/3 lenses to go with this system, but these days I am almost exclusively shooting with prime lenses. I carry 3 with me usually: the 14mm Pana f2.5, the 20mm Pana f1.7 and the 45mm Leica-branded f2.8 macro. The wonderful thing about u4/3 lenses is that I can carry all three of these lenses, with the GH1 and a spare battery and the whole kit is extremely small and light. On my last trip to NYC I bought a Crumpler bag at their store in Manhattan: the Quarfie. It’s a tad pricey, but I absolutely love this bag–it is the perfect size to carry the 3 primes plus camera and accessories unobtrusively. It drapes smoothly over the shoulder, sits comfortably just below the hip and I can wear it all day without hardly noticing that I have it on. It doesn’t even look like a camera bag, and that’s a big plus, but it does look good!

Of the three primes, the 20mm f1.7 (40mm equiv) is on the camera about 95% of the time. I just love this focal length. It is so versatile and I feel I can shoot just about anything with it. I have another case that holds just the camera with the 20mm attached which I sometimes carry if I want to go extra light. The 14 mm (28 equiv) gets thrown on from time to time for a wider view. I bought the 45 mm (90mm equiv) for portraits and macros, although I haven’t become too comfortable yet with this focal length. I want to use it more in the future and am slowing learning how it “sees”. I still use the 20mm for most candid portraits.

Crumpler Quarfie
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Crumpler Quarfie
Key: R20110905-162327-crop

Shooting with primes has been a nice learning experience for me. I’ve been doing photography for nearly 30 years and in all that time I usually used zoom lenses. When I was using zooms I never thought about the focal length much, just zoomed to crop. Now I am acutely aware of how the focal length affects the view and I am able to previsualize the photograph in front of me much better. The fact that most of them are smaller and faster means that camera is more discrete and at the same time able to shoot in available light. I rarely feel at a disadvantage having the fixed focal length attached–quite the opposite, actually.

The other 2% of the time that I want to take a photograph I find that I didn’t bring my camera bag along. This is becoming rarer, because I enjoy the bag so much that I seldom leave the house without it, but when I do, and find myself wanting to take a photograph, I reach for my Nokia N8 camera phone. Its 28mm (equiv) f2.8 zeiss lens with a 12mp sensor takes a decent photograph when a bigger camera is not available, and I am often pleasantly surprised at the results. This camera phone was proof enough to me that the bottom segment of the digicam market is/will be rapidly eroded by the camera phone. I expect a rather huge collapse/consolidation of the pocket digicam market in the next few years.

2 thoughts on “Gear Talk 2011

  1. Eric, a few months ago I purchased a used Olympus E-P2 4/3’s camera with a Pany Lumix 14-45mm Zoom Lens and a VF-2 EVF. Just for the size/weight convenience factor I’m finding I’m carrying this camera more now then my Nikon D700 — although the D700 has far better image quality in most situations — especially low light. This Lumix zoom lens while good is rather slow (f3.5-5.6) so I purchased a quick prime lens, the Pany 20mm f1.7. Like you, I really like this lens. It with the E-P2 makes for a good all-day carry about camera.

    I agree phone cameras are pushing the lower boundaries of the point-and-shoot market and they’ve already established a following on-line. We live in interesting times my friend…and I’m not certain if that’s a blessing or a curse. It must be a real headache for future product planners at the major camera manufacturers.

    Hey, I like the looks of the bag.

  2. Hi Earl,
    It’s going to be hard to beat the low light abilities of the D700! On the other hand it’s a lot more to carry around. For me, I’ve got to get the whole kit down to something pretty light and manageable, so that there is no question of whether I’ll grab the bag going out the door. I’d been looking for quite a while for the right bag, and went through a few before discovering the Quarfie. I’d been thinking the messenger bag style might be my best choice, and thus the trip to Crumpler.

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