I shoot a Micro 4/3 or Pen system. I got into them because the offered the right mix of settings, size, and adapters to easily use my dust collecting archive of vintage glass from the 70’s. It’s digital built to shoot and feel like film. The feel in your hands, the sturdy metal build, the sound the shutter makes – it all feels like the experiences I recall shooting film. Everything is compact, because the format is mirrorless, lenses can be shorter to achieve the same reach – so a 25mm lens is equivalent to a 50mm on a traditional 35mm format. I shoot a big ole Nikon at work – there’s no way I would want to haul that sucker around with me. The Micro 4/3 system is just the right size to carry enough options with me to feel fully prepared without a roller bag:)
UPDATE – times change and you need to update your kit so here are my newer items
Olympus E-M1 ii – I loved the EM-5 and moved on to the EM-1 and loved all the new features. The super fast AF took my wildlife to the next level. Last year I updated to the Mark ii and it is a masterpiece!
Olympus Pen F – I’ll admit I was taken in by the look of this camera but I love using it with primes and fisheye’s. It’s perfect in my hand and it packs all the features I love from the E-M1 Mark ii
300mm f/4 PRO – this is my largest lens but when I am out at sunrise shooting the elk during the rut nothing does a better job. It may look large here but it is a fraction of the size and weight of a Canon or Nikon with similar range and speed.
40-150mm f2.8 PRO – this is my action stopper. It is fast and sharp and long enough to follow the action of a basketball game or a dog playing fetch.
12/40mm f2.8 PRO – my daily driver. I shoot almost all of my shelter dog picks with this fast baby. It’s bright enough for indoors and sharp enough produce amazing results.
8mm Fisheye PRO – this is my favorite lens to experiment with – it is super wide and the distortion is a lot of fun. It lets me play with the space I am in.
17mm 1.8 – I got this to shoot landscapes and it is wonderful for that, but it is a fantastic street lens. Close portraiture is fun with this baby.
25mm 1.8 – this is my most versatile prime. Lovely bokeh, super fast with stunning DOF
45mm 1.8 – for a bit more reach this is the classic portrait length. Shoot this indoors without a flash or outdoors in any light.
75mm1.8 – this lens is something amazing. I have shot catalog models with it. It is superb for longer indoor shots and it is a nice longer length for a portrait with impressive creamy bokeh.
1. Olympus E-M5 – Can you say “Ommmmmmmmm”? – yes I did place my pre-order on the day it was announced back in February. Lightning-fast AF, zillions of presets, retro styled, weather sealed – Simply the best camera ounce for ounce on the market.
2. Olympus E-P2 – the original digital Pen with some important upgrades. This camera made me fall in love with photography all over again. Small enough that the pros think I’m not serious – but what do they know? Nada!
Like I mentioned above – an advantage of the Micro 4/3 system is the ease of adapting vintage glass. I have a growing collection of original OM lenses in addition to some modern and creative lenses.
These are my modern Micro 4/3 lenses – I want to be able to cover all the bases and take advantage of the fast AF.
1. Olympus 12-50mm / 1:3.5 – 6.3 – Weather sealed kit lens for the EM-5. It has a macro setting and an extra programmable button ( I love me some programmable buttons – I have them set to do everything but the laundry)
2. Panasonic 100-300mm / 1:4.0-5.6 – This is my “bird lens” – I bought it before I got the EM-5 and loved it then. With the faster AF this is my go-to wildlife lens. It’s also great for shooting some distant close-ups like autumn leaves and tree blossom. It gives a pretty nice subject isolation as long as you have enough light.
3. Panasonic Leica 25mm Simmilux / 1:1.4 – This is my equivalent of the “fast 50” and I use this for portraits and for things like parades or late evening landscapes. I was skeptical about the validity of the “Leica” name on a Panny lens. It’s the real deal. This glass takes me back to film – it’s my most versatile and sharp lens. There is nothing like shooting a prime when you have the right conditions.
4. Panasonic Leica 45mm Macro Elmarit / 1:2.8 – This is my first modern macro and my second Leica. It was a 50th birthday gift from my friends and co-workers. It takes a fair portrait, but it is exceptional shooting flowers, bugs, patterns, etc. I love macro shooting and love this lens in the springtime.
5. Olympus 9-18 1:4-5.6 – Clear and wide. This lens is the one I use to bend straight lines. It goes from an extreme wide of 9mm to a subtle squishing of 18mm letting you distort or slim slightly. Super sharp and it fits everything in.
6. Olympus 14-42 1:3.5-5.6 – Kit lens. This is the original kit lens for the E-P2. Actually it’s one model newer – I purchased it used to connect to a fisheye conversion lens…
7. Olympus Fisheye Conversion Lens – This is purely for fun – lock it on to the older kit lens and you can bend a column into a sweeping arc. I used this to shoot the Golden Gate Bridge. Landscapes are not my strong suit, but this lens is something I like to attack them with.
8. Lensbaby Control Freak – This is my “Tilt-shift” lens. You focus by hand and pivot the lens away from the parallel plane of view and create a slice of focus. I use this mostly with my E-P2. It’s something that lets you create the feeling of a diorama or miniature. I find this experimental type of shooting very fulfilling even if I have fewer keepers. I have a wide array of inserts that fit into the lens body allowing me to shoot macro, wide-angle, or standard focal lengths. The aperture is changed by inserting a magnetic ring into the center to change the opening. You can even change the shape of the aperture. Creativity unleashed.
These are the Vintage lenses that I actually use – I have others but I’m just getting to know them.
9. Olympus OM Zuiko Auto 50mm 1:1.8 – this is the kit lens that came with the original OM cameras back in the day. Fast, sharp – a sweet prime with tons of bokeh.
10. OM Zuiko Auto-Macro 50mm 1:3.5 – this is my favorite old school prime lens. It’s a macro and it’s the lens that pushed me into full manual mode. With live view you can see exactly what the aperture and speed changes get you and you can fine tune the image. This lens also reverses to get you just a little more magnification. Pollen, dragonfly wings, leaf veins, sugar granules – this is the lens to make them look amazing. I can lose a whole day shooting with this baby.
11. OM 24mm 1:2.8 0 – a little fast and a little wide. I like this for street photography, but I don’t use it as much as I should because I am spoiled by modern auto-focus. Manual focusing is a lost art when you are talking moving objects. When I do take this one out I know I am honing my skilz.
There’s no end to the accessories you can buy or believe that you need – here are the ones I think I can’t live without.
1. Get a Grip – I never thought I would mess up the sweet lines of my camera with a clunky grip until I was persuaded by a sales person to try it. I haven’t taken it off since. It makes my body easier to balance and adds even more programmable buttons – yeah!
2. Kit Flash – I like to shoot without a flash as much as possible – this is nice for a little fill, it’s even nicer to use as a trigger for…
3. RC activated Flash – this is a sweet flash set up for macro shooting. I can place this flash on a stand on the opposite side of a flower and trip it with the kit flash. I’m using these two to get a better feel for flashing when necessary.
4. OM Macro Bellows – this baby makes me feel like a mad scientist. I added some extension tubes to my OM macro lens and that made me able to get some real magnification – the bellows takes things to an entirely different level – I can actually focus on a gnat’s eyelashes with this baby.
5. Domke Waxed Canvas F-803 – I LOVE this bag. I carry it to and from work everyday. It holds 1 body, 4 lenses, filters, batteries, hoods, shutter releases, cables, and my iPad. The addition of the Grip has made this bag about 2 inches too narrow though and I think I’m going to have to move up to the next size – it’s not available in this sweet waxed canvas though. It looks better the more you use it. Deeee-lux.
There are other bits and pieces – but these are the ones I can count on. I have the Oly E-M5, Oly 12-50mm, Panny 100-300mm, Leica 25mm, and Leica 45 Macro in my bag on my person every day. I take the Lensbaby out to play – sometimes for a whole day. I’m looking for a macro stand to use with the bellows – that would be let me shoot down like a microscope and would take my macro photography to the next level. There’s always something else you “need” but what I have now is a kit I feel good about in almost every situation.
What do you carry with you?