How much gear can you squeeze into an ONA Bowery bag for a trip to Japan?
By Pierre Aden
When it comes to camera gear I am constantly searching for the perfect combination of compactness, quality and convenience – like many of you do for sure. For my latest trip to Japan in May 2014 I neither wanted to bother myself nor my girlfriend with big bags of equipment and heavy tripods,
including lengthy sessions of swapping lenses. Vacation should be fun after all.
After I came back I thought my experiences using my current setup could be interesting for other people facing the same challenge, so I asked Steve to publish my report and thanks to him I can share my results with you now.
Many people avoid the problems mentioned above for good reasons, they use one camera and a superzoom lens and that’s it – and this is perfectly fine! Unfortunately I’m a big fan of extreme short focal lengths so given this fact I am forced to bring at least two additional lenses – an ultra-wide
lens and a fisheye. Furthermore I don’t like tripods (well, at least I don’t like carrying them and spending too much time with long exposures – again, my girlfriend doesn’t like this either, he he). I have a small tripod that fits in my jacket but I don’t use it on a daily basis, during my 14 days of
vacation I only used it on two evenings. This means that I need a camera with a good stabilizer for handheld shots and prime lenses with a large aperture. Finally I like a variety of focal lengths on my pictures, so a couple of primes need to be in the bag.
You see, it’s getting complicated and the superzoom lens is disqualified based on my personal requirements. So let me show you my approach of having a small bag, minimizing lens swapping and having all the focal lengths that I like with me all the time.
– ONA Bowery bag
– Sony Alpha 6000 E-Mount
– Sony SEL1018 UWA zoom
– Olympus OMD-EM-1
– Olympus PEN E-PL5
– Rokinon 7.5mm F3.5 Fisheye
– Olympus M.Zuiko 17mm F1.8
– Olympus M.Zuiko 45mm F1.8
– Olympus M.Zuiko 75mm F1.8
– Remote Control for the Sony A6000
– 3 extra batteries
– USB stick for backup
– lens pen
– hand wrist strap
– extra memory cards
– cleaning tissue
.. and this is what it looks like on me…
Pretty small, isn’t it? It’s neither heavy nor big and I was able to carry it all day without getting problems with my shoulder / back. The daily “start setup” was usually the A6000 with the SEL1018, The OM-D EM-1 with the 75mm F1.8 and the Olympus PEN E-PL5 with the 17mm F1.8 attached. In addition the Rokinon Fisheye and the 45mm F1.8 lens for MFT were in the bag and if required I attached these lenses to the PEN and stored the detached lens in the bag. While walking down the streets / parks / temples etc. I just grabbed the combination I “needed” for the individual moment and took the picture. Often I used more than one camera to have some different views of the scene I was shooting. So lens swapping was very rare because in many situations one or more of the combinations I was carrying were already fine.
The longest focal length is 75mm which means 150mm in terms of 35mm equivalent. Personally I don’t need more than that and use the 2x digital teleconverter on the EM-1 if required, sacrificing some quality. Since I don’t need it in 99% of the cases I can live with that and don’t carry an
I have a lens hood attached to the SEL1018 and sometimes I had two cheap JJC lens hoods for the 17mm / 45mm lenses with me when the sun was very bright but I didn’t use one for the 75mm. In my experience it’s not mandatory and it makes the lens much bigger, no room for that in my bag ;).
Let’s see some results – I will start with shortest focal length (Rokinon Fisheye 7.5mm) )and will end with the longest one (M.Zuiko 75mm). I’m using the Fisheye mostly for fun and because it brings some unique perspectives that I’m not able to see with my pure eyes. Only by looking through the viewfinder / on the screen I can see the world through the fisheye. Even though I don’t make many pictures with it I would definitely miss it in my bag. The Rokinon for MFT is also special because of the minimum focus distance of 9cm – this makes it nearly a wide-angle macro lens. Furthermore the short focal lengths makes low light handheld shots possible in many cases, especially using the EM-1 with the 5-axis stabilizer.
The next lens which is slightly longer is the SEL1018 on the Sony A6000 - this is also my tripod combination in many cases. I like the APS-C sensor a little more than MFT for long exposures because it gives me some better results and I can go down to ISO 100. Since the SEL1018 is stabilized the lack of a stabilizer in the Sony A6000 is no issue. This combination is my main architecture / landscape lens and I like to use it a lot for some dramatic views. It’s also a good option for handheld in-camera HDR JPGs. For my trip I shot in JPG about 95% of the time, simply because I wanted to share pictures with my friends and family on a daily basis without spending
time on processing and because of the huge amount of data. Most of the time I didn’t really miss the lack of post-production possibilities but for long exposures I usually switch to RAW and process the pictures later at home using Lightroom and Photoshop.
The 17mm lens for MFT is great for indoor shots due to the large aperture of 1.8. Nevertheless, in Japan it was the lens I used the least because the focal length is not one of my personal favorites and because on the PEN E-PL5 it was hard for me to guess if the resulting pictures were sharp due
to the not really great screen, at least compared to my other cameras. This is the reason why I switched to the PEN E-P5 after my vacation. It still fits in my bag perfectly and has a much better screen / stabilizer while being more expensive though. I used the 17mm primarily for some indoor pictures of “the small things” but also for some low light handheld shots .
The M.Zuiko 45mm lens is a classic – cheap and sharp, great bang for the buck. Some might consider it too long for street photography but for me it was just fine. Using the very fast autofocus of the MFT cameras made it fun using this lens on the street. I thought it couldn’t get any better but the 75mm I bought during my vacation in Japan is even more impressive. This lens is of course much more expensive but I was able to get it rather cheap in Japan so I couldn’t resist. But let’s start with some pictures using the
Last but not least, the M.Zuiko 75mm lens. Razor sharp with an awesome bokeh, a real pleasure to use on the Olympus EM-1. Using the great 5-axis stabilizer it’s no problem using this lens even in low light without a tripod, really impressive. It instantly became my favorite lens and I used it on the street as well as for landscape pictures.
So in a nutshell that’s my experience using my gear during the last vacation. Is it perfect? No, I already identified some room for optimization (like replacing the PEN E-PL5 with the PEN E-P5) but for me it was real close to a perfect compromise. On the other hand, our hobby wouldn’t be fun if we were not able to find improvements and get new gear on a regular basis, right ;)?
If you have comments, suggestions or simply would like to get in touch with me I will be more than happy if you contact me via the following channels:
Pictures (including the remaining ones from my trip to Japan)
Thanks for your time!