Dec 182014
 

Last Minute Photo Christmas Gift Ideas!

With only a week until Christmas day, I sure hope that most of you have completed your Christmas shopping! Me, I just started yesterday and finished today. Love shopping online as it is so easy these days  – avoiding the crowds, the parking lots, the stores…though I do find that to have some charm during this time of year. But this year I have been too busy to get to the mall and shop, so all of my shopping was done online at B&H Photo and Amazon.

If anyone out there is still looking for a nice camera gift for their Husband, Wife, Child or someone special, take a look at my list below of cool photo related items that would make for a fantastic Christmas gift this year! With the same day fast shipping from these online shops, getting the gift in time is not a problem.

How about a list of some cool small photo gifts that will put a smile on anyones face?

Tactile Feel? Check out these little buttons…

00_Final_8x11_300ppi_2495

I have a couple sets of these, one on my A7s and I love them. They provide a 100% tactile feel to the buttons and improve the feel and use. For $25 you can’t go wrong if you have been looking for something such as this!

Check out the website HERE.

-

Want an awesome NON SCREW IN soft release for your Mirrorless? Artisan Obscura is the place to go!

Screen Shot 2014-12-18 at 12.03.47 PM

I have three of these and they STAY PUT. While I lost every screw in shutter soft release I have ever owned, these are the real deal and you will NOT lose them. Superb!

You can check them out HERE.

-

How about a strap or two?

There are a couple that I like on Amazon and some are dirt cheap while being very well made and looking superb..

1. Vintage flower strap – wide – under $26

2. Street Strap LONG – I have three of these! 

strapbybarton

3. Braided Leather Barton strap! One of my all time faves!

4. The most amazing strap ever made for the serious photographer or working pro. The MONEYMAKER.

5. Also check out classicases.com as they have some cool new leather straps that I have on hand and LOVE

-

How about small pocket cameras that are easy to use but give amazing image Quality?

B&H Photo has the Hasselblad Stellar’s in stock at 70% off

with the black carbon, white/white and orange in stock at $999. I own the Orange one and LOVE it. Been using it every day or two since getting it and it has gotten the most comments of any camera I have carried around with me to date. Plus, it’s a fantastic camera (Sony RX100) and made in Japan vs China of the Sony version. The style, looks, build, packaging and experience is top notch. Well worth the $1k for me as I have been enjoying it more than some $3k cameras I have had in the past.

stellar-special-edition-680x476

The Stellar is HERE at B&H Photo at 70% Blowout Pricing

-

or if you want to save some cash, the Sony RX100 V1 is a tremendous value!

DSC-RX100_Front_jpg

You can buy the RX100 HERE at Amazon for just under $500

The resale of the Hasselblad Stellar will be much better than the Sony but they are basically the same camera (one made in Japan (stellar) and one in China (Sony) and have different cosmetics ad materials used in build. Still, IQ will be the same. RX100 Review is HERE.

0r….

The Ricoh GR – A serious large sensor pocket camera for photographers

ricohGR

The Ricoh GR is on blowout right now as well. This is a pro level IQ machine that fits in a pocket. Not as slick as the Sony but this is one that steps it up a notch with image quality due to the large sensor. With a fixed 28mm lens though, make sure the person who will be using it is OK with wide angle! My GR review is HERE!

Buy the Ricoh GR HERE at B&H while it is on special!

-

Let’s take it up a notch..more performance but a bit larger..

Compact High Performance Cameras (Not quite pocketable)

The new Leica D-Lux (or Panasonic LX100)

dlux

The new Leica D-Lux is actually a Panasonic LX100 in disguise. Much like the Hasselblad stellar situation, Leica places their outer shell on to the LX100 innards and call it their own. Same camera, same lens, same IQ as the cheaper LX100. With the Leica you get the Leica styling, packaging, red dot, better warranty and better software, so paying the extra $300 or so is worth it to many. Resale is also better with the Leica Panasonic versions and this  has been proven in the past.

The LX100 is under $900 HERE

The Leica D-Lux is $1200 HERE

-

The Fuji X100T

The latest and (some will say) greatest X100 is the X100T. I have had one for 2-3 weeks and have been happy with it but to me it is pretty much like the previous S version with a new EVF feature that I actually do not like. In any case, it still uses the X Trans sensor which many love and it is a retro styled camera capable of beautiful images. If you have that retro vibe and want a camera to inspire, take a look at the X100T, prob my fave Fuji in production. Still small, and with a great 35m f/2 lens built right in. You can see my X100s review HERE.

x100t_front_16p

You can buy the X100T at Amazon, B&H Photo or PopFlash.com

-

The Sony A6000

Probably the most bang for the buck APS-C large sensor mirrorless camera on the market today. The Sony A6000 is small, sleek, blazing fast (faster than most DSLRs) and can mount any Sony E mount lens or one of any THOUSANDS of lenses from almost any manufacturer using adapters. Great AF, great response, super video and an all around great camera for under $600 with lens. My review is HERE.

P1030668

You can buy the Sony A6000 at Amazon or B&H Photo

-

..and finally, some more serious cameras for the real enthusiast…

The Sony A7s

fronta7s

I LOVE this camera for quite a few reasons. You can read my review HERE if you like but the fact is that this guy is about as versatile as you can get.

1. Will shoot in ANY light. From light to dark. Will also AF in the dark with amazing accuracy. 

2. Best low light HIGH ISO camera made today in full frame 35mm.

3. Shoots fantastic video

4. File sizes stay small due to 12MP sensor. 

5. Can mount native E mount lenses or one of thousands of third-party lenses. M mount, S mount, Contax, Nikon, Canon, etc. 

6. Has a silent mode where you can not even tell it is being used or an image being taken, 100% silent.

7. Small and compact for a full frame camera. 

8 Again, did I say it can be used in ANY light?

This was my #1 camera and now is #2 ever since the next camera on the list showed up..

Buy the Sony A7s at Amazon or B&H Photo!

-

The Sony A7 Mark II

a7iiv

Now with 5 Axis image stabilization, tweaked and improved image quality, faster hybrid AF and fantastic pro level build and feel, the Sony A7II is a redesign and enhancement of one of 2014’s most popular cameras. I am finding the IQ to be better, the speed to be better, the IS to be amazing and the feel and build to be superb. It’s a beefy feeling camera. Solid.

The A7II is a versatile monster camera with stellar video and image performance. Again, mount some cool vintage RF glass for a unique experience and classic image quality results.

You can order the A7II at B&H Photo or Amazon

There are so many photo related items that would make superb gifts. NO way I can list them all but feel free to browse the online shops of Amazon, B&H Photo, PopFlash, Leica Store Miami, and the Pro Shop! All highly recommended dealers!

Apr 172014
 

Bags, Bags and a Strap! New from ONA Bags

ONA bags, the company that brings us the very cool ONA Bowery and brought Leica users the Limited Edition “Berlin” that sold out within a day now brings us a few new bags to choose from in our constant quest for the perfect travel and protection companion. These were announced this week and while I have not seen them up close and in person, I have received the press release so take a look at the new offerings from ONA and to read all about them click on over to ONABAGS.COM to see pricing, colors, and all of the other good stuff they have available. ONA is a top quality manufacturer of camera bags and they make some of my all time favorites. Below are a couple of new bags, even one that may fancy the ladies ;)

The Astoria:

Astoria Sell Sheet

The Astoria camera and laptop messenger bag is designed to accommodate a 13″ laptop, 1-2 full-frame DSLR cameras, 3-5 lenses and small personal items. Handcrafted with water-resistant waxed canvas and detailed with full-grain leather, the Astoria features four exterior pockets and a front zippered compartment for memory cards, batteries and everyday essentials. A discreet luggage sleeve on the back of the Astoria can be opened to slip through the handle of a rolling suitcase or closed to act as a slim pocket for a magazine or tablet. The completely customizable interior is padded with closed-cell foam.

 

Click HERE To see more at ONABAGS

Astoria_DarkTan_Side Astoria_DarkTan_Lifestyle6 Astoria_Interior

The Capri Tote

Astoria Sell Sheet

The Capri is a chic, understated camera tote bag designed to protect a camera,
up to three lenses and small personal items. Handcrafted with dark tan waxed canvas and
trimmed with luxe leather, the Capri has a personal items compartment that can fit an iPad or 11-inch MacBook Air, two interior pockets for personal items, and a zipped back pocket. The soft leather handles allow you to wear the bag comfortably over your shoulder and a zip closure keeps items safe and secure.

 

See more at ONABAGS

Capri_Dark Tan_Back

ONA_138

Capri Tote_2

The Leather Presidio Strap

Presidio Sell Sheet_Media PD

The Presidio camera strap is handcrafted with an Italian-tanned leather neckline that is
padded with soft neoprene. Two sets of chrome buckles allow for adjusting the length, while custom rivets provide an extra style point. The Presidio camera strap is most comfortably worn crossbody and is designed for use with camera kits weighing up to 6 pounds.

Drop Length: Adjustable from 19.5” to 23.5”
Total Length: 63”

 

See more at ONABAGS!

Leather_Presidio_AntiqueCognac

Leather_Presidio_Dark Truffle

ONA_LR_208

ONA_LR_125

Feb 282013
 

Artisan_and_Artist

The Artisan & Artist Easy Slider Strap (Video)

Hello to everyone! Happy Thursday! It’s now day 11 of my Flu but I am 75% back to being “me” – no more fever, no more chills and no more just lying around. If any of you have NOT yet had the flu and did NOT go get a Flu shot, I HIGHLY recommend getting that shot! This flu will kick your behind BAD! In my entire life I have never been as sick as I have been for the past 11 days and it just lingers around..reminding you it is there when you think you are all better. It really sucks.

Yesterday I decided to get up and make a video for this really cool strap that came in a few days ago because it is a really functional strap and it works as advertised. You can see the basic idea of it in the video below and how easy it adjusts just by “sliding” it up or down.

I have always loved Artisan and Artisan products. I have two of their bags that I use quote often and what I love about them is they are just black on the outside and have simple storage on the inside. They also look cool with the red soft interiors. :) As for straps, A&A have some very popular straps including the very pricey silk strap cords that some shooters LOVE. They make quality accessories that are also fashionable so if that is your thing then you can’t go wrong with one of these slider straps.

The Easy Slider strap is well made, looks nice, feels comfortable on (I am using it with a Sony RX1) and is a cinch to slide up or down/adjust for your own body. This strap would be great for just about any mirrorless, any Leica or even any DSLR. They come in red or black and are $119, sold at PopFlash.com. You can see all of the details in the video above including a demo of how the easy slider function works.

PopFlash has stock NOW and they have the RED one HERE and the black one is HERE.

images

From the manufacturer:

This is a completely new type of camera strap that you can adjust and fix to the exact length you want with one finger. It is named “Easy Slider” (registered as a utility model). Put your finger through the D shaped hook, and simply pull up to shorten the strap and pull down to extend the strap. It is a superior camera strap that if you release your finger from the hook, the strap will stay fixed at the adjusted length. The ring type is newly introduced this time in addition to the tape type which is already very popular since its introduction.

Material: Leather, Nylon

Dimensions (L×WxT): 820~1,390mm(L) × 24mm(W) x 1.2mm(T) (inches = LxWxT = 32.3~54.72 x 0.95 x 0.05)

Made in Japan

Feb 232013
 

Weekend Tidbits. Canon EOS-M, RX1 lens rated and new Leather straps…

Hello to all and happy Saturday! I’m feeling a but better today after going through the worst flu of my life for the past 6 days straight. I have had so much bed rest during these past 6 days I am starting to go stir crazy! I am now feeling a bit better I NEED to get out of the house and see some sunshine. Since I have not done too much work over the past week I want to get caught up and post some things I will be talking about and reviewing soon.

DSC02155

Canon EOS-M – Dud? 

I have had a Canon EOS-M here for about 5 days but did not even take a serious look at it until today. I fired off some test snaps with the included 22mm f/2 pancake and was all set to write the shortest EOS-M review ever (not good). One reason why is that the AF on this guy is turtle slow and makes the Fuji X cameras appear to be speed demons. The EOS-M is also very small and overly simplified to the point where it is basically a point and shoot with an APS-C sensor. There are no real dials or enthusiast buttons and I am puzzled as to why Canon even released this.

They only have two lenses for it, the 22 and a 18-55 kit quality zoom. That is it. For $799 with the 22mm (which will almost give you a 35mm equivalent due to its APS-C sensor) and no EVF, VF or real controls, I would buy a NEX-6, NIkon V1, Olympus OM-D or even a Fuji X-E1 over the Canon EOS-M. I just do not get who it is for but have a feeling hardcore Canon fans are the ones who are buying it because it is NOT a fun camera to use due to the slow AF, lack of VF, and the fact that it feels like a small P&S. It does not really inspire me in any way. You figure Canon would have been able to release something to kick all of the others to the curb in the mirrorless world but nope. Not even close.

I will still shoot with it over the next week though and even will be trying out a Leica 50 Summilux ASPH on it to see how much fun it is with manual quality glass. To me, the 50 Lux ASPH is the best Leica lens ever. I’ve always been stuck between the 35 Lux and 50 Lux but the 50 is THE ultimate Leica lens, period. My best shots over the years have come from this lens and I plan on making this my exclusive lens with the new Leica M.  Not sure how it will do on the EOS-M though, but I will see soon enough :) I enjoyed using it on my OM-D a while back and it delivered that “lux” magic even with the smaller OM-D sensor. It is a lifetime lens and no longer has year-long waits, in fact Leica dealers should have a few in stock right now and I know for a 100% fact that Ken Hansen has a LOAD of them right now.

DSC02157

Still, I would never buy the EOS-M to shoot Leica glass on anyway as Leica glass works so well on the Sony NEX, Fuji X or Olympus OM-D (and best on the Leica M bodies) due to them having actual viewfinders. So first impression of the EOS-M without any shooting time is a big disappointment. I can tell the IQ is good but it does nothing that other APS-C sensors can not do but give you those Canon colors.

-

The Sony RX1 Ziess lens tested by DXO..and it’s a beauty!

rx1

So DXO tested the Sony RX1 Zeiss 35mm Lens and boy did they REALLY RAVE ABOUT IT. This will give you an idea on why the RX1 is priced as it is..THE LENS  is the heart of the system and tested better than the stand alone $1800 Zeiss 35 1.4…

“Its optical performance is outstanding, and particularly noteworthy for its consistent sharpness and homogenous imaging across the frame. With excellent image quality at maximum aperture becoming outstanding at f/2.8 and on, the Zeiss Sonnar T* 2/35 is likely to become a classic, against which all others are judged. Of course the lens can only be obtained with the purchase of the RX1, a camera that is not entirely without its own quirks and shortcomings. In spite of this, if you have the money to invest, then close to perfect imagery is assured.”

 “With a high overall DxOMark score of 33, the Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* is a superb performer optically. That score puts it comfortably ahead of the $1,850 manual focus Carl Zeiss Distagon T* 1.4/35 (35mm f/1.4) on a Nikon D3X, which achieved a DxOMark score of 30.””

So there ya go. This Zeiss lens is “likely to become a classic, against which all others are judged” – Same thing I thought from the get go without needing to do any measurements. The RX1 is a beast.

Hand made Leather straps – Tap and Dye

DSC02149

A few weeks ago I received some straps from a company called “Tap & Dye” who told me their straps are hand made in the good old USA (New York) and I have to say they are very nice quality straps. With so many strap manufacturers out there today it is not hard to find a great strap but sometimes it can be tricky to find one that really gives you what you are looking for when it comes to comfort, usability, security, length, etc. I have seen some Leather straps selling for $200+ but Tap & Dye straps come in under $70 which makes them a good buy for a strap that will last you a lifetime.

These straps will get soft over time and wear in to your own body but when you first get them they will have some stiffness going on.

You can order in any size from 38″ to 48″ and they also sell hand straps using the same quality leather.

straptap

Each strap is made from Full Grain,Cowhide leather. All edges will be left unfinished and distressed for a vintage antique look.

Each strap features durable, high quality antique nickel plated solid brass rivets.

To see all of the offerings from Tap & Dye you can click on over to their site HERE.

Jan 142013
 

8369207211_4b677116c2_c

Barton 1972 Leather Straps – A User Review

by Philmon Yip – His site is HERE

You can order these straps from Barton1972.com

I have never once used the original straps that came with the cameras I own. I dislike their shamelessly emblazoned brand logos that scream ‘come steal my expensive camera’ to any would-be thieves. Also, I find fault with their often clunky design and pedestrian workmanship.

Most of all, I shudder at the thought of having the same strap as every other tourist on the boardwalk. Since I am already spending so much on the camera, it makes sense for me to invest a little in a well-made strap that is both durable and stylish. If you are anything like me, read on for my hands-on review of the Barton 1972 leather-straps.

The Barton 1972 leather straps are made in Hong Kong and I was first introduced to them through Steve Huff who was using the braided strap for his M9P. I was instantly intrigued as they looked absolutely fantastic and were priced very reasonably. When I got wind that they were available in locally, I got my grubby hands on the Braided Style in a rustic russet brown, the Sensuality in smokey camel and the Braidy wrist-strap in olive green.

Materials: 8/10

I will start with the Braided Style and the Braidy wrist-strap since they are essentially the same thing but in different configurations. They are made using 100% leather and are surprisingly soft despite being slightly thicker due to the braiding. Both straps are extremely supple and feels great to the touch. These are definitely genuine leather and none of those cheap, faux-leather variants.

8370272736_a333a199e4_c

The Sensuality, which is of a more conventional styling, also uses 100% leather. The strap’s deep, orangey brown is beautiful to behold and feels very luxurious and substantial. The underside is made of a rougher textured leather helps with the grip, which I found to be very useful.

8370271896_90e178b1dd_c

Hardware-wise, all three straps use simple split-rings to attach to the camera. There is nothing to fault but nothing to write home about either.

Construction: 8/10

When I evaluate a product’s construction, I always look out for a few main things. Firstly, the quality and consistency of the stitching and seams. Next, if there are any breakable parts and the presence of stray threads or loose ends. And finally I would also look out for added considerations such as using higher quality thread such as nylon or polyester and if the stress points are identified and reinforced.

Overall, the Barton straps are well-constructed with neat and even stitching. The stress-point on the tip of the strap is reinforced with a repeated zigzag stitching pattern. There are no stray threads or loose ends and no breakable parts. The braiding on the braided straps is tight and consistent.

8370272106_1934d72cdd_c

To really improve their quality, they might consider investing in higher quality thread instead of the cotton ones that is currently in use. Cotton threads are prone to rotting in moisture and have considerably lower friction compared the nylon or polyester variants.

Usage: 9/10

It must be said that these straps are very comfortable to use. The braided straps are slightly springy and would stretch out with a heavier load. The stretching is very minimal and more prominent with a heavier camera such as a DSLR. Strangely, that slight stretching and bounciness has the added benefit of lessening the load on my shoulders. It must be noted that the braided style strap is a shoulder strap, enabling you to cross-sling it. I would love to see them making some shorter braided style neck straps.

The braided wrist-strap really comes into its own when paired with the relatively hefty M6. I usually avoid using wrist-straps as I find that they limit my maneuverability in handling the camera. They are either so short that it prevents me from gripping the camera properly or too long that it just gets in the way.

Also, I tend to feel the wrist strap cutting into my bare skin after prolonged usage, especially with thinner designs such as the Gordy’s strap. However, the Braidy wrist-strap has none of those issues as it is just the right length for my hands. Its stretchy nature coupled with the larger surface area of the strap makes for a very pleasant and comfortable user-experience.

8370272862_8b9f6c250f_c

Initially, I was afraid that the braided straps would stretch out permanently so I measured them when they were new to do a comparison. After a month of constant usage, the braided straps have surprisingly maintained their original length.

The Sensuality is similarly comfortable and easy to use. It has a neck-pad that helps to cushion the load. As it is very soft and flexible, so it hardly ever gets in the way of my shooting. Sometimes, thicker straps can be quite cumbersome as they flop around awkwardly due to its rigidity.

Thankfully, the Sensuality is very manageable and shooting with it has proven to be breeze.

8370272264_977e8a03be_c

The Sensuality employs a weaving attachment method. Again, I was fearful that it might not hold but it turns out that the heavier the load, or the harder you tug on it – the tighter those weaves become. In other words, the attachment method is completely secure in addition to looking really exotic.

8370272400_1a893d3099_c

Conclusion: 8.5/10

My verdict is that these straps are definitely worth buying.

The Barton straps are already making a very convincing argument for my money. However, there are always minor things to improve upon such as refining the stitching and seams to near perfection, using higher quality thread and perhaps using sturdier split-rings. If these adjustments could be implemented without affecting the prices, they would tremendously value-add to the straps.

As they stand, they are very capable straps that are both well-designed and well-made. It is not often that you find handsome-looking straps that are both durable and affordable. I would realistically rank them several rungs above the myriad of leather straps from Korea and China, and perhaps just one rung down from the premium offerings from A&A and Luigi. I genuinely appreciate the overcompensating quality of these high-end brands, but I find myself unwilling to shell out that much money for a 5% increase in quality.

I would far rather invest in a something that is a third of the price that offers 95% of the said quality and durability. For the price, the Barton straps just make complete sense to me.

If you are looking for a stylish leather strap to complement your camera that would not break the bank, the Barton straps are worth several looks. Their offerings are quite diverse, so I believe that you might just find something that would suit your style perfectly.

Philmon Yip

From Steve: Thanks Philmon for your report on my favorite straps! I LOVE Barton straps and own three braided straps as well as a hand strap and DSLR strap. All of them have been beautiful and functional and my thoughts are just about the same as yours. For anyone looking for a stylish but well made and comfortable strap then consider these Barton straps. Recommended.

 

Jun 052012
 

Great cheap goodies for your lenses – Soft micro lens pouch is a GREAT buy.

I had to let you guys know about these as my buddy Todd makes and sells these and I have been using them for the past month or so and LOVE them. They are called the “Micro Lens Pouch” and are made for smaller camera systems and the lenses that we pay so dearly for. The is a great way to protect your glass and offers much more protection than just throwing them in a bag. I have the 3 pack here and the small fits a Leica summarit or summicron type of lens, the medium fits my Panasonic 25 1.4 or equivalent size and the large even fit a Leica Noctilux. The lenses are super soft with great cushion and protection. The great thing is you can buy all three for $29.95 and they are sold at Amazon, and shipped by Amazon.

While Todd makes and sells these I am not writing this because I know him or because he paid me (he did not). I am writing about them because I feel they are truly a great buy. Ive been using them almost daily for a while now and they have held up well for me and even helped protect my little 50 Summarit when I dropped it out of my bag.

You can buy each size separately or the get the three pack of various sizes for $29.95

The three pack can be found Here on Amazon

You can also just buy the Small, Medium, or Large for just over $10 each. Highly recommended!

Also available in a 2-Pack, small and medium!

BTW, I might as well add a plug for the 2012 Photo Cruise since the guy who makes these pouches is also going to be joining us ! I still have a few cabins remaining and if anyone is interested I need to know before July 1st! Check out the cruise page here, but imagine a full week on the seas and photography at every stop! Of course guests are welcome and can participate in all shooting! Will be a blast and free lens pouches for all :)

and…Don’t miss the street strap!

The street strap is also a very cool strap that I have attached to my new black Fuji X100 and it is a black cloth strap that looks similar to the A&A Silk cord strap, but this is not silk and it is longer so you can wear it around you. This is also on Amazon and shipped by Amazon so no dealing with 3rd party vendors. I like this strap and I also like my Barton strap and A&A strap! Just like with bags and cameras, all personal preference. But if you have been wanting a nice black strap that is comfy and long enough to strap around your body when carrying your camera this one is great. You can check it out on Amazon HERE.

Feb 152012
 

My Favorite Camera Strap!

The Leather Braided Barton Strap 

For the past several months I have been shooting my M9P with a strap that I have fallen in love with for several reasons. You may have seen it in pictures with my M9P, in fact, I know some of you have because I get at least one e-mail a day asking me where to buy this strap! First of all, it is an all leather braided strap and is very well made. It is soft, and stretches so if you are shooting with a heavy lens this stretch takes the strain off of your back/shoulder. I have had zero issues with the strap over the past months and in fact, it has broken in quite well. It also always gets the looks and compliments.

You would think that a strap like this would set you back over $100. With the Artisan & Artist straps fetching well over $100 and more for their silk straps and about $70 for their really good cloth straps (my fave in the A&A line, and they are here) this hand braided leather strap comes in at $79 SHIPPED. Yep, shipped. You can browse the straps at barton1972.com and they come in several colors. Red, brown, blue/grey, black, etc.

I can HIGHLY recommend this strap and it even comes in a cool box. I may order a couple more and even try one of their bags soon. I love a good strap and there are so many out there that are good but this one represents great quality, great price and a great experience.

You can browse ALL of the straps they have to offer at their strap page. Looks like there are quite a few to choose from, even a double braided for $10 more!

Oct 062011
 

Building the Perfect and Sexiest Micro 4/3 Camera kit for under $2500

By Steve Huff

So the time has come, the time is now. The format I so wanted to love from the get go but never fully could (due to quality issues and lack of lens issues) has finally arrived. The Olympus Micro 4/3 format has grown quite a bit over the past 2 1/2 years and todays cameras are quite a bit better than the earlier generation models. More important, the lenses have finally gotten really really good. Well, in my opinion anyway, and that is because I am a HUGE fan of Prime single focal length non zoom lenses and Olympus, Panasonic, and even SLR Magic/Noktor has now gotten serious about putting out some great glass.

I was waiting for the day when lenses like the ones below would arrive for this format and now all I am waiting for is the Olympus “Pro Pen” (and I am praying that it will have a built in EVF)! Until then the E-P3 is doing quite nicely. If you are someone who is interested in buying into a new camera system (and many of you are as I get e-mails asking me about it daily) then one option for you is the Micro 4/3 format. It is smaller than a DSLR, it is quite versatile and the quality these days is DAMN GOOD.

Sure there is the Leica M9, that has always been an option of course, but sadly most of us can not always afford the $7-8k for the body and several thousands more for the lenses. If you can, then THAT is the way to go IMO. The M9 is magic once you learn it and get used to how it works. So if you have $15k laying around, just go buy an M9 and a 35 or 50 from one of the site sponsors! But if your budget is under $2500 and  you want a really kick ass versatile camera and lens setup then below is what I deem “The perfect Micro 4/3 Camera Kit for under $2500 or so” – and this is focusing on PHOTO capabilities not video.

The Camera Body – MY FAVORITE MICRO 4/3 CAMERA TO DATE…

Olympus E-P3 – $899

The original PEN E-P1 was a camera I enjoyed but it’s slow AF, inability to use manual controls for video, and inability to even accept an EVF hindered it. But even with those quirks it was a lovable camera due to it’s retro design and quality feel. The E-P2 was an improvement but still was not perfect though it did look sexy in black :)  Now we have the E-P3 and in my opinion it is the best of the PEN series to date and has become another favorite of mine. It has lighting fast AF, a superb LCD OLED “almost too good” display, the ability to use the VF-2 or VF-3 EVF’s (BTW, the VF-2 is MUCH better quality wise) and it still retains that solid feel and great build quality while improving the grip and including a built in flash (for those who like flash).

It would have been sweet if it had a built in EVF but as it is now, it is my favorite Micro 4/3 camera to date. There are also the Panasonic’s like the newer GF3 and G3 (that DOES have a built in EVF) and they are good, but to me there is just something classic about the E-P3 (and no, I am not referring to its somewhat dated 12MP sensor, lol). When I hold the E-P3 I WANT to go out and shoot. When I hold a G3 I do not. Call me strange but I feel that when you have a “connection” with a camera then you can do great things with it and it inspires you. Besides, the image quality difference between the E-P3 and G3 is crazy minimal and not even evident in prints. These days 12MP is plenty for almost EVERYONE. Yes, this is true even though the newest crop of “enthusiast” cameras coming out in 2012 are 24MP and up.

The fact is that the E-P3 inspires and it is much less expensive than buying into Leica. So for  those of us with limited funds, this is a fantastic option for those looking to get into a new camera system. I get the e-mails daily that read something like this “I am in the market for a new camera and  have no idea what to buy, but I can not afford Leica. Any suggestions”?

Camera purchases are personal. I can not tell you what to buy as what I like, you may not like BUT I do get to use just about any camera I want. Out of everything that I have tried recently I feel the best system as a whole for someone with limited funds is this E-P3 in the M4/3 line due to its qualities, versatility and the new lenses available for it. I also love the Fuji X100 but it is not as versatile and not really a “system” camera. The NEX-7 that is on the horizon looks AMAZING but it is not out yet and lenses are lacking at this moment.

What CAN the E-P3 do? It can do macro, it can do fast wide angle, it can do fast telephoto, it can do HD video (though not the best in this dept.), it can do sleek and sexy. It can focus and fire almost instantly just by touching any area of the LCD. It can do all of these  things while giving back really great quality up to ISO 1600 and even 3200. With the EVF using manual focus glass like a Leica 50 Summilux via an Adapter can also bring good results but remember the 2X crop involved with the Micro 4/3 sized sensor. Your 50 becomes a 100mm equivilant. This camera is also a conversation starter. Walk around with it in silver and a vintage looking strap attached and get ready for the comments. Every time I take this out I get a comment on it as everyone thinks it’s a vintage camera. Fun fun fun!

So if you have around $2500 budget, give or take, and are in the market for a really nice kit I would suggest the E-P3 as your base camera. The cost is $899 with the kit lens of choice and you can buy it in black, silver or white. The silver is beautiful and is my choice for my personal E-P3.

THE LENSES

The Olympus 12mm f/2 or the new high quality SLR Magic (Noktor) 12 f/1.6

The Olympus 12mm f/2 – $799

 

The 1st lens that really threw me for a loop for this format was the Olympus 12mm f/2. Not only due to the wide angle equivalent of 24mm but the speed of f/2 as well as the close focus ability and super fast AF speed when attached to the E-P3. ALSO, the superb build quality, design, manual focus control and distance scale. Almost Leica like with it’s execution and style. Also, the performance is exceptional. The lens is quite expensive though at $799. It is unique with all of its qualities but there is another choice in a fast 12…

The Olympus 12mm f/2 is fantastic but expensive…

 -

The SLR Magic/Noktor 12mm f/1.6 – $499

The newest lens on the block comes from slrmagic.com and they are taking this seriously with their 12mm f/1.6. It’s big, it’s bad and it’s output is wonderful and dramatic. DISCLAIMER: SLR Magic is a site sponsor but I do not sugar coat their products. Their 50 Noktor 0.95 is mediocre in my opinion, and it has been their “flagship” until now. This is their “1st serious lens” as they told me and I was expecting less but when I started shooting it I got more that I expected. The lens is long..heavy..and manual focus. So if this is OK with you, the output is, IMO, more “cinematic” than the Oly 12. At $499 it is also not a cheap lens but this lens is great for video AND photo. My 1st look of this lens is HERE and my full review will be up in the next 2 weeks and the lens will be out in December in the USA. It is one to look out for.

The SLR Magic 12mm f/1.6 puts out a more “Cinematic” rendering than the Olympus 12 though no AF and its larger/heavier

-

The Panasonic 20 f/1.7 or 25 1.4 lens – $349

The Panasonic 20 1.7 is legendary in the M4/3 world. It has been a great seller and for good reason. It was the 1st “fast” prime made available for this format and the quality is well worth its $350 price tag. Above it actually. The 20 1.7 is a deal and a MUST OWN, especially if you never owned this lens. Attach it to your camera, set it to 1.7 and shoot! With this lens we were finally able to get some shallow depth of field control on our cameras. If you want to spend a but more, $250 more to be exact you can get the Pansonic/Leica 25 1.4 Summilux. YES, a Summilux for your Micro 4/3 camera! It is made by Panasonic, not Leica, though Panny builds it according to Leica design specs. We don’t get the exotic Leica glass but it’s still a Leica design. The Summilux is a better lens but also more money at $599.

Below: A test shot from the 20 1.7 (at 1.7) shot on the E-P3. Click on it for a larger and better view. Love the sharpness and contrast of the 20. It is already a classic and at $350 well worth the cost!

-

-

The Olympus 45 1.8

This is the newest and hardest to find lens from Olympus and it’s a beauty. Olympus really hit it out of the park this year with the 12 and this 45 1.8 lens, more so than the E-P3. These lenses are important because they work equally as well with the Panasonic cameras and they are both the highest quality lenses yet from Olympus for this format. At $399 it too punches above its weight class. A MUST OWN if you want a 90mm equivalent that is also built well, beautiful and FAST with a 1.8 aperture. I do not use 90mm too much but for those times when I do, this lens will be the one I use. My review is here.

-

The Olympus VF-2 and VF-3 EVF – $179-$249

To really finish off this kit I had ego recommend one of the EVF’s. The VF-2  will give you the best quality when looking through the EVF but the VF-3  will lock into place and cost you less. I have the VF-3 though I admit the VF-2 was much more pleasurable to look through. I ended up sticking with the VF-3 due to the fact that the VF-2 always fell off my camera. This never leaves my camera though it does make it a but bulky. I find it useful in the daytime when the full sun is out, and here in AZ that is every single day.

-

The Barton Braided Leather Strap – $79

I tried out one of these straps from Barton 1972.com and it has become my favorite strap for the E-P3 hands down. It is all leather, hand braided, and is soft and has some stretch to it so it will not hurt your neck or shoulder. I Highly recommend it!

So there you have it…

If you have about $2500 to spend and want to buy a new camera kit that is small, sexy, capable, AND versatile then the E-P3 and lenses/accessories above can give you quite a bit of “BANG for your BUCK”. Sure, with $250o you could buy many other cameras but none will be an entire package like the one above. Sure you can spend less and buy a new Olympus E-PL1 or old E-P1 but the list as I typed it out above is sort of an “Ultimate” list for this format, what I deem to be the best of the best that this format has to offer for photography. The best of the lot. The camera, the lenses, the accessories. It is what I love and I have been using this setup more and more lately and thoroughly enjoying it.

To recap:

  • The Olympus E-P3 camera with kit lens – $899
  • Olympus 12mm or SLR Magic/Noktor 12mm – $499-$799
  • Panasonic 20mm 1.7 – $349
  • Olympus 45 1.8 – $399
  • Olympus EVF – $179-$249
  • Barton Strap – $79
Grand Total – $2404 – $2774 depending on configuration. If you shoot Micro 4/3 let me know what YOUR fave setup is in the comments below! Oh, and if you are looking for a BUDGET Micro 4/3 setup, check out THIS POST

May 062011
 

Look what I got today! A nice red Artisan and Artist strap and a mini classic soft release to fit to my X100. For about $100 total it has transformed the look of the camera and now screams out “Im An Expensive Camera, STEAL ME!” Lol. I love the cloth straps from Artisan & Artist as they can be adjusted to be long or short. I like wearing my cameras around my body and have them hang low. This is the only A&A strap that I am aware of that lets you do this. ALSO, it happens to be amazingly comfortable. I first used one a year or so ago on Seals M9 and it was so comfy when I shot with it that I knew I wanted one. Took me a year but hey, I bought a red and a black on from popflash because I noticed they were having a “Spring Special” on many A&A products, mostly the bags and cases. I bought a red strap for the X100 and bought a black for the M9. The red soft release looks really good on the X100 too. I am and always have been a fan of Artisan & Artist though they are usually on the pricey side. The cool thing about their products is that they are functional, and that is most important when shooting every day.

Not everyone will care for the red as it is a bit flashy but you can also buy the strap in black for a more stealthy look (on my M9 and will add a black soft release and black dot soon) so there is something for everyone.

Dale Photo also sells the A&A line including the straps, bags, cases, etc. I bought from PopFlash as the prices they have now on the bags and cases are great, for A&A, as they are normally pretty pricey. Saving money is always good!

I am still enjoying the X100 and took these shots with a Panasonic GH2 which just arrived for me to review along with a GF2 and Olympus XZ1. Lots of fun work for me over the next two weeks! The X1o0 though, even with its quirks and oddities, is still a GREAT picture taking memory making machine! Amazon is taking pre-orders if you want to get in line…Enjoy!

This cloth strap is wide, and soft. Very comfortable on your shoulders or neck.

-

This soft release is a Metallic Red and screws right into the X100 shutter release. Sort of matches the OVF/EV lever. Matched with the red strap, you have one Sexy looking camera.

-

Next to my camera “soulmate” the Leica M9 – also fitted with an Artisan & Artist leather case and cloth strap

-

Ready to travel in an ACAM-7000, also from A&A – This bag will hold two cameras, 2-3 lenses, your passport, paperwork and even an Ipad or Macbook Air 11-13″. $239

© 2009-2014 STEVE HUFF PHOTOS All Rights Reserved
21