The Hottest Photo Gear of 2016 Buyers Guide


The Hottest Photo Gear of 2016 Buyers Guide


It’s the most wonderful time of the year! yep, the Holidays are not creeping up on us… they are HERE! Thanksgiving is tomorrow and then just over a month away is Christmas! Each year many out there in internet land click on links, and purchase cameras, lenses, bags or accessories for their photo inspired loved ones. This year I want to post about the gear I loved in 2016, new or old, and talk about the hottest gear coming up as well (only the gear I have tried as I never recommend gear I have not used).

As always, this is focused on MIRRORLESS as that is all I have been shooting for the last 6 years or so. I am not a DSLR guy.

So check out the list below featuring my fave gear as of November 23rd 2016! You will not see point and shoots, you will not see budget cameras, and you will not see one item I have not used or tested myself. Enjoy!!!




The Olympus EM1 MKII 


The new pro level OMD EM1 MKII is a beautiful camera in every way from design, feel, controls, speed, function, features and even performance. No question, for me, it’s the best Micro 4/3 camera ever developed or offered. Solid weather sealed body, touch LCD, fantastic EVF, and as I said, fast response and fast AF. Fastest yet for M 4/3. Also, the best noise performance yet for M 4/3 with a one stop improvement over the last model, the E-M1.

EM1 MKII, 25 f/1.2 Pro. Yep, I had the camera in this Hot Springs and yes, it was soaked. But it still worked and never gave me an issue. 


The only niggle for some is the Micro 4/3 sensor, but the sensor size is what makes this camera possible in all it does. You will not see full frame cameras with this kind of speed or response anytime soon. The IQ is also very rich, colors are fantastic, dynamic range seems solid and the lenses offered for this system are some of the best made today, in the world.


The EM1 MKII is a beauty, and not a cheap one. When we look at all it offers, and all it can do, and how it can do it whether you are in rain, sleet, snow or whatever the weather..then we have one hell of a pro level camera here. If you shoot M 4/3 and have an old EM1, this one steps up the game. If you own an old generation PEN, this is like the hot rod and your PEN is like the Yugo. Maybe you own a Panasonic M 4/3 camera. Well, none can touch the EM1 MKII as of November 2016. BUT for some, the PEN-F or original EM1 may be the pick as they can be had for half the price of the MKII. Then again, if you want to keep a camera for 6+ years, this is one that qualifies.

If you want the best M 4/3 has to offer, and one of the best cameras available to order today, then take a look at the incredible EM1 MKII. I also highly recommend the new 12-100 f/4 lens. It’s one of the best lenses I have used in recent times. SEE MY PART 1 REVIEW OF THE EM1 MKII HERE

Buy at Amazon, Buy at B&H Photo. 

The Sony RX100 V 


This camera is like lightning in a box. It’s fast as all get out, small enough to slide in your front jeans pocket, light enough to take anywhere and will blow away your phone camera in a big way. This guy is capable as most DSLR’s (or better) when it comes to getting the shot. While you will not have the all out IQ from a larger sensor camera, or the depth, ISO performance or dynamic range it makes up for it in every other way. With a pop up EVF, great color and image quality (better than your phone), speed and a crazy 24fps shooting mode it is designed for all out speed and accuracy. You will never mis a shot if you use this camera how it was meant to be used. It can and does catch the decisive moment. See for yourself HERE. 

Catching the decisive moment can be easy with the RX100 V


You can also see my 1st look here while I was in NYC testing it out a while back. This is the most serious pocket point and shoot ever created but I hate to call it a point and shoot as it is a pretty advanced little machine. I never recommend cameras I have not used or did not like, but this one would make a killer gift for someone wanting a step up from their smart phone camera while giving them amazing speed, video, and features you just do not get with most smart phones. It’s perfect for someone on the go to shoot everyday life as well. Beautiful camera and comes in at just under a grand.

Buy the RX100 V at Amazon or B&H Photo

The Leica Q


While this is a 2015 camera, it is still a popular choice for today at the end of 2016. In fact, just a couple months back we started to see regular supply in stock of the Q. Leica makes these in small batch quantities and they have been selling the Q in good numbers. In fact, I would wager that this is Leica’s best seller right now.

The Q has snap, pop and no crackle. B&W or Color, the IQ has that Leica feel. 


The Q is FANTASTIC if you can deal with only having a 28mm lens. The 28 Summuilux here is nice, has a macro mode, puts out great IQ and colors and has that Leica style and design all the way. You can go as easy as a point and shoot here, or go full on manual. Great for beginners or pros. The Q is a winner.

 My Leica Q Review can be seen HERE

Buy the Q at Ken Hansen (Email:, PopFlash, B&H, or Amazon

The Olympus PEN-F


The PEN-F is one of my favorite cameras ever, in my top 10 without question, and possibly my top 6. It’s the best PEN model Olympus has ever created, and yes, I feel it is better than the old film PEN camera without question. What we can do today with imaging is pretty amazing and this camera does it all with style, grace, speed and a fun factor that is missing in many cameras. This is for someone who wants to take great shots and look good while doing it.


You can also enjoy some of the greatest lenses made today with this Micro 4/3 camera. The PEN-F is beautiful and the IQ can be serious, fun or anything in between as there are modes, filters and even a slide film emulation along with a Tri-X emulation. All with a twist of the front dial. See my PEN-F Review HERE

Buy the PEN-F at B&H Photo or Amazon

The Leica SL


My camera of the year of 2015 and for good reason, it is to me, one the best all around digital cameras ever made as of November 2016. Many pass this camera off due to the insane cost to get in to this system, the large native lenses and the size but once you use a Leica SL for any length of time, you will most likely get hooked on it. The HUGE large clear EVF, the solid as all get out build, the weather sealing, the dual card slots, the huge battery, and the functionality and simplicity of the menu and controls.

Tow guys some of you may recognize! Ashwin Rao and Kurt Kamka, two Leica aficionados! Ashwin had his SL (as did I) and Kurt had his Leica S!




The feel of the camera in use is like when you drive a $80-100K luxury sedan. It’s smooth, it’s reliable and it delivers the goods. This is a camera for those who want QUALITY in ALL areas from construction, to handling, to controls, to function and IQ. It’s the most expensive camera here on this list but if you can stretch this guy, you will not be disappointed. With adapters available to shoot M lenses, Canon EF lenses and Nikon lenses we can now shoot almost any lens on this guy. It’s like a Sony A7RII on steroids with a more refined IQ and better build, feel and that EVF..OMG..The EVF.

See my review HERE. I will have an update soon on the SL. More shots here. 

Buy the Leica SL at Ken Hansen (email:khpmy19@aol.comB&H Photo HERE, HERE, or Amazon HERE.  

The Sony A7RII


No buyers guide would be complete without my #1 most used camera of 2016. The Sony A7RII is a powerhouse of imaging. While it is not the fastest camera out there today, or the most responsive, nor the one with the most is one hell of a camera and video maker. This may be one of the biggest successes Sony has had in recent years.



The A7RII may be a year and a half old already but it has a few more years in her before she retires from this household. Even if an A9 pro were to come out, my A7RII will stick with me as many memories have been made with me and this camera. Highly recommended. See my full A7RII Review HERE.

Buy the A7RII from B&H Photo HERE or Amazon HERE

The Sony A6500


The new Sony A6500 is a pretty awesome under $1400 mirrorless APS-C camera. The speed is astonishing and this one takes the best selling A6300 and adds major speed upgrades along with AF tracking upgrades to make for one hell of a fast action shooter. If you shoot sports, action, concerts or anything that involves a moving subject then this may be the camera of your dreams.

Photos by Chad Wadsworth for using the A6500 in Austin TX



Many will think “This A6500 or the Fuji Xt2″…well, two totally different types of cameras IMO. The Fuji is built like an old school camera with knobs, buttons, controls for everything. The A6500 is much smaller, sleeker, faster, responsive and will excel for any moving subjects. Then the IQ differences, as the Fuji has a unique color signature all its own, as does Sony. Question is, which one is for YOU? The A6500 is a marvel of engineering and tech but it feels more like a high speed computer than a camera. Either way, it still gives results! Beautiful ones at that.

See the 1st hands on look at this camera HERE

Buy the Sony A6500 at Amazon or B&H Photo. 

The Fuji Xt2


The Fuji Xt2, to me, is the best Fuji APS-C sensor sized camera that they have ever made. I prefer it to the X Pro series as well. It has the design, controls and response that we love and the Fuji color that is always sure to please, especially the Fuji fans! The XT2 is not my favorite camera but it is my favorite Fuji camera and it now has a lens arsenal to be reckoned with.


It’s a solid Fuji release, and I would urge those curious about the Fuji system in general to give this one a go, or rent it for a couple of days. Many think I hate Fuji or take jabs at them but that could not be further from the truth. For the past eight years what I have done is tell my honest feelings about the cameras I have tested or shot with. The last Fuji I enjoyed a lot was the XT1, before that the X100 series with a pref for the 1st gen X100 for IQ and color. This XT2 is the only Fuji since those two that I can say I truly like, alot. I feel Fuji has matured a great deal over the last two years and I am liking what I am seeing from them with this camera.

I can not wait for the medium format Fuji in 2017. That is going to be something to behold. My look at the Fuji XT2 is HERE

Buy the Fuji XT2 at Amazon, PopFlash or B&H Photo

The Leica M (Any Variety)


No buyers guide from me would be complete without a Leica M included! I started this blog eight years ago, inspired by the Leica M8. I have always had a Leica M ever since, of some variety. Today I am with the Leica MD, a 28 Lux, a 50 Lux and 90 cron. I also can use those lenses on the SL which is a great experience due to the glorious EVF.




The Leica M has a way of inspiring you, motivating you and making you want to run out for the day and use it. After you use one for a while you start to get an idea of what will look good, and what will not when framing images. Using the rangefinder is quite unique as well. No live view EVF here. The Leica M is legendary, and while it is costly to get into an M system, there is no question it is one of the best camera systems available for those who do street shooting, travel, or even portraits. I know a few who shoot sports with an M 😉 See my page with all Leica M images using the M 240 and MD

Buy a Leica M from Ken Hansen (email:, PopFlash, Amazon, B&H Photo


Micro 4/3

OLYMPUS 12-100 F/4


Olympus 7-14 Pro f/2.8

The Olympus 25 f/1.2 Pro

The Olympus 12-100 f/4 Pro

The Panasonic Nocticron 42.5 f/1.2

The Olympus 300 mm f/4 Pro

Sony E Mount



Sony 35 1.4

Sony 50 1.4

SONY/ZEISS 16-35 F/4

Zeiss Loxia 85 f/2.4

Zeiss Loxia 21 f/2.8

Leica M or SL

LEICA SL with Zeiss 50 Sonnar at f/1.5


Leica 24-90 SL

Leica 50 Summicron APO – M or SL

Leica 50 Summilux LE – M or SL

Zeiss 35 1.4 Biogon M Mount

Zeiss 50 Sonnar 1.5


Wotancraft Camera Bags


The RYKER from Wotancraft. This has been my GoTo for well over a year now. See my one year update on the bag HERE. This is a quality leather bag. Comes in black or the brown as shown above. This is my day in and out bag most of the time if I am staying local. It holds my camera, 2-3 lenses, accessories and even an iPad. The construction is as good as it gets and beats some super fancy brands that sell for $800 and up. The only weakness I have found it that due to being all leather, it is heavier than most bags. If you want style and function this bag is awesome. The original review is HERE. Any bag you buy from Wotancraft will be up there with the best of the best.

Buy the Ryker direct from Wotancraft HERE. They also have other bags I love like the RAVEN and SCOUT.  

Blackforest Bags


I have been using this bag HEAVILY for the past two months and I am going to post my review of it by the end of the week. It has been a godsend for my long travels as it holds everything I needed. When I traveled to Iceland, it held my camera, lenses, macbook pro 13″, iphone, chargers, cables, batteries, my headphones, sunglasses and a hand towel. This is larger than the Ryker, but full quality here. All leather, with all high end materials. It has the same protective zip up section under the flap that the Ryker does so your gear stays safe and dry.


See more about this bag at BLACKFORESTBAGS.COM


This bag is not for everyone but until you try one, don’t knock it. This is the best buy in camera bags when it comes to convenience, size, ease of use and literally no weight or back pain! This straps around you like a belt, like a holster of sorts. It will hold a camera and lens and will be at the ready in a nanosecond! I love the camslinger bags and even met up with the owner in Las Vegas a couple of years back to try out the bag  on the streets..


So check out the Camslinger. It’s affordable, and very effective.

You can see the ENTIRE Line at B&H Photo



I own several JB Handmade wooden grips for my cameras. I have one for nearly every camera I own and use. They are affordable and beautiful all at the same time. Each grip is made in the USA and all are also available at Amazon via prime shipping. Can’t go wrong with a JB Grip! I love mine with the PEN-F most of all.


You can see all of the grips on offer from JB Designs at Amazon HERE



This is a lovely lens for your iPhone or Smart Phone that allows you to shoot Anamorphic video to your iPhone. See my demo of it HERE. This can help you create very cinematic videos or films. I have used it a few times now for personal projects and it never disappoints.

You can see all of the options at MOONDOG LABS here

Walter Leica Contrast Lens for the M


These little lenses are fantastic. If you shoot a Leica M camera and want an aid to help you focus, or see more clearly through the Rangefinder then one of these will make you a happy shooter. The Walter Leica contarst lens is now upgraded and comes in a Golden Contrast Lens or a Coral Contrast Lens. I have the coral above and it is awesome.

screen-shot-2016-11-23-at-11-34-47-am prod_page_image_golden_coral_contrast-lense-1

To see more info on this great M upgrade, check out the Walter Leica page HERE. 

Renato Lamberti Leica M Grip


Above I spoke of the JB Designs grips. But what I like even better for my Leica M is the Renato Lamberti Grip. It is beautiful, chunky and hand carved. You can email him HERE for info. It’s gorgeous and I believe he has now made one for the Leica Q as well!


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  1. I am actually considering migrating from my A7 II to the EM1 II. Full frame is awesome obviously from an IQ perspective, but the portability of the m4/3 system and these crazy good new lenses sound pretty good. I really like the sony image quality but the lenses are not that small, and my fav lens, the 35mm F2.8 is really small and cool…. but while traveling I would like to have a small zoom with a decent range without compromising too much on quality though.

    An EM1 II with a 12-100 F4 and 25 F1.2 sound like a combo that would fill pretty much any need for any travel photography…. although the pricing of olympus has gone through the roof. I will most probably rent one before I would buy it obviously but that price is pretty much the only thing that has got me to really think it through.

    Perhaps the EM5 mark II would scratch my itch as well :).

    • 16-25 without question. The 16-25 is a Zeiss/Sony lens (made by Sony but using Zeiss formulas) and is sharper, more contrast and pop and gives 16-35. The 28 is softer and has a unique look. In some ways the 28 reminds me of some old vintage Leica glass, which can be desirable. All depends on the look you want. The 28 also has quite a bit of distortions, which is corrected for in camera when shooting JPEG. Shooting RAW, you will have to load the profiles to correct it.

  2. Hi steve,
    So i just wanna ask your opinion about the oly 12-40 f 2.8 pro vs 12-100 pro. Which one has better iq?

    • Id say the 12-100. I never fell in love with the 12-40. To me, the 12-100 is on a new level from the 12-40. Unless I had a so so copy of the 12-40 and an amazing copy of the 12-100!

  3. Hi Steve – Already sold my EM1 and awaiting the Oly EM11 (thanks to your reviews). I love my 75mm/f1.8 and ask your opinion for video and stills on using this with the Mk11 versus buying the new 12-100 mm zoom. Zooming capability excepted, would the speed of the 75 1/8 make up for the extra IS in the 12-100mm zoom – as I would prefer to have the 25mm/f2 new prime but cannot afford to add both new lenses? Cheers – Chris S.

    • Do you have other lenses besides the 75 1.8? If not, I would take the 12-100 no question. The 75 is gorgeous though, would be tough to give up! The IS in the 12-100 Zoom is crazy and works with the camera to provide the best IS in any camera, ever. But it’s an f/4 design. I found no issues with that in use but you will not get the same DOF with the 12-100 as that 75. My perfect EM1II setup would be the 12-100 and the 25 1.2. But it’s a pricey and costly investment with body at $2k. Would be around $4500 for that setup. Still cheaper than a Leica 50 APO f/2 Lens though! Lol. If you already have a wider angle option, Id sell the 75 for the 25…but that is what I would do. That 25 is magic.

  4. Just a word of appreciation, Steve. It’s obvious a lot of work was put into gathering this post together. I shall certainly keep it for referring back to in 2017 ! Thanks:

  5. Wow. The Loxia 85mm is already on your favorite list? Mmmmm….. Digilloyd claims it’s as good as the Otus. Is he right? Can’t wait for your full review!

  6. Steve, what kind of gloves did you use in Iceland? I’m looking for good gloves to use when wet or cold.

    • I went there with standard winter gloves but the 1st day they were soaked and my hands were freezing. I went to 66 north to buy a set of good ones, but they cost me $70. There are shops all over that sell winter clothing as I suspect many tourists do what I did, and show up with less than ideal clothing for the elements.

  7. Hi Steve,

    Did you get a chance to fire the XT2 at higher iso’s,including faces?

    Does the Fuji XT2 sensor still produce horrible wax like face jpegs at iso 3200 or higher?This has always been a major drawback for me with the trans sensors.Too much fiddling to get a basically natural shot,when the light goes down.

    • To me, when the light goes down and its dim or near dark, this is when the Fuji’s lose their magic. I always have said, for years, that the X Trans sensor is great in good light, really great. In low light, it goes downhill fast. While I do not see the mush in the XT2, I still say that in lower light it gets a bit dull and flat looking when compared to other cameras.

  8. Hi Steve, over the last couple of years I have switched from shooting professionally with a Canon 5Dmk2 to 100% Fuji. It was the XT2 that finally convinced me from. Just love shooting mirrorless. The camera is fun to use unlike the Canon which was just a working tool, nothing more.

  9. Hi Steve, over the last couple of years I have switched from shooting professionally with a Canon 5Dmk2 to 100% Fuji. It was the XT2 that finally convinced me from. Just love shooting mirrorless. The camera is fun to use unlike the Canon which was just a working tool, nothing more.

        • All depends on who you ask. The Leica is faster, slightly larger, and has a 28mm 1.4 lens with snappy color (Leica like) IQ. The Sony is more refined, but slower, quite a bit smaller and I found over the year does not focus as accurately as the Q. But the RX1RII, to me, has the better RAW files. But the Q is liked by more today than the Sony for its snappy speed and punchy higher contrast IQ. Both are fantastic but the Q wins in a couple of areas like battery life, speed, easier menus, and it comes down to wether you prefer a 28 or 35. The Sony will deliver a more medium format look but will be slower. Flip a coin 😉

  10. Steve,

    While I share your enthusiasm for the Oly PEN-F – you say “..this camera does it all with style, grace, speed” – no; it doesn’t have speed.

    It’s incredibly -s-l-o-w- (..just like the old Leica M9..) at displaying pics you’ve just shot. It takes nearly 3 seconds to show on the screen any picture you’ve just taken, no matter how fast a card you’re using. It’s dismally slow, compared with any teeny pocket camera (Sony WX350, Casio, Ricoh, Fuji, etc.) or the (more expensive) Oly E-M1, or any full-frame (four times the size of sensor) Canon, Nikon, Sony A7 series, etc.

    While I love its ability (..the only digital camera I know of..) to shoot with a (electronic) blue filter, to mimic early 1900s blue-sensitive film, and I love everything else about it ..its playback capability is just awful; terribly slow, disgracefully slow ..and Olympus should hang their corporate heads in shame.

  11. I love gear lists, but if I would take this one a my buying guide I would have two major problems.

    1. The budget. Where are the bangs for the buck? All these examples are rather expensive. The cheapest solution on this list would be to get the overpriced Sony RX100 V.

    2. Micro 4/3 seems to have turned into the heaviest system here. Where are all those cute little high-quality-low-costs lenses gone?

    • Micro 4/3 has LOADS of tiny lenses that are fantastic. 45 1.8, 25 1.8, etc. BTW, the new 12-100 pro is small and light as well. BUT, this is MY GUIDE as to the cameras I ENJOY, USE and love. It is not a generalized buyers guide when someone writes a promo piece on a bunch of cheap cameras for sales, when they never used half of them. Anyone who has been coming here over the years knows I write about what I like. If you want to see a buyers guide with low cost cameras, there are 100 other sites out there for that. I write about the cameras that inspire me, motivate me, and the gear that is truly spectacular. The majority of those who come to read this site are into the higher end mirrorless solutions, not the little cheap cameras most will forget about in 6 months. The key to a happy fulfilling life is always doing what you love, and I do that every single day. Thank you!

  12. Hello Steve,
    I agree with you that the OMD EMI Mk II is one of the best performance cameras. Whether it should be on the Holidays’ Buyers Guide is a different point entirely. When positioning the Mark II with the previous EM1 it is mostly better performance and 4K. Most users and buyers do not need 60 fps, especially at $2,000. When it comes to Image Quality, there is very little difference between both cameras. I am an avid OLY user myself and own the previous EM1… but I am not buying the Mark II. I would rather put my money in their new lenses like the 12-100mm F4 or the 50mm F1.2. This will get me better IQ and my old EM1 is fast enough for me. What Olympus needs to do is take the new sensor and release it with 12 Mpixel only in order to give it great ISO performance… Insert this sensor in the EM5 and add 4K to it. That would be the EM5-S. The camera for the rest of us.

  13. I know you’re more into the mirrorless format, but I’m a bit surprised you didn’t mention the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV in the hottest camera list for 2016. Maybe you haven’t had a chance to try it out yet?

    • I tried it and wrote about it here on these pages a while back 😉 BUT I only recommend gear I would own, and buy myself. I am not into big fat DSLR’s and have not been for a while now. The 5D IV is great but more of the same really. Nothing truly innovative. Great camera but not one I would own due to size, weight and the fact that smaller options can be just as good depending on what your uses are. For photos alone, I would take many cameras over a 5D. But that is me, and my opinion. Thank you.

    • Canon is a stagnant brand, sadly. Unless one is heavily invested in Canon lenses already, there’s nothing really compelling about their cameras. My opinion only, of course. I used to use a Canon DSLR, but as an enthusiast I’ve found more enjoyment in mirrorless. In my case, Sony NEX then Olympus OMD.

  14. Very interesting summary of your favorite gear, Steve! While I am glad to see your inclusion of the Fujifilm X-System’s XT-2, I was puzzled by your omission of any of their Fujinon lenses! (Having come from 35 years’ experience with various lenses from Nikon, Pentax, Olympus, and large format optics from Nikon, Schneider and Rodenstock, I can say with conviction that the Fujinon XF lenses are among the best made, sharpest lenses I’ve ever used…even their zooms (i.e., the XF 16-55 f/2.8 LM WR)! The 1/3 click stops are fantastic for good exposure control, and the film sims are unique in the business as well as the well-known quality of the Fuji Jpegs.The detail and color I see in poster prints is amazing. That said though, if I wasn’t embedded in that system, and if I didnt need to print very large, you definitely make a good case for the new Olympus EM1-II. In any case, I wish you and your readers a happy Thanksgiving and Holiday Season!

  15. While the Old PEN-F is a great little camera (..the only one I know which has a BLUE filter built-in, for old-style pre-panchromatic black and white photos..) say “..this camera does it all with style, grace, speed..”

    Er, no; not speed: replay is -V-E-R-Y- slow, as if it’s terribly underpowered. Like the original M9 ..I wait for about 3 seconds after taking a shot to be able to review it on the rear screen.

    Its photo-shooting prowess is great, but its photo-REPLAY capability is really shockingly poor. The E-M1 replays instantly. But, of course, it costs a bit more. Most pocket cams display instantly (..Sony WX350, RX100, etc, Casio, Ricoh, Fuji name it..) but I’m really disappointed by the -s-l-o-w- replay of the PEN-F.

    Looks good, shoots well ..replays ..well; dismally, to tell the truth.

  16. Steve,

    Posting something here as I was unable to get this post in the Fuji review thread:

    Very nice review, one I have really been waiting for and one that (together with the E-M1 review) answered many of my questions. Looking forward to the second part of the E-M1 review by the way!
    But this one also brought some things to my mind that I’d really like your opinion on.
    How do you feel the mojo concerning results and colors compares between Fuji and Olympus? And what happens when you add a Leica M to the mix?

    And concerning bags since you mention them here:
    After the Ryker, Ranger, Paratrooper and Commander I just ordered me the Thor with a nice Black Friday discount. These bags are simply the best there is! 🙂

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