Photography gear

A couple years ago, I cataloged my growing photo kit. Since that time, I've expanded a bit and certainly learned a ton about photography. I thought it was about time to catalog my current kit again. So, here goes.

Lenses and camera bodies

From left to right: Panasonic GH1 body, Panasonic 20mm f/1.7, Olympus 45mm f/1.8, Rokinon 7.5mm f/3.5 Fisheye, Canon FDn 50mm f/1.4, Canon FDn 100mm f/2.0, Panasonic 14-140mm f/4.0-f/5.8, Panasonic 45-200mm f/4.0-f/5.6, Canon FDn 200mm f/2.8 IF, Canon FDn 300mm f/5.6, Olympus E-P1

Bodies

My main body is a Panasonic GH1. It's a couple years old, but it's still a great body. I've hacked it to increase the video bitrate to around 40Mbps, which means it is a phenomenal video camera. I'm tempted by some of the newer bodies (e.g. the Olympus E-M5) to get faster autofocus and slightly better high ISO performance, but the GH1 is so good in both stills and video that I can't bring myself to change.

I also have an Olympus E-P1, though it rarely gets used. I bought it cheap off eBay. Jen was complaining that she sometimes wanted a camera when I had the GH1 with me elsewhere. I looked at getting her a compact, but the used E-P1 body was just as cheap and takes much better pictures. That said, its screen is awful and its focus is really slow, so Jen does not really use it. I use it occasionally to shoot stills when the GH1 is busy shooting video, though.

Lenses

These are listed in order of how often I use them. Some of them are native, meaning made for Micro Four Thirds cameras. Others are legacy lenses, meaning made for older camera systems (all my legacy lenses are made for Canon FD). Legacy lenses require a cheap adapter to work, which is not a big deal. The bigger issue is that you have to manually set aperture and focus these lenses. Lacking autofocus can be a big deal, but there are lots of great old lenses out there that fill gaps in the current lens line-up or can be had for less money than their native counterparts.

  • Olympus 45mm f/1.8 - This lens is fantastic. It is very sharp and a great focal length for portraits or just things a bit farther away. It also focuses quite quickly, making it a great video lens when the light is dim or you want shallower depth of field.
  • Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 - This lens is also fantastic. It is the sharpest of my bunch and a great normal focal length. Its one drawback is that it is pretty slow to focus, so it's not the best for fast action or video.
  • Rokinon 7.5mm f/3.5 Fisheye - This is my newest lens, and I'm surprised how much I use it. It's fun to have something so extremely wide. I sometimes use it for fun fisheye pictures, but I also use it as a standard ultra-wide. I combine it with Fisheye-Hemi to straighten things out a bit when I don't want the curvy fisheye effect. It is also great for getting a shot of my daughters when they're sitting right next to me. Note that while this lens is native on Micro Four Thirds, it is also manual like a legacy lens. That said, manually focusing it is easy as the depth of field is huge given its wide focal length.
  • Panasonic 14-140mm f/4.0-f/5.8 - I'm more of a prime shooter than a zoom shooter, but I still use this lens a bunch. It's aperture leaves a lot to be desired, but the rest of it is quite good. I find it to be pretty sharp for a superzoom (though not in the same league as the 20 or 45 above). It also focuses extremely fast and quietly, making it a good lens for action and video. Of course, the range of focal lengths it covers is so large that it's quite versatile as well, which can be handy when I'm in a situation that I don't know what I'll be shooting.
  • Canon FDn 100mm f/2.0 - As I've filled out my collection, this has become the legacy lens that I still use most commonly. There isn't anything native that is this long and this fast. It's a great lens for capturing something from afar and provides excellent subject isolation.
  • Canon FDn 200mm f/2.8 IF - This is a giant lens and I would not dare use it without a monopod or tripod. It takes the attributes of the 100mm (close up from afar and extreme subject isolation) and takes them to the next level. I don't use it much due to its heft, but it is fun to pull out occasionally.
  • Panasonic 45-200mm f/4.0-f/5.6 - I got this lens before I had the superzoom and used it a bunch then. These days, I really hardly use it. The superzoom has so much more range on the near side that if I want a bunch of options I use it. If I want something more specific, then I'll use one of the primes. So, this lens gets very little use these days. It's not a bad telephoto zoom, but I find I don't have too much interest in a telephoto zoom.
  • Canon FDn 50mm f/1.4 - Before I got the 45, I used this lens a lot. It is a great legacy portrait lens and can be had for very little money. That said, the 45 has autofocus, is sharper, and is better in almost every way. I still put this lens on occasionally, as it can take a great picture, but not very often.
  • Canon FDn 300mm f/5.6 - I have only used to shoot the moon. It's not a great lens, but it was very cheap and incredibly long.

You may notice a few lenses from my previous write-up that are missing from this list. I do still have them, but I don't use them. I would sell them if they were worth anything, but they're not.

So, that's what I use from a camera and lens standpoint. I've obviously got a bunch of other gear as well, but that will have to wait for another time. I hope to write up some specific things regarding photography in the coming months, but I wanted to get an overview of what I use out first so you could all see where I'm coming from. If you have any questions about any of this, please don't hesitate to ask.