Periodically I realise I have too much photography gear.
My main cluster of cameras starts creeping on to additional bookshelves. A shoebox or two (or three!) is hidden under the baby’s cot with cameras I’ve not looked at in months. I start finding it awkward removing a camera from a shelf, precariously weaving through the other cameras and lenses surrounding, like Antarctic penguins huddling and jostling together for warmth.
So after an overdue and thorough purge today I’m left with a more manageable arsenal once more.
Here’s what stayed, and why –
Four DSLRs –
Samsung GX-1S, Pentax K100D, Pentax K-m, Pentax K-30, all Pentax K mount.
Three have the wonderful CCD sensors (um, made by Sony), and the K-30 is CMOS but can be coaxed into some decent colours in-camera, plus has a pretty satisfying high contrast mono set up too. Oh and the best screen and viewfinder of all four, given how much newer it is.
In fact it is the latter that routinely saves the otherwise often frustrating K-30, when I have these kinds of thinnings of the herd.
15 Lenses –
Pentax K mount – Hoya HMC Wide Auto 24/2.8, Pentax-DA 35/2.4, Pentax-F 35-70, Auto Chinon 50/1.4, Pentax-A 50/1.7.
M42 mount (used with M42 – PK adapter on Pentax DSLRs, and M42 – M43 adapter on Panasonic Lumix GF1) – Carl Zeiss Flektogon 35/2.4, Mir-1 37/2.8, MC Zenitar-M2s 50/2, Asahi Super-Takumar 55/1.8, Petri CC Auto 55/1.8, Helios 44-2 58/2, Helios 44M-4 58/2, Jupiter-37A 135/3.5, Iso-Gottingen Tele-Westanar 135/3.5, Asahi Takumar 200/5.6.
Micro Four Thirds (M43) –
Panasonic Lumix GF1, 7Artisans 25/1.8 manual lens.
Pentax Q with 01 Prime 8.5/1.9, 02 Standard Zoom 5-15mm and 06 Mount Shield 11.5/9 lenses.
Panasonic Lumix LX3.
Casio Exilim EX-Z1000.
Nikon Coolpix P300.
As you can see, it’s not exactly a tiny collection, 13 cameras and 19 lenses (plus the others in fixed lens cameras).
But for now it’s manageable.
I tend to be fairly seasonal with photography, shooting compacts in the late autumn, winter and early spring, almost exclusively in black and white, switching back to (mostly) colour with the DSLRs in late spring.
Currently I’m using the DSLRs (and this month, just the Samsung GX-1S) and experimenting with different lenses, seeking out their unique character, and donating/selling on any that seem superfluous.
Obviously on the face of it there seems to be major duplication in the 50-58mm region, with seven (D)SLR lenses in this range.
The Auto Chinon may not stay when I have the Pentax-A 50/1.7 and Zenitar 50/2. The Chinon needs manual mode to operate and the extra speed doesn’t seem to justify its existence as yet.
The A 50/1.7 is pretty much the definitive Pentax 50mm and has the convenience of aperture control in camera, Program modes etc.
The Zenitar, a recent addition, seems to be living up to its lineage – essentially a lightweight, largely plastic successor to the classic Helios 44, but with better coatings (apparently) and closer focus (mine is marked 0.35m on the barrel but it’s more like 0.2 from the end of the lens to subject, which alone sets it apart from virtually all other 50s). So that’s staying.
As for 55mm, well it’s just my favourite focal length.
The Super-Tak 55/1.8 is my favourite version of my favourite lens in my favourite focal length.
The Petri has rather special bokeh (I described it recently like a watercolour painting left out in the rain), plus a de-clicked aperture ring that makes it feel like a preset aperture.
The two Helios at 58mm are not radically different in the final image, but quite different bodily and in use.
The older (1973) 44-2 is a preset aperture lens, and fairly smooth to focus.
The far newer (1983) 44M-4 supposedly has better coatings, a standard click stop aperture, a slightly stiff and uneven focus ring, and feels much bigger and heavier.
Neither on paper seem much, and pale terribly in use compared with the silky smoothy Takumars, but I love them both for their reputation as a cheap underdog with the potential for bokeh magic.
Also there seem to be too many compacts, although a number went in this latest purge.
The Lumix LX3, Ricoh GRD III and Pentax Q seem stone cold classics, and cameras I can’t see myself ever parting with.
The Lumix XS-1 is just an amazing little camera, for me the definitive pocketable compact I’ve found, especially for shooting b/w with its wide lens and Dynamic B/w mode in-camera.
The Casio is pretty new, I have yet to use it enough to make a judgement but on paper (and in the hand) it’s very impressive. When I switch back to compact camera winter mode again I’ll give it a more thorough run out.
The Ricoh GX100 is the camera that led me to the GRD III, and remains excellent, just I rarely use it now, it kind of falls between the GRD III and the Lumix LX3.
If I want a fixed, fast lens, I go with the GRD. For more flexibility (and usually to shoot at 35mm) I go with the LX3.
Both have excellent in-camera contrasty b/w modes, which the GX100 lacks, plus the latter is much slower in operation than the other two. It may well be sold soon.
The other Ricoh, the R5, like the Casio, looks great on paper but I’ve yet to use it much.
Also like the Casio it came in a batch dead cheap, so even if I don’t use it I can just give it away with virtually nothing lost.
Which leaves the Micro Four Thirds Lumix GF1.
Ah we’re here again.
Theoretically, Micro Four Thirds (M43) is a dream come true for me.
It promises the flexibility of using either native modern AF lenses, or adapting my beloved older M42 ones, all in a body far more compact than a DSLR.
It seems the perfect fusion of DSLR depth and adaptability, and digital compact convenience and portability.
Indeed, when I picked the GF1 up again today, I again smiled at the great build, the classy feel, and the logical menus, and a quick glance at the screen playing with the 7Artisans lens and Dynamic B/W mode reminded me what it can produce.
As I brand, I admire Lumix greatly.
But still, I don’t love the GF1 like I do my favourite cameras, and just don’t quite warm to the M43 concept overall (my experience is very limited, mind).
Nevertheless, I don’t feel ready to get rid of it. I keep hoping and expecting something to click into place so I can finally “get” what I’ve been missing with M43.
Maybe it would take a different camera, like the Lumix G2 that was recently heartily recommended to me.
It seems to offer everything the GF1 does, plus a few things it lacks, like a viewfinder, and DSLR-like handling. And they’re my kind of affordable, around £50-60 used, a bit more with a kit zoom.
But for now, my Pentax DSLRs – all pretty much as compact as DLSRs have ever been – give me all I need, so the GF1 has been admired, then put back into its shoebox, for now.
So that’s where the inventory stands today.
How about you? Where are you with your camera set up? Do you have too few? Too many? What are your plans for the coming weeks, what will you use/sell/buy?
Please let us know in the comments below (and don’t forget to tick the “Notify me of new comments via email” box to follow the conversation).
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