Friday, 30 April 2021

Gear Simplification - The Never Ending Quest.

Nikon FE, Ilford HP5+ in Rodinal 1:50

Gear Simplification is something that absolutely drives me nuts. Every time I get some time to think about my setup, I start looking at gear simplification. 

Two simple reasons:

1. I want the simplest setup possible for my needs.

2. I like buying gear.

Needless to say, those are two diametrically opposed items.

Looking at the gear I have lying around, I can put it into four categories.

1. Absolutely never sell:

FE, 55/3.5 AI Micro, Nikkor-S.C 5cm f1.4 LTM and 105/2.5 AI-S

Two of these are heirlooms (the FE and 55/3.5), one is my cold dead hands lens (5cm f1.4) and the last I've rebought every time I've sold one, I'd be a fool to do it again. 

2. I really like, but could part with if it made sense:

F2a, X-T2, Z5 bodies

7Artisans 12/2.8, Fujinon XC35/2, Laowa 15/4, Z 24-50 f4-6.3, m.Zuiko Pro 12-40/2.8, Super-Takumar 35/3.5, 7Artisans 18/6.3 UFO (yes, really).

3. I'm OK with it, but not too attached.

X-T1 body, Super Ricohflex

Neewer 25/1.8 MC, Nikkor 24/2.8 K, Nikkor-H 28/3.5, Nikkor 200/4 AI, Super-Takumar 135/3.5, Vivitar 70-150 f3.8, Nikkor 50/1.8G AF-S

4. I'd dump in a heartbeat if somebody was actually interested

Coronet 12-Twenty

Nikkor 50-135/3.5 AI, Nikkor 300/4.5 K AI'd, Hanimex 135/2.8 M42

Note this is the kit that might get actively shot. I've got a couple box cameras and a Soligor 300/5.6 that are heirlooms, but don't figure in as they are not active shooting gear and won't see use.

The challenge? What would a minimalist kit actually look like?

Well, in terms of film, I could readily get by with the following:

FE, Nikkor 24/2.8, 55/3.5 Micro, 105/2.5 AI-S

That would be minimalist, but workable. No low-light option, but I don't have that today really anyways.

For digital?

Z5, 15/4, 24-50, 50/1.8G, 105/2.5 could work.

X-T2, 12/2.8, XC35, 55/3.5 also works.

Re-acquire an E-M1.2 and use the 12-40 + 105/2.5 and add an UWA option (Laowa 7.5/2 or 10/2, or a 9-18). Eventually that might become the 12-40/2.8, 40-150/2.8 and the UWA. 

I really wish my brain could settle on a kit. This is why I so rarely get to one year of ownership on a digital camera. 

One thing I keep coming back to is that any attempt to make the Fuji more than a minimalist/manual focus kit bumps into the issue that it quickly matches the Z5 for size/weight while delivering IQ barely better than the E-M1.2 for single shot and inferior to the Oly's for multishot. I'm also finding that for all I like the idea of Fuji's classic UI, the only time it's been really been a benefit was shooting night work at Torrance Barrens last summer. This is part of what drove me to the E-M1.2 and Z5 earlier this year. 

So today I hauled in all the Fuji kit. X-T2, X-T1, the XC35, 7Artisans 12/2.8 and 18/6.3 UFO, the Neewer 25mm, the USB charger, spare batteries, USB power kit et al, and came home with an E-M5 Mark II.

Why that body?

1. E-M1.2's are just coming off the end of a ridiculous sale and are unobtanium right now, new or used, as a result.

2. The E-M5 Mark III has a worse EVF than the Mark II and no USB webcam support, so it can't do everything I used the X-T2 regularly for even if it does have PDAF and the better 20MP sensor. Webcam support was the deciding factor here, I do need that capability.

3. The E-M5 Mark II can get paired with small lenses for a very pocketable kit, essentially replacing the X-T1+18 UFO combo with something more capable if I track down a cheap Panasonic 14/2.5.

4. I already have some accessories for the body, namely a grip and a USB charger that I kept when I sold my last one in fall 2019. 

5. I got a new one for used cost. It was seriously cheap for an open-box but fully warrantied body with all accessories.

I'm aware I don't like the IQ on the 16MP Mark II as much as the 20MP bodies, or larger sensor bodies and long-term expect this is really a replacement for the X-T1 as an almost-P&S, although it can handle most of what I was doing with the X-T2 as well until I fill out the system (I still see another E-M1.2 in my future). But it should be a pretty solid setup paired with the small but superb 12-40/2.8 Pro.


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