The Perfect Outfit

I did a very enjoyable interview with Frederick Van Johnson of This Week In Photo a couple of weeks ago. One of the things he asked me and which I didn’t really answer was what would make my perfect outfit?

I’ve thought about it and I can only answer, there isn’t one. It’s not the cop out it sounds, though, because my perfect outfit consists of two outfits. It was easier in my professional news photographer days because we didn’t have zoom lenses doubling up on all the prime lens focal lengths. So, if you wanted a 35mm general purpose wide-angle, your choice was on aperture, f1.4, f2. or f2.8 balanced with price and weight.

As a working professional with (as a woman psychologist I photographed for the Daily Mail put it) the privilege of “tax allowable toys”, price wasn’t a factor so I could buy what I wanted. What I wanted then is little different from what I do now. Maximum coverage of focal lengths coupled with a balance of weight against aperture. In my case, because I covered a lot of live rock bands, speed was more essential than light weight.

I’d used Nikon Fs in their different marques for years and I finished up with an outfit consisting of Nikkors 24mm f2.8, 35mm.f2, 85mm f1.8 and 180mm f2.8. That and 3 F bodies plus film and filters and a couple of flashes was a fair old weight in the bag. And a 300mm f2.8 in the boot of the car.

Nowadays, one MFT camera can shoot monochrome or colour and reliability is such that a spare is hardly necessary. Even if you do carry one, it’s hardly noticeable. I don’t need to carry one anymore, my days of mission critical assignments are over.

So my perfect MFT outfit starts with one camera body. That’s easy enough, I like a big camera when I go out to take pictures, substantial feeling and with a long battery life. On the other hand I often go out not with the intention of taking pictures but knowing that I quite likely will. Since I might not use it, the big camera is not perfect then. I need a lighter, slimmer item that will fit in a non-camera bag. My perfect camera in either case will have to have an EVF and a swivelling monitor. Until last year that was impossible – and then along came the GX7.

Ok, I can’t have one perfect outfit because I find I need two camera bodies for different intentions. An Olympus E-M1 or Panasonic GH3 would do the trick for the big’un and no choice for the second, the GX7. Next thought, what is the point of a small camera body if you then put large lenses on it? The logical conclusion is…I can’t have one perfect outfit so I’ll have two perfect outfits. And the funny thing is, thinking back that’s what I did in film days. My Nikons with the lenses I mentioned and a Leica M2 with 35 and 90mm for out and about when I wasn’t working.

So, here is my present perfect ‘proper’ outfit. A Lowepro Slingshot 102, the smallest one containing Panasonic GH3 body with battery pack, Panasonic 7-14 f4, 12-32 f2.8, 35-100 f.28, 100-300mm f4-5.6. It covers a massive range of angles of view yet I can pick it all up with my little finger. I’d prefer a 150mm f2.8 and 1.4X converter if they existed but only if the lens was a reasonable size.

And here is my perfect out and about outfit. A Panasonic GX7 body with 17mm f1.8 and 45mm f1.8 Olympus lenses and the diminutive 12-32mm zoom to fill the gaps. That outfit is perfectly fit for purpose and there is nothing I want to change.

If I had to pare the lens and body tally to my absolute minimum, I’d keep both bodies with the 12-35 and 35-100 zooms for the GH3 and the 17mm prime for the GX7. It would limit what I do very little. Those items could be put in one bag and lifted with ease. That is not something you would say about similar functionality expressed with Nikon and Leica bodies and primes.

My perfect outfit will always be a work in progress but I am closer to my ideal than I have ever been in my life.

7 thoughts on “The Perfect Outfit

  1. Gary

    Hi David,

    I watched your videos again and again and again, and also visited this m43 blog frequently so first of all thanks for sharing your knowledge and experience with us. I just purchased a GX7 few days ago with the 14-42 standard kit lens and it is my first micro four thirds camera that I have ever owned.

    I took it to a “semi-professional” photo job yesterday to photograph Prambanan Temple nearby my house for office purposes and I am extremely happy with the result especially comparing the pictures side by side with the same pictures being taken from both my Canon 650D and EOS-M(I guess this proved your point about M43 being as good as APS-C cameras haha!).

    Decided to stick with the GX7, I am currently trying to build my own version of “the perfect m43 outfit” to replace my bulky Canon APS-C system for both occasional office photographic needs as well as for my serious travel photography needs. So far I am planning to get the new Panny 14-140(for travel), Panny 100-300(I shoot wildlife sometimes, especially birds around here), Panny 7-14, and Olympus 17 f1.8 (for travel/street photography as well as for Youtube guitar videos).

    What do you think about these lenses? Will they perform to my needs? Do you think I will need the double 2.8 zooms or will I do just fine without them? Also if I decided to get a second small body that can deliver the same punch as the GX7, what will you recommend? Will the GM1 or Olympus E-PL5/6 be a perfect secondary body?

    Many thanks in advance, and once again warm greeting from Indonesia 🙂

    1. Post author

      Hi Gary – on the camera body, I’d probably go for the GM1, simply because it is so small and light that you would hardly know it whether was in your bag or not. The 14-140 is just ideal for travel, a real one stop shop without the IQ hit you used to get with such wide range zooms.
      The 7-14 and the 100-300 cover the extremes, leaving you with the mid range of focal lengths to cover. Given that you have the kit zoom, the 17mm would be a great addition and so would the 45mm f1.8 Olympus. That would be a very complete outfit. You’d rarely use the 14-42, I think but good to have it anyway.
      I’m a big fan of the two 2.8 zooms but they hike the cost and do add bulk (relatively). In their case, I’d probably go for the 4 zooms, 7-14,12-35,35-100 and 100-300 and leave it at that, given the cost.
      Overall, the choice of lenses you have made is as good as any – but I do love the little 45mm Olympus!

      1. Gary

        Hi David,

        Thanks for the reply and the advices on the second body as well as the lenses! I now have the GX7 with 14-140 attached 60% of the time, a brand new 7-14 just arrived this evening, Olympus 17 1.8 attached 35% of the time, and the 100-300 for the birds, the moon and the butterflies. You are absolutely right, I rarely use the 14-42 but as you said it’s good to know that I have it, I might going to use it again in the future because of the small size as well as slight extra sharpness compared to the 14-140 at the 14mm.

        I just recently sold an old lens for my Canon as well as my most beloved Canon EOS M so now I have an extra money and will very soon go after the “secondary body” to complement the GX7 as well as an extra lens.

        On the lens side of the world, I read so many good reviews(also yours) about the 45mm Olympus but 45mm is a bit too tight for my kind of environment plus I don’t do too much portrait so I’m going after the 25mm to recreate the feel of a 35mm on my APS-C(which is close to 50mm equivalent full frame) so I’m going after the 25mm Olympus 1.8.

        On the body side of the world, I am seriously considering GM1 but I am afraid that it will compromise on the dedicated button for ISO and aperture/shutter settings. So after careful consideration I might go after an E-PL5 or E-PL6 because fortunately I don’t need the extra small size and I want to dive into the Olympus world a little bit more. Maybe in the future I will consider a GM1 as a leisure camera to take around with me on the car or when I am going for a walk but only when I have extra money or if I can find a used one. But for now, I think the GX7 and E-PL5/6 will do just fine for my demands.

        Next week I am going for a photo shoot opportunity with my coworkers to photograph some photogenic locations on the city for office purposes, so that will be a good time to test my current outfit with any given condition on the locations.

        Anyway, thank you very much for your very helpful reviews and videos as well as the blog posts. They are not just entertaining and refreshing, but they also helped me to narrow down the enormous choices of lenses and body. I couldn’t be happier with the choices for my photo gear right now!

        Greetings from Indonesia and I wish you a good day sir!

  2. David

    I wanted to thank you for all the great videos. They are very informative. On the subject of the GX7 it looks great camera but……and you know there’s always going to be a but, do you have any problems with the actual handling of it? It seems to me that the shutter button could have been put in a better spot. When I tried it I had to change my hand position to press the button. I like the way the grip and shutter button positions on the G5 and G6. Of course they are the mini-dslr style as opposed to the rangefinder. Knit picking I know.

    Speaking of the G5, I have one and want to replace the the 14-42 v1 kit lens that came with it. I mostly do landscape photography but also shoot gardens, I’m a landscaper, wildlife and some street scenes. After reviewing a portion of my work I found that the majority are 90mm or wider and the majority of those 40 or less. Do you have any suggestions for an “affordable” group of lenses? I’m open to both primes and Panasonic zooms (because of OIS). Thanks again.

    1. Post author

      Hi David. Sorry to take so long to reply, I’ve had to wade through 300 spams…

      I’m glad you like the videos. My only problems with the handling of the GX7 are due to the size of it and are, in fact, a large part the reason I prefer the GH3/4 Panasonics to the Olympus equivalents. I find with the GX7 that I have to turn off the touch screen, otherwise I’m always moving the focus box. And I find it very easy to hit some of the function buttons accidentally. The shutter button is OK for me but really, it’s the size that limits its ergonomics. No question, the Gs feel better in the hand.

      Lenses, the 12-35 f2.8 is a lovely general purpose lens, fast focus and sharp with a nice feel. That, coupled with the 45mm f1.8 Olympus makes a nice general purpose combination. Wildlife is more difficult. The 40-150mm Olympus is a useful compact lens with decent performance but no stabilization but added to the lenses I’ve mentioned would be a good complete outfit. The 14-140mm Panasonic shouldn’t be ignored, Fast focus, nice feel, good performance.

      I find it hard to decide what I would do. I’d certainly consider the 14-140mm coupled with the 17mm f1.8 Olympus for street. That sound really nice to me. Expensive, though.

  3. Keiron

    Hi David

    Your reviews really won me over the MFT and I ended up purchasing an e-PL6 which is pretty much identical to an e-PL5 with an extra few art filters and, more importantly, it was €100 cheaper than the e-PL5… don’t ask me why. I have loved this camera and have been trying to decide if an EVF is something that I would get a lot of value from because you pay a fair amount extra for one and since I was bought up part of the camera phone generation I am used to composing pictures on a screen and it comes quite naturally. Coupled with that I have a strong love for street and animal photography and the tilting screen is a massive asset in that field.

    That said the change to an EVF (or optical version) is a mindset one that I am sure will yield very positive results and the the question for me is what am I willing to pay for it and what size increments am I will to absorb (currently the e-PL6 with 20mm pancake is so pocketable it blows my mind).

    The GX7 looks like a great camera but the reviews have been quite mixed. Everyone agrees that it is brilliant across the board but the fact that it is the everything for everyone I feel it leaves people hating the sporty, academic, good looking, popular kid a little and I can only summarise the reviews as lukewarm for a hot piece of hardware.

    When I learnt that you purchased the GX7 I was interested to see if it would replace your e-PL5 as in my mind they fill a very similar purpose but if you fork out the extra €350 for the GX7 you get the latest tech, integrated flash and an EVF. I have read your posts and watched your videos and it seems to me that you have kept both the GX7 and e-PL5 as part of your “everyday kit” and I wanted to hear your views on this. Do you find that the GX7 is replacing your e-PL5 or do you feel that it makes sense to own both?

    1. Post author

      Hi Keron

      I’ve actually sold the E-PL5 now as I really do like an eye level finder and the two cameras are so similar in size that it didn’t make sense to keep both. Plus, I need the money!
      If the Olympus had an EVF, I’d probably just have kept that. I don’t much like the add on EVFs, as to me they make the camera feel a little clumsy to use, plus they are very expensive.

      I speak to a lot of people who, as you say, came to photography through their phone’s camera and they are used to composing and shooting via the rear monitor, so I realize that it is simply a matter of personal preference. If I were happy using the monitor, I’d see no reason to transfer to a camera with an EVF.

      The GX7, I think it is a tremendous camera and people who own them seem very happy. Sometimes reviewers expect too much, a camera gets hyped as all things to all people and then they are disappointed by the reality – that it is just a camera, albeit a good one.

      Certainly if you are not bothered, you have a much wider choice of suitable cameras and if you are comfortable with using the monitor, I personally wouldn’t recommend an EVF above that


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *