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.