Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Show And Tell: What's In The Bag?

Show and tell time. I suppose I can consider this my personal gear review as well. Today I'm gonna share what's in the little bag that I lug around when I go out to take pictures.

What's in the bag?

The bag isn't that big, but I can actually carry more stuff in it when I go to take pictures. It's an advantage of using the Micro Four Thirds format over APS-C, which most people have.

Here we go...

My accomplices when I go around.


Olympus 15mm f/8.0 Body Cap Lens 

Mostly on the ready, when I don't expect any specific kind of shooting in mind, I usually go for the lens body cap. It has a very slim profile that reduces my E-PL5 to compact camera dimensions and almost pocketable. It doesn't necessarily have the best optical quality but it's the easiest lens I've ever used, practically a no-brainer. There's just a small lever that one needs to slide to open the lens cover and you're good to go. The image quality is a few notches above toy lenses, practically a proper lens. With a 15mm focal length, it gives a 30mm equivalent coverage in full frame, which is fairly wide. This makes for a subtle option in street photography in broad daylight. I like how it doesn't display any obvious vignetting as well.

Pancake for the cheapskate. That's me.

Operating this is plainly simple- focusing can either be set to infinity or the hyper-focal -distance marked by a dot at the bottom. Moving the switch beyond that focuses to the minimum focusing distance. Focusing in between without moving the camera is beyond tricky. Overall it's fun to use. The aperture captures a lot of detail, but being at constant F/8 though, don't bother trying to get any bokeh nor decent low light performance. When the light starts to drop, I start to replace this lens with any of the other ones in the bag.

Rokinon 7.5mm 3.5 Fisheye (Micro Four Thirds version)

This is my wide-eyed companion. So wide sometimes I see my finger in the shot. At 7.5mm, it gives about 15mm equivalent coverage in full frame format. It gives a massively wide 180 degree corner to corner coverage. Unsurprisingly, it'll be a bit less wide in practice, especially in the top to bottom coverage due to the cropping in the sensor dimensions. Despite that, it's still plenty. This lens is also sold under different brands, i.e. Bower, Samyang, among others, but it's the same lens.

It's a unique kind of lens.

Widest opening is at f/3.5, but stopping down to f/4.5 improves the image quality dramatically. Go further to f/5.6 and almost everything is in focus when you're focusing to near infinity. This baby is plenty sharp and what I love even more about this is the fact that it's not bulky. There are few better fisheye lenses out there that can offer the same combination of size, image quality and ease of use. I got mine used for around $275 back in 2012, and it's awesome bang for your buck. The other rivals may offer other advantages but are almost at twice the price. Until today it's a favorite. This lens gets rave reviews by a lotta people, and it's among the reasons why I don't leave the micro four thirds format for another system. There may be others as good if not better, but those just won't fit in a compact package at an affordable price.

I spy with my little Fisheye, a lot of things on sight.

But it's not perfect unfortunately. A lot of people lament over the loss of autofocus and EXIF data, due to the fact it's purely optics, plastic and metal. It doesn't have any electronic contact so the camera just won't recognize it at all. Given the price though, I'm not complaining. Corrections in post process can be easily done as well. The lens profile is preloaded with DarkTable (I recommend this as an absolutely free cheapskate alternative to lightroom BTW) and if I defish the image, it becomes a lovely wideangle image. Needless to say, this is the widest lens I have.

Sigma 19mm 2.8 DN

Wide, sharp and bright. And affordable. If I'm expecting to go out on evenings this is my go-to lens. I personally call this my date lens. This offers a 38mm full frame equivalent. It's about at the wide end of the "normal" focal range. This lets me take a picture of a person at the other end of the table without limiting it to a mug shot. Optics are beautiful, and most of the time I  can shoot wide open with it. At f/2.8 I can still take pictures. It can take pictures in low light conditions with some boosted ISO.

Can't flaw the optics, but not a fan of the smooth textured focus ring.

However, it's not perfect. For starters, I dislike the smooth finish of the focus ring. It adds the risk of slipping off my hands and dropping it while changing lenses. The lens cap is also too easy to accidentally remove. The only reason I picked this over the older version of this lens which may have handled better is the fact that it focuses faster. Slightly faster. I slightly regret that decision but it's a minor gripe given the benefits. Also, f/2.8 isn't that big. There are better offerings, namely the Panasonic 20mm 1.7, however, I'm concerned about the price. Again, I got this lens because it was relatively affordable. The same goes with all the other lenses I have.  I have a thing for "bang for your buck" lenses.

Sigma 30mm 2.8 EX DN

This  is the other twin of the 19mm Sigma. Along with that, one can expect the same level of image quality. It's good enough to shoot wide open too. Aperture is fairly wide, though not THAT wide. I have no gripes about this one. The grooves in the focus ring makes a world of difference in handling and manual focusing. It also makes changing lenses hell of a lot easier. I prefer this to take pictures of subjects at a distance. No need to get too close with this lens. With a full frame equivalent of 60mm, it makes a lovely portraiture lens too.

I took the grooves for granted... Until I met the 19mm. Now I love this lens more.

I can attest that this is a well built lens. I once dropped this on cobblestones and it rolled a couple of feet before I managed to pick it up and it still worked like nothing happened. Lucky me despite being annoyingly clumsy that it happened in the first place.

Olympus M.Zuiko ED 40-150mm f4.0-5.6 R

The name of the lens is a mouthful. But I can't fault the value. It is utterly amazing.  If this were a Nikon APS-C lens, it'd be a 70-300 lens. A lot bigger, expensive and heavier. This baby, however is light, both in weight and in the wallet. Optics are adequate and can be shot wide open, though there are improvements in stopping it down a couple of notches. This isn't ideally a portrait lens, but if you're not going after a bokehlicious background, this will still do nicely.

Long reach on a compact package.

Unfortunately this has some trade offs, namely the plastic mount. This may give woes in the long run, namely with the mount loosening, or heaven forbid - breaking! I've seen plastic mount lenses break before. I don't want it to happen to me. One may need to be careful in handling this lens because of that. Those who find that a deal breaker may want to look into the Panasonic telephoto lenses. Those offer better quality but at a higher price. As for me, I'll use this until it eventually breaks. :)

Thoughts In The Bag?

So, that's it. Relatively small bag, but filled with a number of things. I can go lighter if I want to, of course. I still use the kit zoom lens that came with the camera. Optically it's not great but it still does a decent job. There are other lenses but I'll probably feature them next time.

Manual adjustments make it a relaxing experience for me.

Until then, happy new year and don't let the fear of getting lost deter you from going out to wander. :)

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