Nuts and Bolts

After responding to a comment earlier today, I realized I haven’t said much about my equipment in a while. Since I recently picked up a camera and some lenses, it’s a good time to post an update. I’ll also list my film gear, since a portion of the work in my galleries was shot with it (and come to think of it, I need to update those galleries…)

My current camera is the Olympus PEN-F (in silver), the first digital camera I’ve enjoyed to this extent. If you’re considering it, there are good reviews to look for (such as Steve Huff’s and Robin Wong’s). I also sprang for a grip to use with my heavier lenses.

Some have written about the PEN’s Monochrome II mode and the praise has been well-deserved. If black and white is the intention, one has the option of shooting in monochrome instead of in color, and there’s control over contrast within-camera. To give you an example, my image from earlier today was uploaded without the usual post-processing (except for resizing and a bit of toning).  The PEN is petite, well-weighted and lovely. Kudos to Olympus for understanding why this matters.

I also have an assortment of Panasonics: The G6, a G5 and a G3. (I owned the GX8 for several months but returned it because of an electronic issue. The GX8 is a solid camera and most of the work from my recent Utah trip was shot with it).

My current lineup of lenses includes the following:

Olympus M. Zuiko 75mm f1.8
Olympus M. Zuiko 60mm f2.8 macro
Olympus M. Zuiko 45mm f1.8
Olympus M. Zuiko 12mm f2
Panasonic Lumix 20mm f1.7
Panasonic Lumix 14mm f2.5
Panasonic Lumix 45-150mm f4-f5.6

My film cameras and lenses include the Hasselblad 903 SWC with the 38mm Biogon (as seen in my gravatar). I also worked with the Hasselblad 503 CX, a Planar 80mm f2.8, and the 180mm f4. Over the years I employed various viewfinders, backs and a ground-glass back.

I took a lot of photographs with a Fuji 645 S (the one with the rollbar) and the Fuji 645 W (the one without).

And then there’s the Contax G2 with its trio of lenses: the 45mm f2 Planar, the 28mm f2.8 Biogon and the 90mm f2.8 Sonnar.

I’m no longer shooting film, but I miss handling those incredible cameras.

If my post-processing is of interest, it includes Photoshop CC, ACR 10.1, On1 Photo 10, the no-longer-supported NIK collection (all eight of ’em), Lightroom (which I don’t use often). These days my workflow begins in ACR where I try to accomplish as much as possible.

My printer is the Epson Pro 3880 (a truly great machine). My scanner, which I haven’t used in a while, is the Epson V700. Many of the earlier 120 images in my galleries were drum-scanned.

Finally, my stereo equipment includes a Rega Planar III, a Grado Reference Sonata and a lot of jazz records. 🙂

Let me know if you have any questions!

11 thoughts on “Nuts and Bolts

  1. I love this shot John and it’s nice to hear what you’re shooting with I knew you’d used analogue and the blad but not the others. I too have the blad my variant is the 501 two lenses the 80 and a 50 both of which are stellar performers. My 35mm is Pentax lx the 50 1.4 and the 28 3.5 again superb performers and so delicious to use.

    My digital kit is very much like yours although I still have the panny gx7. I must admit I’m pondering the issue of your choice primarily for the reasons you have alluded to. I love to shoot in b and w and this date I say may even tempt me to lose the lx and dispense with 35mm altogether. Of course it’s easier said than done as I procrastinate over said decision. Methinks you may have pushed me more in that direction especially with your recent postings. I did think you’d shot the beach abstract with analogue so kudos there my friend.

    Keep em coming your images never fail to inspire and are always a joy to behold.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for commenting Martin, it’s a pleasure to know the details about the equipment you’re using to capture some of your superb photographs. I never used the 50mm with the Blad, but it’s a great focal length and I imagine you’ve employed it for many of your classic tree images. Your Pentax normal f1.4 also sounds like an awesome lens.

      There are some other advantages to the Olympus PEN such as five axis in-body stabilization, and the option to record a high-res image sandwiching eight images into one from a tripod (which I’ve yet to do).

      One minor issue I encountered yesterday is that a standard .3mm screen protector won’t permit the LCD screen to close properly, once installed. The one I purchased is made by GGGS specifically for the PEN. There’s a forum discussing this problem, and some say that .1mm protectors area available in Europe, so perhaps you’d be able to pick one up, assuming you buy the camera. Truthfully, there is much less navigating done via the touch screen when compared to the Panasonics. In fact, one can perform those functions from the menu keys, so I may not even bother with a screen protector.

      A word of caution if you’re considering the Panasonic GX 8: the electronic issue occurred with two different bodies and I was forced to return them both. At random times when turning on the camera, I’d get no image on either screen or viewfinder. If I turned the camera back off, the green light would stay on. The only way to solve the problem would be to remove the battery. Apparently, other folks have encountered this issue, and Panasonic has yet to deal with it (perhaps they need a firmware update?). Other than that, I’d give the camera high marks, and used it for much of the winter.

      Shooting with the PEN in b.w. is opening up a range of new possibilities. Also, based on what I’m seeing so far, the JPEG engine is extremely good. I’ve been shooting less in RAW anyway over the last two years, so this was an added bonus. Above all that, it was the look and feel of the little camera which did it for me. Since you’re already a Hasselblad owner, I don’t need to explain this to you. 🙂


  2. Thanks so much, John, this is very interesting – and educational! – to read. I don’t know all that much about the Pen, which sounds very interesting. I’m using an OM D1 and I imagine there are similarities, such as the stabilization, which I love. The Monochrome mode sounds really interesting, too. Right now though, I don’t want to be tempted by a different camera (the expense)! 😉
    Your lens list is also interesting – I love my 45mm f1.8 so much. It does great things with light, especially pointed into it in darker places like we have here (the forests, etc). A great lens. And I enjoy the 60mm macro as well – it was my favorite until I got the 45mm. I will look into the 75mm and 12mm – especially the 12mm, as I’d like a good wide angle lens for landscapes, and I never liked the 14mm for some reason. Do you use your 14mm much? I have the 20mm, which is really nice, but would like something wider.
    Only one zoom on the list! I prefer primes too, but I’m just waiting for the day I damage one while switching lenses. Such a pain! And I like to travel very light so usually only carry one additional lens on me (more in the car). I was given a 12mm – 40mm f2.8 but it’s heavy & bulky compared to the primes, and I haven’t gotten used to it yet. Maybe I will – I hope so.
    Your Epson – I suppose that means you’re printing all of what you show in the gallery shows you have on the east end? That’s wonderful. Printing is something I have not tackled, and now that I’m not working constantly, I can. I just have to think about whether that’s the direction I want to go in, because it’s a big investment of time, money, and energy.
    I think you and I come to post processing from different directions or places. By the time I really got into photography, Lightroom was good enough, so I never learned Photoshop well enough to get comfortable with it. I suppose that shows, but the other platforms keep getting better, and there seem to be many, many possibilities just with LR and the NIK software. 🙂 I had On1 but stopped using it in favor of LR & NIK, and I think I had an early version of ACR way back but no longer have that. Too many choices! Would I ever love to be a fly on the wall and watch your processing, though.
    It’s interesting to hear you’re shooting less in RAW – is it because you’ve mastered your subjects well enough not to need to extra wiggle room? I’m curious.
    In any case, thank you again for posting this information! Stay warm – I think you have another storm coming, right? We may get a tiny bit of snow as well – that would be nice to see.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for such a nice comment. I debated whether or not to go ahead with this post, since an equipment discussion is not the ticket for most people.

      I agree with you about the 45mm. If I had to pick a favorite lens, it’s probably that one. I’ve had mine so long it’s starting to look a little scuffed. 🙂 It’s also the same focal length as the 90mm I used to use with my Contax film camera (the G2) –and that was my favorite lens from that system. I like to think of the properties of focal length as “lens language,” and the focal length we’re discussing speaks with a great deal of elegance.

      I do like the petiteness of that 14mm, but I prefer the speed of the 12mm. My feelings about those primes are: the faster the better, especially in the context of M4/3 because the extra speed permits one to avoid the higher ISO’s (unless it’s noise you’re after). To give you an example, I can shoot handheld images with the 12mm at the beach around sunset (and even after sunset) without resorting to higher ISO’s than 400. I can’t do that with the 14mm.

      I did use the 14mm for a long time, often with the wide-extender which is about the best $130 accessory I’ve purchased in the last ten years. (The extender did slow the lens down another stop or two, though.)

      The price of the PEN is not one of its strong points. I initially upgraded to the GX8 which was on sale at B & H, but after dealing with the problem I discussed with Martin up above, I decided to upgrade further. The high cost of the PEN aside, there are many great cameras out there right now under $500. Who would’ve thought we’d live to see that?

      I use ON1 mainly for resizing and toning, although there are some presets that are good to use as foundations, especially if the goal is a “pictorialist” treatment or something similar.

      I use ColorEfex all the time, but mostly in the final stages of working on a file or to tweak something. On the other hand, SilverEfex is where most of my monochrome workflow is taking place (although I try to send the file to it from ACR with a lot of the work done already). My concern about both ColorEfex and SilverEfex is that Google has said they’re not going to continue to support NIK. That means eventually we may not be able to run them in our future OS, or as plug-ins in future editions of P-Shop.

      Adobe has upgraded ACR significantly with 10.1. There are some exceptional new tools (such as the circular gradient and transform menu). I’ve really gotten into ACR over the last six months– it seems they’re coming up with ways to help you get to where you need to faster and more intuitively.

      RAW vs JPEG: It’s funny, the part of me that resists clutter, seems to want smaller files on my computer (assuming they’re just as good). It seems to me the key lies in proper exposure and file handling. I’ll shoot RAW whenever there’s really high contrast, but there’s clearly been a major improvement in the way most current cameras record highlights and shadows in JPEGS. Because of that, I’m regularly shooting in JPEG now, converting to TIF and printing in fairly large sizes from those files.

      Finally, yes, I do print all my own work. Now that we’re in an era where photographers are more common than guitarists it’s a way to retain a connection to the craft part of this medium which occupied the first 150 years. 🙂


  3. Your comments about the 45mm are interesting – speaking the language of lenses with elegance, yes. A faster lens always seems like a good idea, so I appreciated the comparison between the 14mm and 12mm, too. I see the 12mm is on the large side, though not huge at all, and not inexpensive. The 45mm is such a bargain! I’ve never used an extender – yet another piece of equipment to think about. 🙂
    I’m aware of the issue with SEP & CEP but we’ll see. If they disappear and don’t work any more, I’ll have to adapt. I can do that. 😉
    Making space on the computer, and the SD cards, would certainly be good. I do feel that Olympus does a very good job with so many technical aspects…I should think about trying jpegs again. Once I “converted” to RAW, I thought that was it. And you may have noticed, in much of my home ground photography, high contrast is not an issue. I suppose I often put back a little of that contrast the jpeg would have put in the file in the first place. And then there are the in-camera settings for increasing or decreasing contrast and saturation, if one could remember to use them appropriately!
    Thank you, John, for your time!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. What kind of Jazz? No, seriously, about the Pen-F. I was tempted by it, too, but I couldn’t accept the EVF. Chose the Fujifilm X100F instead. And then my Leica M9 was replaced with a M monochrom (246). No problems with the viewfinder in either of them. 😉
    I like your black and white work.


    1. Nice to hear from you. I’d say you made great choices with that Fuji and Leica. I assume the EVF issue you’re referring to with the PEN is how the EVF sensor can become disabled in bright rear directional sunlight? I read about it on a few forums, but it hasn’t happened to me yet, despite repeatedly shooting in those conditions– and there does seem to be some reasonable work-arounds.

      I settled on the PEN pretty much because of the array of lenses I’d already assembled. But there’s clearly many other superb options. 🙂


        1. Oh ok…gotcha. The EVF resolution is fine by my standard, especially taking price into the equation. I could be wrong, but it does seem on par with some of the Sony’s I’ve used. The diopter is much sharper than the Panasonic GX8 which I returned.


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