Flickr is cool, not only does it allow to upload and share images, but it also shows the EXIF details of an image, which means how a picture was taken in terms of settings, what camera/lens was used etc. etc.
So I’ve had a few people browsing my Flickr page and ask me about my gear, because what I have listed (here) on WordPress does not match my EXIF files on Flickr. So I decided to share the story of my gear.
Let’s ignore film and pre-Flickr era cameras because that would take forever, so I’ll focus on the last 6 years.
I’ve spent 2 years in Australia (from 2010 to 2012), and that was when Sony mirrorless cameras (the Nex line) took the market by surprise. They had a reasonable price, very good specs and produced images that would often require a more expensive Dslr camera to match. At that time my small Fuji camera was at the end of its glorious life, so I decided to pull the trigger on a Sony Nex-C3.
The main problem that I had with the camera was the menu system, holy cow was (is?) Sony’s software bad. Changing settings on the fly was an absolute pain in the a$$. Eventually, I also decided to get something better than the kit-lens (Sony kit lenses are regarded as some of the worst in the photography industry), but Sony lenses were so overpriced that I could have bought a new camera + 1 or 2 lenses for the price of a single Sony Nex-line lens. And so did I.
Enters the Nikon D7100. In 2013 there was a massive power struggle between the Nikon D7100 and Canon’s 70D. The former looked like it was the best “photography” camera, while the latter had great video functionalities and some neat features like the tilting screen. I’ve never been into video, so my choice had to be based on photography only. The cool thing about the internet is that back in the day I was able to find countless comparison videos. One of them was particularly useful as the reviewer showed images taken on the D7100 and 70D side by side in a blind test, only revealing at the end of the video which picture belonged to which camera.
A good 70% of the images that I preferred came from the Nikon cameras, so I sold my Sony mirrorless and bought a Nikon D7100.
Most of my early images in this blog are from that camera. I’ve really enjoyed the image quality, but I’ve had a huge problem with it. I couldn’t use the viewfinder.
No matter how much I turned the lever around, there was no way for me to see through the viewfined and have a clear image. It just would not adjust enough for my vision, which forced me to use liveview all the time. That sucked, because focusing in liveview is painfully slow. I’ve also had another minor annoyance with dust entering the camera ALL-THE-TIME, but for me the viewfinder issue was a real deal breaker. I’ve only managed to spend a few months with it, then I decided to sell it and try Canon.
Nikon’s D7100 is an APS-C camera, which means the sensor is a bit smaller than what is considered the standard “full frame”. By the time I decided to give Canon a try, the price for their 6D was basically the same as the D7100. The 6D was the most affordable full frame camera on the planet, and while I struggled a bit chosing between that and the Nikon D610 (which would have allowed me to keep my lenses) I decided to check out life on the red side. On a positive note: selling my Sony mirrorless came at a huge (70%) loss, while I sold the Nikon + lenses just 15% below their retail price.
Canon 6D has been my good friend for quite a while now. It just clicked for me as soon as I started using it. The menu system, the ergonomics, the image quality, everything felt just right for me. And I can use the viewfinder, yay!
It’s far from being THE best camera, it’s now 4 years old, the autofocus system is fairly basic and a bump in resolution wouldn’t hurt, but using it has given me nothing but joy.
Here comes the problem with full frame cameras, though. Weight. A full frame camera plus a couple of useful zooms can be quite heavy, so it’s not an ideal thing to carry in a backpack during a cycling trip. I also have back issues, and carrying a heavy backpack while hiking is something that I’d rather avoid.
So a couple of years ago I’ve started to check out some lighter systems to see if I could find something that I could use along with my 6D.
Canon’s own mirrorless camera seemed to be ideal. Small, lightweight and quickly dropped from 700+$ to well under 150$, yay! Well, the image quality that the M line can produce is outstanding, but the autofocus was (is?) absolutely terrible. I tried to live with it for a while, then one day I was trying to take a picture of a cool dog that wanted to play with me. My Eos-M simply couldn’t keep track and focus quickly, so I had to take out my smartphone and took a few pictures with it. I was done. The good thing is that I got the Eos-M for such a low price that I managed to sell it at a profit, so not bad.
My next step in the portable-lightweight world was M43, Micro-Four-Thirds. I found a second hand Panasonic G3 for a ridiculously low price and gave it a go. By the time I bought it, the G3 was 4 generations old. Both Panasonic and Olympus improved their camera lineup a lot, but boy have I had a good time with the G3. Really fast autofocus, good image quality and a ton of great lenses available. I only had a couple of lenses, and eventually I decided to re-sell the G3 at a small profit and keep my eyes on M43. I’m definitely planning to get a more modern body like a Panasonic G7, I just want to wait until I can find a good deal for it. Definitely the best mirrorless experience I’ve had so far.
After selling the G3 I spent a few months just with my 6D. Eventually I found a second hand Canon Sx50 bridge camera at a very good price and decided to give it a go.
It has been a nice experience so far. Image quality is ok-ish, but what it lacks in image quality it makes up for in convenience, with a massive zoom range of 24mm to 1200mm. An interesting fact: the Sx50 generated a cult following ever since it was released. People were extremely excited about the release of the Sx60, but excitment quickly turned into disappointment, as the newer model’s image quality took a hit due to longer zoom and higher megapixel count. So the Sx50 only exists second hand now, and is now revered like a glorious unicorn.
And that’s the story so far!
My current setup of 6D + Sx50 is a nice combination of image quality and lowlight performance, together with convenience and portability. It’s easy to chuck the Sx50 at the bottom of my backpack when I go cycling, and the 6D works great when I feel like carrying around a tripod, extra lenses, flesh etc et.
Now, regarding lenses. I’ll skip my previous Nikon/Panasonic purchases and I’ll just mention the gear I’m using now on the 6D.
Canon 17-40 f4 L : for landscape and architecture shots
Canon 50mm f1.8 STM : I like this focal length and this kind of lens is good, fast and affordable. The previous MkII version was horrible, so I gladly bought the STM model as soon as it was released
Canon 85mm f1.8 : I like this focal length a lot, not just for portraits (its most common use), but also for general walkaround. Out of all my lenses, this is the one that creates the images that I prefer
Canon 28-70mm MkV: got it for roughly 20$ as a cheap, lightweight, general purpose zooms that can also focus very close for some semi-macro shots, and it creates images that are not too bad
Canon 90-300mm : 30$ to fill the gap that I have on the long end seemed like a good deal for me, even though it’s optically terrible
Rokinon 14mm f2.8: a very specialized lens, I basically only use it for night landscapes
On my wishlist:
Canon 135mm f2: by many people regarded as THE must have lens for Canon full frame cameras due to the really unique look that it can create. All the images that I’ve seen so far make me think that I’d love to play around with this lens.
Canon 16-35 Ff4: I tend to prefer buying something that I don’t have, rather than upgrading what I already own. This lens would be an upgrade over my 17-40, which is something I wouldn’t normally consider. The new 16-35 is optically miles ahead of the 17-40 though, and they share the same filter size so I could immediately re-use all my filters.
Canon 24-70 f4 and 70-300L : my cheap-o zooms are good placeholders, but eventually I plan to replace them with their better, modern counterparts. The 70-300L is currently the lens I’d prefer in that focal length, as I’ve owned the 70-300 IS and was not impressed at all. Luckily, in August Canon should announce/release a new 70-300 IS, we’ll see how things go with that.
An alternative plan would be to get an APS-C body like an 80D and use it specifically for its EF-S lenses, such as the 10-18mm, 24mm and 55-250mm. An 80D with 55-250mm lens would be cheaper than the 70-300 L lens alone and give me more reach, something to keep in mind.
I’ve had TERRIBLE luck with third party lenses so far. On my 6D I had constant problems with Sigma and Tamron lenses, so I decided to stick with Canon glass or full-manual lenses like the Rokinon.
There has been a lot of buying and selling during the last few years for me, with lenses coming and going continuosly. The only situations when I lost money where the Sony and Nikon cameras, I bought them brand new and I had to give up 300$ total while selling them. The Eos-M and G3 gave me 100$ profit, and some lenses that I got second hand, tried and quickly re-sold (Canon 70-300mm IS and 100mm macro) I made an extra 50+$.
All in all I still “wasted” some cash on those early purchases, but I like to consider it an investemnt, as it eventually allowed me to find a system that I enjoy using and fits all my needs.
If you have a similar habit of buying and selling, feel free to share your story!