I’ve gone through a fair amount of camera gear over the past two years, but I’ve gradually consolidated things down to this list:
Olympus OM-D E-M5. The E-M5 is the body that I was waiting for Olympus to release back in 2008. It offers excellent image quality in good light, and adequate quality in poor light. The camera is small, solid and nimble and has no major drawbacks for my purposes – resolution and dynamic range are good, autofocus with native lenses is fast, the built-in EVF is bright and big and the controls, while a little quirky, provide quick access to everything I need.
Olympus Pen E-PM1. I got the E-PM1 in Nov. 2011, and it’s proven the perfect carry-around camera. It’s very small and paired with the Panasonic 20/1.7 fits easily in a coat pocket when I’m out with friends. But add the EVF and the kit zoom lens and I have a tiny lightweight entry-level DSLR equivalent for short walks and the like. Now that the E-PM2 has been released with the newer 16MP sensor (same as the one in the E-M5), I’ll probably upgrade when given the chance.
Olympus m.ZD 12-50/3.5-6.3. I have distinctly mixed feelings about this lens, but the excellent range coupled with the fast focusing speed and ability to focus very close means I’m keeping it for the time being. It’s not as sharp as I’d like, but the alternatives are lacking in either range, or focusing speed.
Olympus ZD 12-60/2.8-4.0. This is actually a classic 4/3 lens and needs an adapter to use on my cameras. It’s heavy, a bit large (especially on the Pen) and the autofocus is slow (1-3 seconds usually) but it offers a great range and delivers impressive sharpness – something a I appreciate a lot when photographing landscapes. If Olympus were to offer a micro 4/3 version, I’d upgrade.
Olympus m.ZD 14-42/3.5-5.6 IIR. The original 14-42 was one of my least favorite lenses of all time. This version however is actually pretty good. It’s small, lightweight, fast-focusing and reasonably sharp, particularly at the 14mm end. I’m not a fan of the collapsing zoom mechanism, but the lens pairs well with the E-PM1, and for that reason I keep it. If and when the issues with the Panasonic 14-42X at 42mm are sorted out, I expect I’ll be replacing the 14-42IIR.
Panasonic 20mm f/1.7. The 20/1.7 checks almost all the right boxes – it’s small, good optically, fast in terms of aperture and even relatively affordable. The one place it falls down – AF speed in low light – is a nuisance, but one gets used to it. For snapshots at social events, the combination of the 20/1.7 and E-PM1 is pretty much perfect.
Olympus 45m f/1.8. The 45/1.8 is my people lens. For both formal and informal portraits, I find it a good focal length for people, with minimal perspective distortion. It is also fast focusing, sharp and has a wide aperture allowing one to defocus the background. I wish there were more lenses like the 45/1.8. About the only thing wrong with the lens is that it’s colored silver.
Olympus FL-300R. I really don’t use flash much, but the FL-300R does the trick when I do. For the size, it’s reasonably powerful and the head tilts and bounces quite nicely.
Last updated: September 19 2012