what’s in my bag: 2012

posted in film, gear at December 20, 2011

It’s that time of the year again – my annual “what’s in the bag” post. This is what I’m using going into 2012.

My current gear:

Phase One 645 AF with Mamiya 80mm f2.8 lens

This is my only film camera.  My reasons for owning and using this camera:

- The nice big negative:  56mm x 42mm, which is 2.7 times larger than 35mm or full-frame digital sensor.  The big negative has several important advantages:  detail, clarity, dynamic range, and of course that beautiful 3D-like rendering.  Nothing looks more beautiful than medium format film.

- The most advanced MF body:  The P1645 / Mamiya AFDIII (the same camera with different labels) is the most current medium format film body and is still made today.  It has the best metering and autofocus of any medium format film camera ever made.  Unfortunately, it may also be the last.

- Mamiya glass:  Mamiya makes absolutely gorgeous lenses.  They are tack sharp, light, and ridiculously cheap on eBay.

- Cost:  All-in, I think I spent $1,200 on this camera.  A deal.

When will I use this camera?

- When I feel like shooting film (for either personal or professional work)

- When I want to capture some really special images of my kids


Canon 5D Classic

This has been my workhorse since 2006.  I use it for 90% of my professional work.  To date, I still think the 5D produces the best files of any DSLR ever made – that includes the latest DSLRs, which are all fantastic.  Yes, it has flaws, namely the primitive auto-focus system, slow speed and tiny buffer.  If I still shot weddings, that would be enough of a reason to upgrade right now.  But as a portrait photographer, those flaws are a non-issue for me.  I see no reason to upgrade now or at any time in the future.  I’ll simply keep using this camera until it dies.


- 24mm f1.4L:  A great lens but I might end up selling it.  I simply don’t use this focal length very much.

- 35mm f1.4L:  A fabulous lens – I use it all the time as a 2-lens combo along with my 70-200.

- 50mm f1.4:  Sharp, inexpensive, small and light.

- 85mm f1.8:  ditto

- 70-200 f2.8 L  IS:  My primary portrait lens.  Beautiful rendering, tack sharp, effective image stabilization.


Olympus EP3 with Panasonic 20mm f1.7 lens

The EP3 is my primary personal camera.  Since I bought it I probably use it for 90% of my personal work.  It’s primary advantage is it’s small size and light weight.  When I’m out and about with my kids on some outing (and photography is not the reason for the outing), size and weight trumps everything.  Focus and metering are great.  It has it’s flaws (which I’ll cover when I release my final EP3 review post), and it’s not a permanent solution, but for the next year or two it will certainly be fine.

Canon G11

Since I purchased the EP3 I don’t use my G11 very often.  I don’t really see much reason to sell it, though.  It’s great for macro shots like for eBay auctions.  Since I don’t own any macro lenses for my P1, 5D or EP3, this is it.  I can also keep it for when I need some really high speed flash.  Shooting off-camera flash at 1/1000 is no problem, since this camera doesn’t have a mechanical shutter.

G11 w/off-camera light, f3.5, 1/320 sec, ISO 100.

Camera’s that I tried and sold in 2011

Film cameras:  The great thing about film cameras is that trying them is pretty much free.  If you decide not to keep them, you can eBay them for as much (or sometimes more) than you bought them for.

- Contax 645:  A great camera with great lenses (Zeiss) that’s hampered by an almost un-useable autofocus system.  A great choice for manual-focus shooters. Sold for a big profit.

- Canon 1V:  A state-of-the-art 35mm film camera.  Works great but it’s really no lighter and hardly any smaller than my P1.  If I’m going to pay a size/weight penalty, I’d rather be shooting medium format.

- Contax G2:  Beautifully designed, razor sharp lenses, beautiful files, but has a hit-or-miss autofocus system.

- Fuji GA645i:  Medium format in a small and light package.  Files are eyeball-cutting sharp.  Hampered by some pretty severe limitations, namely:  widest aperture is f4 and fastest shutter speed is 1/400.  This means it’s really not great for shooting in either low light OR bright light!

- Olympus OM2n:  I may regret selling this one.  A jewel of a camera.  Beautiful, HUGE viewfinder.  Sharp lenses.  So cheap it’s practically free (cost $100 with lens!).  At the end of the day, I simply am not a fan of 35mm film.

Other gear in my bag:

- Alien Bee B800 strobes (three of ‘em).  Dirt cheap and reliable.  Great customer service from Paul C. Buff.

- Canon 580EX and 580EXII speedlights.

- Pocketwizards (3 of ‘em)

- Cases

Tamrac rolling case (for the 5D)

Pelican 1600 (for the P1)

Bodabag classic (for shooting)

- Various light stands / modifiers

The camera I’m interested in for 2012:

I’m really interested in the upcoming Fuji LX.  The X100 by almost all measures is a great camera that I really would have considered if it had interchangeable lenses.  The LX has that covered, and it’s also supposed to offer a major improvement on the already great X100 sensor.  I’m hoping that this camera will not only be a significant improvement over my Olympus EP3, but might also be good enough to replace my 5D as well.  We’ll see.


Please keep these blog posts coming! All you have to do is shop by clicking on the advertisements below. It won’t cost you a penny more to shop that way, but it will provide me with a small commission that enables me to spend time working on new blog posts. Thanks!

Proud Zenfolio Member

  • Jabari
    Twitter: JabariHunt

    I'm planning to get the Phase One 645 AF as well (or the Mamiya 645AF III equivalent). I like the fact that it's film but will readily accept a digital back as well. I've been seeing the Leaf Aptus 22 on eBay for not-so--astronimical prices lately... (December 21, 2011 | 10:35am)

  • Emir

    You should try Pentax K-5 with limited primes, DA*50-135 and DA*55. Like portrait professional I think you would be thrilled, especially for bad weather and hike photo sessions. (December 21, 2011 | 01:29pm)

  • Tim

    If you think 645 is nice, try 6x7. (December 22, 2011 | 03:12am)

  • MarkL

    Seeing how much your love EP3, take a peek at the following link: http://podakuni.livejournal.com/658142.html (feed it through Google Translate since it's in Russian) and http://podakuni.livejournal.com/647321.html Cheers. (December 22, 2011 | 07:46am)

  • Mark Sperry
    Twitter: sperdynamite

    No idea how you got a Phase One cam for $1,200...they go for $6K new! (December 22, 2011 | 09:43pm)

  • Stan

    Nice to know what's in your gear bag for 2012. It should serve you well, and your frugal, practical advice is well received by many of us. One lens you ought to consider is the Oly 45mm f1.8. Like the Panny 20mm it's developing a cult following. WIth good handholding technique and IBIS on EP3, you can get away with 1/15th shutter with the 45mm, so you can keep the ISO in the happy zone. This is one of the redeeming qualities of the EP3 -- fast glass with image stabilization. Cheers! (December 22, 2011 | 10:27pm)

  • admin

    @mark, actually, i got the body and lens for $1200. they don't sell the p1 anymore, you're thinking of a newer body that's meant for digital only. the mamiya 645 afdiii is still in production, and you can get it new for $3,900. (December 23, 2011 | 09:12am)

  • Giorgio

    My idea for 2012? No purchase! I currently use 5D Classic and I don’t need anything more. I still use 35 mm Contax gear that is a bargain. I do a lot of X-process an I'm used to scan stripes with my Minolta scan or Imacon scanner X5. I use Mamiya RZ Pro II with B& W, Negative and Reversal film. It was the best purchase I have ever made in my life. When used digibacks will be offered in 2000-2500 dollars range, i 'll return to buy a new functional piece of equipment. (December 23, 2011 | 12:23pm)

  • Tom K.

    Laurence, What camera strap do you use on the 5D? (December 24, 2011 | 10:09pm)

  • Mart

    Hi Laurence, just wondered if you're interested in the Sony NEX-7 and Sony Zeiss 24mm? http://theonlinephotographer.typepad.com/the_online_photographer/2011/12/most-desirable-rest-cont.html (January 03, 2012 | 01:22pm)

  • admin

    @Mart: Nope. Lenses and file sizes are too big. By all reports, though, it is a nice camera/lens combo. (January 03, 2012 | 01:33pm)

  • Arne
    Twitter: arnekuilman

    What happened to your Panasonic LX-5 or was that a 2010 camera? (January 05, 2012 | 08:19am)

  • admin

    @Arne: I never owned an LX5. I did own an LX3, which I sold a couple years ago. (January 05, 2012 | 08:22am)