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Thursday, 13 December 2018


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WOW! I have that issue of Photo Techniques. I was dreaminig about buying an M3 then, and when a fellow pilot saw the cover he said to me that his father had a camera like that one. Long story short, I ended buying his father’s M3 and also his father’s friend M3. I still have them.

Regarding the GX85, Panasonic has an ongoing package deal on it that includes the 45-150mm zoom in addition to the 12-32mm for just under $500. Just add the 20mm f1.7 now or later and you have the perfect small, light, unobtrusive travel kit.

I well remember that 1997 magazine cover. At the time I was using that exact camera (a Leica M3, from 1959) and the same lenses; a 50/2 dual-range Summicron (also '59) and a 35/2 RF-Summicron (from 1963). I was quite amused to see that antique setup behind the "25 Best Cameras" headline.
Of course I was making my living with more modern gear then, but still...

I liked the PHOTO Techniques article on, "How to Buy a Leica M".

Some Mark-I K-1 bodies are on the used market for under $1200; they are on my radar but not in my minimum-trajectory budget. One can hold it a while then update to Mark II later with a 2-week wait.

Sure wish I had one of these for the imminent comet Wirtanen drive-by since AstroTracer shift mode would serve well. Somehow I'll manage - if I don't drown while looking up (we have a damp forecast this weekend, no surprise in western 'Wash' state).

I really love the design, controls and feel of the Olympus Pen F. Its way cool and a joy to shoot with. My only concern is I had two OM-Ds over the course of 4 years, first an E-M5 and then an E-M1 (MkI) and while I liked the cameras very much and enjoyed shooting with them, I consistenly had problems with greenish color casts when shooting them in Auto White Balance mode. Being spoiled by the almost-always perfect AWB of Fuji X-cams, I finally gave up on my OM-Ds because I got tired of correcting green color casts in virtually every frame. I don't know if the Pen F or the E-M1 MkII is better, hopefully so.

Regading the Panny G9: Completely agree. I shot with the G9 for two hours at a camera store demo day in May, and absolutely LOVED it. Excellent build, quality, controls, logical and clear menus, and man, it is super-fast and responsive. If I weren't shooting with Fuji X, I'd be shooting a G9. GREAT camera.

The Gx85 is actually $100 cheaper if you get it with both lenses. Only $498. See:

Panasonic GX85 ($598 with 12–32mm lens—body not available separately)"

A much better deal for the next couple of days is the body, 12-32 and 45-150 lenses, SD card, bag and UV filter at B&H for $498.

If the lenses are excess, as they are to me, ship 'em off to KEH and get $138 back, for a net body cost of $360, a serious steal on a good camera.

Love my Lumix GX85! Have considered getting a Sony a6000, but then, I already have the Lumix.

PS: Have briefly thought about the Miata.

And what about a do-it-all camera like the Sony RX10iv? Ever since I bought a second-hand RX10, then RX10iii, I've hardly touched my trusty old Pentax K-5. I know that the K-5 will, in theory, give me better results (especially with my Limited lenses), but the RX10iii is quite simply Good Enough. The Zeiss/Sony zoom is a miracle of optical engineering, and I suspect that if you compared an image captured on the Sony at ISO 1600, converted to B&W, with 35 mm Tri-X pushed to ISO 1600, the Sony would be considerably better.

I've used quite a number of Micro Four-Thirds and dSLR cameras in a variety of still-photography projects. I'm not sufficiently familiar with video work to have any opinion about that aspect.

I definitely concur in your choice of the Olympus Pen-F and of the Pentax K-1 as top cameras in their respective genres.

Both work very facilely and with more-than-enough image quality for very large exhibit-grade prints.

The Pen-F, when used with small prime lenses, is by a wide margin that nicest rangefinder-styled cameras that I've ever used, including the Leica M10, whose image quality is hostage to accurate mechanical focus calibration.

The K-1 offers exquisite sharpness when used with some of the Pentax FF Limited series lenses such as the 31mm and 77mm Limited optics or the Pentax 50mm/2.8 macro.

Pairing the Pen-F and K-1 provides a really nice set of digital tools that covers nearly every likely situation except those unusual projects that still benefit from large format film.

What? No Leica? Holy wars have been fought for less. See that Leica (M3?) on the cover of the mag? You can at least throw in the Leica Sofort - possibly the cheapest Leica ever that actually takes photos?! (I have never seen one)

I’ll get started with the ‘what about this ‘ ....

A Fuji X-e3. It seems to get forgotten. Features wise it doesn’t give up much to the X-T models. Appearance it is similar to the X100, but with interchangeable lenses. Size wise (although that does depend on what lenses you mount) it gives some smaller sensor cameras a run for their money.

P.S. given the similarities, you can treat it as training wheels while you save up for your GFX50R.

Disclaimer: I own one and like it.


I remember that issue of Photo Technique! You were editor at that time.

You also ran a feature (in another issue) on the Noctilux 50/1.0 - "King of the Night". You chose one of my photos to print. There were many good memories.

Dan K.

Stop it! You're making me want things; and with Christmas looming as an excuse.

No Nikon D850? It makes a perfect FF companion in the field with the D500. Just saying.

A better Miata:

I also still have that issue of Photo Technique. If I buy a larger format camera than my M43 collection, including the Pen F, it'll be the Fuji GFX 50R. Haven't seen one physically, but I love it.

I always enjoy reading TOP. It is always a worthwhile read. Only time I’m disappointed coming to TOP is when there is no new article.

Having said that, this article was fun to read! Breezy, brief, light and reminiscent of those old magazine articles, where every single column inch had to be justified. The writers working their butts off to stay on point, the editors ruthless in trimming any fat from the article. “Gotta have room for the ads!”

Thanks, Mike.

Great list but I wonder how the 5D4 made it but the D850 didn't...

I've just bought a used Sony A6000 with the 16-50 f/3.5-5.6 from a mate. It's great. I have it for day to day use when I'm doing other things and don't want to or can't lug my Pentax K3 and 16-50 f/2.8 around, and look after it.

This means I'm far more likely to have a camera when I'm out and about, and happen to spot things for my local area blog.

The zooms having the same range is one of the reasons I bought the Sony. I don't care too much about the long end, but 16mm is often where it's at, for me.

The handling's pretty good, but I've been a Pentax DSLR man for nine years so I can't objectively say whether it's a good as the K3. Ask me again next July or August.

The A6000 will be even better when I've sorted out the small bag I've found for it; it's just big enough for the camera, a spare battery, and maybe (if I get one) another small lens. At the moment I carry it in a bag that's rather too big for it.

I also miss Camera Arts and was devastated when it stopped. Still have my copies. Lenswork seems to me to be the nearest thing currently available.

I'm a little surprised that Thom Hogan's best all-round camera - the D850 - didn't make your list. Not my style of camera any more, and I feel that Thom is too heavily weighted towards sports and wildlife compared to what I shoot, but it does sound like one heck of a camera. Personally I'd take the X-T3, and indeed I just did, a tough call over the H1.

"Panasonic GX85 ($598 with 12–32mm lens—body not available separately): Currently a leader in the "better than a phone" entry-level category. Simple, small, modest in all ways, easy to use—it's also very capable and gets unusually high marks from owners, even very experienced photographers. They tend to love it. You should listen."

I'm always a little baffled by lists like this. Informative, in a broad sense, but I wonder how many readers are looking to buy into a new camera system from scratch. Can't say I'm interested in any other systems, but I did just buy a sale GX85 and can give a lot of info about it and it's place in the µ4/3 stills world.

Back when I was carrying an E-M5 I and GX7 side-by-side, I never did choose a favorite between them. The E-M5 II with Focus Bracketing and HR Mode broke that tie, and I haven't looked back until now. I know the Oly IBIS was supposed to be better, more axes, but in practice, I never saw that, and I used the 75-300 extensively on both. Once, I thought I had a clear example, and it turned out at the pixel level to be slightly different focal planes in a complex, 3D subject. Neither one was more correct. And so on.

The GX8 was larger and heavier, and sans HR and Focus Bracketing, I loved the E-M5 IIs, so I didn't pay much attention to Panny bodies. I also found their naming confusing, and the GX 85 is no exception. Panny doesn't build the model name onto their bodies; it's only on a sticker on the bottom. What I bought as a GX85 is a GX7 II in Japan and a GX80 outside of Japan and NA.

It really is like a GX7 II or II+. Compared to the GX7, virtually identical size, weight, layout and:

+ 5 axis IBIS

+ DFD focusing - With Panny lenses only, it knows the characteristics of OoF images and can predict how far and in which direction to move focus. Supposed to be quicker than Oly CDAF, slower than the PDAF of the E-M1 series, and same for tracking moving subjects. Pretty much confirmed by reviews.

+ Focus Bracketing, with a second mode/order added to Oly's.

+ 4K video with Post Focus stills


- Tilting EVF. (Which matters to Mike, and not to me.)

In addition, it does Dual IS, syncing IBIS with lens OIS, only with Panny lenses. But wait! My two most used, by far, lenses are Panny, PLeica 12-60 and 100-400. I've not been too concerned with the far reaches of IS, as subject movement is usually my limiting factor. But better IS certainly wouldn't hurt.

So, the GX85 is a HUGE step up from the GX7 (and GX8), and perhaps a better camera for me than my E-M5 IIs. While I do consider HR important, the versions to date are only for static camera and lens. Truth is, I only really use it for lens testing, and never in the field.

The GX9 is, by comparison, a small step up, adding the 20 MP sensor that Ctein found added little in the E-M1 II, Bluetooth as part of remote control app, the tilting EVF from the GX7 and an improved menu system.

IS is hard to test, I think, as the correction is for an irregular problem that varies with user, shutter speed, environmental factors and time. A quick trial suggests that the GX85 with Dual IS is about 1.5 stops better than the E-M5 II @ 400 mm, 20+ foot subject and speeds in the 1/5 to 1/25 range.

Focus Bracketing certainly works. It offers bracketing from chosen focus toward infinity or alternating from further to closer, further yet to closer yet . . . The latter looks like it would save me from the too common missing of closest point of the subject, at the expense of lots more shots to toss.

Down sides:

No HR mode

No wired remote shutter release. I didn't realize this until I went to do Focus Bracketing tests. The only remote release is via the phone app. Annoying.

Tilting LCD. Not too bad. I have a love/hate relationship to articulated LCDs. Crappy for simple up or down, compared to tilting, but much better for odder set-ups.

Loss of my beloved Mysets activated by Fn Buttons. May be inevitable, as they are gone on the E-M1 series.

Bottom line: Not determined. I'm going to work the GX85 into my normal photography to see if better IS, faster focus, different Focus Bracketing win out.

Another alternative could be the G9, better features in a bigger, heavier body. Quick summary:

G9 = GX9 in big, weather sealed body + HR Mode ± top plate LCD + Better EVF + 1/8000 + UHS II + bigger battery + articulated LCD + remote control socket + three custom mode settings on Mode Dial. I think it would beat out an E-M1 II for me, if I give in to big.

I'm waiting for a Mirrorless Miata.

Before buying my first good camera, (OM1) I spent almost as much on magazines as I did on the camera. When time came to go digital I bought another ten pounds or so of magazines, and decided on a Toshiba. My brother in law was designated to make the purchase in Canada and bring the camera to me in Venezuela. The camera store in Vancouver convinced him to ignore my wishes, and he got me a floppy disc Sony. I wonder if those Toshibas have any value now.
Those magazines are still in Venezuela, but I am in Ecuador. Hope I get a chance to thumb through them again.

No Sony A7lll? It's my camera of the decade.

Waved off by the major sites and forum mavens, it's drawing rare raves from people who actually use it. And at the current price it's a real bargain over its main competition, the Olympus E-M1 Mark II, which is also a great camera but costs $300 more.

Great camera. Too expensive. Even at $1,300, it's presently $200 more than a soon-to-be-replaced Sony a6500.

I don't think it was waved (waived?) off by review sites for being a bad camera; I think it was dismissed for being out-of-whack in price terms.

There are many great cameras right now, but fewer great prices.

I deeply want a Pentax K-1, but really don't want to feed two camera systems again. Same goes, oddly, for the Panasonic GX-85 - it's just a a really great camera, for a lens mount I'm not into.

(posting mostly to give my apologies for my typo in my previous comment, deeply grateful for the copyedit. I really do know how pluralize words, I swear!)

I bought my GX1 in 'like new' condition for the rupee equivalent of US$ 300 in 2014. It was an open box kit with 1200 clicks on the body; came with the second generation 14-42mm kit lens (that turned out to be scandalously sharp) and a 14mm f2.5 (also a good copy). Made in Japan. Best buy I ever made. I'd thought the lack of IBIS would be a bother but in practice it doesn't seem to matter...I've handheld it down to 1/6 secs with the 14mm and got sharp pictures :)

I currently own an NC MX5. Before this a 1989 original NA.

So Mike, where do you personally list the four iterations of the Miata/MX5? This is my list in order of "pleasantness to drive": NC, NA, NB, ND. (I know the current model is all higher tech and so on, but it just doesn’t seem as fun to hurl into corners as other models. Maybe it’s too refined? YMMV.


Didn't you just say the X-H1 was in your top five? I know you mention it, but as a second choice to another Fuji?

[I don't confuse my personal favorites with cameras I recommend to others...those are conflicting parameters! If you don't need or want IBIS, I think the X-T3 is a smarter choice for most people. Hence that distinction. --Mike]

Been promising myself a Miata ever since I could (just about) afford one, but I keep spending too much discretionary income on camera gear instead.

I have had the GFX 50R for a week now. All I can say is WOW! I agonized over buying this camera but the two lens deal from B&H was too good to pass up. I don't think they have that deal anymore but it was the camera, 63, and 45 for $5600. The SF Jpegs are so stunning that you really have to question why you would shoot RAW with this camera. I had one test printed with the Acros simulation at 18 x 24 and it could have easily gone larger. This is my dream camera. The two lenses absolutely are incredible.

I think I have that issue of Photo Techniques somewhere in my house. Or at least I used to. Ah the Leica nostalgia.

I like the E-M1 Mark II. Yeah it got panned for being too expensive. But whatever I paid for it will easily be amortized over several more years. So that's Ok with me. The recent Olympus lenses are also just great and work best, arguably, with this body.

As always, YMMV and all that.

I traded my Miata for a 35mm M3 Summaron in September. I think I got the better of the deal.

Oh ... but the real question is ... what were all the great features of Durst's *Premier* enlarger?

Nothing sings “holiday season” like the listicle!

I no longer shoot Canons, or even DSLRs, but the 6Dmk2 is $1300! With a "free" Canon grip!
This is a nice, round, warm handful without being too big and heavy, and is just plain easy to use, to do whatever you need.

Ditto to the other comments regarding the GX85. Just a great piece of kit. And, as a former Pentaxian with a shelf full of Pentax glass, you would not believe (well you might actually) how great those lenses work adapted to the stabilized GX85. I have both dummy adapters and a “speed booster” that I got off eBay. Your Pentax glass still wants to play.

I don't own nor have I ever owned one of your listed cameras. But you continue to haunt me with your occasional mention of the Nikkor 17-55mm, which I did own along with a D2x. It produced scads of wonderful pictures.

I have a Power Ball fantasy that lists two camera systems, the Nikon D850 and the Fuji GFX-50S, each with an appropriate complement of lenses. I'd consider adding the little Fuji X-H1 for a walk-around unit. I appreciate the stimulation a "Best 10" list provides the readers, and understand the subjective nature of it. Glad to see others puzzled over the exclusion of the D850.

That PEN-F is super, super tempting.

Getting it would mean parting with my E-P5, but the viewfinder is a powerful inducement.

...gotta say, my little Pen F is a giant in a small and elegant package. ... My only complaint is that it cannot be used tethered. ... It's a great copy stand camera, a great studio camera, a great all-rounder.

I love my Sony A7r II too. But it's an entirely different beast. The files are terrific, however the ergonomics and lack of a touch screen are sorely missed. Sony's IBIS (even when mated to OSS lenses) doesn't hold a candle to the Pen F.

I think the reason Sony's FF IBIS is inferior is that the the mft sensor is 1/4 the size--less mass to move around.

Mike, I have an absolutely pristine example of the dual-range 50mm Summicron lens that is in the cover photo above. My stepdad bought it new in 1962. There is something special about that lens on film, and I prefer to use it over my newer Summicron. As I get older, my GAS directs me to other examples of classic technology, not the new stuff.

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