The recommended gear list

In the interests of even further simplifying the question of ‘what should I buy’ – and answering many emails and requests simultaneously – I’ve created this guide to gear, complete with purchasing links and links to reviews (where applicable). Treat it as a growing, evolving offshoot of the Camerapedia. This is what I’d buy personally (and mostly similar to what I already own, denoted by two stars**; one star* denotes something I’ve owned in the past).

Last updated 31 Jan 2014

Serious amateur/ pro compact
Sony RX100* – review B&H Amazon
Sony RX10 – review B&H Amazon
Panasonic LX7 – review B&H Amazon
Nikon Coolpix A – review B&H Amazon
Ricoh GR** (Digital V) – review B&H Amazon

Mirrorless system
Olympus OM-D E-M1** – review B&H Amazon
Olympus OM-D E-M5* – review B&H Amazon
Olympus E-PM2 – B&H Amazon
Olympus ZD 12-40/2.8 PRO** – B&H Amazon
Olympus ZD 45/1.8** – review B&H Amazon
Olympus ZD 60/2.8 macro** – review B&H Amazon
Olympus ZD 75/1.8** – review B&H Amazon
Panasonic 7-14/4 ultrawide – B&H Amazon
Panasonic 12-32 pancake zoom** – oddly does not seem to be available separately outside Japan
Panasonic 14-42 X PZ pancake zoom* – B&H Amazon
Panasonic 20/1.7* – B&H Amazon
Panasonic Leica 25/1.4 – B&H Amazon
Panasonic 100-300/4-5.6** – review B&H Amazon
Zeiss Touit 2.8/12, E and X mount – B&H Amazon

Rangefinder system (there’s really only one choice, isn’t there?)
Leica M Typ 240 – review B&H
Leica 21/1.4 Summilux-M ASPH* – B&H Amazon
Leica 28/2 Summicron-M ASPH* – B&H Amazon
Leica 35/2 Summicron-M ASPH* – B&H Amazon
Leica 35/1.4 Summilux-M ASPH FLE* – review B&H Amazon
Leica 50/2 APO-Summicron-M ASPH – review B&H Amazon
Leica 50/1.4 Summilux-M ASPH* – B&H Amazon
Zeiss ZM 2.8/21 Biogon* – B&H Amazon
Zeiss ZM 2/50 Planar* – B&H Amazon
Voigtlander 15/4.5 Super Wide Heliar* – B&H Amazon
Voigtlaner 50/1.1 Nokton* – B&H Amazon

DSLR system
Nikon D800E** – review B&H Amazon
Nikon AFS 16-35/4 VR – B&H Amazon
Nikon AFS 24-120/4 VR** – B&H Amazon
Nikon AFS 24-70/2.8* – B&H Amazon
Nikon AFS 28-300/3.5-5.6 VR (for 12MP and APS-C cameras)* – review B&H Amazon
Nikon AFS 70-200/2.8 VR II – B&H Amazon
Nikon AFS 70-200/4 VR – B&H Amazon
Nikon AFS 70-300/4.5-5.6 VR* – B&H Amazon
Nikon AF-S 80-400/4.5-5.6 G ED VR II N – review B&H Amazon
Nikon AFS 28/1.8 G** – review B&H Amazon
Nikon AFS 50/1.8 G – B&H Amazon
Nikon AFS 60/2.8 G Micro** – review B&H Amazon
Nikon AFS 85/1.8 G** – review B&H Amazon
Nikon PCE 85/2.8 Micro** – B&H Amazon
Zeiss ZF.2 2.8/15 Distagon – B&H Amazon
Zeiss ZF.2 2.8/21 Distagon** – review B&H Amazon
Zeiss ZF.2 2/28 Distagon** – review B&H Amazon
Zeiss ZF.2 2/35 Distagon* – B&H Amazon
Zeiss ZF.2 2/50 Makro Planar* – B&H Amazon
Zeiss ZF.2 1.4/55 Otus APO-Distagon** – review B&H Amazon
Zeiss ZF.2 2/100 Makro Planar* – review B&H Amazon
Zeiss ZF.2 2/135 APO-Sonnar** – B&H Amazon

Film
Any Hasselblad V series, and CF/CFE/CFi lenses** (currently, I have a 501C, 501CM, 903 SWC, a CFV-39, six A12 backs, 50/4 CF FLE, 80/2.8 CF, 120/4 Makro-Planar CF and 150/4 CF lenses) – no longer available new, but isn’t the hunt part of the fun? review
Fuji Neopan Acros 100 film** – review B&H Amazon
Ilford Delta 100 and Delta 400 films** – B&H Amazon
Ilford DDX developer** – B&H
Ilford Rapid Fixer** – B&H Amazon
Ricoh GR1v* – review
Contax T3 – review
Nikon F2 Titan**
Nikon F6** – B&H Amazon

Accessories
Billingham Hadley Digital – B&H Amazon
Billingham Hadley Small – B&H Amazon
Billingham Hadley Pro* – B&H Amazon
Billingham 307** – B&H Amazon
Billingham 555** – B&H Amazon
Gitzo GT1542T Traveller 6x Carbon** – review B&H Amazon
Gitzo GT5562LTS Systematic 6x Carbon** – review B&H Amazon
Manfrotto 410 Geared head* – B&H Amazon
Nikon SB900/ SB910** – B&H Amazon
Wacom Intuos5** – B&H Amazon
Wacom Cintiq 13HD – B&H Amazon
Wacom Intuos 6×4 pen small (best introductory tablet) – B&H Amazon
Arca-Swiss P0 Monoball ball head** – B&H Amazon
Arca-Swiss C1 Cube geared head** – B&H
Arca-Swiss universal L bracket** – B&H

Full disclosure: anything purchased from the links gives me a small referral fee; it doesn’t cost you any more, but it does help me keep the site running. Thanks for the support! MT

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Images and content copyright Ming Thein | mingthein.com 2012 onwards. All rights reserved

Comments

  1. Nice List Ming! Thank you!

  2. No 14-24?

  3. Gary Evans says:

    Nikon D600, 28/1.8G and 85/1.8G got,got,got. My only mistake according to your list is my 50/1.4G instead of the 1.8 G. Still 3 out f 4 ain’t bad eh.

  4. Daniel Fung says:

    Why the Nikon AFS 14-24/2.8 VR is not included for super-wide?

  5. Richard says:

    Regarding the mirrorless system, how about the Panasonic 7-14 for UWA?

    Why the Panasonic 20/1.7 rather than the Olympus 17/1.8? Your review suggested choosing one over the other was a matter of personal preference.

    thanks

    • Haven’t used the 7-14, so can’t really comment. If it was a stop faster I’d probably have one instead of the 12/2, and use it as a very flexible 28mm equivalent. As for the 20 and 17 – if you’re after the very best optics, the 25 is better.

  6. I m keen to know your thoughts on Leica D-Lux 6. As such its is Leica’s version of the Panasonic Lumix LX7 – Nevertheless would you recommend to consider to buy for Leica badge ?

  7. Thanks for the list, it’s really helpful. Do you really find 50mm f/1.8G’s resolution sufficient for D800E? I’ve read some mixed opinions and I see that you don’t own it.

    • I don’t own it because I also have the 45/2.8P, 50/2 Makro-Planar, 58/1.2 Noct and 60/2.8 Micro all in the same range. But I have used and tested one, and yes, resolution is most certainly sufficient. There is some sample variation, though.

  8. I notice that your Leica M9-P has gone missing from the list – an M-240 on order perhaps??? I was blessed to have discovered your site early on and I have thoroughly enjoyed each and every post in the interim – you are the definitive technically inclined artistically impassioned craftsman.

  9. Surprised the Panasonic 12-35mm and 35-100mm are missing from the list, although I can definitely see that if you prefer primes that these would be omitted.

    I’m currently in the market for the PanaLeica 25mm and either the Oly 12mm or the Panasonic 12-35mm, initially for travels…

    • The 12-35 has some corner CA and field curvature issues, plus harsh double images in the bokeh. I too was hoping to be able to replace my 12mm with something a bit more flexible, but landed up disappointed. Tried several samples and wasn’t impressed. 35-100 isn’t available where I live, so I’ve not been able to take it for a spin.

  10. Too much gear! Less is more! Isn’t it?

  11. Your Christmas list recommended the D700 over the D600. Change of heart? Really enjoy your site, by the way.

    • Nope, simple economics: you can’t buy it new anymore. It seems the last of the stock has been sold.

      • Yes, you’re right, no more new ones – so I just bought a used one! A longtime Nikon SLR film shooter (FE, F6), the D700 is my entry into the brave new (for me anyway) RAW DSLR world. It’s going to be weird not having analog masters, ie slides or negatives. Really appreciate your comments on the mindset of shooting film vs digital as well as your thoughts on digital post processing. Not sure I’m looking forward to the “workflow” :-) I still enjoy shooting film but It’s time to explore digital. Thanks for the time you put into your web site. It’s excellent. Cheers.

  12. I really like the way you process your digital black and white files, the one with the 28mm f/1.8 afs Nikon. will you tell us the steps you take, what program you use to process these? Thanks much John

  13. I did read your reply about the workflow videos covering how you create your black and white photographs. So, which video would apply to the black and white process?

    • Assuming you’re starting with a color image, there are a lot of ways to perform the conversion – A: Intro to PS would cover the options and subsequent treatment of the file. If you’re starting with a Leica M Monochrom image, then you need video B, which is about getting the most punch out of the file.

  14. Some good recommendations here, I am currently in Afghanistan and am giving the Billingham Hadley Pro bag a good work out. It has quickly adopted the weather-beaten “nothing to see here” look (I have the black on black model, the other ones are far too yuppy) and doesn’t seem to have any problem with the dust and wind here. I am getting a 445 for an upcoming tour of Vietnam/Cambodia/HK/Japan since I want to bring more kit with me. They’re not cheap, but then nothing good is.

    • Thanks. I’ve got two – and the 555 for a jumbo holdall/ weekend bag/ big gear bag. Wanted the black stealthy one but they didn’t have stock – will probably pick up a Hadley digital in black/black when you don’t need to carry that much gear.

  15. What is your thought on X100s? I just got the X100s a week ago. I think it is quite good. Thanks.

    • Had a play with one today, actually – seems MUCH faster than the X100, and the sensor looks very, very clean indeed…could be interesting, except for the price.

  16. Peregrine says:

    Have you looked or had any experience of the new Sigma Arts range starting with the new 35 mm f1.4. It looks good on paper but that is not the whole story .The coatings etc could make or brake it.

    • Nope, not something that interests me to be honest – I have lenses I’m already happy with in the FLs covered, and 35 isn’t something I use at all.

  17. Will the Oly EP-5 make the list?

  18. How does Ricoh GR compare to OM D 12mm f2 combo? Cheers

    • Higher image quality at like for like apertures, but it’s not a fair comparison as the OM-D/12 is actually 24mm, a stop faster, and has a stabilizer. It’s also larger. Plus the Ricoh is cheaper than the 12/2 alone…

  19. Ahmet Ozdemir says:

    In your pocket cameras list two are with zoom, two are FFL . This is exactly where I can not make up my mind. How important is zoom for a person like me who just wants to make good pictures only for himself . I can not be a photografer after becoming 67 years old anyway!!!
    With regards

    • Depends on how you see the world: you can of course shoot anything with any FL, depending on your composition. If you just want to be able to shoot 99% of things without thinking too much, have a decent range of perspectives and something pocketable, go with the RX100…

  20. Guillaume says:

    I’ve see that you own a Leica 50 Lux ASPH and a Planar. You recommend the M240 but I could not see any ** to show that you own it. So now I am wondering on what body do you use your Leica lenses ?
    Regards,
    Guillaume

    • I replaced the Planar with the 50 lux ASPH. If you want a DRF, you really only have one choice now. I don’t own one because it makes no commercial sense for me and doesn’t offer em anything my other bodies don’t already have. The 50 Lux is actually used on the OM-D now for cinematic work…

  21. Thanks for all your hard work on this blog. Your writing has inspired me to get back into the game. A couple years ago I gave away all my equipment (Canon crop DSLR) and decided I was going to make it work with just an iPhone 4S. The iPhone has an amazing camera, no question about it – but I’m back at the point where I feel the limitations. Taking the next step with the RX100.

    Bought through your link, hope the B&H affiliate tracking worked! :)

  22. Hi Ming.
    Purchased both your videos and found them very inspiring and really made me think.
    I have just picked up the OMD (from reading your review) and am amazed how good this is, so much so that i am considering selling my D800 and trinity of £2.8 zooms due to weight and when comparing image quality with the OMD there really isn’t as much difference as i thought there would be.
    I shot the 45 f1.8 on the OMD against the 85 f1.8G on the D800 and the OMD really impressed.
    My question:
    What bag would you recommend to hold?
    OMD Em5, 12 f2, 17 f1.8, 45 f1.8 & 75 f1.8
    What do you use?

    Looking forward to the release of more videos in your series and if you find an alternative method to the Paypal payment i’d be happy to comply.
    Regards

  23. Hi Ming, I bought the Panasonic 7-14mm on your advice. It’s a great lens though I feel I need something a little faster like the Oly 12mm for, say, night shots of the city. What might you recommend as an affordable strategy for night shots?

  24. Does the Nikon D610 make the list?

  25. Hi Ming,
    Just downloaded the next 2 installations in your video workshop – excellent stuff!
    I wonder if you could review the OLY 12-40 F2.8 zoom when you get chance? I have my EM5 and am using the Pany 12-35 & 35-100 f2.8s (along with OLY 45 & 75 primes) and have ordered and patiently waiting for my EM1 and the 12-40 f2.8 zoom. It would be really good to hear your opinion on the new lens.
    Regards
    Colin

  26. Hi Ming!

    Just to be clear – you believe that the OMD EM5 with 12/2 lens has better image quality than the Ricoh GR?

    Thank you,

    Stephan

    • No, I said the complete opposite. The GR (APSC version) has better image quality.

      • Sorry – I got confused because of the stats – stop faster, more expensive, larger, etc. Still get my head twisted when i read these analyses between m4/3 and APSC, with some concluding that the OMD equals or best APSC. Back to learning with what I got.

  27. I’m waiting for “The recommended watch list”.
    (typo error on : “Voigtlaner 50/1.1 Nokton” ;) )

  28. Hi,

    I have two wishes Ming…could you make a review (perhaps comparison) of the nikon 70-200 2.8 vs. f4 and of the new nikon 35 1.8 fx vs. Sigma 35 1.4 Art lens although we all know you are a “28mm shooter and prefer this lens as a run and gun prime on the d800e”!

    I think I’m not the only one who would love to see your thoughts/review about the mentioned lenses…

    I am asking because I have to make a decision between the Sigma 35 1.4 Art and the new Nikkor 35 1.8 fx (leaning to the new Nikon because of weight/size issues although no reviews are still available in terms of performance of this lens).

    Furthermore, I am thinking about replacing my “dark”-telezoom, the Nikon 70-300 4.5-5.6, with one of the newer nikon telezooms. As in the other case, I am actually leaning towards the 70-200 f4 because of several issues. There are some indications that this lens has even a lot of advantages in comparison to the 70-700 2.8 VRII (lighter/traveling, better VR III (5Stops), sharper, better resolution, fx corner performance and especially no focus breathing at 200mm, better minimum focus distance, higher max. aperture f32 like other reviewers/reviews nasim mansurov/photographylife, cameralabs, lenstip, photozone, ephototzine already suggested etc.)

    Is the 70-200 f4 so much better than the 70-300 4.5-5.6? I would guessing yes…..!

    And especially the issue of the focus breathing of the 70-200 2.8 at 200 mm makes me nervous and leaning me even more towards the 70-200 f4 but i would like to use the telezoom not only for nature/landscapes/wildlife/cityscapes but also for portraiture….

    Is the f4 (one full f-stop less) then still sufficient enough for portraiture and some low light cityscape shots or do you really need the 2.8 for such actions on a d800e?

    Content background:

    How important is for you the 1 f stop extra capability of gathering light for portrait ? (e.g. low light portrait situations)
    How useful and how often do you really need and use the 2.8 wide open on the tele instead of stopping down to f4+ ? Is the one extra stop in terms of better bokeh, shallower DoF really important (or in low light portrait) to you? The majority of made portraitures (studio) on ff are not between f4 and f 5.6 either way having the best sharpness?
    Would you buy the 70-200 f4 instead of the 2.8 even If you were a “fulltime-pro”?
    What about the impacts of the huge focus breathing of the 70-200 2.8 VRII and your experiences in this regard?
    How often do or did you generally make portraits from 5 to about 13 feet at 200mm? (refering to focus breathing/article/source http://photographylife.com/nikon-70-200mm-f4-vs-f2-8)?
    Would you agree with the opinion and conclusions of the mentioned article/link above in terms of the 70-200 f4 might be even better for portraiture especially for close ups?

    So why I am still asking you? I am doing because a lot of your lens recommendations have been a blessing in disguise after buying and using them everyday. ;)

    Thank you in advance and so far!

    Keep it up and take care!

    Kindly regards

    Sp.

    • Sorry, I don’t have the time to do this nor am I going to buy lenses to review – especially if they are not useful to me afterwards. There are plenty of other sites that do the comparisons you’re looking for. I use a Zeiss 2/135 APO-Sonnar to cover my short tele needs. Use it at any aperture and distance you please; there’s no focus breathing and brilliant clarity.

  29. Hi Ming. I need a pancake zoom for my em5. Have you tried the new MZuiko 14-42EZ yet?

  30. I can tell you are not a fan of canon.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] to creating it. This will be an updated, living document that has its own page. You can find the Recommended Gear List here. [...]

  2. [...] you’re considering of getting a camera yourself for that coming season, have a look at Ming Thein’s list of recommended gear. Interesting thing is that he’s just one of so many professional photographers who [...]

  3. […] not the camera, that makes the difference; a good photographer can use anything. Here’s a handy list, and there’s also the Camerapedia, which contains a concise opinion on every piece of gear […]

  4. […] makes the difference (a good photographer can use anything) – I’ve got a handy list here, and there’s also the Camerapedia, which contains a concise opinion on every piece of gear […]

  5. […] items I’ve discovered during the course of the year. For a complete list of recommendations, see this page. Please note, all links from this page do award me a small referral commission; it doesn’t […]

  6. […] see lenses that have actually been shot a LOT, on different cameras, for long stretches of time: The recommended gear list ? Ming Thein | Photographer and for the 85/1.8 AF-S G that I recommend to most people, go here: Lens review: The Nikon AF-S […]

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