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). For full disclosure, every purchase through one of these links does give me a small commission that helps keep the site going (we run through something like 10 TB of bandwidth a month) but won’t cost you any extra. Thanks for the support! MT

Last updated 15 October 2018; new additions in italics. Some older/superseded equipment has been removed to tidy up the list

Ming’s currently owned and recommended equipment

Hasselblad H6D-100c** – early thoughts B&H
Hasselblad HCD 4.8/24** – B&H
Hasselblad HCD 4/28* – B&H
Hasselblad HCD 4-5.6/35-90** – B&H
Hasselblad HC 3.5/50 II* – B&H
Hasselblad HC 2.2/100** – B&H
Hasselblad HC 3.2/150 N** – B&H
Hasselblad HC 1.7x TC** – B&H
Hasselblad HTS 1.5x** – B&H
Hasselblad X1D-50c** 4116 edition – review B&H
Hasselblad XCD 21/4** – B&H
Hasselblad XCD 30/3.5** – B&H
Hasselblad XCD 45/3.5** – B&H
Hasselblad XCD 90/3.2** – B&H
Hasselblad XCD 120/3.5** – B&H
Hasselblad V series, and C T*/CF/CFE/CFi lenses** (currently, a 501CM, 4/50 CF FLE T*, 2.8/80 CF T*, 2.8/80 C T*, 5.6/135 CF T* bellows, 4/150 CF T*, 5.6/250 C Superachromat) – quick guide to the Hasselblad V series
Leica 50/1.4 Summilux-M ASPH** on a Novoflex M-X1D adaptor – B&H Amazon
Ricoh GR lens 28/2.8 LTM LE** on Voigtlander LTM and Novoflex M-X1D adaptors – out of production
Nikon Z7** – review B&H Amazon
Nikon Z 24-70/4** – review B&H Amazon
Nikon FTZ adaptor** – B&H Amazon

Nikon D850** – B&H Amazon
Nikon AFS 24-120/4 VR** – review B&H Amazon
Nikon AFS 70-200/4 G VR** – 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 AI 45/2.8 P** (discontinued)
Nikon PCE 19/4 E** – B&H Amazon
Nikon PCE 45/2.8 Micro** – B&H Amazon
Nikon PCE 85/2.8 Micro** – B&H Amazon
Zeiss ZF.2 1.4/28 Otus APO-Distagon** – review B&H
Zeiss ZF.2 1.4/55 Otus APO-Distagon** – review B&H Amazon
Zeiss ZF.2 1.4/85 Otus APO-Planar** review B&H
Zeiss ZF.2 2/135 APO-Sonnar** – B&H Amazon
Contax Zeiss 2.8/85 Sonnar MMG** and Leitax C/Y to F conversion
Contax Zeiss 100-300/4.5-5.6 Vario-Sonnar MMJ**
Voigtlander 180/4 APO-Lanthar** – review
MT x Frankie Falcon Ultimate Daybag**
Think Tank Airport Roller Derby** – B&H Amazon
Nikon SB900/ SB910** – B&H Amazon
Wacom Intuos 6×4 pen small** – B&H Amazon
Arca-Swiss P0 Monoball ball head** – B&H Amazon
Arca-Swiss C1 Cube geared head** – B&H
Really Right Stuff TVC-24L tripod** – B&H
Gitzo GT2545T Series 2 Carbon Exact Traveller** – B&H Amazon
DJI Mavic Pro** – Drone diaries B&H Amazon
DJI Mavic 2 Pro** – review B&H Amazon
Eizo EV3237 32″ 4K monitor** – B&H Amazon
Sandisk Extreme Pro CFAST 2.0 515MB/s** – B&H Amazon
Sandisk Extreme Pro SD UHSII 300MB/s** – B&H Amazon
Sandisk Extreme Pro SD UHSI V30 95MB/s** – B&H Amazon

Compact mirrorless system
Olympus PEN-F – review additional thoughts B&H Amazon
Panasonic Leica 12-60/2.8-4** – B&H Amazon
Panasonic 12-32/3.5-5.6 compact zoom** – B&H Amazon
Panasonic 35-100/4-5.6 compact zoom** – B&H Amazon
Panasonic 42.5/1.7** – B&H Amazon
Panasonic Leica 15/1.7** – B&H Amazon
Panasonic 30/2.8 Macro** – B&H Amazon
Olympus E-M1 Mark II* – review B&H Amazon
Olympus ZD 12-100/4 PRO* – B&H Amazon
Olympus ZD 60/2.8 macro** – review B&H Amazon
Olympus ZD 75/1.8* – review B&H Amazon

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. Hello Ming
    Is there a list of photograph printers as well somewhere
    Many thanks

  2. Hi Ming,

    I notice that the Olympus 12-40/f2.8 is absent from your list. Did you sell yours? I was dead set on getting one to replace my 12/f2, 25/f1.8, 45/f1.7 and 12-50/f3.5 – 6.3, but now I’m waffling. It feels enormous when mated to my Pen-F. The flip side of course is I would get to avoid swapping lenses (really nice when travelling), but I also have the Olympus 14-150 II that I can use in a pinch. Thoughts?

    Thanks,

    Ryan

  3. Hi Ming,

    i switched to the Pen-F from a Pana G7…I will keep the panaleica15 1,7 prefer the wider angle and it is definetely the optical better lens than the oly 17 1.8! Acctually, i have one question is it useful/recommended to switch from the Pana 42.5 1.7 to the Oly 45 1.8? Is the 45 1.8 better optically than the 42 1.7? And does the latter have some issues and you dont get dual is if it is used on the Pen F?? I herad and read that if you use Olympus glass on a Panacam it could have some bugs and you cant fully use the dual IS efficiency of Pana…is it the same if you use pana native lens on Oly bodies?? Any thoughts/experiences you made?

    You still have the Panaleica 42 1.7 rather than the 45 1.8 Oly….maybe thats already a hint I guess;)…no issues, same dual IS efficiency?

    Thanks in advance!
    Kindly regards,
    Gerard

    • I kept the lenses I already had – the 15 and 42.5. Not much difference optically, and dual IS on the Panasonic isn’t as good as on the Olympus anyway. I’ve found using the Panasonic lenses with OIS priority seems to work better on the Pen F than IBIS for some reason…

  4. Hello Ming,

    when mentioning my upcoming (well, June 2019) trip to Iceland to a local landscape photographer, he explicitly advised to take along a very sturdy tripod. Not being able to go deeper into the matter at the time, I took a look at your recommended gear list.

    I noticed that you switched from the GT5562LTS and GT1542, to an RRS TVC-24L and GT 2542 respectively. Having been to Iceland yourself, and knowing that to me, there’ll be no real weight or size restrictions, would you advise an upgrade to my Gitzo 1542 ? If so, what made you switch from the Gitzo 5562 to the RRS? In my parts, both are about the same price, so I would value a real use perspective …

    Thanks !

    • The 5562 is extremely heavy and not very portable. It lives in the studio now. The RRS is much lighter and just as sturdy, and taller. The 1542 isn’t strong enough for MF and will vibrate in moderate winds regardless of load. I find the 2542 does not, and is quite happy even with the H6-100.

    • https://thecentercolumn.com/rankings/

      You could compare stiffness pegging the 1542T as a little lower than the measured 1545T. I found that the 1542T wasn’t sufficient enough for anything beyond ideal conditions with high resolution/heavy setups.

      I have the Leofoto 284C + Arca Swiss P0 as my compact tripod, and I’m comfortable with a D850/Z7 on it. I also have the RRS TVC-24 and and FLM 38.4 Berlin to go with a Cube, but short of a 645D w/ 300mm, the benefits of the FLM for the extra weight don’t really show over the TVC-24.

      • Seconded for the P0…that head is very light, but very sturdy. Just take care not to over tighten the locking collar or you’ll strip the threads on the internal planetary gear posts; once it doesn’t move, it’s locked – there’s no need to really tighten it as far as it will go. Not sure I quite agree with that table though…

        • Thanks for the info, guys! Seems like I’ll be on the lookout for a new tripod …

          And as a matter of fact, I have a Po on my GT 1542 as well …

          • You might want to look at the GT2545T – it’s much more rigid than the 1542 was, and has now become my regular travel tripod…

            • Just compared prices of the TVC-24L vs. the GT2545T, and I could get 2 of the Gitzos for the price of one RRS. So, while I rather buy an excellent (and usually, more expensive) piece of gear once and be done for a long time, and while there’ll be a reason for the price difference: if the Gitzo is happy with a MF setup, it’ll be happy with a D800E and a Milvus too.

              As always, thanks for the advice !

              • That’s true – it’s also not the same class of tripod; the 24L is much larger/ sturdier than a 2545. It’s also twice the height. So whilst you’re paying twice as much, you’re also getting twice as much tripod (literally)…

        • Hi, long time reader of your blog and creator of the above table. The stiffness data for each tripod is measured, not a result of a subjective impression. I’d be happy to discuss why you disagree with the data though.

          • Thanks for the clarification. Are the tests normalised for things like leg length, locking torque etc. ? The three obvious factors I can think of that affect things in field use would be a) larger locks = better locking torque/ more grip, thus reducing bending at the joints; b) the head; c) any other resonances, effects of wind etc. Maybe there’s something else I’ve not though of.

            • The score metric does normalize for the height of the tripod, as well as the weight, but the raw stiffness number is tested at full height, center column down. The leg angle of the tripod can also make a big difference, but each tripod is simply tested the way it comes from the factory.
              A) I haven’t seen any correlation with larger locks and performance. Actually, the reverse seems to be true, but I suspect that it is more of a correlation than causation. Once the leg lock is reasonably tight, really cranking it down does not further improve stiffness.
              B) All tests are done with a head. Heads are tested separately.
              C) So far in testing, tripod behavior is remarkably linear with only a single sharp resonance frequency. The amount that the tripod moves (and the camera is deflected) is simply proportional to the amount of force placed on it. Damping is also important, and listed in the test results for each tripod, but not in the rankings.

              • Interesting – how much does damping affect overall stability? I assume if there are constant perturbations (like wind) a poorly damped tripod may well become unusable. I also wonder to what degree maintenance (tightness of screws/joints, condition of bushes etc) and sample variation plays into things. Less than lens resolution, one would hope…

                • Oops, meant to say all tests are done without a head attached.

                  Anyways, Damping becomes most important when using large telephoto lenses with high moments of inertia. Most tripods have enough damping to easy control cameras with normal and wide angle lenses that have most of their mass directly over the center of the tripod. In these situations, stiffness is the most important thing, which is why it plays a dominant role in my rankings. I still need to fully explore under which situations stiffness or damping is more important. Its always better to have more of both, but some tripod models have more of one or the other. I think that under constant perturbation, stiffness is actually the most important factor. If you are never letting the damping decay any vibration down, your best bet is to just prevent those perturbations from moving the camera more than the lens resolution (or pixel pitch) in the first place. This is where stiffness comes in as the camera will simply move by (angular displacement) = (torque)/(stiffness).

                  Maintenance is certainly important. I find that a tripod with a loose fitting will lose a lot of stiffness, but actually gain a little bit of damping due to parts rubbing against each other. I haven’t tested multiple tripods of the same model, so can’t comment on sample variation. The stiffness tests themselves are repeatable with the same tripod though. I’ve tested the same tripod months apart, and the stiffness and damping numbers come to within 5%.

                  • Dave, glad to see you here! I use my RRS TVC-34 for both photo and visual astronomy, and really notice its damping character with the telescope. I often observe at the FF FOV equivalent of a 4000mm lens, and the telescope itself is about 11lbs, and 36 inches long with sort of a lumpy mass distribution: the lens cell at one end, and the eyepiece, focuser, prism, and finder scopes on the other end. On top of that, it’s on a 1-foot pier above the spider of the tripod, and a little off-center because it’s side-mounted (Google Stellarvue M2 mount to see what I mean). Anyway, I’ve found that hanging a 15lbs sandbag helps the tripod settle down faster, even though the sand bag is right up under the spider instead of closer to the ground. I try to keep only 1 or 2 sections extended, and usually start with the thickest sections instead of the thinnest ones as I tend to do when photographing landscapes in water.

                    Where I see damping being important is when I turn the focuser (which is very smooth), and have to wait for the scope to settle down and stop vibrating, which takes about 1-2 seconds. This is about the limit for the tripod in terms of practical usability, because it becomes frustrating to wait for the scope to settle down, and also nudge the scope to keep up with the rotation of the earth, which is very noticeable at that FOV. I suppose everything considered, the tripod is doing very well, but I’ve often thought about a Gitzo 5-series (especially after seeing your results for it!) or an RRS 4-series as a way to get a better mount. Astro guys really like their wooden Berlabach tripods as well as the big heavy steel tripods used in the more traditional astro mounts.

                  • Thanks for the insights. Another age-old question – and probably not an easily testable one due to the sheer number of variables – VR/IS/IBIS on or off on a tripod?

                    • I don’t know yet. Its one of the things on my to do list to test. But yeah, it probably depends on the conditions, the tripod, and the focal length. Each camera manufacturer has a different implementation of IS as well, and each should handle being on a tripod differently. The first step would be to see if I can detect a difference in image sharpness under ideal conditions with IS on/off.

  5. If you own the Zeiss ZF.2 18mm f/3.5 for Nikon, I wonder if there is anything to be gained in image quality by replacing it with the Zeiss Milvus 18mm f/2.8, especially if you typically shoot at f/8 or smaller apertures.

  6. Ming, always appreciate your reviews (and your imagery). Been a Nikon shooter since the 1970’s, but getting up there in age wants me to get lighter with the tools of the trade. Interested in mirrorless (shot a Fuji X-T2 for a few months, but want to stay with a FF sensor), especially now with the Nikon Z6/Z7 coming soon. I would seriously consider one if Zeiss was to produce their Loxia line of MF lenses. I’m familiar with the images they produce on the Sony A7R III, just don’t like the Sony bodies, ergonomics and menu structure. Any insight to what direction Zeiss may go with the Z mount ? I would think that at least M lenses would work well on the Zs and adapter companies will soon be producing adapters for the Z.

    • Sorry, no idea…my relationship with Zeiss pretty much ended once two things happened – their former head of optical design (Dr. Nasse) passed away, and I stopped shooting Sony.

  7. Yves Simon says:

    Hi Ming,
    I didn’t find any comment on your Panasonic 30/2.8 Macro. What do you think of that lens? Thanks

  8. Hi Ming, I’ve been following your site now for a number of years and would like to compliment you on the excellent reviews and opinion pieces. I’m planning on building a small collection of Zeiss ZF.2 lenses (28mm f/2 or 35mm f/2, 50mm Makro f/2 and 135mm f/2) for use with film and digital bodies. Any merit in hunting for the classic series of lenses or would I be better off going straight for the Milvus?

  9. D850…worth the update?

  10. WOW that Eizo screen, must be gorgeous! 😀

  11. any plan for trial D850 ming?

    • That would be a serious conflict of interest given my current position, wouldn’t it? 🙂

      • Not at all !
        You can still be an unbias objective highly decerning reviewer that all of us appreciate / value & still be a Hasselblad Ambassador !
        Your genius , skills & integrity is above par ! If you dont we would lose an exceptional & highly valued reviewer
        That would be a great loss to the photographic community

  12. Greetings from Singapore. Months ago we acquired the HC100mm 2.2 and after a few uses, we notice an apparent sight of CA especially on high contrast edges. We thought it’s because I tend to shoot wide open but that’s not the case, we tried stopping down a stop or two and still notice the CA, perhaps lesser but not by much. Is this a known characteristic (or flaw) of the lens?

  13. Hey Ming,

    What would be your recommendation for a compact camera (or system) to travel with?

    I’ve been shooting with the Ricoh GR for a couple years, and have had some frustrations recently (dust spots on sensor, sub-optimal high ISO performance in environments with poor light and no chance to use a tripod, etc.) Often I wish I had 1-2 more stops to work with. Additionally, I’d like to experiment with portraiture (full body) and feel that 28mm may distort things too much…

      • That was a great read, thanks. I found the thought process (behind the decision making) even more useful than the end conclusion. I think it would be hard to go from the ergonomics of the Ricoh GR to something like the GX85. I think I’ll keep the GR for a good 28mm, add a 21mm with the wide converter and pick up a basic DSLR from Canikon and pop a 50mm on it for an easy 28/85 combo. Done.

  14. Hi Ming!

    Where does the X1D fit in your workflow?

    • It’s easier to say where it doesn’t actually – for commercial I use the H6D-100c, for personal/ family stuff mostly the GX85, and the X1D is everything else. The Nikons are only when I need some special purpose high magnification macro, and the H5D-50c is the backup on commercial jobs. At least that’s the current state of play in August 2017…

  15. Jim Suojanen says:

    I loved my Nikon D700. But the kit weight became too much for these old bones. I currently use Leica M7/M9 with two or three lenses; an X-Vario if weight is a premium. As a child of the 60’s, the NASA images shot with Hasselblads still capture my imagination (I have Neil Armstrong’s autograph on an Apollo 11 pic). The V system is too big for me now, though I do have an Arcbody I just can’t let go. Some of its limitations are mitigated by using 6×6 film. But I’m not as adept at focusing as I once was and am considering a digital back. The CFV-50c is no longer made and doesn’t really work for shifts/rise-fall according to Hasselblad. Do you know of any alternative that can handle the very short register of the Arcbody, especially with the 35mm lens and permit shifts? I suppose an alternative is to trade the Arcbody, buy some Nikon tilt-shift lenses, and buy a Leica SL with adapters. Then I won’t have to worry about focusing my M9 either. Any thoughts appreciated. If the X1 had a better EVF and tilting screen, I’d learn to live without the tilt-shift.

    • Short answer – unfortunately it doesn’t exist. The good news though is the wides now are a lot wider than the wides on digital that went with the Arcbody, and resolution is much higher. What this means in practice is I often go a size wider in lens, hold the camera level, and compose knowing I’m going to lose some of the bits at the bottom or top. It works much better in practice – especially weight-wise – than carrying a full movement set, no matter how light. We have a 21mm (17mm-e or thereabouts) coming for the X1D 🙂

  16. Rom Pytel says:

    Hi Ming;
    I noticed you added the Panasonic GX85 to your photo gear, what is your opinion of the camera in regards to image quality, haptics, ease of use, quality of kit lens, pros/cons. I am looking for a travel camera that accepts different focal length lenses and this one looks like it may be a good choice at the current sale price. I cannot find this camera in any store near me to try in person so your experience and advice would be greatly appreciated. Are you going to post a full review of the GX85?
    Thanks for your help.

    Kind Regards
    R.P.

    • No, I don’t plan to – there’d be a conflict of interest there since I work for another camera company. It does the job for a point and shoot and family requirements, and offers decent value for the price. At no point does it feel premium or ergonomically excellent; it’s just the right side of ‘too fiddly’. Kit lens is decent but has no focusing ring. Put it this way: I don’t buy (much less recommend) anything I don’t use, and I don’t use anything that doesn’t work as a tool. 🙂

  17. Tessa Tsarong-Blomker says:

    Hi Ming,

    I’ve got a Nikon D810 and am looking to add a wider angle to my primes. I have the Sigma Art 35mm 1.4, Zeiss Planar 50mm 1.4, and a Nikon 85mm 1.4G. The purposes I’d be using it for are photojournalism and architectural photography. Let’s say that money isn’t the biggest issue. Any suggestions?

    Thanks,
    Tessa

    • If you need AF, then I’d go with the 28/1.8G or 28/1.4G. If Architecture > Photojournalism, then the 24 PCE.

    • Hi Ming, sure appreciate it if you could help. I put my name on the list for a D850 and the store just notified me I will get one in the first batch Sept. 7. Super excited about it!
      My question is, do you have any ideas of what software that could be used for pp of the raw images? I have PS6 (not cloud) Mac with EL Capitain 10.11.1, 8GB, dual core, new SSD. I’ve heard/read CS6 won’t work with Sierra/Hi Sierra so didn’t upgrade yet. I don’t have Lightroom. I use CameraRaw now for PP on D810 raw. I know I can cancel the order as there is already a huge demand for this camera, plus getting top $ for my trade in at this point. I have researched everywhere about this. Asked it of Nikon (not heard back yet).

  18. Hi, Ming! I went to NAB 2017…believe it or not but it’s the year of the drones!!! So many third party lenses are copying and outshining (value/performance) the other major companies, which I think is killing the industry. What’s next? Are they also going to copy MF lenses? I am wondering if patents are observed or respected offshore?

    • I’m not even sure some patents (or at least a lot of the ones in legacy fields) are relevant anymore, given the rate of change of technology. Most MF lenses are actually in a somewhat backward state of development compared to smaller formats because the volumes – and thus economic justification/ R&D budgets – simply aren’t there. In other words, wouldn’t make sense to copy.

  19. Hi there,

    How does the otus compare to Leica S lenses? Looking at either Canon 5DSR/Nikon D810 + otus versus Leica S…

    • Not all of the S lenses are apochromatic, the Otuses are. Everything else isn’t directly comparable: price of S lenses is much higher; you get AF; max apertures are slower. Otuses are faster, somewhat cheaper, but manual only. Depends on your application, I guess. Hard to justify the Leica S’ price, though – especially given the X1D, GFX, 645Z which all have better sensors, and the D810 which has a comparable one.

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