A look into Phillip’s camera bag – September 2019 Edition

After the favorite lenses series fell dormant I thought it would be interesting to give an update on our current gear which has changed a bit and change the format a bit at the same time. So feel invited to have a look into my camera bags.

The Bag

I use a Think Tank Turnstyle 10 V2. The bag fits a camera and 3 medium sized lenses.The biggest argument for a shoulder bag to me is quick access and that it is more ergonomic to carry than a messenger bag. The bag works really well for not that long hikes without a backpack and when I am on my bike. I have carried it besides a daypack on longer hikes and that is anything but enjoyable. A Mindshift Gear 180° Panorama Backpack would be a much better solution but those are expensive.

The bag just feels like a very well made, well engineered product from a company which knows how to make good bags. After nearly two years of constant use it shows few signs of wear. Even though I forgot to close the zip several times I never lost a lens thanks to its clever design which keeps lenses from falling out. It also comes with a waist strap you can easily stow away in one of the many pockets. The strap is a big help when I am on a bike. The bag comes with a cape for bad weather and has many smaller pockets so packing away accessories is easy.

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The Camera

I am still using my good old Sony a7II which I bought in July 2016. I know that a a7rIII would be a much nicer camera but that doesn’t make the a7II a bad camera for my needs. I rarely actually feel limited by it so spending 1500€ to upgrade doesn’t seem to be that smart an idea. That doesn’t mean that I am tempted to upgrade.

The Lenses

We always tell people to chose lenses according to their needs so I should probably say something about my own needs. For my landscape and nature photography I still enjoy using manual focus lenses a lot more than AF lenses. I am also competent at shooting family, friends and the occasional gig with manual focus lenses but that is not my focus so my kit is mostly manual focus lenses. I still own some legacy lenses like a Pentax K 3.5/28, Minolta MC 1.2/58, Zeiss 2.8/90, Minolta MD 2.5/100 or Canon FD 4/300 L but these see only occasional use since having electronic contacts makes the shooting process easier and I usually prefer the better flare resistance and contrast of my modern lenses.

Whenever I review a lens that also gets used a lot. Only rarely do I go out with a specific picture and the process is more important than the result to me so I know that I can get decent results out of about any lens and enjoy shooting it. That is not to say that I don’t care about results: Obviously I analyze lenses with quite a lot of effort and only keep a few but I like the challenge of getting to know a lens and produce decent results with it as well as finding its limits.

Usually I carry a 3 lens kit. A wideangle (21mm oder 16-35mm), my 40mm (almost always) and a tele (2.5/110 most of the time. Replaced by the Zeiss 2.8/90 when needed) but obviously I adjust my kit to the occasion.

Voigtlander 1.2/40: I have owned it for 1.5 years now and it is my most used lens. As David described it so well in his review this lens is far away from optical perfection but pretty close to perfect handling and very versatile thanks to its focal length and speed. At times I feel tempted to replace it with the Voigtlander 1.2/50 which offers better bokeh in more difficult settings but then I remind myself that it gaps well with the 21 and keep enjoying it.

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Sony FE 4/16-35 ZAI have owned it for about 4 years now and while its flare resistance could be better and I am still not a fan of fly by wire focus it is just a very handy lens which I take on most of my holidays. Recently I compared it to the Tamron 2.8/17-28 and the Tamron is a bit sharper in the corners and more flare resistant but I decided to keep the Sony for now for its wider zoom range.

 

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Voigtlander 3.5/21: I have owned it for about a year now and it sees less use than I would have anticipated and at times I am a little bothered by the midzone dip but then it has good flare resistance, nice sunstars and it is just tiny.

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Voigtlander 2.5/110 APO Macro: Optically my best lens with some margin and I have zero complaints about it in that regard. I like the focal length in a kit with the 21 and 40. What I like less is the bulk and weight of it. I rarely use it to shoot macros but I always have to haul the weight added by that feature with me. But then the only manual focus alternative in E-mount is the Loxia 2.4/85 which is a bit short for my taste and not much lighter.

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Contenders

I have a Sony FE 1.8/85 which I got for a good price but I don’t enjoy using it and I am bothered by the bokeh at times so I will probably sell it. I also have a Samyang 1.4/35 AF which I bought for 400€ and I like it’s optical performance but MF is a pain and AF seems to be not that reliable so I am not sure I will keept it.

Tripod

I don’t like using tripods. I guess I am not patient enough for them. I think my photography could benefit from working slower and spending more time on improving compositions but whenever I try to slow myself down I fail. I have a bigger Sirui ET-1004 which is a solid enough tripod but it very rarely gets used for anything but testing. I have found another solution for myself and that is a very small Cullmann Carvao 816TCS. It fits into my bag (well kind of) and comes in handy for testing but also when I run out of light. One advantage I wouldn’t have expected is that it helps me handholding the camera. Mounting the camera and pressing the 3 legs to my chest I gain about two stops so I can work as quickly and flexibly as I like longer thanks to this small tripod.

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Accessories

Usually a spare battery, a spare card and a blower to get rid of dust.

Filters

I don’t see a good reason to use filters nowadays that we have cameras with very high dynamic range. As I said I avoid to use a tripod whenever I can get away without one so NDs and GNDs wouldn’t work well for me and in case I wanted to use them I would prefer getting better results by combining several images. Polarizers are the only exception and I use them to reduce reflections in foliage and thus improve saturation. I use affordable Hoya HD filters which work well enough for me but since I don’t use them often and saw no obvious issues I didn’t delve far into the topic.

Further Reading

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I like to be outside with my camera and I am also a gear head with a love for manual lenses.

23 thoughts on “A look into Phillip’s camera bag – September 2019 Edition”

  1. I’m in the same boat with the 16-35 f4. Would love f2.8, but a lot of work to change out the lenses just for that and lose some range!

  2. If SONY release a 35GM with the size and performance like 24GM, it will solve so many problems.
    Loxia 21, 35GM and FE 85 would be a killer combo with high IQ and very small size.

  3. Hi!

    First: Again, a great post! It reads a little bit more personal, what I like!
    Second: What happed with the Retrospective bag?
    Third: Found a little typo: „…(well *kid* of)…“

  4. nice read, it’s always interesting choices you make.
    The gear you listed, that is what you use on a regular basis i guess, so:
    – CV 1.2/40
    – CV 3.5/21
    – CV 2.5/110
    – FE 4/16-35
    – FE 1.8/85
    – Samyang 1.4/35

    That’s not really all the lenses you own, right? Or did you sell you old lenses? I guess not, i there’s certainly gem’s you’d never sell, could you list those too, even though they might not see regular use?

    1. As I mentioned I only list 4 lenses which have a constant place in my kit. I just amended a number of lenses I still own and don’t intent to sell but which i wouldn’t consider to be part of my regular kit.

  5. Hey Phillip, ein Review von deinem 35 1.4er Samyang wäre mal interessant. Als Student mit begrenztem Budget liebäugele ich ein wenig damit. Wenn die optische Performance echt so gut ist wie du andeutet wäre das vielleicht echt mal ein Ka.
    Bg

      1. Samyang hat wohl auch ein bezahlbares 18mm f2.8 rausgebracht. Dem Datenblatt nach ist es sehr kompakt, leicht und trotzdem bezahlbar. Vielleicht als Alternative zum 18er Batis auch mal einen Blick wert.

  6. Did you ever compare the Sony 16-35f4 with the Canon 16-35f4 on an Sigma MC-11 ? Often heard, that the Canon brings the better performance.

    1. Think I saw some comparisons in the past which showed a little sharper center for the Sony and a little better corners for the Canon as well as superior flare resistance and sunstars in the Canon.
      I actually bought a Canon once but returned it when it suffered from massive field curvature due to a too short adapter.

  7. Thanks for sharing your honest, down to earth and refreshing account of what’s usually in your bag and how shooting works for you. I like that you placed the importance on the joy of shooting above gear and hauling around the best and the latest, which ultimately never gets used.

    I started carrying around 5-6 lenses, and did actually change them around quite a bit, but covering distances was by car and walks were moderate. Also the lenses were still relatively new to me, as I only bought my camera and started shooting last year. Perhaps the more you get to know your gear, the less of it you tend to carry around. Lately I tend to gravitate towards 1 or 2 lenses, and with the exception of my 65mm CV, I shot almost everything with my 25mm Loxia on my last trip. I did miss having a 35mm for many occasions, though, but I hope Voigtländer shows mercy and includes a new high performance 35mm in their upcoming batch of lenses for E-mount.

    I currently own a peakdesign 10L sling, which is practical for getting camera out comfortably and changing lenses, using the lid as cover for dust and wind and putting the lenses on the “shelves” created by the internal dividers when swapping. Aside from that, and the clever strap, I’m very much looking for a more comfortable bag to wear. The relatively rigid and flat side that leans against your back is awful, and the synthetic material makes you sweat easily. Discomfort tends to wear your energy down, and you end up noticing the bag too much on your back after a day out.

    I have thought about the Hadley small Pro, and also coincidentally, the TurnStyle sling mentioned above. I like a bag that is practical and helps out with dealing with a camera, changing lenses, keeping a camera dry and protected, but also a bag that gets out of the way when you’re just walking. Stylish is a welcome plus; colorful and plasticky sports bags made from cheap materials are not to my taste, lol. I prefer to pay a bit more for something that will last as long as possible.

    I think we need to identify the most important features in a camera bag, or a couple of designs for different purposes (and with a options), taking the ones that are already proven to work, improving on them, add a few missing, and have them made by a manufacturer that agrees to be backed kickstarter style.

    For example, I am not a tripod guy, and I don’t even own one. I’m just getting better at holding my breath and standing still, lol. Nevertheless, good tripod carrying features are missing in current bags, and perhaps having them would make a tripod more palatable.

    Before this gets too long, and since I am already daydreaming aloud, I was wondering about manual focus zooms. Today, getting a zoom means having to put up with focus by wire (reason why I sold my 16-35mm GM), and nobody seems to even hold the thought of a manual focus zoom. I have the 2 C/Y Vario-Sonnar zooms and use them, but now that I have a better impression of the limitations of my lenses, their performance does feel outdated in some respects. I wonder how good and compact a zoom could be today if it were manual focus, and if someone (thinking Laowa) would be willing to make one? Anyhow, before I start sharing my wishlist for a monochrome a7RIII with the a7RIV’s EVF, or a digital 6×17 panoramic camera, thanks again for the refreshing impressions and honest thoughts on your personal shooting experience.

    Cheers!

  8. This is close to my setup, which is the 21mm, 40mm, and the cheapest canon 70-200 f4. 🙂

    Couple of questions:
    – how do you choose when to shoot with the 16-35mm and the 40mm? I assume once you switch to 16-35, you either switch back to the 40mm when you need the faster aperture (light / DOF) or just want something light.
    – how come you use the 21mm less than the 16-35mm? Is it just zoom convenience? I’m using the 21mm because it fits in my pocket, and can quickly switch to it when needed (the 40mm also fits into my pocket). I wouldn’t be able to do that with 16-35 as I’d have to reach into my bag.

    1. The 1.2/40 is also the better lens so if IQ is important I will usually switch. The weight difference between the two is actually only about 100g.

      Hard to say why the 21 sees less use. I have it with me often but then I find that I don’t have much use for a real wideangle at home where there are few big vistas. And when traveling I like to be more flexible so I take the zoom instead which I often sue at the wider end.

  9. Thanks for the nice write up.
    Mine are, 35/1.8, CV50, ZA55 and Samyang 85. My wide end is covered by 24-105.

    I have been forever looking for a tele zoom, and have been foolish to spend bucks on all kind of lenses, only to realise that they were too big’n’heavy for me. In this context, i am looking at adding the new 70-350 G, which i can use on my a6xxx body. I am glad that it’s lightweight and small and still a G.

    I have been looking forward to the reviews of Samyang 85 and Sony 24-105 by you. Will you do them?

    Thanks

  10. If you sell your Sony 85/1.8, you will end up with CV 40/1.2 and CV 110/2.5 — and a gap in the middle. Will you replace it with something, and if so what would you be considering?
    My lens setup right now are Sony 24mm/1.4, CV 40/1.2, and Sony 100/2.8 STF (love the bokeh). I, too, sold my Sony 85/1.8 (to pay for the 100/2.8 STF). This means I am now ended up with a hole in the middle (between 40 – 100). I don’t particularly find it a problem, but interested in learning what’s your thoughts, since you will likely end up in the similar boat. Thanks!

      1. Yes, it is interesting to hear you say that, because I don’t particularly have a need for 85mm/1.8 myself, either. I am finding the 100STF suit my needs for bokeh-style portrait if I want to. I also use a diopter to make the 100mm STF into a 1:2 semi macro, so it also covers my macro (instead of a Sony 90). I am also fine with that gap, but sometimes wonder if I am missing something. Glad to hear you feel the same way. Thanks!

  11. I’ve had my A7II since early 2017, Has anyone with an A7II which they’ve had for a while start to run into issues with the buffer filling up fast and hanging a bit clearing out? I’ve twins that are almost 3 and need to spray and pray to try to get both smiling at the same time. The camera is starting to fail me where it would take 5-6 shots rapidly then start buffering and randomly taking shots 1 or so every second.

    I’m wondering if it is the camera or a memory card causing the issues. I have no issues with landscape shots where I’m taking my time shooting.

  12. My question would be (since you noted that you didn’t really like tripods to set up), have you tried monopod? I mean monopod with small legs (as “chickenfoot”)?
    I never tried either and Im sure its not for 60 mins shots, but could be useful to win some stops for low light photos (?)

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