#854. A Camera for Paris!

By Chris Stump | Opinion

May 06

We’re going to Paris! 

Well, next year, and probably in the Fall…so it’s a ways off. But we’re planning. What fun. ‘Trip of a lifetime’ to be sure. However, this will not be a photo-safari a la Pascal and his pals. I will not be photographing when and where I want, but will instead be led like a pack mule by my wife and young son. [That’s not fair, we’re going to be very relaxed and just immerse ourselves, but still…]  

 

This means that expectations from a photographic point of view will have to be dialed down a tad. Just the same, you know I’m already picking out my kit. Heck, this is half the fun…so let’s get started. We all know how a new lens can jump-start our photography, all I can say is ‘try a trip to Paris!’ This has me considering a complete overhaul. In fact, the changeover has already begun.

I started out asking myself the question ‘If price was no object, what would you take?’ This is a fun exercise, not because it’s true [it most definitely is not], but because it gets you to really evaluate your priorities. I realized that size and weight were the primary concerns here. Size not only because there will be lots of other stuff to haul around, but also since I don’t want to advertise to would-be thieves. And weight for obvious reasons. Image quality still important, but again, this will be mainly a snapshot trip, so it had to move down one peg on the list.

 
 

First decision made. As surprising as it is to hear me say it, the gorgeous 5DS and bevy of L lenses will be staying home. My only other camera is a compact Leica D-Lux Typ 109. With size and weight as primary considerations I next turned to this camera for the trip, but immediately knew I wasn’t fully enamored of the choice. 

It’s a great camera which actually took three photos that won awards for me last year, as well as all the pics in this story. However I do find it fiddly to use with tiny, plastic controls; and my 60yr old eyes just don’t work well with the viewfinder. It also has only a 12mp m4/3 sensor. A modern 20mp 4/3 sensor may well offer resolution ‘as good as medium format film’ used to, as I often read, but this sensor is not quite there. 

 
 

Having said that, the Typ 109 would no doubt do a fine job, but this is the trip of a lifetime so let’s look around. First thought was the new version of this same camera [‘better the devil you know…’]. The new D-Lux 7 sports 40% more pixels, which is huge. I also read that the zoom-by-wire functionality has been improved…one of those ‘fiddly’ things that bugged me. I don’t know that the viewfinder is any better, and the tiny, pointy, plasticy controls will not have changed, but I could more realistically get on board with this option now that the resolution is reasonable.

So decision #2 made. With all the above in mind I listed the Typ 109 for sale. They still command a decent price, and whether it was to take on the trip or not, I could always upgrade to the new version if no other small cameras prove themselves to me first.

Meanwhile, decision #3 made itself for me. You see, I realized that unless I was willing to travel with one fixed lens, say a Leica Q or some flavor of Sony RX, I was going to have to go with a smaller sensor size.

 
 

The less than FF landscape is so jumbled and fragmented, at least to me, that I’ve avoided really looking into it. I just can’t get on board with APS-C. The DSLRs are almost as big, and expensive, as FF, and not worth the trade off to me. I do admit to concerns with how small 4/3 is, but anything smaller is a no-go zone for me as well. I mean, honestly, the Leica Vario has a 1” sensor. For $3,000. Are you kidding me? Absolutely not happening.

 
 

Likewise the Sony A series and Fuji cameras. I just don’t feel them, as obviously competent as they may be. This is a good thing. Too many choices is exhausting. By eliminating these options I’m saved a lot of work.

I had long wondered about the Panasonic Lumix G series. My Typ 109 was really a re-badged Panasonic after all, so it’s not that much of a leap. I like that there is a full system of larger and smaller bodies, with lots of Leica glass available as primes, but also in my preferred zoom configuration. [I know what you’re saying ‘he values Leica glass but then buys (often plastic barreled) zoom versions?’ What can I say…juggling prime lenses ten times a day in dusty back alleys while keeping an eye on a kid and dodging pick-pockets?…just not my idea of a good time. Call me crazy. 

I read up on the Lumix series, and thought I’d pick up an old GX7 and a lens just to see what it was all about. Then I read Mike Johnston’s article where he switched over to the Lumix. Huh. Concept validated.

 
 

I surfed over to Amazon to look for a used 7, and for not much more found an 85 bundled with two zooms. The lenses aren’t the Leica variants, but they were very well regarded, small and light, and practically free. Done and done. They’ll be here this week, and I have a year to learn the format and pick up some Leica glass well ahead of the trip if I like what I see [or the D-Lux 7 if I don’t!].

So there you have it. My ‘Camera for Paris’ journey in 5 minutes. I’m going to be surprised if a compact Lumix and a couple of Pana-Leica zooms don’t accompany me on the trip. 🙂

 
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  • Pat Verhulst says:

    I am living in Belgium Europe, neibhouring country of France. So I reguarly visit Paris.
    When I decide to do architectural photography I use Fujifilm Gfx 50 s. But with the lenses and Tripod it is heavy. For streetphotography I use the Leica M10 with 35 or 28 mm.
    As the rumour Goes for the new M11, maybe you can find a M10 for a cheaper price.

    • Chris Stump says:

      Hi Pat,
      I have a mid-50’s M3 still sitting on my shelf as well, so maybe an M10 or 240 is where I’ll end up. I love having the luxury of time to decide what’s best. 🙂

  • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

    Each to his own! I shoot mainly Nikon, and am thinking of switching from FF to HF for my next trip, to Paris. Simply so I can use different lenses. Because lugging 4 lenses as well as a camera is just to much. And next trip I want to shoot quite different stuff. A fast 50mm prime, and perhaps my 70-200 f/2.8. I’ll see! Actually the choice is more about the lenses than the cameras.

    • Chris Stump says:

      “Actually the choice is more about the lenses than the cameras.” Well, there you have it Pete.
      I couldn’t have said it better myself. [and didn’t :)]
      It is all, indeed, about the size and weight of my preferred FF lenses along with the body on which to mount them.
      I too considered paring down to two lenses, including the 100~400mm zoom which I adore.
      But alas it was still too much for this trip, and the process I went through then revolved around how to get Leica glass in a system that was light enough while still providing, hopefully, acceptable IQ for such an important venture.
      This also is not an impossibly rare thing these days, so, finally, I looked at ergonomics and preferences.
      **update: The Typ 109 sold first day, and the GX85 body and zooms are here. We’re getting to know each other in Pennsylvania, USA. 🙂

    • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

      Addendum – much as I love Paris, I think you need to take serious steps in your planning, to guard against pickpockets and more sophisticated thieves. If that means taking a smaller camera, so be it. If it means relying on a single lens, think of the time saved by not changing lenses. Overall, lighter is easier to carry – making your trip more pleasant. A small bag is a smaller target, and a less attractive one. Can you padlock your camera bag, when you’re not actually shooting?

      • Chris Stump says:

        Quoting “your entire addendum”

        Well, exactly. At the risk of letting concerns of theft ruin my trip, I’m more than aware of this issue. Between ‘flying below the radar’ and general weight concerns, I’m already committed to a smaller format, and greatly considering a ‘one lens solution’ as well.

        I have to say…my romantic vision is of sauntering along the boulevard with one brassy body and lens slung over my shoulder by a worn leather strap, half-hidden under a light jacket. No bag, no monster zoom, just my trusty companion.

        The GX85 and Leica 15mm f1.7 [e-30mm] lens are auditioning for the part now, with the 12~60mm f2.8-4 waiting in the wings.

        Thanks again for your notes.

  • PaulB says:

    Hi Chris

    A logical progression, which does make sense for a travel camera. For a serious travel kit I have bounced between Leica M and M4/3, and I have carried a reduced kit using both for two weeks in Italy.

    Currently, my Travel kit for long trips is M4/3; the most recent was Hawaii. The value of my M body and lenses means it stays home when I travel long distance and duration. M4/3 can replace the M, but a change of mind set is needed. Since the EVF is a little behind real time.

    If photography is not a primary reason for the trip, I take a Sony RX100. Which is adequate when you can’t carry something better, faster, bigger.

    Concerning M4/3 lens choices, don’t overlook the options in the Olympus Pro series of zoom lenses. My 12-40 f2.8 Pro could easily be an only lens, if I could not take my full kit. I had the Pana-Leica 12-60 f4 for a short time and traded it for the Olympus. As I found the f2.8 was more benefit to me than the extra focal length.

    PaulB

    • Chris Stump says:

      Thanks Paul,
      I think you might be able to provide another ‘commandment’ to the list started below…something about the value of a set of gear vs. advisability of taking it overseas. We’ll have to work on that.
      I appreciate the comment about the Oly 12~80mm f2.8 as an ‘only lens’. This is a very attractive option.
      In fact, there is also a Pana-Leica 12~60mm f2.8-4 on sale right now here: https://www.adorama.com/ipc1260l.html
      I had it on my wish list at $1,000…looks like a slam-dunk now!

      • PaulB says:

        Chris

        That is the Pana-Leica 12-60 I had. If possible I suggest you rent it before you buy. So you will know if the extra focal length or constant aperture is more important to you. I live near Seattle, which played a role in choosing the constant aperture.

        When I was in Italy my kit was a mix of an Olympus Pen-F and M6, with M4/3 12mm & 20mm lenses and vintage Leica 35mm and 50mm lenses. I did adapt the M lenses to the Pen-F. This was the first trip that I used digital more than film. Ironically, on this trip it was the Pen-F that attracted the most attention.

        Currently I use a G9 and I still adapt M lenses. In my opinion M4/3, and the G9 is the best platform for adapting M lenses. Though, I haven’t tried Fuji yet.

        PaulB

  • Sean says:

    Hi Chris,
    For what it’s worth, I provide the following.

    When my wife and I had our holiday in Paris and other areas in France, I took two cameras: Leica M8 and Sony A7 – initially this looks like an unlikely unmatched duo, but they proved to complement one another, once in the field. I used the M8 outside in good light – ultimately for B&W work; the the A7 covered anything else.

    Above, Jean Pierre (Pete) Guaron hits the nail on the head where he says, and I quote “… I’ll see! Actually the choice is more about the lenses than the cameras…”. The lenses I had taken were four Zeiss ZM 50/2, 35/2, 28/2.8, and 25/2.8, and the Pentax-L 43/1.9 Special. I found myself using the ZM 25/2.8 most of the time (on either camera), followed by the ZM 28/2.8 (on M8). The ZM 50/2 and Pentax 43/1.9 proved very useful on the Sony A7.

    I usually started the day with the 50/2 ZM and decided from there as to what lens most suited the environment circumstances, on the day – often it was the ZM 25/2.8, even though the other lenses proved valuable when called upon.

    I hope this helps.

    Regards
    Sean

    • Chris Stump says:

      Thanks Sean,
      Your kit sounds fantastic. And, if this trip were just me traipsing about I’d enjoy it very much.
      I can just feel those dense ZM lenses. In fact, I came close to picking up a 28mm Distagon and taking only that!
      This time anyway I can see a smaller camera and little zoom or two winning out.
      🙂

  • brian says:

    “I read Mike Johnston’s article where he switched over to the Lumix. Huh. Concept validated.”

    Well, I don’t want to suggest that Mike Johnston’s choice is anything less than a validation of your choice, but regular readers of his blog will remember how Johnston agonized between taking advantage of a then-excellent deal for the Lumix or purchasing the more costly Fuji XH-1 that he was then reviewing: after leaving the Panasonic’s package unopened for days, as I recall, he finally ripped it open and committed–just before a huge price drop for the Fuji. Johnston really likes the Lumix, but he’s still struggling with buyer’s remorse, as he posted today:

    “Gimme a do-over pleez!

    “When I tried [the XH-1], it cost $1,650, and I assumed all of the “post introduction” discounts had already taken place. It was still too dear for cheapskate me, so, to replace my aging X-T1, I bought the G9 on sale for $1,213 instead. . . . . Then, right after it was too late for me to return the G9, the price of the X-H1 plummeted again. And I immediately got a tenacious case of buyer’s remorse that’s been hard to shake. On top of that, to add insult to my injury, B&H threw the VPB-XH1 Vertical Power Booster Grip into the mix for a big dose of additional sweetening. The VPB-XH1 sells separately for $329. . . .

    “Augh. It’s killing me, I tell ya. Killing me.”

    https://theonlinephotographer.typepad.com/the_online_photographer/blog_index.html

    My advice: Make your choice–and then stop shopping.

    • Chris Stump says:

      Yes, thank you, I do remember this saga now. Thanks for the links!
      And, I believe(?) this was not the only time we witnessed him buy a camera on-sale and returnable while he rented the same thing or tried something else out. This approach is way too drawn out and fraught for me.
      I was the one to bring Mr Johnston into this, but not as an example to follow necessarily. I take my validations where I can find them. 🙂
      Instead, my approach is to buy and live with the camera or lens as if I’ll own it forever [because I might], and only make a change if I find a serious shortcoming.
      “My advice: Make your choice-and then stop shopping.” Exactly.
      You know what gang? I think we’re developing [ha] a new photographer’s set of commandmants.
      #1 – Actually the choice is more about the lenses than the cameras.
      #2 – Make your choice–and then stop shopping.
      #3 – The phone in your pocket is better than the DSLR left at home.
      [I just threw that last one in there…others?]

  • Peter Oosthuizen says:

    I weight’s really an issue – Huawei 🙂

    • Chris Stump says:

      Well, you’re not wrong!
      I actually did allow myself to consider my phone a piece of this puzzle.
      Perhaps it will be, in the end. 🙂

    • brian says:

      What you carry is as personal a choice as where you go.

      Two years ago I walked with my family over far too many mountain passes between Chamonix and Zermatt. The scenery was, of course, wonderfully photogenic, but my age and my troubled knee convinced me to eschew carrying my too-heavy Nikon kit during that once-in-a-lifetime trip. I relied on my wife’s cell phone and my daughter’s Sony RX100 V to enhance our memories.

      OTOH, I think that I recall that back when there was a Brooks School of Photography a Brooks grad humped a banquet camera to the top of Shishapangma, the world’s 14th highest peak; when that beast failed he made do with the medium format camera that he carried as a backup. So there’s that.

      But I am done shopping. 🙂

  • Pascal Ravach says:

    Hi Chris,
    My two cents 🙂
    All the pictures I posted on DS were taken either with my old iPhone 7 Plus, either with M43; in my case an Olympus OM-D E-M1 with Olympus and Panasonic lenses; yes, this format is superbly “agile” and very competent.
    But to be honest, the Fujis and the FF have a more subtle color palette, and more DR… exposure mistakes are a no-go with M43 too…
    For subjets like street photography, snap portraits, M43 is unbeatable, though… and it is a fact: I never ever saw somebody watching me with the 75F1.8 Oly (equivalent of a 150mm FF), on thousands of pics, while I always saw people reacting and watching me with my FF lenses!

  • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

    As an alternative, Chris, ask Philippe what he thinks.
    To be honest, I’m thinking of bringing only a pocket cam next time.

    • Chris Stump says:

      Yes, well, I would more than welcome Philippe’s comments. Traveling through Europe in today’s digital landscape is something brand new to me.
      However, I have gone on and on somewhere…my site or here…about my misspent and somewhat regretted post-film, pre-pro digital period where I was in incredible places with mediocre pocket cameras as my only option.

      I don’t wish to put myself in that position again if I can help it. 🙂

      • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

        Don’t go to the other extreme, though. I nearly had a top Nik with an Otus stolen, and Philippe can tell you a much worse story.

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