13th October, 2021
I’ve since updated my camera to a Panasonic LUMIX S5. You can read about it here.
I previously wrote about the camera gear I use when bike packing here but since the outdoor activities I do in Japan have changed over the last couple of years I thought it might be a good idea to write an update on what I currently carry. Before we continue it’s best to state the obvious – this is what I carry and enjoy, but you can use whatever you want.
First a short backstory. I used to have a big old Canon 5D MII and a bag full of L lenses that I carried everywhere. But in 2011 I sold the lot and switched to a Leica M6 rangefinder, that I still own, because I wanted to simplify and start over. That meant going back to film. Because I loved how lightweight and simple shooting with the Leica was, when I returned to digital I kept it as simple and light as possible and decided to buy into the Panasonic Lumix micro four thirds system. I have never looked back. Light bodies, even lighter lenses, and a superb range of Lumix Leica lenses that are simply wonderful. Yes, the sensors are smaller but with my style of photography it makes little difference. In fact the smaller sensor is a benefit and if I ever want to shoot full frame I just use the Leica with a roll of film.
So with that out of the way here’s what I use for hiking and cycling/bike packing.
First let’s start with cycling. I use a Lumix GX8 and Panasonic 14-140mm lens. That combination covers pretty much everything from wide angle shots of temples, shrines, and mountain ranges to close ups, portraits, and everything else in between. Sure, it’s not a fast lens with a wide aperture, but it’s light and fairly compact, and when I’m cycling that’s the most important consideration. I’ll usually carry a spare battery and a circular polariser as well. That’s all there is to it. Short and sweet.
Now for hiking. This is a little more complicated and it basically depends on where I’m going, for how long, and with how much gear. If it’s a short day hike to somewhere I’ve been before or know well I’ll use my Lumix G9 with the same lens I use for cycling – the Lumix 14-140mm. Or I might take just the Panasonic Leica 15mm and leave everything else behind.
If it’s for an overnight hike or to somewhere new or that I have high expectations for I’ll take the Lumix G9 with the Panasonic Leica 12-60mm, the Panasonic 45-200mm and more often than not the absolutely tiny Laowa 7.5mm wide angle prime. If I definitely know I’ll be outdoors in the dark I’ll also take a fast prime lens. Either the Panasonic Leica 15mm or the Panasonic Leica 25mm. Both are tiny and weigh no more than 200 grams each. Occasionally I’ll take the Lumix GX8 as well and use that in combination with the Laowa. Recently however I’ve been experimenting with taking only the 14-140mm on the G9 and the GX8 with the Laowa. It basically depends on how I’m feeling before leaving home.
I carry my cycling set up either on a strap over my shoulder if the weather is fine or in a Think Tank Photo Turnstyle 5 or Mindshift Photocross 13 bag if the weather isn’t looking so good. When hiking, I carry my gear in an Atlas Athlete pack and use a Peak Design clip on the shoulder strap. If I’m carrying an extra body (the GX8) I’ll use a small waist bag for easy access. Spare batteries and memory cards usually go in one of the Atlas Packs waist belt pockets.
A quick word on tripods. I have two but nowadays the image stabilisation in the G9 is so good that I have stopped using them almost completely. Even on the rare occasion I want to slow down the water of a waterfall, for example, I can still handhold at 1/4 second and get a sharp image. It really is that good. And with the latest G9 firmware update I can even handhold at 1/4 second and get an 80+ mb file if I need one.
There’s a lot of gossip on the Internet about the end of the micro four thirds system and personally I don’t buy into it at all. In fact I think there’s a lot more goodness to come from the system in the future.