OK. So you have the run of the Hasselblad factory. You can take what you want, perhaps a professional medium format DSLR or the classic V System with a digital back thrown in. Or, maybe, if you are looking for something smaller, the new lightweight X1D. Most photographers would be in drool mode and might look no further than the replete shelves of the ‘Bald press office.
Ming Thein, who now works for Hasselblad, has such opportunities but is actually looking a little further. What does a guy who has everything throw in his overnight bag when he wants a really compact shooter? I was fascinated to read Ming’s decision making process in his blog post, The Un-Camera Camera:
“There’s one small hole left not filled by any of the above. A Hasselblad, by its very nature, is not the kind of thing one uses casually. Partially because there’s little point in shooting sloppy medium format and having massive files to curate later, partially because it’s not always socially acceptable to wield something that large, partially because it requires some physical weight commitment (getting harder and harder with current airline restrictions), but mostly because I’ve always felt that the output is quite binary: either it makes you look like a hero, or you crash and burn.”
Something smaller, then? Ming points out that this role has been filled traditionally by compact pocket cameras — perhaps the Ricoh GR, the Olympus Mju II or, possibly, a Leica with a small lens. All are preferable, as he points out, to a 4 x 5 or medium format when it comes to lugging stuff around.
There are many choices, though. Cameras such as the LX100 (D Lux), the RX100, TZ10 and TZ100 have been around for some time and Ming but believes they are rather ambitious in the lens department yet underachieving in practice. So….
To cut a longish and very entertaining post short, Ming ends up favouring the micro four-thirds format and settles for one of the less obvious candidates — such as the Olympus PEN-F or OM-D E-M10.2 — in favour of a Panasonic.
It’s the GX85 that gets the Ming seal of approval. It is light in weight, performs strongly and has the really good 12-32 pancake kit zoom to keep dimensions in hand. And, it has a viewfinder which, for most of us, is an essential.
I haven’t tried the GX85 (GX80 in UK and many other countries — why does Panasonic insist on confusing us all in this way?) But I do own the bigger, weather-resistant GX8 and the diminutive GM1. Both are solid and usable cameras and produce great results. The GM1, otherwise a masterpiece of diminuisation, is let down by the lack of a viewfinder and is now a little long in the tooth. Time, perhaps, for something new.
On paper, then (until I’ve managed to borrow a GX80 for test), I agree with Ming. The GX80 could well be the ideal throw-in-the-bag lightweight camera. With the 12-32 zoom it is certainly compact but, of course, it has the additional advantage of accommodating all lenses from the vast m4/3 arsenal. Could it offer the best of all worlds for the lightweight traveller?