Roger's Corner

The Bargains of 2012

Published December 17, 2012

Now SLR prices are dropping like rocks and there are last minute specials and door-busters everywhere. I’m not going to try to keep up with that stuff for you. But there are some other amazing deals right now that you might not be aware of.

I know that more than a few of you are desperately looking for some last minute gifts. So most years I try to put out a list of things that I just think are incredible bargains. The only rule is they have to be readily available as well as good bargains. The door-buster special that there are 4 of doesn’t count.


Honestly, right now I would try really hard not to buy a camera unless I knew exactly what I needed. The new Canon’s full frames have improved features with about the same resolution. Unless I really needed better autofocus or WiFi, I’d hang on to my 5D II for a while.  I’d be a little quicker to upgrade on the Nikon side, the jump from 12 to 24 or 36 megapixels is well worth it. But questionable quality control, horrid factory service, and prices dropping like rocks would cause me to hold off a bit longer if I could.

The APS-C cameras all look due to refresh next year. There are some exciting things happening on the mirrorless side, but the OM-D, EX-1, etc. are still carrying pretty hefty prices that I expect to drop over the next few months. So in general, I don’t see this as a great time to buy a camera.

There is one exception that is just an outstanding bargain right now, though.

The Pentax K-01    $317

The K-01 can be had for $317 at the moment. For $417 you can get it with an excellent 40mm pancake lens, for $520 with 18-55 and 50-200 kit lenses. This camera has a 16 Megapixel sensor with the 2nd highest DxOMark sensor ratings for all mirrorless cameras.

I’ve shot with it; it’s quite a good camera. It has better lens selection than any mirrorless camera. But the price is mindboggling.

Compare it to what you pay for other good mirrorless cameras below. Great camera, incredible lens selection, great price. That’s a bargain.


Pentax Samsung Sony Olympus Fuji Olympus
 K-10 NX1000 NEX-F3  E-PL5  X-E1  OM-D
Camera only $317.00 $499.00 $999.00 $999.00
Camera kit $417.00 $418.00 $498.00


From Canon

The 40mm f/2.8 Pancake  $150

 Probably the mother of all lens bargains right now, the 45mm f/2.8 pancake can be had for next to nothing, and it’s one of the best pancake lenses made. Even if you never shoot 40mm, hate f/2.8 primes and have absolutely no use for it, you should get it. Shoot with it for a week and I promise you’ll like it. Heck, use it for your lens cap at this price.

From Nikon

The f/1.8 Dynamic Duo about $200 each


The Nikon f/1.8 G lenses are all great performance for a good price. However, you can get both of the wider lenses, the 50mm and 35mm, for less than the price of the 85mm. Either one is a great deal. If you don’t shoot prime lenses, well, shame on you. This is a good place to start.

SB 400 Speedlight 

It’s not very strong, but it’s quite versatile, quite small, and 262.45 times better than the on-camera flash.

For Micro 4/3

Olympus Body Cap Lens

Yeah, it’s f/8. But seriously, it’s meant to use as a body cap and the image quality is really passable. Plus it’s too cool for school.


For Mircro 4/3 or NEX

The Sigma 19mm and 30mm f/2.8 lenses. $149 each


Micro 4/3 and NEX lenses don’t get ‘great bargain’ written about them very often, but the 19mm and 30mm Sigma f/2.8 lenses sure are. They’re both excellent image quality and a price that leaves me going, “How did they do that?”

Other Stuff

A Holga Lens for your SLR $25

OK, I don’t know exactly why, either. But at $25 I don’t know why not. It’s a 60mm lens with that horrid Holga image quality some people love. And if the IQ isn’t bad enough you can mount all kinds of Holga filters and accessories to it. Available in Nikon, Canon, and Sony mount. If you don’t like 60mm, there’s also a pinhole version.


Seamless White Vinyl Background  $27-$68

The link above takes you to Amazon because that’s the only place I know to get it. But the Cowboy Studios White Vinyl backgrounds are pretty decent — we use them in all our product shots. They’re tough, washable, and in this case as cheap as paper.


OK, that’s all I could come up with today, but hopefully a couple of my desperately-searching-for-a-gift friends got some help from it.


roger cicala

December (late December), 2012

Author: Roger Cicala

I’m Roger and I am the founder of Hailed as one of the optic nerds here, I enjoy shooting collimated light through 30X microscope objectives in my spare time. When I do take real pictures I like using something different: a Medium format, or Pentax K1, or a Sony RX1R.

Posted in Roger's Corner
  • That’s a pretty amazing price on a sweet lens, love the 40mm!

  • The 40mm is a belter alright. I picked one up in July last year, just after its release, but have only used it enough to know I should use it more, something I plan on doing this year.

  • Jonathan

    I agree with Aaron, the Cannon pancake is 40mm, not the 45mm in your description. Couldn’t agree more though, I’m thinking of picking one up soon.

  • Here’s another reason why the Canon 40mm pancake is so cool. With my 5DII, both body and lens fit – barely but they do fit – in a Lenscoat® Bodybag®. The model designed just for the body.

  • Mike S.

    Thanks, Roger!

  • Sean M

    Yeah, that body cap lens is pretty neat! Very usable for the price.

    Also, it says “Lensrenals” at the end.

  • Roger Cicala

    Probably not, but it’s just so cheap and tiny I can’t help but love it. If you didn’t already have the 50mm I’d recommend it more strongly, but you’re all set.

  • I have the Canon 40mm and Pentax K-01. Good recomendations. On my 5D the pancake gives a nice, moody vinetting wide open – getting super sharp stopped down a little.
    The Pentax didn’t work so hot with my manual focus lenses, so I bought a FA 35mm F 2.0. Now I’m loving it. Lots of imaging power for a little over three bills!

  • Mike S.

    Roger, I’ve been tempted to get the 40mm f/2.8 just because it’s so cute, and your recommendation nearly puts me over the top, but… I have the Canon 50mm f/1.8 and a Sigma 30mm f/1.4, neither of which I use nearly enough. That’s in part because the 17-55mm f/2.8 IS (bought used from Lensrentals, and with which you generously helped me some weeks back) seems to work better for me at those focal lengths most of the time.

    I freely grant that if I were a more thoughtful/skilled photographer, I would get more out of the primes than I do. But in practice I mount them with high hopes every so often, and come back without much to show for it.

    Is there something the 40mm will give me (other than the intermediate focal length 🙂 ) that I won’t (hopefully, eventually 🙂 ) get by practicing further with the primes I already have?

  • Aaron

    “…the 45mm f/2.8 pancake can be had for next to nothing…”

    You had it right the first and last time, but the middle is 12.5% wrong 😛

  • Just like last year, you forgot to include the LensPen in the “Photography Bargins” 😉 It is always my go-to cheap item to use as a gift for anyone with a camera, from small point n shoots all the way up to $10,000 worth of gear in their bag.

    I can only assume other photographers lose them as often as I do, so they’re always a welcome sight to have spares laying around!

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