What is a perfect camera setup? This is a sort of question that can lead you to pretty deep if you start to overanalyze it with too much detailed information on different camera systems, formats and possibilities – the sort of stuff that seems to live forever undecided at many online photography forums. The other way to think about is to keep your feet on the ground and state the obvious: the one that makes you inspired about your photography and provides you the results you enjoy. I know the both sides of this story and what I'm after is a connection. With a connection I mean a relationship between photographer and his setup that inspires one to get out there, find his photographic eye and to create the photographs that will become the most personal pictures of his life. Pretty steep, eh? Yeah, but let's face it, if you are a photography enthusiast you are probably going to use different setups in your life and you will have different connection to each of them. With some of them your photography will be flying high in the air, while others will turn out to be not that exciting after all. Quite possibly the best setup is the one you are most connected with, and again quite possibly, you take your most meaningful pictures with that same setup.
The best way to get connected with your setup is just by using it. Using it from day to day and not worry about the 'performance' or 'image quality'. Just put them aside for a while and let your own taste ultimately decide what you think about the setup you are using. I know this sounds over simplistic methodology, but I deeply belief that one cannot find the perfect setup just by browsing the online reviews and such. It's like a taste of wine: sure there many wines out there that represent a good taste when one examines them 'objectively' through wine-magazines and experts alike, but which one of those do you prefer and what kind of ingredients speak to you. Nobody can tell that to you because it's ultimately your own taste which dictates what you prefer at the end of the day. Maybe it's not the 2003 Domaine Louis Chave Ermitage Cuveé Cathelin (only $2,789 per bottle, excluding the sales tax). Maybe it's something very different that has a some sort of special connection to your own history (remember that summer '69?) or there is some distinctive quality in that cheap bottle of 2012 Simi Chardonnay which you find charming (only $15 per bottle, so better take two of them). The point is, that you need to step into the water as nobody can tell you which you will prefer and when it comes to your own photography you get to be the expert. The way you step into that water is by letting go preconceptions that you have digested before and just using the setup in your own life and photography. Forget the sharpness and decentering tests and just see what comes out of it and what kind of feelings and thoughts the results may stir up on you.
When I was still using the Nex-5N I felt very connected with the SEL50F18, but could never really connect with the kit lens SEL1855. Being a prime lend the SEL50F18 forced me to develop my photographic eye while providing great results – and I have taken some of my most important pictures with that lens. On the other hand the SEL1855 was a zoom lens which I never mastered and many times I felt it suffered a lack of performance – bottom line, I only used it when I was forced to. With the current Zeiss-setup differentiating between the lenses is definitely harder as they all represent high quality premium lenses and one cannot just divide them based on their performance (and one shouldn't nonetheless). But I have some favorites as there are others that don't speak to me as loudly, and I will later on go through them lens by lens sharing my feelings.
But what is most important is that I find a setup that I can integrate to my life in a successful way. It's not about the best performance (forget the Otus) nor it is about picking the competitive products that give you the best bang for the buck. It's about taking that bottle of fine crafted wine into your life and enjoying it at sunrises and other meaningful events. It's about collecting moments not performance. It's about passion, not competition. And once you find this true connection (being it whatever) you will be inspired to work with it, while it will teach you new ways to be a better photographer. This is the kind of connection I'm searching for and I deeply belief that it is foremost established by living with the gear you already have. Sure there are always some quirks and other issues, but the best way to find the connection is succeed in your photography and to take those shots that will become very meaningful to you. Once you lived through some great moments with your setup you will have quite different relationship. It may not be perfect, but it fits to your life like a working man's glove and you know all the little details which can be use to your advantage and vision. That is the connection and it will realize itself through the pictures you take.