Jan 222011
 

The Ricoh GR Digital III Review

By Steve Huff

After my Ricoh GXR review (you can see it here) I became a huge fan of Ricoh. The GXR was the first time I have ever shot with a Ricoh digital camera and I was so enamored by it that I bought one for myself. I found its build, feel, and image quality to be stellar when used with the larger sensor modules like the 28 and 50mm. The fact that its size was small and had all of these qualities is what really got me to buy it. Imagine my surprise when I get an e-mail from Ricoh asking me if I wanted to review their GRD III. I have heard nothing but WONDERFUL things about the GRD III but I also knew it was a fixed lens small sensor camera. To me, shooting again with a small sensor camera was not exactly exciting but I was willing to give it a shot. Besides, with all of the raving by Ricoh fans on this series of camera I knew it was not going to be a dog. I love the Leica D-Lux 5 and Panasonic LX-5 so much (they also have small sensors) so I was curious to see if the GRD III could beat them or at least equal them in IQ and use.

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But before I get to this review I wanted to talk a bit about what makes me tick as a photographer and why a camera does and does not matter when it comes to getting nice photos. While everyone argues wether camera gear can make any difference in your final output, let me break it down into FACTS right now:

  • Larger sensor cameras WILL give you better IQ than a small sensor camera, especially if printing LARGE
  • NO CAMERA, no matter HOW expensive will make you a better photographer. Time, passion, and practice will.
  • If you know what you are doing and take one shot with a small sensor camera and one with something like a Leica S2, you will get a much better file from the Leica S2. No question on that AT ALL. BUT the photograph will be the same, just with a different rendering.
  • Larger sensor cameras have better ISO performance, more dynamic range and better color. They also have the capability of shooting with limited Depth of Field.
  • The images you create with whatever you shoot will somehow always look like YOUR Images. It’s your style that will get you noticed more than the camera you shoot. Small sensor cameras can even help give you a certain style.

So now that that is cleared up we know that a camera like the Ricoh GRD III can provide you with GREAT photos if you are a decent photographer. Me, I consider myself an average photographer who is always learning more and always getting better. The photos I shoot for a review are basically stories of my life at that time. Some are snapshots and some are more than that. What makes me want to get out there and shoot is by using a camera that I enjoy shooting. If I go out with a huge brick of a camera and huge lenses then I am not having fun and I shoot less. Smaller cameras with good quality is where it’s at for me these days.

For the past year I have been on a mission to find the smallest cameras that not only give the best output but are also enjoyable to use! If a camera is small but is a pain to shoot then it’s no fun. Kind of like playing guitar. If you have a guitar that is not comfortable for you or not set up correctly then you have to fight the damn thing to play it. A camera is no different.

When you own a camera that you can actually bond with (yes, you can bond with your camera) then the sky is the limit. All that is required after that is your passion, your knowledge and your eye. Once these three things are developed you can perfect your photography skills over time. For me it is a lifelong journey and I feel blessed to be able to sit here every day and write about it for all of you who read what I write!

“Puppy Love” – GRD III – f/1.9 – iso 64

“At the barn” – Ricoh GRD III – f/1.9 – iso 64

So with that out of the way let me start talking about this little GRD III by Ricoh. I received the package from Ricoh after it traveled from Hong Kong to Sunny AZ get to my door. I opened up the box to find a relatively small little camera that had the same build as the GXR body I loved so much. It felt better in my hand than the Panasonic LX5 I had on hand and from memory, the D-Lux 5 as well. It was lighter and smoother…it felt really good.

This is a 10MP camera and 10mp is plenty for just about anything these days, especially in a camera like this. I am glad Ricoh did not choose a sensor with higher megapixels as that usually degrades the image quality in these small sensor cams. Notice how most small sensor cameras have settled on 10MP? There is a reason for that.

The lens on this camera is a fixed 28mm, so its pretty wide. It will not be everyones cup of tea that is for sure. Me, I usually find 28 a bit too wide for an everyday focal length (though after shooting this camera, I am getting used to it more and more) but others feel right at home with a 28, especially Ricoh fans who have shot with the previous GR film camera and the GRI and GRII. Again, this camera does NOT have a zoom but a fixed 28mm f 1.9 lens. Yep, I said a 1.9 aperture lens! That is one cool thing about it…the speed. Previous versions of this camera had slower lenses so I applaud Ricoh for having the fastest lens on any compact camera to date.

There is one good thing about having a fixed focal length on a camera. It makes you work harder to get good shots. Using a 28mm focal length for ALL of your images can be a challenge but it can also help you grow as a photographer by forcing you to think outside the box and think in a wider kind of way :)

With the sensor being so small on this camera do not expect to get any shallow depth of field effects with the GRDIII (though you can if shooting up close in macro mode). Instead, as I shot with the GRD III I realized this camera was all about something else. Lots of shooters who use this camera like it for its size and its ability to be a TAKE ANYWHERE camera. The GRD series in general has a great rep for being a great B&W camera as well. I think the 1st GRD I had a gritty look t o its higher ISO images but the GRDIII has better high ISO performance than the earlier versions of the camera. In my use, this camera performed wonderfully in almost all aspects. It fit into my front pants pocket nicely and was able to go with me anywhere I went. I decided to take it with me for a while as my only camera to see what I could capture. I told myself I would shoot it whenever I saw a good or interesting shot to take. It was my one and only photographic companion so the photos here are all just snaps from my daily life while I had the GRDIII with me.

As always, this review is based more on “real world” use instead of charts, graphs, and all of the techie stuff. When I review a camera I take it out, shoot it for a couple of weeks and judge it by how it performed for me during my time with it. I test for overall build, feel, IQ, ease of use, high ISO, color, etc. If I like it I say so. If I do not like a camera I usually don’t even shoot with it for more than a day or two and I send it back saying “No thanks”. Usually, if you see a review here for a certain camera it means I really enjoyed it.

“Reflection” – GRD III – B&W JPEG – f/1.9 – iso 154

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“Boots” – GRD III -From RAW – f/1.9 – ISO 64

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THE GRD III SPECS

The feature list is long but notice the camera is not filled with gimmicks. Instead the GRDIII is loaded with usable features that any photographer would enjoy! These specs and descriptions are straight from Ricoh.

Superior backlight performance
Ghosting is one of the causes of image quality deterioration. To eliminate the problem, all of the individual lenses that are part of the GR lens have been covered with the multi-coating optimum for each. To minimize the small residual reflection striking the CCD, we also ran original simulations repeatedly to determine optimum conditions for lens curvature, etc. As a result, we successfully suppressed ghosting, particularly that caused by off-screen light sources such as the sun.

GR ENGINE III for low-noise, high-resolution images
Newly developed image processing engine GR ENGINE III enables precise noise reduction by processing the signal close to its CCD-output state. Various types of noise are effectively reduced while maintaining resolution and color saturation. Color reproduction and tonal gradation performance has also been significantly improved.

10-megapixel high-sensitivity CCD and AFE
With the new CCD, rather than increasing the number of pixels, we have about doubled sensitivity compared to the previous model (GR DIGITAL II). Even at ISO 200, imaging performance is at or above the old ISO 100 level. This higher ISO sensitivity makes a clear difference in image quality.

Suppressing whiteout to create “high-reality” images: Pixel output interpolation algorithm
Control whiteout with the pixel output interpolation algorithm, Ricoh’s original image processing technique. Comparing the output of each pixel, the algorithm interpolates image data in whiteout areas. This expands dynamic range by up to +1 EV equivalent. Using this extensive data to generate the JPEG, even for 8-bit (256-tone) images, it is possible to create a more “real” look with less whiteout than in the past.

Effective solution for mixed light sources: Multi-pattern auto white balance
In scenes mixing multiple light sources–such as sunlight and shadow, ambient light and flash–the optimum white balance of each is determined by segmenting the image. For both subject and background, you get well-balanced coloration closer to what you saw while shooting.

Fast AF is strong in low-light situations
Smooth, quick AF is possible even in low-light scenes where contrast detection is necessary and focusing is generally slow. The excellent focusing response enhances shooting.

Full Press Snap to grab that shutter chance
With this quick-shooting function, AF operates when the shutter release button is pressed half way, but for a one-push full-press, the photo is taken at a set focal distance. (1m/2.5m/5m/8). This distance setting can be easily changed. Since the AF does not operate for a one-push full press, you will not miss the moment.

Don’t let that shutter chance get away: Pre-AF function
Even if the shutter release button is not pressed half way, focusing follows the subject’s movement. The pre-AF action accelerates focusing time.

RAW evolution: Continuous shooting and high write speed
With the expansion of buffer memory, continuous shooting of up to five images is possible even for RAW. This facilitates bracketing as well as the shooting of quickly moving subjects. The RAW card write speed has also been accelerated (under 3 seconds per image). These specs will help reduce your “shooting stress.”

Freedom of expression with framing and light: AE/AF target shift
Focus and exposure settings can be done at designated points on the screen. These AE and AF targets can be shifted either alone or together in order to do Spot AE and Spot AF. This increases framing and light-expression freedom in situations such as tripod shooting where the camera cannot be moved for AE or AF lock and macro shooting where precise focusing is demanded due to shallow subject depth of field.

Shutter speed priority AE newly added: Extensive exposure modes
Shutter speed priority has been added to the existing modes (program shift, aperture priority, etc.). It is useful when you want to manipulate motion, such as when stopping subject movement or creating a feeling of energy in a panning shot.

New macro mode system controls field curvature
Minimum shooting distance is approx. 1 cm. A new system was adopted in which one part of a lens group which does not move during normal focusing is shifted into a special position for close-up photography. This corrects the field curvature that tends to be a problem in close-up shooting with retro-focus wide-angle lenses. The result is superb imaging power across the entire photo.

Images with a naked-eye impression: Dynamic range double shot
This function prevents overexposure and underexposure in high-contrast scenes. For reproduction of both light and dark areas, two images with different exposures are shot in succession, and the properly exposed portions of each are automatically combined. This expands dynamic range to a maximum equivalent to 12EV, creating an image with a close to naked-eye impression.

Aspect ratio 1:1 square format mode
Shooting aspect ratio 1:1 photographs, the square format will expand your creative enjoyment with the fresh feel of the framing and the strong subject presence produced by limiting the image field. This format is also convenient for blog use.

Image quality parameters
Individual color settings have been added to the image settings. For each color (orange, green, sky blue, red, and magenta), hue and saturation can be set at five levels so you get the coloration you want. In addition, with the “vivid” setting, you can easily shoot intense high-saturation images.

Flash synchro setting
The expressiveness of a photograph can change greatly depending on flash timing. If you want to be sure to catch a fleeting portrait expression, select “1st Curtain,” and if you want to create a natural light trail in a dark scene, select “2nd Curtain.” Even in bright scenes, this can help you record natural-feeling movement for moving subjects.

Manual flash amount setting
Flash amount can be set at 12 levels from full flash to 1/64, enabling you to balance flash intensity for both subject and background brightness. The subject’s expression and presence can be emphasized while the background is obscured. Fine tune the settings to fit the ambient light conditions and your creative intentions

Level compensation
Image brightness and contrast can be corrected in the camera itself after shooting. With AUTO, you leave the subtle adjustments up to the camera. With MANUAL, you can freely and intuitively adjust brightness and contrast using the histogram. The corrected image is saved as a new file so the original is still available, and the two can be compared.

Three types of bracketing
Three automatic bracketing functions are provided. With auto bracketing, you can select exposure intervals from 0.3EV to 0.5EV. White balance bracketing is convenient when precise coloration is important and when shooting with a distinctive light source. Color bracketing enables you to obtain color and black-and-white images for two very different impressions of the same scene. In all cases, the multiple images are generated from a single shot so you can get the feeling you are after without missing any shutter chances.

3.0-inch VGA LCD for beautiful display
LCD panel visibility was further improved with VGA high resolution and an expansive 3.0-inch size. The sRGB comparison for color reproduction range is 100%. This has significantly improved the visual reality of the image during framing, the ability to search images and check shooting data, and the ease of making function settings.

Electronic level
When shooting landscapes and night scenes, visual clues for finding the level position can be missing or hard to see. The electronic level is very effective at such times. You can quickly find the precise level position, which will give a feeling of stability to the image. When the external viewfinder is attached, the level sound can be used to determine if the camera is tilted.

My Settings
By just turning the mode dial, you can use My Settings to instantaneously switch to many different shooting functions. The number of sets which can be assigned has been increased to three so you can handle a wider range of shooting situations and creative intentions.

My Settings Box
Up to six My Settings sets can be stored in the My Settings Box. Then you can just choose the set you need and quickly assign it to MY1, MY2, or MY3. You can also name each set yourself to make it easy to choose the correct one.

Direct operation enhanced with two Fn buttons
There are now two Fn (function) buttons for one-push access to necessary functions. Assign frequently used functions to each to increase direct operability.

Operation function customization
To give the individual photographer the most natural operation feel, functions can be assigned to the up-down dial and the ADJ. lever. Increase shooting/playback flexibility by creating intuitive operations that minimize finger movement.

One-push playback enlarged view
In playback mode, you can display images at a previously defined magnification by just pushing the ADJ. lever once. This eliminates the inconvenience of having to change magnification level by level. Setting a magnification suitable to recorded image size and intended print size will speed up your image checking.

Three grid guides
In addition to the 3 x 3 grid, a 4 x 4 grid with diagonal lines and 2 x 2 grid with central visual field have been added. Choose the best grid for your subject: diagonal lines will clearly show the image center for building/product photography and a 2 x 2 grid can be helpful for capturing a moving subject.

GR Design: Excellent portability and grip feel
The GR DIGITAL III inherits a traditional design born to carry out the camera’s true mission of always being ready for the next shutter chance and reliably recording the result. Keeping the same pocketable form and hand-clinging grip, careful attention was given to enhancing operability and quality.

Magnesium body for superior reliability
A light and highly rigid magnesium alloy is used for a body that has strong shock resistance and durability. It also has excellent heat radiation and magnetic shielding characteristics, important features for a digital camera. This is a camera that can stand up to a photographer’s “hard use,” providing both reliability and high operation precision.

“Angela and Reno” – GRD III – f/1.9 – ISO 64

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“Sniff Sniff” – Ricoh GRD III – f/1.9 – ISO 64

The Lens on the GRD III

One thing I noticed is that even though I was constantly shooting with the lens wide open at f/1.9 that I was getting nice sharp images. If a lens is good wide open then you can bet on it being wonderful stopped down as well. I always shoot lenses wide open and if the camera or lens can handle it and provide me with superb IQ while doing so then I know the lens quality is really good. The GRD III may have the finest lens I have come across on a small sensor type of camera. It’s fast, it’s sharp and provides a nice rendering with minimal distortion (I have yet to notice any in the photos I took).

The lens is an effective 28mm f/1.9 lens. In reality it is a 6mm lens but after the crop factor of the small sensor it becomes a 28mm effective focal length. The quality is wonderful. Below you can click on the image to download the full size out of camera image.

FULL SIZE 10MP IMAGES

When viewing the images below at full size you can see the limitations of a small sensor camera. The photos will have a bit of noise at 100% which you usually do not see when using a larger sensor camera. Still, the GR Digital III puts out a nice sharp image.

CLICK THE IMAGES BELOW FOR THE FULL SIZE OUT OF CAMERA 10MP VERSIONS – ALL SHOT AT f/1.9 TO TEST PERFORMANCE OF THE LENS WIDE OPEN

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Compared to the Panasonic LX-5

I did not get a chance to really compare the two side by side for to long but I did manage to get two shots with each to see how they stood up to each other. The LX-5 is the Panasonic version of the Leica D-Lux 5 and these two cameras have always been considered by me to be the top in the compact small sensor camera world. I like them better than the Canon S95, Canon G12, etc. They are all 10MP cameras and are all somewhat compact with the smallest prize going to the S95 but for overall bang for the buck you cant beat the Panasonic LX-5. You can see my D-Lux 5 review HERE which is basically the same exact camera made in the same factory.

As for the shots between the LX-5 and GRDIII? The first one, the GRDIII was set at ISO 64 and f/1.9 and the LX5 ISO 80 at f/2. I prefer the slightly warmer color of the GRDIII which is evident when you look at the larger image. Also take note that the GRD III is thinner than the LX-5/D-Lux 5 due to the lens sliding into the camera.

crops

and how about a full size download from each – both were shot RAW and processed with default settings. I prefer the GRD III rendering and color here…

first the GRD III image – f/4 – ISO 100 (thought I was at 5.6 when I shot, later found out was f/4)

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now the Panasonic LX-5 image – f5.6 – iso 100 (again, this was stopped down a bit more at f5.6 so should have the advantage)

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Black & White with the GRD III

The GR Digital series from Ricoh have always had a great rep for being really good black and white cameras. I remember seeing some street stuff shot with a GRD II and the images were raw, gritty, and very real. I guess “haunting” would be a word to describe the images that I remember seeing. I was excited to shoot the GRDIII in black and white to see if this gritty look could still be achieved. After shooting at low and high ISO with the in camera B&W modes I found that this newest generation of GRD is much better in the high ISO noise department so I did not get much grit at all :)

BUT with that said, even at ISO 1600 this camera could deliver some decent out of camera B&W results. I did not go out street shooting with the GRD while I had it but did go “bar shooting” at ISO 400 with the in camera B&W mode LOL. I find it interesting to sit down at the bar at Applebees restaurant, order up some food and a beer and shoot the people around me. I may even start a new series out of it. What is cool is that everyone there knows I review cameras so they have no problem with me shooting :)

The next three images were shot with in camera B&W at ISO 400 with the lens wide open at 1.9

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and a couple more B&W but these I did some Photoshop tweaks to with the vignetting, contrast and sharpness enhancements. This always adds more drama to a photo IMO.

“ASHLEY THE BLACK PUG” – GRD III – f/4

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“Lucky” – GRD III – From RAW – PP with added vignetting and B&W conversion – f/1.9 – ISO 64

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and one ISO 1600 shot at F9 – click image for larger version

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one more ISO 1600 image and crop – click image for full size out of camera ISO 1600 image

So all in all the B&W and high ISO performance of the GRD III was up there with the best small sensor cameras. Not mind blowing or a new experience, but it was about equal to what we see in the LX-5, S95, etc (though a bit different at the same time). I found that when using the out of camera B&W JEPGS the contrast had to be turned up a bit to get that dynamic look. When I processed the color file from the camera and converted to B&W using Alien Skin Exposure 3 I found even better results. Depending on what you shoot you may want to experiment with Alien Skin as I find it gives awesome B&W conversions and tones. One thing is for sure, even at ISO 1600 the details remain crisp and sharp as is evident in the crop above.

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Cross Process, HDR and High Contrast B&W Modes

The GRDIII has a few cool features included so it is not as bare bones as some think. One cool mode I liked was the cross process color mode which is accessible in the scene mode.

Just a quick test of the cross process mode. My room was dark so at ISO 800 you can see the noise here but the CP effect is interesting. It also adds vignetting (this is customizable) if you want it. See, I even work while laying in my bed :)

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High Contrast B&W Mode, also accessible from the Scene mode on the dial. This mode can be VERY contrasty…very deep if you set it to the MAX contrast setting.

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For the next two I dialed in -2 contrast to soften it up a bit.

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HDR mode in the GR is actually the 1st time I found an in camera setting like this useful. Here is a shot with the three settings of HDR turned on. I like how it is not overdone.

I think if I owned this camera I would actually use these modes in my daily snaps. They can be fun and in the case of the B&W, be very dramatic if need be.

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SOME FUN WITH 1X1!

I love the 1X1 mode, especially combined with the cross process mode. This adds some vignetting and gives unique colors to the images. Here is a set of pics I snapped just before and after my morning shave :) These were all at ISO 800 at f1.9 with Noise Reduction turned off.

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The things I liked about the Ricoh GRD III

There are MANY  things I like about the Ricoh GRD III and very few that I do not. I love its design and its feel. I enjoy its build quality but at the same time love how light it is. It’s sleek, it’s all black, and it feels like a photographers camera. What I mean by that is this camera has all of the features one would need if they were serious about photography. It has a great menu/user interface. Very clean, very detailed, and most important very customizable. It has the AF snap and pre AF features. If you want to use this camera for street shooting you can set your focus distance at 1m, 1.5m, 2.5m, 5m or infinity. Since it is all preset there is no waiting for the camera to focus. Just aim, and fire! Just be sure to be at the correct distance for in focus shots. This is easy due to the huge depth of field you can get with this camera. I also love its leveler that can even be set to send out an audio signal when you are level.

The GRD III gives image quality that is up there with the best small sensor/compact cameras. Head to head against the D-Lux 5 or LX-5 the GRD may fall a teeny bit short in Dynamic Range and color depth BUT the image also look less “digital” from the GRDIII. The LX-5/D-Lux 5 images seem to have a sheen about them that tells you these were shot with digital. The GRD renders images in a more flatter but more realistic way. It’s hard to describe but I see it because I shoot so many cameras I can easily distinguish the qualities and ways that cameras render images. The GR Digital III puts out decent JPEGS but with this camera RAW is even better, so if you buy or own this camera I would shoot in RAW.

I seem to be on a roll lately. I loved the Ricoh GXR system and bought one for myself, I thoroughly enjoyed the Pentax K5 and have decided it is now my favorite APS-C DSLR to date, and the GRDIII with its simplicity, its size, its menus and all of its qualities has now become tied for my favorite small sensor camera ever! I still love the Leica D-Lux/Panny LX-5 for their huge amounts of features for  the $$ like the HD video, the macro, the AF speed and the image quality but I also love the GRDIII for the lack of gimmicks and over the top features. Sometimes going back to basics can help to open up your mind…free your creative eye.

Having a camera that can literally fit in your front pocket is also a huge plus. I wear Jeans and this little guy slipped easily into my front pants pocket, ready for any moment that came along. The AF was fast and snappy and always accurate. The GRD is easy to customize to your liking and all buttons are where they should be. There is a wheel in the front and a jog dial in the back, there are dedicated buttons for the most important things, and the menu system is as easy as any camera I have shot with.

For those shooting a compact and for those that want a no nonsense camera that delivers the goods for what a camera is supposed to do best, the GRD III is an all out winner. Ricoh does not get as much attention in the USA as they should. I’d like to see that change because their cameras are true photographic tools that deserve to be shot with. I will be happy to review any future Ricoh cameras or lens modules as I have had nothing but great results with them.

I know I will get asked if this is a better camera than the Leica, The Panasonic, The Canons, etc. All I can say is that the GRDIII is a camera for those who want something a bit different, a bit unique, and something that has been well designed and well thought out. It delivers on its promises and is small enough to take anywhere, especially with its retractable lens. Will it give you better image quality than a Leica X1? No, it will not. How about Ricohs own GXR with a 28 module? Nope, the GXR will beat the GRDIII when it comes to overall IQ and ISO performance but you also lose the small size of the GRDIII. Will it give you better than a Leica D-Lux 5? It can certainly equal it and give you a different “feel” to your photos. As much fun as I had shooting with the Leica D-Lux 5 I had just as much shooting with the little GRD III, mainly due to its slim size and awesome usability factor. It’s a winner and makes me curious about what Ricoh will do for a GR Digital IV down the road.

All in all I kind of liked shooting a small sensor camera like this. I felt like I was using a serious camera and the “look” of the images somehow grabbed me. Like I said earlier, they look less digital than those from the LX-5/D-Lux 5 and the lens on this camera is the best yet for a serious compact.

This camera has been out for a while but since there are so many passionate photographers that come to my site I felt I needed to write this review. Ricoh Rocks!

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THE PROS AND CONS OF THE GRDIII

Pros

  • Superb size and build (Magnesium Alloy) but light! A true take anywhere high quality compact.
  • High ISO is up there with the best of the small sensor cameras though limited to ISO 1600 max.
  • Great LCD on the back, clear and crisp.
  • Very good AF speed, and accurate as well.
  • Button placements are near perfect.
  • Lens is fast at 1.9 and has superb optical quality.
  • Built in lens cover that closes when camera is turned off so no cap to lose.
  • Battery life is VERY GOOD. Never had to recharge for this review.
  • Macro mode lets you get up close, just press the macro button to engage it.
  • Built in flash if you need it!
  • Ability to use an external viewfinder.
  • Three metering modes that all work as they should.
  • Cross process and high contrast B&W modes are cool to have.
  • 1:1 format is also an option. Great for portraits.
  • Ability to turn off Noise Reduction is a plus.
  • Auto leveler is also fantastic to help keep your horizon level.
  • AF confirm lamp on the back for when you use the external VF.

Cons

  • It’s more expensive than the Panasonic LX-5 at $529-$599 vs $399
  • Not loaded with features like HD movie mode, smile detectors and fancy AF tracking (but some may see this as a plus)
  • Fixed 28mm lens may be too wide for some.
  • Dynamic range is limited due to small sensor size.
  • Out of camera images can be a little “flat” at times.
  • The Video is not that great and not as good as other compacts which have fantastic HD video modes.
  • No image stabilization. Some say we wont need it with a 28mm but it does help.
  • JPEG output seems a little on the soft side, so shoot RAW for best results, or crank up sharpening in camera.

Where to buy?

Amazon sells the GRD III and even with viewfinder as a package. Adorama also sells this camera and you can go direct to their page HERE (they have it for $529). These are the shops I use and trust myself along with B&H Photo but B&H does not carry Ricoh. The GRD III sells for $599 and is an all in one, pocketable compact camera that will deliver the good if your main priority is taking photographs. You can take it anywhere due to the size so it is yet another camera I can

easily recommend. What you choose to buy should be based on your needs and what you shoot. If small and compact is your thing but you still want high quality images the GRDIII gets an A+!

Extra Stuff

To read more about the GRD III you can visit Ricohs page for it HERE. If you want to really see what this little guy can do in the hands of a great photographer who owns this camera you can visit this blog and see some great real world shots. Seeing what he did with the camera makes me want to buy this review sample for myself so I can get some quality shooting in with it. I hope you have enjoyed this review of the Ricoh GR Digital III! As always, thanks for reading!

Steve

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Jan 192011
 

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I remember the day when my dad tought me the basics of how cameras work.

I was 16. He scribbled something down on a piece of paper about a 125th of a second and I remember him saying something about aperture too.

Soon after, I got an Olympus trip, a small point and shoot with a fixed lens. I used the camera as often as I could and tried to recreate photos I saw in magazines and photo books.

The hour(s) spent waiting for the photo lab to develop the film felt like an eternity to wait, and the results were, well, mostly disappointing. (I never learnt how to develop my own film).

I kept on reading and gathering as much information and inspiration as possible, trying to improve my knowledge and technique.

Later I upgraded to a secondhand Pentax ME Super with a 50mm lens. I remember practicing how to focus and firing the shutter without any film in just because I loved the sound so much.

Some photos I took I really loved and they covered the walls of my room.

A Nikon F401x followed with a zoom lens and autofocus. I photographed as often as I could afford it and even remember getting paid for photographing a company event and a wedding.

A trip to London forced me to sell my camera equipment.

I still kept reading as much as I could, lusting after the latest cameras and imagining what great photos I would be able to take if only I had camera X.

Every now and then I borrowed cameras from friends and trusted the local lab to turn my photos into the masterpieces I saw in magazines and photo journals, with not much success…

I pursued a career in graphic design and this gave me the opportunity to work with some really gifted and talented photographers in South Africa.

I remember going on shoots and watching the photographers setting up and working their magic.

Many people (including me at the time) have no idea how much work goes into creating the images we see around us every day.

Hundreds and hundreds of images get taken to get to the final chosen image that makes it onto the magazine cover or ad campaign.

Not to mention all the retouching after…

During this time I purchased a Canon Powershot A70.

I loved it. I could shoot and shoot and most importantly learn from my ‘mistakes’ and see the results instantly.

I visited photography websites and blogs (still do everyday) to read what the pros have to say, get information and get inspired.

I read up on post processing as much as I could.

Being able to process my own images was a revelation.

I learnt that a good photo can become even better with some careful post processing and proper printing.

Today, almost 10 years later, I try to photograph every day.

There are so many interesting things happening all around us all the time, just waiting to be captured.

Recently I rented a small studio space and I’m slowly starting to earn a living from my passion – photography.

If I’m not in the studio or on location, I shoot the streets, which I love the most.

I don’t own the biggest DSLR or newest rangefinder on the market and I don’t have a lot of glass, but I shoot with what I’ve got, as often as possible and I think this is the most important factor for me.

The more I shoot, the luckier I get and the luckier I get, the more I want to shoot.

A big thank you to everyone who posts their images and knowledge to inspire and educate others!

More can be seen at my blog HERE.

Jan 192011
 

A Better Camera, by Randall Kelley

I just want to take a little time here to respectfully disagree with what a lot of professional photographers like to say about this camera (or any high end camera for that matter). “A better camera won’t make you a better photographer.” Or some version of that statement. Here’s my take, and I decided that I do disagree.

If you are a “photographer” there are two parts to everything you do Art and Craft. There is a reason people have been referring to “Arts and Crafts” forEVER. They are inextricably linked. People get into huge debates over what medium is Art and what is Craft. Easy end of that debate, all expressive medium is BOTH. The MARKET for PRODUCT may make distinction, but the person doing any expressive work is practicing both.

This is why I disagree with those who say a better camera, or a better tool of any sort in any medium, won’t make you better. Talent can be expressed on the cheap, craft as well, but you can radically improve your craft by working with better tools.

If you don’t think so, find the professional photographer making his living shooting a Holga. You might find some, but show me one and I’ll show you someone NOT shooting ad campaigns and weddings. Shoot someone’s wedding with a Holga and tell them it’s OK cause the “Style” is more important than the quality. I don’t care if you MAY get an award winning picture of the Vice President with one, you can’t count on consistent quality images from something that can’t replicate the same shot twice.

And go shoot Ansel Adams’ same landscape with a point and shoot and enlarge it to 20 inches or so and do a quick side by side. I’m betting you and any non expert in the room will be able to distinguish the two. Can you get a good landscape? Depends on your talent. But just HOW good it can be depends not only on your talent but on your skill, and your materials, and your tools. Or do you want a Balsa wood house built with a sledge hammer?

If you take the most talented carpenter doing finishing work and ask him if he can do as well with a sledge hammer, he’ll think you’re crazy. Could he get it done? Probably. Would it be as good? Doubt it. A GOOD tool allows finer more precise work. That’s an element of craft.

So the question becomes, will a better tool make you a better craftsman? Most jump on the art angle and answer no. And I would rather have talent and a poor tool rather than no talent and a good one. But what if you have the opportunity to have both? Do you eschew the better tool because it won’t improve your talent? I hope you don’t buy that, because it can, and here’s how.

If I am cutting framing boards with a chain saw, chances are I’m not really hairline accurate. If I only have a chainsaw, will I get better? Yes, but only to a point. After that point I need a more accurate tool to keep getting better. Should I skip the upgrade because it won’t help. I hope not, or at least I hope I don’t live in that house.

If I get a blurry shot from my point and shoot, or even my nice zoom lens DSLR, how blurry is it? Is it movement? The focus? A limit of the lens? When you get a camera and lens that produces radically improved images, you WILL see your errors much more distinctly. Can you learn from mistakes that are obvious faster than you can from ones that are obfuscated by lower quality equipment and materials? I say yes. I hope you are able to see my point.

On to point two. Does learning about all the elements that go into creating an image make you better? I think so. You can grab a really good DSLR, set it on auto and crank out really good photos. But I’ll bet you that if you fully understand every element of the process, you could do even better.

Switch off auto everything and you WILL learn. If you learn, you WILL get better. Will you get more talented? No. But if you have talent you will get better at your craft. Why practice a craft if you have no desire to get better?

So I put it to you that when the statement is made, “A better camera won’t make you a better photographer.”, it is either meant to talk ONLY about your talent… and perhaps to make you feel a bit better about not being able to swing “high end” equipment, but it is inaccurate, or incomplete at best. Good equipment, and especially equipment that pushes you to make more of your own decisions, will improve your results if you are willing to learn and if you persist.

When you see the sharpness of some lenses, you will suddenly know what part of the blur was YOURS and what was the equipment. If you use that to find a solution you will get better. If your equipment is low end enough to never be that sharp, then you just learn how to make blur work. That skill will still come in handy when your camera and lens stops doing it for you and you want to induce it yourself. So pay attention to when you like it and when you don’t. But don’t be misled into thinking that not having the ability to produce a sharp image is not limiting, and that you can do just as well with any piece of equipment. That is just not the case.

The other way this type of equipment will improve your photography is (and this crosses the line into talent and I’m saying it) it WILL make you see differently. And that can improve your talent. When you look at images and the detail is not highly resolved, it is easy to see composition, shading, light, etc. A lot of critical artistic elements are NOT limited by the resolving power of your equipment. But DETAIL is. And when you start to suddenly see a lot of detail in you images that you didn’t even notice when taking the picture, you then start to look before you shoot for those same kinds of detail.

It’s like getting a new prescription for eyeglasses after years with a bad one. You can really notice things you missed. And IF you choose to take that to heart and start looking, you will observe better. Photography is a lot like acting, in that a good observer picks up detail to add to their work that is missing in someone who is not as observant.

This is really a big deal, and was the last straw in motivating me to write this down. I always suspected the statement, “A better camera won’t make you a better photographer.” was off on craft, but walking around the other day, seeing things I wouldn’t have even noticed before, I thought, “This really is making me better at seeing.” Now if I can get that into my work, I’ll be thrilled.

Don’t spend money on better equipment thinking it is going to make you some other photographer. But DO get it if you want the chance to push yourself beyond where you are. Equipment this good, and this demanding, will make a difference.

I’ve never said “WOW!” so much looking at my own images as since I made this purchase. And I’ve never said, “Crap!” so much either. This stuff is so different. I have not thought, “This is nice. Should I print this one?” very often in the past, but it is constantly on my mind now. Until everyone has thirty inch or larger monitors and endless bandwidth, there is a level of quality you can’t share digitally.

If you can’t afford something great, don’t feel bad, do whatever you can with what you have. But, I feel about the M9, and Leica in general, like Ferris Buhler did about driving a Ferrari, “It is so choice. If you have the means, I highly recommend picking one up.”

Randall Kelley

———-Addendum and some photos——

Steve mentioned photos to go with this article. My original post of this had none, and that was basically because I don’t think there is any dispute of the fact that some high end gear makes technically better images. This addendum is really an after thought and a response to thinking about what images might represent the article. I have loads of shots from the new camera that I love, but I don’t think any few can really represent what I am talking about. The kind of changes it has fostered in my shooting can only be seen by looking back at lots of before and after shots. And I can honestly find “before the M9″ shots I love as just much as “after the M9″. But I don’t think any handful convey the profound way my point of view has changed nor would they convey the much higher percentage I now get of what I call “keepers”. And when I do enlarge those older ones now, I am always thinking to myself, “Man, I wish I could have shot this same shot on my M9.”

While the point of my post was how technically better gear can help you refine and improve you craft and even your “vision”. I have thought about it for a long while and decided I could add these three images and an additional word of encouragement.

The first image is from the very first digital camera I got for myself, after tiring of only seeing pictures of me from the one I got my wife. Taken in 2001, this is of my wife, Rita (who is a way better photographer than she knows), along with her Nikon Coolpix 990. The Canon Elph with 2 megapixels resolution used to take it, and me using it, are in the shot. If this were taken with my new camera, I could do a crop of her glasses and show you me and the camera, but as it is you will have to take my word for it that I’m there.

The second is a less than one pixel resolution shot I recently did of our niece’s daughter. It’s a less than one pixel shot but it was, however, cropped from an 18 megapixel shot taken from some distance with a 50mm lens. I liked the whole shot but wanted a close up portrait for the girls grandmother, my wife’s sister.

The third is the original 18 megapixel shot reduced to just under 2 megapixels (to keep framing intact) illustrating what would have been the approximate starting point had the Elph had a super sharp lens, fantastic sensor, and excellent color rendition (it did have one of the three).

The point I want to make with these photos is this:

A) For those that can’t yet afford their dream camera (whatever that may be)… use what you have, you can get good images from anything.

B) For those thinking about better gear, but mulling the argument that better gear won’t improve your work… I would have had an adequate distance shot had I shot our niece’s daughter with the canon point and shoot, but probably only the relatives would have been sure what she looked like. Having 9 times the pixels and a way sharper lens on the M9 made it possible to get that close up portrait shot out of that shot. While in this case I liked the full frame shot, and just made the crop for her family, in many cases a shot ruined by something that moved into the frame at the last moment can be saved with a crop. A multitude of sharper pixels is a luxury that actually affords you a lot of liberty in the EDITING stage that are denied you if you don’t have them. Being able to get a useable crop from about 1/10th of a frame gives a LOT more lee way. If you want more opportunities, there are few other areas where you can buy them. Better photography equipment is one such area. Don’t scrimp if you don’t have to.

Thanks for listening to my ranting. I love all the stuff I’m seeing on Steve’s site and hope to meet some of you at one of his meet ups soon.

Randall Kelley

Bonus shots. A typical “Rita” shot of my wife’s from 2001 on her Nikon Coolpix 990 (3 megapixel):

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Remember, anytime you follow my links here and buy from B&H or AMAZON, this helps to keep my site going. If it was not for these links, there would be no way to fund this site, so I thank you in advance if you visit these links. I thank you more if you make a purchase! I have nifty search bars at the upper right of each page so you easily search for something at either store! I currently spend 10-14 hours a day working on this site and the only way that I can pay for it is with your help, so thank you! Currently my traffic has been increasing but my funds to pay for the site has been decreasing, so any help would be GREATLY appreciated!

Even if  you buy baby food, napkins or toothpicks at amazon it helps this site, and you do not pay anything extra by using the links here. Again, you pay nothing extra by using my links, it is just a way to help support this site, so again, I thank you in advance :)

If you enjoyed this article/review, feel free to leave a comment at the bottom of this page and also be sure to join me on twitter or my new facebook fan page! Also, you can subscribe to my feed at my subscribe page HERE and read these posts in your browser or news reader! Also, the new forums are NOW OPEN on this site so get involved if you like! Thanks so much for visiting my site!

Jan 182011
 

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Hi Steve,

First, I really enjoy your site and your taste for photography. Well, the reason is we share the same view.

My name is Miroslav, live in little state called Slovakia in Europe. I am passionate photographer almost 10 years, started taking pictures with friends old Practica with 50mm Zeiss lens. I enjoy to take pictures of people, cos I cant photography „dead“ things.

Here in Slovakia there is a winter now, but few present days were very hot, like 12 centigrade. Near Bratislava, there is a nice place called Ivanka pri Dunaji, where we like to go with my friend Edit and her dog Lemon. These pictures were made during one of this nice days, simple and earnest – thats the way I like it. And I hope, you will like it to.

Camera: Nikon D300s

Lens: Nikkor 35/1.8 DX

Raw proccesed in ACR.

My best wishes Steve!

Miroslav Mosko

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Jan 182011
 

From Steve: Amy sent me an e-mail letting me know about her GH2 experience and seeing that I am a huge fan of her work, AND she is a reader and contributor to this site I figured I would post her thoughts for all of you to read! I have not yet been able to test a GH2 for myself, but here are Amy’s thoughts! Enjoy!

Me and the Panasonic GH2 by Amy Medina

So yeah… well I got my hands on one this passed week, and stupid me, I actually thought owning one might make the decision of whether it’s the camera for me or not an easier one to make. Not so… not so at all. I’ve really been wavering between the GH2 and the Pentax K-5, but because the K-5 didn’t offer manual video controls, I finally just pulled the trigger on the GH2.

The GH2 is not my first venture in Micro 4/3 photography. I started with the Olympus EP1 when it first came out, and I now own an EP2. I’ve been very happy with it! As anyone who shoots with Olympus knows, they have really cornered the market on great JPGs straight from the camera, and even in their RAW files I seem to really prefer their color. But more on that later when we get into samples and tests (I know, yawn!)…

A small complaint is the battery. After the first charge, it really seemed to kind-of suck. The first night I had the camera I let the battery charge fully before I played with it. Just messing around for maybe 45 minutes and then shooting off only about 10 shots, the battery indicator was down by one notch already. I charged the battery overnight before my outing on Saturday with the plan to shoot video… well the battery only lasted about 2 hours (being turned on and off, or going into sleep mode) for shooting 30 minutes of footage. I ended up having to finish the video shooting with my husband’s GH1. Now, maybe the battery needs more “training” but my initial reaction was the I’m really going to need a 2nd or even 3rd battery for any day that includes shooting video.

At base ISO (160), I found the files to be a little noisier than I anticipated. Saturday night, looking at some of my photos I was a tad concerned, but I didn’t want to jump to conclusions. I also kept asking myself if they are too noisy FOR ME. I obviously some make compromises in this area shooting with an EP2 and even the M8 (neither are known for being great at higher ISOs, especially the M8). However, I was a bit amazed at how much noise there was at ISO 160.

Shooting on Sunday with the kit lens outside in VERY bright conditions, I was astounded at the amount of noise I got in my ISO 160 shots. After some discussion on a photography forum I belong to, I decided to test it compared to the EP2 and Pentax K-x I own. I don’t like to pixel-peep, but seeing as I shoot a lot of blue seas and skies, I need to know if there is more noise in the blue channel as I was suspecting (and as some others’ tests have proven true).

Let me not be all negative. There’s lots to like about the camera too. The touch screen is very handy, especially when shooting video or when the camera has to be at an odd angle to get the shot (like down real low for example). The touch screen focus thing… it’s a bit finicky and doesn’t work well with every panasonic autofocus lens (in my experience so far). It didn’t seem to work at all with the 14mm f/2.5 Pancake, but it worked great with the 20mm f/1.7 Pancake. And when it works well, it’s a very cool feature.

The camera is the smallest and lightest DSLR-shaped configuration I’ve used (though let me say, the Pentax K-x comes pretty close, especially with pancake lenses). It feels good in your hands, even though a tad plasticky. With one of the pancake lenses it is an easy camera to want to have with you, no matter how much walking or hiking you might be doing. Even with a GorillaPod attached to the bottom of it, it’s extremely light. This is right up my alley! I love a small, light camera!

I was frustrated with the LVF/EVF until I figured out the “Constant Preview” thing… which, doesn’t work great in all modes, but at least works in some. “Constant Preview” when turned on shows you what to expect from your exposure settings. By default, this is turned off, so what you see on the LCD or in the EVF is always a bright, properly exposed picture (even if your settings won’t capture a properly exposed picture). Of course, with an Optical Viewfinder (OVF) you’d have the same problem, however, it somehow feels stranger with an EVF. It may take getting used to, but the GH2’s EVF is really very nice… I’d venture a guess, the nicest out there.

I had no problems manual focusing because the resolution really is as good as everyone says. The GH2 has a very sharp, very bright Electronic Viewfinder (EVF). It is THAT good. Blackout after taking a photo is also minimal, and it focuses very fast… almost as fast as a DSLR. Probably as fast as most entry-level DSLRs.

Examples below…

Let’s start off with my first real photos with the camera, using it like I would use any of my other cameras…

All shot in RAW and processed through Adobe Camera Raw and Photoshop.

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“Coming Home” – GH2 + 14mm f/2.5 Pancake

Coming Home - GH2 + 14mm f/2.5 Pancake
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“On Our Way” – GH2 + 20mm f/1.7 Pancake

On Our Way - GH2 + 20mm f/1.7 Pancake
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Break Through – GH2 + 14-42 HD Kit Lens

Break Through - GH2 + 14-42 HD Kit Lens
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“Along Side” – GH2 + 20mm f/1.7 Pancake

Along Side - GH2 + 20mm f/1.7 Pancake
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I did some video also.

The first is what I shot of my family on Saturday. It is all GH2 footage up until about 1:30 when the battery died and I had to switch over to my husband’s GH1. Most of it was shot with the 20mm f/1.7 pancake though a few shots were done with my Voigtlander 50mm f/1.5 Nokton. I got some noise and posterization in the video, but let me not blame the GH2 for that… I suspect it might be iMovie or the way I exported rather than the camera. I never shot above ISO 1250.

I also tested doing some slow motion stuff… it was a quick test to see if the new iMovie 11 will handle the slow motion without converting it through JES first (and it does). I didn’t spend more than about an hour on this between shooting and editing it together. All shot with kit lens. Some use of Tele-Con mode.

Now, lets talk more about the noise in the blue channel. If you know me, you know I don’t typically do these kinds of tests. I’m not a camera scientist. I like to go out and use a camera and see if it’s a “fit”. It’s usually more a feeling for me than anything else. However, because of the noise I was seeing in my skies, I had to question if it was just me looking for it (since I’d read about it previously), of if it really was noisier. I saw a swatch on DPReview that also seemed to confirm there was indeed more noise in the blue channel on the GH2. I just had to go out and see for myself.

I shot with three cameras. The GH2, the EP2 and the Pentax Kx. I wanted to see how noise faired in the sky and the colors in the blues, since I personally shoot a lot of seascapes and skies. I shot in both RAW and JPG. However, I accidentally deleted the Olympus JPG in the field, so I processed a second RAW file (that was with the JPG that got deleted) through Olympus Master. I think the results are pretty close to what the JPG would have looked like.

I did NOT process the RAW files to my own taste. All I did was open them in ACR and then open them in Photoshop to crop and save as a JPG. I touched none of the settings in ACR… I let them open as they do by default.

White balance was set to AWB in all three cameras.
EP2 and GH2 were both at ISO 160.
Pentax doesn’t offer that setting, so was shot at ISO 200.
GH2 and EP2 both were shot with Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 Lens.
Pentax was shot with the 40mm f/2.8 Limited.
f-stop on all was set at f/6.3

Observations (just my opinion): The colors on the EP2 are nicer than the GH2, both in the JPG and RAW (at least to my personal taste). The colors in the Pentax are nicer than the GH2 but not the EP2. Noise performance between the EP2 and the GH2 is VERY VERY similar in RAW, though I would give a teeny-tiny slight edge to the EP2. The Pentax clearly beats them both (for skies and blues at least in this test).

In the JPGs it’s a harder call… I think there is a little bit more noise in the EP2 shot, but the GH2 shot has lost some detail because of Noise Reduction (it’s way too agressive in-camera). There also, to me, appears to be slight blotchiness in the GH2 JPG. The Pentax again, IMO, beats them both.

I included the last setting on the Pentax JPG just so you can see how I have the camera set for my own personal taste. It’s close to what I like, but not perfect (I’ve still been futzing with it). The EP2 is closest to what the scene looked like in person, and more like the way I like a file to look out-of-camera.

Here’s the 100% crop samples:

RAW Comparisons:
EP2 on the Left, GH2 in the Middle, Pentax Kx on the Right... 100% Crops
EP2 on the Left, GH2 in the Middle, Pentax Kx on the Right… 100% Crops… Click to see full size

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JPG Comparisons:
Starting on the Left, EP2, GH2, Pentax Kx and Pentax Kx my custom settings... Click to see full size
Starting on the Left, EP2, GH2, Pentax Kx and Pentax Kx my custom settings… Click to see full size

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Color Comparisons (from RAW)
EP2 on the Left, GH2 in the Middle, Pentax Kx on the Right... Click to see full size
EP2 on the Left, GH2 in the Middle, Pentax Kx on the Right… Click to see full size

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One final test…


What happens when I process the GH2 RAW file to look more like the EP2 in color and more like the results I want?
Here’s what I did. I opened each file, the GH2 and EP2 in ACR. For the EP2 I did nothing. For the GH2 I moved the color temperature and tint sliders a bit to the left to match the “blueyness” (yeah, not a word… LOL) of the EP2.
I opened them in Photoshop then and simply did an Auto-Contrast. Nothing more. Made 100% crops and saved.
I think the GH2 ends up showing a bit more noise after doing this. Accentuating the blues also accentuates the noise in the blue channel.

What happens when I try to make the color of the GH2 match the EP2? Click for full size...
What happens when I try to make the color of the GH2 match the EP2? Click for full size…

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So what’s the verdict?

IMO, I think I was correct in thinking the GH2 is noisier in the blue channel. DPReview’s own swatches backed up this thinking, and now my own test has done the same.
Do I think the difference is significant for me and my style of shooting? I’m not sure, and I still have to play with noise reduction in ACR to see what kind of results can be had. For a final output of this test picture, I was pretty satisfied.

Let me say, noise in general doesn’t usually bother me, and it isn’t something I go pixel-peeping for on a regular basis. The noise in the GH2 files is like a very fine grain, so it isn’t unpleasing in the RAW files (though in JPG files I see blotchiness I do not like). At base ISO, the GH2 is not as noise-free as an APC-S sensor camera… at least not when there’s a lot of blues in your scene. I think we all kind-of knew that already though.

Overall, the GH2 is a camera I can like, I think. I just have to optimize my settings in ACR and I will probably never shoot JPG. I know it’s capable of outstanding video, and that is part of why I bought it (I’m getting more into video these days). But for me, it has to hold up on the photography end too. I’m not 100% convinced yet, but I’m leaning towards believing it can. However, it’s also no K-5, which I dream about owning… Let’s hope the tax man is nice to me this year! LOL

Finally, I want to show you that test picture from above… when it’s finished (as taken with the GH2) and post-processed to my liking. I really like the way it came out. I ended up adjusted the temperature and tint in ACR and using ACRs noise reduction and detail settings to find the right balance (to my taste).

Panasonic GH2 + 20mm f/1.7 Pancake Lens
Panasonic GH2 + 20mm f/1.7 Pancake Lens

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With results like the above, I’m pretty sure I’ll keep the GH2. Honestly, unless you can afford a much more expensive camera like the 5D, I don’t think you’re going to find a better video-and-picture-taking machine. At least not as of this writing.

Thanks for listening to all this (if you’re still with me)…

And, if you want, you can follow me on the web in a few places. I’m up to day #555 in my Picture-A-Day Project!

My website: www.DangRabbit.com/Photography
PAD Project: www.DangRabbit.com/Photography/PAD
Facebook: Facebook.com/DangRabbitPhotography
Twitter: DangRabbit

I NEED YOUR HELP! YOU CAN HELP SUPPORT THIS SITE TO KEEP IT GOING AND GROWING!

Remember, anytime you follow my links here and buy from B&H or AMAZON, this helps to keep my site going. If it was not for these links, there would be no way to fund this site, so I thank you in advance if you visit these links. I thank you more if you make a purchase! I have nifty search bars at the upper right of each page so you easily search for something at either store! I currently spend 10-14 hours a day working on this site and the only way that I can pay for it is with your help, so thank you! Currently my traffic has been increasing but my funds to pay for the site has been decreasing, so any help would be GREATLY appreciated!

Even if  you buy baby food, napkins or toothpicks at amazon it helps this site, and you do not pay anything extra by using the links here. Again, you pay nothing extra by using my links, it is just a way to help support this site, so again, I thank you in advance :)

If you enjoyed this article/review, feel free to leave a comment at the bottom of this page and also be sure to join me on twitter or my new facebook fan page! Also, you can subscribe to my feed at my subscribe page HERE and read these posts in your browser or news reader! Also, the new forums are NOW OPEN on this site so get involved if you like! Thanks so much for visiting my site!

Jan 172011
 

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8mm Vintage Camera App for Iphone

Just a couple days ago I downloaded a very cool app for my Iphone 4 that really blew me away. It’s called 8mm vintage camera and basically it will transform your Iphone video camera into a super authentic 8mm film camera. No really…I was skeptical but once I shot with it and watched the video back I knew this was well worth the $1.99 asking price.

I remember years ago I would shoot video and spend hours with software trying to emulate that old film look and here I am today, shooting with a PHONE and having my video instantly transformed to the look of classic film. Technology has come a long way huh? For $1.99 you can add this cool functionality to your PHONE and create these great little “films”.

This app is available for the Iphone 4 and 3Gs and IMO is a must buy. I just shot some very random things with it over the past two days and put together a quick video to show the effect you can get with this little $2 app. I can imagine if I spent quality time with this I could shoot a very cool short “film” with just my Iphone. Amazing, and my current favorite app.

Random Samples with the Vintage 8mm film app!

So all Iphone 3Gs and 4 owners, I HIGHLY recommend this app!

I NEED YOUR HELP! YOU CAN HELP SUPPORT THIS SITE TO KEEP IT GOING AND GROWING!

Remember, anytime you follow my links here and buy from B&H or AMAZON, this helps to keep my site going. If it was not for these links, there would be no way to fund this site, so I thank you in advance if you visit these links. I thank you more if you make a purchase! I have nifty search bars at the upper right of each page so you easily search for something at either store! I currently spend 10-14 hours a day working on this site and the only way that I can pay for it is with your help, so thank you! Currently my traffic has been increasing but my funds to pay for the site has been decreasing, so any help would be GREATLY appreciated!

Even if  you buy baby food, napkins or toothpicks at amazon it helps this site, and you do not pay anything extra by using the links here. Again, you pay nothing extra by using my links, it is just a way to help support this site, so again, I thank you in advance :)

If you enjoyed this article/review, feel free to leave a comment at the bottom of this page and also be sure to join me on twitter or my new facebook fan page! Also, you can subscribe to my feed at my subscribe page HERE and read these posts in your browser or news reader! Also, the new forums are NOW OPEN on this site so get involved if you like! Thanks so much for visiting my site!

Jan 162011
 

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ATTENTION! I am adding a lens to the grand prize Leica M9 for the contest!

OK…so if you have not heard about the Leica M9 Give Away here on this site then you are either here for the first time or you somehow missed 3-4 postings about it. The contest is underway and over 110 entries have been submitted so far.

CLICK HERE TO READ ALL ABOUT THE CONTEST AND TO ENTER

There are 20 days left to enter the contest and the 1st prize is the Leica M9 camera donated by Seal. The 2nd prize is a Leica V-Lux 20 camera donated by Leica Camera. I urge you all to take a shot at this and enter!

Some of you who have entered have told me that even if you win you would not be able to use the camera because you could not afford a lens. I understand this because even the non Leica branded lenses like Voigtlanders can be in the $500-$1100 range for the better glass.

So what I have decided to do is to sweeten up the grand prize with my own Leica 50 Summitar vintage lens from the 40’s. I reviewed this lens on an M9 and you can see that HERE. There have been other posts with this lens and an M9, like this one. I love this lens and it was given to me by a generous reader here so why not pass it along to the winner of this contest so they have a camera and lens set? No, it’s not a fancy $3000 Leica lens but it’s pretty unique and will give you a very classic look when shot on the M9.

BUT THERE IS A CATCH!

In order for the winner of the M9 to get the 50 Summitar lens included they must be following me on my new facebook fan page! Well, not “following” but you must “like” the page. Basically, just go to my fan page HERE ans click on “like”. If you have already done this in the past 2 weeks then no need to do anything else. Basically, whoever wins the contest will be sent the lens if their name is in my list of people who like my stevehuffphoto fan page on facebook! If not you still win the M9 of course but without the lens. You still have to register here and at picortwo.com to enter the contest but the 50mm Summitar was just something to sweeten the deal for the winner :)

This is just a way to be able to give a lens with the camera AND for me to build up my facebook page for this site! To be clear, you have to “Like” my stevehuffphoto facebook fan page HERE.

Good luck to all! It’s getting exiting as I am seeing new entries every single day. The prizes are amazing so be sure and read all of the rules HERE and enter before the Feb 05th 2011 deadline!

Steve

Jan 152011
 

The Timbuk 2 Snoop Bag Winner Announced!

Its January 15th and thanks to you guys the winner has now been decided in the Timbuk 2 camera bag contest!

Mr. Ernie Gambaz has won the bag with his beautiful holiday/winter image.

The poll results are below. It was a close race between #1 by Ahmed Habis and #4 by Erne Gambaz but Ernie took the lead in the last couple of days. Congrats to Ernie and I want to thank ALL who entered and voted! Thanks to Amy at thegearcaster.com for donating the bag!

Jan 142011
 

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I’m not a photographer and I don’t know much about photography. That said, I really have a passion for photography, and in particular travel photography. Sometimes I wonder if I’m travelling to take pictures or taking pictures while travelling. I don’t have a lot of money and don’t use expensive equipment. That is one reason for this submission. I think it needs to be emphasized these days that you don’t need to have the biggest and the best to go out, have fun, and capture some great memories. I’ve never bought a photoshop type program – still using PSE ver 1 that came with my Canon G2 years ago. These shots were from a recent trip to Vietnam. Taken with a Nikon D5000 and 35 1.8 (just in case there is no EXIF – not really sure how to view or attach that).

Although not the smallest camera out there, it was an absolute joy to use and small enough to take anywhere. Using one of Nikons cheapest lenses, I think I did catch a few good moments and definitely some good memories. The great thing about the small, light and fast combo was that I could catch scenes in just about any kind of light. Anywhere. So fun to use. Quick and responsive. One lens and thats it. …I never knew primes could be so fun. Although I will probably never be able to afford that M9 and 50, it really doesn’t matter. The only thing I need or want is a working body and a single normal prime.

A few from the trip:

Hanoi Nights

Fantastic city. Full of life. This is one of the street corners in the Old Quarter on a normal night. Sit back, relax, grab a beer and some “street eats”, and watch the world go by. It’s a fascinating culture and city, full of life and always moving.

Bicycle

From Hoi An, Central Vietnam. Wow. One of my favorite towns I’ve ever visited (along with Debark, Ethiopia & Mut, Egypt). Culture, culture, culture. The Ao Dai, national dress of Vietnam, flowing on and along the streets everywhere. Some of the best, as well as cheapest, food I’ve ever had. Outstanding architecture, not to mention UNESCO World Heritage Site to protect it. This was taken at a corner cafe where again, the streets are full of life and movement.

Market

Another from Hoi An. If you ever get tired of sitting and having the world rotate around you, get up and join. This was taken in the market. A mob of vendors, hawkers, buyers, strollers, and everything and everyone else you could imagine. A sea of conical hats and an area that attacks all the senses. I would take a walk through at least a few times a day. This is a shot I really liked. It really gives me the feel of being back there. No one really paying attention, everyone going about their daily lives.

This was one trip I really enjoyed. Minimal camrea equipment to worry about and carry around. Just trying to get a good “feel” through the viewfinder. It was fun. I think that may an often lost “key” to non-professionals in catching a good photo. If your not enjoying it, why do it?

Thanks and kkep up the great work,

John

Jan 132011
 

Press Release

Invitation to submit entries for the ‘Leica Oskar Barnack Award’ photographic competition

Solms, Germany (January 12, 2011) – Leica Camera AG invites professional photographers to submit entries to the ‘Leica Oskar Barnack Award,’ an international photography competition. Photographers wishing to take part may submit their entries online from January 15, 2011 to March 1, 2011 at www.leica-oskar-barnack-preis.de. This year, the value of the competition prizes has significantly increased, with the award winner receiving their own piece of Leica history.

For the first time, the winner of the ‘Leica Oskar Barnack Award’ will receive a Leica M9 camera and a lens worth 9,500 euros (approximately $12,300) in addition to a cash prize of 5,000 euros (approximately $6,500). For the ‘Newcomer Award,’ open to all (aspiring) professional photographers aged 25 and under, the award has also been increased. The winner will receive a Leica M9 camera and a lens.

Competition entry conditions: An international jury awards the ‘Leica Oskar Barnack Award’ / ‘Leica Oskar Barnack Newcomer Award’ to photographers whose unerring powers of observation capture and express the relationship between humans and the environment in graphic form in a sequence of up to 12 images. Entry submissions must be a self-contained series of images in which the photographer perceives and documents the interaction between humans and the environment with acute vision and contemporary visual style – creative, unobtrusive and groundbreaking.

The competition is a memorial to Oskar Barnack (1879–1936), the inventor of the Leica. From 1914 on, he increasingly used the prototype camera he developed, today known as the Ur-Leica, for photography. The history of photojournalism is closely tied to his invention, as, beginning in 1925, the compact and easily carried Leica cameras were instrumental in enabling entirely new and expressive forms of photography.

The terms and conditions of entry can be downloaded at www.leica-oskar-barnack-preis.de.

Jan 132011
 

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POLL!

OK, quick poll. SLR Magic is thinking about releasing a Leica M mount 90 f/2 lens in the $250 range. They have made a prototype and are wondering if it is something they should release. I’m just not sure how popular the 90mm focal length is these days. So the question is…if there was a 90mm f/2 Leica M mount lens available with decent build and a little bit smaller than the 90 Summicron, AND it had very good quality…would you buy one for $250 or less?

The company is SLR Magic, the same guys that brought us the Toy lens for micro 4/3 and the 35 1.7 for NEX mount. The 90 would be an all new lens, not a toy lens. Here is the sample I was sent from their prototype which they say is 70% of the final quality.

So, what do you think?

Jan 122011
 

Using Facebook to promote your business? Be careful!

One reason I just started a new facebook “fan” page for this website is because facebook has been disabling profiles of some photographers I know (as well as web sites) who have been using their personal facebook profiles as a means to promote their web site. I guess this is a “no-no” in facebook land and while it has taken me 1 1/2 years to get to over 2100 “friends” on facebook I could lose all of that at any moment because I do post links to this site from facebook.

If any of you reading this use a personal facebook page to promote your web site or photo business then be careful! Here are the rules direct from FB:

“Per our Statement of Rights and Responsibilities, Facebook profiles must represent an individual. Users aren’t permitted to maintain an account under the name of their organization, or use personal accounts to advertise or promote themselves professionally. If your profile was listed under a non-individual name, or was used primarily for professional promotion, this is probably why it was removed.”

I was 100% un-aware of this policy because let’s face it..who reads all of the legal mumbo jumbo before signing up for a facebook account? Just wanted to pass this along and to let everyone know that if you are following me on facebook then PLEASE head over to my new fan page for this site so I do not lose you :) All you have to do is hit the “like” button when you get to the page. I will eventually stop posting web site updates to my personal facebook page and will only use the fan page so I can be sure to follow the rules of facebook :)

Thanks!

Steve

Jan 122011
 

Using the Leica M9 For Senior Portrait Photography

By Chris Routt

High School Senior Photography is important in the Midwest. Pictures are shot before or during their senior year of high school. I have been shooting professionally for 11 years. I started with Hasselblad 500s in the late 90s with film backs and eventually transitioned to shooting Phase One Digital Backs on the Hasselblads in the early 00s. The challenge with the early Phase One Backs is that they had to be tethered to a computer. Over the years obviously technology with cameras has come a long way. My primary camera has been the Nikon D3 for the past few years. The D3 is a camera that produces excellent files.

Aside from being a professional photographer, I am a high school history teacher. With the price of Leicas you need two careers. I have always been enamored with German history and technology. I started researching Leica cameras a few years ago. I discovered some artists who had shot with Leica during their career: Robert Capa, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Robert Frank, and even Annie Leibovitz. Their images seemed to have a different feel and quality to them. While my style does not consciously lend itself to any of my images, they have been influential.

I enjoyed shooting with the Zeiss glass from my Hasselblad days. The lenses I had were made in West Germany. I missed the feel and build quality of the Zeiss lenses. As strange as is may seem I missed manual focus lenses. I was anxious to see if manual focus would work for me in the camera room as it did in the late 90s. I decided to invest into the Leica M system. My first purchase was a Leica M6 that I actually bought from Steve Huff. Ironically my first lens was the Zeiss 50mm F2. I am currently testing the new Kodak Portra 400 film with the M6. The grain is amazing on this film. It looks like 160 speed film grains.

After looking at the M8s that were available on the market I was reluctant to purchase due its lack of a full-frame sensor. Once the Leica M9s became more available in 2010 I decided to give it a shot. The build quality is top notch. Two of the main issues I have had with the camera are the lack of a grip (which can be remedied with accessories) and the terrible LCD. Aside from the horrendous colors mine seems to scratch easily.

Coming from the D3, shooting with the Leica is a transition, especially when it comes to speed. During a typical senior session, approximately 2 hours, I shoot roughly 300 images. With the Leica M9, I shoot less than 100 images in 2 hours. I find myself slowing down and thinking more about what I am doing. As most readers here will attest there is something different and unique about shooting with rangefinder cameras. It creates a unique experience for both the photographer and client. In future versions of the M I would love to see some sort of focus confirmation (not sure if this is possible) and obviously an LCD that warrants the price of the camera. Another benefit with the M9 is the weight factor between it and the D3 and its big lenses. I can tell a difference, physically, after shooting all day with the D3 as compared to the M9. The size and weight of the M9 is a benefit.

When looking at lenses for the M9 I looked at two of Leica’s better lenses, the 90mm Summicron F2 and the 50mm Summilux 1.4. After reading multiple reviews these lenses seemed to deliver what I would need. The 50mm would provide the natural eye’s view while the 90mm would be the portrait lens I would need. I will spare you the technical data on both lenses. There is plenty of information available. Both these lenses are awesome. From a portrait perspective I prefer the 90mm, however I prefer shooting with the 50mm. The glass is sharp, produces great bokeh, and is a great combination with the M9 files.

I shoot in raw and process the files in Capture One. I have noticed a movement toward Lightroom. I have never been a fan of Adobe’s raw engines, in either Lightroom or Photoshop. I think Capture One provides the best color on the market, especially with Nikon files. Even when I shoot the D3 I primarily shoot in manual mode setting the shutter and aperture manually. I even use a Minolta light meter. Capture One gives you two stop of exposure either way but I would encourage you to nail the exposure in the camera. To take advantage of Capture One you need to shoot a grey card. This is essential. One of the challenges I have seen with the M9 is having to adjust the color in Capture One. This seems to be of debate amongst different photographers. I sometimes have to lessen the yellows and oranges and boost the blues in Capture One.

I am still getting used to the Leica system. I am hooked! I love the glass, the build quality, and the detailed files that come out of the M9. At www.mrfoto.com you can check out my senior work.

Jan 112011
 

Join me or “Like” me on my new facebook fan page for this website!

Hello to all! Hope everyone is having a great week. Here in Phx the weather is warming up and heading back  to the 70’s so it looks like our one week winter is just about over!

Just wanted to let everyone know who is a friend of mine on facebook that I just started a new facebook “fan” page because facebook only allows so many “freinds” on a personal page and I would hate to eventually hit that wall.

So to all of you who are already connected with me via facebook, feel free to “like” my new facebook page by visiting it HERE and clicking on “like”. This way you will get all of my camera updates as they happen!

The M9 Give Away Contest Updates

Also, the M9 contest entries are coming in every day now. I am up to 56 official entries so far and I am guessing that most will come in during the last week. Remember, you only have until Feb 05th to submit your entries! ANYONE can win, just get out there and shoot! Good luck to all :)

For those who have been having issues registering at picortwo.com to follow a photographer (you do not register to be a photographer, just follow) I was told that as of today it should be 100% working. If for some reason it is not, you can click HERE and  register by following Seal. Just enter your email address and click on FOLLOW.

This site has had 880 registrations since the contest started so it is possible that we will see up to 800 contest entries! We shall see! For those who are just finding out about this Leica M9 Give Away contest, click here for the details!

Upcoming Reviews

Lately I have been messing with the Panasonic LX5. I reviewed the Leica D-Lux 5 and will most likely update that review with some LX-5 thoughts by the end of the week. The LX-5 is basically a D-Lux 5 with a different outer shell and slightly different color out of the camera. The LX-5 is $399 and the D-Lux 5 is $799. There are differences though and I’ll go over those with the D-Lux 5 review update.

I also plan on reviewing the Panasonic GH2 very soon as well as the Leica 50 and 90 Summarit lenses. Stay tuned for that. There are also some new guest articles on the way!

The Timbuk 2 Bag Contest – VOTE!

VOTE! The Timbuk 2 bag contest is coming to a close with a winner picked SATURDAY so if you did not yet vote, be sure and VOTE NOW for your favorite! #1 and #4 are virtually tied so let’s pick a winner!

Jan 102011
 

The Pentax K5 Real World Use Review

By Steve Huff

** ATTENTION ALL PHOTOGRAPHERS! – Don’t forget to enter the Leica M9 giveaway that is going on NOW! – Details HERE **

So here it is 2011 and I have been shooting with the lovely Pentax K5 for a few weeks now. I have not been able to get out every day with it but on the days I have been able to, I have really enjoyed shooting this camera. The Pentax K5 is essentially an upgrade to the Pentax K7 which I ABSOLUTELY LOVED. You can see my full review of the K7 HERE in case you missed it. That K7 gave me plenty of superb photos when I shot it with the Kit Zoom AND a couple of Pentax Limited prime lenses.

My K7 review also sparked lots of comments and interest. Even the president of Pentax, Ned Bunnel, posted about it on his personal blog. If you google “Pentax K7 Review” my review comes up as the #1 result. I have received lots of e-mails about that review and many thanks from those who bought one due to the info in that review.

When the K5 was announced it didn’t take long for the e-mails to start pouring in asking me when I was going to post a review for it! The pressure was on so I knew I had to try it out but seeing that I almost bought a K7 for myself, I was a bit scared to review the K5! Why? Because I really can’t afford another camera after my Ricoh GXR purchase! Anyway, I decided I HAD TO review it, and I am glad  I did because this is one of the finest (if not THE finest) APS-C sensor DSLR’s I have shot with to date!

This time around, B&H Photo sent me the K5 to try out along with the 43 1.8 limited lens. This lens, while not as tasty as the 77 limited I shot with last time is still a GREAT lens. With a fast 1.8 aperture, it will give you great performance in low light as well as allow you to get a shallow depth of field. Most of you know I love shooting like this because I love the looks I get with a fast prime lens :)

“Bella” – Pentax K5 with 43 Limited at 1.9 – Click image for larger and better version!

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“Evening Bokeh Drive” – The Pentax K5 in one of the cool cross process modes – JPEG – 43 limited at 1.9 – ISO 200

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When I first opened the Pentax K5 two things struck me. First, I was like “WHOA” this thing is huge!

BUT IT IS NOT! It actually is VERY small for a DSLR but because I was so used to shooting cameras like the Sony NEX-5, Olympus E-P2 and Ricoh GXR over the past 3 months, I was spoiled by those small cameras. After handling it for a few minutes I realized just how small this camera is for a DSLR and I was instantly taken back to my days with the K7. Yea, this is a SOLID, SMALL and amazingly well made DSLR. It makes the Sony A33 and A55 feel like toys. It really does.

As for the look, feel, and operation, there is not much more I can say that I already didnt say in the K7 review. Yea, the K5 keeps the awesome K7 features but adds some like having a better sensor with higher resolution (16.3 vs 14.6), better high ISO capability (up to 51,200 ISO) and performance, 1080P HD video (better video than K7), 7 FPS vs 5FPS on the K7, faster AF speed, better HDR recording, and it still has the 77 weather seals on the body alone. This is ONE HELL of a DSLR on paper, no doubt. Man, I loved the K7 so it should be a no brainer that I also love the K5 right? THAT WOULD BE A BIG YES!

Pentax K5 with the 43 Limited lens at F4, ISO 100

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The Pentax K5 with the 43 Limited at f/5

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The Features Of The Pentax K5

I already mentioned some of the upgrades of the K5 over the K7 but let’s see ALL of the features of this great camera:

• High resolution 16.3 megapixel CMOS sensor w integrated AD conversion circuitry

• High sensitivity 80-51200 ISO range with improved noise performance

• Speedy 7 FPS captures fast action shots

• Highly responsive and accurate 11 point SAFOX IX+ autofocus system with dedicated AF assist lamp and light wavelength sensor

• Widescreen 1080p HD video at 25 FPS, with sound via built-in or external 3.5mm stereo microphone jack

• Large 3″ LCD with 921,000 dots of resolution

• Fully weather sealed and coldproof design

• Durable magnesium alloy covers surround a rugged stainless steel chassis

• Highly accurate 77 segment metering system

• Pentaprism viewfinder with 100% field of view and 0.92X magnification

• Pentax body-based Shake Reduction (SR) stabilization system

• A maximum 1/8000 second shutter speed

• HDMI port outputs high definition images and video (and sound)

• Native support for both PENTAX PEF and Adobe DNG 14-bit RAW files

• Improved in-camera HDR image capture

• A wide range of in-camera image processing and special effects filters

• Customizable RAW/Fx button

• Built-in electronic level with tilt scale display

• SDXC memory card compatibility (via firmware update)

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The K5 In Use. How Did I Like It After Not Using A DSLR For Months?

So here I was with a DSLR after not using one for months. It was kind of weird for me because as most of you know who come here on a regular basis, I love my Leica cameras and I love my small cameras. I just DO NOT get into big bulky DSLR’s anymore. As good as some of them are (Nikon D700, Canon 5DII) they are just too damn big for me to carry around on a daily basis. I am one of those guys who bring a camera with me EVERYWHERE I go. If I run to the store for milk I have a camera on me. I do this because with todays small cameras that also pump out high quality, it is not an issue bringing them along.

The K5 is just at that point to where I would question if I should leave it at home or automatically strap it around my shoulder. Cameras like the Olympus E-P2 and Sony NEX-5 could go everywhere and provide good quality. The K5 would provide even better quality but it’s a but larger and heavier BUT it is also built like a tank and weather sealed! When it was all said and done I found that I had no problem taking the K5 along with me when I went out. The K5 paired with some of the awesome Limited prime lenses give you a kit that is on the smaller side (for a DSLR) but also gives you pro results. I was noticing better image quality with the K5 and 43 Limited than I was getting out of the Micro 4/3 cameras and the NEX-5 as well.

Pentax K5 with the 18-200 Kit Zoom at 3.5 – ISO 400 – 1/50th s

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Pentax K5 with the 18-200 Kit Zoom at 18mm – ISO 1600

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One really nice thing about the K5 is how quiet it is. When I fired the shutter it was REALLY smooth and quiet. I LOVED the sound and it made my NEX-5 sound like a shotgun. Everything about the K5 was just…well…SMOOTH. I felt like I was still shooting the K7 as it felt exactly the same but I was getting faster AF and better high ISO performance. One thing to note is that almost every image you see here was shot as a JPEG and they are pretty much straight from camera images. If I did anything to them it was just level adjustments or maybe a contrast bump.

The Pentax K5, like the K7 has very good out of camera JPEGS. They can be a little on the soft side but they sharpen up well.

Bokeh Test – Pentax K5 with the 43 Limited wide open at 1.9 – ISO 200

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Pretty sharp wide open at 1.9…love these little Pentax limited lenses!

Again, if you did not read my K7 review please do so HERE as quite a bit of it (like the video showing the features and menu) IS the same as the K5. Basically, this K5 is a KILLER DSLR with amazing *EVERYTHING!* Being a fan of the unique I would buy this camera over the Nikon D7000 as I feel it’s just as good if not better. It’s smaller and the Limited lenses ROCK. The Pentax K5 along with a 31, 43 and 77 limited lens set would be amazing! Add in a nice wide angle limited like the 15 f/4 or 21 3.2 and you can have a pro quality kit for less than an equivilant Nikon or Canon setup. Besides…EVERYONE shoots Nikon and Canon these days! Why not support a company that made a kick ass camera for those with a photographic mind. If I were in the market for a DSLR (and this one just might push me over the edge) the K5 would be mine.

This camera is built for the photographer. I really can’t see an area that is lacking with it. It’s build is top notch, its image quality is up there with the best APS-C cameras available, its out of camera JPEGS have great color and quality, its HD video rocks, it has all of the bells and whistles and then some, and it is very customizable. The K5 seems to do everything right.

So did I like it as much as  the K7? NO, I liked it even better :)

Pentax K5 with the 18-200 Kit Zoom at 18mm, f/3.5, ISO 100

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Same settings as above…

High ISO Testing

My one complaint about the Pentax K7 was it had limited high ISO performance. After ISO 1600 it started to get grainy. Though I said I would use it up to 2500 (which is damn good) I was curious to see if the K5 was living up to the hype of having better high ISO performance. Here are the results of my high ISO test.

I have to say, even ISO 12,800 looks pretty decent. I would use it if I needed to really get the shot. It appears the ISO 12800 shot is sharper but that was most likely due to the shutter speed/focus. The K5 is improved over the K7 with high ISO and these are some of the best results I have seen, right up there with the Sony A33/A55/NEX cameras and honestly…possibly better.

Here is one more at ISO 6400 along with a 100% crop…

To my eyes, this little K5 is giving me the best high ISO performance I have seen to date with an APS-X sensor.

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In Camera Filters

The K5 has in camera filters like the K7 did. The two I liked the most were the Toy Camera and High Contrast filters. Here are a couple of quick out of camera samples.

The Toy Camera Filter…

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and the high contrast filter…

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Full Size Out Of Camera JPEGS and crops

Here is a quick snap I shot wide open at 1.9 so you can see the quality of an untouched out of camera JPEG. Click the image below for the full size file..

Pentax K5 with the 43 Limited lens wide open at 1.9 – Has that creamy/dreamy feel going on

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and this next one was shot a little stopped down at f/2.5 – click for full size

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Here is a test shot to show how sharp this lens is, even when shot as a JPEG and untouched…

and the 100% crop below…I do see some CA/Purple Fringing but again, this is an out of camera JPEG shot wide open at 1.9

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HD 1080P Video Quality – Random Video Samples

I am very impressed with the HD video of the Pentax K5. Even in lower light it keeps its rich color and with a nice lens like the 43 Limited mounted the K5 delivers awesome video. The built in IS works well as you can see in my video samples below which is ALL handheld to test the IS. I also found the video implementation much better on the K5 and yea it does 1080P. You can watch the video below in your browser or right click on it and choose “watch on youtube” if you want to see the 1080P version.

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The 43 1.9 Limited Lens – It’s awesome!

The 43 Limited 1.9 lens! What a great lens this is for this camera. The 43mm focal length will give you an equivalent of a 64mm lens so it is a but long but I loved this lens. While not up to Leica quality, the Pentax Limited lenses do have a unique signature look to them and I really enjoy this look. The lenses are also very small. When compared to a NIkon or Canon prime these small Pentax lenses are an absolute joy to look at and use. To be honest, even the Pentax kit zoom is good. One of the better kit lenses I have tried out. Pentax knows how to make a great lens, no doubt.

Here are a few more images with the 43 limited to wet your appetite and if you are a Pentax shooter you can buy this lens at B&H Photo HERE, my preferred camera dealer for Pentax. BTW, the in camera stabilization works AWESOME with this lens with photo and video. Yea, the K5 has IN BODY IS (image stabilization).

MORE FROM THE 43 LIMITED LENS ON THE PENTAX K5

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The Kit Zoom – It’s great!

I also enjoyed the kit zoom just like I did when I shot it with the K7. I found it was plenty sharp and the image stabilization works VERY well with this lens. It’s construction is on the cheaper side but better than some of the Nikon, Canon and Olympus kit zooms I have shot with. The IQ is there though and with the K5s great IQ and high ISO performance, even a slower lens like this can yield great results.

My reviews are always based on real use and the image quality. If I enjoy using a camera…if it inspires me to go out and shoot…if it has character and feels good in the hand then I will most likely enjoy it. I always try to get out there and get real photos with whatever I am reviewing and sometimes it takes me a while due to me always shooting with so many cameras! While my photos here may not be amazing, I do feel they show that the K5 is a highly capable camera, even with the kit zoom which will only set you back another $100 or so when buying the kit. Well worth it over just buying the body.

The next 7 images were all shot with the Pentax K5 and the 18-55 Kit Zoom

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So, you have $1500 to spend…which camera to buy? The K5 vs ?

Since I get to shoot with so many cameras and lenses I get asked on a daily basis “what camera should I buy”? While I usually try to avoid giving this advice I decided to write down my opinions on a few other cameras vs this Pentax K5. Maybe this will help you decide which one is right for you…

The K5 vs the Nikon D7000 or D300s

If starting from scratch..if you do not own or are not invested in any lenses from a certain manufacturer then this could be a tough call. Nikon is legendary and will always be around. Their glass is phenomenal (but expensive for the good stuff) and the body that would go up against the K5 would be the D7000 or D300s though the D7000 is a little cheaper. If given the choice between the two I would take the K5. If given the choice between the D300s or the K5 that one is a bit tougher but due to size alone I would go with the Pentax K5. I like the video better on the K5 as well. If size is not a concern then the D7000 and the D300s are great DSLR’s but the K5 is better built and smaller than the D7000. Yea, I would go with a K5. But that is just me, and this is just my opinion.

The K5 vs the Ricoh GXR

Hmmm. I love the GXR along with the 28 and 50mm modules. The image quality is stellar and they have their own unique look that is not far off from a Leica look. The Ricoh is also made VERY well but it is much smaller. The only con with the GXR over the K5 is the GXR is not a DSLR so their is no optical viewfinder. The K5 will give you better AF, better higher ISO capabilities, and a slew of other features that the GXR does not but for overall IQ at lower ISO, I personally (slightly) prefer the GXR with the 28 and 50. Plus you can buy the GXR with both modules for about the same price as the K5 with its kit zoom. There is just something about that GXR for B&W and people photography. Still, it is not a DSLR so if you want a non full frame DSLR the K5 is the one I would get. What you lose in size and weight over a GXR you gain in functionality, speed, ISO and HD video features and I love the K5 as a complete package. It all depends on your needs and wants.

The K5 vs ?

I’d rather but the K5 than the competing Canon DSLR. The bottom line is that the Pentax K5 is an improvement over the already superb K7. It’s features are professional grade and there really isn’t much you couldn’t do with one. Would I trade a Leica M9 for one? NO WAY! But for a DSLR, again, it is the one I would buy if I were in the market for one under $1500. In fact, the only DSLR I would prefer over the K5 is probably the Nikon D700 but that comes in at quite a bit more money and it is much larger.

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My Final Word On The Pentax K5

If you want a DSLR on the small side that will give you pro build, pro weather sealing, pro image quality and great HD video with the availability of some GREAT prime lenses then look no further. Pentax may not be as big of a name as Nikon or Canon but I have always been a fan of the “little guys” who do things right. Pentax has done almost everything right with this camera. I sat here for 2 hours wondering what I could say that was NEGATIVE about this camera and I really came away with NOTHING! So no pro/con section this time because to be honest, I love this camera and have no negative things to really sat. It’s AF is fast, it’s IS is superb, its IQ is fantastic and it just has so much going for it.

UPDATE: After posting this review a couple of readers did point out one negative that would make this a perfect DSLR if Pentax implemented it. FULL MANUAL CONTROL during video. Maybe Pentax can do this via a firmware update? Either way, I still love this little guy and found its ease of use, customization, dynamic range, high ISO performance and build to be up there with the best pro DSLR’s.

If you are not afraid of shooting with a DSLR that doesn’t say Nikon or Canon on it then JUMP on this one. I can not imagine anyone being disappointed in it. If I had to complain about anything it would be that the menus look kind of generic. Not as polished as the other brands but it’s the menu, not a big deal. The K5 is quiet, customizable, and delivers the goods. Even its shutter is rated at 100,000 click and goes to 1/8000s which means we can use those fast lenses during the day. WIll I buy one? I WOULD IF I COULD but I can’t afford to right now! The Pentax K5 is amazing and with those sweet Pentax Limited lenses, even better. Way to go Pentax, you managed to improve upon the K7 and delivered and all terrain, all weather DSLR that is small, built like a tank and gives outstanding quality in good light and low light. Video is SUPERB as well. An all around fantastic camera.

In closing, I know this review has been VERY positive and for those who know me and my style…when I really like a camera or a lens I tend to get excited about it and yes, this comes out in my real world use reviews. The K5 got me pretty excited and I just wish I had more time with it so I could do it justice. The photos in this review were just what I was able to shoot over the past 2-3 weeks, snapshots really but I most of us shoot this way anyway. If you really want to see some amazing images with this camera and the limited lenses, click here. Inspiring stuff!

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You can buy the Pentax K5 at B&H Photo who I HIGHLY recommend for all of your photo gear.

Click here to go direct to their Pentax K5 BODY ONLY page.

Click here to go direct to their Pentax K5 with Kit Zoom page.

Some great lens choices for the K5 – The Pentax 31 LIMITED F/1.8, The Pentax 77 Limited f/1.8, The 43 1.9 limited, The 15 Limited.

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