Nov 052014
 

Getting back into Underwater Photography with an E-M1

By Thomas Streng

Hi there,

In spring 2014 I decided to go for a dive-vacation, after 10 years not diving at all and I wanted to bring a camera underwater.

In earlier times I had used a Nikonos V camera setup with film. But this time I decided to want the advantages of digital for underwater photography. I own several camera-systems for “land” photography already, including FF-DSLR, rangefinder and micro4/3 as well as a compact RX100. But which was the best system for my underwater needs?

My criteria were:

  • A fast AF-system – fishes can be fast
  • A fast flash synch – under water you often have a mix of natural light and flash (to get the colors). So if you want to shoot moving subjects with flash you want a fast synch speed
  • Good wide-angle lenses – because that’s what you want underwater to keep the distance short between you and the subject
  • It should be easy to control underwater – especially fast access to ISO, F-stop, Exp-comp and WB

In the end I decided to use my Olympus EM1 since it seemed like the best compromise for me, offering more speed and options than a compact, but being less bulky and expensive than FF-DSLR and their underwater housings. Also M43 offers nice lenses for underwater use (I have used the Panasonic 8mm Fisheye, the Oly 9-18mm and the Oly 12-40mm). Other great lenses for underwater should be the 7-14mm and the 60mm Macro. 

There are a couple of options for EM1-underwater housings. I decided for a Nauticam-Housing: It is solid, has handles included where you mount the flashes, and for my hand size it allows really good access to all important functions. Aquatica, Subal, Olympus and others also offer very nice housings. I included a vacuum valve system. You suck a low pressure in the housing before you go underwater and a green light indicates that the housing doesn’t leak. This gave me some mental “freedom” underwater.I combined the housing with a 100mm glass Dome for the 8mm FE and a 170mm glass dome (ZEN) for using the 9-18mm and 12-40mm lenses.

The 12-40mm is not a typical underwater lens, because most people use either ultra-wideangle, Fisheye or Macro lenses. But for me the 12-40mm in combination with a Dome offers great flexibility. You get 12mm wide-angle which is fine for many things, and you can get pretty close at the 40mm end, close enough for Fish-portraits and other smaller creatures. That’s why the 12-40mm became the lens I have used most often. As flash I used 2 Sea & Sea YS-D1.

Finally we went for our dive trip to Zakynthos, a wonderful Greek Island. You don’t have as many and big fishes as in the Red Sea or on the Maledives, but it’s a beautiful underwater landscapes, many caves and interesting creatures. I did 15 dives during that trip and really enjoyed the time under water. My #1 goal was to enjoy the dives – so getting good images was “just” #2. I mention this because I have met people who told me they were so busy with their camera that they could not really enjoy the dive and underwater environment.

The EM1 in the Nauticam housing has worked very well. I believe m43 is great for underwater photography. It handles quite easy and allows good image quality.

Here are some of the results, I hope you like them. You can find more images here https://www.flickr.com/photos/111665084@N07/sets/72157646745077278/

I encourage every diver who hasn’t been underwater for a longer time: Go out and dive, it´s fun.

Kind Regards, Tom

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Nov 042014
 

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The Panasonic LX100 NOW IN STOCK!

OK! The hot and new Panasonic LX100 with the fast f/1.7 to 2.8 24-70 zoom lens and Micro 4/3 sensor is NOW IN STOCK at B&H Photo! This is one of the hottest and most sought after camera releases this year and it is available now, until it sells out that is! Check it out below! (My review will be here soon)!

CLICK HERE TO ORDER OR SEE MORE ABOUT THE LX100!

Nov 042014
 

A year with the Panasonic GH2

By Aaron Hayman

First of all, I’d like to thank Steve for hosting such a great site. I spend a lot of time looking at and learning about photography on the web and this site is definitely on a very short list of favorites. The quality of the work tends to be on a level well beyond what I see in other places. I draw a lot of inspiration for my own work from the diversity and imagination of the work shown on these pages. There’s also the fact that the gear is very much biased towards mirrorless, compact cameras. I thought a bit about getting a DSLR, but since I saw so many really great images taken with mirrorless and since I’m a great believer in having something compact and therefore being more likely to have it with you, the mirrorless tech was what I gravitated towards. There are of course other advantages as well in going mirrorless…

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blur

About a year ago, I bought a Panasonic GH2. I’ve been interested in photography for quite a while; I studied in college where I learned all kinds of darkroom processes as well as lots about the history and theory of the art form. I switched to digital some years ago when I picked up a Canon A630 point and shoot and though I did some work with that camera that I was quite happy with (I posted some photos I took with it before on this site), I eventually got tired of “working within limitations” and yearned for a more versatile tool. I did a fair bit of research and came to the conclusion that a used GH2 represented the features that I was looking for at a cost that I could afford. I have to say that despite the fact that there are a few more recent offerings with a little bit better IQ and more contemporary features that are certainly able to stir the gear lust within me, I’ve been quite happy with the GH2. Of course with only the very old and very simple A630 to compare it to, the GH2 obviously wins in every category. Still, I think that it’s much better than that. I’m consistently impressed with the IQ, I love that I can use old legacy lenses with it (and the macro focusing definitely helps), it seems very fast to focus with low shutter lag (unlike the A630, which seemed to be expressly designed to miss the moment!), all of the controls seem to be very logically laid out, the EVF shows me just what I need to see and when I’m shooting at some odd angle, the tiltable LCD really comes in handy.

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In the year that I’ve owned the camera, I’ve used it more than I have any other camera that I’ve had in any given year; I’ve owned a few and done a lot of photography over the years. Part of it has to do with the simple fact that with digital “the film is free,” but also because the GH2 is beautifully handling camera. I’m a firm believer in the idea that it’s the brain behind the lens that’s the most important factor in making an image. Nonetheless, a well designed, high performing camera can make the act of photography much more of a joy and to that effect, the GH2 has really helped to inspire me to get out and take photos. As for the photos, I’ve shot them in several different locales and experimented with a number of different subjects and approaches… I’m always experimenting and working under the influence of different ideas. My work though really isn’t so all-over-the-map as this collection of images might suggest; most of these photos are part of a larger series, each with a consistent theme. The most recent series that I’ve been working on involves shooting little details in my neighborhood. I don’t feel like I live in the most glamorous, scenic place and my surroundings seem rather ordinary… and yet I feel that there are compelling images to be made of my less-than-spectaular surroundings. It’s more difficult to feel like I’ve gotten a really good photo in this type of situation but also a greater challenge and I like that. I’m often thinking of what one of my favorite photographers, Garry Winogrand said, “Photography is not about the thing photographed. It is about how that thing looks photographed.” When I think more of how the subject “looks photographed” then I’m able to worry less about what the subject is and I feel like I can produce more surprise in my photography by creating something out of materials that don’t usually get a second look.

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Initially, I used just the kit zoom on my GH2, a 14-42mm thing. As a kit lens that comes with the camera, I didn’t expect to like it that much, but it seems capable of some really sharp images… I’ve been quite happy with it. Later I got around to buying adaptors for some old 35mm film lenses I had, a Canon 28mm f2.8 and a Nikon 50mm f1.8. I’m really happy with the Nikon in particular in that it’s fast and just the right length for some musical events that I’ve gotten into photographing. The fact that as with any old lens like that, it isn’t capable of auto focus isn’t a problem at all as in the low-light situations where I’m using it, the autofocus in the camera doesn’t work very reliably anyway. The Canon, though it seems to be sharp enough has gotten less use as the focal length and max aperture aren’t ideal for me. I’ve messed around with a Nikon E series 70-150mm zoom as well and gotten better results than I thought that I might with a lens like this. Folks generally don’t seem to be so hot on adapting those old manual focus zooms. The lens I’ve really come to love to use with this camera the most is the only other one that I’ve got that’s designed for it (as opposed to adapted) and that’s the Panasonic/Leica 25mm f1.4. Perhaps I’m projecting something special onto it because I spent nearly the cost of the camera with the kit lens on it, but it certainly does seem like there is something very, very nice about the quality that I’m getting with this lens. It’s very fast, which has been proven to be useful in shooting indoor musical events, which are typically not so well lit. I bought it for these low light situations, but I’ve come to love the look that it’s capable of even more than the speed that I get with that low F-stop. I’m not so great at describing this sort of thing (Steve is really brilliant at it!) but suffice to say, it gives me a look that I haven’t gotten with other lenses. I’ve been using it a lot more than I thought that I would because I usually favor a wider field of view and have felt kind of addicted to the convenience of a zoom. I think that I’m starting to lose a bit of my bias toward the wide-angle lately though and when I go out shooting I’m thinking more in terms of what works with the 25mm.

tunnel

winogrand

As for processing (very important to me!), I’ve been using a free program for RAW conversion called LightZone that I’ve been really happy with. I use Photoshop as well from time to time for certain kinds of effects, but I always start with LightZone. I always shoot in the RAW format and really like to spend time adjusting the images with software. I believe that the creative choices I make with the software are nearly as important to creating the images as the parts of the process that I do in the camera…

Thanks for looking and I hope that you enjoy the images. For more of my work, please see: www.flickr.com/photos/128435329@N08/sets

 

Oct 272014
 

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The SLR Magic CINE 10mm t/2.1 Lens Review

by Amy & Tony Medina

Generally, I’ve really enjoyed the SLR Magic lenses, as I already own the 23mm f/1.7 Hyperprime and 35mm T/1.4 CINE, and use them on my Fuji APS-C cameras often. When Steve asked me if I wanted to review the new SLR Magic CINE 10mm T/2.1 for Micro 4/3, I jumped at the chance.

To start with, I think that overall, if you’re a fan of SLR Magic lenses, this one will not be a disappointment.

The time I spent with this lens, I shot it primarily on the Panasonic GX7. They paired well, but I think on a slightly bigger body it would be every better. My husband paired it with the GH1 for video, and he thought it balanced on the camera really well. SLR Magic lenses in general are well built, and they aren’t what I would call light. They have a nice heft to them, and they pair well with bodies like the Fuji XT1, Olympus OMD-EM5 and the Panasonic GH Series that themselves aren’t the smallest of the mirrorless cameras. It did work well on the GX7, and I’m sure it would feel good on equally small bodies… I just think they pair better with bodies that seem a touch more solid themselves.

One nice feature right off the bat that those of you with SLR Magic lenses will appreciate… no screw-on cap this time. Finally! It was your typical snap-on-type lens cap. Ya know, sometimes I like the fact those screw-on caps stay put, but most of the time I find them to be a royal pain in the butt, so I really appreciate a “normal” lens cap on this one.

Call it a pet peeve, but it really irks me that not all SLR Magic lenses are built the same. Some have the f-stop (or t-stop) control on the outside ring, furthest from the body… others have this ring closest to the mount. When I switch back and forth between their different lenses, I find this quite annoying! As a photographer, to me all f-stop dials should always be the furthest one from the body. Of course, it’s mostly just a minor annoyance, and it’s not something that would keep me from buying the lens, but I just wish they were ALL made with the f-stop control in the same place.

As for image quality, there were no surprises. I feel like I know what to expect with SLR Magic lenses, and that consistency carried through to the 10mm T/2.1 CINE.

SLR Magic lenses have that wonderful character they’ve become known for… a bit of a dreamy retro look around the edges, but nice and sharp in the middle. Typically, they shoot just a little flat.. they aren’t super contrasty lenses straight out of the camera, but they grade beautifully and just have so much charm. I find their color rendition quite neutral — not too warm or too cool — and I’m never disappointed with the images I get out of their lenses… it was no different with the 10mm T/2.1. I was very pleased with nearly every photo I took with the lens.

First one is straight out of the camera, the second is post-processed to my taste…

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crawling-ivy

In my opinion, SLR Magic lenses perform okay stopped down, but that isn’t why we buy them. Sharpness edge to edge, that’s not usually the priority of the SLR Magic user. These lenses are really meant to be used wide-open, or more on the open side of things, where they shine and show their unique personality. They provide excellent subject isolation while delivering a lovely “magic” image quality.

The front element is rather large (77mm in diameter), which isn’t a surprise on such a wide lens. Of course, that seems to make it a little prone to flare. However, I find the flare itself to be of the attractive type, and I have the kind of personality where I like to use flare to my advantage to enhance a photo. With a lens like the 10mm T/2.1, where I find the flare so pleasing, I’m often tying to introduce it rather than eliminate it.

It’s up to you whether you want to let that flare creep in or find a 77mm wide angle lens hood that will work to keep it out. The lens does not come with one.

A bit of flare…

bridge-graffiti

I can’t say 10mm is my favorite focal length on micro 4/3, but that’s a really personal thing honestly. Sometimes I did find it a bit awkward… but that’s no shocker when I tend to gravitate more towards the normal focal lengths from 35mm to 55mm (full frame equivalent), or I go for the ultra-wides, like 15mm. 20mm, to me, is just at that point a bit in-between.

Now, my husband on the other hand, when shooting some video tests, loved that it was right there in between… he told me that he liked that it didn’t give that overly distorted look that ultra wides often do, but certainly gave a wider, much more unique perspective than lenses in the mid-normal range.

What’s interesting is that we often disagreed a bit about this lens: some of the things that I would criticize are things he would really liked. An example is that he loves the clickless aperture dial, where that’s one of the things I generally don’t like about SLR Magic lenses (I think I even mentioned that in another review here on Steve’s site). But seriously, that’s not at all unexpected when it comes to a photographer’s vs. a videographer’s opinion.

It’s part of their CINE line of lenses of course, which means it’s optimized for video and has some of those built-for-videographer features, like click-less aperture and a focus ring that will mate up with follow-focus gears. The focus throw is smooth as silk, and comfortable for shooting both photography and video.

For my husband, the wide angle helped minimize shakiness when hand-holding the camera, and having a lens so wide, but also fast, can make for some really cool shots.

All of the footage below is just test footage shot by my husband, and we thought we’d share it. It has been color graded a bit… but most serious videographers will appreciate that rarely are you using footage that you don’t color correct and enhance.

This was all shot on an original GH1.

 

In conclusion, the best way to express how much we both think this is a great lens is to share that we indeed plan to buy it.
For me, even though the focal length was a little “in-between”, I think I can find use for it in my growing arsenal of wide angle lenses that I use for work. And since my husband and I will share it, and he loves it, the biggest downside will be us fighting for it when I want to use it. LOL

As I started off by saying, if you’re an SLR Magic fan already, there’s a lot you’re going to like with this lens. It delivers exactly the way you’d expect it to. It’s wide without being fisheye-distorted, and it’s fast to let in tons of light and allow that great depth of field control.

Overall, it delivers quality images with tons of personality — exactly what we’ve all come to expect from an SLR Magic lens.

 

You can purchase this lens at B&H Photo HERE.

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Oct 212014
 

The Shadows Are Your Friends. Micro 4/3 Creepiness.

By Vince de la Pena

Greetings from Down Under.

My name is Vince de la Pena and I’d like to share my very first personal photographic project. This was shot in the infamous (for photographers) old abandoned Larundel psychiatric hospital in Bundoora, Victoria, Australia.
I purchased an Olympus OM-D E-M5 2 years ago after finding the my Canon 30D and lenses were too heavy and bulky for me. I have recently sold my Canon 6D and 2x L-series lenses to fund more micro 4/3 lenses and a Lumix GM1 body. I have also upgraded from the Panasonic 12-35mm f2.8 to the Olympus 12-40mm f2.8 which I find is quite a bit sharper. The majority of the shoot was done with the Olympus 12-40mm and the bunny-eating scene was shot with the Olympus 45mm f1.8.

The Shoot.
This personal project was months in the making. It required scouting out the old hospital and looking for some cool grafitti or murals to shoot against. This is a popular place for budding photographers. The upper level had lots of holes in the roof which would allow beautiful spots of harsh light from above. You can google the images of Larundel and see what I mean. Unfortunately, with the advancement of high ISO sensors and the overuse of HDR to see into the shadows, I felt that the creepiness of the shadows has not been taken to its full potential. I believe that the shadows create the unknown. And that unknown creates fear. Embrace the shadows. The shadows are your friends.

For this particular shoot, we had to bring a lot of props like a door; a mattress with pillows and sheets; lighting, stands, a purpose-built electric chair, ladders, tripods, black blankets, lots of flashlights, etc. I even had to buy some black cherry jam for the bunny rabbit eating scene. Have you ever had generic fake blood in your mouth? It’s freakin’ disgusting. I didn’t want to risk my model Emma pulling the lemon face during the gore scenes.

Finally, I want to thank my mum for her brutally honest feedback. Every time she looks at my photos and just says “Nice”, it makes me go “Whaddayamean NICE?!?!” It makes me try harder to get a shot that has more impact. It makes me see things beyond the pixel peeping, the retouching, the bokeh, the noise and grain, etc.

Happy Halloween, folks!!!

Vince de la Pena

PS: Special thanks to model Emma Jarrett (who flew down from Queensland for the shoot) and to Mikel Magdadaro and Edwin Retuta (assistant photographers). Also special thanks to Richard Denek (also a long time subscriber of yours) for getting me into photography, supplying my first serious camera and introducing me to this inspiring website

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Oct 172014
 

In Praise of Micro 4/3 and a Visit to Monet’s Garden

By Richard Gilsig

Hi Steve. I stumbled onto your site, about a year ago and it was your reviews that led me to choose M4/3 as my small travel system. Thank you very much. Love your Site. Please keep up the great work. About me: Photography has been an on-again, off-again hobby for about 50 years. Without doubt, going digital has been revitalizing. I’m hooked on simple post-processing with iPhoto (minor tweaks but lots of cropping).

As for my shooting experience, I love the convenience of zooms and not missing shots/fumbling with changing lenses (and I fumble a lot). Yet looking back on my photography, my favourite images are almost always from primes. And so began my search for where the smallest possible interchangeable body/lense meets the largest possible sensor. Steve’s high praise of M4/3 glass pointed me in the right direction.

I bucked up for the GM1 with kit 12-32mm and Olympus 45mm f1.8. I’m impressed with I.Q., pleased with the stealth that small size facilitates, and most of all, thrilled that my wife is more tolerant of my new tiny travel rig which does take less of my attention and energy than toting either APS or Full Frame.

I’ve always been a fan of Monet. His ability to capture how colour and reflections change with changing light is ian inspiration to many of us. This past June, I had the opportunity to visit Givernay and Monet’s Garden. These are my favourites from that sunny day late in June.

 

Path to Lily Pond, Lumix 12-32 at 16mm, f8, 1/800sec, iso 200

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1 wing frozen. Olympus 45mm, f1.8. 1/2000sec, iso 200

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Centre Crop (1/3 of original image), Olympus 45mm, f1.8, 1/10,000sec, iso 125

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Bridge, Olympus 45mm, f5, 1/320sec, iso125

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Left Crop (1/3 of original image), f5, 1/400sec, iso 125

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Rowboat, f5.6, 1/100sec, iso 1250

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Jul 212014
 

USER REPORT: The Olympus 35mm f3.5 Macro and Samyang 85 f1.4 on the Panasonic G6

By Francis Thompson

Hi Steve, I’d like to share my experiences of shooting with my Panasonic G6 and a couple of interesting lenses.
First, a (very) brief introduction; I’m a design student from England with an interest in photography, and I’m currently in Ireland on a work placement (designing UAVs to carry the likes of RED cameras!) Along with my G6 and 20mm f1.7 II, my camera bag usually includes two rather less conventional, non-native lenses – first, the Olympus 35mm f3.5 macro, and secondly the Samyang 85mm f1.4. The Olympus 35mm f3.5 macro is a Four Thirds lens; as the previous owner of an E-420, this is the one lens I hung onto. With the Panasonic 4/3-MFT adaptor, it’s very well-balanced on the G6, and autofocus actually works better than it did on the E-420. That’s not saying a whole lot though; AF is incredibly slow, hunting in all light and missing AF pretty regularly. However, there’s a whole raft of better choices in native MFT at similar focal lengths. Where this lens shines is up close and personal. With a maximum magnification of 1:1 (2:1 35mm equivalent) this lens lets you get very close. At 35mm, it’s possibly not the best for some more shy subjects such as butterflies, but for more static subjects it’s a great choice. MF is very usable, especially using focus aids or peaking in MFT bodies.

Whilst it lacks some macro specific features like focus limiting, it’s worth considering that at the time of writing, a new 35mm macro plus 4/3 to MFT adaptor would still set you back considerably less than either the Panasonic or Olympus MFT native macro lenses.
The Samyang 85mm f1.4 is a brute of a lens. Big, heavy, tough to focus…yet somehow, I find myself inexplicably drawn to it time after time. Shooting handheld with the G6 can be a pain, as supporting the weight of it often leads to accidental button presses. Whilst the lens balances somewhat poorly on the G6, I imagine many of the smaller bodies would be even more difficult to use with it; GH3/4 and EM1 users might have more luck. Other associated issues with it are very shallow DOF wide open, making focussing difficult, and the fact it doesn’t have a hard infinity stop (mine focusses a fraction past infinity). The relatively long focal length also limits low light handheld performance (the unbalanced nature of the body/lens combo leads to realistic usable shutter speed limit of 1/250s.)

The problems don’t stop there; the lens is soft wide open, the included lens hood and cap aren’t great, and the 72mm filters it takes tend to be a fair bit pricier than the usual 52 or 58mm found on many MFT lenses. But somehow, despite all the problems, despite the tens of just-missed-focus images in my folders, the big 85 is the lens I leave on my camera most of the time. It’s a lens that makes you work for good shots, but I for one enjoy the challenge and the results it presents when you get it just right.
All images shot in RAW, minimal processing in ACR.

Samyang 85mm  (4)

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Samyang 85mm  (7)

Olympus 35mm (6)

Olympus 35mm (7)

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Olympus 35mm (1)

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Jul 142014
 

Shooting Skateboarders with Micro 4/3

By Tony Zhang

Hello everybody, first of all, I would like to thank Steve and Brandon for providing me with this opportunity to share my thoughts. I am a daily visitor of this site and I really appreciate this opportunity. This is the first time I have written anything remotely formal on the internet so please bear with me and my more than likely boring rant about skateboarding, photography, filmmaking and my gear.

My name is Tony, I am seventeen years old and I live in New Zealand. I discovered photography about two years ago. I am a skateboarder, and about two years ago I wanted to purchase a camera to make videos of my friends and myself skating around and doing tricks. After many hours of internet research later, I decided to shell out my savings on a Canon t4i, kit lens, 50mm f1.8 and a 6.5mm fisheye. My primary interest was video but I inevitably found my way to the world of photography. I eventually sold my kit lens and 50mm and sprung for a Canon 17-55mm f2.8 IS. I was convinced that my setup was good enough(not only in terms of image quality, but also usability, size and weight) for both my video and photo purposes, until I discovered mirrorless and micro 4/3rds.

I feel that skateboarding photography is very different to other forms of photography. For good results, much knowledge about the activity is essential. Knowing exactly what time to press the shutter button, by the millisecond, when shooting a particular trick is essential, a photo early or late by milliseconds is often the difference between a keeper or a throwaway.

Unlike other sports photographers, who are often seen with a behemoth of a DSLR and 100000mm telephoto lens, firing non stop in continuous autofocus mode from the sideline(no offense intended), a skateboard photographer shoots and skates with his friends, he is often down on the ground or up on the roof, in the blazing sun, struggling almost as much as the skateboarder trying to land the trick. The photographer is almost part of the action.

You may notice that for many of my ‘trick’ photos, I use a fisheye lens. The fisheye is a staple in the world of skate photography and it is used to get the camera up close to the spot and skater, to distort the environment, often making the ledge, rail, stair set or other obstacle involved in the trick look much bigger, and hence the stunt more impressive.

Camera rig

Many amateur and professional skate photographers frequently use external strobes and off camera flashes to help freeze the fast-moving action and to light the subject up better. Many amazing skate photos are taken with many external flashes. However, I have never used off camera lighting. Mainly because carrying around so much equipment while cruising around town on a skateboard is a pain, but also because it is a laborious process which somewhat takes the fun out of shooting. (I will also admit that I am a bit intimidated by off camera lighting because it all seems so confusing)

I love skate photography because it captures the life, adventures, talents and efforts of myself and my friends. It is a difficult and special form of photography. I also enjoy the pressures of skate photography, waiting for the skater for hours to land the trick, hoping that the lighting does not change rapidly, getting up high or down low into uncomfortable positions to get the shot, the risk of injury or damaged equipment (my fisheye lens has been hit multiple times by skateboards as a result of being too close), and the chance of getting told of by security, these factors are all parts of skate photography. It is never a controlled environment and I truly enjoy these challenges.

Air(g6)

Backside heelflip(g6)

For the first few months, I was very satisfied with my camera setup. However, after learning more, filming and shooting more, I developed the feeling that something was missing, the ergonomics of a DSLR was not ideal for shooting video, mainly due to the lack of an electronic viewfinder, I had to use a large and cumbersome stick on viewfinder when shooting video. A video mode with 60 frames per second is essential for skating due to the need for slow motion at times, and Canon DSLRs only have 60fps in a softened 720p mode, filled with moire and aliasing artifacts. Despite being an excellent all round lens, the size, weight and front/back focusing issues of the 17-55mm f2.8, was irritating. I longed for a smaller camera with an electronic viewfinder and clean 1080p video in 60 frames per second.

There are few mirrorless cameras with aspc sized sensors that provided clean 1080p 60fps video, good video and stills ergonomics, a good, wide enough fisheye lens option, and an external 3.5mm mic input. Enter micro 4/3rds, after months and months of internet lurking. I decided that the Panasonic g6 would be the best all round camera for my purposes at a good price point. At the start of 2014, I sold my entire camera setup but kept my external microphone and homemade handle which I use for filming ‘lines’ (a video clip in which I am on my skateboard, following a skater with my camera and fisheye lens low to the ground and close to the skater, filming him do several tricks in a sequence.) I purchased the Panasonic g6, the Bower 7.5mm f3.5 fisheye, the Panasonic Leica 25mm f1.4 and the Panasonic 14-140mm f3.5-5.6 zoom lens. For me, this was the best all round compromise for stills and video that I could afford. I chose the g6 over the gx7 due to the external mic jack and overall ergonomics, and the gh3 due to the price difference. I find the difference in stills quality between the g6 sensor and my past Canon DSLR sensor to be negligible, and in fact I find contrast detect autofocus to be more reliable. However the difference in video quality and ergonomics between the two setups is worlds apart. I prefer the electronic viewfinder for both stills and video. The touch pad AF function on the g6 is perfect for my style of shooting, this, along with the accurate contrast based autofocus and the 25mm f1.4 makes shooting much more enjoyable than it was on my Canon. I do not require lightning fast tracking autofocus because when shooting tricks, I prefocus on a spot and lock the focus. Nothing else I shoot moves at a fast pace, and contrast detect autofocus works perfectly for my needs. The 7fps burst rate is very useful and I have the camera set to burst mode almost all the time.

Chill(g6)

Frontside noseblunt(g6)

Kickflip(g6)

I love the Panasonic 25mm f1.4, I try to use it as much as I can. The depth of field is shallow enough for me and I love the rendering and micro contrast of the lens. I often shoot wide open, and the 25mm is very sharp wide open. I also purchased a polaroid variable ND filter for about $30 USD so I can shoot video wide open during the day, the quality of the filter is excellent for video, there is a slight compromise for stills but I am not at all bothered by the incremental reduction in sharpness. The fisheye lens is compact, sharp and solid, however I do wish that it had a slightly wider field of view and increased barrel distortion. It is noticeably less wide than its aps-c DSLR counterpart which I had. I purchased the 14-140mm zoom planning to just use it for video, but its stills capability is also very decent, I find depth of field at the long end to be very adequate for portraits given that there is enough working distance. The OIS works amazingly, I can sometimes shoot fairly steady handheld video at the very telephoto end. I use it mostly for zooming video shots (unlike in usual filmmaking, many traditional skateboarding clips have some sort of zooming action in them, so video nerds please don’t rip me to shreds), however, I still wish I had a typical camcorder style zoom rocker.

Mum(g6)

Nollie crooked grind(g6)

With my birthday money, Chinese New Years red bag money(haha many of you will know what I am talking about), and addition chip ins from my parents for doing surprisingly well in my SATs first try, I purchased a Ricoh GR. I originally had my eye on the Fuji x100s, but it was not pocketable and cost too much. I wanted the GR because of it’s tiny size, ergonomics and it looked fun to use. It is a camera that fits in my pocket, I take it with me almost everywhere in the weekends, often without the intent of taking photos at all. The GR is the camera that allows me to get candid photos of my friends and out skateboarding adventures without me having to take out my big(ger) camera(and often removing it from my homemade handle.) I was originally worried I may not have been able to adjust to a 28mm prime lens and expected myself to frequently use the 35mm crop mode(which by the way is excellent), but I quickly found it to be the perfect ‘storytelling’ lens, wide enough to include many elements in the photo putting the shot into precise context. I also find the 28mm equivalent perspective very dynamic and lively, unlike many telephoto focal lengths which appear distant, compressed and flat(but this is good for many things). I usually shoot in TAV mode with the aperture wide open or at f5.6, and use it typically up to ISO 3200. Much to my surprise, I found the in camera raw developer to be very useful and fun to use, I especially like the positive film effect. The low light performance of the GR is great, the handling and interface are amazing, the sharpness is incredible throughout the aperture range., it is built well and most of all, it is fun to use. The 28mm and 50mm prime combo I have is great for most of my purposes when it comes to stills.

Ollie(trick) - Wynyard quarter(g6)

Portrait(g6)

However, nothing is perfect. Despite all the benefits of my new camera setup, I can still find some noticeable flaws, no deal breakers though. Firstly, the build quality of the Panasonic g6 is questionable. Being part of the entry-level range, the buttons feel slightly flimsy and often have a slight delay, this is especially noticeable when I want to scroll through photos, or quickly change the aperture or shutter speed. It is not a big deal however, just takes some getting used to. I wish there was a flatter picture style for video so I could squeeze out some more dynamic range when filming. When in manual mode, there is no constant exposure preview in the viewfinder and screen, the viewfinder always displays a correctly exposed image, this is frustrating as one of the main benefits of an electronic viewfinder is to have a constant preview of the exact exposure. The eyecup of the viewfinder is also very hard and uncomfortable, and I am unable to tightly press it against my eye for stability, much better than nothing though. The 25mm f1.4 is almost perfect, but I do wish it were a bit smaller and had a reversible lens hood, with the hood attached it is quite big. Chromatic aberration is also a concern, however this is easily removed in Lightroom. When filming with the 14-140mm, I sometimes notice slight shifts out of focus for milliseconds before coming back to focus while zooming, even when in manual mode, meaning that it is not a true parfocal lens. This is usually not an issue, but frustrating at times.

Push(g6)

Squat(g6)

The Ricoh GR, for what it is, is close to perfect, however there is a risk of sensor dust attraction. After about a month, I noticed a slight speck of dust on the sensor, it is noticeable when I shoot a picture of a white wall, however it cannot be seen in most situations. It is annoying but usually not an issue. I also wish that there was a manual video mode, I know it is a camera completely designed for stills but some sort of control in video would be nice. A slightly faster maximum aperture would have been nice, I really like the surreal look of wide-angle photos with shallow depth of field, however I understand that the size of the GR would have been compromised. A pop up EVF would be amazing, I have gotten used to shooting with the screen and it is fine, even in sunny conditions, but after seeing the Sony Rx100 iii, I really wish my GR also had one. Perhaps I am asking for a bit too much here.

Backside smith grind(gr)

Lastly, for those who care, here is my homemade camera rig/handle I have mentioned a few times. It allows me to shoot much steadier video due to the extra weight, as well as to film ‘lines’ due to the top handle. Prior to this, I had the Opteka X-grip, but it felt flimsy, was too big and wasn’t really efficient. I drew a few sketches of what I wanted on paper, then purchased various parts off eBay to put it together. The camera slides in and is connected by the hotshoe screw at the top as well as the quick release plate at the bottom. The height is adjustable and the frame can extend enough to fit some entry level full frame cameras. There is no frame on the left side so my LCD screen can flip out, and I mounted my external microphone(sony ms908c) upside down on the side so the rig fits in my bag without me having to take it apart. The quick release plate is a recent addition. With the plate added, it takes about 3 seconds to take the camera on or off the rig, without it, that time lengthens to about twenty seconds. If anyone is interested in the pieces. required, I am more than happy to send you a list of parts and how to put it together. By the way, the photo of the rig itself was taken on my Ricoh GR, wide open at ISO 1600 in raw and then processed in camera with the positive film effect.

Here is my Flickr- https://www.flickr.com/photos/87200229@N04/

Instagram- http://instagram.com/t_zhangg

Youtube channel- https://www.youtube.com/user/TonyZhangsChannel

I would really appreciate it if you could view my photos follow me on instagram and flickr, I know I don’t have much content, in fact, hardly any, most of my work is kept to myself. But rest assured that I have been steadily uploading more and will continue to put out more content.

Most of you will probably have little to no interest in skateboarding, but it would mean a lot to me if you could click on my channel and watch a few videos, it would really help me out, even better if you subscribe!

Once again, many thanks to Steve and Brandon for this opportunity, as well as to all of you who have taken time out of your day to read my article. I apologise for my rambling and heavy digression into video. I really enjoyed writing up this user report, it has allowed me to thoroughly rant about my thoughts. I hope that this report has been informative or useful to some of you who may be considering the Panasonic g6 or Ricoh GR, despite all the flaws I pointed out, they are excellent cameras(Trust me, I could tear any camera to pieces). Being able to carry around so much camera gear but still have the overall weight and size of it all being fairly minimal is amazing, especially when I skate around town with everything in my backpack. However, in the end, it is not about the equipment you have, but how you use it and your creative vision. No matter how good your gear is, there is always room for its improvement. People have create amazing images with mediocre gear, so try not to be like me and go crazy about gear, instead focus on the actual process of taking photos and your final product. But let’s be honest, talking about gear is pretty fun :)

Cheers,
Tony

Filming(gr)

Frontside bluntslide(gr)

Lurk(gr)

Sunset(gr)

Jun 132014
 

Panasonic GH4 in stock now!

The latest and greatest Micro 4/3 (for video at least) is now in stock at B&H Photo at the link below. Check out the user reviews of this guy..49 five star reviews. I have not yet had a chance to test this one but will within the next few weeks. Many have been waiting for this to be in stock, so here you go..now if your chance if you are one who has been wanting a GH4. Many swear by the GH series and to some, they are hands down the best Micro 4/3 available.

You can read more about the GH4 or buy it HERE. 

 

gh4instock2

Jun 102014
 

User report on Panasonic GX7  and Panasonic 14-140 Zoom

By Cláudio Franco

Konichiwa, Steve and Brandon,

I love sushi, always read many mangas (Japanese comics), seen a lot of Japanese TV series, read stories about samurai’s, played as a ninja when I was a kid. Visiting Japan was a dream. After some years of insistence, I convinced my wife to go on vacation to the land of the morning sun. Yay! We visited Tokyo, Nikko, Kamakura, Osaka, Kyoto, Nara and Tokyo once again during a 22 days’ vacation.

When on vacation my wife takes care of the logistics (hotel, transportation, what to do, maps) and I learn the language, register the expenses, photograph the tours, and I like to think that I make sure we do what she suggests we should do. We never hire an aboriginal or a tour and in Japan, it was not different. Lonely Planet’s guides, Triposo mobile app, TripAdvisor, City Maps to Go mobile app and local maps are our source of information.

We live in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. To reach Japan we took a 14h flight to Dubai, United Emirates, had an “airport tea” for 4h, then we took another 12h flight. In total, it was a 30h trip to get to the other side of the world. Until last year, I was a Canon shooter. I had a Canon EOS 5D Mark III, Canon Speedlite 600EX-RT and some Canon f2.8 lenses (24-70mm, 70-200mm and 40mm). Due to the heavy weight (approximately 3.8kg), that was hurting my back and taking away the fun of photographing, before this trip I sold everything. After a lot of deliberation, I decided to buy a Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX7 and a Panasonic Lumix G VARIO 14-140mm f/3.5-5.6 lens.

There is not much to say about Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX7. It is a little marvel. It is sexy, has a built-in tiltable EVF that I use whenever I need a waist or lower level picture. The autofocus is one of the best in its category. The IQ is very good and the RAW files are very forgiving. I just do not like the time it takes to write the files to the memory card (mine is a Lexar Professional SDHC 32GB 400x).

Panasonic Lumix G VARIO 14-140mm f/3.5-5.6 is a very good travel lens. It covers a long focal length, it is light and small, the anti-shake system is quite effective, it is faster than most lenses of similar and shorter focal lengths and it produces satisfyingly sharp images. The autofocus is fast and almost never misses a spot. The only problems are that in low light situations, you have to use higher ISOs or lower speeds and the bokeh is not that creamy for portraiture. Panasonic GX7 does not have a 0 sec anti-shock feature so when needed I had set the timer to 1sec. This has shown to be quite effective.

Daibutsuden, Todai-ji, Nara

Lumix G Vario 14-140/f3.5-5.6 @ 34mm F4.5 1/10s ISO 200

FOTO 1

 

Ok, let us get back to the trip.

Tokyo is one of the largest cities in the world. There is an awful lot of people living there, but everything is very clean and organized. I do not know how they manage it because trashcans are a rare product to find. Due to the dry climate, they do not dry their hands after washing. So no trash cans in the restrooms either. Go figure… There are many shinto temples all over the city. The temples provides water for washing the hands and rinsing the mouth before approaching the shrine. The altar is off limits unless you are getting married there or mourning for a deceased parent whose ashes are being deposited there or something of the sort. Around every temple, you will find shops selling all kinds of religious trinkets.

To ask your favor, you should deposit a coin in a wooden box placed in front of the altar, ring a bell, bow twice, clap your hands twice, ask the favor, bow once and leave it for the next supplicant.

 The temple store, Todai-ji, Nara

Lumix G Vario 14-140/f3.5-5.6 @ 69mm F5.4 1/160s ISO 200

FOTO 2

Reading the news on 43rumors I found out that I could buy the Panasonic Leica DG Nocticron 42.5mm f/1.2 lens (a mouthful indeed) in Japan. So one night I told my wife I would like to buy it and we settled that I would go to the closest shop and try to buy it there. If they did not have the lens, I would leave it for other opportunity. I said to myself: “yeah, right”. When I got to the nearest Bic Camera, after a lot of mimic and poor English communication I found out that the lens was vanishing from the shops and that I had to go to a bigger branch to find it. So there I went to Bic Camera in Shibuya where there are the most crowded street corner of the world and the statue of Hachiko. Yodobashi did not have the lens.

 “Where do all these people come from?”, Shibuya

Lumix G Vario 14-140/f3.5-5.6 @ 28mm F4.3 1/6s ISO 200

FOTO 3

Again, after a lot of mimic the attendant told me I would find the lens only in the Bic Camera shop on the other side of the railway station. Shibuya Station is no ordinary station, it has a shopping mall with floors over and under the level of the street and many people coming and going as well. I knew crossing the station was not an easy task, we tried to do it before and it was confusing. However, this time it would be different, I was alone, I was focused, I was blessed by the divine spirits of ancient photographers.

I entered the station and started to follow the signs. Straight ahead. Left. That way. Right. Straight ahead. After what seemed like forever, I went out of the station. Hooray! I was in the same place I have entered… Oh, man… It was already late and the shop was about to close. I thought to myself that it was it. I would not buy the lens. I had failed. Therefore, there I went strolling around the block searching for another big shop to buy this elusive lens. Of course, it was nowhere to be found. When I was almost giving up, I saw the passage to the other side.

How stupid of me, it was outside the station to the right in plain sight. I was time for another try out. After neverending 5 minutes, I reached the shop where I met a laughing sales clerk that was awaiting for my arrival. He sold what was probably the last Panasonic Leica DG Nocticron 42.5mm f/1.2 of Tokyo. Mission accomplished! It was almost 10PM, I was hungry but I was happy beyond measure. The lens is awesome! It is a little heavy but nothing like a DSLR cousin. It is sharp even fully open at f1.2, has a creamy bokeh, and I love the colors it produces. I did not like it being made of metal, because it is heavier than plastic and less resistant to scratches and bumps.

 A Japanese guy studying at a Starbucks, Tokyo

Leica DG Noctitron 42.5/f1.2 @ f1.2 1/100s ISO 400

FOTO 4

From Tokyo we visited Nikko and Kamakura,then we spent a week in Osaka from where we visited both Nara and Kyoto. Except for the food, that we did not like that much, this trip was the realization of a dream.

The highlights of this trip were:

1) The Daibutsu, a huge bronze statue of Buddha at Kotoku-in Temple, in Kamakura;

2) The Todai-ji temple, in Nara, a temple listed as UNESCO World Heritage Site;

3) The wild dears living freely in the gardens and parks of Nara;

4) Seeing mount Fuji from the Shinkansen, high-speed rail line; and

5) Watching sumo wrestling tournament in Ryogoku Kokugikan.

 

Feeding the dears, Nara

Lumix G Vario 14-140/f3.5-5.6 @ 46mm f4.9 1/320s ISO 200

FOTO 5

Sumo at Ryogoku Kokugikan, Tokyo

Lumix G Vario 14-140/f3.5-5.6 @ 140mm f5.6 1/250s ISO 1600

FOTO 6

When we returned to Tokyo, Panasonic Lumix G Leica DG Summilux 15mm f/1.7 was already on sale on the shops and already fading. It would be unwise to revive another adventure searching for this grail, so I bought it on the first opportunity. The 15mm is indeed a great street photo lens, fast autofocus, very sharp, and almost no distortion, considering even though the sensor has a 2x crop factor, it is still a 15mm. The rubber lens cap is very good and easier to remove and replace than the plastic cap.

 Tokyo Station, Tokyo

Leica DG Summilux 15/f1.7 @ f1.7 1/125s ISO 800

FOTO 7

Well, that was pretty much it. If Japan were not so far away from Brazil I would consider going there more often. It was really worth it.

For more information and pictures, please go to:

http://claudiohfg.com

http://instagram.com/klaudiohfg

https://www.flickr.com/photos/claudiohfg/

https://www.facebook.com/claudiohfg

Sayonara gozaimasu!

May 292014
 

Why I Love The Panasonic 20mm 1.7

By Thomas Le Vine

Hi Steve & Brandon

I know I am not alone in this, but it truly is such an amazing lens. If you own something like an OM-D or suitable Panasonic, nothing offers better results for the money. Yes I do dream about the colour and character of Leica, the bokeh of voigtlanders or the all round perfectness of Canon’s 85mm 1.2 L series lens…but really for portability for general speed and optical quality as well as character, pleasant bokeh and detail, the 20mm 1.7 is a winner. I just shoot for fun and do as little as possible post processing in lightroom, so I am by no means an expert or a pixel peeper, so it really is just my opinion. But just to add some weight to my argument, I have attached a selection of shots I took with the E-M5 and 20mm 1.7 over the last year or so, that I feel give an idea of the range of applications this lens is capable of. Some macro, long exposure, low light, street style, portraiture and black and white.
Love the site, love the reviews and stevehuffphoto continues to be a firm favourite even while other sites lose their edge or human feel. Keep it up.

Regards from South Africa

Tom

You can see a selection of my photos here: www.tinybritishhipster.com .

A very small odd looking praying mantis (finger shot for scale)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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A very tiny gecko perched on my finger

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Stars in the Drakensberg mountains

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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‘Street Style’ at Africa Cup of Nations

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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Kids

brucey (Custom)

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And a few black and white shots

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

Apr 152014
 

A Panasonic GX7 and 20 1.7 II Update..still a great combo!

By Steve Huff

DSC_0123

Just a quick update for all of you Micro 4/3 shooters out there. As some of you know, I have been shooting with Olympus cameras for the past couple of years and LOVING them, specifically the wonderful E-M1. I also enjoyed the Panasonic GX7 when I reviewed it but for me it did not stick around because I was loving the Olympus E-M1 so much. Recently I came across a used Panasonic GX7 in black along with a 20 1.7 II lens and I have been shooting it here and there for the past two weeks. Nothing major, just enjoying it and having fun with it! The only way to be!

Snapped a quick shot of this couple on a chilly day in Sedona. The guy saw me and hammed it up but his girlfriend and dog did not :) The GX7 and 20 1.7 II combo provides very sharp results. Click the images for larger and sharper view.

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After these two weeks I have grown to really enjoy the GX7 more and more. While it is quite a but different from the E-M1 in many ways, the image quality is just as good it seems, just a bit different. The Panasonic cameras always have a different color signature and many love Olympus for the colors and many love Panasonic for the higher contrast look of the files. I find the Panasonic files seem to have more drama..more edge.

ISO 3200 with the 20 1.7 II at 1.7. I used the in camera HC B&W for this one. 

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With the 20 1.7 II, the GX7 is a perfect walk around camera. Giving you a 40mm focal length magnification it is in between the popular 35mm and 50mm that many of us get stuck choosing between. With the 20, no need to choose, just go for the 40mm!

Around 6PM in Sedona AZ – deep colors here due to the fact that I dialed in some negative exposure compensation to richen up the red rocks and blue sky. 

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The GX7 in all black is pretty slick-looking. It looks more discreet than the silver and black version and is nice and light. I have also REALLY enjoyed the swivel EVF even though I am not a huge fan of the EVF quality or size. When compared to the new Fuji X-T1 EVF the GX7 looks tiny with off colors. But it does get the job done because as I have said, it really does not matter these days as ALL cameras can take a fantastic image.

Scorpion Hunting in my backyard at 8pm. These nasty little buggers come out when it gets dark and they hide in the crevices of the block fence. At night, with a backlight in hand it is easy to see them as they start to emerge for the backyard takeover. I’d guess there are probably 20-30 out there every night and one will make it into my house ever couple of weeks. I even had one under my blankets on my side of the bed last year. The sting of the Bark Scorpion is NASTY, they are the most venomous scorpion in the USA and the only one capable of causing DEATH. So much fun huh?

The GX7 and 20 1.7 II up close and personal…ISO 12,800, YES! 12,800 – f/2.8

scorp4

Today in 2014 there are so many awesome camera choices that ANYONE can get out there and enjoy photography, even with a lower budget, while getting super high quality images. Big money is not needed for truly spectacular image quality. Even though in todays fast paced tech world, the GX7 is already outdated to many, it is still a fantastic option for those wanting a simple, small, fast and high quality solution for their imaging needs. This camera and one lens would make a great family camera for all situations. Low light, good light, video, etc.

Add on the upcoming 15 1.7 and the delicious 42.5 Nocticron and you have a killer system that can do all kinds of neat tricks :) But the 20mm 1.7 II is a gem. While not the fastest to focus it continues on with the legendary status that version one brought with it in a new shiny metal package. Overall, the GX7 is the first Panasonic I have really enjoyed since the amazing (for its time) GF1.

See the 20 1.7 II Review HERE

The black GX7 can be found at Amazon HERE

The 20 1.7 II can be found at Amazon HERE

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PLEASE! I NEED YOUR HELP TO KEEP THIS WEBSITE RUNNING, IT IS SO EASY AND FREEE for you to HELP OUT!

Hello to all! For the past 5 years I have been running this website and it has grown to beyond my wildest dreams. Some days this very website has over 200,000 visitors and because of this I need and use superfast web servers to host the site. Running this site costs quite a bit of cash every single month and on top of that, I work full-time 60+ hours a week on it each and every single day of the week (I received 200-300 emails a DAY). Because of this, I need YOUR help to cover my costs for this free information that is provided on a daily basis.

To help out it is simple. 

If you ever decide to make a purchase from B&H Photo or Amazon, for ANYTHING, even diapers..you can help me without spending a penny to do so. If you use my links to make your purchase (when you click a link here and it takes you to B&H or Amazon, that is using my links as once there you can buy anything and I will get a teeny small credit) you will in turn be helping this site to keep on going and keep on growing.

Not only do I spend money on fast hosting but I also spend it on cameras to buy to review, lenses to review, bags to review, gas and travel, and a slew of other things. You would be amazed at what it costs me just to maintain this website. Many times I give away these items in contests to help give back you all of YOU.

So all I ask is that if you find the free info on this website useful AND you ever need to make a purchase at B&H Photo or Amazon, just use the links below. You can even bookmark the Amazon link and use it anytime you buy something. It costs you nothing extra but will provide me and this site with a dollar or two to keep on trucking along.

AMAZON LINK (you can bookmark this one)

B&H PHOTO LINK – Can also use my search bar on the right side or links within reviews, anytime.

You can also follow me on Facebook, TwitterGoogle + or YouTube. ;)

Mar 312014
 

P1010125

The Panasonic Leica Nocticron 42.5 f/1.2 Lens Review & Comparison

By Steve Huff

BUY THE NOCTICRON AT AMAZON HERE

BUY THE NOCTICRON AT B&H PHOTO HERE

Hey hey! It is review time again and I have been a busy man shooting this Panasonic/Leica Nocticron lens for the past two weeks and let me tell ya, it is a serious lens my friends. It is large, it is expensive, and it is FAST with an f/1.2 aperture for those “NOCTurnal” moments.

Panasonic decided to create a “statement lens” to show that Micro 4/3 users can have some fun with shallow DOF, subject isolation and 3 Dimensional POP just as much as the APS-C guys :) The only problem is that they must have forgotten that Olympus has the 45 1.8 Lens that one can now buy for $350 or so. Yep, almost the same focal length and almost as fast in the aperture department for about $1100+ less. Oops.

But is it really an Oops? I do not think so because this Nocticron is so so so good that it beats the 45 1.8 in most ways (besides size and weight and cost). Is this Panasonic jewel $1100 better? No, but the Nocticron is a lens for those who want the best of the best..the unique draw and style, a taste of a real Noctilux and yes, the LEICA name.

Indoors, a coffee shop..I raised the Panasonic GX7, aimed, and fired. F/1.2 wide open and sharp as a tac. This Nocticron offers it all. Color, contrast, sharpness, gorgeous bokeh, build and more. Click the image below for a larger and much better view. 

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It seems that some think that Leica makes this lens. They do not. It also seems that some feel Leica supplies the glass for this lens. They do not. This is a made in Japan Panasonic lens made by Panasonic. Panasonic has a deal with Leica where they use the Leica name on certain lenses because Leica helped with the design. So in reality, Leica did help with the design but the construction is all Panasonic, made in Japan.

So does the LEICA name on the front of the lens mean that this lens at least has some of that Leica mojo and magic? Previous lenses from Panasonic with the Leica name included the now legendary 25 1.4, which has been considered as the best Micro 4/3 lens available when you want that Leica look and quality. There is also been the older 45 2.8 Macro, which was astounding in the IQ department though slow to focus. Panasonic also recently announced the new 15mm f 1.7 with the Leica name and that one looks like a 100% winner at $599. A 30mm equivalent with a fast 1.7 aperture. Yummy.

After using this lens extensively I would say that YES, it does indeed have a little of that Leica look, feel and rendering..or as I call it “MoJo”. I will go a bit farther and say that this is an overall better lens that the old Leica F/1 Noctilux that sells for $6500 or so used.

Olympus E-M1 with Panasonic Nocticron at f/1.2 – IMO, nothing beats Olympus colors.

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So if we look at pricing..the “PanaLeica” 25mm 1.4 is around $529. The 45 2.8 comes in at $719. The new 17 1.7 will be $599.

So why is this Nocticron nearly $1600?

Well, the real answer is because it is a costly design AND an amazing performing lens and as I said earlier, a Statement piece from Panasonic. Panasonic will not sell loads of these due to the cost and the fact that it is really a specialty lens. So they can not spend millions to design and create it only to sell it for $500! Even the old 45 2.8 is $720, for an f/2.8! This Nocticron is not or in any way a $500 lens. In fact, when I first saw it and held it it reminded me of the real deal, the $11,000 Leica Noctilux f/0.95. It has the same design on the outside. In that regard it has some “Noctilux” character to it. The Leica is $11,000 for a 50mm f/0.95 and that lens is a tour de force of optical magic. Is it worth $11,000? No. But it sells well at that cost for Leica because there is nothing like it, at all. It is one of a kind and sharp even at 0.95 with a creamy Bokeh that melts into the frame.

The Panasonic is $1600, or $9400 less than the Leica Noctilux! While the Panasonic is NOT a Leica Noctilux it does indeed offer some of the flavor of that big money lens, for MUCH less money..MUCH less. I will state right up front that the Panasonic Nocticron has the best Bokeh I have seen next to the real deal. It competes and compares with the Leica Noctilux in this area 100%. The Bokeh is amazingly creamy, dreamy and NOT headache inducing like some lenses. Many exotic lenses fall short in this area..the out of focus background areas. Not this lens!

This is also the area where the 45 1.8 falls a bit short as the Bokeh can get busy and neurotic during certain scenes. The Panasonic has gorgeous Bokeh quality above and beyond any Micro 4/3 lens I have seen to date. In fact, I will call it the “Bokeh Master” of the Micro 4/3 world.

E-M1 and Nocticron at f/1.2 – click it for larger

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Is smooth and creamy background blur worth $1600? No, not really but in this review I will be taking a look at this lens as a whole from build, to O.I.S., to AF speed to sharpness at all apertures, bokeh and a comparison with the Olympus 45 1.8 and Voigtlander 42.5 f/0.95 (that comes in at $1000 but is manual focus only). Then I will decide if as a whole “is this lens worth $1600″?

I have used this lens exclusively for the past two weeks and what you will read below is my experience with it in all aspects. If you do not want to read the full review let me just say that after my time with the lens I bought one for myself from Amazon right HERE. Yep. I found it is just as special as the real Leica Noctilux (in a Micro 4/3 kind of way) and offered me more character, more pop, better contrast,  and much nicer Bokeh than the $350 Olympus (which I also own). I guess that answered my question of “is it worth it” pretty quickly! I will get more into why I bought one of these expensive lenses when I already own the $350 marvel in the conclusion of the review :)

The Nocticron Arrives

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I originally rented this lens because I did not want to buy one to review it. I figured I would rent it for a week or two, use it, review it and say “Buy the Olympus 45″ and be done with it. But as it went, I was wrong. When the lens rental arrived I pulled it out of a case only to say “wow, this LOOKs like the Noctilux”! It is not built like the Leica Noctilux, not even close…but it does resemble it. It is much lighter than the Noctilux as well. Still, this lens looks and feels mighty impressive for a Micro 4/3 lens. I instantly knew that this was the best built AF lens for the system, hands down. While all Olympus primes are built nicely and feel like little light jewels, this Panasonic is more of a brute..a serious light gathering machine..more importantly “An Artist’s Tool”.

Olympus E-M1 and Nocticron at 1.2 – ISO 12,800

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I say “An Artist’s Tool” because this lens has that capability, that extra something that is lacking in most lenses to call it just that. The rendering when wide open, at the right distance from your subject gives you the 3Dimensional Pop (not as much as an f/1.2 lens in full frame) as well as the color and contrast characteristics of high end lenses. The Micro Contrast is also very good here, among the best I have seen with Micro 4/3 (Olympus 75 1.8) and the Bokeh is phenomenal.

But before I go on and on about the qualities of this lens, let me start by talking about the specs:

Focal Length 42.5mm – Comparable 35mm Focal Length: 85 mm (classic portrait lens)

Aperture Maximum: f/1.2 – 16.0 (starting at a super fast f/1.2 this gives us true light gathering of an f/1.2 lens, so for night this is #1 in M4/3)

Camera Mount Type Micro Four Thirds

Minimum Focus Distance 1.64′ (.5 m) (pretty close min focus, Leica Noctilus has a 1 meter min distance)

Elements/Groups 14/11 – (14 elements, 11 groups)

Diaphragm Blades 9 (for better and smoother Bokeh. The Fuji 56 1.2 has 7 blades)

Image Stabilization Yes – (built in O.I.S. which is what makes it so large)

Autofocus Yes

Filter Thread 67 mm

Weight 14.99 oz (425 g)  -(Leica Noctilux is 700 grams)

Additionally, there is an Extra-low Dispersion element that increases contrast and sharpness and an Ultra High Refractive Index element allows for a uniform look to the edges of the frame.

The above specs are impressive for this lens no doubt and one of the most controversial will be the f/1.2 aperture. Micro 4/3 hater and naysayers always are quick to point out that an f/1.2 lens in Micro 4/3 is like having an f/2.4 lens in full frame. Well, this is not true. FOR LIGHT GATHERING AND LOW LIGHT USE, this is a true F/1.2 lens. Period. For DEPTH OF FIELD it is more like a 90mm f/2.5 lens. Something like the $1800 Leica 90 f/2.5 Summarit but with a closer minimum focus distance and true f/1.2 light gathering ability and for less money. :)

The lens breakdown…

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The key to this lens is that you are getting pure state of the art performance for your Micro 4/3 camera and yes, Micro 4/3 is a legitimate format that is used by pros, enthusiasts, amateurs and every day camera Joe’s. The performance of the latest M 4/3 camera bodies (specifically from Olympus) is up there with any APS-C, and as I have reported about before, in some areas they are better. Cameras like the E-M1 are a whirlwind of performance in every way. I also feel, after using everything out there, that Micro 4/3 offers the BEST quality lenses for any mirror less camera system (besides Leica M). They are that good in build, speed, and IQ.

These Leica/Panasonic lenses take it up another notch when it comes to color, contrast, micro-contrast and overall IQ.

Was in my kitchen table at night, Brandon was in front of me and I called his name and fired. The E-M1 was at ISO 800, lens was at f/1.2. CLICK it for larger and sharper.

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This lens will work for portraits..

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or even candid street moments..

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Bokeh is smooth and free of the nasties, even in a bokeh torture test condition like the one below  – click for larger. E-M1

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Yes this lens works well with Olympus or Panasonic bodies

This lens works with the Olympus Micro 4/3 bodies just as well as it does with the Panasonic bodies. Yes, I have been shooting a GX7 and E-M1 side by side and I get consistent results with the E-M1 in regards to color and lower noise. The GX7 files have SLIGHTLY more noise (RAW, without NR) even at base ISO and I prefer the color rendering, build, and quick menu of the Oly system. But the GX7 produces IQ almost the same as the E-M1 with some color differences but the build is of a lower standard with the Panasonic GX7 vs the E-P5 or E-M1.

It is a fact! The Olympus bodies are built so so well. The E-P5 feels like a solid brick of metal with quality switches and dials. The GX7 feels plastic with lower quality dials and levers.

But with that said, the lens works well on either camera and on Panasonic bodies you will be able to use the manual aperture dial. On Olympus bodies the Aperture ring is useless and can not be used so you just use the normal aperture thumb dial on the E-M1. It is a give and take I guess.

The manual aperture dial reminds me of quality Leica M glass, much like the real $11k Noctilux (which I have owned long term in the past). 

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So wether you have an Olympus OM-D or PEN this lens works wonderfully. If you have a Panasonic you get the Aperture dial function.

Inside of a restaurant at f/1.2 – Olympus E-M1

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Built in OPTICAL IMAGE STABILISATION

The Panasonic Nocticron has O.I.S. built in, so for all of you Panasonic body shooters this is very important and useful. For Olympus shooters that have one of the 3 or 5 Axis IS bodies then you will want to use the in body 3 or 5 Axis over the lens O.I.S. as the Olympus IS system beats the lens O.I.S. hands down. I have said it before and I will say it again, there is NOTHING like the 5 Axis IS of the Olympus bodies, nothing. The few who put it down just do not shoot Olympus and prefer Panasonic but the real story is that the 5 and 3 Axis IS systems of the Olympus bodies is revolutionary and offers HUGE benefits, even for video use.

Below is a snippet where I tested the built in O.I.S. of the lens vs the Olympus E-M1’s 5-Axis IS – same shutter speed but the 5Axis provided a clear image vs the lens OIS blur.

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So having the OIS in the lens is good for those who shoot without a body that has the advanced IS built in. On the GX7 this is mandatory to have in a lens like this so it is good that Olympus packed it in, they really had no choice.

A Closer Look

Below is a comparison between the amazing little Olympus 45 1.8 that comes in at around $350 as well as the Voigtlander 42.5 f/0.95. It seems I had an issue focusing the Voigtlander on the Panasonic GX7 due to the small EVF. When the 42.5 Voigtlander is focused correctly it is razor sharp, even wide open, in the center of the frame. See my review HERE. 

1st up, YOU MUST click on the images below to see them correctly. 

The Nocticron is 1st at f/1.6, then the Olympus at 1.8 and then the Voigtlander (slightly mis-focused, sorry!)  The Olympus has more magnification going from 85mm to 90mm and is quite good for a $350 lens! The Olympus offers more of a “telephoto” look with more compression..flatter. The Nocticron offers a gentler more 3D rendering similar to a real Leica lens.

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Below is a more visible example of the difference between the Nocticron rendering and the Olympus 45 1.8.

Click the images for correct and larger versions..

The 1st image below was shot with the Noctiron and GX7 at f/1.2, wide open. Here you can see the 3D pop between the subject and the background. There is a clear distinction between Debby and the background, with a superb fall off from in focus to out. This is the hallmark of a good lens IMO. 

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Below is the Olympus 45 1.8 and when you click and view this side by side with the Nocticron you can see the differences. To some, you may not even see it. To others it will be huge and to some it will be slight. The 45 rendered the image in a duller way from color to a flatter look. As good as the 45 1.8 is, it does not approach the Nocticron, which is one reason why the Noct is so expensive. 

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And now and image from over a year ago in the same spot taken with the Leica Noctilux at f/0.95 on an M 240. This is the most 3D of them all but it should be considering the combo of lens and body will run you about $18,000. :)

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Full Size Files and a crop

I am finding the Nocticron to be sharp even wide open but at the same time it is not clinical in any way. It is more organic and flowing, much like the original F/1 Noctilux from Leica. It has a certain character to it wide open that I like, a lot. Below are two full size files, one wide open at f/1.2 and one that should have been f/4 but the EXIF reads at f/3.2

Thanks to “Baby” my little Chihuahua we rescued for being extremely still while modeling :)

1st up, wide open at f/1.2. Right click image and open in new tab or window for full size from RAW

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again, right click and open in new tab or window for full size at f/3.2

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The lens is RAZOR sharp wide open and gets sharper as it is stopped down. I actually love the lens at f/4 as well as f/1.2. It is an all around great performer and for this focal length, the ultimate lens for Micro 4/3. HERE IS ONE MORE wide open at f/1.2 – look at the sharpness, color, detail and Bokeh. Amazing..

CLICK IT for larger and better version – the way it was meant to be seen..AMAZING detail at f/1.2, superb color and Bokeh. This was shot with the GX7. THIS simple test shot reveals why this lens is so special. Bokeh gets an A, sharpness gets an A+, color gets an A, 3D pop gets an A. 

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Distortions

While shooting this lens in real word scenarios I never saw any kind of distortion or had an issue with CA. I do not do scientific tests nor do I shoot white walls looking for vignetting, because if I do not see an issue while using the lens for what it was designed to do (take photos) then I do not see a problem. When shooting the Panasonic Nocticron I had no issues with Vignetting or Distortion. Period. The lens does have slight vignetting wide open though but so does the Noctilux f/1 and 0.95.

The one shot that slightly missed focus but this so reminds me of the Leica Noctilux F/1 Rendering! I love it.

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AF Speed

The Af speed of the lens is VERY quick in good light and slows down in low light but it always locks on and the only time it missed for me is in the above shot of the dog but I think it was trying to focus on the dirty glass instead of the dog, so maybe it did NOT miss. AF speed was a TAD faster on the E-M1 vs the GX7 but both were comparable.

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VIDEO USE

This lens SHOULD be a video shooters dream. I have yet to shoot video with this guy but plan on it soon and when I do I will post a sample video right here :) So check back in a week or two!

Bottom Line Conclusion

So is this lens worth $1600? THAT is the question, especially when we have lenses like the Olympus 45 1.8 which is similar in focal length and slightly slower in aperture speed for $350. The Olympus is also MUCH smaller and MUCH lighter and slightly faster to AF. So wouldn’t the Olympus be the “No Brainer” decision? Why yes, it would.

BUT! If you are like me, and DO notice those small differences such as contrast, color, bokeh quality and rendering then you might want to take a serious look at this Nocticron. The Panasonic/Leica lenses have all been SUPERB. The 25 1.4, the 45 2.8 and now the Nocticron all use a Leica design and in the case of this Nocticron, more exotic glass than a normal Panasonic lens. When good glass is used you can tell and this lens has a way of lighting up a scene just like a real Noctilux does.

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Sometimes a lens comes along that is special. This is one of those lenses. It has it all built into one monster shell, though it still comes in smaller in size and lighter in weight than a comparable full frame lens. Built in O.I.S., great sharpness and rendering at f/1.2 AND Auto Focus, something that the Voigtlander lenses are missing and those lenses can be tricky on a smaller EVF camera like the GX7. I am thrilled that Panasonic created this lens.

Many will argue that this is not an F/1.2 lens, but it is indeed a true f/1.2 aperture lens. I will repeat: THIS IS A TRUE 42.5MM f/1.2 LENS.

Yo will get f/1.2 light gathering capability. You will be able to shoot at f/1.2 in the dark and you will be using a true f/1.2 aperture with 1.2 light gathering ability. THIS is what an f/1.2 lens is made for..low light and in that regards the Nocticron is true to its name..NOCTURNAL.

The image below was shot on the E-M1 at ISO 10,000 at f/1.2. It was inside my house at night with barely ANY light at all. ZERO noise reduction. Reminds me of something that would have come out of the Leica Monochrom! Good lenses can make all of the difference in the world. 

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So if you shoot Micro 4/3, Olympus or Panasonic, and you want a fast portrait length prime that offers a bit of EVERYTHING such as fast aperture, delicious bokeh, amazing sharpness and detail/micro-contrast which also happens to shoot great video then PUT THIS LENS ON YOUR LIST. Yes, it is $1600 and yes it is expensive but this lens will hold value over the long-term, moreso than a standard M 4/3 lens.

Micro 4/3 has come a long long way since the early days and today it offers astounding IQ, fast speed, the best built mirror less bodies as well as the fastest and the best collection of glass out of any mirror less system. From wide to tele and macro, there is nothing that a Micro 4/3 system can not do. Olympus and Panasonic are rocking it big time and this lens just solidifies the fact that Micro 4/3 will NOT go away despite the doom and gloom of some large sensor fans. Many have asked me about the new Fuji 56 1.2, which is also a fast portrait prime for the X system. I have NOT tried the Fuji yet but HAVE handled it. The build of the Panasonic is better. I have seen numerous shots from the Fuji and they look gorgeous as well but no OIS in the lens OR body for Fuji. Also, the Bokeh from the Fuji is a little on the busy side in comparison.

If a man came up to me and said pick one and keep it..for free. Either a Fuji X-T1 and 56 1.2 or an Olympus PEN E-P5  with finder and the Nocticron, I would not hesitate for a nano-second. It would be the PEN and Nocticron. Easy choice for me. Still, Fuji is another company that seems to “get it” when it comes to releasing what many of us enthusiasts want. I say, keep ‘em coming!

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I feel that the Panasonic Nocticron 42.5 f/1.2 lens is the best built AF lens for the Micro 4/3 system. Period. It is also the fastest aperture AF prime for the system. It is a true “Noct” lens in its rendering and style and deserves to be up there with other well-known “Noct” lenses that cost MUCH more than this one does. For me, I had to own one so I bought one after shooting the review sample for 2 weeks, so that may say something right there.

In regards to the 45 1.8 which I also own, I bought the Noct as it inspires me more to go out and shoot with it. It offers am ore creamy and organic rendering over the 45 1.8, better color and contrast and is more of an Artists tool than a lens. I am a sucker for fast glass and I did not believe for a nanosecond that I would spurge and purchase this lens, but it is that good. It has more Leica than Panasonic it seems, and that is a good thing as you can not get a real Leica lens for less than a few grand new (50 Summilux f/1.4 is $4300). This is why I purchased one for myself.

So I highly recommend this lens for any and all Micro 4/3 shooters who WANT and DESIRE a lens such as this.

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WHERE TO BUY THE NOCTICRON!

You can buy the Nocticron using the direct links below to Amazon or B&H Photo. Using these links will help me to keep this site going and costs you NOTHING extra so if this review helped your decision, I thank you for using the links below!

BUY THE NOCTICRON AT AMAZON HERE

BUY THE NOCTICRON AT B&H PHOTO HERE

More samples from the Nocticron!

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PLEASE! I NEED YOUR HELP TO KEEP THIS WEBSITE RUNNING, IT IS SO EASY AND FREEE for you to HELP OUT!

Hello to all! For the past 5 years I have been running this website and it has grown to beyond my wildest dreams. Some days this very website has over 200,000 visitors and because of this I need and use superfast web servers to host the site. Running this site costs quite a bit of cash every single month and on top of that, I work full-time 60+ hours a week on it each and every single day of the week (I received 200-300 emails a DAY). Because of this, I need YOUR help to cover my costs for this free information that is provided on a daily basis.

To help out it is simple. 

If you ever decide to make a purchase from B&H Photo or Amazon, for ANYTHING, even diapers..you can help me without spending a penny to do so. If you use my links to make your purchase (when you click a link here and it takes you to B&H or Amazon, that is using my links as once there you can buy anything and I will get a teeny small credit) you will in turn be helping this site to keep on going and keep on growing.

Not only do I spend money on fast hosting but I also spend it on cameras to buy to review, lenses to review, bags to review, gas and travel, and a slew of other things. You would be amazed at what it costs me just to maintain this website. Many times I give away these items in contests to help give back you all of YOU.

So all I ask is that if you find the free info on this website useful AND you ever need to make a purchase at B&H Photo or Amazon, just use the links below. You can even bookmark the Amazon link and use it anytime you buy something. It costs you nothing extra but will provide me and this site with a dollar or two to keep on trucking along.

AMAZON LINK (you can bookmark this one)

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Mar 242014
 

The new Panasonic 15mm 1.7 available for Pre-Order!

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Panasonic is kicking some serious behind in lenses lately. I have been shooting with the new Panasonic/Leica 42.5 f/1.2 Nocticron and it is one of the best lenses I have ever shot with, on any format. Sharp wide open, creamy Bokeh and a sort of Noctilux style rendering, but on M 4/3. It also resembles the $11k Noctilux in design though not nearly as hefty as the Leica counterpart. The Nocticron is a special lens for Micro 4/3 users and even has a manual aperture ring (but this is not usable on Olympus bodies which control aperture with the dial).

In fact, the Nocticron is so good that I am 90% sure I am going to purchase one even though the price is sky-high.

Add to that the new Panasonic/Leica 15mm f1.7 which also has a manual aperture ring and uses a 46mm filter size. This is a duo that will give you a 30mm and 85mm focal length equivalent for your Micro 4/3 body while giving you pro quality color, contrast, detail and bokeh.

The new 15 1.7 comes in at $599 and is available for pre-order NOW in Black or Silver at B&H Photo. It is also available HERE at Amazon. 

The Nocticron is available NOW for $1598 – EXPENSIVE YES but $9500 cheaper than a Leica Noctilux and 85% as good :)  Amazon also sells the Nocticron and it is IN STOCK. 

I am reviewing and using the Nocticron now on an E-M1 and will post my review soon (but it is a light sucker and rocks at night just like the real Noctilux). The 15 will be shipped to me at release for review so will get on that one as soon as I get it! I am telling you..Micro 4/3 just keeps getting better and better for those who are in the system. Pretty exciting stuff IMO as it is the lenses that make the system and no one beats M 4/3 for lenses in the mirror less world.

With these new Leica partnered lenses…makes me wonder if the new and rumored “Leica T” will be a Micro 4/3 body. I HOPE SO. I would much prefer it to be M 4.3  than a new lens mount APS-C. Using a Nocticron and 15 1.7 on a new Leica mirrorless…could be interesting.

Mar 182014
 

Having Fun with a GX7 in Bangalore, India

By Keith Lewis

My name is Keith Lewis. I am an expat Brit engineer living in Bangalore, India, for almost two years and I prior to that for almost three years in KL, Malaysia. About 3 months ago I came across your great website whilst looking for a review of the Lumix GX7. I really liked the style and content of the site, particularly the Daily Inspiration contributions, and the site is now a highly anticipated part of my daily reading. I am pretty much a novice photographer who has spent much of his life taking a combination of family, travel and sports “snap-shots”. It is only in the last few weeks that I have started taking my photography more seriously, and much of this interest has been inspired by the contributions of many on the website. The site has also motivated me to share some real user experience with the Lumix GX7 and to give the readers some insight into the contrasts of life in my immediate Bangalore neighbourhood. All the photos in this review are JPEG straight from the camera with no PP.

Before I jump into my GX7 review, a little about my camera history and expectations which steered me to the Lumix system. I love travel, outdoor activities and sports. Camera size matters to me because many airlines now have a cabin bag limit of 7kg; therefore, I want to travel with as little gear as possible. Back in college days (more than 35 years ago) I travelled with a little Rollei 35 which I loved. The only SLR I have ever owned was a Pentax ME Super with several lenses; my son loves film photography and is still using these lenses with a fully manual Pentax K camera; he prefers this kit over his Nikon DSLR. I was a very early adopter of digital media and acquired the first commercial Olympus digital pocket camera (1.3 MP) in about 1998. Over the next few years I progressively upgraded through a series of mid-range and rugged pocket digital cameras from Sony, Olympus and even Casio, all of which served my wife and I well on many ski trips, fishing adventures, hikes and camps plus the usual birthdays and family get togethers. I shied away from the DSLRs because of size, not price. I finally upgraded to a “real camera”, the Lumix GF2, on a whim whilst killing time in Singapore airport. With the GF2 purchase I acquired the Panasonic 14mm 2.8 pancake lens, 14-42 mm zoom and I added a 45-200mm zoom to give me the opportunity to do some sports and wildlife photography. Overall the GF2 has met my needs and expectations, particularly to stay compact but with good quality. I have many memorable pictures with this set-up that has travelled with me around SE Asia, Europe and the USA. My major issue with the GF2 is poor low light performance, lousy flash synchronisation and no view-finder. I tried the add on EVF but was very disappointed with the quality, and it seemed poor value.

Whilst in Malaysia last Christmas I was shopping for the Panasonic 20mm F.17 lens to use with the Lumix GF2. I was struggling to find the lens in the many KL Photo and Camera stores when an enterprising salesman introduced me to the “new” GX7 with the 20mm lens as a kit. Frankly I wasn’t really looking for a camera upgrade and I was not even aware of the GX7 because I was relatively happy with the convenience and performance of the GF2. I didn’t jump straight in, being from Yorkshire (notoriously tight with their money) and a very methodical type, I went searching on the internet for a GX7 review and that’s how I first found the Steve Huff site. I really enjoyed the style and enthusiasm of his reviews (especially the GX7 crazy comparison) and this convinced me to go back and take another look at the GX7. After a bit more KL shopping I found a great deal on the silver and black GX7 with the silver 20mm lens. Hot-tip: Malaysia is a very competitive and service orientated location to get photo equipment up to the highest specifications with no sales taxes to pay. I got a much better deal in the high-end KLCC mall (below the famous twin towers) than I could get at any of the “Discount” locations! Unfortunately there was a problem with the EVF on the first camera; I returned it to the store next day (which was Christmas Day) and they immediately replaced it and issued a new warranty card.

Now for the review proper: I really like the GX7 and it has ignited an ambition to become a better photographer and to take much more time and care with composition but at the same time I like to take very quick and spontaneous street shots. The feel and the balance of the GX7 is great. For me it has just the right combination of high quality mechanical controls for mode, MF/AF, aperture, shutter speed and exposure combined with the highly responsive and intuitive touch screen menu options. Having the manual controls has made me want to experiment much more with the camera than my experience with the GF2. The EVF is very bright and the amount of information available is amazing and easy to see. I like using the combination of the EVF and the touch screen i.e., you can set the touch screen to show the camera settings whilst framing the photo with the EVF. This combination allows you to easily access the menu to adjust settings. My one gripe with the EVF, which has been noted by Steve and others, is the white balance is a bit off; however, I have learned to ignore this and generally trust the camera settings for colour. My one IQ gripe with the camera is that in the very bright and intense afternoon sun we often experience in Bangalore the 20mm lens at F1.7 tends to over-expose. I now find myself making exposure corrections and/or stopping the lens down manually when shooting in sunlight. The ISO range of the GX7 is incredible, combined with the in-body stabilisation, means that indoor shots and low light shots are now a breeze. The resulting pictures are impressive, sharp with little noticeable noise/grain until I blow them up full screen on my 27″ iMac screen.

Most of the street photos in this article were taken from the hip (touch screen trigger) with the iA+ (intelligent auto-plus) settings which seems to give very consistent results. I have experimented with most of the other settings and my personal favourites include the in-camera BW options which can produce excellent results with having to do PP conversions. iA+ on the GX7 is much better than the iA setting on the GF2. I find the auto-focus and metering to be very accurate. My favourite lens is the 20mm F1.7 which is quite the brightest and sharpest lens I have ever used.

I have tried many of the features on the GX7, all seem to work as expected, including the WiFi connection and control via iPad – this is a very useful feature if you are using a tripod and want a remote trigger. It is also a great way to quickly review your photos whilst they are still in the camera. However, the WiFi eats battery life very quickly. I have yet to make a reliable WiFi connection to the iMac either direct or via the network. The menu doesn’t seem to be able to manage the fact that I have multiple users with different file directories – I have pretty much give-up on this.

Now for some photo examples. My local neighbourhood is such a contrast of absolute poverty to very high-end expat and Indian living. I often walk the neighbourhood at different times of the day looking for a different perspective and photo opportunities. It has been difficult to choose just a few photos to show this contrast:

 Hoodi Village Street with 5 Leg Cow: 20 mm, F 5.0, 1/1000, ISO 200

P1040391

 Local fishmonger: 20 mm, F 1.7, 1/125, ISO 200

P1040405

Tea Lady works this stall 12 hours/day: 20 mm, F 1.7, 1/60, ISO 400 (flash fill)

P1040347

Water is delivered many times a day: 20mm, F 1.7, 1/60, ISO 250

P1040362 2

Cows Lake Grazing: 20 mm, F 5.0, 1/1000, ISO 200

P1040466

Typical Construction Workers Camp: 20 mm, F 4.5, 1/800, ISO 200

P1040613

Community Pool: 45 mm (zoom), F 4.0, 1/500, ISO 200

P1040440

 Cricket is everything to these kids: 20 mm, F 3.5, 1/500, ISO 200

P1040592

Summary

GX7 Likes:

Look, feel and balance.

Overall IQ (especially with the 20 mm lens), and range of conditions including high ISO/low light performance

Great practical mix between manual controls and the touch screen menus (I am already very used to the Lumix touch screen controls and menu)

EVF – white balance is a bit frustrating BUT EVF articulation is a great and very practical

Excellent touch screen – can be tilted 90 degrees for very discrete street shots with a touch of the screen to trigger

Manual focus – once I got used to focus peaking

Wireless connectivity to ipad – I have used this feature for night shots using a tripod

B&W settings – they give really great results!

iA+ auto setting gives very reliable results, no fuss and my wife is happy to use it!

GX7 Niggles:

EVF white balance

Protruding eye piece catches your side when carrying (You can articulate up to avoid this but is looks a bit strange)

Cover to access connections requires the screen to be moved out to open it – quite frustrating

WiFi rapidly east battery life

GX7 Wishes:

I would like it smaller with same performance!

Weather proofing – not sure I would risk it on a fishing or ski trip

 GX7 Still to Try:

Need to do more with the video. With an upcoming wedding I plan to do a lot more of this

I plan to purchase the 45 mm Pana/Leica, or equivalent Olympus lens, and relegate the kit zoom to the GF2 body

Very little experience with the flash since the indoor performance is so good

Thanks again for a great site.

Regards, Keith Lewis

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