Feb 232015
 

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MIRRORLESS BATTLE! Micro 4/3 vs APS-C vs Full Frame!

E-M1, X-T1, A7s – 8 side by side tests

This was a blast to do, and shows the STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES of Micro 4/3, APS-C and Full Frame cameras, specifically the E-M1, X-T1 and A7s. Even I was surprised at some of these results and I did each test fair and square according to my rules below, which have been my comparison rules for seven years because it shows REAL WORLD shooting (not nonsense that no one does when shooting an not pro studio or lit images from a shooter who is sponsored by a camera company). This is as close as I will ever get to a “scientific test” while keeping it “real world”, and yes, it is what it is. Even so, whatever camera “loses” this test will have the fans of that brand attacking me, no matter which one loses. Should be entertaining in that regard as well. :)

Images and test descriptions will speak for themselves. Just how much difference is there between Micro 4/3,  APS-C and Full Frame when using the same or equivalent focal length? Sharpness, IS, color, detail, B&W conversions and more are tested here. 

  • I let each camera choose exposure. 
  • I am using the E-M1, X-T1 and A7s for this test so take it as just that. 
  • I set the aperture on each camera to match DOF of the smaller sensors the best I could for some tests.
  • For one test I will use each lens wide open to show DOF differences.
  • I shot each camera in the same way for each test, either hand-held or tripod.
  • ALL images are converted straight from RAW, WYSIWYG
  • Used the 25 1.4 on the E-M1, 35 1.4 on the Fuji and 55 1.8 on the Sony
  • I will pick my personal preference winner after each test based on the test itself. Score will be tallied at the end. These will be my preferences and may not be yours, which is OK. 
  • I used Adobe Camera RAW for ALL conversions which is what 95% of us use for our RAW files. No jumping through hoops to help any brand.
  • Was going to use A7II but it has many more MP and I had loaned it out to a friend for a few days so I did not have it. The A7s is the Sony Flagship in the A7 line, and is closest in MP to the Olympus and Fuji.
  • As this is a test of cameras in real world use, I let cameras choose exposure and used AWB so we can see what to expect in the real world. When we go out to shoot these cameras 95% of us use them in this way..auto exposure and auto white balance. So what you see here is what you can expect to get from each systems flagship camera. For detail shots all cameras were set to same ISO and Aperture. 

With all of that out-of-the-way, remember that the tests here are all dependent on lenses used. Some lenses on some systems will render differently when it comes to sharpness, color, bokeh, etc. I used a well-regarded lens for each system, lenses that have had rave reviews. OLY: 25 1.4 Panaleica. FUJI – 35 1.4 Fuji. SONY – 55 1.8 Zeiss.

Hand held test at 1/60th s. and basic overall IQ.

My pick for best IQ here at 1/60th is the Olympus E-M1 for sharpness and color. Right click on each image and open in a new tab or window for full size files.

The reason the E-M1 did so well and WON the 1st test below? The 5 Axis IS kept it steady letting me shoot in lower light at a minimal ISO. The other two bumped ISO but also were stopped down a little more. ALL were at 1/60th S. If each image was sharp, it would almost be a wash here and would have to go by color preferences. I still prefer the E-M1 color here as well but what is important is it shows how useful the 5 Axis can be, even for 1/60th s.

YOU MUST CLICK IMAGES FOR LARGER AND CORRECT VERSIONS

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Tripod Test Stopped Down for DETAIL – Same aperture on each camera.

The winner to my eyes is Olympus yet again.

Here I stopped down each lens to F/4. NO, I did not stop down the larger sensors more as this is in no way a DOF test, it is a detail test and each lens should be at the same aperture to be 100% fair. So the Olympus E-M1 and 25 1.4 was set to F/4, the Fuji X-T1 and 35 1.4 was set to f/4 and the Sony A7s and 55 1.8 was set to f/4. All were ISO 200, all were shot from a tripod that was in the same exact position for each camera.

YOU MUST CLICK THE IMAGES TO SEE THE LARGER VERSIONS AS  TRUE 100% LARGE CROPS

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SMALLER CROPS 

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Each Lens Wide Open – A Shallow DOF Test

For me, there is no substitute for Full Frame if you want shallow DOF, but some will prefer a little bit of a larger DOF that you get from Micro 4/3 or APS-C. The reason being is that with the Olympus, you can still get some shallow DOF but you image will be sharper with more detail in most cases, if using a good lens. Same with APS-C in most cases. With full frame you can miss focus easily due to the shallow DOF. BUT if you nail it with FF the results are indisputable. For this reason, I choose the SONY as the winner here as it has the most capability for SHALLOW DOF or LARGE DOF and  this is a shallow DOF test :)

 BTW, the most detail at 100% came from the E-M1 but for shallow DOF, nothing beats full frame. The differences you see are from the lens focal length, not the sensor. The wider the less the larger the DOF (less blur), the longer the lens the more shallow DOF (more blur). Olympus used a 25mm, Fuji a 35mm and the Sony a 55mm. All give the same equivalent field of view but each lens has an effect on Depth of Field which is why you see a more shallow DOF on the Sony. As you can see, the difference between the DOF with the APS-C Fuji and Olympus are actually slight. Nothing to stress over.

YOU MUST CLICK IMAGES FOR LARGER AND CORRECT VERSIONS

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B&W Conversion Test

I did a crazy comparison test once showing how the E-M1 could replicate the Leica Monochrom to some extent, when it came to tonality (not detail) so how will this test go for B&W conversion between these three powerhouse cameras? For this test I shot in color and then converted to B&W using the same exact Alien Skin B&W filter for each file. Many claim Fuji has an amazing capability for B&W conversion, above other standard cameras. I never noticed this at all, so  let’s see how that holds up…

CLICK EACH IMAGE TO SEE IT CORRECTLY! 

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For me, and my tastes, I prefer the Olympus rendering the most. To me, it resembles the Leica Monochrom more than the others, and that is a camera I consider to be the best B&W camera ever made (next to film of course). In fact, this E-M1 file looks eerily similar to a Monochom file. There seems to be more grayish tones and more black details which is preferred, especially for post processing. The Fuji is 2nd place for my tastes and the Sony 3rd but they look the same as any camera B&W conversion. For the most grey tones, the Olympus somehow gets it.  You can see more details when clicking on the images for larger sizes (as long as you are not viewing on a phone).

But let us see another B&W example…CLICK THEM TO SEE THEM CORRECTLY!

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Again, here I slightly prefer the Olympus but ALL are great. I see none here that are a huge step above the others though the Olympus has the most detail yet again. Interesting huh?

SCORE SO FAR: So far we have Olympus with 2, Sony with 1 and Fuji with 0. Let’s keep on moving.

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Color Test

Just to show how each camera renders colors. These are all from RAW so any in camera color choice will not come into play.  Shot outdoors in natural direct light to give all cameras the best chance at showing their stuff. This will be 100% personal preference as what I like in color you may not. I did three color shots and chose three different winners, so this one is a draw as color can be quite good from all of these cameras.

The 1st sample is for color accuracy only. After looking at the crayons with my own eyes and looking at these images I feel the Sony comes closest to reality, with Olympus being 2nd and Fuji 3rd. 100% crops are embedded when you click on the image for a larger view. 

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Another color test and this one was between the Fuji and Olympus with the edge for me going to the Fuji. I feel Olympus is equally as good but the Fuji shot has a teeny bit more something that I like. Either are superb. The sony has a yellow cast here so it gets last place. 

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Finally another color shot in beautiful morning light. My grass, up close. ;) This time I much preferred the Olympus shot with the color, the light and the highlights all working for me. Then the Fuji. The Sony here is a bit dull but that is only in direct comparison. Many may prefer the Fuji or Sony here.  All from RAW. There is no “winner” – just preference. 

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Portrait Test

Many of us love portraits, so how will each camera do with a basic portrait? Let us see which YOU prefer. I prefer the Olympus as the Sony AWB really screwed the pooch creating a much too cool image. The Fuji is a bit overdone with color and INCORRECT color IMO while the Olympus strikes a balance that is most pleasing to me. This was just a simple indoor natural light test shot and nothing more. I am not a huge fan of the rendering of any of these to be honest as it was a quick indoor portrait with no good light, but it had to do.

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Here they are converted to B&W using the VSCO T-Max Preset. Click them for larger 1800 pixel wide versions to see the detail and rendering better. The Fuji has the most contrast here,but it looks better than the color version. The Olympus stays nice and neutral and the Sony looks much nicer in B&W due  to the color being off in the original. But one is Micro 4/3, one is APS-C and one is full frame. NOT that huge of a difference. 

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DR Test

Dynamic Range is good from all three of these cameras, and the Olympus E-M1, contrary to popular belief has is about equal in DR to the Fuji X-T1 with 12.7 stops of DR. The Fuji, in RAW (it is less in JPEG) can do between 9 and 13 stops of DR and the Sony has 13.2. So all are similar but the Sony has the most (as you can see below). The Olympus is quite amazing for its smaller sensor to have 12.7 stops but in the real world, the full frame sensor shows its stuff. Here is a shot that was blown out. I recovered the highlights the best I could for each file.

Below is the Sony file AFTER I brought back the highlights that were blown to shreds. The SONY has the most DR hands down, which is what I figured due to the full frame sensor and big fat pixels. 

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Low Light HIGH ISO Test 

Sony Wins ISO, no contest. ;) What is interesting is that Olympus had the most detailed file at high ISO. For some reason the Fuji, even though tripod mounted and focus point selected manually, looks very soft (and yes, this is the sharpest part of the Fuji image) and that may be due to the NR Fuji applies that you can not turn off. The Sony looks softer but this is due to DOF even though I stopped down the Sony. It also appears that the Fuji RAW files are also doing some sort of Noise reduction even when turned off, which also loses detail. Me, I much prefer detail which is why I turn NR off on all cameras that allow it. (Fuji does not).

It seems here that the Fuji is even or slightly better than the A7s, but remember, the A7s allows you to go above and beyond most cameras with 102,000 ISO capability. Shooting at ISO 32,000 on the Sony provides usable and nice files. Not possible on the Fuji  or Olympus.

The Fuji, as I said, is applying NR to the RAW file and the Sony and Olympus are not. So not a fair test as the Fuji does not allow removing all NR. You can see the noise is smeared. The TRUE winner for high ISO is the Sony A7s. The winner for most detail at high ISO is the Olympus E-M1. The CA in the OLy shot is a result of using a Panasonic 25 1.4 which is an awful performer for CA.

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ISO 3200

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Now ISO 6400

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Again, (many do not read what is written above the tests) the Fuji has NR as it can not be turned off, which is why you see the noise is actually smoothed and smeared. So in the above examples the Fuji has NR and the others do not. The Fuji is also the softest (which some has to do with NR as it robs details) – a shame you can not turn it off on the Fuji. It is even applied to RAW files.

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My Final Thoughts and which camera I prefer out of all of these..and WHY.

Moral of this story? Anyone who tells you Micro 4/3 cannot hang with larger sensors is 100% incorrect, as I have said for years.  Also, what was not mentioned yet is the fact that the best made and designed body here is the Olympus E-M1. It is built to a higher standard the the Fuji X-T1 from solidity, quality of dials and buttons, and unlike the Fuji  – ZERO hollowness and zero cheap feeling parts without much extra weight at all.

In other words, I found the Fuji’s build quality to be the lowest of the three from body to dials and switches to the D-Pad, etc. This is not just talk, it is fact.

The E-M1 feels and operates like a pro camera, the Fuji *feels* more toy like (though it is NOT a toy, at all). The Sony is solid and hefty without any cheap feeling parts but again, the E-M1 slightly beats it in build quality and feel and control. The new Sony A7II stepped it up and is now about equal to or better the E-M1 in build.

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Of these three cameras my money would be spent on the Olympus 1st and Sony 2nd (and it was). I would skip the Fuji for my tastes. Just not my cup of tea from feel, focus, usability, speed and IQ in most lighting scenarios. For me the E-M1 has it all from build, speed, looks, feel, features, In body IS, lens selection, IQ and capabilities. The Sony A7s is a low light champ and works great with 3rd party and Leica glass but overall, the best all around general use every day and pro camera *of this lot* is the E-M1 by Olympus, and I say that without hesitation.

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So take this for what it is, a few tests with a few cameras using one lens each, all 50mm or so equivalent. Any IQ discrepancies there may be with Micro 4/3 (and there really are none besides shallow DOF possibilities of full frame) are easily over ridden by the amazing tech in the body and the features, usability, and overall quality of the images. It’s not only a superb camera to use, but it is a very FUN and enjoyable one to use. Many times the Fuji, again, frustrated me (dials would move too easily so settings were changed just from placing the camera in my bag, the way to change the drive mode is odd, with a cheap lever that also switches way too easily…overexposure on many occasions…etc). The Sony was fine besides a few AWB issues that I never noticed until doing these side by sides. So seeing the files next to each other and handling each body one after the other told me a lot.

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At  the end of the day these cameras can all do a great job, but it will be personal preference as to which one is best for you. Do some PP and the images can go to the next level, so remember that as well.

So for me, I love these two plus the Leica M, which will always have a place in my heart.

At the end of the test, here is the score with my eyes on all of the tests: Olympus with 6 wins, Sony with 4 wins and Fuji with 1 win. Your score may be different of course, as this is not a cut and dry thing. It is personal preference. So for you, Fuji may win or Sony may win. That is the beauty of it. It is not about WINNING or LOSING it is about WHAT YOU PREFER. 

Even though this test is what it is..some owners will come here to defend their choices, which is fine. But it doesn’t change reality. Also, no need to say ‘Fuji needs Capture 1, Fuji needs EV comp set at -1, Fuji needs sharpening, Fuji is light and hollow feeling  because of weight, Fuji needs a special technique for AF, etc etc”. To me, these are all excuses and we should not have to fly through hoops to get the best quality from our cameras. It should NEVER be “work”. All cameras were tested the same with no special treatment to any of them, that was important. Enjoy ;)

REFERENCE: See my Olympus E-M1 Review HERE, my Fuji X-T1 Review HERE and my Sony A7s Review HERE.  For the record over the past seven years I have been called a Leica, Fuji, Sony, Olympus, Panasonic, Ricoh, Nikon and Pentax fanboy. Lol. Why? Because I love many cameras from all of these manufacturers. 

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Feb 202015
 

28 images from the A7s, A7II, E-M1, E-M5II, Fuji X-T1, Fuji X100T, and M 240

Hello to all and HAPPY FRIDAY! After I posted my recent E-M5II Camera review (see it HERE) many have been asking me THIS question:

“NOW I AM CONFUSED! What camera do I buy? The E-M1, E-M5Ii, A7II, M 240 or Fuji?!?!

Yes, I get these questions daily and I never give a definite answer as this choice is personal. That would be like asking “what car should I buy” or “which house should I get”? A camera is a personal choice and the reason these reviews are written is so all of you can read and make an informed decision. I understand how hard it is, believe me. But just know that any of these cameras mentioned are truly fantastic and can get the job done. If you are in love with PHOTOGRAPHY and the art of making memories and making art, ANY of these will do.

If you are a pixel peeper it is best to go for something super high res like a Sony A7r as that will give you something to zoom in on and measurbate to. Me, I prefer real photography and making memories as I go on this long journey that we call life. A camera, to me, is made to capture those moments we lose and those memories that in 10-20 years will be very foggy for our aging brains. Looking back at images remind us of the many good times, the family, the friends, the sad times and the exciting times. THIS is what it is all about for ME. I do not pixel peep, I am against it. I occasionally will post crops just to show those who love that sort of thing how much detail we can get but overall it does not matter. At all.

Any of the cameras below can make LARGE prints (I have a 20X30 from E-m1, it is gorgeous. I have larger from my A7II, beautiful). So remember, ANY camera will get you the memories you want to capture but the main difference between them is HOW YOU GET there!

Yes, some cameras make it a joy to get your memories while others make it a pain. Some will get you there with amazing technology and others with their simplistic charm. Some will offer you bold looking files and others a more natural looking file. Some will offer you tools to help you (such as 5 Axis IS or a nice large EVF) while others make it a challenge (Leica M RF).

Below I have chosen 7 images from the A7 and A7II, Olympus E-M1 and Em5II, Fuji X-T1/X100t and the Leica M 240 so you guys can see in one place, the differences between full frame, APS-C and Micro 4/3. Depth of field will be different, color will be different and the overall vibe will be manufacture specific. I have no secrets here on this blog and I always tell it like it is..FOR ME and MY tastes. Not everyone will agree. But enjoy as I share my thoughts on these different mirrorless systems.

SONY A7s and A7II

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The Sony A7 series appeared with a bang when the A7 and A7r were announced. Full frame small mirrorless cameras that performed amazingly well with rich files, rich color and decent usability. While slow in Auto focus and a bit clunky with the early models, the newer A7s and A7II improved things such as AF speed and accuracy, high ISO capability and in the case of the A7s, amazing capabilities with Leica M glass. I love the A7s and A7II with a preference to the new A7II for its better build, 5 Axis IS, and gorgeous IQ (for me, the best of the A7 series IQ). If you want that full frame creamy look with massive shallow depth of field, Full Frame is where it is at. APS-C or Micro 4/3 can not do it to the level of full frame.

If you want the most dynamic range, usually a full frame sensor will give it to you as well. On the other hand, shooting fast lenses on full frame can be difficult as the Depth of Field can be so slim and narrow many times people misfocus. But when you nail it, it can be gorgeous.

The Sony system is still somewhat new, less than 2 years old yet there are many lenses out for the system already, and me, I like to use Leica M glass and old exotic lenses with my Sony’s.

CLICK all images for larger and much better view

The A7II and Leica Noctilux at 0.95

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ISO 32,000 with the A7s – Mitakon 50 0.95

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The A7s – click the images for moire detailed versions! What you see here is NOT the best way to view them. You must click them!

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The Sony A7s and 55 1.8

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A7s again..

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A7II and Noctilux..and amazing combo

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An OOC JPEG at ISO 8000 using the 35 2.8 Zeiss lens

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The Sony A7II represents the best of the Sony A7 line for me. It has all you need to create beautiful rich files. Wether you use native lenses or Leica M glass or old vintage rangefinder lenses, this is the camera that can handle it. The A7s is the king of the night, with amazing low light and high ISO abilities. The A7II can not come close to this ISO performance but IMO beats the A7s in overall IQ. The A7 series is doing VERY well for Sony, above expectations so this is good and can not wait to see what they come out with next.

Fuji X-T1 and X100T

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Ahhh, Fuji. Many love Fuji and they have some hardcore fans, that is for sure! Me, I like Fuji. I used to LOVE Fuji back in the days of the S5 pro and original X100. Today I feel they went a bit backwards with the X Trans sensor. I just do not like it as much as the original sensor from the X100. When I look at any Fuji images (not just mine) they have a look to them from the X Trans that while nice, is not my preferred look. In fact, its at the bottom of the heap for me. There is something un-natural about the files for my tastes but even with that said, this is a personal thing and what I may dislike, someone else may love to death.

Many love Fuji and that can not be denied. They sell well and they do “Fuji Color” very well. Where it falls flat for me is true low light ability. The files get “dirty” and “mushy” in low light and this is why all of the really great Fuji images in recent years were shot in amazing light. Give the X Trans amazing light and it will reward you. Give it dull or low light and it will not. For me, the Sony files and the Olympus and Leica files below beat the Fuji when it comes to overall IQ.

Body wise, the X-T1 is fantastic. Its a wonderful body but still compared to the A7II, E-M1, and M 240 it feels the lowest quality of build. It is not bad in build, but when you compare side by side with the competition, it feels a bit lacking and hollow. Much better than previous Fuji bodies though. Fuji has come a long way since the X-Pro 1. Now they have much faster AF, world class EVF (best there is), nice external controls for all of your needs and great usability. If Fuji still used the old X100 sensor I would own an X-T1 :) That X-T1 above looks AMAZING doesn’t it?

Typical Fuji look in normal light..

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I always have issues with the X-Trans blowing highlight, even if using the extended DR modes (which make the image look very flat imo) – Here the bird is exposed correctly but the highlights have blown. There are many examples of this and i never have this issue with my other cameras. Nothing I did could save the blown out highlights here or in other X-T1 images. 

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The good thing about Fuji is they support their cameras NON STOP. Firmware releases are regular and they fix bugs that pop up, improve AF speed and do good things AFTER you buy the camera. They are improving their bodies non stop as well, and the X-T1 is a winning body without question and I am sure they will keep coming out with better and better cameras. One of these days I will buy myself a Fuji :)

Olympus E-M1 and E-M5II

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To me, this system is so mature and so well executed today that these are some of the best cameras you can buy today, regardless of mirrorless or DSLR. There are a thousand reasons for this from size, build, pro level features, freeze, shock, weatherproof…huge EVF, super fast AF, amazing 5 Axis (best in the world), awesome video in the new 5II as well as the rich files with superb color richness as well. Some of my favorite images of my life were shot on 4/3 and Micro 4/3 systems and I place this just behind the Sony A7II and Leica M for IQ.

Today, the E-M5II and E-M1 meet or exceed nearly all APS-C cameras for build, speed, features, capabilities, color and yes IQ. It can not beat a full frame model for Dynamic Range, Details or high ISO but it holds its own and then some for APS-C and for me, the E-M1 is probably the best camera body I have used, ever. I am talking about the whole package… build, features, speed, controls, versatility, what is possible with them, etc. As I said, IQ is just behind the full frame models. It really is.

Even so, Olympus is doing great things and they are the inventors of Live View, Dust Cleaning in camera, 5 Axis IS, and more. Good to see them still innovating. I also feel the best lenses next to Leica M are right here for Micro 4/3, from the Nocticron to the 75 1.8 to the 40-150 to the 12mm f/2 to the f/0.95 Voigtlanders. So many choices.

Shot with the 17 1.8 at 1.8. Amazing lens with just the right amount of detail and tones.

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The 40-150 – the color here is WOW. JPEG. The way I brought this out is by using SPOT metering. 

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The 12-40 f/2.8 pro zoom. One of the best standard zooms I have used. 

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The 17 1.8 again, smooth, sharp and wonderful bokeh.

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Nocticron goodness…f/1.2

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The Voigtlander 25 0.95 at 0.95 – THIS is a special lens. 

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Olympus have created quite the tool for the PHOTOGRAPHER who puts his priorities at capturing the image, the moment, the memories. The Af doesn’t let you down, the controls are spot on and the build is the best of the lot. Lens choice is plentiful and its only weakness is that it will not give you full frame shallow depth of field (but neither will APS-C). For me, the E-M1 and E-M5II beats most APS-C camera as a whole, without hesitation, even factoring in size. Now there are some great bodies by Panasonic as well but for me, they do not have what it takes to take on Olympus’s E-M1 and E-M5II.

Leica M 240

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Ahhh, the system I loved and used for many years, ever since the film M7. I have had an M ever since from the M8 to M9 to MP (film) to M9P to M-P 240 to Monochrom. I have had them all and loved them all. For me, this is the pinnacle of simplicity. Real photography. Not much in the way of features but this is how it should be with an M. Just you, the camera, and the subject. Nothing to worry about  – just focus, set your aperture/exposure and shoot.

The Leica M is an all time favorite of mine, hands down. The only issues today is with cost. Buying an M 240 and 50 APO will set you back $15,000. Buy a used M and used Voigtlander lens and it will still set you back $6k. You have to be majorly dedicated and have a nice padded bank account to jump in today,  so not everyone can.

Today with cameras like the Sony A7II leica seems to be losing some ground. Back in the M9 days they ruled the roost as there was nothing quite like the M9 in use or in age quality. Today, there are  a 1-2 mirrorless cameras that meet or exceed the M 240 image quality and color and for much less money. While you will never get the experience of the M from a Sony, Fuji or Olympus and you will never get that true pride of ownership with anything else (once you feel and shoot with an M it is tough to go to anything else) you will get IQ that can beat it from other cameras. Today Leica is not “the best” in IQ but they are “the best” in lenses, experience, build, and feel AND simplicity. The M lenses are the best in the world IMO and they are SMALL and built like mini tanks.

I love Leica, and I love the M 240. Period. It’s has some magic in the bloodlines but today it is getting harder to justify unless you REALLY only love RF shooting and have a big fat bank account.

The M with the 50 APO

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The M with a Voigtlander 50 1.5

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The M with a 90 Elmarit

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50 APO again

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As I look back at these random images I chose for this article I study them and not only am I looking at the file quality and character but I am remembering the times I had shooting those images and according to my memory, the most fun I had shooting was with the Leica M, hands down. Then it would be the E-M1 and E-M5II, then the Sony A7II and A7s and then the Fuji. All have the capability to capture your frames in high quality but the one you choose will be part of your personal journey. The one that speaks to YOU, not ME. So next time you get ready to send an email asking “What should I buy” – ask yourself this question and go with you 1st gut instinct. That is usually the correct choice :)

You can see my full reviews of the cameras listed above:

Sony A7IISony A7s - Fuji X-T1Fuji X100T - Olympus E-M1Olympus E-M5IILeica M 240

Feb 112015
 

The Power of the Olympus E-M5 II – Long Exposures

By Steve Huff

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Remember when I said that Olympus is a company that INNOVATES? They seem to surprise the hell out of me with every camera release. After the amazing E-M5 Mk I I thought…what else can they do? Then they released the E-M1 which is a POWERHOUSE, and I have owned one since release and now own a beautiful silver version. The system, the lenses, the capabilities..are pretty much unrivaled by ANYONE, even the Big C and N.

Now with the E-M5 MkII they did it again. Updated and upgraded the 5 Axis IS to a 5 Stop Performance increase, added a side swivel LCD, put in the large EVF of the E-M1, and added the High Res 40Mp shot mode (creates 107MB RAW files) and the camera also has the Live Time and Live Composite features of the E-M1 and other Olympus Micro 4/3 Cameras.

My review will be coming soon for the E-M5II but just wanted to share an image from last night. I was out with Alex McClure, a friend of mine who lives not too far from me who happens to be an Olympus Visionary. We headed out to a spot in the Desert that he knew of and set out to shoot star trails. With Alex giving me some tips (I have never done this before) it took literally 3 minutes to be off and running.

A video I did showing the E-M5II and E-M1 side by side

The Lens I used was the wonderful Panasonic 8mm Fisheye. The total exposure time? Just around 40 MINUTES! This was using LIVE COMPOSITE which NO OTHER camera system has. Basically you set it to Live Composite…then take ONE image. The camera exposes the scene perfectly so your subject (in my case below, the cacti) is perfectly exposed. You then press the shutter again and it stays open while giving you LIVE Updates on your LCD showing real time exposure. What it was doing was taking 20 second exposures and stacking them in camera. We shot for around 40 minutes at ISO 1000.

After closing the shutter, the finished image popped up on my LCD in about 10 seconds. What you see below is direct from camera, JPEG.

Super easy, super simple. All I needed was the camera, a tripod and a lens. Pretty amazing for 40 minutes of 20 second exposures. Never again will I have to stack images in photoshop. Never again will I have to worry about exposure or over exposure. Normally, just leaving the shutter open would have overexposed the cactus but with Live Composite, no worries. It is genius.

LIVE COMPOSITE MODE  – E-M5 II – Around 40 minutes of 20 second exposures, automatically done in camera. The camera does ALL the work. ISO 1000. The E-M1 also does this. This makes these tools my personal pref for night time long exposure work. It’s just SO easy and foolproof. 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

PRE-ORDER the Olympus E-M5II – Ships in less than 2 weeks!

AMAZON 

B&H PHOTO

POPFLASH.COM

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Two more images but these were shot with my E-M1 and were much shorter, using LIVE TIME not LIVE COMPOSITE 

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Jan 262015
 

My Panasonic LX100 Thoughts…

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Hey guys, hope you are all 100% fantastic! Many have been asking me “Steve! Where is your Panasonic LX100 review”!!!

Well, to make a log story short..I had the camera for a few weeks and have mixed emotions on it. After using it with the Fuji X100T and even a Sony RX100 (Hasselblad Stellar) I came to the conclusion that I liked the LX100 the least of the three. Yes, for me (key words..for me) the early version 1 Sony RX100 beat it out due to a few reasons. Even with that said, the LX100 is a compact camera with serious innards and a handsome and rugged build. Leica has their version of this camera which is made in Japan, has Leica styling, and better software and warranty. It is called the D-Lux Typ 109 and many love this camera due to what it offers. I have not had a chance to hold the Leica version so this short and sweet “review” or “non review” will only go over my thoughts of the LX100 from Panasonic. I do have friends who have the D-Lux 109 and they did not have the same issues I had with the LX100. So there ya go.

Most compacts these days use 1″ sensors or smaller. There have been a couple with large APS-C sensors but they were usually with wider angle fixed lenses of 28mm.

The LX100 is a smallish compact, short and squat with a beefy feel and it houses a semi large Micro 4/3 sensor, the same size and type as the wonderful Olympus E-M1, which even today is a world-class camera. The same size as Panasonic’s own GX7, which I really enjoyed. 

It sounds like a dream right? A small good-looking and feeling camera with a highly capable sensor and the big name of Panasonic behind it for under $1000. Well, in some ways it is and in others it is not.

After shooting with it for a while I decided I would not review it (as I was not a huge fan) but there has been a surge of emails asking me about it so I decided to put up this short post with my thoughts on the LX100.

click any image for larger version – EXIF is embedded for all photos

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It’s a fact, yes, the image quality of the LX100 can be fantastic and really close to APS-C offerings. Most cameras today are good in the IQ dept. as long as you stay away from $49 specials. What I look for when I use a camera is a list of things..and for me to like it, this check list is required..

  • Usability. Is the camera easy to use? Is it responsive with well laid out controls?
  • Auto Focus. Does the camera have speedy AND accurate AF?
  • Image Quality: Is the IQ good, fantastic or AMAZING? I like Fantastic to Amazing :)
  • AWB, Color, ISO. I also take these things into consideration.

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So let me start with the Usability..

The Lx100 is a great looking camera design. Many will adore its style and ease of use. The menu system is a breeze to go through and configure and due to the external controls, the camera is easily learned and anyone can get great results with it. So it passed the design and usability test with flying colors. 

Auto Focus. This is where I had issues. The AF of the LX100 seemed speedy enough but in MANY cases it would confirm focus and the result would be an out of focus image. I was using center point, so I knew where the camera should be focusing but it was telling me it nailed it and the results said otherwise. I had enough of these misses (more than any other camera I have used) to make me wonder what was going on with it. It started to frustrate me and made me not want to use it.

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Image Quality. The IQ is nice, and just about what I expected but I did expect a little more as I can get better IQ with my E-M1 or the E-P5 or even the GX7. When I shot landscapes at infinity focus with the LX100, the details were mush, even at base ISO. I took several shots and it was always the same. So not sure if I had a defect or if this was a camera issue. Another reason I decided to NOT review it as I was not sure if I had a lemon or this was just how it was. 90% of the time, the IQ was superb. 10% of the time I had issues. But the issues were enough to make me say “wait a minute..something is not right”. I did a comparison here with the LX100, X100T and Sony RX100 V1 (Stellar). Click HERE to see it.

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When the LX100 did nail the shot all was well. As for higher ISO, it failed that test for me as well. I am used to other cameras amazing high ISO capabilities these days and Micro 4/3 is losing the high ISO battle for sure. Even so, it is not horrible and MUCH better  than it was years ago. Still for the price of $899 I feel there are better options. As I said, I prefer the original Sony RX100 (now $399) to the LX100 for speed, usability, IQ, color, etc. It can be had for half the cost of the LX100 and it will even fit in a pocket. So for me, the LX100 was not enough to push me from my RX100.

Also, the LX100 will not fit in a pocket. Its thick and beefy. RX100 will. Now that I thin of it, look at these names..LX100, RX100, X100…seems the companies are trying to use the same names for some reason :)

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LENS FLARE

The lens on the LX100 has a tendency to flare badly if you have a light source in the frame. I have seen it with street lamps, sunlight and just about any light source if it is in the view of the lens. Wen I tested this side by side with the Sony RX100, Fuji X100T and my Sony A7s and A7II there were no flare issues. Another nail in the coffin for the LX100..for me but do others have this same issue or did I get a lemon?

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At the end of the day the LX100 did not inspire me enough to want to really get out there and shoot with it. I wish I could have tested the Leica version because while it is the same camera, it is made in a  different factory to higher standards and includes better extras (warranty, accessories, software) while looking nicer. If the flare issue was not so bad it would jump this camera up from NOT recommended to RECOMMENDED. If the AF did not miss on occasion (more than it should) it would go from RECOMMENDED to HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

Maybe I will see if I can get a hold of the Leica version to see if it has the same issues I had with this LX100. If I can, expect a full review. This here was not a review, just my thoughts after using it for 3 weeks. I did not like it enough to recommend it so just wanted to explain why in this short post. But if you want a great camera at a superb price, right now you can get the original Sony RX100 for a song. Check out this deal here.  $399 loaded with extras and prime shipping at Amazon. I use the Hasselblad Stellar SE as I nabbed one at the blowout 70% off price over the holidays but it is the same camera.

if you want a step up in IQ try the Fuji X100T, Leica T, or Leica X

If you want an LX100, click here. If you want a Leica D-Lux 109, I suggest Ken Hansen or PopFlash.com .

Tomorrow I will post my Sony 16-35 Lens review ;) Stay tuned!

Jan 122015
 

The Panasonic LX7. A $349 Backup to my Leica M

by John Kurniawan

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Hi Steve and Brandon…Wish you both a Great 2015!

Bought a Panasonic LX7 as a back up to my M system.

I choose LX7 as a camera for my daughter as well a back up cam when I am traveling. Why LX7 ? Just love its size and features which suit my need like macro, zoom and manual mode. The manual mode comes handy when in low light condition so I can mimic the RF experience.

Almost a year with LX7, both my girl and me are happy with it, here are some the photo produce by this funtastic cam. Ones can produce good photo no matter what the camera is, most important is how ones capture lights correctly.

Thank you and hope to see more good post by talented photographer at your site

Best Rgds

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Dec 182014
 

From a Nikon D800 (DSLR) to Olympus and Fuji (Mirrorless)

by Robin Schimko

Three months ago I had the opportunity to do a reportage on a sailing boat cruising along the coastline of Crete, in the Mediterranean Sea. Last year I did the same thing in the Caribbean but this time I didn’t bring a heavy and bulky DSLR, since I‘ve gone fully mirrorless at the beginning of 2014. For this trip I brought a Fuji X-T1, 23/1.4, Samyang 12/2, Samyang 8/2.8 fisheye and of course my Olympus E-M1, 42.5/1.2 and 75/1.8 with me. I was basically covered for almost any possible situation and at the same time my kit was relatively lightweight and compact.

The day I arrived I met up with my client and the moment he saw my gear he became skeptical. For him it was hard to believe that a camera this small is able to deliver good image quality and a certain look that screams “professionally” taken images. He was very pleased with the images I took in the Caribbean with my D800. So I gave him my tablet to have a look at some of my pictures I took prior this trip just to make him feel more secure and it worked fine.

So, how did it work out?

Well, the mirroless set up had two major advantages over my former D800. The first one is really obvious and that is the small form factor and the light weight. Compared to my DSLR, the Fuji for instance with attached lens is less than half the weight and that makes a huge difference. On a shaky sailing boat it can be really tough to move around safely, especially if you’re carrying heavy gear which needs to be secured with one hand to make sure it’s not bumping into something or someone. The mirrorless kit was much easier to handle and it was a breeze to use. Attached to the Fuji was the Easy Slider by Artisan & Artist which allowed me fit the camera very tightly to my chest, so I could use both hands to secure myself in case I needed to. With a bulky DSLR that would have been much more uncomfortable over the duration of a whole day or at least a couple of hours. The second advantage was the ability to shoot from the hip incorporating the tilting screen. When you look through the viewfinder it can easily happen that you punch yourself in the face with the camera and yeah that had happened to me in the past. :D Like I wrote before, the boat is constantly shaking around and the intensity of those shakes can vary randomly.

In two weeks there was only one thing I wasn’t really keen about and that’s the battery life. Especially the X-T1 tends to eat batteries very quickly and that did concern me. One could say that this is not a big issue if you bring enough spare ones. That’s totally true and I had five batteries with me, but I had no idea that these batteries had to last up to three days. Last year I could recharge every day, but not this time. The boat was quite old and electricity was only available every now and then. That was indeed the only issue I had using mirrorless cameras.

The sailing itself again was a very nice experience. The first week the weather was crazy good and we did sail a lot. The second week everything changed dramatically not just the crew and the second boat that joined us, but also the weather. There was a storm approaching and we couldn’t leave the harbor for two days. Eventually we left on the third day, but the sea was still very rough and half of the crew got seasick. Luckily I wasn’t one of them, but taking photos was almost impossible without a waterproof housing, because every couple of minutes there was a big wave coming in.

Here are some shots I took during my trip and if you like my work, you can follow me on facebook (https://www.facebook.com/RobinSchimkoPicture)
or check out my blog (http://www.fotodesign-rs.de/)

Thank you all for reading,

Robin

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Dec 042014
 

Quick (not so crazy) Comparison! X100T, LX100, Stellar (RX100)

JUST FOR FUN!!!

A few asked me for one of these but I have been busy most of the day with personal things. Even so, I had time to shoot THREE JPEGS with each camera wide open, letting the camera choose exposure (just as most of use would shoot these in the real world, letting the camera choose exposure).

What I found is that the Stellar (Sony RX100) is sharpest, has pleasing Bokeh and rich color. The LX100 is the most accurate for the colors and the Fuji is the softest as the lens at f/2 is known to be a bit soft. The Fuji also has the most shallow DOF due to the APS-C sensor. The Stellar has a 1″ sensor, the LX100 a Micro 4/3 sensor and the Fuji, APS-C. Fastest to AF is a tie between the LX100 and Stellar with Fuji coming in last for AF speed AND accuracy.

Goes to show that these days, any camera can provide very pleasing and nice looking results.

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Smallest camera is the Stellar by far as it can fit in my front jeans pocket without an issue. The LX100 is next but it is a bit thick and large du to the body and lens and the Fuji is the largest of the lot.

Take a look at the quick shots below and click them for a larger 1800 pixel wide version! Tomorrow I will have my 1st look video on the new Sony A7 Mark II, so see ya then!

LX100 can be purchased at Amazon or B&H Photo.

The Fuji X100T can be bought at Amazon or B&H Photo

The Hasselblad Stellar can be found here for 70% off (while supplies last)

Steve

Images are out of camera JPEGS resized. Just meant to show DOF differences wide open as well as color/sharpness out of camera. Each camera was shot wide open and each camera was allowed to choose exposure as this is how most of us use these types of cameras. So what you see is what you get. 

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and a couple more comparisons

Below I see the Stellar capturing the most OOC detail – all at f/4 (which is Fuji’s sweet spot)

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Below I see the Stellar once again capturing the most detail (see the dirt on the bucket on the left side blue patch) – The Fuji is the smoothest and I prefer the color from the LX100

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…and by request, a few more quick snaps from the Stellar (will not be reviewing it as it is the same as the RX100 HERE)

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and size comparisons

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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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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.

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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
 

review-10mm-title

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…

crawling-ivy-original

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.

Follow Amy!

Follow me on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/DangRabbitPhotography

on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/DangRabbit

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above-fall

fun-with-miniatures

rust-and-wood

3trees

water-pole

seaweed-shore

through-the-fence

skull-stick

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

P1010275

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)

Samyang 85mm  (5)

Samyang 85mm  (6)

Samyang 85mm  (7)

Olympus 35mm (6)

Olympus 35mm (7)

Samyang 85mm  (1)

Samyang 85mm  (2)

Samyang 85mm  (3)

Olympus 35mm (1)

Olympus 35mm (2)

Olympus 35mm (3)

Olympus 35mm (4)

Olympus 35mm (5)

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)

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