Apr 152014
 

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

By Steve Huff

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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

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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!

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Mar 312014
 

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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)

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 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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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

Feb 252014
 

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The Olympus 25 1.8 Lens Review on the E-M1

By Steve Huff

Hello once again to all of you camera crazy readers! Today I am going to talk about the new-ish Olympus 25 1.8 lens as it has recently shipped and is really the only Auto Focus competition to the now legendary Panasonic 25 1.4 lens, which has been known as one of the finest lenses for  the Micro 4/3 system. That lens, on SOME cameras, has been known to have slower focus and a “rattlesnake” sound when just attached to the lens with the camera being powered on. (On the E-M1 I do not hear this effect though). The new Olympus is smaller, sleeker, focuses faster, much shorter with hood attached and comes in at $129 less than the Panasonic counterpart.

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But how does it stack up to the Panasonic? Well, I will tell you right off the bat that while it is not as sharp as the Panasonic, it gets about 99.5% there. It does not have the Micro Contrast of the Panasonic, but gets us about 90% of the way there. It vignettes slightly when wide open where the Panasonic does not but it does focus slightly faster and like I said, it is quite a bit smaller as you will see below in the size comparison.

On the Las Vegas strip at f/2.5 with the Olympus 25 1.8. If you click this image you can see a larger size that is much sharper. In fact, it will show you just how sharp the lens is. I converted this one to B&W. 

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Over the years I have grown fond of certain lenses for the Micro 4/3 system. The Panasonic 25 1.4 is one of them while others like the Olympus 45 1.8, 75 1.8 and even 17 1.8 are up there as well with me. The 60 Macro is astonishing and the 12mm f/2 is one I really enjoy. The new 12-40 Zoom seems pretty versatile and incredible as well. I’d say my #1 most used lens on my E-M1 is the 17 1.8. For me, it has the sharpness, the detail, the color, and the “feel”. I love it but I also have been enjoying the 35mm (equiv) focal length more lately.

Shot at f/1.8 this is close focused and right out of camera. Bold bright color and sharp with a pleasant Bokeh. Click it for larger/sharper!

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The Micro 4/3 Version of a 50mm explained

I go in phases between the 35mm and 50mm being my #1 fave to shoot with and these days it is 35 all the way, so when out shooting with this 25 (50mm equiv) I was once again having to get used to shooting this focal length. After a solid few days of shooting with it daily I remember what it is that makes it my #2 favorite focal length! It has the perfect mix of sharpness and shallow DOF possibilities. While this is indeed a true 25mm lens, and we will get 25mm DOF from the lens, the focal length appears as a 50mm. So imagine the Olympus 25mm as a 50mm with 25mm Depth of Field and “Bokeh”. Due to the shorter focal length we will not get subject isolation as we will get on a real 50mm. It will give us 25mm DOF and isolation and yes, f 1.8 is a true f/1.8. Just on a 25mm lens.

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At the end of the day though, a 25mm acts like a 50mm for focal length/magnification so this is what you are going to see when looking through your viewfinder. It will not be like when you put a 24mm on your full frame camera, but like when you put a 50mm on your full frame camera except for the Depth of Field control. Basically, on Micro 4/3 we are magnifying that 25mm to give us a 50mm field of view.

Other 25mm lenses include the Panasonic 25 1.4, which is one of the highest rated 25mm lenses for Micro 4/3. We also have the amazingly good, and one of my all time manual focus faves, the Voigtlander 25mm f/0.95 which allows you to focus close, get almost full frame quality Depth of Field and Bokeh, and is built like the Voigtlander lenses for the Leica system.

One of our workshop attendees taking a break in the middle of the desert with his Starbucks and Leica M :)

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As always, speed costs and in Micro 4/3 is no exception. The Olympus 25 1.8 costs $399, the Panasonic is $529 and the Voigtlander will run you a cool grand.

You can see my Panasonic review HERE and some Voigtlander shots are HERE.

At the Valley of Fire with Todd Hatakeyama (Master Organizer – foreground) and Pro Photographer Extraordinaire Jay Bartlett (Background)

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Just as with my other Micro 4/3 lens reviews, there is not much to say about the lens. I mean, when a lens is sharp, focuses fast and is small, light and beautiful in design what can you say? It really has no faults so all I can do is write about what I feel when it is compared to the Panasonic 25 1.4, the lens who reigns supreme in this focal length for this format. I already did ONE quick comparison while out on the road (which is why it was quick) so let me go into more detail about this lens VS the mighty Panasonic.

This is an OOC JPEG from the E-m1 and 25 1.8 shot at 2.5

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The Olympus 25 1.8 vs the Panasonic 25 1.4

  • Cost. The Panasonic can be bought HERE for $529. The Olympus can be bought here for $399. So, the Olympus is $129 less expensive than the Panasonic. Makes sense because the Olympus is an f/1.8 lens vs an f/1.4 of the Panasonic. So for cost, and bang for the buck, the Olympus wins.
  • SIZE. The Panasonic is quite a bit larger than the Olympus when the hoods are attached (see below) but the Panasonic is still a very small lens. Only when viewed next to the Olympus does it look large. The Olympus is super small and light where the Panasonic is wider, taller and has more bulk. The Olympus almost appears to be half the size when looking at the image below. So if small size if your thing, the Olympus wins. 

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  • Sharpness. BOTH of these lenses can render a super sharp image. BOTH have slightly different color and contrast signatures though. I would say that the Olympus is just as sharp as the Panasonic..well, 99.5% as sharp when both lenses are shot at 1.8. I’d say the Panasonic has a little bit better Micro Contrast though as when looking at some real world street shooting files on my 27″ display I see it. This is a sign of a very good lens, and is one area where Leica excels with their uber expensive lenses. For example, the Leica 50 Summicron f/2 has amazing micro contrast and one of my all time favorite Leica lenses for the M system (or Sony A7). The Panasonic 25 1.4 is a Leica/Panasonic collaboration so it shares some of that Leica magic. I used to think it did not but it does indeed though not to the level of true Leica glass. The difference is not huge between the Panasonic and Olympus  by any means but you can see it when pixel peeping. So because of this, For overall performance and sharpness, the Panasonic wins.

See the full size files below from each lens at apertures from 1.4 to 1.8 to 5.6..the Panasonic does not appear to be any sharper than the Olympus here:

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Now the Panasonic wide open at 1.4, which the Olympus can not do..

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and both stopped down to f/5.6

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  • AF Speed. When out on the street shooting these lenses I though for sure that the Olympus would smoke the Panasonic with Auto Focus, and that was not the case! Both lenses focused fast on my E-M1, and to be 100% honest, I saw no difference in speed when out in the street at night using both. The Olympus may have a slight edge overall, but it is not a night and day, and for some will not even be noticeable. Remember  though, this is on the E-M1 which may be helping the lenses to focus fast. So I give this one a Tie with a SLIGHT edge going to the Olympus.
  • Bokeh. Well, if Bokeh is what you are after (and many Micro 4/3 shooters are indeed after this) then you will want the Panasonic as it is an f/1.4 lens. While not much of a difference at all, there is indeed a mental difference going on in that head of yours and if speed is what you need then you will not be happy with the f/1.8 of the Olympus. Nope, go for the Panasonic! If speed is not of great concern and you realize that f/1.4 is not a huge step up from f/1.8 then the Olympus may be just the ticket. In reality, when the Panasonic is shot at f/1.4 you will not see much more background blur than the 1.8 of the Olympus. It exists but will you see it? Maybe, maybe not. Both lenses rock this.  Panasonic wins here as it has the ability to create MORE shallow DOF and Bokeh. 

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  • Distortion and CA. The Panasonic has more CA (Purple Fringing) than the Olympus, which is clear and evident. So for this the Olympus wins. See the crop below from each lens. 

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So at the end of the day BOTH of these lenses will deliver the goods. Me, I prefer the Olympus as I am not losing much at all over the Panasonic but I am gaining the small size, the nice price and the overall look that matches my other Olympus primes AS WELL as almost no CA issues. I could live with EITHER lens long-term. It comes down to if you want small size, slightly faster AF, and f 1.8 or if you want larger, faster aperture at 1.4 and slightly slower AF while paying $129 more.

If you own the Panasonic, keep it. If you do not own either, you can save money and be 100% happy with the Olympus. If you want the Olympus you can sell your Panasonic for as much as it costs to buy the new Olympus. In other words, there is no wrong choice here. Both lenses are fantastic. Those who are putting down the Olympus (and I have already seen it on forums and right here on the comments of this website) are just those who own the Panasonic, never tried the Olympus and are sticking up for their brand. BOTH lenses are wonderful and both will give you the tool you need to express your photographic vision. I have to hand it to Olympus for constantly releasing new amazing lenses. This is another one they can add to the premium list of primes that help make the Micro 4/3 system so enjoyable! Keep ‘em coming Olympus AND Panasonic! PLEASE!

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WHERE TO BUY?

You can order the Olympus 25 1.8 at Amazon HERE or at B&H Photo HERE.

PopFlash also sells the lens here.

This lens has a 46mm filter thread so using my favorite ND filter is possible with this one!

A few more shots with the Olympus 25 1.8 Lens 

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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. ;)

Feb 252014
 

Fun on Fremont Street in Las Vegas!

There is nothing quite like getting out a couple of times a year to go to place with amazing people watching opportunities. Over the weekend during the Valley of Fire meet a few of us took the 3 mile drive from our house to Fremont Street in Las Vegas to do some people watching and snap a few photos. We went out one night and stayed for a short time and while we mainly walked around and experienced the lights, the sound, the energy and the people we also snapped a few shots here and there over the course of an hour or so.

As I walked around I told myself I wanted to take only TWELVE images during the hour, so I walked and tried my best to stick to that plan but the problem was I was so busy laughing at the antics of the party goers in the street that many times I forgot that I was there to take some photos!

I shot with the Olympus E-M1 and 25 1.8 along with the Panasonic 25 1.4. One walk down Fremont street with the Olympus lens and the walk back with the Panasonic. At the end of the day, both lenses did just fine and I would be 100% happy with either though the Panasonic does indeed have more micro contrast and a slightly sharper image. In other words, it is still the overall best 25mm lens for the Micro 4/3 system by a slight margin. 

After the hour walk I ended up with 16 shots, four more than the limit I tried to set but that was because I just was not finding my groove due to way too much visual overload! Some of the other guys had the same problem. I ended up liking 12 of shots and threw away 4 of them. Nothing special but it sure was a very VISUAL hour :) I decided to convert them all with VSCO to B&W so the grain you see is from the filters.

If anyone here ever finds themselves in Las Vegas then I urge you to take a little adventure off of the strip to Fremont Street..but be prepared for some wild times, especially on weekends!

Click on the images for larger versions!

On Fremont Street people are partying everywhere..drinking, dancing, street performers and a huge mix of people from all over the world. 

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Below is Michael from our group and I asked him to stand with the nuns for this shot. On Fremont street you can forget about morality :) 

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A street performer who was amazingly good. I squatted down to his level and shot between some guys legs for this shot taken with the Olympus 25. When shooting someone down below you, it is usually best to get down to their level for the image.

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More street performers. On Fremont if you see anyone dressed up that means you can get a photo with them but they WILL want a few bucks for this, so be prepared to pay!

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There are always loads of cameras and photos being taken so this is one destination where you do not have to be afraid to take the shot..

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There are even photo opps OFF of Frenont. This was a burger truck called “FUKU” with the slogan of “Get Lucky”. After taking a shot of the full truck I decided to get close and get the attention of the girl working the truck. When she looked, I snapped. 

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Even with all of the booze, the half naked women and men, the strip clubs and the craziness there are people of ALL ages who come to see the spectacle. From young to old..

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This guy who dresses as cupid yells out sexual comments to anyone walking buy and he has been on Fremont for a long time now..get your picture with this scary looking cupid and you will get to put a couple of dollars in his diaper.

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The last shot I took that night  - the crowd and a dancer in the background who dances on a bar to attract people to buy some alcohol

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Feb 242014
 

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Quick Comparison: Olympus 25 1.8 vs Panasonic 25 1.4

So here is the much asked for comparison of the $399 Olympus 25 1.8 vs the $129 more expensive 25 1.4 for Micro 4/3. Besides the slight speed increase of 1.4 vs 1.8, what does the Panasonic offer you for the extra $129..or should I say what DOESNT it offer?

I have shot with them side by side for a few days and found that they are VERY close in regards to image quality/sharpness. So close in fact that if I were buying new today I would buy the Olympus if I was using an Olympus Micro 4/3 camera. It seems to be just as good, it focuses fast, is smaller, and has no issues on the Olympus bodies. Below are a few quick comparison shots so you can judge for yourself.

The test images below.. you can right-click and open them in a new tab or window to see the full size file.

1st, Olympus 25 1.8 with the E-M1 at 1.8, wide open

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Now the Panasonic 25 1.4 at 1.8 on the E-M1

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and the crops..

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The Panasonic is slightly sharper here but not by much at all. To me, the benefits of the Olympus ($129 less, smaller, faster AF, silent focus, more neutral color) beat out that small miniscule sharpness difference.

and speaking of sharpness, here is a full size shot from the E-M1 and 25 1.8 – right-click and open in a new window to see the full size image (from RAW). This was shot at f/2.5.

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Feb 052014
 

Quiet Light

By Mark Seawell

Hi Steve! My name is Mark Seawell. I live in Germany and work on Ramstein Air Force base, HQ for the U.S Air Force in Europe. Though I’m retired from the Air Force, I now work as a civilian employee for Ramstein. This area has the largest concentration of Americans outside of the United States, over 25,000. We arrived in Germany in Aug 2005 and I quickly fell in love with the land while taking long walks with my wife. I don’t know if you’ve ever been to Germany but when the rain is not coming down (think Seattle) this is some of the most beautiful land in the world.

My fate was sealed when I decided to “bring a camera along” for our walks. Soon I was taking pictures and I haven’t stopped for 5 years! I’ve shot Lumix the entire time moving form the Panasonic G1 to the GH2 and in November of last year the GH3.

http://msphotoworld.com is my Zenfolio site.

I took the first picture on the 18th of January with my GH3. Something was there that moved me. I loved the quiet solitude of the tree standing alone. . This picture was taken close to Steinwenden and is typical for this area. I call it “Quiet Light”.

18 Jan 2014 Panasonic GH3 Lumix 45-200mm F/9.0 ISO 250 1/125 Adobe LR 5.3 SilverEfex Pro

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The next picture is from my village of Rehweiler, Germany. The morning was misty and I found myself alone close to the tracks. What I found inspirational about this was the mood of mystery. Where are the tracks going? What is around the bend? What is the destination? View to Eternity.

8 Jun 2013 Panasonic GH2 Lumix 45-200mm F/7.1 ISO 160 1/800 Adobe LR 5.3 SilverEfex Pro

View to Eternity

The last picture was taken on the back roads between Reuschbach and Obermohr, Germany. It had rained the entire month in Novermber 2011. It would not stop. Finally, on the last day of November there was no rain and that was enough reason to take my camera as I drove in. The mist was everywhere, covering the land. I had taken a few pictures above Reuschbach and was happy and drove the road to Obermohr where we lived for nearly 6 years but had recently moved. As I came around the bend I was struck by this site. The mist totally dominated my former village but rising majestically through it all was the church tower. I nearly ran into a ditch and the cars behind me were none to happy as I positioned myself, eager to capture this fleeting moment before it all went away. There could be only one name for this image that had inspired me so…”Heaven’s Gate”.

30 November 2011 Panasonic G1 Lumix 45-200mm ISO 100 72mm LR 3.2 SilverEfex

Gateway to Heaven

Oct 072013
 

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The Panasonic GX7 Review. Micro 4/3 Hits Hard in 2013!

NOTE: I am and was well aware that the lens cap is on in the above image. This was done purposely to show the LUMIX lens cap for the GX7 review. Image was taken with the Leica M and 50 Lux, NOT the camera I am holding of course. 

WHAT A YEAR IT HAS BEEN! Wow! It seems like this year has FLOWN by as it was about one year ago when I was talking about the new Sony RX1 and freaking out at how far tech has come in the digital camera world. One full year and I have been so busy with this site it seems like it was just a few weeks ago when I was shooting the Zombie walk last October using the OM-D E-M5.

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Micro 4/3 has been one of the solid offerings in the mirrorless camera world and I have NOT been shy about professing some love for this system. When I sit back and think about it, today in 2013, Micro 4/3 is kicking some serious behind. With the new OMD E-M1 and the GX7, we have two jaw droppingly good mirrorless cameras that can take advantage of some of the best small prime lenses on the market next to Leica.

Yes, I did just say that!

In the world of small high quality lenses, Leica is #1 but these fast primes that are coming from Panasonic and Olympus are real jewels in the photography world and are some of the best I have shot with from any system. You have everything from fisheye to super wides to fast 35, 50 and 75mm to superfast tough as nails f/0.95 uber fast lenses. Shallow DOF is easy today with Micro 4/3 and the DOF naysayers can no longer say that this system can not deliver shallow depth of field. It can easily do so with the following lenses  - the 25 1.4, the 25 0.95, the 42.5 0.95, the 45 1.860 Macro and 75 1.8, just a few of the Bokeh monsters of Micro 4/3. Coming soon is a new Panasonic lens called the “Nocticron” which takes the Leica names and blends them into a Noctilux/Summicron hybrid with an 85mm portrait equavilent F/ 1.2 lens. This lens should be a masterpiece. I hope so. It will also be quite expensive.

Wide open at f/0.95 with close focus, something a Leica could never do. The 25 0.95

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It has taken a few years but in 2013 there are not too many negative things one can say about the Micro 4/3 system. These new breed of cameras deliver in all areas, and for me, surpass other mirrorless cameras with APS-C sensors due to speed, dependability, usability, blazing AF, and very good ISO performance. Micro 4/3 is sort of “sweet spot” because due to the smaller sensor we get that faster and more accurate AF performance. It seems that the larger the sensor, the slower the AF. So todays Micro 4/3 is not yesterdays Micro 4/3. When compared to a Fuji X Trans APS-C sensor, these new breed Micro 4/3 sensors GET MIGHTY CLOSE, some would say, easily meet them in quality.

Panasonic GX7 – Voigtlander 25 0.95 at 1.4 – Alien Skin film filter applied. When using these fast 0.95 lenses with Micro 4/3, the possibilities are only limited by your imagination. 

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My Panasonic Micro 4/3 History

About 4-5 years ago Panasonic released the GF1, the 1st Micro 4/3 mirrorless offering coming in just before the Olympus PEN E-P1. Even today, years later, there are MANY shooters using that same GF1 without fail or problems. That camera was and still is wonderful though the performance is getting a little “old” with ISO noise and slower AF performance when compared to what we have today. I reviewed that GF1 back in the day and loved it. Sadly, that review is long gone as it was on Version 1 of this site back on an old Apple iWeb server but it is easy to sum up. I loved it back then, it was a real jewel and the 1st in what was to become the “Mirrorless Movement”

The original Panasonic GF1. While a great camera for its time, the new GX7 is a huge improvement in every way. 

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To make a long story short, Panasonic started something really good with that GF1 and Olympus soon followed with the PEN E-P1. Back in those days we had a couple of slow kit zooms and one faster prime, the Panasonic 20 1.7 lens. I did review that lens HERE and it has been somewhat of a legend in the Micro 4/3 world. Small, fast, sharp, and with a very pleasing image quality it is hard to fault the little 20 1.7. Now it comes in a Version II with build improvements as well (my review of version II is HERE) and is still one of my all time recommended lenses for Micro 4/2, no matter if you shoot Panasonic or Olympus.

Shot with the 20 1.7 II at ISO 400

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In fact,  it is my belief that ANYONE shooting Micro 4/3 should own this 20 1.7 lens. The size, weight and performance exceed the cost though the AF is a little on the slower side when compared to other Micro 4/3 lenses. (Amazon sells it HERE).

The 20 1.7 II wide open on the GX7 – ISO 3200 in a normally lit hotel convention center. ISO 3200! Micro 4/3 has never looked this good at high ISO.

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After the success of the GF1, Panasonic rolled on and released camera after camera including the DSLR styled G and GH series, which ended up becoming more tuned in for video work. I reviewed and enjoyed the Panasonic G2 (can see that HERE) but sadly, that was the last Panasonic camera that I felt was worthy to review or talk about. I have shot with them ALL of course but the GF3 and all of those silly little “micro GF” cameras were not very good IMO. To me it seemed like Panasonic lost their way and started trying to appeal to the masses with cute little dumbed down cameras. Too bad, because they did not sell well and ended up being cleared out at stores like Target and Best buy for $199 with kit lens. While Olympus rolled on with their premium PEN series Panasonic was releasing stinker after stinker and at the time, it appeared they abandoned the enthusiast market for Micro 4/3 in regards to a good solid body solution.

The 20 1.7II with the GX7, up close and personal – shot at f/1.7

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I often wondered why-oh-why did Panasonic release the amazing GF1, which was a real “Photographers Camera” and then choose to follow it up with silly micro sized releases. A couple of years rolled by and Panasonic seemed to make a come back with the much talked about and touted GX1. Yep, this was to be a return to form for Panasonic and was the REAL follow up to the GF1. When one came my way to review I was also reviewing the Olympus E-P3 at the same time (which I adored) and after doing some side by sides I realized that even the GX1 fell short for my tastes. Soon, this was yet another camera being cleared out on Amazon. It had its fans, but I knew Panasonic had more, and I made it clear that I felt the E-P3 was better, because to me, it clearly was..again, for my own tastes. The GX1 sold well, but not amazingly well.

So Panasonic went on releasing cameras like the G3 and GH3, which were nice, but we were still missing that little square “rangefinder-esque” GF1 style camera and man oh man was I rooting for them to release something special, and if it had a built in EVF, even the better.

The GX7 with Voigtlander 25 1.4 at f/2.8 – click it for larger. 

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Enter the Panasonic GX7 – A true return to form

So finally in 2013 we all heard about the new Panasonic GX7 and rumor was that it has a built-in EVF, GF1 styling and all new and improved sensor and performance, including in body image stabilisation and fast Auto Focus. Wooooo Hoooo I thought! FINALLY, A sexy beast of a Micro 4/3! Sure, we had the new and exciting Olympus OM-D E-M5 which was taking the Micro 4/3 world by storm (and rightfully so) but this was the mighty comeback of the “Photographers Camera”, the new GX7.

So of course as soon as it was official, I placed my pre-order for one just so I could get one as soon as I could for review. Some camera companies will send me review samples but Panasonic has never sent me a review sample directly. In fact, Panasonic is the only camera company that I do not have a contact at for review samples. Not sure why, but that is just how it has been, so I just had to order one for myself (which isn’t so bad, is it)?

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So the moment it arrived I unboxed it and took a look. Pretty snazzy huh? It has an EVF, sweet style and design, superb feel in the hand and is the best looking, feeling and performing Panasonic Micro 4/3 to date.

But just as the Panasonic was being shipped Olympus was making huge noise with the release of their all new Pro series E-M1 micro 4/3 camera that had all kinds of features that this new Panasonic lacked. A pro build, weatherproof, shockproof and freezeproof, In body class leading 5-Axis IS, Dual Fast AF with Phase and Contrast detect as well as a HUGE built-in EVF that puts all other mirrorless EVF’s to shame.  The Olympus also had a new sensor, live time feature, the ability to use legacy 4/3 glass with fast AF and all kinds of amazing things. A truly revolutionary product for Micro 4/3. The GX7 is evolutionary no question but Olympus decided to go for it with the E-M1.

While the Panasonic lacks many of the E-M1 features, for many of us, this is for the best. Let me explain.

Not everyone needs all of these fancy features and to many, simplicity is what it is all about. All one needs to take a photo is a camera, lens and a shutter button. Do we really needs a million bells and whistles? I admit, I have BOTH of these cameras in my house right now, the GX7 and E-M1 and after extensive use, I would 100% go for the E-M1..FOR ME. I love the feel, the build, the 5-Axis and even Live Time feature. I also feel the IQ is a little more “refined” in color and rendering not to mention the flawless and amazing WiFi implementation.

But this comes at a price. The E-M1 is $500 more than the GX7.

For that difference one could buy the awesome 25 1.4 Panasonic lens.  So this is not a decision to make lightly. In the real world, the GX7 is just as capable in IQ and image taking as the E-M1 so what you choose should depend on what you need and want. If you do not need all of those snazzy features of the E-M1, the GX7 is the next best in the Micro 4/3 world.

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My real world experience shooting with the GX7

After shooting with this camera for a while I have grown to really enjoy shooting with it. Below is a list of the things one should know about the GX7, because it is one hell of a camera and at $899 for the body or $999 for the body and kit lens, it is a GREAT buy and well worth the cost.

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The Build and Feel

The Panasonic GX7 did not disappoint when it came to the feel of the camera. In my hand it felt fantastic. The grip is just large enough to fit around my fingers and rest in my palm comfortably. When holding the camera I can easily use the built in EVF to frame and shoot. In regards to the build quality, the GX7, in my opinion, is very good. If I compare it to the classic GF1, GX1 or even Olympus E-P3 the build is equal to those cameras.

It is solid and my only complaints about the build would be that some of the dials and buttons feel a little bit on the cheaper side. Plastic.

If I compare the build and feel side by side with the Olympus E-M1 or E-P5, the E-M1 and E-P5 wins easily. They feels more solid, heftier, and the dials and buttons are smooth and solid. No plasticky feel with the E-M1/E-P5. But again, $500 more for the Olympus E-M1, so it should feel a bit better made and there is no built in EVF with the snazzy E-P5, so there are always trade offs.

Overall, the GX7 gets a B for Build because when comparing to all Micro 4/3 cameras or even other mirrorless system cameras it is about equal, 2nd only to the new and top of the line E-M1 .

OOC JPEG at ISO 2000 WITH in camera NR

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The AF speed

The AF speed in the new GX7 has been touted by Panasonic as being blazing fast and I have to say, I have no disappointments with the AF of the camera. When using it with the kit zoom, it is lightning quick. When using it with the 20 1.7II it was slow to AF indoors. Sometimes taking a second to lock or longer. In comparison, the E-M1 with the 17 1.8 was lightning quick in the same indoor lighting and the E-M1 with the 20 1.7II was quicker than the GX7 by a small margin.

But with the right lens it is fast, accurate and never once in my use did it miss AF or fail to lock. Even in low light it found the focus and nailed it. Compared to the E-M1, it is a tad slower in general. Compared to the E-M5, it is equal or slightly faster. At this level it is plenty fast enough.

When I say the AF is fast, it is for static subjects. For moving or tracking, this may not cut it for you. So sports shooters who want to head to M 4/3, I would suggest the E-M1 but even so, Micro 4/3 is not the format for pro sports shooters as DSLRs still have the edge in THIS area.

This camera will AF faster than any Fuji body, any Sony body and any other APS-C mirrorless body. But each lens will give you a different AF performance level. The 20 1.7 is one of the slower lenses but it is still a beautiful lens to use and own. Slap on a 12-35 and you will be amazed at the speed.

The 20 1.7II may not be the fastest to AF but it has amazing IQ :) 

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The HIGH ISO performance

As for high ISO the GX7 is as good as the new E-M1 when it comes to bumping up the ISO and dimming the lights for some night shooting. With any Micro 4/3 camera you will have more noise than any APS-C sensor but in reality, not much more. These new sensors are better than ever (for Micro 4/3) when it comes to high ISO and ISO 3200 is usable and actually not so bad. Below see some ISO samples and comparison with the E-M1. The  WB of the E-M1 is a bit better than the GX7 in these samples. Zero noise reduction here, zero.

As you can see, ISO 3200 as an OOC file does not look that bad resized. But pixel peepers who view their images at 100% on a computer screen will see the noise :) 

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HIGH ISO CROPS

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iso3200

iso6400

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To me the high ISO capabilities are similar between the two cameras and any differences that are there would not show up in print.

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The Usability of the GX7

Micro 4/3 cameras have usually been good for usability. The very 1st cameras, the E-P1 and GF1 were not so good by todays standards but today..it is an all new story. These cameras are fast, responsive and mean business. In fact, I recently shot with a Canon 6D and a couple of fast primes. The GX7 can focus faster than that 6D did when using the 85L and 35 1.4. The GX7 is also just as responsive.

Menus are easy to navigate and settings are simple. Large easy to read text and a simple navigation mean JOY of use :) 

The GX7 also now has IN BODY Image Satbilsation. This is welcome as previous bodies only had IS in the lenses. The only bummer is that manual lenses/3rd party lenses are not compatible with the IS when shooting video. With the Olympus bodies, you can use the in body IS with all lenses. I am hoping Panasonic fixes this in future FW updates.

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The EVF

The EVF on the GX7 is good, but far from perfect. I am thrilled that there is an EVF but after shooting the E-M1, it is obvious there is a quality difference between the two. Still, its a good EVF though in the GX7 I have been shooting the white balance in the EVF is WAY OFF when compared to the LCD screen. Looking through the EVF I sometimes see off color and orangy color but when I review on the LCD it looks perfect. Not sure why this is the case but it is annoying when using because you think you are way off with your white balance or exposure only to find out it is just what  you are seeing through the EVF. I prefer a what you see is what you get experience.

I love love love the fact that the EVF swivels up as I have used it numerous times now in this fashion. Looking down into the EVF while holding the camera lower is a nice way to shoot sometimes. With the GX7 you can do this. When you are done it flips right down and the camera retains the clean lines. I love the fact that you can do this and there is no other camera made where this is possible.

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The Lenses

As I have stated many times on this blog, Micro 4/3 lenses are superb. Take a look at my faves HERE.

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The Silent Shutter Mode

The GX7 has an electronic Shutter mode for those times when you want to be silent. The Nikon V1 had this years ago and am happy to see it in the GX7. For those times when you want or need 100% silence, you can activate the electronic shutter and be as stealthy as a ninja :)

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The Video

The GX7 does indeed have full HD video capabilities. 1080p at 24 or 60 frames per second. From my quick tests, the video looks great. I have some sample videos shot with the camera in the video I posted a little ways up. I am not a huge video guy but Panasonic always does a good job in this area. If I were shooting pro video I would not be using a GX7 but the video I see is plenty good enough for personal use, youtube or fun projects.

One thing that I did not like is that in body IS does not work with manual lenses like Leica or 3rd party manual focus lenses.

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The Value

For $999 with a kit zoom lens, the GX7 is a best buy for Micro 4/3 bodies if you want something on the higher end of Micro 4/3. Along with the older Olympus E-M5 it is highly recommended in the $1000 price range. But what about the older E-M5? What camera would I take between the GX7 and that older Olympus? Well, between those two, it is a draw for me. I prefer the feel of the GX7 but the E-M5 is wonderful. I would probably lean GX7 if buying fresh today between those two but both are great. Still, to be fair, if starting fresh in Micro 4/3 today I would buy the E-M1 and call it a day. Bottom line? You can not make a WRONG decision here. Go with your gut :)

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VS the E-M1

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While the GX7 is the best Panasonic Micro 4/3 to date for taking photos, the E-M1 is the best Olympus to date for Micro 4/3 in general. Which is better? Well, my opinion is that the E-M1 is better but both can take an amazing photo. It’s all up to you, the photographer. Your eye, your mind, your style. Looking at the image above, which camera tugs at your soul the most..just by looks alone?

Some will choose the E-M1, others the GX7. But looks are not the whole story. While I prefer the sexy clean lines of the GX7, in the real world I find the E-M1 to be one incredible camera. My full review will be here soon for it but to put things into perspective, what makes it for me is the incredible 5-Axis IS, weather seal, huge and beautiful EVF and the ergonomics and control. It is one advanced camera and even the WiFi rocks. I also prefer the color from the Olympus.

But at the end of the day, as I said earlier in this review, it all comes down to your wants and needs. You may not care or need 5-Axis, weather sealing or the other features of the E-M1. If  that is the case, saving some cash on the GX7 would be the thing to do. Both are excellent. For $500 more the E-M1 is indeed the better camera technically but the GX7 is no slouch, not at all.

Some may wonder why I keep comparing this to the E-M1. Well, I have to do this. The E-M1 is the other brand new micro 4/3 body and it is a better body, though at $500 more. I want the readers to be aware of this in case the Olympus is more to their liking. I would hate to read a review, buy a camera, then find out the next day there is something that I may have liked better.

Even so, some will prefer the GX7 as it is also a superb tool. It comes down to features, and that is all.

The E-M1 can be seen here for $1399 and the GX7 here for $998 with lens

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Pros and Cons of the GX7

Pros

  1. Nice size and feel
  2. LOVE the new EVF, kudos to Panasonic for putting it in
  3. AF is fast, almost as fast as the E-M1. Same as E-M5
  4. Camera design is awesomely cool
  5. Swivel touch screen LCD is nice
  6. High ISO VERY usable to 3200 ISO
  7. Multitude of lenses available
  8. Price is right at $899 for the body only, $99 extra for kit lens
  9. Finally, the worthy follow up to the GF1
  10. FOCUS PEAKING!
  11. The GX7 has a silent electronic shutter mode ala Nikon V1

Cons

  1. Some dials and buttons feel cheap
  2. No in body IS during video with manual lenses
  3. In body IS is nice, but not as good as 5-Axis in the E-M1 or E-M5
  4. Not available in all black in the USA
  5. White Balance and Color is off in the EVF at times when it is perfect on the LCD

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My final word on the Panasonic GX7

After shooting the GX7 and E-M1 side by side for a while I can honestly say that I fell in love with one of them, and that was the E-M1, but I also loved shooting the GX7.

As always, it’s personal preference. IQ wise they are neck and neck so go with what you LIKE. I found the GX7 to be the best Panasonic Micro 4/3 made to date. Nice build, nice size, nice weight, great EVF that tilts up and down for more versatility and the touch screen LCD with all of the modern speed you can ask for.

The Auto Focus is fast on the GX7 but not any faster than the Olympus E-M5 or E-P5. The Battery life is good, had no issues with battery drain and shot a whole weekend on one charge. When mated with the lovely 20 1.7 II this makes for a nice compact lean mean sexy shooting machine. The Lumix GX7 is up there with the best of Micro 4/3.

At $998 for the body and Kit Zoom, it is well worth the cost if you want to get into Micro 4/3 while getting superb quality while spending under a grand.

Not much else I can say on the GX7, I like it.

Some have asked me about the GX7 vs the E-P5. Well, the E-P5 is beautiful, in and out. It is built to a nice standard, very hefty and solid with a gorgeous retro design, stellar LCD, amazing 5-Axis IS and features as well as having that PEN Mojo. My only issue with the PEN E-P5 is there is no integrated EVF! If Olympus would have put one in, it would be no contest..E-P5. Its a better made camera, feels better in my hand and I prefer the design as well. I just can not excuse Olympus for leaving it without an EVF in 2013. The PEN needs an EVF.

Panasonic listened to the demands of the enthusiast (something Sony has been doing for 2 years now) and made the camera we wanted to see made for Micro 4/3 at a decent price point. While there are many things I prefer on the E-P5, I have to say that I would probably choose the GX7 over it as I find it more enjoyable to shoot with. Still, I do like the E-P5 very much as I have always been a huge PEN fan. I am hoping that in 2014 or 2015 we will see one with a VF4 embedded in the body :)

With that said, look for my Olympus E-M1 review in about a week :)

Two with the Leica 50 Summilux ASPH on the GX7

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WHERE TO BUY!

You can buy the Panasonic GX7 at Amazom or B&H Photo, my two favorite big time shops. Direct links are below:

Buy the Panasonic GX7 at Amazon with the 14-42 Kit Zoom HERE

Buy the Panasonic GX7 at Amazon – Body only

Buy the Panasonic GX7 at B&H Photo with Kit Lens HERE

Buy the Panasonic GX7 body only at B&H HERE

Buy the Voigtlander 25 0.95 Lens HERE – (LOVE this lens)!

ISO 2000 with the Kit Zoom – NO NR

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With a Leica 50 Summilux ASPH at f/2

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and the box..

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Oct 042013
 

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Crazy Comparison Part 2: Fuji X-M1, Leica M 240, Olympus E-M1 and Panasonic GX7

Woooooooo! It never fails, ever! Every time I have done a crazy comparison (and I have done many over the years) people get all kinds of bent out of shape. Anyone who knows me or this site will know I do these comparisons FOR FUN. They are real results, posted for all to see but these are cameras that are not even meant to be compared! The X-M1 is the budget Fuji. The GX7 is the top end Panasonic and the Leica..well, we all know what that is.

But it is fun sometimes to put underdogs in a race to see if they can get close to winning. It’s a classic game really. Does anyone not remember the tortoise racing the rabbit in old Saturday Morning cartoons? So to all of you getting all bent out of shape and the Fuji owners feeling like they need to attack and defend, relax. All I am doing is showing real results from all cameras. I was motivated to do this because so many trash Micro 4.3 as a system when they have zero clue about what it is, what it does or the results that can indeed come from it. It’s just as capable as APS-C as i have always said but in many ways MORE SO. Why? Because you will never miss a shot due to dodgy AF. You will have a solid well made machine that inspires you. You will have a selection of some of the best fast primes available. But a camera is a personal choice. We all have different likes, different passions and different opinions.

So as I showed in the 1st test, Micro 4/3 can hang with the big guys, and it appears I ruffled some Fuji feathers with my own opinions on the Fuji build and AF. I have been saying it since the X-Pro 1 launch and it still remains. The Fujis need work to be exceptional. I strongly feel Fuji is working on this and in 2014 we may see something special from them. Then when everyone upgrades and says “Wow, it is so much faster to focus and I never miss a shot“…well, then my honest comments on the current X bodies will prove to be true :) It will happen. Watch and see.

When you own a camera system and are dedicated to it there is something that happens along the way. You forgive it for its shortcomings..you bond with it and you have no idea what other cameras can do because you shoot your camera. I do that with the Leica! I like shooting it so much that I forgive it for its off-color in some lighting, I forgive it for being $7000 and I forgive it for having a slow clunky EVF :) Many feel the way I do about their Fuji or Olympus or Sony or Panasonic as I do about my Leica. But whatever we do, we should never lose track of WHY we use what we use. Because we love it, enjoy it and it makes us want to go out and photograph. Whatever that camera is for you it is the right one :)

In fact, we should not even worry about new cameras or new tech as long as we are happy with our current camera. But we live in a “Disposable Society” where we buy, sell, buy sell and buy and sell. Sites like mine do not help this either! Believe me, I am well aware.

At the same time, many of us love technology. We enjoy using new cameras, testing them, trying out new lenses. It brings us joy as it is apart of our passion. So in many ways it is perfectly fine because we only live once, might as well enjoy it while we can.

What I am getting at is that these comparisons are called “Crazy Comparisons’ for a reason. Have fun with it and take it for what it is, a comparison of mismatched cameras. :)

I will always stand by my word though as I do not lie or make up nonsense for  the sake of it. I report my true feelings so if I say the Fuji bodies feel cheap to me, that is what I mean. If I say the Pansonic GX7 has a cheap feeling dial it is because I feel it does. If I say the Leica is overpriced it means I feel it is. None of this means camera A, B or C is crap. They are all fantastic in their own way.

In any case, enjoy the next set of comparisons which will include a high ISO test and another image shot at f/2 with each camera.

BTW, to those who say I hate Fuji, I do not. The fuji X100 and X100s are some of the best cameras you can get and the X100s focuses as a Fuji should. It is one that Fuji improved and they did a great job. They need to do this in a new X-Pro 2 and X-E2 and then we will be getting somewhere.

HIGH ISO TEST

For this test I am testing ISO as I ALWAYS have for the past 5 years, so those who want to complain about it I suggest you do not even look at the results. 

I test cameras in a real world way, always have, always will. I take a camera and use it as 99% of buyers would. I turn it on and use it. I do not set the metering to match another brand of camera, I use the cameras metering as is. ALL cameras have different ISO discrepancies. ALL of them. What is ISO 1600 on one camera is not really 1600 on another. Just how it is. But when I use say a GX7 I am not trying to set it to meter like a Sony RX1. No, I use it as it is. So this test will be done with each camera metering how  they meter at any given ISO so you see WHAT YOU WILL GET from said camera. Real world. 

So each camera was set to ISO 3200 for this test as that is as high as most of us ever will go and many will not even touch that high of an ISO these days. But for the sake of testing, ISO 3200 sounds good.

With all of that out-of-the-way, let us take a look at three cameras with three different sensor sizes and what to expect from ISO 3200 with each one in a normally lit home environment. Testing high ISO with studio lights is ridiculous. Who shoots high ISO in a studio light environment? No one. Again, real world because with less light we see the true ISO performance when we will really be using high ISO. 

YOU MUST CLICK THEM FOR FULL SIZE and The Olympus E-M1 was delivered just as I was setting up this test so I included it in this ISO test!

Leica M 240 ISO 3200 – f/8

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Fuji X-M1 ISO 3200 – f/8

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Panasonic GX7 ISO 3200 – f/8

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and the Olympus E-M1 which was delivered just as I was setting up this test! - ISO 3200 – f/8

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100% crops to make it easier

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The CLEAR winner at ISO 3200 is the Leica – richness, color, noise..all beats the other three. The Fuji is next in line with a sharp image (all were shot at f/8 on a tripod) and some noise where the Micro 4/3 are still looking good IMO and up there with many APS-C cameras. In print or web size, you would not even see the noise and this is at 3200! Even so, the Leica is VERY far ahead here IMO, as it should be for that kind of premium :)

One more image from RAW test (Olympus E-M1 was not in my hands for this one)

Leica M 240 – 50 Summilux at f/2 – MUST click it to see larger/full size

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Fuji X-M1 – Zeiss Touit 32 1.8 at f/2 – MUST click it to see larger size

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GX7 – Nokton 25 at f/2 – from RAW – resized – MUST click it to see it correctly

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So there you go. You can take a look at the samples and see for yourself. They are all good at producing lovely looking files. :) Me, I prefer the GX7 and M 240 as I find the Fuji to be off color and not as good looking of a file. If this were taken in Studio light, the Fuji would have shined. But in natural light, the other two, to me, do a better job.

Steve

I will leave you with one from the GX7 and 25 0.95 wide open and up at the closest focus distance. Some funky color PP here as well :) 

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Oct 022013
 

First Look Video: Panasonic GX7

Yes my friends, the Panasonic GX7 is in my hands and has been for a few days. So what do I think? I can say that FINALLY, Panasonic has released a worthy successor to the GF1, and improves upon it in every way. It has taken them 4 years to come up with this camera and it is worth the wait for those who have been wanting a good-looking, good feeling, fast performing Panasonic Lumix with a built-in EVF. Hurray!

You can order the GX7 at Amazon HERE or B&H Photo HERE.

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As many of you know I shot the Olympus E-M1 last week for a few days and loved it and in fact, loved everything about it. Even though when I shot it the weather was dreary, grey and wet and left me with some flat looking files (as any camera would) I could tell it oozed of quality in and out. A true workhorse camera.

The new Panasonic GX7 is much different than the E-M1 because it is not a pro level build, is not weather proof, does not have 5-Axis anything nor the Dual Fast AF. So why would one choose the GX7 over the E-M1? Easy. For one, not everyone needs all of those features of the E-M1 and lets face it, they did add a little but of size to the camera to create this pro level build. Also…

It’s all about Cost and Performance (or what you get for your hard earned money)

GX7 – ISO 1000 – Kit Zoom –  Zero NR – I am not a fan of the kit zoom as I feel Micro 4.3 needs the best lenses to shine. The Kit Zoom does AF VERY fast though :)

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After using both cameras I really can say that both are exceptional Micro 4/3 bodies and each have their own strengths. The GX7 looks amazing, feels good in the hand, has decent in body IS, and a killer swivel EVF that in practice, really makes it more versatile. The touch screen is fantastic and the AF is plenty fast. The image quality is a bit different, as it always has been between the two brands but when shooting RAW it does not really matter as both will do wonderful.

What it comes down to is your budget, your needs and your wants. Many have already asked me about the GX7 vs the Olympus E-P5 with 17mm 1.8 and EVF4. A Panasonic GX7 body with 20 1.7 II would run about the same cost as the E-P5 kit..around $1400. So this is what should be compared to the GX7 along with the E-M5 from Olympus. 

So which would I buy? Hard to say at this point as I have much more shooting to do with the Panasonic. BUT I can say that the E-P5 feels better/more solid and dense. It feels SOLID and the controls are fantastic. The GX7 feels more plasticky in comparison. The E-P5 focuses fast and has the 5-Axis IS which is the best you can get for in body IS from ANY camera made today (as of this writing). The VF4 is nicer than the GX7 EVF as well but it makes the camera much more bulky and odd looking when attached. The GX7 EVF is not even visible from the front until you raise it up.

The Leica 50 Summilux 1.4 ASPH on the GX7

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Me, I feel the Silver and Black E-P5 is sexier than the GX7 but the GX7 is also a looker. Both perform VERY well so what it comes down to is your personal preference  - besides, photography is not about design or looks of a camera (though it helps to get you motivated to want to shoot with it). I do feel the GX7 is a sweet little machine but I love that the E-P5 is able to use the 5-Axis/IS  even with Leica/3rd party non AF lenses and video, where the GX7 will not. Maybe a firmware update will fix this.

So to those who asked, I am not sure yet :) Both are just as capable in the right hands. I’ve always been a sucker for the PEN’s and have reviewed them all since day one so I might lean to that direction if my choice was between those two. We also can not forget the Olympus E-M5, also in the same price range. We can also not forget the camera that we currently own, because at the end of the day, you probably do not REALLY NEED an upgrade.

ISO 2000 – OOC JPEG with default NR – Kit Zoom

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But I will have much more in my full review of the GX7 soon, so until then check out the video with my 1st look thoughts as well as some quick video shot with the camera. Lots to do in October..E-M1, GX7, and of course, much more :) I may also do a just for fun comparison between the GX7 with a Voigtlander 25 0.95, the Fuji X-M1 with a Zeiss 35 1.4 and the Leica M with 50 1.4. If so, I will post three shots and not list what camera took what photo to see if you guys can guess what image came from what camera. So many claim Micro 4/3′s is a toy, so this will be a nice way to see how it hangs with the other two..an APS-C and Full Frame.

Fun fun fun :) Stay tuned.

Steve

Sep 292013
 

Panasonic GX7 in stock at Amazon for $999 with Kit Zoom!

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The new Panasonic GX7 has started to ship as of a few days ago and Amazon not only has them in stock, but they have lowered the price by $100 to $999 with kit zoom.

I just received one and will be doing a full review of the camera but at $999 its is a decent price/deal if you are one who prefers the Panasonic over Olympus when it comes to Micro 4/3. You can see the Amazon deal HERE. 

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B&H PHOTO also has the deal but are not showing it as in stock as of this writing. Looks like the $100 off is through October 12th and is an obvious answer to the E-M1 because at $1399 the E-M1 was $300 more than the $1099 GX7 and for $300 more, you get quite a bit extra in that OM-D (weather sealing, 5 Axis IS, The HUGE new EVF, Pro Build, Live Time, etc). Now the E-M1 is $400 more than the GX7 Kit lens setup and $500 more than the GX7 body only.  Not sure why Panasonic did not release the GX7 in all black for the USA though it is one sexy looking camera, and the AF seems pretty fast in my initial dim lighting test BUT..

In the hand the GX7 feels quite a bit less “robust” in the build quality department. It is good, feels equal to the OM-D E_M5, Fuji X-E1, etc but it is not up there in build or feel as the E-M1 is. The in body IS of the GX7 appears to be pretty nice as well, but I have only fired off a few test shots so far. The dials, knobs and buttons have a cheaper feel than the E-M1 as well, but again, just as good as 95% of other mirrorless cameras. Where Panasonic excels with the GX7 is the tilting EVF (which is VERY cool) and the rangefinder type of design that has become quite popular as of late. It closely resembles the Samsung NX300 but with an EVF added.

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I will say that the fit and finish of the Samsung NX300 is a little nicer than the GX7 in the “feel” department but the GX7 is, like I said, VERY sexy. It seems like a highly capable Micro 4/3 and between this and the new E-M1, I feel they are the best of what Micro 4/3 has to offer in a body for shooting stills. If video is your main thing, go to the GH3.

Again, the GX7 is now available and in stock/shipping with Kit Zoom for $999 at Amazon right HERE. The E-M1 should be shipping anytime now as well, my guess is within 5 days.

 

Sep 142013
 

What lenses I would buy with the new Olympus E-M1

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With the new (now a #1 best seller on Amazon) E-M1 scheduled to hit the shops in about 2-3 weeks I have been getting asked repeatedly “what lenses should I buy with it”. Well, buying a lens is almost like buying underwear. It’s all personal preference, lol. But even so, there are some superb lenses for this system and in case you did not know it, yes, you can use Panasonic lenses made for Micro 4/3 on a Olympus Micro 4/3 body and vice versa.

In the mirrorless world some of my favorite lenses come from Micro 4/3. Below is a list (and some alternatives) of what I would buy if I were diving fresh into Micro 4/3 with the new E-M1 camera, which I predict will be the best Micro 4/3 to date in all areas but looks (GX7 or a PEN  takes that prize).

The Camera

The new Olympus E-M1 is a big deal in the Micro 4/3 world as it is the 1st “Pro” body that is weather proof and freeze proof. It is blazing fast, has the worlds best Image Stabilization IN BODY and has eliminated the AA filter. The build, feel and performance are quite amazing. You can order the camera at Amazon or B&H Photo or PopFlash.com and I expect this one to be a big seller because even while pricey at $1399, it is much cheaper than other alternatives. In other words, this is priced right for what you are getting in my opinion.

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Wide Angle

My fave: The fast aperture of f/2 allows the Olympus 12mm f/2 to shoot in lower light while getting sharp and colorful images. The 12mm is a premium lens for the Micro 4/3 system giving you a 24mm equivalent.

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There are a few GREAt wide-angle choices but depending on how wide and how fast you want to go will decide what to get.

**The best bang for the buck will be in blue bold text!**

**My favorite will be in RED text!**

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Olympus 12mm f/2A beautiful little lens and a favorite of mine even though I find it a little on the pricey side today with so much competition. GORGEOUS in the all black edition (which is no longer sold) this lens offers AF speed that is FAST, focus accuracy and a fast f/2 aperture along with close focusing and nice manual focusing features. It is small, light and looks the part. The key word is SMALL. :) A 24mm equivalent t in focal length.

Panasonic 14 f/2.5 - Smaller and flatter than the 12mm and just about as good image quality wise. It is not as fast to AF (but still super fast) and it is not as slick as the 12mm but it is MUCH cheaper at $340 or so. Almost $400 less than the Olympus. You lose a half of a stop going from f/2 to f/2.5 as well as 2mm but you save cash while getting a fantastic lens. A 28mm equivalent. 

Olympus 9-18 Zoom - This is a wide-angle little jewel. I have not yet reviewed it (but will be VERY soon on the E-M1) but have tried it and if you want versatility with an effective focal range of 18-36 this is your guy. Sharp, great color and while slow in the aperture department many of us will not need a fast aperture for this focal length. This lens sells for $699. Review SOON.

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Standard Angle

My Fave: The Voigtlander 25 f/0.95 is a large, heavy and powerful lens on Micro 4/3. If you love your shallow DOF but want sharpness and great color, this is it. Just be prepared for manual focus only! Should do very well on the E-M1 with the huge EVF. 

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New Olympus 12-40 – The new super pro zoom by Olympus could end up being my new fave. No, I am not usually a zoom guy but this one is special. Superb quality, superfast AF and a semi fast f/2.8 aperture. Expensive but should be worth it to those who like zooms with a constant f/2.8 aperture. Weather proof as well and will kick the 12-50 to the curb. $999. Review SOON.

Panasonic 20 1.7 IIA powerhouse pancake with a small design. Not the fastest to AF but it has become a legend for its size, price and output. You can not go wrong with this lens, period. Review is HERE.

Panasonic 25 1.4 - Another legendary favorite for Micro 4/3. This one is deliciously good but around $500 or so and it is larger and noisier to AF than the 20. Gives you a little more magic over the 20 so up to you if the expense and size is worth it. This is also a fave of mine but the “bang for the buck” goes to the 20 1.7II. My review is HERE.

Voigtlander 17 or 25 0.95These are beasts. Heavy, Large and of HIGH quality build. All manual and much like shooting an old (or new) Leica lens in feel. Sharp at 0.95 and with a fantastic character and Bokeh. I love the 17.5 and 25 but if pressed with only owing one 25 (50mm equiv) I would go for the 25 f/0.95 or the 25 1.4 from Panasonic. These are around $1000 so they are the most expensive. When you hold one you will wonder why they are not $1500 :)

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Want Some reach?

The Voigtlander 42.5 at f/0.95 is beautiful. :) 

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Olympus 45 1.8This is almost a MUST own. A 90mm equivalent and coming it at around $349 this lens is so worth it that if you own a nice Micro 4/3 camera and do not own this lens you should really reconsider that thought. Fantastic in every way. For me, limited use as I am not a 90mm guy but for those who are, this one rocks. Priced right. My review of this lens is HERE.

Voigtlander 42.5Another Voigtlander masterpiece! The 42.5 gives us an 85mm f/0.95 equivalent. Amazing sharp lens and you can see my review HERE. Not cheap but fills out the Voigtlander trinity of lenses for Micro 4/3 which gives us a 35, 50 and now 85mm, all f/0.95! Top quality here guys. You can buy this from CameraQuest HERE.

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More? How about a Telephoto!

The 75 1.8 will give you a 150mm equivalent so if you are shy, and want to keep some distance, this lens will let you do it.

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Olympus 75 1.8 – Ahhhhhh, one of the best pieces of glass in the Micro 4/3 lineup, period. This lens is a masterpiece but long at 150mm (equivalent). Still, this is one of those special lenses and it feels, looks and performs like a million bucks. In black it is super sexy as well. Not very large or heavy but just right with fast AF as well. Bravo Olympus. My review is HERE.

Panasonic 35-100 This is in the high quality premo line for Panasonic and it does not come cheap but from what I hear, it is a great high quality tele option. $1500!

Panasonic 100-300The budget telephoto with some serious power and high quality. Many swear by this guy, and if you want REACH…as in 600mm equivalent, this is the best $600 you can spend on your Micro 4/3 for a native lens. 

Olympus 40-150This $149 lens can not be beat for the price. It is a bit lightweight in the build but delivers good performance across the 40-150 range giving you an 80-300 equivalent. $149 at B&H Photo. 

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Specialty Lenses – Macro and Fisheye

The E-M5 and Panasonic 8mm Fisheye – GREAT special effect lens. But make sure to GET CLOSE!

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Panasonic 8mm Fisheye – I have shot with the cheap manual focus Rokinon fisheye and the quality Panasonic 8mm fisheye and I LOVED the 8mm from Panasonic the most. It feels nice, build is superb as is performance. This is a great special effect lens for occasional up close use. I love it. You can see my review HERE. Amazon sells this beauty via PRIME.

The Olympus 60 Macro is AMAZING. Highly recommended for Macro lovers. 

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The Olympus 60mm Macro - Probably the best Macro lens I have personally used or tested. Superb lens. $499 at Amazon. My full review is HERE.

 

Sep 112013
 

New Camera pre-order! Panasonic GX7, Sony QX10, Olympus E-M1, Leica C

Many new cameras have been announced in the past week or two, and more are on the way before the end of the year..I think :)

Panasonic has the cool and well received new GX7, Sony has announced some cool and different things in the QX10 and QX100 lens/cameras, a DSLR like $399 Alpah 3000 in e-mount and the new NEX-5T and 16-70 Lens.  Leica has announced a rebadged Panasonic LF1 but it is pretty nice looking, and the LF1 is a great little camera as it is. The Leica gives us the style, design and warranty of a Leica for $200 more with some cool accessories available for it as well. Of course, the big one so far is the Olympus OM-D E-M1 and 12-40 2.8 Pro Zoom Lens. Below are full links to my recommended dealers for pre-orders of all of these new releases. Many of us love to pre-order because it means we get the cameras 1st. Sometimes these hot cameras end up having long wait times for those who do not get their order in early (Leica M 240, Sony RX1R, Fuji X100s). The best part is you can pre-order from the dealers below yet your card will not be charged until the items ship. You can cancel at any time before that if you change your mind.

UPDATE: The new Sony Alpha 3000 is IN STOCK and at $398 it is the best bang for the buck out there. It seems to me Sony will LOSE money on this one to get people into the E-Mount system. This is a high speed, with EVF, APS-C camera that is SMALL but DSLR shaped that will accept E- Mount Lenses, have great low light performance, FAST AF, live view, HD video and all of the normal things we expect, including an 18-55 Zoom lens. All for $398. Amazing. I will be reviewing this SOON but did get to see it this past weekend. $398 is a steal for someone wanting to get into an APS-C sensor camera coming from a P&S and wanting that DSLR style.

So for those who are interested, I have listed the new releases that are coming VERY soon below along with their pre-order links! Later today I will have a review up of a Canon 6D with Canon 85L 1.2 and Sigma 35 1.4. Check back later!

 

Panasonic GX7:

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Pre-Order the body only at B&H Photo

Pre-Order the body/kit zoom at B&H Photo

Pre-Order the Body only at Amazon

Pre-Order the Body/kit zoom at Amazon

Sony QX10 and QX100:

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Pre-Order at B&H Photo

Pre-Order at Amazon

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Sony Alpha 3000 with EVF and lens, $398 – BEST bang for buck camera on the market, hands down! 

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Pre-Order at B&H Photo - IN STOCK NOW!!

Pre-Order at Amazon - IN STOCK NOW!!

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Sony NEX-5T – The latest and greatest “5″:

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Pre-Order at Amazon - IN STOCK NOW!

Pre-Order at B&H Photo - IN STOCK NOW!

Leica C – compact with built in EVF:

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Pre-Order at PopFlash.com

Pre-Order through Ken Hansen – email [email protected]

Pre-Order through the Pro Shop

Pre-Order at B&H Photo

Cool Leica C Case at PopFlash.com

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Olympus OM-D E-M1:

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Pre-Order at PopFlash.com

Pre-Order at B&H Photo

Pre-Order at Amazon

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Olympus 12-40 f/2.8 Pro Zoom:

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Pre-Order at PopFlash.com

Pre-Order at B&H Photo

Pre-Order at Amazon

 

 

 

Aug 232013
 

The Panasonic 20 1.7 II Lens on the Olympus E-P5

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Hello to everyone out there in camera land! Today I am talking a little bit about a new version of a legendary lens and one that helped to propel Micro 4/3 to huge sales back when it was launched almost four years ago. The lens that when attached to an old E-P2 beat out a Nikon D3s with Nikon 50 1.8 in all areas back in Jan of 2010 right here on this very blog. Yes, I am talking about THAT lens, the Panasonic 20 1.7 but in its new updated version, which is called “VII”. This will be a shorter than normal post/review as this lens is basically the same exact lens as the version I that I have written so much about with a few tweaks. If you missed the original reviews you can see them at the links below:

When this lens was announced many of us thought “YES! Finally an improved version of the 20 1.7, but HOW can Panasonic improve on what is already a killer lens”? At least that is what I asked myself because I am a huge fan of the original, even though it has been beaten out in IQ from the newer and larger Panasonic/Leica 25 1.4. But for size and cost, the 20 1.7 and now 20 1.7 II is a force to be reckoned with and I know MANY who use this as their one and only lens for their Micro 4/3 camera. Yea, it is that good. So the question is..if you already own the original, is this one worth upgrading to? Well, read on and find out what I think about that :)

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So what is really new with the lens?

The lens is small, looks great, has a metal barrel and mount and gives you a 40mm equivalent on Micro 4/3. The older version, which is still a capable and amazing lens, did NOT have a metal barrel, it was made of plastic. So right off the bat, this guy is made of metal even though it is still feather light and feels like plastic. The lens looks slicker and nicer. I always found the original a little on the ugly side with the grey and black so in all black it looks great. So far, a metal barrel is all that is new. But there HAS to be something else…right?

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According to Panasonic, the only other change is that it supposedly has an improvement in the FLARE department but I found that claim to be off. My old 20 1.7 flared every now and again and I have seen flare in the new one within the 1st 5 shots I snapped. Is this just a fluke, shooting into the sunlight and seeing flare? Well, maybe but the Oly 17 1.8 does not do what this lens does with flare (in my experience/real use). So the 20 1.7 II lens still can exhibit flare. In regards to flare, I feel the Olympus 17 1.8 does better. Then again, if you are shooting on a Panasonic body I 100% recommend this lens over the Olympus.

The Flare is There! But the contrast, sharpness and color are rocking it wide open!

As always, click on ANY image to see the correct and larger version!

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CONTRAST BABY!

Panasonic has also stated that this lens will give a better contrast to your images, and I believe it. The results are crisp, have great color and look very good in the contrast department. That 20 1.7 look is there :)

Tasty color and contrast wide open. At 1.7 this lens beats the Olympus 17 1.8

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Auto Focus

This has NOT been improved so the AF is still on the slower side for Micro 4/3 but guess what? It runs circles around the Fuji X-M1 and Zeiss 32 Touit I have here for AF – both speed and accuracy :) But do not expect any improvement in auto focus speed over the old version. With that said, I never had an AF miss or issue. It locked on without fail in all situations. I shot it on an E-P5 the entire time. (which is a camera that has grown on me quite a bit..that EVF-4 is amazing).

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This will equal a 40mm field of view with light gathering of a 1.7 Aperture lens. Sweet!

Yep, a 40mm field of view, which to be honest is a little oddball when you hear it but when you shoot, it feels natural. It’s in between the 35 and 50mm focal lengths and to me, this is a great in between to have. Just enough reach to get some nice shallow DOF and still wide enough to get quite a but in your frame.

A fast 1.7 aperture is why this 20mm lens is one of the original legendary choices for ANY Micro 4/3 system camera. You can use it in low light, bright light or any light. It is easy to hand hold and on the Olympus OMD or E-P5 the 5-Axis IS is INCREDIBLE with this lens. Superb!

Also, FYI,  I have been shooting it alongside the Olympus 17 1.8 and to be honest, this lens is giving me the better looking images even though I see more CA and flare with it over the Oly. With the 20 I am getting crisper results, as in “sharper” and cleaner with better contrast. The Oly is just a tad soft wide open and while I prefer the design of the Oly with the snap manual focus feature, for size, cost and IQ, this one is tough to beat. Also, the AF of the Olympus is faster.

You can read my Olympus 17 1.8 lens review HERE

Wide open at 1.7 but converted with VSCO to B&W using the AGFA SCALA 200 preset

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So should I upgrade if I own the old one… and is Micro 4/3 the real deal?

Well, I would not do it because by the time you sell your original and pay for the new one you will be out about $200. Not worth it for a metal barrel and a contrast boost. But, if you LOVE the new slick look and want that extra bite to your images with the lens, then go for it. The truth is simple: Micro 4/3 is fantastic and those who call it rubbish, or no good, or a toy system or anything other than what it is are fooling only themselves. At the end of the day Micro 4/3, and especially cameras like the E-P5, OM-D and whatever is coming up from Panasonic and Olympus, are fantastic image taking machines. Some of my favorite images of the past 4 years were taken with an OM-D or Nikon V1, two systems many scoff at and call “garbage”.

This one was shot at f/2 where the lens gets really sharp while giving a nice smooth Bokeh – rich with plenty of depth.

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Micro 4/3 vs the APS-C or Full Frame

Last week I made a post in my Facebook page for this website (you can see it or like it here) and I said that I was enjoying the new Fuji X-M1 more than the X-E1 or X-Pro 1 due to its tiny size and cool swivel screen. It is the size of an X20 but has a huge APS-C sensor inside, pretty incredible. At the same time I wondered if “that was enough” from Fuji due to the competition as the X-M1 is $700 for a pretty tiny and basic body that feels almost too light and airy (feels “cheap”..sorry, but my true opinion) and when the large Fuji X lenses are on the body it feels unbalanced. Someone replied “what competition, and I do not consider Micro 4/3 competition”. All I can say to that is in my experience, and that experience is pretty vast, I much prefer a camera like the OM-D, E-P5 or even my V1 and 18.5 and 32 1.2 to any of the Fuji X bodies. I even did a slew of personal comparisons, WANTING to enjoy the X-M1 more than these other cameras but it did not even come close. Not because of image quality, which can be gorgeous from the Fuji X..but in all areas that I look at when evaluating a camera.

To the naysayers of Micro 4/3 – this format is here to stay and the reason is simple. This system has the best lenses, and makes the least compromises while delivering stellar IQ and capabilities. Micro 4/3 today is miles better than it was 4 years ago and it gets better every year. Today, the files I get from an Olympus E-P5 and a lens like the 20 1.7 or 45 1.8 or 75 1.8 or 12 f/2 are as good as anyone needs. I know many pros shooting Micro 4/3, some of who dumped their large full frame DSLR’s to do so. Are they happy? YES, of course. The only thing a full frame camera will do over a Micro 4/3 camera is give a more shallow DOF, a richer file and better extreme high ISO performance (12k, 25k)  - in other words, ISO’s no one ever uses in reality.

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Full Frame cameras like the Sony RX1R, Leica M and Nikon D800 are superior to the Micro 4/3 format, of course. But you also lose out on things like weight, size, cost, speed while gaining an adavantage in low light and shallow DOF. These days, cameras like the OM-D or E-P5 deliver superb performance and anyone who has researched this will agree, because they have to, the proof is there.

If you want the “best” and have a healthy budget – buy a full frame camera and be done with it (Leica M or RX1R). They can be BEAUTIFUL and usually are but they will cost you. They are superior in the IQ abilities, hands down. But if you want a slight compromise and want to save some money and do not need all of that insane power, this format is, IMO, the best there is in the mirrorless world. Yes, I prefer it to APS-C systems for three reasons. The three S’s.

  1. Size
  2. Speed
  3. (Lens) Selection

Micro 4/3 is smaller, faster, and has superior lenses and many more of them to choose from than any other mirrorless system.

The E-P5 and 20 1.7II next to the Fuji X-M1 and Zeiss Touit 32 1.8 I much prefer the Olympus/Panasonic setup that comes in at a few hundred less than the Fuji combo pictured.

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For me, it takes four things for a camera to stick to me..to motivate me and to make me WANT to go out and shoot at the crack of dawn.

  1. It must be made nice/built well with good control and it must feel good in my hand. Solid, giving me confidence in its ability. Not too large nor too small. 
  2. It must have fantastic usability. Accurate AF matters more than speed and it has to be able to be controlled easily. Issue free while out in the field in all areas.
  3. Image quality has to be good. I am not talking about “Bokeh” – but image quality in general. 
  4. Lens selection and quality has to be there. This is most important.

If I get all four of these things in a camera body then I am thrilled. Cameras that do this for me? Olympus OM-D E-M5, Olympus E-P5, Fuji X100s, Nikon V1 or V2, Sony NEX and Leica M series. Cameras that fail this test for me? Leica X-Vario, Fuji X-Pro 1 and X-E1, X-M1, Samsung NX300, and a few others. But this is ME, my opinions for how I like to shoot. Also, those cameras on the “did not do it for me list” were all amazing in IQ but failed me in other areas such as usability, design, AF, or something similar.

The 20 1.7II at 1.7

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As for Fuji, the images from the Fuji give me different color and slightly more shallow DOF but I can achieve images that are just as nice, or powerful with a Micro 4/3 camera or even Nikon 1 camera. Same goes for my Sony or Leica cameras. The moral of the story is that ALL cameras are fantastic these days and I use and recommend what I enjoy using. Micro 4/3 has come a long way since the early days of the E-P1 and GF1 and the Fuji X system cam provide jaw dropping results.

But Micro 4/3..In the mirrorless world they have the fastest focus, the best image stabilisation, the best prime lenses available, the best made/built bodies, superb usability, fantastic viewfinders and astonishing versatility. I am mainly talking about the Olympus E-P5 and OM-D series due to what they offer. 

So Micro 4/3 is here and here to stay. They do not need, nor will they ever have larger sensors. If that were the case, it would no longer be micro 4/3. The newest bodies supply the tools needed for amazing output and if the photographer is up to the task, can squeeze out special images just as easily as one can using a full frame camera.

I have used and tested them all my friends and Micro 4/3 is no joke. 

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Pros and Cons of the new 20 1.7 II Lens

Pros

  • It is small and flat, a pancake lens
  • It is sharp even wide open with great contrast and color
  • Looks great in the all new slick black or silver colors
  • Metal Barrel
  • Works great on Olympus or Panasonic bodies!

Cons

  • Same IQ and AF speed of the original
  • Can flare in some circumstances
  • Does exhibit CA wide open in some situations
  • No real improvement over the old version

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THREE SHOTS

Three shots, one with the E-P5,  and 20 1.7 II ($1450 combo), one with the Nikon V1 and 18.5 1.8 ($430 combo) and one with the Fuji X-M1 and 32 1.8 Zeiss ($1600 combo). It is easy squeezy to spot the Fuji as it does have that signature Fuji color and a more shallow DOF and a biting sharpness. With that said, of all three cameras I enjoy shooting the E-P5 the most with the V1 just behind it. TheHad a frustrating day with it today and out of 12 shots taken of the cows with the Fuji, 7 were in focus. The E-P5 and Nikon had zero missed AF shots. The images below are all looking good IMO and my fave came from the Nikon 1 and 18.5. :)

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With that rant out of the way, this new Panasonic 20 1.7 II is a joy to use and gives stupendous output and should do very well on the new Panasonic GX7 or any of the Micro 4/3 bodies available today.

WHERE TO BUY?

If you own a Micro 4/3 camera and DO NOT own this lens or the Panasonic 25 1.4, I HIGHLY recommend this lens, without a shred of doubt! It sells for $429 and can be purchased at the links below from my recommended shops:

Buy the 20 1.7 II in black at Amazon or B&H Photo

Buy the 20 1.7 II in Silver at Amazon of B&H Photo

You can buy the Olympus E-P5 at PopFlash.com, B&H Photo or Amazon

 

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