Mar 092012
 

Goodbye DSLR’s, traveling light with the Leica M9, Panasonic G3 and Olympus E-P3

by Neil Buchan-Grant – Visit his site HERE

Last year I was commissioned to shoot a travel guide covering the island of Sicily. I had, only the previous year, sold all of my heavy DSLR equipment. Although it weighed a ton, that equipment included AF lenses which covered a wide range of focal lengths from 16mm to 560mm. My M9 kit spanned from only 28mm to 75mm.

Having done a few of these travel commissions before, I knew that the extra range would be greatly missed. So to produce the bulk of the photos, I used an Olympus EP3 and a Panasonic G3 which I used with not only the Leica lenses, but also Olympus mft lenses ranging from 12mm to 600mm. The M9 handled most of the travel portraits, each shot with the 50mm Summilux ASPH lens.

Before, when I used the Canon equipment, my travel work was mostly concerned with the places, the landscapes and the light. Now with the M9/50 lux combination in particular, I feel that portraits of the people I meet in a country will become the heart of any future commissions. I know of course there are fast primes available in other systems and I’ve used most of the Canon ones, but none have offered me the opportunity to record people in such a visually beautiful way as the Leica equipment has. So its safe to say that using this equipment has changed the way I take photographs.

I traded a big heavy rucksack for a small shoulder bag and a belt pack. These are some of the pictures, I came back with.

 

Jan 142012
 

 

Mirrorless Mania – Which one should I buy? Nikon 1, Micro 4/3, Sony NEX

Hello again to all! After this mornings post about the ISO 3200 walk with the Nikon J1, and the uproar that followed I figured I would post a few more thoughts on the J1 in addition to more thoughts on the other popular camera choices available to us today. There are so many out there looking to get into their 1st serious *but small* system and reading reviews sometimes can make it even harder! So what do you go for if you are not invested in any one system yet and you want a small but capable mirrorless camera that has interchangeable lenses? That is the question of the year it seems (or so my inbox says) but it is not always an easy answer due to the fact that everyones tastes are different as well as their needs. For example, one person may love a certain camera and another may hate it. Much like the Nikon 1 series.

BTW, this little J1 I have been using is not my camera. It is just a loaner so I could try it out but have to say it is almost enjoyable to use as the V1 (for me). There are so many hobbyists out there in the enthusiast camp that think of this camera as a toy but the truth is that just about ANY camera in the mirrorless segment that is out today is plenty good enough f0r 95% of our needs, even the J1. These are not “pro” cameras, at least I wouldn’t use them in pro situations but cameras like the Nikon 1 series cameras, the micro 4/3 cameras, the Sony NEX cameras and a few others are all highly capable and plenty good enough for most peoples everyday needs. They all have their strengths and weaknesses. but which one ignites the passion inside of you? THAT is the more important question.

My e-mails say it all. I hear it every day and get the questions “Micro 4/3 or NEX”? Micro 4/3 or Nikon 1″? Nikon D7000 or Canon Rebel”?

It really is a tough decision because like I said, all of these little machines are pretty damn good but NONE are perfect in every way, NONE. As of today, if you want the perfect mirrorless it would have to be a mix of four cameras. If we mixed the speed, metering and responsiveness of the Nikon V1 along with the EVF of the NEX-7, the sensor of the NEX-5 and the fun factor and great styling of the E-P3 we would be pretty close to the perfect mirrorless camera.

Then again, the perfect mirrorless camera does indeed exist if you want to get into the costs and time of film :) But thats another story…

Digital is hot as ever, even in this so called recession and this industry is only getting hotter every year. Fuji is coming along with the X-Pro 1 which to me appears to be the closest of any camera released or announced to date in what I would call my perfect mirrorless solution. Then again, I have the best mirrorless camera made, the M9 :) Only issue with that is the cost and the insane prices of the lenses that were just raised yet again. The new Fuji is actually just about the same size as the M9 but in a much more affordable package. They are even releasing an M lens mount adapter so for the long term I think the new X-Pro 1 will be the ticket for those who do not want to invest the cash in the M system. I KNOW Fuji is gunning for all of  the people who want an M but do not want or can not pay the price. They did it with the X100 and succeeded by going against the X1. Leica will probably answer with the next X this year, at least that has been my prediction for the last year and a half and have said so many times.

But for now, this Fuji is real and it will most likely be the hottest release of 2012 if it doesn’t fall flat on its face with issues. I doubt that it will.

So where does that leave the other cameras? What should you go for if you want a great interchangeable lens mirrorless camera that will do what you need and you do not want to spend a fortune? Here is my take as of today, Jan 14 2012:

Micro 4/3 – The Olympus E-P3/Panasonic GX1/G3/GH2 – This group of cameras are all really really good. Make no mistake, Micro 4/3 is in this to stay and have a rather large following. The lenses available such as the Olympus 12mm, Panasonic 25 1.4, and Olympus 45 1.8 are absolutely SUPERB. There are no lenses like this available for any other mirrorless camera, so in many ways this format is one you can invest in and be confident because LENSES are the heart of any system. I am also hearing that the Olympus PRO PEN may be released sometime this year, but who knows. If they update the sensor, give us a built in EVF and add the rumored weather sealing then they will have a home run hit. There has been a surge lately in Olympus E-P3 sales for some reason so Micro 4/3 is still hot. The lenses…they have them! My recommended kit? E-P3, 12mm f/2 and 45 1.8. In chrome :) Cost – $1900

A few from the E-P3

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Sony NEX System – NEX-3/5n, NEX-7 - The Sony cameras are alsofantastic and Sony let us all know that they were in this seriously when they announced the NEX-7. That is a powerhouse of a camera with so many technological features it is almost like shooting a computer instead of a camera. Where Sony falls short is in the simplicity factor. Like I said, it is like you are shooting a small handheld computer. Their lenses are large, focus is good but not as fast as the latest M4/3 or Nikon 1 cameras and the metering is not always the best BUT their sensor and low light performance rock. The NEX series is great but the lenses are not as good as the ones available for M4/3. Still, fantastic images can be made with the NEX cameras. They have the largest sensors of the ILC’s to date. This means better low light and dynamic range. My recommended kit? NEX-7 and Zeiss 24.  Cost – $2200

A few shots from the NEX-7

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Nikon 1 Series – The J1 and V1 – You guys know where I stand on these. I love them, and have been enjoying shooting them but in order to get the most out of the smaller sensor, which is indeed the smallest sensor of all the cameras mentioned here is to shoot RAW. No doubt about it. The RAW files from the 1 series are very hardy and much better than the JPEGS. These cameras are fast, accurate, have superb metering and really great video without the nasty Jello effect. They lose ground due to the small sensor and the fact that the only lenses available are very slow zooms. No shallow depth of field for these guys right now. The one 10mm prime, which will give you around a 28mm equivalent is an f/2.8 lens. Nikon needs some fast primes and when they release these (this year) I think more people will start to see just how good these cameras are. Even with the slow zooms the quality is there when you shoot RAW. I recommend the V1 and the 10mm along with the 30-110 zoom. The weakest lens is the 10-30. All have built in VR and it works well. This is my most used camera of the past couple of months. Cost – $1000.00

A few images from the Nikon J1 and V1

 So to summarize my fave three mirrorless cameras…

E-P3 – Great build, fast AF, good metering, good IQ with good lenses. Suffers in low light/high ISO.

NEX 7 – Feature packed, superb video, killer EVF, highest resolution. Lacks lens choices and lenses are large.

V1 – Great build, superb battery life, great EVF, Phase Detect and contrast detect AF, best metering, great video. Sensor size is small so no shallow depth of field until we get fast primes.

Not sure if that makes it any easier but these are all enthusiast models to some extent with the NEX-7 taking the prize for the most “enthusiastic”.  If you are looking to get into a new mirrorless system I hope some of my words help you out. I can not tell you what to buy but if you break down your needs and wants it should be fairly simple. I will leave you with a few shots from the “toy” camera of the bunch, the Nikon J1. :)

Jan 062012
 

My final thoughts on the Panasonic GX1 vs E-P3

So I know some of you are waiting for my review of the Panasonic GX1. Ive had the camera for while now and have been shooting it daily, and shooting it next to my micro 4/3 fave, the Olympus E-P3. I posted the review from David Babsky who loved the camera and you can read that 3500 word review HERE. I feel that David did a good job talking about the cameras features and capabilities so I did not want to re-hash what he said. I do not feel as excited about it as he does though so I will just give my thoughts on it in this short article instead of doing a full blown review. David posted ISO samples, crops, and talked about the design and control so no real need for me to repeat it.

The Panasonic GX1 and the Olympus 17 2.8

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At about $700, the GX-1 and kit zoom is not cheap. Many complained about the Nikon V1 at $850 even though it focuses faster, has a more solid build, has a fantastic built in EVF and can compete with any M4/3 camera at high ISO. Oh, and it also shoots better quality HD video than either of these M4/3 cameras! So using that logic, the GX-1 should not cost what it does. When I received the camera I was a bit disappointed in the feel of it. While it is leagues better than the brain farts that were the GF2 and GF3, the GX1 just doesn’t have that sweet solid feel that the E-P3 has. But for many, the feel doesn’t matter. The inside, the guts, the good stuff…that is what matters and that is what gives us the image that we see on our computer screen.

When the GX1 was announced my thoughts were “FINALLY”! Panasonic was going back to their GF1 roots with the same body design and control and that was/is a good thing. When I started using the camera I realized it really is not much better than the old GF1. I mean, of course it does much better in low light and focuses faster but it still doesn’t have in body image stabilization. It is still on the small side and smaller than the GF1. The rear dial feels cheaply made, and the big one for me…no built in EVF! GRRRR.

Why oh why didn’t they put in an EVF? The Fuji X100, The Nikon V1, the Sony NEX-7 – All newer cameras and all have EVF’s. Even if the GX1 came in at $800 or even $900, an EVF would have been welcomed and made it much more enjoyable to shoot. It would have also separated itself from the E-P3, it’s main competition. To me, if I were to stick with Micro 4/3, and there is good reason to just due to the amazing lenses that are available, I would stick with the E-P3 no question. I would NOT sell my E-P3 for a GX1, no way, no how.

 

Again, this is not really a review of the GX1 as I feel it is not needed due to David’s review that explained the camera in detail but I know many were wondering how I liked this camera. Bottom line?  I like the GX1 but I like the E-P3 more. I like the feel of the E-P3, the control, the LCD, the touch screen, the filters as well as the color more with the Olympus. It is what it is and after spending time with both, side by side, those are my opinions.

There are areas where the GX1 does indeed beat the E-P3 though. The sensor IS without a doubt a better sensor than the Olympus’s aging 12MP many years old design. The low light/high ISO performance is better with the GX1. No question. BUT…in good light I found the Olympus to provide me with more pleasing images every time. I also love the B&W Art filter on the Olympus and use it quite often. The GX1 can not replicate it in camera. The GX1 takes better HD video with less jello effect (the E-P3 is lousy in this regard) and I would pick it over the Oly for video. Then again, if video is your thing and you are in the Micro 4/3 camp, go with a GH2 :)

ISO 1600 from the GX1, taken at night in a parking garage – click the image for larger

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GX1 AT ISO 400, INDOOR AT NIGHT,  NO FLASH – RAW – 25 1.4

I am not bashing the GX1. If someone wanted to get into M4/3 right now, I’d say that the GX1 is a good choice due to the low light abilities and newer sensor. At the same time, I would say that I enjoy shooting the E-P3 more. I am not alone in this either. I spoke with a few people this past week who own both and every one of them agreed with my findings. There is just something about the little Oly that gets me. If a Leica talks to my soul, the PEN talks to my heart. The Panasonic doesn’t really speak to me much at all. Then again I am a guy who loves the camera look, feel, and style in addition to what it gives me in the images.

The Panasonic 25 1.4 on the E-P3. This is a GREAT lens…

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The Panasonic GX1 with the 25 1.4

The power of the EVF

If the GX1 was $599 Id say BUY IT NOW and consider it a steal. I also think the E-P3 should come down to $600 because today cameras like these SHOULD have an EVF built in. The V1 showed me this and I use the V1′s EVF 95% of the time. I think more and more cameras will be coming with fantastic EVF’s (Fuji X-Pro 1) and any camera in the $800 and up price range that doesn’t is asking for trouble. For example, if Leica releases an X2 without a built in EVF there will be plenty of bitching and moaning because we all know an X2 will not be cheap.

So to sum it up, the GX1 is a great little Micro 4/3 camera. It is a much better successor to the GF1 than the GF2 and GF3 by far and has the latest Micro 4/3 sensor technology. But for those wanting to get into Micro 4/3 then you have choices and in the enthusiast camp, it is mainly between the GX1 and E-P3. You have to decide what you desire more. Both come in at the same price right now with their kit lenses and both can mount the Olympus or Panasonic or ANY Micro 4/3 lens. Either way, if you own the E-P3, I would stick with it. If you own a GX1, that is great too. Both have their pros and cons and both can deliver fantastic images.

The Olympus Pros vs the GX1

  • Better out of camera color
  • Better body feel (in my opinion)
  • Better LCD and Touch screen implementation
  • In body Image Stabilization
  • AF is just as fast as the new GX1
  • Buttons and dials feel more solid than the GX1
  • Art Filters

The Panasonic GX1 Pros vs the E-P3

  • Thinner and sleeker
  • Better high ISO performance
  • More resolution – 16MP vs 12MP
  • New sensor technology
  • HD Video a bit better on the GX1

Below are a few snaps taken with both cameras. Enjoy!

The 1st four were shot with the GX1

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The next few are from the E-P3

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Jan 032012
 

Happy New Year! Updates and cool stuff…SLR Magic, Gizmon, LA Workshop updates and more!

Hello to all! It’s Tuesday Jan 3rd and I just arrived home from a 4 day trip to COLD Chicago to spend New Years Eve with my girlfriend. I am now back in Phoenix to the warm sunny weather and my daily routine of waking up to work on the site. The photo above was shot at the Phoenix airport baggage claim last night at 1 in the morning with the Panasonic GX1 and Olympus 17mm 2.8. I was there for 45 minutes waiting for my luggage and then when it did not show up on the belt I decided to take a look for it elsewhere. I ended up finding it 300 feet down and the US Air employee told me “Oh yea, that one came in an hour ago on a different flight”. Fun! Came home, got some sleep and here I am now scheduling a few things for the site this week.

At 1:30 AM the airport is pretty empty. The 17 and GX1…

During the last few days I was without a computer and all of the updates and posts were scheduled so if you e-mailed me and did not get a response this is why. I am now back to work and ready to make 2012 a GREAT year. I took the Panasonic GX1 with me to Chicago along with the 25 1.4 Summilux lens, which is a fantastic lens BUT different than the 20mm 1.7 which I also adore.

I am finding that the more I use the 25 1.4 the more I appreciate the qualities of the lens which have a richer feel than the images I get from the 20, which tend to put out flatter images than the 25. This is probably due to the 25 being a bit longer and a bit faster. It’s also quite a bit larger but if I were to recommend one of the two lenses, it would be the 25 1.4 for it’s richer color and overall character. I must admit though…I enjoyed using this lens on the Olympus E-p3 more so than the GX1. Why? Well, for some reason the E-P3 nailed focus more with the lens and I had about 36% misses with the GX1 and maybe 8% with the E-P3. Why? I have no idea. Also, after shooting both cameras over the weekend I found the E-P3 to focus SLIGHTLY faster than the GX1. Both are super fast for Micro 4/3 though and most would not even notice a difference. 

My lovely Girlfriend Debby just before we went out for New Years Eve, smiling as always! Shot with the E-P3 and 25 1.4 at 1.4. Grain added with Alien Skin Exposure. 

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I hope you guys enjoyed the three GX1/E-P3 comparisons as well as the David Babsky GX1 piece. I am still gathering my thoughts on the GX1 and have purposely been shooting it alongside the E-P3 to see which one I truly enjoy more since I proclaimed the E-P3 the best M4/3 (for photos) a while back. I am hoping to have my review of the GX1 and 25 1.4 SOON. I can say that I have been enjoying the GX1 with the Olympus 17 2.8 (black version). On the camera the lens seems like a perfect fit and size. Looks like it was meant for the camera and the quality is there as well.

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So look for the GX1 review soon right here!

Gizmon nICA iPhone 4 Case

Check this out! I know it has been posted on other sites already but this looks pretty interesting if not impractical. This huge case takes your iPhone 4 and turns it into a retro (Leica) looking camera with strap and all. The only problem with this is that what if you get a phone call while you are out pimping your new case? Seems a bit overkill but it does look cool. You can get attachment lenses such as a macro and fisheye. A case, a lens and strap will set you back around $140 or so. You can read more about it at the official site HERE.

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Los Angeles Workshop update and SLR Magic f0.95 For Leica M

Some of you if not all of you have heard about the all new, designed from the ground up SLR Magic 50 f0.95 for Leica M mount. This is a lens that SLR Magic has been working on for a LONG time and I have been fortunate enough to have been in contact with them over the past several months regarding this new lens and all of the  revisions it has gone through. One thing I do know is that SLR Magic is really working hard and spending tons of money t0 perfect this lens and the construction is solid and HEAVY. It is also larger than the Leica f/0.95 as of right now. I was supposed to get one in December to test out (but not publish) but they are still working on perfecting it.

The GOOD news? THIS lens will make its physical debut at my Los Angeles workshop on Jan 27, 28 and 29th of THIS MONTH. Andrew from SLR Magic is flying in with at least two of these, maybe three. All in attendance with Leica cameras can attach one to their M and  give it a whirl. This lens will not be cheap when it goes up for sale later in this year but it will be MUCH cheaper than the Leica version. How will it compare? We will all have to wait and see but I see a “crazy comparison” coming up between these two low light heavyweights. Think you will be surprised? You just might. :)

If this is something you want to see, leave a comment. 

BTW, there are TWO seats left for the LA workshop and then we will have a full house. They are going quick so if you have been thinking of attending, see the workshop page HERE. So far we will have Leica shooters, Micro 4/3 shooters, DSLR shooters, and X100 shooters.

Enjoy and again, HAPPY NEW YEAR TO ALL!

Dec 312011
 

Panasonic GX1 vs Olympus E-P3 – Part 3 – RAW

OK, here we are with part 3 of this continuing comparison between the new Panasonic GX1 and the Olympus E-P3. This time, after the difference in  JPEGs by each camera yesterday where the GX1 tended to underexpose a little and the Oly overexposing a little we get to take a look at RAW performance of each camera. The Olympus JPEGS were IMO a bit snappier and sharper than the GX1 JPEGS but can the Panasonic do better when it come to the RAW files?

All of the images below were shot with the same lens on each camera. Each file was processed to JPEG from RAW using ACR 6.6. I included crops embedded in larger JPEGS this time, so click on each image and an 1800 pixel wide JPEG will open with an embedded 100% crop from each file.

If you found this post and did not see the others yet, you can see PART 1 HERE and PART 2 HERE.

 1st up! Panasonic GX1 with the 25 again at f/8 – FROM RAW – click image to see large with 100% crop – Much sharper now

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The Olympus…darker blue sky and sharp!

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This time at f/2.8 the image from the Panasonic seems softer. Focus may have missed here though  – I was using center point and focused at the same point as the Olympus below.

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The E-P3 has that Olympus color…

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This next image is not 100% accurate as the GX1 was shot at f/4, and the Olympus was mistakenly shot at f/3.5. So this gives the GX1 a slight edge. You can see this is pretty sharp from both cameras. 

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The Olympus at f/3.5 but still very sharp. Both did great, but there are some color differences here.

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The Panasonic once again at f/8 with the 25 – see the larger version to see the full crop…

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…and the Olympus, f/8 – NEITHER camera nailed the color or WB here BTW though the Oly is closer

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There you have it! Which do you prefer?  Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

Dec 292011
 

 

Panasonic GX1 vs Olympus E-P3  - Part 1 – Basics and High ISO

Part 2 - Part 3

Over the next few days I am going to be posting a series of “comparison” tests pitting the new Panasonic GX1 against the Olympus E-P3. I have both here side by side and all of you know I LOVE the Olympus E-P3 but I also know it has an aging sensor and the GX1 has the latest and greatest from Panasonic inside that should be giving better everything. But HIGH ISO is not the be all end all for many of us, including me because quite frankly, I rarely shoot in higher ISO’s. BUT many of you do so this 1st test will put the two cameras against each other in the high ISO department as this has been the most requested comparison between these two cameras.

ISO performance doest tell the whole story. Olympus PEN cameras are much loved for their out of camera color and JPEG quality and  the E-P3 is the best of the PEN’s to date so this should be interesting to see how it stacks up against the GX1. The pricing is the same at $799 each with kit lens. The Panasonic is smaller and thinner than the meaty and solid E-P3, but the GX1 feels pretty good with the included rubbery grip. Still, I prefer the slightly larger E-P3 in my hand.

The E-P3 has a 12Mp sensor. The same sensor used in the E-P2 and E-P1. The GX-1 has a new 16MP sensor from Panasonic that has gotten rave reviews already as it is in the Panasonic G3. The LCD on the E-P3 is, in my opinion, better. It is higher resolution and an OLED display. It looks really good. The E-P3 also has in body IS, the Panasonic relies on the lenses. Many will prefer the Panasonic menu system, while others may prefer the Olympus as it has come a long way since the E-P1 days. I also prefer the scroll thumb wheel on the E-P3 over the cheaper feeling dial of the GX1. I am looking forward to this comparison to see which one will deliver the more pleasing images.

To read my full Olympus E-P3 review you can click HERE. My GX1 review will be posted soon. Even with all of these upcoming comparisons, one thing is for sure. Either of these cameras are capable of taking fantastic images.

Over the next few days and next week I will post the rest of the comparisons. So check back to see the results.

Part 2: Out of camera JPEGS and Color. White balance, ISO up to 800, and more.

Part 3: Sharpness and Detail/RAW performance – 16MP vs 12MP

Part 4: – Auto focus speed/accuracy and overall usability

Part 5: – Video Performance and final conclusion between these two cameras.

For today I am taking a look at the HIGH ISO performance of these cameras. Take a look below and check it out.

 

Click the images for the full size image from RAW. No adjustments were done. This was strictly a NOISE/HIGH ISO test, not sharpness.

First up the GX1 at ISO 1600 from RAW – No Noise Reduction at all – Click image for full size file

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The same image with the E-P3 – ISO 1600, From RAW, no NR and yes, same lens was used for both

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The GX1 is cleaner, and did better with the Auto White Balance. Here are the crops if you do not want to download the full files

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Now let’s move on the ISO 3200…

First is the full GX1 16MP file at ISO 3200  - Indoor, low light. – Click the image for full size

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Below is the full size file from the Olympus E-P3 at ISO 3200 – For BOTH files Noise Reduction was OFF, as in NO NR at all during the RAW conversion. This is so we can see how each sensor is really performing in regards to noise.

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and some crops. 1st from each of the files above

1st the GX1, then the E-P3 and then the GX-1 resized to 12MP to match the GX1. Clearly the GX1 is giving better high ISO performance, which makes sense since the sensor is newer. 

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ISO 6400 comparison

GX1 – 6400 – from RAW – NO NR

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E-P3 – ISO 6400 – NO NR – From RAW

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and the crops

So there you go. It is clear that the GX1 easily beats the E-P3 when it comes to HIGH ISO. It also appears that the auto WB did better with the GX1 here as well. If you shoot in low light and high ISO, the GX1 will give you the best performance in regards to noise.

Nov 042011
 

 Revisiting the Panasonic 20 1.7 on the Olympus E-P3

By Steve Huff

Almost two years ago I reviewed the amazing little Panasonic 20 1.7 lens for Micro 4/3 mount on an Olympus E-P2. I LOVED it then and today I love it just the same. This is one of those lenses that if you own a Micro 4/3 camera and have never shelled out the $350 or so for this lens then it should be a crime! Yes, this lens is THAT good and well worth the cost. Even though Panasonic released the new 25 1.4 recently (which I have been patiently waiting for) this little 20mm pancake is still worth owning due to its small size and fantastic performance. The fact that it gives you a 40mm equivalent on your M4/3 camera almost makes shooting something like an E-P3 similar to shooting an old Leica CL (well, besides this is not film, nor manual focus).

on the E-P3

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The fact is that this lens can seem to do no wrong. Between this, the SUPER GOOD 12mm and the new 45 my E-P3 has been a happy camera, and I have to be honest. Some of the images I have seen from this combo recently make me realize that the M4/3 format is capable of sooooo much more than many may think. Also makes me realize that my E-P3 has also really done no wrong! It gets the exposure right every time. The color is delicious right from the camera. The AF is super fast. The touch screen on this camera is much more than a gimmick. The images are pretty sharp right out of the camera. No mush or softness at all. Hmmm. Imagine if this had a slightly larger sensor! It never will though as Micro 4/3 is a set size… but if it did, it would be even better.

So today, almost two years later I can still HIGHLY recommend this lens if you own a micro 4/3 camera. If you do own a M4/3 camera and DO NOT own this then BUY IT NOW. Trust me, you will not be disappointed. 

I will admit that I sold my original copy a while ago and just recently “re-discovered” this lens. This time it will find a permanent spot in my collection, even if I do end up with the new Pan/Leica 25 1.4 as well. It’s small, it’s light, it’s sharp, it provides some decent bokeh, it renders light nicely and it’s a knockout. It even focuses quite a bit faster on the E-P3 than it ever has though it is not as fast as the new Oly lenses.

I will now leave you with some recent snap shots I took with this lens on the E-P3.

Using the light from his phone, I set the E-P3 to ISO 1600, the lens to 1.7 and took this shot. When you click the image and view the larger version you can see just how sharp it is, even at 1600 (noise reduction was turned off, and this is a JPEG)

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At 1.7 and ISO 1600 the lens performs well on the E-P3. This was shot in darkness with the light source being a candle. Higher ISO is easily possible with Micro 4/3. 

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The color I get out of this lens is usually on the cooler side but I like it. The blues and greens are rendered differently with this lens than say the Olympus 17.

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Wide open at 1.7 the lens is plenty sharp and gives a bit of shallow death of field as well

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Haircut time – Alien Skin conversion…

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1.7 – JPEG – Even wide open and from a JPEG there is plenty of sharpness and detail.

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Using the flash of the E-P3 – for the 1st time ever :) – I think these girls were dancing to the “Electric JUGGaloo”

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If you click on the image below you will see how sharp this lens can be wide open… Almost LL (Leica Like)!

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at f/8…

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My favorite local brewery in Phoenix – Sun Up

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Up close and wide open – This will give you sharp detail at the focus point and the max amount of blur in the background. 

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Shot this in the Diorama mode of the E-P3

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Just a shot to test color and bokeh…

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and a selfie in the car…

Oct 312011
 

Happy Halloween! A quick look at Retrographer from Mr. Retro!

Today I thought I would take a quick look at a new plug in for Photoshop called “Retrographer” by Mr. Retro. In the past I have written about quite a few plug ins and apps that were very fun to use but most of the time they get old pretty quick, especially when they are so gimmicky and not so customizable. So here I am once again messing around with another plug in and this is one that I have been really getting into even though it can be a bit over the top at times. What I like about it the most is its feature set and the way you can customize every single setting from lens, flash, film, lab, special effects, and some really cool finishing and framing effects. It is the most customizable plug in yet and you can go from mild to wild using the really simple but effective interface.

Retrographer also has a load of preset filters that can also be customized to your liking. Some of the filters are a bit crazy but at the same time they can REALLY enhance a photo..for example, the image (self portrait) at the top of this page was shot on my iPhone 4s just before heading to a halloween party. The original was not very good as it was shot in my house, at night, and with barely any light (did not use flash). I opened this up in Retrographer and applied one of the presets at random and in less then 15 seconds I had the photo as you see it above, which looks so much better than the original. This filter fits the image PERFECTLY and I even creeped myself out when I saw the result! Here are a few more shots that I applied filters to in Retrographer…

This one was shot at ISO 1600 at night with the Olympus E-P3 and 20 1.7 at ISO 1600. Added a vintage filter effect and I kind of liked the retro look…

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This one now has a cinematic feel…again, the 20 1.7 in CANDLELIGHT at ISO 1600 with the E-P3. For this one I started with a black and white image…

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You can get as crazy or grungy as you like. There are plenty of textures and options when it comes to Retrographer

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Frame effects and light leaks are also a plenty…

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This plug in is actually loads of fun and at the same time pretty serious. I spent hours with it late one night trying every single preset as well as some custom settings. Once I messed with it for about 30 minutes it was simple and easy to understand and i had no issues customizing the look of each option that I ran through it. Problem is, this is still a specialty plug in, meaning, it is not for everyone. I am really not sure how often I would need something like this in my day to day photo editing. Still, it is nice to have installed for those times I may want to really enhance a photo (like the self portrait at the top).

I would probably use this a couple times a year or even for some special projects like web site graphics, etc. One thing though is that it’s not cheap at a whopping $99 but for that you get a feature packed filter set that delivers quality results. It is really only for those looking for these types of effects (appears there is no free demo either) so only think of buying if you are looking for some very creative filters for your images. You can read much more about it at the official website HERE.

Steve

Oct 212011
 

Dark, Gritty, Noisy. Sometimes it works. 

I was out this week with my trusty Olympus E-P3 and 12mm SLR Magic lens as well as the 14-42 kit zoom that comes with the camera. I took a visit to the state fair in AZ and mostly shot with the NEX-7 because I am still testing it out and am trying to get as much use out of it as possible to see how it really performs in the real world. I already know what to expect from the E-P3 and while it may not excel in areas like low light color and big fat smooth files it does do one thing extremely well and that is AUTO FOCUS, and it works so well with the touch screen. Just touch where you want focus and it instantly focuses and fires! It’s fast and seems to always hits the mark.

So last night I was shooting in lower light at an indoor teen boxing match at the AZ State fair. The lighting was causing havoc with the AWB (with the E-P3, X100 and NEX-7) so I decided to crank up the ISO and use B&W to make  these feel gritty and real. In a couple of the boxing images below you will see right from the camera images using the Grainy B&W filter and in a few others they were converted from RAW and converted to B&W. I don’t know why but sometimes I am a fan of big fat GRAIN, even in digital, but only when shot in B&W. Maybe it reminds me of when I shot Delta 3200 or maybe it reminds me of the vintage photos I see from past when most photos were B&W and grainy. I also used this approach when I shot Seal in Belgium and they are some of my fave shots from the tour AND a couple of them were used inside his new CD booklet. Goes to show that images do not always have to be perfect, even for pro use. IN fact, I think emotion trumps technical perfection any day of the week.

One of the shots that made it inside the new Seal “Soul 2″ CD Booklet from Belgium where I went dark and grainy and went for EMOTION instead of PERFECTION.

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So I decided to shoot grainy again last night with the E-P3. Now these are not the best boxing shots in the world but I was shooting with a 12mm and the kit zoom in LOW light. I was just shooting to see how they would come out. An experiment. I was not allowed to get close up so I had to get creative with the angle and the ropes :) Would these have been more exciting with a DSLR and 70-200 zoom? Maybe, but there is something about just shooting a wider angle and not worrying about perfection, zoom or super sharp details. Besides, thats what everyone else does every day as most are always searching for that perfectly smooth file. I think it is sometimes it is fun to go outside of the norm and see what you can come up with when being a bit different. You may just surprise yourself!

Click images for larger versions

Oct 122011
 

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Sony NEX-7, Olympus E-P3 and Fuji X100 High ISO Comparisons & more thoughts on the 7

Had about 40+ e-mails asking me for some high ISO last night so I figured I would throw something together quickly. I have had the NEX-7 for less than 24 hours and have taken about 40 shots with it outside of my house so far. Thats it. I shot it last night in the dark with the Zeiss 24 1.8 and wanted to see what kind of results I could get. I will post some of those later but for now I wanted to post some HIGH ISO comparison shots from these three cameras that I took this morning in my kitchen. These shots will be posted below but 1st I wanted to touch on some things with this camera.

Some more initial thoughts on the NEX-7

I noticed many have been complaining about the Zeiss 24 being so large. Well, it is but it really isn’t. A 24mm 1.8 lens of high quality has to be sort of large. Look at the Leica 24 Summilux which is MUCH larger than this Zeiss and has no AF built inside. Sure the Leica is 1.4 but this Zeiss is 1.8, still pretty fast. Also note that the NEX-7 and Zeiss 24 1.8 is about the same weight or a tad lighter than the Olympus E-P3 and Panaosnic 20 1.7. The lens is NOT heavy.

Things I have noticed while shooting the NEX-7 are that the E-P3 focuses faster but the X100 is slower than the 7. The EVF in the NEX is the best I have ever seen and the configurability of the NEX is amazing. If customizing is your thing, the 7 can do just about anything in that area. It can get a little intimidating and a couple times I wondered if Sony did not cram TOO much into the 7, but after some use I realized that like with any camera, once you set it, you can forget it. The 7 has all of the external controls you could ever need or ask for. It’s also very speedy to shoot. Aim, focus fire and it’s ready to go again. The X100 feels painfully slow in comparison. 

Also, I have been getting requests to test loads of Leica lenses on this camera. All I can say to that is I will test what I have. I do not have wide angles or 90′s, can’t afford it! I will test what I can and will also shoot with the kit zoom as well. Another thing is about the size of the body itself. It is small but larger than the 5n (thankfully). It feels wonderful in the hand and the grip is just right. The camera is solid but light and it is not even close to DSLR size, even with the lens. The lenses for the NEX system can never be as small as the lenses for the Micro 4/3 system as the sensor is much larger than the Micro 4/3 sensor but Sony is aware of the desire for smaller lenses and are working on it. It is not as cut and dry as many think. As for a full frame sensor in a NEX, Sony said if they did that then they would have to make a whole new lens mount and it would not be the “E” mount. But they did say “anything is possible”. :)

HIGH ISO COMPARISONS:

Below are 100% crops from the NEX-7, X100 and E-P3 (cameras I have on hand right now)  6400. Noise reduction was set to low on the 7 and X100 and OFF on the Olympus. You can not turn it off on the 7, only set it to WEAK. ALL CAMERAS WERE SET TO F/2!

(had to remove the full size files due to site crashing…will post full samples in the full review which will be after my server upgrade).

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It is interesting how each cameras metering exposed the scene. I set the lens for f/2 on each camera and let the camera choose the shutter speed. The NEX chose 1/2000, the X100 chose 1/640 and the E-P3 chose 1/1000! Very strange. Seeing that exposure can have an effect on the noise level we see I then did one more test and set each camera to f/2, ISO 6400 and 1/1000s as I found the Olympus to be the most accurate in regards to exposure. Why the Sony chose 1/2000 I have no idea as it seems a bit underexposed. The Fuji seemed to slightly go brighter at 640. Hmmmm.

So to be 100% fair, let’s see the crops at 6400, f/2, 1000s…

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So the same result really. The E-P3 does the worst and that is just due to it’s smaller sensor. It can not keep up with the bigger APS-C cameras in the high ISO noise dept. Plain and simple. The NEX-7 does well but the X100 seems to have the finest and most film like grain of the bunch. Overall though, from what I saw shooting real images last night, the NEX-7 will have no problem shooting at 3200 or 6400 if needed. More to come…

Oct 062011
 

Building the Perfect and Sexiest Micro 4/3 Camera kit for under $2500

By Steve Huff

So the time has come, the time is now. The format I so wanted to love from the get go but never fully could (due to quality issues and lack of lens issues) has finally arrived. The Olympus Micro 4/3 format has grown quite a bit over the past 2 1/2 years and todays cameras are quite a bit better than the earlier generation models. More important, the lenses have finally gotten really really good. Well, in my opinion anyway, and that is because I am a HUGE fan of Prime single focal length non zoom lenses and Olympus, Panasonic, and even SLR Magic/Noktor has now gotten serious about putting out some great glass.

I was waiting for the day when lenses like the ones below would arrive for this format and now all I am waiting for is the Olympus “Pro Pen” (and I am praying that it will have a built in EVF)! Until then the E-P3 is doing quite nicely. If you are someone who is interested in buying into a new camera system (and many of you are as I get e-mails asking me about it daily) then one option for you is the Micro 4/3 format. It is smaller than a DSLR, it is quite versatile and the quality these days is DAMN GOOD.

Sure there is the Leica M9, that has always been an option of course, but sadly most of us can not always afford the $7-8k for the body and several thousands more for the lenses. If you can, then THAT is the way to go IMO. The M9 is magic once you learn it and get used to how it works. So if you have $15k laying around, just go buy an M9 and a 35 or 50 from one of the site sponsors! But if your budget is under $2500 and  you want a really kick ass versatile camera and lens setup then below is what I deem “The perfect Micro 4/3 Camera Kit for under $2500 or so” – and this is focusing on PHOTO capabilities not video.

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The Camera Body – MY FAVORITE MICRO 4/3 CAMERA TO DATE…

Olympus E-P3 – $899

The original PEN E-P1 was a camera I enjoyed but it’s slow AF, inability to use manual controls for video, and inability to even accept an EVF hindered it. But even with those quirks it was a lovable camera due to it’s retro design and quality feel. The E-P2 was an improvement but still was not perfect though it did look sexy in black :)  Now we have the E-P3 and in my opinion it is the best of the PEN series to date and has become another favorite of mine. It has lighting fast AF, a superb LCD OLED “almost too good” display, the ability to use the VF-2 or VF-3 EVF’s (BTW, the VF-2 is MUCH better quality wise) and it still retains that solid feel and great build quality while improving the grip and including a built in flash (for those who like flash).

It would have been sweet if it had a built in EVF but as it is now, it is my favorite Micro 4/3 camera to date. There are also the Panasonic’s like the newer GF3 and G3 (that DOES have a built in EVF) and they are good, but to me there is just something classic about the E-P3 (and no, I am not referring to its somewhat dated 12MP sensor, lol). When I hold the E-P3 I WANT to go out and shoot. When I hold a G3 I do not. Call me strange but I feel that when you have a “connection” with a camera then you can do great things with it and it inspires you. Besides, the image quality difference between the E-P3 and G3 is crazy minimal and not even evident in prints. These days 12MP is plenty for almost EVERYONE. Yes, this is true even though the newest crop of “enthusiast” cameras coming out in 2012 are 24MP and up.

The fact is that the E-P3 inspires and it is much less expensive than buying into Leica. So for  those of us with limited funds, this is a fantastic option for those looking to get into a new camera system. I get the e-mails daily that read something like this “I am in the market for a new camera and  have no idea what to buy, but I can not afford Leica. Any suggestions”?

Camera purchases are personal. I can not tell you what to buy as what I like, you may not like BUT I do get to use just about any camera I want. Out of everything that I have tried recently I feel the best system as a whole for someone with limited funds is this E-P3 in the M4/3 line due to its qualities, versatility and the new lenses available for it. I also love the Fuji X100 but it is not as versatile and not really a “system” camera. The NEX-7 that is on the horizon looks AMAZING but it is not out yet and lenses are lacking at this moment.

What CAN the E-P3 do? It can do macro, it can do fast wide angle, it can do fast telephoto, it can do HD video (though not the best in this dept.), it can do sleek and sexy. It can focus and fire almost instantly just by touching any area of the LCD. It can do all of these  things while giving back really great quality up to ISO 1600 and even 3200. With the EVF using manual focus glass like a Leica 50 Summilux via an Adapter can also bring good results but remember the 2X crop involved with the Micro 4/3 sized sensor. Your 50 becomes a 100mm equivilant. This camera is also a conversation starter. Walk around with it in silver and a vintage looking strap attached and get ready for the comments. Every time I take this out I get a comment on it as everyone thinks it’s a vintage camera. Fun fun fun!

So if you have around $2500 budget, give or take, and are in the market for a really nice kit I would suggest the E-P3 as your base camera. The cost is $899 with the kit lens of choice and you can buy it in black, silver or white. The silver is beautiful and is my choice for my personal E-P3.

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THE LENSES

The Olympus 12mm f/2 or the new high quality SLR Magic (Noktor) 12 f/1.6

The Olympus 12mm f/2 – $799

 

The 1st lens that really threw me for a loop for this format was the Olympus 12mm f/2. Not only due to the wide angle equivalent of 24mm but the speed of f/2 as well as the close focus ability and super fast AF speed when attached to the E-P3. ALSO, the superb build quality, design, manual focus control and distance scale. Almost Leica like with it’s execution and style. Also, the performance is exceptional. The lens is quite expensive though at $799. It is unique with all of its qualities but there is another choice in a fast 12…

The Olympus 12mm f/2 is fantastic but expensive…

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The SLR Magic/Noktor 12mm f/1.6 – $499

The newest lens on the block comes from slrmagic.com and they are taking this seriously with their 12mm f/1.6. It’s big, it’s bad and it’s output is wonderful and dramatic. DISCLAIMER: SLR Magic is a site sponsor but I do not sugar coat their products. Their 50 Noktor 0.95 is mediocre in my opinion, and it has been their “flagship” until now. This is their “1st serious lens” as they told me and I was expecting less but when I started shooting it I got more that I expected. The lens is long..heavy..and manual focus. So if this is OK with you, the output is, IMO, more “cinematic” than the Oly 12. At $499 it is also not a cheap lens but this lens is great for video AND photo. My 1st look of this lens is HERE and my full review will be up in the next 2 weeks and the lens will be out in December in the USA. It is one to look out for.

The SLR Magic 12mm f/1.6 puts out a more “Cinematic” rendering than the Olympus 12 though no AF and its larger/heavier

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The Panasonic 20 f/1.7 or 25 1.4 lens – $349

The Panasonic 20 1.7 is legendary in the M4/3 world. It has been a great seller and for good reason. It was the 1st “fast” prime made available for this format and the quality is well worth its $350 price tag. Above it actually. The 20 1.7 is a deal and a MUST OWN, especially if you never owned this lens. Attach it to your camera, set it to 1.7 and shoot! With this lens we were finally able to get some shallow depth of field control on our cameras. If you want to spend a but more, $250 more to be exact you can get the Pansonic/Leica 25 1.4 Summilux. YES, a Summilux for your Micro 4/3 camera! It is made by Panasonic, not Leica, though Panny builds it according to Leica design specs. We don’t get the exotic Leica glass but it’s still a Leica design. The Summilux is a better lens but also more money at $599.

Below: A test shot from the 20 1.7 (at 1.7) shot on the E-P3. Click on it for a larger and better view. Love the sharpness and contrast of the 20. It is already a classic and at $350 well worth the cost!

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The Olympus 45 1.8

This is the newest and hardest to find lens from Olympus and it’s a beauty. Olympus really hit it out of the park this year with the 12 and this 45 1.8 lens, more so than the E-P3. These lenses are important because they work equally as well with the Panasonic cameras and they are both the highest quality lenses yet from Olympus for this format. At $399 it too punches above its weight class. A MUST OWN if you want a 90mm equivalent that is also built well, beautiful and FAST with a 1.8 aperture. I do not use 90mm too much but for those times when I do, this lens will be the one I use. My review is here.

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The Olympus VF-2 and VF-3 EVF – $179-$249

To really finish off this kit I had ego recommend one of the EVF’s. The VF-2  will give you the best quality when looking through the EVF but the VF-3  will lock into place and cost you less. I have the VF-3 though I admit the VF-2 was much more pleasurable to look through. I ended up sticking with the VF-3 due to the fact that the VF-2 always fell off my camera. This never leaves my camera though it does make it a but bulky. I find it useful in the daytime when the full sun is out, and here in AZ that is every single day.

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The Barton Braided Leather Strap – $79

I tried out one of these straps from Barton 1972.com and it has become my favorite strap for the E-P3 hands down. It is all leather, hand braided, and is soft and has some stretch to it so it will not hurt your neck or shoulder. I Highly recommend it!

So there you have it…

If you have about $2500 to spend and want to buy a new camera kit that is small, sexy, capable, AND versatile then the E-P3 and lenses/accessories above can give you quite a bit of “BANG for your BUCK”. Sure, with $250o you could buy many other cameras but none will be an entire package like the one above. Sure you can spend less and buy a new Olympus E-PL1 or old E-P1 but the list as I typed it out above is sort of an “Ultimate” list for this format, what I deem to be the best of the best that this format has to offer for photography. The best of the lot. The camera, the lenses, the accessories. It is what I love and I have been using this setup more and more lately and thoroughly enjoying it.

To recap:

  • The Olympus E-P3 camera with kit lens – $899
  • Olympus 12mm or SLR Magic/Noktor 12mm – $499-$799
  • Panasonic 20mm 1.7 – $349
  • Olympus 45 1.8 – $399
  • Olympus EVF – $179-$249
  • Barton Strap – $79
Grand Total – $2404 – $2774 depending on configuration. If you shoot Micro 4/3 let me know what YOUR fave setup is in the comments below! Oh, and if you are looking for a BUDGET Micro 4/3 setup, check out THIS POST

Oct 042011
 

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The SLR Magic/Noktor 12mm f/1.6 Premium Lens for Micro 4/3

1st Look!

More  Micro 4/3! It seems like there has been a flood recently and instead of water it has been Micro 4/3 gear! 1st the E-P3, then the 12mm, then the 45mm, and now I have another lens that arrived from the Fed Ex guy today, the SLR Magic/Noktor 12mm f/1.6 lens (which will give us micro 4/3 shooters a 24mm equivalent). Next week I should have the Panasonic 25 1.4 as well. MAN oh MAN! It’s Micro 4/3 MANIA!!!!

This 12mm Premium Noktor lens is a 12mm much like the Olympus 12mm… but it is an even faster lens with a 1.6 aperture when wide open! Uh oh, is the little Oly in trouble? Not really. While this lens is $300 less expensive it is also MANUAL FOCUS so it will be for those guys and gals who do not mind manual focus. Many micro 4/3 shooters are not interested in manual focus, but many of the enthusiasts are.  This 12mm is longer than the Olympus 12mm and heavier as well but again, it is also FASTER! It is also usable at 1.6 unlike cheap fast lenses that perform like garbage when wide open. This lens performs pretty damn amazingly actually from the short test snaps I took today. I was HIGHLY impressed and have not seen this good of quality from Noktor before.

The details..

  • This is a 12mm wide angle lens (24 Equiv)
  • Fast at F/1.6!
  • 2% distortion – This has optical correction
  • Close focus 0.15m – macro!
  • 12 step-less aperture blades  - great for video and cinema and pleasing bokeh
  • Depth of field scale printed on the lens
  • 499 smackers!
  • December availability in the USA with BLACK ring on front of lens.

Now, I have only had this lens a few hours and have only taken a few test snaps around the house but I can see that at f/1.6 it is a little teeny bit soft at the edges but still looks VERY nice. By f/2 it sharpens up and is just about flawless. Also this lens has VERY LITTLE distortion. Oh, did I mention it also doubles as a macro lens? Yes, the crazy guys at SLR Magic decided to add Macro functionality to this lens even though it is a 12mm wide angle!

Also you will notice the GREEN RING on the front of the lens. When this lens goes on sale in the USA in December it will have a BLACK ring and will have the SLR Magic name. Price – $599. The Bokeh of this lens seems really smooth and nice and it almost has a more cinematic feel than the Olympus 12mm. Hard to say until I put it through its paces but I will be shooting it over the next 2-3 weeks and then will write my full review with LOADS of pics because I am about to embark on a 3600 mile road trip and guess what is coming with me? Yep, this lens!

For those wondering about it, the build quality is FANTASTIC. It’s all metal and has a Leica like heft to it. Focus ring is smooth if not a bit firm. The lens ships with a metal hood and rear cap. I will have all of my thoughts and loads of samples soon.

Below is a 1st look video of this lens so you can get an idea of how it looks:

So look out for this lens to go on sale in December and my Review sometime near mid month. I will be reviewing it on the Olympus E-P3 and will also have side by sides with the Olympus 12mm. One shot I wanted to post was this FULL SIZE shot processed from RAW. This was shot at f/2 – just click the image for the full size 12MP file. 

WOW – This looks GREAT – f/2 – click image for full size image

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Until then, here are a few test snaps I shot today around the house. Enjoy!

12mm, f/1.6, E-P3 – click for larger

Wide open, the color and contrast is superb!

f/1.6

again, wide open at 1.6

again wide open to show the shallow DOF you can achieve when focusing close

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and not so close…f/2


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Wide open at 1.6 at ISO 1600

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Oct 012011
 

The Olympus 45 1.8 Micro 4/3 Lens Review by Steve Huff

Do you desire an almost perfect fast portrait lens for your Micro 4/3 camera? 

My guess is that many of you here pre-ordered this lens and you have been waiting for it…patiently. Well, if you do not want to be driven crazy while waiting then you may want to click off of  this page right now for the obvious reasons. I pre-ordered my 45 1.8 a few weeks ago, I think close to 8 weeks ago (or so it seems) and it arrived a few days ago in all of its glory from B&H Photo. I already posted a 1st look a few days ago with a video overview and some quick samples that my son took when I 1st mounted the lens but today I will go into it a little bit more with some real world samples!

Out of the Box

When I took the lens out of the box I immediately felt that this lens was quality. I was worried about this one because the Olympus 12mm f/2 is $799 and has a nice solid build. That is a GREAT lens. This 45 1.8 is $399 so I was worried it would feel all plasticky and cheap but I was wrong. To clear that up, the lens feels GREAT in it’s build and is pretty slim and small compared to most micro 4/3 lenses. For example, the Panasonic 20 1.7 looks a little fat next to this 45 1.8 yet the 45 obviously  has more glass inside. You can see them both side by side below…

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Shooting with the Lens

The E-P3 with the 45 1.8 – From RAW, converted to B&W – ISO 640 – click image for larger

When I snapped some shots at the local aquarium near my house I was kind of floored by the quality as it seemed to up the quality of the E-P3 sensor! It didn’t of course but it seemed like it because it was giving me DAMN GOOD results. When I reviewed the 12mm f/2 I declared it the best micro 4/3 lens made to date. A BOLD statement but I meant that from every aspect. Build, size, function and IQ. After using this 45 1.8 for a few days I can say that this lens is equally as delicious. Yes, I said delicious! The IQ from this lens on the E-P3 is nothing short of astounding for the micro 4/3 format. Some of the best quality I have seen from any M4/3 camera/lens combo.

Update Oct 2013 – On the E-P5

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

AF Speed and Image Quality on the E-P3

The focus is fast, the lens is sharp even when wide open, and the color and contrast is top notch. Bokeh (out of focus area quality) is good as well. Not amazingly crazy like some Leica glass but still, for a $399 Micro 4/3 lens I WILL TAKE IT. Olympus has FINALLY DELIVERED with this and the 12mm. I mentioned it in the 1st look video but if you want a “Holy Trinity” for micro 4/3 you will want to buy the 12mm f/2, either the Panasonic 20 1.7 or new 25 1.4 and this 45 1.8. You will then have a 24/40-50/90. A perfect set of primes and all fast quality glass – sort of Leica like in the execution of lenses I must say.

Yes my friends, Micro 4/3 has finally matured. The cameras are getting better, the lenses are getting better, and in reality, it is getting to the point that this kind of quality is good enough for 93% of us who shoot and post to the web (which admit it, this is what mostly all of us do with our photos ultimately). Seriously. A camera like the E-P3 has some of the fastest AF in the world and when you add on lenses like these what you get back is spectacular. It is hard to complain about it and if you do not have the funds for something like a Leica M9 and a Summilux lens then you can be happy with something like this as you will be getting way more bang for the buck.

If you click on the image below you can see a 100% crop of the image which was shot wide open at 1.8

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Another image shot at f/1.8. I focused on the surface of the water in a Koi Pond 

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Stopped down a teeny bit to f/2 it’s as sharp as can be…

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This new lens feels VERY good on the camera. Sleek, silver, and solid but not heavy. I feel the $399 price is WELL worth it so if you see it in stock anywhere and have a Micro 4/3 camera then I would snag it up. It is just one of  those lenses that comes around every few years that gets it all “right”.

Smaller cameras and lenses are the future

That makes me remember the review I wrote for the Panasonic 20 1.7 a while ago where I put it up against the big monster Nikon D3s. The E-P2 and 20mm won that shootout but that was because I was shooting the D3s with the el-cheapo Nikon 50 1.8. Add that lens to a full frame camera like the D3s and you will get soft images and softer corners. These little cameras like the E-P3 and even the new TINY Panasonic GF3 will always give you pretty sharp corners and there are some fantastic strengths in this smaller sensor with that being one of them. The other strength and the most important one..is SIZE. I see it MORE AND MORE these days…people are dumping their DSLR’s for small cameras like the NEX system, or Micro 4/3 cameras. One reason why Nikon and Canon sales are DOWN this year and I predicted this over the last two years.

The fact is that Nikon and Canon have not made any kind of real effort just yet to get into this market because they probably do not want to destroy their SLR sales which in turn would make  their lens sales drop. They had a good thing going for a while (and still do of course) but these little cameras have certainly put a dent into the big bulky SLR market.

If Nikon or Canon would release a REAL DEAL digital Rangefinder style camera with an EVF instead of an old RF it would be great but for some reason they are holding back while companies like Olympus, Panasonic, Sony and even Ricoh with their GXR modular system are now gaining more and more followers. I know Leica have a couple of things planned for 2012 and I expect one of their announcements to make a pretty big splash. Should be fun.

When I took this snap I was listening to Prince’s “Sexy M.F.”

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So back to the 45. Is it perfect? What are its flaws? 

Now I am not sitting here writing to you and telling you that this lens will beat a Leica lens or is the best lens in the world right now as I am writing this review in a Micro 4/3 state of mind, not a Leica state of mind. In the M4/3 world it really doesn’t get much better than this, if at all. If I had to note a flaw I would say that it should come with a lens hood and maybe it doesn’t have the best quality Bokeh ever (this is not Leica ro Zeiss here) but it’s damn good. Olympus makes the hood an option but does not include one, BOO.

But that is about it as I find the lens sharp at every aperture, fast to AF, and the color rendition is very good as well. I mean, I just sat here and said it was part of the “Holy Trinity” of Micro 4/3 glass, so not many complaints that I have found.

Wide open at f/1.8 and from a distance. This shot was also taken with the Ricoh GXR and Leica 50 Summitar HERE.

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ISO 1600 – from RAW with a little bit of Noise Reduction and a B&W conversion – f/1.8

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f/1.8 with a bit of contrast boost…

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Aperture and Sharpness

This lens opens up to 1.8 allowing you to not only get great low light shots but also get shallow depth of field and up until this lens, it was tough to get this look with Micro 4/3. Opening up to 1.8 and shooting this focal length will give you super shallow DOF. This is a BIG DEAL of us who shoot with these cameras. How sharp is it? The following photo was shot wide open at f/1.8 and is the full size out of camera file:

Click image for full size file!

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and another…

So there it is!

So there you have it. Short, sweet and to the point. This lens rocks. Period. It also focuses pretty damn close at 0.5 meters which allows for some creative uses. While many say this is a portrait lens, you can see from the images I shot above that it is much more than that. A 90mm equivalent focal length can be useful for many things. I usually stayed away from this focal length on my Leica due to the fact that almost every 90 I shot with had focus issues. Now I will use this setup for my 90mm needs unless I decided to invest in the Ricoh GXR M module where focus issues will also be a thing of the past, WITH Leica glass. The Ricoh is a pretty sweet system with an even larger sensor.

As of this writing I own the 12mm, 20mm and 45 for the E-P3 and enjoy them all. This lens gets my highest recommendation if you are a Micro 4/3 owner. Anyone who knocks this lens (don’t think there will be any) has never tried it or had a defect :) You can buy it at AMAZON and B&H Photo. 

I will now leave you with a few more images from this lens. Enjoy!

More Koi pond imagery – f/1.8

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Using the spot meter of the E-P3 I metered off of the leaves where the sun was hitting. This will give you the best exposure for a scene like this. f/1.8

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My kindergarden class picture. Can you spot me? HINT: I had hair then! ISO 1600, 1.8

I shot this at f/1.8 at 1/15th second – remember this is a 90mm equivilant! ISO 1600.

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F/1.8 inside the Apple store..

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and more images…click any for larger – exif is intact in all

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Below..ISO 1600 at night outside with one light bulb above his head. f/1.8

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HELP ME TO KEEP THIS SITE GOING AND GROWING!! IT’S EASY TO HELP OUT & I CAN USE ALL THE HELP I CAN GET!

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

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

If you enjoyed this article/review, feel free to leave a comment at the bottom of this page and also be sure to join me on twitter, my facebook fan page and now GOOGLE +!

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Sep 282011
 

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The Olympus 45 1.8 Lens Arrives – WOW!!! 1st look video, review soon!

What a beauty huh? The Silver E-P3, 45 1.8 lens, VF-3 EVF and a hand braided leather strap I received from barton1972.com. The strap is awesome. Soft, stretches and very comfy AND stylish at the same time. But the jewel here is the 45 1.8 lens.

See the 1st look video below…

The lens finally arrived and this is one I have been waiting for since the announcement quite a while back. After trying the new 12mm I knew this one had to be good and when I saw that early review by Olympus camera guru Robin Wong I knew it was going to be a MUST OWN lens for micro 4/3 and especially the E-P3, which is a fantastic camera even with it’s 12 MP sensor. Micro 4/3 is getting better and better and the reason why is due to these kinds of lenses that are starting to creep up. I made a quick 1st look video below for those interested and I mention the perfect trifecta of lenses for this format (in my opinion). The 12, 20 and 45 would give you a 24, 40 and 90mm equivalent, all f/2 and larger aperture. What I am discovering is that with these three lenses and the E-P3, the quality just takes a leap forward. BIG HUGE BRAVO to Olympus for releasing the 45 1.8, a lens many have asked for over and over. Now Olympus…bring on the PRO PEN!

I will have a review soon but I can already tell you that I love it and feel it is well worth the $399 investment. The review ill have loads of samples though. Yesterday my son Brandon took the camera and fired off a few shots and he loved it. He did have it in grainy B&W mode but even this lens renders this mode a bit softer it seems. Gentler.

Take a look below at his 1st snapshots yesterday…made him want an E-P3 :) My review will have all kinds of photos – color, B&W, night shots, wide open and stopped down. Will try to get it out soon, until then I would pre-order this lens HERE because I think once the reviews start coming out that this lens may have a backorder situation :)

BTW, off topic but you should join me on Google + – It’s getting really good over there as the photo community is HUGE! Thinking of starting some weekly group chats there soon!

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and a few quick test snaps I shot out in the yard and in my kitchen this morning…

Here is an OOC shot, ISO 1000 – 45 at 1.8 – FULL SIZE file, click the image to see it

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a 1.8 sharpness test – smooth and sharp at the same time…

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Out of cam resized JPEG – click for larger! The lens has a smooth rendering with great color – about 20 feet back from the wall here.

Sep 202011
 

Upcoming Reviews and News – Pentax Q arrives!

Hello to all! It’s Tuesday at about 7:22 am and I am awaiting a couple of packages today from UPS. It seems that at least once a week something gets delivered to my door and it is always a fun time seeing what is inside. Today I know what is coming and I expect it to be very very cool. One of the packages will contain the new Pentax Q camera and lenses, viewfinder, etc. I will be doing a complete review on the tiny Q system which has intrigues me since it was announced. This small sensor camera system has a couple of things going for it for sure, and that is small size and great build.

B&H has the cameras in stock now in white and black. I will be reviewing it with the 47mm equivalent kit lens, the fisheye and the 100mm equivalent Toy Lens. I do feel that the price seems high at $799 for having such a small sensor. This is only $100 less than an Olympus E-P3 setup and $100 more than a Sony NEX-5n kit. I will post a first look in the next couple of days but will be heading to Chicago on Thursday so I will be sure to carry the Q with me everywhere.

The Classified Buy Sell ads

Also, the classified section on the site is ROCKING! LOTS of great buys have been posted lately and I saw yesterday that a brand new unused Leica M9P in black was posted. If anyone wants a new one, check out the ad HERE. You can see all of the ads HERE, and even place your own! Sell your gear quickly and easily!

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FAST & PRIME – A brand new premium hand made case/carry solution for your Leica M

So you think your Luigi case is nice? Wait until you get a load of this BRAND NEW system for carrying your Leica M9 from fastandprime.com. Part holster, part bag, part case. All three in one. This new system is all hand made from the best leather and each piece is even induvidually numbered. I was lucky enough to snag #1 and will be showing it off in a world premiere exclusive review/unveiling right here on the site. I have been in contact with the owner for quite a while now as he crafted my case and he has just launched the site HERE. I will be showing you my fast & prime M9 case via video and photos in the next two days and will be using it at the Chicago meet up/workshop.

From the looks of it, this is a GREAT design full of functionality and each system comes with the case/holster, neck strap, hand strap and lens case. Basically, no need for a bag when you want to go out with your M9 and two lenses. It will all fit around you or your waist with easy holster access to your M9. Now all I am going by his his description and photos but mine arrives today so I will let you guys know all about it ASAP. One thing is for sure, this is one functional design unlike any other out there today. Stay tuned!

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What else is on the way? Olympus 45 1.8, Olympus Mini Pen (possibly), Ricoh GXR M unit and GRD IV…

I have other reviews in the works after I return from Chicago and am still waiting for my copy of the Olympus 45 1.8 which was supposed to be in my hands two weeks ago! It should arrive in the next week or so and I will be reviewing that on the E-P3 or Olympus E-PM1, the TEENY TINY MINI Pen which after holding one appears to be the smallest interchangeable lens camera to date. I’m not a huge fan of teeny tiny and feel the gorgeous E-P3 is a perfect size but many are loving it so I may do a review on it for those interested.

Other cameras that will be arriving to me soon are the Samsung NX200, the Ricoh GR Digital IV, the Ricoh M mount unit for the GXR, and of course…the Sony NEX-7.

So there will be lots coming up over the next few weeks along with Daily Inspirations, Guest Reports and Articles and reports from the Chicago event this weekend!

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