A Panasonic GX7 and 20 1.7 II Update..still a great combo!
By Steve Huff
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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The new Panasonic 15mm 1.7 available for Pre-Order!
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
Fuji X-M1 ISO 3200 – f/8
Panasonic GX7 ISO 3200 – f/8
and the Olympus E-M1 which was delivered just as I was setting up this test! - ISO 3200 – f/8
100% crops to make it easier
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
Fuji X-M1 – Zeiss Touit 32 1.8 at f/2 – MUST click it to see larger size
GX7 – Nokton 25 at f/2 – from RAW – resized – MUST click it to see it correctly
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.
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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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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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!**
Olympus 12mm f/2 – A 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.
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.
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 II – A 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 0.95 – These 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 :)
Want Some reach?
The Voigtlander 42.5 at f/0.95 is beautiful. :)
Olympus 45 1.8 – This 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 42.5 – Another 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.
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.
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 100-300 - The 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 40-150 – This $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.
Specialty Lenses – Macro and Fisheye
The E-M5 and Panasonic 8mm Fisheye – GREAT special effect lens. But make sure to GET CLOSE!
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.
The best micro 4/3 lenses reviewed! In case you missed them!
So it’s a “not so lazy” Sunday for me and the internet is all abuzz with the latest leak for the new Olympus Pro E-M1. Many are thrilled and others are not so thrilled. Me, I am thrilled because I see it for what it is, and after using and loving the OM-D E-M5 since day one of its release, I am happy to see a pro built “E-M5 on Steroids” while still remaining much smaller and compact that the bullky and mostly cheap feeling midline DSLRs. The OM-D E-M5 has proven itself and many talented shooters have used it to create some amazing images, many surpassing what I see in full frame models. But again, it is all about who is behind the camera anyway :)
The OM-D E-M5 is a fantastic tool with what I feel are the best lenses created for any mirrorless system to date (Excluding Leica M). Yes, I have used every Fuji lens, every Zeiss Touit lens, Every Sony lens and most lenses for other mirrorless system. The Micro 4/3 glass is not only up there with the best lenses in APS-C and Full Frame format, in some cases they beat the big expensive pro lenses for sharpness, color and CA/Flare. The best part? There are a TON of them to choose from.
Yep, the primes made by Olympus and Panasonic are quite amazing which is what has made Micro 4/3 as a system so successful. If it was not for the lenses, the system would have failed. I have reviewed most of these fantastic pieces of glass and looking back today I can still see how great they are. They all have great build, super fast AF, and in the case of the primes, fast apertures.
The old days of “I cannot get shallow DOF with my Micro 4/3″ have long been gone. So if you missed them, take a look below at the lenses I have reviewed for this system. As always, all mirrorless camera and lens reviews can be found easily in my “Mirrorless Central” section which is accessed under the review tab at the top of any page.
I have had a few e-mails this morning asking me about Micro 4/3 lens reviews, and where to find them. Well, I have almost reviewed them all over the years and you can access the ones I took a look at using the direct links below:
INSANE Deal of the Day! The Panasonic GX1 for $249 at Amazon, Prime Eligible
WOW!!! This is a giveaway and will not last long. The Panasonic GX1 is being cleared out at Amazon right now for $249. New in box GX1 Micro 4/3 body, $249. This was the main competitor to the E-P3 and while I preferred the Olympus E-P3, the GX1 was considered the comeback camera from the original GF1. If you want one, get it now at $249. They will not last!
Micro 4/3 Delivers – Daily Inspiration by Nicolas Raddatz
I’ve been a reader of your site for a long time, and thought it would be cool to share with you and the community some daily inspiration. The pictures I’m sending belong to a black and white photo essay on the Guajiros, Cuban peasants who produce world-renowned cuban tobacco in the Viñales valley.
All pics were taken using Panasonic GH2 and GF1 bodies, Panasonic 14mm and Olympus 45mm. The kit was carried using a Billingham Hadley Digital, a fantastic small bag for a light and inconspicuous micro four thirds outfit.
This was the first time I travelled with an m43-only outfit, and it proved to be perfect for street/travel and candid shooting. I could carry it everywhere due to small size and weight, and it allowed me to be more intimate without being threatening or disrespectful – I find pointing a bazooka-sized zoom to people quite disrespectful if you know what I mean.
I hope that you and your readers find the pictures interesting. I would love to hear feedback from the readers of the site.
The Panasonic – Leica 25 1.4 Summilux Lens Review for Micro 4/3
Finally! The lens I waited months for finally arrived! The Panasonic/Leica 25 1.4 Summilux is a very important lens for Micro 4/3 users because it FINALLY gives us a 50mm equivalent focal length with a fast aperture of 1.4! Woo Hoo! When the 1st Micro 4/3 cameras were released this was a lens many of us asked for (I know I did) and Panasonic has now delivered it to us. We already have the now almost legendary Panasonic 20 1.7 lens which just about every serious M4/3 shoot has owned at one point or another so how does this lens stand up to that one?
Well, size wise, the newer 25 Summilux is more than twice the length of the 20 and about $200 more expensive. So is it worth it to splurge the extra $$ and pick up the 25? Read on to find out my thoughts on this lens. But be warned….while reviewing this lens my Nephew was visiting me from Chicago so he was my main model when shooting :) Most of you already know my lens reviews are not scientific, rather they are “real world” results of a photo enthusiast going out and shooting the lens or camera and telling all about my experience, enthusiasm and sharing my results.
I snapped this one late at night using my car headlights to light up the area. My crazy nephew came out of the store and took off his shirt to strike a pose. Shot with the E-P3 in grainy B&W mode at 1.4
The Build and Feel of the lens. Is this a real Leica?
This lens feels just about the same as every other Panasonic Micro 4/3 prime lens, and that is good. Same build as the 20 1.7 and 45 2.8 so it is a solid lens but this lens is a Panasonic through and through, not a Leica. It may have the Leica name on it but the lens is made by Panasonic using a Leica design. No exotic glass but even so, this lens comes the closest yet to giving that Leica look on a Micro 4/3 body. The lens feels good on the camera though it is a little on the larger side for a prime when you consider the small size of the M4/3 bodies, and the size of the 20 pancake!
Wide open on the Olympus OM-D during the Zombie Apocalypse
*Oh and also, for those who are unaware or are new to Micro 4/3 bodies, this lens is a 25mm lens but when mounted will give you the equivalent view of a 50mm lens.
Most of my shooting was done on the E-P3 though I did shoot it on the GX1 as well. In my opinion, it feels better on the slightly larger E-P3. Ok ok…Im an E-P3 “fanboy”.
UPDATE: This lens is a MATCH MADE in HEAVEN on the new Olympus OM-D E-M5. No rattlesnake sound, super share and focuses FAST. See my OM-D E-M5 review HERE.
Using The Lens
When I received the lens I was pretty busy with other cameras and articles but I still managed to get out and use the lens as much as I could. When I unboxed it I noticed it came with a pretty massive lens hood, which I did use most of the time. I never had a problem with flare.
My main thing? I was curious if it could beat the little 20 1.7 which is not only smaller but cheaper as well. When I first started shooting it on the GX1 I noticed my shots were soft and not looking so hot. I thought I had a defective lens but when I attached it to the E-P3 I was rewarded with sharp images. I soon realized the images were soft because my 1st looks were with the out of camera JPEGS, and the GX1 was softer than the E-P3. Once I brought up the RAW files I saw just how capable this lens really is. IT IS A SHARP LENS when you stop down and guess what? It’s even sharp wide open at 1.4 as you will see a but further down.
The lens is no slouch. Full sun in Phoenix, AZ – 25 1.4 at f/8 – from RAW – Click image for full size sample.
ISO 640 and wide open at 1.4 on the Olympus O-MD E-M5
When writing about a lens and real world use (not scientific) it’s not always necessary to have 2000 words in the review because when a lens is good, it’s good. The one thing I can say about the 25 1.4 Summilux is that to my eyes, it does render images in a richer way than the 20, which is also fantastic but maybe a bit “flatter” in the color and overall presentation. The Summilux is indeed a better lens when it comes to overall image quality. Like I said, “rich” is the word I would use to describe it’s character. It gets about as close to a real Leica lens as I have seen on Micro 4/3. To see my old 20 1.7 review you can click HERE.
The Bokeh of the 25 1.4 looks good to me when wide open – click image for larger view. E-P3.
My nephew is in town visiting me from Chicago so he was my model for most of these test shots. But here you can see the way the lens performs indoors wide open. This was shot on the E-P3.
Is the lens usable at f/1.4? I’d say YES!
So if you had any doubts on image quality, fear not. This lens delivers at all apertures. Even when wide open it is sharp at the focus point. Check out the shot below with the 100% crop under it. There is a reason this lens is $500+. Look at it this way…it is $3000 less expensive than a 50 Summilux ASPH!
Below is an image I shot with the E-P3 at f/1.4 along with a 100% crop below the image. This lens is SHARP
What’s that noise? The Grind when used on Oly PEN cameras
One thing I noticed, as have many others is the grinding noise this lens produces when you use it on an Olympus PEN camera. Take it out in the sun and you will hear a noise that makes you think you have a defective lens as the aperture changes. This lens is silent on the GX1 but noisy as heck on the E-P3 (when in bright light). It did not bother me but it is there though not constant. This may bother some shooters so beware if you plan on using on a PEN. When you hear the grinding rattlesnake noise just know its normal.
UPDATE: This noise does not happen when you use this lens on the new Olympus OM-D E-M5!
E-P3 - Grainy B&W – wide open at 1.4
Again, wide open
more on the OM-D E-M5
and again, on the E-M5
So…which should I buy? The 20 or the 25? Or, should I upgrade my 20 1.7?
This is the big question that everyone wants to know. To be honest, I wish I could have taken this lens with me on a trip. If so I would have been able to get a more wide variety of shots with it but just in the couple of weeks I have used it I can easily say it is the better lens if you are deciding between this and the 20 1.7. But, at the same time it is a couple hundred more and larger making the camera less compact. Also, it is not LEAGUES better. The 20 still has its charm for its size and quality but yes, I would buy the 25 if I wanted THE lens for Micro 4/3.
If you crave creamy beautiful files from your Micro 4/3 camera, this is a lens you will want to own. The IQ is superb, the lens focuses about as fast as the 20 1.7 and I had no issues focusing in low light with the E-P3. Overall I’d say if you don’t mind the size, go for the 25. If you want to stay compact, keep the 20. Not much more I can say about it really. It’s fantastic and the best Panasonic prime to date. For the Bokeh addicts you will have an easier time with shallow depth of field as well and I find the lens a but more contrasty than the 20. If you are sticking with M4/3 – this one is a no brainer and it is amazing on the new E-M5! A must own.
More detail wide open at 1.4 – click it for larger view
A quick note about Micro 4/3
At the time of this writing there are some exiting things ahead in the world of digital cameras. The new Fuji X-Pro 1 looks to be a really great mirrorless camera, though at a much higher price tag than any Micro 4/3. While the quality of the Fuji will most likely stomp over any M 4/3 I still feel that this format is here to stay due to the size, and the lower cost. Also, the lenses we have available for M 4/3 just rock. The Olympus 12mm, 45mm and this Panasonic 25 1.4 represent the best of the best for M 4/3 and is reason enough alone to stick with this format. I’ll probably always have a M 4/3 body because they are fun, they can be taken anywhere and the quality rivals the big guys when you attach a great lens.
Sometimes we all get caught up in the hype of new releases, and you guys know I do as well but I love this format for what it is and what it does right. For $700 or so you can get a kit with a solid body that takes superb photos better than many of us can even shoot. I still feel something like an E-P3 or E-M5 and 12, 25 and 45 could last someone many many years.
I love the PEN cameras and hope to see advancement in the bodies in the years to come.
With that said, I will leave you with a few more photos from the lens…some have been processed, some have not. My processing consists of adjusting the RAW file during conversion and sometimes adding a filter using Alien Skin Exposure 3.
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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.
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.
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…
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
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!
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.
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.
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.
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
From Steve: Amy sent me an e-mail letting me know about her GH2 experience and seeing that I am a huge fan of her work, AND she is a reader and contributor to this site I figured I would post her thoughts for all of you to read! I have not yet been able to test a GH2 for myself, but here are Amy’s thoughts! Enjoy!
Me and the Panasonic GH2 by Amy Medina
So yeah… well I got my hands on one this passed week, and stupid me, I actually thought owning one might make the decision of whether it’s the camera for me or not an easier one to make. Not so… not so at all. I’ve really been wavering between the GH2 and the Pentax K-5, but because the K-5 didn’t offer manual video controls, I finally just pulled the trigger on the GH2.
The GH2 is not my first venture in Micro 4/3 photography. I started with the Olympus EP1 when it first came out, and I now own an EP2. I’ve been very happy with it! As anyone who shoots with Olympus knows, they have really cornered the market on great JPGs straight from the camera, and even in their RAW files I seem to really prefer their color. But more on that later when we get into samples and tests (I know, yawn!)…
A small complaint is the battery. After the first charge, it really seemed to kind-of suck. The first night I had the camera I let the battery charge fully before I played with it. Just messing around for maybe 45 minutes and then shooting off only about 10 shots, the battery indicator was down by one notch already. I charged the battery overnight before my outing on Saturday with the plan to shoot video… well the battery only lasted about 2 hours (being turned on and off, or going into sleep mode) for shooting 30 minutes of footage. I ended up having to finish the video shooting with my husband’s GH1. Now, maybe the battery needs more “training” but my initial reaction was the I’m really going to need a 2nd or even 3rd battery for any day that includes shooting video.
At base ISO (160), I found the files to be a little noisier than I anticipated. Saturday night, looking at some of my photos I was a tad concerned, but I didn’t want to jump to conclusions. I also kept asking myself if they are too noisy FOR ME. I obviously some make compromises in this area shooting with an EP2 and even the M8 (neither are known for being great at higher ISOs, especially the M8). However, I was a bit amazed at how much noise there was at ISO 160.
Shooting on Sunday with the kit lens outside in VERY bright conditions, I was astounded at the amount of noise I got in my ISO 160 shots. After some discussion on a photography forum I belong to, I decided to test it compared to the EP2 and Pentax K-x I own. I don’t like to pixel-peep, but seeing as I shoot a lot of blue seas and skies, I need to know if there is more noise in the blue channel as I was suspecting (and as some others’ tests have proven true).
Let me not be all negative. There’s lots to like about the camera too. The touch screen is very handy, especially when shooting video or when the camera has to be at an odd angle to get the shot (like down real low for example). The touch screen focus thing… it’s a bit finicky and doesn’t work well with every panasonic autofocus lens (in my experience so far). It didn’t seem to work at all with the 14mm f/2.5 Pancake, but it worked great with the 20mm f/1.7 Pancake. And when it works well, it’s a very cool feature.
The camera is the smallest and lightest DSLR-shaped configuration I’ve used (though let me say, the Pentax K-x comes pretty close, especially with pancake lenses). It feels good in your hands, even though a tad plasticky. With one of the pancake lenses it is an easy camera to want to have with you, no matter how much walking or hiking you might be doing. Even with a GorillaPod attached to the bottom of it, it’s extremely light. This is right up my alley! I love a small, light camera!
I was frustrated with the LVF/EVF until I figured out the “Constant Preview” thing… which, doesn’t work great in all modes, but at least works in some. “Constant Preview” when turned on shows you what to expect from your exposure settings. By default, this is turned off, so what you see on the LCD or in the EVF is always a bright, properly exposed picture (even if your settings won’t capture a properly exposed picture). Of course, with an Optical Viewfinder (OVF) you’d have the same problem, however, it somehow feels stranger with an EVF. It may take getting used to, but the GH2′s EVF is really very nice… I’d venture a guess, the nicest out there.
I had no problems manual focusing because the resolution really is as good as everyone says. The GH2 has a very sharp, very bright Electronic Viewfinder (EVF). It is THAT good. Blackout after taking a photo is also minimal, and it focuses very fast… almost as fast as a DSLR. Probably as fast as most entry-level DSLRs.
Let’s start off with my first real photos with the camera, using it like I would use any of my other cameras…
All shot in RAW and processed through Adobe Camera Raw and Photoshop.
“Coming Home” – GH2 + 14mm f/2.5 Pancake
“On Our Way” – GH2 + 20mm f/1.7 Pancake
Break Through – GH2 + 14-42 HD Kit Lens
“Along Side” – GH2 + 20mm f/1.7 Pancake
I did some video also.
The first is what I shot of my family on Saturday. It is all GH2 footage up until about 1:30 when the battery died and I had to switch over to my husband’s GH1. Most of it was shot with the 20mm f/1.7 pancake though a few shots were done with my Voigtlander 50mm f/1.5 Nokton. I got some noise and posterization in the video, but let me not blame the GH2 for that… I suspect it might be iMovie or the way I exported rather than the camera. I never shot above ISO 1250.
I also tested doing some slow motion stuff… it was a quick test to see if the new iMovie 11 will handle the slow motion without converting it through JES first (and it does). I didn’t spend more than about an hour on this between shooting and editing it together. All shot with kit lens. Some use of Tele-Con mode.
Now, lets talk more about the noise in the blue channel. If you know me, you know I don’t typically do these kinds of tests. I’m not a camera scientist. I like to go out and use a camera and see if it’s a “fit”. It’s usually more a feeling for me than anything else. However, because of the noise I was seeing in my skies, I had to question if it was just me looking for it (since I’d read about it previously), of if it really was noisier. I saw a swatch on DPReview that also seemed to confirm there was indeed more noise in the blue channel on the GH2. I just had to go out and see for myself.
I shot with three cameras. The GH2, the EP2 and the Pentax Kx. I wanted to see how noise faired in the sky and the colors in the blues, since I personally shoot a lot of seascapes and skies. I shot in both RAW and JPG. However, I accidentally deleted the Olympus JPG in the field, so I processed a second RAW file (that was with the JPG that got deleted) through Olympus Master. I think the results are pretty close to what the JPG would have looked like.
I did NOT process the RAW files to my own taste. All I did was open them in ACR and then open them in Photoshop to crop and save as a JPG. I touched none of the settings in ACR… I let them open as they do by default.
White balance was set to AWB in all three cameras.
EP2 and GH2 were both at ISO 160.
Pentax doesn’t offer that setting, so was shot at ISO 200.
GH2 and EP2 both were shot with Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 Lens.
Pentax was shot with the 40mm f/2.8 Limited.
f-stop on all was set at f/6.3
Observations (just my opinion): The colors on the EP2 are nicer than the GH2, both in the JPG and RAW (at least to my personal taste). The colors in the Pentax are nicer than the GH2 but not the EP2. Noise performance between the EP2 and the GH2 is VERY VERY similar in RAW, though I would give a teeny-tiny slight edge to the EP2. The Pentax clearly beats them both (for skies and blues at least in this test).
In the JPGs it’s a harder call… I think there is a little bit more noise in the EP2 shot, but the GH2 shot has lost some detail because of Noise Reduction (it’s way too agressive in-camera). There also, to me, appears to be slight blotchiness in the GH2 JPG. The Pentax again, IMO, beats them both.
I included the last setting on the Pentax JPG just so you can see how I have the camera set for my own personal taste. It’s close to what I like, but not perfect (I’ve still been futzing with it). The EP2 is closest to what the scene looked like in person, and more like the way I like a file to look out-of-camera.
Here’s the 100% crop samples:
RAW Comparisons: EP2 on the Left, GH2 in the Middle, Pentax Kx on the Right… 100% Crops… Click to see full size
JPG Comparisons: Starting on the Left, EP2, GH2, Pentax Kx and Pentax Kx my custom settings… Click to see full size
Color Comparisons (from RAW) EP2 on the Left, GH2 in the Middle, Pentax Kx on the Right… Click to see full size
One final test…
What happens when I process the GH2 RAW file to look more like the EP2 in color and more like the results I want?
Here’s what I did. I opened each file, the GH2 and EP2 in ACR. For the EP2 I did nothing. For the GH2 I moved the color temperature and tint sliders a bit to the left to match the “blueyness” (yeah, not a word… LOL) of the EP2.
I opened them in Photoshop then and simply did an Auto-Contrast. Nothing more. Made 100% crops and saved.
I think the GH2 ends up showing a bit more noise after doing this. Accentuating the blues also accentuates the noise in the blue channel.
What happens when I try to make the color of the GH2 match the EP2? Click for full size…
So what’s the verdict?
IMO, I think I was correct in thinking the GH2 is noisier in the blue channel. DPReview’s own swatches backed up this thinking, and now my own test has done the same. Do I think the difference is significant for me and my style of shooting? I’m not sure, and I still have to play with noise reduction in ACR to see what kind of results can be had. For a final output of this test picture, I was pretty satisfied.
Let me say, noise in general doesn’t usually bother me, and it isn’t something I go pixel-peeping for on a regular basis. The noise in the GH2 files is like a very fine grain, so it isn’t unpleasing in the RAW files (though in JPG files I see blotchiness I do not like). At base ISO, the GH2 is not as noise-free as an APC-S sensor camera… at least not when there’s a lot of blues in your scene. I think we all kind-of knew that already though.
Overall, the GH2 is a camera I can like, I think. I just have to optimize my settings in ACR and I will probably never shoot JPG. I know it’s capable of outstanding video, and that is part of why I bought it (I’m getting more into video these days). But for me, it has to hold up on the photography end too. I’m not 100% convinced yet, but I’m leaning towards believing it can. However, it’s also no K-5, which I dream about owning… Let’s hope the tax man is nice to me this year! LOL
Finally, I want to show you that test picture from above… when it’s finished (as taken with the GH2) and post-processed to my liking. I really like the way it came out. I ended up adjusted the temperature and tint in ACR and using ACRs noise reduction and detail settings to find the right balance (to my taste).
Panasonic GH2 + 20mm f/1.7 Pancake Lens
With results like the above, I’m pretty sure I’ll keep the GH2. Honestly, unless you can afford a much more expensive camera like the 5D, I don’t think you’re going to find a better video-and-picture-taking machine. At least not as of this writing.
Thanks for listening to all this (if you’re still with me)…
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From Steve: I’ve been busy all week testing out the Pentax K5 with the 40mm 1.9 Limited lens but this week has been all about Guest Articles! So let’s keep it moving along with another from David Babsky, who if you remember wrote THIS controversial article a while back. What do you think of his new article? Feel free to comment and enjoy! You can also comment in the forums HERE.
“Leica M9.5″ – The Small But Excellent Panasonic GF1 by David Babsky
Invited to the UK launch of the Panasonic AG-AF101 micro-four-thirds video camcorder (also known as the AG-AF100 in the USA) I thought I’d take a Four-Thirds-to-Micro-Four-Thirds lens adapter with me. This was so that I could use the Leica Digilux-3 lenses I had in my cupboard on this new camcorder. For good measure, I thought I’d take a Canon-to-micro-4/3 and a Leica-to-m4/3 adaptor, too, so that I could try Canon and Leica lenses on this new video camera.
To check out the Leica Digilux-3 lenses on a micro-4/3 stills camera before trying them on the camcorder, I hunted for a suitable camera: Olympus Pen? No; weird shape and slow autofocus. Panasonic micro-4/3 single-lens-reflex? No; too bulky. Panasonic GF1? ..Looks good, and with a reputation for very fast focus and excellent image quality ..and I’ve been using Pannys for a while, so I know where the buttons are and what they do.
Micro-four-thirds, of course, uses the same size sensor as the original ‘Four Thirds’ (Olympus, Panasonic and Leica) standard used in, for example, the ‘Leica’ Digilux-3 (which was really a Panasonic L1 by another name). It’s a sensor about a *quarter* the size of the Leica M9′s full-35mm-frame sensor, so it sees the view through only the central region of any full-frame lens. A normal 50mm lens becomes, effectively, a 100mm lens when used on a 4/3 – or micro-4/3 – sensor, but it keeps the same aperture settings. Although the Four Thirds (and micro-4/3) sensor is roughly a quarter the physical size of the Leica M9′s full-frame sensor, they currently have *two-thirds* the resolution of the M9, with – presently – 12 megapixels, compared with the M9′s 18 megapixels. So using just the central highest-resolution region of high resolution Leica prime (non-zoom) lenses, the 12 megapixel micro-4/3 GF1 may be able to out-resolve, or give ‘better’ results than, the 10 megapixel Leica M8 and M8.2 sensors, at least at low ISO settings – although any flaws in the central region of any lens will also be magnified by two. The m-4/3 sensor may give more digital “noise” at higher ISO settings than the Leicas, because each actual pixel ‘photo-site’ is smaller, and so captures less light at a given moment than the bigger sensors in the Leicas. So the ‘signal-to-noise’ ratio of the Leicas’ larger Kodak sensors may be more impressive than results with the smaller sensors in m-4/3 cameras. Panny 12 megapixel pictures can’t, for example, deliver as much enlargement as the 18 megapixel pics of the M9 before fuzzy or unsightly ‘pixellation’ sets in.
The little micro-4/3 camera in the middle (the GF1, or ‘Leica M9.5′) and its one lens replaces the big 4/3 Leica Digilux-3 on on the left, and *almost* replaces the big Leica M9 on the right – and all those other lenses!
The various m-4/3 lens adaptors have no glass inside: they’re just “extension tubes” to hold non-micro-4/3 lenses further from the sensor than the proper ‘designed-for-m-4/3′ lenses, so that lenses built for larger cameras with a greater lens-to-sensor ‘flange-back’ distance will focus correctly onto the m-4/3 chip. Panasonic’s own adaptor includes nine contacts to transmit power and info between Four-Thirds lenses and m-4/3 camera bodies so that the lenses’ electrical circuits (should) work properly. But as there’s no stabilisation, auto-focus or auto-aperture in Leica-M lenses, the Leica-M-to-m4/3 adaptor is just a metal tube with a precision mount on each end.
What a revelation! I’d bought a small second-hand Minolta CLE film camera to mount my Leica lenses on, as the M9 is just too heavy and too bulky to be a proper pocket camera ..for me, anyway. (Why is it BIGGER than the original Leica M3 of 1954?) ..But the Panny GF1 Leica-lens-plus-teeny-body combination is *exactly* what I’d been looking for! Leica has a partnership with Panasonic going back many years (the Leica Digilux cameras were Pannys in different livery, and the Leica V-Lux 20 is just the Panny TZ10 (its UK name) with a red dot on it). Leica should now grab the Panny GF1 – on its way to being phased out as the new GF2 is on its way – and should re-brand it as the Leica ‘M9.5′ (with a black dot on it, just like the M8.2) ..and that, I think, would be the perfect pocket camera, just as Oskar Barnack intended!
Delicious patterns, textures and colours of Christmas fare: straight-out-of-camera jpegs from the GF1 (click for larger). Why no similar comparison shots taken with the M9..? Because the 56-year-old rangefinder mechanism of the current M9 can’t focus close enough to take these shots. The GF1, er ‘M9.5′, offers manual and auto focus – with anti-shake image stabilisation – for close-ups and small apertures at high or low ISO. The first image was shot at ISO 3200 ..not bad for a small sensor, eh? (The M9 won’t go above ISO 2500, without dialing-in some under-exposure.) (F) was shot at ISO 1600. All these were taken with the default Panasonic 14-45mm ‘kit’ lens.
All the Leica lenses I’ve tried fit the GF1 – especially the wonderful Dual Range f/2 50mm which is unusable beyond 4 metres on the M9 (..or 2 metres on the M8 and M8.2..) because its focusing cam bangs against the digital M cameras’ metering cell! Doh! The exotic long-rear-end Russar 20mm doesn’t fit on the GF1, because its back end protrudes too far, but the less protrusive Voigtländer 21mm (and the Voigtländer 15mm and 12mm) will fit perfectly, and give brilliantly sharp shots!
These wide lenses don’t need extra external viewfinders on the GF1 – unlike using them on a Leica M – because What You See Is What You Get; the ‘live view’ screen on the back of the GF1 (..let’s call it the ‘Leica 9.5′ from now on..) shows exactly what each lens sees ..and a small clip-on electronic viewfinder is available if you can’t – or don’t want to – focus at arm’s length.
Focusing with older Lumix/Leica 4/3 lenses, which don’t auto-focus on the GF1 – or with any Lumix lens set to Manual Focus – will automatically give a magnified view on the camera’s focusing screen to help get the focus spot-on: connection pins in the 4/3-to-m4/3 adaptor tell the camera that focus is being manually adjusted. This doesn’t happen automatically with other lenses on a ‘dumb’ adaptor, like Leica, Canon or 35mm-film Olympus, as there are no connector pins on these adaptors to tell the camera what’s happening inside the lens. But by pushing IN on the over/under-exposure adjustment wheel on the back of the camera, focus-magnification’s turned on with ALL ‘dumb’ lenses!
The M9′s redeeming feature is that it beats the GF1 in richness and depth of colour, in both day and at dusk, which the GF1 just can’t match – yet! Last one at ISO 2000.
As focal lengths effectively double when used with 4/3 sensors – compared with full-35mm-frame sensors – the Leica f/2.8 14-50mm wide-aperture zoom from the old Digilux-3 becomes an f/2.8 28-90mm zoom on the GF1 (as it did on the old Digilux itself), and Panasonic’s Leica-branded f/3.5 14-150mm Digilux-3 lens behaves as a 28-300mm super-zoom. But those older 4/3 Digilux lenses are big and bulky compared with the newer miniature f/3.5 14-45mm and f/4 14-140mm lenses designed especially for the GF1 ..er, ‘Leica M9.5′ *micro*-four-thirds system. The Digilux-3 wide-aperture f/2.8 14-50mm would seem to have the edge over the new smaller-aperture f/4 14-45mm, but not so, because in-built stabilisation in the old lens doesn’t work when used on the ’9.5′, but stabilisation in the new miniature lenses *does*, giving an extra two stops’ worth of non-shake shooting!
Fitting Leica’s f/2.5 75mm Summarit-M on the ’9.5′ camera gives a small and pocketable f/2.5 140mm that’s a fraction of the size of the M9-plus-Leica’s-own f/2.8 135mm ..which needs a crane to hoist and hold it!
A Leica 24mm lens behaves like a 48mm, of course ..but using the Cosina-made Voigtländer *12mm* on the ’9.5′ gives pretty much the same view as a 24mm on an M9. (The Panasonic 8mm – and 7-14mm zoom – will approximate to a similar view as Leica’s super-wide-angle ‘Tri-Elmar’ 16-21mm zoom at its widest setting, so all wide-angle boxes are ticked if you splash out on an 8mm.)
The Voigtländer 21mm gives – oddly – a far wider view than Panasonic’s own 20mm f/1.7 autofocus m-4/3 ‘pancake’ lens when used on the GF1; they should both be a 40mm equivalent, but I prefer the Cosina-Voigtländer for its wider angle of view and incredible sharpness – when correctly focused! (The small Panasonic lenses auto-focus of course, but Leica-M-fit lenses – obviously – can’t. You can manually focus with the Panny m4/3 lenses; but you can choose an aperture (in ‘A’ or ‘Manual’ mode) by turning a dial on the camera.)
Black-&-white results at 1600 ISO on the ’9.5′ are nicely ‘grainy’ like venerable ISO 400 Tri-X film ..but needing only a quarter of the light which Tri-X needs! This GF1 is just *great* for hi-ISO black-&-white. Low-light colour shots, though, aren’t anywhere near as vibrant (..even though ‘Vibrant’ is selectable in its menus..) compared with pictures the M9 delivers at night (or the little Panasonic LX2 used to give).
I’d previously thought “why put a Leica full-frame lens on a tiny Four Thirds sensor? ..there’s less resolution, and you lose the wide-angle facility”.
But having tried it, I see advantages:
[a] the body – and body-&-lens combination – is FAR smaller and lighter than using a Leica M.
[b] the body-&-lens combination may, in some circumstances, out-perform the Leica M8.
[c] although you can’t use a Digilux zoom on a Leica M, you can use it on the ‘M9.5′. Same goes for defunct Leica R lenses.
[d] focal length doubles, so a Leica f/2.8 90mm becomes a very compact f/2.8 180mm, giving longer “reach” – and plenty of aperture – with a small lens.
[e] no ‘cyan corners’ using a Voigtländer 12mm on the ‘M9.5′: it’s a usable 24mm instead.
Which is which? iPhone 4, 5 megapixels, 2.3MB, ISO 125, 3.9mm, f/2.8, 1/15th.
The short focal length of the iPhone, and its f/2.8 aperture, means that the whole picture’s sharp. The GF1, with a Leica f/1.4 24mm, gives less depth-of-field; the M9 and f/1.4 50mm gives even less d-o-f to isolate Steve the painter from the background. (There’s a 15x difference in price – and in file size! – between the iPhone and the M9 pics ..is there a 15x difference, though, in *visible* “image quality”?)
I’ve, at last, found a generally ‘easy-to-use’ small, compact “all-rounder” to almost match the big, heavy Leica M9. Leica’s chairman Alfred Schopf should encourage a deal with Panasonic *right now!* to offer the GF1 as a mini ‘Leica M9.5′ because it takes Leica lenses – think how much more glass they’d sell! – it gives great results, they already rebrand Pannys as Leicas, and (some of) the world wants a pocketable Leica which takes interchangeable lenses – unlike the silly fixed-lens X1. (Or else put a Leica-M bayonet on the X1 ..though that leads us into the land of “one-and-a-half-times” focal lengths, with a 50mm becoming a 75mm instead of 100mm, and the X1′s focusing just isn’t as fast as the ‘M9.5′.) The Leica ‘M9.5′ would be a compact Leica “for the rest of us”.
The GF1, er ‘Leica M9.5′, is – obviously – the digital version of the Leica CL (the “Compact Leica”): it takes M lenses, gives great quality (RAW and jpeg), doubles the range of existing M lenses – so a 135mm becomes a 270mm ..a focal length unheard of on a Leica *rangefinder* camera – and it’s just the smallest, sweetest Leica ever made. Call it the “mini-M” if you like. And make an 8mm M lens to go with it. Make the call, Herr Schopf!
David Babsky was, many years ago, Technical Editor of the UK’s best-selling ‘Practical Photography’ magazine. Years later he bought, and ran, his own 3-screen cinema. Now he teaches photography, mainly in Greece and Thailand.
A reader of this website, Alexander Franz just sent me this video he made which is a preview of the new Panaosnic G-F2 where he compares it to the G-F1. He was lucky enough to have a pre-production unit sent to him. Check it out and then check out his website at ifranznation.de
PANASONIC INTRODUCES COMPANY’S SMALLEST AND LIGHTEST DIGITAL INTERCHANGEABLE LENS SYSTEM CAMERA WITH FLASH
New Panasonic LUMIX GF2 Features Touch-Screen Operation, Full HD Video Recording Capability and Compatible with Panasonic’s Interchangeable 3D Lens
SECAUCUS, NJ (November 4, 2010) – Panasonic today announced the LUMIX DMC-GF2, the latest of the company’s DSL Micro (DSLM) compact mirrorless cameras, which is Panasonic’s smallest and lightest interchangeable lens system camera – complete with a built-in flash. The LUMIX GF2 is compatible with lenses from the Micro Four Thirds standard, meaning the system is small and compact, while not compromising ease of operation or image quality. Even more, the LUMIX GF2 is compatible with Panasonic’s new 3D interchangeable lens, the LUMIX G 12.5mm / F12, so users can take 3D photos.
“The LUMIX GF2 is key in the Panasonic DSL Micro line-up, as it’s the smallest and lightest model we offer, while still offering superb image quality, which our consumers have come to expect from LUMIX. Compared to the GF1, its predecessor, the GF2 has been reduced approximately 19% in size and approximately 7% in weight yet is still retains its signature built-in flash,” said Darin Pepple, Senior Product Manager, Imaging, Panasonic Consumer Electronics Company. “We expect the LUMIX GF2 to be an attractive model for consumers who want to step up to a more powerful camera that is easy to use, and a camera that is ‘future-proof’ with its 3D capabilities.”
The LUMIX GF2 is extremely easy to operate for consumers at any level, thanks to a newly- designed user interface, which allows for the focus to be set, or shutter released, by simply touching the large 3-inch touch-screen LCD. The touch-screen LCD with a 460,000-dot-resolution makes taking great photos intuitive. Once a user locks on a subject by touch, the LUMIX GF2 tracks the subject with the AF tracking function, even if the subject moves – making it easy to take photos of moving subjects, like children playing. The contrast AF system adopted by the LUMIX DMC-GF2 is not only accurate and easy to use, but also very fast. Users can choose from a wide range of AF (Auto Focus) modes, including multiple-area AF with up to 23 focus areas, 1-area AF with a selectable focus area, Face Detection, and AF Tracking.
The touch operation also dramatically shortens the time spent navigating the menus. With the LUMIX GF2′s newly-designed Touch Q-menu, the user can customize the camera’s shortcuts with the most commonly used settings. Together with the simple button components, including dedicated buttons for video recording and iA (Intelligent Auto) mode which lights in-use, users can operate the camera intuitively with ease.
With the Intelligent Scene Selector in the iA mode, the camera automatically switches to the appropriate mode according to the subject touched. For example, a touch on a human face switches to the portrait mode and a touch on the background or scenery switches to the scenery mode, while a touch on the subject close to the camera switches to the close-up mode. With the MF assist mode for manual focusing, users can enlarge the subject by just a touch to select 1x, 5x or 10x and smoothly move the subject by dragging it on the screen. In iA mode and the Peripheral Defocus mode, the range of defocus can be adjusted by just moving the slider with a finger, something not possible with larger more complicated DSLR cameras that don’t feature touch control.
While achieving breakthroughs in compactness of design and outstanding photo and video quality, the Panasonic LUMIX GF2 can contribute its professional-level imaging performance to well-balanced engine and sensor technologies. For the image processor, the Venus Engine FHD is incorporated, featuring exceptionally high performance signal processing capabilities in both photo and movie recording. With the advanced noise reduction system employing the 3D NR and CNR (Chromatic Noise Reduction), users can capture clear, naturally-balanced images even when shooting at high ISO sensitivity levels to help prevent the color bleeding.
Panasonic’s Venus Engine FHD enables Intelligent Resolution technology, which means that three areas – outlines, detailed texture areas and soft gradation – are automatically detected. Then, the outline parts are enhanced effectively to give edges more clearness while giving a moderate accentuation to the texture areas to look more finely detailed. To the soft gradation part, noise reduction system is applied to make it smoother. Apart from the uniform enhancement of sharpness, the innovative technology Intelligent Resolution precisely performs signal processing pixel by pixel, resulting in images that are naturally clear and crisp in both video and photos. The 12.1-megapixel Live MOS sensor featured in the LUMIX GF2 offers the best of both worlds – the superb image quality of a CCD sensor, plus the lower power consumption of a CMOS sensor.
All of Panasonic’s LUMIX G-Series DSLM cameras are equipped with the highly-efficient Dust Reduction System. If dust gets inside the camera when the user changes lenses, it could cling to the image sensor and show up as a spot in photos. The Dust Reduction System helps to reduce this risk by placing a supersonic wave filter in front of the Live MOS sensor. Vibrating vertically around 50,000 times per second, the filter repels dust and other particles.
The LUMIX GF2 shoots professional-quality full High Definition (HD) videos as well as handling still photography. The LUMIX GF2 can record 1920 x 1080 videos at 60i or smooth HD 1280 x 720 movies at 60p in AVCHD. For those looking for better compatibility with computers, the LUMIX GF2 can also record HD Motion JPEG in 1280 x 720 and QVGA, VGA and WVGA. A dedicated video record button makes it easy to start shooting videos, and high quality sound is recorded with the stereo microphone for Dolby® Digital Stereo Creator. Panasonic’s iA mode extends to video recording, with the following features: Optical Image Stabilizer, Face Detection, Intelligent D-range Control and Intelligent Scene Selector.
The Panasonic LUMIX GF2 is artistic not only in form, but also in function, as it provides an array of features that lets users capture true-to-life images while also creating their own expressive, beautiful images. The LUMIX GF2 features My Color mode which is integrated with the conventional Film mode. My Color mode offers a total of eight preset effects – Expressive, Retro, Pure, Elegant, Cinema, Monochrome, Dynamic Art, Silhouette, plus Custom mode, which lets users manually set the color, brightness, saturation and contrast levels. Also, with the Full-time Live View function, users can see how these settings will affect the images before they shoot, which makes it easier to capture the exact effect desired. The LUMIX GF2 has 17 Scene modes, most which can be used during video shooting, too. The exposure meter can be displayed in the P/A/S/M shooting modes for entry-level users to visually learn the correlation between shutter speed and aperture to enhance their photography skills.
The Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF2, with a quality and solid aluminum body, will be available in black, silver, white, and red models with the following kit options: DMC-GF2C – 14mm F2.5 Lens Kit and DMC-GF2K – 14-42mm Zoom Lens Kit. The LUMIX GF2 will be available in January 2011 and pricing will be announced approximately 30 days prior to shipment.