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Found 58 results

  1. A few weeks back I wrote a short piece about how I was having a serious bout of GAS after discovering a new Panasonic Leica 8-18mm lens sitting in a local electronics store. At the time I managed to resist the overwhelming urge to purchase the lens because they didn’t have pricing for it. And I also didn’t really have the kind of money lying around that I could justify such a purchase with. It’s not a cheap lens. So it stayed in the store. It turns out that the lens was a demo unit on consignment to the retailer from Panasonic South Africa and not a stock item (Panasonic stuff is like hen’s teeth here in SA). I wrote to the local agents and asked if I could borrow it for a couple of weeks to write a review. They agreed and the result is this review. Who's It For? Where can I begin? If you are interested in this lens I am sure that you have already gone through all the typical reviews that you will find from the usual suspects on the internet. You know, the guys who’s job it is to review lenses and tell you all about the specs, how sharp it is, what they think is wrong with it, even though hardly any of them have ever worked a day in their lives as actual photographers using these tools. Then, at the end of the review they ask you to buy the lens using their links so that they can get commission on the sale. That’s their job, I guess, but I’m not one of them. I’m reviewing this lens based on what it can do for my photography business. Nothing else. If it’s rubbish I will say it’s rubbish. If I bought it myself then you’ll know it’s worth having. Those of you who follow me here on Fotozones will know that I work full time as a professional photographer doing various types of work and over the past 5 months that work has included a lot of real estate photography. This is a genre of work that I really enjoy. I have been using an Olympus E-M1 body and Olympus 9-18mm f/4.0-5.6 lens. My methods for shooting RE are a little different to your typical RE photographer in that I don’t use flash and I simply refuse to work in the abortion of logic that is called Photoshop. Everything I do is processed in Lightroom using a 3 frame HDR bracket, a bunch of presets and an eyes-on visual inspection of each shot I present to my client. The only batch work I do comes at export time. My images are used on the internet and not for print. Yes, I could spend a lot more time getting a better result by following the methods of those who use multiple ambient and flash exposures and then spend an inordinate amount of time in Photoshop painting in masks and a myriad of other tricky things. But if I followed that sort of workflow I would not be able to do the same volume of work I am doing for the kind of money I am getting paid per property. It just wouldn’t work out. So, I have created a workflow that sees me in and out of a moderately sized 3-4 bedroomed home in under 30 minutes. I know what compositions are typically needed for RE photography, so the thing that takes me the most time on location is leveling my camera (assuming the client has prepared their home for the shoot and I don’t have to move much of their stuff around). The leveling is done using the built-in levels on the Olympus E-M1 and the bracketing is done automatically, requiring a single shutter press - a great feature of the E-M1 cameras I use. On average I deliver about 25 edited images per property and I shoot sometimes up to 5 properties a day. On the editing side of things I probably spend as much time per property as I do on shooting, so I have been on a quest to reduce this time overhead as much as I can. My RE editing process comprises selecting the three frames I need to blend in the Lr HDR program, running through a few presets, such as correcting converging verticals and with the Olympus 9-18mm fixing the somewhat noticeable barrel distortion seen when shooting at 9mm. I have also found that while the 9-18mm lens is plenty sharp enough, when I am shooting towards bright light sources such as windows, I get quite a bit of blooming around the window frames using my shooting method. If I was using flash and Ps masks to blend in layers this wouldn’t be an issue, but the time that would take isn’t an option for me on these jobs. I need to reduce the amount of time I spend doing the editing, which is, I suppose, really all about fixing up these 9-18mm lens “issues”. All the wide angle zoom lenses that I have ever owned and used (and there have been quite a few of them) have had their own little idiosyncrasies. When I first started shooting property I had the Nikon D200 and Sigma 15-30mm, which was a pretty good lens, but you needed to work on the warm colour that the lens had. Later I used the Nikon D700 with that same lens, which was eventually replaced with the Sigma 12-24mm FX frame lens, an insanely wide beast but one that required a great deal of care when composing. It wasn’t really good for interiors at 12mm because of the amount of crazy distortion on the edges you could make a tiny room look like an auditorium, so I would have to zoom in to about 16mm to make things look normal(ish). When I moved to micro four thirds there were only 2 options for wide angle lenses offering more than a 100˚ angle of view. There was the impossible (for me) to find Panasonic 7-14mm f/4, which had a lot of bad reviews and didn’t do well with light sources at all, or there was the lens I have been using, the Olympus 9-18mm f/4.0-5.6. For a time I did have the Olympus 7-14mm f/4.0 in 4/3 mount used via the MMF adapter, but that thing was just as big as a Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8, so not really practical as an RE lens (if, like me, you moved to MFT to get away from the bulk). When Olympus brought out their 7-14mm f/2.8 PRO I thought my prayers had been answered, but as you would have read on my review of that lens, it just can’t handle the type of work I wanted to use it for. The flare caused by that massive front element is a major problem and would drive any RE photographer insane. Also, there is something about the way it compresses scene edges that just looks very unnatural to me, so I passed on it. That has left me with the diminutive Olympus 9-18mm as my only interior lens and to be honest, apart from the window bloom and barrel distortion which can be fixed it’s perfectly fine. And small. Enter the Panasonic Leica 8-18mm f/2.8-4.0 Vario-Elmarit lens. As I mentioned in my previous article, this is one really nicely designed and constructed wide angle lens. It is significantly bigger than the 9-18mm Oly though, especially when the hood is attached, so that’s not a plus in my book. When I am working on these RE jobs I carry all my camera gear in the smallish ThinkTank TurnStyle 10. The size of my gear for work purposes is very important to me. I put both the lenses on my product table to show you the difference in size. This is the 8-18mm on my E-M1 without the grip And here's the 9-18mm on the same body. In that bag I have one Olympus E-M1 body (sans grip) with an L-plate, the Panasonic GM1 and its 12-32mm lens, plus my Samyang 7.5mm fisheye, which I use when I find myself in really tiny bathrooms (I straighten the fisheye in Lr using the profile provided). My back-up body is the Olympus Pen E-PL5 and also in the bag are my spare batteries and a small power bank for my iPhone (running google Maps for most of the day does tend to run your device’s power down). When I first mounted the 8-18mm to the E-M1 it didn’t fit in the bag, so I had to re-configure it a little, resulting in the removal of the GM1. Once I did that it has become an easy fit and I also have the 9-18mm now on the Pen body, just in case. In the 2 weeks that I have been using the 8-18mm I have photographed over 20 properties with it. The first one I did I was very interested to notice that the metering on the E-M1 coupled with this lens was definitely giving me darker images than I get with the 9-18mm using the same bracketing sequence. I’d say it was about a stop darker and especially noticeable where I had bright windows in my compositions. Not a biggie, but interesting nonetheless. What was more immediately noticeable though was that the blooming around the windows was nowhere near as dramatic as is the case with the Olympus 9-18mm. With the Oly I tend to use a negative clarity to try and make it look a bit more flattering, but with the Leica that isn’t needed at all. There is still some blooming, but it doesn’t require anywhere near the same kind of attention my Olympus lens needs. In fact, the 8-18mm makes mincemeat of the 9-18mm where that is concerned. And there, already, is more than enough of a reason for me to upgrade to it. Not having to deal with the windows in post on my RE shoots saves me a ton of processing time and headaches. A typical scene I am faced with in my job as an RE photographer. This one was a 3 frame bracket, each a stop apart, blended in Lightroom, no flash at all. I'll take this result all day! Some exteriors of the higher end homes I shot in August/September 2018. But what about other applications? I’ve had the 9-18mm for a long time. It was one of the first lenses I bought after I made the switch from Nikon and I have made some of my most memorable landscape images with that lens, particularly in Namibia when we were on safari there in 2013. I have the LEE Seven5 filter set and an adapter ring so that I can use it on the 9-18mm. This is another problem with the Olympus 7-14mm 2.8 PRO. If you want to use it to make landscapes with any kind of filter system you have to buy some ridiculous after market apparatus to put any kind of filters on the lens, since it has no filter thread. Not the case with the Panny 8-18mm. You can take off the hood and the lens body acts as a kind of shroud for the front element (which does move in and out, but never beyond the tip of the body). This means that all I have to do to use my LEE Filters is buy a 67mm adapter for the holder. Presto. I will have a better landscape lens, designed by Leica. Unfortunately I didn’t get enough time with the lens to be able to do any meaningful landscape photography, but I did take it down to the beach one overcast day. Below are a few samples of that outing. As a walk-around lens for street photography I think the Olympus 9-18mm is much better. It’s a lot smaller and as such is much less conspicuous, not to mention easier to carry in a small bag along with a normal perspective lens. How much of a difference does that extra 1mm make on a MFT frame? If you’re an outdoor shooter you won’t notice it, but if you’re like me and you’re shooting interiors then the extra 7˚ on the wide end can make your life a little easier, especially if you don’t have a fisheye lens for those really tiny bathrooms. Or kitchens. Shot at 8mm Shot at 9mm Sharpness As far as sharpness is concerned I don’t really see a big difference between the two. Obviously the Leica designed optics of the 8-18mm will be better at micro-contrast and as mentioned before the coatings are more flare resistant than the 9-18mm, which does mean that you have to do less work in editing. You should be able to get the same results from either lens in most applications, the notable exception being my primary need of real estate photography. I’m sure that the propellor heads at the main techie sites will have done some kind of measuring that will allow you to compare the differences. I have no interest in that stuff, so it plays no part in my review process. Honestly, I don’t think anybody even makes an unsharp lens anymore, so why bother with such banality. Cost Considerations The main consideration for a person who is considering buying a wide angle lens for their MFT system is usually cost versus benefit. Looking at the price difference between these two items the Panasonic is nearly double the price of the Olympus, so it should offer a lot more. Does it? Yes, it is much better made and it has the Leica pedigree, so that can, to a degree justify the $450 extra you’ll have to fork over to own this lens. In my case the savings in editing time totally justify the not insignificant outlay. And I really like the look and feel of this lens enough to say, screw it, I will have it, one way or another. However, if you’re traveling to somewhere distant and size / weight is a factor, you should think about the Olympus 9-18mm instead. Bottom Line You won’t be disappointed with the 8-18mm. Unless you’re a propellor head looking for something to nit pick over. Or you have size constraints. I give this lens full marks. View full article
  2. A few weeks back I wrote a short piece about how I was having a serious bout of GAS after discovering a new Panasonic Leica 8-18mm lens sitting in a local electronics store. At the time I managed to resist the overwhelming urge to purchase the lens because they didn’t have pricing for it. And I also didn’t really have the kind of money lying around that I could justify such a purchase with. It’s not a cheap lens. So it stayed in the store. It turns out that the lens was a demo unit on consignment to the retailer from Panasonic South Africa and not a stock item (Panasonic stuff is like hen’s teeth here in SA). I wrote to the local agents and asked if I could borrow it for a couple of weeks to write a review. They agreed and the result is this review. Who's It For? Where can I begin? If you are interested in this lens I am sure that you have already gone through all the typical reviews that you will find from the usual suspects on the internet. You know, the guys who’s job it is to review lenses and tell you all about the specs, how sharp it is, what they think is wrong with it, even though hardly any of them have ever worked a day in their lives as actual photographers using these tools. Then, at the end of the review they ask you to buy the lens using their links so that they can get commission on the sale. That’s their job, I guess, but I’m not one of them. I’m reviewing this lens based on what it can do for my photography business. Nothing else. If it’s rubbish I will say it’s rubbish. If I bought it myself then you’ll know it’s worth having. Those of you who follow me here on Fotozones will know that I work full time as a professional photographer doing various types of work and over the past 5 months that work has included a lot of real estate photography. This is a genre of work that I really enjoy. I have been using an Olympus E-M1 body and Olympus 9-18mm f/4.0-5.6 lens. My methods for shooting RE are a little different to your typical RE photographer in that I don’t use flash and I simply refuse to work in the abortion of logic that is called Photoshop. Everything I do is processed in Lightroom using a 3 frame HDR bracket, a bunch of presets and an eyes-on visual inspection of each shot I present to my client. The only batch work I do comes at export time. My images are used on the internet and not for print. Yes, I could spend a lot more time getting a better result by following the methods of those who use multiple ambient and flash exposures and then spend an inordinate amount of time in Photoshop painting in masks and a myriad of other tricky things. But if I followed that sort of workflow I would not be able to do the same volume of work I am doing for the kind of money I am getting paid per property. It just wouldn’t work out. So, I have created a workflow that sees me in and out of a moderately sized 3-4 bedroomed home in under 30 minutes. I know what compositions are typically needed for RE photography, so the thing that takes me the most time on location is leveling my camera (assuming the client has prepared their home for the shoot and I don’t have to move much of their stuff around). The leveling is done using the built-in levels on the Olympus E-M1 and the bracketing is done automatically, requiring a single shutter press - a great feature of the E-M1 cameras I use. On average I deliver about 25 edited images per property and I shoot sometimes up to 5 properties a day. On the editing side of things I probably spend as much time per property as I do on shooting, so I have been on a quest to reduce this time overhead as much as I can. My RE editing process comprises selecting the three frames I need to blend in the Lr HDR program, running through a few presets, such as correcting converging verticals and with the Olympus 9-18mm fixing the somewhat noticeable barrel distortion seen when shooting at 9mm. I have also found that while the 9-18mm lens is plenty sharp enough, when I am shooting towards bright light sources such as windows, I get quite a bit of blooming around the window frames using my shooting method. If I was using flash and Ps masks to blend in layers this wouldn’t be an issue, but the time that would take isn’t an option for me on these jobs. I need to reduce the amount of time I spend doing the editing, which is, I suppose, really all about fixing up these 9-18mm lens “issues”. All the wide angle zoom lenses that I have ever owned and used (and there have been quite a few of them) have had their own little idiosyncrasies. When I first started shooting property I had the Nikon D200 and Sigma 15-30mm, which was a pretty good lens, but you needed to work on the warm colour that the lens had. Later I used the Nikon D700 with that same lens, which was eventually replaced with the Sigma 12-24mm FX frame lens, an insanely wide beast but one that required a great deal of care when composing. It wasn’t really good for interiors at 12mm because of the amount of crazy distortion on the edges you could make a tiny room look like an auditorium, so I would have to zoom in to about 16mm to make things look normal(ish). When I moved to micro four thirds there were only 2 options for wide angle lenses offering more than a 100˚ angle of view. There was the impossible (for me) to find Panasonic 7-14mm f/4, which had a lot of bad reviews and didn’t do well with light sources at all, or there was the lens I have been using, the Olympus 9-18mm f/4.0-5.6. For a time I did have the Olympus 7-14mm f/4.0 in 4/3 mount used via the MMF adapter, but that thing was just as big as a Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8, so not really practical as an RE lens (if, like me, you moved to MFT to get away from the bulk). When Olympus brought out their 7-14mm f/2.8 PRO I thought my prayers had been answered, but as you would have read on my review of that lens, it just can’t handle the type of work I wanted to use it for. The flare caused by that massive front element is a major problem and would drive any RE photographer insane. Also, there is something about the way it compresses scene edges that just looks very unnatural to me, so I passed on it. That has left me with the diminutive Olympus 9-18mm as my only interior lens and to be honest, apart from the window bloom and barrel distortion which can be fixed it’s perfectly fine. And small. Enter the Panasonic Leica 8-18mm f/2.8-4.0 Vario-Elmarit lens. As I mentioned in my previous article, this is one really nicely designed and constructed wide angle lens. It is significantly bigger than the 9-18mm Oly though, especially when the hood is attached, so that’s not a plus in my book. When I am working on these RE jobs I carry all my camera gear in the smallish ThinkTank TurnStyle 10. The size of my gear for work purposes is very important to me. I put both the lenses on my product table to show you the difference in size. This is the 8-18mm on my E-M1 without the grip And here's the 9-18mm on the same body. In that bag I have one Olympus E-M1 body (sans grip) with an L-plate, the Panasonic GM1 and its 12-32mm lens, plus my Samyang 7.5mm fisheye, which I use when I find myself in really tiny bathrooms (I straighten the fisheye in Lr using the profile provided). My back-up body is the Olympus Pen E-PL5 and also in the bag are my spare batteries and a small power bank for my iPhone (running google Maps for most of the day does tend to run your device’s power down). When I first mounted the 8-18mm to the E-M1 it didn’t fit in the bag, so I had to re-configure it a little, resulting in the removal of the GM1. Once I did that it has become an easy fit and I also have the 9-18mm now on the Pen body, just in case. In the 2 weeks that I have been using the 8-18mm I have photographed over 20 properties with it. The first one I did I was very interested to notice that the metering on the E-M1 coupled with this lens was definitely giving me darker images than I get with the 9-18mm using the same bracketing sequence. I’d say it was about a stop darker and especially noticeable where I had bright windows in my compositions. Not a biggie, but interesting nonetheless. What was more immediately noticeable though was that the blooming around the windows was nowhere near as dramatic as is the case with the Olympus 9-18mm. With the Oly I tend to use a negative clarity to try and make it look a bit more flattering, but with the Leica that isn’t needed at all. There is still some blooming, but it doesn’t require anywhere near the same kind of attention my Olympus lens needs. In fact, the 8-18mm makes mincemeat of the 9-18mm where that is concerned. And there, already, is more than enough of a reason for me to upgrade to it. Not having to deal with the windows in post on my RE shoots saves me a ton of processing time and headaches. A typical scene I am faced with in my job as an RE photographer. This one was a 3 frame bracket, each a stop apart, blended in Lightroom, no flash at all. I'll take this result all day! Some exteriors of the higher end homes I shot in August/September 2018. But what about other applications? I’ve had the 9-18mm for a long time. It was one of the first lenses I bought after I made the switch from Nikon and I have made some of my most memorable landscape images with that lens, particularly in Namibia when we were on safari there in 2013. I have the LEE Seven5 filter set and an adapter ring so that I can use it on the 9-18mm. This is another problem with the Olympus 7-14mm 2.8 PRO. If you want to use it to make landscapes with any kind of filter system you have to buy some ridiculous after market apparatus to put any kind of filters on the lens, since it has no filter thread. Not the case with the Panny 8-18mm. You can take off the hood and the lens body acts as a kind of shroud for the front element (which does move in and out, but never beyond the tip of the body). This means that all I have to do to use my LEE Filters is buy a 67mm adapter for the holder. Presto. I will have a better landscape lens, designed by Leica. Unfortunately I didn’t get enough time with the lens to be able to do any meaningful landscape photography, but I did take it down to the beach one overcast day. Below are a few samples of that outing. As a walk-around lens for street photography I think the Olympus 9-18mm is much better. It’s a lot smaller and as such is much less conspicuous, not to mention easier to carry in a small bag along with a normal perspective lens. How much of a difference does that extra 1mm make on a MFT frame? If you’re an outdoor shooter you won’t notice it, but if you’re like me and you’re shooting interiors then the extra 7˚ on the wide end can make your life a little easier, especially if you don’t have a fisheye lens for those really tiny bathrooms. Or kitchens. Shot at 8mm Shot at 9mm Sharpness As far as sharpness is concerned I don’t really see a big difference between the two. Obviously the Leica designed optics of the 8-18mm will be better at micro-contrast and as mentioned before the coatings are more flare resistant than the 9-18mm, which does mean that you have to do less work in editing. You should be able to get the same results from either lens in most applications, the notable exception being my primary need of real estate photography. I’m sure that the propellor heads at the main techie sites will have done some kind of measuring that will allow you to compare the differences. I have no interest in that stuff, so it plays no part in my review process. Honestly, I don’t think anybody even makes an unsharp lens anymore, so why bother with such banality. Cost Considerations The main consideration for a person who is considering buying a wide angle lens for their MFT system is usually cost versus benefit. Looking at the price difference between these two items the Panasonic is nearly double the price of the Olympus, so it should offer a lot more. Does it? Yes, it is much better made and it has the Leica pedigree, so that can, to a degree justify the $450 extra you’ll have to fork over to own this lens. In my case the savings in editing time totally justify the not insignificant outlay. And I really like the look and feel of this lens enough to say, screw it, I will have it, one way or another. However, if you’re traveling to somewhere distant and size / weight is a factor, you should think about the Olympus 9-18mm instead. Bottom Line You won’t be disappointed with the 8-18mm. Unless you’re a propellor head looking for something to nit pick over. Or you have size constraints. I give this lens full marks.
  3. Two Monday’s ago a fortnight of digital agony began as I set about upgrading the Fotozones software. Usually the software upgrades run smoothly, but in this instance it was anything but smooth. More like a ride on one of those amusement park gravity modifying apparatuses. I am told it is because I didn’t upgrade for such a long time that I ran into problems. Because of previous issues with early upgrades I guess I am averse to major changes, so upgrading software isn’t something I rush into these days. My bad. Anyway, that episode of digital nausea has passed so today I thought I would take some time out for myself to go and play with a new, old camera I got recently, but because of all the software dramas of the past fortnight, has sat on my desk looking expectantly at me like a rescue puppy might. The camera in question is the late 2013 Panasonic GM1 and 12-32mm kit lens. This is a Micro Four Thirds camera. As those of you who follow my writings and videos will already know, I recently sold the Canon 200D I got last year. I don’t have any pressing need to make more videos, but browsing through the classifieds on a local forum I saw an Olympus E-PL5 up for sale at a really keen price. I decided to get it because I actually like the Pen cameras and that model has a flip up selfie screen that would come in quite handy if I wanted to make more videos. So I got it. The cost was less than $100, but it didn’t come with a lens, so I was on the lookout for something I could use for it. I had my eyes open for the Olympus 14-42mm EZ kit lens, which isn’t found used that often. In casual conversation about my lens quest my buddy Peter mentioned to me that he was selling his Panasonic GM1 with the Panasonic 12-32mm kit lens. I wanted the lens only, but Peter made me a really good price on the body too, so I couldn’t pass it up. There went another $180 or so. I should mention that I was still up from the sale of the 200D though. What follows isn’t a review, so don’t expect any in-depth analysis, just some thoughts on cameras in general and how I got along with this particular one on my first outing with it. The GM1 is a really small camera. I mean, it’s ridiculously tiny. If I am out and about on a less than balmy day it will go into a jacket pocket without any issue. Today wasn’t exactly jacket weather, as you will see from the photos, so I put it into a larger bag (the ThinkTank Turn style 10) with some other camera stuff, just in case a Pulitzer Prize winning news moment presented itself to me, you know. I’m of the firm opinion that almost all cameras made since 2013 are good cameras. If you can’t get a great result out of a camera made after that year there can only be one (or more) of 3 factors at play. One, you have a terrible lens; two, you have terrible technique; three, somewhere along the line the camera you bought was dropped and the innards are not operating as they should. The sensors we have been getting in most cameras made after 2013 are brilliant capturing devices. You just need to know what you’re doing with them to get a good result. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that the future for camera testing outfits like Dpreview and various others who play in measurement based camera appraisal systems are probably superfluous to all but perhaps a handful of very discerning photographers these days. The attractiveness of cameras is, I think, going to come down to just how well you can integrate yourself with the way they work, not whether or not they have 18 stops of dynamic range or can blast off 100 frames in a second, or shoot at ISO values that exceed the bank balances of the average Monte Carlo resident. So, getting a good result out of your post 2013 camera is highly dependent on coming to know that camera and working with it on a regular basis. Like in my case I have been using the Olympus E-M1’s since I got my first one in late 2013 (about the time the GM1 got announced) and after nearly 5 years of professional and personal use I don’t even have to think much about it’s operation. I switch it on and if I need to make changes I know instantly where to make them. The once confusing Olympus menu system is second nature to me now. The only things I have to think about, settings-wise, are the advanced features that I have used maybe once or twice, such as the Live Time long exposure thing, or anything to do with JPG settings (which I never use). I’ve only ever owned one other Panasonic camera, the GF1, which I liked, but ended up selling because at the time I had 2 Olympus Pen cameras that I thought were just a bit easier for me to work with. Whilst Panasonic and Olympus share the same Micro Four Thirds lens mount, their approach to operating the camera itself is very different. Kind of like the differences you’d find between Windows and macOS. They both do the same thing, just differently. The Panasonic interface is, I think, very intuitive and easy to learn unlike the Olympus, which admittedly took me a while to get used to coming from Nikon. That said, I do find some things on the GM1 a bit of a fiddle. Like this morning I was trying to change the aperture (in A mode), but kept changing the exposure compensation instead. Turns out that you need to press the command dial button for compensation again to toggle it off (there is only one dial on this tiny little camera). On the Olympus Pens it’s a similar process, just slightly different. You have to press the same button, but you can program the camera to move either the aperture value or the exposure compensation when turning the dial after that button is pressed. The GM1 doesn’t have that level of customisability so if you have burned a neural pathway into your brain from using your Olympus MFT camera a certain way, getting used to a Panasonic like the GM1 might test you a little. Fortunately it’s not an insurmountable hurdle. A bit of practice will make new neural pathways. Without an EVF I found using the rear LCD in this morning’s bright conditions not too difficult. The one thing I do struggle with is the amount of icons that Panasonic show on this LCD screen. Unlike the Olympus method of putting them along the side of the LCD screen, Panasonic have most of them along the top, which together with the row on the bottom can make the screen seem very crowded. It is easy to turn the top row off though by toggling the Info button, which leaves you with the bare bones of exposure settings on the bottom. I think I will be getitng along quite nicely with the world's littlest MFT camera, in spite of the differences between it and my Olympus stable. That they use the same lenses makes it a perfect black sheep cousin. Different, but lovable all the same. Here’s some of the shots from this morning's outing. All with the 12-32mm lens, processed in Lr 7.2. I'm usually showing you photos of my city from the piers we have, so today here's a shot from the North looking towards a couple of the many we have. This is the designated fisherman's pier. It's usually inhabited by subsistence fishermen who spend most of the day (and night) with their lines in the water. There is a space between the sand and the promenade that the city is trying to keep healthy with indigenous dune vegetation we get around these parts. The beachcombers are always out there, scouring the sand for buried treasure. The promenade is modeled on Rio's famous Copacabana beach. You are allowed to ride anything on wheels along there (except for motorcycles and cars). There is an outfit that offers Segway tours. Lazy! This is one of many outdoor gyms that have sprung up around the city in the past few years. I don't know how effective those machines are, but they certainly do seem to keep the users happy. After the beachfront I took a slow drive back home, stopping off at the marina. It was low tide, so I walked out a bit. Shooting almost into the sun here, so not the best result. These tug boats appear to be chasing this Greek tanker out of the bay! Four shot panorama of what was once a vibrant watering hole, but is now sadly neglected by the city's denizens. This was where my younger son played at the Durban Blues Festival.
  4. Two Monday’s ago a fortnight of digital agony began as I set about upgrading the Fotozones software. Usually the software upgrades run smoothly, but in this instance it was anything but smooth. More like a ride on one of those amusement park gravity modifying apparatuses. I am told it is because I didn’t upgrade for such a long time that I ran into problems. Because of previous issues with early upgrades I guess I am averse to major changes, so upgrading software isn’t something I rush into these days. My bad. Anyway, that episode of digital nausea has passed so today I thought I would take some time out for myself to go and play with a new, old camera I got recently, but because of all the software dramas of the past fortnight, has sat on my desk looking expectantly at me like a rescue puppy might. The camera in question is the late 2013 Panasonic GM1 and 12-32mm kit lens. This is a Micro Four Thirds camera. As those of you who follow my writings and videos will already know, I recently sold the Canon 200D I got last year. I don’t have any pressing need to make more videos, but browsing through the classifieds on a local forum I saw an Olympus E-PL5 up for sale at a really keen price. I decided to get it because I actually like the Pen cameras and that model has a flip up selfie screen that would come in quite handy if I wanted to make more videos. So I got it. The cost was less than $100, but it didn’t come with a lens, so I was on the lookout for something I could use for it. I had my eyes open for the Olympus 14-42mm EZ kit lens, which isn’t found used that often. In casual conversation about my lens quest my buddy Peter mentioned to me that he was selling his Panasonic GM1 with the Panasonic 12-32mm kit lens. I wanted the lens only, but Peter made me a really good price on the body too, so I couldn’t pass it up. There went another $180 or so. I should mention that I was still up from the sale of the 200D though. What follows isn’t a review, so don’t expect any in-depth analysis, just some thoughts on cameras in general and how I got along with this particular one on my first outing with it. The GM1 is a really small camera. I mean, it’s ridiculously tiny. If I am out and about on a less than balmy day it will go into a jacket pocket without any issue. Today wasn’t exactly jacket weather, as you will see from the photos, so I put it into a larger bag (the ThinkTank Turn style 10) with some other camera stuff, just in case a Pulitzer Prize winning news moment presented itself to me, you know. I’m of the firm opinion that almost all cameras made since 2013 are good cameras. If you can’t get a great result out of a camera made after that year there can only be one (or more) of 3 factors at play. One, you have a terrible lens; two, you have terrible technique; three, somewhere along the line the camera you bought was dropped and the innards are not operating as they should. The sensors we have been getting in most cameras made after 2013 are brilliant capturing devices. You just need to know what you’re doing with them to get a good result. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that the future for camera testing outfits like Dpreview and various others who play in measurement based camera appraisal systems are probably superfluous to all but perhaps a handful of very discerning photographers these days. The attractiveness of cameras is, I think, going to come down to just how well you can integrate yourself with the way they work, not whether or not they have 18 stops of dynamic range or can blast off 100 frames in a second, or shoot at ISO values that exceed the bank balances of the average Monte Carlo resident. So, getting a good result out of your post 2013 camera is highly dependent on coming to know that camera and working with it on a regular basis. Like in my case I have been using the Olympus E-M1’s since I got my first one in late 2013 (about the time the GM1 got announced) and after nearly 5 years of professional and personal use I don’t even have to think much about it’s operation. I switch it on and if I need to make changes I know instantly where to make them. The once confusing Olympus menu system is second nature to me now. The only things I have to think about, settings-wise, are the advanced features that I have used maybe once or twice, such as the Live Time long exposure thing, or anything to do with JPG settings (which I never use). I’ve only ever owned one other Panasonic camera, the GF1, which I liked, but ended up selling because at the time I had 2 Olympus Pen cameras that I thought were just a bit easier for me to work with. Whilst Panasonic and Olympus share the same Micro Four Thirds lens mount, their approach to operating the camera itself is very different. Kind of like the differences you’d find between Windows and macOS. They both do the same thing, just differently. The Panasonic interface is, I think, very intuitive and easy to learn unlike the Olympus, which admittedly took me a while to get used to coming from Nikon. That said, I do find some things on the GM1 a bit of a fiddle. Like this morning I was trying to change the aperture (in A mode), but kept changing the exposure compensation instead. Turns out that you need to press the command dial button for compensation again to toggle it off (there is only one dial on this tiny little camera). On the Olympus Pens it’s a similar process, just slightly different. You have to press the same button, but you can program the camera to move either the aperture value or the exposure compensation when turning the dial after that button is pressed. The GM1 doesn’t have that level of customisability so if you have burned a neural pathway into your brain from using your Olympus MFT camera a certain way, getting used to a Panasonic like the GM1 might test you a little. Fortunately it’s not an insurmountable hurdle. A bit of practice will make new neural pathways. Without an EVF I found using the rear LCD in this morning’s bright conditions not too difficult. The one thing I do struggle with is the amount of icons that Panasonic show on this LCD screen. Unlike the Olympus method of putting them along the side of the LCD screen, Panasonic have most of them along the top, which together with the row on the bottom can make the screen seem very crowded. It is easy to turn the top row off though by toggling the Info button, which leaves you with the bare bones of exposure settings on the bottom. I think I will be getitng along quite nicely with the world's littlest MFT camera, in spite of the differences between it and my Olympus stable. That they use the same lenses makes it a perfect black sheep cousin. Different, but lovable all the same. Here’s some of the shots from this morning's outing. All with the 12-32mm lens, processed in Lr 7.2. I'm usually showing you photos of my city from the piers we have, so today here's a shot from the North looking towards a couple of the many we have. This is the designated fisherman's pier. It's usually inhabited by subsistence fishermen who spend most of the day (and night) with their lines in the water. There is a space between the sand and the promenade that the city is trying to keep healthy with indigenous dune vegetation we get around these parts. The beachcombers are always out there, scouring the sand for buried treasure. The promenade is modeled on Rio's famous Copacabana beach. You are allowed to ride anything on wheels along there (except for motorcycles and cars). There is an outfit that offers Segway tours. Lazy! This is one of many outdoor gyms that have sprung up around the city in the past few years. I don't know how effective those machines are, but they certainly do seem to keep the users happy. After the beachfront I took a slow drive back home, stopping off at the marina. It was low tide, so I walked out a bit. Shooting almost into the sun here, so not the best result. These tug boats appear to be chasing this Greek tanker out of the bay! Four shot panorama of what was once a vibrant watering hole, but is now sadly neglected by the city's denizens. This was where my younger son played at the Durban Blues Festival.
  5. Overview On paper this lens is irresistible. It weighs a mere 210g, has a power zoom motor, doesn't change size when zooming (stays under 10cm) and it can focus as close as a metre from the camera. You get an equivalent 35mm field of view that you'd get from a 90-350mm lens with incomparably larger proportions. There's also an optical stabiliser thrown in for good measure. I've made some great photographs with this lens on safari last year, but you need to work with it a bit to find its sweet spots. Let's take a deeper look. Specifications Mount: micro four thirds Focal range: 45-175mm (35mm system equivalent to 90-350mm) Maximum Apertures: f/4 - f/5.6 Minimum Aperture: f/22 Weight: 210g Length: 96mm (some sites show it as 90mm but we measured it at 96mm sans caps & hood) Width: 60mm Minimum focus: 0.9m Features: optical stabiliser, power zoom, nano coating, internal focus Price at review time: US$360 Aesthetics The undeniable strength of this lens is in its physical dimensions. It's about the same size as I remember my Leica 90mm Summicron as being. Maybe a bit fatter. It has a satin black plastic finish on the barrel and you'll find two rings on the body - a rather thick one closer to the mount for zooming and a thinner one at the lens opening for manual focus. The finish is typical of kit lenses these days, and I suppose in the light of the somewhat exquisitely made new m43 lenses from Olympus it's a bit of a let down in the build quality department. The mount is steel and the lens hood is a circular bayonet type made of plastic. Handling I like the way it feels. The power zoom works really well and like the camcorders of old you can control the speed of the zoom based on the amount of pressure you apply to the W-T lever. Zooming by wire with the zoom ring feels OK, but there isn't that same tactile response you get from a traditional zoom lens. Manually focusing this lens will test your patience. Not because it is focus by wire, but because the throw is so long. It takes a good couple of turns to bring a midfield object into focus if you are at either extreme of the focus range. But then the autofocus performance on both my OM-D and GF-1 is blisteringly quick, so that's never going to be a consideration for me. The lens hood reverses onto the body for storage which is most welcome, given Panasonic and Olympus' proclivity to provide square hoods on some other recent m43 lenses. Performance In the Field It doesn't cost all that much and I am pretty sure that a lot of m43 users who are looking to shed the weight of zoom lenses that offer a similar range on bigger cameras (including some of the options on m43) will be very happy with 210g and just under 10cm in their camera bags. Travellers will be thrilled with this option. The trouble with this lens is that it's not as sharp as I am used to seeing on even consumer zoom lenses. That's not to say that it's soft, it isn't, but it just seems to be lacking that bite I've seen on lenses like the Nikon 70-300mm VR. There's also the fact that very shallow depth of field is not a hallmark of the m43 system, so if you're stopping this lens down to f/8 when shooting it at full zoom, you're not going to get the kind of subject / background separation that you may be more accustomed to with (say) faster lenses on the 35mm system. You could work around this by choosing your background a little more carefully, although this is not always something you can do, depending on the shooting situation. I got this lioness one morning on safari last year and luckily she was lying on top of an earth mound with a clear background. In some of the other examples here I wasn't as lucky and you can see how the depth of field tends to prevent you from getting that desirable separation. So, if you are looking to get shallower d.o.f. you really shouldn't consider this lens as an option. My feeling is that Panasonic didn't produce it so much for use in stills as they did for use in video. Not being a video person I am not really in a position to offer much comment on its usefulness there. That being said, I still think you are going to have a very hard time ignoring the usefulness of such a small form factor in a telephoto zoom lens. It's what sold me on it. Optically You can see through it and it can focus on objects both close and far. There's nothing optically wrong with it that can't be fixed in post production. See, I told you we don't do science on fotozones.com when it comes to reviews. We do reality. And pictures. Observations If you are using this lens on an Olympus OM-D you're going to have to switch off the IBIS system because the lens does not have a switch that allows you to turn its own OS off. I don't know why Panasonic would have omitted this from this lens since they have such a switch on just about every other OIS lens they make. I recall also that I had to update the firmware in the GF-1 to deal with this because previously there was no way to switch it off with that body. Now you have to go into the menu system to turn it off. While it is said that you shouldn't run both the IBIS and an optical stabilisation system at the same time, I have done this in the past and can't report any noticeable problems. Conclusion I think that if you analyse your needs for a telephoto with your mirrorless system you're going to want to satisfy one of two basic needs: the need to magnify your subjects and obtain decent image quality, or the need to isolate your subject and obtain decent image quality. Unfortunately this lens can't do the latter that well, but it does the former fairly well. As a travel lens it is a very good option when combined with a shorter kit lens like the Panasonic or Olympus 14-42mm. You'll get decent image quality and a light bag, the value of which when travelling great distances cannot really be over-emphasized. I'm not going to haul it out to do portraits or anything serious, but I am going to keep it in my m43 kit bag for those times when all I want is a candid snapshot of something off in the distance. I give it 3/5 stars.
  6. Overview On paper this lens is irresistible. It weighs a mere 210g, has a power zoom motor, doesn't change size when zooming (stays under 10cm) and it can focus as close as a metre from the camera. You get an equivalent 35mm field of view that you'd get from a 90-350mm lens with incomparably larger proportions. There's also an optical stabiliser thrown in for good measure. I've made some great photographs with this lens on safari last year, but you need to work with it a bit to find its sweet spots. Let's take a deeper look. Specifications Mount: micro four thirds Focal range: 45-175mm (35mm system equivalent to 90-350mm) Maximum Apertures: f/4 - f/5.6 Minimum Aperture: f/22 Weight: 210g Length: 96mm (some sites show it as 90mm but we measured it at 96mm sans caps & hood) Width: 60mm Minimum focus: 0.9m Features: optical stabiliser, power zoom, nano coating, internal focus Price at review time: US$360 Aesthetics The undeniable strength of this lens is in its physical dimensions. It's about the same size as I remember my Leica 90mm Summicron as being. Maybe a bit fatter. It has a satin black plastic finish on the barrel and you'll find two rings on the body - a rather thick one closer to the mount for zooming and a thinner one at the lens opening for manual focus. The finish is typical of kit lenses these days, and I suppose in the light of the somewhat exquisitely made new m43 lenses from Olympus it's a bit of a let down in the build quality department. The mount is steel and the lens hood is a circular bayonet type made of plastic. Handling I like the way it feels. The power zoom works really well and like the camcorders of old you can control the speed of the zoom based on the amount of pressure you apply to the W-T lever. Zooming by wire with the zoom ring feels OK, but there isn't that same tactile response you get from a traditional zoom lens. Manually focusing this lens will test your patience. Not because it is focus by wire, but because the throw is so long. It takes a good couple of turns to bring a midfield object into focus if you are at either extreme of the focus range. But then the autofocus performance on both my OM-D and GF-1 is blisteringly quick, so that's never going to be a consideration for me. The lens hood reverses onto the body for storage which is most welcome, given Panasonic and Olympus' proclivity to provide square hoods on some other recent m43 lenses. Performance In the Field It doesn't cost all that much and I am pretty sure that a lot of m43 users who are looking to shed the weight of zoom lenses that offer a similar range on bigger cameras (including some of the options on m43) will be very happy with 210g and just under 10cm in their camera bags. Travellers will be thrilled with this option. The trouble with this lens is that it's not as sharp as I am used to seeing on even consumer zoom lenses. That's not to say that it's soft, it isn't, but it just seems to be lacking that bite I've seen on lenses like the Nikon 70-300mm VR. There's also the fact that very shallow depth of field is not a hallmark of the m43 system, so if you're stopping this lens down to f/8 when shooting it at full zoom, you're not going to get the kind of subject / background separation that you may be more accustomed to with (say) faster lenses on the 35mm system. You could work around this by choosing your background a little more carefully, although this is not always something you can do, depending on the shooting situation. I got this lioness one morning on safari last year and luckily she was lying on top of an earth mound with a clear background. In some of the other examples here I wasn't as lucky and you can see how the depth of field tends to prevent you from getting that desirable separation. So, if you are looking to get shallower d.o.f. you really shouldn't consider this lens as an option. My feeling is that Panasonic didn't produce it so much for use in stills as they did for use in video. Not being a video person I am not really in a position to offer much comment on its usefulness there. That being said, I still think you are going to have a very hard time ignoring the usefulness of such a small form factor in a telephoto zoom lens. It's what sold me on it. Optically You can see through it and it can focus on objects both close and far. There's nothing optically wrong with it that can't be fixed in post production. See, I told you we don't do science on fotozones.com when it comes to reviews. We do reality. And pictures. Observations If you are using this lens on an Olympus OM-D you're going to have to switch off the IBIS system because the lens does not have a switch that allows you to turn its own OS off. I don't know why Panasonic would have omitted this from this lens since they have such a switch on just about every other OIS lens they make. I recall also that I had to update the firmware in the GF-1 to deal with this because previously there was no way to switch it off with that body. Now you have to go into the menu system to turn it off. While it is said that you shouldn't run both the IBIS and an optical stabilisation system at the same time, I have done this in the past and can't report any noticeable problems. Conclusion I think that if you analyse your needs for a telephoto with your mirrorless system you're going to want to satisfy one of two basic needs: the need to magnify your subjects and obtain decent image quality, or the need to isolate your subject and obtain decent image quality. Unfortunately this lens can't do the latter that well, but it does the former fairly well. As a travel lens it is a very good option when combined with a shorter kit lens like the Panasonic or Olympus 14-42mm. You'll get decent image quality and a light bag, the value of which when travelling great distances cannot really be over-emphasized. I'm not going to haul it out to do portraits or anything serious, but I am going to keep it in my m43 kit bag for those times when all I want is a candid snapshot of something off in the distance. I give it 3/5 stars. View full article
  7. Greg Drawbaugh

    Micro 4/3 Converted IR Camera

    I have a spare micro 4/3 body that no longer sees service, a Panasonic GX-7. I was looking at having it converted to an IR camera by https://www.lifepixel.com/ Does anyone else have any experience with a converted Micro 4/3 body and lenses shooting IR? Which conversion do you go with, the standard IR? My goal is to have some fun and explore an area of photography I have never tried before, and the redundant body with little resale value seemed like a good choice to try?
  8. Dallas

    Getting Into Micro Four Thirds

    Those of you familiar with my own story will know that I have come to m43 from Nikon FX where I used a couple of Nikon D700’s and a whole lot of glass from both Nikon and Sigma. Last year I made the decision to move away from the big heavy DSLR’s and their equally big heavy lenses for a number of reasons, which I will get to later in the article. For now I would like to give you a brief overview of the m43 system, what it is and what it isn’t. System Evolution The m43 system is based around a slightly smaller image sensor than you find in the APS-C systems from most other manufacturers, such as Canon, Nikon and Sony. Those APS-C sensors are called “cropped” sensors because they cover a smaller area than the lens image circle is designed for and this came about purely because at the time they didn’t have the technology to build an electronic imaging sensor that could adequately capture light all the way across the full 35mm frame used for film cameras. It took quite a while before digital imaging sensors were able to cover that frame size. Canon was the first to market with their EOS 1Ds and then later with the 5D. Nikon caught up in 2008 with the D3, so a lot of effort went into making that film legacy work for the companies who followed this path of development. Olympus, Kodak and Panasonic followed a different path of development. They made an entirely new system from the ground up and called it four thirds. Initially this smaller sensor was built around the same principles as a DSLR, using a mirror to reflect light from the lens up into a prism based view finder, but that has now evolved into the micro four thirds system where the mirror box and the prism has been done away with in favour of electronic view finders. The sensor stays the same size, but because the flange to sensor distance has been considerably shortened it has allowed the lenses for the system to become a lot smaller than before. Some people call the m43 sensor a crop sensor but this is actually not correct. The m43 is a full frame sensor based on the lenses and image circles that are designed for it. Many people think of “full-frame” as being a 35mm frame and this makes me cringe because the term “full frame” really refers to the relationship between the lens and the sensor. If the image circle of a lens just covers the full frame of the sensor it was actually designed for then you can call it a “full frame” sensor. If the sensor is much smaller than the image circle received from the lens then the sensor can be called a “cropped sensor”, which is what the APS-C sensors are. The m43 sensor is not cropped. It’s smaller than an APS-C sensor but its definitely not cropped. All the lenses are designed for the m43 frame size and that is a major advantage with the system. When you buy into it you’re not buying into any film system legacy and their workarounds. You’re buying into a digital system that was created from scratch. The other thing to consider is that the aspect ratio of the m43 system is 4:3 as opposed to 3:2 found in DSLR’s. This can be a bit odd at first, but if you think about lens projection circles, the 4:3 system is making much better use of the lens projection than the 35mm system is. On the 35mm system they’re cropping off a significant chunk of the top and bottom of that circle, which may be neither here nor there photographically, but is a point worth noting when you consider the advanced thinking behind the m43 system making the best use of the lens projection circle. The Road To Micro Four Thirds (well, if I'm honest it's the road to Deadvlei in Namibia) System Advantages Because the sensor in m43 is smaller than that of a 35mm camera, the resulting field of view for any lens you have for m43 at the same focal length is smaller by a factor of 2x. This has a huge significance for telephoto usage because you can get so much more out of a short telephoto than you would if you were shooting a 35mm camera with the same focal length. Another upside is that the effective aperture of your lens stays the same, so if you were using a 300mm f/2.8 on your m43 body, you would need a 600mm f/2.8 on your “full frame” DSLR to get the same frame view. I don’t know of any 600mm f/2.8 lenses. Another major advantage with m43 that I discovered is that the lenses are so much smaller than those that were designed for most 35mm based systems. When you have to travel by air for photographic purposes you’ll get to appreciate this advantage very quickly. I’ve written more than enough about that so I won’t go into it again here, but now that I am quite well kitted out for m43 my future air travel stresses are totally erased. I can fit both my OM-D bodies and 6 lenses into my ThinkTank Retrospective 5 messenger style bag, which is just a little bit bigger than the bag you get for most 70-200/2.8 lenses. I will probably get a bigger bag for when I go on safaris, but it certainly won’t be anywhere near the gargantuan proportions of the bags I have used in the past. Being small doesn’t mean that you are skipping out on image quality. The top end lenses that you can get for m43 are of the same quality, if not higher, than most lenses for any other system. Last year I got the Olympus 75mm f/1.8 ED which is the best lens I have ever owned. Period. And I’ve had Leicas and Angenieux glass before. I also recently got the new 12-40mm f/2.8 PRO lens with the E-M1 and it is definitely better than my Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8 was. I couldn’t use the Nikon lens wide open, it got soft there, whereas the Oly lens is sharp everywhere. That’s a big claim to make because the Nikon 24-70mm is a very good lens. You will read online about the increased depth of field that you’ll get from using a smaller sensor and how this means that you don’t get the same subject separation from m43 that you’ll get from 35mm DSLRs. Well, having used both of these systems I can agree to a point, but I actually view the increased depth of field as being an advantage, not a disadvantage. I can still get very short depth of field when I need it on m43 with a fast lens, but not so short that trying to find a part of the image that is in focus is all but impossible. Using f/1.4 lenses on FX at full wide aperture remains a focusing exercise I’d sooner forget, while shooting fast lenses on the OM-D series has not let me down at all. You can see the EXIF here and the depth of field. This is two stops from wide open. Very decent performance from this macro lens The real beauty of the smaller sensor is that the very fast lenses are still small, plus they are much cheaper than their DSLR equivalents. Taking the Olympus 75/1.8 as an example, this is a lens that gives you an equivalent 150mm field of view when compared to 35mm full frame systems and it costs $900. The closest Nikon lens I know of to this is the 200/2 and that costs just over $5800, nearly 6 times the price. Yes, the Nikkor is sublime, but ask anyone who’s used the 75/1.8 and you’ll hear the same thing. It too is sublime. Size wise I know which of them I’d prefer carrying around on a shoot all day. Fancy carrying a couple of big DSLR's up here? When I was shooting with Nikon I reached the point where I never wanted to take my camera anywhere with me for personal photography. The main reasons for this were because of the size and weight of it, but also because as soon as I got busy using it the world around me changed. When you take out gear that size people will immediately notice you. Sometimes this can be a good thing, like if you want to create an impression of being a serious photographer, but in my case it created tension I could do without. Not everybody likes to be photographed, so when they saw me coming with the big D700 and lenses their body language and entire demeanour changed. This affected the images I took. They were never candid. The other tension came about with me being worried about being liberated of my kit by thugs sizing me up for a quick mugging. It happens. Another thing I experienced a lot of when I used the D700 was the average photography enthusiast coming up to me to strike up a conversation about the camera and whatever lens I was using. This happened on nearly every shoot I ever did. There’s always some random person who wants to have a long chat about camera gear, which being the amiable person I am usually meant a sizeable chunk of time out of my shooting time. It was worse if I was on a job because then you have no option but to ask the person to please stop bothering you. With the OM-D people don’t bat an eyelid. Most of the time they don’t even know I am taking their photo because with the rear LCD tilted up like a waist level finder I don’t give off the impression of taking a photo. That’s a huge advantage for street photography. Also, the only time I get asked about my camera is when people think I am still using a film camera. An advantage that doesn’t get talked about very often at the places I visit online is the m43 autofocus system. This is extremely quick. I’ve used no fewer than 5 m43 bodies and the AF on each subsequent model has improved significantly on its predecessor. The E-M1 is like Greased Lightning no matter what lens I put on it. Compared to the Fuji X-trans system that I checked out briefly at Orms in Cape Town last year it’s like Formula 1 versus Formula VW, with the VW speed going to the Fujis. System Options There are a LOT of lenses for the m43 system. I think we’re currently sitting on around 45 lenses made by at least 4 different companies for this system and that excludes the lenses that were made for the original four thirds DSLR system. Those guys are usable on the m43 bodies with an MMF adapter and you retain all the features, but auto-focus tracking on the E-M5 is not great. I have read that it is much better on the E-M1 as that body has both contrast detect and phase detect AF sensors. Olympus have made an exceptional range of fast primes for the m43 system. At the wide end you have the 12mm f/2.0, then there is also the 17mm f/1.8 and the 45mm f/1.8. Voigtlander have three ultra fast lenses for the system, namely the 17.5mm, 25mm and 42.5mm all of which have a maximum aperture of f/0.95. Cameraquest sells these manual focus lenses for around $1200 apiece. Yup, that’s $1200 for lenses with an f/0.95 aperture. Steve Huff has done some reviews of these guys on his site, so if fast glass is your thing you should go and check out his site. was impressed with the sharpness of this 45-175mm Panasonic lens If you’re very serious about photography and you want the best m43 kit available, this is my recommended (and in parts desired system): Bodies OM-D E-M1 bodies for stills Panasonic GH2/3 bodies for video Wide Angle Zooms Olympus 7-14mm f/4* Olympus 9-18mm f/4-5.6 Panasonic 7-14mm f/4 * This is a four thirds lens, but it is what they call a Super High Grade Pro lens, so it’s up there with the likes of the Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8, just a stop slower. The Panasonic lens is also supposedly very good and when I was trying to decide if I should get that one or the Olympus 9-18mm I ended up getting the Olympus, mainly because it is so much smaller and lighter. Quite a few people on review sites think that its better than the Panasonic, even though it doesn’t go quite as wide. Having used it extensively in Namibia last year I can say that it’s a fantastic little lens, well worth the money. General Purpose Zooms Olympus 12-40mm f/2.8 PRO* Panasonic 12-35mm f/2.8 * This is a stunning lens! I’ve only had it for a short while and as I said earlier on in this article, I think it is better than the Nikon 24-70/2.8. You must have this one. I have not used the Panasonic but people who I know that do use it rate it very highly too. Telephoto Zooms Panasonic 35-100mm f/2.8 Olympus 35-100mm f/2.0 The Panasonic is very highly rated by those who use it. The Olympus I have listed here is again a four thirds lens but having seen some of the images shot with this thing, you will have a hard time keeping your jaw off the floor when you see what it can do. Not cheap, but while we wait for Olympus to bring out their m43 40-150mm f/2.8 PRO it is definitely a lens you want to invest in. Super Telephoto Zooms Olympus 90-250mm f/2.8 Another four thirds lens, but one that is considered the King of all the zooms by Olympus users. I can’t think of a more useful range than this to use on a safari. Prime Lenses If the prime lenses are more your thing, you can’t really go wrong with any of the Olympus fast primes. I’d avoid the 17mm f/2.8 which while it is nice and slim, doesn’t have much in the way of any redeeming characteristics. The must-have’s in the Olympus prime range are the 45mm f/1.8, the 75mm f/1.8, the 17mm f/1.8 and the relatively new 60mm f/2.8 macro. This macro lens has been getting rave reviews from all over the place. Many are saying that it is as good, if not better than the Cosina Voigtlander 125mm f/2.5. That’s a legendary lens, but the sources of this information are very good. Just this morning, as I sat down to write this piece, news came out of the CES trade show in Las Vegas of a new collaboration between Panasonic and Leica that will bring a 42.5mm f/1.2 Nocticron lens to the market. This will be the fastest AF m43 lens. As yet the price is unknown, but if the other Pana/Leica lenses are anything to go by it will not be cheap. I own and use the Pana/Leica 45mm f/2.8 Macro-Elmarit which I find very good. Bargains Get the Olympus OM-D E-M5 now while it’s being run out cheaply. You can get it at less than $1000 for the body only, but I see that amazon.com are selling the body with the 12-50mm weather sealed lens for only $1074 which is a steal for this kit. Click here for this deal. There are over 200 user reviews on Amazon of the E-M5 and of those more than 155 of them gave it a 5 star rating. Nobody gave it less than 3 stars. I gave it 5. I’d also suggest getting the HLD-6 grip for the E-M5 because it’s a 2-part grip that adds a lot of feel to the camera. You can remove the portrait orientation grip part that holds the extra battery if you still want to keep it small but with improved handling. The E-M5 is a great camera to get into m43 with and if you find you enjoy using it you can upgrade to the more professional E-M1 at a later stage. I’m currently using both and I don’t think I will sell the E-M5. If any readers are thinking about getting into the m43 system and need some advice, please feel free to drop me an email or PM right here on Fotozones. Also, if you’re in the USA I’d be most grateful if you used links on here to make your purchase from Amazon.com. If you use my links it doesn’t cost you anything extra, but I get a little commission from them which helps me to keep the site going. Sundowners in Damaraland
  9. If you have used this lens, let others know what you thought of it by rating (and/or) reviewing it in this thread. We will keep the thread as relevant as we can, so expect off-topic entries to be removed.
  10. Dallas

    Panasonic GH4

    Another micro four thirds camera has just entered the scene. The Panasonic GH4. This one does 4K video with a 16mp CMOS sensor. It will also shoot continuously at 12 frames per second. No mention of the buffer size though. The new stuff includes a new auto focus method called "Depth From Defocus". Sounds like a title for an adult movie star! Primarily it's aimed at video producers, so this might be appropriate. Thoughts?
  11. Dallas

    Getting Into Micro Four Thirds

    Those of you familiar with my own story will know that I have come to m43 from Nikon FX where I used a couple of Nikon D700’s and a whole lot of glass from both Nikon and Sigma. Last year I made the decision to move away from the big heavy DSLR’s and their equally big heavy lenses for a number of reasons, which I will get to later in the article. For now I would like to give you a brief overview of the m43 system, what it is and what it isn’t. System Evolution The m43 system is based around a slightly smaller image sensor than you find in the APS-C systems from most other manufacturers, such as Canon, Nikon and Sony. Those APS-C sensors are called “cropped” sensors because they cover a smaller area than the lens image circle is designed for and this came about purely because at the time they didn’t have the technology to build an electronic imaging sensor that could adequately capture light all the way across the full 35mm frame used for film cameras. It took quite a while before digital imaging sensors were able to cover that frame size. Canon was the first to market with their EOS 1Ds and then later with the 5D. Nikon caught up in 2008 with the D3, so a lot of effort went into making that film legacy work for the companies who followed this path of development. Olympus, Kodak and Panasonic followed a different path of development. They made an entirely new system from the ground up and called it four thirds. Initially this smaller sensor was built around the same principles as a DSLR, using a mirror to reflect light from the lens up into a prism based view finder, but that has now evolved into the micro four thirds system where the mirror box and the prism has been done away with in favour of electronic view finders. The sensor stays the same size, but because the flange to sensor distance has been considerably shortened it has allowed the lenses for the system to become a lot smaller than before. Some people call the m43 sensor a crop sensor but this is actually not correct. The m43 is a full frame sensor based on the lenses and image circles that are designed for it. Many people think of “full-frame” as being a 35mm frame and this makes me cringe because the term “full frame” really refers to the relationship between the lens and the sensor. If the image circle of a lens just covers the full frame of the sensor it was actually designed for then you can call it a “full frame” sensor. If the sensor is much smaller than the image circle received from the lens then the sensor can be called a “cropped sensor”, which is what the APS-C sensors are. The m43 sensor is not cropped. It’s smaller than an APS-C sensor but its definitely not cropped. All the lenses are designed for the m43 frame size and that is a major advantage with the system. When you buy into it you’re not buying into any film system legacy and their workarounds. You’re buying into a digital system that was created from scratch. The other thing to consider is that the aspect ratio of the m43 system is 4:3 as opposed to 3:2 found in DSLR’s. This can be a bit odd at first, but if you think about lens projection circles, the 4:3 system is making much better use of the lens projection than the 35mm system is. On the 35mm system they’re cropping off a significant chunk of the top and bottom of that circle, which may be neither here nor there photographically, but is a point worth noting when you consider the advanced thinking behind the m43 system making the best use of the lens projection circle. The Road To Micro Four Thirds (well, if I'm honest it's the road to Deadvlei in Namibia) System Advantages Because the sensor in m43 is smaller than that of a 35mm camera, the resulting field of view for any lens you have for m43 at the same focal length is smaller by a factor of 2x. This has a huge significance for telephoto usage because you can get so much more out of a short telephoto than you would if you were shooting a 35mm camera with the same focal length. Another upside is that the effective aperture of your lens stays the same, so if you were using a 300mm f/2.8 on your m43 body, you would need a 600mm f/2.8 on your “full frame” DSLR to get the same frame view. I don’t know of any 600mm f/2.8 lenses. Another major advantage with m43 that I discovered is that the lenses are so much smaller than those that were designed for most 35mm based systems. When you have to travel by air for photographic purposes you’ll get to appreciate this advantage very quickly. I’ve written more than enough about that so I won’t go into it again here, but now that I am quite well kitted out for m43 my future air travel stresses are totally erased. I can fit both my OM-D bodies and 6 lenses into my ThinkTank Retrospective 5 messenger style bag, which is just a little bit bigger than the bag you get for most 70-200/2.8 lenses. I will probably get a bigger bag for when I go on safaris, but it certainly won’t be anywhere near the gargantuan proportions of the bags I have used in the past. Being small doesn’t mean that you are skipping out on image quality. The top end lenses that you can get for m43 are of the same quality, if not higher, than most lenses for any other system. Last year I got the Olympus 75mm f/1.8 ED which is the best lens I have ever owned. Period. And I’ve had Leicas and Angenieux glass before. I also recently got the new 12-40mm f/2.8 PRO lens with the E-M1 and it is definitely better than my Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8 was. I couldn’t use the Nikon lens wide open, it got soft there, whereas the Oly lens is sharp everywhere. That’s a big claim to make because the Nikon 24-70mm is a very good lens. You will read online about the increased depth of field that you’ll get from using a smaller sensor and how this means that you don’t get the same subject separation from m43 that you’ll get from 35mm DSLRs. Well, having used both of these systems I can agree to a point, but I actually view the increased depth of field as being an advantage, not a disadvantage. I can still get very short depth of field when I need it on m43 with a fast lens, but not so short that trying to find a part of the image that is in focus is all but impossible. Using f/1.4 lenses on FX at full wide aperture remains a focusing exercise I’d sooner forget, while shooting fast lenses on the OM-D series has not let me down at all. You can see the EXIF here and the depth of field. This is two stops from wide open. Very decent performance from this macro lens The real beauty of the smaller sensor is that the very fast lenses are still small, plus they are much cheaper than their DSLR equivalents. Taking the Olympus 75/1.8 as an example, this is a lens that gives you an equivalent 150mm field of view when compared to 35mm full frame systems and it costs $900. The closest Nikon lens I know of to this is the 200/2 and that costs just over $5800, nearly 6 times the price. Yes, the Nikkor is sublime, but ask anyone who’s used the 75/1.8 and you’ll hear the same thing. It too is sublime. Size wise I know which of them I’d prefer carrying around on a shoot all day. Fancy carrying a couple of big DSLR's up here? When I was shooting with Nikon I reached the point where I never wanted to take my camera anywhere with me for personal photography. The main reasons for this were because of the size and weight of it, but also because as soon as I got busy using it the world around me changed. When you take out gear that size people will immediately notice you. Sometimes this can be a good thing, like if you want to create an impression of being a serious photographer, but in my case it created tension I could do without. Not everybody likes to be photographed, so when they saw me coming with the big D700 and lenses their body language and entire demeanour changed. This affected the images I took. They were never candid. The other tension came about with me being worried about being liberated of my kit by thugs sizing me up for a quick mugging. It happens. Another thing I experienced a lot of when I used the D700 was the average photography enthusiast coming up to me to strike up a conversation about the camera and whatever lens I was using. This happened on nearly every shoot I ever did. There’s always some random person who wants to have a long chat about camera gear, which being the amiable person I am usually meant a sizeable chunk of time out of my shooting time. It was worse if I was on a job because then you have no option but to ask the person to please stop bothering you. With the OM-D people don’t bat an eyelid. Most of the time they don’t even know I am taking their photo because with the rear LCD tilted up like a waist level finder I don’t give off the impression of taking a photo. That’s a huge advantage for street photography. Also, the only time I get asked about my camera is when people think I am still using a film camera. An advantage that doesn’t get talked about very often at the places I visit online is the m43 autofocus system. This is extremely quick. I’ve used no fewer than 5 m43 bodies and the AF on each subsequent model has improved significantly on its predecessor. The E-M1 is like Greased Lightning no matter what lens I put on it. Compared to the Fuji X-trans system that I checked out briefly at Orms in Cape Town last year it’s like Formula 1 versus Formula VW, with the VW speed going to the Fujis. System Options There are a LOT of lenses for the m43 system. I think we’re currently sitting on around 45 lenses made by at least 4 different companies for this system and that excludes the lenses that were made for the original four thirds DSLR system. Those guys are usable on the m43 bodies with an MMF adapter and you retain all the features, but auto-focus tracking on the E-M5 is not great. I have read that it is much better on the E-M1 as that body has both contrast detect and phase detect AF sensors. Olympus have made an exceptional range of fast primes for the m43 system. At the wide end you have the 12mm f/2.0, then there is also the 17mm f/1.8 and the 45mm f/1.8. Voigtlander have three ultra fast lenses for the system, namely the 17.5mm, 25mm and 42.5mm all of which have a maximum aperture of f/0.95. Cameraquest sells these manual focus lenses for around $1200 apiece. Yup, that’s $1200 for lenses with an f/0.95 aperture. Steve Huff has done some reviews of these guys on his site, so if fast glass is your thing you should go and check out his site. was impressed with the sharpness of this 45-175mm Panasonic lens If you’re very serious about photography and you want the best m43 kit available, this is my recommended (and in parts desired system): Bodies OM-D E-M1 bodies for stills Panasonic GH2/3 bodies for video Wide Angle Zooms Olympus 7-14mm f/4* Olympus 9-18mm f/4-5.6 Panasonic 7-14mm f/4 * This is a four thirds lens, but it is what they call a Super High Grade Pro lens, so it’s up there with the likes of the Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8, just a stop slower. The Panasonic lens is also supposedly very good and when I was trying to decide if I should get that one or the Olympus 9-18mm I ended up getting the Olympus, mainly because it is so much smaller and lighter. Quite a few people on review sites think that its better than the Panasonic, even though it doesn’t go quite as wide. Having used it extensively in Namibia last year I can say that it’s a fantastic little lens, well worth the money. General Purpose Zooms Olympus 12-40mm f/2.8 PRO* Panasonic 12-35mm f/2.8 * This is a stunning lens! I’ve only had it for a short while and as I said earlier on in this article, I think it is better than the Nikon 24-70/2.8. You must have this one. I have not used the Panasonic but people who I know that do use it rate it very highly too. Telephoto Zooms Panasonic 35-100mm f/2.8 Olympus 35-100mm f/2.0 The Panasonic is very highly rated by those who use it. The Olympus I have listed here is again a four thirds lens but having seen some of the images shot with this thing, you will have a hard time keeping your jaw off the floor when you see what it can do. Not cheap, but while we wait for Olympus to bring out their m43 40-150mm f/2.8 PRO it is definitely a lens you want to invest in. Super Telephoto Zooms Olympus 90-250mm f/2.8 Another four thirds lens, but one that is considered the King of all the zooms by Olympus users. I can’t think of a more useful range than this to use on a safari. Prime Lenses If the prime lenses are more your thing, you can’t really go wrong with any of the Olympus fast primes. I’d avoid the 17mm f/2.8 which while it is nice and slim, doesn’t have much in the way of any redeeming characteristics. The must-have’s in the Olympus prime range are the 45mm f/1.8, the 75mm f/1.8, the 17mm f/1.8 and the relatively new 60mm f/2.8 macro. This macro lens has been getting rave reviews from all over the place. Many are saying that it is as good, if not better than the Cosina Voigtlander 125mm f/2.5. That’s a legendary lens, but the sources of this information are very good. Just this morning, as I sat down to write this piece, news came out of the CES trade show in Las Vegas of a new collaboration between Panasonic and Leica that will bring a 42.5mm f/1.2 Nocticron lens to the market. This will be the fastest AF m43 lens. As yet the price is unknown, but if the other Pana/Leica lenses are anything to go by it will not be cheap. I own and use the Pana/Leica 45mm f/2.8 Macro-Elmarit which I find very good. Bargains Get the Olympus OM-D E-M5 now while it’s being run out cheaply. You can get it at less than $1000 for the body only, but I see that amazon.com are selling the body with the 12-50mm weather sealed lens for only $1074 which is a steal for this kit. Click here for this deal. There are over 200 user reviews on Amazon of the E-M5 and of those more than 155 of them gave it a 5 star rating. Nobody gave it less than 3 stars. I gave it 5. I’d also suggest getting the HLD-6 grip for the E-M5 because it’s a 2-part grip that adds a lot of feel to the camera. You can remove the portrait orientation grip part that holds the extra battery if you still want to keep it small but with improved handling. The E-M5 is a great camera to get into m43 with and if you find you enjoy using it you can upgrade to the more professional E-M1 at a later stage. I’m currently using both and I don’t think I will sell the E-M5. If any readers are thinking about getting into the m43 system and need some advice, please feel free to drop me an email or PM right here on Fotozones. Also, if you’re in the USA I’d be most grateful if you used links on here to make your purchase from Amazon.com. If you use my links it doesn’t cost you anything extra, but I get a little commission from them which helps me to keep the site going. Sundowners in Damaraland View full article
  12. Dallas

    A new Pan-Leica lens for m43

    Panasonic and Leica have teamed up again to produce a new 42.5mm f/1.2 lens for the micro four thirds system. It will be auto focus, have optical stabilisation on the lens and weigh 425g. Looks like a cracker!
  13. Dallas

    Panasonic GM-1

    If you have used the Panasonic GM-1 camera, let us know what you thought of it in this thread. We'd like to keep this thread as relevant as possible, so off-topic posts may be split off to other parts of fotozones.com. If you're considering buying this camera, please use this link to get it from Amazon.com. Using this link will help us earn a small commission and it won't cost you anything more.
  14. Dallas

    Panasonic DMC-G2

    If you have used the Panasonic G2 camera, let us know what you thought of it in this thread. We'd like to keep this thread as relevant as possible, so off-topic posts may be split off to other parts of fotozones.com.
  15. Dallas

    Panasonic DMC-G3

    If you have used the Panasonic G3 camera, let us know what you thought of it in this thread. We'd like to keep this thread as relevant as possible, so off-topic posts may be split off to other parts of fotozones.com.
  16. If you have used this lens, let others know what you thought of it by rating (and/or) reviewing it in this thread. We will keep the thread as relevant as we can, so expect off-topic entries to be removed.
  17. If you have used this lens, let others know what you thought of it by rating (and/or) reviewing it in this thread. We will keep the thread as relevant as we can, so expect off-topic entries to be removed.
  18. Dallas

    Panasonic Lumix GF6

    If you have used the Panasonic GF-5 camera, let us know what you thought of it in this thread. We'd like to keep this thread as relevant as possible, so off-topic posts may be split off to other parts of fotozones.com.
  19. If you have used this lens, let others know what you thought of it by rating (and/or) reviewing it in this thread. We will keep the thread as relevant as we can, so expect off-topic entries to be removed.
  20. If you have used this lens, let others know what you thought of it by rating (and/or) reviewing it in this thread. We will keep the thread as relevant as we can, so expect off-topic entries to be removed. Here's my official review of this lens.
  21. If you have used this lens, let others know what you thought of it by rating (and/or) reviewing it in this thread. We will keep the thread as relevant as we can, so expect off-topic entries to be removed.
  22. If you have used this lens, let others know what you thought of it by rating (and/or) reviewing it in this thread. We will keep the thread as relevant as we can, so expect off-topic entries to be removed.
  23. If you have used this lens, let others know what you thought of it by rating (and/or) reviewing it in this thread. We will keep the thread as relevant as we can, so expect off-topic entries to be removed.
  24. If you have used this lens, let others know what you thought of it by rating (and/or) reviewing it in this thread. We will keep the thread as relevant as we can, so expect off-topic entries to be removed.
  25. If you have used this lens, let others know what you thought of it by rating (and/or) reviewing it in this thread. We will keep the thread as relevant as we can, so expect off-topic entries to be removed.
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