Sunday, 8 January 2017

G85 IBIS makes mirror tele lens usable

There are some third party mirror tele lenses available, e.g., the Tokina 300mm f/6.3 seen below:


The big advantage with the is that they are relatively cheap, and, not least, very compact. The lens here is surprisingly short for a 300mm tele lens.

On the other hand, there are drawbacks, for example, manual focus only, fixed aperture, no zoom, and loss of contrast when you have a bright background. Read more about this in my review.

Another drawback is the lack of image stabilization, which makes it near impossible to use the lens without a tripod. Even focusing correctly or framing is hard without a tripod. And this is where a newer camera like the Lumix G85 comes handy: It has built in In-Body Image Stabilization (IBIS) which makes this lens much more usable. See the sensor movement demonstrated here.

Notice that the lens above has electrical contacts, which is unusual for a manual focus lens without any aperture mechanism or image stabilization. However, it is still useful because it tells the camera the right focal length, so that you don't need to input it manually for the IBIS to work well.

Also, it signals to the camera when you operate the manual focus, so that it can show you a magnified view, if you have setup the camera to show this.

To illustrate how much easier it is to use on the Lumix G85, compared with the Lumix GH4, which does not have IBIS, consider this comparison video:



As you see, with the Lumix GH4, which lacks IBIS, it is impossible to focus or frame the lens, even if I support the camera and lens with both hands, and support both elbows on a windowsill. With the Lumix G85, though, the lens becomes usable, even without a tripod.

Note that Olympus cameras can also stabilize this lens. However, due to the way Olympus cameras operate, they only stabilize the viewfinder while you half press the shutter button. And half pressing the shutter removes the magnified view. So with Olympus, you can only get the focus aid stabilized for a split second at a time, which is quite frustrating. Not so with Lumix G85: Using the lens becomes fun!

Here is an example image taken handheld at 1/25s, f/6.3, ISO 3200:


Note that the focus is not perfect here, and there is some blur. But keep in mind that 1/25s is way below safe handholding speed for a 300mm lens, in fact, it is five stops below. You'll notice the typical out of focus donuts in the background, due to the mirror design of the lens.

If you just want an inexpensive, very long lens, then get the Lumix G 100-300mm f/4-5.6. It is a good lens at a good price, and will give you much better pictures than the mirror lens. The mirror lens is more of a fun novelty item, in my opinion.

In the picture below, you can see the Lumix G 100-300mm at 300mm (left), compared with the Tokina 300mm f/6.3 (right):


The picture clearly shows the size advantage of the catadioptric mirror design of the Tokina lens, making it remarkably short.

Sunday, 18 December 2016

Lumix G 12-60mm f/3.5-5.6 review

Some have questioned why Panasonic have churned out so many different kit zoom lenses in the M4/3 format so far. However, one lens which is not going to be questioned in the same way, I think, is the new Lumix G 12-60mm f/3.5-5.6.

It is shown below, in the fully zoomed position at 60mm, on the Lumix G85 camera it comes in a kit with:


It is not just a new kit zoom lens, it also has some good features:

  • A proper wide angle end, starting at 24mm equivalent. This is not only good news in itself, it is also good for 4k video use. All Lumix cameras so far record 4k video using a crop factor only, meaning that a 14mm lens becomes around 18mm in 4k mode. Hence, starting at a focal length of 12mm is good news.

    Not many Lumix zoom lenses start at 12mm so far, making this a lens to look for. There is the Lumix G 12-32mm f/3.5-5.6, which I think is great, but is has a somewhat short reach, see my review.
  • More reach in the long end, at 120mm equivalent.
  • Weather protected: It is the least expensive Panasonic lens so far with weather protection, meaning that you can use it even when there is a risk for some rain and splashes. There is no guarantee against water damage, so you should still be careful, but hopefully, the lens will be more safe to use in wet or dusty environments.

But how does the lens perform? That is what I'll look into here.

Specifications


The lens is sized as you can expect, between the Lumix G 14-42mm II and the Lumix G 14-140mm II:

From left to right Lumix G 12-32mm f/3.5-5.6, Lumix G 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 II, Lumix G 12-60mm f/3.5-5.6 and Lumix G 14-140mm f/3.5-5.6 II

Looking into the specifications, you'll see that here as well, it is placed between them:

LensLumix G 12-32mm f/3.5-5.6Lumix G 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 IILumix G 12-60mm f/3.5-5.6Lumix G 14-140mm f/3.5-5.6 II
AnnouncedOct 17th, 2013Jan 29th, 2013Feb 24th, 2016Apr 24th, 2013
Lens elements/groups8/79/811/914/12
Minimum focus0.2m0.2m0.2m0.3m
Weight70g110g210g265g
Diameter56mm56mm66mm67mm
Length24mm49mm71mm75mm
Filter thread37mm46mm58mm58mm
Weather protectedNoNoYesNo
Hood suppliedNoYesYesYes

You can note that the 10x superzoom Lumix G 14-140mm f/3.5-5.6 II is only slightly larger and heavier. So in terms of bulk, there is not that much reason to choose the 12-60mm lens. The 14-140mm is also one of my favorite lenses, see my review here. So it remains to be seen if the 12-60mm lens can compete.

Saturday, 19 November 2016

G85 video stabilization vs Olymous E-M5 Mark II

I recently showed that the Lumix G85 is way superior to the GH4 when it comes to video image stabilization, using the newer in-body image stabilization (IBIS). However, the focus speed was not as good in 4k mode, probably due to less processing power in the Lumix G85.

But how does it compare with the Olympus E-M5 Mark II, which made waves in this area almost a couple of years ago, with a fantastic video image stabilization?

In this article, I put them head to head. To avoid any possible advantage of using the same brand name lens as camera body, I have used the third party Sigma 30mm f/2.8 Art lenses, which I like a lot:

Both cameras are mounted to a Desmond stereo bracket here. They are both recording in 1080p resolution, with 60FPS framerate. I have both set to f/2.8 aperture, and using continuous autofocus. Here is the comparison:



Based on this comparison, it looks like the Olympus E-M5 Mark II is still a bit better when it comes to image stabilization, however, this was a quite extreme test, with some careless walking around.

In terms of autofocus, no single camera is consistently the best here, but I think both do quite well.

The Lumix G85 has the newest firmware, 1.1, designed to fix the panning jerkiness.

Given the capabilities of the two cameras, my choice is clear. The Lumix G85 is by far the most usable. I also like its ergonomics much better. With the Olympus E-M5 Mark II I often get annoyed trying to find the feature I want in the menus. I will still keep it for when I want to try the high resolution mode.

Monday, 14 November 2016

G85: Awesome video image stabilization in 4k

The recently announced Lumix G85 breaks new ground with the in-body image stabilization (IBIS) trickling down into more camera models. It also helps giving very good stabilization of video recordings. See a demonstration of how the sensor moves here.

To further illustrate the effectiveness of the image stabilization, I have compared it with the Lumix GH4. In the comparison, I used two pairs of lenses: The classic Lumix G 20mm f/1.7 pancake prime, and the Lumix G 14-42mm II basic kit zoom lens. I had both cameras mounted to a Desmond stereo bracket for the comparison:


Both cameras were recording 4k video at 30FPS, at maximum aperture. On the Lumix G85 I had the in-body image stabilization enabled, but not the additional E-stabilization. Both cameras were set to continuously autofocus during the video recording. Here are the results:

Saturday, 12 November 2016

Lumix G85 IBIS sensor shift demo

While Olympus have relied on in-body image stabilization (IBIS) since the start of Micro Four Thirds, Panasonic have taken another route: Optical Image Stabilization (OIS), i.e., lens elements moving to offset camera shake. The disadvantage of OIS is that it needs to be implemented in every lens. And many Panasonic prime lenses do not have OIS built in.

Hence, Panasonic have started to use IBIS: First in the premium rangefinder style GX series: GX7, GX8, and the more reasonably priced Lumix GX85. Starting this autumn, the technique has also trickled into the SLR styled G series with the Lumix G85. At the same time, we see the quality and the usability of the IBIS implementation improve.

To demonstrate how this works, I have mounted the Lumix G85 on a Desmond stereo bracket, facing the Lumix GH4 with a Samyang 7.5mm f/3.5 fisheye lens:


The lens was set to the closest possible focus distance, and f/4.5. By powering on the Lumix G85 camera without a lens mounted, it is possible to see how the sensor moves around inside it:

Sunday, 6 November 2016

Mirrorless or DSLR camera?

If you are in the market for a system camera, i.e., one with interchangeable lenses, there are basically two choices: A mirrorless system like Micro Four Thirds, or a more traditional DSLR system. So how are they different?

To illustrate, here are two enthusiast cameras in the categories: Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II and Nikon D7200:


One difference between them, which is not easily visible in the picture, is that the register distance is much shorter for the mirrorless camera on the left: 20mm vs 46.5mm for the Nikon F mount on the right. This allows for making smaller cameras, obviously, but it also allow the designers make smaller wide angle lenses.

This is illustrated with the Samyang fisheye lenses pictured: They are functionally the same, but the fisheye lens for the mirrorless camera can be made much smaller due to the smaller register distance. For longer tele lenses, there is not so much difference for the same focal lengths, though.

Sunday, 9 October 2016

News: Even better enthusiast cameras

The Photokina trade fair is recently over, and we have had some more announcements in the time after that. In summary, I think this was the most exciting Photokina for Micro Four Thirds users, ever.

Both Panasonic and Olympus announced their new high end models, the Lumix GH5, and Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II. On top of that, we also got a lot of new lens options.

Looking at recently announced compact mirrorless cameras for enthusiast users, I think it is fair to say that there has been a revolution in terms of features. The image quality has probably not changed much, but a lot of useful features have been added. More cameras get articulated touch screens, and we get better video options and better image stabilization.

Here is a summary of some important models:

CameraSize, weightPriceCropArticulated screenVideoIBISLayoutWeather protected
Lumix G80/G81/G85128 x 89 x 74mm, 505gUS$9002xYes, touch4k30pYesSLR styleYes
Lumix GH5133 x 93 x 84mm?, ~600g?US$2000??2xYes, touch4k60p @ 8 bit, 4k30p @ 10 bitNo?SLR styleYes
Olympus E-M1 Mark II134 x 91 x 67mm, 574gUS$20002xYes, touch4k30pYesSLR styleYes
Fujifilm X-T2133 x 92 x 49mm, 507gUS$16001.5xTilt only4k30pNoSLR styleYes
Sony A6300120 x 67 x 49mm, 404gUS$10001.5xTilt only4k30pNoRangefinder styleNo
Sony A6500120 x 67 x 53mm, 453gUS$14001.5xTilt only, touch4k30pYesRangefinder styleNo
Canon EOS M5116 x 89 x 61mm, 427gUS$10001.6xTilt only, touch1080 60pNoSLR styleNo

Sunday, 4 September 2016

Lumix GH5 news

There has not been any specific news about the upcoming Lumix GH5 from Panasonic yet, but we have heard more rumours. Here is a summary of what the rumors mean.

The Lumix GH5 will be the successor of four Micro Four Thirds cameras which have given us top video recording performance in a photography oriented camera body, at a reasonable price:


Timing


We have been waiting for a GH5 announcement since the Lumix GH4 was launched on February 7th, 2014. This is unusually long, more than two years.

However, keep in mind that there is a much lower turnover in the camera business now, since a few years ago. People buy much less digital cameras than around 4-5 years ago.


Looking at the announcement timings above, we can see that there are several cameras which are waiting for an upgrade: The Lumix GF8 is essentially the same as the Lumix GF7. So we should expect a less expensive entry camera soon.

Sunday, 21 August 2016

Favourite m4/3 gear

I have used Mirco Four Thirds equipment for almost eight years, and some people ask me what I use. As you will see below, I don't use very new stuff, as I think what has arrived the last two years is not that interesting for me.

Lenses


These are my most used lenses. As you can see, they are all rather small, well, the first three anyway:


Lumix G 12-32mm f/3.5-5.6

Contrary to what you might think, this very compact lens has an excellent performance. You might get slightly better images with the much larger and more expensive Lumix X 12-35mm f/2.8, but barely significantly so.

Unless you must have the fastest aperture, the Lumix G 12-32mm (my review) does it very well.

To improve the handling a bit, I added a plastic strip for better grip when changing lens.

Lumix G 20mm f/1.7

One of the first prime lenses for Micro Four Thirds, the Lumix G 20mm f/1.7 became an instant classic. It still impresses today, with the combination of a small size, fast aperture, and sharp images.

Some will say that the focus is slow and noisy. Yes, it is slower than most other M4/3 lenses, since it is one of the very few to not have internal focusing. But with the exception of some of the earliest cameras, all M4/3 cameras can focus this lens at a speed which leaves little to be desired. This is simply not an issue anymore.

Samyang 7.5mm f/3.5 fisheye (manual focus)

The Samyang 7.5mm f/3.5 fisheye (my review) is a compact, inexpensive, and very well performing fisheye lens. Unless you are worried about operating the focus manually, which is no big deal, I would say that this is a must have lens for wide angle enthusiasts.

It is a very good deal, better than many fisheye lenses which you have to pay twice or more for.

Lumix G 14-140mm f/3.5-5.6 II

For the times when I want one lens to do it all, I bring the Lumix G 14-140mm f/3.5-5.6 (my review). It is light, relatively compact for a superzoom lens, and performs well, even in the longest end. And the price is quite ok.

Cameras


These are the cameras I tend to use the most nowadays:


Lumix GH4

By far my most used camera is the Lumix GH4 (my review). While it is often seen as a video oriented camera, I think it is not: Primarily, it is a photographer's camera. By that I mean that it has classic photo ergonomics, and very good direct controls to make typical adjustments that a photographer needs: AF, drive mode, exposure compensation, PASM dial, and so on.

If the camera was truly video oriented, it would have had built in ND filters with direct control, white balance presets with a dedicated dial, and, not least, a camcorder layout. As you know, it doesn't have these things.

4K video recording is the headline feature of the GH4, though. However, while this works well, including V-Log colour profile, the 4K video does have some shortcomings, e.g.:

  • Autofocus is very slow in 4K mode, see an illustration here. Of course, seasoned video users will probably stick to manual focus anyway, but AF can be good to have for run-and-gun use.

  • There are rolling shutter effects in 4K mode. This is minimized with 1080p video, as the sensor readout speed is nearly 1/100s, however, in 4K mode, the sensor readout speed is just over 1/30s. Hence, if you keep the camera handheld and wobble a bit back and forth sideways, the image will be skewed.

The Lumix GH5, which is expected to be announced this spring, and probably available in December, is expected to improve upon these areas. Also, it might increase the framerate to a maximum of 60 FPS in 4K video mode, but this is of course speculation. See more GH5 speculation here.

It remains to be said about the GH4 that I think it is a joy to handle. Specifically, the autofocus does what I want most of the time, and it is very quick to change the settings so that it behaves like I want even when it does not in the "full auto" mode.

Lumix GM1

When I want to pack the smallest possible camera, I bring the Lumix GM1. You may think that this is an outdated camera: It was superseded by the Lumix GM5, which in turn is pretty much discontined now, and we may be getting a replacement this autumn.

However, the Lumix GM1 sensor is still state of the art for Four Thirds sensors, so no need to worry about the image quality. In terms of video quality, it is also very well performing, even it it tops out at 1080p in 25/30 FPS (depending on the country).

The GM1 does not have very good ergonomics, of course, as it is so small. However, with the very sensible Lumix layout of buttons and menus, it is easy to use. The lack of an articulated screen can make video recording difficult, though.

I have added a third party grip to it in the picture above, which I think makes the handling better.

Olympus E-M5 II

This camera did improve immensely on the predecessor in terms of ergonomics: A fully articulated LCD screen, and a better front grip makes it much better to use. Still, I don't think it cuts it for me as a photographer's camera. I tend to like the Lumix GH4 a lot more.

The sensor shift image stabilization, which also works in video mode (demonstrated here) is truly awesome and very useful. The camera also has a sensor shift high resolution mode, which I think is more of an overrated gimmick. Other than that, I don't find the features of the camera very impressive.

And to top it off: The menus are just horrible to use. I am annoyed to no end by the menus, which doesn't make me want to pick up the camera in the first place.

Conclusion


You don't need to buy the newest to get good images, even two plus years old equipment is still competitive, in my opinion.

The big advantage of Micro Four Thirds is the small, and well performing lenses, made possible by the moderately sized sensor and short register distance.