Saturday, 28 December 2013

GH2 vs GH3 AF during video comparison

When the Panasonic GH1 was launched in 2009, it had an easy claim to fame: Being the only consumer interchangeable lens mirrorless camera that could autofocus (AF) during video recording. Since this time, the GH2 improved upon the predecessor in many ways, while retaining the same form factor. The Panasonic GH3 has a pro photo form factor, and further improves upon the GH2.

Autofocus during video is still an important feature. That, and continuous autofocus with moving subjects, have been problem areas for Micro Four Thirds. High end DSLR cameras handle continuous autofocus, e.g., for sports and wildlife, very good. This is due to using PDAF technology. Micro Four Thirds cameras, with the exception of the Olympus E-M1 so far, only use CDAF, not PDAF.

Achieving efficient autofocus during video with CDAF is a matter of having fast image processing capabilites, combined with good algorithms for interpreting the data. GH3, being the newest and most powerful of the GH-line, of course has the best potential here.

Here is a video comparison of the GH2 and GH3 both doing AF with the Sigma 30mm f/2.8 DN lens mounted. The Sigma 30mm f/2.8 is a reasonably compact, inexpensive and very good lens. Read about how the test was done below.



Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Are Panasonic fooling us?

The new ultra compact Lumix GM1 is marketed with a record breaking 1/16000s maximum shutter speed. That surely sounds impressive. The camera also has a brand new shutter module, using a stepper motor rather than a conventional spring actuated shutter curtain.

But is this an improvement? Let's compare the specifications with other similar cameras:

CameraLumix GM1Lumix GX7Lumix GH3Olympus OM-D E-M1Nikon 1 V2
Maximum shutter (mechanical)1/500s1/8000s1/4000s1/8000s1/4000s
Flash sync speed1/50s1/320s1/160s1/320s1/250s
Maximum shutter (electronic shutter)1/16000s1/8000s1/4000sNone1/16000s
Electronic shutter readout speed1/10s?1/10s?1/10sNone1/80s
Flash sync speed (electronic shutter)Not possibleNot possibleNot possibleNone1/60s
Body

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Upcoming lenses

Micro Four Thirds was the first mirrorless camera system launched, and now has an impressive lens lineup. Still, more lenses are arriving. Here are some news to look forward to:

Kipon HandeVision IBELUX 40mm f/0.85


The lens with the strangely capitalized name is to be released late February 2014, and, according to the marketing, it will be the fastest lens ever. That is probably not true, as, for example, the Carl Zeiss Planar 50mm f/0.7 used by Stanley Kubrick to record the movie Barry Lyndon is still faster. But it will certainly by one of the fastest lenses available.



The lens is completely mechanical, requiring to be focused manually. The price will be quite stiff, just north of US$2000. It will be released for the Micro Four Thirds, Sony NEX, Fujifilm X and Canon EOS M mounts. The lens weights no less than 1.2kg, illustrating just how much glass there is in it.

Sunday, 15 December 2013

GoPro Hero 3+ Black Review Part 1

Nowadays, the most selling camera unit is an action camera, the GoPro Hero 3+. This can be commented in many ways:

  • The compact camera and consumer camcorder markets are shrinking. This is due to competition from below with smart phones, and competition from above with compact, but advanced mirrorless system cameras. Why buy a compact camera, if your smart phone can do just as well? Due to the shrinking traditional camera market, this action camera has become dominating.
  • There is little competition in the action camera market. In test after test, the GoPro Hero 3+ Black Edition is crowned the king. Even as Sony and Panasonic launches competing cameras at a lower price and with interesting additional function, e.g., optical image stabilization, they cannot dethrone the GoPro Hero.

Here is the GoPro Hero 3+ Black Edition camera unit, with the waterproof housing.



In the picture above, I have used an optional tripod mount adapter, which allows you to put the camera on a normal tripod with a 1/4'' stud.

Sunday, 8 December 2013

What framerate to use in videos?

Excellent video is one of the reasons to use Micro Four Thirds cameras, especially the ones from Panasonic. Some come with different framerate choices, so which to use?

First, here's an overview of the existing alternative framerates. I have outlined the choices for full HD 1920x1080 resolution only. For lower resolutions, there may be more framerate selections available:

FrameratePanasonicOlympus
24 fpsGH3, GM1, GX7, G6None
25 fpsAll PAL area camerasNone
30 fpsAll NTSC area camerasAll
50 fpsPAL area cameras: GX7, GM1 (only interlaced), GF6 (only interlaced), G6 None
60 fpsNTSC area cameras: GX7, GM1 (only interlaced), GF6 (only interlaced), G6 None

As you can see from the table above, Panasonic gives you much more choice in terms of which framerate to use. All current Olympus cameras only have one single choice: 30 fps.

Sunday, 24 November 2013

Focus breathing with Leica 25mm f/1.4

The Lumix G 20mm f/1.7 is a classic M4/3 lens in the true sense of the word: It was the first prime lens offered by Panasonic. And it was very successful, due to the small size and the impressive sharpness.

However, it has a flaw: The focus mechanism is the old style which moves the whole lens assembly back and forth. This is slow and noisy. Modern cameras like the Panasonic GH3 overcome the slowness quite well, making the lens more usable even for autofocus during video. It still fair to say that it is a slow focusing lens.



Leica Summilux 25mm f/1.4 and Lumix G 20mm f/1.7

The Leica Summilux 25mm f/1.4 is a more recent lens with a promise to fix this: It has the more modern internal focus design. This means that only one lens group moves inside the lens when focusing. This is much faster, and generates less noise. Plus, it makes the lens more solid, as it has no moving parts on the outside.

But, can you believe it, there is a snag anyway. The internal focus design has a drawback: It causes the focus breathing effect. This means that the focal length changes as the focus distance changes.

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Overview of Olympus cameras

Following up my overview of Panasonic cameras, here is a presentation of the Olympus cameras, with a summary of their main features and differences.

While Panasonic released the very first Micro Four Thirds camera, the Lumix G1, back in 2008, it was Olympus who first made a real impact with their retro styled E-P1. Olympus have always drawn on their legacy by calling their compact M4/3 cameras "PENs", referring to the Olympus Pen half frame cameras from the 1960's and onwards. Also, their SLR styled cameras are called "OM-D", referring to the compact, reliable and successful series of film based Olympus OM SLR cameras from the 1970's.

These two lines of cameras make up their current offerings:

CameraOlympus OM-D E-M1Olympus OM-D E-M5Olympus PEN E-P5Olympus PEN E-PL5Olympus PEN E-PM2
Price$1500$1000$1000$600$400
AnnouncedSep 10th, 2013Feb 8th, 2012May 10th, 2013Sep 17th, 2012Sep 17th, 2012
Dimensions130 × 97 × 63mm122 × 89 × 43mm122 × 69 × 37mm111 × 64 × 38mm110 × 64 × 34mm
Weight497g425g420g325g269g
StyleSLRSLRCompactCompactCompact
EVFYesYesOptionalOptionalOptional
Tilt LCDYesYesYesYesNo
PDAFYesNoNoNoNo
Focus peakingYesNoYesNoNo
Built in flashNoNoYesNoNo
In a nutshellWeatherproof, pro ergonomics, 4/3 lens compatabilityWeatherproof, retro designEnthusiast friendly, but expensiveCompact, useful featuresVery compact, more stripped of features
Body

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Is the Leica 25mm a portrait lens?

Portrait lenses have traditionally had a focal length of around 85mm on the classic 135 film format. On a Four Thirds sensor, that corresponds to about 42mm, which explains why most kit zoom lenses stop at 42mm.

In addition to the focal length, though, the portrait lenses typically also have a fast aperture, at least f/1.8. The Olympus 45mm f/1.8 comes very close, and is in fact the first real portrait lens for Micro Four Thirds. It is a very good lens, and at an affordable price.

However, some may want an even faster aperture, for better background blur and bokeh. So it may be tempting to turn to the Leica 25mm f/1.4. After all, it is currently the fastest (in terms of aperture) autofocus capable Micro Four Thirds lens.



To test how these lenses perform as portrait lenses, I have tried to photograph a static face, a statue. The statue has natural proportions, i.e., the size of the head is the same as for a genuine human. I focused on the eyes, which is the common thing to do for portraits. Here they are:

Olympus 45mm f/1.8 at f/1.8, focus distance about 1m, 3 feetLeica 25mm f/1.4 at f/1.4, focus distance about 0.6m, 2 feet

To better see the differences, I have superimposed both images into one animated GIF:


What we see here is that at 25mm, and at a closer focus distance, the face becomes distorted: The chin and nose looks bigger, and the eyebrows look a bit asymmetric.

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Review: Porsche Design Mikado Pen

This article deviates from what I normally write, since it is not primarily about photography. However, I have included some details about photography here as well. For example, methods for product photography, and the effects of diffraction. If you are mostly interested in photo, you could skip to these section at the end of the article.

It is quite common to see owners of high value brand names to licence them out to other manufacturers. From photography, one of the most common examples is Leica. They are allowing Panasonic to produce cameras and lenses with the Leica brand name. This helps Panasonic sell more photographic equipment, while allowing Leica to capitalize on their brand name. Everybody wins. See the Panasonic Leica 25mm f/1.4 below as an example of Leica branding of premium Panasonic lenses:



In the premium car world, we see the same with many high end brands. For example, Ferrari is licensing their name to toys, electronic products, clothes and more. This surely generates a lot of short term profit for them, but risks lessening the perceived value of their brand.

Porsche is doing the same with their Porsche Design series. However, unlike Ferrari, they are mostly putting out high quality premium items. One example is their pen series, which is produced by Faber-Castell.

Friday, 1 November 2013

Overview of Panasonic cameras

It was Panasonic who released the very first Micro Four Thirds camera, the Lumix G1, back in 2008. While it was a very ergonomic camera with photography oriented functions and one of the best kit zoom lenses in its class, it never made much impact. It was not until Olympus released the retro looking E-P1 that the format took off.

Since this time, they have released a number of cameras. Here is an overview of the current models.

CameraLumix GH3Lumix G6Lumix GX7Lumix GM1Lumix GF6
Price$1000$600$900$750$500
AnnouncedSep 17th, 2012April 24th, 2013Aug 1st, 2013Oct 17th, 2013April 9th, 2013
Dimensions133 × 93 × 82mm122 × 85 × 71mm123 × 71 v 55mm99 × 55 × 30mm111 × 65 × 38mm
Weight550g390g402g204g323g
StyleSLRCompact SLRRangefinderCompactCompact
EVFYesYesYes, tiltingNoNo
Tilt LCDArticulatedArticulatedTiltingNoTilting
Flash hotshoeYesYesYesNoNo
Focus peakingNoYesYesYesYes
IBISNoNoYesNoNo
In a nutshellWeatherproof, pro ergonomics, the best videoCompact, value for money, good on featuresRetro rangefinder styleVery compact, retry styleCompact, enthusiast friendly
Body

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Lumix Leica DG Summilux 25mm f/1.4 Review Part 2

In the first instalment of my review, I talked about the basic stuff, like the focus speed, sharpness and bokeh. Here, I take a closer look at other aspects of the lens.

Focus breathing


The Leica 25mm f/1.4 features internal focusing, like most other autofocus Micro Four Thirds lenses. This makes the focus fast and virtually noiseless. However, there is a downside: The field of view changes as the focus is shifted. This gives rise to the focus breathing problem: As the focus moves, objects in the frame appear to change size, to be breathing.

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Lumix Leica DG Summilux 25mm f/1.4 Review Part 1

Back in the 1960's, when SLR cameras started to become available to the general public, one could essentially only buy prime (non-zoom) lenses. The cheapest lenses were the ones which were short, but still long enough, in terms of focal length, to be constructed without a complicated retrofocal design.

The cameras generally had a register distance of around 45mm, which means that any lens shorter than this will be more expensive to make. Hence, a popular segment became lenses around 50mm. These could be made fast, i.e., with a large maximum aperture, fairly inexpensively. For this reason, many bought their camera with a 50mm lens lens, which became known as the normal lens. It was the kit lens half a decade ago.

Wide angle lenses would require a retrofocal design, which was expensive. And longer lenses would require larger lens elements, again keeping the price high. So the 50mm lens was the most common (normal) lens to use on SLR cameras, simply because it was inexpensive.

At that time, to have a zoom lens which covers a range of focal lengths would be an unbelievable luxury. Today, it is the other way around. It is the zoom lens which has become the normal lens, the lens people buy in kits with their camera. While the 50mm (equivalent) prime lens has become the luxury item.

That is the case with Panasonic Lumix G Micro 4/3 LEICA DG SUMMILUX 25mm f/1.4 Leica Aspherical Lens. With the 2x crop factor of the Four Thirds sensor size, this lens corresponds to 50mm on a traditional film SLR camera, in terms of field of view. It has been co-branded with Leica, to underline the luxury, premium value of the lens.



Lumix 20mm f/1.7, Lumix Leica 25mm f/1.4, and Sigma 30mm f/2.8 DN

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Product news

At this time, there are some important trends in the camera industry:

  • Mirrorless cameras replacing DSLR systems
  • On-sensor PDAF detectors, for better autofocus with moving objects, and with legacy lenses
  • Removing the low pass (anti-aliasing) filter, for better pixel-level sharpness

We see many of these trends in the recently announced cameras. Here is a summary, as I see it:

Olympus OM-D E-M1


From a Micro Four Thirds point of view, the big news is of course the Olympus OM-D E-M1. It cleverly supersedes both the Olympus OM-D E-M5 and the Olympus E-5 Four Thirds DSLR.



It does this by employing on-sensor PDAF (Phase difference autofocus) detectors. That way, it can focus even older Four Thirds lenses at a usable speed. Micro Four Thirds camera have previously not been able to focus non-CDAF optimized lenses fast, like for example the Olympus 50mm f/2 1:2 macro lens. Focusing this lens on the Panasonic GH2 camera takes around five seconds, see my test here.

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Video AF comparison, Lumix 25mm f/1.4 vs 20mm f/1.7

The Lumix Leica DG 25mm f/1.4 and Lumix G 20mm f/1.7 pancake are quite similar. Both are fast normal lenses. Still, they are different:



On both lenses, I am using 46mm to 37mm step down rings as lens hoods. If you go down the same route, you will also need a 37mm front lens cap.

Beyond the size difference, the 25mm lens features internal focusing, while the 20mm lens has an old style focus mechanism, where the whole lens array moves back and forth. The internal focus achieves faster focus, and makes less noise. The Lumix 20mm lens on the other hand is known to focus slowly, and for making more noise.

In this article, I aim to see if the difference in focus mechanisms make the Lumix Leica DG 25mm f/1.4 better suited for continuous autofocus during video.

Friday, 4 October 2013

What fisheye for fireworks video?

When recording fireworks from a moderate distance, it pays to have a wide lens to capture the whole view. Generally, fisheye lenses tend to be the widest afforable lenses. In this article, I compare two fisheye lenses for video recording fireworks from a close distance.

The camera systems I used were:



Left: Sony NEX-3N with Yasuhara Madoka 180
Right: Panasonic GH3 with Samyang/Rokinon 7.5mm f/3.5

Saturday, 28 September 2013

E-M1 and GH3 comparison images

In a camera store, I was able to take some example photos with the Olympus OM-D E-M1, the most exciting camera news this autumn. The camera was apparently set up to take medium quality JPEG images only, around 3MB, and had the Olympus M.Zuiko 17mm f/1.8 lens.

I used my GH3 with the Lumix X 12-35mm f/2.8 for comparison, and was able to take photos under the same lightning conditions. Both cameras were set to Aperture Priority, ISO 200, f/2.8. I used the face detection feature, and kept a distance of about 1 meter to the subject. The shutter speeds were around 1/50s.

Olympus OM-D E-M1Panasonic GH3

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Bokeh part 2

I previously wrote about bokeh, describing what it means (the nature of the rendering of out of focus areas), how it is commonly used, and I also looked into how the aperture setting affects the out of focus areas in the picture.

This time, I want to look more closely at how the bokeh differs by lenses. I've tested some common fast lenses from the Micro Four Thirds lens lineup, laid out here:



Second row: Olympus 45mm f/1.8, Leica Lumix 45mm f/2.8 macro, Lumix X 12-35mm f/2.8
First row: Lumix G 14mm f/2.5, Lumix G 20mm f/1.7, Sigma 30mm f/2.8 DN and Sigma 19mm f/2.8 DN

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Fireworks video recording with the GH3 and Samyang 7.5mm fisheye

I've previously used the Panasonic GH2 for recording fireworks, and found that at the maximum video ISO 3200, I still needed to set a very slow shutter speed of around 1/10s to get sufficient exposure. The Panasonic GH3 supports video recording at ISO 6400. When using the Samyang/Rokinon 7.5mm f/3.5 fisheye lens wide open, I can use a shutter speed of 1/25s, and get a normal PAL 25fps framerate.

Here is the video I made, more information about how it was done follows below:



Sunday, 15 September 2013

180 degree shutter

One could say that video is just like photos, the only exception is that there is a series of still images composing the video stream. This works well for central concepts like focus, selective focus and background blur (bokeh), sharpness and so on.

However, there are some important differences too. One is focus pulling, to change the focus distance during video recording.

Another important video concept is the 180° shutter. Put shortly, this means that the shutter speed is twice that of the frame rate. So if you are in an NTSC country, e.g., USA, you would set the shutter speed to 1/60s when recording at 30 frames per second.

The name "180 degree shutter" comes from the construction of early film cameras. The shutter in these cameras was simply a rotating disc, with an opening that exposed each film frame. When using a disc with a 180° opening, i.e., a half disc, the film would be exposed half the time.

Why 180° shutter?


The point of the 180° shutter is to create motion blur. When you have movement in the scene, you'll want the movement to be slightly blurred. Using a faster shutter speed would yield stuttered motion, where the moving objects appear to be in different spots in each frame.

Monday, 9 September 2013

Hoods for prime lenses

One of the big advantages of the Micro Four Thirds system is the small prime lenses available. Many of these don't come with any hood supplied in the box. I don't think that using a hood with these lenses is a big deal from an optical perspective, but many people like to use hoods anyway. For lenses like the Lumix G 20mm f/1.7, I have noticed that some like to use a Leica like 46mm screw in hood.

Personally, I think the barrel shaped screw in hoods are a bit too bulky for the small pancake lenses. So I prefer to use a 46mm to 37mm step down ring as a compact hood.

Below is a picture of the Sigma 19mm f/2.8 lens with the original hood (left), and 46mm to 37mm step down ring as a hood (right):



Sigma 19mm f/2.8 with original hoodSigma 19mm f/2.8 with 46mm to 37mm step down ring as hood

But for keeping out light, which is better?

Saturday, 7 September 2013

Induro BHD1 ball head - Not recommended

Having a tripod with a good ball head is a necessity for anyone interested in photography. For a couple of years, I have used the Benro B2 ball head. While it is a cheaper knockoff of the Arca Swiss type ball heads, it still works fine.

However, the big locking knob stuck, so I was looking out for a replacement. The Induro BHD1 looked fine, with a similar layout of knobs, a large ball, and ergonomic grip surfaces on the knobs:



It has some flaws, though, which sadly makes it useless for me. One minor issue is that using the tripod tightening screws locks up the panoramic function. Most tripods have three locking screws that can be tightened when the head is mounted, to avoid accidentally unscrewing the head. You can see the tops of the screws in the picture of the Manfrotto 190XPROB tripod, a very good budget tripod, below:



If these screws are tightened while having the Induro BHD1 ball head mounted, the ball head does no longer rotate when opening the panoramic knob. Now, this is not an uncommon issue: I have noticed the same with other ball heads as well. It can be solved by tightening the screws only very little.

A far bigger issue is that when mounting a camera and framing a subject, tightening one of the locking knobs dislocates the camera slightly. This makes the tripod ball head very frustrating to use. It is pretty much impossible to frame your subject the way you want with a long lens, and it is even problematic with a shorter lens.

Sunday, 1 September 2013

New manual focus wide angle prime from Samyang

News has surfaced that Samyang will release an very wide prime lens, specified as 10mm f/2.8. So is this finally the compact wide angle prime that I have been waiting for?

No, it isn't. It is far from compact, as illustrated by the following comparison table:

LensSamyang 10mm f/2.8Lumix G 7-14mm f/4Olympus 12mm f/2
Length106mm83mm43mm
Diameter86mm70mm56mm
Weight710g300g130g
Minimum focus distance0.25m0.25m0.20m
Lens elements/groups14/1016/1211/8
Filter threadNANA46mm


Both the Lumix G 7-14mm f/4, which is extremely wide, and has a zoom, and the Olympus 12mm f/2, which is one stop faster, are much smaller and lighter than the upcoming Samyang lens.

So why are Samyang making the lens so large and heavy?

Saturday, 31 August 2013

Mirrorless camera systems

Back in 2008, Panasonic launched the first consumer mirrorless system camera with the Panasonic G1. Since this time, a lot of competitors have introduced their systems. I take a look at the competition, to summarize what they are all about.

Sony NEX, E-mount


Headline comments: Small cameras, large lenses.

Crop factor: 1.5x

The first Sony NEX cameras introduced were truly strange: No built in flash, a minimum of buttons, no touch screen interface, a non standard flash connector. The cameras were slim, but also had a fairly poor grip and ergonomics. Later, a camera like the Sony NEX-6 appeared to take the system in a more traditional direction, with a proper flash shoe, better grip, built in flash, and even a built in EVF on the side, to give it a range finder appearance. The Sony NEX-6 looks and feels more like a normal camera.



Sony NEX-6

Friday, 23 August 2013

Lumix G HD 14-140mm f/3.5-5.6 review

When I first bought into Micro Four Thirds, it was with the GH1 and the kit zoom lens, the Lumix G HD 14-140mm f/4-5.8. In the beginning, I was thrilled with the superzoom lens, my first, and it was also a lot better than the previous Pentax lenses that I used. However, after some time, I was quite disappointed with it, since it is not very sharp in the short and long ends, and it is very large and heavy. So it mostly sat unused.

It was not surprising for me, then, that Panasonic announced a new, revised version of the lens called Lumix G HD 14-140mm f/3.5-5.6. Then new lens comes at a smaller size, it is lighter, and has a faster aperture range. It even has a lower list price than the old version. So, I was very curious to see how they compare.

They are shown below, with the new version to the left:



Sunday, 18 August 2013

Focus pulling with the GH3 touch screen

Focus pulling is a cinematic technique often seen in movies and TV series. Quite simply, this is to change the focus distance during recording. This is often seen during dialogue, for example, where the focus could change between the persons speaking to highlight the reactions.

When done by a professional film crew, the focus pulling is done by manually turning the focus ring. Manual focus is possible with Micro Four Thirds cameras as well, of course, but there are a couple of reasons why it might be hard to do this during video recording:

Sunday, 11 August 2013

Lumix X PZ 14-42mm vs NEX PZ 16-50mm

Panasonic and Sony have released two surprisingly similar lenses: The Lumix X PZ 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 and Sony E 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6 PZ. Both are shown below:



Note that in the picture, I have modified their appearance slightly by adding "lens hoods". On the Lumix lens, to the left, I added a 37mm stand off ring to the front lens thread.

On the Sony lens, to the right, I screwed a 40.5mm to 52mm step up ring into the front lens hood. For the Sony lens, I also need a new 52mm front lens cap.

While I don't think these small rings do a significant job as lens shades, I think they keep the front lens element better protected against objects touching it accidentally, and that gives me more peace of mind.

LensLumix X PZ 14-42mmNEX 16-50mm PZ
AnnouncedAug 26, 2011Sep 12, 2012
Image stabilizationYes, opticalYes, optical
Lens elements/groups9/89/8
Weight95g116g
Diameter61mm65mm
Length27mm30mm
Filter thread37mm40.5mm

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

New 14-140mm: Smaller, faster, sharper

Since writing this first impressions article, I have made a more thorough review. Most likely, this is what you want to read.

When I first bought into Micro Four Thirds, it was with the GH1 and the kit zoom lens, the Lumix G HD 14-140mm f/4-5.8. At first, I was thrilled with the superzoom lens, my first, and it was also a lot better than the previous Pentax lenses that I used. However, after some time, I was quite disappointed with it, since it is not very sharp in the short and long ends, and it is very large and heavy. So it mostly sat unused.

It was not surprising for me, then, that Panasonic announced a new, revised version of the lens called Lumix G HD 14-140mm f/3.5-5.6. Then new lens comes at a smaller size, it is lighter, and has a faster aperture range. It even has a lower list price than the old version. So, I was very curious to see how they compare.

They are shown below, with the new version to the right:



LensLumix G HD 14-140mm f/4-5.8Lumix G HD 14-140mm f/3.5-5.6
AnnouncedMar 3, 2009Apr 24, 2013
Weight460g265g
Diameter70mm67mm
Length84mm75mm
Filter thread62mm58mm
Minimum focus0.5m0.3m
Maximum magnification0.2 x0.25 x
Lens elements/groups17/1314/12
Product codeH-VS014140H-FS014140

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Product news

Here is a summary or recent interesting product news, and my comments to them.

Panasonic GX7


Of course, the big news right now is the Panasonic Lumix GX7, which was announced on August 1st.



To better understand what the fuss is all about, let's look a the key features of the GX7, compared with other premium mirrorless cameras:

CameraCrop factorTilt LCDEVFIBISPDAFFlashCompactFocus peakingPrice
Lumix GX72xYesYesYesNoYesYesYes$900
Olympus E-M52xYesYesYesNoNoMediumNo$900
Olympus E-M12xYesYesYesYesNoMediumYes$1400
Olympus E-P52xYesOptionalYesNoYesYesYes$950
Lumix GH32xYesYesNoNoYesNoNo$1100
Lumix G62xYesYesNoNoYesMediumYes$750
Sony NEX-61.5xYesYesNoYesYesYesYes$650
Sony A71xYesYesNoYesYesNoYes$1700
Sony A7R1xYesYesNoNoYesNoYes$2300
Fujifilm X-Pro11.5xNoYesNoYesNoNoYes$1200
Fujifilm X-E11.5xNoYesNoNoYesYesYes$800
Fujifilm X-E21.5xNoYesNoYesYesYesYes$1000
Canon EOS M1.6xNoNoNoNoNoYesNo$300
Nikon 1 V22.7xNoYesNoYesYesYesNo$800

Saturday, 3 August 2013

Distorted images

With the development of photographic equipment over the last decades, we have been able to capture more accurate representations of the reality than ever before, and at a higher resolution and lower cost. Some are obsessed with the sharpness of lenses, and closely read MTF tests to find the best. And there is a trend now that sensors have a weaker anti-aliasing (AA) filter, or even gets rid of it completely, to reveal even more details.

Still, there are some who go in the opposite direction, and use the camera not to accurately depict the reality, but to deliberately distort the reality in various ways. One example is the "Instagram" trend, in which filters are often applied to images to distort the colours, add dark corners, add film grain noise, and so on.

In this article, I look at some methods for creating images that are not natural looking.

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Meike/Neewer macro rings: Highly recommended

I have previously tested a number of low cost solutions to macro photography. Mostly, they are quite hard to use, for example because they don't support changing the aperture or focusing. I think I had the most impressive results with a reverser ring, however, the working distance becomes very short, and there is no aperture control or focus possibility.

Finally, macro extension rings with electronic contacts are available at a low price. They are marketed as Meike, Skyblue, Neewer, and probably more names, and one pack includes two rings: One 10mm thick, and one 16mm thick. My rings look like this:



Saturday, 20 July 2013

Smaller lenses, smaller apertures

Panasonic recently launched their third tele zoom lens, the Lumix G 45-150mm f/4-5.6. It is impressively compact considering the specifications:

LensLumix G 45-200Lumix X 45-175Lumix G 45-150
Max aperturef/4-5.6f/4-5.6f/4-5.6
AnnouncedSep 12, 2008Aug 26, 2011Jul 18, 2012
Length100mm90mm73mm
Diameter70mm62mm62mm
Weight380g210g200g
Filter thread52mm46mm52mm
Front lens element diameter37mm32mm27mm

So, how can Panasonic design a smaller lens with a smaller front lens diameter, and still retain the same aperture range, f/4-5.6? The answer is simple: They cheat.

Well, "cheat" may be a bit too strong word, as the aperture range is indeed f/4-5.6 for all of them. But what the specifications don't tell you, is that the aperture between the short and long ends is different. This diagram sums up my point:



If you took the average aperture over the focal length range, then you would see that the newer lenses have a smaller average aperture. Hence, while the specifications look the same, the smaller lenses are giving you a smaller aperture on average. I guess there is no way to avoid this: Panasonic cannot cheat the laws of physics. If they make a smaller lens, then the aperture must be smaller.

Monday, 15 July 2013

Panasonic Lumix DMC-3D1 review

The Panasonic 3D1 is one of the very few twin lens compact 3D cameras available. It is shown below with a Seiko diver's watch for scale:


Nowadays, many cameras feature 3D in their specifications, but they achieve this by letting you swipe the camera horizontally while shooting several images, and then stitching the images together for a 3D effect. While this does indeed give you a 3D effect, it is not a true 3D capture in the sense that the same image is captured at the same time from two different angles. Rather, if there is movement in the image while you are sweeping, you may be capture different images for the left and right frame, which will look bad. Also, this technique does not support video recording.

The Panasonic Lumix 3D1 has got two separate, identical lenses, each covering a 12.1 MP sensor. Sliding down the front cover reveals the lenses, and also powers on the camera:


In my review, I will focus mostly on the 3D features of the camera. When used as a 2D camera, it is nothing special at all, and I cannot imaging that anyone would buy this camera for 2D shooting anyway.

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Micro Four Thirds sensors

The imaging sensor is the heart of the digital camera, and, hence, it is not hard to understand that there is a lot of interest and mystique surrounding the issue of sensors. In this article, I am trying to make a bit of sense of the various generations of sensors used in the Micro Four Thirds cameras so far.

Some of the information here is based on a bit of guesswork. If you think some of this is wrong, then please feel free to comment it.

Sunday, 30 June 2013

Tokina 300mm f/6.3 mirror reflex tele lens review

The Tokina 300mm f/6.3 is the first mirror reflex tele lens made specifically for the Micro Four Thirds format. Also marketed as Kenko, this lens revives a segment of tele lenses which was popular some decades ago.

They appear to cheat on the laws of physics, by designing tele lenses much shorter than usual. This is achieved by employing a catadioptric optical system, which uses both reflection and refraction to focus the light onto the sensor. Normal lenses only use refraction.

This illustration of a typical reflex lens was made by Paul Chin, with the film plane (sensor) to the right:


Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Camera bag review: Kata 3N1-20 DL

For years, I have been a fan of the Tamrac Velocity 6x sling bag. It is a fairly small camera bag which carries one body and two-three lenses, depending on their sizes. Normally, you wear the sling strap over the left shoulder, and when you want to move it from the back carrying position to the front, you slide it under your right arm. The lip opens towards you in the front position. In both positions, the bag stays fairly level, so you don't need to keep the lid closed when standing still.

However, I often need to carry more stuff as well, say, some clothes, books, a water bottle, and so on. In those cases, I often bring another backpack as well. Handling both a backpack and a sling bag at the same time is of course not very elegant. So I was looking into a bag which replaces both, when carrying more stuff.

I found the Kata 3N1-20 DL, which is like a backpack, but it can be worn both as a sling bag, and as a regular bag. Below it is shown in the sling configuration. When worn on the back, it appears like a normal backpack:



Just like the Tamrac Velocity 6x, it can be slung under the right arm, and then ends up horizontal, with the lid opening towards you:



The bag is symmetrical, so if you prefer to wear it the other way, both sides open, by the zipper which goes all the way around the bottom of the bag.

There are two straps, and by default, they are both connected diagonally. They are colour coded, so that you'll know which to connect where (white-to-white and black-to-black):



With the straps connected diagonally, you can wear them both on your shoulders like a backpack. This is good for transportation, when you don't need easy access to the camera. You can also undo the straps and connect them non-diagonally, if you prefer, like a normal backpack.

when you need easy access to the bag contents, you only wear one of the diagonal straps over the shoulder. This puts more strain on one shoulder, and is not good for carrying over a long period.

Just like all the Kata bags, the inside is bright yellow, which is a nice effect:



The inside is divided into two compartments. The lower is accessible through the zippers which cover both sides, and the very bottom of the bag. This is the largest space inside, and can be configured as you want by using velcro dividers. It may take a bit of experimenting to find the layout that suits you the best. This space can easily contain, say, two camera bodies and four to five lenses, depending on their sizes.

There is another room inside, which is available through the top lid. This room cannot be divided with the velcro sections, and is good for carrying, e.g., books, clothes and other stuff you might need. You can also merge both the two rooms by opening a zipper, to create one single room inside, accessible through both the sides and the top. Further, there are two smaller pockets, one on each top side. Neither of the rooms fit a normal size laptop.

Unlike the Tamrac 6x sling bag, this bag changes configuration from horizontal to vertical when slung on the back. So you must always take care to close the side room when slinging it to your back to get it out of the way. I find this to be a bit clumsy, compared with the Tamrac 6x.

Considering that this is a rather large bag, it does not have much in the way of smaller pockets for keeping memory cards and other stuff you don't want to get mixed in with bigger items. Also, there are no outside mesh pockets for carrying water bottles and the like. This keeps the bag looking sleek and stylish, but is not as utilitarian as some might have desired.

On the outside, there are some straps for connecting, e.g., a tripod, but you can realistically only attach a fairly small tripod to this bag. It does come with two extra straps for this purpose, which is probably adequate.

There is a yellow rain coat for the bag included. You can put it outside the bag when needed, and it is kept in place with a flexible string around the edges. I have stress tested the rain coat in heavy rain, and it did keep the bag dry. But when using the rain coat, you cannot access any of the pockets.

Here, the bag is shows with the lower, largest compartment, open. The zipper which allows the side rooms to open traverse the whole front bottom of the bag, and it is opened all the way below:



Below, I am showing the bag with an example configuration of the velcro dividers. I have packed the bag with some of my favourite equipment. When opening up the side pocket, the Panasonic GH3 is revealed, with the Lumix X 45-175mm tele zoom lens mounted:



Removing the camera and opening the lower flat, I have, clockwise from the bottom left, Lumix-Leica 45mm f/2.8 macro, Lumix G 20mm f/1.7 pancake, Samyang 7.5mm f/3.5 fisheye, and Sigma 30mm f/2.8 EX DN.



Finally, under the upper flap, I have the Lumix X 12-35mm f/2.8 premium zoom lens:



Conclusion


This bag looks stylish and sleek, and the functionality is quite good. It combines both the sling and backpack carrying styles in a good way. Unlike the Tamrac 6x, you must always make sure to close the lids before swinging it back to get it out of the way. In terms of ergonomics and flexibility, it could have scored a bit higher, and appears to have dropped some outside mesh pockets and smaller bags to achieve a more clean look. Not a bad choice, but it might not suit everybody.