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lørdag 8. november 2014

Light Field Cameras - Gimmick or Gold Dust

I sat down last night to get my head around how the light-field-camera system works, because it looked conceptually difficult ...I couldn't work it out at first run through, I was bewildered.

It took a few different approaches and looking at a Lytro video of their first series of interesting cameras, for the penny to drop. You can think of the technique as on the one side being like the compound eye of a fly, fusing together many individual shots in the 'brain' to make a map of the immediate world ahead of  you. Or you can think of it as grabbing more information from the light rays which enter the camera, which in traditional photography are simply trained onto a flat 2D image with much of what the lens can capture being simply reduced to a simple, easy to interpret image.

Think then this. Today we are very used to 3D CAD images, while I work often with 2 D output for actual practical engineering and manufacturing purposes. Plan view, side view and so on.... It is easy on the computer to flick between these two , the three dee for conceiving how it will look, operate and fit during installation and then the 2D for the nitty gritty of measurements, angles, threads, welds and so on, where 3 D would just be a mess of info overload. Usually the 3 D is made from the 2 D traditional drafting, and then the CPU brain makes the 3 D view.

This is a similar principle for light field cameras, where a traditional lens is followed up by an array of micro lenses, the fly's eye , which then allow for more information to be captured in terms of all the focal planes available ie many slices of depth of field, and then also the multiple stero/optic capture where a slight 3 D image can be recomposed. Each micro lens splits the detail up a little more from all the rays coming such that the rays of light render more information or more traces if you like onto the sensor. It has been done in film too, but is not practical for viewing before the advent of serious computing power.

We got used to the stunning quick time style composite images which were created by multiple camera capture, allowing for unbelievable 3 D images with about a 40 degree walk around. The rolling stones video was the first I can remember, and I wondered, how did they do that!??? Basically on a single sensor you can achieve a slight 3 d stereoscopic effect due to the distance across the chip being able to capture very slightly different angles of view

Depth of field contol is then achieved in post processing with Lytro's software suite for example and that is the biggest benefit for general photographers. For macro photographers, the 3D view also helps them but really it seems to be a bit gimmicky for general photography, it is only a few degrees.

The compromise of this composite single capture image is the eventual resolution though. The first lytro camera has a resolution as any one still jpeg image, or just 1.2mpx . This is fine for a VGA monitor but makes for a limited image size on anything bigger, or a poor quality large image. Whereas in fact the information processing is far, far higher than that of a normal 2 D camera due to all the extra computations, which links a camera with a reasonable ouuytput of 8mpx into needing serious on board processing in order to capture even one image per second and represnent it as a flat jpeg on its read monitor screen.

Howwever, Lytro have of course found out that it is not consumers who really gain from this small 3D effect in still images, it is the space imaging and military gun sight government research that this system can find most value and thus earn Lytro the most cash. For me I can see two other major areas if it can be made to work with microscopes and endoscopes, for  bio/medical imaging and for inspection work in engineering.

I dont think we will all be using Lytro cameras any time soon, but perhaps we will see a mobile manufacturer licensing in the lens array because then VGA quality in maybe a 2mpx image is worth the bother for the small screen size to overcome the normal DOF limitation and offer a quirky three dee image.

Micro Four Thirds is Dead....Long Live mFT

mFtf is basically dead for me, and as dead as it had been when i went in to a shop to buy an EPL1, walked out unimpressed and bought an E450 with three lenses on-line.

I am of course impressed  by the OMD range, but I need a weather sealed system and two lenses and that in OMD mFt is a huge investment with all the time the slightly poor trade off between depth of field and size being there. Also there is the fashion-over-ergonomics which is kind of fair  enough if it helps sell bodies, but at the top model really style is not important. How ugly are the D3 and the 5DIII after all?

Olympus have slowed up on selling the compact bodies and rightly so, they can get a far bigger price for the OMD range and people can suffice with their old PEN bodies as 2nd back up or pocket walk around, or buy them pretty cheaply indeed used or old stock. Not that they are much good with that 12mpx chip, but not that they are that bad when compared to the nealy all sub 1000 eurospondoolicdollars compacts.

Until now that is, with two cameras in fact from Panasonic and the related competition from Fuji in particular.
The FZ1000 finally places a reasonable size sensor into a "super zoom" or bridge camera, while the LX100 steals the show for a street camera based on the mFT sensor and a very fast lens.

The lx100 and its sibling the Leica branded Dlux type 109 change the game, big big time for all compact non EVF mFt compacts which are basically dead in the water IMHO for enthusiast buyers.

Interesting with both the LX100 and the FZ1000, Panasonic are stealing a march on not just compacts but also entry and mid level APS-C DSLRs and system cameras. The lenses are faster and better in range than the kit-shit of Canikon land, or most MILCs. The ISO performance is good enough for real photography in disappointing lighting.
The nirvana of shallow depth of field and good bokeh are checked off as if they have reached a mountain top and can take a pause for breath, while the competition look on from their foothills.

The lenses bring into question what the blazes these companies are doing in following the strategy of DSLR and making highly expensive lenses which in DOF / Speed terms are just mid level for APS-C. They have been able to pull off the less-is-more for many years and have ended up painting themselves into a corner, all be that a very nice couple of corners- Panasonic's genius hand played in video and range of cameras, Olympus with their enthusiast and pro appeal with OMD and the retro  style PENs. Nice corners to live in for the here and now, while perhaps the enthusiast market will desert them.

I see that there will be a range of LX hundred series and even a bridge mFT camera in the FZ range. So far it looks like the LX100 is a big seller on Amazon and this is for the same reason I want to buy one - it is a fast lens which can deliver creative depth of field and it is a jacket pocket camera with a view finder. It trumps having to buy a boxy mFT compact and two or three lenses in the mid range.

mFT MILC will still take slightly better technical image quality but the fast lens for under a grand just beat entering the system, and in fact I can see a lot of olympus first and second generation PEN owners dumping their gear to get an LX100, and I can see that people looking for a good long zoom for nerdy-birding could ignore the pixel peepers and plunge into an FZ1000.

Panasonic would be wise to look at doing an mFT version of the lens , to replace the 12/35 video optimised lens and indeed consider creating a range of fast zooms which are compact but sub f3, perhaps with a little less reach such as doing yep a 12/35 but say a 30/100 f2 for portrait and best dof seekers. The genie is out of the bottle, they have achieved a very good lens with only slight compromise which has no relevance to the buyers and intended use of the LX100. The fast lenses from Oly in particular are not all that small, and relative to many APS/C f3.5s they are actually slower due to equivalence.

Why have a kit lens and an mFt for less money and have to spend lots and then change lenses all the time or end up wasting time trying to set up a shot to isolate the subject, when on the LX100 we simply click open the aperture ring and shoot.

For me then, mFT is dead but has a long future in non interchangeable enthusiast compacts.

onsdag 5. november 2014

Painful Decision to Wait on The LX100 - DLux 109

All the reasons are there to buy this new LX100. I need a jacket pocket, glove-compartment take with me camera more than any new lenses for my dslr or say a do it all am-cam like the new FZ1000. It is better than the canon and the sony, and much better than its incongruent predecessor in the lx range, the seven. It has also great DR and mid ISO and OIs and better video than my current jvc camcorder.

However it is a relatively expensive camera which is showing not only its strong sides, but also some weaknesses.

The big point of this camera is a combination of the big chip and the fast lens. That trumps the XZ2, which i had my eye on, and btw can be had new for less than half then original rrp now on line.

It also trumps just about that is, any mft camera with any kit lens, apart from maybe the 12-50 oly at the two extremes of focal length. Why? The fast lens.

Why then not just dash out and buy one, cash down and the rest on credit?

The real reason on the back of my mind is that i am hoping olympus will make a competitor.

What would be so good from oly? Firstly amd most of all, far better out of camera jpegs, which is important in a compact camera which will document the minutiae of oir family lives as much as it will take any images of artistic, photojournalistic or heirloom framed images. My general dslr shoots are in a way warm ups for owning a pro-am FF dslr, in another way they are fun and only when i see the beautiful shot dono turn to raw. I cannot batch process by in large for all sorts of reasons, so frame by frame raw optimalisation is just too time consuiming for me.

Secondly the lens would be sharper, maybe not as fast, but sharper. Also in combination with that it would be a Sony chip with less noise, better resolving ability and better colour.

Panasonic have fallen short , not by much, but just a little short.

1) Soft when open wide below f4
2) noisy and colour abberrant on the edges
3) annoying NR softness, i.e.  default high smoothing
4) little bit short on the long end at eq 75mm
5) other foibles,: auto iso , sensor warm outs on 4k, filters button stupid place, some others yet to be found.
6) out of camera jpegs needing post!

Any one of these points as the single isloated issue on the lx100, would not stop me getting one. But together and with that biggie in 6, they hold up my wallet peel.

I am stalling, i want to handle one but i can see it is going to be nice ftrom the videos. I am not convinced by the on line jpeg galleries, even though the test shots in the so called laboratory conditions say it is class leading.

If only olympus would do this as well!

It is currently a little unclear if there will even be an XZ-3. I guess they are either waiting for something cool from sony's sensor department for the current sensor size, or are reworking to either sony's one inch or hopefully the mFT format.

Panasonic have been able to use Leica to design ground breaking lenses, while having the R&D biudget in sensors and body equipment to now stand head and shoulders above the compact competition with their FZ1000 and LX100. The other manufacturers are who knows, maybe over a year behind in being able to put these size of sensors with so fast glass, enthusiast control elements, and not fogetting the video capability, all into sub 1000$€ packages.

Canon seem to be pretty happy with themselves but their G cameras which take good enough images but are quite bulky and no where near as good as the new GM or existing Epm with their kit lenses. Nikon just cannot do compacts or the milc one syste,, maybe they are too worried about the differential to their dslrs. Users are veryr happy, but they are brand-blinded. Panny are lucky to have had the deep pockets to align with Leica to get the edge and keep it.

Olympus are struggeling outside OMD - they have probably saturated the style seeking market and enthusiasts have fallen off PEN upgrades for omd, and have good enougj back up EP bodies. Omd is a fine fine place to be.

Stylus is not. They need an absolutelty top pair of sensors in order to carry on with the same hardware, otherwise the nice handeling and enthusiast features melt away for those consumers prone to buying the next generation phones with real zoom cameras, and cutting out the middle man on the way to facebook.

I suspect olympus are either consolidating on the up market cash cow omd, or are beavering away on something to really scare the competition in compact land. Hopefully the latter is the case!

torsdag 23. oktober 2014

LX100 on the Way, Why Buy??

WIth the LX100 starting to ship to retailer's warehouses, it is a pretty hot time to consider if this is a great compact camera or just a 'whole bunch' of trendy buzzy things actually achieved with an old mFt camera and some clever compromises.

Reasons Not to Buy?

Well the resolving power of the lens is still very much in question , and so far it does  not look as good as even the first generation PENs or of course FT cameras, even with kit lenses. The RAW files show better sharpness though, so maybe the jpeg engine is either undertuned on sharpening or is just a bit "loss-y". Default saturation is a bit high, as is maybe contrast but that would need to be seen.

On my e450 i like to use out-of-camera images, just really because raw developing is time consuming and my images are mostly going up on the web, hdmi lines max required ie less than half the original file size. So i have set sharpness +2, contrast +1, and gradation -1. I do regret forgetting to set RAW for some landscapes or high dynamic range shots, but because i like to underexpose often then attempting batch is hopeless for raw. Better to adjust jpegs. Even litho printers ask me for jpegs, less than 4 megs due to their workload and knowing that the shots will work at 330dpi ...ie that is from about 75% sized e450 shots

The reach onnthe lx100 - 75mm - is a little short for many, maybe for me ideally, but more on that below.

Now what is considered 'mid ' ISO is 3200 and here it picks up more noise than say the D7100. No big deal for me, the black cat leaping in a darkened room crowd may disagree. 1600 iso jpegs show smoothing but are very acceptable and noise is low. RAW low light shots are embargoed by panny marketing for now.

You need a big, expensive SD 1 card. Yep to do 4k justice then you will need to spend two hundred euros-dollars on a fast 64  or 128 gigger primary SD card.  Wifi suddenly seems very cool, but how much space do you have on your tablet, and how long to dropbox it on less than a 3G line ?. Also you really need to move out of PC land and into iMac and unix land for editing video within reason of productivity.

Size, ergonomics, non touch screen....something has to give at this price and size point in the market, so it has for some given. Basically this camera plays to te old joes like me in the gallery, but also to POS-mobile upgraders who are really wanting to get to grips with A and S modes.

Diallling in controls. the classic controls appeal to me, but many would rather have a more familiar set up with a multi wheel and a touch screen because they are spoiled techno toy brats!

Reasons to BUY ?

The lens! Yep it is so fast and has a really nice range without making the camera too big. Ok not that long, but it is so fast and onto a bigger sensor so your thin depth of field happens way soon and is way smoother than either DSLR kit lenses or competing smaller sensored enthusiasts compacts

Size- got to be a plus, a true jacket pocket, light camera.

Tactility- good use of the lens A ring and focus - zoom ring, and the dial in hard controls for A, S and not forgetting manual mode plus a little fine adjust on the exposure comp wheel. This is very well thought out actually.

The Wide End .......24mm is a lovely angle to work with for land- amd city -scapes because it does not distort so very much as to make the cameras presence obvious, while it does add to that 'vista experience' and zero to infinity DOF.

11fps  / in full size, this is impressive.  Coupled to 8mpx frame grab from 4k video

4k video? bit gimmicky ? maybe for some, but future proof and you avoid total mess ups in 'lossy' processing. Also it secures 1>1 from the sensor chip which means better fidelity in camera capture to card.

wifi check , high iso check and so on.

Bye bye pasm. I find pasm really annoying these days as many of the shots i choose to spend time on i want to do my own manual bracketing for exposure, depth of field and trying to avoid camera shake. This is largely solved by going back to basics and i like the idea of then overlaying the exposure wheel which will give you the opposing shift when in S or A. This is a real plus for me these days, i end up not knowing where i am in the series of possible shot set ups, or suddenly wanting to take a fast shot and finding S to be left on a half second or P to be aperture biased on my camera unfortunetly. I would hope the lx100 has a max auto ISO setting to then not worry about going over into noisey squishy 6400 land. 1600 will be enough for me with the OIS on or using a tripod.

Last but not least you are getting a very, very good electronic view finder, which for enthusiasts is a real plus.

You are essentially buying a very good lilttle package which will for the non pixel peeper take better shots than anny kit lensed crop frane dslr or mFT or nikon 1 .

Pricey ? Think of the pckage over the immediate competition-possible price differentials for the goodies you get...

200$ for the evf
100$ for sub  f2 to 2.8 in this focal zoom range.
$200 for 4k vid - think also resale even if you do no videography, this camera is three years video future proof at least.

Ok by 2016, the new rival models will have caught up but what will these cameras cost then ? Panasonic recognisw that now is the time for a quantum jump in features and yes, a price hike, to maken this level of camera truly head and shoulders over mobile phone cameras in $500 devices you must remember. With one inch mobiles, fovean and repixelising digizoom , intelligent blur etc in camera, for the above average facebook -instagram glamour snapper then having a separate compact as well as your mobile is going to be a harder ask, as the next level of compacts up to one inch sensor sizes are eaten into by mobile devices. The only place left to go is larger sensors over an inch and faster lenses, longer too and here panny are blazing the trail with this neat  lx100 and the FZ1000 for people who must take birdy - mammal shots from a far.

I have sat on the fence with mFT because i do not like the ergonomics and really the fast glass shows that the systems are overpriced. It is only with the last two levels of GH-G series and the OMD that sensor IQ is really impressive and iso 3200 useable. I am glad i waited because 900€ on an lx100 gives me a better option than a GX7 or epl7 duen to size and price for those f2 numbers.

The only reasonb not to buy is probably the LX110 !!!

onsdag 22. oktober 2014

Which Camera Suits You. Me. and the Woman in The Street ???

  I have just taken a tour into the never-never land of Leica on a well known internet forum and came away with a decidedly underwhelmed feeling. Worse when I went onto the NIkon 1 MILC forum, where the standard of photography on average did not warrant more than a mobile phone, while a particularly well captured composition of dancers had awful soft, out of focus or  camera shake from what looked like a pause in proceedings.

All these people have one thing in common, they have spent far more than they needed to in buying a camera for what they actually 'need'.

I think that people really miss the point if they have not grown up with the principles of photographic techniques and basically an eye for sealing a moment in eternity from somthing which they feel they can grasp. In other words, some people have a natural talent for both seeing the moment as it arises, the photo-opportunity,  and then having the skills to capture it. Or seeing the composition as it presents itself , such as a sunrise or shadows cast across a railway terminals marble concurs. Any camera will take you there if you don't know where you are going....

Now what type of photos are you likely to take, which do you like most, why do you want to take photos in the first place?  Over time in the west most people who have been interested in taking better quality photographs have been talked into buying the cheaper entry level digital single lens reflex cameras, and until just a few years ago these indeed were the route to better images than the small pocket sized point-and-shoot cameras.

Why DSLRs and  Multi Lens System Cameras are a Waste of Money For Most People

DSLRs of the entry level type are also bought by the consumer masses at inflation adjusted prices two to three times the price of mid nineteen eighties 35mm Film SLRs , when a then funky PASM body would set you back between 200 and 300 pounds for a 35mm camera....oh did I say that most all people buying a DSLR by numbers, buy a smaller than that of course in the APS/C . It is ironic that this originally film format was heralded as the next big thing when in fact it took so much away from photographic quality, while now in fact it is both the bread and butter of over spend on a students or a  family's camera and also a serious contender for proffessional quality output.

The thing is that DSLRs are obtrusive by their size, their shutter noise and actually the message they give out...this is a serious image that is being taken. People can be guarded in their response to candid shots. Your face is hidden from interaction by in large, you may well be better served by ducking your head under the black cloth of a large plate format camera of old because at least then you are hiden as a person.

Also they are cumbersome, and feel a little vulnerable with their snouty lenses. You would probably not take a DSLR down the rough side of town alone, you maybe avoid taking it hiking or boating due to its weight and value, and you most of all would not get allowed into a rock concert with one slung over your shoulder without a press pass.

Compact Cameras A Great Choice, And A Great Future

This is why compacts took off with proffessional photographers. They found them far less obtrusive. The cameras were a lot less threatening, almost as if JFK or Che Guevera thought they were having family snaps taken and not iconic images which will last through history. The tool of choice was the Leica M, or some photographers used the film Olympus PEN cameras. It took the invention and implementation of the pentaprism view finder in 35mm, to change the game and in fact all these SLR cameras owe as much to the 35mm compacts of the 1940s-60s as they do to the twin less reflex cameras they largely came to replace.

If you watch many pro's at work in the studio or working sub telefoto, they often spend a lot of time away from the view finder. The back screen on digi cameras helps them. Some do not have this approach, tending to be glued to the view finder, but most you will find I think are there looking at the scene or model and waiting for either the right second or the right inspiration to then execute the shot technically.

Things have come full circle with Leica going digital, but remaining out of reach for most pockets, while Olympus played the price payoff game with mFT along with the new kid on the block Panasonic, who swalled Leica behind the scenes in order to get a head in the consumer photography market. Both have ended up creating real rival cameras to the great Nikon and Canon 35mm digital SLRs and also Panasonic rival proffessional video cameras in their GH range. Yes there are some draw backs, but in essence you get images which can be to a jobbing media professional, indistinguisable from full frame. It takes a technician to tell the difference between these mFT cameras and their 'professional benchmark' cameras such as the D3 when the best lenses are engaged.

Why The Through The Lens Optical System is Obsolete

In essence the pentaprism, or mirror box as it is on many cheaper SLR cameras, is an uneccesary feature on any digital camera, and adds bulk and also requires the mirror geometry which takes up space in the distance from the film to the lens mount flange. Pentax have basically just chopped it off  in their mirrorless APS-C cameras.  The optical view finder  in all cameras has been made further obsolete by firstly LED based back screens and by the latest generation of electronic viewfinders. The arguments about the virtues of the OVF, the optical real deal have all but evaporated from the chat forums of the photographic web community.

There are benefits in low light, with light intensifying, in giving extra overlayed information and in reducing the size of cameras when going for the EVF, whille many consumers have grown up taking images on their mobile phones, and have no relationship to the viefinder. They have actually broken a couple of the barriers I talk about above. Firstly your camera becomes part of the scene, obvious but a social device in taking shots. There is nothing special about having it with you, and nothign special about group selfies. WHYSIWHYG - what you see is what you get, the frame of the camera is just a part of the scene, or the scene is looking at the frame and seeing themselves before it is taken. There is a continuum with only a narrow picture frame between the screen image and the wider reality around it when you hold the camera out to take a photo. You are taking your head out of the camera, usually letting the programmers who made the camera take care of the technical exposure and focus, and just picking your moment..... most of all as I say just above, it is the camera you have with you MOST.

Limitations of Your Mobile Device Camera

Unfortunetly there are many draw backs with mobile camera images, but do not let that influence you if you decide that you are maybe going to get  a shirt pocket camera versus a better mobile. Go for the mobile with the best in built camera from the range, and then of course you save yourself maybe half the buying price by not having spent your cash on a compact which will do little more at the sub 200 euro end of the market.

I dare say that there are paid ie professional photographers now who have only taken images on mobile phones, and probably work either for the mobile manufacturers or the networks in producing inspiring images which then of course eat up mobile network megabyte allowances!

The draw backs of mobile phone in built cameras are:

1) No good quality telefoto /zoom photography
2) No real control over blur ie always a deep depth of field
3) Often poor low light images with motion blur, speckled image noise and incorrect colours
4) Often poor controllability over shutter speed
5) Highlights and shadows are 'clipped' ie lack nuances
6) Sharpness for print quality is lacking
7) Usually dependent on the cameras own way of compressing images into jpegs and that can create banding and aliasing ie blocky images.

All of these are being addressed as I write. Panasonic have launched a "large sensor mobile phone- this promises to have less low light noise and better control over DOF,.There are intelligent blur filters and after effects which are getting very very good in faking it. The best mobiles now feature Shutter Priority ie shutter speed selectability and exposure control with live view. You can take black and white images or alter them instantly in any android or apple phone now.

However it has to be said that the drawbacks are only being clawed in partially and basically you cannot get a ferrari v12 in the body of a Mini. I would say as a photographer myself, that if you are upgrading mobile phone right now then look for the one with the best camera and most controllability now for your price and choose a mobile operatiing system around that. If though you are really keen to learn photography then do not waste your money on the best mobile camera, look for a compact camera which suits your ambitions and pocket.

Getting Your Head out of the Camera

What using a mobile though. as I say you get a very immediate interface to the world around  you and less of a barrier to people or the crop of the scene you are going to take. You can train your eye to take shots of what you see as being good, ie there is a subject or wholistic impression to be captured, and you frame that in a way which is clean and pleasing. You execute it without camera shake, and you adjust exposure or effects to make something which looks pleasing immediately. In fact you experiment with art filters on images and post processing with effects on the fly, taking maybe dozens of shots for fun. Not worrying about focus and shutter is actually a bonus.

The vast majority of DSLR owners have an entry level Canon or Nikon, and they set it to P, programme mode because that  is easy and they remember forgetting to turn it off F16 or a half second exposure when they did venture round the PASM wheel. So as a mobile phone photo artist you are in good company.

Often quoted is of course the percieved need of expandability, but in fact the vast majority of first time DSLR buyers stay with the kit zoom lens they bought the camera with until the whole camera becomes dated and loses its resale value by more than half, by which time they buy a new. Expandability means essentially buying more lenses and eventually upgrading a new body which is still  compatible with the system. The problem is that really the cost of the system is prohibitive for most buyers, they just have better things to spend their money on because buying an f1.8 lens for twice the price of their original camera kit just does not seem like good value.  If the cost of bodies have perhaps doubled in 20 years, the cost of system lenses, filters, flash units, tripods and so on have gone up more than three times. In my opinion, you get actually very much more for your money but wages have just not kept up for the majority of people in the last 20 years. A middle road APS-C system with four lenses, a good flash, filters and carry bag is probably around about three thousand pounds. That is more than twice a comparable system such as the OM or early AF EOS systems costed 27 years ago.

How Many Millimeters Do you Need?

Lenses though are a very good place to start in defining your needs in a camera.  The most obvious feature is the focal length which provides both the magnification and the field of view, and always referred to in "mm" and for historical reasons that is  then when talked about, converted to old momney ie 35mm camera equivalents. mFT has tghe kindest equivalency being half the lengths for which ever format of sensor chip you buy,  you willl find a 35mm equivalent either referred to in the instructions or you can search for it on the internet.

. In 'old money then the ranges are>

11mm and below: Fish Eye type images and highly distorted images.
22-24mm  Considered a strong wide angle, gives interesting perspectives and deep DOF, useful for landscapes and street photography or many creative approaches. These lenses function much better in digital photography than film, because the natural distortions of this very wide are corrected by in camera computing such that the edges do not appear unduly curved.
30-40 mm The 35mm lens is the classic compact lens of old, as it is compact while being wide enough for street photography and landscapes, while having natural depth of field which can lend itself to closer portraits or journalistic photos of people than telefoto lenses
50-55mm The classic nifty-fifty , this lens range has fallen out of favour, see my note below, but were often the very good standard, basic lenses fitted to cameras for first purchase. Slightly less magnification than eyesight, they cover a field of view quite similar to the human central field of attention, and that is perhaps why they were so popular, making it easy to frame images and capture desired detail.
75, 90, 120mm These are the classic lengths of portrait telefoto lenses, and my prefered working magnification for working with people and certain sports like sailing. They were affordable and had wide apertures which meant they could take very short depth of field shots, making for nice soft backgrounds and even a side of the face out of focus. The modern fast 'prime' lenses ie fixed length, for all the smaller formats are correspondingly much smaller than the full frame 135/35mm film which is a benefit. The usual kit zoom lenses usually cover this range from the wide, or from about 50mm eq, but lack the very fine depth of field in the full sized versions.
They create a noticeable magnification over eyesight and make it easier to work further away from the subject.  As mentioned they used to be very good value for money, being about 100 to 250 pounds for a film SLR. Now they arre partly obsolete due to zooms and have become expensive items often at professional prices. One way of getting a cheap upgrade to a current APS-C or in particular an mFT lens is to buy a convertor ring and buy a cheap second hand 50mm nifty fifty lens from an old film SLR. The drawback here is you will need to manually focus.

Zoom lenses which cover this range while also offering the very wide apertures of f2.8 and lower, are for most people prohibitively expensive being very often more than twice the price of the initial camera and lens. However you can work around this a little by using the longer end of an equivalent of 150mm to 250 mm and then backing off from the subject a few meters. You can then achieve a nice blurred background, but be aware that camera shake becomes worse the longer the focal length chosen. My zoom lens on FT which covers 80mm to 300mm does not need to be backed off very much, just a meter at 100mm eq to make for a nice subtle blur, while also it has to be said, keeping the whole of the face in focus.

Telefoto Lenses

150 - 600mm and beyond.  A typical useable length for nature photography is considered 400mm, and there is a trade off here between having to use a very stable tripod for the longer lengths and maybe being able to take some careful handheld shots at higher shutter speeds.

In the days of135/ 35mm film and at the longer ranges today, zooms were bulky and had quite restricted aperture values of f5.6 upwards as a start point,   so it made it hard to get a fast shutter speed to stop the amplified camera shake movement.

Working Out Your MM Needs

A very useful feature of modern jpeg images is that they usually contain embedded information, date and time of course, but also shutter speed and focal length. So if you have a cheap compact or your mobile you can get an idea of what lenght you use, and then you can start to look at some of your favourite photos or some photos you found frustrating.  Too far away, not close enough, not enough of the scenery and so on.

A very commonly sold modern camera type is the Superzoom which are chunky cameras with a telescopic zoom lens, offering at least as high as a 400mm equivalent often from 28mm wide. So you can take images from wide landscapes to wildlife. Unfortunetly the compromise is that they use small sensors to make the system less cumbersome and to keep the price down. If however you are happy with mobile phone image qaulity, and depth of field control is not important to you while being able to take birds-in-trees shots is, then the latest cameras are not bad, although you may find the picture qaulity is not even as good as the iPhone 6 or Galaxy s4, all be those with much more limited magnification.

Be honest with yourself. A long focal length is just a nice to have, it probably does not reflect the vast majority of pictures you take, while the bulk and limitations such as camera shake and need for a tripod, mean that lenses for an interchangeable camera are rarely used, while a super zoom aka bridge camera is used seldom on the long end, and you carry the bulk and reduction in image quality for no real reason.

However at the other end of the scale  a nice wide angle of 24 or 28mm you will get lovely landscapes, city scapes and so on without having to take panoramas and force people to click or scroll to get the impression. 

Good family portraits begin at around 45mm, head and shoulder shots, and as I say 80-120mm for heads and faces only. This is very well catered for in many smaller compact cameras. On MILC cameras and DSLRs often the kit lenses are just a little short, being around 85 mm max zoom and then you need to swap just to do head shot close ups. However you get a better control of shallow depth of field and background blur, and for APS-C and mFT you get good enough quality to be able to then crop in on shots and make really nice face portraits for example.

There are now though a very few compact cameras which offer this useful range of 24mm to 80/100mm in a zoom and have both a wide aperture of below f2.8 and a larger sensor. They are actually dearer than entry level DSLRs with their single kit lens, but in fact take as good photos while also being able to fit in a jacket pocket. Sony, Panasonic, Olympus and Canon all have enthusiast cameras some of which have the 1" sensor or larger like the mFT sensor and 1.5" sensor.

Lenses for Nice Blurry Backgrounds ?

Depth of field means how much of the image is in focus. For a wide angled landscape of the Scottish Highlands with a lake shore and an obligatory stunted tree, you want a deep sharpness ie extensive depth of field. For a blurred background in a portrait, you want to have a shallow sharpeness, a limited depth of field. The first deep type is actually very well achieved by the latest mobile phone cameras, and you can take very good scanning panoramas the camera stitches together. These are okay for use on facebook, and great if that happened to be an opportunity you didnt have another camera with you.

As I mention above you can cheat with longer focal lengths in achieving the same thing but it is far better to have  control over depth of field by essentially having a wide aperture in the main range of your defined needs, which I suggest are those of the enthusiast compacts I mention, or an interchangeable lens system camera with a more expensive zoom lens in the 24-90mm range. A very interesting alternative is to buy a kit camera and then a high quality 35mm semi wide which can be used for everything from close up portraits, body length shots, group shots, street architecture and landscapes.  You then queu your gadget legs to achieve zoom ie framing what you want. This also renders the camera very compact.
As you get better at photography you will decide that 'fast' lenses ie those with apertures of f2.8 and lower, are highly desirable because you not only get better control of shallow depth of field, but you can use faster shutter speeds to freeze action and avoid camera shake.

Lenses are really the key to photography and literally the window on the world for all cameras and image capture.

Reflecting on Your Needs Now

Now start adding layers of what you want to achieve. Action shots? Long smooth exposures in low light? Silky blurred out backgrounds? Telefoto nature photography? Super wide landscapes? Professional looking portaits and posibly setting up your own stuidio?  Flash free night time street shots ? Video with fidelity for your HDMI tv at home...

Now look at images you have taken and would like to have taken better. Then find images you love. Now go to a shop with some enthusiasts as staff, or if you dare, venture onto a photo chat room on the internet and start discussing those images and what you want to do before you start discussing camera models.

fredag 17. oktober 2014

Decided for the 2nd Time , Micro Four Thirds is Not for Me !

The first time I decided mFT was not for me was when I walked into a shop and picked up a PEN EP-1. I was a little captivated by the 1960s retro design, the 12mpx and the good quality lenses. However straight away it just did not feel right in the hand. I also looked at a G1 that day or another day, and decided nope, I wanted somethign a little bigger in my hand and with an OVF, like the old days.  I went for a well priced new FT Olympus E450.

Apart from the G/GH cameras, which I find a little small actually, mF T cameras are either retro or basic in ergonomics until you start adding grips or of course tout out for the OMD EM1 or GH4. The time for retro style selling is surely passed, there are only so many hipsters and does the asian market care if it looks like a 1972 Ricoh view finder 35mm cam'?  I just wanted something with substance, familiarity, critical mass in the hand.

After this as you know if you follow me, I built up the budget system many other entry level Oly users do, the 14/42 and 40.150 with the faster pretty much pro level 25mm pancake. I was going to go to the OM adapter ring and buy a couple of OM (my old OM stuff was stolen and the rest dissapated ) lenses but really the wide end is okay, no blur but the 14/150 saves the game and takes nearly all my family portrait keepers and nearly all I have published in print.

The problem is that it is all a bit combersome and a bit slow, added to no IBIS on the entry level Oly and piss poor mid ISO performance , with 400 not really being acceptable. It also has a really heavy mirror and shutter release movement which needs correcting for sub 125th sec with lock up delay for the mirror. ( try finding that, remote flash iradio trigger in camera, selectable curtain shutter, bracketing and WB preview and so on in other entry level cameras of 2010 or today for that matter!)  So now after almost five years of a lot of fun, much developing my photographic skills and artistic ability, and some notable frustration I am ready for a move.

However it will not be to mFT.

Why not? Well for a pocket sized camera I currently use my mobile phone like most all of us, so the body size is not so criticalI have big hands and like a feeling of weight and proportionality, substance as I say above, in my hand. mFt also has another huge negative and that is the gap between entry level glass and the fast glass. Due to the crop format, you are almost two stops down from APS-C, and this is a physical barrier. The big new pro zoom lenses show that in fact there is compromise and a high price to pay. They lack the range of the old queen and king of FT, the 12-60/50-200 Oly ED SWD glass and in fact are  not all that much smaller, they have to have the same diameter and apart  from the flange adapter, they need to go to their focal lengths too.

The alternative for me would be of course the wonderful 12-60/50-200 pair with an adapter ring and a....wait for it, only one Camera really works with these lenses and it is a big investment. It hardly can be compared to the D7100 for image output and the video is weaker than its panasonic cousins. (Video suddenly becomes a new hobby from this summer onwards!!!) Now this week actually there are two offers of well under 1000 euros for these lenses plus a 520 or a 630. Seems like a bargain? But wait I have to then still put up with low ISO on all but the E5 if that falls in price and no video, which is annoying because I am not interested in lugging my camcorder and having piles of SD cards to go through after a holiday. 

If olympus were to bring out an E50 or E700 type SLR mirrored with the new sony 16mpx and 4K vid and so on, then I would get this glass. Or an FT mirrorless, or a bigger mFT body in a mid range price. They are not going to do any of that, they are more interested in petite asian hands fondeling their wares in the shops than caucasian quarter backs fumbling with the small dials and touch screen.

The thing about mFT for me as an amateur is that the glass for the blur per dollar is just not worth it. In the wide to mid range where I want to throw the back ground then I have no way apart from post. Which is Doable. Okay there is a lot of second hand kit, but basically only the GH3 , 4 and OMD EM1 interest me and they are all pretty expensive compared to the D7100, and the pentax k50. I want weather proofing so that limits me again, and then I cannot use the SWD lenses on the GH cameras. Bummer

Back up here then, I have a nice little system for my daughter to use and to take on holiday.  If I did buy the glass and say an E520 or E630 then I would have a nicer system, and with the E5 I would have a pro system then for sailing and maritime photography (in clement weather that is!) I couuld do it all NEW with the K50 and get better DOF control. better high ISO, more MPX of course and then decent enough video, in a system arguably tougher than the e5 with the pro WR glass combi. Bigger yes.

Back up there also on affordable mFF and my need for a "glove compartment camera" Panasonic have indeed pulled it  off with the excellent little gem, the LX100 which takes near mFT quality image technically, but with that lovely fast glass , latest generation DR,  good mid to high iso performance and with great video. All for well under a grand, 699 pooonds in blighty. Short on the loing end? Well it opens up other things for me than my wonderful 40/150 plastic megatastic Oly lens. It will be with me much more often too which is the best camera to have, and it can take DSLR quality images for screen use at least, if not maybe being absolute pico peeking sharp when opened up lower than f8.

I would expect with wishful thinking that there would be some lenses like this in mFT which are then kit quality but with sub f 3 performance, but I am wishing again. It is more likely that there will be more mFT fixed lens cameras, especially in the bridge area which can then compete ...but with what? In effect they are competing with mFT in terms of the price point, but deliver better image value due to more DOF control.   These will though be from the main two or three manufacturers already in mFT of course and will compete with the next generation of larger sensor compacts, of which maybe two will use the FT sized sony 16mpx chip anyway.

I see that as the future, would like to see more mid range prices in mFT, there is though a good used market for the primes, but also I would like to see a new FT camera or mFT mid range camera optimised in ergonomics for the FT lenses and new big lenses from Oly in mFT (300mm inc next year)

onsdag 15. oktober 2014

Panasonic Lumix DMC LX 100 Shows Its Value

Finally the jury is in final discussion in the back rooms, while all over the papers it is clear the LX100 has won its case.  Purely and simply it is far better value for money than a mid level mFT camera with either the 12/35 or the oly 12/40 fast zooms.

Technically though it can be argued that the camera needs some tweaks to its jpeg software. The evidence finally from digital photography review, is right there now which both appeases the prosecution for the pixel people, while also basically making panasonic go do some tweaks on the fast pass jpeg processing, more on that below.

The new mFT sensor camera has gone back in my mind to some of the soul of compact camera photography. It is a small tool for taking impressive, high visual impact pictures, doing this a little incognito even candid, and basically is something you take with you when you dont take a DSLR. It has a tactile, eyes off camera way of just going between A and S or P, just a click without needing to line the screen or EVF up to line of sight. You are going to be working with the settings for this little, inconspicuous beauty while your eyes are firmly on the subject. Head up out of camera I call it. Being a photographer and not a camera technician. Capturing high image value while of course not perfecting pixcel peeping  image quality, it is a compact not a mid format studio camera!!

Not convinced ? Firstly look at the RAW and compare to the LX7 and G7X and then the GM1. It seems that Panny will have to address a couple of in camera processing issues because the raw processing (at this early stage of convertor software) catches back details and adds some subtlety to the colours for the LX100.

It is interesting that the LX 7 raw and jpeg files show little difference at all, meaning that Panalieca have fully optimised the jpeg engine there, while there needs to be some optimising on the LX100 before it ships out. I suggest they take the sharpness up, and link that to f stop, take the contrast up again linked to low f stops in particular, alter the gradation slightly and then drop the saturation of colours slightly while allowing for a bit more brightness, possibly achieved anyway in the higher contrast.

Then have a look at the depth of field control, which for the money is best in class. That is the rub for mFT, you need to go up in focal length and back off before you get it. Irritating in a portable camera, curable only with expensive top end lenses.

This is the big problem for me with mFT, you have to spend a huge amount of money for the fast lenses really, okay they are good and comparable to the better Canikon APS-C quality, but so far there is a lack of budget lenses which maybe compromise a little on something but make up for it with killer speed and depth of field control. I would hate to suggest that the mFT federal bureau are holding up mFT software for new APS=C lens conversions from the OEM folk at Sigma and Tamron. I expect though maybe a mid range fast zoom which trumps the lens shift on the two Brand wide to mid fasties and is much faster wide open, say an f1.8/f 4 25-75 from tamron, and also a killer portrait lens at around f 2 / f 2.8 with a macro switch from sigma. Possibly collapsing, we cannot turn our eyes away from these systems being compact. From the main marques, Panny will probably do a couple more motor zoom video lenses, while Oly, well a long end zoom and of course the previewed 300mm f2.8 is out soon, around maybe 2000  USD all be it. Kodak have a whacky races long telephoto which although it may need manual focus, with focus peaking it may be a bit of a fun lens to own.

Also the fast mFT glass is not that much smaller than say the wonder duo from Olympus for FT DSLRs , the 12/60 and 50/200mm covering 24mm to 400mm at f2.8. This is because it is pretty much impossible to make them any smaller . All that has become smaller is the camera bodies, mainly by reducing this flange distance and removing the pentaprism over the older mirror touting FT DSLRs. Ye cannae defy the laws of physics, f stop is an absolute length to diameter relationship. Given also the need for software correction for the super short flange to film plane distance (which makes mFT possible)  it seems that optically both Panny and Oly have reached the limits of the speed to range trade off in zooms, and are not willing to go any further. The LX100 trumps this by exceeding the speed on f stop wide open, and then compacting down more than the 12/35 and only beingg a tweet short of the 12/40.

On telefoto, let us talk tele-conversion, I think that in fact panny may have a 1.4 teleconvertor front end in mind for the LX100  ( what other up selling opportunities do they have????? an LX110 ??) which I could see myself using if it was okay in the centre, used maybe a further aspect crop and then was actually under 200 USD.

Need more convincing that this camera could just maybe take much better artistic shots than your five year old DSLR or your point and shoot ???  More links then > cut and paste them at will to see what the camera has to offer in depth of field (blurry backgrounds) and





As with mFT though, it could end up replacing your DSLR because of the creative quality of images you can capture, and because you miss fewer photo opportunities.

Now in effect this camera is a 12 mpx mFT camera and as you may expect for the size and not least price, it will not take as good a technical image quality as any mFT camera with the fast zooms mentioned above. However it will achieve the same over all artistic impression, the same pop and bang for youse in the USA, for a far better price.

Essentially you are though getting only those 12mpx, all be it in a nice multi aspect choice which appeals to me. BNut the D4s is just launched with 16  mpx so what are we moaning about ? many an only D3 on 12 too. Ah, wandering onto compact camera forums is bad for the psyche. You are not really getting then the Sony 16 mpx mFT chip performance, nor their 1" in terms of ISO. You are getting better colours though.

Also you are only getting just above eye sight magnification at 75 mm, which is short of the sweet range for portraits being around 90 - 120mm in old money, the Full Frame SLR days. Hang on though a minute, this is a really small camera and very unobtrusive. It  focuses super fast apparently in low light too, and focuses down to good minimum distances (with a macro setting too btw, which is a real plus for many of us) so you can do go-go-zoom-gadget-legs or arms and get closer in. Also the centre of the images are pretty sharp and detailed whatever the fringes are, so you have maybe an acceptable digital crop post zooming of upto 1.5, down to around 8 mpx for printed output, but acceptable down to I would say 4 mpx for putting up on Flickr and of course, then 2 mpx for anything else on the web were it will be shown in no more than 1 mpx resolution on screen.

In video you are getting 4 K which means 8 megapixels per frame, yes you need a pair of big SD cards which will cost you maybe 300 dollars. There is an HDMI out which presumably can give a live feed for that quality for recording perhaps onto something external, I am not getting my hopes up. On a 64 gig chip you maybe get 20 minutes of 4K and an hour of HDMI. What you do get is GH3 quality sharpness and dynamic range, plus panasonics rather nice muted you could say natural, beigey colour pallette. Also there are art filters, mostly complete junk, but a couple I saw would really be nice to use to give a feel for the shot. Videography here I come any ways, I have a couple of hours to cut to 40 minutes from a Blue Grass Music Festival from a camcorder. So this does actually excite me,  but so far no external mike is a bad, it is like selling a luxury car without sun visors.

Is mine on pre order? Well no, I do not want to buy this camera before I handle it and feel that the 75mm long end is acceptable, and that focus works well on moving objects and low light.

Panasonic LX100 Hands-On Field Test (With HC-X100…: http://youtu.be/4K7v3IyuMnE

mandag 13. oktober 2014

A Quandry of Choice.....Choosing a Compact and A New System

Ok let us get into this, I am at a quandry ...what to buy, and when....

Firstly Compact, specifically ...Am I Madly in Love with the Panasonic LX100?

LX100  Lumix DMC Range from Panasonic

It is a real shame that this camera has been lumped in the LX range because it really is an mFT camera, just with a single fixed zoom lens. So the LX5 to LX7 owners are all over the camera with claims from early jpegs that it is not as good a camera even or not worth the extra money. They should have called it a G WHZ..The gee whizz.

Here are the questions I should ask myself

What is this camera replacing? My DSLR?

No, but yes, it is replacing my DSLR only in so much as my mobile phone camera does. It is really a replacement to the HTC desire camera and also an old Konica periscope lens camera, which was not bad, still works actually.

Like my Pentax K1000, the E450 is going to stay, it is not worth selling and I love it.

Is the LX 100 worth the Money?

Well that is a big ask., Yes when on top of the LX7, no when compared to other cameras a hundred dollars either side of it perhaps.

It has EVF, 11 fps, 4k vid, in camera raw developer,  f1.7 and acceptable iso 3200 perf. All that has got to be 300 dollars at least more than the lx7.

Is it then, better value than going into mFT?

Micro Four Thirds is a bit of rip off IMHO until now that is, and then you have to think that they have a pro range which are not that much cheaper than good entry level full frame cameras.

The main reason the Lumic LX100 is better value than mFT is the fast lens. You have to pay 1200 USD for the 12mm (= 24mm ff) wide end fast f 2 ish zooms.

How Else Does it Beat mFT?

It beats it by size of course too. mFT plus the fast wide glass is not all that small, you have to go to the collapsing /retracting lenses and they are a lot slower. Basically this camera for artistic effect if not absolute sharpness, equals the 1000 usd 12-35mm panny and then you have no body.

Is this the Right Time to Buy a First of Type Camera?

Absolutely not!  I would be crazy to buy it, not knowing when it will be "obsolete" , outcompeted and therefore likely to crash in new price.

However I buy a camera as an investment and an excitement! I have had the E450 four and a half years, it is completely technically obsolete, yet on a sunny day or with a tripod it can take as good images as any 35mm film photographer could in the 1980s.

I would however, have been disappointed to be owning an XZ 2 now from Oly, with the new prices being half what they were, maybe in anticipation a 3 will be out soon, but that camera is quite obsolete. Once again though, if you thihnk of two years of shooting with a jacket pocket camera with that level of control and the great OOC colours then it would not be thrown away money, and now you have a camera to keep in the glove compartment.

Down Sides of the LX100?

Well the jury is still considering technical evidence. It can be that the lens is soft ish or that the jpeg engine settings need to be adjusted.

It is rather short on the long end, queue shanks pony zoom, but that lovely 24mm eq is what I am in for.

EXIF myself, well of course all my "peachy keepers" and shots I have sold or won competitions with have been done on the Olympus poor man's secret weapon, the FT 40-150 which has stellar glass encased in a plastic coat. It really is liz hurly naked under a black plastic mac'.

But given that before I used the fast primes on 35mm and also my mobile, or the nifty fifty 25mm now gets slung on the e450 on duller days, or light camera need days, then I am using zoom zoom gadget legs!

I think the long end is too short for really good portraits and especially candid shots. But that is where the crop zoom of quality images comes in, and also new ways of taking shots, with a smaller less obtrusive camera.


Well as BH point out and the Camera Store, they have taken out a level of twisting and turning. You basically go onto the dials and one twist and you have not only selected function, but also value for shutter or f stop. Combine both, then you are instantly in full manual without having to peer through the view finder, or on the camera sccreen and start finding where you were from your last settings.


Well until this year I was a bit anti video on DSLRs and so on, and generally saw video for us as kids poop for first time, gaa gaa, first day school....you know, flarey poor DR and just a fun record. In fact I just delegated it all back to the wife with the camcorder responsibility, which meant both less shots and also poorer attention to detail .

Then I went with the camera to a blue grass music festival out in the woods, and it was so cool to have video and sound. I have yet to cut a little film together, but I am hooked.

Ok sound has to be synced in, the in camera mike is probably useless, but EDR 4K video!???? I have gone from the stone age and am driving a porsche!

fredag 10. oktober 2014

Panasonic Triumph With Their LX100 !

Finally we get some photographers willing to take just a little time to think about what this camera can do and how the Panasonic LX100 should be shown off.

Sharpness is technically not any better perhaps than the smaller sensor competition, but it is perfectly acceptable to me and when I get publishers asking for SMALLER files so their inboxes don't explode and they can work super quick setting up for Litho, then I feel this is pixel peeping and the detractors are missing the point of the camera.

Panasonic have in fact probably found out that high end DSLR owners from the main brands are not interested in mFT as a second or that all important, "travel" camera because to get anywhere near decent bokeh you either have to pay big, big money for the zoom glass, carry even more dollars in your back in three fast primes, or get used to backing up from the subject with the longer kit lenses. (which works just fine actually even on the kit 40-150 type lenses btw, nice bokeh over eq 100mm, you just need to back up for some shots)

So how to lever more people into the brand, and how to sell more sensor chips so your in-costs on those are cheaper by volume?

As pointed out this camera trumps their GX and latest GM cameras by size, 4K video and the lens it comes with. Although 75mm is a little short, at f2.8 (eq maybe ok f4.5 on FF) it will take portraits with a thrown background, and in post you will get an easier magic select to then further modify the blur-bokeh.

It does a few things in camera too with RAW and the histogram which may seem a little trite for a compact, but just add value for the clued up DSLR photographer who wants to also avoid time in post when they are out snapping with a compact.

It is too short for my sweet spot use from my EXIF I see, but that is then only because I need to change where the hell I stand and how I compose or crop in post. Like when I go out with a prime lens on my DSLR, a pancake or the like and just take shots with the camera in a small case or no case at all.

People are nit picking away from the G7 and the RX100 III but these cameras are not really in the same sector, and hell what is their resale value going to be next year when sony do a NEX to compete with the LX100 and canon bring out their new mid sized (ie large for compact single lens) G 8 or what ever it will be.

Also Leica may do something weird using the whole 16mpx of the mFT chip you never know, and sony may break in with a short zoom, single lens "street" camera based on their new FF mirrorless. I would say Sony are ripe for that, thus the LX110 would be the lower end of a new segment once only a Leica niche.

I have photographed with SLRs since 1982, so I like dials and the A-ring and the kind of certainty they bring. Thumb Wheels with PASM are irritating for me with my formative years in fully manual cameras.

I need a lift right now for many reasons, and I just cant justify upgrading from Olympus FT, it is money thrown down the drain to try and bridge between E series and the EM1 with the two "fast" zooms. They are over priced on the used market still and dont work all that well on the new on chip PDAF OMD model which in itself is a little over priced if you dont get a 12-40 deal.

torsdag 9. oktober 2014

What Next for DF , a Df ? what system next

You know I very nearly jumped ship from Olympus as soon as the Nikon D90 was on the market, and only the recession continuing to bite kept me away from that camera and a three lens set up.

However despite being bitter at Oly' for never making an E6 or as it may be an E8 and E700 now with the sony 16mpx chip, I do not regret holding onto my E450 and three lens line up. It has forced me to live within limitations of the camera while exploring my own new territories. For an entry level camera it has SO many features you do not get with CanNikon, and it is really neat in size. It gets mistaken for an OMD these days.

Although I dare say I could spend more time on late curtain flash  and some other little used stuff on the E450 it is now high time I moved on. I no longer see the challenges of getting some shots, rather the frustrations of ISO image noise, no IBIS and fairly slow glass even at f2.8.

I still love my E450 and have no intention of selling it, but what next?

Freds Needs

1) I need something like the LX100 or if there is a 1" sony chipped XZ3 . THis is not a replacement to a DSLR, it is a supplement to my general enjyment of image capture, and would be pulled out when my mobile currently is.

2) I need then another slightly more serious camera system

3) I want weather proofing for sailing and skiing

4) I want good ISO 3200

5) I want affordable glass which does the following

a) FF eq 24mm -400mm in two lenses, ie the same as buying the Zuiko 12-60/50-200

b) a compact prime either at eq 32/35mm somewhere or at 80 - 120 mm

c) A very compact pancake

d) some retro lens conversion

e) a market for second hand glass, with some people dumping it off!! LOL

6) IBIS then over the need for all lenses to be OIS

7) Video is becoming a must after this years blue grass festival and a sailing event. Why carry a camcorder and a DSLR like i did at the festival? Why not have the kids playing ball in HDMI? 8 mpx frame selection for stills would be cool in camera too, but can be done in post anyway.

8) Wifi is nice to have now c'mon it is a must these days

9) the consumerist in me wants to explore something new! Sad but true.

10) doesnt need wafer thin DOF, and does not correspondingly need to break the bank

Not far down the list and in combination with not spending the earth, then the WR points one way and that is the not exactly foible free, Pentax

But wait, the K50 is a stunner of a camera, ok not the latest video but Nikon APSc standard AF and ISO performance, and "kit" lenses which are WR and pretty much pro lenses of years gone by from Canon without a metal flange.   The rubbery look is actually starting to look retro, like some kind of 1992 EOS competitor that never was.

You could say though that I could do all I want with a WR version of the FZ1000, or I could go find some other MLILC system to suit, but you know, I often feel my oly is small in my hands !

Pentax has its limitations but really the "kit" glass is pretty specialist, sharp and the thing is it is NOT slower than the supposedly royal performance of the FT olympus lenses in f2 and f2.8. That equates to f 4 in APS-C, so hold up! Bokeh is fine, and then you have higher ISO to go beyond the exposure.  I dont subscribe to the concept punted of " total light", it is a linear relationship.

It is a big jump in size though, so I will need to go get touchy feely. The other big deal is that Pentax cameras depreciate like hell when a new model comes out, as the stores sell off the k30 right now for example. They are a bit quirky, like olympus in FT days, so some just fall away because their CaNikon flocking mates take better shots than they can, or just slag them off. Others get pretentions for full frame of course. and then you dump the whole system on the market to raise the deposit and first three payments on an FF with two lenses.

First purchase is not a DSLR no matter what, enthusiast compact zoom cameras have come so far that now you really have choice at 300 euros to 1000 Euros. The most exciting is the LX100 but the best value is the XZ2, presumably an XZ3 is on the way. Then you have CaniSony erm, yeah those two, and Leica for some more cash and then the p9000 from NikoNikon ahem, yeah.

Sad as I am I still get excited about the E450, but also fall back into stopping myself and thinking, will there be camera shake? will there be any Bokeh or enough so POST can auto select the subject for laying on blur? Basically the E450 will not blow-away enthusiast compacts any more, used mediocrily a canon G series could eat it three years ago. Still it makes great images and will be in the family for years to come what ever I get next.

Olympus Leave A Generation Behind....no DSLR, No Play

My little foray into the LX100 and wish list for mFt are kind of side shows to what is creeping up on me.

It is not for me that my DSLR is out of date, a 2010 model. If we had no digital and it had not been stolen and divested then my two body OM system would have been serviced and used today, I did not like AF when it came out and get frustrated by it now.

My problem is that I am finally outgrowing my Olympus E450, I have gone to many of the edges of its performance envelope and come back happy, but increasingly frustrated.

I was set to upgrade through first the swd 12/60 and then a new body and the 50-200 but the E5 was a bit of a too little too late from the company who obviously had their eyes set on bigger gross margin in the PEN series. Okay you could do a really good travel pro set up for under 4000 euros or dollars but  then you just were not really getting a pro level camera.. Then the D90 blew it away, all be it without weather sealing.

Olympus have tried with the OMD EM1 to put on chip PDAF as we predicted so that it would function with the expensive glass. But wait, I dont have the glass and it does not work ALL that well anyway. Also the OMD has less than great ergonomics for me. Yeah, small light and weather proofed.

Given the f stop equivalent of APS-c for the fast lenses is about f3.5 then you start to see that DOF control is still lacking in the mFT system for the price of those rather extortionate fast lenses, especially the new zooms. There is no legacy glass to call on which will work acceptably.

Surely Olympus should look at the figures and just see if it is worth putting the tooling out to Thailand OEM and getting the 16mpx sony chip into the E5 body and making a cheaper non articulating lens version also with WR to compete with the only other sub 1000 usd with lens system, the pentax K50?  Alas no. OMD sells in torrents, PENS in deluges so sating the tiny appetite of keen E series users is.

Actually I dare say you could do a whole load of tests and conclude the K50 with its two base zoom lenses f3.5 are actually better than the E5 and the 12-60/50-200mm at well under half the price. So olympus would be making a new system which is likely to be twice as expensive as its main rival in quality, with the only advantages being size/weight and glass investment assets from before.

The really irritating thing for me wanting to upgrade is the fact that so many Olympus users ARE enthusiasts. There are not the droves of CaNikoSon where there is a good second hand market and people often just want rid of stuff they got as presents, or see as no longer trendy or just not used. So Oly have held their value of the dearer glass. 400 euros for the two serious first lenses each, the 50mm macro and the 14/54 Mrk II both of which will be five years old or more, and both of which will have been well used by said enthusiasts.

As with Olympus OM glass and all the Tamron - sigma OM mounted guff from the 80s, even a good enough lens fantastic for its day will loose any value. In fact holding on to them just too long means that suddenly, suddenly everyone wakes up to see that the world has moved so far on from your original system that it is obsolete. Worthless.  The value of putting SWD as a new or used purchase onto EM1 is negligible , you are getting an oversized, over priced, bad deal.

I have seen one 14-54 and one 12-60 bundled in with a Exxx hundred series camera and the kit lenses, for around five hundred euros, but you know what, a five year old lens which has the E5 as the latest usable body is not worth that. I would pay 700 euros for the two SWD zooms, not a penny more and they would have to work.

mandag 6. oktober 2014

Panasonic Lumix LX100 Cat Among the Pigeons...Pros and Cons?

Sample shots and so on are now running from the usual sources as a trickle, which will soon become a torrent for the LX100 wee beastie from Panasonic.

Several of us in the forums predicted a single lens compact version of the mFT system, mostly we thought it would be either Olympus or perhaps the Leica brand who would swing in. However it was the R&D power house at Pana/Leica which got it out, first and maybe uniquely for a while at least.

"Large" sensor compacts are of course the whole raison d'etre for mFT and its immitators, and the life line which has kept Leica going as a brand apart, based on its core values and probably a well leveraged customer base. However single lens zoom compact cameras were still generally poking around in the smaller 1" (square inch) sensor, all be that with some very pleasing results, they were based on pushing the chips and most of all the in camera hard wired processing, especially the jpeg engine, to make flattering images, which after all is what the compact segment has been doing since the early days. High contrast, over sharpened, saturated images and now with a degree of smoothing to reduce noise. This area has been of course influenced by the pixel power ignorance that more pixels is better, and that digital crop zooms on these tiny chips is of some value.

Now there are several cameras at the high end of this from Fuji in particular in their X range with in built lenses, but it seems that Panasonic will indeed trompe le monde with their offering.  Why is that so and what may be the draw backs of this camera?

Pro's of the Lumix DMC LX100

1) Large sensor, proven mFT quality, dynamic range and ISO performance
2) Fast Lens, which is truly good for depth of field
3) Wide 24mm end - this is a deal maker!!!
4) Small size. It is inside jacket pocket size!
5) GH/GM/GH Features
6) 4K video
7) Clean design, no tilting screen and other stuff to break
8) Useable EVF
9) Price !! compared to mFT of the same f stop as a system


1) Panasonic's bad colour pallette in camera - skin tones and some odd magentas in particular
2) The long end is only 75mm, just useful for portraits
3) Potential softness in images with sub f4.0 aperture
4) Maybe also Softness and colour abberations at medium to high ISOs.
5) Quite complex menus, lack of multi button allocation to customise ?
6) First of type issues perhaps ?
7) No flash and other things like utility connector (mic in etc) and tilting screen, no touch control on the screen. LCD and not AMOLED screen, quite small these days too.
8) You cannot upgrade lenses to bigger telephoto than 75mm

Comments on the Design

I think it is kind of a bit me too in design" Hey look a retro camera , looks like a 1980 Ricoh range finder camera" , although it is very clean and does have simple rubber ergonomic pads which make it really look like a one hand operated street journalist camera. This is where they want to play, it competes with the Fuji xs and of course the PENS and Leicas, and is smarter than the Canon and Sony competitors.

Lost in Menus

It seems this camera will be like some other Pannys, big on menus when you want to do quite ordinary set ups like auto bracket, or use some of the funky features like video to still panorama.

Buttons and Dials

There is part of me which really likes the idea, like the Ricoh classic 35mm compact of the late 70s, that you have a good old aperture ring on the lens, and a shutter ring, with an exposure adjust wheel. Then I think, heck that is not really how I use a modern camera. Yes a clicking function ring on the lens, but rather a conventional DSLR thumb wheel for spinning though ASP settings, or useable with other features like exp' compensation.

The Canadian Eh? Camera Store did a pretty honest reveiw, got real excited and then backed off on the dials and wee buttons which did not seem customisable but did seem to get hit when feeling the way to the shutter release button

Bang for Buck / the IQ to Wonga Equation.

This camera will retail in europe for around 900 euros, plus of course you will want a big, fast expensive SDHC card for it, pushing it up over the 1000 euro mark. But then that is it! No more costly lenses, no more temptation to try a prime, or save up for the latest wide to mid range zoom. Essentially you have just bought yourself a 12mpx mFT camera with a 12/35 f2.8 lens for the price of JUST that lens plus a kit lens in your first purchase of the package. Add a comparable body and you are up at at least half the price again.

Okay, back off there, you would buy mFT for all the expandability ?  Well the fast primes and the new fast zooms are just WAY over priced. You are talking pro prices onto the format which inherently is not as good at DOF and a few other parameters than Full Frame.

Buying on a budget with kit lenses, you could go for a double kit with the two zooms, where the longer zoom makes an adequate portrait lens, but the lenses are quite slow and you run into short depth of field and hyperfocal distance. Okay olympus now boasts great high ISO performance, 16mpx croppability and improved IBIS on their top cameras but to get the same IQ as the new LX100 you are talking twice the money for body -glass combo. 

Thank fully though, Oly have sold a tonne of OMD cameras and Panny has sold wads of Lumix mFT so there is a second hand market out there, with quick sellers offering bargains if you are up early in the morning. So you could be looking at a 14/16 mpx body with the ISO performance, a long kit zoom with IS ( alternatively oly IBIS), a new fast zoom and either one of the wonderful primes such as the 17 or the 45 for around 900 euros on a very 'must sell today to buy a D4 " basis. Because more basic consumers have dabbled with advanced photography with mFT, but find their iPhone or S4 takes most of their actual shots, there is a get shot of it mentality out there which sets the cat amongst the pigeons of the old enthusiast sellers market, who would rather not sell than get less than 2/3rds the new price out of their kit.

A good thing about Panny is there penetration to the new high street /shopping centre chain stores so I will be able to pop out and have a play very, very soon with this camera and what I will be looking for is

1) Portrature - will this camera take those once a year iconographic family shots which I know I can get on my DSLR  ?  Is 75mm and f2.8 enough for me ?

2) Depth of field for portraits of couse, but also other things

3) Focusing - will there be foibles and mis hits?

4) Mode controllability , will the menus frustrate me?

5) Soft IQ when wide open ?

6) Peripheral abberations to IQ especially in 16>9 mode ?

Why I May Buy ASAP?

As you can tell dear reader, I am really champing at the bit on this camera. It takes my need to experiment with 24mm, semi macro and not least high DR, high res' video and exceeds this by having a f1.7 at the wide end and 4K video.

Also I have a burning need to get away from DSLR because I am ahem, using my mobile in far, far to many photo opportunities because the DSLR with three lenses, despite being Oly FT, is a whole camera bag. I also see that in mFT I would be carrying around three lenses and irritated in wet or dusty conditions about changes of lens.

Furthermore I now need high ISO. Have mono pod will travel, but need high ISO

In terms of resale too, I reckon a quick trial followed by purchase is low risk with this camera, it is likely not to be upgraded by panny for at least 18 months, giving a big resale window. They are good at stemming leaks in panny so that bodes also well.

The only reasons not to get this would be if an OMD system came on the market with a fast zoom and 45mm, and one wider prime for 1100 Euros, but that is unlikely. In any case my biggest hole is for a carry anywhere, point and shoot wonderful shots without worrying.

Alternatively the other reason would be that olympus come out with an XZ based on the mFT 16mpx chip and double trump the new king of compacts!!

fredag 3. oktober 2014

Panasonic Trompe Le Monde With the DMC-LX100

I have been wish listing for a long time now a compact camera which uses the mFT four thirds aspect 'large' sensor in a compact with non interchangeable lenses. I reckoned Olympus would be first out, or perhaps a new player or even Leica, but it turned out to be their parent and current kings of compact enthusiast cameras Panasonic with their new Lumix-DMC-LX100 wonder machine.


 Canadians ----camera review 12   Minutes of the LX100 in the field!

Several of my predictions have come absolutely true, but anyone with a reasonable understanding of how cameras work, the current line up of models available in mFT system cameras and a bit of imagination could come up with namely:

1) Fast Lens, compact retracting lens
2) Lens elements individually adjusting
3) Wide end 24mm eq
4) Some compromise on long end to keep size down and f stop light
6) EVF
7) Not being able to use the whole mFT chip

The latter is a kind of quirk of the line of thinking that something has to give it you start trying to build something which physically must be almost as broad as it is long ie the f stop is a physically defined factor, you cannot escape the need for wide glass and in mFT, software correction. This prediction was also made in light of the fact that there is no point in trying to make an optimalised mid sized chip to be enveloped in the light circle of the lens when you have standard production of mFT and have optimised so much software for this, in parrticular JPEG engine and autofocus.

The camera is kept really quite small, not tiny for the asian market, and for my large hands I do not see anthing but advantage.

To cut to the quick I will include links to other people's run through the look and feel and controls below.

Here though are some key questions and some observations>

1) Quite short top end focal length  of 74mm. 

This means that the camera is actually competing for my EXIF with my kit lens, my oly 25mm f2.8 super lens, and of course my mobile phone and shelved older shirt pocket Konica (which took some great, great creative shots which stand up to 24" prints btw, more on the megapixel issue below)

2) Outcompetes older Olympus FT and mFT for price, size, MPX, and ISO

Where this outcompetes my current Olympus set up is that it does the range 24/70mm in glorious sub f 3 and with better ISO performance, onto a higher megapixel base plus I quite like alternative aspect shots, 1:1 and 16:9 are acvctually favourites in post proc!

Of course then it also becomes a jacket pocket camera to replace my mobile, which I do take some stunning shots with but always regret the IQ and not having my Oly system with me.The best camera is the one you have with you!!!

So in terms of thinking about getting into the mFT system with a fast 'street lens' then you are talking about quite an investment pre GH1 and EM5 or OMD body wise, with the 12/35 and 12/40 being still grossly expensive lenses which are a bit over specced in terms of the amateurs who will mostly be buying them.

3) How wil lit perform at the longer end with bokeh and the OIS system?

Two questions from the one thing/ how does it perform at the loing end? It is a focal length just into useable portaiture, so it must have decent bokeh, and for hand held the OIS has to work at the long end otherwise it is just a little icon label not worth the ink it is printed on.  In my FT experience and from lining up to buy the f2.8 SWS lenses, it is enough but not that much, it needs IS and it needs high ISO to work, and bokeh is short of APS-C for the same focal length and aperture.

4) This Camera has KILLER video.

I was not much into video before, and relegated the CD card camcorder to being used by other family members while I took stills. But I have really changed my mind, especially with the XZ2 on the market which was impressive.

I now see video as a whole new art, integrating to my other hobbies and of course family chronicles.

With 4K video and mFT chip qaulity, this is just a boon.

The only fly in the ointment seems to be the lack of a microphone jack, although that may be just overlooked with an option for a hot shoe adapter?

5) Flash. Not inbuilt, no big issue especially if they have included remote radio triggering in camera, so you can get any flash unit and pop it in your extra inside pocket.

6) Should I just Wait for Something Even Better?

It seems panasonic have gathered everything they could and pressed GO ....but maybe it is too good to be true? 

I am not waiting long on the fence, the only comments are it is not weather sealed and it is quite short at the long end.

However it is going to be about 200 / 600 Euros cheaper than getting into the equivalent mFT with fast lenses and an EVF, plus they will be a bit bigger and the ergonimics poorer.

mandag 11. august 2014

Quick WIsh List - mFT

Here is an impromptu wish list for something all Olympus

EM1 ergonomics and features
zoom f2.8 over range 12-40 and 25-150 - save me doing so many lens swaps in the mid range 30-60
an f2 or better portrait short zoom 30-80mm
a macro convertor ring which maybe crops the frame for best results
Depth of Field / Focus auto bracketing for macro
Focus Lock / Focus range lock combined with focus peaking
Blue tooth speaking settings
Auto file back up and "keeper" double back up. Auto delete all non keepers from earlier shoots when docked. USB memory stick dump possible.

In reality though today, what is there as a system for me? 

Firstly there really is no fall back short of the 16mpx sony chip ,and then with viewfinder built in. Hence OMD.

I see very little point now in the em1 because the swd lenses are expensive second hand, so expensive in europe that hand baggage imports of new lenses from the states or far east are cheaper.  People think they can hold their value and now there is a new body to take them-  if not excell with them screwed on- the prices for the two swd zooms which do it all are way too high. The 12-60 used on ebay and amazon and our local finn.no are around 800 euros, which is more than the new mFT 12-40. When a new oly fast zoom comes out in the range say 40 to even 120, then the golden ed pro zooms of old will be foot notes in the book of Olympus's digital adventure.

A better bet is now loosing value and being sold on some nice E3s and E30s, the venerable 14-54 mrk II. The mark one is also being punted on E1's and hundred series cameras. These packages are around 400 to 600 euros, and you could pretty much dump the body in the bin as far as i am concerned. If you are getting the mark II plus some other lenses of note such as the wide zoom or 75-300, then that is a bargain. People are a bit prone to want to sell their whole system if it is pre E5 E620. For latter day cameras with quality lenses the lenses are usually quoted seperately after a bait price on the body with the kit lenses.

Even the mark I seems to work on some mft bodies, but it is thed mark II 14-54 which was contrast detect optimised and has a second to none manual focus.  This works across all the ep compacts from 3 vintage,  and the omd range of course. It is a more compact lens than the 12-60 and is actually faster in the mid to longer range on f stops. 

But then it lacks that nice eq 24mm for lakeland shores with mountain panoramas, city scapes and weird candids. Well on mft there are good wide primes and you now get amazing iso performance compared to four thirds E series cameras so you dont need a soft wide open 22-28mm range. Also people are far more consumerist about the fashion of system compacts, and dump kit cheap to make the down payment on their next bling thing. Often that means an earlier PEN body with one kit lens or two, but with one quality wide prime or the 45mm prime in the package or highly negotiable.

That is the good thing about PEN, panny g series and now OMD: lots of consumer fashion idiots buy them, learn they need a good prime, and then realise they are using their iPhone /Galaxy for actually taking piccies, thus selling off as above.

Kodak by name only,  have amazingly enough gone 16mpx mft and have their own interesting zoom lens which is not super fast but nor is it a slow dog kit lens. Also they are using IBIS , so the lens can be cheaper than a panny and you can retro on anything. The "kit" zoom has a good range and if i remember it was f three and a half to the arbitary five point six, not that shabby if ISO is up to the job and ibis works as well as oly. Also they launch with an at first comical Hubble competiting 400mm (=800 in old money!) Which could be to mft was the "Bigma" was to FT. If under 300€ it could have the last laugh not just for those awful twitching "birders" who clutter many a photoforum with this week's brown bird sitting in a tree , or eagle half hidden by pine tops, or vulture silohoute against blue sky. Bravo "kodak". Eastman may guffaw from above.

Samsung- Dark Horse ? Olympus still Shine

Samsung maybe just doesn't sound authentic enough for 'real photographers' in their NX mount range of compact and 'bridge' EVF cameras. True, they have no legacy. Disappointingly you don't get them as a bargain either.

And there is the rub for me: pre sony 16mpx mFT sensor I could see that the NX with the APS-C sensor was a way of getting an ergonomic camera with better colour and light dynamics than the best mFT at the time. Now however, I just don't see the point in NX unless you are already an owner, or you are Korean.

Samsung could have done a flyer in the market by having a best value for money body and a small range of fast zooms, and also some degree of convertability to legacy MF lenses. Instead they have a hotch-potch range og lenses in terms of aperture and focal length.

My ideal street and general use camera needs only two lenses: a fast 24-90 / mm carry and portrait lens and a longer lens without the need for very fast , just 4.0 to 5.6 up to 300/400 mm eq from FF.  A macro would be nice, but a macro convertor onto the former of the two may suffice for my rare excursions into food and flowers. Here a legacy lens may do the job with focus peaking and bracketed shots.

Now I could do this handsomely in fact with an E520 with just two lenses : the 12-60 and the 50-200 , which would be a second hand purchase likely to also have the excellent macro 50mm f2. However the 520 is quite dated in terms of the poor dynamic range on the chip and also availability of them. Price for this set up is about the same often on Ebay as for the cheaper OMD's with the 12-40 plus say the 45mm prime, so that is an alternative or the 60mm macro ontop of the kit 14-42/40-150 combo. Olympus really have got a sorted out lens range!

EM1 back compatibility is not shining and people want their cash out of the 12-60 or are willing to persevere so far onto the new body with an adapter as very few are available used. I suspect the 12-40 would remain resolutely stuck on any of the OMD houses that I chose.

All in all it is a bit of an investment, best done where VAT is lowest in the world and I guess I am in for $1400 - $2200 dollars so I had better find someone looking to buy some photos!