Sunday, 21 August 2016

Favourite m4/3 gear

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

Lenses


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


Lumix G 12-32mm f/3.5-5.6

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

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

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

Lumix G 20mm f/1.7

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

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

Samyang 7.5mm f/3.5 fisheye (manual focus)

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

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

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

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

Cameras


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


Lumix GH4

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lumix GM1

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

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

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

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

Olympus E-M5 II

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

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

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

Conclusion


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

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


8 comments:

  1. I have lately bought GM1 as it is now unbelievable cheap. It meant to be used as active rear lens cup and saved me time to change lenses. and I have immediatelly loved it. I take it everywhere I go. My EM5 stays at home these days more and more often... I have to check your grip solution. :) And I have to consider Samyangs fisheye also... as GM1 has great focus peaking solution. Thank for this article!

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  2. Thanks for sharing :)

    What makes you think, there is going to be a successor of the GM1 and GM5 this autumn? This would be very interesting news to me.

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    1. There has been a rumor that Panasonic will launch two new Lumix cameras early this autumn, and these two do not include the GH5. That leads me to thinking that they will replace the GF7, GM5, and/or possibly the G7. But the oldest ones are the GF7 and GM5.

      As Panasonic don't have a fairly new compact M4/3 camera currently, it is safe to assume that one of the two will be a small camera, I think. But all of this is very uncertain, of course.

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  3. I have a GM1 and recently picked up the bargain discounted GM5. The combo means less lens changing and still a small package. I can put the GM5 with 12-32mm lens in my jeans pocket (a bit tight but not as bad as you would think). The GM5 has better ergonomics over the GM1 and a small viewfinder as I am sure you know.

    I also recently bought the Lumix 35-100mm f/4-5.6 which is sized perfectly for the GM cameras and has surprisingly good image quality and good IOS. My Oly OMD does not get much use these days.

    And by the way, the grip I choose for the GMs is the Richard Franiec design:

    http://www.kleptography.com/rf/#camera_lumixgm1

    It is minimal but effective and I have now purchased 3 of them for various cameras... very happy with them.

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  4. I use the same cameras. I like the OMD for stills and the GH4 for video. Love the GM1. As lenses the 12-35 f2.8 is used a lot. 42.4mm f1.2 for video interviews and portraits. 14-140 for plays and concerts for the range, also walk around. But I have added the Oly 40-150 f2.8 Pro and am using it a lot on my OMD.

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    1. The Olympus 40-150mm f/2.8 sounds interesting. I have used the Lumix X 35-100mm f/2.8, but I think the performance in the very longest end is somewhat disappointing. Perhaps the Olympus lens is better in that sense.

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  5. I have the 40-150 mm Oly and find it very good for the price. It is not as good of course as the 75mm and 45mm primes but light and offers the flexibility of a zoom and is easily sharp enough for most purposes. I want to add that I came to m4/3 with the first OM-D and it is the best camera I have ever owned going back to Leica III series and the Original Nikon F which is the second best in my opinion. So I was surprised after deciding to not upgrade to the newer OM-D EM5 Mark II , I discovered that the OM-D EM-10 Mark II had most of the features of its big brother and was quite reasonably priced. The addition of focus peaking, the ability to save groups of frequently used settings to a series of MySets, and surfacing the ability to easily choose various HDR brackets in the otherwise opaque menus have made it my camera of choice. Combined with Aurora HDR Pro the excellent OIS allows me to take handheld brackets in difficult lighting such as church interiors. As a still photographer I actually prefer the tilting but not articulating screen because it gives me a waist level camera like the old Rolleiflex - which is great for street shots because the young folks have no idea I am taking a picture. Also setting the shutter on silent and using the screen's touch capability to place focus and release the shutter allows non intrusive photography in a variety of settings. Small differences but made the upgrade worthwhile for me.

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  6. About Oly menues:
    "I am annoyed to no end by the menus"
    --
    +1

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