Saturday, 19 November 2016

G85 video stabilization vs Olymous E-M5 Mark II

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

Monday, 14 November 2016

G85: Awesome video image stabilization in 4k

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

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


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

Saturday, 12 November 2016

Lumix G85 IBIS sensor shift demo

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

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

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


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

Sunday, 6 November 2016

Mirrorless or DSLR camera?

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

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


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

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

Sunday, 9 October 2016

News: Even better enthusiast cameras

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

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

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

Here is a summary of some important models:

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

Sunday, 4 September 2016

Lumix GH5 news

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

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


Timing


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

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


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

Sunday, 21 August 2016

Favourite m4/3 gear

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

Lenses


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


Lumix G 12-32mm f/3.5-5.6

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

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

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

Lumix G 20mm f/1.7

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

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

Samyang 7.5mm f/3.5 fisheye (manual focus)

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

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

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

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

Cameras


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


Lumix GH4

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lumix GM1

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

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

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

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

Olympus E-M5 II

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

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

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

Conclusion


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

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


Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Macro images with reverser ring

Many users have the Lumix G 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 II basic kit zoom. It is a good lens, and I use it a lot. Here is a quality comparison between kit zoom lenses. So don't be worried about using this lens, despite that some dislike the plastic construction.

It is possible to use it for macro images as well, by buying a very small and cheap accessory. By buying a reverser ring, it is possible to mount it backwards on the camera, which means that it can be used to take ultra high magnification images. Here I show how.

The picture below shows the Lumix GH4 camera with the Lumix G 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 II basic kit zoom lens:


In the front left of the camera, is the M4/3 to 52mm reverser ring As the zoom lens has a 46mm front lens thread, a 52mm to 46mm step up ring is also needed (on the right hand side).

When all of this is mounted to the camera, it looks like this:


From left to right in the picture above, you have the lens (mounted reversed), the 52mm to 46mm step up ring, the M4/3 to 52mm macro reverser ring, and finally the camera.

One specific trick to be aware of is setting the aperture. When the lens is mounted reversed, you can of course not control the aperture or the focus from the camera, or even manually from the lens. And using the lens wide open is just not possible, the depth of field (DOF) will be far too thin when using the lens wide open. So you'll generally need to stop down to around f/8-f/16.

You can stop the lens down with this crude method: Set a small aperture (large f-number) and a long shutter speed in manual exposure mode. Start the exposure. While the camera is exposing, remove the lens. The lens will then have your selected aperture. The focus distance is pretty much irrelevant here: Even if you could use the close or infinity focus distance, it doesn't matter much when using it reversed: The magnification will be very large anyway.

When mounted reversed, you cannot control the focus at all, so you'll need to move the camera back and forth to get your object in focus. However, you can use the zoom ring to change the magnification rate. It works best in the short end, where the magnification is the highest. Here is a short summary of the magnification rate at different focal lengths.

I have calculated this by photographing a millimeter scale. I also state the working distance, which is the distance from the object to the front end of the lens. Please note that when I say "front end of the lens", I mean the end closest to the object here, which is actually the rear end of the zoom lens.

Focal lengthMagnification rateWorking distanceImage
42mm1:1.1664mm
25mm1.2:1 (1.2X)33mm
14mm2.7:1 (2.7X)20mm

For comparison, the Lumix-Leica 45mm f/2.8 macro lens has a max magnification of 1:1 (1X), and has a more generous working distance of 60mm.

I took an example image at 14mm, for the largest magnification rate. As you see, I placed the classic Lumix G 20mm f/1.7 lens very close to the camera here: The working distance is only 20mm, which makes the lightning somewhat difficult:


The resulting image looks like this, taken at f/14:



Here you can see the matte finish of this classic lens, which I like a lot better than the glossy finish of the newer lenses. The matte finish makes it safer to handle the lens.

Here is more of a real life example as well. I took it at f/16, 1/60s, ISO 200, using a TTL flash and a sync cable to be able to hold it next to the lens. The fly sitting on my hand is very small, the body is about 2mm long. No cropping:



Conclusion


It is quite cheap to get a macro reverser ring, which opens up a new world of ultra high magnification. A magnification of 2.7:1 is otherwise only possible with specialized lenses like the Canon MP-E 65mm 1-5X macro.

However, the downside is that you'll need to stop down the lens in a crude way prior to using it reversed, which makes it hard to compose your image is low light. As the lens is reversed, no EXIF information is recorded whatsoever about the aperture or focal length, or even the name of the lens. Also, the working distance will be quite short.

If you like to tinker with your camera, this can be a fun and cheap project to explore the world of high magnification macro.

Other alternatives


The Yasuhara Nanoha x5 is a specialized ultra high magnification lens for Micro Four Thirds. It is capable of 4-5X magnification. It has a very short working distance, not much more than 10mm, which makes it somewhat hard to use. It comes with the apertures f/11-f/32, selectable in full stops. Perhaps this sounds like small apertures, but you need to stop down a lot to get sufficient depth of field.

A simple and cheap alternative is to buy . Read more about it here. If you combine both rings, this can give a magnification of around 1.2X with a typical kit zoom lens.



Friday, 22 July 2016

Røde VideoMicro Review

The very first M4/3 camera, the Lumix G1 in 2008, did not have video capability. That was a strange omission, since the camera obviously had live view feed for the viewfinder, which could have been recorded to video.

However, all subsequent M4/3 cameras have been video capable, and video has been a very important feature in this market segment. And with video, the sound recording is also important.

The M4/3 cameras have onboard microphones, which are usually seen as a pair of small holes in the body, with the text "L" and "R" (left/right), "mic", or something similar. The problem with these in-camera microphones is that they are not directional, i.e., they pick up sound from all around the camera. That can be a problem in some cases.

One product which aims to provide better audio quality for system camera users is the Røde VideoMicro:


It comes with a small shotgun style directional microphone unit, a connector cable (3.5mm jack). There is also a shock absorbing mount for placing the microphone in the camera's flash shoe, as well as a furry wind shield:


When connected to the Lumix GH4, you'll see that the microphone is rather small:


The microphone itself has a body which is made from a ceramics coated metal material, which does seem very solid and well made. It has a high quality feel to it. The microphone unit is 80mm long (3.5 inches).

Generally, you'll need the wind shield when using the camera outdoors. Otherwise, wind noise will be a huge problem. Note that wind can still be a problem even when you do use the wind shield, if there is strong enough wind.

Many M4/3 cameras do have a microphone input socket which can be used. But not smaller cameras like the Lumix GM1/GM5, and not the Lumix GF7. Also, the Lumix GX7 did not have a microphone input socket.

You can also use the microphone on many Olympus cameras. A problem with a camera like the Olympus OM-D E-M5 II, though, is that a microphone jack will limit the articulation of the LCD display. As using an articulated LCD display is very useful for video recording, this is a strange and unfortunate design choice. Panasonic Lumix cameras are generally better designed for video use.

Sound comparison


I have compared the video quality of the in-camera microphones on the Lumix GX7 with the Røde VideoMicro mounted on a Lumix GH4 in the video below.



For simplicity, here are direct links to where specific sections of the video start:



When using the Røde VideoMicro, the background noise becomes less of a problem, but is not completely removed. But this is as expected, since this was not a studio test, but rather busy city scenes.

I think the sound from the camera microphone is more "boxy": With the external microphone, you better hear the sound you want to pick up, and not so much the background noise.

Alternative products


The Røde VideoMicro is a small and relatively inexpensive microphone. What do you get if you buy a larger and more expensive microphone? Here is a quick comparison:

Røde VideoMicroRøde VideoMic Pro
Length80mm150mm
Weight43g85g
Battery requiredNoYes
StereoNo (mono)Yes

So a more "serious" microphone will require a battery inside the unit, while the Røde VideoMicro gets the little power it needs from the camera.

Also, note that the VideoMicro is a mono microphone: It will output a stereo signal, but with the same sound in the left and right channel. A more serious microphone of course gives a real stereo output.

On the positive side, the VideoMicro is small and easy to use for "run and gun" video style, and it does not scream "professional videographer", which can be useful.

Conclusion


The Røde VideoMicro is very quick and easy to use. It does improve upon the sound recording, especially when you have ambient noise that you want to avoid.