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.