A new camera (for me) -- a Lumix Micro Four Thirds

Discussion in 'Paddling Photography' started by Dan_Millsip, Dec 22, 2011.

  1. Dan_Millsip

    Dan_Millsip Paddler & Admin

    Joined:
    Mar 8, 2005
    Messages:
    9,305
    Location:
    Beautiful BC
    After much, much consideration and time, I've finally joined the changeable lens crowd. I can't say dSLR because it's not, it's a micro four thirds format -- it's the next best thing to a dSLR but it's significantly smaller than a dSLR -- which for me, means a great deal as the camera is always on the deck of my kayak.

    So after months of poring over statistics, reviews, forum discussions and magazine articles, I finally made my choice of which camera to purchase a few weeks ago. I figured since I had a birthday coming up that I'd plant a few helpful suggestions with the members of my family and hope for the best. To make hoping a little less stressful, I suggested to my daughter Maddie, that on the off chance that the family was going to get me a camera, I would like the Lumix G3 -- the camera that after much deliberation I figured would suit my needs and while not cheap, would fit my anticipated budget. I even sent her a text message to the website page at London Drugs where the camera was on sale. I then waited. For three days. And thought of what I could do to increase my chances and told her that I'd give them $200 to the birthday fund if it would make a difference. Then I waited another couple of long days and thought I should get a bit more serious -- I upped the monetary contribution to $300. I figured that would be enough. Then I had some doubt. Better up the contribution a bit more. Two more days and I up the contribution by another $130 to a total of $430. I felt that my chances are now pretty darned good. I waited.

    Birthday arrives. I'm stoked. I figure that the Lumix G3 is in the bag. Imagine my surprise when I unwrap the gift box that had been carefully wrapped in festive paper to find -- a different camera!?!

    I'm puzzled. I gave specific info about which camera. My first reaction is that I've been duped. How could this happen. I was so careful. Turns out that my wife went to London Drugs to pick up my new G3 camera and the salesman told her that he had something better -- a Lumix GH1 -- Panasonic's flagship micro four thirds camera. It's a camera that I didn't even consider because it was priced way higher than my budget. The biggest difference in the two cameras is the GH1 kit lens is excellent and it has video capability that rivals the top dSLR's.

    The G3 has a 14-42mm kit lens. Not a bad lens by any means but it definitely would be replaced soon after for a better lens -- something with better optics and more zoom. The GH1 on the other hand, comes with a fabulous (and highly reviewed) 14-140mm lens -- a lens that I figured would be my first choice for a new lens for the G3 -- but the lens is quite expensive -- the best price I found online for it was $650 (msrp is $999). Yeah, the GH1 is being replaced by the new GH2 which has just hit the market -- a bit better spec'd but the GH1 is no slouch on it's own. Video is stellar and still photography is nothing less than impressive.

    The G3 is a remarkable camera that has gotten rave reviews. The GH1 also received great reviews but is not quite as technologically advanced. But it's close. The biggest difference is that the GH1 is 12 megapixels compared to 16 megapixels of the G3. The GH1 has a few features that are better than the G3 -- including great video capabilities and the G3 has some features that are better than the GH1. Overall, comparing the two cameras, and if I were given the same choice at the sales counter I would have also picked up the GH1. The salesman said that this particular GH1 was the last one in stock, and would shortly be replaced by the new GH2. The GH1 kit could be purchased for just $50 more than the sale price of the G3. What a deal! My wife thought so too and purchased the GH1. Happy Birthday to me. :)

    I've only had the camera for a couple of days so haven't had a lot of opportunity to play with it yet but have been nothing but impressed with the quality of images that this camera captures -- especially in low-light conditions. Miles and miles ahead of the old Canon SX20 IS that I've used for the past few years. Reviews have repeatedly observed that the image quality of the Micro Four Thirds Lumix cameras is better than a lot of entry level dSLRs. From what I've seen while scouring over sample images on the web, this is true. And... I can change lenses. This is so cool. A whole new level of photography is about to begin for me. I'm excited and looking forward to getting out with my kayak to use this new camera. A big thanks to my family for making this decision for me.



    A detailed review of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH1 review can be found here:

    http://www.dpreview.com/reviews/panasonicdmcgh1/
     

    Attached Files:

    • gh1.jpg
      gh1.jpg
      File size:
      26.5 KB
      Views:
      6,126
  2. greg0rn

    greg0rn Paddler

    Joined:
    Oct 15, 2005
    Messages:
    679
    Location:
    Victoria
    Happy birthday Dan :clap: :clap: :clap: :clap: :big_thumb :big_thumb :big_thumb

    Also, congratulation of your new toy. Many playful moments with it. :big_thumb :big_thumb :big_thumb

    By the way, that 14 to 140 lens: what would be its equivalent in 35mm format?
     
  3. Dan_Millsip

    Dan_Millsip Paddler & Admin

    Joined:
    Mar 8, 2005
    Messages:
    9,305
    Location:
    Beautiful BC
    Thanks, Greg, the lens equates to 28mm - 280mm equivalent to a 35mm full sensor camera.
     
  4. WaterMark

    WaterMark Paddler

    Joined:
    Nov 18, 2010
    Messages:
    280
    Location:
    Vancouver
    Happy Birthday Dan!

    Thanks for the write -up. I'll keep it in mind for when the day comes when I can afford to upgrade. :D
     
  5. Jurfie

    Jurfie Paddler

    Joined:
    May 6, 2007
    Messages:
    805
    Location:
    Semiahmoo, South Surrey, BC
    Time to get in the boat and take some pictures! :wink:

    Congrats on the new camera, and Happy Birthday Dan!!!
     
  6. Tootsall

    Tootsall Paddler

    Joined:
    Oct 1, 2008
    Messages:
    661
    Location:
    Southern Alberta
    Looking forward to seeing what you can do with that camera, Dan. Enjoy it! (and please post photos).

    Merry Christmas to all...be safe, be healthy, and be happy.
     
  7. Dan_Millsip

    Dan_Millsip Paddler & Admin

    Joined:
    Mar 8, 2005
    Messages:
    9,305
    Location:
    Beautiful BC
    Open wallet, turn upside-down, and shake...

    I knew when I was getting into this whole interchangeable lens category that it wasn't going to be cheap. To date, on top of the camera and the 14-140mm kit lens, I've spent more than $1,000 and don't really have a whole lot to show for it (sort of). I've spent a LOT of time scouring over review sites, magazines, and blogs looking at this lens and that lens, comparing prices and stats of other types of equipment and trying to figure out what order makes the most sense to buy stuff in. Although it's fun and exciting, I can see this photography thing becoming really, really expensive.

    Getting ready for prime time:



    I bought the first "new" lens for my camera today. A non-zoom lens (called a prime lens) for low light situations. This particular lens has a focal length of 20mm (40mm equiv.) and an aperture range of f1.7-16 and has received high praise in reviews from magazines and review sites. Brand new, the price of this lens retails for $500 and I haven't seen it lower than that anywhere in Canada (online or off). I purchased one on Craigslist from a local fellow who bought it brand new thinking that he was going to buy a micro four thirds camera but instead got a dSLR given to him. Still in the box and never used for $400 firm -- saved $160 over the retail plus tax price.

    My main reason for selecting this lens is that I have always had a problem with my previous cameras when taking photos under tree cover and other places with low light. There's just not enough luminance for hand-held photos -- especially if there are people moving in the shot. This lens should allow much easier shots when under a canopy of trees on a cloudy day (or even on a sunny day). I've only just got it a couple hours ago and have taken a few pictures around the house and am really impressed so far with the difference in the required shutter speed between this lens and the kit lens (at 20mm, f4) -- it's huge -- and images are really, really sharp. Glad I'm here now but I should have made this jump from point and shoot cameras a lot sooner. I'm looking forward to getting outside with this lens.

    A few odds and ends:

    I purchased a couple of decent quality filters -- Sigma DG UV filter and a DG circular polarizing filter at a combined cost of $200. Might seem like a lot but I'm certain that the results from these filters will be much better than lower-end filters - online reviews from camera sites seem to agree. I also picked up an additional battery, some lens and sensor cleaning products, a collapsible reflector and a diffuser, a GorrillaPod (a small, flexible, and very cool tripod for dSLR cameras), and a very functional LowePro sling-bag to carry it all in. Another 600 bucks lighter, most of it at sale prices, and there's still a lot more that I want yet -- but I think this a pretty respectably outfitted setup to get started with.

    What's next?

    On the list are:

    - More lenses (3 of them; a 100-300mm telephoto, a 7-14mm wide angle, and a 45mm macro/portrait, with a retail total of roughly $3,100).
    - A decent (carbon-fiber?) tripod (I expect to pay somewhere between $300-500).
    - A really good monopod w/head.
    - A filter holder and sets of drop-in graduated and solid neutral density filters.
    - A really decent directional microphone (for videos).
    - More lenses (Sigma and Tokina have just announced that they will soon be making micro four thirds lenses).
    - Another camera body.
    - Computer hardware and software (don't get me going...)

    I'll be keeping an eye on Craigslist to see if I can't get some of this stuff on my list for some good used deals. This is going to take some time to acquire.

    I've also been doing a lot of reading about video -- my camera is quite revered for it's video capabilities (and even more-so with an available hack) and as such, I think it would be fool-hearty for me not to explore this aspect of photography. I've already done a couple of do-it-yourself projects including a 'fig rig' style steady cam rig (that actually works incredibly well) for a fraction of the cost of commercial products. More to come on this later.

    I could have bought 4 (yes, four) top-of-the-line ultra-zoom point and shoot cameras (including taxes) for what I have invested in this gear so far. Looks like the weather is going to improve over the next week so hopefully I'll have opportunity to try it out soon.

    How I do love getting new gear though -- and I think I still just barely have enough change left jingling around in my pocket for a cup of coffee.
     

    Attached Files:

  8. Jurfie

    Jurfie Paddler

    Joined:
    May 6, 2007
    Messages:
    805
    Location:
    Semiahmoo, South Surrey, BC
    Wow, exciting stuff Dan. I can't say I fully understand the nuances of photography (or some of the terms), but I have always wanted to learn. One day I'll take a class and start diving in with earnest.

    Like any "hobby" (assuming you aren't planning on going pro), things can get really expensive (kayaking, anyone?). But if it is something you truly enjoy and that makes you happy, it is worth it. For something like photography (and paddling, for that matter), if it makes you slow down and enjoy life, and see the world through a different lens (pardon the pun), then isn't that worth the expense? We're all so busy "living", that we forget to live.

    Good on you. Your photos have always been fantastic, and I'm looking forward to seeing some taken with your new gear. Keep us updated! :big_thumb
     
  9. Dan_Millsip

    Dan_Millsip Paddler & Admin

    Joined:
    Mar 8, 2005
    Messages:
    9,305
    Location:
    Beautiful BC
    Wasn't meaning to be complaining -- I was fully aware of what it was going to cost before getting into this. Just mentioning that it is a few bucks -- but more that it requires some investigative work to decide what you're going to buy to get going, and what you will want to get after you get going. There just doesn't seem to be an end to what you can get into with photography. Guess I should be glad that all my paddling gear is in order and I don't need to buy anything substantial there for a while.
     
  10. Jacquot

    Jacquot Paddler

    Joined:
    Apr 20, 2011
    Messages:
    34
    Location:
    Burnaby
    Dan

    At least you don't need to buy film! We are all looking forward to the results of your investment.

    Jacquie
     
  11. Dan_Millsip

    Dan_Millsip Paddler & Admin

    Joined:
    Mar 8, 2005
    Messages:
    9,305
    Location:
    Beautiful BC
    Jacquot, I can't imagine how much I'd be spending if I had to shell out a buck for each shot like in the old days -- I recall it being pretty expensive back then.

    Still figuring things out but I've been out taking a few shots over the past few days and thought I'd share a few results, if anyone cares to see...


    Midnight in downtown Langley. Shot with the 20mm f1.7 lens -- I'm really impressed with the low-light capability of this lens. This was shot at f1.7 but I could still easily hand hold a shot at f5.0 to get more of the shot in focus. To get the entire shot in focus (f16) I think I'd likely need a tripod as the shutter speed would be too long to hand hold:


    Sunset earlier this evening at Crescent Beach. Shot hand-held with the 14-140mm zoom lens.


    Turned around after taking the previous photo and saw the moon rising overhead. Also hand held:


    I was looking for something small to photo when along came this fly and landed on my lamp. I took this hand held shot with the 14-140mm zoomed all the way to 140mm from about a meter away. With this capability, I can't wait to explore some tidal pools.


    Heading out in the morning for my first paddle in a while. Can't wait to get some shots on the water.
     

    Attached Files:

  12. Roy222

    Roy222 Paddler

    Joined:
    Jun 2, 2009
    Messages:
    355
    Dan,
    Nice Camera!
    It sure beats my old SLR.
    ?? How will you protect it from the water when on the deck?

    Roy
     
  13. Dan_Millsip

    Dan_Millsip Paddler & Admin

    Joined:
    Mar 8, 2005
    Messages:
    9,305
    Location:
    Beautiful BC
    Roy, this camera will fit in the same Pelican box (model 1150) that my Canon SX20 IS point and shoot was in -- I just picked up a new foam insert for it but haven't had a chance to pluck the pieces out for the new camera yet (I know from past experience it's best to really think it out before plucking) but when I do I'll post a photo. The box is just big enough to hold the camera with the 14-140mm lens, a couple of spare batteries, and a few desiccant packs. I have bungees attached to the deck of my kayak that hold the Pelican box directly in front of my cockpit.

    I'll keep the 14-140mm lens (shown above, in the first post of this thread) on the camera when I'm paddling -- this will give me 10x zoom capability which should allow for plenty of versatility with one lens. I suspect that I'll almost always have a polarizing filter mounted on the lens when I'm on the water. I'll stow other lenses inside the boat and use them when on land. I don't think I want to be changing lenses while bobbing around in my kayak.

    I've had some time to play around with the camera over the past weeks and am really enjoying it. For capturing a moment, the super-zoom point and shoots do a stunning and remarkable job but I have to say that when you start looking closely at images, the difference between point and shoots and the GH1 is substantial. Being able to shoot at higher ISO settings is the first big improvement -- with my SX20 anything over 200 ISO was too grainy to be useful, even on the web. With the GH1, I'm able to shoot at much higher ISO settings with very little graininess, low ISO shots are amazingly clear. Lenses are also making a huge difference -- I currently have two lenses, both of which have received excellent reviews and although no expert, I'm duly impressed with each of them.

    I took some shots of my daughters' play last week and got some pretty good results -- results that I never, ever would have been even close to being able to get with any point and shoot camera that I've owned.

    Here's an example from the high school performance -- Maddie's in the middle holding the bottle:


    I shot that hand held with available light (no flash) using my 20mm f1.7 lens (that has no image stabilization), at:

    Aperture: f2.0
    Shutter speed: 1/160 second
    ISO: 400
    Focus: auto

    I only changed shutter speed for each shot depending on the amount of light on the stage. Shots ranged from 1/60 to 1/250 of a second -- easily hand held and OK for freezing slight movement of subjects. I took about 60 shots that evening and almost all of them were usable. The above shot was cropped from the original, which was about twice the area.

    A couple of days ago I was in Vancouver and stopped on the top of Little Mountain around 5:45PM, waited for the sun to go down and took this shot:



    I'm quite pleased with this image -- but you have to see it large to get the feel of it -- here's a link to a version that was cropped and reduced to 1920x1050 pixels (to fit my monitor):

    http://www.westcoastpaddler.com/userimages/Vancouver-from-Little-Mountain-1920.jpg

    The jpeg compression degrades the image a fair bit but it's still a whole lot better than anything I'd have taken with a point and shoot. With the full-size RAW image, I can clearly read "Province" (the white letters on the building just left of Harbour Centre and I can read (with a bit less clarity) "Harbour Centre" on the sign just below and to the right of the Province building sign. Where I took the shot from was just a tickle under four kilometres away from the stadium as the crow flies.

    I shot this with the kit lens that came with the camera -- a 14-140mm f4.0–5.8 zoom.

    Focal length: 75mm
    Aperture: f13.0
    Shutter speed: 10 seconds
    ISO: 100
    Focus: manual

    I had the camera set up on my GorillaPod -- a small wiry tripod that fits in my backpack. It would definitely be better to have had a proper tripod but this is what I had at the time (I was on my bicycle) and I think for a ten second exposure it did a not-too-bad job of holding the camera steady. I'm certain that I would have had a sharper image with a good quality tripod (not far off on my list of things to get) but this little portable tripod allowed for taking home an image suitable to use as wallpaper for my computer desktop.

    I know that a professional level dSLR would yield way better quality images than this but for the time being, I'm happier than all get-out at the quality that I'm getting -- it's a major (really major) step up from the quality I was previously used to.

    I've absolutely no regrets going with the micro four-thirds format -- the size is small enough to manage comfortably on the deck of the kayak and the technology is advancing at a tremendous rate -- the model that came after mine has better image quality and there's hopefully a new version of this camera line, the GH3, that is rumored to be coming out soon -- likely with more and better capabilities. There is also a pretty decent selection of good lenses that are currently available and third party manufactures are now producing lenses in this format as well. I can use both Olympus and Panasonic m4/3 lenses with my camera (although no image stabilization with Olympus lenses on Lumix bodies -- Olympus uses in-camera IS). With available adapters I can also use most Canon and Nikon lenses -- but only in full manual mode.

    Speaking of manual mode, with this camera I'm shooting pretty much all my shots in manual mode. The only thing that I've been leaving up the camera (for the most part) is white balance -- which this camera seems to do a good job -- I've only had to manually set white balance a few times. I also only shoot in RAW mode -- the jpeg's from this camera are not all that great to be honest, and processing RAW images is just amazing.

    I'm going to be in the Broughton for more than two months this summer and am looking forward to getting some good use of this camera while I'm there.
     

    Attached Files:

  14. sludge

    sludge Paddler

    Joined:
    Dec 17, 2006
    Messages:
    242
    The images are beautiful, Dan.

    But whoa! Over two months in the Broughtons. Colour me jealous.
     
  15. Dan_Millsip

    Dan_Millsip Paddler & Admin

    Joined:
    Mar 8, 2005
    Messages:
    9,305
    Location:
    Beautiful BC
    Yeah Michael, it's going to be tough. I'm going to be helping Bruce out around the Paddlers' Inn for the most part but I suspect I'll be doing a fair bit of paddling as well -- and of course, taking lots of photos.

    So I picked up a tripod a couple of weeks ago -- got a Manfrotto 190PROB aluminum tripod with a Manfrotto 488RC2 head. I did a fair bit of research and found both pieces to have great reviews. I don't have a lot of experience with tripods but it seems to work pretty good -- and it's quite versatile in that if can be set up quite low, in awkward positions, and has a boom for extending the camera out from the centre of the tripod (I'll post some pictures of this later on).

    And today (and just in time for the WCP Spring Campout) the new lens that I ordered arrived -- a Lumix G Vario 100-300mm F4.0-5.6 telephoto lens. This is equivalent to a 35mm full frame of 200-600mm -- loads of zoom.

    Also in time for the Spring Campout, I now have a total of five Panasonic GH1 battery packs -- for those extended trips where there are no plug ins available.

    A few weeks ago, I purchased a Rode VideoMic microphone -- a directional shotgun mic that is far superior to the onboard microphone in the camera. The sound quality is incredibly better and will greatly improve video recordings.

    I also picked up a Pixel TW-282 wireless remote control timer. With this device I can take an exposure without touching the camera. It can be set up to do timed exposures and also has an intervalometer function (allows for taking several photos at timed intervals -- good for time-lapse sequences).

    I think I'm pretty well set up for the time being with only a few small items to get still. Then it's the 7-14mm wide zoom. :big_thumb
     
  16. Gecko Paddler

    Gecko Paddler Paddler

    Joined:
    Sep 16, 2011
    Messages:
    105
    Location:
    Saanich, BC
    Hey Dan,

    When paddling do you use this camera while in your kayak and if so what do you to protect it from salt water. I'm thinking of making a big step up into a good camera but I tend to get my gear soaked.

    Mark
     
  17. Dan_Millsip

    Dan_Millsip Paddler & Admin

    Joined:
    Mar 8, 2005
    Messages:
    9,305
    Location:
    Beautiful BC
    I've got a Pelican box with hooks welded to the sides and bungee corded to my deck.

    I open the box, take out the camera, take my shot, and put it back in the case.

    Works for me. Might not be the best solution for you if you get stuff wet - this gear is not at all tolerant of salt water.

    I chose the micro four thirds format because of its size and excellent image quality.
     
  18. Gecko Paddler

    Gecko Paddler Paddler

    Joined:
    Sep 16, 2011
    Messages:
    105
    Location:
    Saanich, BC
    Aaah .... that's how you do it Dan. :clap:

    I might have to rig up a Pelican myself and try that with my older Sony just to make sure that user error (me) won't destroy a really good SLR. :lol:

    Thanks

    Mark
     
  19. windancer

    windancer Paddler

    Joined:
    Nov 19, 2012
    Messages:
    194
    Location:
    Regina, SK.
    Nikon 1 V2

    I am a part time pro photographer. In 2010, I was on a 6 day excusion to the Johnstone Strait, I had planned on using a DSLR and a 18-300 lens but forgot cards back at the hotel in Port MacNeil and we were in Telegraph Cove launching, so I used a small Canon A95 P&S. My thinking was to have some photos instead of none.

    In less than a month I am going on a 12 day kayak trip to the Sea of Cortz on the east coast of the Baja paddling from Lorretto to La Paz. I have purchased a Nikon 1 V2 c/w a 10-100 (27mm-270mm) and a 6.7- 13 (18mm-40mm) lenses. I was thinking of leaving the 10-100 lens on all the time while in the boat as it will encompass every situation.

    I also have a GPS unit already attached to the camera so that I can Geotag wherever I took the photo because if you look at my website I tend to Geotag everything. Everything is in a waterproof Yellow Pelican case. I will post some photos once I get back. :D

    Terry