Thursday, July 2, 2015

REVIEW: Panasonic Lumix DMC-G7 with 4k Video & 14-140mm Lens (Part I of II)

Panasonic Lumix DMC-G7 with 14-140mm Lens
Panasonic Lumix DMC-G7 with 14-140mm Lens

I just spent the last month using the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II so my expectations about camera body quality are very high right now. I was pretty disappointed with the plastic feel of the body right away, but would this translate to image quality? Based on what I had been hearing from my readers is that this is an awesome camera that can do 4k video at 30 fps, so I had to give it a try.

I’ll talk more about the body in my next part of this interview next week after I’ve had more time with this camera.

Real World Samples

The following images come straight from in-camera JPEG’s using the camera default noise reduction settings. Most camera settings are the default with the exception of RAW+JPEG, a desired White Balance (only Shade or AWB), and a desired focus point.  I chose to use the Vivid Photo Style as I found it to be pleasant and not overly done with i.Dynamic set to Auto and i.Resolution set to standard.

Click here for a full gallery of unedited images.

All images are copyright Ron Martinsen – ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. You may not save, print, edit, modify or otherwise use any images featured in this article or the gallery without expressed written permission.


f/5.6 @ 37mm for 1/2000 sec at ISO 200

I had to shoot full manual to get an exposure that wasn’t completely overblown


f/9 @ 14mm for 1/60 sec at ISO 1250

I was pretty disappointed with the in-camera meter which seemed to like to
overexpose by 1/3rd of a stop compared to what I’m used to seeing from other cameras


f/9 @ 84mm for 1/200 sec at ISO 2500

If your images final output will only be the screen or small print then the quality is great, but if you look closely at the original you’ll see lots of digital noise at higher ISO’s


f/9 @ 55mm for 1/160 sec at ISO 200

Even without using negative exposure compensation the greens were pleasing thanks to the Vivid photos style. Sadly the dynamic range was lacking despite using i.Dynamic Auto.


f/9 @ 46mm for 1/100 sec at ISO 500

Great colors with hot spots was the name of the game, so definitely get familiar with how to do negative exposure compensation if you buy this camera.


f/4.4 @ 32mm for 1/500 sec at ISO 2000

I think I shot this one in the standard picture mode and was disappointed so I went back to vivid. Fortunately this subject could handle less saturation ok. The detail in the original really shows off this lens and sensor resolution very well.


f/5.1 @ 55mm for 1/125 sec at ISO 1600

This scene tripped up the AF as it had a hard time getting a lock and then eventually chose poorly. These were big leaves and I should have been within a traditional minimum focus distance for this lens so I can only attribute to this as to the lack of contrast of the subject.


f/4.6 @ 37mm for 1/320 sec at ISO 1250

I botched this shot but I loved all of the leaf detail so I included it so plant shooters
can zoom in and confirm that this is definitely a good camera for nature lovers.

Click here for a full gallery of more unedited images.

Panos

I often forget to test out the pano feature of cameras these days because so many offer this feature. However, this scenic area had me wanting to take a pano of the beautiful environment so here are a few handheld shots that I did:


f/5 @ 17mm for 1/640 sec at ISO 200
(6976x1920)
Only an HDR pano can overcome this challenge of drastically different
exposures required to get the full scene, so don’t knock the camera for this one


f/3.5 @ 14mm for 1/125 sec at ISO 320
(4752x1920)
I stopped early for this one and went a little longer below


f/3.5 @ 14mm for 1/125 sec at ISO 250
(8176x1920)
This required me to twist my body and the result ended up
being some stitching problems in the railing


f/22 @ 14mm for 1/25 sec at ISO 3200

Without a pano you can either get the boardwalk… (and notice the railing doesn’t have jaggies)


f/11 @ 28mm for 1/60 sec at ISO 1600

… or the river, but not both

You lose resolution and detail with the in-camera panos, so they are often better for personal mementos than high quality images to be printed large.

4k UHD (3840x2160) at 30fps Video

While I hate doing video, one of the things that intrigued me was this cameras ability to record 4k video (3840x2160) at 30 fps. I use a NEC PA322UHD as my primary display, so it isn’t very often I get to see a video on this amazing display that takes advantage of its full resolution. As a result, I listed to readers like you who really wanted me to check out this product.

Now I have to start with a disclaimer for my online readers who haven’t had the chance to do a class or training session with me. I’ve always stated that cameras are NOT camcorders and therefore the best results are done using proper stabilization equipment and manual focus points for carefully planned scenes. No matter how great the camera is, they lack proper video stabilization and focus speed to get camcorder results so the results will always be shaky if done handheld.

This certainly applies here, but multiple it times four since you are taking a super high resolution video where movement is going to be even more obvious. As a result these informal handheld shots are representative of what you get if you try to treat a high end video device like this like a camcorder.

NOTE: Check out this article and search for Panasonic to see a GH4 fitted in a $40k video kit.

WARNING: You Tube lists quality by height so 4k is listed as 2160. What’s more, it usually takes a few seconds before it starts streaming true 4k so right click the video at full screen and choose “Stats for Nerds” to see what video quality you are really getting. If you don’t get 4k the first time at full screen (which requires a 4k display and video card) then SLIDE THE PLAYBACK SLIDER BACKWARDS (do not restart) to watch the video again and it will often correct itself. The dimensions AND resolution BOTH must say 3840 x 2160 before you are really seeing true 4k video. You can NOT see 4k in the thumbnail versions included here so be sure to make them full screen after you start them.

 

Conclusion

See part II when it comes out next week.

Where to order

Click here to learn more or order on the B&H web site.

Other articles you may enjoy

If you enjoyed this article, you may also enjoy these:

Disclosure

If you make a purchase using links found in this article, I may make a commission. It doesn’t cost you a penny more, but it does help to support future articles like this.

If you enjoyed this article, please support future articles like this by donating a dollar or saving several dollars by using my discount coupon codes. Either way, your support is greatly appreciated!

Click here to learn more about how this blog is funded.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

REVIEW: Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II with 12-40mm f/2.8 PRO Lens– Can it compete with Sony and Fujifilm? (PART II of II)

Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II
Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II

In the first part of my review entitled, Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II with 12-40mm f/2.8 PRO Lens–Crazy Sharp with Vibrant Colors, I couldn’t help but share my excitement for what this camera does well. Make no mistake that it takes great pictures in good light and the 12-40mm lens is sure to please even the most picky users.

In the hands this camera feels like it should be held by someone driving a Rolls Royce and wearing a made to measure Gucci suit – it screams quality. When you dig deep into the features you start noticing cool things like shutter speeds beyond the typical 30 seconds max found on other models (it goes to 60 seconds) and 1/8000 sec shutter speed. This combined with an overwhelming array of options make it a true photographers camera.

With that said, there’s still lots of modern features like a excellent face detection system, HDR, scene modes and more all controlled via a responsive touch screen. Indeed, on paper and at first glance it seems like a dream camera.

Bookshelf


f/4 @ 12mm for 2 sec at ISO 200

From my testing it was clear that f/4 at 12mm was the sweet spot of this lens. Given the right conditions the image sharpness, even RAW,  was often very good.


f/5.6 @ 24mm for 3.2 sec at ISO 200

High Resolution Mode

The high resolution mode seemed to offer marginally better results.

High ISO Performance


f/5.6 @ 24mm for 1.25 sec at ISO 1600

The bookshelf test really brings out the shortcomings of the higher ISO performance of this camera. If I take a 100% crop from the shot above you’ll see that the text “Your Seven”, the detail in the pages of the book and the leather texture all get obliterated. This is due to poor in-camera noise reduction which can be improved using Noiseware.

image
100% Crop of the shot above at f/5.6 @ 24mm for 1.25 sec at ISO 1600

Before the conspiracy theorist and fan boys crucify me, here’s the same spot taken from the RAW:

image
100% Crop of the original RAW of the shot taken at f/5.6 @ 24mm for 1.25 sec at ISO 1600

The detail comes back but noise is extreme at this low ISO in the world we live in now. As a result, I’ve got to say that in most scenarios ISO 800 to 1600 going to be the maximum I could tolerate with this camera. This is very disappointing for a camera that allows for up to 25,600.

Click here for a full gallery of bookshelf shots at various apertures and shutter speeds. Use the captions or the info panel for more details about each shot.

HDR

This camera features easy HDR access from a button on top of the camera body. Using it you can easily take a dark scene like this:


f/5.6 @ 19mm for 1/80 sec at ISO 200

and completely ruin it as shown below. While the image definitely a much wider dynamic range, the in-camera results often felt fake.


f/5.6 @ 19mm for 1/40 sec at ISO 200

Here’s a scene where the dynamic range of this sensor just couldn’t deal with the dark building:


f/11 @ 17mm for 1/200 sec at ISO 200

The in-camera HDR feature brings back the detail lost in the shadows at the expense of killing the life out of the plants.


f/10 @ 17mm for 1/250 sec at ISO 200

In this last shot you can see a lot of contrast in the image but details lost I shadows of the people under the umbrellas:


f/3.5 @ 31mm for 1/640 sec at ISO 200

Once again the HDR feature does a good job of balancing the scene but the colors feel too flat for my taste in the shot below:


f/3.5 @ 31mm for 1/640 sec at ISO 200

The cool thing about this camera is that if you shoot RAW+JPEG you’ll get processed HDR’s as shown above, but you’ll also get three RAW files that comprised that HDR exposure. This gives you a chance to try again in Photomatix to get better HDR results.

More Real World Samples

The following images come straight from in-camera JPEG’s using the camera default noise reduction settings. Most camera settings are the default with the exception of RAW+JPEG, a desired White Balance (only Shade or AWB), and a desired focus point.  The i-Enhance Picture Mode was used for most of these photos.

Click here for a full gallery of unedited images.

All images are copyright Ron Martinsen – ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. You may not save, print, edit, modify or otherwise use any images featured in this article or the gallery without expressed written permission.


f/4 @ 19mm for 1/160 sec at ISO 200

This was pretty much my reaction when I got my hands on the OMD-M5 Mark II, but…


f/4 @ 24mm for 1/200 sec at ISO 200

My wife was done with it on day one when every shot she took of my son catching his first fish came out blurry. Face detection failed big time in these conditions for reasons I don’t quite understand.


f/11 @ 29mm for 1/13 sec at ISO 1600

Image stabilization is quite good so it came in handy on this hike without any support


f/2.8 @ 24mm for 1/80 sec at ISO 200

Manual focusing using focus peeking can yield exception results on static subjects


f/2.8 @ 32mm for 1/60 sec at ISO 1250

If your subject is grainy with lots of texture then the high noise found in this camera won’t be as distracting as it is with people and objects.


f/3.5 @ 40mm for 1/2500 sec at ISO 200

Like many cameras, this one struggles a bit with reds


f/4 @ 38mm for 1/1250 sec at ISO 200

While most of the shots in the burst came out blurry, it usually would get at least one or two in focus when face detection was turned off.


f/5.6 @ 40mm for 1/100 sec at ISO 800

I was amazed that the colors in this shot on the screen were an identical match to what I saw in real life. If color accuracy is what you desire, then this might be the right camera for you.


f/5 @ 40mm for 1/1250 sec at ISO 200

This camera is most impressive when photographing scenes with lots of textures


f/4 @ 38mm for 1/1600 sec at ISO 200 –1/3 EV

I don’t like to take pictures of other peoples art, but I took this one when I was checking out something with this camera. I was so impressed with how it made this wall painting look so much better than it was in real life that I had to keep looking at the sign to remind me that this was a building!


f/4.5 @ 40mm for 1/2000 sec at ISO 200

I wasn’t able to have as much luck photographing bees with this camera as I did with its predecessor. Camera start time definitely contributed to me missing plenty of opportunities.


f/4 @ 17mm for 1/160 sec at ISO 200

If you just shoot flowers and landscapes, then this camera will reward you for your patience


f/2.8 @ 26mm for 1/125 sec at ISO 200

If your goal is to photograph kids then look elsewhere as the wide variety of shooting and stabilization settings still never resulted in the kind of performance you’d see on a Nikon D7200


f/2.8 @ 12mm for 1/1600 sec at ISO 200

Overall the metering felt improved from the previous version, but it still had plenty of scenarios like this where other brands do a much better job of detecting and compensating for backlit scenarios


f/16 @ 40mm for 1/100 sec at ISO 800

f/16 was about the max I felt was usable with this lens as things get pretty soft at f/22


f/2.8 @ 32mm for 1/800 sec at ISO 200

This camera does a good job of protecting the highlights from being overblown


f/5.6 @ 17mm for 1/100 sec at ISO 200

This pretty much sums up my feelings after this day with this camera. It became clear that to get the most of out this camera you’ve really got to sit down and read the manual. If that’s something you can’t do (cover to cover) then this definitely isn’t the right camera for you.

Click here for a full gallery of unedited images. You’ll see a few more blurry shots, but there’s a significant number that I didn’t upload. This isn’t to say that you can’t still get some sharp shots like the slide shot earlier in this article.

Conclusion

The Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II is a great camera in many ways, and definitely one built for the photographer who loves to have lots of options. In fact, I’d probably need another few months to review all of the options this camera offers as there are two many to fully master in the short three weeks that I’ve had this camera. With that said, as a camera body I loved everything except for the rear LCD behavior.

My four main gripes with the Mark I was the gurgling sound it made, poor default exposure metering, autofocus performance and high ISO noise performance. The Mark II definitely resolved my concerns about the first two, and the autofocus is significantly better but still not good for parents / event photographers. However, my biggest disappointment is that the noise level after ISO 800 is downright below average compared with other cameras over $500. Given this reality and my frustration with the poor behavior of the rear LCD black out behavior, I can’t recommend it over comparable models by Sony and Fujifilm.

Does this mean you shouldn’t buy this camera? No, I think if you are loyal Olympus shooter or outdoors photographer shooting in bright light then you’ll be delighted. If you aren’t and you use this without having in-depth experience with other models then you’ll still probably be extremely happy with it. However, those looking for the best balance of camera body performance and image quality are going to be happier with the latest models from Fujifilm and those with deep wallets will find nirvana in latest additions to Sony’s a7 series.

Where to order

Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II Limited Edition (Titanium)
Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II Limited Edition (Titanium)

For Sale in mid-July

Click here to learn more or order at B&H. The cool new Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II Limited Edition (Titanium) is also going to be available soon too. It looks pretty cool, but personally I’m still a big fan of the black model!

Other articles you may enjoy

If you enjoyed this article, you may also enjoy these:

Disclosure

If you make a purchase using links found in this article, I may make a commission. It doesn’t cost you a penny more, but it does help to support future articles like this.

If you enjoyed this article, please support future articles like this by donating a dollar or saving several dollars by using my discount coupon codes. Either way, your support is greatly appreciated!

Click here to learn more about how this blog is funded.

REVIEW: Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II with 12-40mm f/2.8 PRO Lens–Crazy Sharp with Vibrant Colors (PART I of II)

Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II Mirrorless Micro Four Thirds Digital Camera
Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II Mirrorless Micro Four Thirds Digital Camera

I enjoyed the images I got with the original Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark I, so I was looking forward to doing the testing for this review of the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II. Like its predecessor, it is an extremely well built camera that now features a wealth of upgrades. Some of the big improvements include:

  • 1/8000 support (vs 1/4000 max previously)
  • Improved processor
  • Auto Image Stabilization (can be disabled)
  • 10 fps (vs 9) although the burst mode is now limited to 10 RAW (vs 17 previously)
  • More customizable buttons
  • Significantly improved LCD and Viewfinder
  • GPS with GeoTagging
  • More resistant to cold (-10 C or 14 F)

For this review I chose the incredible 12-40mm lens:

Olympus M. Zuiko Digital ED 12-40mm f/2.8 PRO Lens
Olympus M. Zuiko Digital ED 12-40mm f/2.8 PRO Lens

This is a very, very good lens that ranges from insane sharp to totally usable up to f/16 at any zoom length– I loved it!

My initial take is that if you liked the original OM-D E-M5 then you’ll love this one even more. If you didn’t, like the predecessor then little has been done to address its usability. I loved the feel in hand, but the controls – especially the LCD auto off and playback behavior – drove me insane.

Real World Samples

The following images come straight from in-camera JPEG’s using the camera default noise reduction settings. Most camera settings are the default with the exception of RAW+JPEG, a desired White Balance (only Shade or AWB), and a desired focus point.  The i-Enhance Picture Mode was used for most of these photos.

Click here for a full gallery of unedited images.

All images are copyright Ron Martinsen – ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. You may not save, print, edit, modify or otherwise use any images featured in this article or the gallery without expressed written permission.


f/4 @ 38mm for 1/1600 sec at ISO 200

Olympus has always been a great platform for flower photography and this is no different – wow!


f/4 @ 17mm for 1/80 sec at ISO 200

An obviously wide dynamic range means reds and oranges look very true to life


f/2.8 @ 12mm for 1/160 sec at ISO 200

Over and over again I found myself thinking “wow” at the colors that came out of this camera


f/16 @ 40mm for 1/100 sec at ISO 800

Even f/16 is nothing to sneeze at with this crazy sharp lens and sensor combo!


f/4.5 @ 40mm for 1/1250 sec at ISO 200

Yet another obvious overexposure but if you zoom into that fly you see that it’s a reasonable tradeoff for that level of sharpness for a shot that I literally only had one split second to take!


f/5 @ 40mm for 1/1250 sec at ISO 200

In great light in the hands of a photographer who uses AF points instead of face detection, it does well enough to make people think that this might be a good camera for parents…BUT…


f/4 @ 24mm for 1/200 sec at ISO 200

In my wife’s hands, with or without face detection, we got a vast number of blurry shots. As a result, my wife hated it pretty quickly and refused to use it for anything after all of the shots of Kai catching his first fish ended up blurry.


f/5.6 @ 25mm for 1/100 sec at ISO 200

Eye detection autofocus is brilliant – when it works

Click here for a full gallery of unedited images.

Conclusion

More to come in part II, but I can state now that this is obviously an excellent sensor and lens combo that are sure to please photographers who can master the Olympus system and quirks. I personally hated the usability of the rear panel controls, but the additional buttons and touch screen improvements made this version even better than its predecessor.

Fujifilm and Sony definitely have something to fear by what I’m seeing thus far in my testing, so if you are consider those brands then be sure to consider this as well – but only if you are an experienced photographer who likes lots of controls. This is definitely NOT a camera for soccer mom’s and amateurs.

See my final conclusion at REVIEW: Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II with 12-40mm f/2.8 PRO Lens– (PART II of II).

Where to order

Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II Limited Edition (Titanium)
Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II Limited Edition (Titanium)

For Sale in mid-July

Click here to learn more or order at B&H. The cool new Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II Limited Edition (Titanium) is also going to be available soon too. It looks pretty cool, but personally I’m still a big fan of the black model!

Other articles you may enjoy

If you enjoyed this article, you may also enjoy these:

Disclosure

If you make a purchase using links found in this article, I may make a commission. It doesn’t cost you a penny more, but it does help to support future articles like this.

If you enjoyed this article, please support future articles like this by donating a dollar or saving several dollars by using my discount coupon codes. Either way, your support is greatly appreciated!

Click here to learn more about how this blog is funded.