A&P First shots and review of my new Micro Four Thirds Panasonic GF1

Discussion in 'Lifestyle' started by jackjohnson, Mar 16, 2010.

  1. jackjohnson

    jackjohnson simple as something nobody knows OT Supporter

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    Background: (You can skip all this if you want) The only digital I ever owned was a canon P&S A520 which I accidentally leaked water onto in the middle of a solo Yosemite backpacking trip and had no problems keeping the SD card and dumping it as soon as I found a camp trashcan. On the last night of the trip I had my tent perched on the third brother on the rim of Yosemite Valley. As I sat there and watched the perfect sunset a bobcat walked between me and the perfect view of Half Dome. Another time at Joshua Tree during golden hour I framed my buddy on a boulder with the full moon falling perfectly on the grid... with my hands forming a square.

    After those two moments I decided I needed to take pictures again. I dug up my Pentax k1000 and started shooting film. Eventually I bought a mint Canon Canonet rangefinder and a 5600f film scanner. Anyway I quickly got sick of the cost; curled negatives that ruined scans when they touched the glass, dust particles; showing up to Red Rocks, NV with B&W iso400 film, etc.

    Obviously I needed a digital camera. I could never cough up the dough for a dslr knowing damn well I'd never take it backpacking or up a multi pitch climb where every ounce counts. Finally Olympus released their ep1/ep2 and panasonic with their GF1. A new format called the micro four thirds. Digital SLR's which trade off a mirror and viewfinder for some portability.


    DPpreview had a glowing review of the GF1 and so did the majority at Amazon. $900. 900 fucking dollars. The last camera I bought (my Canon rangefinder) was $75 on ebay! My instinct was to wait for the GF2 when micro four thirds developed some more and the prices dropped a little. But with spring around the corner (I get 3 months off from work during the summer and I'm usually on one big giant road trip climbing & hiking). And with a phone call from my buddy who wanted to meet me in Bishop for the weekend I bit the bullet and paid full price + overnight shipping for one.

    So UPS dropped it off and I charged the battery, read the manual, and familiarized myself with it all on the 3.5 hour drive up to Bishop. I only had two days, and I tried to take a lot of pictures in between climbing, being cold, hands being covered in climbing chalk, blood & dirt, etc.

    I uploaded some of my favorites to Flickr. The set is here. If you click on any below it will take you to the larger .jpg. I guess CS3 won't read Panny Raw files so I d/led a demo of Lightroom and exported the jpgs from there. I don't know LR at all and the bundled presets made me lol, and I tried to keep the files as they came out of the camera with minimal editing. I couldn't resist and did some tweaking but for the most part these were how they were shot.


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    (LR edits: crop/rotate, adjusted highlights to bring out little detail in the washed out areas)

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    (LR edits: -15 darks on the tone curve, +14 Blacks)​

    The first night I walked around town waiting for friends to show up. I love using the asahi 50mm on my k1000, and the 40mm 1.7 on the Canon Canonet rangefinder is very fun as well so it was only natural that I would be a sucker for the Panasonic pancake 1:1.7 20mm (40mm equiv. for 35mm) that everyone has been praising that comes as the kit for the GF1. The other GF1 package comes with a bigger 14-45mm lens.

    The 20mm is really an awesome lens. Very fun and fast enough to leave the tripod in the car and just walk around with a steady hand. I shot these in iso400 and found myself quickly and naturally compensating the exposure with the thumbwheel (first shot -1.66ev so the sign would be readable, last shot +2/3 ev to bring out the color and detail). Also I was very happy with the depth of field.

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    (LR edits: -12 Darks, -24 Shadows tone curve)

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    (LR edits: Tone curve- -30 shadows +22 lights +9 Highlights)

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    (LR edits: Tone Curve- +12 lights, -11 darks, -51 shadows-huge difference!)​

    I noticed that digital sensors tend to be a lot more sensitive to direct sunlight as seen in the last dirt road shot. The sun washes out but overall I'm very pleased with the results. Again exposure compensation was clutch for daylight shots when the sun tends to blow out detail on rock/snow.

    I found myself shooting a lot of 16:9 which is a whole new world for me. The bright and shiny LCD has a native resolution of 3:2 which was my second choice since that is also the native resolution of 35mm film. Switching aspect ratios was pretty quick via the quick menu button (which gives you access to most used adjustments). To be even quicker I eventually programmed the fn button to bring up the aspect ratio menu in an instant. Overall I was very impressed with how intuitive and easy to use the camera is. Panasonic did a good job of keeping you from having to dig through menus. The buttons have a nice high quality professional feel to them. The switch on top to change the drive modes is awesome. The wheel does take some time to get used to as it is hard to push in and rotate (designed so you don't accidentally hit it) but once you do it is great as well.

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    On the second night I decided to get some long exposures. It was 35 degrees, it was late at night, I was tired and beat and the wind was blowing hard– So I shot what I could out of my tent door with my body in the sleeping bag.

    I shot pretty much all the pictures through out the trip using the manual focus ring on the 20mm lens. The problem with the focus ring is it keeps spinning and spinning (this makes "shooting from the hip" harder). So at night I could not lock it out at infinity. I either had to get lucky and find a bright star to manually focus– there is a MF assist which will bring up the center of the image 5x closer as soon as you touch the ring. I'm always shooting on the grid so sometimes it was a dance to focus on the subject. Although you can move the magnification point around but found it too time consuming. Or you could try the autofocus which worked surprisingly well in the dark if there was a fire, headlamp, etc around. If the AF could not find anything and if I couldn't manually focus (a complete bitch in pitch black) I blew the long exposure.

    I read a lot of reviews on the GF1 and people complained about the lack of a viewfinder. There is a electronic view finder which has it's drawbacks (namely the $200 price tag). In direct sunlight and in complete pitch black I missed the viewfinder dearly but that is the price you pay for some portability. I find it unfair to bash the camera for it– You can get the slightly bigger G1 or the GH1 which are slightly bigger but do have viewfinders. For the other 90% of the time I had no problems with the big bright 3" screen (after I got used to it).

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    (LR edits: Tone curve- -40 lights to bring out the lost detail in the sand behind them)

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    When I first stumbled upon the micro four thirds format I instantly wrote them off. I pictured the crappy delays and "dun dun DUN DUN" sound everytime you turned it on. The menu digging. The delay and fake shutter noise. I honestly believed I would have to deal with it with this camera up until it was in my hands and I was taking the first pictures with it. It has a nice fit and feel to it. Many reviewers praised it's looks and don't get me wrong it does look good but not half as cool as my 70's range finder I was used to shooting with.

    It is an SLR. You push the shutter and you get a very nice sounding mechanical leaf shutter. Although for not having a mirror in there it is loud– but very confident sounding. It uses slightly less effective contrast detection for AF. But many reviewers stated that it is faster at AF than slightly older dslrs and competes with current mid level dslrs as far as focusing speed.

    I primarily shot with MF in Aperture priority. I'd manually focus where the climber would be. I'd toggle the wheel for the aperture I wanted and the exposure compensation. And I would snap away. Much faster than both my full manual cameras where I'd have to set everything manually and wind it up (obviously, but this was a revelation for me). Capturing the climber in the right moment was a breeze. I remember for the last shot I was standing next to some guy with a new D-something and I was firing in burst mode and he looked at me and my camera with a puzzled look and walked away. I'm not one to put black tape over all the logos and claim to be a "street shooter" but it is nice to be under the radar. To have slr control near dslr quality shots in a small package. Or as another reviewer stated something like "it just feels damn cool to shoot with the GF1 because every soccer mom is walking around with a dslr nowadays"

    Also as other reviewers have stated the camera is not as small "as panasonic marketing makes it out to be". If you are moving up from P&S this thing will be kind of on the huge side as it doesn't slip into your jeans pocket. But if you are used to lugging a dslr you will find it really small and perfect for a backup camera. I was at home with it wrapped around my neck under a jacket/sweater.

    Overall I'm very pleased with it and can't wait for all of my summer trips. I no longer have to kick myself for not having a camera. Sure it is pricey but the memories I shoot with it will be priceless. I think the micro four thirds is a very exciting thing for the dslr industry and I hope it continues to gain momentum and in a few years I could shell out $600 for a new body and keep all of my older m4/3 mount lenses.
     
  2. psykosis

    psykosis Go placidly amid the noise and the haste

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    great write-up, very nice shots.

    :bigthumb:
     
  3. bbp

    bbp bike watching troll king OT Supporter

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    Plus you get to use the HyperPrime 50mm f/0.95
     
  4. legendr34

    legendr34 Titanium Member

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    cool camera
     
  5. Bob Loblaw

    Bob Loblaw Guest

    :werd:



    cool photos dude
     
  6. jackjohnson

    jackjohnson simple as something nobody knows OT Supporter

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    thanks guys!

    jesus just looked that thing up! :run:
     
  7. bbp

    bbp bike watching troll king OT Supporter

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    Getting one?
     
  8. jackjohnson

    jackjohnson simple as something nobody knows OT Supporter

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    haha I wish. I saw HD sample shots of the Leica Noctilus 1.1 mounted to the GF1. Fucking hot. I'm stoked that the hyperprime is waaaaaay cheaper but still I don't ever plan on spending that much for a lens.
     
  9. FlashhslaF

    FlashhslaF New Member

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    post pics!
     
  10. jackjohnson

    jackjohnson simple as something nobody knows OT Supporter

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    it was a youtube vid. 720p shot on the GF1 with the leica 1.1. it was awesome... I can't find it now for some reason
     

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