I have been researching cameras and lenses looking for the best pocket camera for my needs. I obviously would like the largest sensor I can afford as long as the camera fits in a jacket pocket. The issue that I am exploring with the above pictures is lens focal length. Lots of street photographers use an effective 28 mm focal length lens since it is wide and small and more discreet on a camera. But how would it work for me around here?
I had to walk down to another building this morning with some papers so I stuck my Olympus E-PL5 with the 14 mm (effective 28 mm) lens in a brief case along with other lenses. As I was walking back I took the above pictures. I tried to cover a range of subjects to see how it performed in good light.
Long ago, well it seems long to me, I primarily used long focal length zoom lenses with an effective 300 mm being a much-used focal length. It was not until I traveled to Ireland that I found that I preferred wider, faster, prime lenses for those conditions; but for walking around places where I live I still preferred longer focal lengths. In the last couple of years I have noticed that my most used focal lengths have continued to drop … mostly to 40 – 75 mm effective focal lengths. Lately I have been primarily using an effective 35 mm focal length for my indoor projects. The issue I am exploring now is could I get-by with 28 mm for a walk-about pocket camera.
Based on what I have found so far, I am thinking about the Ricoh GR camera for a pocket camera. It is the smallest, most pocket-able APS-C, effective 28 mm camera. I had the Fujifilm X100 when it first came out. It is an effective 35 mm and at that time I was worried that it wasn’t long enough. In addition it is a much heavier and larger camera than the 28 mm Ricoh GR. The GR also slides in and out of pockets easier than my E-PL5 with the 14 mm lens … it projects only 35 mm vs. 67 mm, and is lighter, 245 g vs. 425 g … and it has an APS-C size sensor vs. the micro 4/3 in the E-PL5.
Sometimes it is worth having a small camera in your pocket, and I have been wondering whether I should look for a better small camera. At the moment I have been using a Panasonic LF1 which has been excellent for its size. It only has a 1/1.7” size sensor so it is limited, but makes up for it with an excellent zoom lens and the ability to shoot in raw format.
But, the above images pushed it to its limits. The sunlight breaking through a cloud was difficult to get because of the light extremes. I had to dial the exposure back to keep from burning the highlights too much and then I still had to work on the image with LightRoom. It worked OK, but it isn’t the fastest camera to use. The zoom is slow and the exposure adjustment is done with the small dial on the back. It works fine when you have time, but I would like something easier and quicker to adjust. The other picture was taken in the restaurant which was on the dark side. I took this image at ISO 1600 and then had to use a lot of noise reduction using LightRoom.
The LF1 is better than a camera-phone but the phones are catching up quickly. Some of my thoughts recently have been to just keep using my LF1 and wait until the phone cameras improve some more. If I go somewhere and don’t wish to take my larger heavy Pentax K-3 and lenses, I can take my Olympus E-PL5 and a prime lens or two to keep the size & weight down … but it still needs a large jacket pocket or a small bag for carrying. It would be nice to have a camera-lens combination smaller than my E-PL5 that is easier to quickly take out of a pocket and take a few pictures in raw format with quick exposure and zoom adjustments … with better image quality than the LF1 or a camera-phone. I’m still looking, but my K-3 continues to spoil me. I love the controls and ease of making fast changes with the ability to get great images.
The new Canon G7 X looks promising. It has a 1” 20 MP sensor, 24 – 100 mm equivalent zoom, tilting touchscreen LCD, takes raw format pictures, is about the same size as my LF1, etc. But, a larger sensor would be even better. The major disadvantage of a larger sensor, like APS-C size, is that the lenses are a lot larger and heavier. The only way around them is to go with a built-in, fixed, prime lens like on the Leica X2. The X2 is a lot faster to turn on, make adjustments, etc. and is only slightly larger and 13% heavier than the G7 X but a lot more expensive. The similar Fujifilm X100T is larger and 45% heavier than the Canon G7 X, is similar in quality to, or better than the Leica X2, and is less expensive than the X2.
But, I decided the best compromise based on size, weight, image quality, and cost is using my Olympus E-PL5 with a prime lens as a jacket pocket, or small bag camera. I have the Panasonic 14 mm f/2.5 pancake lens but is a little on the wide and slow side. It has an effective 28 mm focal length and is great for many uses but I decided to get the Panasonic 20 mm f/1.7 lens (effective 40 mm) to supplement it. My only decisions left are to decide whether to carry it on a neck strap under a jacket or to use a wrist strap and carry it in a jacket pocket this fall and winter, and when to take it rather than my K-3 or my LF1.
I often wonder how often smart phones are used for cameras vs. for calling people. I like watching how our technology changes, and how it changes us. Smart phones have destroyed the small P&S camera business since people now just use their phone to take pictures.
Not only do people now use their phone to take pictures, they do not talk face-to-face as much as they did. They also don’t call people on the phone as much as they use to. They now just text or send e-mails.
I have taken over 300 pictures this past week but few of them will end up in my blog since I have been taking them for other uses. I toured a local sawmill this past week and used my Olympus E-PL5 camera mostly with the 14 mm Panasonic lens, but I also took a few pictures with my Olympus 45 mm lens. I had a lot of competition taking pictures … from the phone above to the newspaper photographer below. Even many newspapers are now replacing their photographers and big cameras. They find that people submitting videos and pictures taken with smart phones are cheaper and timelier.
Note the different style/shape/size windows/doors/openings in a very small area in a very old structure in the above image.
While I have gone back through my older pictures taken a few years ago in Ireland, I discovered that all the best images (my preference) were taken with a micro 4/3 camera with one of two prime lenses. Those lenses were the Panasonic 14 mm or 20 mm pancake lenses. They had effective focal lengths of 28 and 40 mm. Looking at the images made with these two lenses brought back memories of how much I loved using these small pancake lenses on a small camera. If we were in town and walking the streets or touring inside buildings I used the 14 mm lens and if we were out in the country or traveling in the van I used the 20 mm lens. I found these to be near perfect focal lengths in Ireland. As I often do, I have decided to go back to the future … get something new & better that replicates one aspect of a previous capability.
I now have the Fuji X-E1 camera which is even better than the micro 4/3 camera that I used in Ireland. Since it is also small and of the same rangefinder style and since I already have the 27 mm pancake lens with an effective focal length of 40.5 mm, I decided to order the Fuji 18 mm, effective 27 mm focal length, lens. Using these focal lengths on the streets in Hanover, PA will not be the same and may not work as well, but I will also be able to use my 35 mm prime lens (effective 52.5 mm) here if needed on the wider streets.
I decided to keep the Pentax K-5 and I sold all of my remaining micro 4/3 gear: the Panasonic Lumix G3 along with the Panasonic 100 – 300 mm, 45 – 175 mm, 14 – 42 mm, 14 mm, and 20 mm lenses. I had sold all of my Olympus micro 4/3 cameras & lenses earlier. For a while (I hope a long while) I am going to be using my K-5 and my Fuji X100 cameras. In the final decision, the better ergonomics and speed and IQ of the K-5 trumped the lighter weight of the micro 4/3 system.
I plan to keep and use my X100 for inside buildings, low-light events, walking the street, and lightweight travel by airplane … situations where the equivalent fixed 35 mm focal length is sufficient and/or less weight is necessary. I primarily plan to use my K-5 for wildlife, during bad weather, car trips, and other (haven’t decided) uses. The other uses depend upon which lenses I get and whether I have to carry the camera far or for a long time.
The above picture of the Killdeer was taken last evening at a focal length of 300 (effective 450) mm at an ISO of 1600, f/8, 1/400 sec. I ended up cropping the picture quite a bit and I really could have used the effective 600 mm lens that I sold, but I have decided to stick with the maximum effective 450 mm focal length of the Pentax lens that I have. In addition to the Pentax 55 – 300 mm lens, I also have the weather resistant 18 – 55 mm lens.
I plan on taking some lower light pictures with the 18 – 55 mm lens before I decide on whether I need some additional lenses. One major advantage of the Pentax system is the availability of nice small, lightweight, prime lenses. At the moment I am somewhat conflicted whether I need additional lenses for the K-5. I prefer to use one camera and as few lenses as I can, and the K-5 could serve that desire except for the weight issue. I am still afraid that I will have problems with carrying and holding the K-5 with its heavier lenses, and that is why I have and intend to keep a Fuji X100.
I prefer to use the X100 if I’m walking for a long time. If I didn’t have the X100 I could reduce the weight of the K-5 system by putting a prime lens on it, but it would still be around twice as heavy as the X100. The X100 is also a better system when I’m among people and wish to be a little more discreet … and I just love that camera and the hybrid viewfinder. For now I tend to leave the 55 – 300 mm lens on the K-5 and use the X100 if I need a shorter focal length, unless there is a chance of rain. By working that way, I can grab either camera quickly to shoot. I can carry both in a bag but haven’t so far. I just pick up one or the other camera depending on what I expect to be shooting and go bag-less while walking.
The above is a picture of ducklings wading in Plum Creek. I used my Panasonic G3 with the 100 – 300 mm lens. This picture was taken at the 300 mm focal length (which on the G3 equates to an effective 600 mm) while hand holding it. I’m showing this as an example of one end of my photography … wildlife pictures taken with a long focal length lens.
At the other extreme, I often take pictures with my 14 mm lens, which is the widest lens that I have. Since some of you have been interested in the status of our porch construction, I’m using pictures of the porch to illustrate that extreme of my photography.
These pictures are a few days old. They have since seeded and spread straw over the bare area. We are now waiting for the final power washing, a bit of painting, and installation of the ceiling light.
I used my Olympus E-P3 with the Panasonic 14 mm lens for the porch pictures. That combination is my favorite walk-about photography set-up since it is my smallest, discreet combination. It is a very good camera/lens combo for landscape and street scenes with good lighting … and I even sometimes use it when shooting inside in not so well-lit rooms; but I often switch to my 20 mm lens since it is faster and handles low light settings better.
As I have stated in earlier posts, I have had problems with accidentally punching buttons and changing my settings on the G3; but, after researching alternatives, I have decided to continue using my G3 with my long lenses. When I use the longer lenses I tend to carry & hold the camera by the lens with my left hand and don’t end up changing settings as frequently as I do with shorter lenses. That leaves me with the decision as to what works best for me when using shorter focal length lenses.
I have decided that I would rather look for a better walk-about camera/lens combo that can also handle low light situations better than the E-P3. I would also prefer having an integral view finder rather than having to rely upon using the LCD to compose pictures, especially in bright sun light. I have thus reduced the alternatives down to a few cameras with APS size sensors (for better low light, high ISO shots) which have built-in view finders, and which are discreet in size but easy to hold and handle with dials for changing settings. Oh, I forgot to add, and that are cheaper than a Leica M9!
The above was taken in my front yard with the Panasonic G3 camera and the Panasonic 45 – 175 mm lens at a focal length of 107 mm.
As mentioned in earlier articles, I have been simplifying my photography gear. My desire has always been to be able to get down to one camera that is small, lightweight and does all I need. My Panasonic G3 almost does it. I have sold my K-5 and all the Pentax lenses as well as my Olympus E-P1 and E-PL2 cameras, and all of my Olympus lenses other than for the 14 – 42 mm kit lens for the E-P3. The only reason I have kept that lens is for when I eventually sell my E-P3. I also plan to sell my Canon S95.
While I initially preferred the Olympus micro 4/3 cameras over the Panasonic ones since the Olympus cameras have in-body image stabilization, I have switched to Panasonic cameras. I did that since 1) Panasonic was quicker to switch to a refined, better sensor, 2) Panasonic had a built-in viewfinder, and 3) the Panasonic cameras were more reasonably priced.
The one shortfall that I experience with the G3 is the ability to carry it in a pocket or a very small bag; therefore, for the near term, I am keeping my Olympus E-P3 to cover that need. Eventually I hope to replace it with a micro 4/3 camera that is easier to carry in a jacket or vest pocket. Until that happens, I will use the E-P3 with either the 14 or 20mm Panasonic lens on it when I don’t think I will need the G3, or at least don’t wish to take it with me.
As of now (I know I keep buying and selling cameras :-)), I plan to use the Panasonic G3 with either the 14, 20, 14 – 42, or 45 – 175 mm lens on it, depending on where I’m going and what I’m photographing. I’m finding that I really like the Panasonic 45 – 175 mm lens for when I’m walking outside in the more open areas, and generally only switch to one of the wider angle, faster lens when I’m in town or inside a building.
The next lens that I’m thinking about getting is the Panasonic 25 mm lens to use on the G3. I’m thinking that I will keep the 20 mm lens to use on the E-P3, and then, hopefully on another micro 4/3 camera … probably a future generation of a small micro 4/3 Panasonic camera. If I proceed with this plan I will then have redundancy between the two cameras and all of the lenses and will be photographing exclusively with micro 4/3 cameras. Eventually I hope to be down to primarily one camera, but it would have to be a small lightweight micro 4/3 camera with a built-in viewfinder.
Now, if only I could reduce the number of my camera bags. I have acquired many bags for many cameras and different uses over the last few years, and while you can never have too many bags :-), I do have some larger ones that I will probably never use again.
I have a Canon S95, a Pentax K-5, and an Olympus E-P3 camera with multiple lenses for the K-5 and the E-P3 … more cameras than I need or use. I mostly use the E-P3 because of the quality, size and weight compromise. In addition, I seem to be gravitating towards using a prime lens on the E-P3 … the Panasonic 14 or 20 mm, or the Olympus 45 mm. My dilemma is what will I need in the future? It’s always easier to look back in time, and these cameras have all served me well under different circumstances. The question is, what will I need down the road? Will one of the newer cameras better serve my future needs?
I’m contemplating replacing my cameras with the new Olympus OM-D, E-M5. It would give me the weather protection that I have with the K-5 but in a much smaller, easier to carry system package. It would also allow me to continue to use the micro 4/3 lenses that I have and love, but it might not have the image quality that I can get with the K-5. The E-M5 might be the single camera solution that I have dreamed about.
My current reservations are:
- Will I use a camera enough to warrant buying a new one?
- Will I really need an all-weather camera?
- Will I do a lot better with the EVF of the E-M5 due to my eye-sight?
- Will I be able to handle the E-M5 with one hand if my other hand is holding a cane or walking stick?
- Should I keep the E-P3 for backup?
If I only knew what was down the road.
In earlier posts I talked about the advantages I have found in using 14 mm and 20 mm prime lenses while touring in Ireland, etc. I’m not going to repeat the advantages of touring with prime lenses since you can read them in many of my earlier posts. What I’m addressing today is why I have added another prime lens to my daily walks … the 45 mm f/1.8 Olympus lens which gives me an effective 90 mm focal length.
In Ireland the 14 and 20 mm lenses were ideal for the wider landscape pictures that I took, but I learned that while walking around Hanover city streets, the things with the most character were found in the smaller details. To capture this I decided to get the 45 mm f/1.8 lens to obtain a greater reach.
The question I’m sure you want to ask is “why not use my 14 – 150 mm zoom lens?” since it would give me a lot more focal length flexibility. The primary reasons are that it is bigger, weighs more, doesn’t have as good low light capabilities, and isn’t as sharp. The 45 mm lens is sharp at f/1.8 and the sharpness is quite good, and consistent at f stops between f/4 and f/8. If I wish to focus on details with the further stuff blurred, I can set the aperture at f/1.8 … can’t do that with the 14 – 150 mm f/4 to f/5.6 zoom lens. If I’m interested in maximum detail and depth-of-focus I can set the 45 mm prime at f/5.6 to f/8 and keep shooting without any thought. In addition, since the 45 mm is so sharp, and since I display my pictures on digital devices, I can crop-zoom significantly to home in on the details thus negating the need for a longer zoom. If I need to take a wider shot and don’t have a wider lens in my pocket, I can take a panorama with two or more pictures and then join them when I get home.
The only potential disadvantage of shooting with prime lenses is the occasional need to change them and this raises the possibility of getting dirt on the sensor or dropping a lens; but I haven’t found this to be a problem. My practice is to choose the best lens before going out depending upon where I’m going and what I’m shooting. In doing this I am almost always able to change lenses while sitting at home or in my car, and almost never need to change them while walking.
Since this is a different focal length than I am use to using, I have tried to learn more about shooting with it by walking around close to home. Above is a picture that I took while testing the lens under the conditions I expect to encounter. I’m showing the same picture below in B&W. That is another aspect of my pictures that I’m exploring; i.e. displaying the older buildings, etc. in B&W.
We often miss a lot as we go through life. This applies to almost everything we do as well as in our photography. Often, especially when touring with a group we only look for, and take, what I’ll call “postcard” pictures. The pictures that everyone seems to take; the same views recorded over and over by almost everyone carrying a camera. We don’t take the time to look around, including behind us, for the often more interesting views.
We need to think as we compose our views. It works two ways. We need to take the time to compose our shots and ensure that we don’t end up with features we didn’t want, like the classic pole appearing to stick out of someone’s head or some other distracting element at the edge of the scene. Take the time to review the extremities of your picture before you push the shutter. The same care needs to be taken to ensure that we do include the local color, or those things which help establish what makes the view different from all the other pictures. Often when touring highly visited tourist sites our biggest concern is trying to get a picture without people in the shot, when including them can enhance the picture.
How well did you look at the above picture? Did you see the baby in the lower left portion of the frame? Click on the picture and then click on the 1200 x 1600 size above it and look more closely. I think that it adds to the overall image by adding a human element to Saint Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin Ireland, the largest Church in Ireland. This building was built in 1200 – 1270 and later fell into disrepair. Between 1860 and 1900 a full-scale restoration was carried out by the Guinness family, and we still get to admire the architecture today. How many views have this human element to help offset the cold, dark, but impressive architecture?
All that I have mentioned above also applies to life in general. Take time, slow down, look around, take it easy, enjoy yourself, and make sure you don’t miss the finer details in life.
Here are a few more pictures from inside the Cathedral. They were all a challenge to take due to the low light levels.
PS, for those inquiring minds, these pictures were taken with the Olympus E-P1 camera with the Panasonic 14 mm lens at a wide open aperture of f/2.5 and ISOs varying between 400 and 1600. They were taken as raw files and then developed with Adobe Lightroom.