Victor Hugo said that “Each man should frame life so that at some future hour fact and his dreaming meet.” In essence this says that our dreaming should be a form of planning. This is hard to do at this time of year since it is Photokina 2012 time when lots of new cameras and lenses are announced and all the announcements try to convince you that you must buy their latest and greatest product.
While you might think otherwise given the number of cameras that I have gone though in the past few years, there has always been a goal or purpose in all of my camera purchases. I am a seeker of the smallest, discreet yet most ergonomic camera that I can find that suits my needs. My largest problem has been defining my future needs. I have traveled to various countries with a camera and wished that I had brought something different. An example of that would be the lack of a weather resistant camera that was sealed against dust while in the Sahara desert and the lack of a rain-proof camera with a long lens while traveling within the Amazon rain forest or in Costa Rica. Those events led me to get the Pentax K-5. Will I need that capability in the future? I doubt it, but what will I need?
One consistent need that I still keep coming back to is for a single camera that is small and light-weight but still has suitable ergonomics and image quality (IQ). I’m still looking for a camera that is easy to always take with me no matter where I go. I once thought that one of the micro 4/3’s cameras would be a good compromise. I liked the Olympus E-P3 but felt that the IQ was lacking in low light and that its ergonomics didn’t work with a long lens. I liked the IQ of the Panasonic G3 better but I kept hitting buttons and changing settings accidentally. It doesn’t look like the ergonomics of the Olympus E-M5 are sufficiently better … especially given the location of the on-off switch. So far, the best attributes of the micro 4/3’s system has been the smaller, but high quality lenses. Will the new cameras like the Panasonic GH3 overcome the poor ergonomics of its peers? They did make it larger so the ergonomics might be better, but it is now about the same size of the K-5.
So far I haven’t seen anything in the new cameras coming out that are worth me dreaming about … well except maybe the Fuji X-E1 or the Sony NEX-6. One of them might have the potential of being the best overall camera for me provided that I don’t need long lenses for wildlife, nor a weather resistant system. Will I need, or want such capabilities in the future?
Every time that I start looking at the new cameras trying to find the best compromise for my uses, I keep coming to the conclusion that there isn’t one single camera that will satisfy me now and that the only way I will be able to get down to one suitable camera will be to reduce my range of potential shooting options … to forget about the rare future chances that I will need a long focal length, weather resistant system for the Amazon rain forest and to forget about long lenses for photographing wildlife at a distance, etc. Maybe I should refocus my dreams on fewer types of photography.
A made several mistakes when I took the above picture. I took the picture last spring with my Panasonic G3 camera. That camera gave me fits and I eventually sold it. Due to its’ size, the buttons on the back left little room for my hand and I was often pushing buttons and changing settings while I carried it. The morning I took the above picture was foggy and I shot into the sun which was shining through the fog. I ran outside and took the picture quickly and then didn’t realize the settings were off until I came back in and downloaded the pictures. By then it was too late to retake the picture. Due to the camera settings, the picture was terrible and I thought unusable.
Today while I was sitting here and thinking about some of the mistakes I have made, I went back to see if I could recover anything of interest from the screwed up picture. Fortunately, I had taken the picture in raw format with a 16 MP camera and that left me with a lot of latitude to correct the picture. In the original composition, the sun was in the frame, the exposure was off, the noise was high, and the colors were weird and unnatural.
My first step in recovering the above scene was to crop the sun out of the view. I then made major changes to the exposure and converted the picture to B&W in order to eliminate the weird colors. I then applied copious amounts of noise reduction to remove the grainy looking noise. The picture was taken at ISO 6400 on a micro 4/3 camera and it had quite a bit of digital noise. My final change was to add a blue tone to get the picture back to how I remembered it looking in the fog.
Lessons learned: always shoot in raw format and never delete a picture until many months have gone by and you have made several attempts to recover it, and use LR4 to develop pictures since it is nondestructive and you can go back and revisit previous development. In this case I ended up with a picture of the style I tend to like … simple but mysterious and makes me think. I’m wondering what was hidden by the fog and how much is out there that we never see, usually because we don’t try hard enough to look with an open mind.
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.
Look carefully in the center of the next two pictures and you will see a mink watching me.
I got a better picture of one swimming and then trying to hide on the opposite bank.
And the saga continues. The new K-5 that I ordered arrived. As I have discussed earlier, I have had problems with accidentally pushing the buttons on the rear of the micro 4/3 Panasonic G3 camera. The reasons for this are two-fold. First, as you can see in the photo below, there is no room on the right side of the rear of the G3. Second, I have arthritis in my right hand, especially the thumb joint, and I no longer have as much gripping power with my extended thumb. To compensate for that loss, I have used the base of my thumb, or the palm, to hold the camera while only resting the tip of the thumb lightly against the camera in conjunction with the hand grip on the front of the camera. Unfortunately, this results in my occasionally “mashing” the controls on the lower, right – rear of the G3.
While seeking another camera with better ergonomics, I found that the above control situation is prevalent on all smaller micro 4/3 cameras. The only cameras with sufficient “real estate” for my situation are the larger DSLRs. I tried both Canon and Nikon DSLRs but found that the Pentax K-5 fit my hand better, so I decided to give it another try. As you can see below, it has just enough space for me to use my palm to support the camera, but it weights quite a bit more. So much more, that I thought that the G3 would serve me better … until I found the ergonomics to be frustrating.
Panasonic G3 …. Pentax K-5
Since my primary use for the G3 has been for shooting wildlife with the Panasonic 100 – 300 mm lens, I also ordered the Pentax 55 – 300 mm lens for my comparison studies. As you can see below, these are of comparable size mounted on their respective cameras … but not equal in their range. With the G3, the end of the zoom at 300 mm is effectively equal to 600 mm while 300 mm on the K-5 is only effectively 450 mm. You can see the differences below. (You can also see that the K-5 has a better grip on the front.)
Panasonic G3 …. Pentax K-5
G-3 and 300 mm
K-5 and 300 mm
While gaining better ergonomics with the K-5, I would be giving up focal range and gaining weight. The G-3 with the 100 – 300 mm lens weighs a total of 925 gm. The K-5 with the 55 – 300 mm lens weights 1210 gm. Both of those weights include the batteries and memory cards.
I’m now faced with trying to decide whether the change is worth it. With the K-5 I gain a rugged weather resistant camera along with faster focusing, faster shooting, better sensor, and better ergonomics at the expense of added weight to lug around and a shorter focal range.
I need to comment that having this added weight would not be practical for me if I didn’t also have a lighter weight better camera … the Fujifilm X100. It has a fixed effective 35 mm lens. I sold my Olympus E-P3 and replaced it with the Fujifilm X100 … thus I have already made a partial move from micro 4/3 to APS size sensor. The X100 is, and will be, my preferred choice for a walk-about, travel, etc. camera when the primary use is not shooting wildlife and the ruggedness, weather resistance, zoom ability, etc. features of the K-5 are not needed. The weight of the X100 is only 470 gm and the size is more suitable for taking pictures in crowds of people. You can see the differences in physical size below.
Fuji X100 … K-5 with 55 – 300 mm lens
470 gm vs. 1210 gm
My problem now is to decide whether the added weight of the K-5 warrants replacing the G3 and lenses with the K-5. I do have another option which is weighing on my decision … give up heavy cameras and heavy long zooms and give up shooting wildlife; i.e. become a one camera — one lens photographer.
I took these pictures of the Black-Crowned Night Heron at a little past seven in the evening at our local pond a few days ago. If you are interested in reading about this Heron you can click here.
The following picture is our local alligator (not). From a distance it looked like something was floating on top of the water and it looked a little like an alligator. I have included the picture below just because I liked the color and ripples of the water.
I used my micro 4/3 Panasonic G3 with the Panasonic 100 – 300 mm lens to get the above pictures. It really is an excellent camera and lens but I will probably be selling them shortly. If you have read earlier articles you know that I have had trouble accidentally hitting the buttons on the camera. Almost every time I pick it up and look through the viewfinder I find that I’m in the menu system or have changed some of the settings.
I replaced my earlier Pentax K-5 with the Panasonic G3 and micro 4/3 lenses a while back to attempt to find a better solution for dealing with the arthritis in my hands and back. I thought that a smaller and lighter camera system would be the answer, but it wasn’t. Smaller and lighter meant that the controls were more crowded on the back of the camera and they left little space for my hand. I have tried various ways of carrying and holding the camera but my problems still exist. I have fond memories of the excellent, although heavier Pentax K-5 so I’m going back to it. I think that I can deal with the extra weight and better ergonomics better than I can deal with the frustration of changed settings; but the final answer will have to wait until I try the K-5 again for a week or so while carrying it and using it on my walks.
Unfortunately, it means another change. In order to keep the weight of the K-5 and lenses down, it means that I’m going to have to give up some focal length. Pictures like the above may become a thing of the past. With the G3 and its’ lenses, I had a maximum effective focal length of 600 mm. That lets me reach out and grab shots of wildlife from a distance. With the K-5 and the 55 – 300 mm lens that I have ordered, I will only have an effective focal reach of 450 mm. If I find that I can handle the weight of the K-5 I will just have to try to get a little closer. 🙂
On Memorial Day we had some entertainment from Ray Owen, a Grammy nominated singer/songwriter and national recording artist. He performed by singing and playing songs from the past, many popular during our previous wars going way back to the Revolution & Civil War.
I’m primarily showing this picture of Ray since it was part of an experiment to see if I could use the Panasonic G3 with the 45 – 175 mm, f/4 – f/5.6 lens in the Omni Auditorium. I have often wished for a longer focal length when taking pictures of events there, but have refrained from using this lens since it isn’t very fast. I normally use my 20 mm, f/1.7 lens since the lighting is very poor.
The result of my experiment is that it worked, but barely. The pictures may be suitable for printing in machine copied flyers, etc. but they are awfully noisy and a little soft when reviewed closely. All of the pictures were taken at the widest aperture which depended upon the amount of zoom, and at an ISO of 3200. ISO of 3200 is my working limit with the G3, and only if I take the pictures in raw format and do a lot of “cleaning” in LR4. Since this lens is soft at the largest apertures, especially at the zoom extremes, I doubt that I will be using it much under the above conditions.
As mentioned in the previous posting, I have ordered a Fuji X100 camera. It is due to be delivered today, so I’m now looking forward to trying it out. If I use it to take pictures in the Omni Auditorium, I’ll have to get up close due to the fixed 35 mm (e) focal length, but I’m positive the image quality will be a big improvement. Hopefully, if the ergonomics are suitable, my next series of articles will be showing my trials as I learn how to use the X100 … not an easy process according to what many are saying on the web, but well worth it in the end.
This is an interim report on my sojourn in seeking a better camera … a better camera relative to ergonomics and my problems with holding and carrying it due to arthritis. As I stated earlier, I have gone through a number of ideas and trials relative to different cameras. My latest approach is as follows.
I have found that I can minimize the accidental button pushing on the Panasonic G3 camera, with the resulting change in settings, if I only use it with longer, heavier zoom lenses. What I did was take the neck/shoulder strap off and replace it with a wrist strap on the left side of the camera (facing the back of camera). I then put the strap around my left wrist as a safety measure if I lose my grip. I then hold/carry the camera in my left hand by gripping the lens rather than the camera. This keeps me from hitting the buttons while I carry it and raise it up to my eye when shooting. It doesn’t eliminate the problem since I still occasionally hit the buttons with my right hand while shooting, but I notice it immediately since I have my eye to the view finder and can quickly hit the delete button to cancel the unwanted action.
The above partial solution still leaves me with frequent problems while using the camera with prime pancake lenses since I can’t hold it by the short lenses. Since I primarily experience this problem when using my fast prime lenses indoors under poor lighting conditions, I decided to see if I could find a better camera for those conditions. I’m looking for better in two ways: no accidental button pushing while being easy to hold, and better low light capability. At the moment I think I may have found the solution. I ordered a Fuji X100 camera. It has a range-finder profile … small, thinner, control dials, and not too heavy as well as an APS size sensor along with one of the best view finders available. The APS sensor is larger than the micro 4/3 sensors in the G3 and E-P3 and does better at high ISO settings with less noise. In addition it has a non-zoom, single 35 mm (effective) f/2 lens. I have been using my Olympus E-P3 with either the 14 mm f/2.5 or the 20 mm f/1.7 lenses (effective 28 or 40 mm). The Fuji X100 with its lens is a perfect compromise in focal length, with better low light capability, better image quality, and hopefully with better ergonomics and easier to change dial controls.
I won’t know how well this approach works until after I get my X100 and try it for a while. If it solves my problems, I’ll primarily only use the G3 with my Panasonic 45 – 175 mm and 100 – 300 mm lenses while taking short walks with the primary aim of taking wildlife shots. I’ll use the X100 for my indoor photography and as a walk-about camera while traveling, walking city streets, shooting landscapes, etc. It has a smaller profile, is easier to take with me, and has the advantage of being silent and more discreet when taking pictures in crowds of people.
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!