Choosing the Panasonic Lumix GX7

Panasonic GX7-S1

I’ve been on the lookout for a small ILC (Inter-changeable Lens Compact) camera, one that is smaller than the Canon EOS 70D that is. The obvious first choice was the small Canon EOS 100D but this still has to use the full size EF and EF-S lenses that Canon makes – apart from that is quite a nice camera and better specified than the similarly priced Canon EOS 1200D. This model is also based on the Canon EOS 700D – why can no one develop a high spec DSLR in a small body?

Canon EOS 100D Front

Next up was Canon’s Mirror-less model, the Canon EOS M which you can now get for as little as £200 from Argos (with the 18-55 STM lens). Unfortunately this is a very crippled camera, instead of a mirror-less camera I see a Canon EOS 650D camera without the optical viewfinder or swivel screen in a smaller body with most of the physical controls removed. The sensor is also APS-C (1.6x FOV crop factor) so does not offer any real size savings. Finally, if connected to the full size Canon lenses via the £100 adapter we still only get a 1.6x FOV crop factor.

Canon EOS M

At least Nikon offers a 2.7x FOV multiplication factor with their mirror-less system so is much smaller in body and lens size; if adding Nikon’s F adapter to their body we can see some increased FOV multiplication; for example, the affordable Nikon AF-S 70-300mm VR lens becomes a 189 to 810mm equivalent. If you want to save size and weight (although not money) Nikon are also about to release a Nikon 1 series native 70-300mm lens too, this will cost £879; the full DSLR sized lens costs £439 and the Nikon FT1 Mount Adapter costs £229 and the combo is therefore £668. Unfortunately I had to discount Nikon as they don’t have any bodies in their system that I would want; they seem to be losing the plot on what a mirror-less camera should be.

Nikon V3

You can read more about my thought on Nikon’s and Canon’s approach to their mirror-less models in the blog post I wrote called aptly: “Why do Canon and Nikon not get Mirror-less?“.

This left Fuji, Sony, Panasonic and Olympus. After looking at what was around a Micro Four Thirds (MFT) based system seemed to offer the best compromise between size, weight and features and the advances in the last few years have made sensor size a non-issue. The best (current) MFT camera at the moment is arguably the Panasonic Lumix GX7. This a great update to the GX1 I used to own and took to Florida with me back in April 2012 along with the external viewfinder and the two power zooms (I also took the 20mm f1.7 which was used only once).

Rather than go through the all of specifications of what is now a year old camera I will highlight the ones that interested me. If you want to know more I recommend that you visit one of the many review sites. So in no particular order here is the list:

  • Built-in EVF
  • Swivel Screen
  • Hot-shoe
  • Integral flash
  • In-Body stabilisation – great for some of those excellent Olymus prime lenses
  • Good quality video (better than Fuji)
  • Dual Control Wheels
  • Touch Screen
  • it has a handgrip – no brackets to add
  • General size, weight and ergonomics

Panasonic GX7-S2

Maybe it was fate or just serendipity but after making this decision I noticed that one of the local London Camera Exchange Stores in Lincoln had a mint Silver Lumix GX7 with 14-42mm Silver lens for sale at £399! This was on Thursday evening so early Friday morning I rang the (Silver Street) store and reserved the GX7 until lunchtime when I could get some free time to pick up the camera.

Panasonic GX7-S3

After a quick demo and play with the camera I decided to make the purchase. I would rather have had a black GX7 and the 20mm lens but at the price offered for a fully-boxed 4 month old camera with all of the accessories the trade-off was worth it. They also had a 4 month old MkII 14-140mm f4.0-5.6 Power OIS ASPH lens too (from the same owner of the GX7) that was the same price – this is a perfect combo for the GX7. Although this is larger than the 14-42mm lens it has a more versatile zoom range, has a metal lens mount and has the newer power OIS (over the older Mega OIS).

Panasonic GX7-S4

As I’ve only had the camera for a few days the only pictures so far are test shots. I will post an update later to go through what I like, what I don’t like (I already have a few of those) and what I think of the camera in use as a picture and video taking device.

You can read more about the Lumix GX7 at Panasonic’s website here.

Cash-backs and Discounts

It has almost become the norm for the camera and photographic accessory manufacturers to offer cash-backs, instant discounts and/or free accessories (i.e. battery grips and lenses). I suspect that this is to combat the ever decreasing number of sales in this industry at the moment; they (the manufacturers) need to overcome the “good enough” and “last camera” mind-sets of the consumer.

I have been looking at the various offers out there and have saved a few pounds over the years on many items. Fuji’s offers earlier this year (which were better than their current ones) gave me 3 free lenses as well as a £300 saving. Canon’s current offers ended yesterday (Wednesday 13th August) and Nikon’s aren’t far behind. Both of these are heavily consumer based and later in the year we will probably have the autumn cash-backs which will be more focused on the higher priced professional items.

The best offer I have found is from Panasonic though. They have a plethora of offers at the moment and depending upon what you purchase could benefit from more than one. The one that I find most interesting is for the GH3. Currently until the end of this month, if you purchase a GH3 body or body and lens you get a free battery grip and 25mm f/1.4 Leica lens.

Lumix GH3 Offer

If you already had a Lumix GH3 and/or GH4 but wanted the Lumix G X Vario 12-35mm f/2.8 ASPH Power OIS lens, the Leica DG Summilux 25mm f/1.4 ASPH lens and DMW-BGGH3 battery grip (for the GH3 and GH4) you would pay £1487 as follows:

Description Price
Lumix G X Vario 12-35mm f/2.8 ASPH Power OIS lens £829
Leica DG Summilux 25mm f/1.4 ASPH lens £429
DMW-BGGH3 battery grip £229
Total £1,487

However, if you purchase a GH3 with the same 12-35mm f2.8 lens you would pay £1299, this is a saving of £188 AND you get a (free) Lumix GH3 too! You can keep this or sell it and make an even greater saving. Since they don’t sell a GH4 with 12-35mm lens kit this offer for GH4 users is a bit more enticing; the only GH4 kit is one with the more versatile albeit slower Lumix G Vario 14-140mm f/3.5-5.6 ASPH Power OIS lens.

NOTE: These prices are from Park Cameras who are also an approved Panasonic stockist, they are considerably cheaper than WEX Photographic who charge £1449 for the same GH3 kit and £1488 for the individual items (£829 + £429 + £230). Unfortunately my local LCE stores where I prefer to do most of my photographic shopping do not stock the GH3 and their supply of many Panasonic items seems to be constrained at the moment.

Worldwide Photo-Walk 2014

WWPW2014

Over on Scott Kelby’s blog – Photoshop Insider, Scott has announced this year’s annual Photo-walk. You can read all about it by reading this post.

After a hiatus of a couple of years we had one in Lincoln last year run by Neil Mallett. Neil did an amazing job trying to coral the 24 participants on this Photo Walk. I wonder if he will volunteer to run this again for 2014?

I am thinking that I might give it a miss this year, I have been on every Lincoln Photo-walk so far and apart from a couple of good shots back in 2011 (on a Panasonic GF1 with 20mm lens) 1 have not had anything I would consider a great photograph since then:

Lincoln's Water Tower

Lincoln’s Water Tower

The trouble is I turn from being a photographer into a snapshot person, however I occaionally find a photo that I like, I tend to take shots of inanimate objects:

Gates inside Lincoln Cathedral

Gates inside Lincoln Cathedral

For me a photo-walk is too much like Street Photography and although I am constantly amazed at what I see in Lincoln from the beautiful to the bazaar I have a problem taking a picture of it. I have read many articles about how to “overcome the fear” but plain and simple you have to get out there, get over it an just take the shot. It sounds simple but for me it isn’t!

However, I could change my mind about the photo-walk. Assuming that there is one in Lincoln this year I’ll see where the route is and then decide. :)

Lincoln Photo Show 2014 announced

LCE_header.1
The Lincoln High Street branch of London Camera Exchange announces this year’s LCE Photo Show.

This annual event is being held at the Lincoln’s Drill Hall on the 5th of November; there’s now two reasons to “remember, remember the 5th of November”!

You read my thought’s about last year’s event here:
Lincoln_PhotoShow_Nov2013

More details about who will be present at this year’s event and what will be shown will be announced nearer the time, let’s hope that some of the stuff announced at Photokina in September will be available too. More details can be found on LCE’s site here.

Sigma 18-25 f1.8 lens – First Impressions

Sigma 18-35 f1.8 Lens
The sigma 18-35mm F1.8 DC HSM | A lens to give it its full name was another lens that the High Street LCE store in Lincoln let me have a go of on my EOS 70D. I wasn’t looking for a fast lens in this range but whilst they had the third-party cabinet open it seemed an ideal opportunity to give it a go.

This is one of Sigma’s Art lenses (hence the “A” in the name) and like a lot of their latest lenses is a premium lens with a premium price tag -£649. This is a lens exlcusivley designed for cropped sensor Digital SLR cameras which is why the focal range seems a bit unusual and the aperture seems very fast.

This is therefore equivalent to a lens with a field of view of 29-56mm @ f2.8 when you factor in the 1.6x crop factor of the EOS DSLR camera.

So what did I think?
I have to say I wasn’t really impressed and it was least liked of the triumvirate of lenses that I tested this week. That f1.8 aperture means that there is a lot of glass in there and this in turn means this is not a light lens and I am not a fan of heavy photographic items.

Unfortunately I think it was over-hyped quite a lot so when I (eventually) had a go it was a bit so was a bit of an anti-climax. The lens is razor sharp, has relatively fast AF and produces a very bright image in the viewfinder of the 70D. I reviewed my test images and they were all very good.

The main problem with the lens for me (along with the weight) is that the focal range isn’t wide enough. It needs to be something around 16 – 50mm -maybe physics has something to do with the range, I think adding Sigma’s OS would also help too. As I said I wasn’t looking for a standard lens replacement and if I were I think that something like the Canon EF-S 17-55mm IS would be a better solution.

You can read all about this at Sigma’s site here if you are interested.

Tamron 70-300mm f4-5.6 SP Di VC USD Lens – First Impressions

Tamron_SP70-300mm_USD_VC

After visiting the Silver Street LCE on Monday I decided to try out the High Street store on the Tuesday as they have a good range of Tamron and Sigma 3rd Party lenses. I noticed that they stock the Tamron 70-300 VC lens as well as the Sigma 18-35mm f1.8 lens (more on that lens in another post).

Just like their Silver Street Store I was allowed to try the lens on my EOS 70D too. I have to just quickly say that both of the LCE stores in Lincoln go the extra mile when you want to try something out.

So the Tamron lens is a third of the cost of the Canon 70-300 L lens (£299), is the Canon lens therefore 3 times better? The short answer is no. I liked the feel of the Tamron, granted it wasn’t metal but the plastic was of a high grade, this also benefited a reduction in weight which is something I always appreciate. I could not see any difference in the Tamron’s Vibration Control (VC) or Canon’s Image Stabilisation (IS) either in the operation or the speed of activation. I did not compare the sound which was inaudible in the shop so cannot be that bad.

Like my previous first impressions review of the Canon 70-300L lens I will not show you the test shots as they are equally boring too. Suffice to say I couldn’t see any optical difference in the photo’s; maybe if I shot a test chart in exactly the same lighting conditions there may be a difference. If anything the Tamron’s photos seemed to be better. You also have to remember that I am testing these two lenses on a crop-sensor body so there may be greater differences when tested and compared on a full frame (35mm sized sensor) camera.

I am glad that I waited to try out the Tamron as this represents a massive £600 saving, I will certainly be adding this to my arsenal and will retire the 100-300mm lens; I won’t sell it as it isn’t worth a great deal and it may come in handy one day.

You can read more about the lens and its features here.

Canon EF 70-300 L Lens first impressions

EF 70-300mm L IS USM FSL NO CAP
On Monday I visited the Lincoln Silver Street branch of London Camera Exchange to see if they had a Canon EF mount Tamron 70-300mm f4-5.6 SP Di VC USD Lens that I could try on my Canon EOS 70D. I already have an old Canon EF 100-300 f4.5-5.6 USM lens that is quite good optically but is not stabilised (in fact it was released before Canon had stabilised lenses). When you are at the 300mm end of this zoom there are times that you need some form of image stabilisation, whether this is IS, VC, VR, OS or OSS doesn’t really matter it’s all the same thing.

Unfortunately they did not have any Tamron 70-300mm lenses never mind Canon mount variants. When I spoke to Lee he informed me that most people just buy the Canon version and don’t consider 3rd party versions hence they don’t stock them – fair enough.

I had already considered the Canon 70-300 f4.5-5.6 IS USM lens but have struggled to find anything more than a couple of good reviews – it seems that it needs to be stopped down quite a bit to get good shots. Additionally the lens does not offer Full-time Manual focus and the front element rotates too, it is also probably due an update although this lens itself is the second version of a lens in this range form Canon with IS. The final issue (which is a snobbery thing possibly) is that there is no focus scale window – something which I want an all of my lenses if possible. The only exception to this is on STM lenses which don’t have them and the Canon EF 50mm f1.8 II lens that I have (an only because it was half price).

EF 70-300mm L IS USM SIDE NO CAP

However, this LCE has almost the entire Canon lens line up to try so I asked if I could try their Canon EF 70-300 f4.5-5.6 L IS USM lens on my EOS 70D. Lee obliged and the lens was given to me.

Recently the lens had had a slight reduction in price (around £60 to £80) so now costs £1070 and there is also £100 cash-back too.

My initial impression that this quite hefty lens balanced nicely on the EOS body. The lens seems to be almost entirely metal and there were only two things that I didn’t like. The first is that it is really white, a very bright “HELLO THERE!” white colour, it seems whiter than normal, DAZ would be proud. If I was to get one of these I would need to consider a lens cover of some description (if they make one). The second was that this is a very expensive 70-300 f4.5-5.6 lens and Canon do not include a tripod-collar even though Canon put space on the lens for one.

Canon Tripod Mount Ring C (WII)

Just like most Canon accessories the “Canon Tripod Mount Ring C (WII)” for this lens isn’t cheap and costs £164. Why don’t they include this? and why does it cost so much, if you need the tripod collar you will be wiping out the recent reductions in price as well as the cash-back.

As I was taking some test shots at various focal lengths and apertures out throgh the shops open doors one of the first things I noticed was how good the IS was (one of the main reasons to get this lens), you would be viewing the scene through the viewfinder and then a half-press on the shutter release would stabilise the image instantly, it was really quick and I kept doing it as I was really impressed, The sound of the IS was almost silent too, to hear it in the shop I had to put my ear against the lens and then it was only a non-obtrusive whirr.

I took a number of shots at various focal lengths, I shoot JPEG+RAW to give the maximum scope when I need pictures quickly I have them and RAW files when work is required on the images; I tend to do little to no adjustment on my Wildlife photos apart from the occasional crop (I can already here Jared grumbling about that).

I could show you lots of boring test photos instead I’ll just summarise my findings (I always skip to the conclusion of most lens reviews anyway). The lens is sharp and shows little to no vignetting or chromatic aberration. The lens oozes confidence but is a little on the heavy side although the I.S. is fantastic and will certainly help me capture sharper photos as I’m not the steadiest of people when hand-holding cameras. However is it worth £970 (with cash-back) and £164 for the tripod collar?

For me the answer is no at this moment as I still need to compare this with the Tamron 70-300 VC, the only real deficit of this is that it doesn’t have weather esealing and the image quality might not be as good as the Canon.

After writing this post I visited the High Street store and they had a Tamron 70-300 VC lens in Canon mount to try out and this cemented my opinion of what lens to go for. All being well this will be posted tommorrow.

If you want to read more about the Canon EF 70-300 f4.5-5.6 L IS USM Lens, you can go to the press release here or the product page on Canon’s site here.