Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Path to Micro Four Thirds

Photography is a hobby that has grown on me lately. A couple of years ago I started taking photos with my phone, even though the picture quality was low, photography appealed to me. (Click the pictures for a better view).

Picture of my girlfriend taken with the Samsung SGU-600 mobile phone.

In 2008 I bought a Sony DSC-W300 after reading a couple of good reviews, and the ball started rolling. After first being very happy with the picture quality in the Sony, I realized that it was still some way to go before reaching the level of the pros. This was in terms of knowledge, technique, equipment, and post processing.

Picture taken with the Sony DSC-W300 in Molde, Norway.

Picture taken with the Sony DSC-W300 at Preikestolen, Norway.

Panasonic recently introduced the innovative Micro Four Thirds format, promising SLR picture quality in a more compact offering. After reading many favorable reviews of the Lumix GF1 and the Lumix 20mm f1.7 lens, I decided to go for the combination. To me this has been a perfect camera to learn the in and outs of photography, the camera is small compared to the SLRs, so its easy to bring on most occasions. With the bigger senor and the manual controls, it was easier to learn about the interactions between aperture size, shutter speed and iso. I also upgraded my software from iPhoto to Aperture, to get the most out of the RAW format.

Picture of my girlfriend taken with the Lumix GF1 and 20mm lens

Molde, Norway, taken with the Lumix GF1 and 20mm lens

My parents, taken with the Lumix GF1 and 20mm lens

Recently I have done some video creation/editing in some projects at my work. I have found it to be creative and rewarding, so after reading many great reviews for the Panasonic Lumix GH2, I decided to purchase it. The camera has gotten a lot of attention and praise from both pro photographers and videographers in comparison with the best from Canon. There are some beautiful videos on Vimeo.com that shows of its potential, personally I like these two very much:

By Pilpop.... Lumix GH2 Test !

Crop Dusting

Compared to the GF1, the GH2 has less noise at high ISO values, it has an electrical viewfinder that is more convenient than I thought it would be, 5 fps (or 40 fps with reduced mega pixels), articulated screen, multi aspect sensor, better grip when using large lenses, increased mega pixels and of course a lot better video record possibilities (higher bit-rate, higher resolution, HDMI out, stereo sound and possibilities for external mic). So it is a worthwhile upgrade. With that said I will keep the excellent GF1 as a backup camera and for its compact size. Together with the GH2 I got the 14-140mm lens which is sharp, covers a large range and is optimized for video with step less aperture and silent focusing. Together with the 20mm f1.7 they make an excellent pairing, that I expect will cover most of my photographic needs. Still interested in the 7-14mm, the 45mm macro and maybe the 100-300mm lenses though. Here are some shots I took at mostly ISO 6400 with the B&W Dynamic film mode in my dark apartment, all handheld:

Basketball shoes, ISO 6400, f/5.8, 1/10, 73mm (X2 for 35mm equivalent)

ISO 6400, f/5.8, 1/500, 140mm (X2 for 35mm equivalent)

ISO 3200, f/6.3, 1/1000, 22mm (X2 for 35mm equivalent)

The Micro Four Thirds has proven to be a great standard, the quality of my pictures and videos are not any longer restricted by my equipment, but by my skills. The Micro Four Thirds size/performance/flexibility/price ratio hits the sweet spot, it shows in the enthusiasm for the format by bloggers, reviewers and award givers.The system is easy to use for beginners and flexible and powerful for the experienced.

If you are looking for a camera, I highly recommend any of the Panasonic or Olympus Micro Four Thirds cameras. If you are looking for the best video capabilities as well, you should go for the Panasonic GH2.
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