Friday, 31 October 2014

Basic tele lenses compared

All camera systems have a cheap tele zoom lens available. Here are two such lenses, the Lumix G 45-200mm f/4-5.6 for Micro Four Thirds, and the Nikon 1 30-110mm f/3.8-5.6 for the Nikon 1 system:


The Nikon lens is seen here in a glossy orange finish. I guess it could have been worse, it could have been pink. Yes, this lens also exists in pink!

Both lenses cover a fairly wide range of tele focal lengths, useful for daily use. The range of the lenses is illustrated in the diagram below, in 135 film equivalent terms. You can also compare the maximum aperture as a function of the field of view:

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Third party grip for the GM1, LB-GM1

The Lumix GM1 is a fascinating camera: Very small, nicely designed, has good external controls despite the size, and offers top image and video quality.


The only problem I have with it, is the lack of a proper grip. It is awkward to hold.

There is the official grip, which I reviewed here. However, it is quite expensive, and it blocks the tripod mount, and the battery and SD card compartment. Which makes it less than optimal, to say the least.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Improving the ergonomics of the 12-32mm lens

The Lumix G 12-32mm f/3.5-5.6 (my review) is representative of a trend I dislike: That every consumer electronic item must be clad in a smooth metal surface. This makes the items harder to handle, as I see it.

Here is the Lumix 12-32mm lens (on the top), compared with the Nikon 10mm f/2.8 (bottom):


The Nikon lens has the glossy tab on it, which makes it easy to feel with your fingers which way to mount the lens to the camera. It also has the ribbed ring on the front, which provides a good grip.

The Lumix lens, on the other hand, only has the thin, smooth ring with the white dot and the "12-32" text on it to hold on to when mounting it. And there is no physical mark to feel to know which way it goes on the camera. None of the two lenses have a focus ring.

Friday, 10 October 2014

Normal lens shootout

Some decades ago, when film SLR cameras became popular, the 50mm lens was abundant. Due to the long register distance of SLR cameras, the 50mm lens was the shortest which could be designed cheaply with a large aperture, which is why it became so popular. It became the standard lens people bought with an SLR camera, the normal lens.

Nowadays, the kit zoom lens has become the normal lens, but the field of view corresponding to a traditional 50mm lens is still popular. So most manufacturers release a fast "normal lens" when they invest into a new lens mount. In this article, I will compare two normal lenses for two different systems, the Nikon 18.5mm f/1.8 for Nikon 1, and the Leica 25mm f/1.4 for Micro Four Thirds:

LensNikon 18.5mm f/1.8Leica 25mm f/1.4
AnnouncedSep 13th, 2012Jun 13th, 2011
System crop factor2.72
Equivalent focal length50mm50mm
Maximum aperturef/1.8f/1.4
Equivalent max aperture, in terms of DoFf/4.8f/2.8
Weight70g200g
Diameter56mm63mm
Length36mm55mm
Filter thread40.5mm46mm
Minimum focus0.20m0.30m
Lens elements/groups8/69/7
Hood includedNo, HB-N104Yes
Focus ringNoYes

Both correspond to 50mm field of view on a 135 film camera, and both are quite fast, with large maximum apertures:


Thursday, 2 October 2014

GH4: 2.0 firmware, 4K photo mode

Recently, the 2.0 firmware was released for the Lumix GH4, use this direct download link. One of the big new features is the "4K Photo" mode. See the official documentation here.

Basically, the mode makes it easier to grab photos from a 4K video stream, even at 4:3 and 3:2 aspect ratios. However, there are three drawbacks which are good to know about:

1. Using the 30p mode, you can use this mode to continuously take 30 frames per second, and then later browse through them to see which you would like to save. There is one big disadvantage, though: You only get the JPEG file, no RAW file.

This is in contrast to the Nikon 1 cameras, which can take 60FPS continuously, and save the RAW files. I've used the Nikon 1 V3 to take pictures of birds in flight at 20FPS, and it can do fast and accurate AF-C at the same time. This feature makes the Nikon 1 cameras well suited for sports, action and wildlife photos.

2. Contrary to the normal picture mode, the 4K Photo mode does not use the whole sensor. Just like the 4K video mode, it only uses a part of the sensor, as illustrated below:


Essentially, you have an extra crop factor of 1.3 when using the 4K Photo mode. So a 14mm lens becomes equivalent to 18mm on Four Thirds, or 36mm on a traditional film format.

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

New Bolex prime lenses

Recently, a set of three prime lenses were announced by Bolex, with C-mounts:


The lenses are quite small, with a filter thread of 43mm. Pancake lenses like the Lumix 20mm f/1.7 and Lumix 14mm f/2.5 have a filter thread of 46mm. These Bolex lenses cost around US$350 per lens.

So how is this relevant for Micro Four Thirds?