Land of giants

So this is the age of the full frames!

Nikon, Canon and shockingly Panasonic [!!!] have all announced or indictated they are joining Sony in the brave new world of full frame mirrorless cameras.

Has anything really changed?

I’m not sure.

These beasts are likely to be so expensive that they remain the preserve of wealthy enthusiasts and pro photographers.  Their lenses remain heavy and the mirrorless versions are sometimes larger to make up for the new mirrorless dimensions. Maybe then everything remains the same just without mirrors.

The approx £2000 price tag will price out many hobbyist photographers, so my main concern is how seriously panasonic will take micro four thirds now. Because if almost everything stays the same, just mirrorless, then the big issue is whether mft as a format will still receive investment.

Now if manufacturers were willing to bring the price of digital cameras down then that would be interesting. If full frame cameras were within reach of more people, and at a price point that recognised that they need replaced every four years, that really would be a thing!!

With all this talk of increased frame rates, megapixels and more and more K video, what I really really want, is an inxepensive, relatively low tech, minimalist full frame camera, that I could afford to replace every few years. And of course, a few decent primes!

I can dream…

More GAS

It’s 10 years since the first mirrorless camera appeared on the scene. Amateur Photographer magazine has a whole issue devoted to the subject (Saturday 18th August 2018).

One article compares the first mirrorless camera, the Panasonic Lumix G1 with its contemporary counterpart the G9. Unsurprisingly, there are great improvements in the latter over the former model.

However what struck me was the relative similarly in the sample images. Yes the G1 delivers noisier shots. But given that there has been a decade between the cameras I was surprised with how well the G1 images compared.

Now, of course their have been very significant changes in other areas. The viewfinders today are a huge improvement on the laggy earlier offerings. Image stabilisation, autofocus, focus peaking and 4K have also made their mark. But basic image quality has possibly improved less that some other technologies.

I have seen similar comparisons of each iteration of Canon 5D. Yes their have been improvements, but the actual images can appear similar without too much pixel peeping.

The thing we have to remember is that photography is not just about art, it’s about business, marketing, sales and profit. There is an industry devoted to parting you from your cash with the promise of better images. But new cameras and lenses will probably make a marginal difference compared to practice and devotion to the art of picture taking.

The blogger Giulio Sciorio confirms this in a recent post saying that after years using and testing the latest camera tech he is now using an older and adequate camera with only a few lenses. However, he sounds much happier than when he had all the newest gear (here).

Sadly we convince ourselves that if we just get a new camera or lens, we will be more satisfied and our images much improved. The problem is that the new gear satisfies for a few weeks and then something better comes along. Our new gadget is psychologically relegated and we remain the same photographer we were before.

Technology moves on and we need to catch up from time to time. But we should challenge more often the myth that the latest gear is most important.

Sicily

We’ve recently been to Sicily. It was a family trip and I’ve learned that it’s not really possible to be a useful dad and focus on taking photos. So I simply used my phone and snatched the odd image before having to chase the kids through the streets of Syracuse.

Sicily was beautiful. And once we’d become accustomed to the slightly crazy driving ( eg I was undertaken at the first roundabout) we tucked in to the abundant seafood, gelato and archaeology.

A few thoughts arising from the photos above:

  • I love the square format again made popular by Instagram. I’m thinking of changing all my digital images to this format.
  • Mobile phones have pretty decent cameras now and the processing power is incredible. They are useful in most circumstances and the images are fine for online sharing.
  • I wonder if Apple will ever team up with a camera manufacturer produce a larger sensor offering?
  • I wish my digital cameras had Apple’s intuitive software.
  • But I’m still mourning the loss of Aperture. I wouldn’t want Apple to buy Olympus or Lumix and then reduce the pro options as some feel has happened eg with Aperture, iWork, Logic Pro and the MacBook Pro.

Is there a benefit to Micro Four Thirds Cameras in Street Photography?

Most weeks I do a little window shopping at our local camera shop. I seem drawn to opportunities to grow envious of gear that I don’t need and can’t afford. I suppose it’s the chipping away of residual satisfaction with my current camera, so that eventually I persuade myself that a new camera will improve my lacklustre images.

On a recent browse, I was surprised by a couple of new Nikon bodies in the window.  Both were entry level cameras and both were much smaller than I had imagined. In fact they they seemed almost the same size as the Panasonic G7 beside them. To confirm this I did a little research and found a really helpful site called camerasize.com. For example, if you follow the link you’ll see that there is very little difference in size between the Nikon D5500 and the Panasonic G7.

Which got me thinking about the increasing size of successive models of mirrorless camera and in particular the Panasonic Micro Four Thirds (MFT) range (e.g. compare the GH1-GH4, the GX1-GX8 or the G3-G7*). To me the increase in size seems to be counter productive, particularly in terms of Street Photography.

The greatest advantage of mirrorless cameras is their size. Of course you need to include lenses when considering overall system sizes. But since APS mirrorless bodies and DSLR bodies use similarly sized lenses, having bodies the same size clearly diminishes the mirrorless advantage. Even in the case of MFT bodies where lenses can be significantly smaller, a small DSLR body with a small prime may be almost the same size. And in terms of image quality an APS DSLR with a small fast lens might be preferable to a similarly sized MFT body. Clearly this is also an issue which MFT cameras face in relation to APS mirrorless bodies.

There remain clear advantages to using MFT systems in some genres of photography. For example if you are going to carry multiple lenses then MFT bodies will have a size and weight advantage. This might sway a travel or documentary photographer. Similarly film makers may prefer the overall system size when using a Lumix GH4 over a Canon 5D.

But in the case of street photographers who usually want small light cameras, when MFT bodies grow closer in size to APS DSLR and Mirrorless bodies their benefit is reduced. This issue is mainly notable at entry and enthusiast level. Once you move up to the pro cameras, mirrorless systems seem much smaller than their Full Frame DSLR equivalents. However at this end of the scale additional considerations of image quality and relative expense may be of equal importance to body size.

*the LUMIX G series has seen only a small increase in size and G3 was actually smaller than both the G1 and G2. 

March 2018 – I notice the new Lumix GX9 appears smaller than the GX8, perhaps Panasonic have been reading this blog;-)

Comfort Zone 

Decided to challenge myself to shoot wider on the streets for a while. I normally use the Panny 20mm 1.7 or the Sigma 30mm 2.8, with the respective FF equivalence of 40mm & 60mm. 

So, I’ve purchased a second hand Panny 14mm 2.5 which gives the FF equivalent field of view of 28mm. 

  
It’s a tiny lens, not too much larger than a 10p.  Time will tell if I can get close enough to use it.