the allure of sevens

Once upon a time my lucky imaging number was five. Fifth anniversary, K-5 and the like. Now I have a GX7 and find it quite nice, fun to use and meeting my needs. One of the few limitations it has is for time exposures, where a 2-minute limit renders the camera less useful for some creative shots after dark, including some astronomy shots. Sure, time lapse imaging can make up for some of that.. but other possibilities are less convenient.

Enter the other seven: the Olympus ePL7!

A gently-used ePL7 dropped to my 'irresistible' threshold. This camera fits between the gm1 and gx7 for bulk and features, and is similarly equipped for the most part (e.g. 16 Mpxl sensor, battery life, touchscreen). This 7 takes Olympus' Live Time and Live Composite features and shifts them to a Pen body. I had tried ePL5 and 6 bodies but let them go, mainly for the awkward control dial; the dial now surrounds the shutter button, which is a major improvement.

The Live options are what brings this camera into the team. Live shots 'develop' the image on the rear screen while the image is being captured, so it practically tells you when exposure is sufficient to stop the shot! Live-composite has a similar effect with accumulated multiple exposures - this makes lightning fireworks and other multi-exposure imaging far less complicated. I can see myself enjoying that! The touchscreen options and upward tilt are less than the gx7, the Lumix has more programmable buttons and a 2nd control dial, and video options are more plentiful compared to the Pen - but only time and experience can tell which suits me better for overall shooting. No denying the Olympus/human interface is much more problematic to me than the Lumix.. therefore I still feel that the GX7 will win out as the body that suits me most for features, comfort and overall versatility.

In any case I shall get to know The Other Seven for a while. I've been wrong before!


learning the GX7

After a few weeks and too little use, the GX7 still feels unusual to me. I'm hoping to change that, and also change a few settings to make it more precisely mine!

Once the basics were fleshed out (date & time, focus preference, image size/quality and such) it was time to toy with the function buttons. I've tried a few choices already but time needs to be spent before deciding which items stay or go. I've set the eye-sensor to High in the hopes that the main screen will go blank less often when my thumb passes near the viewfinder, and that custom button has returned to its original spot rather than shifting WiFi there. My custom Q-Menu is now mostly set as well. With four hard buttons and five more on the touchscreen, plus Q-Menu and 4-way pad presets, it's incredible how many settings can be accessed!

from review at cameralabs.com
I've discovered one new interactive item that I like very much - I can pop into and out of spot metering at the touch of a button! It's a touchscreen feature that you can select to change the exposure point for an image. Point to a bright object and watch the screen darken, then point elsewhere (or turn off) to return to matrix or center-weight metering. Very cool!
On is set to Fn2, reset at Fn3!

And finally - at last! - on to the Custom settings. Three positions on the mode dial can be preset to however you choose. I've owned many cameras with this feature, but have almost never put them in play - so it's time, and well past time, to make sensible use of them!

again from cameralabs
For now at least, here are my settings:
  1. Aperture priority, auto ISO to 3200, AF via rear button not shutter, standard image type
  2. Shutter priority, auto ISO 800-6400, AF on shutter (birds and other action setting)
  3. Aperture setup similar to #1, shoots RAW plus jpeg monochrome
The third position actually has two other options that are accessed via C3+touchscreen; I'll contemplate the possibilities later on those.

So far I'm holding strong on the 2-zoom, 2-prime kit. It fits quite snugly in my Tamrac Jazz 36 bag, though any additions will put me over the top. That might not stop me from buying more, but it does provide some incentive at least!
It has two compartments plus the center section for cam+attached lens; when a prime is attached the 2nd prime goes below it, otherwise the primes stack in one of the side compartments. The side pockets hold lens hoods while the front pocket has extension tube and spare batteries with a USB charger. I need to determine which filters need to come along; if many are needed I'll have to reassess my pocket uses for a safe place. 

Fun fact: GX7 plus the four lenses rounds nicely to 1 kilogram!


resistance is difficult

I feel very good about the current µ43 kit - which is a good and a bad sign.

For some reason it's the last few pieces to my kit that have forced a reassessment and ultimately the utter derangement of said kit. Adding a single item can make others look in need of an update. Yes that sounds bizarre and counter-intuitive, but I've been there, more than once. A new piece makes old ones look old - or too large/slow/irrelevant - and suddenly the kit spontaneously combusts!

I'm sitting pretty with 17 and 30mm primes, cute little things that can fill in when the 12-60 isn't the right choice. Both f/2.8 primes are faster than the 12-60 at any point in its range, so low light makes them worth having. They also work nicely with the 45-150mm telephoto zoom: (almost) 15-30-45mm steps.

But what about the low end? Shouldn't something in the 8-12mm range be a good fit? Well.. maybe. For that matter a 24mm Wesley could give me (almost) 8-16-24-32 steps, and more steps means less gaps..

-no No NO!! This way lies madness. Take the 12-60 and NO gaps happen!
I was overjoyed in my film days to go as wide as 24mm - what has changed to make me so FL-greedy?

Primes are 'better' for image quality in general but zooms exist for a good reason. The 12-60 can focus closely with no attachments and keeps me from changing lenses in the field. And Lumix cameras can do panoramic shots, meaning that the 12-60 can be used in portrait mode for wider, stitched shots.

Yes I'd love a fisheye type, and at some point one may appear. I also really like the Sigma 60mm. I like gear, OK? Just don't get back into the rut of acquisitions that force other sensible choices to fall apart.


impatience rewarded

The twice-lost GX7 has arrived! I feel no gratitude for the USPS tracking site, which could not locate the camera even as the truck drove up to our mailbox. What a waste of good disk space.

the new all-Black team (taken with GM1 and smcA 50/1.7)
I am surprised by the fine match between the 12-60mm Lumix and 30mm gen-1 Sigma. Black with silver text and fine-ribbed rings look very similar. That's nice.

First images look very nice, as expected.
First handling impressions are great: this body is far easier to hold than the pinch-grip required by the GM1, and plenty of controls at hand. I also like the balance of the 12-60 far better now, as it felt very over-sized on the GM1. Guess that's why the 12-32 and small primes exist!My wife loves tiny though, so we'll both be happy with our GM1/GX7 team!

Now to mess with menus and button assignments, and make it truly mine!


some times I surprise myself

I had a chance to pick up a Sigma 60mm for an excellent price.. and I didn't. A tempting 14-140 Lumix f/4-5.8 also was shunned, a lesser surprise but still: well done.

I'd been sure for quite some time that my new kit would include that 60. So why did I decline? The fact is I already have a nice little 50/1.7 Pentax-A that has not even been tried yet, and being 2/3 stop faster is no little thing. The Lumix bodies have focus peaking for such lenses so their occasional use is hardly painful. Both my zooms include 60mm (with less light grasp) so it's redundant three different ways.

And yet..  a few short hours later I bought the 30mm Sigma EX DN! (the Old One with a grip - shown here)

So why did I make this deal for a lens that must compete with the 4thirds 35mm 1:1 macro? Unlike the 60mm it's less redundant, faster than the 35/3.5 and the 12-60, and also creates a fine little 17/30/45-150 kit for days when the 12-60mm is less appropriate. I don't always need to reach 12mm after all, the 17 and 30mm lenses gather more light, and weather seals on the zoom are less useful on an unsealed body. The 12-60 is still a fine lens though and will get plenty of use!

The 35mm may still win out for image quality.. but with the adapter it becomes a lot larger than the Sigma, so it could win but still lose.

Note that the same arguments can be used for the Pentax 50 vs the Sigma 60mm! To that I suggest that the size difference is smaller between those two, and light penalty greater. 
We shall see if the 60mm eventually forces its way back into contention..