10 January 2019

hints at the new kit lineup

So here's what we know about the G85 kit.

Primes: I have the Lumix 14mm and see no reason for it to go anywhere. The DA Limiteds rule at 40 and 70mm, no reason for that to change. I have Pentax 100/2.8, 135/2.5 and 200/4 that can stay - perhaps. We'll see how that works out when sales begin on the Pentax kit.

Zooms: the 12-60 is the mainstay of the system and will serve 90% of my needs. Having looked into the longer range, I only see a rare need for more than the 45-150 that I currently own. The Olympus 70-300 is a nice range match for the 12-60, but its price and slow f/6.7 tele end is not friendly. That's the M.Zuiko which is specific to the micro 4:3 system.

Hmm now - here's a Zuiko Digital for way less; made for the original 4Thirds system, it weighs 600g± but is a half-stop brighter at f/4-5.6 and remains f/5 at 200mm. It also is marked as 'compatible' with CDAF systems, unlike many of the ZD dSLR-era lenses. I'll be giving this one a trial run, as it will only be used for bird and wildlife shots where 600g will not be punishing. I wish it had a tripod ring, hopefully I can cobble up something..

More nice features about the monster tele: 1:2 macro focus and 58mm filters just like the 12-60!

so why a G85?

Assuming this week's transformation holds up (and if it doesn't this post will self-destruct in five days) - why is the G85 winning out over so many other choices? With so many options, what did this camera do that works "for me"?

  • First off it's a Lumix. I've found myself able to work with them comfortably - not just in hand but in brain. I've tried Olympus PENs and EM5/10/10ii but the feel in hand (just enough cramped) and brain (still recovering from 3fish-1fish Syndrome) have discouraged my trying the EM1 mark1. So Lumix fits me, in fact quite similar to Pentax; sure some features are in common but to explain further won't really clarify anything. Heck they even use the same USB cable, when GX85/9 aren't included.
  • Internal IS + weather seals. My digital Pentax gear had two major features I value: internal stabilization and weather seals. With both I can pretty much shoot anywhere in any light or weather. That's very liberating - especially to someone who for eight years of care-giving has not had been blessed with the best shooting opportunities. In order to have seals and internal-IS in a Lumix body, one must currently choose from GX8, G85 or G90.
  • The new shutter mechanism. This stops the GX8 from topping my list. If the price is about the same go with the substantially improved shutter mechanism, I 'always' say. Well I do now.
  • Lumix 12-60 'kit' zoom. I owned and liked this before. Having 24-120mme in a weather-resistant 200g package is really hard to undervalue.
  • G7 echoes. Two years ago I ordered a G7. It was an awful time to try out new gear both financially and mentally, and I sent it back. It fit my hand really well though, and it had some inriguing features. The G85 has all those and more (see last few bullets) - but toss in the super battery-saver option and the optional grip with second battery, and that's even better! While I prefer tip screens to flip types, I'll manage just fine I think. I'll also miss the GX85 in-cam charging.. but I shall manage.
  • Price is still a factor. I could make use of the new features the G9 brings into play, but for $1000 the K-1 reasserts its Why Not Me? argument, and I've presumably said No More to that at last.
So that's how I got here.

To enter the "Why Not Brand xyz" (no that isn't meant as a fuji-X sony-Y nikon-Z acronym - man all the acronyms are copyrighted nowadays) discussion is fruitless. Here's my short and sweet take: Fuji might be perfect for me but I've moved on from physical dials and they now annoy me. Sony's treatment of the true Alpha series still rankles. Nikon and Canon are fine without me, and vice versa. No more - need be said.

09 January 2019

Yes again. New year new gear.

I awoke on the 7th of January with a strong and surprising thought lodged in my head: No More.

No more holding on to two camera systems when I barely use one.
No more using one system to hold the other hostage.
No more reading and greed-ing over the best from Lumix or Pentax. Or FuCaNikSo for that matter (especially them).

No more. Just get a G85+12-60 kit. Grab your sealed camera and lens with stabilized sensor and an X at the end of the name. Let it be Lumix. It's not a G9, not an em1X, not a K-1. So what.

Time to spend no more on lenses for the K mount. Let go.

Well almost. Don't let go of the 40+70 Limited lenses yet. Maybe the 135 or 200 can stay a bit too..

~~~~~~~ ~~~~~~ ~~~~~~
I spent two days fighting it.

The KP made a very good case for being the one true camera. In the end though, only the K-1 would really satisfy my Pentax desires. That's too much for now; no more.

We'll see how many aftershocks come in the next few days.

Oh wait there's more.

No More "reading and greed-ing" means something more: no more spending 45-minute chunks of spare time reading camera fora to learn more about cameras I shall never touch. No more reading threads about techniques I'll never practice, guided photo trips around the world I cannot take, or responding to things I don't really have the qualifications to answer.

No more clutter. Not in my camera bag, my gear closet, my favorites folder, my weary tech-stuffed brain.

Taking photos and making them look their best? More please! Not to post for glory or challenge, just for good friends and family. Maybe a couple per month on a forum or too.
Not often though.

29 December 2018

more M1 testing

Illness and other distractions have allowed limited additional tests of the YI camera. More informal shooting with the 14-42ii OIS lens on the M1 and GX1 has convinced me that Lumix OIS lenses are not supported by the YI camera. A user at DPReview claims to have heard from YI that only lenses with an OIS switch can be used to stabilize M1 images. Sadly that is consistent with my test results. The GX1 view stabilizes with the shutter half pressed with OIS lenses and M1 view does not. It's possible to assemble a good kit with switched lenses - but I'm not about to change what I have for a different kit just to make the M1 more usable. It's therefore up for sale.

This comes without any formal work on raw images to test the value of the 20Mpix sensor. Images from the M1 do not radiate great vibes any more than other cameras' images that I have used, so I feel no hurry to check the deep detail.

Overall I like a lot of the M1 features. It's a decent camera with many cool features. I don't need another decent camera, however: I feel that the K∙50 and GX1 are comfortably in that category already. Given the extent of my K-mount lens the µ43 gear can remain as-is; the GX1 is plenty good enough for all video work and plenty of nice stills with the 14, 14-42ii and 45-150. Since anything I feel like adapting from the Pentax side will work too, I feel that I'm sitting pretty!

postscript ~ maybe, just maybe?
Given no interest in the M1 thus far, praps I will seek a 14-45mm to go with it. Or a 14-140?

08 December 2018

A week with the M1

I've given a limited amount of time to the YI M1 camera and its 12-40mm kit lens; hopefully some more time will come soon. What have I learned thus far?

To start with - I was not expecting the M1 to be amazing. It has a few very nice features for my use, a few adequate features and not much that I'd miss a lot. Given that I don't expect it to beat the recently-departed GX85 it's really competing with the GX1 as my small-body option - and it's quite competitive there for size/bulk and overall competence, plus it has the 4k and 20Mpx bonus features.

What I expected to like -
  • the 20Mpixel sensor (not enough testing to determine)
  • the USB charging capability (yep, that's nice)
  • the straightforward touchscreen interface (still learning but it's decent enough)
  • video potential (including 4k, FHD and a native 4:3 "2k" mode)
  • time-lapse and panorama capability
  • Wifi and Bluetooth connections
What I presumed in advance I'd find challenging -
  • the fixed viewing screen (I'm a big fan of tip screens, less so of flips)
  • the limited ability to change NR or image-style parameters (saturation, contract &c)
  • the lack of a viewfinder option (not a big deal, yet)
  • lack of internal stabilization or with the 12-40mm native lens PLUS lack of clarity on Lumix OIS compatibility
  • no DFD, 'starlight AF' and other focus magic that Oly/Lumix have worked on
And the major wild-card: 
  • what will YI improve with the next firmware update? 
This has been a major point to ponder. The initial M1 impressions were universally that of an unfinished camera with one whistle and a bell with no clapper. Now with firmware 3.1 we have raw+jpeg, timelapse recording to stills or video, improved AF performance and many other common features that the M1 originally lacked.

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = 

So here are the major points worth making, one week in (more or less)

At first grasp I liked the grip. It's the sort that allows the camera to hang from the finger-tips with ease, not a simple bulge but an actual ledge. That was a good start.

I took a few images that looked bad, exposure was way off. Once I found the EV control I shifted it off from the +4.7 setting and things improved greatly.

The style section is simple: vivid, less so, gentle and strong monochrome and a lesson section for using pre-set poses for types of images. Each is locked down with its 'look' so no Lumix- or Pentax-like adjustments for hi/lo key, saturation/contrast or noise adjustments. (Maybe Firmware 4?)

I tried a limited amount of video, including one at 4:3 2k setting. Looked OK on the little screen and touch-AF worked fine. I need to bring them into the computer for more evaluation.

The Xiaoyi 12-60mm f/3.5-5.6 is an unusual µ43 lens in my kit. 
  • It uses 49mm filters not the semi-standard 46mm, and zooms Olympus/Canon direction not Lumix/Pentax/Nikon so it's an outlier for me. 
  • Retractable design - but unlike the 12-32 it's still pretty bulky when retracted.
  • Shots at 12mm are not corrected much if at all for distortion when compared to the 14-42ii Lumix. I didn't get a chance to try the 12-32 but will do so. Personally I'd prefer no such corrections - I want to control them at my discretion with software of my choosing! 
  • AF speed was similar between the two kit lenses, but the Lumix focuses slightly closer for closer close-up shots (perhaps the 2mm extra telephoto is the only enlargement difference and min. focus is the same?). 
  • Flare check indoors showed a bit more glow on bright lights than the Lumix, which is disappointing but not surprising.
Big question: is OIS enabled with Lumix lenses?
Answer.. still unclear. In quick tests around 1/4 second I would say the Lumix lens was not stabilized - in fact I got more keepers with the XiaoYi lens for no good reason whatsoever.

Interface feedback. This is intensely personal and reading my thoughts will provide only limited assistance - yet, here goes!

The interface is simple: one control wheel, power switch that rotates around the shutter button and a mode dial (video button sits in the middle), and a hotshoe with no fancy extra contacts. The mode dial has P/A/S/M, full-auto, panorama, plus .. [S] and C (yes I needed the image below to decipher those!). On the back: two more buttons - and the vital touch screen. Battery goes in the bottom, SD card to the right side by the USB-micro and micro-HDMI ports. The tripod socket is not aligned with the optical axis.

from YI website - [S] is Scene, C is 'master guide'

On the screen, a swipe left will bring up the basic settings; scroll down for two more sets of options. From live view a swipe right enters the scene-setup mode with hints on posing people for more dynamic portrait shots. In playback swiping left-right changes images, zoom in for more detail or zoom back once for EXIF/exposure readout.

The live-view screen has soft buttons on the left for aperture, shutter and EV which will be active or vary automatically depending on the mode you've selected. In PASM modes a soft button on the right brings up a simple control panel for adjusting ISO, white balance, drive mode, metering, AF mode and file type. Simple enough.

AF speed is pretty good, though at lower light levels it clearly struggles - no EV-4 'starlight AF' here. Touch screen to AF works well, and a setting change allows focus+expose. Focus peaking is available with manual focus, but others have noted the depth of peaking is more than with most other cameras. It's worked well enough when looking on the screen, but perhaps with the computer more focus errors will be visible.

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = 

Specs-list highlights

Battery life is a pinch higher than most µ43 - probably helps CIPA that it has no internal flash!
Operating range goes to -10°C, that's nice!
JPEG best setting is 1:2.7 compression, low enough for some post-processing without major deterioration.

29 November 2018

what have I done?

About three weeks after letting the GX85/7.ii go to a better place, I ordered a Xiaomi (Xiaoyi?) M1:
image from DIYPhotography
Why would I do that?

Well for one thing the finances that I've been expecting for a month or two began to move from rumour to fact. While I wish that had happened a week or two back, one takes what one can.

Well ok then -
But why the YI M1?
Well, settle in for a bit..

Once funds were looking likely I resumed my never-ending circle at
  1. what do I have now? A Pentax k∙50 and a GX1. Both decent, neither excellent.
  2. what do I (claim to) need? A better Pentax would be excellent and take native advantage of my many K-mount lenses. A better µ43 camera could use them also, as well as my tiny native µ43 lenses.
  3. what is Better? Ah, the hard bit. 
Better for Pentax would be a K-3 variant for more resolution and battery life, or the K-1 for ultimate top-notch monster images (and gear size..). Better for µ43 would be a G85 for weather seals, or a GX8 for the much-liked 20Mpix sensor. In either case we're talking $500 to $1100 to step up in a big way. I could settle for others like the K-5, another GX85 or an EM1v1 with some nice improvements from today's team. Really though the K50 sensor score at DxO is better than any m43 option and so similar to the K-3 that it's not a true step at all..

Decisions decisions.

And so finally to step 4: what is Out There?
Hmm, a K-5 for about $500, a bit more for a K-3ii with pixel-shift abilities? About $1099 for a used K-1? On the other hand, a G85 (but no 12-60 sealed lens) for just under $500? GX85 bodies for ..$100 more than I paid a month ago is hard to swallow, but it happens. GX7 bodies for just over $250, perhaps?

Or a YI M1 used for $210 with the 12-40 lens included?

Let's review my reviews. I had looked at the YI a while back, and it had several nice features and many question marks. Its battery life is higher than many and recharges live on a microUSB cable like the GX85 (and unlike most others). It has the well-liked 20Mpx sensor (read about TOP's love for this sensor - and also how Mike's rating system works!) and its firmware updates have moved the M1 up in reviewers' eyes from atrocious to almost impressive. It has 4k video for what that could be worth in my future, and a 4:3 "2k" video that could prove interesting at times today. It uses DNG default for raw images, so no software hassles.

The M1 has a very simple interface that could entice my wife more than most other setups, and wifi/bluetooth options for off-camera imaging. More importantly, reviewers state that Lumix OIS lenses are stabilized on the M1 - that's a big deal to me.

Let's be honest though: the 30-day return policy was a great help in making this happen today. Just in case.

Hey look at me: I just saved $300 or more!

11 November 2018

tough call

Rinse and repeat - I put the GX85 on the block yesterday. Just when I was getting the hang of it - well not really, it has a lot of features I did not get to play with!

However, several variants of bank loans failed to materialize after many promising chats. The optimism was infectious and I allowed myself to relax a bit - and it was again premature (see my last six years or more of camera ownership for many other examples).

I will go forward with K∙50 + GX1 plus many nice bargain lenses that I recently picked up. All other deals will be on hold for a while. The Sigma 60/2.8 is also up for sale given the DA70's arrival.

K50 plus zooms (Sigma 10-20, 18-55wr, q-ray 100-300, sigma 28-200) and primes 
(Vivitar 24/2.8, da40+70mm Limiteds, smcA50/1.7, smcM100/2.8 and 200/4).

GX1 plus 12-32, 14-42, 45-150 zooms, 14 and 60mm primes.. and pretty much all of the K gear above!

06 November 2018

the crowd gathers.. and a new surprise

The DA70 arrived today, prompting this size comparison -

From left to right: Lumix 14-42.ii, Vivitar 24/2.8, Sigma 60/2.8 DN Art, Pentax DA70.2.4 Limited with hood, and Pentax DA40/2.8 Limited plus µ43 adapter with aperture control plus its mini recessed hood! Yes the DA40 is that small, and the 70mm barely larger without the hood. I just missed a bid on the DA21, another tiny prime.. another time, perhaps.

Update - While looking at DA21 prices on the GAS (Global Auction Site) I encountered a K-mount Sigma 10-20mm hyperwide for substantially less than any DA21 copies - and a very useful range with either kit. Definitely a bit bulky though. The DA21 would be relatively slow but the Vivitar fits better into the gap now. The oddball now is the 18-55, so it can be swapped somewhere for a DA50-200wr to cover above the 70mm. Looks like it's time to re-evaluate bodies .. again.