27 December 2015

three weeks with the G7

Hard to believe it's been three weeks.  The 3 busiest weeks of the year, and I choose to toss a camera tryout in the midst of it?  Not wise.

And it's not just because it's Christmas season: toss in a long-running home refinance, an appliance meltdown that filled the house with smoke at 11:30PM, fleas from our new kitten.. then add a new camera.

Now that I say this, I begin to understand why the G7 and I have not had the greatest of times - the times were crazy regardless of what camera I would have carried!

Anyway, I suspect the G7 will go back in the coming week for another to try.  Image quality was never scrutinized closely for dirty details, so I won't comment on that - nor will I rant about the inherent disability of a mic4:3 sensor compared to APSc or 36×24mm types.  My issues (those that I can tie to the camera) were more on the practical side.

First off let's say that I've been using Pentax dSLRs since 2010.  I've been very happy with their gear and grown used to how they work.  Many shots I take make use of Pentax post-capture processes that are easy to access and to use.  Given that comfort level the G7 is a tough swap for me: it can do similar work but it's just hard.  With everything else in life being hard, I guess I need my photography to be easy for a while.

As for G7 disappointments that don't fall into the merely-unfamiliar category.
  1. white balance is more frequently off with the G7
  2. while EV-4 is possible, even EV-1 is really slow to reach focus
  3. I'm not happy putting NR settings in the photo profiles
  4. PictBridge?  Really??
OK perhaps #3 is another basic-ergonomic setup.  On the K-50 I can menu dive once and set all NR by ISO bands, whereas Panasonic chooses to set it up by picture type (standard, monochrome &c each have a separate NR setting that applies to all ISOs).  I prefer the Pentax way that I'm used to - no surprise there.

The low-light AF should not have surprised me but it did.  The K-50 does not go nearly as low, but in the prism viewfinder I can see naturally and focus for myself.  The EVF option gets too grainy to be easy even with focus peaking in place.  No doubt I could train myself to get better with manual focus on the big screen, but once again: this is a lousy time to do new-camera things.

PictBridge is sooo 2008 - but when I plug my G7 into the computer to transfer files it doesn't go into photo-transfer mode.  It asks whether I want PC or PictBridge mode - and when my screen is facing in I don't know that it is waiting for a response.  So I either have to hold the cam to my eye to answer the unseen question or flip out the screen. That must be adjustable, but -- really.  PictBridge??

Finally to the WB.  Pentax has made great strides recently in tungsten-light corrections and AWB that includes tungsten.. and Lumix hasn't reached that point in my casual tests.  Bummer.

Let's point out the good stuff though.  
The G7 has many features that Pentax cameras may never see - especially video derived features:
  • touchscreen AF + other functions on flippy screen
  • 4k video mode with autofocus option
  • 4k photo extract of 8Mpix still images
  • multiple reprogrammable buttons on the camera body
  • mirrorless / mic4:3 features such as lighter overall bodies & systems
That final one needs a caveat though.  If you want / need superfast lenses to compensate for the mic4:3 sensor 'equivalence' issues you will have similarly bulky lenses attached to a lighter body.  Unlike many small thin cameras the G7 has a truly excellent grip, so it won't be hurt as much as a GX Lumix, Oly Pen, samsung NX500 or any of Sony's NEX-type bodies.

Last and by no means least to me - weather resistance.
The reason I chose Pentax from 2010 on is their combination of in-body stabilization and weather seals to minimize fears in inclement weather.  In fact the weather at our new home is even more damp than my lifelong homes in Portland - annual rainfall is half again as much, and the past two months have combined for over 26 inches of rain - plus we've had over three inches of SNOW in the past four days!  Given all that, the Pentax WR is an even more vital feature.  Like other things around the house the weather has been very chaotic, in record-setting fashion - but I can actually choose a camera to lessen that bit of chaos.

So after three weeks of (minimal) learning, what shall I do?
My current plan is to revert to a Pentax K-50. The Amazin' Amazon warehouse has a Like-New red one And an HD 55-300WR, both in great "unwrap/rewrap/return" condition.. so it begins again. I can return the G7, or maybe just sell it if anyone reaches me really soon.

I'm not giving up completely on the mic4:3 concept however.  I just feel that the chaos is too great right now for me to give it a decent trial period.  Maybe in several months life will settle down and I can explore some possibilities.