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 12-40mm 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 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 tighter close-ups (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.

a simple question

A couple of days ago I nearly bought another camera. It had a feature or two I don't have that would be nice to have, and it was a very nice price. Who wouldn't do that, show of hands? Ah, you others are new here aren't you - read the subheader on my 'blog and you will understand a bit better.

Does it matter which camera it was? Could have been a GX8 or G85 for weather seals, maybe an EM1 v.1 for the same reason. Or maybe it was the sensor: GX8 and YI M1 have the notorious 20Mpx that gives people like theonlinephotographer 'classic' results in a digital body. And who's to say it was not in fact a K-1 v.1 with its ultimate features and compatibility with most of the lenses I own?

(Honestly it was more than one camera - but not that entire list.)

Sitting beside me here is a camera that's small, sealed, has lenses ranging from 24-800mme (though only one is sealed) and takes Pentax prime lenses. It takes great video and can pull still images out from it, and the sensor does very nice work. It's my..

Once again, does it matter? 
What does it do so poorly that I still seek relief? 

To put it another way -
'the Notebook' via giphy.com
OK the answer is my GX1, K-50 and GX85. No one of them does all that, which makes the G85 tempting.. but the sealed lens is on the K-50 so add a 12-60 to that expense. Wait that does not charge in camera like the gx85 and has a flip screen not the tip type? It's always something, and camera makers like it that way. I'm their ideal buyer - well except that I'm forced to stay with used items until my lottery ticket hits.

At times like this the K-1 looks really nice, with decent compatible lenses already in hand.

04 November 2018

live and learn: GX1 and GX7.ii sensor test

As I have noted before, I am just awful at side-by-side tests. I usually keep a few variables varying, and make changes where I don't intend to. Nevertheless I'm trying again, with a simple goal in mind: seeing with my own eyes what a 16Mpix GX1 sensor can do compared to a GX85 (GX7.ii is my preferred name for it).

So here's my testing setup -
  • bright lamp shining on aluminum foil, a few bright objects and a black desk and file holder
  • ISO500, tungsten light WB
  • Manual exposure at 1/30 second
  • Pentax DA40/2.8 shot fairly wide open (no aperture ring to read from - but the setting did not change) and focused at similar points
  • framing using "just above a paper clip, top of rocket pen on right edge" precesion
  • RAW exposure, opened in Cyberlink's PhotoDirector 8 software, then
  • captured with PrtScrn and
  • pasted into my favorite tiny graphic processor, LView 1.D2!
  • Only the exposure slider was used to adjust between captures
Note that I deem many many issues to not be relevant to this specific test, so I did not work on these!
  • specific point of focus
  • perfect shooting posture
  • absolute center of image
  • 'shutter shock' and IS are not factored in - SS should not be a factor at 1/30s but my quivering is another matter!
For sensor capabilities related to gathering light, a bit of blur or imperfect focus won't blow the results to pieces. If they do I am clearly in the wrong hobby (or more precisely: my critics are).

So what did I learn, I asked myself?

First off, base shots and raw settings 'as shot' imported into PhotoDirector 8.

Hmm the upper image "P104" (from Lumix folder P104) has better white balance with the tungsten preset. It's definitely an orange-gold rocket pen not a yellow-gold. The as-shot sliders are amazingly different, but I tried similar settings and the results were definitely worse - so for each camera the choice was a decent one.

I see more detail in the P104 yellow flower, but I believe the focus was about spot on for that shot and further back in the P116 image. Since the results were not precisely the same, no doubt I wobbled slightly in my chair while swapping the lens between two bodies. That's not the goal of this test so I'm fine ignoring the flower details here.

So down to about -2EV we go, to see how the foil and other bright items hold up..

Personally I'd say the upper image P104 has preferable blowout results than P116. Differences are pretty slight though. Looks like focus differs on the far-left paper as well. Thus far P104 is holding a slight edge to my eye.

Upward to -1.3EV now..

Nothing to see here, really. Dark areas behind the foil lack detail in equal measure and the yellow WB bias in P116 gets worse in more light. The foil is a bit more blown out in P116 as well.

EV+0.25 coming next:

Looks like a bit more detail in the darkness now on P116 (lower) image. The flowers are a bit more blown out but I'll gladly take the blame for non-rigorous testing procedures. Heck I didn't even crop the same on every one, how slovenly can I get??

We'll close out with EV+1, since that's as far as my interest held tonight..

Dark areas look great and foil looks awful, pretty much in equal measure.

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

The results are in! My reasonably rigorous test was really disappointing, in that I feel best about the results from P104 - but my humble GX1 (P116) is not a Godawful DR-crippled pathetic excuse for a 16-Mpx sensor. I might try re-shooting these just to nail focus.. but really neither camera does poorly anywhere in the tests so I probably will not do that.

And in all honesty: as I wrote this I thought P116 was from the newer camera (higher number better, right?) so any bias I felt was in fact doubly blinded! No doubt from the foil.

27 October 2018

That worked well

The GX1 and GX7 have both sold, leaving me with my wife's GX1, the GX85.. and my K-50.

As recently noted I've rethought my prime setup in light of a few K-mount bargains. The 14mm Lumix cannot be swapped for a film-era ultrawide but others sure can. I picked up a 24mm Vivitar, a DA40 Limited and already own 50/1.7, 100/2,8, 135/2.5 & 200/4 SMC primes, and I said not to make me think about the DA 70/2.4 or I might sell the Sigma 60.

Well let the laughter commence: the gx7 just became a DA70.

No way a copy of the stunning 70mm Limited can be had as cheaply as that! Yeah I said the same about a DA40 Limited last month, so there. VG condition is fine by me, I am no perfectionist; if the optics are up to Limited standards I'm very happy!

. . Now to avoid using the 60mm funds seeking a DA21 Limited, or a rokinon 8mm fisheye!

Here is what happened when I sought K-primes for m43 bodies:

  • 24mm $75? a Meike 25/1.8 is the only price match
  • DA40 $120? nothing close in 42.5-45mm offerings
  • DA70 $210?  don't bother asking the Only 75/1.8 price.
So I saved money, added a little bulk, lost some m43 automation (which I find irritating since dubious optics are autocorrected) - and recharged both my K-50 and GX85 kits!

20 October 2018

Primes - some day. [Today?]

Perhaps some day I can fill in the µ43 kit with some primes. Not a bunch and surely not the best; f/2-2.8 is just fine and lighter on both shoulder and wallet.

The µ43 system is well endowed with steps one can choose to set up a primal kit, plus I have a Sigma 60 already.  ** Oops - I forgot my 8mm fisheye, which is the ultimate in bargain primes..

So how to make it work on a reasonably thin budget? The preferred option is to keep gaps fairly small, like these:
8-14-(19/20)-30-45-60, or perhaps 8-12-17-25-42-60

Hmm.. not all that cheap is it? Even going with the Rokinon 12 instead of the Olympus.

Plan B: bigger gaps, perhaps? Instead of using the multiple method (e.g. multiples of 8 = 8/16/24/32 &c) one could double each focal length and leave larger spaces between. Cheaper, and occasionally a problem - though a handy compact zoom like the 12-32, 14-42ii or 45-150 can take over when a gap feels like a hardship.

My Plan-B choice: 8-14-24-40-60.  This is good because
  • the DA40/2.8 Limited is in hand, 
  • it's incredible with any sensor and
  • I paid under $130, and no native µ43 lens can beat that.
Don't make me think about this for too long - I could sell the Sigma 60 and for a bit more cash pick up the equally-excellent DA70/2.4 Limited to go with the DA40!

Bargain #1 is now in transit, as I found a Lumix 14mm for an excellent price. That will be my nearly-pocketable pancake option and my star-shooter (about a stop faster than my f/3.5 zooms).

Update: Bargain #2 has appeared! What a surprise, one need only look to find (and define) a bargain in today's elderlenses. I found a PK Vivitar (Tokina) 24/2.8 for about $70 to make all the steps feasible. That's cheaper than a Pixco/7Art/Meike 25mm options - and the K-50 will thank me too!

… . . . . . . . . . .  .  .   .   .    .    .    .

On the longer end I have Pentax' M100/2.8, Tak135/2.5 and M200/4 primes that can play nicely with internally stabilized bodies. To extend it wider isn't really practical though, as wide K-mount lenses (e.g.24/2.8) are not cheap either.

08 October 2018

Why so many GX?

Yeah, "funny" story.
So we have two GX1 bodies as my wife fell hard for a cute pink GF2 instead of the matched-set GX1 I bought for her. The GX1 market is rather flat right now :~| so here they sit.

In the meantime I fell for a cheap-bid GX7 mark ii (aka gx85) at Auctions R Us..but the seller silence stretched out a few days. I sent a data request, fearing some incident had forced a w/d from the deal. At that moment a GX7 Classic was 2h from ending its auction so I added a low bid. Of course that won also - and soon I heard from the mk.ii owner, who was heading to the post office.

And so they all gathered before me.

First impressions were not as I hoped from either new acquisition until I reset both and fine-tuned a few settings to my taste. At that point images turned out very well, and I could make an informed choice.

Both vintages of the GX7 are excellent cameras. The original is the best overall body and most reviewers agree on that; the larger grip and extra buttons/AF switch/Custom settings make that body superior for making speedy adjustments.

The mark.ii added 4k video and still-image extractions at 8Mpixel resolution, in-camera charging and much improved stabilization inside, changed the grip and buttons, removed a couple of Custom setting slots and chose to use the same GX7 viewfinder but in a fixed position, and those choices disappointed many GX7 fans (especially since the GX8 had appeared with weather seals and a superior 'finder). Those improvements they did put in are pretty convincing though, so the mark.I is now for sale. I may not use 4k as a video option but I've already tried 4k post focus; my test wasn't great but it shows very nice possibilities!

Four GX bodies: fun while it lasted, I suppose.
And oh yes, the K-50 is still here too - and the wet season is upon me!

07 October 2018

the GX trio

the GX1, GX7 and GX85 (henceforth aka GX7,ii)

Not shown (as I cannot afford more) - GX8, GX9

Image taken with the still-present K∙50

17 September 2018

the crack in µ43's armor

The one disheartening issue in my tests of µ43 kit lenses stood out: the poor flare control when shooting into sunlight. I'd seen it before in the occasional shot, and it was clearly an issue for the three kit lenses that I tested.

This is on a camera that autocorrects many issues that are inherent in electronic lenses, such as distortion and chromatic issues. I have no doubt that the more expensive lenses do not have the kit lens problems that I see here -- however I am not at financial liberty to explore those better options. For my budget I can only manage what the lenses above can give me, unless a 14mm Lumix and something in the 17-20mm range become available on a fire sale.

Let's look at the K-50 and its $75 kit lens as a comparison. Taken on a different day but as the sun sank low into the same batch of trees.

Some issues are visible but nothing like what the µ43 lenses show. The DA18-55wr also has weather seals and a closer close focus of about 0.34x compared to 0.25x on the Oly 14-42ez. And the camera has no correction settings enabled for distortion or chromatics.

I suppose the next thing to check is how the 18-55 looks when adapted to the GX1 or EM10b. That would disable all autocorrections and let the game be played on the level. We'll see if I can get to that.

more new stuff..

Clearly I'm a Nikon fan-boy, it's obvious after that last post. The Canon R mirrorless system has been out for over a week and I've been silent about it.

While I'm here I should pump the mythical Panasonic 'full frame' mirrorless camera, which won't be available until spring - how's that for showing my true colours?

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Ah but what about my kit? Glad you didn't ask.
It may change soon, how's that for news?

23 August 2018

Nikon mirrorless

No weblog will be taken seriously if it speaks of cameras but ignores the announcement from Nikon of its Z-series mirrorless cameras.

There - I feel better now.

23 July 2018

µ43 kit lens testing

I always do lens tests wrong - yet here I go again. The contestants:
Lumix 12-32mm, Lumix 14-42mm II and the Olympus EZ 14-42mm,


Images - indoor
I shot indoors with three subjects about 10 inches apart front-back. I shot at widest and longest FLs only. I didn't race through the shots, yet by feel the II was the faster to focus with the other two close behind. Shot centered on closest object then kept focus the same and shot it at the edge of frame. Next shot was focused on furthest object. Final shot focused on intermediate object. Four shots for each lens at 14(12)mm and four at 42(32)mm.

Images - torture test (extreme)
Shot into the setting sun with no hoods.. oops the 14-42 was hooded! See why I hate doing this?
Once fully zoomed in, one intermediate, one wide.
For 14-42EZ I couldn't tell where 'intermediate' was - so I shot two of them (since then I've learned where the focal length is shown on the viewfinder).

Images - x closeup
Shot of car keys with the other two lenses in the background for reference

Specs - my personal evaluation
  • I prefer the overall feel of the II best; it also feels like the fastest of the three to focus but all are quick.
  • I dislike the stickiness of the 12-32 zoom ring, poor zoom for smooth video. No focus ring = points off in my book.
  • The Zuiko has no real spec flaws and has the closest focus, which is nice. Also easiest zooming with video.
Indoor images - my evaluation
No clear winner. Each did a fine job and all similarly sharp with nice bokeh. This test did not seek decentering or other errors, just what was sharp and how things weren't.

Torture images - my evaluation
As shown here, also no clear winner: every image was awful! Clearly this test was too tortuous. The hood on the II did not affect the results so re-shooting with that lens was unnecessary.

Points to ponder:

  • Can an Olympus body focus the 12-32 manually? Apparently not, and in fact neither can my wife's GF2. I can of course AF with touchscreen on other bodies so MF isn't really vital.. but I prefer to have control over it.
  • Close focus is nice for a kit zoom, but I have an extension tube which will cover that nicely when closeups are needed.
  • Also nice is having all zoom lenses zoom the same direction. I have a nice 45-150 Lumix that I plan to keep so the rotation is preferred. As I'm used to the Pentax system the Lumix direction is far more intuitive than the Canon/Oly's. 
The Olympus bodies allow you to choose which direction to focus but not which to zoom; that's a shame as otherwise the EZ would likely be my top choice. So far though the II is my favorite.

Next Up: A less-challenging outdoor scene to better evaluate focus across the frame + any fringing issues. I expect the camera autocorrects a lot of fringing though. We'll see about that!

Note - the mZuiko EZ works fine on my GX1, but no stabilization is available with that pair.

17 July 2018

more lame excuses

Three points I make incessantly as Vital to me are weather seals, image stabilization and convenience. Pentax is most familiar to me, has sealed gear in my price range and ibis always. In order to keep up via µ43, I'd need a newer =rather expensive Lumix or an EM1/EM5 camera. The EM5 did not suit me like the em10 had, but buying that would mean one Vital item was lost. I would gain live bulb and live composite which sound cool.

from this blog, 2½ years ago. Nice kit.
A lower price Lumix option was a G7 with 4k video. That model has many features from the GX7,  which I mostly liked. The g7 was down two Vitals though, which really spoiled its otherwise fine spec sheet. I keep pretending that video is important, though so far it's been a happy afterthought that gets little use; having 4k video is even more of an abstract joy that both interests me and repels me, as computer upgrades would be nearly as expensive as a new-lens habit.

The GX7 still had its fine points, especially EV-4 'Starlight AF', nice setup options and other niceties like in-body IS.. and only misses seals for its Vital list. The price was higher now however, thanks to new µ43 being priced much higher and keeping used gear high as a result. Buying an EM10 mk2 would be priced similarly to a GX7 with better stabilization and those 'live' options - but less flexible video. Hm, video again, still not a strong justification right now.
from this blog, 18 months ago. Nice kit!

My wandering struck a good deal at last - yes it's another black GX7. The price is very good (as is its condition). I liked it once, then less so the second time for no clear reason. Third time = charm? Hm.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

from this blog, two+ years ago.
Nice kit, for a mark I..

But wait - there's more!
While awaiting the arrival of the GX7 I had a chat with a Canadian em10.ii seller. Her price is only about $35 more than my GX7 bargain price! Better sensor, better stabilization, better eVF, decent enough (and stabilized) video, not-quite-as-good AF, bizarre menus. Something new to consider.. how 'nice'.

After further review and negotiation: I sent the GX7 back and will get the E-M10 Mark ii instead.

This wasn't all that hard, in fact.
I'd prefer to have two decent µ43 camera bodies, one of each brand. By keeping one of the GX1 bodies I retain the Lumix ergonomics that I'm used to, plus its higher-spec 'hacked' HD/FHD video capabilities. (The eM10b isn't bad on video specs, much better than many Olympi, so it's not a bad thing if it attends events by itself.) The eM10b brings live time +composite shooting, better stabilization for stills and video, peaking for manual focus and a great viewfinder. For now I'm thinking the LVF∙2 finder can be sold with the other GX1 body, as the eM10b will serve best when a viewfinder is important.

I will miss the EV-4 'starlight AF' of the GX7, but for other features the eM10b simply has too much good stuff to disregard.

Another new issue comes up with lenses. The 'new' eM10b will arrive with the Oly 14-42EZ lens. Reviews are uneven, but that's common with kit lenses. In the interim I picked up a Lumix 12-32 for just over $100 - so three kit lenses will be here briefly, one to depart with the GX1. Since my wife has a 14-42ii Lumix with her GF2, the other copy is the most likely to leave. We'll know more after a week of careless tests which will lead to subjective evaluations - like it should be! :^)

And just in case it wasn't clear before - the K50 must go. 
Believe that at your own risk, clearly you're new here..

07 July 2018

dueling banjo-cams

I went to a baseball game with GX1 and K-50 cameras and reasonable telephoto choices. Both took decent photos but the K-50 was easier to set up to shoot past the chain-link fence; I suspect that greater Pentax practice is the reason as center-point AF is available on both systems. Even so, I ended up using manual focus and pre-focusing on the base of choice for most of the shots, and either camera can manage that sort of work.

I won't say that I learned anything convincing about either camera. Both did just fine, neither exceptional nor lousy. It's a fact that more modern µ43 systems have improved their AF systems faster than Pentax, but in my budget range the choices are limited in both models. The Olympus E-M1 would have phase-detect points but its price remains consistently above my limits, while Lumix DFD contrast technology is a bit closer to my budget. If a true deal appears I could be swayed.. perhaps?

I am once again standing with a foot in both systems, with neither foot firmly settled.
Sure wish I'd get past this position..

09 June 2018

Well, I'm back II


It seems that one.com has reconsidered my access to WordPress, or perhaps I missed the fine print where it was offered as a limited-time trial. My geeklog is still there, but I cannot edit it without inducing more pain compared to simply returning here. Bizarre -- but some hints I can take.

29 May 2018

Well, I'm back I

- back in my comfort zone with a Pentax camera. No surprise there, but the trip was a strange one; I’ve had no Pentax digital SLR for several months now, but many lenses remained that had near-zero resale value. 

First off let me confess (again): I have owned so many camera bodies since 2010 that I’ve lost count. My best guess is K100d then K-7, whose sensor drove me to try G1 and GH1. Then I found the joys of owning a K-5. After that it gets hazy, and includes two K200d, every flavor of K-5, two each of K-r, K-s1 and k-01,  a silver K-3ii and at least two K50. We can also include EM10, EM5, ePM2 and ePL5/6/7, G7, GX7, GM1, GX1 and GF2 – not to mention a couple of Samsung NX300 bodies. And don’t bother asking about lenses!

The pattern that caused this amount of turnover repeated often, sometimes in the same year. Assemble a good kit for decent prices, then sell it cheap and step up. Immediately encounter a financial issue that requires a selloff (other things too but mostly easily-moved camera gear). Pick up a consolation prize soon after for cheap and repeat the cycle. Occasionally alternate between Pentax and Panasonic, just in case.

Our finances have been seriously strained for a while, so two GX1 and kit lenses were all we could manage. As things began to look up at last, I looked over what was missing in my kit. The major point to me was weather seals; I recall worrying about the GX1 as it sat on a glove surrounded by a foot of snow as we cruised past it on saucers. I could do better, and either system could make it happen. How best to address that on a budget, given that I owned no sealed lenses?

The bargain µ43 setup would be an EM5 and the Oly 12-50mm lens, which would be at least $350. The better options to my mind would be an EM1 or G85 paired with a Lumix 12-60mm - but that would be $700-950 to make that happen.

My other issue to be addressed is the hidden electronic manipulation of 4Thirds images. I’ve learned to live with focus-by-wire, but when images are autocorrected for distortion and color fringing I get.. nervous. Those corrections are optional in Pentax bodies but only by developing micro43 raw files with ‘non-conforming’ software can I see the untouched image. Results are still good – but it still feels uncomfortable.

I searched optimistically for a K-s2 but the budget suggested a lower price would be best, so I settled for a lightly used olive-green K50 with repaired aperture-control part that is prone to fail on mid-tier Pentax bodies. The 18-55WR and body came to less than $250, which no µ43 body can match!

And so my elder lenses have a natural home again. Sigmas 28-80 and 100-300 ‘slowpoke’, Rikenon 70-150 f/4 XR, and Pentax 18-250 (no autofocus), A50 and M100 can be used as before.

If I can trust my previous post (and the title says it all!), this is my fourth K-50.. ergo K-54?

If I start looking to acquire a higher-spec body I hope I remember writing this!

Here's the latest olivine camera and its stylish '70s strap!

07 February 2018

something New

My recent switch to one.com as web and email host came with a WordPress site. I'll be test-driving that for a while, in the hopes of 
  1. leaving the past behind me, with all its acquisitive habits
  2. using tags well enough to enable me to also leave behind my home 'blog
  3. create new habits on several fronts - something that's badly needed right now.
See you at https://geeklog.longviewers.one/ - for a while, at least!

28 January 2018

new record?

I still blush to look back at my kit in recent years, and the speed at which it mutated. I've really been reckless and I see very few times where the kit could be defined as a poor one. Many of those cameras barely had my finger-prints on them before heading out again.. and often at a small but ever-accumulating financial loss.

Given my lousy track record, it's noteworthy that I have now gone Four Months with no real kit changes!
OK that's not quite accurate - my October 9th post says a lens is on its way, and that one left again soon thereafter. The photo that I posted on that day is still my kit though :^/ - so near enough. Yes I also admit to a newer faster memory card - but given the speed of previous gear changes it's pretty good.

Of course being confronted with essentially zero budget for gear, perhaps pride is misplaced here.

09 January 2018

Cheap chips!

While working on the GX1 I encountered an error with the 'natural3' hack. The mp4 modes shut down with the complaint that my card could not keep up with the data. It was phrased far more cryptically :# but That was my inference!

 I looked for online solutions, deciding that a U3-class card should manage if others' stories were correct. A few 32G cards would serve for under $30.. but I decided to look locally just in case

After a couple of failures I visited my local Kroger store (Fred Meyer here in the Pacific NW) and hit a deal! The 64GB Sandisk Ultra Plus was on sale for just over $32. I brought it home, formatted it - and the message remained.

Now that I've shifted to a gentle version of the Galaxian hack I have no issues, and a large and fast card to hold my data. Some times I do catch a break!

08 January 2018

GX1 hack rehack update

The system still does what I wish with no playback hassles or camera lockups - how nice!

So what I have now is a decent AVCHD update on bitrate (HD and FHD) and no change to stock MP4 files. Further reading at personal-view.com shows that MP4 bitrates over 23M/sec will not allow playback in the camera, so we'll stay at 20M. Other setings that were discussed did not provide enough reason for boosting audio as that will also 'break' GX1 playback.

I attempted to run ten-second snips at each setting to determine bitrates - but I was shooting at max ISO (3200) at our table so nothing special at all. No movement other than cats cleaning themselves, so nothing worth inspecting for difficult imaging like the website suggests to show the improvements that AVCHD should demonstrate. I'll head down the hill for some moving water in the near future, as blockiness of moving water is a known torture test.  I'll be happy if I see a minimal amount of frozen pixels in the moving water during playback. The hack settings suggest much larger bitrates than I am trying, so if some image breakup occurs I can bump these up more; I went with about half of their suggested boosts for both 1080 and 720 resolutions in AVC mode.

Here are the resulting file sizes, which did not quite align at 10 seconds. Clearly the MP4 files are smaller as expected. The stock GX1 settings for AVC are 16M/sec and 12M/sec but I bumped them up to about 32M and 20M (or thereabouts). Perhaps at some point I will re-hack at higher AVC rates, but until I see some results to justify more changes, this will serve nicely.

02 January 2018

hack hack unhack

I've been messing up my simple life with GX1 video by 'improving' its specs. Oops.

Many of the Panasonic cameras have had their firmware inspected for video features. The video looks quite good to an average user like me, but dedicated folks on a budget want top-level quality from a bargain camera. Apparently they have succeeded to some degree that they can see, but for the most part the video looks very similar in before/after shots I have seen.

However it's not just the video specs. Beyond the MB/second bitrate one can also boost the audio quality. That sounded more appealing to me - especially since I was about to record a piano concert for the player and her family. Having a better audio track on a camera with no microphone jack would be a good thing.

And so I looked into personal-view.com and its many levels of hacking on dozens of cameras.
My first stop was the GalaXian hack from user 'driftwood', which moved several steps forward on nearly every parameter. I think I took the settings as given.. which for me was a mistake. The setting boost makes the video unwatchable on the camera! That might have been fine if I'd had time to test everything, but to learn this on the day of the event was too much to ask - so the hacked camera was set up as the 'B' camera rather than the main shooter. The video turned out fine in fact, but it was unsettling.

I then tried some other settings, and even tried to reload the original firmware. Luck was not on my side in those endeavors.

After that I went with a different hack, the 'natural3' set from user bkmcwd. It had a different error message with mp4 mode, claiming my card write speed was too slow (the AVCHD mode seemed fine). The camera then locked up on playback and I despaired of seeing the GX1 work again. (It turns out that others have reported similar camera lockups and shooting/deleting still images can reset things - now they tell me!).

Finally I put the natural3 back on the camera and it was not locking up, and I found a V3 SD card (at a great price!) hoping to get that error message to relent. Alas, luck was again not with me, even though the card speed should be sufficient; perhaps the GX1 was not the 'natural3' intended target and that has been my problem. Most users of that hack use an earlier GH camera.

After several more attempts to reset the camera to Lumix-standard v1.1 firmware I looked again at the GalaXian hack. I lowered some of the high-demand settings for mp4 images and tried again. Now the camera records both mp4 and AVCHD without hassle or lockup.
And I cannot play them back on the camera!

So at last, after further reading, I loaded firmware 1.1 and boosted the AVCHD settings but left MP4 settings untouched. At this I finally found peace: videos both work, stills look fine, nothing freezes on playback.

Maybe it will even work the same way tomorrow?