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.

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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.

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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.