27 August 2019

reality check XXI$

I found a spot on eBay where one can look back on purchases back to Jan 2017. By searching, copy/pasting and sorting I rediscover an ugly truth: in less than three years I bought eight cameras, 23 lenses and 14 accessories e.g. usb chargers and a travel tripod. The list includes two GX7 and two GX85 bodies, and two Sigma 60/2.8 lenses. That's sloppy thinking and incredibly indecisive - and of course shamefully cash-foolish. Of the 31 bodies and optics less than a dozen reside here now - and that's still too many.

I am choosing not to investigate the camera forum buy/sell chat-lists, where I fear as many or more purchases might be revealed..

I resolve, yet again, to do better.

11 August 2019

time for a change

So here's my online activity in the recent past -
  • listen to people golf ($10/month to watch - so I listen)
  • read about soccer, hiking, and other sports
  • read extensively about people taking photos on trips, or buying new stuff
  • buy used /new camera stuff and sell other used /old camera stuff

None of this brings me joy. Taking pictures within 100 feet of my living room doesn't do much for me. Accumulating nice gear then selling it for the next large life-expense steals the joy of ownership. Having no expectations of a fun new place to shoot makes the same subjects tedious - even if our local cats are cute.

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

I feel that my burnout time is fast approaching.
If true I shan't complain, as I spend waaay too much time at these places. It piles on my previous life-rant, where time in standby-assist mode is getting wasted on deep trivia, mostly related to imaging and gear.

It's truly time for a change.

This blog will now go from confessional to cheap-seat talk.
Better yet: a new blog!

See granitix2.blogspot.com ("Moldbreaker") for a clean start.
over and out

23 July 2019

the small camera kit..er kits

I like my camera gear to be small. Cheap and incredibly talented is nice too.. but let's not get greedy. Well one can be greedy.. with the right gear.

My K-5 with the 18-50re is really compact for aps.c, and now the compact 50-200wr has arrived. That's a nice 27-300mm∙e kit that can go out in the rain and shoot quietly from 27-75mm∙e.

Maybe I meant the GX1 kit? With 14/2.5, 30/2.8 and 45-150mm zoom it stays small & does many things well. The 4:3 sensor does not show off to K-5 level but it's a fine 16Mpxl sensor. Its video specs definitely outperform the Pentax; it was hacked to produce 36MB/sec video with better audio too.  It could be set higher still, but then the camera cannot play back the video :(

Hm, how were these two small-kit pictures taken? That was done with the YI.M1. Yes it's also my small kit: with 12-40mm XiaoYi and 45-150 Lumix it can manage 24-300mme. It can go to 4k with its video specs and has a nice 20Mpx sensor. It does not 'do' stabilization with my current lenses but is still a talented little camera!

Any of these kits can be made larger with current lenses  (e.g. Lumix 12-60 or K-mount 100-300 or fast primes) but for small gear I'm in a good place.. and when more is better I'm good there too!

P.S. it should be noted that my wife's GF2 plus 12-32mm Lumix out-smalls all my kits!
It uses older tech but raw images are very nice and for size it is hard to beat.

15 July 2019

just saved a bunch of money..

And it has nothing to do with car insurance :^|

My plan was to pick up a gap lens between the 18-50 and 100-300 zooms. The clear choice would be a DA70/2.4, which would be $200 (used, black) at best. Silver would be nice.. oh that's $375 if I am a lucky bidder. Well, no hurry.

No hurry became no need, as I found a bargain DA∙L 50-200wr lens. Now weather seals extend from 18 to 200mm, no gaps and about $150 less spent than on the Limited 70. Sure I'd still love to have one.. but that is for another day.

I've used numerous copies of the 50-200 - in fact I believe my first copy came as a swap for my first copy of the 55-300mm lens. I've tried both DA and DA∙L copies, both WR - and strangely enough the L version (composite mount, no quick-shift focus) has provided consistently preferable images! In any case I have preferred the overall results from the 50-200 over the 55-300, whose slower focus and less-consistent bokeh are drawbacks. OK I also admit to greatly preferring the shorter lens' bulk.

The image here is with an early copy of the DA 50-200wr on a K-7. I dropped the exposure deliberately, because it's my photo and I can do what I choose with it.

11 July 2019

plus 3

using center-point autofocus
That seems to be a good bias for the K-5 autofocus system with my recently-(re)acquired Sigma 100-300 'slowpoke' tele-zoom.

A reasonable color match!
Yes I own one of those again - but this time in silver to match the K-5 Special. A few quick tests and application of +3 AF adjustment for this lens only, and results look better than before. Yay!

Speaking of Sigma - today they announced their first L-mount body. It's tiny, cubic and using a Bayer RGB filter array (i.e. Not Foveon) so it's an unusual Sigma camera in many respects. We shall see how it fares once price and performance are fully set.

06 July 2019

the DA∙L 18-50 RE∙tractable

The weather-sealed K-5 demands at least one WR lens for foul weather. On a kit-lens budget that has always meant an 18-55 or 50-200mm as a staple; later the 55-300mm caught up with a HD/WR version. All of them have performed well for me at one time or another.

In the last couple of years the higher-grade 20-40 Limited and 18-50 RE have also been introduced. I owned and liked the 20-40mm, but its price is not available to me right now. The 18-50RE replaced the 18-55 as the basic wide-to-normal kit lens. and retracts almost to Limited-prime size. While I was seeking a deal on the 18-55 I stumbled upon an "as-is" copy of the 18-50RE at an excellent price. Wow: why not?

Initial gear reviewers emphasized the flimsiness of the RE design. Too much 'plastic', wobble in the front-element extension, and so on. Just the sort of things that can go wrong with an "as-is" lens? As it traveled toward me here on the wrong coast I chose to look at user reviews ..and I was surprised by its rating, which was on average comfortably higher than the 18-55. People really do like this version - users not reviewers - and my hopes went up that my incoming copy would be better than 'as-is'.

Well it's here - and it's great!

That 'as-is' disclaimer was quite pessimistic; I expected issues with AF, zoom/retraction mechanism or ..well, something. I have found no issues that limit its full capabilities. Hooray!

So I have a silent-focus WR lens that fits snugly against an equally-WR body. Nice! That saves me plenty of concern about the short end of the focal range (no 17-50 or 17-70 types need apply). It does make the 70 Limited more useful than a DA21, and beyond that the smc-M 100mm and 200mm can take over when the slowpoke Sigma 100-300 isn't the right choice. Sure the 18-50 is pretty slow in the aperture dept. but if that's its only 'issue' I can live with it.

Too bad it doesn't come in silver..

27 June 2019

the danger of looking back

Aside from becoming a pillar of salt..

I was reviewing some older images (Pentax, of course) and to my horror it got me to thinking. The enjoyment of photography and the benefits of 24x18 sensors is valuable to me!

I've commented before on the distinct difference between dSLR imaging and modern mirrorless cameras. Here are some of them /the short version/.
  • The EVF has benefits, but it is yet another screen to look at along with phone tablet computer and TV. I've had numerous issues this past week with all kinds of screens so I'm more vulnerable right now.
  • The auto corrections for lenses is nice.. but having better lenses is my preference. When µ43 lenses are reviewed without corrections one sees just how hard the camera is working to reprocess images; the outer 1/3 of shots is reworked pretty hard.
  • While µ43 depth of field is decent enough, it's not as impressive as aps-C shots.
  • The GX1 is nearly as well known to me now as the K-5 was in the past; that's a good thing yet apparently makes subsequent bodies harder to enjoy. Yes, the complexity thing, again.
  • Sensor specs, in-camera effects, yada yada²...

So off I went again, for the last time. Sure.

My first stop was shopgoodwill, where several Minolta A-mount deals were within reach for absurd prices. I bid on a Sony A100 and Maxxi 35-70/4 and 50/1.8 - for a total of about $50. Those were outbid, though amazingly not by much.

In the meantime I looked over various Pentax listings for a decent K-5, K-5ii or similar. I found a K200d in silver - I had no idea that they were made in silver!! - but it wasn't cheap compared to the black bodies. A seller had a K-5 available (black of course) and I sent along a note, which sat without response for a few days.

Then 'disaster' struck: a K-5 Silver Special edition for $220. Bingo! 

Now of course I need a silver lens. Maybe two.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Oh yeah - this means the GX85 is leaving to fund this.. perhaps the 12-60 as well. Heck the 14-42 could also go if a 19mm Sigma shows up..

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Update: re-integrating the K-5 into my shooting
I'm surprised at what I remember, and what I don't. I used a K-50 most recently so it will take a bit of muscle retraining to get the buttons right again. At first blush I miss the touch-screen, love the optical view, and cannot tell the grip is different*. I do believe the shutter sound is slightly quieter than my non-Special K-5 bodies; it's a well-muffled click. Cool.

* and now I know why. According to PentaxForums the Silver Special was released twice: one with altered grip, and the next year with a silver DA40 xs lens (and apparently the standard grip). My grip is on the right here so not the super-special Special camera! I'm OK with this, but it's nice to know that a good reason exists for my not being able to tell the difference from my previous K-5 bodies.
Hm, I also just noticed my Silver body has the red/silver SR label not silver on black. Interesting!

16 May 2019

for the last time II

As noted recently, I've struggled with the choice of kit lens for my GX85. I love the features of the 12-60 Lumix, but it's a bit bulky on the smaller body. That drives me toward the tiny 14-42ii, which is nearly 12-32 small but has a focus ring + 10mm at the long end. And what about the XiaoYi 12-40?

Taken with GX85 and SMC-A 50/1.7. A nice combination
Today's thinking is that the 14-42 is the better option. The ii has dual-IS for improved stabilization (the 12-60 also has this), and its size and similar feel to the 45-150 is quite nice. I'll admit that cash is another reason, as the 12-60 has better resale value.. sad but true.

Update II - I read in the comments section at a forum site about the YI 12-40mm 'retractable' kit zoom. The writer noted that, with the M1's minimal reprocessing of data, their lenses cannot make use of Pana/Oly's inbuilt corrections of distortion and vignetting and must therefore do more themselves.

Sad but true: the big names use internal post-processing tricks to render an acceptable image (one of my peeves about the μ43 system). One can use alternate software to look at raw images, and many Zuiko/Lumix lenses have seriously silly distortion characteristics.

The point that I left behind is that the 12-40mm xiaoYi zoom does not have those dismal specs to wash away in the camera's after-shot routine - so the lens is built with better corrections to limit those distortions. It may not appear to do as good of a job but in fact it's a better standalone optical setup than even some of the high-grade gear from the Others.

 Hadn't thought of that.. and glad it's still here!

06 May 2019

fresh doses of sanity

Even professional imagers feel the pull of gear - Kirk puts it quite eloquently, as usual. He changes massive amounts of kit in a hurry at times; perhaps as a percentage of income it's similar to my meager dealings, we'll never know of course.

His work is consistently great in any case, and like he says in the linked article the many factors that make an image is only rarely due to the gear. Certainly if one has the wrong focal length the outcome may be less ideal.. yet a great image can come even at those moments.

Good stuff, and a reminder that time spent browsing camera forums and gear sites could be spent taking photos (or organizing and removing many of them from my hard drive).

I'm writing this after an awful work day followed by a sleep-deprived night. I was up by 4:30 and read Kirk's article.

But I did get to see a beautiful sunrise!

I took several cool sunrise-and-fog images with the GX85 and 12-60mm - and later learned that two big dust specks were evident in the sky on several shots. Bummer. They were all shot in jpeg only, so solid fixes will likely show some compression artifacts.

I then took out the GX1 and 14-42 while the GX85 was occupied with downloading. The sun-beams were even more pronounced at this point and images on screen looked very nice. The light was also striking our hummingbird feeder so I tried to incorporate its ruby glow into the shot with 16:9 wide shots. Now where is that cable for downloading, the microUSB cord won't work! Ah yes, the usb reader will do.

While seeking the cable I decided to grab the YI M1 and its 12-40 kit lens. This was also shot in raw +jpeg and looked wonderful on the small screen. Here is one of the jpeg shots from the 20-mpx YI - looks good from here!

As Kirk said - timing and light are the key elements; the camera need only function to capture a great image.

25 April 2019

for the last time..

The choice of standard zoom remains for me to select a winner. Lumix 14-42ii or 12-60? Miniature bulk or maximum versatility? What would I use more /miss less among the features?

Both these zooms receive generally good marks in online reviews. The larger lens has more range, weather seals and has not reached f/5.6 at 40mm so is a bit faster at the 14-42's long end. Adding hoods make them look similar in overall size but it's definitely not so - the 14-42 takes 46mm filters compared to 58mm on the 12-60. Weight isn't quite 2:1 but it's fairly close to that ratio. I like having 12mm but I can stitch two shots at 14mm when wide is a big deal.

So each has its values and drawbacks - no surprise there.

Here's the most valuable point of separation for me: close focus ability. Both get to nearly the same distance from an object but a 60mm closeup will out-scale a 42mm closeup every time in that circumstance. This is something I can see clearly, and that I will often use when I don't have my 10mm extension tube handy. I really don't need 1:1 closeup for my typical use (the 4Thirds 35/3.5 is for slide duplication more than general use) so flower shots and the occasional bug will do fine with the 12-60.

The last-body-ever hunt ended when a GX85 body was found for only slightly more than I expected to pay for a healthy GX7, so that's that. Complexity wins (as does updated shutter and better/dual IS!).

So here's where the kit stands now:
Body - GX85 (still holding GX1 and YI M1 w/kit lenses)
General-use lens: Lumix 12-60
Tiny telephoto: Lumix 45-150
Wide prime: Lumix 14/2.5
Bonus 4Thirds lenses:  ZD 35 macro & 70-300 tele

I'd love to spend a bit on more primes some day, and maybe the 35-100/2.8. Some day will not be any time soon, barring a massive financial windfall. Not much chance of that.

17 April 2019

challenging my theory

My former gear is now crawling cross-country to be evaluated. In a week I shall know if I am wealthier or claiming a used GX7 - or an ultrabargain GX85? As usual, time will tell.

I recently railed about how complex cameras are messing with my brain. To restate: the most recent µ43 cameras can do a lot but mostly they do things I do not need on a camera. Many have pointed out "so don't use those features" - but when they invade and complexicate the menus it isn't that easy. I cannot expect them to revamp their menus by putting "4k" as a separate tab for video and photo tricks - but I sure wish that could happen.

During that complaint I encountered another issue: I have uniformly disliked the large µ43 bodies. Despite all their advantages (splash seals, better viewfinders, more space for more Fn buttons), nearly all of which I like! I have failed to get along with G7, G85, EM5/10/10ii despite their being about the same size as my well-liked Pentax K-5/50 cameras! I have no explanation for this; my tip-not-flip screen preference downgrades the G7/80 .. but it's more than just that. And the OM-D bodies us the tip screen - so is it the menus wrecking my experience? No, since the eP5 felt nice. That one was still not quite right for me though.

This led me to conclude that the GX7 is where I should stop.
Is that reasonable though? The GX85 loses 2-3 items on the outside that I'd miss (AF switch, tilt VF), but updates the GX7 inside in many valuable ways (usb charging /microUSB plug, no AA filter, ISx2, updated shutter) even without the 4k features. I owned it before and the complexity did not strike me as a big deal. 
Hmm /grrr.

So does my avoidance-of-complexity model break down here?
We'll find out when soon, when prices for used GX7/85 compete for my attention.

16 April 2019

complex matters

Now that I've made a statement about complex cameras.. let me move on to software for those cameras. I've re-installed PS Elements v10 on my computer. Wow that's old!

Yes but -
I've tried several newer items in the past year or so. No doubt they are amazing and can do impressive stuff. But with a few bargain plugins Elements X has curve lighting (SmartCurve), pseudo HDR (reDynamix) and really good noise reduction (NeatImage). No doubt I can spend more and do better - but I know Elements pretty well and the new models are (yet again) complex beyond my needs. So why work harder for small returns?

My all-time favorite imaging software was made in 1996 and remains my most-used photo tool. It does all the basics (OK it cannot rotate in sub-90° increments or auto-scale to screen dimansions), it's tiny and therefore fast. I can resize, change color balance and saturation, sharpen a pinch - even add text. So for casual images, which is pretty much all I'm able to shoot right now, this is plenty.

15 April 2019

big deal

So after consulting my internal reality specialist I decided to go forward with the GX1, 14mm prime, 12-60 and 45-150 Lumix zooms. The eP5 and other primes are off to a dealer for more tax relief. The 14-45 is also going back since the 12∙60 is staying.

And I'm OK with this. 
Well, today I am.

As I posted recently, the technology buried within the most recent cameras is beyond my ability to absorb right now. I barely shoot video at all, so why have 4k? I rarely use the camera for anything creative, so why deal with 4k-based focus stacking and other cool tricks? I almost never use burst mode so what's the difference to me between 4 and 9 shots per second? It all exceeds my needs now, and until something major changes in our family life it's just excess that hinders more than it helps.
compout alert - I still have 4k via the YI, since the best offer so far on the m1 is under $60!

So the GX1 and its very familiar feature set will do. Unless, perhaps, a GX7 were to appear at the dealer when the final check is ready to be cut. The EV-4 AF and touch-AE features really were useful to me, so I'll be watching.*

I do still have the 12-60 despite putting it up for cheap and owning the tiny 14-42ii. The longer range is nice, the lens only a bit thicker than the 45-150 and just as long - and to my surprise it feels better on the GX1 than it did on the eP5! Curious. I haven't offered the 14-42ii yet, might as well hold on and see what develops.

* and what if find a GX85 near my hoped-for GX7 price? Both would be acceptable but the complexity creep would be there. So would usb charging, no AA filter... argh.

09 April 2019

"Stay this madness"!

Gandalf and Denethor.
Also me and cameras.

I've been thinking - that's never a good start to a paragraph on this site, but true nonetheless. I really like the 12-60mm Lumix lens.. But I have no wx-sealed body for it. I also really like the eP5, and that's the first Olympus body I can say that about with little hesitation. (OK: I wish it were sealed. Happy now??) But the 12-60 is kinda bulky on that body.

But Hey: an E-M1 body is sealed, has a better grip for improved handling and has PDAF focus points for my 35 macro and 70-300 ZD (4Thirds Classic) lenses. Maybe I should

[Cue Gandalf]

The voice of reason demands to be heard, and commands to reconsider!

I have enthusiastically purchased OM-D EM5/10/10b - and let them go quite soon after, with very little remorse. In each case my research indicated it was a great idea: excellent feature set, top-notch sensor and the cameras were pretty much beloved by owners. The E-M1 is just like them: greatly admired, talented, good ergonomics, all that stuff.

Two quick facts and a history 'lesson'
  • The dxo website shows that the eP5 is its equal within dxo measurements. 
  • The camerasize site shows just how large the eM1 is in a relative sense (for more humour check this one!).
and a "history lesson": my 10-year history of owning high-quality digital gear (dSLR and mirrorless) reveals that 1) every time I have had a  bargain camera in hand that I dumped for "better" stuff it has been deeply regretted (e.g. my $20 K-r), and 2) despite all my best research and logic the OM-D Olys have not suited me. Hm - come to think of it the G7 and G85 struck me the same way, unlike the gx1/7/7b bodies. And the ePL bodies were almost right but for the second dial circling the 4way pad..

So maybe just this once I will break with my (admittedly stupid) tradition and keep the bargain camera that I really like more than I expected? Maybe even let the slightly oversized 12-60 depart and use tiny primes (14/20/30 +45-150 zoom) or the nice, tiny 14-42ii instead? What a concept.

Madness, indeed.

06 April 2019

a small investment

Much gear has been recycled in the past month, including the Pentax K-50 and Lumix G85. I shall miss every item - yet they were more mentally valuable than anything as I've spent so little time actually using them.

The IRS thanks every buyer in participating in their funding efforts.

One item that has not left the building is the YI M1. One of its frustrations for me is the lack of image stabilization of any form, even with lenses that have the feature. Before the selloff began I'd been watching for a deal on the classic 14-45mm lens, the original and still-liked Lumix μ43 kit lens. I found one just as the sale funds were slowing to a trickle, and I decided to pick it up.

What makes the old 14-45 different is that it has an OIS switch, which reportedly is the only way that an IS lens will work with the M1. I want to know that for certain before I let this camera go, as it has several features that I'm reluctant to lose for a miniscule sale price. The updated 20mpx sensor is here, the in-camera charge setup via 'standard' microUSB cable, timelapse/4k/2k and a simple interface.. several good features. And one more firmware update (or open-source 'hack') could make this a very sought-after camera!

The purchase brings me a bewildering array of  'standard kit zoom' lenses in this format:
  • 14-45 Lumix, original that I know from my G1 era
  • 14-42 ii Lumix, the latest successor kit lens
  • 12-32 Lumix, the tiny marvel (with no focus ring)
  • 12-40 xiaoyi, the retractable M1 kit lens
  • 12-60 Lumix that didn't leave with the G85
Each has something somewhat special about it.. but I definitely don't need 5 lenses for 4 bodies (GX1, M1, eP5, wife's GF2) - especially with the 14 and 20mm primes still in house!

One interesting prospect - if the xiaoyi performs well enough on the ePM5, the 14-45 can take over on the M1. We'll see about that.

01 April 2019

tax bill, no Foolin'

Our taxes are done, at least the first draft - and no revisions will soften the blow. Withholdings in the new tax era were underdone to the point of criminality; of course I'm the criminal and will be forced to pay a penalty for it. New part-time job, an IRA pull, and general withholding changes that I foolishly assumed would be reasonable. Silly me.

That tax+penalty will be paid for by my camera gear.
Boy does that sound familiar.

And so, yet another fire sale will remove as much of my gear as buyers are willing to take. That may well strip me down to the GX1 again - but I'd be OK with that. To be honest I'd say that my tech interest seems to have peaked at the GX7 level; all new features past that are complexity that I like as a concept but may never actually use.

It will be interesting to see what gear remains, from which I can assemble a 'phoenix' kit. As of today it's the EP5 and either the 20/1.7 or 12-60 superkit lens. And the GX1. If the YI isn't taken I'd likely swap it to a dealer rather than leaving it on a shelf to decompose. Nice sensor but not my type, and if the firmware makes a great leap forward I'll survive the disappointment.

Once you've done this routine four or five times, it apparently hurts less.
Still no fun though.

26 March 2019

helpless, hopeless

I spent the weekend staring at my G85, trying to wrap my head around its complexity and finding a setup that makes sense to me.

I failed.

This camera is the G7 all over again - a camera that fits great in my hand and meets needs I plan to have but don't yet. Because of that I find myself tripping over bonus features while trying to make it work like I want. How's this: click the Fn button near the shutter for EV± then turn the Front dial. No not the rear one, the one right next to the button - the one that just moved away from the shutter. Give up and do a search on the virtual manual again, I guess.

Roll call - G85, GX1, K50, YiM1 and EP5. One for each hand and foot + one to balance atop my head.


Which ones do I know how to use? K50 and GX1.
And I have them up for sale.

The G85 can do amazing 4k video and 4k photo tricks. The M1 can also do 4k, has a 'better' sensor and USB charging. the EP5 can do Live Time which I plan to make use of.. some day or night. Each of these benefits comes with a lack or a level of complexity that causes me grief.

So why am I doing this? How did I get here?


08 March 2019

spring(ish) cleaning

As I indicated earlier this year, I made the decision to pare down the camera gear to a single system - possibly just one camera. Since my wife's camera is a Lumix GF2 it was the best decision overall to go with a modern, weather-tolerant G85 camera with the 12-60 kit lens and let the equally sealed Pentax system go. This week I finally took inventory, took photos and posted a 4SALE sign on the internet.

It's not just Pentax leaving though, as I have a surplus of µ43 cameras too. The YI∙M1, GX1 and EP5 cameras are superfluous with the G85 in hand. If most other gear goes my hope is to hold on to the EP5 for its small, feature-dense specs and Live Time astroimaging capability, plus perhaps the Pentax 70/2.4 Limited for use on the µ43 bodies.

In fact the Pentax system is better equipped, with lenses ranging from the 10-20mm Sigma to a 100-300 Sigma; the full range would be 15-450mm/e with 27-80mm weather sealed. I've used Pentax for years and both know its interface and like its output - but some things are simply not in Pentax DNA and cannot be expected in the near future.  I'll miss the green button, post-shot raw saving and other cool things that make them unique.

Going with Lumix meant fewer native lenses in hand but more modern functionality. The G85 is similarly sealed for foul weather and has internal stabilization; it also has a way to use the in-lens system to boost stabilization further, and has used its video expertise to branch into both high-spec 4k video and the technique of using 4k video frames to extract an 8Mpixel image in ways Pentax won't attempt to imitate any time soon. And my lens collection isn't bad: two lens provide me with 24-300mm/e coverage (24-120 sealed) - and the adapted 4Thirds lenses add 1:1 macro and 150-600mm telephoto as well!

This decision wasn't easy - but it's done.
OK not until these things sell, but nearly so.

- - - -
3/18 the doing is happening and three lenses are ready to ship off. 
The paypal balance dropped a bit as I chose to grab a Lumix 20/1.7 for the new, smaller kit. The original plan was to dump my last unsold gear and swap for one, but this is faster - and hopefully will be a wash financially. This sets me up with 14, 20, 35 and 45-150 when the 12-60 isn't practical (that sounds like a rare event, but low-light things happen!). The 25mm fit better with 14 and 35, but those lenses are either knockoffs or a bit large compared to the revered 20mm, so I'll be OK with my gaps as they stand.

22 February 2019


Two different paths come together this week - and a new/old friend will come of it.

First path was one in search of a new-ish prime lens for the µ43 system. I figured it would be a Lumix 20 or some variant of a 25mm (of which many are available). With the 14mm and the Pentax 40 and 70mm Limiteds in hand, what would be the better fit?

Another path was an old, familiar one: backpacking. I had been contemplating a Sierra trip to a familiar area - well it was so in the mid-90s at least. It was a short hike to pretty country, and a pony ride would be available to carry my wife.. and maybe some nice extra camp comforts? Hmm..

This path led me to reconsider my dear old hiking slides that were wasting away inevitably in a corner of our garage. I'd really like to revisit that trip - but of course the slide projector has been dead for a decade or more. Time to reconsider the task of digitizing the slides?

My plan for that has been in the works for a few years. In fact I had planned to use an Olympus E500 and the 35mm digital Zuiko macro. That pairing was long gone, but I did have a 4Thirds adapter for my EP5 and G85. Wonder how much that lens costs now?

Convergence occurred - and off I went to look over sale copies of the 35mm f/3.5. I put up a bid and today it worked in my favor. The lens will arrive soon, and for well under $75! Just for old times' sake I looked at the imaging-resource lens tests, and remembered why I bought a copy before. This is an excellent 1:1 macro lens, even more so for such an absurdly low price.

This purchase tells me that the 20mm will be a better future fit than a 25mm lens. It also fits nicely with the nagging thought that I should let the 40mm Limited prime depart with some other Pentax gear. The 70 will remain however!

Time to take another look at those old 1990s Sierra hike slides..

14 February 2019

no fair (dirty details on a great image)

I recently posted an image that has been my most-liked image ever at both an online photo forum and on facebook.

What did I do to make this appealing image happen?!?

The answer is - well, embarrassing.

First off, here's the shot.

  • Gear - Lumix G85 and 12-60mm² lens.
  • Processing - resized, cropped to remove the right side which was all wall. That's it.
  • Technique - none. I suppose that could be expanded upon a bit.

After a couple of cold and stormy days I awoke to a clear and cold dawn. I wasn't dressed to go take photos, and our deck had about a foot of snow on it. Since it was so pretty out I went with the alternate plan: stick my arm out the sliding door and shoot.

Here was the result. Neat light on the clouds, plenty of snow, and I managed to stay warm as I sipped my coco-mocha.

About fifteen minutes later the sun broke through those low clouds and illuminated the yard and deck with warm-tinted sunshine. The texture of the snow in our yard looked really cool and I needed to take a second photo. Having looked at the first shot I knew it was too wide, so I zoomed in a bit while standing in the warm house. So the composition step was taken in absentia and was quite arbitrary, with the goal of more yard, less house.

The G85 allows one to pop the screen halfway out for shooting at odd angles, e.g. one-handed out a sliding door. I didn't do that. Instead I held the camera out again at arm's length, eyeballed it as level, and clicked. It could possibly have been a bit better with some actual time spent with composition but with my arm extended the image was really too far away for me to work hard at improving the composition.

It was much later in the day that I looked this shot over, and was pleasantly surprised to see that I had caught the sun in the image. Note that it sits between the downspout and the wall of our home - meaning that any earlier or later (or if my arm were longer or shorter!) this would be a completely different image. So a bit of planning might have helped, but probably would have led to a poorer overall result; thankfully, I did none.

When I saw the 'post your snow images' thread at an online forum I imported the image into LView Pro v1.D2, my mid-90s imaging software that is tiny and excellent at simple editing. I cropped out most of the outside wall, resized and re-saved.

Yes, some day I can grab the original and do some 'serious' editing of this image. I may even want to do that. Maybe.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 

I like stories with morals so here goes:

Good gear is good, and gear that suits you is better than gear that doesn't.

Gear that you know will serve you better than gear you don't know.*

Light/location/timing are more important than gear!

Go take pictures, and be amazed.

*The G85 is not gear that I know just yet. It's impressed me consistently despite my ignorance.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 

Note - why is this lens labeled 12-60²? That would be because the 12-60¹ was an Olympus 4Thirds lens, my lens is the 'kit' Lumix f/3.5-5.6 version, and the newest iteration is the Leica f/2.8-4.0. Yes the 24-120mm equivalent is very nice - but does the 4Thirds group have no other creative FL options??

07 February 2019

impossible shots

I've been shooting stars lately. Handheld, for up to two seconds, with no great effort made to steady myself other than exhaling slowly.

Results are just stupid, as in quite good!

I tried it first with the G85 and Lumix 12-60mm lens. That's a dual-IS arrangement that is purported to give 5 or more stops of stabilization (e.g. a 1-second shot as steady as 1/30s). I'm not crazy enough to pixel peep or seek out errors - I know they are in there - just looking for a reasonable capture. Yes this can be done, up to even 1.6 seconds.

I then grabbed the Oly EP5 with a Pentax Limited 70mm lens. IS in body but not in lens, so much more likely to show shake especially at 140mme (even at f/2.4). Both the Pleiades and Hyades looked quite nice.

Aldebaran and the Hyades with EP5 and Pentax DA70/2.4 Limited. 
Resized and slightly brightened.

I stepped back to the Lumix 14mm f/2.5 and shot a few more with the EP5. Going up to iso3200 really brings out faint stars and colors as well.

I'm impressed! It shows the value of image stabilization even when the feature is abused - and it strongly suggests how nicely images would turn out if I used just a little more effort.

23 January 2019

A chaotic eclipse event.

Skies cleared at an awkward time this past week. I had written off the lunar eclipse until just after it had begun, when I walked outside & looked up.

Oops! It's almost entirely clear out here!

I grabbed the GX1 and zD 70-300 and took a few shots (manual focus only) then decided the YI-M1 and its timelapse function would be easier. Oops the 70-300 won't focus manually at all on the M1(?) so try the sigma 100-300 instead, on my main tripod. By now the moon is almost totally umbra-fied so light is low and that special shade of copper! I then remembered the very small but solid kamay tripod that had never been used: out it came along with the GX1 and zD 70-300 again. Finally I pulled out the K-50 with 28-200 Sigma - and later the 10-20mm for some extra-wide views from Taurus to Leo.

No doubt I have a few keepers. It was a crazy 90 minutes though, and next time I need to do better. It's a classic case of 2MuGS (too much gear syndrome) - and that will definitely change Real Soon.

What hurts more about my frantic imaging episode is that I once was a dedicated star-gazer. If it was dark and reasonably clear I was outside, with camera telescope or binoculars. Eight years later and I don't even know where my sky journal is; I may have swapped computers a time or two since my last entry.

Hopefully that will now change!

22 January 2019

the value of planning

.. is pretty much zero in this household.

That applies to many things, but here I'll stick to cameras.
The G85 has arrived, which should put an end to acquisitions for some time*. The 12-60 covers most of my needs and seals up the camera for foul weather, and the 45-150 takes care of nearly everything else. For now the zD 70-300, a large 4Thirds native lens, can loiter about as the long-range option; since it does transmit data via the adapter unlike my Pentax options, it can tell the G85 how to best stabilize its images without me typing in a random number that pretends to cover any shot from 70 to 300mm. That's handy.

* But wait -
there's more.

image from review at
The cruel dealers and forum members informed me of a dumpsite deal on the Oly Pen eP5 body. Yes it's pretty old in camera years - but it features the talented Sony 4Thirds sensor, it's tiny, it has a tip screen, and it has Live Time for versatility the Lumix does not offer. It has nearly all the omD-EM5 features except weather seals and an attached viewfinder. Not bad. I've tried nearly every om-D body and found it cramped; I've also tried many PEN bodies and found them less so. The EP5 has dual dials in a sensible pattern unlike the PL versions, so that also will be a positive thing. And I believe I even have a spare battery from my brief EM5 phase!

And if I cannot bear it? 
Off it goes!

Yes the extra expense (and lack of shopping control) hurts - a little. However!
I will soon be offering up the Pentax gear, the YI M1 (and now the GX1) to others. My plan was to grab a 20-25mm m43 lens with that purchase. Well, not so much: it will now pay off the EP5 instead.

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!

Note: after tests on several µ43 bodies I must conclude the takes of CDAF compatibility are .. well, WRONG.  Manual focus is fine and focal-length data is transmitted to the IS system. No autofocus without phase detection though.

so why a G85?

After several years of buying and selling cameras, mostly via used shops and forum posts, my wonderful wife has told me to order a G85 for our 12th anniversary! This will bundle weather seals, new 4k/8Mpx imaging tricks and several modern updates in to a single system. How strangely.. efficient of me.

So 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 lens 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.