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Spring 2012 and New Gear
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Spring 2012 and New Gear

by Gerald Janauer on May 1, 2012

Spring always inspires me to take photographs. The spring of 2012 started very early with 80+ degree Fahrenheit temperatures in March. I measured 88 degrees on my deck! This is clearly not normal for that time of year. Luckily - for photography, at least, spring slowed down and is giving us all time to enjoy the beautiful pastel colors of the flowers, trees and other vegetation. It is now May 1st, and I am finding the spring to be more more advanced than it is “supposed to be” for this time of year.

For more than two years now I have been looking at trying a smaller camera system. I had always thought that my Nikon cameras (which I like very much - great images and great construction and design quality) were much too large for their capability. It always seemed to me that if it was possible, Nikon would find a way to make something with the same capability larger and heavier, just because they could. My (very nice) Nikon FM-3a film camera (one of the few film cameras I actually want to keep, currently getting rid of most of the rest) is significantly heavier than my Olympus OM series cameras (I have a 1n and 2n OM). Not that Canons are any smaller…

The four thirds system was somewhat interesting, although I initially did not like the fact that the sensors were even smaller than my APS-C Nikon sensors, yet the image quality kept improving. Still, the four thirds bodies did not get interestingly small for their small sensors until the Olympus E-P1. I came pretty close to buying and Olympus E-P1 when they first came out, but did not like the fact that this camera did not have a built-in viewfinder. It also did not have a built-in pop-up flash, but that I could live without. Somehow, the E-P1 seemed a bit overpriced at the time. The kit price was $700, if I remember with the collapsible 14-42 (28-84 full frame equivalent) lens. I was a bit surprised that even the E-P1 was a little bigger and a little heavier than I expected, and was not ready to make that compromise. Then came the E-P2 which had a viewfinder option, but was even more expensive, then the E-PL1 with simplified controls (although cheaper), and then the E-PL2 (also with simplified controls) and then the latest series, the E-P3, E-PL3, and E-PM1. The latest range of cameras was really quite interesting, and seemed desirable, except of the prices once again. Also, the image quality had not really improved in about two years. Olympus was still stagnating in this area due to the use of the same basic sensor as the original E-P1. Now Panasonic’s products had also not stood still, and Sony had come out with their NEX line of APS-C cameras. I had looked at the Panasonic GF-1 when it first came out (a good and desirable option), but dismissed the DSLR like G series (G1, G2, GH1, GH2, G10, G3). I had not even considered these cameras, in part because I had never seen one, and they look BIG in the pictures. Why downsize the sensor if the camera stays nearly as big?

To make a long story short, I finally looked in great detail at the new OM-D EM-5, which looks like a superb (although still highly overpriced) camera. I still do not like the electronic viewfinder (although at least it has a viewfinder), and I still do not like the price, but at least the sensor had been upgraded to the latest technology. The interest in the EM-5 made me look at all of the other cameras that had a similar Panasonic sensor (the 16 MP one). This led to looking at the Panasonic GX1, G3, and GH2 (that actually has a slightly larger multi aspect ratio sensor with 18 MP). After close comparisons, I gave up a bit in size and purchased a used Panasonic GH2. This was cheaper than the combination of Panasonic GX1 and viewfinder and more capable than the G3, although a bit heavier and larger. The GH2 also has the most flexible sensor. All of the Panasonic 16 MP sensors appeared in DPREVIEW.COM comparison tests to have ultimate picture quality that should rival my 12 MP Nikon D300.

I have not done any formal testing at this point to really compare my new system to my old. I have to say, though that two of the three lenses that I purchased with my new system combined with my GH2 are showing much promise. You can judge for yourself in the spring images below, but I can say that my Nikons and Nikon lenses would not do better in this situation. In addition, taking these pictures was easier with the folding LCD panel and the touch focus capability. I hope to say more in a review at some point later on. I also need to say that after reading the OM-D EM-5 review at DPREVIEW, I have no regrets. I expect that in the final analysis my GH2 will be just as capable (at least in RAW, I do not shoot JPG) as the EM-5. The only drawback is the lack of in body stabilization. All at a price that is $500 less than I would have paid for a difficult to get new Olympus. Camera bodies are really just commodities these days, aren’t they.

Here are the images from earlier today. Both images are from my back yard, near the beaver pond. Daffodils were planted last fall to enhance the capabilities of my “picture farm.” Both images taken with the Panasonic 14 mm “pancake” lens.

Daffodils at the Pond

Evening Daffodils

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