Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Nikon D7200 vs Panasonic GX8 vs Olympus E-M1 vs GH4

I consider the market for cameras between US$1000.00 and US$1999.99 to be the most active for active photographers.  Sure, there are people who take photos with equipment under US$1000.00 but many of them have one lens--the kit lens.  From my experience, they may take good photos but they don't tax their equipment.  I push my equipment past those limits, such as when I was out photographing in three hurricanes, or when I'm photographing at skate parks.

For many people US$1199.99 is a premium price point.  To me, it's roughly the minimum for a weather-sealed camera body.  True, you can get the Pentax K-50 still, and it is an excellent bargain at around US$400.  Even with the kit lens, it's a capable camera.  For me, the lenses I wanted weren't available for Pentax, and an adapter to use such lenses on micro Four-Thirds bodies wasn't all that capable.  I switched to the Nikon D7200, especially because it has two high ISO (51,200 and 102,400) sensitivities that work in a black & white mode.

Yes, my equipment must work in a variety of ways, especially when I'm photographing sports.

Since I bought my Olympus E-1 in 2004, I've had Four-Thirds equipment and now, those lenses can be used on my micro Four-Thirds bodies, the Olympus E-M1, Panasonic GH4, and now, Panasonic GX8.

That gives me four modern camera bodies:
  • Olympus E-M1
  • Panasonic GH4
  • Nikon D7200
  • Panasonic GX8

For reasons explained in the sections to follow, I rate them in the following order:

  1. Panasonic GH4
  2. Olympus E-M1
  3. Panasonic GX8
  4. Nikon D7200

Stills

For still photography, they're not as different as I had thought or had hoped.

By sheer physics and pixel density, the D7200 should be comfortably better with a larger sensor.  At this point, it isn't working out that way.  I suspect that Nikon needs to fix things with firmware.  e.g., photographing indoors at Woodward West (training camp and skate park), I found that the Panasonic GH4 was setting itself at ISO 200 and 400, while the D7200 was setting itself at ISO 14,400.  Image quality was degraded.  However, this is a very, very new body.  (Strangely, since using the Nikkor 10.5mm fisheye lens on the D7200, it seems to work better with all lenses.)

In daylight, things are more equal.  The E-M1's face detection is amazing and for portrait work, I'm finding it and the Olympus 12-40mm f/2.8 amazing, even up against the D7200 and Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 combination.  (Yes, I know that the Sigma and in general, larger lenses have the possibility to be better, but it isn't always so in real life.)  In Live View, I believe that the D7200 can use face detection but Live View degrades performance greatly, and since the optical viewfinder is useless in this mode, you sort of have to use the D7200 as a heavy compact camera.  I would suggest a monopod or tripod.

The GH4 could be great but I have trouble with the auto focus and face detection being slow and/or inaccurate.  I generally find when photographing people participating in sports that the focus is a bit off.  The GH4, like the GH3, will focus on a wall or fence behind a person, even though only a single focus point is selected, and focus has been locked supposedly with single point focus mode.  With face detection, it tends to work better, if I have time to wait.  The E-M1's face detection is much faster than that of the GH4.  Face detection on the GH4 and GX8 default to splatter mode using all AF points, if it doesn't lock onto a face.

The GX8 has similar auto focus behavior, quite naturally, although it seems somewhat improved and bit quicker.  I haven't noticed any degradation with the increased pixel density, nor is it noticeably better in any way, compared to the GH4 or E-M1.  I'm sure that you can measure the differences in a laboratory, but I don't photograph in a laboratory.

  1. E-M1
  2. D7200
  3. GX8
  4. GH4

Street shooting

For casual photographers who want to go out and just photograph street scenes, the E-M1 and GX8 would be great.  The GX8 and Leica/Panasonic 15mm f/1.7 lens are great together.  The in-body image stabilization of the GX8 should make it somewhat more effective than most Panasonic bodies, although I haven't seen much evidence of it yet.  I have also used the 15mm f/1.7 lens on the E-M1 and find it to be very useful.  I'm sure there are people who would prefer the less expensive Olympus 17mm f/1.8 but I believe the 15mm's image quality is excellent and it works well when I'm shooting video.

I've heard a lot of people complain that an articulated rear display, such as what the GX8 and GH4 have, is not very useful, probably because it draws too much attention.  (I question what people are doing that they need to remain hidden.)  The sliding display of the E-M1 is preferred by these people, apparently.  This is where the GX8's tilting EVF shows its advantage.  It's so easy to use and you don't have to have you eye placed so close to actually use it.  I don't use it so much but it can be extremely useful in brightly-lit conditions where the articulated or a sliding display would be engulfed in sunlight.

Obviously, the D7200 is too big to be inconspicuous but also the GH4 even though it isn't terribly big.  People are calling the GX8 huge, so possibly the world is full of small, male hands.

  1. E-M1
  2. GX8
  3. GH4
  4. D7200

Video

When video comes into play, the Panasonic bodies overwhelm the others.

While the D7200 is better than the D7100 is, it's still not as good as the Panasonic GH3 for video, let alone the GH4 or GX8.  The lens mount may count for more than the sensor size here.  There are a lot of lenses for Nikon, even if it you have to choose very carefully.  The lack of an articulated rear display really hampers use of the D7200 but it has more options than the E-M1.  If you're trying to get product shots with the D7200 on a tripod, you're set.  I think you'd do better with the D5500, and save money to use toward a macro lens.  At skate parks on a handle, either Nikon body would do fine but the D5500 has an articulated rear display but is limited to 1/4000th of a second shutter speed.

The E-M1 has been sufficient to record video but is not very good, nor very versatile.  It might as well be a point-and-shoot camera for video, even though the quality is sufficient.  Firmware version 4.0 has added some options making it less unsuitable for video, including image stabilization help.  The sliding rear display is not particularly helpful for video.  It might as well be a fixed display.

Perhaps obviously, with 4K video, the GX8 and the GH4 are good at video.  Panasonic seems to have given the video capabilities more work than those for still photography.   I appreciate that I can use 1080p clips from both and they match very well.  I have yet to make real use of 4K video.  4K TVs have yet to make real use of 4K video--except for the demos they display in stores.  I've had my latest 1080p skate park video displayed on 4K TVs at an electronics store and it looked good.  Sony's upscaling worked the smoothest, over Samsung and LG.  When I've taken 4K video for testing, it tends to overwhelm the TV's processors.

The Panasonic video options are amazing, and cater to the video professional/film maker.  After months with the D7200, I have not even tried Live View mode, so I have not tried video.  It has some updates to help it do video better than the D7100 did.  Since I can't look through the viewfinder to see the video being recorded and I can't tilt the rear display, the D7200 is useless to me for video.  The D5500 would be more useful for video than the D7200, as the display is articulated.  However, these are typical problems with using dSLRs for video, instead of mirrorless models.

  1. GH4
  2. GX8
  3. E-M1
  4. D7200

Battery Life

I would hope that mirror-less models would have more battery capacity than dSLRs but that hasn't been the case for me.  The D7200 has a 1900 mAh battery and the GH4, a 1860 mAh battery.  The GX8 and E-M1 each have batteries around 1200 mAh.  Needless to say, I have 3 batteries each for the GX8 and E-M1, with 2 each for the D7200 and GH4.

For stills, I've shot several hours on the GH4 with one battery, but it doesn't last quite so long with video.  I'm sure that the D7200 should last the longest for stills.  Using the Olympus E-1 during wrestling tournaments, 4 1500 mAh batteries would handle a 14 hour day.  The E-5 uses similar batteries and I've never had a serious problem with battery life.

The E-M1 seems to want to turn on the rear display for almost anything, which is possibly the reason that the battery can be depleted so quickly.  The 5 axis image stabilization probably contributes quite a bit as well, as the loss in converting electrical energy to motion is higher than it should be.  The GX8 hasn't shown me that it is great on battery life, even though the rear display can be hidden.

  1. D7200
  2. GH4
  3. GX8
  4. E-M1

Viewfinder/Rear Display

I love an optical viewfinder.  I never thought I'd be able to use some electronic thingee instead.  When I got the Panasonic GH3, I didn't feel much different about EVFs.  The EVF in the GH3 isn't awful, but the EVF in concert with the eye cup didn't work well for me.  Then, I traded it for the E-M1.

The Olympus E-M1, FujiFilm X-T1, and Panasonic GH4 can all claim the greatest EVF title.  They're big, bright, and useful.  The X-T1's EVF rearranges the information in portrait mode, which could be helpful.  I like the X-T1 a lot, but it isn't right for me, shooting sports and all.  The GX8 has apparently been given the GH4 viewfinder, which is a big step up from the GX7 and the rainbow tearing effect.

For me, the E-M1, GH4, and GX8 have viewfinders that make daytime use great and nighttime use better than an optical viewfinder can provide.  It's also good to have a preview of the photo where you don't have to guess much as to the result.

Even when auto focus doesn't lock to a target, you can see fairly well.  Naturally, refresh time is degraded at night but it works well enough.  Version 4.0 of the E-M1 firmware has a simulated optical viewfinder mode.  I haven't really tested this new mode but I suspect it speeds up processing by not having to represent a realistic preview.

 I suppose being able to get the most out of an optical viewfinder is using your experience to extrapolate from what you see to the final photo.  Using the Olympus E-1 and E-5, I was able to get what I wanted from the photo with only an optical viewfinder.  The D7200's viewfinder is very good and if you really need more, you can switch to Live View using the fixed rear display.  However, you have to be patient with Live View.  Even with the E-5, patience was required and Olympus, along with Panasonic made Live View a big deal.  The E-330 worked better because it had two sensors to keep Live View quick.

As I've mentioned, the GX8 and GH4 have articulated displays, which are very useful in architectural shooting and even when you need to check the image when the camera is on the tripod, as the display can be folded out and completely reversed.  The E-M1's rear display slides down and slides up, making it possible to shoot from low angles or over crowds.

GX8
GH4
E-M1
D7200

Settings

Here is another point where the old ways don't really work.  For a few years, Olympus has been using an interactive settings display called Super Control Panel.  On the E-5 (from 2010), it was an easy way to switch ISO sensitivity, White Balance, Auto Focus, Burst Mode, even the card slot.

The D7200 has an informational display on the rear display.  You can see but you cannot touch--there is no interaction.  For someone unaccustomed to the menu system, forget about making quick adjustments without a well-traveled mentor at your side.

The Super Control Panel on the E-M1 is very useful.  The Quick Menu on the Panasonic bodies is useful but takes some acclimation with the up/down motion to select items to be changed.

I know that people complain about Olympus' (so many little gear selections!) menus, and they have become much more complex since the E-1 but every company seems to have complex and/or confusing menus.  I can say, as a new digital Nikon user, that I have been confused by the menus, even with help from searching the manual.  Had Nikon implemented an interactive settings display, it would have helped greatly to expedite changes.  Looking at the now available D500, things should be sped up by replacing the mode dial with ISO and other buttons, so you don't have to negotiate the multiple, near identical buttons to the left of the rear display.
  1. E-M1
  2. GH4
  3. GX8
  4. D7200

Ease of use

Having used Olympus products since the days of film, it's difficult to believe that I reach for a Panasonic product first.

In my opinion, the GH4 is a better successor to the Olympus E-5 than the E-M1 is.  The controls work the way I expect, for the most part from the start.  Of course, things were set with the GH3.  The GH4 makes a big difference by omitting a top panel display but having a command dial, a drive dial, and various buttons for settings such as exposure compensation.  This is all rather convenient and works quickly in practice.  Something else that makes the GH4 (and GX8) quick are three physical spots on the command dial for custom settings and the C3 spot includes a total of three settings.  The only problem is that I forget about the drive dial to the left of the EVF.  If they had combined the mode and drive dials in a stack, it would have been useful.

The E-M1 has a command dial but there are no positions for custom settings.  There are buttons for HDR, drive mode, auto focus, and exposure mode on the top plate.  There is also a button for the exposure curve and another for video recording.  Unfortunately, the E-M1 is never quite that intuitive.  The first time I tried one, I spent a lot of time trying to change exposure compensation back to zero.  The front dial is set to exposure compensation by default, which is totally different than the E-5.

The GX8 seems sparse on the top panel.  It has a command dial like that of the GH4 with an extra position for panoramic photos.  There is an extra dial below the command dial for exposure compensation, probably to appeal to FujiFilm users who find the X-T1 so interesting.  The lack of the GH4's rear wheel makes the replacement more point-and-shoot camera like that I would have expected.  The four buttons have separate functions, which is useful.

The D7200 has a command dial to the left of the viewfinder, along with a drive dial below the command dial.  The command dial has two positions for custom settings.  Strangely, like the other three, there is a full automatic position on the command dial, along with Scene and Effects.  Do the users labeled Enthusiasts use these sorts of modes?  There are also buttons for exposure compensation, exposure mode, and video recording on the top panel, but they are out of the way of the top display.  The auto focus controls are at the bottom of the lens mount collar.

Thankfully, the custom settings positions on the command dial helps switch a lot of settings quickly.  While the E-M1 has no such positions on the command dial, they have a two way switch on the back that allows the buttons to take on different meanings.

While the E-M1 is easiest to make a lot of changes quickly through the Super Control Panel, if I want to change to manual focus with an Olympus lens, I reach for a physical switch that isn't there.  Someone will question this, as many Olympus lenses have the push-pull clutch AF/MF mechanism, but with the 8mm fisheye lens, there is no such physical switch.

The GH4 is the body closest to perfection.  It isn't horribly small and there are plenty of physical buttons and switches.  I get a lot done and it works well with longer lenses, even those not intended for the micro Four-Thirds system.  I've found that I can even work the video recording button while wearing gloves.

The GX8 isn't quite as intuitive, but it shares a lot of great traits with the GH4.  Unfortunately, the video recording button is tiny and difficult, even without gloves.  The most serious problem with using the GX8 is the location of the SD Card slot, next to the battery.  It isn't made for my fingers.  however, the GX8 can take a 128 GB card, rather than the 64 GB card that the GH4 can handle.

I like the D7200 a lot.  It's big enough to balance some very big lenses.  The top panel LCD makes checking settings very easy.  The dual SD Card slots mean that I can keep shooting, rather than scrambling for another card in my bag, although the larger files tend to balance that a bit.  I suspect if I was still photographing high school sports for 14 hours in a day, I would be pleased to use the D7200, especially since the battery has so much capacity.  The D7200 is a wonderful workhorse.  If you have everything set and don't need to make changes often, it is a desirable body.  It is not easy to change settings, but it is made for a lot of work when you're ready

GH4
E-M1
GX8
D7200

Conclusion

If these bodies didn't work for me, I wouldn't have any of them.  Switching between them during a shoot can be interesting.

The D7200 is a great tool for landscape work (compared to micro Four-Thirds) with 14-bit raw files for extra dynamic range and a larger sensor for wider work.  While the body is somewhat big and weather-sealed, the construction does not feel as strong as the others.  I've bought an Easy Cover silicone case to protect the body from bumps, since it doesn't seem as strong as the others.  The body doesn't seem to work as well as the others when there isn't much light.

The GX8 is a great second video body.  It is big enough to be comfortable but could use better battery capacity.  The promise of Dual Image Stabilization will eventually make it formidable.  Having 4K video puts it ahead of other bodies around its price.  Being able to easily mix video with video from the GH4 makes it extremely useful.  The lack of numbers on the function buttons makes setup interesting.

The E-M1 is a very good stills body.  Face detection makes it quick for portraits and sports.  The 5-axis image stabilization makes any lens better at twilight.  If Olympus implements Dual Image Stabilization, it will be even more powerful.  Battery life is a serious problem and the grip isn't comfortable.  While it is a stop gap compromise to replace the E-5, to me, it's more compromise than replacement.  If you ignore its ability to work with Four-Thirds lenses, it becomes a much better solution, though I'm still not sure about micro Four-Thirds lenses.

The GH4 is slightly small compared to dSLRs, but still comfortable.  I almost don't have to think to use it.  It's rare that I have to stop to make changes.  I can switch between stills and video quickly, especially with 4K photo mode.  As with the GX8, the video versatility is a lesson to other brands.  Of course, the GH4 exceeds the GX8 by quite a bit in versatility, covering many bit rates.

Alternatives are available, such as the FujiFilm X-T1 and Pentax K-3 Mk II.  For me, the X-T1 is too slow to respond for skate park sports.  I considered the K-3 Mk II but while I had the K-50, I couldn't get the lenses I wanted.  Pentax is working on that.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Tamron 18-200MM F/3.5-6.3 Di II VC for Nikon, with samples

I'm not one for superzoom lenses.  In fact, I wouldn't normally buy a lens with more than a 4x zoom range.  10x zooms tend to be mushy at both ends with some place decent in the middle of the range.

However, due to the nature of skate parks, I have had some thoughts about the Panasonic 14-140mm f/3.5-5.6 Power OIS lens.  Rather than spend US$700 on this lens and be disappointed, I decided to buy a discounted (US$200) Tamron 18-200mm lens.  This Tamron lens just won the "Best Entry DSLR Lens" TIPA award.  (TIPA, like EISA seems to be a group that believes that everyone is a winner, although Tokina didn't win anything.)

Tamron's optical image stabilization has been quite good.  Considering the very small maximum aperture (f/3.5-6.3), it definitely needs OIS.  The Panasonic lens has their best OIS, which doesn't seem completely effective but might be similar, given the focal range.  Considering that the Tamron lens is made for a dSLR, it's surprising that it uses a 62mm filter size while the Panasonic lens uses a 58mm filter size.  That makes the Tamron lens quite compact.

18mm
200mm
VC/OIS seemed to work while I was walking 
Fairly sharp with unusual shapes

These seem very good examples of what the lens can do but these next images seem to show some of the less great attributes.





Purple fringing seems quite noticeable and there are multiple problems with these photos concerning eye-bending distortion.  They're not awful, especially when not viewed close up, but they can be irritating when thoroughly examined.  It is a lens for convenience.

I consider that this is typically a US$250 lens.  That isn't a lot, so no one should expect a lot.  Of course, if you were using a bridge camera, it might correct all of these little issues automagically and you'd never see any real problem.  Imagine a 60x zoom range.  That is difficult to believe with a bigger sensor.  The Sigma 50-500mm lens is the biggest 10x zoom lens I've seen and you don't really need a crew to handle it, but a tripod helps.

Considering that I have:

Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8
Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8
Nikkor 10.5mm f/2.8 fisheye

this Tamron 18-200mm f/3.5-6.3 seems an odd fit.  I bought the D7200 for wide angle purposes and it has done well for that, even though it isn't possibly as wide as a 135 Format/FX body would be.  It is sufficient.  The Tamron lens adds a bit of reach without much expense, so that I can use the D7200 on its own, to handle a variety of tasks.

If you're interested, What Digital Camera put together a review of the lens for Canon.  Nothing should surprise you.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Nikon 10.5mm f/2.8 fisheye lens versus Olympus 8mm f/1.8 fisheye lens

I'm doing a quick entry here to start.  I just received a Nikkor 10.5mm f/2.8 DX format lens.  It's a used lens that was originally owned by LensRentals.com and sold by their liquidation division.

Buying a Nikon D7200 was mostly an experiment in order to get wider angle landscape shots more easily.  I've done that with the Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 and Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 lenses.  These are not particularly responsive lenses and from the start, they've made the D7200 feel unresponsive, especially for someone who photographs sports 99% of the time.  As I've slowed down because of my heart defect, I've been able to do more creative shots.  Still, I pick up the Olympus E-M1 and 8mm f/1.8 fisheye lens because of the difference in light gathering.

Oh, wait!  APS-C versus micro Four-Thirds can't even be close.  Well, I'm finding that real life is much different than examining a bunch of numbers and graphs.  People who don't shoot much have been telling me how much greater APS-C is.  The big difference I see between my GH4, GX8, E-M1 and the Nikon D7200 is that the Nikon body can record raw files with 14-bit depth rather than 12 bits.  Automagically, that increased the possibility of better dynamic range, color, and more.  Whether there is actually more is the real question.  I assume that there is.  Nikon has been good about wanting to deliver the best image quality.

In any case, I received the Nikkor lens about an hour ago and had lunch first, to give me some time to think.

To a certain extent, the difference in maximum aperture is offset by the higher ISO usability.  So far, I've found a maximum ISO sensitivity of ISO 4000 with the D7200 versus ISO 3200 for micro Four-Thirds.  Yes, you can go much higher and get something but for photographing sports, I have to be more careful.  Once it's fairly dark, neither is going to be okay without extra lighting.  However, auto focus on the D7200 goes down to EV -3 and the GH4 and GX8 goes down to EV -4.  I can't find a figure for the E-M1 but it has been decent in very low light, although it thinks a lot at that point.

Taking the Nikkor lens out of the box and wrapping, I was surprised how utterly small it is for a dSLR lens.  It's not much bigger than the Olympus micro Four-Thirds fisheye lens.  Yes, it's a DX format lens, so it can be smaller.  The best thing is that it can be used on the FX format camera bodies in DX mode.
Olympus 8mm f/1.8 versus Nikkor 10.5mm f/2.8 DX

Olympus 8mm f/1.8 versus Nikkor 10.5mm f/2.8 DX

As with all Nikkor lenses, I struggle to figure out which lenses are weather-sealed.  At full price of roughly US$775, I would expect that it would be.  That doesn't mean that it is, and from the description in the listing, I would say that it is not.  They mentioned some dust inside the lens--that did not affect image quality.  I've never had such a problem with my Olympus lenses, even though I'd used them out in hurricanes and in dusty conditions, severe circumstances.  Hopefully, the lens won't have a problem in bad weather.  I'm already hiding the lenses I have for the D7200 unless it is completely dry.
E-M1/Olympus 8mm f/1.8 versus D7200/10.5mm f/2.8

It looks a bit small on the D7200.  I suppose the small size was important to get it onto the D3300.

Hopefully, I'll be out shortly to actually shoot with it.

Nikkor 10.5mm on D7200
Olympus 8mm on E-M1
They both do very well.  I had to change the Nikon photo's white balance, probably because I'm still having new user problems.

Speed of operation is about as good as you can get on the D7200.  The E-M1 is just amazingly quick and much faster than the D7200.  It's not just 10 fps versus 6 fps burst mode but the fact that the E-M1 only has to deal with 16 MP, 12-bit files and the D7200 has 24MP, 14-bit files.  I thought that the Expeed 4 class processor would be much faster, though.

Update 2016.04.01: I'm pleased to say that the Nikkor fisheye lens seems to work quite well, even though it was sold as used.

I've found the problem with the white balance control, but geez, what a maze to find it!  Olympus' Super Control Panel is amazingly helpful.  Even Panasonic's Quick Menu is more effective than the D7200's informational panel.  Perhaps, the D500 without a mode dial would be more efficient without looking at the display, but the D7200 way is not working as well as I would like.

As far as I'm concerned, Nikon has technological advantages over Canon, but Nikon is behind everyone else for user interfaces for quick adjustments.  I've heard that Olympus' menus are the worst but my experience is that all brands have crap for menus.

Back to the fisheye lenses, I haven't done extensive testing yet, but it would be a good assumption that I can use the Olympus combination much longer into the dark and still get sharp photos.  I may test the Nikon combination tonight to see if it will actually focus down to EV -3 or thereabouts.   My previous experiences with the Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 ended in failure.

Looking a bit closer, there is fringing.


Nikon
Olympus
The Olympus combination shows less fringing, but I wonder if there is software correction affecting the outcome, since micro Four-Thirds bodies fix things too often.  I suppose I'll try to put it in the GH4 or GX8 to see what happens.  I'm usually too busy shooting to test.

Monday, March 28, 2016

DirectAT&T gave me no TV

I am not amused.

Thursday night/Friday morning, the new AT&T/SBC decided to "enhance" my DirecTV experience with their logo.  When I started the receiver the next time, I saw the new logo--and that satellite 1 could not be found.


The dish is in place, the receiver has not otherwise been changed or unplugged, but I now have no TV.

I thanked both companies over Twitter, so other people might see.  They were looking into it on Friday.

So, it's been four nights since the update and three days without DirecTV--how is that for 99% reliability?  Give AT&T a working product and they can damage it.  I had a feeling that this would end up worse, given the various problems I'd had with Cingular/AT&T and why I would never deal with them again.

At this point, what do I do?  I will call them, of course.  The receiver can't be updated because it can't get the signal from the satellite any longer.  I tried to go through setup tonight and it had some lag, so I switched to doing something else and the receiver powered itself off.

As far as I'm concerned, they can take their equipment with them and never bother me again.  Alternatives?  Dish Network is a "hell no", as they used to hang up on my mum and we learned right before her death that they had no clear path and the installer just said that it was okay.  Comcast/Xfinity isn't a good choice.  I've heard so many bad experiences from as far back as when they only serviced the Philadelphia metro area.  Every time my mum talked to them, they told her that the problem was in her set.  They weren't receptive to me, either.  At one point, their box would not change channels for 5 minutes, probably because someone was using the company's internet services in the neighborhood.  They replaced the remote 3 times and the box 2 times.  She canceled and went to Dish Network.

I'd only dealt with two major cable companies: Time-Warner and BrightHouse Networks and both were disgraceful.

Well, I think I'm out of luck this time.

 Update 2016.03.28: I called the service number and I waited a lot.  The first automated message was something about Monday being their busiest day for call volume.  Eventually, someone answered, and I was surprised.  I was treated well and felt that they cared.  This is much different than my experiences with cable companies.

Update 2016.03.29: The DirecTV service person arrived--and naturally, everything was working.  He checked everything and it was all fine.  It had also recorded some programs from Monday night.  Who knows?

Strangely, image quality seems better.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 and 50-100mm f/1.8 versus Olympus 14-35mm f/2.0 and 35-100mm f/2.0

Since the Sigma 50-100mm f/1.8 Art lens was announced, I've been thinking about the correlation of this lens with the Olympus SHG ZD 35-100mm f/2.0 and the relationship from the Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 to the Olympus SHG ZD 14-35mm f/2.0 lens.

It almost seems as though Sigma is doing this for bragging rights alone.

I have three of these lenses and I'm contemplating the Sigma 50-100mm f/1.8.

Mostly, I photograph at skate parks.  That requires very responsive camera bodies and lenses.  So far, the Nikon D7200 and Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 lens combination has been better at wide-normal casual situations.  Obviously, the lens isn't part of Sigma's Sport line but is part of their Art line.

The two Olympus lenses were part of their Super High Grade line, which meant that they could be used in any situations requiring the utmost quality and weather-sealing--and that they were very costly, somewhat above US$2000.  I've used the 35-100mm f/2.0 lens for indoor high school sports such as swimming and basketball.  The almost 3:1 zoom is 135 Format equivalent to 70-200mm, and not a bad range.

The trouble with the Sigma 50-100mm f/1.8 lens is that it has a limited range, similar to the 18-35mm f/1.8 lens.  Occasionally, I switch the D7200 from DX coverage to 1.3x, to effectively extend the far end of the lens.  It uses less of the sensor and therefore, less of the lens, so image quality should be improved at the edges.

Also, I find the 18-35mm f/1.8 lens to be very good, but not great.  The Olympus 14-35mm f/2.0 on micro Four-Thirds equipment still works better for me, but the balance is off, even with the GH4.  I wish that there was a tripod collar for the 14-35mm f/2.0 lens.

My experience with the 18-35mm f/1.8 not being incredibly good, I'm not enthusiastic about spending US$1099.99 on the 50-100mm f/1.8.  It's not that I feel a need to buy it, but that it would make a good companion for the 18-35mm f/1.8.  I suspect that, if I got a US$200-300 discount, I'd be much more likely to buy it, as I did with the 18-35mm f/1.8 lens.

I was watching a video espousing an opinion about the lens and it was somewhat amusing.  I'd never seen that person's videos or web site, but the video was mistaken, at least, on the Nikon side about the possibilities for use of the 50-100mm f/1.8 lens.

At this point, I may not buy another lens for the D7200, although a normal zoom or the Nikkor 10.5mm f/2.8 fisheye lens could be useful.  I'd really like to see the D7200 work well.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Enhancing photos: How much is too much?

I'm a person who likes the truth.  What I photograph is what was there.  I don't add things to enhance the image.  I don't go for tricks, though I probably did that when i started.

While the Nikon D7200 has 14-bit raw files, I'm not sure whether the image quality and dynamic range actually have a huge advantage over micro Four-Thirds bodies in real life.

So, with all that in mind, the following photo has been enhanced by Macphun's Intensify application for Macs.



I'm not sure how I feel about the over the top enhancement, but it conveys what I was feeling, even though it is too much.


Tried this again, via Styles in Phase One to give an older, film look to the photo.  It's not bad, but I'm not sure how I feel about the manipulation.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Is a mirror-less body's viewfinder placement that important?

I've seen a huge number of comments about rangefinder-like placement versus SLR-like placement of the viewfinder.  Many turn to heated arguments, for reasons unknown to me.  I suspect that it has to do with a person's original comfort (warm and fuzzy?) zone.

I've used a bit of everything but I eventually used SLRs more than anything else.  The only time I was truly uncomfortable was using a point-and-shoot camera where you look through a blank viewfinder and hope that what you want will be in focus.

To this day, I don't care for working with the rear display of a modern digital camera, when a proper viewfinder and focusing mechanism is available.

I use the following camera bodies:

  • Olympus E-1
  • Olympus E-5
  • Olympus E-M1
  • Panasonic GH4
  • Nikon D7200
  • Panasonic GX8

I had the Panasonic GH3 as my first micro Four-Thirds camera body and later, traded it for the E-M1 to ensure the trade-in value didn't drop when the GH4 was available.

For the most part, the only difference working with the bodies is whether I use an optical viewfinder or an EVF (electronic viewfinder).  In good light, I appreciate the optical viewfinder but in the dark, any EVF is more helpful, even when the refresh rate drops.

I agreed when someone mentioned the nose up against the rear of the camera being inconvenient.  It seems as though I have changed settings on the E-M1 because there is no cover over the rear display.  Beyond that, I don't see an advantage to one position over the other.

I use the E-M1, GH4, and GX8 almost daily.  Sometimes, I use two of them together.  As far as I'm concerned, they're just camera bodies--tools, weapons, as people say.  I suppose I'm very different than most.

On the GX8, I find the tilt more important than the placement, which is a strong reason as to why I bought it.  There are times when I must tilt the rear display and with the bright sun, I can't see much of anything.  The tilting EVF works very, very well.  I find it interesting that the people who like the tilting EVF hate the articulated rear display.  I appreciate being able to set the display to all sorts of angles to take architectural photos or skate park video.

I suppose my only warm-and-fuzzy preference is to have a viewfinder that actually helps me focus.