Saturday, March 30, 2013

The problem is in your equipment

How many times have we heard that or something similar?  The service providers never ever have a problem with their equipment.

This is mainly about cable TV, satellie TV, and mobile phone providers.

My mum had a problem with Comcast, so she called their number and was told that there wasn't a problem.  Right before see cancelled service with them, she was having a problem where the box would not change the channel for several minutes.  Eventually, she got a Comcast technician (twice) to the house and they replaced all of the equipment and it still happened.  The company still acted like jerks when she went to return their equipment.

I had been trying to get her to sign up for DirecTV and she came close but she learned that she had to have an e-mail address for one of the $5.00 discounts and refused since she didn't have a computer.  Suddenly, she decided to go with Dish Network, for whatever reason.  Someone arrived on the coldest day in that January to install the equipment.

Similarly, there were problems out the wazoo.  (Yes, wazoo is a technical term.)  She lost signal for quite a while.  A couple of months before her death, they were interested in helping her.  It seemed as though they were losing customers and started to care.  For two years when she called, they would give her the run-around and often, they would hang up on her.  The first actual Dish Network employee inspected everything and said that it wasn't a good location for an installation because of the trees.  The dish's position on the back of the house probably didn't help.  The supervisor who was going to double-check the inspection never arrived.  However, it was the first time anyone had ever admitted the problem was somewhere but the television.

I've had minimal problems with DirecTV during downpours and sleet but it's been fairly reliable.  I need to pay the extra for the HD receiver/recorder so I can take advantage of the HD television I have.  Even if certain channels aren't broadcast in HD, it would be good to see the whole display, rather than having some of it off the sides.

My issue is with mobile phone/mobile hotspot providers.

I've been with Sprint since September 2000, and I had a year with Aerial (-->Voicestream->T-Mobile) before that.  Almost 13 years is quite a long time.  Since I've been in a small town, the customer service people have told me that the problem is in my phone, even after I tell them that the problem has existed over 4 phones.  I moved here with the LG Musiq active.  I bought the LG Lotus later, and then, the LG Optimus S, an Android-based phone.  In late 2011, I bought an iPhone 4S, which is still my phone.

In all that time I've had the timeouts and otherwise poor 3G service.  If the problem is in my phone, why do they sell bad phones?  I don't have access to change the phone enough to do anything useful.  It's all their show.  I get that it's a small town, but don't you do your best everywhere?

When I was in Christiana, Delaware last July, I couldn't make a decent phone call--everything was extremely distorted, but the 4G/WiMAX worked beautifully on my mobile hotspot.  When I was in the Orlando, Florida area around Thanksgiving, my mobile hotspot worked brilliantly at the motel, and nothing worked well at my friends' house.  So much for being too successful!

I grew up with "the customer is always right", so what happened with service providers of all kinds?  If cable TV or satellite TV wants my money, shouldn't they provide the best experience?  Equally, if Sprint wants me to remain a customer, shouldn't they improve things where my phone is.  They collect the information so they can see the problems, although I suspect they delete some (or limit collection) of the problem information so that they don't have to deny it legally.

My problem here is that, given the small town, there is no good alternative, other than moving.  I'm also not seeing great changes in other larger cities 50-75 miles away, even with the expansion of LTE placements.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

SST or SSD: going faster than the speed limit

When I got my first computer, an Atari 800 system with 16 KB of RAM and the operating system in ROM, I was surprised how quickly the system booted.  At 1.79 MHz (not GHz, in this case half a color clock), it was speedy for 1981.  Of course, there were faster clock speeds but the MOS Technologies 6502 as an unofficial RISC-based chip could outperform CISC chips like the 4.77 MHz 8088 in the IBM PC when the 6502 was running at 4 MHz.  Atari also had the amazing Jay Miner design the graphics chipset, and the system could turn off the display to process data more quickly.

As we had to have external storage, we had the options of magnetic cassette tape and magnetic diskettes.  Today, an 88KB diskette couldn't hold much but given a processor that could only address 64 KB of RAM, a diskette could hold many applications.  However, diskette drives were slow and tape drives were incredibly slow.  The only thing worse at the time was paper tape that some kit machines were using, and Hollreith punched cards.  I even built a RAM disk through some code in a magazine and it seemed amazingly fast but back then, dynamic RAM wasn't fast at all.

We travelled through several diskette options increasing capacity quite a bit and even merging magnetic and optical technologies in one type of disk.  The Winchester hard disk became very popular and it's basically what we're still using today.  The interfaces have become much faster, so that an external drive can be accessed much more quickly than some of the internal drives from years past.

I spent a lot of time with SCSI drives since they worked well with Atari machines (my Seagate 74 MB drive is still working) and only dabbled in IDE/ATA drives with an occasional DOS machine, and eventually when I got my Apple PowerBook in 2005.  The ATA/100 specification was great but I don't believe I ever saw 100 MB/second, even on more powerful machines at work.  The number was a measure of peak burst performance.

Where is this all going?

I installed an OWC Mercury EXTREME Pro 6G drive into my MacBook Pro yesterday.  The 6G should be a clue that it uses a SATA (Serial ATA) interface that allows 6 Gbps transfers.  That seems really fast.  However, I'm a skeptic and nothing ever seems fast enough.  At the same time, I transferred my old WD Scorpio Black 7200 rpm drive into a USB 3.0 case from the same company.  Here is an article concerning the announcement of the SATA 6 Gbps update from AMD and Seagate--from 2009.

They had a rather significant difference in the Incompressible Data Rate of the Pro model over the other, for an extra US$70.  I felt the difference in price wasn't prohibitive and got the faster drive.  I did some benchmarks earlier and I was pleased that each one was close to 512 MB/second.  Still, it doesn't seem OMG-it's-so-fast-it-will-fly-apart fast, but rather extremely smooth.  (Other World Computing now has a USB3 connected model.)  It still doesn't feel like the Concorde SST but the delays are minimal, if any.  I have two USB2 connected drives available to offload older files, to clear space since the 480 GB isn't ever expansive or expanding.

I transferred 351 photos to the drive and opened Phase One Capture One 7 Pro which needs a lot of RAM and should get a lot of performance tuning before they finish with version 7 because it's rather slow now.  The performance improvement was quite noticeable.  It loaded the file previews into its grid interface quickly and I could use the arrow keys to move and there was no noticeable lag any longer.  It also didn't seem to heat up the system nearly as much.  Right now, the system is running 44 degrees C instead of about 56 degrees C it was running yesterday.  I'm only using Firefox at the moment, but it seems much better.  After I transferred data last evening and Spotlight was indexing the drive, the palm rest area was warm, including the side with the optical drive.

I'm hoping that the drive's cache will become more familiar with my most used data and applications and it will feel more speedy as I use it more.  I'm pleased to say that replacing the refurbished WD Scorpio Black has resulted in zero kernel panics and other glitches with that drive seem a distant memory.  Note to self: don't buy refurbished rotating things.

It's amazing to come some far and be so close to where I was headed when I started with my first computer.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Panasonic GH3 + Olympus MMF-3 + Olympus SHG = greatness

I suppose I couldn't be more wrong about those micro Four-Thirds lenses, could I?  The fanatics seem to think that there are no better lenses.

Since I got the Olympus MMF-3 adapter, I'm pleased to say that the Olympus SHG ZD 14-35mm f/2.0 works very well with the GH3.  The lens is very heavy for a bit more than a 2x zoom but at the wider angles, you need more work to get a great lens.  That's why you see so few of them.  I'm leaving the adapter attached to the 14-35mm, while I can use the ZD 35-100mm f/2.0 with the Olympus E-5 and it's better balanced as a combination.

Notably, there is a problem if you insist on auto focus but it's similar to the problem on Four-Thirds bodies.  The 14-35mm lens will hunt far too much, similar to the 50mm macro.  Sadly, this is the revised lens that arrived in 2007 with the Olympus E-3 body and not the original lens that was supposed to be available in 2005.  That was apparently an optical masterpiece but somehow flawed in that it had to be redesigned.  The current, available 14-35mm lens is still an optical masterpiece but extends on both ends of the zoom range.

In any case, the 14-35mm can auto focus with the GH3 through the adapter, and it's faster than the experience with the Olympus E-1.  I often use manual focus so I'm sure about the details.  Focus assist/pinpoint focus is useful but as I'm turning the ring, it can be a bit bouncy.  Carry Dramamine, if necessary.  Since manual focus eliminates the automated hunting, I can get precise focus more quickly.

The 35-100mm f/2.0 is nearly perfect and the combination is a bit unbalanced, a bit more than it was with the E-1 but it works quite well, once again, it can be auto focused by the GH3 more quickly than with my E-1, but it's much faster with my E-5.

The optical quality of the two lenses is extremely high and I'm quite pleased with the results with the GH3.  Even in dim light, the combinations work much better than with the E-5.  I'm looking forward to buying and using the 7-14mm f/4.0 SHG lens.  If you're wondering why I wouldn't buy the much less expensive, much smaller Panasonic version, it's very simple: weather-resistance.

Why, oh, why would you spend nearly US$1000 for a lens if some driving rain or dust storm could affect the insides?  That said, I have the excellent Leica/Panasonic 25mm f/1.4 for Four-Thirds.  I'm concerned about taking it outside and really using it, unless it's a perfectly clear day or night.  It focuses quite quickly with the GH3, as well as the E-5.

I'm surprised to have made the (half a) leap to micro Four-Thirds, although the MMF-3 adapter is my very good friend.  For now, the Olympus SHG zooms continue to rule my world, with the HG zooms a close second and I've had the 14-54mm f/2.8-3.5 and 50-200mm f/2.8-3.5 since 2004.  Further behind would be the premium Panasonic 12-35mm f/2.8 (which I don't have) and 35-100mm f/2.8 lenses.

Update 2013.09.16: Obviously, the same lenses will work wonders with the newly announced E-M1.  Of course, with the somewhat useful Phase Detection Auto Focus, they'll even work similarly to the E-5 but at a slower pace, and I suspect will work poorly in lower light, but that's not been shown that I can see.  The GH3 can auto focus to -4 EV, which is like starlight--something the opposite of intense.  There is no such specification that I can find for the E-M1, so maybe Olympus are re-working the firmware already to improve the performance of the auto focus.

Update 2014.02.11: The other day I had to laugh.  Someone had posted a comment on an article about the soon to be released Panasonic GH4, calling it an utter failure because with Nikon, Canon, and Sony mirror-less system cameras you could mount dSLR lenses, and you couldn't do that with FujiFilm (you can't but the official adapter supports Leica M-mount) or micro Four-Thirds.

Given that Olympus produces some of the finest dSLR lenses in their High Grade and Super High Grade lines, I can't imagine how deep ignorance goes.  I'm still not happy with micro Four-Thirds lens selections although Olympus has upped the game with the 12-40mm f/2.8 lens and their intended 40-150mm f/2.8 lens that has not arrived yet.  I'm getting ready to send off my Panasonic 35-100mm f/2.8 lens because of huge lens flare but it hasn't been totally bad or good.  It's just not very good for the price--Olympus HG line was a steal in comparison.

Update 2014.02.25: The other day, I bought the Olympus 12-40mm f/2.8 micro Four-Thirds lens for my Panasonic GH3.  I am surprised at how much better it makes the GH3 photos look, as compared to the Panasonic 35-100mm f/2.8 lens, even though it was less expensive.  You'd think Panasonic would work incredibly well with Panasonic.  I sent that lens off to be repaired, due to a rather huge problem with lens flare, something I saw documented about the time I bought mine, but didn't expect that there would be a problem.  Getting a repair seems to be a problem in the U.S.A.

In any case, by the end of 2014, Olympus will have the 12-40mm f/2.8 and 40-150mm f/2.8 lenses available.  Some time in 2015, they'll also have 7-14mm f/2.8 and a 300mm f/4.0 lenses.  I haven't seen anything about a 150-300mm f/2.8 lens but it needs to be part of the plan.

While the 12-40mm f/2.8 isn't as great as the 14-35mm f/2.0, it is great for the price, and appropriately positioned between the SHG 14-35mm on the high end and the HG 14-54mm f/2.8-3.5 at the middle position, above the standard kit lens.  I'm also pleased that they've finally addressed the 12mm focal length.  I know it's more difficult to control the distortion, but it's worth having.  The new for 2015 7-14mm f/2.8 will be great for landscapes and also for indoor real estate, which too often is left to a point-and-shoot camera.

Update 2014.03.25: I'd like to add that all of my Four-Thirds lenses work well on the GH3, especially the Leica/Panasonic 25mm f/1.4 that was meant for the Digilux 3.  It seems to be meant for Contrast Detect Auto Focus, so it moves quickly.  Since the GH3 has a top shutter speed of 1/4000th of a second, the f/1.4 in full sun is close to being overwhelmed, so a Neutral Density filter could be a good idea.  The GH4 will fix this problem as it has the 1/8000th shutter speed.  How did we manage in the old days with f/1.4 or f/1.2 lenses and 1/1000th of a second shutter speed?

I'm happy to say that my experience with the new Olympus 12-40mm f/2.8 lens, I have found renewed respect for Olympus and I am certain to buy the 40-150mm f/2.8 lens, though I feel a bit ambivalent about micro Four-Thirds still, especially after my ordeal with the 35-100mm f/2.8 lens and finding that it supposedly didn't need repair.  If Olympus would produce a somewhat bigger body, like a downsized E-5, or the E-1 with modern innards, I'd be very happy.  I'm not yet a hybrid shooter, though I'm going there and the GH3 and GH4 are on the right path, but Olympus does so many things right with the E-M1 that I wish they'd finished it properly.

Update 2014.10.17: I've been shooting with the E-M1 for roughly 4 months, having traded the GH3 before the trade-in value dropped.  The 12-40mm has been working well, though I've found one instance where it produced nasty lens flare.  It's rare that I've used any of my Four-Thirds lenses on it, save the Leica/Panasonic 25mm f/1.4 because of the E-M1's small size.  I'm looking at the 40-150mm f/2.8 very seriously, along with the matching 1.4x teleconverter.  The combination is still cheaper than my Olympus 35-100mm f/2.0 lens, and the effective f/4.0 maximum aperture is only a bit slower than my 50-200mm f/2.8-3.5 on the long end where I use it most.

Update 2015.03.11: I've had the Panasonic GH4 since December and it reminded me how good the design of the GH3 was.  It's much easier to use my Four-Thirds lenses than it is with the Olympus E-M1.

While I love the 12-40mm f/2.8 as compact as it is, they should have made it a bit bigger and made it uncompromisingly wonderful.  The 14-35mm f/2.0 is amazing in ways that the 12-40mm f/2.8 can't be but the lack of those 2mm on the wide end does make it somewhat incapable when taking architectural photos.  Olympus had a remedy for this problem with the 7-14mm f/4.0 but using it without artificial light indoors was difficult.  Now, they're bringing a 7-14mm f/2.8 to market for micro Four-Thirds, which seems perfect for higher end real estate.  I'm planning to use it for skate park photos mainly, along with the 8mm f/1.8 fisheye lens.

micro Four-Thirds has come a long way, and there are a few good lenses now, but Olympus' Four-Thirds lenses are still much better and an easy way to get great image quality.

Update 2015.08.07: Since I have the Panasonic 35-100mm f/2.8, Panasonic/Leica 15mm f/1.7, Olympus 12-40mm f/2.8, and 8mm f/1.8 fisheye lenses, the adapter doesn't get as much use on either my Panasonic GH4 or Olympus E-M1.  Occasionally, I will mount the Leica/Panasonic 25mm f/1.4 on it, as it can be difficult to get lower light photos, but then, I'm finding the new Nikon D7200 and Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 lens more difficult in such conditions, despite their supposed technical superiority.  Firmware updates will likely help.

Except for the 35-100mm f/2.8, the micro Four-Thirds lenses are very, very good.  They're not as good as my Olympus SHG lenses and on occasion, my HG lenses are more useful, but it's rare for me to use the adapter.  The best reason I can see to use it is to mount the Panasonic GM5 to my ZD 35-100mm f/2.0 and watch people be shocked at the appearance.

Update 2016.01.19: With the Olympus 300mm f/4.0 lens, supposedly there is a micro Four-Thirds lens that has exceeded the possible image quality of its Four-Thirds equivalent.  I'm not in a position to judge.  The micro Four-Thirds lens is about half the price of the Four-Thirds lens.  While the maximum aperture isn't as big, the sensors of the Four-Thirds' bodies aren't very good in lower light.  In the case of wildlife and bird photography, a thin depth of field is as difficult as it is helpful.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Panasonic's micro Four-Thirds (premium) lenses

I'm a bit uncomfortable since I bought my Panasonic GH3 body and Panasonic 35-100mm f/2.8 and 45-200mm f/4.0-5.6 lenses.  I expect a certain level of image quality but the image quality of the set is uneven.

While the GH3 is great, the lenses are not all that great.  If you've seen my previous blog entries, the image of my Four-Thirds and micro Four-Thirds equipment together should be familiar.  You'll notice right away how the 35-100mm lenses differ greatly.

This is the problem.  The Olympus ZD 35-100mm f/2.0 (US$2499.99) has a graduated housing and optical elements with a filter size of 77mm.  The Panasonic X 35-100mm f/2.8 (US$1499.99) has a completely cylindrical housing that only differs in the exterior materials for the zoom and focus grips with a filter size of 58mm.  While one has (probably) no compromise, the other is all about compromise.  What else would you expect from a company that makes small electrical appliances and electronics equipment, plus broadcast video equipment for the professional market?  If I remember correctly, they got an Academy Award for their firmware tricks in fixing optical problems before post production.

GH3 with 35-100mm f/2.8, E-5 with 35-100mm f/2.0

After reading this link about the X 12-35mm lens, I searched Lens Tip for the X 35-100mm lens. I can't say that I was shocked but I was more disappointed after I read about the problems they encountered, such as visible flare even though the bright light source was not in the frame.  (I have been assured by Panasonic's repair facility that this is normal behaviour, along with a salesperson from the company who sold it to me.)  I expected it to take after the behaviour of the Canon and Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 lenses since Panasonic are targeting Canon.  I expected to have to stop down the aperture to f/5.6 to get maximum sharpness, unlike the ZD which is sharp wide open.  Considering that my GH3 has a top shutter speed of 1/4000th of a second, stopping down in bright light would be required anyway.  (Thinking back to my early film days, 1/1000th of a second was the premium shutter speed.)

Panasonic 35-100mm flare creeping into the frame
Panasonic 35-100mm flare well into frame, lens hood used

Panasonic 35-100mm angle adjusted to avoid flare
Olympus 12-40mm minimal flare

Olympus 12-40mm direct sun, minimal flare
Panasonic 35-100mm f/2.8 and Olympus 12-40mm f/2.8

In my experience, it's performed well enough for what it is, but it doesn't deserve the price (US$750 seems appropriate) they're demanding.  I guess that's why I got it US$100 cheaper.  I was considering the 12-35mm f/2.8 simply because I don't have a native wide angle lens and I have nothing below 14mm (effective 28mm in 135 format) at all.  Being that micro Four-Thirds, like Four-Thirds effectively doubles the focal length for compatible 135 format numbers, it's great when photographing things at a distance with an easy, effective 600mm with 300mm equipment, but getting wide angles is a problem.

There are 7-14mm f/4.0 lenses for Four-Thirds and micro Four-Thirds.  The Panasonic version is about half the price of the ZD SHG (Super High Grade) version but lacks the weather resistance although the build quality is good.  The Panasonic 7-14mm possibly has less distortion than the 12-35mm at 12mm.  That's unfortunate for the 12-35mm.  Panasonic had a clear choice in the design and chose a huge compromise with a premium lens.  Mind, the Olympus M.Zuiko 12mm f/2.0 is quite good but at US$799.99 is quite expensive for a single focal length that isn't weather resistant.  (Update: the Olympus 12-40mm f/2.8 is US$999.99 and performs quite well.)

I think my choices are good with my current selection of lenses.  When image quality is critical, I mount a Four-Thirds lens on the adapter on the GH3 and focus carefully.  When I'm indoors and need auto focus and image quality is going to be compromised by low light anyway, I can use the Panasonic lens.  It works well enough. Oh, and the 45-200mm?  I'm glad I only paid about US$100 for it.

Update 2014.04.20: I didn't update this after sending the 35-100mm f/2.8 for repair.  Panasonic returned it to me with a note from the technician that there was no problem.  That the lens flare was typical.  I'm not sure he saw the photo I included.  A Lumix Luminary thought that it looked awful and suggested that I send it for repair.  Besides that, the repair facility does not seem to answer calls and I only got a response to an e-mail as the lens was being packed for its return to me.  I heard from the people behind the sales and information part of the web site that the repair facility's computer system was being upgraded, so they might not be able to respond.  However, reviews on Yelp would lead me to believe that the computer system and phone system upgrade was happening for more than 1 year.

Update 2015.01.23: Panasonic has finally updated the 35-100mm f/2.8 Power OIS' ability to improve stability during video, which is apparently a longstanding problem.  While I think they have made so much money on the lens that they should be improving it constantly, apparently that is not their thinking.  I seriously doubt that they've been working on the fix for over two years.

Update 2015.09.14: In the last week, I got the Panasonic GX8 with the 12-35mm f/2.8 lens in a US$300 off deal.  That's the best way to buy premium equipment, isn't it?

Given my history with the 35-100mm f/2.8 lens, you might wonder why I would buy the 12-35mm f/2.8.  I recall everyone mentioning what a wonderful lens the 12-35mm has been.  I even remember Zacuto asking why the 35-100mm lens seemed so cheap, which confirmed my feeling about it.

With the discount, the 12-35mm f/2.8 lens was roughly US$600 off the original price of $1299.99.  That's a good discount for a premium lens.

Also, with the GX8's new Dual I.S. functionality, it might be good to have another O.I.S. laden lens.

The 12-35mm does seem to have a better quality of build than the 35-100mm.  It feels too small, but then, Panasonic was designing these to be used with the GX1 and later bodies, as well as the GH3 and later bodies.

Optically, I don't really care for it.  It's not horrible and at the price I paid, I don't feel cheated again, as I feel about the 35-100mm f/2.8.  It just isn't up to the level of Olympus' 12-40mm f/2.8 lens.

Since December, I've done a lot of video, mostly with the Olympus 12-40mm f/2.8 lens, but also with the Panasonic/Leica 15mm f/1.7, and the Olympus 8mm f/1.8 fisheye lens.

I used the 35-100mm f/2.8 to get video clips of a skate park competition back in March and it seemed to stutter a lot--after applying the firmware fix that was supposed to fix that problem.  I also used it about a week ago, and it worked better for me, but If I'd had the Olympus 40-150mm f/2.8 lens, I probably wouldn't have considered using the Panasonic lens.

The 12-35mm with the GX8 has been good.  I'm not sure the Dual I.S. functionality helped much because there was a lot of visible shake at times.  Since the camera body's firmware version is 1.0.0, I expect fixes of all sorts.

On the other hand, the Panasonic/Leica 15mm f/1.7 is both surprisingly good and charming.  Strange, that last part.  The lens is quite good, despite the very tiny opening in a much bigger lens casing.  It would be easy to guess that the quick AF motor is taking up the extra room.

The only problem with it is all the fiddly parts.  The rubbery lens cap for the lens hood has been lost for ages.  The original lens cap and the little ring that holds it there are in storage, probably never to be used again.

Panasonic knows how to make great camera bodies.  I wish that they would do the same for their lenses.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Canon's greatest tool against mirror-less cameras is misdirection

Canon is sucking wind right now.  They're in trouble from all sides and they know it.

Nikon rose from its coma years ago with the D300 and they haven't stopped.  Panasonic and Olympus have revived themselves through micro Four-Thirds, and Sony is finding a way through its name and the fixed semi-translucent mirror technology.

Canon's 6D is not really a match for Nikon's D600, but it's good for the Canon fanatic who has been thinking all this time that they needed a 135 format frame (full frame, inaccurate as it is as there are many full frame formats) camera body.  Nikon's advantage is DX mode, where you can use lenses specifically made for their smaller sensor camera bodies.  There is a change in the resolution, but it's sufficient, especially compared to not being able to use any lenses.  There seem to be other economizing tasks Canon has done to bring the 6D to its price point, and a lot of people will have to consider them thoroughly before buying.

Canon's EOS-M is a great attempt at a mirror-less camera body.  They should ask Sony how non-Sony users like their lack of lenses.  Of course, Canon has less to offer since they just started, but Sony has been at it almost as long as Panasonic and Olympus, with little to show in their lens selection.

Canon's new miniature dSLR  (100D/Rebel SL1) may keep some die-hard fanatics from leaving for mirror-less, but there have been plenty already who say the future in light and small equipment and jumped to micro Four-Thirds bodies.  Now that there is a good sensor in the Panasonic GH3 and Olympus E-M5, it makes it more difficult to claim a huge advantage for APS-C.  As with Pentax's recently-discontinued K-01 mirror-less camera, the bigger sensor requires bigger lenses.  If you have many lenses, the lightweight, small body might not be much of an advantage, if you can't find room for it in your bag.  Thinking further, given that it's about the size of the Olympus E-4x0 series and the Nikon D40, I wonder if it suffers from a small and dark viewfinder.  That put me off from keeping an E-4x0 series body with me when it could have been helpful.

Canon's 5DMkIII isn't even safe, due to Panasonic's GH3 and its video capabilities.  Besides that, Panasonic seems to be producing lens after lens directly targeting Canon's most popular.  The lenses aren't made of as much metal, so they probably aren't as durable, but when you're talking about being able to put them almost anywhere, light weight and a low price may put them in more places than you'd expect.  Panasonic is no stranger to professional video and having quite a few of Zeiss' compact prime lens range (professionally-priced) will make it easier for a small production company to use more portable gear and produce exquisite results.

We have yet to see a Canon 70D but the Nikon D7100 is out and it's quite capable with many components of the D300 inside the compact body derived from the D7000.

Like Microsoft is with operating systems, Canon isn't going away, but they could be minimized in just a few years if they can't recover now.  Unfortunately, they will probably have to lose money to keep their user base.  If they lose their fanatics, they may be in huge trouble.  When fanatics feel betrayed, they will pounce.

I wonder if we'll ever reach a point of a level-playing field, similar to that of the 1970s.  We've certainly turned a corner on pixel density and the need for huge numbers of pixels has gone, except for the high end professional.  It could be an interesting 5-10 years for Canon.  All they can truly do now is advertise to distract from the 800 pound elephant in the room.

Update 2014.11.14: They threw the EOS M against the wall and it didn't still until they reduced the price from US$800 to US$300.  They replaced it already but haven't sent it out of Japan.

For that matter, they only recently replaced the 7D model with a 7D Mk II.  Anything under US$3000 doesn't seem to matter much to them anyway.  They have to sell loads of accessories for those inexpensive models to make significant money on them.

They know that they need to fix things.  They've been flailing with their dSLRs that sell under US$3000.  Panasonic has been attacking the 5D Mk III quite well with the GH3 and the GH4.  Even if the still photographic component isn't nearly as good, the video is quite amazing.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Disappointed with Olympus' micro Four-Thirds lenses? 2014, 2015 much better

I don't know how not to offend the fanboys with this one.  I'm really disappointed with Olympus' lenses for micro Four-Thirds cameras.  While I can appreciate the desire for small equipment, compromise is better left to other companies that have more fanboys.

This may seem nonsense to someone who had never used the Four-Thirds High Grade and Super High Grade lenses.  Their standard series was, shall we say, sufficient for many people.

I'm not a snob about equipment, but I'd rather not risk my equipment on weather or dust.  When I originally bought my Olympus E-1 in April 2004, Olympus only had weather-sealed lenses for Four-Thirds.  I bought the ZD 14-54mm f/2.8-3.5 and the ZD 50-200mm f/2.8-3.5.  Those aren't huge maximum apertures but they worked well enough, and the lenses used a 67mm filter.  I used the 50-200mm during three of the four hurricanes in 2004 and never bet against the seals.  I shot, I dried and repeated as necessary.  The lenses work quite well to this day, and so does the E-1.

The only Four-Thirds lens I have that is not weather-sealed is the fairly expensive Leica/Panasonic 25mm f/1.4--the normal lens.  You figure US$500 for a normal lens with an f/1.4 maximum aperture and twice as much for one that can be used wide open, unlike those from Canon and Nikon that have to be stopped down to get good sharpness.  This one comes around US$1000 and works well wide open, as do the HG and SHG lenses from Olympus.  It works as expected, except that I'm concerned that it might rain.

Now, with my journey into micro Four-Thirds, I have to pick lenses much more carefully, as though I was shopping for Canon or Nikon equipment.  I prefer simpler choices.  Currently, Olympus offers a great 60mm macro lens and the craptacular 12-50mm zoom.  Yes, I get it, at 12mm any lens will distort more than a lens at 14mm.  You have to use a more expensive lens design to get around it.  The 12-60mm f/2.8-4.0 Four-Thirds lens distorts apparently terribly but they were more concerned with the focusing speed than the optical characteristics, it seems.

Panasonic offers two weather-sealed lenses at the moment: the 35-100mm f/2.8 (US$1499.99) that I have and the 12-35mm f/2.8 that I don't need.  Both are rather expensive for the plastic-y bodies, Made in China, compromises that they are.  (Supposedly, the 12-35mm isn't a Made in China product but are they all from one country or the other?)  As I've been saying, the 35-100mm doesn't really seem too much worse than what you get from Canon or Nikon--you stop down the aperture to get good sharpness.  Since many people are switching from those brands, they'll probably be okay with the compromise.  Given that the sensor in the GH3 is better than the one in the E-5, I can live with that under low light circumstances.  However, compared to the ZD SHG 35-100 f/2.0, Panasonic's lens is not very good at all but then, I don't really have much faith in the Canon or Nikon 70-200mm either, though my opinion of the Nikon lens is more positive.

Olympus recently created a second generation of a 75-300mm lens that needs very bright light to be useful.  The maximum aperture is f/4.8-6.7.  If I was using it to photograph birds, I'd hope that they'd be out in the open sunlight.  More likely, I'd be using the ZD 50-200mm lens with the 1.4x teleconverter and the E-5.  I just don't understand where Olympus is going.  Several people have brought up the point that Olympus is no longer including lens hoods.  Most of their fanboys probably won't need them, even though they should be using them.  I don't carry the 35-100mm f/.0 lens hood with me because I need another bag for it and for the lens hood for the 14-35mm f/2.0.  They're that big.  I'm actually carrying both in the lens bag for the 35-100mm since I don't dare use it for the lens.

If Olympus would deliver the 12-40mm zoom lens (September 2013 announcement?) for which a patent was recently shown, and the aperture was sufficiently large, I would likely buy it, given that it was better than the 12-50mm they already have.  I've seen professionals do good work with that lens, but getting around its flaws may be too much work for me.  The 12-40mm is a larger range to my current ZD 14-35mm but if they stick to their "small and light" philosophy, it will have too many compromises, most likely.  Should you pay over US$1000 for compromises?

Update 2013.07.08: DxO does testing on certain lenses to help with their raw development software.  They just profiled the m.Zuiko 17mm f/1.8 lens.  As many reviews have already stated, it's not very good, but it's nearly half the price of the great lenses.  It's somewhat better than the 17mm f/2.8 lens but that was really horrible from what I've seen.  If the Chromatic Aberration is so strong that you don't have to look for it to find it, that's a lens that should never have been made--Quantaray, anyone?

I guess that makes me think about a new Four-Thirds body or at least one that will use the lenses to full capacity.  It's been rumored to be announced and/or available in the autumn of 2013.  I'll keep hoping.

Update 2013.08.20: How about a craptacular, tiny, Frankenstein's creature of a camera body for Four-Thirds users?  I'll look at the E-M1 but at this point, I cannot see wasting money on something that will not be well-balanced with my 35-100mm f/2.0 lens.  I'm not asking for something the size of the E-5, but the size of the GH3 or E-1 would be appropriate, not the size of the E-M5.  I'm not looking to replace an E-410 or E-510, or E-620.  They were too small and they weren't meant for what I do.  They were casual camera bodies, which is why they were replaced with micro Four-Thirds.  Those people seem pleased with the performance.  I wish I could be.  The GH3, like the E-M5 is good enough for professionals, who aren't in a serious hurry.  Still, with the 12-40mm f/2.8 lens, things are looking up.

Update 2013.10.30: Looking back on this, I need to say that I'll have a 12-40mm on order.  The E-M1, while good, was not a replacement for my E-5 or my E-1.  Yes, the image quality is wonderful, but the handling is completely wrong for me.  It's about the same size as the GH3 but the grip was completely uncomfortable and it's not enough to easily allow me to use my ZD 35-100mm f/2.0 with it.  I can't take a tripod or monopod everywhere I have used the thing handheld.  The E-M1 looked better in person than the original photos I saw that seemed to show something cobbled together out of the parts bin.  If they'd put the goodness in the GH3 body, they'd have a sale.

The 12-40mm f/2.8 gives me hope for the 40-150mm f/2.8 lens, as the 12-40mm f/2.8 was wonderful. 

Update 2014.04.10: I got the Olympus 12-40mm f/2.8 not quite two months ago, and it has been attached to the Panasonic GH3 almost all the time.  I have been quite happy with the combination, and it has given me hope that Olympus has found their way again, and that the GH3 is good for still photography.  The color of the 12-40mm is much better than Panasonic's problematic 35-100mm f/2.8 lens that I also own.  I'm sure I'll be replacing the GH3 as soon as I can trade it for the GH4.  I have two Four-Thirds bodies and don't wish to repeat this with micro Four-Thirds.

The only problem with the "PRO" model lenses from Olympus is that they'll be slow in delivering them.  The 40-150mm f/2.8 will arrive later in 2014, but the 7-14mm f/2.8 and 300mm f/4.0 will arrive in 2015.  That still leaves a hole for a 150-300mm f/2.8, which is a lens I would truly like to have--a lightweight 2x zoom with a lot of reach.  It could be the sharpest lens Olympus will have made for micro Four-Thirds, somehow looking toward the Four-Thirds 90-250mm f/2.8 but without the down-payment-for-a-house price.

Update 2014.11.14: As the 40-150mm f/2.8 is available, along with its 1.4x teleconverter, things are moving along.  In previous years, I'd be buying this lens, and possibly the combination of the two, very early to support photographing swim meets.  I haven't been photographing typical high school sports this year, but have been at skate parks.

There are times when I need a longer lens.  I have occasionally used my Olympus 35-100mm f/2.0 on my Olympus E-5.  (It's too much for the E-M1 and even for the Panasonic GH3 or GH4, which handles many Four-Thirds HG lenses well.)  Using the 40-150mm f/2.8 could be useful when not able to move from a spot but it's not all that a wide angle.  Using either the Olympus or Panasonic 35-100mm lenses, I find that there is no perfect lens for what I'm doing.  Are two small bodies hanging from my neck a good idea?

I'm even more interested in the 7-14mm f/2.8 that's supposedly coming in 2015.  I'm not a landscape type of photographer, but there are several occasions when I don't have enough of an angle to get everything.  The 12-40mm f/2.8 has been good but it's not always enough.  My typical thoughts were to buy a camera body with a larger sensor for occasional needs such as this.  How many occasional needs will I have that I should spend US$4000 for a 135 Format combination or even US$3000 for a FujiFilm X-Mount combo? 

In any case, Olympus has finally come to the table with some better than good options.  Similar to the Four-Thirds days before the E-5. 

Monday, March 11, 2013

Panasonic 35-100mm focal range debate

I've been seeing some talk that the Panasonic premium micro Four-Thirds lens, the 35-100mm f/2.8, does not in fact reach 100mm.  I have the Olympus ZD 35-100mm f/2.0 also and the shots I've taken are similar, but I don't use or even have a tripod, so my test is hardly so accurate.

Olympus ZD 35-100 f/2.0 on Panasonic GH3 using MMF-3 adapter
Panasonic 35-100mm f/2.8 on Panasonic GH3
Panasonic 35-100mm f/2.8 on Panasonic GH3
Olympus ZD 35-100mm f/2.0 on Olympus E-5
The odd thing about the Olympus ZD 35-100mm f/2.0 on the GH3 via the Olympus MMF-3 adapter is that 100mm is reported as 95mm.  I checked carefully to make sure than the lenses were each set to 100mm.  I was not checking the shots of a week or so earlier but I generally leave the lenses at 100mm unless I'm shooting and the action is much closer.

I'm not sure whether to believe that there is an actual problem.  My only real problem is the price of the lens and its manufacture in China, give that the body is made of plastic and/or polycarbonate pieces.  At that price, it should have been made of metal, at least in part.  Is it using more expensive lens elements than the larger, great ZD 50-200mm f/2.8-3.5?  I don't see the greater glass.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Second impressions on micro Four-Thirds, GH3

Now that I have my gear in some order and I'm not running around like a chicken with my head cut off, I have plenty of thoughts about micro Four-Thirds and specifically the Panasonic GH3, the 45-200mm, 35-100, and Olympus MMF-3 adapter.

I believe I have conquered my problem with the viewfinder freezing during shooting.  Panasonic ships the body with Auto Review enabled, as if it was a consumer-oriented camera.  Since the viewfinder is just another electronic monitor, it does exactly the same thing as the larger, rear display.  Burst mode shooting seems to be affected very little now that the function is disabled.  I also learnt that the noise reduction is high, as though the GH3 is a consumer camera.  I was advised to set it to -5, but without some help, I don't think I would have found the setting.  Why hide important settings?  I realise that I don't know Panasonic camera bodies, so it will take some time, but that's rather important.

I was a bit surprised about the inability to change the language to Japanese.  I immediately changed my E-1 and E-5 to Japanese but the GH3 only allows English or Spanish and the English takes some acclimation.  Something else surprised me: the GH3 (and the 35-100mm premium lens) has "Made in China" on it.  I can understand that they need to save some money, but it's a shock, given that my Olympus bodies were made in Japan (as I was).  The US$400 difference between the E-5 and GH3 seems apparent in the two but I thought that the E-5 was overpriced when I bought it, and thankfully, I got it at a good discount.  The E-5 lacks dials and the GH3 lacks a top-mounted display.  I can hear someone telling me that there isn't room but I would tell them to look at the E-1, which was a marvel of ergonomics.  I'm still learning the GH3 but it seems efficient.

I was reading about a GH3 firmware update due later this month and I decided to find out how to update firmware.  Given my success with the E-1 and lack of success with the E-5, I hoped for a good experience.  The web page was a bit of a disaster but I found that the 45-200mm lens I bought had an update that had not been applied yet.  I worked through the instructions:
  1. Download update
  2. Extract update
  3. Place the update on  an SD card
  4. Insert SD card into camera body
  5. Attach the lens to be updated
  6. Power the camera body
  7. Press play and wait
It's that simple for lens updates.  Of course, it's probably more interesting for body updates.  Standing on the left foot, singing the national anthem, etc.

The 35-100mm lens is very expensive given the plastic.  Sure, it's sealed for weather and dust but it's all plastic and some is shiny, tacky-looking plastic.  In reading about the lens, it has a few optical problems but then, so do the Nikon and Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 lenses.  I wasn't expecting a miracle.  One thing that concerns me is that the range of the lens may not be 35-100mm.  I was looking at a previous photo of the group of wrestlers I went to photograph last week.  I took one with the E-5 and ZD 35-100mm and another from the same position with the GH3 and Panasonic 35-100mm.  Assuming that I was paying attention to use the 100mm setting (opposite rotation), there is a slight different in the view in the images.  It's not a bad lens, but if you pay for a certain focal length range, you should get that.  I tried the lens hood today and noticed that there are gaps where it meets the lens where light could be an issue.

The lenses are damned expensive for what they are.  I guess I'm just (too) accustomed to Olympus' ZD HG and SHG lines, but paying US$800 for a lens that isn't weatherproofed and doesn't include a lens hood is nuts.  I don't mind that there are so many fixed focal length lenses (although I want fast zooms) but seal the lenses for weather and dust.  That's my major concern for my Leica/Panasonic 25mm f/1.4 on Four-Thirds.  It's a magnificent lens but I must shelter it from environmental issues, when I'm accustomed to being able to shoot in hurricanes.  Most of the micro Four-Thirds lenses are like this and I must pay more attention to what I'm buying since there are so few weatherproofed lenses.

Olympus has shown that they want to keep things small.  They just re-introduced their 75-300mm f/4.8-6.7.  Yes, that really is the maximum aperture.  It's that slow.  Of course, you're probably not worried about subject isolation from a distance or you'd be working with something else, such as the ZD 90-250 f/2.8.  I'm expecting too much, I'm sure.

I got the Olympus MMF-3 adapter so I can use my Four-Thirds lenses on the GH3 or any other micro Four-Thirds body.  What's interesting is that the GH3 focuses the lenses more quickly than the E-1 for which they were designed.  Of course, the 14-35mm f/2.0 and the 50mm macro f/2.0 hunted but that's their typical behaviour.  If the GH3 wasn't as big as it is, it wouldn't be able to handle the lenses well.  The 14-54mm f/2.8-3.5 feels right at home, as does the 50-200mm f/2.8-3.5, since the GH3 isn't much different in size from the E-1.

I'm pleased, and learning, and getting work done with the new equipment, and that's a good feeling.  I've yet to just walk with it but it's not all that warm outside.

Update: I've paid attention to testing both 35-100mm lenses on the GH3 (using the MMF-3 adapter for the ZD 35-100mm) and if there is any difference in the long end (the 100mm), it must be minimal.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Cameras, cars, and a load of snow

Last Friday, I was passing through a tiny village when a truck typical to farming was slowly approaching my position on the road, hazard lights running.  I couldn't imagine what was so important on the farm that they were hauling something in the dark.  As I felt as though my seat had passed the end of the truck--WHAM!!  In a few seconds, I realized that my driver's side mirror was gone.  In a few seconds more, I thought that, being where I was, some high school football players were bored and had baseball bats.  Trust me, it happens a lot.  They usually beat mailboxes--except for a certain uncle's mailbox which was specially made and fortified and probably bends or breaks baseball bats.

About a month and my car is damaged.  The truth is that a simple scratch probably would have caused as much emotional damage.  I'm never okay with it when the car is new.  I need to gather estimates but the weather has been terrible and 24 hours ago, we were working on 8 inches of snow.  I've since cleared the half of my driveway where my car sits.  I hope that it's just a typical big storm and not one of many to come.  I pity those on the east coast, especially those in Virginia where the electricity seems to go out with a strong wind and a couple of rain drops.

That's a sad thing.  Whether I was living in Philadelphia or Florida, the hurricane news was always that North Carolina and Virginia were without power.  Of course, Florida had surges multiple times a day and the system always seemed on the edge of disaster.  Hurricane Charley, Frances, and Jeanne tested those systems even further in 2004.  My development was next to a Florida Power/Progress Energy repair depot but the crews drove under a problematic cable that needed repair for more than 6 days.  Even the phone company had to put a generator on their box and the sewers didn't have power to work.  I could only imagine living in Virginia because, as I mentioned, a couple of drops of rain and some wind seemed to knock out the power all over the state.  Of course, there, many historical sites were in low-lying areas and prone to flooding.

I was going to go out after the snow had fallen and take some photos with the new camera but I felt ill after shoveling snow and enjoying (sarcasm) the temperature.  Lingering frostbite takes the pleasure out of winter.  I don't really mind the shoveling so much and I'm better at it now.  It's interesting to have enough snow to shovel it from the windshield.

I've been learning more about the Panasonic GH3.  Once I learned that the camera was set up too much like a consumer camera, I disabled the "auto review" setting and the viewfinder barely freezes at all.  I'm hoping that any lag is caused by the SD cards I'm using.  You'd think 45 MB/sec. would be enough speed but 94 MB/sec. should help, if the camera can keep up.

Besides, I needed higher capacity cards.  My 1092 12 MP photos (16 GB card capacity) came down to 812 16 MP photos and that's below my typical number for basketball games.  Unfortunately, the GH3 doesn't have two card slots that I can find, and the door/cover opens far too easily, especially since the body is weatherproofed.  However, I ordered two 32 GB cards for double the capacity and then, I can use the 16 GB cards back in the E-5.

I also ordered the weatherproofed Four-Thirds to micro Four-Thirds adapter Olympus makes.  I'm not sure how good the combination will be but the GH3 is a larger body than most micro Four-Thirds bodies and nearly as big as the E-1, so it should work reasonably well with several lenses like the Panasonic/Leica 25mm, ZD 14-54mm, ZD 50mm macro, and ZD 50-200mm.  I'm still disappointed in the lack of good zoom lenses for micro Four-Thirds and the rather expensive pricing for the Olympus fixed focal (prime) lenses.  Are the 12mm f/2.0 and 75mm f/1.8 worth close to $1000?  I'm still not sure the Panasonic 35-100mm f/2.8 was worth US$1399.99, although that's inexpensive for such a lens in that category.  The equivalent Canon and Nikon (70-200mm f/2.8) lenses are a bit less than double that.

Of course, pity the poor Sony lover who has a slim selection of mediocre lenses, and apparently 1 great lens.  They're either mounting old Minolta lenses that were mediocre or the re-vamped Sony versions via an adapter.  Who knew I'd ever be talking about electronics companies' cameras or that I'd have one.  Sure, in the broadcast and movie industry, they're giants but in still photography, not so much.  Even Minolta, which Sony bought, was not known to make equipment that was more than mediocre.  Sony has actually improved them and that's difficult to believe since Sony has become the brand name for adequacy.  Over the past 10 years, they've become more boring than Panasonic.

It should be interesting to see where it all goes.  Olympus is prepared to announce their E-P3 replacement in a few weeks and they have a professional model in the autumn.  Panasonic is about to replace their GX1 model.  Both have new lenses to be revealed, as do Sigma (Artisan line?), and Schneider(-Kreuznach) should be releasing their high end primes very slowly but with full electronic connection compared to the various others.  Considering the price of Olympus lenses for micro Four-Thirds, Schneider isn't looking much more expensive.

Update: so far, I've tried the Panasonic/Leica 25mm f/1.4, which is rather huge.  It seems to work quite well and even focuses reasonably quickly.  I'm not sure whether it supports contrast detection auto focus by default.  I also tried my ZD 50-200mm f/2.8-3.5 and it worked quite well, possibly focusing more quickly than it does on the E-1.  Okay, okay, so that's not saying much.  I always thought that the E-1's auto focus was defective but it wasn't.  I can't really tell whether the new cards help or not but they'll be put to the test this weekend.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Panasonic DMC-GH3 vs Olympus E-5

While I'm waiting for the next Olympus dSLR, I've punted and got the Panasonic GH3.

It's strangely similar to the E-5 but of course, totally different in use.  I've had it since Thursday and I'm facing an uphill battle to learn how to use it best.

One of the pet peeves of most Olympus E-1 users is that the E-3 and E-5 are so uncomfortable in so many ways.  Rather than the mode (PASM) dial, you hold the Mode button and use a generic dial.  The same happens with auto focus.  In fact, much of what Olympus learned and re-started themselves in the E-10, they dismissed for the E-3 and E-5.  Supposedly, they were going after Nikon and Canon, but it just proved odd.  The GH3 also has a load of buttons and a mode dial, etc.  They use another button for Drive (single, burst, self-timer) mode, and that doesn't seem nearly as logical.  Why not have a switch away from your nose on the back--for the (auto) focus?

In any case, it's nice to have a smaller body.  It's not really much different in size when you compare it to the E-1.  However, the 35-100mm I got with it is extra tiny, almost too small for my hand.  I've almost put a finger on the front element, while looking for the focus ring.  We all have to adjust when using new equipment.  When I first opened the packages, I was pretty close to sending it back before I tried it.  The 45-200mm isn't big either, but then, it has a f/4.0-5.6 maximum aperture range. The ZD 50-200mm is quite a bit smaller than the ZD 35-100mm, though.

GH3 with 12-40mm f/2.8 and E-5 with 14-35mm f/2.0

GH3 and 35-100mm f/2.8 vs. E-5 and 35-100 f/2.0
The good thing is that it delivers great image quality.  What does that mean?  I was printing on Super A3/A3+/13x19 inch paper way back with the E-1 and I had no fear in displaying my work.  I got no comments about fuzzy photos.  However, 9 years after my E-1 purchase, we've gone from 5.1 effective Megapixels to 16.05. In 2004, I had no problem putting my photos up against the 6.3MP APS-C sensors of the other brands.  At 16MP, the equivalent density yields 24MP for APS-C, I believe, and at the 12MP of the E-5, we were equivalent to the 18MP on APS-C sized sensors.

I wasn't happy with the moderate light image quality from the E-5.  Studio lighting made the E-5 look impressive, moreso than most other bodies but for daily use, a day without sunshine was a day with so-so image quality, and my E-1 still looked good.

The GH3 erases all that.  I've shot around 1000 photos with it so far, some of them while also using the E-5.  The difference is amazing.  The E-5 tops out its automatic range at ISO 1600.  I had over 900 basketball photos today and several wrestling photos Saturday where the GH3 picked ISO 3200 vs. the E-5's ISO 1600.  The difference was amazing.  The E-5 photos were yellow-ish and warm-ish with moderate to a lot of noise, while the GH3 generated very clean photos with some noise in the shadow detail, which is not surprising but the seats are too blue (they're dark green), making the gym look like it's newer than it is.

GH3 at ISO 3200

E-5 at ISO 1600
Everything I've read about this newer sensor says that it's very much equivalent to what's going into the latest APS-C bodies, and that you'd have to go to 135 format-sized sensors to get easily distinguishable differences in image quality.  I believe that.  Now, I'm not exactly sure about how the GH3 assigns ISO sensitivity values.  I've seen a few photos where it's stepped down to ISO 2000 or 2500 and the photos look a bit yellow.  In fact, I'm not completely sure about the colour and that's something that Panasonic has been adjusting since their first jump into serious photography with the DMC-L1.  Skin tones, however, are good.  It's just that sometimes, the photos seem a bit surreal because of the colour.  I've found the same thing with Nikon and Canon at ISO sensitivity values over 1600.  Can a photo look better than real life?  Perhaps, but that shouldn't be the product.  My money says that the photo should look exactly like real life.

I'm adjusting to the electronic viewfinder and it's freezing while the body is writing files.  (It comes with Auto Review set to ON, which mostly causes the problem. I also have faster, more capacious cards on order.)  I still seem to be able to shoot, so I can take a hybrid approach and watch the game with the other eye while I'm photographing it.  It worked well today.  However, electronic viewfinders will have to improve a lot before they're mainstream devices.  I can put up with it now because it's fairly new and mirror-less bodies are fairly new but in 3 or 4 years, new mirror-less bodies with an EVF better be good.  Of course, the freezing may be minimized by a faster SD card.  What I read in reviews was that a faster card didn't help the GH2, but I'm not sure it supported UHS-I cards fully anyway.  Buying a class 10 SD card is so painful.  A wide variety of performance fits into the category.  I'm using a couple of Sony cards with read speeds of 94 MB/second but the write speeds don't seem to be important enough to be listed.  I suspect they are 45 MB/second, while there are cards with 94 MB/sec on both.  Getting them into the computer quickly isn't really important if I couldn't take them in the first place.  (Faster SanDisk Extreme Pro cards should arrive Thursday with the Four-Thirds lens adapter.)

In any case, camera handling is mostly good, given the size.  I'm not sure why there was such a backlash about the GH3 being larger than the GH1/GH2.  I don't have huge hands but I find the GH3 a good size that could have been too small.  I really want my Olympus ZD SHG (Super High Grade) lenses to have an equivalent on micro Four-Thirds.  The GH3 would be almost perfect with such glass.

I still need to try some movie-making.

Update 2013.04.05: I used both today for a baseball game.  The Panasonic 35-100mm was attached to the GH3 and the 50-200mm was attached to the E-5.  Since I was using both, auto focus was enabled on both.  Auto focus on the GH3 was better than on the E-5 but not necessarily faster.  The E-5 had a problem where it would go out of focus after auto focus locked.  Out of 1081 photos, it happened on, maybe, 12 photos.  The GH3 showed its very electronic side by having a bigger delay from power saving mode, and the display seemed to be blacked out a few times, causing me just to point at where I thought the action was happening.  Could it have been my sunglasses at an angle?  I'm not sure.  I have not worked with enough LED/LCD displays to know.  The great thing is that they both worked and for my first baseball game shoot, I might have got some good photos.

Update 2013.10.15: I've used the GH3 for track and cross country and it's absolutely horrible for photographing runners.  It's not completely surprising, but it's very annoying.

Part of the problem is that a runner will come almost straight at me and the auto focus can't handle that because Contrast Detection Auto Focus is almost worthless for quickly moving subjects.  To compound the problem, manual focusing does not work very well with either the magnified view getting in the way of seeing everyone or the normal view not having enough pixels to focus accurately. 

Update 2013.12.09: I'm looking back at this and at a later date, I managed to use the GH3 for cross country at a specific location where I was having trouble with the E-1 and E-5 because of the dark area where runners emerge from the woods.  The GH3 was better here, but I really had to modify my technique for focus.  Manual focus wasn't really an option, but continuous auto focus doesn't really work.  Similar to getting racing cars in focus, I settled on a fixed point, and used burst mode to shoot a few extra shots at the location next to the woods.  At the finish line, it wasn't too much of a problem to get a quick half-press on the shutter release and with the bright light, focus was instantaneous.

The GH3 and I have come a long way together.  I still don't like the menus and the Quick Menu isn't as helpful to me as the Olympus Super Control Panel, but the Custom settings are--turn the dial and you have a different setup.  The Panasonic 35-100mm has been okay mostly, but has a terrible problem with lens flare and since I use the lens hood every time I use the lens, it could be even worse.  I need to send the lens to Panasonic for repair.  (They weren't any help.  They said that the lens flare was normal.)  The GH3 has been a trustworthy tool, though.  If the image quality was better and the EVF as good as the Olympus E-M1 or an optical viewfinder, I'd be really pleased.  Messing with video has been interesting. 

Update 2014.03.12:  The Olympus 12-40mm f/2.8 has changed my thoughts about the GH3 image quality with native lenses.  It is quite good, something I never really saw with the 35-100mm f/2.8 and never with the 45-200mm f/4.0-5.6.  Up until this point, most of my casual GH3 shots were taken with the MMF-3 adapter and Olympus lenses or the Four-Thirds Leica/Panasonic 25mm f/1.4 lens.

Having shot three basketball games on January 31st and February 1st, I was really disappointed with the GH3 and the 35-100mm f/2.8 lens.  None of the photos from Friday's game looked quite right.  The next evening, I switched to the E-5 and 35-100mm f/2.0 and they looked much better.  It's likely I lost more of the E-5 photos due to lighting, but those that remained had good color.  The 35-100mm f/2.8 from Panasonic just isn't very good and I sent it for repair because of the lens flare and they returned it to me, telling me that it was typical.  The GH3 is a remarkable camera body.  It's just too bad that Panasonic doesn't do as well with lenses.

Prior to the basketball game, I took some photos with the E-5 and 14-35mm f/2.0 and they were stunning.  That's not bad for a camera body that had specifications that would have been great in 2007.