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.

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