A recent district fun run proved a good opportunity to test the FZ1000's sport/action capability. Recent rains cleared for the day to the delight of all.
In the event the FZ1000 proved very capable and a pleasure to use.
Quality: JPG Fine. I did not have i-Dynamic set but will do so for any similar event in future to keep highlights in check.
Image size: 20Mpx
Mode Dial S, shutter speed 1/1000sec.
Burst Mode M, 7fps.
Focus Mode AFC
Focus/Release Priority, Set to Focus. Custom Menu page 3/8.
Autofocus Mode 1 Area, usually at size 5/15 (from the smallest), mostly in the top part of the frame on the centerline.
I shot in bursts of about 1 second, giving 6-8 shots per burst with a chance for the camera to write to the card between bursts.
I did not zoom while capturing as the camera will not focus and zoom simultaneously. I alternated as in zoom > burst > zoom > burst etc.
Tonal fidelity With JPG captures, the FZ1000 has a moderate tendency to clip (overexpose) bright highlights like the white T shirts in sunlight seen here. I pulled some tonality back by running these JPGs through Photoshop Camera Raw. In future I will set i-Dynamic and will use Zebras to apply some negative exposure compensation if required.
Autofocus speed I found the AF to be remarkably fast. In several frames there was no front runner under the AF box, just a back runner or the background trees or whatever.
In several sequences the sharp part of the photo alternated between a foreground runner and the background or a rear positioned runner from one frame to the next at 7 fps. That's fast.
Autofocus accuracy I made 514 frames and viewed each at 100% on screen.
I rated 88% as sharp, meaning that part of the subject under the AF box was sharp. I rated about 1/3 of those pictures as very sharp to the extent I could count eyelashes on the in focus runner.
10% were "just out" of focus, good enough for a small print or email attachment.
2% were obviously out of focus.
User Experience The camera is very easy to carry and operate for several hours at a time. I just have a wrist strap, no neck strap. The controls are easy to operate and efficient. The EVF is of excellent quality, making for a natural view of the subject. Key camera data are easily seen beneath the EVF live view image. I use "viewfinder" style for both the EVF and monitor.
Immediately after photographing the runners I made some pictures of flowers by the wayside. The camera is very versatile enabling the user to switch quickly from one style of photography to a completely different one
in seconds, without the need to change lenses, ever.
|Plenty of structures here for the AF to see. Handheld.|
When I startedmaking pictures with the FZ1000, I noticed that quite a few shots taken at the long end of the zoom were not quite sharp.
I carried out systematic chart testing of the lens at all focal lengths and discovered that the lens is not quite as sharp at E400mm as it is at shorter focal lengths but it is still very good and should be capable of making convincingly sharp photographs.
I noticed that some of my pictures at E400mm looked impressively sharp when printed at 400x600mm in size while others were only fit for the trash bin.
I had previously had very much the same issues withthe Lumix 100-300mm lens (E200-600mm) on Micro Four Thirds and the long end of the E25-600mm lens on the Panasonic FZ200.
|Shot handheld from a moving ferry. Moderate wind, sunny afternoon. Notice the wavy line atmospheric distortion seen on balcony railings and similar. No lens on earth could make a properly sharp photo in this situation.|
What's going on? I think the same issues apply to each of these lenses at the long end.
1. If some pictures are convincingly sharp and others are not the problem is most likely either
a) focus variation or
b) user technique variation or
c) subject variation
I have come to the view that all three factors are in play.
2. The lens loses local contrast (a.k.a. microcontrast) as it is zoomed out. I can easily see this in my test chart photos. In addition in each case there is slight loss of resolution.
3. Due to the above, the camera's contrast detect autofocus system has more difficulty achieving focus at the long end.
4. The effect of camera shake is progressively magnified towards the long end and this is not fully compensated by OIS, even the excellent 5 axis type in the FZ1000.
My impression is that OIS is very good for compensating relatively slow shake cycles but not so effective for compensating the fast cycles which are a significant cause of unsharpness due to camera shake with very long lenses.
5. I have noticed that the problem of intermittent unsharpness is most apparent with subjects at a long distance from the camera.
6. Observation of photos taken at long distance clearly shows the deleterious effects of haze and atmospheric distortion. The latter is a phenomenon caused by swirling air currents within which the refractive index of the air varies enough to affect photographs, sometimes to a marked degree.
Both the above factors make the task of the contrast detect AF system even more difficult.
In response to
the above observations and impressions I have worked out a set of guidelines for improving sharpness at the long end of the zoom.
Mode Dial S with shutter speed at 1/400sec or faster for static subjects, 1/800 sec or faster for moving subjects. This will usually see the aperture at f4. OR
Mode Dial M with aperture at f5 or f5.6 and shutter speed as above, Auto ISO in each case.
This can be useful for static subjects as the lens performs slightly better at f5 than f4. For moving subjects combatting shutter shake and achieving accurate focus are more important.
Focus Mode AFS or Manual with peaking for static subjects, AFC for moving subjects. Manual focus works best on tripod as the camera needs to be reasonably still to enable viewing of the enlarged image with peaking.
Autofocus Mode 1 Area, AF box sized to match the subject but larger = more sensitive, smaller = more precise. I usually have the box at around size 5/15 counting up from the smallest.
Shutter type, mechanical.
The FZ1000 does not have a shutter shock problem so the mechanical shutter is OK.
Stand, sit or lie comfortably and relaxed.
Look through the EVF with the camera steadily braced against the skull bones.
Practice breathing technique. Mini meditate to slow the heart rate and reduce muscle tremor. Squeeze the shutter button just at the end of a slow exhalation.
Place the AF box over a part of the subject which is reasonably light in tone, has good contrast and if possible has strong vertical lines (camera in landscape orientation). Note that Panasonic AF (and possibly others, I don't know) will not focus on a non textured subject with lines running only horizontally.
Make the box as large as possible without extending outside the main subject so focus on the background is prevented.
Use Timer 2 sec or remote shutter release.
Lowest possible ISO for the conditions.
Manual focus where possible.
Subject For distant subjects try to photograph on a day with low air pollution and low haze. In most locations some seasons/wind directions are usually better than others.
Try to have the subject in cross lighting for maximum definition.
Early mornings usually see the least air turbulence of the day.
The FZ1000 can make very good or just mediocre photos at the long end of the zoom. In most cases good results can be attributed to correct settings, subject selection and optimal technique.
I have taken my own advice and the
results are improving.
a test to discover whether my new FZ1000 can
manage indoor basketball.
With some reservations, yes, it can.
I had previously photographed junior indoor basketball with good results using a Panasonic GH4 with Lumix 35-100mm f2.8 lens. I find this sport very difficult to photograph due to the boys' unpredictable style of play.
You can see this particular game is an uneven contest. The small boys in blue had been winning all their games in a lower age grade so they got bumped up to play with the older boys. Who won as they should, but not by an overwhelming margin.
Memory Card: Sandisk Extreme Pro, 95MB/Sec, UHS1.
Drive Mode: Burst M. I shot in short bursts of 4-5 frames, allowing the camera time to write files to the card between bursts.
White Balance: Auto. The lights at this venue produced a strange color which was difficult to correct in Photoshop Camera RAW.
Focus Mode: AFC
Autofocus Mode: 1 Area, with the AF box size 4-8 of 15 counting up from the smallest. For readers seeking guidance, do not use the AF Mode called Tracking.
Mode Dial: S Priority
Shutter speed: 1/320 - 1/400 Mechanical shutter. A shutter speed of 1/500 or faster would have been desirable but I wanted to keep the ISO settings down as far as possible.
Quality: On this occasion I used RAW capture. At other times I have used JPG which allows longer bursts but gives less opportunity for post processing.
Comparison with GH4/35-100mm f2.8
Benefits of GH4
I is my impression that the GH4 kit has slightly faster AFC with the lens used.
The GH4 pictures are less grainy at high ISO settings.
Due to the above I am able to use faster shutter speeds with the GH4.
In consequence of all three factors I found the GH4 kit produced a higher percentage of sharp frames than the FZ1000. Some frames from the FZ1000 were as sharp as anything from the GH4 but quite a few were just slightly less crisp.
With the GH4, in about 85% of frames that part of the subject under the AF box was sharp.
With the FZ1000 I put that figure at about 60%, with many frames in focus but not quite sharp due to the relatively slow shutter speeds used.
Benefits of FZ1000 The built in 16x zoom allows me to photograph action or spectators at the other end of the court then in 3 seconds be ready with the wide angle to capture basket attempts.
Note that the FZ1000 will not zoom and focus simultaneously. The technique is to alternate between zooming and focussing.
I actually saw more photo opportunities with the FZ1000 because of the big zoom range.
Summary If I were a professional basketball photographer I would not use the FZ1000. But for family record photos it performs very well indeed with a decent percentage of keepers.
These results add to my growing discovery that I really can photograph almost anything with the FZ1000 and come away with a good
number of printable photos.
This camera is much more capable in a wide range of challenging situations than any other
fixed zoom lens camera I have used previously.
|Noisy Miner FZ1000 RAW capture, cropped output to JPG.|
The FZ1000 has a very versatile 16x zoom lens with a full frame equivalent range of E25-E400mm. This is more than enough for most types of general photography but some owners want to photograph birds and other wildlife and that may require a longer reach.
There are 5 ways to achieve this:
1. Fit a teleconverter optical unit to the front of the lens. I have read several reports on user forums and elsewhere of a variety of approaches to this method. Some users have reported satisfactory results, others poor results. There are several problems:
* Considerable variation in optical performance of various units from different makers.
* The unit has to be affixed to the camera/lens somehow. If one is screwed to the filter thread it's mass must apply significant torque to the inner lens barrel, possibly leading to decentering and excess load on the zoom motor.
* The OIS system will not be calibrated for the extra lens element.
* This approach requires the user to carry, in effect, an interchangeable lens. For me the key appeal of the FZ1000 is that it frees me from having to manage interchangeable lenses.
So I will not discuss this option any further.
|Swamp Hen FZ1000 I-Zoom|
2. Shoot RAW, crop. This one is straightforward and would likely appeal to RAW shooters. But plenty of users prefer to shoot JPG for a variety of reasons and there may be operational benefits to JPG capture.
The next three methods are all JPG only.
3. Extra Optical Zoom. (Ext.Opt.Zoom) This is enabled in most capture modes if Picture Size is set in the Rec Menu to [EX M 10Mpx] which allows up to E1120mm focal length, or [EX S 5Mpx] which allows up to E1600mm focal length. Normal control of the AF box is retained.
This option is not available if picture size is 20Mpx.
Note the list of settings on page 198 of the Manual which are not compatible with Extra Optical Zoom.
4. Intelligent-Zoom (i-Zoom). If i-Zoom is On in the Rec Menu, Page 6/7 (set quality to JPG first or the tab will be greyed out) and Quality is JPG then i-Zoom will be enabled in most capture modes.
The longest equivalent focal length available is E800mm.
Normal control of the AF box is available.
Note the list of settings on page 198 of the manual which are not compatible with i-Zoom.
5. Digital Zoom. The tab for this appears just under i-Zoom on page 6/7 of the Rec Menu. Quality must be JPG. Longest equivalent focal length is E1600mm.
A fixed, large AF box appears when Digital Zoom is set and the focal length is greater than E400mm. The AF box behaves normally when the focal length is less than E400mm.
Note the list of settings on Page 199 of the Manual which are not compatible with Digital Zoom.
How do these zoom features actually work ? There is no explanation in the Owners Manual. Each of the JPG extra zoom methods appears to involve a non optical technology. When I zoom in Ext.Opt. Zoom and look into the lens, I see no movement of optical parts. So I am not clear why this technology has the word "optical" in the name.
Ext.Opt. Zoom delivers a file with reduced pixel dimensions.
Presumably each involves cropping a variable amount from the full frame.
Both i-Zoom and Digital Zoom produce 20Mpx files. Presumably this is the result of interpolation similar to that which occurs in Photoshop when one is upsizing a file for large format reproduction.
There is no explanation in the Manual for the different maximum E-Focal length possible with each method.
|Spinebill FZ1000 This is not a great photo but I show it here because it was remarkable that I was able to make any photo at all. Spinebills flit about with great speed never stopping in one place more than a second or so. The light weight, fast AF and quick responsiveness of the FZ1000 allowed me to grab this shot even though the bird stayed in that spot for only a second.|
Why does the FZ1000 have three different types of E-Zoom ? I really can't figure this out.
Which is best ? The Owners Manual describes each of the electronic options for increasing zoom range but does not indicate which is best or why you might choose one in preference to the other. In addition the Manual makes reference to image quality in terms which are difficult (for me anyway) to understand.
The description of Extra Optical Zoom (page 198 of the Manual) says........."You can zoom in further than you can with the optical zoom without deteriorating the image quality". It is not clear what is meant by this. Maybe they mean that the image quality with full zoom is not less than the image quality without full zoom at picture size 10Mpx or 5 Mpx.
The description of i-Zoom refers to "minimising deterioration of the image quality".
The description of Digital Zoom is a bit more candid, ...."image quality deteriorates every time you zoom in further"..........
My tests show that is equally true of all the Extra Zoom approaches.
E-Focal length available, mm
User Experience Having tried the four approaches which do not require an extra lens, I have found that i-Zoom is the most user friendly.
* There is no need to enter a menu or press a button to engage i-Zoom. If i-Zoom is On in the Rec Menu and Quality is JPG then i-Zoom is active when the zoom ring (or lever) is turned towards infinity.
* You have full control of the AF box size and position.
* This is an assumption but I would guess that metering and OIS are calibrated for the longer effective focal length and smaller field of view.
* The maximum effective focal length of E800mm is consistent with decent picture quality and is also reasonably easy to use hand held. The longer effective focal lengths enabled by the other methods lead to lower image quality and more difficulties with framing, focussing and camera shake.
Ext.Opt.Zoom requires a reduced Picture Size which requires a trip to the Rec Menu or Q Menu or using a Fn button for Picture Size.
Digital Zoom loses control of the AF box just when you need it most, at the long end of the extended zoom range.
RAW cropped may require a focus box quite small relative to the frame which could lead to focus problems. Metering will be for the larger area most of which will be cropped.
Chart Tests I photographed a test chart using RAW cropped, i-Zoom, Ext.Opt.Zoom and Digital zoom. I adjusted the files in Photoshop so each was the same resolution (in pixels per inch) and same picture size (in centimeters width and height). It was difficult to tell one from the other. I concluded that for practical purposes there is no benefit to picture quality of one over the other.
Resolution was obviously less than I found from the FZ1000 at E400mm which is the limit of optical zoom.
Photo Style Settings Each of the three "electronic" extra zoom methods produces a JPG which is affected by the Photo Style settings at the top of the Rec Menu. These settings are subject to personal preference and will also be influenced by your work flow. I will usually run JPGs through Camera Raw so I like low contrast files to retain as much highlight detail as possible. I also feel that JPG noise reduction is more damaging to picture integrity than noise, so I use the least possible noise reduction.
This is a work in progress but my settings for Photo Style [Custom] are Contrast -4, Sharpness 0, Noise Reduction -5, Saturation +3.
Summary There is no free lunch and there are no miracles. Any of the extra zoom methods delivers resolution lower than what can be achieved at the limit of optical zoom, However the extra zoom methods are definitely useful especially for birds, wildlife and similar subjects with sufficient quality for modestly sized prints.
I find that i-Zoom is the most user friendly. It allows you to have E800mm at f4 with OIS fully operative.
Consider the alternatives.
The FZ200 has E600mm at f2.8 with decent picture quality for small prints.
There is no option for E800mm at f4 in the full frame world.
Using an APS-C body one could use, for example, the Canon 400mm f2.8 which with a 1.4x teleconverter gives E896mm f4. Which sounds quite appealing until you realise that with camera and T/C this kit costs about $16000 and weighs about 5 Kg. Ouch. And that lens is not useful for most general photography.
i-Zoom is definitely worth using when the subject requires more reach than the standard E400mm can provide. No additional equipment is required. Normal control of the AF box, metering and OIS are available. Quality is good enough for small prints.
The FZ1000 is one of the most capable, versatile, multi purposecameras ever made. Reviewers and commentators who think it is "justanother bridge camera" have not been paying attention.
The FZ1000 could be the only piece of camera equipment that many photographers need. It could make interchangeable lens cameras (ILC) irrelevant for most photographic requirements of most people most of the time.
Most people who buy an ILC, be it Mirrorless (MILC) or DSLR,
buy a kit zoom and leave it on the camera, never making use of the potential for various different
lenses inherent in the ILC concept.
These users would be better served by a well implemented "all in one" camera which can be smaller, lighter, less expensive or have a longer zoom range (although not necessarily all of these things at once) than an ILC with standard kit lens or travel/superzoom lens.
The FZ1000 is just that camera.
Even ILC users who have two or three lenses might find the FZ1000 covers the great majority of their requirements, while forever eliminating the need to buy, carry and change several lenses.
Of course there are thingswhich the FZ1000 cannot do. There is no direct access to an ultra wide angle (UWA) lens. But the camera has a panorama mode which works well and for all but pixel perfectionists largely rectifies the UWA deficiency.
There is no direct access to the super telephoto end of the lens spectrum either. But i-Zoom is a useful substitute which can make decent photos suitable for modest scale reproduction.
The buffer is not as large as that in some other cameras, but shooting JPG in short bursts makes the FZ1000 genuinely useful for sport/action photography.
It is easy to find a camera or camera/lens combination which can outperform the FZ1000 in one specific area of capability. Some have less grain at high ISO settings. Some (not many) can focus on a moving subject more effectively. Some have access to lenses of greater aperture. Some (not many) have more advanced video. Some are smaller.....and so on.
But it is difficult to find any camera+one lens combination which can match the FZ1000 's size, pricepoint and wide range of capabilities.
It might be tempting to dismiss the FZ1000 as a jack of all trades but master of none. It is indeed a jack of most trades and I think does a good enough job for most users at most of them.
The key feature of the FZ1000 is it's ability to tackle almost any photographic task and in the right hands come away with good pictures. It manages this with a single module, one box solution requiring no extra equipment or accessories and no need for interchangeable lenses.
There has been an ongoing debate on user forumsaround the proposition that the FZ1000 is a game changer in the camera world as a result of it's "one box" multipurpose capability.
I think it is a game changer. The FZ1000 has no direct competitor at the moment, the Sony RX10 lens having only half the zoom range. But when other manufacturers release high performance "all in one" cameras like the FZ1000, I think many photographers will wonder why they would buy anything else and in particular why they would buy an interchangeable lens camera.
|FZ1000, 1/25sec F3.5, ISO 1600|
|GH4+12-35mm, 1/40sec f3.5, ISO 3200|
is an excellent camera in it's own right,
worth every cent and more of the asking price. However much of my testing has attempted
to answer a
specific question, namely,
"Can the FZ1000 replace my entire Micro Four Thirds Kit".
This post compares photo quality of the FZ1000 and the GH4 fitted with the 12-35mm f2.8, one of the best lenses available for M43.
From previous testing I knew that outdoors, the FZ1000 can hold it's own with any M43 body fitted with any zoom lens including the high grade 12-35mm f2,8 and 35-100mm f2.8 lenses.
This post is about night time indoor, artificial light conditions which I knew could be more difficult for the FZ1000 with it's smaller sensor.
Both photos were hand held. I knew from previous tests that the 5 axis OIS in the FZ1000 is more effective than the OIS in the 12-35mm lens. This enabled me to use a slower shutter speed and therefore a lower ISO setting with the FZ1000.
|Here are the crops of the two photos at the top of the post. Can you pick which camera took each photo ?|
You can see that the pictures look virtually identical apart from some minor difference in contrast which crept in post capture. Minor differences in lightness and color balance were adjusted in Camera Raw before publication. Of course the aspect ratio is different.
Conclusion with attention to aperture, shutter speed and ISO the FZ1000 can make pictures indoors in artificial light which are indistinguishable from those made with GH4 and a very good zoom lens.
Had I used f2.8 with the 12-35mm lens, depth of field would have been less and ISO less or shutter speed faster.
My last 20 postshave been about the Panasonic FZ1000, the most interesting camera to enter my household in the last 60 years. There is more to come about the FZ1000 but here, by way of an interlude is a brief review of the Sony A3500.
Sony is the most innovative camera maker of the current era, producing many new and conceptually different products some of which have succeeded in the market place.
Sony appears to have a predilection for USP (Unique Selling Point) targets. Thus the RX1 has the biggest sensor in the smallest body. The RX100 is the smallest compact with the largest sensor combined with a zoom lens. The A7 is the smallest interchangeable lens camera with a full frame sensor.
The A3500 is the cheapestDSLR lookalike camera with DSLR image quality.
I bought one over the counter retail in Sydney for $300 with lens and Sony Australia warranty. I wanted to discover for myself if it really is possible to get DSLR/MILC image quality at such a ridiculously low price.
I discovered that yes, it is possible, but in order to reach that price point many of the features which photographers might expect from a DSLR type camera have been omitted, adversely affecting the user experience.
The Concept I have no knowledge of the deliberations of Sony's product development people. But I am guessing the idea for A3500 arose something like this:
* Lots of people buy a DSLR then use it like a point and shoot. They set the Mode Dial to fully auto. They hold the camera at arm's length and view on the monitor.
* So let's give them a camera which looks like a DSLR and has the picture quality of a DSLR but has the feature set and user interface of a point and shoot compact. Take out the features which these people not use anyway and we can dramatically lower the price point.
Which all sounds quite logical except that those people using their DSLR as a point and shoot may not be behaving altogether logically in the first place. Maybe they expect to get better results if they pay more.
Sized like a DSLR, looks like a DSLR, works like a compact.
The A3500 uses the same body as the A3000 but has a less expensive, lower featured lens.
Specifications Although the spec sheet is mostly very basic there are some welcome features. There is a proper battery level indicator reading a % charge. The AF box is easy to move around the frame. Unfortunately AF box size cannot be changed. Peaking is available and would be useful if a different lens was mounted. The shutter uses electronic first curtain which eliminates shutter shock. Very welcome. There is a built in flash unit which is useful.
Sweep Panorama is available. Sony does this feature well so it is very welcome on the A3500.
Picture Quality Is very good. The camera uses a previous generation 28mm (diagonal) sensor which produces very smooth, clear pictures at low ISO settings and is just behind (slightly more noisy than) the Panasonic GH4 at high ISO settings. Considering the GH4 with 12-35mm f2.8 lens costs more than 8 times as much, that is remarkable.
So Sony has managed to hit it's USP target in fine style.
Unfortunately the story goes downhill
Performance Judged as a point and shoot camera for novices or uncritical snapshooters the A3500 works well enough. It responds promptly to user inputs. Single autofocus is decently prompt and accurate. This is not the camera for sport/action/moving subjects. I found the camera could fire 3 shots in the first second then one per second.
Cost cutting is very evident in the lens. The focal length range is limited to 18-50mm. The aperture range is restricted to f4-f5.6. The lens is quite prone to flare if sun is allowed to fall on the front element. There is no OIS and no facility for manual focus. Massive barrel distortion is evident at the wide end in RAW images, although the distortion is corrected in JPGs. The mount is plastic.
There is good news. Sharpness is quite impressive across most of the focal length range, just fading a little at the long end. Corners are soft at the wide end. But overall most photographs taken with this lens look sharp and clear.
And Sony supplies a lens hood which is nice.
Setup Phase The menu system is reasonably easy to follow but there are some odd placements. For instance Aspect Ratio is under Image Size and ISO is under Brightness/Color. Flash compensation is under Brightness/Color but Flash Mode is under Camera. I get the logic but it would have been more user friendly to congregate all the flash related items together.
Prepare Phase There is no quick Menu, no My Menu and no Function buttons with user assignable tasks. So you have to visit the main menus for anything beyond ISO, Drive Mode and Exposure Compensation.
If you accept this is a camera to use in Auto or P Modes it's not so bad.
Holding There is a large handle which in use is not quite as comfortable or secure as it looks. It is rather thin and the thumb support is just barely adequate.
Viewing There is an EVF but it is one of the least appealing features of the camera. It is of very low resolution and poor quality. Looking through this EVF is not an uplifting experience. Fortunately key camera data are displayed on a black background beneath the preview image.
The monitor is of better quality. It is fixed. Like the EVF it is not adjustable.
There is no auto switching between the monitor and EVF. The button which performs this function is inconveniently located high up on the right side of the EVF hump where it cannot be reached with either hand unless one of those hands releases grip on the camera.
Operating There is no Command Dial. To change aperture in A Mode or shutter speed in S Mode you have to turn the milled ring around the unmarked button on the rear of the camera. This requires some practice to avoid pressing the ring thereby activating ISO, Disp or Drive Mode. I soon learned to leave the camera in Auto or P Mode where it worked quite well. In P Mode and Auto ISO the camera selected shutter speeds, apertures and ISO settings which I thought were appropriate for the current subject.
Review Image playback works reasonably well but you have to use the single dial for zoom and navigation. This works but is nowhere near as streamlined as a camera with a command dial in addition to the lower rear dial.
Summary As is often the case, Sony has with the A3500 gone boldly where others have not ventured. The camera does what Sony claims it will do. Mission accomplished, it would seem.
But: I think Sony has chosen the wrong mission. I think their mission should at all times be to make cameras which people enjoy using.
The cost cutting needed to reach the extraordinarily low price point
has resulted in a product which is really not enjoyable to use and that is the problem.
My advice is to pass on the A3500.
Save your money for a better specified camera which is more enjoyable to use.
|The FZ1000 holds detail in the off white painted bricks in direct sun and also inside the entry foyer. RAW capture, processed and verticals corrected in Photoshop Camera Raw.|
I took the FZ1000 to the zoo yesterday. No more fretting about which lenses to bring. No need to change lenses. No more large camera bag. The FZ1000 managed everything I wanted to photograph with no trouble at all.
|RAW capture. Converted in Photoshop Camera RAW. In the original the background appears overly bright and busy. This is partly due to the enclosure and partly due to the out of focus rendition given by the FZ1000 lens. This can be, as here, somewhat busy and distracting. So I transferred the image to Photoshop, where I selected the "non chimpanzee" parts of the image, lowered the brightness and applied Gaussian blur. A more realistic treatment of the foreground would have required more time in Photoshop.|
The only downside issues I noticed with the FZ1000 were
* JPGs tend to blow out highlights. A fix for this is to have Zebras switched ON and apply negative exposure compensation as required.
* The small sensor delivers considerable depth of field even with the lens at full aperture. This can be perfect for documentary style pix where you want everything in focus. But it's not so good when you want the background to blur away softly.
A fix for this which I used on some of the photos shown here is to select the background in Photoshop then darken and/or blur it.
All photos are hand held.
|In this situation the extended depth of field provided by the small sensor works to the photo's advantage. Everything is sharp at f4.5. I held the camera above my head, viewing on the fully articulated monitor. Verticals etc. corrected in Photoshop Camera Raw.|
|Wallaby with joey in pouch. This is another photo with a distractingly busy background, tamed a bit with Gaussian blur in Photoshop. Focal length E419mm, JPG.|
|There are many different species at the zoo. This guy was building a new facility. The FZ1000 handled the detail and brightness range very well|
|The eclectus parrot posed quietly unlike most birds in this dimly lit enclosure. I had to use ISO 6400 due to the low light. This is a JPG. I would have preferred RAW as I can always get a better result. E369mm. In this case the red color is not quite right. |
The kingfisher stayed in one place just long enough for me to get a shot. I-Zoom at E800mm focal length then cropped. This illustrates the problem I have had with JPGs in bright light. The collar around the bird's neck is overexposed with unrecoverable blown out pixels. I should have dialled in negative exposure compensation but there was not enough time.|
|The FZ1000 operates quickly making it very suitable for unplanned candid shots.|
My interest in camera ergonomics was provoked by the experience of using early model Panasonic Micro Four Thirds cameras including the G1 and G3 and GH2. These cameras were burdened with several design faults which adversely affected the user experience. I wrote at length about these cameras and others in the early stages of this blog's life. The blog archive through 2012 contains much of my early work and thinking about camera ergonomics.
Since those days it appears that Panasonic's designers have been learning. There has certainly been a huge improvement in the user experience of holding, viewing and operating more recent models.
user interface clearly owes much to the GH3/4 but also has similarities to the FZ200.
I will review the FZ1000
under my usual headings which relate to the phases of camera use.
In this post I
look at Setup, Prepare and Review phases. The next post will be about Capture Phase.
The main Setup tasks are Menu selections, allocating user selected items to the Custom Q Menu, allocating tasks to the Function Buttons and creating Custom Modes. The FZ1000 behaves very much like a recent model Panasonic Micro Four Thirds camera with regard to these functions.
The menu design is clear and easy to read and navigate. The procedure for allocating items to the Q Menu and Fn buttons is well described in the Operating Instructions
Users familiar with the Panasonic menu system will have no trouble with the FZ1000.
But a first time high end Panasonic camera user might feel daunted by the
multitude of choices which must be made. This comes with the territory of a camera which is so highly configurable. I have posted on this blog a little series on setting up the FZ1000 to help with the process.
The arrangement of items is mostly logical, but some items seem out of place, for instance Auto Review is in the Custom Mneu not the Playback Menu where I would have expected
to find it.
This is the period of a minute or few just before starting to make exposures when the camera may need to be reconfigured for a new set of conditions.
manages this very well. There are hard control modules for Main Capture Mode, Focus Mode and Drive Mode. The Fn buttons and Q Menu make preparation for shooting very efficient.
All the control modules are easy to reach and operate.
In this Phase photos are reviewed on the monitor or EVF. The FZ1000 manages this very efficiently. The lever around the shutter button controls zoom, the rear dial scrolls from one frame to the next or previous and the Cursor Keys enable navigation around the enlarged frame. Very efficient and user friendly.
Ideal placement of rear dial, 4 way controller of desirable rocking saucer design, good positioning of buttons, overall good ergonomic design. But the right lower corner of the body could be more rounded, the handle a bit fatter and the right side of the handle more rounded. See the cutaway thumb support, not one of Panasonic's best ideas in my view. Note the off axis tripod socket, not a big deal but not ideal either.
In the previous post
I looked at Setup, Prepare and Review Phases of use. Now I turn to Capture Phase, when the user is in the process of taking photos.
From an ergonomic perspective this is the most critical phase as many actions must be carried out quickly without disrupting the work flow.
The three ergonomic elements of Capture Phase are Holding, Viewing and Operating.
Holding Arrangements for holding the FZ1000 are generally very good. I have several times carried and used the camera all day with no problems. However there are aspects of the holding experience which could be improved in a follow up model.
Holding the FZ1000. |
This is where my thumb wants to position itself to easily operate the rear dial, AF/AE-L button, Focus Mode lever and other buttons. But to be comfortable in this position my thumb would require major surgery to conform to the cutaway body as shown here. Compare this with the GH4 below. There are other unresolved pressure points in my palm from the right lower corner of the body and on the top of my right middle finger from the shape of the front cutaway. These are not major imperfections but they could easily be designed out in the next model.
Things which they got right
* There is a proper handle which has been shaped to fit an average sized adult right hand.
* There is a distinct notch in the upper part of the handle for the third finger.
* The rear dial is very well positioned. In fact this is the best rear dial implementation which I have yet seen on a Panasonic camera, or come to think of it, on any camera.
The dial is optimally located on the camera body. It projects to the rear just the right amount to allow the thumb to engage with the dial easily without undue risk of accidental operation. The dial itself features sharpish teeth which provide a good grip.
* The rear dial is sitting in the thumb support. My research shows that this is the optimal arrangement. It causes the thumb to angle across the back of the camera. This provides a stable hold with minimal muscle effort.
* In many days of use I have never accidentally pressed a button or moved a dial. This indicates these control modules are all well positioned.
This handle and thumb support are more comfortable than the FZ100. The thumb support rolls right around to the back of the body with no cutaway, the handle is fatter and more rounded everywhere. But this design has other problems. The Disp button is inconveniently located right in the thumb support. The knurled dial around the 4 way controller is half buried in the roll back handle design. I have been using this for the last two years with no great difficulty but the configuration is not optimal. I assume the FZ1000 design is an attempt to avoid some of the issues raised by this one. Which it does, at the cost of introducing a few new ones.
Things which could be improved
* My index finger is forever wanting to find the shutter button about 5mm to the left (as viewed by the user) of it's actual position.
* The thumb support below the rear dial has a cutaway shape. I don't know why Panasonic's designers opted for this shape but it is not a success. With the thumb in normal hold position ready for camera operation there is a pressure point where the right side of the thumb bears on the 5mm of support structure immediately below the rear dial. See the photos for more explanation.
* The handle could usefully be higher, so users with larger hands can gain a 5 finger hold. This could easily be achieved by raising the right side of the body. I suppose the current "sloping shoulders" shape is designed to reduce the appearance of bulk.
* The right lower rear corner of the body could be more softly curved making it more comfortable to hold.
* The right side of the handle is a bit flat.
If this were more curved it would conform more readily to the holding hand.
This mockup of mine is about the same size as the GH4 and FZ1000.
It seeks to resolve the ergonomic problems posed by both Panasonic cameras. The handle is fat, rounded and comfortable like the GH3/4. The valley for the thumb feels very comfortable because I whittled and worked at it until the shape felt right. Neither the 4 way controller or the surrounding buttons will be hit accidentally because they are well clear of the thumb and palm as the camera is held and operated. There is a JOG lever to the right of the EVF housing to provide direct control of AF box position. The AF On button is at the top of the thumb valley.
Hand Held, Focal Length E216mm, 1/1000, f5.6
The user should be able to easily see in either the viewfinder or monitor, in bright or dim light, with seamless segue between the two:
1. The subject at 100% size with brightness auto adjusted to indicate exposure compensation if applied,
2. Primary camera data
3. Secondary camera data.
Primary camera data
is ideally displayed on a black strip beneath the image preview/review (not superimposed over the image)
in landscape or portrait orientation.
This includes Aperture, Shutter Speed, ISO, Exposure Compensation, White Balance, Battery status, Capture Mode in use, Remaining exposures on card.
Secondary camera data
includes active AF box, grid lines, histogram, manual focus assist indicators and others as required. This data usually displays superimposed on the preview image.
enables all these tasks to be carried out efficiently.
The EVF is of excellent quality. It is very clear and sharp with good highlight and shadow detail. The eyepiece diopter is adjustable.
The monitor is also of very good quality and also gives very clear sharp preview and review images.
Both the EVF and monitor are adjustable for brightness, contrast/saturation and color balance. Both can be configured to look the same for seamless transition between them.
The monitor is of the desirable fully articulated type. This allows the user to hold the camera in landscape or portrait orientation, overhead, near the ground
or at waist level.
The EVF eyepiece projects 18mm back from the plane of the monitor. This allows the user to look straight ahead when viewing and if desired see directly with the left eye if the right eye is applied to the EVF.
The EVF has a quick refresh rate with minimal blackout time in Burst Mode.
Viewing arrangements on the FZ1000 are very efficient and versatile. They make the camera a pleasure to use.
The only thing which draws a mildly negative comment from me is the hard rubber eyecup. This is similar in design to the one on the GH4 and I don't like it on that camera either. It is wide and thin with a shape which does not conform well to the curve of the eye socket.
My preference is for a softer, deeper eyecup of more rounded shape for a more comfortable fit with
the adjacent anatomy.
|In practiced hands The FZ1000 operates quickly and efficiently making it very suitable for street and candid photography.|
The task list for a practiced user
operating a well specified camera such as the FZ1000
While continuously looking through the EVF and without shifting grip on the camera with either hand,
* Adjust primary exposure parameters, Aperture, Shutter Speed, ISO.
* Adjust secondary exposure parameters, Exposure Compensation, Program Shift, AE Lock, White Balance.
* Adjust primary framing and focus parameters, Zoom, Initiate/lock Autofocus, Manual Focus.
* Adjust secondary Focus parameters, Change position and size of AF Box, manual over ride AF, AF Lock, AF in MF.
Of course not all these tasks need to be carried out with every exposure but it should be possible to do so if required.
This may appear to be a daunting list but the FZ1000 is able to carry out most of those tasks while in the process of making pictures and without shifting grip.
The only caveats are:
* The right thumb has to drop down to the cursor buttons to change position of the AF box, which does briefly disrupt grip. I prefer a JOG lever for this purpose, located near the position of the AF/AE-L button. My mockups have this feature which I think could work well in practice.
* If the AF/AE-L button is being used for AF-ON it is in an awkward
place if the camera is held in landscape orientation, requiring a stretch across to reach it.
Several complaints have appeared on user forums about this.
I prefer the standard Canon location for an AF-ON button, which on this camera would be in the valley between the rear dial and the Focus Mode lever, just under the distal phalanx of the thumb.
These are minor issues. Overall the camera is a pleasure to operate. User interface modules are well designed and well positioned. Buttons are not pressed accidentally but are easy to find by feel when required.
The cursor buttons
(4 way controller) have the desirable "rocking saucer" design with raised edges, which is easy to locate and operate by feel.
The other 5 buttons on the back of the camera are easy to locate and operate by feel. The playback button has a depressed top so it can be identified by feel. This is a good idea which could
to advantage be made even more explicit with more obvious differences between the various buttons.
There are no buttons to the right of the 4 way controller (cursor buttons). The G6 has buttons there which are forever being inadvertently activated. So that problem has been eliminated. There are also no buttons in the thumb support. That is a problem with the Disp button of the GH3/4 which is awkwardly placed.
The Focus/Zoom lever on the lens barrel is easy to locate and operate by feel.
Panasonic appears to have put considerable thought into the user interface of this camera. The designers appear to have learned from experience with previous model M43 and superzoom cameras. The resulting control layout is both efficient and a pleasure to operate.
|FZ1000. Building for the future.|
Every year I offer commentary on the state of the camera industry from a consumer's perspective. This year Photokina appears to be a suitable window on the products and possible direction of the major players.
I have no affiliation with any maker or vendor of photographic equipment. I have over the years bought and used equipment from almost every manufacturer.
So without further ado and in alphabetical order:
Canon Canon had two really huge, innovative wonderful new product announcements this year.
* In the DSLR category they revealed the amazing new EOS7D Mk2. After 5 years of intensive research since the release of the Mark1 Canon revealed to an awed audience that they have Changed the location of the DOF Button !! (whatever that is).
* In the Powershot compact category Canon revealed with great pride that they have Stolen the RX100 from Sony!! But someone forgot the EVF. Oops, sorry about that, maybe next time.
Seriously, well semi seriously anyway, Canon is showing a lack of initiative which I find puzzling. You see back in the late 1980's Canon was the innovator, turning out products with technical and product initiative which moved the whole industry forward. I switched from Pentax to Canon and stayed with Canon until the arrival of the mirrorless Micro Four Thirds system, the new innovator.
Whatever happened at Canon ?
Have they gone to sleep ?
Fuji For some reason Fuji insists on calling itself Fujifilm. Maybe that sounds better than Fuji Digicams. I read recently that their biggest selling product is the Fuji Instax instant film camera, so maybe the ".....film" name is not so strange after all.
Fuji released the X30 not-very-compact which is just like the X20 but with an EVF instead of an OVF. Fair enough but most other players in the compact category have gone for bigger and better sensors leaving even Fuji fanatics wondering why they would buy the X30.
Then in the even-less-compact category the amazing new X100T was revealed to a packed audience of admirers. This has the same sensor, same lens and same body as the previous model. Apparently the viewfinder is a bit different. And a few other inner tweaks. Wow ??
But the really BIG announcement and I do mean BIG was the 140-400mm XF lens for the X-T1, E2, Pro 1 line of APS-C cameras with 28mm diagonal X-Trans sensor.
This is Fuji's long zoom with a field of view and aperture range very similar to the Olympus 75-300mm or Panasonic 100-300mm lenses for the Micro Four thirds system. But look at the size difference. The Fuji lens has twice the box volume of the M43 lenses.
It seems to me that Fuji has shackled itself to three design features which I think
a) Give Fuji some points of difference in the marketplace but which I believe are
b) Holding back present and future development at Fuji.
* The X-Trans sensor. I see little evidence this is any better than a modern sensor with standard Bayer layout. But many RAW converters can't or won't handle the X-Trans files, or don't manage them very well, which limits their more mainstream acceptance.
* APS-C sensor size (28mm diagonal). In my view this sensor size is obsolete. It works well for normal lenses but long lenses become very big like the Fuji 140-400mm just pre-announced. You can have almost the same or in some cases better image quality (it depends on exactly which products are being compared) with the Micro Four thirds system which allows for much smaller lenses.
* The "Retro" control system with old style aperture ring on the lens and shutter speed dial on top of the camera body. I have conducted ergonomic comparisons between "new style", Mode Dial + Control Dial systems -vs- "old style" Aperture ring + Shutter Speed ring and found the new style is more efficient in operation.
Leica The venerable Leica announced a bunch of new products this week. But wait, several of them look suspiciously like recently released Panasonic models with the handle removed, so Leica can charge its gullible customers extra for the body and double extra for an add on handle. Is that marketing genius or what ?
Leica also came up with the T also known as Typ 701 for some mysterious reason. Apart from the absurd marketing which went on and on about some poor employee, or maybe it was a desperate stock holder, sanding the surface of the thing milled from a solid block of unobtanium mined in the outer reaches of Alpha Centauri, the T actually looks to be interesting.
I have not had the ecstatic pleasure of actually laying trembling hands on one as yet, so I can't comment on handling and ergonomics but somewhere behind
all the silly hype, someone at Leica seems to be trying to design a camera which is pared down to the essentials of picture taking. And that could be worth doing.
Nikon "Our product development people want you to buy a NIKON brand full frame DSLR. And if you can't afford one we suggest you eat very little food for a few months so you can save up for one. We now have lots of nice full frame DSLR's. Each is slightly different from the other and if you buy one of each you will eventually come to understand the subtle differences between them.
We also make other cameras but there is not much profit on them, in fact recently no profit at all, so we really want you to buy a full frame DSLR. And lots of big expensive zoom lenses.
Please support our brand. We face difficult trading conditions and we need you to buy a full frame DSLR and some really big expensive lenses quite soon. Today if possible."
Olympus has been a bit quiet this Photokina but they did announce the Big Bazooka 40-150mm f2.8 mid range pro level zoom for the M43 system. This thing is big. It is 160mm long, has a mass of 880 grams and uses a 72mm filter. In fact it is in the same size/mass range as one of the 70-200mm f4 lenses for full frame. Olympus did the same sort of thing with it's ill fated venture into the 4/3 DSLR system. They produced big fast lenses of excellent quality which very few photographers bought. I wonder if they are going to have the same problem in the Micro Four Thirds arena. Panasonic's offering in the same general range is the 35-100mm f2.8 which is less than half the size and mass of the Olympus lens. It has a less ambitious focal length range of course but it's compact dimensions are much more in keeping with the ethos of the M43 concept.
The promotional material with the big bazooka
that it has only 2 aspheric elements and I wonder if a lack of access to affordable aspherics is part of the problem.
By way of contrast the lenses in the Panasonic FZ1000 and LX100 each have 8 aspheric surfaces according to the promotional material. Both these lenses are remarkably compact for their specification, due presumably to the extensive use of aspherics made by Panasonic in house.
Panasonic The Panasonic parent company has been in deep financial trouble in recent years with top execs reportedly telling divisions to make a 5% return on capital invested or close up shop.
Maybe this is the fire which is driving product development in the camera division right now. Whatever the reason Panasonic has emerged as the year's strongest performer, with a range of innovative, desirable products indicating vigorous evolution in the technology and product development realms.
I have the FZ1000 which performs well above expectations in a wide range of photographic environments. The GM5 is interesting and will appeal to users who lust for smallness. The LX100 is, in my view, the star product of the show, setting a new standard for the advanced compact camera genre. The GH4 is deservedly winning awards all over for outstanding performance in both still and motion picture operation.
Last year Pentax stunned the world, or possibly put people to sleep,
by offering a camera, I forget which one, in "a hundred different color combinations". This year they have threatened to make a full frame ILC next year
In a hundred color combinations ?
Samsung I bought and used the NX10, 11 and 20 along with if memory serves correctly about 16 lenses over a three year period. I became completely disillusioned with Samsung's inability to keep up with their competitors in any field of technology or product development. In addition I found a high proportion of the lenses had serious defects mainly decentering.
Now Samsung presents to, I suspect, a mostly indifferent world the big and bold NX1 with a set of very big and bold high specification lenses. Samsung wants to be taken seriously as a maker of professional cameras, having presumably failed to make much headway with cheaper consumer models.
Good luck Samsung. The question is why would anybody jump ship to join the Samsung team ? I can't think of a reason.
It seems to me Samsung's NX1 venture is too big, too late. Some of the lenses are very big indeed.
If I were in the market for something big and brash, which I am not, I would probably stay with the proven performers,
As they used to say in Monty Python skits "And now for something completely different"
Sigma offers the dp2 Quattro and a stranger camera-like device I never did see. Apparently it takes quite good pictures in the right conditions. But so do several million ordinary cameras which are not afflicted by idiosyncratic behaviour, ergonomics and image processing. OOPS.
Sony Last but by no means least we come to the industry's most innovative player. But innovation needs to proceed hand in hand with coherent product development and there Sony and it's customers have a disconnect.
Sony, with no outside assistance, has created a huge mess with it's proliferation of lens mounts, back focus distances and product line names. How they will extricate themselves and their customers from this remains to be seen. But not this year.
In fact Sony had very little to show at Photokina this year.
If Sony hired me to advise on their product development strategy I would suggest they do a Canon 1987. In that year Canon dropped the old FD breech mount and adopted the completely new and incompatible all electronic EF mount. The FD faithful screamed but the customers bought EOS cameras in their millions and sent Canon to the top of the sales charts.
I think Sony needs to clear the product decks in similar fashion. They need to dump the old Minolta SLR mount altogether and concentrate their ILC energies on a single lens mount, possibly but not necessarily the existing E mount.
But I would take this one step further and suggest that in addition they dump the APS-C (28mm diagonal) sensor size and replace it with something very close to the 4/3 (21.5mm diagonal) sensor, which will work just fine in the E mount.
They could of course simply join the M43 consortium and go all the way with the M43 system but that of course uses the M43 mount which is not the same thing as the E mount at all.
But if they did that, which would be a very sensible move by the way, it would make a standalone E mount problematic because the inside of this mount is actually smaller than the full 24x36mm frame size which makes designing lenses for the FE mount challenging ........................................as I said, it's a mess.
The problem with the APS-C (28mm) sensor
The problem with APS-C (28mm diagonal) is that it requires telephoto zooms and superzoom/travel zooms which are much larger than those for the M43 system with very little if any gain in picture quality. In fact in my recent testing M43 travel zooms tend to deliver better picture quality than those of comparable focal length range from 28mm sensor systems.
This problems afflicts Canon, Fuji, Leica, Samsung and Sony. In my view they jumped on the wrong bandwaggon with their mirrorless ILCs. Micro Four thirds was and is the ILC system most likely to succeed. It strikes a nice balance between size/mass and quality/performance.
The most recently arrived major player in the field of mainstream camera manufacture is Panasonic. Perhaps because of this or
perhaps consequent on the threat of annihilation in the event of ongoing losses, Panasonic has this year presented the most coherent and thoughtful set of
photo products, which I believe people will want to buy and use.
Well, I buy them. And use them.
EC 0 adjusted in PsCR|
This is a JPG from the adjusted RAW file
Malleable-- "Able to be hammered or pressed into shape without breaking or cracking".
Synonyms: Pliable, workable.
When I started using the FZ1000 I was concerned that the small (8.8x13.2mm, diagonal 15.9mm) sensor (presumably made by Sony, although I have seen no official confirmation of this from any source), would produce brittle RAW files unable to be manipulated in Photoshop Camera Raw without seriously disrupting picture quality.
In the past it has been my experience that the smaller sensors have this problem.
But Sony (presumably) and Panasonic have created a winning combination with the FZ1000. In practice the files respond very well to considerable manipulation in PsCR.
Specifically there is considerable capacity to pull in overexposed highlights and to lift underexposed dark tones.
By way of example I present 2 versions of a photo of the Strand Arcade in Sydney. As a test subject this has several advantages, one being that management allows photography. The other for the present purpose is the high subject brightness range. Even though the interior is well lit it is much darker than the glasss roof in direct spring sunshine and the high rise buildings beyond.
I made one set of pictures at the exposure indicated by the camera in Multiple Metering Mode, then just as an experiment made other exposures at minus 1.66 stops, then ran them all through Photoshop Camera Raw.
EC 0 Before adjustment.|
This might not look terribly promising but the file responded well to adjustments in PsCR leading to the photo at the top of the post.
|EC - 1.66 EV Before adjustment. This might appear terminally underexposed with no hope of recovery but see the adjusted version below|
|EC -1.66 EV after some fairly extreme slider adjustments in PsCR. Tonally it's not bad with more detail in the roof area than the picture at the top of the post. But the lower part of the picture is quite grainy with reduced color fidelity and tonal gradation.|
The 15.9 mm sensor in the FZ1000 performs at least as well as APS-C (27-28mm) sensors did just a few years ago. There is considerable room for manipulation within the RAW files.
There is some cost to this however.
Highlights pulled down a lot are liable to exhibit chromatic aberration (correctable in PsCR), purple fringing (correctable in PsCR) and a phenomenon which I call "edging". This shows as a halo or edge around highlight subject elements and cannot be removed in CR.
Strongly lifted dark tones exhibit increased digital noise appearing as grain. More lifting leads to more grain. In addition these lifted tones lose contrast, color saturation and color fidelity. These problems can in many cases be at least partly improved in CR and/or
by subsequent manipulation in Photoshop.
So there is no free lunch. There is a price to pay when
FZ1000 RAW files are "hammered and pressed"
in Adobe Camera Raw.
But as long as this is not taken to extremes, I find the results quite acceptable even when output as a large print. On that subject I remind readers that grain is less evident and/or less objectionable in prints than in pictures viewed at 100% or even 200% for IQ tragics, on a monitor.
In practical terms I find that even in situations with high subject brightness range RAW capture works best with exposure at or close to the camera recommended settings using Multiple Metering Mode. In extreme cases application of minus 0.33 or 0.66 EV steps could be beneficial.
With RAW capture I have found it is not necessary or even desirable to dial down the exposure so as to remove blinking Zebras even when these are set, as I have them, to 105%.
This capability adds to the already considerable appeal of the FZ1000 as an all purpose photographic tool.
The management of JPG capture in subjects with high brightness range is different as I will discuss in the next post.
|Honeyeater. FZ1000 with I-Zoom at E800mm then cropped. Reasonable picture quality on the bird but the branch is blown out. I used I-Dynamic but not exposure compensation.| Preventing blown highlights with high subject brightness range
Exposure Compensation, i-Dynamic and Zebras
The previous post was about using RAW capture in situations with high subject brightness range (SBR). This post covers some strategies for shooting JPG in the same conditions.
Until the FZ1000 arrived in my household I almost exclusively shot RAW, using a succession of DSLRs then Panasonic and other MILCs.
However many useful features of the FZ1000 require JPG capture. These include the extra zoom options, Intelligent Zoom (i-Zoom), Extra Optical Zoom, Digital Zoom and Macro Zoom.
I have recently been using i-Zoom to photograph birds with a focal length of up to E800mm at f4. I find this preferable to shooting RAW at E400mm and cropping later as focussing and exposure appear more accurate with the i-Zoom. I am usually trying to capture a bird which appears very small in the full E400mm frame.
I also use i-Zoom to photograph flowers with the camera at 1000mm or more from the subject. It's a novel new experience which I call "standalongwayback" macro.
Many camera users prefer to use JPG for all their shots as it is so much more convenient than RAW capture.
I live in Sydney Australia where bright clear sunny days are the norm. Yes, it's tough but someone has to live here. The weather is great but the photographic challenge consists of situations with high SBR.
With RAW capture this is no great problem but FZ1000 JPGs are frequently subject to blown out highlights with unrecoverable detail loss.
Setting i-Dynamic to Auto or High does not solve the problem. Simply setting negative exposure compensation results in very dark mid tones.
|Scene with I-Dynamic High, no exposure compensation.|
|Same scene with I-Dynamic high and negative 1.6 steps of exposure compensation. I progressively reduced exposure until the zebras on the clouds just disappeared.|
On the Digital Photography Review website (dpreview.com) there is a review of the FZ1000 posted in July 2014. I refer the reader to Part 13 by Rishi Sanyal titled "JPEG Tone Curves/Dynamic Range".
You will notice the JPG tone curve which is typical of Panasonic cameras, almost straight at the highlight end with no roll off towards the top. This allows good detail definition in light tones with plenty of contrast at the upper end of the curve. The problem is that without roll off, slightly overexposed highlights are lost completely, never to be recovered.
Among other things, this interesting analysis explores the relationship between Exposure Compensation, i-Dynamic and highlight capture. Specifically Rishi discovered that a combination of negative exposure compensation and i-Dynamic High allows for a substantial increase in highlight capture with normal mid tone lightness.
This discovery provides the JPG shooter with a way to manage high subject brightness range.
It involves using Exposure Compensation, i-Dynamic and Zebras simultaneously.
Zebras ? This feature has been available on video cameras for some time but is now provided for still capture on the FZ1000 and other cameras. It is like the preview version of "blinkies", the black and white pulsing indication in playback images that highlights have been overexposed with lost detail.
You can find Zebras in Tanzania or perhaps more conveniently on page 5/8 of the FZ1000 Custom Mode. Explanation can be found on Page 193 of the Operating Instructions.
There are two zebra patterns, I have no idea why, they serve the same function. Zebra 1 leans to the right at the top, Zebra 2 leans to the left. Take your pick.
When you click on the [Zebra Pattern] tab a submenu with 4 items appears, Z1, Z2, Off, Set. In the Set tab there is another submenu Z1 and Z2. In this last submenu you are invited to pick a number labelled as a percentage, from 50% to 105%. You can Google this to discover what the percentages mean but for the moment just regard it as a number indicating a level. Video practitioners use levels around 70% to judge correct exposure for light toned faces. But I want a level which helps to identify and control blown out highlights in still photos.
After some experiment I am currently using 105%.
i-Dynamic You find this in the Rec Menu, Page 3/7. Explanation is on Page 134 of the Operating Instructions. There are 4 options, Auto, High, Standard, Low and Off. For readers living in places where high SBR is the normal circumstance I recommend setting High. This means whenever Quality is JPG then i-Dynamic is active. If you are not sure set Auto, which I have found usually gives the same result as High with high SBR.
The concept behind i-Dynamic is that the camera underexposes to protect the highlights then applies a tone curve correction to lift the mid tones to a normal level.
It only works in JPG capture.
Putting it all together
* Set Zebras to 105% (or a bit less if you prefer).
* Set i-Dynamic to High or Auto.
* Set Quality to JPG.
* Set the Zoom Lever (the one around the shutter button) to [+/-], Page 7/8 of the Custom Menu. Why ? You can achieve exposure compensation with the rear dial but this takes three actions, Press to click, adjust EC, Press to return to normal operation. Using the Zoom Lever only takes one action if it is configured for [+/-]. It's faster and the lever only has one job. When I use the rear dial for [+/-] I constantly find myself changing the exposure when I really wanted to change the aperture or shutter speed (depending on the Mode Dial position).
* Set [Exposure Comp Reset] in Page 4/5 of the Setup Menu (Page 54 in the Operating Instructions) to ON. This way any [+/-] is cancelled if you switch the camera off, change the Mode on the main Mode Dial or the camera is allowed to go to sleep.
Managing the exposure
* Preview the subject, see if zebras are blinking on highlights.
* If so nudge down the exposure until the zebras just stop blinking.
* Make the exposure. If you have time and opportunity try a few slightly different exposures.
* Again if you have time press the Playback button to review the last few shots. Adjust exposure if necessary and try again.
* When the lens auto retracts, curse the misguided boffin at Panasonic who dreamed up that silly lens retract idea.
* Remember to cancel the [+/-] if the next exposure is in a different location.
That's it folks
enjoy better JPGs.
|Going into battle. HMAS Vampire Ops Room. FZ1000.|
I think the LX100 is one of the most interesting new products announced last week. Fair enough it was a lacklustre Photokina so maybe the LX100 maybe did not have very much competition. But still.........it stood out from some of the other offerings like a bright little light.
Big quality, small camera Many, probably millions, of photographers have dreamed for years about that elusive ideal, the camera with big image quality in a small body.
The pocketable solution Sony has defined what is possible in this category since the first RX100 of 2012, followed by the Mk2 in 2013 and the Mk3 this year.
If you want to carry a quality camera in a pocket or purse or want really good image quality in an ultralight camera for hiking and similar activities, the current model RX100Mk3 is simply unbeatable.
But some people, myself included, think a pocket is a really bad place in which to carry a camera. Pockets collect dust, lint, dirt, gum, leaves, unidentified icky stuff and who knows what else. In due course, the dust finds it's way into the lens and onto the sensor and bits of grit get into the operating mechanism. Yuck. So the sensible way to carry even the smallest camera is in a pouch hooked to a belt or even over the shoulder on a strap.
But as soon as you decide to carry a camera in a pouch or small shoulder bag there is no disadvantage to using a slightly larger pouch, which will hold a somewhat larger camera.
Photo courtesy of camerasize.com|
RX100 with LX100
Ergonomics The other issue with the genre of pocketable cameras is ergonomics. The RX100 trio are marvels of engineering but they are so small that the experience of using them is not particularly enjoyable. They are difficult to hold comfortably, the monitor is very difficult to see in sunlight, the pop up EVF of the Mk3 has to be lifted and pulled out before it will work and the controls are very small and crowded.
There are two RX100s
(original version) in our household at the moment, one of which is readily available to me.
They make very nice pictures. But I never select the RX1000 for photographic opportunities. I just don't like using that camera.
The non pocketable solution Moving up a step in size opens up several possibilities for the design. The sensor can be larger for potentially better image quality. Holding viewing and operating can be improved. A camera can be developed which provides both better picture quality and a more enjoyable user experience.
In fact if done well such a camera can be a realistic alternative to a DSLR or MILC with kit lens or even a DSLR or MILC with E24-70mm f2.8 pro lens.
LX100---What a big camera ! This is the title of a recent post on a Panasonic Compact Camera users forum. Indeed, compared to one of the RX100 models the LX100 is very large. In fact it's box volume (width x height x depth) is exactly twice that of the RX100 Mk3.
You can compare them
in the photograph and the table.
Depth mm including EVF extension of LX100
Photo courtesy of camerasize.com|
The sensor size given is the diagonal measurement. That of the LX100 I derived by calculations and reference to published diagrams of the multi aspect ratio sensor.
Note that each of the cameras which appears in the photographs above has a lens of very similar equivalent focal length range and aperture.
LX100 What a small camera ! Now look at the next photo comparing the LX100 to the Panasonic GH4 (a micro Four Thirds MILC), the Canon EOS 70D (an APS-C DSLR) and the Nikon D750 (a full frame DSLR), each with an approximately equivalent 24-70mm f2.8 fast zoom.
Compare the equivalent focal lengths and apertures listed beneath each camera in the photo.
Consider that at the wide end the LX100
has a 1.5 stop brighter aperture than the larger cameras. The LX100 is said to be using the sensor from the Panasonic GX7, a known entity. You can see that the overall imaging performance of the LX100 is likely to be at least as good as the GH4 with 12-35mm f2.8 lens, very close to the EOS 70D with 17-55mm f2.8 lens and not a vast distance from the full frame D750 at the wide end.
Now consider the typical buyer of an entry to upper entry level DSLR or MILC. This type of camera is often purchased with an E28-85mm or thereabouts, f3.5-5.6 kit zoom which stays on the camera all the time. This lens is two stops slower than the LX100 at all comparable focal lengths. Even the best of these cameras has a sensor only about one EV step better than the GX7. So the LX100 should have an advantage in straight image quality over the majority of entry/upper entry DSLR/MILC kits. I very much doubt the smallish, by modern standards, pixel count will be a problem.
And it is much smaller than any interchangeable lens camera with a built in viewfinder with any 3x zoom lens mounted.
Summary I think there must be quite a few photographers out there who want a camera which is enjoyable to use, pouch size compact, and which makes really good pictures for which no excuses need to be made.
I don't know the size of the cohort who will be attracted to the LX100 but I do know that the Canon G series cameras were very popular for many years. These cameras attempted with partial success to fill the demand which is undoubtedly there for a small camera which makes big images. I had several of these Canon G cams over the years but was always frustrated by their image quality which was not quite up to the standard I wanted due to the small 9.5mm diagonal sensor.
Our family had a Canon G1X which was an ergonomic disaster and the G1X Mk2 also appears to be burdened with ergonomic problems.
I think the Panasonic LX100 gets the size/sensor/image quality/lens/price
balance just right. The concept is very appealing.
|Grevillea. FZ1000 Hand held|
In the previous post I expressed considerable enthusiasm for the LX100 concept.
Now I turn to the realisation of that concept and ergonomic issues in particular. This is after all the Camera Ergonomics Blog.
I offer this analysis on the basis of published photos, descriptions and specifications of the LX100 as I have not yet had the chance to handle one. I have however made a mockup which has exactly the same dimensions as the LX100 and will present this in the next post.
I have also had over a 50 year period, considerable experience using cameras with the "traditional" design and control layout. This I would summarise as
* Top rear shutter button location.
* No handle or a mini handle.
* Aperture ring on lens and shutter speed dial on camera top.
Contrast this with the "modern" style of control layout the main features of which are
* Forward shutter button location, on the handle.
* Sculpted ergonomic handle.
* Mode dial and one or two control dials.
The three main elements of camera ergonomics are holding, viewing and operating.
The LX100 has a mini handle and a small thumb support. These features will be adequate for
the camera. But why stop at adequate ?
If the lens were to be moved to the left (as viewed by the operator) this would free up space on the right side of the body for a fully sculpted ergonomic handle.
The top of the handle would form the platform for an efficient quad control set.
This design can be achieved within the confines of the width, height and depth of the LX100.
The LX100 has the basics in the form of a fixed monitor and a built in EVF which mercifully does not have to be popped up and pulled out for use. But why stop at the basics ?
My main camera these days is a Panasonic FZ1000. I find myself using the fully articulated monitor very frequently. It is extremely useful for overhead, waist level and low level work in landscape or portrait orientation. It is very useful for hand
It can be used to point the camera at 90 degrees to the direction of my gaze with full functionality and image preview.
Inclusion of a fully articulated monitor would lift viewing capability of the LX100 from good to excellent. This would make the body a bit thicker, but the overall depth would not alter, as the EVF protrudes rearward beyond any style of
I have spent considerable time investigating the operational merits of the "traditional" versus "modern" style control system.
I will post detailed time and motion analysis comparing the actual LX100 with my mockup when I have an LX100 in hand.
I have recently compared a Panasonic GX7
(as an example of the modern control layout)
with Fuji EX-1
(representing the traditional control layout)
I conducted a time and motion analysis of actions required to carry out the tasks of operating each camera.
I found that for almost every operational task the GX7 required fewer, less complex actions than the X-E1.
Some camera users say they "like" the traditional control system for various reasons but "liking" something (or not), is an idiosyncratic personal matter subject to change without notice or reason.
LX100 aperture ring An aperture ring with marked f stops works quite well on a single focal length lens or a zoom with constant maximum aperture. But the LX100 has a variable aperture zoom so the marked aperture setting will be incorrect any time it is set to an aperture larger than the lens can manage at the current focal length. So checking the aperture on the ring will not be very useful unless that aperture is f2.8 or smaller.
LX100 shutter speed dial This cannot display a shutter speed longer than 1 second. It is also not clear from the photographs whether it is click stopped in 1/3 step intervals or just whole step intervals.
So for both aperture and shutter speed the user will have to check in the viewfinder or on the monitor for the correct reading.
In my view these set and see type modules are better used for setting modes in the Prepare Phase of use. (see the next post)
Summary of my reaction to the LX100, for now:
I think the LX100
represents an excellent concept which has been
realised in a way which does not optimise ergonomics.
efficient camera could be developed within the dimensional envelope described by the
width, height and depth of
the recently announced LX100.
The Panasonic view is well expressed in the promotional material at the link below:
This is worth reading for those interested in the thinking behind the LX100.
The Panasonic product development people indicate clearly that they are aiming at a market segment that ......"really appreciates the mechanics of a quality camera".... ...........
.........."We repeatedly asked user opinions and built these features into the LX100"......
They do acknowledge that a design based on a Mode Dial is......"more functional".......
"But we think that being able to operate the camera yourself
(the italics are mine. Who else would be operating the thing ?) is what makes the LX100 so much fun to use"..........
My interpretation of this is that they were not looking to make a camera with maximum efficiency or functionality but one which some users might enjoy because ........"there's something enjoyable about physically turning rings and dials"........
I also note there is a little button on the LX100 labelled [iA] presumably for those buyers who actually don't like messing about with the rings and dials.
* To the users whose opinions were sought...."Be careful what you wish for
* To the designers......I think the current enthusiasm for retro type controls is a fad, a push back against the more efficient modern control system for reasons not clear to me. Nostalgia, perhaps ? Professional photographers use cameras with the modern system precisely because it is more efficient.
* I got over the "enjoyment" of physically turning those rings and dials about 40 years ago after spending several years with a Pentax Spotmatic. The shutter speed dial in particular was always a pest of a thing to turn requiring the right hand to completely release the camera so the index finger and thumb could both be applied to the dial.
I am sure the LX100 as offered will work well enough just as the Fuji X series cameras work well enough if one is prepared to live with the sub optimal ergonomics.
I will present my alternative vision for the LX100
(LX100 Modern ?) in the next post.
|Mockup Ergonomic Alternative to the LX100. This realisation of the concept is very comfortable to hold and would if built be very smooth and fast to operate. The mockup has the same width (115mm) height (66mm) and depth (64mm counting the EVF protrusion) as the actual LX100.|
deliberately gave the LX100 a "retro" style control layout with top/rear shutter button location, mini handle,
aperture ring on the lens and shutter speed dial on top of the body.
My time and motion studies have
shown that operating a camera with this arrangement requires more actions and
actions than are required with a well implemented version of the modern layout using ergonomic handle, mode dial and control dial arrangement.
As soon as I saw photographs of the LX100 I realised there is an alternative, more ergonomically efficient way to implement the same concept, within the same envelope of dimensions.
LX102 or maybe LX100E ? Whatever the designation this represents my best effort at realising the optimum shape, layout, design and user interface for fast streamlined operation.|
When making a mockup I do not start with drawings. I set a few basic size limits within which I will work and I make sure the body thickness is at least equal to a similar actual camera. The shape of the handle and thumb support are created in plywood so the result feels comfortable. It also has to pass the comfort test of several family members with different sized hands.
The buttons and dials are placed where my fingers want to find them, not where I or anybody else imagines they should be located and not where somebody thinks they will look good.
The result has it's own "style" which follows function. I think the result looks just fine in the "technical" genre which I suspect the LX100 designers wanted to achieve.
There are four phases of camera use: Setup, Prepare, Capture and Review
Prepare Phase is the few minutes before making photos. This is the time to make camera settings for the prevailing conditions and the photographic task ahead.
A very useful type of control module in this phase is the set and see dial, lever, switch or ring. This means a module with marked settings which can be seen by looking at the outside of the camera.
This type of control module is invisible in Capture Phase when one is looking through the viewfinder (or at the monitor but not anywhere else on the camera body) in the process of taking pictures. So the main appeal of such modules (that the user can see the settings on picking up the camera) becomes irrelevant when the user is in the process of making photos.
A well implemented camera allows all primary and secondary exposure and focus parameters to be seen and adjustedin Capture Phase
while continuously looking through the viewfinder and without having to change grip.
Best use for set and see modules
primary exposure parameters such as aperture, shutter speed and ISO
are allocated to set and see modules the setting has to be duplicated in the viewfinder/monitor. But if
settings for these parameters are visible in the viewfinder/monitor they are redundant on set and see modules. The opportunity cost is that
Prepare Phase settings cannot be allocated to those same modules.
Readers unfamiliar with my ergonomic language might like to click on the Basic Concepts page at the top of this blog and review the many posts listed there.
Getting the ergonomics right The mockup illustrated in this post is my vision of the ideal camera built within the dimensional envelope of the LX100. It has the same width, height and depth. But you can see the layout is very different. The handle makes the mockup appear larger than the LX100 but they share the same width, height and depth.
The lens has been moved across to the left leaving space for a fully sculpted ergonomic handle on the right. I assume this is technically feasible as several Sony NEX cameras have this relationship between the body, lens and EVF.
On top of the handle is a shutter button, control dial and two buttons with user allocated function. I would use one for ISO and the other for Exposure Compensation. This arrangement allows for the ergonomically optimal shutter button forward position with the right hand in the half closed/relaxed posture.
Adjustment of aperture/shutter speed (depending on the Mode Dial position), ISO and exposure compensation is very fast, requiring just one finger which has to move no more than 11mm. Both hands hold the camera securely and steadily while these adjustments are made.
button allows the function of a dial or other button to be switched to any user preset alternate function. It is easily reached by the fourth finger of the right hand without disrupting the grip.
The two set and see dials on top are for Drive Mode and Main Capture Mode.
The largish protruding button just to the left of the thumb is a JOG lever for direct control of AF box position.
Including the 4 way controller on the camera back there is a total of 10 buttons, each with user allocated function.
The monitor is fully articulated, which experience has taught me is the most versatile type.
The set and see modules on top of the body and lens barrel are used for Prepare Phase actions, not squandered on Capture Phase adjustments.
Aperture is adjusted with the Control Dial. The rings on the lens are for manual focus and zoom.
All the buttons are larger, more prominent and more tactile (well they are Phillips head screws which actually serve well as buttons because they are easy to locate by feel) than those usually found on a small camera. But they are located so that none will be accidentally pressed while using the camera.
In due course I will fully test a real LX100 and will run time and motion studies comparing the LX100 with the Mockup "LX102".
|Looking at you, ergonomically|
|FZ1000 at E400mm focal length hand held|
Quirky: Having or characterised by peculiar or unexpected traits or aspects.
Algorithm: A procedure or formula for solving a recurrent problem.
With reference to the operation of a camera, the "Recurrent Problem" to be solved in Programme Auto Exposure Mode [P] is the "Firing Solution", which is the correct exposure expressed as ISO setting, Aperture and Shutter Speed. In [P] Mode the camera has to figure out a value for all three exposure parameters, assuming Auto ISO is set and make allowance for the focal length of the lens.
[P] Mode on the FZ1000 selects an unexpected aperture and shutter speed in certain conditions.
[iA] and [iA+]
modes appear to use the same algorithms for Aperture, Shutter Speed and Auto ISO.
In bright light As subject brightness increases, the FZ1000 holds onto the widest aperture available at any focal length until the shutter speed reaches about 1/2000sec. Only then does the aperture start to decrease (the f number starts to increase).
So for instance in bright light the camera will select 1/2000sec @f2.8, with the focal length at E25mm.
Most cameras which I have used close down the aperture as well as increasing shutter speed as light levels increase. This usually brings the lens to an optimal aperture for resolution and allows for increased depth of field.
This would produce say, 1/500sec @ f5.6 giving the same exposure but a more workable aperture and an easily fast enough shutter speed.
The remedy for this is to
* Keep a close eye on the readouts for aperture and shutter speed in the viewfinder,
* Apply Programme Shift with the Rear Dial to bring up the f number to a more workable level.
[iA] and [iA+] users are out of luck as Programme Shift is not available in these Modes.
In moderate light
The camera makes decisions about the firing solution which appear to be in line with other cameras which I have used.
The shutter speed increases as the lens is zoomed out and the ISO setting progressively moves up to 1600.
There are no surprises here,
however the camera selects a shutter speed of 1/60 sec at wide angle when 1/30 sec would probably suffice given the very good 5 axis OIS.
In low and very low light
As subject brightness decreases the camera holds on to ISO1600
until shutter speed drops to 1/6 second at any focal length. Only then does the ISO setting start to increase
Obviously the camera doesn't want to use an ISO setting greater than 1600. But holding
ISO 1600 can result in a very slow shutter speed and unsharpness due to camera shake.
This can be managedof course by using the flash, putting the camera on a tripod or selecting a higher ISO setting.
I find it desirable to keep a close eye on the shutter speed readout in the viewfinder and be aware of the "one over E Focal length" rule for handheld shutter speeds. So if the [Full frame effective] focal length, marked on the lens barrel and appearing in the viewfinder whenever the lens is zoomed, is, say 100mm, then the slowest shutter speed for hand held photos is about 1/100sec for a person with steady hands.
With OIS ON a slower shutter speed may be possible but OIS does nothing to control subject movement.
For best results I find it very useful to closely monitor the aperture, shutter speed and ISO readouts in the viewfinder or monitor and to apply correction as required for best results. Simply leaving the camera to select a firing solution in [P] Mode will sometimes give a suboptimal result, in the form of insufficient depth of field
in bright light or camera shake blur due to slow shutter speed in low light levels.
For this reason I do not use [P] Mode with the FZ100. I use [A] or [S] Mode most of the time.
Panasonic could make an adjustment to the exposure algorithms via a firmware update to bring the FZ1000 firing solution in [P] Mode more in line with other cameras.
|New Apartments. Verticals corrected in Photoshop Camera RAW|
I have been playing tourist in Sydney lately and making use of the photo opportunities which the FZ1000 makes available. This camera handles almost any photographic scenario with its excellent super zoom lens, good performance and good picture quality. I really like not having to change lenses and I really appreciate the compact size of the FZ1000.
All photos were made with the FZ1000, hand held. I used the full range of focal lengths available. Inside the submarine I found the fully articulated monitor very useful for waist level shooting
|Darling Harbour new conference center|
|Inside a submarine-1|