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The independent source for study and review of camera ergonomics.

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    TOUCH  SCREEN  CONTROLS  ARE  USELESS
    On a hand held camera
    Author Andrew S  June 2013


    Sydney Harbour, Opera House, Bridge.  Lumix GH3, 35-100mm f2.8 lens
    Introduction  The world is awash with touch screen devices, many of which can take photos. Presumably rising to the perceived challenge, or need or demand, or maybe just because they can, many cameras are now equipped with touch screen operating capability.  Reviewers and contributors to camera user forums frequently write negative opinions about any camera not thus endowed.
    Ergonomic studies  I have spent the last three years carefully analysing ergonomic aspects of camera function with reference to viewing, holding and operating. I am particularly interested in the study of efficient ways by which a camera can be operated.  All the cameras which I have recently used and currently use offer touch screen controls and all work well, in the sense that the touch screen functions operate as advertised.
    Camera held to the eye  Many cameras have an eye level viewfinder. In my opinion all cameras should have one or they risk becoming irrelevant flotsam washed away by the swelling tide of smart phones, tablets, phablets and other gadgets capable of making photos.
    With eye level viewing, use of touch screen controls is essentially impossible for simple physical reasons.
    Monitor viewing  Most cameras with interchangeable lenses are a "two hands" proposition. The left hand supports the lens, works the zoom and operates manual focus if required. The right hand holds the camera body firmly and operates, at a minimum, the shutter release button.
    So which hand is available to work the touch screen controls ?  Neither is satisfactory. If the left hand is used it has to stop supporting the lens, make the on screen adjustment then return to lens support duty. Or the user adopts  one handed operation which is likely to produce camera shake. If the right hand is used for touch screen duty, it has to stop holding the camera and move right across to the left so the thumb or another finger can access the whole screen. If both hands are used then operating the camera becomes a juggling performance.
    Camera work is much more ergonomic if the device  is designed with a comprehensive suite of hard control units which can be operated without either hand having to release grip on the camera.
    Simple cameras designed for snapshooters don't need touch screen controls either. The snapshooter is better served by a camera which is highly automated, requiring the user to press the shutter release button and little else.
    Finger Wharf Woolloomooloo. Lumix GH3, 35-100mm f2.8 lens
    Tripod mounted use  The hands are now free from camera holding duty and can  operate a touch screen.  But why would one do this ? I don't.  Having practiced with the hard interface modules (buttons, dials, levers etc) until I am familiar with them, why would I switch to a different control modality just because the camera is on a tripod ?
    I could imagine that a professional photographer or videographer who uses his or her camera on a tripod  most of the time, might find touch screen control quite useful and a preferred way to operate. But most of us use the camera handheld 99% of the time, when touch screen operation is either impossible or difficult.
    Summary  I think that manufacturers have lost touch with the notion of a camera and with basic ergonomic concepts of camera operation. I believe they need to redefine a camera as distinctly different from all the smart phones, tablets, phablets, gidgets and widgets which proliferate in abundance. They need to stop marketing cameras with reference to features which the widgets do much better, like Wi-Fi, connectivity, streaming to social media and touch screens. They need to focus (pun intended) on features and capabilities which the phones and phablets do not offer.  These would include at the very least, I would think:  A decent electronic viewfinder in every unit, a comprehensive suite of hard interface modules on every camera designed for expert use, a zoom lens of decent quality, speedy, responsive performance for focussing and shot to shot times and image quality much better than any phone cam can offer.
    Many recent camera releases completely fail to offer these basic features.


     


     


     


     


     


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    Viewfinder Location, Which is best ?
    Built in to the camera ?  If so Where ? Top Left or in a Hump ?
    Author Andrew S May 2013
    Lumix GH3. Hump top with 2 Set and See dials, buttons, levers.
    Introduction   Olympus recently announced their latest Micro Four Thirds camera, the EP5. This is Olympus' 11th M43 camera, only one of which, the  EM5,  has a built in viewfinder. In  promotional product photos, the EP5 is often shown with the accessory VF4 electronic viewfinder  attached.  Given the success of the EM5, I wondered what kind of thinking process led the Olympus product development people to produce yet another camera without a built in viewfinder.
    Brief historical review   Once upon a time, way back in the good [?] old days of film,  designers had limited choice. There being no live view monitor, all cameras required a viewfinder of some description. Viewfinder position was mostly determined by the inherent mechanical properties of the camera type. So an SLR viewfinder was located behind the pentaprism which sat above the focussing screen and mirror box. The mirror box had to be approximately in the midle of the body to allow for the film cassette on one side and take up spool on the opposite side.  Rangefinder cameras like the Leica M series put the viewfinder in the top left corner to allow for the messsucher optics across the top of the camera.
    The Digital Revolution brought live view on a Monitor screen which at first appeared to eliminate the need for an eye level viewfinder.  But many photographers came to realise that an eye level viewfinder is very useful  in four situations:
    1. In sunny/bright light, when even the best monitors are difficult to see properly.
    2. When a long lens is mounted the camera must be held steady to prevent camera shake. This is best achieved by pressing the camera against one's head, using the eye level view.
    3. In low light levels with slow shutter speeds, the camera must be held steady.
    4. When one wants to block out nearby distractions and concentrate completely on the subject and the process of making the photograph.
    Lumic GH2. Smaller camera. Hump top with 2 Set and See dials, 3 levers, fewer buttons.
    Smart Phones/Gadgets vs Cameras   These days there is a multitude of electronic gadgets which can take still photos or video of anything which is in front of, or in many cases, behind the device. If the camera as a distinct genus of device is to survive at all then the camera needs to bring things to the image capture experience which smart gadgets do not.  One of those things is an eye level viewfinder.  So my first proposition is that:
    Every camera needs an eye level viewfinder   I have argued in another post on this blog that the best type of viewfinder is Electronic.
    The next question is:
    Should the VF be built in or an attachable accessory ?  
    Arguments for the detachable VF might include:
    1.  Making the VF separate gives the user a choice, to use it or not.
    2.  Leaving it off  the main body of the camera allows a more compact size to be achieved.
    Arguments for the built in VF include:
    1. The cost of any particular model EVF (or OVF) is much lower if it is built in than supplied separately.  The extra cost of a separate EVF is a disincentive so many owners do not buy it. So for these users, there is no choice at the point of image capture.
    2. A separate EVF is a Nuisance.  It is never on the camera when you want it. Conversely it will be attached when you don't want it to be, such as when you want  to put the camera back in it's bag. It has to be carried separately. To attach it to the camera it has to be located in the bottom of the camera bag somewhere and  removed from a protective pouch.  Cover plates have to be removed from the EVF and/or camera connector ports and eventually, the EVF pushed into place.
    3. If the EVF is kept attached all the time it is subject to damage when being pushed in and out of a camera bag.  Then there is the obvious point that if it always attached it would have been better built in.
    4. A well located built in EVF does not add much to the overall size of a camera body. Check out Sony's NEX 6 and 7 models for proof of this.
     
    This mockup is slightly wider but has less depth than the GH3. The design allows 3 Set and See dials on top with revised, more ergonomic quad control layout near the shutter button and a JOG lever on the back.
    All this leads to my second proposition which is:

    Every Camera needs a built in EVF 
    Which leads to the next question.
    What is the best location for the EVF ? 
    Until recently I believed the best place for any camera was top left, rangefinder style. However my ongoing work with camera mockups has led me to a somewhat more complex view. This is based on the proposition that there are two main types of camera user, Snapshootersand Controllers  (a.k.a. expert/experienced users). I think that a camera designed mainly for snapshooters will work best with the EVF top left. [Rangefinder look alike style]  A camera intended for use by controllers will make better use of the EVF in a hump [SLR look alike style]. Here follows my reasoning:
    Before we go further I want to mention touch screen controls.  I have argued the case elsewhere on this blog that touch screen controls so beloved by manufacturers and reviewers are actually useless on a camera being used for hand held still photos.  
    This schematic illustrates why more user interface modules can fit on the top of a hump top camera than a flat top design.
    Selection of the best EVF position involves consideration of  User Interface Modules (UIM) and camera real estate. The designer can fit more UIM's on the top of a "Hump" camera than a flat top camera.  The diagram above shows why this is so. In the case of  a flat top design all the UIM's have to line up in a row. With the hump top, the EVF, Hot Shoe and Built in Flash are arranged front to back. In consequence, hump top designs can, if desired, fit three Set and See Dials  on top, while the flat top design has space for only one. Some cameras such as the Fuji X-Pro1/E1 have tried to fit a second Set and See Dial [Exposure Compensation] at the far right rear corner of the top plate. I have read many reports of this dial being accidentally bumped indicating it is in the wrong  place for a UIM controlling a critical exposure parameter.
    The flat top style camera has less UIM's, is smaller and looks less intimidating than the hump top style. It is more suitable for the snapshooter. The hump top style can have more UIM's  making it more suitable for the expert/controller photographer.
    This mockup has exactly the same dimensions (WxHxD) as the Nikon 1-V2. But with a more evolved ergonomic design it has a full complement of user control modules. There are three Set and See dials on top and the ergonomically efficient quad control layout near the shutter release button. In addition a JOG lever is provided on the rear. This mockup is a proof of concept, namely that a very small camera like this can have a full suite of hard UIMs if properly designed.
    What's Available ?
    DSLR's  have an optical viewfinder, except for the Sony SLT types which use an EVF. But they all put the viewfinder in a hump. Unfortunately DSLR's are unable to reap the full benefits of hump top design. In the case of entry level models the hump is large in relation to the rest of the camera so there is only enough space for one Set and See Dial, placed to the right of the hump. With the mid to high level models there is an LCD panel [required because electronic view is absent from the optical VF] top right on the body, preventing placement of anything else there.
    The Fuji X-E1 is a flat top design which has tried to squeeze in an extra Set and See dial top right (Exposure Compensation). But users report this gets bumped often, which you can see would be likely just from looking at the photograph. By way of contrast the Nikon CX mockup above is designed so the dials will be easy to turn when required but will not be subject to accidental movement.
    Mirrorless ILC's  have their own design issues. A particular problem for MILC development has been uncertainty about the target buyer. This has led to some half baked designs which appeared to have been trying to appeal to both user groups but ended up satisfying neither.  One manufacturer, Panasonic appears to be moving in (what I consider to be) the right direction with it's latest and rumored new models. At the expert/controller end we have the Lumix GH3 which is a very good, if not quite perfect,  implementation of the hump top MILC.  At the other end is the recently announced Lumix LF1 compact camera with flat top and built in EVF top left.  Inbetween comes the yet unannounced GX2  (a M43 camera)  which is rumored to have the flat top, EVF top left layout. 


    Conclusion I take the view that camera makers need to reconnect with the concept of a camera and make products which are distinctly different from photo capable gadgets. They need to deliver cameras which are clearly aimed at either snapshooters or experts, not some nebulous and possibly non existent group inbetween. Most of all they need to make cameras which are enjoyable to use.


     


     


     


     


     


     


     


     


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    User report after Four Years
    A good scanner for large, medium or small format film
    Author Andrew S  June 2013
    Angophora After Fire.   From Original 4x5inch Velvia transparency
    Introduction   I stopped using film six years ago, but  have many large, medium and small format film images in my personal collection  I have been re-scanning a lot of these  negatives and transparencies recently so I thought it timely to report on my experience using the Epson V700 over the last four years.
    V700 Overview (top) and detail (above)
     
    Description The Epson Perfection V700 Photo is a versatile flatbed scanner which came onto the market around 2006 and is still available new in the AUD650-900 price range.  There was initially a V750 Pro version with a fluid mount option but I have no experience with this. There is a theoretical advantage to fluid mounting originals for scanning but the process appears to be  messy and tedious and the scanner does a good job with standard dry scans anyway.
    The V700 Photo can scan original prints or other documents up to A4 size. It comes with a set of film holders for 35mm film in strips or mounted, medium format rollfilm in strips and 4x5inch large format sheets. It can manage monochrome or color originals as print or document, positive transparency or negative.  
    Arusha Street Scene.   From 35mm positive original
     
    Scanning software  For my first two years with the V700, I used Silverfast [SF] scanning software. But when I upgraded my computer and operating system that particular version of Silverfast software was no longer compatible, so I went back to using the basic scanning software package supplied by Epson. I discovered this worked just fine and gave me scans of equal quality to those made using the rather expensive SF plug in.
    Hyde Park Sydney.   From a 35mm TRI-X original
     
    Working with Epson Scan   I spent much time and effort wrestling with the adjustments provided in Epson Scan. These include a comprehensive Histogram management facility, Tone Correction, Image Adjustments and Color Palette. In addition the scanner provides Unsharp Masking, Grain Reduction, Color Restoration, Backlight Correction, Dust Removal and Digital ICE.
    Then one day I had an epiphany and made some scans using "Auto Exposure" and all the adjustments switched OFF.  I edited the output TIFF files in Photoshop and Adobe Camera Raw (which works just fine on TIFFs) and got even better results than before.
    I accidentally discovered that I got best results by making a plain, low contrast, unmodified scan using auto exposure then doing all photo editing adjustments in Photoshop.
    Tanzania.   From a 35mm positive original
     
    Epson Scan Window  A screen shot of the main Epson Scan window is shown below.
    Screen Shot of  V700 Epson Scan Window
     
    The settings which I use are:
    Mode: Professional
    Name: Default
    Original Document Type: Reflective or Film
    Film Type: Positive film, Color negative film, B&W negative film.
    Destination Image Type: You get several choices here. I make things simple by using 24 bit color [8 bit per channel] for color originals and 16 bit grayscale for monochrome originals. You can select 48 bit color [16 bit per channel] for color originals but the results are in most cases not discernably better then 8 bit per channel.  Selecting 48 bit slows scanning markedly and produces huge files.
    Resolution:  
    Reflective: 300 or 600 dpi, depending on the size and content of the original.
    4x5 inch large format transparency or negative: 1200 dpi.
    Medium format rollfilm; 2400 dpi.
    35mm film: 4800 dpi.
    I find that scanning at higher resolutions just prolongs scan times and produces very large files with no discernible benefit to the final prints.
    Document Size/Target Size: I just leave these at default and adjust image size later in Photoshop if required.
    Adjustments:  There is a row of icons with bounding boxes just beneath the word Adjustments in the scanning window.  These are Auto Exposure, Histogram, Tone Correction, Image Adjustments and Color Palette. Having spent years fiddling around with these I now simply select Auto Exposure for all scans and completely avoid the rest. This is much easier and gives better scans as well.
    Adjustments: Below the Auto Exposure icon is a list of scanning adjustments. From the top these are: Unsharp Mask, Grain reduction, Color Restoration, Backlight Correction, Dust Removal and Digital ICE.  I switch all of these OFF. Note that USM is on by default and has to be  deselected for every preview and scan.
    Working this way moves all image editing into the Photoshop environment which in my experience, particularly with Adobe Camera Raw, does a better job and is easier to use than the scanner based adjustments.
    Preview: I use Normal, not Thumbnail as the preview type. This allows more accurate selection of the scanning area. Thumbnail routinely crops the frame edges.
    Scan: Before scanning, set up a folder in Windows Explorer or Mac equivalent to receive the output TIFF from the scanner. Align all mounted 35mm images with their long sides parallel to the long side of the scanner.


    Remarkable Rocks Kangaroo Island.   From a 6x7 cm medium format original

    Image Adjustment  My practice is to send the output TIFF to Photoshop first, for rotation and L/R flip if required, as is often the case. I then send it to Adobe Camera Raw (ACR)  for adjustments to brightness relationships, contrast, clarity etc. After that it goes back to Photoshop for the often tedious process of cleaning up dust, scratches, blemishes etc.


    Results  The V700 does an excellent job with all types of large and medium format originals, revealing all the information and tonal range present in the originals. Prints from large and medium format originals, color or B&W, can be made up to any size of which the printer is capable, including large mural style prints.


    Avalon Beach New South Wales.  From a 35mm negative

    In the case of 35mm originals I am seeing very good results from Black and White (silver/gelatin) film originals, with all the information and tonal range present in the originals being expressed in the output TIFFs. I have printed several of my 35mm B&W film negatives at A2+ size with very pleasing results. My subjective impression is that Kodak TRI-X scans a little better than other B&W films which I have used. This film also prints well in the darkroom.


    The V700  apears to be less capable with color transparency or negative originals in 35mm size. These have a tendency to flaring at light/dark boundaries, lack of resolution/sharpness and a blotchy, unappealing appearance of the film grain, particularly from color negative materials. I have found that with 35mm color originals heavy sharpening adjustment is required. In ACR I need to push the Amount, Radius and Detail sliders across to the right, not always with entirely satisfying results. I rate the output from color 35mm originals as suitable for prints up to A3 size.


    Summary  The V700 is a versatile, capable scanner with many uses and high quality output. It has been very reliable over the last 4 years with no operational problems.  It is easy to use. When working it makes a cacophony of sounds like the  haunted house at Luna Park, all of which appears to be quite normal.   


    If my collection of film images was mainly of 35mm color negative or transparency type, I would seriously consider getting a dedicated 35mm film scanner. Otherwise the V700 does a very good job.


     


     


     


     


     


     


     


     


     


     


     


     


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    Part 1, Just the Facts
    Author Andrew S,  June 2013

     

    Gasherbrums from Concordia, Pakistan.  Original photo on medium format film, Mamiya 7. Scanned with Epson V700


    Introduction   Way back in the days of film, there was a limited selection of sizes from which to choose. Most people used the ubiquitous 35mm film, giving an image size of 24x36mm. Some cameras such as the original Olympus Pen, made half frame images on standard 35mm film. Just at the end of the film era the APS photo system was introduced, but failed to thrive under the onslaught of the digital revolution. This system used  a film size smaller than 35mm and produced  images a little smaller than half frame. Professional studio workers and a few enthusiast amateurs used medium format rollfilm, giving an image size of 6x4.5, 6x6, 6x7 or 6x9 cm.  An even smaller number of hardy souls used large format film usually in the 4x5 inch size. One of the advatages of film in rolls was that dedicated panorama cameras could utilise a super wide image format.
    The digital era  By my count there are 9 sensor sizes in common use for cameras at the time of writing. Is there any sense in which one of them can be regarded as "ideal" ?  Can one predict which, if any, will prevail in future ?  These are not entirely frivolous questions particularly for the photographer seeking to make an investment in a system with one or more camera bodies, several lenses and other accessories. Nobody wants to be left holding equipment from a photo system which has failed in the marketplace.
    Sensor size comparison  Below is a diagram showing comparative sizes and dimensions of sensor sizes. Various medium format sizes, all larger than full frame, are not shown. 

     



    Sensor size vs image quality  We know that larger sensors deliver better image quality. That is the principal selling point for the larger sizes, which of course are more expensive and presumably deliver more profit margin for the manufacturer and vendor. I have put some numbers on this for consideration. As a proxy for image quality I have used the DXO Mark score [dxomark.com] for the best sensor at each size, published at the time of writing. I know there is some discussion about the validity of the DXO Mark score, but in my experience using many cameras there is  broad general agreement between DXO Mark score and real world image quality. In the table below I have compared the DXO Mark score to the area of each sensor. This makes no pretence at being "scientific", in the sense that the ratio doesn't have any specific meaning,  but I did the exercise to show that on a score per image area basis,  smaller sensors dramatically outperform larger ones. You get a lot more performance per square millimeter from small sensors than large ones.
    The table below summarises these relationships.


    Sensor Name

    Diagonal mm

    Area

    square mm

    Camera

    Sensor maker

    Score

    Ratio score/area

    1/2.3"

    7.75

    29

    Lumix FZ200

    ?

    37

    1.3

    1/1.7"

    9.35

    42

    Nikon P330

    Sony ?

    54

    1.3

    2/3"

    11

    58

    Fuji X10

    Fujitsu ?

    50

    0.86

    1"/Nikon CX

    15.9

    116

    Sony RX100

    Nikon 1 V2

    Sony

     

    Aptina

    66

     

    50

    0.57

     

    0.43

    Micro 4/3

    21.6

    225

    Lumix GH3/

    Olympus Pens

    Sony

    71/72

    0.32

    APSC Canon

    27

    332

    EOS 60D

    Canon

    66

    0.12

    APSC Nikon

    28

    367

    Nikon D5200

    Sony

    84

    0.23

    Full Frame

    43

    864

    Nikon D800

    Sony

    96

    0.11


     

    Table highlights:
    * Sony appears to have the upper hand as sensor maker for consumer cameras at the present time. To illustrate this I included two cameras at the 15.9 mm sensor size. The Sony RX100, presumably using a Sony sensor, is 16 points ahead of the Nikon V2 with Aptina sensor. The Nikon V2 can do a great many things of which the RX100 is incapable but the sensor performance difference is clear, at least at base ISO levels.
    * You get a lot more bang for your buck with the smaller sensors.
    * The march of progress is bringing the performance of smaller sensors up to the same level as that of larger sensors just a year or few previously. Of course the larger sensors are also improving. This raises the question of "good enough" image quality which I will explore in  later articles.
    * I hasten to point out that image quality is only one criterion one might use when considering which camera to buy. For instance the Nikon P330 has a very good  DXO Mark score [54] equal to some of last year's Micro Four Thirds cameras which use a sensor two size steps larger. However CNet Australia reports that the RAW shot to shot time is 6 seconds. Good Grief. I could operate much faster than that in 1967 with an all manual Pentax Spotmatic DSLR.


     


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    Is There an Ideal Sensor Size ? Part 2, Full Frame
    Author Andrew S  June 2013


    Thamel, Kathmandu.  I made this photo several years ago on 35mm film. A modern full frame DSLR would deliver better image quality but would not, I think, be any better able to convey a sense of place.
    Background  The 24x36mm film/sensor size, with a diagonal measurement of 43mm, is deeply embedded in the history of photography. The format arose in the early part of the 20th Century from movie film which used, and still uses, perforated film 35mm wide with 4 perforations per frame, giving a picture size of 24x16mm.   For still photo the frame size was increased to 24x36mm, using 8 perforations per frame. The first still camera using the new "miniature" format appeared in 1913. The format was popularised by Ernst LEItz CAmera in 1924 and made famous by the work of Henri Cartier Bresson and other photo journalists.
    The present  Fast forward 100 years and much has changed. The 24x36  format is no longer regarded as "miniature". It is more often referred to these days as "Full Frame". Image quality [IQ] of the latest and best full frame DSLR's is dramatically better than that of any film based 35mm camera. In fact I would rate the IQ of the Nikon D800/800E cameras as about the same as fine grain low speed 4x5" large format color transparency film. But the modern full frame DSLR is vastly more versatile and portable than any large format camera.
    Professional photographers use high grade full frame DSLR's for most of their work, because these cameras and their lenses are reliable, dependable and deliver the goods, in terms of publishable images.
    But smaller, less obtrusive, less expensive cameras such as the Panasonic Lumix GH3 are now able to deliver the photographic goods most of the time, so what does the future hold for the full frame DSLR ? 
    I guess that CanoNikon will keep making them as long as people keep buying them. My reading of current trends in the industry is that in fact the full frame DSLR is one of the few market categories that is growing just now. I can see the logic of this. Photographers who must have  the best image quality and best performance from a camera have really only one place to go. That place right now is a full frame DSLR.
    Another factor is that there are millions of  very good quality full frame lenses out there providing an incentive for their owners to stay with a full frame system.
    The drawback of full frame DSLR's is that they are, compared to other hand holdable cameras, large, heavy, expensive and obtrusive. Their top level zoom lenses are also large, heavy, expensive and obtrusive. A Canon EOS 1DX fitted with an EF 70-200mm f2.8 lens costs, at Australian retail rates $9095. A Lumix GH3 with Lumix 35-100mm f2.8 lens, giving the same field of view and aperture, costs, from the same vendor, $2658. The Canon with lens cannot be used unobtrusively, the Lumix can.  
    CanoNikon are trying to address the size/weight/cost/obtrusiveness problem with a range of low, or at least lower than previously, cost bodies and compact prime lenses of good quality like the Canon EF 40mm f2.8 STM.
    If the rumors which I read are correct, it appears Sony may try to upset CanoNikon's hegemony of the full frame market with a mirrorless interchangeable lens [MILC] offering. This appears logical on two grounds. First Sony is unlikely to dent CanoNikon's market share with a look-alike DSLR. Second, I would bet Sony and other manufacturers see  the future of interchangeable lens cameras as being with the MILC camera type.  Sony needs to tackle CanoNikon with a disruptive innovation and it appears they will do that.
    We live in interesting times.


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    Author  Andrew S    June 2013


    Birdsville Hotel 2007.  I made this photo with a Canon EOS 20D which did a good job with it's 8 mpx sensor.

    Background  In the early days of digital photography, imaging sensors were very expensive. So the first digital cameras with interchangeable lenses did not have full frame 24x36mm sensors.  The 3.1 megapixel Canon D30, introduced in May 2000 used a much smaller and less expensive sensor measuring 15.1x22.7mm.  This was close to although slightly smaller than the 16.7x25.1mm APS-C film size. APS stands for Advanced Photo System which was introduced in 1996, but failed to thrive because it delivered less image quality than standard 35mm film and in any event got rolled over by the march of digital image capture. Nikon's response was the 6 mpx D100, introduced in 2002, with a slightly larger sensor measuring 15.5x23.7mm. The megapixel race had begun.
    Since then the great majority of interchangeable lens digital cameras have used either the Canon or Nikon (and others)  APS-C imager size. This has been a great  success for the APS-C digital format and, you might imagine, the basis for future triumph in the market place.
    On it's own merits, APS-C could form the basis of a high quality photo system with enough image quality to satisfy the most critical professional and enthusiast photographers. The cameras are reasonably compact and the lenses can be smaller than those for full frame sensors.  Several makers (Sony, Fuji, Samsung, Pentax, Canon) of Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens  Cameras [MILC] have opted for this sensor size.
    But my crystal ball becomes cloudy when I look at future scenarios for APS-C.
    It seems to me that APS-C is under pressure from above (full frame) and below (Micro Four Thirds).
    I think that CanoNikon want to upsell their customers to full frame. Both Canon and Nikon have a restricted lens lineup for their APS-C cameras. There are plenty of consumer style zooms but neither has the equivalent of the classic 70-200mm f2.8 tele zoom and both offer  a very restricted range of fast prime lenses for APS-C.  The message is clear enough. If you want the good gear, move up to full frame. 
    We see a similar picture with the APS-C MILC's.  Sony offers a restricted lens choice for it's NEX cameras and Sony's promotional material clearly indicates they want you to step up to the larger format if you want the best gear. Fuji offers some interesting MILC's but again with a limited lens lineup and a rather niche approach to design. Canon may  have a coherent plan for it's mirrorless offerings but if so they are keeping it secret from potential buyers. Pentax tripped up with it's disastrous K-01 and Samsung may or may not be going somewhere with it's NX system.
    On the other hand there is pressure on APS-C from below, in the form of the Micro Four Thirds format. The M43 sensor measures 13x17.3mm with a diagonal of 21.6mm which is just about exactly half that of full frame, giving a sensor area about one quarter of full frame.
    Being mirrorless, M43 cameras can be, and in fact are, substantially smaller than those for APS-C DSLR's. But the biggest difference lies in lens sizes, which particularly at the long end of the spectrum are markedly smaller than those for APS-C cameras, be they DSLR or MILC. The latest M43 cameras have image quality very close to Nikon APS-C and in fact better than Canon APS-C.
    I think that if a manufacturer gave whole hearted support to an APS-C system, either DSLR or MILC, it could be an ongoing success and serve the needs of enthusiast and professional photographers very well.  But none of them is giving the format full support.
    Which makes me wonder...............


     


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    Author  Andrew S  June 2013


    This photo was made at night, Lumix GH3 camera held at waist height, viewing on the articulated monitor. Composition, framing, focus and capture took about two seconds. ISO 6400, 1/60sec, f2.8. If this photo had been made with a full frame camera f5.6 would have been required for the same depth of field, and ISO 25,600 for the same shutter speed.

    In the beginning  The first camera built to the new Micro Four Thirds [M43] standard was the Panasonic Lumix G1 of 2009. At the time I thought and several other commentators opined that the destiny of M43 would be to become the dominant interchangeable lens camera format for amateur, enthusiast and eventually professional photographers.
    What is M43 ?  The format uses a sensor with half the diagonal and about one quarter the area of traditional full frame. Much of the complex stuff in a DSLR such as the flipping mirror and prism  is not required  so the bodies can be much smaller than a DSLR. The smaller sensor allows the lenses to be much smaller as well.  The M43 standard is open, so any maker can produce bodies and/or lenses to fit. At the time of writing the M43 system offers a wide selection of bodies and compatible lenses from several manufacturers.
    The latest models offer very good image quality, performance and ergonomics.  On my analysis, M43 cameras should be flying off the shelves right now.  But that is not the case. In fact some recent industry reports have indicated sales of m43 equipment have slowed recently after an initial surge.
    What's the problem?   I have no inside knowlege of the camera industry at all but as a consumer I can see several issues which could be impeding market penetration of the M43 system.
    Marketing:  In order to fly off the shelves goods need to be on the shelves in the first place. In Australia, that is not the case. It is difficult to find any M43 equipment on display in most camera shops and other places where cameras are sold.  Vendors want to carry fast moving lines, so they stock only the best known brands and camera types, so that is what their customers see and buy. This reinforces the dominant CanoNikon duopoly. Panasonic and Olympus need to devise assertive marketing strategies to counter this.
    Brand Recognition/System recognition: The big names are Canon and Nikon. Panasonic has good brand recognition but not in the camera business, and I would guess that few people  recognise "Lumix" as a camera brand.  Olympus has a long camera making tradition but more as a niche player than dominant force.  
    Corporate Problems: Olympus was hit with a giant fraud scandal last year and Panasonic has been posting massive corporate losses for the last several years.
    Image Quality/Performance/Ergonomics: The latest M43 camera and lenses deliver excellent image qualiy, performance and ergonomics. But this has not been the case until very recently. Early M43 models lagged significantly behind their DSLR competition.
    The burden of Disruptive Innovation:  The DSLR is an established technology. Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens Cameras and M43 in paticular are a Disruptive Innovation. It takes time and effort for the makers of the new technology to convince buyers that the new thing  is really better than established offerings.
    Will M43 prevail ?  Who Knows?  If  Olympus and Panasonic can avert bankruptcy, stay in the camera business and  continue M43 research and development then yes, I think M43 can prevail. But those are big if's. We shall see.  


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    Author  Andrew S   June 2013


    Nikon 1 Mockup Front View
    Nikon 1 Mockup Rear view

     


    What is it ?  The so-called "one inch" or Nikon CX imager size measures 8.8x13.2mm, with a diagonal of 15.9mm. It is the next size down from M43 with about half the area of a M43 sensor. For some reason unknown to me this size uses a 2:3 aspect ratio which I find a bit puzzling as the 3:4 ratio used by M43 and most of the smaller sensors, makes better use of the available image circle.
    Cameras The two most notable camera types to use this sensor size are the Sony RX100 fixed zoom lens compact and the Nikon 1 System cameras with interchangeable lenses.
    The Sony RX100 arrived to great fanfare last year with some excited previewers claiming it would be the most important camera of the century etc, etc....... Once users got their hands on it some deficiencies in ergonomics became evident.  However it still remains a landmark camera because of the high pixel count (20 mpx) and  image quality which Sony managed to extract from such a small sensor. The DXO Mark score is 66 which is the same as the Canon EOS 60D and 7D both of which have less pixels on the much larger APS-C sensor size. I rate a DXO Mark score of 66 as indicating good enough image quality for a wide range of users, uses and photographic challenges.
    Nikon introduced it's strangely named "1" system to a distinctly  unimpressed cadre of camera reviewers in 2011. One photo magazine editor described the V1 as a "mongrel". There were many problems with the first round of 1 system cameras. I think the fundamental one was that the product development people at Nikon appeared to be uncertain as to the target buyer. Was the 1 system for snapshooters, snapshooter upgraders, expert/enthusiasts or gadget /gimmick lovers ? The V1 and it's siblings featured atrocious ergonomics, making one wonder what planet the 1 series designers had been living on while the rest of Nikons' enterprise rolled out millions of DSLR's with mostly decent ergonomic capability (with a few notable glitches). The V2 is a complete redesign of the 1- system -with- EVF concept  featuring improved but still not excellent ergonomics. Unfortunately image quality as measured by DXO Mark anyway, has gone backwards, from 54 to 50.
    Development potential   I think this format has considerable development potential. I rate it as the smallest practical sensor around which a fully featured interchangeable lens system can be built and the largest practical sensor which can be accommodated by a compact camera with inbuilt viewfinder and zoom lens of useful aperture and range. The second proposition is almost proved by the Sony RX100, although this camera lacks an EVF.
    To test the first proposition I made a wooden mockup camera with exactly the same dimensions, WidthxHeightxDepth, as the V2. You can see the photos of this mockup at the top of this article. This mockup features a fully ergonomic handle and control interface design, with all the hard controls you would expect to find on a full featured pro level DSLR. It is very comfortable to hold and operate. It has three set and see dials on the top plate with the very efficient quad control system on top of the parallel top handle. There is a JOG lever within easy reach of the right thumb without having to shift grip with the right hand.
    The mockup lens shown is about 15mm longer than the actual 10-100mm f4-5.6  1 Series superzoom lens. If this were a real lens I estimate it would be about 10-120mm. This makes an extremely compact all purpose, superzoom one lens kit ready for almost any purpose and ideal for family, travel, holiday or  junior soccer. Don't laugh, junior soccer action is very difficult to photograph. There are very few cameras on the market today which can cope with the unpredictable, constantly shifting pace and direction of the player's movements.
    When Nikon can source a higher performing sensor for the 1 series and correct the V2's remaining ergonomic deficiencies, I think they will have a very competitive product line.  Oh, Yes, realistic pricing would help too.


    Watch this space.


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    Author Andrew S  June 2013


    The surf was up today so I snapped a few boardriders off the point at Dee Why. Not made with a superzoom camera as I don't own one. I used a Lumix GH3 with Lumix 100-300mm lens

    All together  I have grouped the smaller formats together as they have to some extent a common purpose. This has been to provide the imager for compact cameras and superzooms, with numerous variations of each type. The smaller sensor size allows designers to create cameras with a fixed, non interchangeable, zoom lens and either very small size or a very great zoom range. Given that compact digital cameras are being swept away by the roaring tide of phone cams, we are left with superzoom, all purpose cameras as the main raison d'être of small sensors.  
    Interchangeable lenses, boon or burden ?   I read somewhere but now forget the reference, that for every camera capable of taking interchangeable lenses, the makers sell 1.5 lenses. Given that some enthusiasts have many lenses, it follows that most owners buy the camera with one zoom lens and leave it on the camera permanently. Most people really don't want to be bothered with changing lenses.
     My dream camera  I am one of those who change lenses only because I must do so to get the results which I seek. My dream camera would have a fixed zoom lens with a diagonal angle of view ranging from 100 degrees at the wide end to 4 degrees at the long end.   This is equivalent to a focal length of 18mm-610mm in 24x36mm format and 9-305mm in M43 format.  This is a 34x zoom range starting very wide at the short end. It would need to have an aperture not smaller than f2.8 at any focal length. Image quality would be equivalent to a DXO Mark score of 75. It would have a fully articulated monitor, a high quality EVF and excellent ergonomics.
    Of course such a paragon of photographic capability does not presently exist but might it be possible in the near future ?
    Big Surf. Lumix GH3, Lumix 100-300mm lens.
     
    What's on offer ?
    2/3" 6.6x8.8/11mm   Fuji uses this sensor size in it's X10/20 compacts and, of more interest to my quest for the dream camera, the X-S1 superzoom model. This has a 26x f 2.8-5.6 zoom ranging from 84-4 degrees diagonal angle of view. This is a moderately large camera weighing 920 grams but it is very much more compact than an ILC model with 3 or 4 interchangeable lenses. The X-S1 is actually not such a long journey from my ideal. The lens is two stops slower than f2.8 at the long end, the short end is not as wide as I would like and the DXO Mark score is 50. At least DXO marked the X10, which uses the same sensor, at 50.   If the lens were to meet my criteria it would be very large indeed and probably unmarketable. So barring some dramatic new lens making discovery we need to look at a smaller sensor size, bearing in mind that lens size is largely determined by sensor size.
    1/1.7"  5.6x7.5/9.36mm (and variations)  This size is very popular for advanced compacts such as the Lumix LX7, Canon G series and several others.  Strangely I have not been able to find a superzoom camera using this sensor size. Which is odd because I have an idea that this size might be the largest which could provide a lens meeting my requirements but with marketably compact dimensions. Best DXO Mark score for this sensor size as I write is 54 (Nikon P330) which seems to me to be within reach of a 20 point boost [equivalent to 1.3 stops better noise performance] over the next year or few.
    Pentax offers  the Q series cameras with interchangeable lenses using this sensor size from the latest iteration. This is undoubtedly cute and comes in "120 color combinations" according to the promotional literature. But the point of the Pentax  Q  as a camera somewhat escapes me. If they put a wide range zoom on the thing it wouldn't need interchangeable lenses at all.
    1/2"  4.8x6.4/8mm  This sensor size is used by Fuji on it's HS series superzooms and  F770/800 EXR long zoom compacts.
    1/2.3"  4.5x6.2/7.72mm (and variations)  This size is used on most compacts and superzoom cameras. The Panasonic Lumix FZ200  is one of the more interesting because it's lens is a constant f2.8 from a diagonal angle of view of 80 degrees at the short end to 4.1 degrees at the long end. This almost meets my criteria. The other features of this camera come close too, including a fully articulated monitor and built in EVF. The big letdown is of course it's image quality which at DXO Mark 37 is almost three stops short of my desired level.
    Summary So it seems my ideal camera is not yet within reach. But if some clever maker does produce a camera meeting my admittedly taxing specifications, I expect the entire interchangeable lens camera industry will go down the drain faster than you can count to ten.
    Do the camera makers really want that ??
    Now there's a thought.................


     


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  • 06/20/13--01:25: Staying With Photoshop

  • Author  AndrewS  June 2013


    Masai Structure. I made this color transparency in Tanzania, 1991. The resulting printable photo has been improving over the years as each iteration of Photoshop provides more sophisticated management of scanner output.

    My first digital camera  was a Canon Powershot S70, in 2004. To edit the images I bought Photoshop Elements 3 and began climbing up the long steep learning curve of image editing software.  Later I upgraded my camera to one which produced RAW files. At the same time my image editing ambitions grew so I entered the 16 bit world of "Big Photoshop", starting with PS CS4.  The learning curve grew steeper. I spent several years gaining basic competence, upgrading to each new version of Photoshop along the way.
    Cost Over the 4.5 years from November 2008 to June 2013, I spent AUD844.81 on Ps  CS4/5/6. That is AUD15.60 per month. I believe that Photoshop prices in Australia were  significantly higher than in other countries, particularly USA.
    The new deal  Adobe recently announced that most of  it's products would move from a purchase model to a monthly subscription model.  The introductory price for one year is AUD9.99 per month. That gets you the full Photoshop Extended which previously cost much more than standard Photoshop. I have to confess this is entirely academic for me as the features of Ps Extended are way beyond  my capability level.
    The Rage Response  The subscription model appeared very sensible to me so I signed up within minutes of it becoming available. I was completely astonished by the very different response from other bloggers, website proprietors and users on photo forums. The anti Adobe rage fest went into full swing. Photoshop users cursed Adobe, using vituperative and colourful language. Many proclaimed Adobe would never see their money again.
    What was the fuss about ?  Some of the rage response came from people who appeared not to have read even the press releases properly, let alone any of the many product details available. Some appeared to think they "owned" their current version of Ps and would no longer do so in the subscription model.  Of course all they ever bought was a license to use the Adobe software. It was never owned in the sense that anyone could legally resell the product. Some appeared to think that the whole Photoshop enterprise would move up to some nebulous cloudy place, taking all the files with it. Adobe can take some of the blame for that one, the name "CC" did seem to suggest that everything was headed for the clouds.
    Apart from that there were various issues, but perhaps the main one was simply change and maybe people are tired of relentless change. 
    Alternatives to Photoshop  I have over the years investigated many of these and have discovered that none of them even claims a full set of capabilities equal to Photoshop.
    Photoshop  does everything I want within one operating environment, at a level of capability which usually exceeds competing software products. I have found that if another software provider improves on Photoshop in some particular way, Adobe generally buys that provider to incorporate their discovery into Photoshop or reverse engineers it. Either way the good stuff ends up in Photoshop sooner or later, and usually sooner. 
    Masai Boys Tanzania, 1991. Color transparency, Epson V700 scan, photoshop.
     
    What about Lightroom ?   I bought and paid for Lightroom 4, tried it and removed it from my computer. Why? Two main reasons:
    1. I don't like the Lightroom file management process one little bit. I strongly prefer Adobe Bridge (which comes with Ps) which utilises the Folder/file system I already have in place on my hard drive. I have spent years evolving this and it allows me to dowload and find photos quickly and efficiently.
    2. Lightroom still needs Photoshop for all the (many) editing tasks which Photoshop can do and Lightroom cannot. Conversely Photoshop does all the things which I would want from Lightroom.
    What about Elements ?  This is basically an 8 bit program in most of it's operating space, or at least it was the last time I looked. I feel sure Adobe would announce an upgrade to 16 bit with a very loud fanfare were that to occur.  Its' less expensive than Photoshop because it's less capable.
    Today I downloaded Ps CC.Yesterday brought ACR 8.1. On a quick look, it appears there are many improvements in Ps CC which have not even been advertised. For instance I was using the Spot Healing Brush on a scan (I use that a LOT on scans) today and discovered newly added refinements to the capability of the tool. You get to choose from Proximity Match, Create Texture or Content Aware.
    I have also been experimenting with the improved version of Smart Sharpen which has new features which will take some time to learn.
    Like everything else in Photoshop it's very dense and complex, but extremely capable and worth the steep learning curve.

    I like the new Adobe subscription deal and am pleased, so far, with Photoshop CC.


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    A curious combination of features


    Author  Andrew S   June 2013


    Nikon V2 in the author's average adult male sized hand.
    A new arrival  Our family recently acquired a new Nikon 1 V2 with 10-100mm f4-5.6mm long zoom, all purpose lens. Over the next few months I will be testing this combination and reporting  my findings on this blog. This post includes a few initial impressions after approximately 500 exposures.
    Why the Nikon 1 V2 ?  Readers of this blog will be aware that my main camera system is Panasonic Lumix Micro 4/3. However I have an abiding interest in the evolution of camera technology and ergonomics as expressed in working products.   I was attracted to the Nikon 1 system by reports of it's remarkable continuous autofocus capability. I wanted to discover for myself whether the camera's real world performance matched the various claims made about it. I chose the V2 because it is the latest  version of Nikon-1-System-camera-with-inbuilt-EVF. I will not buy a camera without an inbuilt EVF for reasons given elsewhere on this blog.
    On the left, Nikon V2 with 10-100mm lens. On the rightLumix G5 with 45-150mm lens. The new Lumix 14-140mm Mk2 lens is just 2mm longer than the one shown here. Box volume of the V2 kit with lens shown here is 75% of a Lumix G5 with 14-140mm Mk2 Micro 4/3 kit. The Nikon 1 kit is smaller than an equivalent mid range M4/3 kit but not dramatically so and the M4/3 is nicer to hold..
    In due course I plan to test the V2+10-100mm alongside  DSLR and  M4/3 cameras, each with a long zoom lens having similar angle of view and aperture range to the Nikon 1 10-100mm.
    Birds. Watching. V2 +10-100mm @100mm.
    First Impressions
    * It's white ! Our family's first white camera.
    * It feels small but solid and well made.
    * I really like the shutter sound. It's a soft,  muted  blp...blp. By comparison my M4/3 cameras have a slower, louder  ker..lang...ker..lang.... sound.  This is not just an aesthetic issue. I have thus far not found any evidence of shutter shock with the V2/10-100mm.
    * It's gone ! My wife has appropriated the V2 for her birdwatching endeavours and taken it on a pelagic birdwatching expedition this weekend. The birdos are out on the ocean in a fishing boat with severe storms forecast. Hmmm....
    * My wife says the handling is acceptable but could be a lot better. I agree with her. The thing needs a proper thumbrest. The handle appears to have been designed to fit the battery within (good) but not the hands which hold it (bad). Surely Nikon can manage both. Good ergonomic design costs no more than bad.
    * The lens has no manual focus ring!! You have to enter the main menu, make  a selection then turn the rear dial to focus manually. This is the worst implentation of manual focus I have seen in years. I sure hope the AF is accurate.
    * Outdoors in bright light, it really does do continuous autofocus at 5 and 15 frames per second. The buffer is huge. The camera is very fast and responsive in operation.
    * The EVF/Monitor refresh rate is super fast. So fast that in continuous shooting (of still photos) at 5 or 15 fps, the EVF or Monitor appearance is like streaming video with no perceptible blackout.  Every time I use the V2, I think "why don't other MILC makers emulate the EVF refresh performance of this camera?"  
    * I tried it on cars travelling towards the camera at 60 kph in direct sunlight. At 5fps with the lens at 100mm I got about 80% of frames sharply in focus. In overcast conditions, cars moving more slowly but close to the camera, I got about 50% of frames sharply in focus, with 40% slightly unsharp.  I need to experiment with single area -vs- auto select multi area AF options.
    * Indoors, AF slows substantially with frequent hunting, although it appears to be accurate given a static subject.
    * Auto ISO often sets a level which produces a slow shutter speed. Fortunately the VR appears to work very effectively, stabilising the lens and the EVF preview.
    * Preview image quality on the EVF is quite good but not excellent and not as nice as the Lumix G5 and GH3 which I have been using for comparison.
    * Photo image quality is about what you would expect for a camera which scores 50 on DXO Mark. It's not bad but grain is evident even at base ISO.  At higher ISOs  indoors it can't keep up with the M4/3 cameras. Dynamic range is acceptable, particularly if RAW files and Adobe Camera Raw are used to good effect.
    * Compared to the latest mid range M4/3 cameras like the G5/G6, the user interface is less complex. This is a good thing is you prefer simplicity but not so appealing if you like a higher level of user configuration.
    * The lens is very good for an all purpose long zoom model. There is a bit of chromatic aberration and purple fringing at the wide end. The edges are noticeably soft at the long end although the main central area of the frame is quite sharp.  
    V2+10-100mm. Hazy/bright day, backlit. The yachts are about 250meters from the camera, the houses in the background about 1 kilometer away.
    Who is it for ?That's a difficult question to answer.  Maybe soccer parents could make good use of it's excellent outdoors predictive AF capabilities. Bird watchers might like the system if a really long lens was available. I am referring here to a native Nikon 1 system lens. You can use many of the Nikon full frame lenses with an adapter as a way of achieving super telephoto reach.
    On reflection it seems to me that the V2 and in fact the whole Nikon 1 system appear to be an answer without a clearly expressed question.  That could change in future if the image performance was lifted a stop or two and the ergonomics were substantially improved . The Nikon 1 system could then start looking like a viable all purpose, do anything solution to a wide range of photographic challenges.
    V2+10-100mm. Reasonable management of the subject brightness range although  highlights on the sunlit mid foreground foliage are blown out.
    Summary The Nikon 1 system and the V2 specifically are a curious mix of super high tech, high performance features and gimmicks like "Motion Snapshot", aimed at the gadget loving snapshooter crowd. The whole package is overpriced. I paid AUD1546 over the counter retail with Nikon Australia warranty, for the V2 body, 10-100mm lens, a 55mm UV filter and a spare battery.  My initial impression is that Nikon needs to clarify it's intentions with its' 1-System-with-EVF cameras like the V2.  Is it to be an enthusiast's camera ? If so it needs better image quality and a more compelling user interface and feature set. If it is to be a snapshooter's camera it doesn't need the high powered AF/Continuous Drive/Predictive Focus capability, nor the high price.  



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    Part 2, Overview


    Nikon V2 with 1 Series 10-100mm f4-5.6 lens. A good combination for quick response photography

    System   With it's oddly named  1 series of cameras, Nikon created a completely new camera/lens/accessory System.  The arrival of a totally new system is an uncommon event in the history of photography. The 35mm film formatbegan 100 years ago. This has been adapted to use digital sensors in recent times but modern full frame DSLRs still use the same lens mount and back focus distance as earlier film camera models.  Popular APS-C DSLRs use the same lens mount as their full frame brethren. Once a manufacturer starts rolling out lenses and accessories in significant numbers the opportunity for change is lost.


    The Mirrorless invasion  The arrival of mirrorless interchangeable lens technology has forced several manufactureres to commit to a completely new lens mount and imaging system.  First up were Panasonic and Olympus with the Micro Four Thirds system. These were followed by Samsung NX, Sony NEX, Fuji X and Canon EOS M each using the larger APS-C sensor. Then came Pentax with the diminutive  Q system which began with a 1/2.3" sensor but recently changed to a 1/1.7" sensor.


    Nikon CX 1" sensor  It has seemed to me for several years that the sweet spot for sensor size in a Mirrorless ILC is Micro 4/3.  This has a sensor diagonal of 21.6mm. Being mirrorless, the bodies are decently compact but large enough to provide good ergonomics. The sensor is small enough to permit the design of really compact lenses of high quality. But Nikon went with the even smaller 1" or CX size which has a diagonal of 15.9mm and an area about half that of M4/3. Making a decision about sensor size is always going to be a bet on the future. It seems to me the aim is to go small enough to allow the creation of a truly compact system, but large enough to ensure good enough image quality for the target user group. Why did the Nikon guys [they are all guys] decide on the CX sensor size ?

    I would love to have been a fly on the wall at Nikon product development meetings when this decision was being made. Alas, I was not so any thoughts of mine are pure speculation.


    Nikon 1 V2 with 10-100mm f4-5.6 lens This combination is versatile and compact. Image quality is acceptable for many non critical purposes.

    Features The Nikon 1 V2 has a curious mixture of features and capabilities.  Some of these make it one of the most high powered cameras in existence. The V2 can shoot still RAW photos at 15 frames per second for 47 shots before the frame rate slows, with continuous autofocus on each frame. On my tests with photos of moving motor vehicles in varied conditions the camera with 10-100mm f4-5.6 lens gets about 60% of frames sharply in focus at that rate. The EVF refresh rate is the best I have ever seen on a camera, delivering the appearance of continuous streaming video even with still photos. You cannot find better high speed frame rates than these on any other camera at any price.

    Yet the same camera does not have a manual focus ring on any of it's zoom lenses and has one on only on one prime lens at the time of writing. The procedure for implementing manual focus is so tedious and the process so imprecise, I doubt many owners would ever use it.  There is no direct access to ISO adjustment. But there is direct access to several cute, fun features such as Motion Snapshot Mode and Best Moment Capture Mode.

    User I bought the camera with 10-100mm lens to  see if it would be suitable for photographing grandchildren's sports. My wife who enjoys bird watching grabs it for birds, in flight or otherwise. These are fairly specialised photographic subjects. It would be quite suitable for general and family photography. However, I don't see it as being more suitable for general photography than the many competing mirrorless or entry level DSLR's at a similar price point, all of which have better image quality,  unless small size is the primary criterion for purchase.




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    Marina, Nikon 1 V2, 10-100mm f4-5.6 lens at 30mm. 

    Introduction   The V2 has many features and capabilities which might make it attractive to the enthusiast photographer seeking good performance and image qualiy in a wide range of conditions. But the bottom line for any camera's appeal is it's image quality.


    DXO Mark Score  DXO (dxo.com)  rates the V2 image quality at 50. This is in compact camera territory. The Sony RX100 Mk 2, with the same size sensor, scores 67, the Nikon 1 S1 with 10 mpx sensor scores 56 and the Nikon Coolpix P330 with a much smaller 1/1.7" sensor scores 54.  So, on the numbers the V2 doesn't look very appealing.  However a DXO Mark score is not the final word about image quality.

    Noise   I compared the V2 in real world conditions with two cameras which I had on hand at the time, a Lumix G5 and Lumix GH3, both Micro 4/3 system cameras with a substantially larger sensor.  I used RAW files converted in Adobe Camera Raw 8.1 at default settings. You would expect the M4/3 cameras to beat the V2 and they did but but not by a great margin.

    With the V2 at base ISO, I found noise easily visible in even toned shadow areas. This was not the case with the m4/3 cameras.

    At high ISO levels in the range 1600-3200-6400, I found that  the V2 gave up about 0.7 stop to the G5 and  about 1.3 stops to the GH3.  In other words an ISO 1600 photo with the V2 had about the same noise level as one taken at ISO 2500 with the G5 and 4000 with the GH3.

    Nikon V2
    Lumix G5
    Lumix GH3

    Dynamic RangeUsing RAW files converted in ACR 8.1 and working the sliders to best effect, there was surprisingly little difference between the three cameras in the amount of highlight and shadow detail which could be extracted from a scene with high subject brightness range.  The main difference lay in the amount of noise present in the shadow areas. Images from the V2 had more noisy shadows then those from the G5 which in turn were more noisy than the GH3.

    Exposure  I used Matrix Metering in all conditions. Over more than 2000 exposures I found very few which did not make best use of the available dynamic range of the sensor. Overtly wrong exposures were rare.

    White Balance  With the camera set to Auto White Balance for all tests I found little about which to complain in any set of conditions interior or exterior.

    Color  Colors were generally accurate in all conditions with few adjustments being required in ACR.

    Resolution  Some years ago my main camera was a Canon EOS 20D with  an 8 Mpx sensor. I discovered that images of quite high resolution could be made with this camera given a good quality lens. The V2 has a 14 Mpx sensor which should be able to deliver very detailed images with a lens of sufficient quality. The 10-100mm f4-5.6 lens which I used for this series of tests appeared able to reveal most of the sensor resolution at it's wide end but not at the long end.

    Depth of Field, ISO and Image Quality  For any given angle of view and lens aperture, a small sensor camera will exhibit more depth of field than one with a large sensor. Whether this is desirable or otherwise depends on one's requirements. For the landscape/documentary/architecture  photographer large depth of focus can be desirable as the job specification may require all subject elements to be rendered sharply. However for the portraitist, a softly blurred background is more likely to appeal.  

    In many general photographic situations the IQ disadvantage suffered by small sensor cameras can be offset by the ability to use wider apertures for the same depth of field. Compare a full  frame camera to one with a Nikon CX sensor. Let us say the full frame camera requires f11 for sufficient depth of field. At the same framing the CX camera will only require f4 for the same depth of field.  This means the CX camera can use a higher shutter speed, removing the need for a tripod, or a lower ISO setting, or both.  When just ISO is used to achieve the same effective exposure, if the full frame camera needed ISO 1600, the CX camera can use ISO 200.  Now look at the DXO Mark scale of image quality ratings. You will see that 15 points on the scale is equivalent to one stop of image quality. The best full frame cameras score about 95, the V2 scores 50, which is 3 stops lower. The point of all this is that in some situations you could achieve almost the same image quality with the smaller sensor as with the larger one, in a more compact, lighter, less expensive package.  


    Summary  Overall image quality of the V2 in real world practice is in line with the DXO Mark score. However images of excellent quality can be made if the ISO setting is kept to the lowest setting consistent with avoiding camera shake.


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    Black   Browed Albatross.   Nikon V2, 10-100mm f4-5.6mm (Non PD) lens.  

    Elements of camera evaluation  When reviewing a camera I look at four main qualities, Description, Image Quality, Performance and Ergonomics. This post details my findings about the most interesting aspect of the V2, namely it's performance.

    Switch on/off   With a collapsing zoom lens mounted, the camera is switched on by rotating the lens barrel while holding down the lock button.  Switch off is by reversing this procedure.  With non collapsing lenses the camera can be switched on/off  by rotating the toggle switch around the shutter button 1/8 turn.

    Shutter optionsThe camera has two shutter systems built in. Both are very capable. There is no direct way to choose between them however if [Silent Photography] is set to [Off] in the Shooting Menu, the camera will select mechanical shutter up to 5fps. If [Silent Photography] is set to [On] or the frame rate selected is greater than 5 fps, the camera will use the E-Shutter.   By the way "Silent Photography" means just that in single shot mode. The thing is so quiet it's hard to know if a photo has been taken.   At 15 fps and above the camera makes an artificial sound to let you know it is working. At 5fps with [Silent Photography] set the camera fires away without a sound which is a bit disconcerting at first.  Actually it's not absolutely silent. With one's ear pressed directly onto the lens the very soft sounds of the VR, AF and Aperture mechanisms can be heard.   If this camera had a bit better high ISO image quality it would be perfect for photography in situations where silent operation is required.

    The mechanical shutter supports flash up to a shutter speed of 1/250 second and Continuous Drive/AF up to 5 frames per second.  The shutter sound is soft suggesting a physical shock absorber may be in place. I found no evidence of image blur due to shutter shock with the 10-100mm f4-5.6 lens adding confirmation to the idea that a shock absorber of some kind may be operating.

    The E-Shutter supports flash to 1/60 second and is used for frame rates faster than 5 per second. I found various types of banding can occur in images made with the E-Shutter in fluorescent light. This appears to be shutter speed dependent.

    EVF Performance  The EVF refreshes very fast after each exposure. So fast in fact that there is no appreciable viewfinder blackout at all, even when firing at 5 or 15 fps. I think all other makers of mirrorless cameras with EVF should beg, buy, copy or steal whatever EVF refresh technology Nikon is using in the V2 because it is very good indeed.

    Phase Detect and Contrast Detect autofocus  The V2 has a very sophisticated dual autofocus system. It runs both phase detect and contrast detect, both technologies operating directly on the imaging sensor. Phase detect is used in bright light, contrast detect in low light. The camera decides which will be used.  There is no opportunity for the user to select one or the other.

    Autofocus, single shot, AF-S, subject reasonably static   The Shooting Menu provides three AF-Area Modes: Auto-Area, Single-Point and Subject Tracking. Auto-Area is convenient but gives the user no control over the actual AF Area selected. Subject Tracking is a feature found in many mirrorless cameras. This endeavours to hold focus on a selected subject element as it moves laterally across the frame. If the Auto [Green camera symbol] Mode is set, the camera will use Face Detect or Auto-Area Autofocus Mode.

    For all tests I used Single-Point Mode which provides the highest level of speed, user control, reliability and  accuracy.

    I noted while testing that the AF system needs vertical lines (in landscape orientation) or texture on which to focus.

     Outdoors in good light the V2 focusses very fast indeed. One could hardly imagine faster AF performance. It is very sensitive in the sense that the AF system will focus promptly on the least hint of texture. It is also accurate. In my many hundreds of test photos of still subjects none was out of focus. It is however possible for the camera to focus on some subject element other than that desired. The classical case is the small bird in a tree situation. If the focus rectangle is larger than or extends beyond the edges of the subject bird the camera is likely to focus on something bright/contrasty in the vicinity of the bird, either in front of or behind the desired point. Unfortunately in their (mostly successful) efforts to simplify operation of the V2, the camera's designers have not included a facility for user control over the size of the active AF area.

    Indoors in lower light levels the AF slows from lightning fast to merely prompt. Sometimes there is a little hunting before the system locks on. In very low light, without the focus assist lamp, the V2 is not in the same league as the latest Micro 4/3 cameras which are amazingly fast, sensitive and accurate. But it usually does find focus after some hunting and is reliably in focus when so indicated by the green focus rectangle and double beep.

    Shot to shot time, Single Shot, AF-S, AF on each frame  After each shot, the camera will fire again just about as quickly as I can press my finger down. By the stopwatch I counted 10 shots per 3 seconds [3.6 shots per second]  pressing the shutter separately for each shot.

    Autofocus Continuous, Continuous Drive, Predictive AF on a moving subject   The V2 can manage predictive AF at 5 fps [with mechanical shutter] or 15 fps [with e-Shutter] with AF on each frame. I am unaware of any other camera at any price which can match this performance.

    For my initial series of tests I used motor vehicles approaching or departing the camera position and accelerating or braking as they left or approached a slow corner. I used the Nikon 1 10-100mm f4-5.6 lens at 100mm focal length for all tests. I ran several tests each with about 100 frames in lighting which varied from sunny to shade. I used a Sandisk 95MB/sec card for all tests.

    5 fps, Continuous Drive, AF-C   At 5 fps the camera fired 72 frames at 5 fps before the frame rate abruptly slowed indicating a full buffer. The buffer cleared in 25 seconds if I stopped firing at 72 frames. If desired, I could continue firing and/or making adjustments to camera settings with the buffer incompletely cleared.  This level of performance has been, until the arrival of the V1 and V2 cameras, only found in very expensive professional DSLRs.

    15 fps, Continuous Drive, AF-C   The camera fired 47 shots in 3 seconds giving a measured rate of 15 fps, before the frame rate slowed abruptly indicating a full buffer, which cleared in 24 seconds if I made no further shots.

    Setting [Auto Distortion Control] to [On] in the Shooting Menu did not slow the frame rate.

    Predictive AF accuracy  Speed is all very well but if the resulting frames are not in focus all that speed is worthless. I compared the V2 at 5 and 15 fps with a Panasonic Lumix GH3 fitted with Lumix 45-150mm lens at 150mm focal length. The GH3 ran at 4.6 fps with AF-C  on each frame, filling the buffer at 28 frames.


     

     
    Camera/Lens

    Measured Frame Rate

    % Frames sharply in focus

    % Frames slightly unsharp

    % Frames out of focus

    Nikon V2/10-100mm at 100mm

    5

    68

    30

    1

    Lumix GH3/45-150mm at 150mm

    4.6

    76

    22

    2

    Nikon V2/10-100mm at 100mm

    15

    58

    35

    7


    Comment

    * It is often stated by camera reviewers that phase detect AF is better for following a moving subject than contrast detect.  These results call that view into question. With the specific equipment used in the conditions present, the Lumix GH3 [which uses contrast detect AF exclusively]  with budget zoom lens scored a slightly higher percentage of frames sharply in focus than the V2 which would have been using phase detect AF for the test photos.

    My guess is that if or when Panasonic raises it's sensor sample rate to about 500 or even 1000 times per second then contrast detect AF on sensor will easily match the best phase detect systems for both speed and accuracy with predictive AF.

    * The percentage of sharply in focus frames fell when the V2 frame rate went from 5 to 15 fps.

    * My observation while scanning the many hundreds of test photos was that with the V2 in particular, the likelihood of a frame being sharply in focus increased if the subject was in direct sunlight [as opposed to shade] at the time of the exposure.

    * It is my experience that best predictive AF performance of a camera is enabled when  AF-Tracking (Lumix) a.k.a Subject Tracking (Nikon) is set to to OFF. I always use single point AF area positioned at the frame center for this type of work.  

    Manual Focus  This camera's very poor manual focus arrangements are disappointing and perhaps reveal ambivalence in the product development team about the  intended target user group. At the time of writing the only Nikon 1 series lens with a manual focus ring is the 32mm f 1.2.  To enter Manual Focus Mode the user must access the Shooting Menu or press the F Button then scroll round to the Focus Mode icon. Press OK, then scroll to the MF position. Press OK. Then press OK again. Now an analogue distance scale appears at the right of the screen, unfortunately without actual distances indicated, just an infinity sign at the top and a flower at the bottom. A box indicates the degree of screen enlargement. Zoom into the image with the Command Dial. Rotate the Multi Selector ring to move the focus point. I found it extremely difficult to judge when the image was in focus, there being no clearly defined in/out focus differentiation. The whole manual focus system is a dreadful kludge, tediously slow to operate, imprecise and almost useless in practice. Fortunately the autofocus system is generally very reliable.

    Summary  The V2 delivers very good to outstanding Continuous Drive, Continuous AF, Predictive AF, EVF refresh and buffer size. Manual focus is dreadful.  It's a curious mix.





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    Nikon 1 V2 in the author's average size adult male hand. It doesn't look so bad from the top, however.........

    Nikon 1 with EVF cameras   The first Nikon 1 series camera with built in EVF was the V1, announced in September 2011. This was strongly criticised by many reviewers for it's poor ergonomics. The V2, announced a year later has a completely redesigned shape. On my assessment the new shape is a big improvement, lifting my ergonomic rating from "unacceptable" to "good" but not very good or excellent.   Some  problems remain, as detailed below.  Several months ago I made a mockup camera to approximately the same dimensions (LxWxD) as the  V2, but with a full complement of hard controls suitable for the enthusiast/professional user.  The mockup is a "proof of concept" exercise which I undertook to demonstrate to myself that a highly efficient ergonomic layout can readily be incorporated into a camera the same size as a V2.

    ConfigurabilityCurrent Micro 4/3 cameras offer a very high degree of configurability with the function of many buttons  and other controls being user selectable from a long list of options. Cameras like this are complex to set up but operate very efficiently in the hands of an experienced user.  The V2 by way of comparison offers no user configurable functions. You get what the masters at Nikon have decreed you shall have. And to be fair this works quite well most of the time.

    Same camera, same hand as the top photo.  You can see that only the middle finger of the right hand is properly engaged with the handle. This is not a very stable hold.

    Setup Phase of camera use   As with most current electronic cameras this is accomplished by making selections in the three main menus.  The options available and discussion as to the reasons for selecting one in preference to another are well described in the PDF Nikon V2 Reference Manual. I strongly recommend the V2 user download and print the whole 214 page document. It is well laid out, well written and I found it easy to understand.

    There are only three Menus, Playback (which is first on the list, go figure), Shooting, the content of which changes with the  Mode  set on the Mode Dial and Setup.  The number of options available for user control falls midway between a basic compact camera and one of the latest, highly configurable (but also rather complex) Micro 4/3 cameras. The benefit is you don't have so many selections to figure out. The drawback is there are many user configured camera operations/features which are simply not offered on the V2.  Menu Resume is set by default, which means that if you leave a Menu then return the last accessed item will be active. Unfortunately there is no option for a "My Menu" which would have been handy, as several items including OIS, Silent operation, RAW/JPG and Grid overlay require a trip to the menus.

    Some options common on enthusiast level electronic cameras are not available. These include histogram display, auto exposure bracketing and some form of highlight clipping warning ("blinkies"). You cannot change the size of the active AF area. You can have a grid overlaid on the image preview but only one configuration is offered and it cannot be cycled on and off with the Disp Button.  You can adjust the brightness but not color or contrast of the EVF. You cannot select the EVF display style to be the same as the Monitor style.  So many options the enthusiast photographer might expect to find are not available.

    On the other hand the camera offers extensive options for white balance and many pages of complicated instructions for (JPG) Picture Control settings and adjustments. These constitute a kind of in camera equivalent to a RAW converter for users who want to output a finished photo requiring no further adjustment. That's fine but shooting RAW and processing in Adobe Camera Raw or Lightroom is more effective and to my mind easier to use.

    Viewfinder diopter adjustment is available.

    Again, same camera, same hand. If I raise my right hand so the 3rd and 4th fingers properly grip the handle, this leaves the index finger and thumb too high to properly operate their respective control modules. The handle is not high enough and is not shaped to match the hand which is trying to hold the camera and operate it at the same time.

    Prepare Phase of camera use  This takes place in the several minutes before image capture, and involves configuring camera settings for the current subject material. Several items from the Shooting Menu can be accessed more quickly by pressing the F button. These are Metering, White Balance, ISO Sensitivity, Picture Control, Focus Mode and AF Area Mode. Shooting Mode is set on the Mode Dial as usual. The Multi Selector gives access to AELock/AFLock,  Exposure Compensation, Flash controls and Drive Mode.

    Once you have settled into a particular style of camera use, for instance always shooting RAW or always JPG, then the Prepare Phase control options are quite adequate.

    Problem solved. This mockup is the same height and just 2mm wider than the real V2. It is 4mm deeper but this has no impact on size once a lens is fitted.  It is much more comfortable, easier and more secure to hold and operate than the real V2.  All the user control modules (buttons, dials etc) lie directly under their operating finger because during the design process I put the fingers in place first, then located the buttons where the fingers wanted to find them.

    Capture Phase, Holding   Holding arrangements on the V2 are better than the V1 but that would not be difficult to achieve. There is a handle, which is good but it it is shaped in flat sided, blocky style to accommodate the battery within rather than the hand which is trying to hold it.  There is no proper thumb rest. Holding a camera this size could be dramatically improved with better ergonomic design as illustrated by my mockup which has a taller, completely different shaped handle with parallel top section and a deep comfortable thumb rest.

    Capture Phase, Viewing   The V2 allows viewing via Monitor or EVF with automatic switching between the two by proximity sensor. The Monitor is fixed, which allows it to be larger in size than would be possible if it were fully articulated. Some people will be happy with the monitor as provided,  however having used many cameras over the years I personally would trade some size for a fully articulating capability.  That would require the left side buttons to be relocated of course.

    The Monitor provides Monitor View style with camera data superimposed over the lower part of the preview image. The EVF uses VF/DSLR syle with camera data displayed beneath the preview image. There is no option for them to have the same display style. Monitor and Viewfinder brightness can be adjusted but not color or contrast. Both Monitor and EVF display a good preview of the subject. The EVF is not as sharp or detailed as those on recent M4/3 cameras but is perfectly satisfactory as a framing/preview window. Both Monitor and EVF gain up and down with exposure compensation.

    Overall the viewing experience is quite satisfactory with no serious deficits or problems.

    Capture Phase, Operating  This is generally quite straightforward. Shooting Mode is set on the Mode dial then adjustments made with the Command Dial. All the buttons and dials are easily reached while holding the camera in shooting position and all operate smoothly with just the right amount of resistance and clicky feel.

    The built in flash works well as a fill light source for backlit subjects. I use -1 stop flash exposure compensation for this purpose.

    Some people have complained about the absence of touch screen controls but in my published evaluation touch screen controls are useless on a hand held camera especially one like the V2 which is designed to be used with an eye level viewfinder.

    Press OK to activate the AF area then move it's position with the Multi Selector. This works quickly and is very effective. The only thing missing is a "return to center" function, so to return the AF area to center you have to nudge it back with the Multi Selector or switch the camera off then on again. On restart the AF area defaults to the center.

    Overall camera operation is fast and efficient, making good use of the (relative to some other cameras) fairly limited suite of user control modules (buttons, dials etc).

    Auto Iso  The algorithms controlling auto ISO tend to set a somewhat low ISO in low light levels, presumably to reduce image noise,  but this leads to low shutter speeds. This leaves the operator reliant on a steady hand and VR for sharp photos. VR is quite effective but of course does nothing to cope with subject movement. When using the camera indoors I find it essential to keep a constant watch on the shutter speed and switch to manual control of ISO if Auto ISO is producing shutter speeds which are too slow for handheld use.

    Video  I have not yet tested video operation.




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  • 07/20/13--20:41: Two Twin Lens M43 kits


  • On the left, Lumix G5 with 14-45 and 45-150mm lenses. On the right, Lumix GH3 with 12-35 and 35-100mm constant f2.8  lenses. You can see the G5 kit is smaller than the GH3 kit but not dramatically so. The cost difference is substantial though.

    The Micro Four Thirds System   Is the longest established mirrorless interchangeable lens system with the greatest choice of manufacturers, bodies and lenses. There is something in the M43 system for everyone from beginner/snapshooter to expert/professional. You can have a camera with or without viewfinder, ranging in size from diminutive to substantial. You can choose from a wide range of zoom, prime and specialty lenses. You can select a low cost budget kit or something much more expensive.

    Two twin lens zoom kits  A popular choice for an interchangeable lens kit is the twin zoom lens option. Zooms are rightly popular because of their versatility. Many budget kit zooms also offer very good quality and excellent value for money.

    Just the details  The table below lists details for a medium budget, midrange M43 kit and a top of the range pro level M43 kit. Just for fun I included data for a budget full frame body plus top level lenses from Nikon.

    Camera/Lens

    Mass with batt (grams)

    Dimensions (mm)

    Body WxHxD

    Lens LxDiaxDia

    Box Volume (cc)

    Price AUD Retail

    Filter (mm)

    Lumix G5

    400

    123x85x71

    742

    629

    N/A

    Lumix 14-45mm OIS

    195

    60x60

    216

    580

    52

    Lumix 45-150mm OIS

    200

    73x62

    280

    300

    52

    Totals

    795


    1238

    1630








    Lumix GH3

    550

    133x93x82

    1014

    1249

    N/A

    Lumix 12-35mm f2.8 OIS

    305

    74x68

    342

    1319

    58

    Lumix 35-100mm f2.8 OIS

    360

    100x67

    449

    1459

    58

    Totals

    1215


    1805

    4027








    Nikon D600

    760

    141x113x82

    1306

    2075

    N/A

    24-70mm f2.8

    900

    133x83

    916

    2090

    77

    70-200mm f2.8

    1540

    209x87

    1582

    2674

    77

    Totals

    3200


    3804

    6839









    Notes:

    Standard M43 lens  For this comparison I have used the Lumix 14-45mm lens. This was the original Lumix M43 kit lens and is still available separately. On my testing (which does not include the latest 14-42mm Mk2 kit lens) the 14-45mm is worth the extra money over a standard kit zoom. It delivers better optical quality, a longer zoom range and no problems with shutter shock.

    Box Volumeindicates the space in a camera bag wich would be required to carry the item(s).

    Prices  Of photographic equipment are notoriously difficult to pin down as they vary between countries, with time and with the product cycle. Prices quoted are those posted by a well known Australian retailer, over the counter, GST paid, at the time of writing.

    Size/price  Compared with the G5 kit, the GH3 kit has 1.5x the  mass, 1.5x the box volume and 2.5x the cost.

    What are the benefits of the much more expensive GH3 kit ?

    * Image Quality.  The GH3 has a better sensor with more dynamic range and less high ISO noise. The files have better ability to tolerate manipulation in Adobe Camera Raw (or Lightroom) without artefacts.  The lenses are constant f2.8 which means that in many situations particularly indoors the lens is passing 1-2 stops more light. This in turn allows the use of a lower ISO setting with further gains in image quality.

    * Lens quality. The premium constant f2.8 lenses deliver better sharpness and contrast across their whole focal length and aperture range than the less expensive models. The wide aperture lenses are more readily able to separate foreground from background by selective focussing if that is required.

    * Ergonomics. The GH3 provides better holding and and operating qualities for the experienced user than the G5.

    * Performance. The GH3 performs at a higher level than the G5 on almost all measures.

    Is the more expensive kit worth the money ?

    Each individual camera buyer has to decide this one based on personal preferences, expectations and budget. In good light outdoors there is not much difference between the two kits in potential image quality. Indoors or elsewhere in low light levels, the benefits of the more expensive kit become more apparent.

    What about full frame ?  I included data for the Nikon D600, a "budget" full frame DSLR just for comparison. When fitted with Nikon's top tier 24-70 and 70-200mm f2.8 lenses, the D600 kit is, compared to the GH3 kit:  2.6x heavier, has 2.1x more box volume and costs 1.7x as much. You get a much larger, heavier, more expensive kit which should be capable of delivering better image quality in many situations. I raise just two issues about image quality in the full frame-vs-M43 debate.

    1. In many cases, picture/print quality provided by the GH3/f2.8 premium lens kit is entirely good enough for the photographic purpose. Any extra quality delivered by the larger format is difficult to see in a print. I have read many reports on user forums by photographers moving back and forth from premium M43 kits to full frame, usually Canon EOS 5D Mk 1 or 2, and finding it difficult to see a quality difference between the output files.

    2. There are many photographic situations such as landscape, groups of people, etc,  when substantial depth of field is required. To achieve equal depth of field a full frame lens needs to be set two stops smaller than a M43 lens. To maintain shutter speed this requires an ISO setting two stops higher, thereby negating some of the image quality superiority of the full frame sensor.


    You pays your money and makes your choice.


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  • 07/24/13--23:19: The Proper Camera

  • A group of proper cameras

    Proper: (adjective)  Adapted or appropriate to the purpose or circumstances; Fit; Suitable.

    Introduction The march of technology has had a dramatic impact on our understanding of the concept of a camera. The rise and rise of the smartphone threatens the very survival of the camera as an independent entity. Sales of compact cameras have collapsed over the last few years. Mirrorless cameras of various kinds had an initial burst of sales but appear to have lost momentum in the marketplace. Yet we are informed DSLR sales especially at the upper price/quality end of the spectrum are doing quite well. What is going on ?

    Historical notes  Until quite recently, any person who wished to make a photograph would need to use a camera. This is a device with a specific, defined purpose, namely to make photographs and having no other function. Nowadays it appears the great majority of photographs are made with smart phones. These are multifunction devices which are primarily aimed at communication.

    Smart Phone-vs-Camera  It seems to me that the principal difference between these two types of device is the issue of engagement

    A camera requires the user to engage with the device by hand, eye and brain in the considered process of making a photo. Making photos with a camera is not an afterthought to the events of a day's outing, it is one of the events.  The process is deliberative. By way of contrast, the process of making a photo with a smart phone is usually opportunistic. One does not usually set forth bearing a smartphone with the explicit intent of making photos.

    A pair of mirrorless proper cameras

    The Proper Camera  What are the characteristics of a camera with which the thoughtful user will be able to engage in the deliberative process of making photos ?

    Having had the opportunity to use almost every kind of camera ever invented over the last 60 years I propose the following as desirable attributes of the Proper Camera.

    * Responsiveness: Performance.  The device powers up promptly. The shutter fires immediately the release button is pressed. The camera is ready for the next exposure immediately after each shot. Autofocus is swift and accurate in all lighting conditions. User inputs via buttons, dials etc produce an immediate and specific response. I recently read  a review of an otherwise well specified compact camera which was reported as having a 4 second shot to shot time with RAW capture. This is ridiculous. I could manage better shot to shot times in 1969 with an all manual, auto nothing Pentax Spotmatic using manual film advance.

    * Responsiveness: Engagement. The camera rewards the user's training and experience with improved operation and better results. You need to read the instruction manual and practice using the device to get the best from it. Skill is required and when acquired leads to a sense of mastery by the user who takes control of the process of making photos.   Many camera makers appear not to fully grasp the psychological importance of this issue, as evidenced by their continuing promotion of cameras which are fully automated, allegedly requiring very little skill from the user.

    * Built in viewfinder.  The Australian publication "Camera, film and digital for photographers" recently featured an editorial by Paul Burrows in which he wrote "....It leaves me quite incredulous that any camera designer can seriously come up with something that's aimed at experienced shooters which doesn't have a built in finder and doesn't have any means of fitting an external one. What are they thinking ?"

    I agree with Mr Burrows and would add that I think any device which wants to be taken seriously as a camera and seeks to offer the user a reason for stepping up from a smartphone, must absolutely have a built in viewfinder. I know full well that some members of user forums say they don't care about the viewfinder but sooner or later they will encounter a situation where it does matter ( bright sun, long lens, low light, need to concentrate on the subject) and then they will wish they had that viewfinder.

    * Handle. Many cameras produced these days have no handle making them more difficult to hold securely than needs be. Style should follow function, not the reverse.

    * Built in flash unit. Although low powered these can be very handy for filling in shadows particularly with backlit subjects.

    * Ability to mount an accessory flash unit. This facility may not be used by many photographers but is mighty handy when required.

    * Zoom lens (in a fixed lens camera) or availability of zoom lens(es) for an interchangeable lens camera. I spent most of my life in photography using single focal length lenses because for many years nothing else was available. But now zoom lenses of excellent quality are readily available at attractive prices I see no excuse for a camera which does not offer the versatility of a zoom lens.

    * Image Quality. This needs to be substantially better than anything available in even the most advanced smartphone.

    Proper cameras don't need the hump top style. This one with flat top style meets most of my criteria for a proper camera. There is a built in EVF behind the alpha symbol. The main complaint I have read about the NEX cameras is of a needlessly convoluted menu system.

    Unimportant things

    Many modern devices marketed as cameras come festooned with a multitude of features which have little if anything to do with the process of making photographs. So numerous are these that one sometimes wonders if there is a real camera buried under the gimmicks. They include such things as scene modes, art filters, geotagging, Wi-Fi, i-Function, motion snapshot mode, best moment capture mode, etcetera.....etcetera.... there appears to be no end to them. 

    In this list of unimportant things I would also include touch screen controls about which I have written elsewhere on this blog and which I regard as useless on a hand held camera especially while eye level viewing.

    This one might qualify as a proper camera if the maker  had provided it with a decent handle. Many users deal with the problem by fitting an aftermarket handle but why should they have to ?

    Half baked cameras  In recent times these have been proliferating like weeds on a tennis court, desecrating the field of play and in my view likely to diminish buyer confidence in the entire camera industry. These are cameras which are missing one or several of the features of a proper camera listed above. I hesitate to mention any specific models as there are so many. In my half baked category I include all models lacking a built in viewfinder, integral handle, built in flash and availability of a zoom lens. I include all models which are sluggish in operation or so difficult to configure the task is hardly worth while. My top, or should be that be bottom,  award for most half baked camera would have to go to the Sony RX1. This camera is not necessarily worse than many others but it is equally and egregiously lacking in essential features yet costs more than most fully featured DSLR or MILC  cameras with a good quality lens.  Fitting  a full frame sensor and good quality lens into such a small package may be a technological achievement of which the Sony engineers are proud, but it would absolutely irritate the heck out of me if I had to use the thing regularly. It does not meet my criteria for a proper camera.

    Back to the question   In the introduction to this little opinion piece I asked the question, "What is going on?"  In essence, why is the DSLR  the only camera type still selling well and holding or increasing market share when some people, including me, predicted that the Mirrorless ILC would now be ascendant ?

    The answer, it seems to me, is simple. The DSLR is the only camera type all the examples of which meet my criteria for a proper camera. The buyer of a DSLR knows they are getting an eye level viewfinder, handle, (mostly) responsive performance, decent image quality and availability of zoom lenses. The DSLR is a proper camera just as the film SLR was a proper camera for years before digital capture was invented.

    Implications for the rest  I think that the camera industry as a whole is facing challenges as never before in history. I suspect the fallout will be

    * A further reduction in total numbers of cameras sold each year.

    * Continuing disenchantment by consumers for half baked cameras.

    * Failure and/or amalgamation of several existing camera manufacturers.

    * Failure of the entire Mirrorless ILC enterprise unless the makers of these cameras stop producing half baked models and step up to challenge DSLR's with fully featured proper cameras.  There is some sign this is beginning to happen but much more needs to be done.

    * Now here's a thought from the left wing. If sensor manufacturers continue to improve the performance of small chips we may soon see a 1/1.7" (diagonal 9.36mm) sensor with a DXO Mark score above 70. At that point it will be possible for manufactureres to make a camera having very good to excellent image quality, with fixed, non removable superzoom lens covering a diagonal angle of view of, say, 85 (wide) to 6 (telephoto)  degrees. Given good performance and EVF quality such a camera would render interchangeable lens systems redundant for the majority of camera users. Imagine that.







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    A long term user review


    GH3 with 12-35mm f2.8 lens mounted. Lumix 35-100mm f2.8 lens on the left. Each lens comes with a lens hood which reverse mounts over the barrel for transport and storage.
    Introduction  Mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras [MILC] and the incomprehensibly named Micro Four Thirds [M43] system in particular, have had a difficult gestation. M43 was launched in 2008/9 in the middle of the global financial crisis. Soon afterwards the entire camera industry was hit by the surging popularity of smart phones which made compact cameras irrelevant for many people. Sales went down, profits fell. Those buyers who did decide to get a camera appeared to become more cautious, opting to stay with the DSLR,  the established ProperCamera type. 
    While looking through the EVF I can look straight ahead due to the rearward EVF eyepiece extension. I can see the subject in the EVF and directly with the left eye without having to move my head.
     
    Many MILC's presented to the market lacked a viewfinder and lacked the kind of user interface which buyers have come to expect from a Proper Camera. It appeared that the makers of MILC's were trying to find a niche between compacts and DSLR's. I have long thought this to be a puzzling strategy. It seems to me that most people who make photographs are either snapshooters or expert/enthusiasts (or experts by desire, needing further education and practice). Those little MILC's without viewfinders and with a reduced user interface just look like half baked gadgets to me, likely to appeal to neither to snapshooters nor experts. I have believed for several years and opined on this blog that MILC camera makers need to challenge DSLR's head on and beat them at their own game. It seems someone at Panasonic Lumix mission central has gotten  the same message and responded in the form of the Lumix GH3 with the 12-35mm f2.8 and 35-100mm f2.8 lenses.
    The GH3 with 12-35mm f2.8 lens make a good low light candid grab shot combination. I shot this from waist height without looking at the camera at all.
     
    The Expert/Professional M43 kit  For many years the standard basic kit for professional newspaper and documentary  photographers has been a full frame DSLR with 24-70mm f2.8 and 70-200mm f2.8 lenses. This kit can manage most asignments except macro, wildlife and some sports which require very long lenses.
    The compact GH3 plus 2 lens kit fits easily in this Lowe Pro Adventura 160 bag
     
    The Lumix GH3 with Lumix 12-35mm f2.8 and 35-70mm f2.8 lenses is the M43 equivalent of a standard professional full frame DSLR kit. The camera body is robust and responsive. The lenses offer the same diagonal angle of view and aperture. Body and lenses offer some resistance to water penetration. They are built to a professional standard.
    GH3 with 12-35mm lens. Hand held.
     
    I have reviewed the GH3 and both lenses in considerable detail elsewhere on this blog.


    Thoughts after 6 Months  I am not a professional photographer but an enthusiast amateur so I probably treat my equipment more gently than a working pro might do. However I do make a lot of photographs in a wide range of conditions so I give my equipment a decent workout. I am so pleased with the GH3/f2.8 twin lens kit that I  have been selling off  all my other M43 gear. The camera has been designed to be used efficiently by an experienced photographer who does not rely on any fully auto settings. There is a substantial, well shaped handle and thumbrest. Drive Mode and Focus Mode are accessed by Set and See  dials which provide instant feedback on camera status at a glance. All functions which might need to be adjusted in Capture Phase of use are readily accessible without taking one's eye from the viewfinder or having to release grip on the camera or lens. The large battery allows 1000+ shots per charge, depending on usage and image review.  The large buffer allows 28 frames to be shot at 4.6 fps before the frame rate slows.
    On the left a Nikon D600 full frame camera with 70-200mm f2.8 lens. On the right the GH3 with 35-100mm f2.8 lens. Same diagonal angle of view, same aperture. Both can deliver excellent image quality
     
    The lenses deliver excellent image quality at all focal lengths and apertures, at the center and  edges of the frame. I can trust the camera and lenses to deliver excellent results in any circumstance as long as I use the equipment correctly.
    There have been no faults, failures or problems with body or lenses.
    Dejeuner sur l'herbe,  [not] after Manet. GH3 with 35-100mm lens
     
    Comparison with full frame  I don't have a full frame kit for comparison purposes but the GH3 makes pictures which look clear and sharp even when blown up to A2+ or larger print size. Maybe a full frame camera could produce images with higher quality in some technical respect but I don't care. M43 delivers good enough image quality for high quality large prints and that is good enough for me.
    The GH3 with 12-35mm f2.8 is ideal for candid, from the hip style photos like this 
     
    A bit of personal history  One upon a time, when I was younger and fitter, I embarked on a long journey in pursuit of ultimate image quality. I had a 35mm (film) SLR which made fine pictures but I wanted more. So I got a medium format camera, then a better one. Then came a 4x5 inch large format field camera. I got one of those, then a better one. I don't regret any of this as the journey was interesting and our house is graced by numerous large poster prints which came from 4x5inch color transparencies. But I nearly killed myself one weekend hiking into a remote area with full pack including 4x5 camera, tripod etc...etc.. and subsequently had an epiphany about the relationship between quality of life and the quest for ultimate image quality. I now find that with careful use I can make prints almost as information rich from my M43 files as I could from 4x5 inch large format using Fiji Velvia 25 years ago.
    The New South Wales Government has decided to dismantle Titan the giant floating crane. Meantime, every detail is faithfully rendered by the 35-100mm f2.8 lens
     
    Marketing  The M43 system now has an excellent range of products with the GH3 and f2.8 zoom lenses genuinely deserving to be used as professional standard equipment. But in Australia where I live and elsewhere if the information I read on the net is correct, the Lumix brand is almost invisible. The makers of M43 camera gear are having difficulty luring buyers away from their DSLR's.  Olympus and Panasonic are having major financial problems. Despite all this I think that M43 has the product to beat DSLR's at their own game. A great and effective marketing push would now seem to be appropriate.
    The 35-100mm is not the lens one might first think of for close up work. This shot of bees in wattle was made hand held at 100mm. Decent close up performance can be achieved by attaching a +2 dioptre Close up lens to the filter thread

     

     


     


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    M43 System Practice


    How to test for image blur due to shutter shock


    Introduction  There has been ongoing discussion in M43 user forums about the vexed issue of image blur apparently or possibly or allegedly due to a hypothesised mechanical shock imparted by the first (closure) movement of the quadruple acting mechanical shutter of a M43 camera. This issue is not confined to M43 or mirrorless cameras generally. Any camera in which some mechanical part activates immediately before or during sensor exposure could potentially be prone to some kind of shock effect.  
    This is my standard Lens test target. I use the whole frame for lens tests. Many M43 lenses, even budget zooms, can, at optimum aperture,  resolve all the words on the chart, even into the corners. The test target is very useful for comparing one lens with another, but of course doesn't give MTF figures or L/mm.
     
    DSLR vs Mirrorless It has long been known that the flipping mirror of a DSLR camera can cause "mirror slap" leading to blur at certain shutter speeds. The fix for this has been for makers to provide for some kind of mirror lock up facility. Modern DSLR's in "live view" [a.k.a. monitor view] have the mirror locked up, of course, but their shutter has to switch from the the standard two step (open-close) action in OVF view to a four step (close-open-close-open) sequence just like a mirrorless camera. Thus they could potentially be subject to the same issues with shutter shock as mirrorless cameras.


    Cameras comparedI have recently been testing the Nikon D5200 DSLR, Lumix G6 and Nikon 1 V2 cameras, each with a 10-11x superzoom lens. I found that neither of the Nikons showed blur which might have been attributable to shutter shock on my tests. The D5200 only has a mechanical shutter but the first (close) action of the shutter in live view apears to be well damped, making a swishy, sliding sound.  The V2 also appears to have a well damped mechanical shutter which makes a soft  blp...blp... sound.    The mechanical shutter of the G6 (and other Lumix cameras) makes a sharper, louder sound,  possibly indicating more potential for transmission of a shock through the camera and lens. Whatever the reason the G6 does exhibit blur attributable to shutter shock (eliminated by using the E-shutter) with several lenses.  The problem, when it occurs, appears to be specific to a particular camera/lens/focal length/shutter speed combination.
    This is the G6 with Lumix 45-150mm lens on tripod, 2sec timer, at about 100mm, f5.5, 1/100 sec, ISO 800, Mechanical shutter. You can easily see it's not sharp. That's shutter shock.
    Now the same camera and lens, same tripod, 2sec delay, same aperture, focal length and shutter speed but with E-Shutter active. Oh, Look, now it's sharp. No mechanical shutter, no shutter shock

     

    The test My test procedure is quite simple. I set up a test target against a wall. This is my standard lens test target, but for shutter shock testing I just use a small portion of the center of the target. I put the camera on a tripod, select a focal length and make the following settings:


    * OIS/VR off.


    * 2sec timer delay or other form of wired or wireless remote shutter activation.


    * Shutter Priority Mode, Auto ISO.


    * I use a shutter speed range from 1/10 to 1/400 sec. I make an exposure at each 1/3 step, thus: 1/10, 1/13, 1/15, 1/20.......etc, making 17 exposures per run.


    * I make the first run of exposures with the mechanical shutter active and the second run with the E-Shutter active.


    * Then I download the files to the computer and inspect them at 100% on screen. Any deviation from sharpness is readily seen.


    Other tests It can also be instructive to run similar tests with a hand held camera to evaluate the effect of OIS/VR On/Off  and E-Shutter vs Mechanical shutter.


    Results  I have found that many M43 camera /lens combinations exhibit some degree of blur at one or more shutter speeds in the 1/20-1/200sec range. The worst offender I have yet encountered was the Lumix 45-175mm tele zoom which I tested two years ago and hastily sent back to the vendor. But most other lenses which I have tested, especially budget tele zooms with no OIS switch on the lens barrel ( I don't know what the significance of this might be) , show the effect to some degree.


    Strategy  To deal with the issue I usually switch the E-Shutter ON for general photography. For sport/action I set the shutter speed to 1/400 or faster and use the Mechanical shutter. For shutter speeds longer than 1 second (not currently available with the Lumix E-Shutter) I set Shutter Delay, which works like Olympus Anti Shock.


    Hopes for the future  I do so hope that sometime real soon the M43 manufacturers will save us from all this nonsense of messing around with E-Shutter/Mecha Shutter/Anti Shock/Shutter Delay  and deliver a fully featured E-Shutter (like the one in the Nikon1 V2) without all the restrictions on ISO, shutter speed and flash use. Or deliver unto us the much awaited, possibly mythical, frequently spoken of in hushed tones, Global Shutter, which, if properly implemented, should eliminate the mechanical shutter altogether and make all us M43 users perpetually happy little vegemites.


     


     


     


     


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    Panasonic Lumix Mid Level Cameras

    G5 or G6  What are the differences ?


    On the left the G5 with Lumix 14-42mm Mk I  kit zoom. On the right the G6 with  Lumix 14-45mm zoom.

    The Lumix camera lineup  Panasonic Lumix camera buyers now have plenty of choice.

    At the top of the range we have the Pro standard GH3, which matches well with the Lumix pro level 12-35mm and 35-100mm f2.8 zooms.

    Next comes the newly released GX7, which I would describe as an enthusiast's camera, with many desirable features but lacking the GH3's big battery, large buffer, weather sealing and pro style body shape. I would not be surprised to see a lot of compact, single focal length [prime] lenses finding their way onto this camera.

    One step down finds us in the "upper entry" level which is the subject of this comparison report.

    And last we have the GF series, currently at GF6 iteration. This is the entry level to the world of Lumix M43. The cameras are remarkably small, lack a viewfinder, and have a streamlined user interface suitable for the snapshooter.

    G5/G6  features and target user group  These are fully fledged  proper cameras with a built in EVF, handle, built in flash, good image quality, good ergonomics and good performance. When set to [iA] Mode they are very suitable for the novice or snapshooter. But switch them to one of the P,A,S,M Modes and they become amenable to extensive user configuration, with operating characteristics appealing to the expert/enthusiast/semi professional user who wants to take control of the process of image making. They manage to wrap all this capability in a very compact and reasonably priced package. They arguably represent the best bang for your buck in the Lumix range.

    A G6 with new 14-140mm f3.5-5.6 MkII  superzoom lens makes a very appealing family/holiday/travel all-in-one camera kit.


    Brush turkeys are not shy. This one built a nesting mound 3 meters from a busy walk/jog/cycle way. G6 with 14-140mm MkII.  ISO 12800.

    G5-vs-G6 Similarities and differences

    Shape, size, mass  They are almost identical. The table is of measurements of cameras in my posession. You can see there is no significant difference between them although Panasonic has tinkered with the proportions a bit.

    Camera

    Width mm

    Height mm

    Depth mm

    Box Volume cc

    Mass with battery and card

    G6

    122

    85

    72

    747

    395

    G5

    119.5

    87

    71

    738

    400


    Sensor and Image Quality  I believe they both use the same basic sensor as that in the GH2 but without the multi aspect ratio feature. Both have the same DXO Mark RAW score of 61. My tests with actual photographs show that their RAW image quality is the same at all ISO levels.  With JPG files the G6 has smoother, less blotchy rendition of even toned areas in Hi ISO files for a more pleasing result. It would appear the G6 is using a different and slightly improved JPG processing engine.

    I should say, however that in either camera Hi ISO JPG's [3200 and up] do not treat human faces kindly, rendering them like an exhibit in Madame Tussaud's waxworks. I get much better results from RAW Hi ISO files processed in Adobe Camera Raw 8.1 or the equivalent Lightroom version.

    The G6 allows a maximum of 25,600 ISO, the G5 stops at 12,800 which is a sensible practical limit with either camera.

    I rate the G5/G6 Hi ISO RAW files about 2/3 stop better (ie less noisy with more accurate color) than those from the GH2, presumably due to a more advanced  processing engine.


    Tree Guys. G6 with Lumix 14-140mm MkII

    Cosmetics  The G6 has a slightly different shape especially on the top deck, with a matte black finish which looks perhaps more sophisticated than the shiny black/silver of the G5 but picks up dirt and ladies' makeup more readily. The Menus look a bit different. Not better, just slightly different.

    Handle shape There are subtle differences between them in the shape of the handle and thumbrest area. I rate the G6 slightly more comfortable to hold.

    User Interface  They are very similar, but the G6 has one extra [Fn4] button and the others have been repositioned. Unfortunately that extra Fn4 button is a bit too close to the edge and I bumped it inadvertently several times whicle I was becoming familiar with the camera. The button cannot be disabled so I ended up allocating [Preview = Shttr Spd Effect On] to it. This is an essentially useless function but it auto cancels with half shutter button press so even if I do activate it accidentally the function does not get in the way of my picture taking.

    I find the rear dial of the G6 (top right on the rear of the camera) slightly too recessed  and stiff for my liking with rounded (more difficult to operate)  instead of sharp (easier to operate) serrations, very similar to the G5. Panasonic can do dials better, as anyone who uses the GH3 will quickly discover.

    There is a significant change with the AF/AE Lock button. The G6 has a new [AF-On] option like the GH3.  With the G5 you can only start and lock AF. With the G6/GH3 you can start andcontinue AF with CAF. Thus the AF/AEL button can be configured to work with sport/action like the AF start button on a high level DSLR.
    There is also a change to the detailed implementation of [Focus Area Set].   With both cameras you can allocate [Focus Area Set] to a Function button.  I have allocated this function to the Fn2 button on the G5 and the Fn3 button on the G6 (they are located in the same place on the bottom of the control panel of the camera).
    The procedure with the G5 is:  Activate Focus Area with Fn3> Move focus area with cursor buttons> Return to center with a second press of Fn3.
    On the G6 the procedure is: Activate Focus Area with Fn4>Move focus area with cursor buttons> Return to center with Disp button.
    Why did they change it ??  They both work, but the procedure on the G5 seems easier to me.  You don't have to find a third control module.
    Actually the optimum ergonomic solution would be to use the existing [Playback] button to activate Focus Area Set, as the activity is carried out in the Capture Phase of operation. This requires use of buttons which are an easy reach for the thumb. But Panasonic keeps on putting the [Playback] and [Disp] buttons (which operate Prepare and Review Phase actions so don't need prime camera real estate) above the 4 Way Cursor and makes them fixed, not user selectable in function. Playback and Disp could more effectively go to the bottom row as they are not required in Capture Phase.

    Egret. G6 with 14-140mm MkII

    Power supply  The GH2, G5 and G6 all use the same BLC21 battery which is handy for anyone upgrading.

    Viewing  The G6 has a better EVF than the G5. It provides more accurate colors with less false magenta color. Both EVF's are fully adjustable for brightness, contrast and color balance, but after adjustment to best settings I find the G6 EVF consistently and noticeably better. Both EVF's jitter with camera movement in very low light, but in most conditions manage panning smoothly.

    Both monitors look very nice to me. Again both are adjustable for brightness, contrast and color balance.

    Someone at Panasonic seems not to have noticed that no known humans have rectangular eye sockets. Both the G5 and G6 have a rectangular shaped rubber eye cup. That on the G6 has even sharper corners than the G5. What on earth were they thinking?

    Performance  Panasonic has given the G6 a useful boost in performance, particularly as it affects continuous shooting of moving subjects. With the 14-42mm kit zoom, the G6 in M burst Mode, AFC,  can shoot 10 RAW frames at 3.5 fps before slowdown.   The G5 managed 6 frames at 2 fps with the same settings. With Large Fine JPG capture the G6  ran at 3.1 fps and was still going at 50 frames without slowdown. The G5 with Large Fine JPG capture managed 14 frames in 6 seconds (2.3 fps) before slowdown.  These frame rates are lens dependent. The G6 with the new 14-140mm MkII lens ran at 4 fps in M burst Mode.

    So the G6 enables a faster frame rate and has a larger buffer. It also samples the sensor  240 x per second, the same s the GH3 so it's AFC accuracy should be better than the G5 as well.

    Low Light AF  The G6 has a low light AF function. In very low light, I mean really low, the G6 will switch to sampling the sensor at 15x per second. It will AF in about 2-3 seconds in this mode. The advantage is increased accuracy even in light so low it is difficult to see anything.

    Mode Dial  The Mode Dial of the G6 is larger and has additional settings for Panorama and Creative Video. I tested the Panorama function and to put it kindly would have to say that more R&D is required on that particular feature. It works as advertised but frequently fails to merge the frames properly leading to softness and/or double imaging of details.

    Q Menu  Both use the same, very good system. The G6 adds Focus Mode, Flash Mode and Peaking to the options list.

    Peaking This works and is useful especially with manual focus or to confirm autofocus with manual touch up. Peaking color is white.

    Fn Buttons  I already mentioned the G6 has one extra Fn button. The options list is the same as for the G5 plus Peaking and Flash Mode.

    Setup Menu  Same as G5 with the addition of Wi-Fi and Menu Information.

    Rec Menu Same as G5 plus Multi Exposure, Time Lapse Shot, Stop Motion Animation, Extended ISO  and Panorama Settings.   ISO Limit Set increases from 3200 to 12800.  

    Custom Menu  Same as as G5 plus Peaking, Monitor Info Disp and Self Timer Auto Off.

    E-Shutter  Both have E-Shutter which works the same and has the same limitations on both.

    Which to buy ?   There are some very tempting deals on new G5's as I write this, so the decision is not easy with a new G6 costing substantially more than a new G5.

    For general photography  with autofocus there is not much difference between them.

    For Sport/Actionthe G6 is significantly better to the extent I would say the G5 is unsuitable and the G6 is quite capable.

    For Manual Focus,  Peaking on the G6 gives it a significant advantage.

    Other features  If you want Wi-Fi, Multi Exposure or  Time Lapse then the G6 is your camera.

     I did not test Motion Picture.


      


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