Next time you're in Barnes & Noble, saunter (or sashay, your choice) over to the magazine rack and pick up a copy of the Feb '14 issue of RoadRUNNER Magazine. My Vermont dual purpose story, "One if by Land, Two if by Sea, Three if by KLR" is in there, and it's one of the first real tests of the Nikon V1 as my A camera. It's been on several trip now as my B cam, and it's done well enough. Well enough to be given a chance as the A cam. The B cam on this trip was that venerable Panasonic GH2 with the versatile 12-35 F2.8. And the C cam was the tiny Pentax Q. It's hard to leave the Q behind because it's so tiny, and with the fisheye and the Q mounted on a monopod I can get some neat POV shots.
|Still from PBS Frontline Documentary "League of Denial"|
And so a scant few days after posting the rumored Pentax K-3, I find myself wondering it it's time to move away from the Pentax K-mount. A number of things have happened in the last six months to bring me to this point. One, I've really grown to like the Nikon V1 and am considering further investment in the Nikon 1 system. At first, I bought it as a rig camera, taking some nice intervalometer photos in Maine. Then I promoted it to second camera on my trip to Ontario. And it did well. I shoot with a very flat picture profile, which makes out of the camera RAW files looks kind of "meh", but the files handle pretty aggressive post processing without falling to pieces.
And then the big test came; I brought it on my last VT dual sport trip as the first camera (I also had a Panasonic GH2 along for video and backup). And the V1 did great. No, the image quality isn't at the level of the Pentax K-5, particularly when you push even a smidge beyond ISO400. And it doesn't have much DOF. And the zooms are on the slow end. And so on and so on. But I know that I can get magazine worthy files from this little machines, and I know that the platform will only improve as sensor technology improves and Nikon sees fit to develop more interesting lenses. To that end I've looked at second bodies and just purchased the SB-N7 Speedlight. If I just add the 6.7-13mm wide angle zoom, I'll have the ultimate small camera motorcycle travel kit.
So where does that leave the Pentax K-5 or the upcoming K-3? I'm not shooting events as much as I used to, so a DSLR is not high on my priority list. I'm using smaller sensor cameras to give me telephoto reach, and as I wrote recently, I'm enjoying the small zooms of the smaller formats. I don't think that I'll ever give up having a DSLR completely as they are such good workhorses, but they seem to be moving to the back of the shelf in terms of getting used.
And if I'm going to keep one, maybe I should get one whose lenses can be shared. Maybe I should go back to....Nikon. I started shooting more seriously with a D70 back in 2004 after all. And if I choose my lenses well, I can use them on a Nikon DSLR and on the Nikon 1 with the adapter and also on the GH2 with another adapter. A tri-fecta if there ever was one.
In a perfect, rational world, that is what I should do. Then why do I hesitate?
Just took delivery of a used Panasonic GH2 from fellow photog John Griggs, aka Entropic Remnants. He's moving away from Micro Four Thirds to Fuji X, so I took the GH2 off of his hands for a fair price. I now have two GH2s and will use them primarily for video. I thought a lot about getting a G6 or GH3 instead, as they both offer arguably better video quality, particularly in low light and even when compared to a hacked GH2. I even thought about a BlackMagic Pocket Cinema Camera with what many are saying is game-changing IQ.
In any case, one of the bags was filled with camera gear, a rolling case from jLab (no, I've never heard of them either) that I poached from Groupon for like $30. Score! The bag's got the following:
- Panasonic GH2 with 12-35 F2.8
- Nikon 1 V1 with 10-30, 30-110, 10/28, and 18/1.8 lenses
- Panasonic LX-7
- Pentax Q with 5-15 and 01 Standard Prime
- Pentax K-01 with FA43
- Merlin Steadicam 2
- Switronix TorchLED light
- small reflector
- chargers, batteries, memory cards
- Apple Macbook Pro
- Apple iPad
- the kitchen sink
The Panasonic LX7 and Nikon 1 have gotten the most use so far; they are just so small and convenient that they always end up in our backpack. The review is for NewMotor, a digital publication, so the highest resolution that we're going to need is for an iPad with Retina Display, 2048 by 1536 pixels. The LX7 and Nikon 1 will be able to handle that no problem; heck nearly all digital cams will be able to handle that.
I feel a bit guilty about bringing the Pentaxes along, or to be more precise, about leaving them behind. They're both great cameras but a luxury for this project. I guess that it's one of those things where if you've got a big bag you'll be sure to fill it. I think I'll bring out the FA43 today; that lens needs a workout...
I'm here to confess that the game that kept me up late way past my bedtime in 1982 was a pirated copy. That's right, I somehow got a hold of the tools to unlock the awesomeness of the game (and the superlative graphics) and I did. I think that the statute of limitations has run out, right?
In two previous posts (“The Case Against Full Frame” and “The Case Against APS-C”) I opined on why the leading professional and amateur sensor sizes are doomed to the scrapheap of history. Where does that leave the upstart Micro Four-Thirds?
Like many other photographers, I’m on a quest for less noise, particularly in quiet, intimate, low light settings. But it’s not the ISO and the shadows that I’m concerned about, it’s the racket that a camera makes when shooting. You don’t notice that cameras can be loud, attention-drawing things until you get to a situation where discretion is advised and expected. Like a baptism or wedding or some other ceremony. If you take a picture with a loud camera in those situations, be prepared for a bunch of swivelheads to look at you disapprovingly. My style tends towards the looser candid/street/decisive moment, so noise is important to me, and I’ve got strong opinions on the cameras that I’ve used these last couple of years.
Here are two tigers for you investigation. Actually, it's one tiger, photographed twice, to compare two camera systems. My photo above was taken with the Nikon 1 V1 with the 30-110mm zoom @ 110mm (297mm eq), 1/125s, F6.3, ISO640. And here's my wife's photo with the Panasonic GH2 with 100-300mm zoo @ 100mm (200mm eq), 1/640, F5.6, ISO1600.
While I spent _most_ of the day shooting the Nikon 1 V1 with the 30-110 zoom, I did play with the Panasonic GH2 paired with the 100-300 zoom. Looking at the pictures now, it's obvious that the Panasonic is doing much better than the Nikon at the zoo. To be honest, I was a bit disappointed in the Nikon as most of the shots weren't particularly sharp. I think that I've isolated the issue - the long end of the 30-110 zoom isn't that great. It's better at the shorter end but at the end of the day it's still a kittish type zoom. The Panasonic Lumix G Vario 100-300/F4.0-5.6 in comparison is a step above and it's working with a larger sensor. And it's twice as expensive. So I shouldn't be surprised.
I am going to give the Nikon 30-110 another chance though. It was after all my first time shooting with it, and I've always said that you need to take 1,000 shots with a lens to become familiar with it. So the test will continue.
He's probably thinking, "I wish someone would come over and groom me, as this black fur is a PITA to keep clean."
Taken with the Panasonic GH2 mated to the Lumix G Vario 100-300/F4.0-5.6 @ 300mm, 1/40s, f7.1, ISO1600. The in-lens image stabilization is earning its keep here, making a 1/40s exposure at 600mm EQ pretty darn sharp. The camera is handling ISO1600 quite well too. Overall, it's a pretty potent and fairly compact long-lens setup.
Over the course of the day at The Bronx Zoo, I saw a couple of guys with serious Nikon and Canon kit. They could have ended up with better shots, but that's ok. My wife shot with the GH2 most of the day and she seems pleased with what she got, and didn't hurt her back or neck in the process. Afterwards, we met up with a friend in Manhattan, and I had both the GH2 and the Nikon V1 in my little Timbuktu Snoop Messenger (small), along with a total of 4 zooms and a prime, and an iPad. I would have stood out like a sore thumb if I had a big Nikon or Canon kit with me.
But my favorite story is the guy with the monster Nikon lens (looked like an F2.8 mega zoom for sure). The thing had a lens hood longer than my arm, and he stops to take a snapshot of what I presume is his wife and toddler sitting on the bench beside us. He's standing up, pointing down with this monster zoom and he flips up the tiny on-camera flash, which by the looks of it is going to totally be blocked by the honking lens hood. He probably could have taken a better shot with an iPhone. But I digress...
June 2012 Postscript. The record store is gone now. And the space is still empty. There are a number of empty retail spaces downtown - a sign of the times - but the neighborhood is still vibrant.
A fellow photographer and I are interviewing veterans for the Library of Congress' Veterans History Project (www.loc.gov/vets/). My friend is shooting stills and I'm shooting video with the GH2. This is my first use of the Super Takumar 50mm F1.4. I had it stopped down a couple of clicks and had 1 CFL softbox to the camera left, and 1 CFL softbox and CFL reflector on camera right. I was shooting from a Vanguard CF monopod with a Manfrotto 701HD fluid pan head. I also had Express35 15mm rods supporting the D|Focus follow focus and smallHD DP4 EVF.
This is a shot straight from the camera, before any color correction (grading in videospeak). I'm frankly blown away by the sharpness of this cheap consumer camera when combined with this 40+ year old lens.
Forgot to bring my flash gels to balance ambient and flash light, and I wasn't shooting RAW because it's only 1FPS on the K-01, so I spent a fair amount of time in Lightroom tweaking colors. As I've mentioned, AF is the biggest bugbear. Ultimately, the shots came out ok - it just took extra effort to get there.