Panasonic LUMIX GX8: Image Quality

Hot on the heels of my last Panasonic LUMIX GX8 piece, here are some image samples taken with my Lumix GX8, Lumix G 30mm f2.8 Mega O.I.S Lens and an old but fully TTL compatible, Olympus FL-36R Flash Gun (with cheap and cheerful flash mounted soft box stuck on the end of the camera mounted flash). Parent Advisory Warning: The embedded images contain models from Sci-Fi Horror Films (they’re action models), but may not be suitable for younger readers.

The 20.3MP LiveMOS Sensor in the LUMIX GX8 gives loads of detail as I hope the shots of my eager models, clearly show. The images have been post processed, with some minor tweaking and are scaled down a bit for Web use, but hopefully they will give you some idea of the image quality you can get from the Micro Four Thirds sensor of the LUMIX GX8.

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Predator Mask

A detailed model of the AVP Predator, stands @13 inches tall complete with lance, Face Mask, Shoulder mounted blaster and looks stunning. The Lumix GX8 + LUMIX G 30mm f2.8 Mega O.I.S Lens has captured a lot of detail, including the metal mesh effect in the Face Mask Eye Ports.

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Predator: Trophy Belt

The Predator’s Trophy Belt: The 20.3MP LiveMOS Sensor has captured excellent levels of detail. The biggest ‘trophy’ on the belt is barely 1cm in size.

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Alien: Xenomorph Pose

The Alien figure based on the original Alien Film, with spring action tongue. A hopefully, menacing pose with blurred forearm to help show the shallow depth of field the Micro Four Thirds cameras can create.

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Predator Unmasked

The Predator revealed. Removing the model’s Face Mask shows just how much detail these figurines have and how well the Lumix G 30mm f2.8 Mega O.I.S can pull those details out for the 20.3MP sensor in the LUMIX GX8.

Again, I used the hand held lance in the foreground to show the depth of field you can produce on what many call a small sensor. With the right lens and lighting, sensor size really doesn’t need to make that much of a difference.

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Predator Mandibles

Slightly more muted, the flash was swivelled upwards to bounce the light down onto the subject, who as you can see from the image, wasn’t looking too happy.

Again the detail the 20.3MP LUMIX GX8 sensor has pulled from the subject, you can see the mould seal joints along the upper mandible (just off centre as you look at the image)

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Alien AVP: Scream

Above, the AVP Alien Xenomorph screams in agony. Look at the detail caught by the LUMIX GX8. You can see the dust on the inside of the Alien’s mouth.

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Predator Head On

I love the picture above. The Predator Mug Shot. The lighting, the detail, those eyes. The Flash was positioned directly facing the Predator, on the LUMIX GX8 with the 30mm f2.8 Mega O.I.S Lens.

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Predator Off Centre

Slightly different angle, flash was swivelled 45 or 60 degrees upwards, which created a softer and warmer bounced light with more muted colour tones, but still plenty detail.

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Alien: Looming Large

The classic Alien pose: I’m coming to get you. . . Flash directly pointing at Alien, lower angled shot, to try and make the 12 inch model look ‘bigger’ and more imposing. Look at those tiny little teeth on the outstretched tongue.

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Predator Looming

Predator was relaxing into the shoot and looks much happier now: it’s amazing what a different camera angle can create. Loads of detail from the 30mm lens, the LUMIX GX8 capturing the pitting marks on the armour breast plates, the worn threads of the Trophy Belt and many other details.

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Predator With Lance Snow

Same model, just a slightly wider view, with some added ‘snow storm’ effects thrown in to add a different ambience to the image. Focus is centred on that amazing Predator Eye and Jaw area. I like this image.

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Alien Stalking: Snow

And finally a snow storm effect on the stalking Alien figure, wider angle but loads of detail caught by the LUMIX GX8, showing just how formidable this Micro Four Thirds 20.3MP Sensor is.

These images are by no means scientific. Just me with two action figurines, a camera, lens and single flash, messing around to see what’s what and I hope you agree they really are quite impressive, especially when virtually no thought went into the ‘shoot’. It was seriously just a case of ‘I wonder what I can do with. . .’ and ten minutes later I edited the images on the computer.

I do have to give a shout out to the Olympus FL-36R Flash Gun. I bought it used on eBay, unlike my brand spanking new Lumix GX8 and Lenses, not entirely sure it would work. The Panasonic Web Site did offer a compatibility chart, which did say the Oly FL-36R was fully compatible and, it was. It looked great. It balanced well and the best part, I got it for £40 with the soft box, soft case and Flash Stand. It is well used with a lot of clear signs of use on it, but it is fully operational and will offer wireless compatibility.

I did consider a third party Flash, but decided to keep it ‘in the family’ (of Micro Four Thirds) and went for the Olympus. A real bargain and I hope you will agree, the lighting in the shots has worked well, for a one flash set up.

I hope the images do give you a good representation of the image quality you can get from the Micro Four Thirds sensor. For me coming from the Sony A7, it does beg a slightly bigger question: who really needs a full frame sensor?

Feel free to let me know what you think. Leave a comment.

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Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX8

It’s been a while since I wrote about my Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX8 camera, but here’s a quick update. The one I reviewed last year, was a fantastic camera to use, but after quite a bit of testing, I found image quality of shots between 1/60th – 1/200th shutter speed, were all a bit blurred, so after a lot of soul searching, I sold it and started looking for my next camera. But, the Lumix GX8 kept lingering in my mind.

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Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX8

I tried the Sony A77, which I loved. It is a great camera, which takes amazing images, but the weight of the kit made the return of ‘not taking my camera with me’, so I sold that and went down the Sony A7 route.

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Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX8 Rear LCD Closed

The Sony A7 is an amazing camera, but the battery life is shocking. I could easily run through two or three batteries with mild use each day. Again the images, being full frame were awesome. I could cope with several battery changes, but when I started looking at getting some quality glass, Sony FE mount options are very, very expensive.

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Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX8 Rear Rotated LCD

During the time with the Sony’s, I keep thinking about that Lumix GX8. Everything about it was perfect. The body size, focus speed, touch screen, EVF, weight, but that shutter speed issue?

I started looking around the web and found a few GX8 users having the same experience I had, but Panasonic apparently fixed it with a Firmware upgrade by adding an Auto Electronic Shutter setting in Menu.

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Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX8 Rear Menu

I now have my second Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX8 and having found the option in the Menu for Electronic Shutter and switched it to Auto, I have no blurry images at these shutter speeds. I bought the Lumix GX8 kit this time with the weather sealed 12-60mm f3.5 – 5.6 Power O.I.S lens and early tests show this to be a very capable lens.

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Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX8 LCD Twists and Flips

This camera is an amazing powerhouse, in a compact yet rugged body. The image quality is stunning and I absolutely love shooting with the Lumix GX 8 again.

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Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX8 Front Grip

I do need to get some quality glass, but as I already know, Sigma, with their trio of really affordable little gems, the 19mm, 30mm and 60mm all f2.8 DN Art lenses, it won’t take long to build a good lens selection.

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Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX8 Variable EVF

Panasonic and Olympus all offer premium glass, some of which is extremely expensive, but compared to one Zeiss prime for the Sony FE, I could by two Pro standard lenses from Old or Panasonic (buying second hand, I could probably buy an entire lens kit for the price of 1 new Zeiss.

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Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX8 Large EVF

So, a quick update. I’m back on the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX8. I will post some new examples soon, if I can take time out from enjoying my photography again. So, enjoy the pics again of this beautiful and much overlooked GEM of a camera.

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Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX8 EVF Adjusts

Some reviewers make fun of the variable EVF, but I love using it at the angle above.

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Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX8 Branding

Understated but elegant design.

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Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX8 Top Plate

Good sized dials and controls for real sized fingers (not little pixie fingers)

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Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX8 & Sigma 60mm DN Art

The Front element of the Sigma DN Art 60mm f2.8 lens. It is a sharp lens.

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Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX8 & Sigma DN Art 60mm f2.8

Mmmmm Rangefinder style loveliness. Beautiful isn’t it? Understated, but a gorgeous camera.

If you haven’t considered a Micro Four Thirds system, it really is time to take a look. I love the Panasonic Lumix GX8 camera. It is a dream to use. I will post real world examples in the very near future, but in the mean time, head down to your local Panasonic Lumix stockist and get your hands on some of these and try them out.

If you want to be inspired or are even more curious to find out about the Lumix GX8, please check out this excellent Panasonic Lumix GX8 video review from the guys at SLR Coaching.com, where they go through lots of features for you to see how incredible the Panasonic Lumix GX8 is.

SLR Coaching.com offers loads of useful content at both their You Tube Channel and their dedicated Web Site at http://www.slrcoaching.com. So, check them out and improve your photography.

Thank you to SLR Coaching.com for doing the Lumix GX 8 review, it really helped me take another serious look at the Lumix GX8 and appreciate it’s capabilities.

Panasonic Lumix offer a staggering number of cameras, the GX8 and GH5 being the flagship models, but there are cheaper but equally capable models, like the G80, GX800, GX80, G7 or GH5 to name a few. Seriously, take a look at the range available. You might be pleasantly surprised and you never know, you might just take one home with you.

Thanks for reading and check back soon for some real world examples.

The Sony SLT-A77v & Sony DT 16-50mm f2.8 SSM Lens: First Look (2017)

A long time ago, in a land far, far away, the Sony corporation, released a digital camera onto the market which piqued my interest. It was, as far as I was aware, the first revolutionary step in DSLR cameras (since Auto Focus) for decades. . .

Forgive me, but I think a little history is needed to put things into perspective:

I was always a Canon shooter from my first T70 through to the EOS 10D (I loved my 10D), 50D, 7D x 2, 1D MKii x 2, 1Ds MKii, 1D MKiii, but switched to Nikon (then back to Canon and once again to Nikon) with the launch of the D3 which was and still is, a fantastic beast of a camera. Fast focus, stunning image quality and that full frame 12MP sensor, was the pinnacle of photographic perfection. Or so it was reported, onto the slightly more compact D800 with it’s revolutionary 36MP sensor. Resolving power giant.

I loved my D3, D800 and the Pro lenses I had. Unfortunately, my elbows really didn’t like the weight my kit forced them to endure when using.

Tennis elbow in one elbow is horrible, but imagine having it in both elbows at the same time! Lifting anything, became virtually impossible. So, I downgraded to lighter gear and lighter gear until I finally started using mirrorless cameras, which have proved to be excellent little cameras, but I could never find one which just felt right for extended shooting.

I’ve reviewed several mirrorless cameras on here and each one, as a photographic tool, has been very capable image gathering device. The most recent, was the Lumix GX8, which is a stunningly good camera, but, there was a slight niggle in my mind. . .

The size. . .

Mirrorless cameras by and large, are small and compact image gathering devices, from the likes of Canon’s EOS M (I still love that camera, despite it’s shortcomings) through to the Olympus OM-D E-M5 on to the Sony a6000 (which is a stunning image taking device). They all have good points and they all have bad points, so choosing one model to go with is a case of living with the bad points or short comings. The images you can get with each camera, within each individual model’s ‘hot spot’ settings, are great, but if you want true creative control, tweaking the settings is where I ran into the problems that over time, really start to bug me. . .

TINY CONTROL WHEELS AND BUTTONS

Now, you could opt for larger mirrorless bodies, like the Panasonic GH5 or GX8, bigger bodies (small DSLR size) with bigger and better laid out controls. Perfection? I thought so, but there again, perhaps not.

A larger Mirrorless body generally has a smaller sensor and we’re all pretty much familiar with the ongoing debates around sensor size. Enough said that bigger is generally better (please note I said generally). The Panasonic models all contain the Micro Four Thirds size sensor, which effectively has a 2x crop factor (or half the dimensions of a full frame 35mm sensor).

Now half a full frame size, may sound ok, but in reality, it is a quarter of the actual size.

Let me explain it this way:

A full size snooker / billiards table is 12 foot by 6 foot. A half size snooker table is 6 foot by 3 foot. Exactly half the dimensions of a full size table, but to get back to the full sized table, you need four half sized tables, side by side and end to end (3ft + 3ft = 6ft width, 6ft + 6ft = 12ft length). So, a Micro Four Thirds sensor is really a quarter of the size of a full frame sensor.

An APS Full Frame sensor is 35.9mm x 24.00mm, APS-C (1.5x Crop) is 23.7mm x 15.6mm, M4/3 (2x Crop) is 17.3mm x 13.00mm and the 1″ Sensor (2.7 x Crop) is 13.2mm x 8.8mm

Canon, for whatever reason, offers their own APS-C sized sensor in their mirrorless range with it’s 1.6x crop factor, while Fujifilm, Sony, Samsung etc. all offer APS-C sized sensors with 1.5x crop factors. Nikon’s mirrorless offerings offer a 1″ sensor or CX format as Nikon call it, which is tiny.

Now, while generally speaking, the bigger the sensor the better, the camera bodies with full sized sensors (I’ll come to Sony in a minute) are large. Large camera bodies generally mean heavy, especially when combined with the much larger, quality optics required to get the most out of those gorgeous full sized sensors.

Sony, have managed to install a full sized sensor in a tiny camera body in their RX1 camera, which is a remarkable feat and the RX1 does give stunning results. But, it’s a tiny camera body so for day to day shooting, dealing with minuscule control buttons and dials is a pain in the proverbial. The RX1 is also very expensive.

Sony also offer their highly regarded A7 range of Mirrorless cameras (A7, A7s, A7r), again all offer stunning image quality with full sized sensors ranging from the 12.1MP in the A7s, with super fast AF and fps, to the 24.3MP in the A7, with slower fps but higher resolution detail onto the fully magnesium alloy body A7r with significantly higher 36MP + resolution but slower fps over the other two.

All the A7 range are pretty much in the same sized body as the Sony a6000 series cameras, give or take, with an EVF hump added in the middle. They are compact cameras with stunning image quality, but being full frame, require larger full frame sized lenses (FE Mount) whilst maintaining the smaller controls of a smaller bodied camera.

Fujifilm launched their X series mirrorless cameras, with the funky X-Trans sensor, which offered absolutely stunning image quality for an APS-C sensor. I had the X-Pro 1 (lovely camera), X-E1, X-E2 and numerous lenses. The lenses are great and the X-E2 was the best of the bunch I had, but despite firmware updates, the autofocus was still very slow for moving subjects.

I bought a Sony a6000 recently (I know late to the party, the story of my life) and it was a phenomenal camera: super fast AF, blistering fps, quality glass, but fiddly little controls and a less than ‘solid’ build quality. I’m not saying it was cheap or bad build. It wasn’t, but it was clearly built on a budget.

So, having tried out several different mirrorless cameras, to save the haters from hating, here they are:

Canon EOS M (I’ve had 7 of them), Canon EOS M3, Nikon 1 V1, Samsung Galaxy NX (EK-GN120 I’ve had two of them) Samsung NX300, Fujifilm X-Pro 1, X-E1, X-E2, Olympus OM-D E-M5, Panasonic Lumix GX8 and Sony NEX 6 and a6000.

Each one had good points and bad points. Of all of them, the Canon EOS M was the one I kept going back to. The Touch Controls, compact size and amazing image quality kept drawing me back, despite it’s lethargic auto focus speed. The images from it were quite simply, great.

Canon have since improved the EOS M offerings, but and this is a huge BUT, the lenses Canon offer now are pretty much all plastic mounts.

I WILL NEVER USE A PLASTIC MOUNT LENS

Canon, this is how dumb you have been. You created a great innovation, a 28mm Macro lens for the EOS M, with built in and configurable LED lighting. GENIUS.

Then you put a plastic lens mount on it to save a few quid. STUPID. WRONG AND STUPID.

Why would anyone fork out over £1000.00 on an EOS M5 to stick a plastic mount lens on it? The 55-200mm EFM lens, the biggest, longest, ONLY distance zoom for the EOS M. . .yup PLASTIC MOUNT, so don’t knock that against anything or you could have a tricky job getting the mount out of the camera body.

Canon have clearly hampered their non DSLR offerings by making cheap lens mounts to scare potential buyers off.

Now, the observant amongst you will be asking yourself: “the title said Sony SLT-A77 first look, why hasn’t he mentioned it yet?” And, you would be correct, so here we go. . .

A brief aside:

Having been disillusioned with my purchase of a Sony a6000, not because it was a bad camera, it just didn’t suit me, the size, controls were just too small, I was bored and looking through the used section of Wex Photographic’s Web Site. They do offer some really good stuff, complete with a years warranty, and there it was . . .

Sony SLT-A77v Camera Body, Grade 9+ (Shows little signs of use) Shutter Count: 1035. Price: £359.00. Comes boxed with all original accessories, blah, blah, blah. Before I knew it, I had added it to my basket and had paid. It was going to arrive the next day. . .

 

 

 

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Sony SLT-A77v & Sony (SAL1650) DT 16-50mm f2.8 SSM Lens

During the time I had deserted cumbersome DSLR / Lens combos in favour of the smaller and lighter mirrorless offerings, Sony did something else, which was pretty much overlooked by the photography world:

Sony introduced Translucent Mirror System Cameras, in the A33 and A55. Sony called them DSLT (Digital Single Lens Translucent) as opposed to DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex).

Both cameras, were relatively low end and aimed at a budget market with relatively (I use the term loosely) poor performance. Neither were aimed at the enthusiast / Pro buyer.

Then in late 2011, Sony announced two new DSLT models, the more enthusiast aimed A65 and the all conquering weather proofed A77 (see, I told you I’d get there). Now the A77 did make me stop and think “interesting I must look into that”, but being a Canon 7D user at the time and being busy, I never did get round to trying out the SLT technology Sony had brought to the photography scene.

Time passed and like so many other things I’d forgotten about, the A77 left my consciousness.

In late 2014, Sony introduced the A77 Mk ii a new improved version of the A77. Again, I thought, “Oh yeah, I must look into that SLT tech”, but being busy, transitioning to mirrorless cameras, the SLT tech once again vanished from my consciousness.

So, here we are in May 2017 and I recently bought a Sony SLT-A77v camera body. The ‘v’ designates it as one with the built in GPS facility. Some people might hate this, but having geolocation data on your images is actually a really handy thing to have. Every Smartphone image has it these days, so why not cameras?

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Sony SLT-A77v & Sony (SAL1650) DT 16-50mm f2.8 SSM Lens

“What about a lens?”

Not being a Sony user and never getting round to checking their SLT system out, I had absolutely no idea what lenses would work with it, so I had to do some quick research. It was remarkably easy to find the answer:

Any Konica / Minolta  / Sony  A Mount lens would work on the SLT-A77v.

I remember from days long gone, that Minolta used to do some really amazing optics, so, whilst they may not be sonic wave near silent motors, the finished results could, I stress ‘could’ be quite something.

So, not knowing if I was going to be happy with the A77, I wasn’t going to fork out mega bucks on a lens, so I headed over to eBay and found a near mint Minolta 50mm F1.7 AF prime lens. £60 including P&P.

The Sony A77v turned up the next morning, beautifully packaged and upon opening the box, bar a slight mark where a tripod mount had been attached to the camera, the SLT-A77v was immaculate. Not a mark on it, complete with two screen protectors, one on the rear LCD and one on the control LCD up top.

It felt great in my hand, a good meaty grip to get your fingers around, nice thumb accents round back for a nice stable hold. I charged the battery and popped it in. With the battery inside, the A77 felt excellent in the hand, solid build, but not ‘heavy, heavy’. It felt just right.

All I had to do was wait for the lens.

The Minolta 50mm f1.7 AF arrived the day after, I let it come up to room temperature before fixing it to the A77. Once on:

I flipped the on/off switch and the camera jumped into life. I took the lens cap off and without a glance at the instruction book, starting taking some test snaps just to see how it felt.

All I can say is WOW.

I found out something about myself there and then. I am a DSLR/T shooter. The Sony SLT-A77v reminded me of how I felt with my old Canon EOS 10D. It just felt ‘right’, invisible, an extension of my arm. I took loads of test images, of nothing really, just shooting anything and everything.

Firstly, the Minolta 50mm f1.7 lens worked without issue. The AF as expected, was noisy, but not “oh no” noisy. The AF on the SLT-A77v worked quickly and accurately, with a lens from the mid 90s. Shot after shot. Close up distance wasn’t great with the lens, but it’s an old lens and the distance for it’s time period would have been great, but more modern optics / tech have allowed much closer focus distance.

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Sony SLT-A77v & Sony (SAL1650) DT 16-50mm f2.8 SSM Lens

Build: the SLT-A77v is solid, weather sealed, slightly smaller than a Canon EOS 7D, but with great button layout. Controls just happen to be where you need them, with a brilliant little joystick to whizz between menu settings (changeable either using the rear LCD or the EVF).

When paired with the Sony (SAL1650) DT 16-50mm f2.8 SSM lens, which is also weatherproof, the Sony SLT-A77v is ready for any weather conditions and looks the whole pro photographer part (for those who care about things like that).

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Sony SLT-A77v & Sony (SAL1650) DT 16-50mm f2.8 SSM Lens

The PASM command dial has a reassuring friction to it. This dial will be unlikely to change as you slide the camera in and out of your bag. The front and rear dials for shutter and aperture however, do move quite freely and it is easy to change settings without meaning to, but that isn’t a deal breaker.

So, what about the SLT or Single Lens Translucent Technology at play? How does that stack up?

Other reviews have said that you loose around one third of a stop over conventional DSLR cameras, but according to Sony, they have ‘tweaked’ the ISO settings in camera to counteract this third stop light reduction, so, if you shoot at ISO 100, you should get the same result as ISO 100 on any DSLR. This however is not necessarily correct, as each camera manufacturer has their own software installed, tailored for the hardware they have in each model of camera (hence Firmware from one model, won’t work in another).

The bottom line is, the images from the SLT-A77v are excellent.

With no mirror slap to contend with and built in Sony SteadyShot Inside (image stabilisation) any lens mounted, even old Minolta ones, benefit from sensor stabilisation and the SteadyShot works really well.

The Translucent Mirror Technology offers something on par with mirrorless cameras. Unbelievable fps shooting. The A77 can shoot up to 12fps when set to the 12fps mode. There are some caveats to this as far as settings go, but with the smart tech that is built into the A77, you can set it on the 12fps mode and shoot away for short bursts, without missing the action.

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Sony SLT-A77v & Sony (SAL1650) DT 16-50mm f2.8 SSM Lens

Much has been written about EVF against OVT (that’s Electronic View Finder and Optical View Finder), the mirrorless cameras I have had, have ranged from no viewfinder, to optical/ EVF hybrid to exclusively EVF and I can happily say that the EVF on the Sony SLT-A77v is amazing.

The EVF in the Sony A77 is big. I mean full size viewfinder big, as in full frame camera big. Unlike the viewfinder on most crop sensor cameras, which look like you’re peering down a tunnel, the EVF on the A77 is gorgeous, with full scene, little lag and amazing amounts of detail. It puts all other EVF’s I’ve used to shame.

The EVF really makes OVF antique by comparison. With Viewfinder Effect ON in the menu system (still hadn’t read the instruction book), what you see as you compose your image, is what you get, unlike an OVF, what you see is what’s there, regardless of the settings you have set.

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Sony SLT-A77v & Sony (SAL1650) DT 16-50mm f2.8 SSM Lens

Out of camera JPEGS looked great, RAW files even better. The 50mm Minolta did produce some CA, which was easily dealt with post processing, but the RAW images with the lens stopped down a bit, were amazing.

The Sony SLT-A77v, was a definite keeper.

I went online and ordered a used Sony SAL 16-50mm f2.8 SSM lens, with next day delivery. The reviews said wide open, it was a bit soft, but stoped down it was a sharp lens. Flickr provided some great examples of the A77 with the 16-50mm f2.8, so, I ordered the Sony SAL1650 with next day delivery.

Combined, the A77 and SAL1650 are both weather sealed, ideal for any outdoor eventuality. When fitted, the lens does add a bit of weight to the camera, but again combined, give a sense of assurance that what you have in your hands will take anything that life throws at it.

The Sony SLT-A77v, has a flip out, tilt and swivel rear screen, which whilst at first seems cumbersome, is actually really well thought out. The True Black rear LCD is lovely, with great sharpness (not a patch on the resolution of the EVF, which also allows you to review images : chimping on the sly).

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Sony SLT-A77v & Sony (SAL1650) DT 16-50mm f2.8 SSM Lens

The buffer is a bit low, you can rattle off maybe 18 JPEG or 14 RAW before things slow down, which to machine gun shooters out there, will sound awful. I can hear the “my 7D will keep shooting all day long at 8fps” and whilst this may be true, the shots your 7D gets may not all be in focus, as the camera has to stop focus during mirror up and down before requiring focus for the next shot.

During which time, the conventional DSLR viewfinder is momentarily blacked out, so your own tracking expertise may also effect the outcome of the shots obtained. With the EVF on the A77, the viewfinder never blacks out, so you can keep tracking the object you want and make instant changes as they appear in the EVF.

On the 12fps once things slow down a bit, with a fast SD card installed, give the A77 a second or two to clear the buffer and you can start right off with the 12fps again. Predicting the ‘action’ shot is key with the A77 on 12fps mode.

The Sony SLT-A77v will keep focusing on every shot taken as the mirror doesn’t move. This isn’t to say that every shot is in focus, but the keeper rate (having had two 7D) I am getting from the Sony SLT-A77v is slightly higher than 8fps on the 7D.

On normal mode, high speed burst, the SLT-A77v will do 8fps, like the 7D, but will focus constantly throughout each shot, unlike the 7D.

The Canon 7D has 19 focus points, the same as the A77, but unlike the 11 cross type points of the A77, the 7D has 19 cross type focus points. The A77 however has constant focus, so the hit rate for keepers, so far, is higher than my experience with both the 7D I have owned.

What you do also have to keep in mind is that the 7D is 18MP (1.6 x Crop Factor = slightly smaller) with twin Digic IV processors, allowing for faster clearing of the buffer at 8fps. The A77 has a BionZ processor pushing 24.3MP (1.5x Crop factor = slightly bigger than the Canon) images through at 12fps.

Huh? I hear some readers cry. What has sensor size got to do with processing speed? The smaller the sensor, the smaller the pixels, the smaller the data, the faster a processor can clear it. The larger the sensor, the larger the pixels, the longer the data from the sensor takes to be processed.

That’s why the Nikon 1 V3 for example with it’s 18MP 1 inch sensor can shoot something like 20fps. The smaller the sensor, the smaller the pixels, the smaller the amount of actual data needs to be processed, so the faster it can collect images before the buffer get’s filled up.

Another example at the opposite end of the scale is the Nikon D800 with it’s full frame 36.3MP sensor, which can only shoot at 3 fps. Larger sensor, larger (and more) pixels = more data per pixel to process.

Just for fun, here’s a highly simplified way of looking at it:

Nikon 1 V3 18.4MP, Pixel size 2.51µm = 46.184 million data inputs from all pixels

46.184 Million per shot x 20 fps = 923.68 Million data inputs per second.

Sony SLT-A77v 24.3MP, Pixel Pitch 3.88µm = 94.284 Million data inputs from all pixels

94.284 Million per shot x 12fps = 1.131408 Billion data inputs per second.

Nikon D800 36.3MP, Pixel Pitch 4.87µm = 176.281 Million data inputs from all pixels

176.781 Million per shot x 3fps = 530.343 Million data inputs per second.

If you are a machine gun shooter, a pray and spray photographer, the SLT-A77v really isn’t the camera for you. The Nikon 1 V3 is with it’s 20fps, but you don’t see any of them at sport events in the press areas do you? Why not? 18.4MP 20fps? This outperforms the the Nikon D4s and is a fraction of the cost! Bigger sensors, bigger pixels = better image quality.

If however, you are a more ‘thoughtful’ photographer, who waits for the decisive moment, the SLT-A77v with it’s 12fps will allow you to get that moment. Time, after time, after time.

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Sony SLT-A77v & Sony (SAL1650) DT 16-50mm f2.8 SSM Lens

Thoughtfulness, brings me to another ‘feature’ of the SLT-A77v. It’s quite a quiet camera. No noisy shutter (like the D800).

The Focus Assist beam, is the old school form, it’s a subtle red light made up of bars, which won’t blind your subjects, unlike the latest iteration of LED ‘blind you senseless’ focus assist beams. It’s actually really accurate and a pleasant reminder of how things used to be on camera. Modern meets old school. (What ever happened to Canon’s Eye Focus Tracking system? It focused where your eye looked in the viewfinder).

Battery life? Well yeah, the SLT-A77v does chomp it’s way through the battery quite quickly. Hardly surprising when you consider the fact it’s powering one high resolution display and one very high resolution display, whilst powering the GPS system (which can be disabled in menu). It’s good for anywhere between 450- 550 shots depending on variables, so for a day out shooting one or ideally two spare batteries would be recommended.

You can get the Sony VG-C77AM dedicated vertical grip which will house two batteries, allowing extended shooting and vertical controls for portrait shooters, but does obviously increase the size and weight of the device being held in hand. Personally I prefer the smaller body and a couple of batteries in my bag or pocket to swap out when needed.

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Sony SLT-A77v & Sony (SAL1650) DT 16-50mm f2.8 SSM Lens

So, what is my point?

I have discovered, at least for me and I hope it isn’t too late, that Sony have created a magnificent system which is revolutionary in terms of taking images with a DSLR type camera body. The Translucent Mirror technology is brilliant in what benefits it provides the photographer. Super fast frame rates with real time focusing as each image is taken.

I loved the Samsung Galaxy NX form factor, the large touch screen, the built in connectivity was fantastic, capturing moving subjects however, was very hit and miss, but for still subjects, the Galaxy NX was a brilliant camera. Please Sony, don’t do what Samsung did and scrap the NX department (just as Samsung had launched the excellent NX1 camera), don’t ditch the Alpha SLT class of cameras, that SLT technology offers the advantages of mirrorless cameras, while not having to sacrifice the flexibility or durability of a DSLR camera. It is the ultimate hybrid system.

With an improved buffer rate, to keep the machine gun shooters happy, Sony could have an all conquering DSLT system on their hands. Sony do appear to be the only company interested in real ‘innovation’ in regards the actual photography machine. The big two, Canon and Nikon, just seem to plod along offering incremental updates to what already exists and when those ideas run out, go back to the mega pixel war and throw even more pixels at the sensor. The truth is, you don’t really need more than 16MP for the majority of markets in the world today. 24MP allows a certain amount of cropping and any more than that is just excessive. Trust me I’ve had the D800, the 36.3MP sensor is unforgiving when it comes to lenses and more importantly technique.

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Sony SLT-A77v & Sony (SAL1650) DT 16-50mm f2.8 SSM Lens

Now, what would be really interesting to see, would be an evolution of Sony’s Translucent Mirror Technology, Sony’s 4D Focus system in conjunction with the Sony made, Fujifilm X-Trans sensor technology. What a combination those would make. . . I give you the Sony SLT-X (wishful thinking I know).

In the meantime, having discovered the Translucent Mirror Technology from Sony, I am happier than I have been in a very long time as far as what camera I am carrying around with me. I know it’s horses for courses and not everybody likes the same thing, but, I have found something I think really deserves photographer’s support.

Second hand prices of the SLT-A77v vary depending on condition and age, I was really lucky to find the one I did, when I did. I think it was meant to be: right place, right time. Sony have updated the A77v with the A77 II, with improvements (and loss of the built in GPS facility), which are more expensive, but there are bargains to be had.

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Sony SLT-A77v & Sony (SAL1650) DT 16-50mm f2.8 SSM Lens

 

If you have wondered about how the whole SLT thing works, but are tied to another make of camera or system, now is a pretty good time, for a reasonably low outlay, to get your hands on one of these SLT cameras, cheap Minolta lenses on eBay (the 50mm f1.7 is a cracking little lens) and try something new.

You never know, it might even revolutionise your photography.

It may have taken me a few years to get round to investigating the Translucent Mirror Technology from Sony, but boy am I glad I have.

The Sony SLT-A77v has certainly inspired me to get out and shoot every day since I put a lens on it. With the Sony DT 16-50mm f2.8 SSM attached, I have a great lens, great image quality and a robust, weather sealed package that will take whatever nature has to throw at me.

Combined, the Sony SLT-A77v and the Sony DT 16-50mm f2.8 SSM are a formidable photographic package.

I’m so glad I found it when I did. Better late, than never, eh?

 

Canon EOS M10: First Look

Towards the end of 2015, Canon released another mirrorless camera in their much maligned EOS M range of cameras. The more budget orientated, Canon EOS M10. The EOS M10, unlike the earlier EOS M3 that Canon launched in the Spring of 2015, with it’s 24 Mega-Pixel (MP) APS-C sized C<OS sensor, the EOS M10 is equipped with the more familiar (for EOS M users) 18MP APS-C CMOS which features the Hybrid AFII Auto Focus system (presumably the same as the one featured in the EOS M2), unlike the Hybrid AF III of the EOS M3.

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Canon EOS M10 + Canon EF-M 15-45mm f3.5-6.3 IS STM Lens

Whilst 6 MP may to some seem like a considerable difference, anyone who has used any of the earlier EOS M models will know the image quality is absolutely stellar and was never a cause for concern (unlike the original Hybrid AF issues which were widely reported). Having used the EOS M3 ( there are some blog posts on here about the EOS M3), the image quality on both the EOS M10 and EOS M3 are excellent. No complaints at all.

There were times I actually missed the full touch screen options when using the EOS M3, unlike the original EOS M, which I still love to this day, it’s an amazing little camera, the command dials, exposure compensation dials etc whilst offering more direct control, could after some use, make the EOS M3 feel a bit ‘clunky’ in operation as opposed to the more simplified touch operation of the original EOS M.

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Canon EOS M10 + Canon EF-M 15-45mm f3.5-6.3 IS STM Lens

The Canon EOS M10 cane bought as a body only or in a kit form as seen here, with the new Canon EF-M 15-45mm f3.5-6.3 IS STM Lens. The new kit lens is significantly lighter and smaller than the previous Canon EF-M 18-55mm f3.5-5.6 IS STM ‘kit’ lens, a move I suspect, is purely about cost cutting. The new 15-45mm lens is pretty much an entirely plastic build. Compared to the EF-M 18-55mm of old, which was a pretty solid mostly metal barrel and metal mount, which gave a reassuring feel, the 15-45mm feels less durable. It is a collapsable design which requires ‘unlocking’ with the flip of a switch on the lens barrel and a quick turn, the lens opens up into the 15mm setting.

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Canon EOS M10 Pop Up Flash

The original EOS M came bundled here in the U.K. with the Speedlite 90EX Flash Unit, which I personally loved, but Canon did get some criticism about not having a built in flash as the external did make the entire package significantly more bulky, but on the EOS M10, Canon have added a built in ‘pop’ up flash, which can be pulled back with your finger to adjust the angle.

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Canon EOS M10 Flip Up Rear LCD ‘Selfie’ ‘Vlogger’ Mode

The EOSM 10 also features a new 1.o4MP Rear LCD touch screen, which can be flipped up and over to allow a ‘Selfie’ or ‘Vlogger’ mode, which is great if you’re into selfies or making Video Blogs. Being up and over the top of the camera, when recording images or video, your eyes are actually facing the lens, unlike the flip out form the side screen, which make it look like you’re not concentrating on the image or video being made.

It is a well detailed display with a slider control in the main menu system to adjust the brightness.

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Canon EOS M10 Flip Up Rear LCD

The Touch Menu system has been updated and now scrolls up and down, as opposed to the left to right arrow touch of the original EOS M and it works really well for quickly changing your shooting options.

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Canon EOS M10 Menu 1

The usual culprits are present, M (Manual), Av (Aperture Priority), Tv (Shutter priority) and P (Program AE) selected with a simple touch on the icon.

The preset menu is just a swipe upwards to scroll the menu, giving access to amongst others, portrait, Landscape, Close-Up, Sports etc. again simply touch the icon you want and the camera is good to go.

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Canon EOS M10 Menu 2

The top plate is familiar to any EOS M user, but differs significantly. Now, you have a dedicated Record button on next to the Shutter Release Button, hick unlike the EOS M has a command dial around it allowing for easy settings changes in Aperture Priority or Shutter Priority, as well as zooming in to an image when in review mode. Zooming can be achieved by the familiar pinch to zoom on the actual screen too.

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Canon EOS M10 Top

The power button is roughly n the same position as on the EOS M, but it is now slightly recessed inside the mode switch, just off centre. The mode switch allows three options, Movie, Camera (User Mode) and Camera (Auto Mode).

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Canon EOS M10 Top Plate Controls

The EOS M10, follows the original touch orientated path as the ESO M, with a touch of extra direct control, with the addition of a front command dial around the shutter release button, otherwise, it’s touch screen all the way.

Beneath the camera strap lug on the right hand side (rear LCD facing you) there is a flip switch to open up the Flash. On the right hand side (again LCD facing you) is the Wi_Fi NFC button, one press allows you to set up a Wireless connection to either control the camera remotely using Canon’s Camera Connect app (available as a download). The app works well, with pretty much full settings adjustment available, with minimal lag on the host screen (smartphone or tablet).

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Canon EF-M 18-55mm f3.5-5.6 IS STM Lens + Canon EF-M 15-45mm f3.5-6.3 IS STM Lens Size Comparison

The EOS M10 kit comes bundled with the almost entirely plastic EF-M 15-45mm f3.5-6.3 IS STM lens, which despite it’s mostly plastic construction, actually produces pretty good images. It is a collapsable design, so needs to be locked and unlocked after and before use respectively.

 

Compared to the original kit lens, the excellent Canon EF-M 18-55mm f3,5-5.6 IS STM, the new kit lens is smaller when closed and about the same size when zoomed to 45mm as the 18-55mm is when set to 18mm. It is a compact lens. But that plastic construction??

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Canon EF-M 18-55mm f3.5-5.6 IS STM Lens + Canon EF-M 15-45mm f3.5-6.3 IS STM Lens Mount Comparison

Extends, sadly to the lens mount. Come on Canon and other manufacturers, there is never, read that again NEVER a reason to stick a nasty plastic lens mount on the end of a lens.

The EF-M 18-55mm f3.5-5.6 IS STM is a higher quality build and gives excellent results. Metal barrel and a metal lens hood, makes it to me at least the better of the two.

Of course, this was Canon’s mistake from the off.

The EOS M was a very expensive camera when launched which mostly due to a deplorable AF system (Canon screwed the pooch there) was damned by all who reviewed it, but once Firmware 2 was released things did improve significantly. It was never going to be a speed hound AF wise, but it at least became useable. I actually loved the original EOS M, I thought it was a quirky, but overall an enjoyable camera to use.

The EOS M was built like a tank. It was a solid little camera and had a top quality lens to match, which explained the high price tag upon release, but due to awful reviews, prices plunged as retailers dumped the EOS M as a ‘never again’ mistake.

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Canone EOS M10 + Canon EF-M 18-55mm f3.5-5.6 IS STM Lens

Now that so many EF-M 18-55mm kit lenses are out in the wild, I’m guessing Canon decided on the plastic route to try make some money back from the original EOS M fallout. So, by bundling an obviously lower build quality lens with the EOS M3 and EOS M10 now, Canon are hoping users will stump up the full after sales price on the superior EF-M 18-55mm f3.5-5.6 I STM lens (which also has a Macro mode – not true Macro but does allow a close focus distance).

On the EOS M10, the EF-M 18-55 looks a bit long initially, but for slightly larger hands, offers a more stable two handed support in use. I really like this combo. It’s heavier than the all plastic 15-45mm but that’s hardly surprising with the superior build.

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Canon EOS M Rear LCD

Macro mode in use above with the EOS M10 and the 18-55mm. The from to the lens was only about 7 or 8 inches away (if that) from the 15-45mm shown on the rear LCD.

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Canone EOS M10 Rear Controls

The rear function buttons are pretty minimal, yet functional although a little fiddly. They could do with being just that little bit bigger, but to be fair in use, they are perfectly functional.

A good thumb grip makes up for no front grip (unlike the EOS M which at least had something to get your fingers on).

Overall, the EOS M10 isn’t as high quality as the original EOS M10, but that’s to be expected since Canon have screwed up with the EOS M, EOS M2 (which never made it over here) before it, so wanted I guess, to be a little more cautious.

But. . .that’s not to say the EOS M10 feels cheap. It doesn’t. It is a solidly built polycarbonate camera, with a reassuring heft about it, but nothing like the feel of the original EOS M (which I still love). But it does feel competent in hand, certainly not cheap.

The AFII auto focus is quicker, but that’s hardly surprising it couldn’t really be any slower than the EOS M (whilst still very useable). Image quality is on par at 18MP, low light may be slightly better than the original thanks to the improved Digic 6 processor.

The addition of a front command dial does make a huge difference to operational speed and the flip up LCD makes self portrait and video blogging as easy as possible.

The only thing missing is the hot shoe off the original EOS M, which the EOS M needed for flash as it had no built in flash, but it did have other uses, especially for videographers out there.

Maybe the lack of a hot shoe would be a breaker for videographers, but the selfie mode screen sort of makes up for the lack of the hot shoe in other respects.

I enjoyed shooting with the EOS M10 in the time I had it. Great image quality, light and reasonably fast but no speed demon. I would happily have an EOS M10, it’s just I missed the feel of the original EOS M, which as I have stated earlier, I love. I don’t know why, there’s just something about the original EOS M that really appeals to me.

Canon have added to the EF-M Lens range, worryingly, other than the 11-22mm, 22mm and the 18-55mm, the new additions all seem to have a plastic lens mount.

Canon have released a fantastic looking dedicated Macro lens for the EOS M range, a 28mm with built in LED illumination. It looks great, except it has a plastic lens mount.

I’m sorry Canon, but I love the EOS M and M3 (I have both) but I will never fork out my hard earned money for Lenses with PLASTIC LENS MOUNTS. It’s mean spirited penny pinching. I’ll happily pay an extra £10-20 to have a metal mount that won’t snap if knocked ruining the lens and the camera it’s mounted on.

 

 

Apple: watchOS 3. . .Oh dear.

Apple have finally done it. They released watchOS 3 for Apple Watch a few weeks ago, an OS which allows Apps to run on the Watch itself and not as an add on to the iPhone App.

Woo-hoo!

NO.

And this really saddens me, but a thousand times. . . NO.

With watchOS 3, Apple have made some improvements, but in doing so, they have completely changed the UI interface and experience, taking the carefully thought out interactions and quick accesses to for example, Friends (a single press of the side button) or Glances (a customised quick view of your favourite Apps, accessed by sliding up from the bottom of the screen) away. Replaced instead by a Dock which displays your most used Apps and the one glance screen nobody really used, the Control Centre Screen. All other Glances functionality is GONE. I’ve been using it since launch and in the weeks since then, I have found myself using my Watch less and less.

As someone who bought the Sport Edition 42mm (£349) on pre-order day, my Watch Sport arrived on the official launch date, along with the 4 additional Sport Band straps of different colours (£39 each) I purchased to customise the ‘look’and then I upgraded to the stainless steel Watch 42mm with Milanese Loop (£599), I was ‘in’ to the whole Apple Watch thing and absolutely loved it. I sang its praises on here twice. I’d spent over £1,000 on Apple Watch(s) and accessories and absolutely loved my Apple Watch. It really did feel ‘special’ to me.

There are some great ‘ideas’ implemented, like unlocking your compatible Mac whilst wearing your Watch. Yeah it sounds cool, but in reality it’s a pain in the. . . well, wrist!

I open up my MacBook Air, the log in screen shows me it’s unlocking with Apple Watch, a few seconds later, it’s unlocked and I’m looking at my desktop screen and then “PING’ my Watch notifies me I’ve unlocked my Mac with the Watch, which I then have to physically dismiss to clear the notification.

It’s actually quicker to just type the password in to unlock the Mac, no notification needed on the Watch, minimal interaction from me.

Why does the Watch have to notify me it’s unlocked my Mac? It should know it’s me since my fingerprint was used to unlock the Watch via the iPhone in the first place, it should just unlock my Mac.

Scribble, a new feature which allows you to write your messages by hand, sounds cool and it is, but on such a small screen, it takes ages to write a reasonable reply. It’s easier and quicker to just get your iPhone out and type properly or select a preset reply from the watchOS list.

Both great features, at least in theory, but poorly integrated.

Want to send a quick ‘touch’ message to a friend or loved one? Good luck with that.

With Messages, in previous versions of watchOS, I could press the side button and quick access my friends and family to send a quick message. It took a couple of seconds and it was done. It was easy and had a certain ‘intimacy’ about those messages. This alone made the Watch feel ‘special’.

But with watchOS 3? Apple can stick it. They have completely ruined my Watch experience. They’ve made changes to the Watch U.I , which make absolutely no sense (some do, but most don’t). It has become an infuriating experience where most interactions are frankly awful.

As mentioned previously, Glances and quick access to friends allowed the Watch to be a quick access point for heart rate monitoring, weather updates, music, replying to or sending loved ones ‘special’ messages. Now replaced with a ‘Dock’, removes the ‘intimacy’ the Watch previously had.

Whatever made watchOS 1 and watchOS 2 make the Watch feel special, Apple have managed to make evaporate and turn it into a clinical thing, instead delivering what is essentially a more complicated fitness tracker. A very expensive fitness tracker at that.

So Apple, that day has come. My Apple Watch is now listed on eBay. You may have brought out a new improved Series 2 version, but with the monstrosity of an OS you call watchOS 3, I most certainly won’t be buying one.

A Watch is a personal thing, it’s an intimate relationship wearers have with the device they choose to keep closest to them. Apple’s watchOS versions 1 and 2 exemplified that relationship in new ways, creating a bond between device and wearer. Apple really got this when the Watch first launched and then later updated to watchOS 2, but with watchOS 3, Apple have successfully removed that feeling and have turned my Watch into nothing but a small, cold, harder to use computer on my wrist.

Talk about screwing the pooch Apple. Two steps forward (in some respects) 5 steps back.

Micro Four Third Mount Sigma DN Art Series: ‘Cheap’ Lens or Inexpensive Gems?

When I made the move to mirror less interchangeable lens cameras (MILC) a few years ago, my first camera was the much maligned Canon EOS M, which despite the awful reviews, I actually loved (once the firmware 2 version was released).  The image quality was excellent, built like a tank, ultra compact and full touch screen but the lens choice was to be fair, ‘limited’ being kind or just plain awful being truthful.

While looking around for lens options, I checked Sigma, having used their lenses on my DSLR in the past, but they had nothing for the Canon EF-M mount, but they did have a range of lenses which caught my eye. The Sigma DN ‘Art’ available for Micro Four Thirds (M4/3) or Sony E-Mount camera bodies.

The Sigma DN Art lenses are a pretty straight forward, a minimalist and modern design, all being prime fixed focal length glass, there’s not really much more manufacturer’s can do to spice up a focus ring, so all the DN Art lenses have a smooth metal lens barrel and a smooth metal focus ring. They are very sleek to look at. They all feature proper brass metal lens mounts. No cheap and nasty plastic lens mounts here. They are all pretty light but feel well made. Each lens takes a 46mm filter thread so if you have all three in your collection, one set of filters will fit any of the lenses you have in front of your camera.

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Sigma DN ‘Art’ Series Lens. From Left to Right: 60mm f2.8, 19mm f2.8 & 30mm f2.8

The Sigma DN ‘Art’ Series comes in three variants. A 19mm, a 30mm and a 60mm each with a pretty fast aperture of f2.8. The following review is based on the M4/3 variants, so each lens has a 2 x crop factor (in 35mm equivalent terms) making them have the equivalent field of view as a 38mm, a 60mm and a 120mm respectively. These are pretty much the mainstay prime lenses for multiple uses from street (or Urban) photography through to portraiture. Prime lenses usually carry a pretty hefty price for quality glass with a fast(ish) aperture, but at the time of writing this, these Sigma DN ‘Art’ lenses can be purchased brand new for £129.00 each. You read that correctly, the usual R.R.P is £189.00 but retailers have knocked the prices down as time has gone on. So, you could buy all three lenses new for £387.00. Now that’s the sort of money you would pay for one quality prime lens, so the question is are they worth your money or is your money better spent on that ONE quality prime lens?

Read on to find out. . .

Each Sigma DN ‘Art’ Lens, comes boxed with dedicated lens caps, a dedicated lens hood and a custom soft lens case to keep your lens safe when not in use. A quality soft case and a lens hood as standard for under £130.00 each? There’s more . . .

Each DN ‘Art’ Lens is made in Japan. Each DN ‘Art’ Lens is hand tested for quality. Each DN ‘Art’ Lens is under £130.00!

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Sigma DN ‘Art’ 30mm f2.8 M4/3 Fit Lens

The 30mm Sigma DN ‘Art Lens is the smallest physically from front to rear, but is the ‘mid range’ focal distance of the trio.

Each lens has a really good sized focus ring for manual adjustments (the large ring between the writing on the lens and the lens hood).  It is a smooth metal ring which despite some reviewers saying ‘it may be hard to adjust’, I have had absolutely no problem obtaining focus using the focus ring. The resistance on all three lenses is almost identical in feel and for a focus by wire system, delivers a good positive feedback. There’s just right amount of resistance when rotating the focus ring to feel like a proper mechanical focus ring.

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Sigma DN ‘Art’ 19mm f2.8 M4/3 Fit Lens

The smallest focal length of the trio is the 19mm f2.8, which despite being a smaller focal length, is actually physically bigger from front to rear over the 30mm lens, but for all intents and purposes, looks identical with the large manual focus ring and smooth modern appearance.

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Sigma DN ‘Art’ 60mm f2.8 M4/3 Fit Lens

The last of the trio is the physically largest (from front to rear) 60mm f2.8. Again, just like it’s siblings in this series, the modern minimalist design makes it a very understated option.

All three lenses on my all black Lumix GX8 look fantastic. Check out my Lumix GX8 first look piece, to see the 60mm f2.8 on the Lumix GX8. This review is about how the lenses perform on the GX8’s new 20.3MP Sensor and whether these ‘cheap’ lenses are optically up to the quality that resolution of sensor demands.

Rather than writing loads about each lens, it’s probably easier to just show some images and you can make your own minds up.

The Panasonic Lumix GX was tripod mounted in a non studio environment, set to Aperture Priority, ISO 400, AWB (Auto White Balance). Natural light only. Custom Picture Setting, with Sharpness +2, Contrast +1, Noise Reduction 0 and Saturation +2. The most common Aperture Values of f2.8, f4.0, f5.6. f8.0, f11, f16 and f22 were chosen for testing purposes.

The set up was static, with a choice of different colourful items to determine colour accuracy. All images are out of camera JPEGS with absolutely no post processing.

So, without further ado. . .

Sigma DN Art 19mm f2.8 Lens:

Sigma DN Art 30mm f2.8 Lens:

Sigma DN Art 60mm f2.8 Lens:

Rather than giving you a multitude of different objects, I thought it might be more useful to show the same set up with each lens at various aperture settings, so that you can see everything as equally as possible (allowing for natural light variations).

Of the three lenses, the 19mm is probably the ever so slightly weaker performer (as would be expected for a wider angle lens) compared directly with the 30mm and the 60mm, however as I hope the image examples above show, all three lenses are stellar performers. Bare in mind the 20.3MP sensor on the Panasonic Lumix GX8 because of the higher resolution, is more demanding on lenses, the results these lenses produce are top quality, showing all three of the Sigma DN Art Series lenses shoot well above their budget price tags. There is nothing cheap about the optical quality of these lenses. I absolutely love the results that each one gives me on my GX8.

The 19mm, 30mm and 60mm focal lengths (35mm equivalent: 38mm, 60mm & 120mm) as I hope the image examples above show, cover a fantastic range of coverage for general purpose shooting, with the clear sharpness advantages that Prime lenses provide.

So, are the Sigma DN Art Series ‘cheap’ Lens or inexpensive gems? I think the results speak for themselves with these fantastic inexpensive gems.

Panasonic Lumix GX8: Review

It’s over a couple of weeks since I took possession of my Panasonic Lumix GX8 Micro Four Thirds Camera, so having done a first look, it’s now time to give a real world use review. I won’t be going into the scientific blurb, there are much more thorough reviews out there for that sort of thing. This is my take on everyday use and whether or not I regret my purchase and if it is worth you parting with your cash to get one.

I’ll spare you looking at more images of the Lumix GX8, there are plenty images to look at in my First Look piece, so instead, I will just post some quick out of camera JPEGS with no post processing whatsoever.

The images were all taken hand held at ISO 100 in Aperture Priority, using f2.8, f4.0, f5.6, f8.0, f11, f16 and f22. I’ve included the f16 and f22 shutter speed in the image captions. f16 is sharp the f22 @1.5th second is blurred but I include it to show that when scaled down to web size, a hand held shot at 1/5th of a second may still be useable.

I gave BB-8 a rest and opted for a Soap Stone carving from South Africa as the object of the quick shots. This is a hand sculpted and carved piece and I hope the following images reflect the detail and emotion the Lumix GX8 can achieve. I decided to just use the lens that was on the Lumix GX8, which in this case was the Sigma DN Art 19mm f2.8.

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GX 8, Sigma DN Art 19mm, Aperture Priority f2.8 ISO 100

The Panasonic Lumix GX8 is a handsome and well made camera, as I pointed out in my first look piece a while ago. It has a classic rangefinder look about it, very Leica-esque. Now, this isn’t my first experience of the Micro Four Thirds camera market. I bought the Olympus OM-D E-M5 a few years back and was pretty happy with the stellar image quality, fast auto focus, retro looks and the weather sealing. I just couldn’t get on with the overall size of the camera. Even with the hand grip (both parts) it was just too small for my liking and the buttons needed tiny little fingers to operate them. It was a cracking little camera, but literally didn’t quite ‘sit right’ in my hands.

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GX 8, Sigma DN Art 19mm, Aperture Priority f4.0 ISO 100

I kept a distant eye on the Micro Four Thirds sector and watched the E-M1, E-M10 come out to much fanfare, but they were still too small, or just way too expensive in the case of the E-M1, for me to take another plunge into the Micro Four Thirds market.

Now, during this time, I knew that Panasonic made cameras under their Lumix brand, but I’d never really paid them much attention, despite reading some very positive reviews, but again, with the GH3 or the GX7, the cost was too much to think about forking out for a brand I had never used (at least on the camera side, I’ve had plenty Panasonic stuff over the years and always found their gear to be top notch).

I read stunning reviews about the Lumix GX7 and did manage to get a hands on with one in a shop one day and while bigger than the OM-D E-M5, it still felt a bit too small in my hands. Maybe I was just used to slightly bigger cameras, but the camera should become an extension of your hand and so you really shouldn’t be that aware of it when using it, at least that’s how I feel about my gear.

I did keep an eye on the GX7 and noticed prices were coming down significantly. That is a sure indicator a replacement is coming out soon.

And, it did in the form of the Panasonic Lumix GX8 and it cost with 14-42mm kit lens, @£1300.00. OUCH! My Micro Four Thirds option was going to have to wait a while longer, but I kept reading reviews and watching video reviews. I really loved the look of the all black GX8 and as months passed sine first launch, noticed that prices were coming down (as is usual after the initial launch price), but browsing eBay one day, I found a like new, hardly used, absolutely pristine all black GX8, for £500.00. I’d hit buy it now button before my brain had even processed I’d just bought another camera.

The reviews were all praising the GX8 with its new improved 20.3MP M4/3 sensor and blisteringly fast DFD Starlight AF, which for a totally contrast based system, I can tell you is fast. Very fast. It’s awesome fast. Tracking moving objects is accurate and the hit rate is way higher than some more expensive ‘pro’ cameras I have used previously.

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GX8, Sigma DN Art 19mm, Aperture Priority f5.6 ISO 100

The Lumix GX8 is bigger than the GX7 it replaces, which is big enough for me to be happy. It feels about the same size as the Fuji X-Pro 1/2 and a bit smaller than the Leica M8 / M9, but I absolutely love it. It feels solid, but not too heavy. This camera was built to last.

Button layout is well thought out and the buttons are small, but not too small to be awkward. In short, I like the layout, feel and responsiveness of the buttons and control dials.

Over the past decades, I’ve had a multitude of camera bodies and lenses, but the GX8 is the first camera that I’ve ever had that is so customisable. The options for programming the multitude of function buttons is daunting. You can set this camera up to have pretty much every option assigned to a button of your choice. It is quite daunting but as you familiarise yourself with the GX8 (and by that I mean remember what buttons you’ve programmed and where they are) shooting is effortless.

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GX 8, Sigma DN Art 19mm, Aperture Priority f8, ISO 100

The menu system is different to the usual culprit manufacturers, it isn’t overly complicated with sub menu after sub menu and some of the terminology used on the GX8 is more video maker as opposed to stills shooter, but it isn’t a problem really. After some regular use, it is actually a very well thought out menu structure and again I like it.

Being able to fly through the menu selections using either that glorious touchscreen, physical buttons or a combination of both, allows fast settings changes. Combined with the programmable function buttons, there really is no reason to miss a shot. This thing starts up fast and allows you to get shooting almost instantly.

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GX8, Sigma DN Art 19mm, Aperture Priority f11, ISO 100

So, what about that new sensor? Is it a good one? The answer is a resounding yes.

I’ve had full frame bodies by Canon and Nikon and the images are stunning, so I am a bit fussy about my image standards. The Micro Four Thirds sensor in the Lumix GX8 is a beauty. Images detail is crisp and sharp, colours true and white balance honest.

Does it beat a full frame? It really depends on what you’re shooting and what’ glass you have in front of the sensor. To be honest, the larger sensor will always give a better image quality, but with modern technology ever advancing, sensor resolution and sensor size is pretty much a moot point. A full frame or medium format sensor is great if printing images onto the side of buildings is your thing, but for the most of us printing to a max of A3, I honestly think anybody would be hard pressed to tell the Micro Four Thirds GX8 from a full frame.

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GX 8, Sigma DN Art 19mm, Aperture Priority f16 Hand Held 1/13th Shutter Speed ISO 100

‘Oh but the Depth Of Field’, I hear all the full frame brigade shout aloud. Increased Depth of field can be achieved quite easily on smaller sensor cameras, by altering your shooting angle, to create a more pronounced blur to your background, if that’s the look you’re going for, positioning the object you want to shoot, closer to the camera lens the background will be thrown much farther out of focus, so you can ‘cheat’ the effect. But to be honest, it’s quite easy to get nice blurred backgrounds with most of the lenses on offer for the Micro Four Thirds market.

I grabbed a couple of really cheap primes by Sigma for my purposes. I prefer Prime to zooms and the two Sigma lenses I went for have really surprised me. I opted for the Sigma DN Art Series 19mm f2.8 and the 60mm f2.8. Both give absolutely stunning results, the 19mm being slightly weaker than the 60mm, but they allow this sensor to really shine and they’re unbelievably cheap to buy, well made and come with soft pouches, lens hoods and caps. They look modern and minimalist and really suit the Lumix GX8. How Sigma can make such quality glass and sell them for £120.00 is beyond me. The 60mm is sharp. Very very sharp.

The f22 shot below is hand held at 1/5th shutter speed, ISO 100. It is blurred but when scaled down for web use, it looks tack sharp

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GX 8, Sigma DN Art 19mm, Aperture Priority f22, Shutter 1/5th Hand Held ISO 100

I’m so impressed with both lenses, I’m grabbing the 30mm f2.8 to give me a mid range option. On  Micro Four Thirds, there is a 2x crop factor, so the 19 = 38mm, 30 = 60mm and the 60 = 120mm equivalent field of view.

The Sigma DN Art lenses aren’t optically stabilised, but thanks to the Lumix GX8s in body O.I.S, all the lens being f2.8, you can hand hold below 1/30th and get a clean shot. It is an impressive combination.

The shutter on the Lumix GX8 is a bit loud, but it has a very reassuring ‘thunk’ about it when you take a shot. It sounds like a shutter that was built to last and with 1/8000th speed on the mechanical shutter, allows for every shooting condition. The electronic shutter goes to 1/16000th if required and can be easily switched between the two.

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Sweet Spot Sigma DN Art 19mm @f5.6 ISO 100 on Lumix GX8

In the hand, the GX8 feels great. It’s a bit thicker than you might think and some have criticised the size of the GX8 for being larger than other Micro Four Thirds cameras, but people have different sized hands and like me, I prefer a slightly bigger camera body, I have more confidence in what I’m doing with it. Compared to DSLRs out there, the GX8 is still a slimmed down lighter alternative which will give you stunning images.

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Sigma DN Art 19mm f2.8 on Lumix GX8 ISO 100

The last two shots were just a couple of ‘creative’ (I use the term loosely) thrown together at a different angle shots. The last shot (above) I think really captures the sense of intimacy the sculpture displays when viewed at different angles. Something which could easily be transferred to portrait shooting techniques with the GX8.

To sum up, it is very early days with the Lumix GX8, I usually take a few months to really get a good feel of a new camera, but the Lumix GX8  really is a wonderful camera to use and the images I am taking are excellent.

I hope the small sample of images I include here give you the sense of what this fantastic camera can achieve and hopefully shows that when it comes to cameras, sensor size really isn’t that important any more. Any sensor with top glass in front of it can create fantastic images.

So, was the Panasonic Lumix GX8 worth the money? Absolutely without a doubt.

I’ll post reviews soon with examples of both the Sigma DN Art lenses I have. They really are excellent lenses.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Photographers Perfect Mobile Solution?

I’ve been relying heavily on a little laptop as my on the road solution, but, keeping it small and light had trade offs: poorer quality display, restricted editing facilities (without carrying other devices with me, but I’ll get into that in a bit), not quite desktop performance, but performance enough for lighter duty editing requirements to name a few.

Like many other working photographers out there, I ended up choosing a 2014 model 11.6″ MacBook Air, with  an i5 1.4GHz CPU, 4GB RAM, 128GB SSD and Intel HD 5000 series graphics. It is a fantastic little machine. Gorgeous to look at and use, but, it wasn’t an ideal solution, but it worked, well sort of. . .

My very first blog post back in August 2014, was an Apple users look at the Microsoft Surface 2 Windows 8.1 (RT) Tablet. Nobody read it because nobody was interested in Microsoft’s much malinged tablet offering, but in summary, I actually quite liked it, but, after a few months use, I sold it on as it did have severe limitations. I looked at the prices of Surface Pro 2/ 3 models but they were a but much for a device which was going to be my daily workhorse while on the road, so, after much and I mean a huge amount of hard and laborious thinking (yeah, ok, I had made my mind up in seconds) I went and bought my MacBook Air 11.6″ and have loved every second of using it. . . except when it came to image editing.

The scaled down trackpad on the 11″ model was restricting for ‘accurate’ edits, so, my desktop Wacom Intuos Pro (Large) tablet joined my on the road bag as well as my pocket sized USB 3.0 external SSD drive. Whilst not perhaps the ideal light weight mobile studio, I get on better with larger ‘working area’ graphics tablets, so a smaller option was quickly ruled out and I got on with things fairly well.

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Microsoft Surface Pro 2 with Type Cover 2

That’s basically been my out and about editing solution since 2014.

I’ve written several posts on smaller, more commonly called Mirrorless cameras, since many years of carrying heavy pro level gear around has resulted in very painful tennis elbow (boo-hoo sob, sob. Grow up and get on with it!) in both elbows. I won’t bore you with the details, enough said that they were so painful, I could barely raise a DSLR and lens to my eye and hold it there to take a shot. So resting up for a few weeks they got better, but getting back on the out and about train, they quickly deteriorated again, so I needed a lighter weight option for my gear to.

Recently, I found my perfect camera solution in the form of the Panasonic Lumix GX8. I did write a first look piece a week or so ago (a full real use review will be following soon) and it is perfect (for me at least) weather sealed, light enough not to cause my elbows any trouble and the lenses produce absolutely gorgeous results. The GX8 and 3 or 4 lenses weighs about half that of  the Nikon D800 and one lens. It is a dream come true :).

But, having scaled down on gear size, there was an elephant on the room. My mobile editing studio and that huge Wacom Intuos Graphics Tablet. Something had to give, but then, I heard a rumour that Apple were going to announce something of a game changer. Could that be the all in one solution I was dreaming for?

When Apple announced the iPad Pro, I thought ‘oh hello, this could be it’ but it ran iOS, which wouldn’t allow me my Lightroom Library (without an expensive cloud option from Adobe) or my desktop Photoshop CC to run (yeah I know Adobe had mobile variants but relearning new ways to do things that have become second nature is, in my mind, counter productive to my workflow (I sort of go into auto-pilot). What I needed was a tablet that could run my full version Adobe software, that had a large(ish) built in graphics tablet solution, preferably with a Wacom pen type offering. But no such thing existed.

Or so I thought. . .

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Microsoft Surface Pro 2 with Type Cover 2 Lock Screen

Now, I have been a dedicated Apple user for almost 15 years (the Surface 2 was a curiosity project, nothing more), but just recently, browsing online reviews (too many to mention), something caught my eye. There in my search results was an eBay listing for a Surface Pro 2. I didn’t click on it because I had no interest in the Surface, ‘been there done that’ I thought to myself, then  carried on looking through my search results for a lighter weight solution that meets my requirements. If one actually existed.

A few days later, I still hadn’t found anything, so I decided it was pointless wasting any more time on trying to find something that clearly didn’t exist. I resigned myself to continueing with my current arrangement of MacBook Air and Wacom Tablet.

It was while browsing ebay one day, it was a slow day and I was very bored, I remembered the Surface Pro 2 listing from a few days previously, so I did what everybody else would do, I typed it into the search field and waited for the results.

To my surprise, there were quite a few listed, and even more surprisingly, they weren’t exactly expensive, especially compared to their retail price when launched, Yes they were all used, and of course the Pro 2 had been superceeded twice since my Surface 2 experience, with the Pro 3 and now the Pro 4, so I did some searching to find out more.

Full HD 10.8″  high definition display with excellent colour gammut, check. Intel 4th Gen i5 CPU, check. Minimum 4GB RAM, check, 128GB, 256GB and 512GB SSD options, check. Full operating system, check. Intel HD 4400 graphics with the ability to run Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop CC, check. Large 10.8″ Touchscreen, with Pen support, check. Great battery life, check. I couldn’t belive what I was reading. The Surface Pro 2 was exactly what I was looking for. I was stunned.

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Surface Type Cover 2 Backlight OFF

I scanned the listings and found a well used one, complete with two type covers and two official Microsoft chargers (spares are always a handy thing to have) with a Buy it Now price and a Best Offer option.

I contacted the seller with my offer, which was almost immediately responded to with a counter offer. It was a fair counter offer, so I accepted it and paid instantly. Two days later, my Surface Pro 2 arrived.

Being super conscientious, I connected a Type Cover 2 and powered the Surface Pro 2 up. Within seconds, I was facing the start up screen asking for my time zone. Once set, I continued the setup process and in under a minute was looking at my Windows 10 desktop. The Type Cover 2 backlit keyboard glowing at me, begging to be used.

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Surface Type Cover 2 Backlight ON

The first thing I did was to wipe the system and install a fresh copy of Windows 10 onto it, just to make sure nothing nasty was lurking in the background waiting to mine my data. Expecting a typical Windows ‘this’ll take all day’ experience, I was pleasantly surprised when around 15 – 20 minutes later, my Surface Pro 2 was once again on the set up screen asking me to complete the process.

Once done, I was good to go.

Having not used Windows for 15 years, my last experience was Windows XP, the Windows 10 desktop was familiar, yet very fresh. Very modern. I had absolutely no difficulty finding my way around and in no time had downloaded, installed configured and updated my anti virus software.

Next Adobe. I quickly downloaded the Creative Cloud installer file and within a minute of installing, had signed in and was downloading Lightroom 6 and Photoshop CC (2015). While that was busy downloading, I grabbed one of my external USB 3.0 SSD drives I use as my on the road library, connected a USB 3.0 hub to the single port on the Surafce Pro 2, then connected my SSD and Lumix GX8 to the hub. Both were identified instantly by the Surface Pro 2 and within seconds, I had transferred files from the Lumix GX8 to the SSD, ready for Lightroom.

Once downloaded, Lightroom launched very quickly from the onboard SSD drive inside the Surface Pro 2 and I had added the files form the external SSD to the new Lightroom Library. Everything worked quickly and with absolutely no issues.

Next Photoshop CC. I edited a file from Lightroom into Photoshop CC, which again launched very quickly. Using the included Surface Pro 2 Pen, I was soon carrying out corrections with minimal fuss. Depending on task and amount of processes, the Surface Pro 2 did brilliantly. It was much quicker than my MacBook Air and using it without the keyboard attatched as a mini Wacom Cintique like device was brilliant.

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Surface Pen Pro (it’s a Wacom pen)

Things only slowed due to the limited 4GB RAM my Surface Pro 2 has installed. Obviously being a tablet, you can’t add more RAM, but in reality, it wasn’t a problem because of the built in SSD drive hosting the Page Swap Space. It was a minimal slow down and to be honest wasn’t that noticeable. It is after all a very compact tablet.

So, all in all I was delighted. I had a very capable device, more capable than my MacBook Air solution (or argueably any laptop based solution), more compact, yet a fully functional computer for under £250. This has got to be the bargain of the year. Why aren’t more people using these for their on the road requirements?

The two position kick stand is fantastic for positioning the Surface Pro 2 in just the right position for different tasks, fold it flat in Tablet mode then edit, draw, paint away to your hearts content. For more traditional navigation, the built in track pad with multi gesture support is accurate and easy to use.

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Microsoft Surface Pro 2 Rear Kick Stand

My Surface Pro 2 does have obvious signs of use, but this was part of the attraction for choosing it. I liked that it looked worn in. It had a history before it came to me and I really liked that. Unlike my Macs, which I am almost obcessive about keeping in pristine condition, I am actually relaxed using the Surface Pro 2. I know I won’t care if another scratch marks it’s paint or paint flakes off.

These are it’s scars of life. It’s been somebody’s reliable little workhorse for years before me. I won’t abuse it. I take care of all my gear, but this time around, if the Surface Pro 2 is marked, it all adds to it’s uniquness.

So, in short, if you are looking for a cheap mobile workhorse for your image or video editing needs, I’d suggest you take a look at the Surface Pro 2. At current second hand prices, these are the best bang for the buck you can get.

To get similar capabilities in tablet form from Apple, you’d need to fork out for an iPad Pro 128GB which starts @£619 for the 9.7″, plus £79 for the Pencil, for image editing, on top of which, you’d need to fork out another @£120 for the Smart Keyboard cover. Over £800 for something that doesn’t give me the same capabilities as a two year old Surface Pro 2. You could almsot buy 4 Surface Pro 2’s for the same money and get 4 times more done.

It’s strange that you can find the solution to a problem in the funniest places. As a confirmed Apple user of 15 years, the solution to my on the go image editing solution was of all places, found in a Microsoft Surface Pro 2 from eBay.

 

 

 

Panasonic Lumix GX8: First Look

Having previously posted about the Canon EOS M3 and the Samsung Galaxy NX, both mirrorless cameras with APS-C sized sensors, offering upwards of 20MP resolution, (Canon EOS M3 = 24MP, Galaxy NX 20.3MP), today, I’m going to take a first look at the latest ‘luxury’ offering from Panasonic, the Lumix GX8 (Black, but also available in Silver /Black), first launched middle to late 2015, this is a high end, Micro Four Thirds camera, boasting a new 20.3MP sensor, in body image stabilisation, NFC and WiFi, Touchscreen LCD, 2.36MP High Res EVF blah blah blah.

First off, this isn’t a review, I’ll post one of those very soon, once I get to grips with this new high end shooter, it’s a first look, to give you my impressions of the quality, build and most importantly, the ‘feel’ of the camera in hand.

I will point out that this isn’t a loaner or review product from the maker or a retailer. This is a camera I have personally paid for. This isn’t the first time I’ve had a Micro Four Thirds camera, having owned the Olympus OM-D E-M5 some time ago, but I never really bonded with that camera, it was just a bit too small and you needed ‘pixie’ fingers to operate it. Image quality was pretty impressive for the 16MP Micro Four Thirds sensor, but image quality did get a bit squishy @ISO3200 onwards, so I sold it on for something else.

Some time later, Panasonic launched the Lumix GX7, which got great reviews and I liked the design, but having the same 16MP sensor as the OM-D E-M5, I kinda knew what to expect as far as image quality was concerned, so I bypassed the temptation. . .

Then Panasonic announced the very understated Lumix GX 8 in mid 2015. I absolutely loved the design. It was bigger than the GX7, more Leica Rangefinder in design, with minimal branding and an absolutely low key, but ‘I know what I’m doing’ look about it.

At almsot £1000.00 for the body, it was a very expensive temptation, again which I managed to subdue, until now. Prices, as they always do, came down and I couldn’t resist any longer. I had to see this beast up close and personal. My first Panasonic Lumix camera.

So, here it is in all it’s finery. . .The Lumix GX8

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The minimalist branding, makes this a street photographer’s dream camera, with only the Lumix name on the top shoulder and a small ‘L’ badge on the lower corner beneath the lens release button, other than that, there is nothing outwardly shouting ‘look at me I’m a high end camera for enthusiasts and pros’.

In case I wasn’t impressed with the camera, I wanted to minimise my outlay, but wanted something better than a plastic mounted kit lens (NO LENS SHOULD EVER HAVE PLASTIC MOUNTS!!! COME ON MANUFACTURERS, GET REAL!), so looking at review after review, I was seeing really good reviews about the Sigma DN ‘Art’ range of lenses. Three Prime offerings, 19mm, 30mm and 60mm all @f2.8, which is a fairly fast lens. I thought they’d probably be pretty expensive, but at (currently) £119.99 each, I grabbed a 60mm f2.8 to allow the 20.3MP sensor to shine with some Prime lens loveliness and boy, it looks really good mounted to the Lumix GX8. I’ll review the lens a later post, but early testing has shown this to be a sharp and I mean really sharp Prime lens.

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The Lumix GX8 is a very well built magnesium alloy bodied camera featuring weather seals (dust and splash proof) which is great to have on a camera body and allows the shooter a less anxious shooting experience when out and about and it starts raining. Obviously, for maximum protection, a weather resistant (WR) lens needs to be used as well and Panasonic and Olympus do have WR lenses in their line ups. The faux leather ‘grippy’ parts feel great in the hand and give an assured feel to the body.

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The Lumix GX8 is, in my opinion, a good looking camera. It just says ‘I mean business’. It feels excellent in the hand. Solid with no body flex at all. The seams are tight and the grip offers a confident ‘this ain’t going nowhere’ assurance. It’s a heavy looking camera, but in hand, it’s very well balanced (obviously this will alter depending on lens mounted) with just enough weight to remind you it’s there but not enough to make you wish it wasn’t. This is a well built, well considered camera. I really like the weight and have already carried it with me every day for the past few days and it has never got in the way. This is a take everywhere camera. Weight is not an issue.

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On the rear of the Lumix GX8, you’ll find the usual suspects of buttons, but on Lumix cameras, almost every button can be reprogrammed with special a function, allowing the photographer the ability to set up the camera as ‘they’ want, not the way the manufacturer dictates you will use it. There’s also a physical switch (with another Function button inserted within) for quick changes to auto focus settings.

Being my first Panasonic camera, I’ve not gone too much into that yet, but will do for a proper review.

The more observant reader will notice the distinct lack off a rear LCD in the picture above and will notice the huge viewfinder. The 2.36Mp EVF is a big one and it is beautiful to use. In good light it’s better than an optical viewfinder (OVF) and in dimmer settings is better than an OVF since it’s brighter. There is virtually no lag, no colour distortion and no blur. It is the best EVF I have ever seen or used on a camera. It’s that simple.

But, no LCD screen? It looks like an old film camera. . .

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Except of course there is a beautiful 16:9 LCD touchscreen hiding there. Fully articulated, so you can ‘hide’ the screen to protect it when not in use. A great addition to a camera allowing you to shoot from virtually any angle without having to get down low, dirty and well ‘stuck’ if you’re of an older disposition.

There is a slight lag between switching from the rear LCD to the EVF, but it’s minimal.

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The rear LCD is high resolution and very sharp. The menu is new to me, but seems fairly straight forward and can be navigated either by using the physical buttons or if you’re more touchscreen orientated, by touching the screen.

I have to say that the integration of physical dials etc. and touchscreen on the Lumix GX8, seems at least to me, more fluid than on the Canon EOS M3.

There’s a good sized thumb grip which in combination with the front grip makes the Lumix GX8 feel great in the hand.

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The rear LCD flips out, turns round (for videographers or for the selfie mad generation). Being fully articulated, the Lumix GX8 offers an unencumbered view of the LCD from any angle and it’s dust and splash proof!

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The EVF is solidly locked into place and does take quite a push to lift out of the ‘native’ position. Apparently the Lumix GX7 EVF flipped up very easily and so could be knocked out of position. There is no chance of an accidental knock moving the EVF of the Lumix GX8.

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Some reviewer’s have stated they don’t see the point in having an articulated EVF, but I really like it. The picture above shows the angle I feel most comfortable using it at, allowing me to compose on screen while flipping my eye up slightly to view the real world ‘wider’ scene.

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Looking into the EVF, it’s a big and bright image. Tack sharp with virtually no lag, blur or colour issues. It is stunning and a joy to use.

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The top plate Mode and Exposure Comp dials, are well made and have a solid ‘step’ between each setting, again the Lumix GX7 reviews stated the dials were easily moved. Panasonic have addressed that one as these, just like the EVF, need a deliberate force to make them budge.

The rear command dial (just beneath the ‘Off/On’ switch) has a programmable Function button in it’s centre, as well as another to it’s right on the main body top plate.

The shutter button sits inside the front command dial, allowing manual control and changes to be made instantly.

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The Sigma 60mm f2.8 DN ‘Art’ Lens is a minimalist yet stylish addition to the Lumix GX8 and doesn’t detract from the Lumix GX8’s understated look. It also has a metal lens mount, as ALL lenses should have.

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As with all Sigma lenses, the Sigma 60mm f2.8 DN ‘A’ Lens comes with lens hood (excuse the dust), front and rear lens caps and a well made padded lens bag. All for under £120!!!!

Canon, Nikon, Panasonic, Olympus, Fuji etc please take note of this. Every lens should come with these things! Having to pay extra for a hood and a padded lens case is pure GREED. Nothing else. GREED.

There is no Optical Image Stabilisation on this lens, but the Lumix GX8 has a party trick, well, it has two. The first is it has in body stabilisation, which helps when using a non image stabilised lens, so you can happily add any Olympus Micro Four Thirds lens to your arsenal kit bag and benefit from some image stabilisation.

If you’ve had cameras with in body stabilisation previously and added a lens with lens based image stabilisation, there was a trade off. You had to disable one or the other, relying on either in body OR Lens based stabilisation. You couldn’t combine both.

Here’s the Lumix GX8’s second party trick. . . if you attach a supported Panasonic lens with lens based image stabilisation (updated to the latest firmware) the in body image stabilisation and the lens based system work together to give the ultimate combination of image stabilisation Body + Lens, allowing hand held low light shooting to @1/10th – 1/5th shutter speed!!! That’s amazing!

NFC and Wi-Fi are built in allowing for easy upload / sharing to cloud services or devices and the camera can be operated remotely via a smartphone App. There’s also 4K Video and 4K Photos (with a wicked Post Focus facility – I haven’t tried it yet but the reviews I’ve seen about it look great) are also included. I’ll talk about them in a later review of the Lumix GX8.

So, there’s a quick first look at the Panasonic Lumix GX8 20.3MP Micro Four Thirds system camera. It’s solid but not too heavy, it’s weather sealed against dust and splashes, it’s built for people with real sized hands and not pixies. There’s a range of prime lenses out there which offer stunning image quality, for @£120 NEW!.

In the time I’ve been using it, I am impressed with the camera. I’m still adjusting to yet another menu system, trying to remember where everything is, but that hasn’t hampered me taking some excellent test shots so far and as for the image quality? You’ll just have to come back for my review. . .

Samsung Galaxy NX : ISO Real World Test

Having already posted an ISO Test for the Samsung Galaxy NX recently, where using the highest sharpening setting I managed to show the worst case scenario for Out Of Camera (OOC) JPEG results.

I thought this might put some people off from potentially buying this camera, as the results I get I am very happy with, so, I decided to do another ISO test, but this time, using the actual settings I use on my Samsung Galaxy NX. The first ISO Test, had maximum sharpness applied with NO in camera Noise Reduction for High ISO or Long Exposure.

Samsung Galaxy NX settings used: Sharpness +1, High ISO Noise Reduction LOW, Aperture Priority, Samsung 60mm F2.8 Lens used. Aperture set to f4.0, Manual Focus (please allow a small degree of focus shift as I refocused before each shot), Tripod Mounted. ISO 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200, 6400, 12800 and 25600 included in test. Natural Light only.

My trusted Sphero BB-8 was once again called upon to model.

I have tried to reflect as accurately as I can the results you can expect to achieve in real world use with the above settings. There are a large number of images included which have had to be optimised for Web Use, but checking side by side against the actual Full Sized images, there really isn’t much lost in ‘translation’.

I start with Out Of Camera Full view OOC JPEGS, OOC JPEG Crops at 100%, RAW Full views and finish with RAW Crops at 100% to give you the most thorough examples of what to expect.

With that said, here goes. . .

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Samsung Galaxy NX OOC ISO 100

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Samsung Galaxy NX OOC ISO 200

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Samsung Galaxy NX OOC ISO 400

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Samsung Galaxy NX OOC ISO 800

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Samsung Galaxy NX OOC ISO 1600

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Samsung Galaxy NX OOC ISO 3200

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Samsung Galaxy NX OOC ISO 6400

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Samsung Galaxy NX OOC ISO 12800

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Samsung Galaxy NX OOC ISO 25600

If you compare the above images, again all straight out of camera JPEGS, set to Superfine full resolution, High ISO Noise Reduction set to LOW, Noise is handled really well, especially for Web Use. It’s only really at ISO 25600, that you can actually start to see the noise and a slight colour shift is observed, but, even when the noise starts to show at the higher ISO, you have an image that can be used for online purposes.

Let’s have a look at the 100% Crops of each ISO. . .

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Samsung Galaxy NX OOC ISO 100 Crop 100%

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Samsung Galaxy NX OOC ISO 200 100% Crop

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Samsung Galaxy NX OOC ISO 400 Crop 100%

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Samsung Galaxy NX OOC ISO 800 Crop 100%

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Samsung Galaxy NX OOC ISO 1600 Crop 100%

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Samsung Galaxy NX OOC ISO 3200 Crop 100%

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Samsung Galaxy NX OOC ISO 6400 Crop 100%

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Samsung Galaxy NX OOC ISO 12800 Crop 100%

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Samsung Galaxy NX OOC ISO 25600 Crop 100%

As can be seen from the 100% Crops, High ISO Noise reduction set to LOW controls the noise well up to ISO 6400 with only a slight grain visible. ISO 12800 is noisier but the detail is still preserved fairly well, look at the little scratches on BB-8’s eye, the eye scratches are still visible even on the ISO 25600 image where noise is more obvious.

In reality, full sized images wouldn’t be used for online purposes and as I hope the above examples show, images up to the maximum ISO 25600 could be used with little complaint (depending on purpose).

So, that was the OOC JPEG results. How about the RAW files?

The following RAW files were converted from SRW (Samsung’s own RAW File Format) into DNG files via Samsung’s Dedicated DNG converter programme. The DNG files were opened in Photoshop CS 6 then ‘Save As’ and Optimised JPEG (the site doesn’t allow DNG or SRW files to be uploaded, besides each file was over 57MB in size so would have taken months to upload on my broadband connection). I’ve carried out a side by side comparison and the following images are a very accurate representation of the actual RAW files obtained.

No post processing was applied, so these are as close to what comes out of the Samsung Galaxy NX RAW files as I can represent here.

So, here goes. First Full View RAW. . .

ISO 100 copy

Samsung Galaxy NX RAW ISO 100

ISO 200 copy

Samsung Galaxy NX RAW ISO 200

ISO 400 copy

Samsung Galaxy NX RAW ISO 400

ISO 800 copy

Samsung Galaxy NX RAW ISO 800

ISO 1600 copy

Samsung Galaxy NX RAW ISO 1600

ISO 3200 copy

Samsung Galaxy NX RAW ISO 3200

ISO 6400 copy

Samsung Galaxy NX RAW ISO 6400

ISO 12800 copy

Samsung Galaxy NX RAW ISO 12800

ISO 25600 copy

Samsung Galaxy NX RAW ISO 25600

As can be seen more clearly, noise is visible earlier and a slight colour shift starts to appear at ISO 6400, compared to the OOC JPEGS, although, the light was changing as it was cloudy outside, which may have added to the slight colour shift.

Here are the RAWs at 100% Crop. . .

ISO 100 RAW Crop

Samsung Galaxy NX RAW ISO 100 Crop 100%

ISO 200 RAW Crop

Samsung Galaxy NX RAW ISO 200 Crop 100%

ISO 400 RAW Crop

Samsung Galaxy NX OOC ISO 400 Crop 100%

ISO 800 RAW Crop

Samsung Galaxy NX RAW ISO 800 Crop 100%

ISO 1600 RAW Crop

Samsung Galaxy NX RAW ISO 1600 Crop 100%

ISO 3200 RAW Crop

Samsung Galaxy NX RAW ISO 3200 Crop 100%

ISO 6400 RAW Crop

Samsung Galaxy NX RAW ISO 6400 Crop 100%

ISO 12800 RAW Crop

Samsung Galaxy NX RAW ISO 12800 Crop 100%

ISO 25600 RAW Crop

Samsung Galaxy NX RAW ISO 25600 Crop 100%

As you can see, unprocessed RAW files at the higher ISO are noisier, as is to be expected, but up to an including ISO 6400 are well detailed and at ISO 6400, with a small amount of Noise Reduction applied in post processing, isn’t really a problem.

If Noise Reduction is applied and the images at the higher two ISO settings are resized (downscaled) from 20.3MP images to around 12- 16MP, Noise really isn’t an issue on any ISO setting. The higher the ISO Noise, downsize the image a touch more to compensate, so ISO 12800 down to @14 – 16MP, ISO 25600 down to 12 -14MP depending on your own specific needs.

Any way, I hope you find this Real World ISO Test helpful and hope the original ISO Test, where I tried to demonstrate the worse case scenario is put into some perspective.