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Wednesday, 04 November 2009

Comments

The combination of writing quality and the disarming honesty that you do so well is sure to get people hot and bothered. I enjoyed the article the way I enjoy a good book. I will enjoy many of the comments the way I enjoy a David Attenborough documentary on wild tigers' hunting strategies. This place is awesome. :-)

I have used both cameras, and still have the G1 and the GF1, and generally agree with your review. I will interested in your choice.

One thing about image quality. You always want it to be as good as it can be, of course, but I don't think either camera would be one that you'd choose if you were really interested in ultimate image quality. Even in the price range of these cameras (and the lenses can be *quite* expensive), there are better APS-C choices available, if you're really interested in ultimate image quality; and if you're *really* interested in image quality, you save for a FF model. IMHO, these m4/3 cameras are all about portability, unobtrusiveness, and responsiveness, and image quality that is "good enough." The Panasonics work for me, and any difference in image quality between the GF1 and the E-P1, if there is one, was not significant for me. My decision to keep the GF1, and let the E-P1 go, was partly based on the fact that I really like my G1, with its articulated LCD and built-in viewfinder, and the operating similarity between the GF1 and the G1 was really the deciding factor for me. As for portability, I can get both bodies, four lenses, the charger, plus four batteries and the operating manuals, in a bag I once used for a Leica M walk-around system.

I somewhat disagree with your call on the autofocus. The E-P1's autofocus bothered me even while I was testing it in the store. I thought I'd grow used to it, but I didn't, perhaps because my photographic background, such as it is, was in news photography, and when I push the button, I want something to happen NOW. In news work, you try to stay constantly focused on a target, so you don't have any delay in shooting, but it seemed to me that even when the E-P1 was essentially focused, it *still* hunted. For people who aren't quite as interested in fast response, this may be a non-factor in choosing a camera.

The E-P1 was prettier; the GF1 is techier. You pays your nickel...

JC

"I would counsel that if an eyelevel finder is so important to you, get a camera that's designed with one" would be good advice if there was a reasonable selection of such cameras. Apart from Leica, manufacturers seem to have given up on this, and forgotten everything they used to know about designing these ... the Canon G's are a good example of almost useless v. finders from a maker who should know (and used to know) how to do it right ...

Why is this important? The biggest single reason (IMHO) is ergonomics and steadiness, regardless of image stabilization. Hold a camera, any camera, to your eye and you have three contact points, a virtual tripod ... hold a viewfinderless camera out at something like reading distance and you have a cantilever rocking back and forth out there.

In many situations you can be less "visible" with a "traditional" viewfinder as well, and work more quickly.

Yes, there are definite times when the live screen is useful, even necessary. Nothing new here, the same was true of the 4 x 5 Speed Graphic, blessed with both a viewfinder and a live view screen on the back .... although admittedly the shutter lag in the latter case was a bit much ...


Aren't heat and electronic noise related? Is it surprising that components packed into a smaller box run hotter than they would in a larger one that has a mirror flapping around? I assume full-time live view contributes both heat and RF noise as well. It sure as heck wouldn't help dissipate heat.

So I concede that these two applications just can't possibly be as lame and useless as they appear to be to me based on a cursory and bored first glance and a few petulant half-hearted trials. They can't be—right?
I have Olympus Master. Yes, it is lame, and the in-camera jpeg engine on the E-520 must be brilliant at default settings, since I can't get better results from raw conversion in O.M. It couldn't possibly be my own lack of understanding. ;)

Additional lameness: you actually have to install Olympus Master in order to do firmware updates on your camera. You can't stick an update on a CF card and go from there. I mean, what could possibly go wrong while you are trying to update the firmware? Bad cable? Interrupted power? System hangs mid stream? Nawwww! That could never happen! Why, if it did, it could brick your camera and it's lenses!

I'm assuming they haven't changed that for the Pen?

More seriously, I got to handle one* for a few minutes today, and while it is nice, there's nothing simple or pocketable about the kit zoom with the extension interlock. It didn't compare that well with the Panasonic G1 [not GF-1] that I handled side by side with it. Same-ish heft, size, but the rubbery texture and dedicated (-ish) switches and knobs of the G1 seemed awfully nice. If the GF-1 has that kind of feel**, it will be awfully attractive.

Speaking of GF-1 availability: the store had precisely 1 in stock, ever, sometime two weeks ago. It arrived in the afternoon, someone called at two asking if they had one, and had picked it up by 3. The sales guy didn't even have a chance to open the box to see it. By contrast, the Pen has been on the shelf for at least two weeks by the time I got a chance to handle it.

I have to admit to being in the target market for a GF-1. A small, fast camera, with good IQ, and HD video is what a guy with small kids needs. Panasonic is going to make a mint on these: a camera small enough to take everywhere that you use every day is a camera you replace in a heartbeat when something inevitably happens to it. They've solved the "how to get people to keep buying cameras every couple years" problem without needing to climb on the features treadmill that Nikon/Canon have. N&C look pretty foolish to me: who's going to shell out hundreds or thousands of dollars on big, heavy, lenses and then use them often enough/treat them roughly enough that you'd need to replace them?

I think I've said before how disappointed I was that modern Nikons are not nearly as small and obviously user friendly as the FG. I think I can add to that my disappointment that the Pen didn't have that indefinable Maitani-sensei magic at first touch.

*Ritz camera.
**granted, finger sweat does seem to condense on the rubber really easily, but it didn't change the friction any.

EP1 body is not stainless steel is Aluminum.
The size of the focusing spot in the GF1 can be adjusted at will.

Moreover the EP1 body is metal only in the outer shell. Inside is plastic.

RE: your search for the best raw converter.

I don't mean to sound like a wise-ass, but why not try the raw converter that comes with the camera? It may be junk or it may be the best available converter for that particular camera. You never know until you try, but in either case it's useful information.

As for ACR, I've read on the web that the new Lightroom beta has a much better raw converter than the ACR module used in previous versions. It's free so you may want to give it a try.

Mike I think Lightroom is where it's at. I don't print from it unless I'm just messing around (the raw converter is sort of weird to me), but for organizing pictures it's just awesome. And I've come to feel like trying to get away with just a raw converter for pictures you care about is not maximizing the potential of your pictures. So I think of lightroom for making work prints, but if I care about something, and want to make a good print, I make minimal adjustments in lightroom and then take it into Photoshop and do my thing. It works great, it's very easy and simple. Perhaps their converter will mature, but I like my system as it stands.

Panasonic is using the m4/3 format for video - the GH1 caused quite a bit of good press. The 1080p @ 24f got lots of indie film makers excited along with the ability to mount just about any legacy lenses, including older 16mm cine lenses.

The GH1's kit 14-140mm lens has also been highly regarded as both a superzoom and video lens - I bet this is one of the reasons Panasonic is sticking with their OIS for m4/3s. That and they can charge more for each lens too...

If you are going to use an Adobe product to compare raw output from these cameras make sure you use their latest rendering engine which is included (in reportedly unfinished form) in the Lightroom 3 beta. This has not been used in an ACR version yet but I'm sure it will. I like how LR3 beta renders GF1 files a lot and, I suppose, it will get better once the product development is finalised.

Mike! Image quality is "the most important thing for a camera?" I can't believe my eyes -- am I really reading this from the coiner of "DMD?"

Sure, IQ is part of what makes a camera compelling, but if it were the "most important" criterion, you'd be comparing two 8x10s instead of two P&S digitals, right? :)

I agree with your "point of sufficiency" post from last month; clearly both of these cameras are good enough to replace the DSLR for casual shots, and neither are quite enough for large (beyond 16x20) prints.

For me, the biggest challenge these two cameras face is the challenge of getting out of the way. The "ideal" DMD should be so fluid in operation that you can concern yourself with subject matter rather than camera settings. In other words, ergonomics and speed are key. I could really care less if that ideal camera has slightly higher noise or lower resolution than some of its slower, more cumbersome competitors...

And how many people realized those cameras are sitting on a turntable? Must be getting old...

Mike.

Count me as one of those ardent SilkyPix fans, only with merely "ok" personal and artistic success. I'm still young ;)

The main reason I use it is because it generates nicer output than anything else I've tried, and with almost no effort. The colours from it are... "lush", is the best word I can think of.

I've even come to quite like its interface, if you can believe such a thing.

Well, Mike, didn't you have FUN!!-A very excellent first instalment- waiting for the next. Probably won't buy either, but it's nice to have a review from a non pixel peeper. Have a Ricoh G 100 which I love, (it has 24mm eqiv, and time lapse built in and RAW,) but I note that Olympus has just announced the E-P2 . Can we ever keep up????

Dear Mike -
There is a teardown of the EP-1 somewhere on the internets and basically it is a plastic body, with stamped stainless steel cover plates. So, although it gives the appearance of being a metal camera of yore, it really isn't...

http://tinyurl.com/n4arfr

On software, I have encountered people who swear allegiance to SilkyPix on other cameras, but have never heard a good word said about Olympus Master. On the other hand, Olympus support, profiles, etc., usually appears sooner in third party software that does Panasonic's (although that may have changed). Do both cameras produce DNG's for their raw files, so that you can start working on them in essentially any environment? If not, squawk loudly about it!

scott

Well, looks like you can move straight on to the next Olympus...

Let me chime in with a bit about software. I have tried SilkyPix as an independent RAW developer and I was forced to use Olympus Studio before Adobe acknowledged E-P1 in ACR.

SilkyPix has some quite nifty things if you like auto development. It is reasonably fast. But as quite a lot of Japanese programs, it can be baffling to work with. "Why can't I change the value of this?" Not to mention "taste" and similar word choices.

Olympus Studio (and Master) are horribly slow. Slow, slow, slow. That said, their advantage is that they respect the camera settings and you can get very nice look to your photos with less work than in ACR. But it comes to nought when you mark 50 photos for development in Studio and the program crashes for no apparent reason. Or when you mark the photos for development and can go have a quick bite before the program finishes. And when you get back to the computer, you find that the program reported an error and no photos were developed.

As to the bafflement about lenses, I was baffled too, at first. But then, if you think about it, it's apparently the matter of product positioning. Olympus has firmly put E-P1 out as a bridge between compacts and SLRs. So, their lenses are on that level, the same as their Standard grade lenses. Not what we all expected.

BTW, have you seen E-P2 announcement? Yes, it's official. I got a press release from Olympus this morning. Besides, they announced the MFT version of their 9-18/4-5.6 Standard grade zoom. (And 14-150/4-5.6, but that's of no interest to me. :-))

Mike,well done great review so far, looking forward to next part.With regards to raw converter whats wrong with Lightroom Mike? it seems to be very popular with a lot of users.

Wow, what a nice... turntable do you have, Mike!! Which brand & model is it?? ;)

Hi Mike
I have been using the E-P1 for nearly 3 months and like the image quality which I find is similar to the Ricoh GX100 only better.
I only use the 17mm and have the external viewfinder. I work with it like a Leica or Cosina Voigtlander T body and prefer an external optical finder and fixed lens to an ad on electronic finder like the GX100 or the GF1 and new Olympus finder for the E-P2. I also use the delightful Cosina Voigtlander minifinder (tiny and from Canerquest)) with the ratio on the E-P1 set to 3/2 as opposed to 4/3. There are many things I like about the E-P1 and these outweigh any short comings such as slowness which in terms of timescale would have been considered okay a couple of years ago.
A very personal comment is that it feels like a real and vintage camera which satisfies me and gives me confidence.
I have used the camera on a couple of pro assignments and it delivered the goods, what more can I say?
The option of an EVF or zoom lens would be nice occasionally but would not be as god as my A900 so horses for courses

David

Forget the cameras. What's that turntable? Could it be a Rega Planar something-or-other? Looks dead cool, anyway.

Well, I'm right curious about your upcoming conclusions about these maybe-DMDs, but I'm far curiouser about your upcoming conclusions on raw converters, because I am lost there :)

(Still, many thanks for a nice morning giggle reading about the included software. For years I've been banging my head so as to why, if $500 computer makers can license-bundle a $250 operating system, oh why can't $899-and-upwards camera makers can't license-bundle Aperture, PS, LR, or Capture One.)

The absence of an optical viewfinder, even a half-baked one that displays no information, is a deal breaker for me from the starting gate - regardless of quality. For this reason alone (and I'm sure they take great pictures) neither of these cameras should get the "DMD" award.

c

Think you've angered the gods some more - EP-2 just been announced :-o

Mike. Very helpful/ I must say I had a slightly negative experience with the Panasonic GH1. The plastic lens release button broke off. The GF1 has the same plastic button.

My camera dealer didn't seem surprised when I brought it back and gave me the option of a replacement or a full refund including the battery (used). HE THE GH1 all back to the manufacturer\supplier.

For some reason that really put me off the Panasonic build quality.

Olympus just announced the EP-2...

So, get back to work Mike!

;~)

Reminds me of the old saying about the weather:

If you don't like it...just wait 5 months.

Cheers! Jay

"(Image quality) is the most important thing for a camera, but I've just been looking at JPEGs, because I haven't worked out a raw workflow that I'm happy with for either camera."

Really, it's not.

My camera closet has all the latest stuff from Canon and some really nice pieces of glass. But when I look at everything I've shot over a 20 year career in news photography, the "best" cameras - the ones I have now - haven't made all of the best images.

If all you're looking for is the best image quality, then you're making mechanical recordings. If you're looking to express an idea, then the way a camera reacts or, more importantly, disappears in your hands is much more important.

As I tell my students every day, where you point the camera and when you push the button matter a whole lot more than the camera and the button.

(But I will admit to being a camera geek - but that's a separate obsession from my desire to tell stories.)

See EP-2 launched today.

Danny

Can the Panasonic's built-in flash communicate with the Olympus FL-36R? If so, that'd be a decision-making factor for me.

Would you consider the absence of a view finder as a negative point in both cameras? DMD camera with no view finder?
I believe an optical view finder, a large one at that, is a must for any decent DMD camera. After all, how much bulk and cost would it add to the camera?

Cateto/Jose and Julian,
It's a Rega P3-24 with a Groovetracer subplatter and a Dynavector 10X5. They'll bury me with it (although someday I will upgrade the tonearm to an Origin Live Silver). The only thing bad about it is the absolutely absurd felt mat. Those might work well in the soggy old sod, drenched with humidity, but here in 'Sconsin where we have real winter, it gets so staticky that it's impossible to keep it from sticking to the records--the mat comes off with each record and has to be peeled off the record. I'll be replacing the glass platter and felt mat with a Funk Firm Achroplat platter soon (provided it sounds as good, of course).

I also have a totally wonderful TTWeight Superlight record clamp. Larry Denham owns a company that makes high precision mil spec parts for Boeing jets, and as a sideline he manufactures these exquisite turntable clamps. The Superlight is a gorgeous little thing that clamps to the spindle with a turn of the top. Unfortunately it looks like he's transitioning to turntable manufacture as I can no longer find the clamps on his website.

Mike

Oh, one thing I forgot: I too am baffled, truly, by the fact that the high-ish ISO output from these cameras (all micro-4/3) is clearly more noisy and less usable than that of 4/3 cameras using the same (or close enough) sensors.

Makes no more sense to me than it does to you, and I'd really like to know why that is.

Is Robert E's answer the right one? Or part of it?

(And it's not m43 alone - if some samples are to be believed, it would seem the Leica X1's APS-C sensor is markedly noisier at 3200 ISO than others of the same size in larger bodies. Like you said, weird.)

I'm not in the market for either of these cameras, so I can just sit back and enjoy your review...and any ensuing ruckus caused by your words :-)

However, your comment about RAW converters did hit home with me. I recently purchased the Canon S90 as my be-with-me-always P&S, and its RAW capability was a determining factor in my choice. Unfortunately, ACR does not support it yet and I am stuck using Canon's RAW converter, DPP (Digital Photo Professional). I probably have more patience than you do (or maybe it's that I want my photos developed, dammit!), so I've been working hard at using DPP...growing highly irritated with each attempt.

If my efforts yielded awesome TIFFs, I would consider it worth it, but while I cannot yet compare with ACR output, I don't imagine ACR's IQ being any worse than what DPP is spitting out.

In the end, I've decided to keep shooting RAW, and I'll just develop my files when Adobe posts an ACR update which supports the S90. So, like you, I think I have a good camera, but I don't know how good its pictures are.

One more reason for all camera brands to adopt DNG as their RAW format.

Thanks for the update on the turntable, Mike; as much as I drool about the new Olys, I confess I drool much stronger about hifi beauties like the one you depicted here.

(Now if only I had the time to listen to my all-humble NAD turntable properly... and if only my favourite musicians released their albums on vinyl at reasonable prices...).

Just a brief comment about optical viewfinders vs screens: at 54 I have to wear reading glasses for anything up to a distance of say a metre but perfect eyesight beyond that. This means fiddling with glasses to compose via a screen and peering over the top to look at the scene proper. Bet nobody thought of that.

Paul Bunnell: If you can't hold a camera out in front of you more steadily than trying to smash it into your face, you're not doing it right. Use the strap. Pull your elbows into your belly, and push out against the strap around your neck, and look at all the nice solid triangles of support you have built (in three dimensions!) (Yeah, some P&S don't have strap mountings workable for this; but these two specific cameras DO.)

I've been shooting hand-held low-light work for 40 years, and it was a revelation to me how slowly I could hold a camera steady when I didn't have to hold it in front of my eye.

Glass and felt? I seem to remember those materials being recommended in my junior high physics textbook as a good way to generate static electricity.

Regarding noise performance of the micro-4/3 cameras compared to the regular 4/3 DSLRs, there really isn't much difference, at least if you trust DXOmark. One reason that the Panasonics may look a bit worse in a simple test at say, ISO 400, is that they seem to understate their ISO ratings by about 2/3 of a stop compared to many other cameras.

Helpful comparison! Not attracted to either camera but got a better feel for what could succeed my Ricoh GX200.

"I used both cameras with a single central focus point, which I prefer." There's a tutorial lurking there ready to teach me something. Have you written about this already?

One curiosity...what's your hand-holding technique for viewfinder-less cameras?

Amazon UK are showing the Panasonic GF1 with 20mm lens as in stock, so perhaps it would be worthwhile for you to link to it.

Simon, that's exactly why my D-Lux 3 sits unused in my purse! It's also one of the many reasons that I love shooting with my M8. I'm beginning to think the Ricoh GR-D III, with my 28mm Voigtlander finder atop it, might be my next in-my-purse camera.

I use the E-P1 since the first days it was available. Mostly with the 17mm pencake. Yes the Lumix G 20mm/1.7 is better, but in combination with Olympus' VF-1 optical viewfinder it is a really fantastic feel to photograph. Set the aperture to 5.6, AF to the middle point. Program the fn Button for "Display off". I'll tell you the E-P1 is fast enough for street photography (only an M9 is slower, except you have a year or so viewfinder training with it *gg*) and the 17mm is not that bad the web out there writes! My "old" Pentax *istDL DSLR was not faster in terms of AF and i did some really good "action shots" with it. I also tried the GF1 for one day. I also figured out the JPG's looked much nicer with the E-P1, the GF1 is more noisier. The main reason i like the E-P1 is the 2 wheel operation, built-in stabilizer and the really good stereo sound (PCM) of the videos. Aperture on the big wheel, time or av on the other. The wheel on the GF1 is too much inside the body and a bit flimsy. Tipp for ISO adjusting on the PEN: Set the camera to the advanced menu screen. Then you can easily and very fast change the iso by circling the wheel on the back. Also it is important for setting Gradation to "Normal"(off), cause it adds noise.

My LCD in sunlight tests figured out that the PEN Screen, which has an optical coating, is better in sunlight and is better viewable in extremer angle of views.
In 4:3 the GF1 screen has black borders (?). The GF1 screen seems a 3:2.

Maybe today i would buy a Pen Body, maybe the E-P2, combined with the Lumix G 20mm & the Voigtländer 40mm viewfinder. But i am happy as it is, Prints (up to DIN A 4) are looking very good. Now i am waiting for my ordered Novoflex Minolta MD/MFT adapter.

Nice writing Mike, TOP is always the best!
groove on
XebastYan

I was just looking at those Leica samples "Leica X1's APS-C sensor is markedly noisier at 3200 ISO than others of the same size in larger bodies" and was thinking to myself that they were a little noisy, but that it was nice sharp not too lumpy noise, sort of like high accutance developer grain.

I'd rather get a clip on waistlevel finder and forgo the eyelevel electric finder.

Oh, and it looks those turntable weights are still available, but that website's design is sort of a mess. http://www.ttweights.com/catalog/item/6997332/7020312.htm

Hugh Crawford,
Right, you had to click on "Turntable Accessories" twice to get to the right page...he changed it (a little) this morning after I contacted him. Here's the one I have. Beautifully made.

Mike

Dear folks,

Some VERY preliminary and quarter-baked thoughts and feelings about the Olympus (which I have only barely begun to work with). Also note that I am doing all my work in RAW, via Adobe Camera RAW.

Re: ISO, my feeling is that it is very similar in performance to the Nikon D200. Which is hardly outstanding by today's standards, but is also nothing to sneeze at.

For what it's worth, I have an 11 x 14 print photographed at ISO 640 that looks smooth and nearly-to-completely grainless at normal viewing distances. Fine grain is visible if you pixel-peep. Mike has seen a JPEG and can confirm.

Re: People confounded at the differences in ISO performance between supposedly similar cameras, please understand that the armchair theorists' notion that ISO/ square-microns should be some kind of image quality constant is one born of naivete and has little connection with reality. There is easily plus or minus a stop, maybe even a stop and a half to two stops variance from that hypothetical norm. Don't worry about why. Unless you really want to get into deep into the intricacies of digital equipment design and manufacture, you don't need to know and shouldn't care. Just accept the fact that it's true. Just the same way that it was true that different 35mm films had very different ISO/image quality figures of merit, even though they were all the same format and based on the same basic technology!


~ pax \ Ctein
[ Please excuse any word-salad. MacSpeech in training! ]
======================================
-- Ctein's Online Gallery http://ctein.com 
-- Digital Restorations http://photo-repair.com 
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Dear folks,

Re: the lenses., note that I have played only a very little bit, and I am no connoisseur like Mike is. That said, I don't see a lot of difference in the performance of the 20mm f/1.7 and 17mm f/2.8 kit lenses. They are both decently sharp at the center wide open and quite soft at the edges and corner wide open. They both clear up nicely by one-stop down and are extremely clean overall a stop and a half to two stops down.

The big difference for me is that with the 20 mm lens, I've already got very good quality before I even hit the maximum aperture on the 17 mm lens! And having an f/1.7 lens on a camera with decent (not spectacular) ISO performance means I really can do available light photography with this camera.

Mike says that the boke on the 20 mm lens is greatly superior; I will have to take his word for this. It's not an image characteristic I am sensitive to, particularly.

Also, a VERY Cursory look at the 14-42 kit zoom lens indicates that it seems to be pretty sharp, wide open, at all focal lengths. It's definitely good stopped down even a little bit. Since its maximum aperture at 17 mm is only slightly less than the 17 mm f/2.8 kit lens, I can't see any reason to choose the 17 mm over the zoom, based on image quality. For compactness, sure! But if that's not a primary decision factor for you, I think the kit zoom makes the 17 mm lens entirely superfluous.

Other argument in favor of the 17 mm kit lens: God, it's a pretty combination! It appalls me that I even care about that; I am so very much NOT an aesthetic-oriented gearhead. I don't care what a camera looks like, I just care how it performs. But it really bothers me that the Olympus doesn't look anywhere as pretty with the other two lenses as the 17 mm.

And it really, really, REALLY bothers me that bothers me!


~ pax \ Ctein
[ Please excuse any word-salad. MacSpeech in training! ]
======================================
-- Ctein's Online Gallery http://ctein.com 
-- Digital Restorations http://photo-repair.com 
======================================

Regarding Paul Bunnell's comment and David's response...
You often hear the 'oh but you can't hand hold a camera steady at arms length' rant. As far as I'm concerned it's just bunkum. I can hand hold my P&S's at much lower shutter speeds than my SLR. You just need to develope good technique. Davids suggestion is good if you have a stap. But if you don't: try dropping your elbow and tucking it in tight to your body. That's usually enough, but can be steadied further by using the left hand to hold the wrist of your right hand. Again with the elbow tucked in tight to your body. You've now made a stable triangle. Combined with a smooth shutter finger this can yield sharp shots right down into the 1/10th sec range. It also helps to exhale and tense your abdomen [think pelvic thrust exercises!]if you have time to make your shot.

Mike, your comments regarding raw processors has sparked a need to rant. I don't know how coherent this is going to be, but here goes:

I haven't used SilkyPix or Master Studio, but I will say that my general experience with proprietary raw converters is that they are an absolute joke. For one thing, they tend to be buggy, unstable, and infrequently updated/poorly maintained. For another, they seem to be designed by people who have absolutely zero concept of what a modern raw workflow is. What really bugs me is that they tend to try to match the JPEG output of the camera. Call me crazy, but if I wanted my photos to have the color/tonality/sharpening/etc of the manufacturer JPEG, I would just shoot JPEG in the first damn place! Simply put, the most camera makers just don't seem to "get" what raw shooting, and raw shooters, are all about.

Why these companies continue to produce $5000+ camera bodies that focus on producing flimsy, compressed, 8-bit junk files is absolutely beyond me. Raw Histogram? Pfft, who needs it? DNG? Nah, no one would want that! There's just a massive disconnect between what the camera companies THINK we should be doing with their cameras and what we actually ARE doing with them. Which probably explains why it took so long to get decent small camera/large sensor systems in the first place. And now that they've finally come around to making them, what do we get? Consumer zooms and ART FILTERS. They're still locked into the idea that big camera = serious photographer, small camera = hobbyist/amateur/woman (women, by definition, are not serious photographers). They have no clue.

So yeah, I think you should stick with ACR. Adobe does this crazy thing where actual photographers are given input into the design of their photographic applications. As a result, ACR/Lightroom support actual workflows, not fictional ones. Plus, the new version of ACR (contained within the Lightroom 3 Beta) looks like it produces output that's up there with anything else on the market-- it's finally pulling out that last little bit of detail that was previously the domain of Capture 1, Iridient RAW Developer and the like. If nothing else, ACR makes sense because it's probably the most popular option within your readership.

There is really no argument about using a viewfinder against a screen. We each of us know what we like. I am a VF person, you put the camera to your eye and it becomes part of your eye. So Im with Mark Johnson on that and do it with a Ricoh 100 like Bruce. Mike, its all good stuff, TOP always feels like the place where photographers of some intelligence meet.
KG. Cornwall UK

Hi Mike,

Nice turntable!

Chris

Sorry - have to disagree with one small point. In lens IS is better than in camera IS. I've used various cameras which have both - Canon, Pentax, Panasonic, Sony, adn in lens wins hands down. Why? Try panning on a low flying plane with a 600+mm lens hand held (Canon 20D + 100-400 IS) - with IS on the image in the viewfinder doesn't wobble about anywhere near as much as with the IS off - makes framing photos much easier.

Found the same with the Panasonic G1 - with the tele lens it's easier to compose with IS on....

Maybe not a biggie for some, but much easier for me :-)

As I am in the market for a walkaround quality cam these days,after my beloved LX3 went MIA during a trip in Bangkok's scary back lanes some weeks ago, I did lean heavily towards the GF-1 until I read this article.
Now, with the EP-2 announced, which will most likely solve the VF issue for me, I consider the new Oly with the zoom, and possibly the "Panacake" (pardon the pun!) lens.
Did you try the 1.7 20 on the EP-1? How does this combination behave, in terms of Autofocus and all? With Oly's IS this might be just the combination I am waiting for all my life! Or not?

I can't believe it! You've got a Groovetracer subplatter on your Rega!
Is that the Deluxe or Reference model? (I've got a Groovetracer Reference for my Rega as well; I love the improvement it made...)

IMPORTANT TECHNICAL POINT
Peeople may not be aware off...
The 17mm pancake is set up to work with Olympus software to correct any distortions and they are talking to 3rd party (PS etc. ) about releasing data to allow them to offer the same corrections that the Olympus software offers.
This means 2 stages to precessing images at their best.

David

Stephen,
It's the Reference, although it breaks one of my cardinal rules of hi-fi, which is to never buy any piece of equipment with the words "reference" or "signature" in the name....

Mike

Why are we discussing lame cameras when it's clear the subject is a beautiful turntable?

Dear David,

Pincushion and barrel distortion are easily corrected in ACR. Ditto for lateral chromatic aberration. Unless the Olympus software is intended to correct some other lens defect than those, there'll be no reason to use it that I can see.

pax / Ctein

Mike, no matter, it's worth it in this case. Frank Smillie, the owner of GrooveTracer lives locally and I have seen his shop. You should see the work he's capable of...Formula 1 quality. I don't know how he makes any money on these for what he sells them for.

My Groovetracer Reference made an significant improvement to the performance of my 1981 Rega Planar 3 (with trick SME III ultra-low mass arm...).

Yossarian:

I have the E-P1 and the 20mm f/1.7 lens. Honestly, it's like a whole different camera with this lens. The Oly kit zoom is pretty awful, but then I've never had a kit zoom I liked. With the 20mm I've shot in the middle of the night under a cloudy sky and gotten excellent results, using a max of ISO 400. In my film days I shot a Contax G2 -- an absolutely beautiful camera. The E-P1 is not quite as beautiful, but with the 20mm lens and it's ability to shoot video (!), I'm happy regardless.

Personally, I don't miss the viewfinder at all, though I do wish the E-P1 had a nicer LCD. The AF is certainly not slower than a film rangefinder. I don't mind it most of the time and it's significantly faster with the 20mm lens because there is more light on the sensor.

I just wish there were other fast prime lenses available for micro four thirds.

I also don't mind that I'm shooting JPG rather than raw. The images are turning out just fine. If you decide to get a m43, definitely get the 20mm lens. You won't be disappointed. The E-P1 is dropping in price since the announcement of the E-P2. It makes the E-P1/20mm lens combo quite a bit more affordable.

viewfinders versus screens - a little note -- yes, it is certainly very possible to hold an optical finder-less camera steady at arms length using the strap and elbow bracing and all sorts of other bio-mechanical devices, and I've certainly used the technique described. My "rant" is mostly about the lack of decent options, and that I see no reason why a single camera can't have both an lcd screen AND a decent, usable optical viewfinder. (There's lots of good historical precedent -- even in the analog world -- remember the Rolleiflex eyelevel frame?)

There are two principal problems with the various bracing schemes, which are exacerbated in certain situations or shooting styles. First, it is more time-consuming, to get consistent results, and particularly in light of the second problem (which follows). Whatever bracing system you use dictates where the camera is physically in relation to your eyes (though generally somewhere in front of you)... then the usable viewing angle of the screen dictates, within a fairly narrow range, where the camera can be "pointed". Want to shoot something else? Either the carefully contrived bracing is shot, or you end up moving your whole body (works for horizontal shifting, not so well for vertical). If you have a tiltable screen it helps, but where's the third hand to adjust the tilt ... yes, it can be done, but not especially quickly or unobtrusively.

I am all for getting a steadied camera however you must, my point is that there is a perfectly acceptable design, well tried and tested, that seems to have been dropped only for cost reasons, and which would provide more consistently usable results in many situations, for many photographers. Why can't we have the choice?

(David) With something over 40 years of shooting I've learned not to smash my camera into my face (or anything else, generally). I press my camera, and I squeeze my release. In the past I've shot with medium format reflexes (S and T), and learned that pushing the camera down against the neckstrap was just the ticket in many situations. And indeed, a whole lot better ergonomics than with most current non-reflex digital cams - when I was shooting with a G5 I'd often swing the screen out to the side and rotate to the horizontal and shoot TLR style quite happily.

But I still think that the industry has not served us well by not giving us the choice. I can't think of a single independent camera review that hasn't lamented a poorly executed optical finder, or "warned" about the lack of any finder. Users seem to understand the value, and I'm not sure any would seriously argue that not having an optical viewfinder is a plus.

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