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Monday, 04 April 2016


'To which my immediate thought is, no, no—not or. And. I've long been a fan of having a zoom and also a much smaller lens of a focal length from the middle of the zoom's range somewhere. It's perfect. The big zoom for when you're concentrating solely on photography, the little pancake for when you're doing something else and just have the camera with you "in case."'

Well, I agree, in general. In this case there is another option, the 12-32/3.5-5.6. It is smaller in diameter, 55.5 vs. 63 mm, lighter, 70 vs. 87 g., and when collapsed, shorter, than the 20/1.7, while still giving a nice range of focal lengths. I have both, and would only choose the 20/1.7 where it's dark, for the speed. BUT WAIT, as they say on TV, the prime doesn't have IS, and the zoom does. So for still subjects, the zoom is about the same "speed" @ 20 mm as the prime, while offering more flexibility.

No obvious perfect choice, to my mind.

Now if you want a small pancake, the Panny 14/2.5 really is tiny, light (and cute!)

"Not a small camera, it is however very right-sized: although decently portable"

Hands and bodies differ. I found my GX7 only slightly larger than "right sized". The GX8 is significantly larger. That's one of the reasons I'm not interested in the GX8.

(The much superior IBIS and various aspects of the latest firmware upgrade of the E-M5 II are the others.)

"Love the noises and the razor-sharp shutter-button feel."

OK, but to avoid shutter shock, ya gotta shoot in silent mode.

"The irony here is that Panasonic already had this feature perfected...on the GF1. That camera's battery/card door was just right. "

The GX7 battery/card door works properly, as well. I wonder if you have an example flaw?

I recall that some years ago you had a fine bookshelf made, so books in boxes?

Regarding the battery door - I have the GX8 and my battery door opens perfectly - I think your copy might have a defective spring.

Be sure to check out Post-Focus. It is the coolest thing. I have been shooting flowers this spring with my 60mm macro wide open, hand held, close in and everything is in focus with the stack or OOF if you prefer. You need the latest firmware to have the facility.

There is a problem with the battery/card door. Mine pops up fine. Either the spring or too much friction.

FWIW, the biggest issue I have with the camera is that the rear control dial is not function configurable and only a useful control in manual mode for either shutter speed or aperture control. Meanwhile, the dedicated exposure compensation dial is in a awkward location, and the base of my thumb often depresses other buttons when I go to rotate it. I much prefer the pure modal controls of the Olympus OM cameras whee I configure the read dial for exposure compensation.

I think the LX100 controls are more consistent even if completely none modal. It also has better AWB.

Curious as to what you make of the GX8.

BTW, if you ever decide on that Panny 12-35/2.8 you've been pining for, I've got a nice used but very minty one for sale. Decided to sell all my M4/3 kit. Terrific system that I just don't use...

Fully agree with you on both zoom and a small prime. Only thing to add is that the tiny pancake is also 1 1/2 stops faster than the already 'fast' zoom.

That's interesting about the card/battery door. My little (somewhat beloved) Lumix LF1 p&s has the same issue. I'm pretty sure it didn't initially, and I have been assuming the little spring broke; so that might be the case with your sample. Or, maybe Panasonic trying to encourage people to keep their fingernails long.

I love the GX7 I got from you but when the GX8 first came out I seriously considered it. The deal breaker for me was if I was going to spend that kind of money the camera needed to have a mic in jack. Doesn't have one so no go.

Interesting; I seem to have an opposite viewpoint of primes & zooms to you.

I, too, love a fast prime & normal zoom combo- but I typically think of the zoom as the "doing something and just want a camera with you" lens, while the fast prime is the "actually doing photography" lens.

When I can work to setup a shot- and have the time to do so- I almost always lean towards using a prime, as I feel I can usually mitigate the limitations of a single focal length and, in exchange, I get access to special things that a slow(er) normal zoom can't do- options of shallow DOF and nice bokeh, reasonably fast shutter speeds in low light, generally higher IQ, etc.

The zoom is usually my "settle" lens- when I may not have the ability or time to "foot zoom" as needed, and just need to be able to grab the camera and snap a quick shot at an appropriate focal length, regardless of where I'm positioned.

I almost never think of zooms as "serious" photography lenses- rather, they're the "jack of all trades, master of none" option- a product that is inevitably full of many large compromises.

I've been using that 20mm for about three years now, almost exclusively. It lives on the GX8's predecessor, the GX7. I have nothing but good things to say about both. It is very sharp where it needs to be, the focus falloff wide open is pleasant, it is very compact, and weighs almost nothing. The controls on the GX7 are nicely thought out, the EVF is clear, and the whole thing is, in a word, responsive. If the GX8 is as similar as it seems, it earns Mike's accolades indeed.

It is worth noting that the 20mm focuses much faster on Panasonic cameras than the early Olympus models. It is a unit focusing design, which takes effort to move, so the GX7 uses a focus distance lookup table specfic to the lens to help predict how far to move it when focusing. Understandably, yet unfortunately, they chose not to share that data with Olympus. The good news here is that you couldn't ask for a camera better designed to take advantage of that lens than the GX8.

It is not as fast to focus as the 42.5/1.7, which cycles so quickly that I barely can perceive it. I haven't had the 42.5 as long, but I have no complaints. The price is right too, at 350-ish, more or less, with internal image stabilization to boot. It goes without saying that it is absurdly sharp, even wide open. The worst I could say is that I wish it would focus closer? One foot is pretty good. I mean really, Panasonic is on a roll, here.

We live in very exciting times. To have such sharp, clear lenses, at such good prices. It is a golden age.

P.s. It's not obvious until you spend some time with m43, but the 4:3 ratio really helps you out with the wide normals. The 20mm has the width of a 40mm lens, but gives you just a smidge more "sky". You get the vertical clearance of a 35mm lens on full frame, which is ever so handy to me for photographs of pairs of people - you don't have to take that extra step back to get their feet in. I've been tempted to rent the Olympus 17/1.8 for comparison, but I'm afraid I'd buy it and have to rationalize keeping two very similar lenses.

re the battery/card door issue: I wonder if it's just a bad copy in that particular respect? I own and have owned a series of Lumi, and in all cases, the thing pops open just fine.

I look forward to reading your opinions about both camera and lens!

Mike, the image that you used is not of the camera/lens combo that you write in the article....

[Thanks, I added a note to make that clear. --Mike]

Funny Mike, I do it the other way: the prime lens is for when I'm serious about photography, and the zoom is when I'm walking around and have the camera just in case.

Andy Kochanowski -- I think you're only sort of right. Over the last year I've had some of the top tier sensors (D800e, Sony a7rii) as well as Micro Four Thirds). At the end of a day with cameras, the best shots come to be out of a combination of causes and conditions, and very often the MFT takes the prizes. I'm making relatively large good prints from the MFT files, and they look good. Which is not to say that I don't sometimes gasp at the quality of the images from the new Sony.

In the beginning I think it was certainly true what you said, that the sensor mattered most. In the beginning of digital photography the kit lenses were outperforming the sensors, and for a few years the big deal was the new sensor,not the better lens. Unfortunately for me, I held onto this belief for too long, and I have some mediocre files to prove it. I became complacent about my lens quality, but looking back at my files, by the time the sensors were 12 megapixels I was using some lenses worse than I could have been.

I had this realization some years back when I was using a 12 megapixel D200 alongside my wife at my daughter's horse show. She had a lessor sensor, a Nikon D40, older and lower res. I was using a kit lens and she was using a pretty good zoom. At the end of the day my daughter shocked me by saying, "Kate's are better than yours!" And they were. It was the lens. I looked through my catalog at everything done with that lens, and sure enough it was a dog. Since then I've started to take the lenses seriously. Of course on the Sony a7rii it would be stupid to pay for that sensor and then use lenses that underperform. But even on the micro four thirds I get good results very often, if I use very good lenses.

If you've owned good lenses you know that there are various aspects of what makes a lens "good," and that will show up on a 16 or 20 Mpx MFT sensor as well, while some of the things that make a lens bad will show up on any sensor.

"The big zoom for when you're concentrating solely on photography, the little pancake for when you're doing something else and just have the camera with you 'in case.'"

Hmm... interesting. I agree that it's an AND question, not OR, but I would flip the lens use.

I don't have any zooms presently, but in the past I would always tend to leave my 17-50 on my old Canon all the time as my all purpose "just in case" lens - no matter what happened, I could frame and get some kind of a shot. But when heading out for "serious" stuff, my instinct was always to gravitate to the prime lenses to choose a "mood" for the day, direct my seeing, and cut out the clutter of focal length from my brain.

Moose said: "Now if you want a small pancake, the Panny 14/2.5 really is tiny, light (and cute!)"

And an even smaller, cuter option is the 15mm f8 body cap lens from Olympus. I bought mine new for $50. I can't think of any reason an m43 owner shouldn't spring for it. It has a distinctive look (well, I meant it's photos, but yes, being a lens cap with a fixed aperture triplet does, too).


Mike, Any way of reading that Burt Keppler/Pop Photo article on the imaginary camera?

"You know what I'm trying to say...Sony has the goods on everybody else in this game... M4/3 is another more-or-less dead end."

Since this is featured comment, I'd be interested to know whether you agree with it or not. Do Sony's sensors and PDAF focusing system make all other camera system choices inferior and a "dead-end?"

[Featured Comments are "letters to the editor" intended to be a sampling of opinion for those who don't wish to read every single comment posted. I often feature comments with points of view in direct conflict with each other, and I never choose comments based solely on how they relate to my own opinion. Some I agree with, some I don't. --Mike the Ed.]

Don't know if you want to publish an addendum from me, but as to Gordon's fair point.

Didn't say all other camera choice systems are inferior, because it's a horses for courses market and usage these days, and what may work for you may not work for me and we may both be right for what we do with our cameras.

What I did say is that I think Sony has the hands-down best performing chips on the market from both a dynamic range, speed, and PDAF capabilities, at a price point that is often( but not always) cheaper or significantly cheaper than other mirrorless systems. Their lenses aren't as nice and often not as technically good as M4/3 or Fuji lenses (or at least I gather this about Fuji lenses from the glowing reviews; I have had a number of M4/3 primes over the years). But I think lens selection matters far less than the chip/software output especially when combined with extremely capable AF systems that are on Sony's AFC-C cameras.

I think M4/3 is a dead end because it is boxed in with its size. It's been chasing bigger sensor output since it started, and is still a stop or two behind. Don't get me wrong, I was an original user of the 4/3 system (itself a dead end) with an Olympus E400, and went on to the Panasonic GF1 etc. Still own a Lumix LX100. It's a terrific camera with a limited sensor. You can get great photos from it or any other M4/3 camera, but at a narrower operating window than what you can get with the Sony chips. And they aren't cheaper and they (mostly) often aren't smaller. So I'm not seeing any real advantages for someone to plunk down $1000-1500 to get into the system now.

I look at the frantic proliferation of the Oly/Panasonic bodies over the past thee or four years and what I see is churning to increase sales largely among the same group of adapters.

Fuji is different and at a higher price point by far.

Didn't intend to ruffle...

Andy K., you realize that Oly uses Sony sensors in the Em1 with PDAF on sensor, plus many other models us the sony sensors with CDAF only?

Or are you referring to Sony APS C sensors only?

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