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Using Legacy Lenses on the GH2

One of the best features of the Micro Four Thirds camera format is the short back focus of the lens mount because of the lack of a mirror.  I currently use Nikon F, Olympus OM, Canon FD, Canon EF and Leica M rangefinder lenses on my GH2 with lens mount adapters.  About any lens made can be mounted with the right adapter.  There are no electrical contacts so the lenses are strickly manually mechanical.  Because the GH2 has the zoom feature in the viewfinder for focusing, it helps with focus.  i usually use my camera in manual exposure mode as well as I can see the changes in the viewfinder.

Why do I mention all this?  Because of the Super Moon this weekend. Here are some shots taken with my all manual Nikkor ED 400mm f5.6 from eBay.


Panasonic Leica 25mm Summilux Review

PanaLeica Summilux 25mm

There comes a time when a lens can define a camera system.  The Panasonic 25mm Leica DG Summilux ƒ/1.4 is one of those lenses.  The other lens that defines greatness in the micro four thirds system is the excellent Panasonic G 7-14mm  f/4.  Micro four thirds has some excellent lenses. In fact as a whole I would put up most of the lenses for micro four thirds against other formats like full frame 35mm and these small lenses would be considered above average.  They are well made, sharp corner to corner, contrasty and cost effective.

PanaLeica Summilux 25mm

PanaLeica Summilux 25mm f/1.4 on my GH2

Back to the Pan Leica 25mm.  Before zoom lenses, when I started in photography 35mm SLRs and rangefinders had a 50mm lens that was considered a “normal”.  The view from it was considered normal perspective.  What the eye sees.  That is what the 25mm is to the four thirds format because the sensor on a four thirds camera is 1/2 the size of a full frame 35mm camera sensor.  The aperture on the lenses ranged from f/0.95 to 3.5, with f/1.4 considered a fast lens.  A good compromise between speed and affordability.  The 1.4 aperture allows low light photography as well as low depth of field.  On most lenses you want as fast aperture because the best sharpness is about 2 stops down from the maximum. I have found this not to be true with this lens.  It is very sharp wide open and has a lovely out of focus look.

Taken with 25mm @ f/1.4 (click for enlarged view)

There have been complaints that the aperture is quite noisy and this is true but I have not had any problems during video.  I usually don't change once I have started shooting.  I use Auto ISO if necessary for exposure changes since most automatic lenses do not change aperture smoothly.  The focus is by the wire like on most four thirds lenses.  This does not bother me because I don't use a follow focus unit and just turn the ring watching the image.  The GH2 viewfinder is sharp enough to see it pop into focus.  I also like the focus by wire because on four thirds cameras as there is an option to focus manually after auto focus like the Full Time manual focus on other camera systems specific individual lenses.  This works on all focus by wire four thirds lenses.  The focus is very quiet.  It has worked very well on the GH2 and an AF100 video camera.

The lens is very light in weight because of the plastic lens barrel, but it seems sturdy enough.  It has a metal lens mount which attaches firmly on the camera.

One of the more strange design items is the included lens shade.  It bayonets on but can not be reversed for storage.  The lens with the shade is not that large so I just put it attached in my Tamrac Velocity 7 sling camera bag.  Panasonic includes a pinch lens cap so I can leave the shade on.

Here is a video edited with FCPX shot with this lens.  The lens was used for the shot in the entrance hallway and the laundry room.  The other lens used is the Panasonic G 7-14mm  f/4.

Here is another review by Kirk Tuck on The Online Photographer, who did an excellent review of the Panasonic 25mm Leica DG Summilux ƒ/1.4.

Kirk's Take: Leica 25mm Summilux Review

GH2 Design Flaw

The GH2 has one major design flaw. The four way controller. The ISO and WB button are way to easy to hit and screw up. I have found a solution. I went to the Menu button and when to the Custom menu. There turn on Direct Focus Area. This allows you to select the focus area with the four way controller. What it does not allow you to do is select the ISO or WB. Problem solved. When I accidentally hit one of the buttons I get the focus area which can be gotten rid of by hitting the Menu button again. I am a happy camper. (Why did Panny assign those button on a small camera?)


DirectFocusArea on GH2

Canon has apparently not yet received the memo

This is a great analysis of the camera industry today by Michael Reichmann over at The luminous-landscape.com.

“Canon has apparently not yet received the memo. Or, if they have, they have chosen thus far to ignore it. As a market leader in DSLRs they clearly have turf to protect. Those cameras and lenses carry higher margins than CSCs, though top of the line CSCs, like the NEX-7, clearly can be quite profitable if they become successes. The lesson that if someone is going to eat your lunch it may as well be you, seems not to resonate with Canon. But as all of the other companies scramble for position in the new CSC marketplace it is highly unlikely that can will sit on their hands for too much longer. The real question will be whether Canon decides to play it safe and follow Nikon with a very small sensor, or attack Sony, potentially Fujifilm, and to a lesser extent Panasonic and Olympus with a 2X or larger sensor.

But there is no question that the traditional DSLRs segment has lots of life left in it. It's a big “but” though, and its my belief that while pros and advanced amateurs in various fields (fashion, advertising, sports, wildlife, landscape) will continue to appreciate and demand the advantages that DSLRs have to offer, consumers and prosumers looking for versatility and image quality will increasingly be turning to CSCs. Smaller size, lighter weight and lower cost are the ingredients that appeal. And if a camera can also offer a large sensor (APS-C or MFT) than there is no serious compromise in image quality or availability of shallow DOF.

I'll close this out with a personal anecdote. Because of this web site, my workshops, seminars, writing and teaching, I meet and communicate with a lot of pros and advanced amateurs. We chat about photography, the industry, gear, and related topics. A year ago I hardly knew any that owned or even stated an interest in owning a CSC. But this is changing at a very fast clip. A great many are now saying that they've bought a Panasonic, Olympus or Sony Compact System Camera, and with the success and appeal of the Fujifilm X100 are hoping that an interchangeable lens version is under consideration from that company as well. I even know some serious photographers who are selling their DSLRs, and who are looking at advanced CSCs like the Panasonic GH2 and Sony NEX-7. Those that own legacy lenses also find these very appealing, since they can take virtually any lens ever made via adaptors.

Are we at the beginning of a new revolution? The entire world of photographic technology has been in a state of revolution for the past decade. The emergence of the CLC is simply another step in this evolutionary process. And with products like the Sony NEX-7, the category isn't going to remain an under-appreciated one for much longer.”

Yes we are at the beginning of a new revolution. I chose with my pocketbook by switching systems.

GH2 Lenses for Frugal

Now that I have a Panasonic GH2, you might want to know which lenses I have bought.

Here is a run down of the spending so far.
Panasonic Lumix G 14mm F2.5 ASPH – Excellent wide angle and very tiny for low light. Smallest lens for m4/3rds. Small enough to coat pocket my GH2.
Panasonic Lumix G Vario 14-140mm F4-5.8 Mega O.I.S. – Great range for daylight shooting with O.I.S. (image stabilization)
Panasonic Lumix Leica DG Summilux 25mm F1.4 ASPH – Spectacular, now lives on the camera.
Panasonic Lumix G Vario 100-300mm F4-5.6 Mega O.I.S. – Needed for birding and telephoto work.

This makes a small lightweight package for my camera bag. Considerably lighter than my old Canon system.

What is not missing is a replacement for my Canon EFS 10-22mm F3.5-4.5. I have just purchased the Panasonic Lumix Vario 7-14mm.  It is spectacular and is the best zoom lens for video right now because it does not breath and has a constant aperture. We need a large constant aperture medium zoom with O.I.S. Rumor has it that Panasonic is listening. Well their AG-AF100 needs it too.

Olympus M. Zuiko Digital ED 45mm f/1.8 Lens for Micro Four Thirds Cameras – Extremely small and light weight short telephoto.

I already had some OM glass so I bought a OM to m4/3 mount. This way I can use some of my old glass.

OM 50mm 1.8 – Nice short telephoto in low light but some CA (Chromatic Aberration).
EF Rokinon 85mm 1.4 Fast medium telephoto with EF mount for adapter.  (Focus direction is the same as Pany's)
OM 135mm 2.8 – Great for low light at long distance.
OM Vivitar (Kiron) 55mm 2.8 Macro – Very sharp and close
OM Tamron SP 500mm F8 Mirror – I have had this lens for a long time and it gets me closer than any other but needs tons of light or high ISO.

The manual lenses work great with the GH2.

The GH2 gets 30p

My Panasonic GH2 has gotten a firmware update because Panasonic has released a firmware update for the GH2 camera with some improvements, one of the features being an option for higher video bitrate (quality) and frames per second. This new frame rate is 30p @ 24mps on NTSC cameras and 25p @ 24mps on PAL cameras. This is a big deal for us NTSC people. We now can shoot 30p just like the Canon guys. 30p looks better on the web. 30p looks better on a TV.

The new official GH2 firmware is out now, you can download it at Panasonic here.

These are all the new features and improvements:

Added a video mode [HIGH BIT RATE] which is suitable for editing video recorded at high bit rate(24Mbps). (30p NTSC, 25p PAL)
Added a function [POWER ZOOM LENS] when using power zoom lens.
Full area enlargement of AF area setting.
Improved in the speed of consecutive shooting when shot with auto bracket.
Increased number of recordable images in consecutive shooting.
[EX.TELE CONV. (Extra Tele Conversion)] can be set ON/OFF separately in photo or video recording.
More accurate light adjustment of built-in flash.
Improved in the AF performance in video recording.
Synchronization of alarm volume for low battery with [BEEP VOLUME].
Added a function [HALF PRESS RELEASE].
Improved NR (Noise Reduction) in high sensitivity shooting.
Added a function [TOUCH SCREEN] which is ON/OFF control of touch-screen.

Frugal Buys The Panasonic GH2

Many of you will be wondering why I am blogging about the Panasonic GH2 as I have used the Canon 60D. Well, we bought the GH2. Been testing it for weeks. I wanted to try it at NAB but it is sold by the consumer division of Panasonic and they were not at the show. So I finally saw one at a local camera show. I like it very much and it makes a very frugal buy. They are currently in stock on Sale many online sites.

Why do I like the GH2 over my Canon 60D? It has an electronic viewfinder! This big, very big. I can hold up the camera to my eye and shoot video with no rigs whatsoever. Not even my beloved L-Finder. Less moire and ailising. Stereo built-in mic. Mic level in the viewfinder. No mirror to vibrate still photos. I even shoot with the LCD closed and just check with the finder. Smaller size for a more stealth look. Even when working in Hollywood, I have never gotten a shooting permit and am not about to start now. The GH2 has a HD tele-extender mode that I will demo later.

Will I keep my 60D? I don't know yet. It has been a great camera that I can highly recommend. But, after seeing the Canon C300 announcement, they chose the expensive route for doing video, unlike Panasonic who with the AF100 made their first large sensor video camera at a reasonable cost. Also the GH2 is not limited like the Canon HDLRS in it's capabilities.