Sunday, December 30, 2012

GH3 versus OM-D E-M5 – Which is better?

I own neither of these cameras, so I don’t actually know Smile

However, were I to choose to buy the top of the range camera, it would under any and all conditions be the GH3. Why? Because I place great value on video, and because I do not shoot JPEG.

Back to my article … so why do these two criteria (video, JPEG) tip the balance? And how do I even know that these are real differences? Well, the video one is easy … but for confirmation, you can look at Thom Hogan’s article on the all-round winner of the best serious camera of the year.

Thom is an accomplished reviewer with a very strong technical background in engineering and imaging, so you should listen to him before you listen to me, obviously :-)

All-round … has a nice ring to it. But it also means that things that do not matter to an individual shooter are factored in. So my personal choice factors those out and the GH3 ends up stomping the OM-D.

A relevant quote from Thom illustrates this perfectly … this is from the section that documents why the runners up are the runners up :-) … and it is for the GH3:

My GH3 came late in the year, so I'm still ferreting out it's image quality. My initial impression is E-M5 like raw, but Panasonic still hasn't quite gotten their JPEG rendering up to Olympus levels. That's actually one of the things that made me decide against the GH3 as the potential winner: it's a beast for video, but doesn't establish that same clear advantage in basic still shooting. If you are seriously thinking about getting the E-M5, I think you have to look at the GH3. I'll bet that size, video, and JPEG quality are the three things that tip you one direction or the other.

So let’s look at these three criteria:

Size: Yes, this will matter if you want just one camera body and it has to do a bit of everything. But I have four bodies already and they are all small enough. Two are smaller than an OM-D and I carry one of these whenever I go out. The GH3 would be the biggest of them all (one body to rule them all?) but that would not be why I bought it.

Video: I’ve had a long-running argument with a raging fan boy on regarding the video of the OM-D … he likes to use passive aggressive questions to try to bully me into giving him a shopping list of reasons why the GH3 is better than the OM-D, when in fact there are so many sites that discuss it as to render it an axiom. But just to be complete, let’s take another quote from Thom’s treatment of the GH3:

Panasonic GH3 — If this were the "Best Video in a Mirrorless Camera" awards, the GH3 would not only take that award, but it would slap the others silly as it did so. The bare specs don't tell the full story, but the GH3 is a powerhouse when it comes to video. Power. House. Indeed, short of recording uncompressed HDMI off the Nikon DSLRs, I believe it to be the only DSLR-like still camera that can output broadcast quality video streams (50Mbps+; the Panasonic can do 72Mbps).

And a further note: I can hack three of my four bodies to output broadcast quality video (hopefully, Vitaly will do the G5 later on.) That’s a Panny thing; the Oly equivalent is pure jello on all bodies except for the OM-D, which does not suck the way the others do. In fact it has one lurking advantage in that it can stabilize your primes properly. So if that is your primary criteria … hand held video with primes … then the OM-D is your camera. But for me, the Panny advantage is clear and obvious. Period.

JPEG Quality: Bzzzzt! Thank you for playing. I don’t care. At. All.

So … for me, it is a no-brainer. Were I handing out awards, the GH3 would be the winner as serious camera of the year. Because in 2012 and 2013 video matters!

Kim’s irrelevant and under-researched award for serious camera of the year goes to: all the Panasonic m4/3 bodies :-)  Seriously, you really cannot go far wrong with any of the modern m4/3 bodies, especially those shooting a 16mp sensor.

Anyway, that’s just my take in a puff piece where I have handled the OM-D only once and have never even seen a GH3 in the wild … but I can read and do some pattern matching of what people are saying and with great ease I can formulate my own thoughts on the matter :-)

Whichever one you buy, enjoy it. Both are great cams. And so are the GH2, the G5, the G3, the GX1 and so on …. (E-PL5 and E-PM2 also for stills, but not that good for video.) Even the GF3 is pretty excellent in most circumstances … Thom even gave the newer GF5 top honors as the entry camera of the year in mirrorless.

Snow Storm 3 … a smallish one …

The big snow storm a few weeks ago dumped 45cm on us … environment Canada says that the second one around Boxing Day would have hit us (in my specific location since it varied across the city) with between 20 and 26cm … I suspect the higher end. So assuming we got about 70cm, we’re talking close to 28 inches of snow on the ground in barely a week! Here’s the morning after the second one …

Panasonic GH2 & lumix G Vario 100-300  160iso  f/4.6  1/3200

That blue line is the snow bank in shadow on my side of the street and the far snow bank is my neighbour’s yard. The banks are high enough now to make driving a problem, since it is not always possible to see around corners safely.

So … yesterday’s snow fall by comparison with a mere dusting … except that the dusting started over night and continued all day long. I got out in the afternoon and had this small coating of snow on the car …

panasonic gx1 & sigma 19mm 2.8  160iso  f/2.8  1/1000

The roads were really slippery, as the dusting of snow had covered any ice that had formed at intersections etc. Sliding 10 feet was common when braking. What a PITA.

The Queensway (major highway cutting Ottawa in half from west to east) was snow covered and rather slow. Here, you can see the slow traffic (doing 60kph or so) and the bridge allows you to see the snow falling, otherwise invisible against the sky. The streaks on the windshield are obviously from sighting the snow and ice …

panasonic gx1 & sigma 19mm 2.8  160iso  f/2.8  1/125

Even more accumulation much later in the evening … and the snow continues to fall.

panasonic gx1 & sigma 19mm 2.8  1600iso  f/2.8  1/50

The roads downtown are treacherous, sliding being the norm even while driving in your own lane. Sheesh.

panasonic gx1 & sigma 19mm 2.8  1600iso  f/2.8  1/25

The way home on the Queensway is incredibly slow, as there is a phalanx of snow plows way out front in their half-V formation (lead is on the inside, then each plow follows in staggered formation to throw the snow up on the outside shoulder at 40kph. It’s very cool to watch … not so cool to be stuck behind …

panasonic gx1 & sigma 19mm 2.8  1600iso  f/2.8  1/30

The plows are not doing the neighborhoods though, as there is simply not enough accumulation to make it worth the cost.

panasonic gx1 & sigma 19mm 2.8  1600iso  f/3.2  1/6

Note the incredibly low shutter speed. Once you get good at hand holding a camera, and have your stance and breathing under control, shutter speeds like that are not difficult to use. Especially for web presentation, since downsizing always compensates for minor blur.

The black and white presentation is simply something I like to do to combat all the nasty orange street lamp poison once in a while. The excess blue in these was even more unnatural than previous images, so I gave up and rather than control it with slight desaturation, I went with the more dreamy B&W look. The contrast is boosted to get the clean whites with the nice deep greys and blacks, and the trick to get the more dreamy soft look is simply to dial in negative presence. Seriously …

There is enough snow to do a cleaning of the driveway in the morning though …

panasonic gx1 & sigma 19mm 2.8  1600iso  f/2.8  1/13

The next (this) morning, things look rather pretty in the back yard, having been again reinforced by a dusting of snow.

panasonic g5 & lumix g vario 14-140  160iso  f/4  1/3200

panasonic g5 & lumix g vario 14-140  160iso  f/4  1/4000

panasonic g5 & lumix g vario 14-140  160iso  f/4.1  1/4000

More snow predicted in flurries this week Smile

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Family Guy gets a GREAT RAP!!!

Talent like that is just unfair Smile

I am confirmed as worthy …

Back to the Gym …

Ok, I fell off the wagon badly this summer. I had been doing a pretty good job of getting to the gym regularly and I was getting pretty strong, at least in my own mind (legendary :-) …

But things happened and I lost focus (everywhere, not just the gym) and it took a while to get my shti together again …

I am pondering what to do with my gym membership now. There are many ways to regain fitness, and at my age none of them are terribly appealing. Except perhaps for group activities, like my friend Sue, who rows regularly (an incredibly effective fitness activity and looks like a real hoot, too.)

But I just stumbled (well, truth be told, Dr. Yoni Freedhoff sent it to my inbox :-) upon this excellent fun piece about fitness and all the inherent lies and misdirections involved in a $19B market. And what I really like is all the debunking this fellow manages to do.

You should read the article if you spend time in the gym and wonder why you aren’t making as much progress as you think you should? Or if you pay a trainer to help out and that too seems to be less effective than you thought it should.

A few quotes to show you why I like it so much:

We're not innocent. Too many of us drift into health clubs with only the vaguest of notions about why we're actually there – notions like maybe losing a little weight, somehow looking like the young Brad Pitt in Fight Club, or just heeding a doctor's orders. Vague goals beget vague methods; the unfocused mind is the vulnerable mind, deeply susceptible to bullshit.

The rest of that paragraph continues the very amusing, yet incredibly perceptive description of a typical moment in the gym for so many people. You gotta go find it though as I am not spoon feeding it to you :-)

Here’s one that blew my mind …

How many times have you been told to start with a little stretching? Yet multiple studies of pre-workout stretching demonstrate that it actually raises your likelihood of injury and lowers your subsequent performance.

The rest of that paragraph explains further, and you should really take a look. I have never stretched before weight lifting, because it has always felt fine. I have never injured myself and I always wondered why. Now I know :-)  (Note: to the inevitable commenter who is just sure that I am putting in minimal effort when I lift, trust me that I work hard enough to increase the weight once or twice every week.)

and that treadmills or elliptical trainers are a pale substitute.

Wanna know what they are a pale substitute for? Go look.

And this one cuts to the bone … I know that my preference for weight machines is a loser. But to have it confirmed so brutally …

Here's the problem: If you're in the fitness-equipment business, free weights are a loser. The 2010 model looks too much like the 1950 model, and they both last forever. Far better to create gleaming $4,000 contraptions that can be reinvented every two years …

Again, check out the article … there’s gold in them thar hills …

One last one for the road …

According to a Club Industry magazine article by one Nic DeCaire, owner of something called the Fusion Fitness Center in Newark, Delaware, most trainers teach "just enough so that the trainer remains more valuable and indispensable." The same article encourages gym owners to fire any trainer who dresses for work in workout clothes instead of slacks and a polo.

The most amazing element of this little hustle – and I'm speaking from personal experience and from regret – is that it all works like a charm.

That was all from the first section of the article. After that he goes on to tell you how he recommends that you proceed. Really, really interesting stuff …

Edit: I’ve finished the article. Very poignant near the end, reminding us that we’re here for a good time, not a long time. But in the final chapter, here’s a wonderful quote that sums it all up.

Sure, you have to eat right – that's another manifesto in itself – but if you just stick to a basic strength-training program, you can expect a certain wonderment about what the hell you were doing all those years, why nobody told you it was this simple before, and why nobody else in the gym appears to have heard the good news.

I will leave you with this reference, the only book that he suggests you start with. He goes on to discuss alternatives, but I do not plan to do that. This will be my bible for now …

That’s the Kindle edition on the left, very inexpensive.


Friday, December 28, 2012

Camera Sizes

A rather interesting site was linked in a forum post today … … a unique site with many bodies and lenses that allow you to compare portability etc. So here are some of my current combinations …

click image to go to the site

At left is the Fujifilm F770EXR, which is in Ottawa and is just waiting at the post office to be distributed on Monday I suppose. Bummer that it missed the deadline this morning, arriving at the final postal facility around 9:45am. Anyway, I grabbed one at a very low price, brand new with warranty, so that I could again shoot concerts from anywhere in the stands. My F550EXR served me very well, and this camera has much more reach and the same excellent sensor. In fact, Fuji say it is even a bit more efficient.

Next to that one is the tiny GF3 with the kit lens it came with. Decent image quality outdoors and very pocketable with a coat.

Then comes the middle child, my GX1 with the Sigma 19mm 2.8. This is currently my most used body for pocketable imagery.

Then come two images with the G5 and the 14-140 all in one, with the 100-300 next to it. That one is a birder’s paradise … fairly small with amazing reach. They don’t have the GH2 image, or that would have been used here.

So enjoy the site. It might help you decide what to buy to suit your lifestyle.

SNOW 2 – Second major storm …

I was at Mary’s place when the second major storm rolled in late on boxing day. These shots are taken early the next morning.

panasonic gx1 & sigma 19mm 2.8  160iso  f/2.8  1/160

This is an interesting shot. I left it in manual and shot it at flash settings. Needless to say, it was really dark. So I adjusted it and shot again. But interestingly, I prefer the rendering of this image, the one that I dragged up out of the shadows, as I showed in my article on latitude.

This is just a taste of what was to come …

panasonic gx1 & sigma 19mm 2.8  1600iso  f/2.8  1/25

After lunch, things had stabilized a bit yesterday. But it did snow off and on during the day.

panasonic gx1 & sigma 19mm 2.8  160iso  f/2.8  1/1600

The view from her back porch is amazing … a beautiful little park …

panasonic gx1 & sigma 19mm 2.8  160iso  f/2.8  1/640

After hearing reports from Jon that the plow had come, I boogied on home to deal with the aftermath of storm 2. And, as usual, the last house on the street gets all the plow-droppings …

panasonic gx1 & sigma 19mm 2.8  1600iso  f/2.8  1/6

Nick apparently made the executive decision to risk getting hung up on the snow bank when he arrived home. Of course, this snow turned out to be less intimidating than that last batch from storm 1, which had been mixed with rain and was thus insanely heavy. This was simply lots of normal snow. Still, my car cannot make it, and Nick’s car could not make it into the other space either.

panasonic gx1 & sigma 19mm 2.8  1600iso  f/2.8  1/5 (!)

Note the shutter speed of 1/5s … that’s rather low for an unstabilized lens and camera. Yet the GX1 lends itself to getting such shots, adequately sharp for the web anyway.

panasonic gx1 & sigma 19mm 2.8  3200iso  f/2.8  1/13

Of course, at this point I realized how hard it was to get sharp images, so I bumped ISO to 3200 Smile

That’s a lot of snow …

panasonic gx1 & sigma 19mm 2.8  3200iso  f/2.8  1/13

And again … things look so much tidier once I have spent the time to clean it up … this shot is a couple of hours later.

panasonic gx1 & sigma 19mm 2.8  3200iso  f/2.8  1/20

One thing about snow is that it makes everything look pretty … like a scene from a movie … here, a young couple make their way down the street …

panasonic gx1 & sigma 19mm 2.8  3200iso  f/2.8  1/15

Note … these shots are also possible with the typical kit lens. The shutter is slower, but Panasonic kit lenses are stabilized. Again, remember that stabilization is statistical, so shoot a burst of images to make sure that one is adequately sharp.

panasonic gx1 & sigma 19mm 2.8  3200iso  f/2.8  1/20

By this time, the clouds are thinning and the [edit: move HUH?] moon is showing through a bit …

panasonic gx1 & sigma 19mm 2.8  3200iso  f/2.8 1/10

The next (this) morning …

panasonic g5 & x vario 14-42 power ois   160iso  f/3.5  1/1000

The ladder is gone … I think we have a lot of snow now …

panasonic g5 & x vario 14-42 power ois   160iso  f/4  1/250

panasonic g5 & x vario 14-42 power ois   160iso  f/4  1/250

The furniture is pretty much swamped.

panasonic g5 & x vario 14-42 power ois   160iso  f/4  1/200

Looking towards the other end of the pool, there be snow …

panasonic g5 & x vario 14-42 power ois   160iso  f/5.6  1/100

The long term forecast shows that we’ll be busy clearing snow for the foreseeable future Smile

SNOW 1 – First Major Storm and Wild Bird Center in Ottawa (Nepean)

We’ve had a couple of great years recently. The El Nino and La Nina years had very little snowfall such that I think I blew the snow (shame on those who snickered :-) only once two years ago and not until well after Christmas last year.

Not so this year. I blew the snow (*sigh*) last night for the second time in as many weeks. Sheesh.

We had a bit of snow on the ground back in late November. About a month ago, actually. Here is the (crisp) morning after. Love those shadows.

Panasonic gh2 & Lumix g vario 14-140  160iso  f/4  1/1250

This snow did not really last, but then we got nailed on Friday the 21st. This was the aftermath …

panasonic gx1 & Sigma 19mm 2.8  6400iso (!)  f/2.8  1/50

panasonic gx1 & Sigma 19mm 2.8  6400iso  f/2.8  1/50

The “lumpiness” of this snow will telegraph its weight. There was a lot of rain mixed in with this snow fall and I struggled for over two hours to blow it more than 8 feet at a time. It was exhausting even with a self propelled snow blower. I pity those who had to move the snow by hand … every year, a few good men fall to heart attacks moving too much snow …

Hours later …

panasonic gx1 & sigma 19mm 2.8  6400iso  f/2.8  1/20 (yes, it is very dark despite the image’s brightness)

That’s Nick coming to join me for a very late dinner. We hit BVR (Barrhaven Vietnamese Restaurant) for some well earned Pho and spring rolls.

Rewind to the morning …

We’re still being pounded after getting 30cm over night … the total will be 45cm at some point later. My Lilac bush is contrasted against the still falling snow …

panasonic gh2 & lumix g vario 14-140  160iso  f/6.3  1/100

A wider view …

panasonic gf3 & samyang 7.5mm fisheye  400iso  f/3.5  1/160

The street is coated pretty heavily …

panasonic gh2 & g vario 14-140  400iso  f/6.3  1/640

So off to the Wild Bird Center on the way into the office to see how pretty things really are.

The road was plowed to allow the workers to come in. What a great opening scene … a harbinger of beautiful things to come …

panasonic gh2 & g vario 14-140  400iso  f/6.3  1/200

Walking only a short distance into the woods, I was able to capture the incredible beauty of wet snow on the branches … right up to the tip …

panasonic gf3 & samyang 7.5mm fisheye  400iso  f/3.5  1/160

panasonic gf3 & samyang 7.5mm fisheye  400iso  f/3.5  1/100

So pastoral …

panasonic gf3 & samyang 7.5mm fisheye  400iso  f/3.5  1/320

panasonic gh2 & g vario 14-140  400iso  f/6.3  1/200

When you face the same direction as the snow had been driving, you get treated to a truly special moment …

panasonic gh2 & g vario 14-140  400iso  f/6.3  1/320

The contrast with the trees’ bark is something too …

panasonic gh2 & g vario 14-140  400iso  f/7.1  1/160

A lonely leaf wonders WTF happened Smile

panasonic gh2 & g vario 14-140  400iso  f/7.1  1/200

As you walk the trails (which are snow covered and have no other footprints), you note that there are suddenly branches in your way everywhere. This, of course, because the weight of the snow has them all sagging incredibly. In fact, there are warnings for days after the storm that there are branches coming down violently in Gatineau Park. I made a short film of this morning, where you get to hear the crack of a fallen branch at one point …

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, as many know by now I am really into isolating details. That’s one reason I need to shoot with telephoto so much.

panasonic gh2 & g vario 14-140  400iso  f/7.1  1/160

The animals (deer, likely) have been through here at some point this morning …

panasonic gh2 & g vario 14-140  400iso  f/7.1  1/160

The Wild Bird Center is not hosting any sick birds in the outside pens. Duh …

panasonic gh2 & g vario 14-140  400iso  f/7.1  1/80

Someone will have to clean the feeders on the property once the storm has passed.

panasonic gh2 & g vario 14-140  400iso  f/7.1  1/60

Now, back to the aftermath … this was shot before Nick had returned home from work. Turns out he was held over for several hours (which was convenient, since it took me much longer than expected to do the driveway) …

panasonic gh2 & g vario 14-140  1600iso  f/4  1/6

Yes, that’s 1/6 seconds. Slooooooowwwwwww. I got away with it because this lens is stabilized, so if you shoot several images you can generally get one sharp one.

Lesson: Stabilization is very helpful, but it is statistical in nature. Which means that shooting a single image with stabilization on is not a guarantee that you got a sharp image. Shoot several. The lower the shutter, the more you shoot to be sure.

same exposure as previous

On Christmas Eve, the scene is still just as beautiful as it was after the storm.

panasonic g5 & X vario 14-41 power ois  160iso  f/3.5  1/500

I think the pool is closed for the season Smile

panasonic g5 & X vario 14-41 power ois  160iso  f/5.6  1/200

Let’s get a little closer …

panasonic GH2 & lumix g vario 100-300  1600iso  f/4  1/4000

Yes, I brain farted that exposure. Could have shot it at 160iso and instead shot it many stops higher. Oops …

There is a habit that I just cannot seem to form. Before every shoot, check all your settings. I often just pick up the camera and fire away. Sheesh …

The neighbour’s birds are probably going to starve …

panasonic gh2 & g vario 100-300  1600iso  f/5.6  1/1000

My Yellow-Twig Dogwood is still the prettiest bush around in the winter time.

panasonic gh2 & g vario 100-300  1600iso  f/5.6  1/2000

See the next post for last night’s storm …

To check out all my snow images from this winter, go here.