Posts Tagged ‘Panasonic’

Panasonic does Micro Four-Thirds right with the GF1

In what many see as the next big evolutionary step for digital cameras, Panasonic and Olympus made a bold move with their introduction of the Micro Four-Thirds system, an electronic viewfinder, interchangeable lens (so-called “EVIL”) system that eschewed the mirror assembly found in traditional SLR cameras and offering image preview via a live view feed only.

Aside from the numerous advantages associated purely with live view (and could technically be realized with a traditional DSLR – it’s just that forcing live view only is likely to spur much more rapid development), the one key advantage to Micro Four Thirds (and upcoming systems like it, such as Samsung’s NX system) is that the removal of the mirror assembly allows lenses to sit much closer to the image plane, making for much smaller camera bodies and lenses.

The first few of these cameras – the Panasonic G and GH1 – failed completely to live up to the small form factor potential – they were shaped much like traditional SLRs, albeit slightly smaller.

Panasonic GH1

The Panasonic GH1 - one of the first Micro Four Thirds cameras which didn't quite realize the potential of the formfactor

Next, Olympus released a Micro Four Thirds of its own: the E-P1 “Pen” which harked back to Olympus’ historical line of compact film cameras. Unlike the G1, the E-P1 actually began to approach what some would call “compact” – it was just 1.4in thick, though that’s not taking into account the attached lens.

Now Panasonic is jumping in on the bandwagon with their E-P1-esque GF1, which sports a slim compact-like body. The specs are nothing to get excited about, though it does have the a built-in flash that was notably missing from the E-P1. In a puzzling decision though, Panasonic decided not to implement any sensor-based image stabilization, relying on lens-based IS to counter camera shake. Unless they were denied a sensor IS license by Olympus (a possibility), I’d say this is a rather bone-headed decision, since any stabilized lenses will add weight unnecessarily (or in the case of pancake lenses that are pretty much made for this kind of camera, impossible to add in), defeating the entire purpose of Micro Four-Thirds.

The two kit lenses offered with the GF1 are a bit more appealing than the E-P1 package: a standard 14-45mm OIS kit lens and a 20mm f/1.7 pancake prime. The prime still isn’t quite there to portrait range and gets even further away from all-around wide angle utility than Oly’s 17mm f/2.8 pancake, but it does offer a much larger f/1.7 aperture.

A comparison of the new landscape in premium compacts:

Panasonic GF1 size comparison

Camera Size Focal range (equiv) Aperture (equiv)
Canon G10 4.3x3.1x1.8in 28-140mm f/13-21
Fujifilm F200EXR 3.8x2.3x0.9in 28-140mm f/14-22
Panasonic LX3 4.3x2.3x1.5in 24-60mm f/9.4-13
Sigma DP1 4.5x2.3x2.3in 28mm f/6.7
Sigma DP2 4.5x2.3x2.3in 42mm f/4.7
Olympus E-P1 w/ 17mm f/2.8 4.7x2.8x2.3in 34mm f/5.6
Olympus E-P1 w/ 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 4.7x2.8x3.1in 28-84mm f/7-11
Panasonic GF1 w/ 20mm f/1.7 4.7x2.8x2.4in 40mm f/3.4
Panasonic GF1 w/ 14-45mm f/3.5-5.6 OS 4.7x2.8x3.8in 28-90mm f/7-11

As expected, the added IS to the Panasonic kit lens makes it much larger (22.6% longer) than the E-P1 setup. Panasonic’s pancake, however, is about the same size as Oly’s 17mm and with its f/1.7 aperture is by far the best in terms of large aperture performance (35mm equivalent of f/3.4)

If you’re in the market for this kind of camera though, the most sensible thing seems to be taking the E-P1 to get yourself sensor-based IS, and combining that with Panny’s 17mm pancake prime. Though you will be losing out on the built-in flash, which is somewhat of a must-have for a camera like this (since again, needing to carry around a huge external flash defeats the size advantage).

Olympus E-P1 – a size comparison

In a release that they’ve hyped for weeks now, Olympus finally pulled the covers off their first Micro Four-Thirds format camera, the E-P1.

Good product photography - sure looks dainty doesn't it?

Good product photography - sure looks dainty doesn't it?

For those of you not already in the know, Micro Four-Thirds is a new interchangeable lens system developed by Olympus and Panasonic which is the first mirror-less digital camera system to feature interchangeable lenses.  The removal of the mirror (and associated prism and optical viewfinder) and the exclusive usage of live view for image preview enables a drastic size reduction for both cameras and lenses, and as you can see here, the new Olympus E-P1 is tiny tiny tiny.

How tiny?  The exact specs on the E-P1 are 121 x 70 x 35mm (4.7 x 2.8 x 1.4 in) and 335 g (11.8 oz) – body only, with no batteries – which firmly plants it in compact camera category.  Of course, you’ll need to attach a lens at some point before shooting, which will add some bulk, but as of now the E-P1 indisputably offers the most compact interchangeable lens solution.

The following is a run-down of things you might have already picked up from other news sources or blogs. The real interesting stuff is the size and equivalent aperture/focal length comparison, at Size Comparison.


DPReview’s ultracompacts test

Interesting thing that DPReview is doing for this holiday season – large “group” head-to-head tests.  I’m not so sure I like the format necessarilly – I miss the in-depth reviews of each camera that also analyzed things such as shutter lag, autofocus, and styling/controls.  Nonetheless, it’s refreshing to see them looking at compacts again, which the site has basically ignored for the last year+.

Some interesting results – these aren’t really the cameras I would have looked at, but perhaps they can tell you about the quality and image processing from other cameras of the same manufacturer.

The main thought I have on this is that Panasonic has come a long, long way from being a small bit player in the market.  They’ve long dominated in featureset, and they do so again here, with the only 25-125mm camera in the set (the only camera wider than 33mm even). Interestingly enough they’ve seem to be addressing their Acchile’s Heel – low-light high-ISO performance – fairly well these days.  To me, the ISO1600 outdoor night shots are a bit above Sony’s and right behind Canon’s, and in the indoor case it actually exceeds Canon is arguably the best.  Interestingly enough, the daytime tests are way below best-in-class for Panasonic, which seems to say either the lens isn’t that good (which would mark a pretty big drop off from previous cameras) or the sensor isn’t great, as it’s always been, but some software wizardry is going on which is what gives us the improved noise performance.

Photokina 2008 Goodies, part 1

Meaningful content is coming soon, but today’s the start of Photokina, a semi-annual trade show for the photographic and imaging industries where camera makers debut their new products. It’s day 1 and we’ve already got a slew of interesting announcements so far:

Nikon 50mm f/1.4G AF-S lens

Nikon 50mm f/1.4

Nikon 50mm f/1.4

Press release

Nikon users (and particularly all those D40/60 owners) have been waiting for this one for a long time, and it’s finally here: a (semi) affordable large aperture prime lens with a sonic motor that will focus with decent speed (or focus at all).  Previously Nikon users have had to deal with a slew of ancient lenses from the screw-driven era of autofocus – they weren’t really fast enough for fast action, didn’t even autofocus with the newer D40/60 bodies, and on top of that the optics really didn’t compare to more modern designs like Canon’s 50mm f/1.4 or Sigma’s monster 50mm f/1.4.

Nikon is promising a “newly developed optical system” with this one, so there’s at least the potential for it to perform much better than the current 50 f/1.4, and given how old the optical design is on that, it should.  Whether it stacks up with Sigma’s 50mm f/1.4 is the big question – initial pricing seems to be $440, which would undercut the Sigma’s current $500 price.  Given that it’ll be the “brand name” Nikon, it will sell bucketloads, and for a lower price and much more compact size (73.5mm diameter, 54mm length, 280g vs. 84.5mm, 68.2 mm, 520g on the Sigma) would be the more appealing option anyway for most users who aren’t obsessed with having the absolutely top-flight image quality.

More on the Nikon 50 1.4, Olympus Micro Four-Thirds mockup, Panasonic G1, Leica S2 MF dSLR, and Samsung HZ1 compact ultrazoom.