Taking the plunge
I must be crazy. Three really fine lenses and a camera I really enjoyed over two and a half years now. The user interface of the GH1 is hard to beat, and some of the better ones are just newer G series models from Panasonic Lumix. So what’s wrong with it?
I don’t like the look very much. The hump that gives it a DLSR like look even though there is no mirror and prisma to house. I would prefer a camera with a clean design that does not pretend to be a DSLR. Olympus PEN or the Lumix GX would fall into this category. But they lack a viewfinder. My eyes are getting worse every week, and even when they were better I almost always used a viewfinder to compose. I simply could’t do without it.
Next I don’t like the JPGs the camera produces. Red always has a pronounced magenta tint, and skin tones are often reproduced very pale and almost a little greenhish. And, compared to it’s peers from Olympus, the level of detail is a lot worse from basically the same or even a slightly better sensor.
Furthermore, the GH1 makes it a bit more difficult to focus legacy lenses (I own a Contax G 45 mm Planar and a Contax G 90 mm Sonnar), requiring two to three button clicks to invoke a focus assisting zoom. Not a big deal, but…
Of course I could shoot raw, but I don’t like the idea. I am spending 40 hours per week in front of a computer and prefer to spend the rest of my time either shooting photos or doing something completely different. My workflow meanwhile is very iPad-centered. With Apple’s photo kit it is easy to get new pics straight from an SD card onto the iPad. Filterstorm, Snapseed or FilterFX are good enough for most of my needs when it comes to some (moderate) image processing. Apple’s iCould sends all the stuff straight to the photostream and to the computer. The iPad Phanfare App is great to send all images straight to an archive in the cloud. And Flickstackr is such a great app to upload the best shots to FlickR and 500px. This liberated me from the little Mac Mini and Aperture, which I return to only every other week or so to archive photos and sort them into the aperture library.
Two years ago, when I bought the GH1, there was no iPad. Olympus didn’t have a micro four thirds model with a viewfinder. Fuji was asleep. Samsung’s NX series seems not very convincing and is probably not strong enough to survive. When Sony introduced the NEX series, the cameras looked ridiculous to me (way too small) and – even more important – had no buttons and wheels to actually use it as a camera. All the features, even the very basic ones, were deeply buried in overloaded menus. No thanks. The GH1 was clearly the paramount.
And then came the NEX-7. Just about big enough for my hands. Small enough for my coat pockets. Very solid feel. A great viewfinder. A modern look, quite different from a DSLR. Loads of manual controls, buttons and wheels. And many of them to be programmed with a function to your own preference. Add an APS-C sized sensor, better (in my taste) color reproduction, great low light image quality for such a high pixel count, and focus peaking. Wow. I couldn’t resist.
The dilemma, however, starts when lenses are considered. Many MFT lenses are really really good, if not outstanding. There is at least one lense for every purpose on the market. On the contrary Son’y E-mount lens range is – well, a bit odd and underdeveloped. Poor quality lenses, and odd focal length coverage. Now I have to give away my MFT great superzoom (14-140), the stellar 20 mm f1.7 pancake and the compact lightweight and decent wide angle zoom (9-18 mm).
The NEX-7 is ordered. A Sony 18-200 mm superzoom is already sitting on my shelf. The two Contax G lenses are also waiting. Two (at least) more lenses are still to be found: a fast, compact, light prime lens in the 28 to 35 mm range, and a very wide angle.
Let’s see where this leads to. Stay tuned.