This blog is my attempt to keep track of some of the things I learn along the way, with my Canon 7D, G12 and accessories. All images copyright Brad Calkins, not to be used without permission (or purchase). I do not attempt to monetize my blog, other than to promote my stock photo portfolio on Dreamstime.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Panasonic GF1

I've been interested in the large sensor compact camera segment since the Sigma DP-1 came out, but could never commit to paying that much more for a camera that handled like the Sigma. In the last year, though, both Olympus and Panasonic (and now others like Leica and Ricoh) came out with large format sensor compacts. The thing I like about both of these is the possibility of interchangeable lenses, as well as the option to use my Canon lenses to some degree (I'm excited to try my 85 f/1.8 out with a 170mm f/1.8 equivalent! or my lens baby).

In the end, winning the Dreamstime assignment and winning some money tipped me over to the point where I've decided to take the plunge. I really liked my Canon G10 and how it handled, but there was always something about the colors and ultimately the image quality that I didn't like. At one level, you could really work it and get some shots that were almost indistinguishable from a DLSR (like my 40D). On the other hand you really did have to work it. The light had to be right, you had to spend time tweaking it, or even downsampling to get rid of some noise. Interestingly, there was some kind of sweet spot for the sensor. Too little detail and it seemed noisy. Too much detail and it seemed muddy. But if you could get it just right on a sunny day - WOW! 15MP of excellence! Ultimately, though, my goal of the compact camera was three-fold:

1. Occasional work and stock photo use where I didn't want to bother with a 'big' camera.
2. Family shots, quick movies, etc.
3. Stock video (someday).

The G10 just never seemed to hit it on any of the three, except the quick movies of family. While the sensor could turn in nice detail, I found that in practice for family shots the light was never quite right to get great shots. Faces were always lacking in detail for some reason. ISO 80 and a f/2.8 or slower (if you zoomed at all) lens meant putting on a flash or getting lots of noise when indoors. And the movies were limited to VGA resolution. All in all, I found it started bringing my 40D when I really wanted to carry a compact because I knew I'd get better pictures.

Enter the Panasonic GF1:

I picked it up on the weekend and so far have been very impressed. Colors (even via RAW Conversion) are better than the G10 with little tweaking. Noise is non-existent at base ISO and shows lots of detail. It has HD video when I get into that. And a pleasant surprise was the more SLR like depth of field. With the f/1.7 lens I'm getter sharper shots indoors with pleasant background blur - this really bring a sense of depth into the photos.
The bottom line so far, is that despite the additional cost (almost twice the price), it is already the camera I grab when I head out with the kids, or to snap a couple of available light shots at dinner. As well, I like being able to shoot with a black and white image on the live screen and shoot in a 1:1 format. It is just plain fun! I don't know if the extra cost is justified in terms of actual better prints, etc., but I can already see I'll spend little to no time processing for stock use, and the fact that I'm happy with it means it will be getting used a lot more than my G10. The almost non-existent shutter lag versus my G10 is very nice as well...
I know that this is an 'EOS' blog - but I just couldn't wait any longer for Canon to come out with something like this... I had been thinking about a 35mm f/1.4 for my 40D, but I can already see that grabbing the SLR, switching lenses and carrying it around just isn't anywhere close to the convenience of throwing the Panny on the shoulder and jumping in the car with the kids - and cheaper too. So I guess the 'lesson' here is that the EOS line has a hole in it :) Don't worry, I'll bring it back to EOS once I get the EOS adapter...

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