Wednesday, 2 October 2013

keeping my compact camera compact

One of the reasons I moved to the micro 4/3 in the first place was that it gave me a quality of image equal to my Canon 20D brick but without the weight. There seemed to me to be few compromises and so I ended up (after some time) selling almost all of my EOS stuff and have gone over to micro 4/3. 

 As I started my micro4/3 with the G1 the absolute pocketability of the camera was not my main prioity, and even though that camera was a 'SLR-alike' form factor it was still much lighter on the shoulder than the EOS DSLR's

Liking manual focus (well having grown up on it) I reveled in the availability of low priced Manual Focus legacy lenses (such as Olympus OM or Canon FD) and found the G series (I'm now using a GH1 instead of my trusty G1) to be perfectly suited to it. For some time however I gazed over at the GF series and wondered ... would I benefit from the more compact camera.

Initially I was suspicious feeling that the lack of EVF (and my getting older and needing glasses for anything closer) and the lack of compact lenses would mean it had little benefits for me. When the GF was released there was only the (gosh that's expensive) 20mm pancake. So other than that it was down to using the 14-45 zoom.

Since that time however Panasonic has also released a 14mm pancake (at a more attractive price than the 20mm was) and a compact power zoom (too expensive for my tastes at the moment) making it more attractive. So last year I decided that the only way to know was to do it, so I bought a GF-1 to try it out. I bought one with the 14mm pancake lens (because that's obviously the most compact) and had a go.

I loved it. The GF was slim enough with out the screen / eyepiece / grip to slip into my backpack side pocket, even if it didn't fit into my pocket

However, as expected, as soon as I put my 14-45 lens on it it stopped being compact.

It wouldn't fit in my bag and generally showed how (as I have said before) the micro 4/3 are failing to deliver compact lenses to make an advantage of the compact bodies. Even with the zoom 'retracted' you can see that the zoom tiself is much thicker than the camera. This image (compiled from the great site Camera Size) makes it clear how much bigger the zoom is on the GF series camera.

Bye bye compact ...

In practice it is every bit as non-compact as it looks in that computer generation ... for when you use it at anything but 14mm the end extends out of the zoom ...


So the camera that could previously slip into my backpack side pocket now wouldn't without taking the lens off and on. Not always wanting to use the 14mm pancake, I wanted a bit longer focal length from time to time.

Well having a few legacy lenses around already I thought I'd try some of them.


I had in the past tried the Pentax 110 lenses on my G1. While they were incredibly compact with the G1 camera the form factor didn't seem to give any benefits to using those lenses. In fact the regular 35mm film lenses actually felt better.

But with the GF camera suddenly the size difference was important.  You can see here between the Olympus 50mm lens (for 35mm film) and the Pentax 110 camera 50mm lens (the large-small one on the right) are significantly different in size.

Particularly in light of the size of the adaptor needed for the 35mm SLR film lenses (which were designed for a much greater flange distance) adding to the overall size of the effective lens. Here is the same situation with the Pentax 110 50mm lens...


Well as you can see above suddenly the camera + lens is small again. Also this lens being a 50mm has a slightly better telephoto reach than the kit zoom (which is still only 45mm even when extended as in the further above shot) this shows in the image difference of perspective.

I also have a 24mm which (is a normal focal length) is even more compact than the 50mm is ...


So this gives me a 14mm, a 24mm f2.8 and a 50mm f2.8 which are really compact to use on the compact body, giving me a compact camera system!



As you can see the 50mm is quite small in diameter as well as not being much higher than the 14mm Panasonic lens. I think it looks quite good on the camera too...



Ok ... so now we've got a versatile camera system that is compact ... but can it take pleasing shots? Personally I think it takes excellent shots. Here is one from the 50mm, which being a f2.8 lens is quite a fast lens with a pleasingly shallow DoF and quite nice Bokeh.



and for the pixel peepers who have to know will it tolerate 'enlargement' below is a 100% pixel crop from the image ... so the answer is in my view:


YES! In this above image you can see how shallow the DoF is around the center of that play yard toy. While in the upper image you get a good idea of the out of focus rendering as well as the lenses contrast.

Its a sweet little lens that you can add to a walk around compact outfit and even if you mainly use the 14mm for its excellent purpose in snapshots with the advantages that a native lens has (like AutoFocus) for not much space in your pack (or pocket even) you can add a great lens to your outfit with bloody little money.

Perhaps it is not as perfect in quality as the native Olympus 45mm f1.8 but then again its not as expensive either. Similarly the 24mm can produce some nice images too.


Oh ... money ... that's right. These little Pentax 110 lenses are really cheap and so are the adaptors. I paid something like:
  • $30 for the adaptor,
  • $40 for the 50mm
  • $20 for the 24mm
Which is much less than any native possibility you can name.

Sure its not for everyone, but for a photographer who wants to play around a little with creative photography and not spend a fortune its a compelling option.

Enjoy :-)

1 comment:

Yu-Lin Chan said...

Owned the GF1 briefly but didn't like how it handled and no EVF. Just last night saw a used going for $140. Very tempting!