|GF1 with viewfinder and 20mm f1.7 lens with the Olympus OM 135mm f2.8|
That left me with two choices, the Olympus EPL1 or the Panasonic GF1, both of which I own. The Panasonic won out for two reasons. One, I own the viewfinder for it and not the Olympus and two I have two batteries for it and only one for the Olympus (I drained the first battery after about 4 and a half days of use). With the GF1 I took the 20mm f1.7 Lumix lens, the Olympus 14-42 kit lens from the EPL1, the plastic Holga lens and the Olympus OM 135mm f2.8 lens mounted on the MF-2 adaptor (which works seamlessly). I also decided to take the wrist strap off the camera and put the neck strap back on. I had decided a while ago to give up on neck straps, but I envisioned I'd be carrying (shopping) bags, holding my daughters hand, etc so I wanted my hands free. Also I knew that my wife and daughter would have very little patience for me setting up my shots every 10 minutes. I needed quick, easy and light gear. The good news is that this is the biggest shake-up or test drive I have ever given this camera so now I can write about it again with a more informed impression than I first made with it.
|Tracey Arm Glacier 3 shot HDR with Olympus 14-42 lens and GF1|
Well here is what I learned. There were times I missed a proper DSLR for sure. We had a grey whale swimming beneath our balcony one day and I was trying to focus and photograph the moving subject with the GF1 with very poor result. Same experience with a bear up in a tree. The viewfinder on the Panasonic is nice for being able to bring the camera up to your eye and shoot it like a 'real' camera, but it has a couple of faults. It isn't very big and bright, the focus adjustment knob on the side of it gets bumped easily each time you hit the button needed to turn it on and it goes out of focus (it turns way too easily) and the image inside the viewfinder is no match for that of a proper DSLR or that of the Olympus electronic viewfinder that I looked through in the store. Also, the viewfinder doesn't really clip in there well in the hotshoe. It seems to want to slide out a little at times which is worrying as it isn't a cheap accessory that you want to lose.
Also, the GF1 isn't weather sealed, and in our stop in Prince Rupert it was raining very heavily. I left the GF1 on the ship that day. The Pentax point and shoot or the Olympus E3 or E5 would have been welcome partners. My daughter did bring her Olympus 850SW waterproof point and shoot that I passed down to her so that was handy. Luckily it only rained that one day the whole trip.
|The water on the way sailing to Tracey Arm, 3 shot HDR with GF1 and 14-42 lens|
The good things about the camera were also pretty quickly obvious to me. First up I stood out from the crowd. You might think this is vain, and it is, but in a sea of point and shoots, cell phones, Canon Rebels and Nikon whatevers (whatever the bottom of the line Nikon is) I looked pretty cool with my vintage leather wrapped GF1 especially when I had the viewfinder and Olympus OM lens on it. Yes, you can say it, I like to look awesome! Plus people have no idea what you are carrying, I like that too. I always take a look at others equipment, I can't help it. Sort of a popularity survey of others stuff. Interestingly the cruise ship must have a partnership with Olympus as they sell the waterproof point and shoots, the EPL2 and the superzoom camera right on the boat with constantly scrolling Olympus commercials (which are really quite good) and a big banner in the photo department. Making no sense to me, the photographers on board all use the Nikon D90. Not that that's a bad camera, it just seemed contradictory. By the way, the photography on board was very poor. I don't mean to say that as a snob, but if spot colouring, on camera flash and basically anything that screams 1999 is your favourite photography fashion, then you should cruise. And you know what? They make a lot of money selling that to happy customers. People line up for it. So rest assured, the bar is very low still for the general public. In their defence I doubt they have time to deliver considered and well done photographs to 2300 cruisers, nor do they wish to pay for properly trained and interested photographers. To finish my little informal survey, other than the sea of bottom end Canon and Nikon DSLR's that all looked shiny and new, there were a significant number of micro four thirds cameras that I saw including the EP1, EP3, EPL2, and the G3. That surprised me. I also saw one Samsung NX100. There was also a lot of point and shoots, but most of them were the superzoom variety. Of course a lot of iPhones were being used. I saw one low end Sony DSLR. It still had a price tag on the neck strap.
Other good things I enjoyed about the GF1:
- It was really light. I never noticed it around my neck or slung over my shoulder. It never seemed in the way.
- The viewfinder, despite my griping about it's quality, is pretty handy when its sunny or bright outside
- It's black and white jpgs look really good and contrasty right out of the camera.
- To do an HDR, all you have to do is flip a switch on the top and you are exposure bracketing. That is the easiest camera ever for getting instantly to HDR mode.
- It isn't a fast focuser, but it isn't point and shoot slow either. Fast enough for slow moving people and not frustrating for other things so long as they aren't a quick swimming whale. Face detection is pretty handy and works well, but changing focus points manually isn't quick or intuitive.
- The video quality is good, certainly more than any home user could need, and it's easy to use.
Other things I didn't like:
- at ISO 800 it really isn't enjoyable any longer for noise unless you are black and white. ISO 1600 should be reserved for black and white grainy images which some will hate, but I don't mind. ISO 3200 is unusable, which will matter to some people, but for me, with this type of camera, it isn't an issue.
|GF1 with Olympus OM135mm f2.8 lens|
|Olympus 135mm f2.8 OM lens|
|Olympus 135mm f2.8 OM lens|
|Olympus 14-42 kit lens|
|Pike Place Market in Seattle, where we left on the cruise. 20mm f1.7 Lumix pancake lens, out of camera b/w jpg.|
|Olympus 14-42 Kit lens. Mail box in the famous Creek Street Ketchikan Alaska|
|My daughter on the pier in Ketchikan, Plastic Holga lens for micro four thirds|
|Bicycles in Pike Place Market in Seattle, Lumix 20mm f1.7 lens|
|The only 5Dmk II I saw on the trip, in Pike Place Market|
|One of the few traditional point and shoots I saw, but Pike Place was full of people with cameras|
|Pike Place Hearse Shoot|
|Missed Grey Whale Shot|
Thanks again for dropping by the blog. I appreciate your visit! Before I go I should mention that I came across a really cool magazine in the market in Seattle called Shots which I bought and love. Grab one if you enjoy independent fine art photography. Look for my in depth report on the Olympus E5 at some point. Just going to warn you, I do love it, though having said that, I had the chance to play with a large format film camera on Sunday and that my friends was really really amazing.