Category Archives: California

Panasonic GX8 and Air Show, Part 2

The Planes of Fame Air Show has come and gone. Sunday was a fun day and always a pleasure being able to attend the show at sunrise.  The Sunrise Photo Pass isn’t cheap, but is worth it to me.  Not only do I gain access to the planes sleeping on the tarmac, I also get preferred parking!

In my previous post, I gave some of my initial impressions of the GX8, and included my FZ1000 as well.  I am beginning to think that my FZ1000 is simply the best, most versatile camera I have ever owned.  I wouldn’t dream of attending an air show without it, especially since I only had my GX8 for a few days before the event and wasn’t used to it yet.  But this post is about the GX8 so I won’t keeping gushing on about the FZ1000.

Before I go any further, I want to be clear, this is not an in-depth review of the GX8. There are plenty of other websites and Youtube videos available covering that. This is just my opinion on using the GX8 in an action photography event. I also won’t be going into too much detail on settings, technique, etc… If you are interested in any of that, go to my post called “Aviation Photography for the Average Joe“. Just click the link and it will take you there, and as a bonus, you can download my PDF/e-book covering this topic (don’t worry, its free).

After spending a couple of days with my GX8, I’m both impressed with it and frustrated by it.  The GX8 has an impressive set of features, and I probably should have planned my purchase better so I wasn’t trying to learn the camera during the air show.  Unfortunately while the timing wasn’t great, the price of the camera was!  I got my gently used GX8 for several hundred dollars less than the full retail price.  My purchase was for the body only (I already have several lenses) and everything was packaged in the original box and looked brand new!

The performance of the GX8 was impressive, especially compared to my Olympus E-M5.  As much as I love the image quality of the E-M5, I continued to struggle with it at fast action events like an air show.  Yes, I was able to make it work, but it was a pain in the ass to say the least.  I’ve written about my experiences with the E-M5 in previous posts and you’re welcome to browse those if you’re interested.  And, since I already have invested in several M43 lenses, I was looking to find a body (Olympus or Panasonic) that could make use of them.

To be successful with your photography at an air show, you really need to hone your technique.  Good panning skills are essential and the process doesn’t change no matter what camera system you are using. The GX8 was no different.  I tend to use Shutter Priority most of the time at these events.  Slow shutter speeds are required for propeller planes and faster shutter speeds are for jets.  I went back and forth between the auto focus single and auto focus continuous setting and from a single focus point to multiple points.  This is where the frustration came into play.  With the touch screen activated, my nose kept moving the focus points around, and it usually always happened at the worst possible time, while I was trying to grab some actions shots of the planes passing by.  Sometimes the focus points weren’t too far off and the camera would achieve focus properly, but many times it was way off and the focus would be locked onto something entirely different than the plane I was following.

I want to be fair and not blame the camera, but rather myself.  I didn’t have enough time to figure out all of the settings and functions of the GX8 before the air show, and was learning as I went along.  When I got too frustrated I put the GX8 away and grabbed my FZ1000.  The FZ1000 just seems to do everything right.  I know, it has a smaller sensor, and a fixed zoom lens that only reaches out to 400mm (FF equivalent), but it works quite well in spite of its limitations.

By the end of the air show, I was able to tweak the GX8 enough to get some very decent shots.  The main thing that worked for me was to turn the touch screen off completely.  I’m sure that there is a way to keep the touch screen on and not move the focus points around accidentally, but for now I’m just going to leave it off.  I just need a little quiet time with the camera to figure out all of its secrets!

Here are some of the results from the air show.  Keep in mind that I shoot RAW and post process all of my images.  My normal process includes adjusting the contrast, color, and sharpness in Photoshop CS6 and Perfect Effects 9.  Sometimes I will convert the image to black and white for a vintage look and feel.











I hope the examples give you an idea of what the GX8 is capable of. Overall, I found it to be a solid, well built tool and I’m looking forward to spending time with it and using it for many years!

That’s it for now, until next time – Happy Shooting!

FZ1000, Landscape Camera?

Can a camera like the Panasonic FZ1000 be used as a landscape camera?  I’ve seen questions like this, not only for the FZ1000, but also for other small sensor cameras.  From my experience using several different types of cameras, I’d say – Yes!

Yes, of course you can use the FZ1000 for landscapes, or anything else for that matter.  It all depends on your expectations.  If you want to use the FZ1000 in good light, and put it on a tripod from time to time, I think you’ll find that it works quite well.  The electronic viewfinder (EVF) is big and bright, and the controls are easily accessed to make any changes that you’d like.  Put a 62mm filter on it (like a polarizer or ND) and go for it!

Now, if you want to do some handheld, low light shooting, that’s a different story.  While the FZ1000 does quite well with its built-in image stabilizer and decent high ISO performance, it can’t compete with larger sensor cameras (Canon 6D, 5D, etc….).  If that’s what you want to do, then you need to step up your game, and spend some serious money on the larger sensor camera and even more money on fast lenses.

Getting back to the FZ1000 as a landscape camera, I have to say that overall I’ve been very pleased with its performance.  I was recently able to spend a few weeks in the Eastern Sierra for the annual turning of the leaves.  The Fall Color is always a favorite subject of mine.  I switched back and forth between my M43 Olympus E-M5 and the FZ1000.  Here are a few highlights from using each camera for landscapes:

  • E-M5
    Small, very solid in the hand
    Interchangeable lenses
    Plenty of external controls
    Poor EVF
  • FZ1000
    Not so small, not quite as solid in the hand
    Fixed zoom lens, great range
    Plenty of external controls
    Excellent EVF

My plan of walking/hiking with both cameras was to see how each performed in similar settings.  Nothing scientific about it, just my “seat of the pants” experiences.  To cut to the quick, both cameras worked well.  Trying to keep things simple, I put each camera in its own bag.  Even though the FZ1000 is physically larger than the E-M5, it was lighter in the bag because of its wonderful fixed zoom lens.  The E-M5’s bag was a little heavier because I had to carry a few different lenses to match the range of the FZ1000.  Heavy is a relative term in this situation.  Compared to a larger DSLR and equally large lens, both the FZ1000 and E-M5 are very light and easy to walk/hike with!

Along with the E-M5 and FZ1000, I brought along a small, light weight tripod with 2 matching baseplates for quick camera changes.  Both the E-M5 and FZ1000 have excellent 5-axis image stabilization built-in, but for landscapes, I generally prefer to use a tripod and either a remote shutter release or timer.  I also switched between using the EVF’s on both cameras and the LCD’s.  The E-M5’s LCD tilts up and down, and the FZ1000’s not only tilts, but also swivels.  This allows you to put it in quite a few more positions than the E-M5’s, and is especially useful for getting unusual angels (very low or high).  Don’t get me wrong, both of them worked quite well, but I think the FZ1000’s was just a little bit better.

Please keep in mind that a lot of this comparison is very subjective.  We all have our personal preferences, and they can change quite frequently.  After having used the FZ1000 almost non-stop, I had to pause and get the feel for the E-M5 again.  It always feels solid, and looks like a finely crafted machine.  But it is smaller, along with all of its controls.  The FZ1000 felt more natural to use.  The FZ1000’s EVF is big and bright and made the E-M5’s EVF a pain to use.  But once I got re-acquainted with the E-M5, it ended up working out quite well.

Here are some examples from the FZ1000:




And just for comparison, here are a couple from the E-M5:


** Disclaimer – These images were edited for the original RAW files (that just the way I roll)!

I think the results speak for themselves. Just because you have a camera with a smaller sensor, don’t let that stop you from using it for serious landscapes. Serious in this case means specifically going out to capture scenic views, maybe at sunrise or sunset, rather than just grabbing a selfie or snapshot in passing. Yes, there are some advantages in using DSLR’s with large sensors, but they are by no means the only game in town! Keep your expectations realistic and work within the strengths of your camera rather than its limitations and you’ll do just fine!

That’s it for this post, until next time – Happy Shooting!

Mono Lake Drama

Mono Lake is one of my favorite places for photography.  My wife, 3 small dogs, and I make an annual trip to the Eastern Sierra for Fall colors and I always try to make the short trip to Mono Lake.  This year was no exception.

As usual, I brought along several cameras.  The lineup included my Olympus E-M5, Sony RX100, and Panasonic FZ1000.  So far the FZ1000 has seen the most use, followed closely by the RX100.  Sadly the E-M5 has seen no use (the trip isn’t over just yet).  Why the FZ1000?  Because it is the most versatile camera I have ever owned.  I used it to make photos of everything from the Alabama Hills and Eastern Sierra under nothing but moonlight, and to take quick snaps of a herd of deer passing through camp, handheld in low light.

Getting back to Mono Lake. I had a lot of fun with the FZ1000.  The clouds were really dramatic on the day of my visit.  They were so dramatic that they almost didn’t seem real.  I’m sure Mono Lake has had millions of photos made of it.  One of the things I like to do is see if I can find something different, something unique to set my photos apart.  The stormy sky was a big help with that!  The other thing I did was try out some of the different artistic modes available in the FZ1000.  I did shoot normally (RAW, aperture priority, ISO 125/200), but also made quite a few photos using the “Dramatic Black and White” mode.

Here are the results in Dramatic Black and White:

And just for fun, here are some in color (edited from the original RAW files):

I know there are some of you that are wondering if a camera like the FZ1000 is for you. Nobody can answer that question for you but you. But based on my experience using this camera, I can say with confidence that it is an amazing camera! Yes, it is considered a bridge camera (not a DSLR), and it has a 1″ sensor vs cameras with larger APS-C and M43 sensors. And one more thing, it really isn’t that small. In fact, it’s quite large compared to my E-M5. On the plus side, it is quick and easy to use. And not having to change lenses is huge! I carry it and a few other supplies in a small messenger bag. I think the image quality is excellent, and I’m able to tweak the RAW files as much (or little) as I want. Don’t count this camera out (or one like it) just because of its sensor size!

That’s it for this post, until next time Happy Shooting!