Category Archives: Eastern Sierra

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!

Tips and Tricks

How many times have you come across advertisements, tweets, or the like where it starts out something like this, “20 Crazy Tips and Tricks to Make You a Better Photographer”.  I’ve seen more of these than I can count.  It seems that everyone is looking for a shortcut, some magic pill that will make them automatically jump to the head of the line and become the “best” photographer in town.  As you can probably tell, I’m not a big fan of this approach.

Are there any quick and easy ways to improve your photography?  Good question, and I don’t know that I have the answer for that.  I do know that there is one way to improve, and that would be to work at it!  Vince Lombardi said it best, “the price of success is hard work”.  What does that mean as it relates to photography?  Again, a good question and another that I don’t know if I have the answer.  To begin the process of improvement I think you need to know what it is that you want from your photography.  What inspires you, makes you want to take your camera out and push the button?  Is it the stark beauty of black and white, or is it the vibrant color of a landscape painted in Fall Color?  Or could it be to capture family memories as your kids grow up?  It helps give some direction to your quest for improvement by knowing what it is that you want.

“What about the gear?” you may be asking right about now.  You may be worried that you only have a simple point and shoot camera or just use the camera on your phone.  My thoughts on gear are pretty simple and while not original go something like this, the best camera is the one you have with you!  You might have the most expensive Canon or Nikon and all of the best lenses that money can buy.  Unfortunately that won’t do you any good if it’s sitting at home when something grabs your attention and you have nothing to capture the moment with.  So having a simple point and shoot or your phone is ok.  They may have some limitations that the higher end gear doesn’t, but in the end it’s the image and/or the memory that count.  Don’t get me wrong, you need to know how to use the device that you have.  You should know how to use it backwards and forwards so when the moment comes that you need it you aren’t wasting time fiddling around with the knobs and buttons.  This is the part that anyone can learn, the technical part.  It’s the other part that gets tricky!

What is the other part?  Still another good question, and I still don’t know if I have an answer for it.  To me the other part is the emotional impact that an image has.  It’s the thing that grabs you and makes you want to look at it.  You may wonder what it was like to be there, or what was the photographer trying to tell you,  or what’s the story behind it.  When this happens with one of my images I know I’m on the right track.  It’s very seldom that gear talk comes into play when I have successfully created an image with emotional impact.  Does the gear really matter at this point?  Only to those gear heads that can’t see beyond the pixels.  When I’ve successfully created that image that really works, who cares if I did it with a Canon, Sony or Olympus.  I don’t want to come off as insincere because I will post the gear used for a particular shot.  This is simply done as a matter of record to those that are interested.  Maybe someone is interested because they are in the market for a new camera and are looking for examples for comparison sake.  In that regard I hope the camera info I post is of use.

How do you learn the other part?  Another good and hard to answer question.  Hopefully I’m not coming across as dumb by not having the answer to all of these good questions.  I think these words on the subject are about the best you’ll find, “You don’t make a photograph just with a camera. You bring to the act of photography all the pictures you have seen, the books you have read, the music you have heard, the people you have loved.” ― Ansel Adam

Can this be learned in a class or workshop?  Personally speaking that approach doesn’t work for me.  But maybe it will work for you.  The best thing to do is get out there are try it.  Try a lot of things.  There are some great resources floating around out there on the web, and most of them are free.  If you want to step it up there are also plenty of lessons out there that may cost you a few bucks, but in the end they may be worth it.  If you are the sort of person that learns best from a classroom setting just be sure that you are there to develop your vision and not just mimic the instructors.  And I’d suggest that you check out the content of the class or workshop.  If you are interested in black and white street photography then signing up for a workshop focusing on landscapes may not be right for you.

In closing this post I’d like to point out something that I’ve learned in all of my years with photography, and that is that I still have a lot to learn.  Hopefully you’ll discover your own path and vision!

Below are a few images of scenes that inspire me.  What is it that inspires you?  Until next time, Happy Shooting!