Category Archives: image stabilizer

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!

Testing the RX100

I was able to take my Sony RX100 out for a little testing and fun today.  One of the places I like to take my cameras is the Planes of Fame Air Museum (POF) in Chino California.  The POF is a wonderful place to visit if you want to see a collection of warbirds, many of which are flyable and part of the big air show show every May.

Before I begin please note that this is not an in-depth scientific review.  My RX100 is the original model, there are currently 2 newer versions on the market.  I picked mine up for a very reasonable price and it has all of the main features that are important to me.

I wanted to travel light today and thought about just bringing the RX100 by itself.  But I didn’t, just couldn’t help myself!  So I placed the little RX100 in my Tamrac Slinger Bag along with my Olympus E-M5 and assorted lenses.  The nice thing is that even with a full bag (2 cameras, and a half dozen lenses) it was still lighter than a bag with my Canon 60D and 3 lenses.  The Slinger is a very comfortable bag and didn’t get in my way at any time as I wandered around the museum.

So, how did the RX100 do?  In a word, great!  It was quick and easy to use.  There were some times when I missed having a view finder but it wasn’t a show stopper.  This happened mostly when I was near a hangar door and the bright outside light would cause some glare on the screen.  I was a little worried about image quality when I set the ISO up to 800 to handle the dim indoor light but was pleased to see that it wasn’t a problem.  Although there aren’t a lot of external controls on the body of the RX100 there are enough to get the most important settings changed.  After that you have to start digging in the menus.  All of my shots today were hand held only, no tripod necessary due to the image stabilizer.

After spending a couple of hours at the museum and with my RX100 I’m very pleased with its performance.  As I mentioned in my previous post the RX100 is not a DSLR replacement.  It is however a very worthy companion or backup.  I took over 300 shots with the RX100 today (lots of experimenting), and only 60 with my Olympus E-M5.  The E-M5 was notably better in some situations, and not so much in others.  One of those situations was when I wanted a longer focal length than the RX100 had.  All I had to do with the E-M5 was reach in the bag and grab a longer lens.  Since there was no action today the speed of the E-M5 provided no advantage.  The other thing that made a difference on the E-M5 with the view finder.  This was especially helpful when I was out in the bright sun and there was some glare.  The display on the RX100 is not bad, in fact its seem a little better than a lot of other cameras I’ve used in the past.  Unfortunately bright sun is…. bright, and it was an annoyance at times.

Here are some shots from the RX100.  Other than resizing and converting the RAW files to .jpeg they are straight out of the camera, no editing!



All of the images above that were taken inside of the hangars had an ISO of 800, and all of them were done with the RX100 set in aperture priority mode.  I’d say that the noise is not really noticeable, unless you really do some pixel peeping. But at normal viewing I think they look pretty good!

I couldn’t be more pleased with my RX100! It really is a little pocket rocket!

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

 

Olympus E-M1 Test Drive

Thanks to a very thoughtful Father’s Day gift from my Son, I received an Olympus E-M1 from Borrow Lenses for 3 days.

Disclaimerthis is not a scientific review of the E-M1.  There are plenty of those available online.  This is rather my personal opinion and experience.  Some of the photos posted are untouched and others are worked quite a bit.

I already have an Olympus E-M5 and several M4/3 lenses, and am very happy with them.  The E-M1 came as a body only, and that worked out perfectly, allowing me to use my own favorite lenses for this test drive.

In case you’re wondering, here’s a short list of the lenses that I have for my E-M5:

  • Olympus 17mm f/1.8
  • Olympus 45mm f/1.8
  • Panasonic 45-200mm
  • Rokinon 7.5mm fisheye

Here are a couple of comparison shots of the E-M1 and my E-M5. You can see the size difference and some of the additional controls on the E-M1.

The only problem I had with this wonderful gift was figuring out how to make the best use of it.  Since I’m not much of a street scene shooter, I took wandering-around-town-taking-random-shots off of the list.  There were no air shows or drag races going on, and with some very ugly, hazy days, there wasn’t much hope of catching a grand landscape (at least in my area).

My solutions were backyard shots of my dogs playing (gotta try some kind of action), and touring a couple of air museums.  Neither of these options would press the E-M1 to its limits, but it would allow me to see how well it handled in some everyday situations.

First up, backyard action with the dogs.  I have 2 Cairn Terriers, and 1 Chihuahua mix, and they love to play in the water.  I set the E-M1 and Panasonic 45-200mm lens up with C-AF (continuous auto focus), but wasn’t having a lot of luck with it.  Sometimes it would work and adjust focus as expected, then it would be off, lost and hunting (little dogs move fast).  But I did stick with it and got several keepers.    It was late afternoon during this time, and the light was bright and harsh.  Here are some of the settings I used:

  • Aperture Priority
  • ISO – 200
  • 1/2000 sec.
  • f/5.6
  • RAW

Next up – Air Museums.  There was certainly no action to be had at an air museum, but I thought it would be interesting to see how the E-M1 handled in low light.  I purposely did not use a flash and  instead put the Olympus 17mm f/1.8 lens on the E-M1.  This seemed like a good combination.  The 17mm f/1.8 lens is fast enough to work in low light conditions and I’ve been very pleased with quality of images created with it.

Actually, I visited 2 air museums with the E-M1.  The first was Yanks Air Museum in Chino California, and the second was the Palm Springs Air Museum.  Both are very nice facilities with some fantastic examples of  aircraft.  Yanks has some great WWII warbirds including an F6F-5 Hellcat with an interesting paint job.  It also has some great modern aircraft including an F-14 Tomcat, F-15A Eagle, and an F-18 from the Blue Angels.

The second air museum was the Palm Springs Air Museum.  This turned out to be a show case for a nice variety of planes.  One of the highlights for me was being able to go inside of the B-17G “Miss Angela”.  The Docent was very knowledgable and shared some interesting facts about the B-17 and the men that flew them.  I am in awe of what those brave crews went through on a daily basis in order to win the war.  As for the E-M1, I bumped up the ISO from 640 to 1250 to handle the very low light inside the B-17 and it worked perfectly!

Here are some of the settings I used for the air museums:

  • Aperture Priority
  • ISO – 640 to 1250 (depending on location)
  • Shutter speed varied from 1/15 to 1/100 sec.
  • F-Stop varied from f/2.8 to f/8 depending on location.
  • RAW

One detail I noticed while reviewing the results of my air museum visit was that I forgot to change the auto focus mode on the E-M1.  Seems that in my haste to start shooting, I left it on C-AF (from my dogs in the backyard session the day before).  The nice thing is that this error on my part didn’t seem to create any problems.  The camera would lock on the focus without a hitch, even in the low light.

Overall my impressions of the E-M1 are good.  It’s a little larger than my E-M5, but not so large as to be a burden when carrying it around all day.  The controls are laid out nicely and it has a few additional buttons that E-M5 does not.

I noticed in some online forums that the Olympus menu system isn’t a favorite, with claims that it’s not intuitive and is overly complicated.  I suppose this is true when you first start trying to figure it out.  I didn’t really have a problem with it, but to be fair, I have some experience with the menu system,  going back to the Olympus E-P3.  It can be a bit confusing but there are some good resources out there to help you through that.  Here’s a place to start if you want some help setting up the E-M1 – PhotolisticLife

Just for fun, I tried the canned HDR feature, and didn’t find it to be anything special.  It reminded me of a similar feature in my old Sony NEX3.  The camera takes several exposures and combines them, then it gives you a .jpeg.  Personally I’d rather just bracket the exposures myself and do the HDR work on the computer.

There was one difference between the E-M1 and my E-M5 that I did like,  the quality of the electronic viewfinder (EVF).  Maybe it’s just my eyes getting old, but the EVF seemed much more clear and bright than the one on my E-M5.

As I get ready to pack the E-M1 back in its box and return it to Borrow Lenses, it was a pleasure to be able to use this camera. Unfortunately, it’s about twice the price of an E-M5 (or the new E-M10).  And the bottom line for me is that it wasn’t fantastically advanced enough over my E-M5 to warrant the expense of purchasing one.  Yes, I did like it and enjoyed using it, but not enough to buy one outright.  If I wanted it bad enough, I’d have to sell off some of my other gear to finance it, and right now I’m not in a hurry to do that.

That’s it for this post.  Until next time – Happy Shooting!