Category Archives: P-51

FZ1000 Air Show Performance

It’s been over 1 year since I first wrote about using my Panasonic FZ1000 at an air show, specifically the Planes of Fame Air Show in Chino, California.  I had just purchased the Panasonic GX8 prior to this air show and brought my FZ1000 along as backup.

The GX8 seems like a great camera, and I did manage to get some good results using it.  But, while it has a lot of features and functions, it also has a learning curve, and I planned very poorly trying to use and learn it during the air show.

This is where the FZ1000  came in to save the day!  The FZ1000 may not be small, but it is light, and operates very quickly.  There is no need to change the lens, and that alone can be stress relieving.  Simply turn it on, make your setting changes, zoom in or out, and fire away!

Now, I don’t want to give the wrong impression.  Not every shot was a keeper.  When a plane would pass in front of the crowd, I would start panning, then lock focus and fire a few frames, then repeat.  Sometimes I would get caught up in the moment, and fire off too many frames and bog the camera down.  Even with a fast SD card, there was definitely a limit on how many frames you could shoot.  It needs to be noted that I shoot RAW, and the files are larger and bog things down more quickly.  When this happened, I had to wait for the camera to process the files before I could shoot again.

The GX8 also has a limitation on how many RAW files (or jpegs) you can fire off in a burst before you bog things down.  The limit is just higher with the GX8.

I don’t want to talk too much about the GX8.  If you are interested, I have 2 previous posts devoted to this subject and welcome you to check them out here, and here.

Some of the talk about the FZ1000 at an event like this revolve around the limitation of the 400mm lens.  Personally, I don’t find this to be a limitation.  It helps me stop trying to get shots of planes that are simply too far away to get a decent picture.  Not only does every little movement magnify when you’re zoomed out, but the atmosphere itself can work against you,  at least at this air show. When I’m zoomed out I can see the heat waves rising off of the pavement, and the distortions in the air can ruin a photo (unless that’s the look you were going for).  Perhaps there are air shows in other areas that don’t have this problem, but this is normal for an arid area like Chino California.  If the planes are too far away for a decent picture, I put the camera down and enjoy the show, and wait.

Another issue is cropping, and yes, I do a bit of cropping.  Having a RAW file size of 5472 pixels x 3548 pixels allows a little room for cropping, the trick is not cropping too much.  I generally don’t look at my files at over 100%, but have been pleased with them when I do happen to view them at higher resolutions.

There is the other end of the lens that I use quite a bit as well, the wide part.  The FZ1000 lens can go to 25mm at its widest point.  This can come in handy when you are trying to fill the frame with your subject.  There is some distortion, but it is easily worked out during post processing.

My FZ1000 continues to be one of my favorite cameras.  It is absolutely the most versatile camera I have ever owned.  And, it doesn’t matter to me that it has a 1″ sensor, the picture quality has matched or exceeded with I could do with my old Canon 60D.  I’ll be keeping, and using my FZ1000 for a long time!

And now for the results:

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

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!

More on my FZ1000

It’s been a while since my last post.  And in that time I’ve been able to use my Panasonic FZ1000 on more than one occasion.  I’m going to share some of my thoughts about the FZ1000, but try not to bore you with a lot of techno stuff.  If you want that kind of info, there are other websites available.

The FZ1000 is by no means small.  It’s close in size to my Canon 60D DSLR, although somewhat lighter.  The advantage the FZ1000 has over a camera like the 60D is versatility.  The built-in lens is of high quality (Leica) and has a very usable range, 25-400mm (image stabilized).  This means that with a single camera I can quickly change focal length to suit the situation, rather than carry a bag full of lenses and fumble around changing them.  I’m able to keep the FZ1000 in a small messenger bag that isn’t a pain to carry around.

During a recent outing to the Planes of Fame Air Museum I was able to make good use of the FZ1000.  In fact, it was the only camera I brought to the event.  Packed nicely in the messenger bag, along with a couple of accessories, it was quick and easy to access and grab a shot or two when needed.  The nice thing about the air museum is the variety of subjects and lighting.  Sometimes the light is just right, but mostly it’s challenging.  Dark interior hangars and harsh afternoon light pouring in from open hangar doors, can be fun and frustrating at the same time!

Speaking of a variety of subjects, I was able to work with both static and moving examples.  The event was titled “Little Friends” and was about the role of the P-51 Mustang as a bomber escort during WWII.  There are a couple of P-51s at the museum, and the P-51D Wee Willy II, provided a flight demonstration.  I found the FZ1000 more than capable for the static displays, but not quite up to snuff with the flight demo this time.  There’s a difference between an air show where the planes fly much closer to the crowd and other events such as this one.  The P-51D did make several passes, but was at a much higher elevation.  The FZ1000 can stretch out to 400mm, but that wasn’t quite enough for this event.  There is a feature in the FZ1000 to increase the range of the lens by using the digital zoom, but at the cost of resolution.  This is something I’ll investigate later and share if it proves useful.  To be fair, I’ve used my Canon 60D with Tamron 200-500mm lens at similar events and found it wanting as well.

There are 2 modes that I used during my time at the air museum.  For the static displays, I selected aperture priority.  Aperture priority is generally my preferred mode for most things such as landscapes, portraits, and most things that don’t move too fast.  When the subject is moving, I tend to shift to shutter priority.  When the shutter speed is set, the camera adjusts the aperture to match.  Because I was shooting WWII propeller planes, I used a slower shutter speed to blur the prop (usually 1/200th second).  Although the camera has the ability to be set for Auto ISO (sensitivity to light), I prefer to make the necessary changes myself.  When the light was bright and in abundance, I used ISO 125, for darker interiors I set it at ISO 1600.  There was some noise at 1600, but nothing that couldn’t be cleaned up in post.  I also shoot everything in RAW rather than jpeg.  I find RAW much more flexible for post processing.

So, with all of the stuff mentioned above, what about image quality?  As far as I’m concerned it’s more than adequate.  I’ve mentioned in previous posts (and elsewhere) that I won’t get caught up in endless debates about pixel depth, sensor size and other technical details.  Personally, I’m more interested in how a camera performs the task I’ve given it, how it feels in my hands, and the RAW image that I can spend time with in post.  I’m sure there are those who will not find the FZ1000 good enough, but I’m not among them.  There’s more to the art and craft of photography than pixels!

Here are some recent examples from my FZ1000:

There’s one more thing the FZ1000 does, and that is video. Not just video, but 4K. In case you didn’t know, 4K has twice the resolution of HD. Video isn’t something that I do much of, but with the 4K ability of the FZ1000, I couldn’t resist. My video skills aren’t that good, but the one thing that I am able to do with a video clip is what’s called a frame grab. Using Adobe Lightroom, I’m able to not only view a video, but break it down frame by frame, and grab one (copy and extract it from the actual video). The resulting image is a jpeg, and has 5 megapixel resolution. Here’s a frame that I grabbed. Other than a little cropping and resizing, I applied no other processing.

So, you may be wondering if the FZ1000 is for you. Maybe, maybe not. It depends on what you want to do with it. For some, it may be too big. It most definitely will not fit in your pocket. If that’s what you want, then you may want to look at a camera like the Sony RX100. The RX100 has a sensor of similar size and quality as the FZ1000, but in a much smaller package. The RX100 will fit in your pocket, or purse! Want to know my solution? I have them both!

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