Tag Archives: action

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!

My FZ1000 at an Air Show.

Wow, I can’t believe how fast time flies!  The 2015 Planes of Fame Air Show has already come and gone.  It’s one of my favorite photo events of the year.  Well, there was one thing new about it, they had an afterburner after dark feature.  This part of the show is exactly what it sounds like, and the F-18 and F-22 really delivered!  It was a lot of fun and made the usual Friday routine much better!  Oh, there was one more thing, I used my new camera, the Panasonic FZ1000.

As usual, I’m not here to do an exhaustive scientific review, but rather share my impressions after having used the FZ1000 for 3 days straight and making several thousand photos.  I’m also not doing an in-depth air show review, sorry.  Let’s just say that if you are in the Southern California area in May and you love vintage aircraft, including WWII Warbirds, late model Korean/Vietnam War era planes, and even some modern high tech jets, than you owe it to yourself to check out the Planes of Fame Air Show and Museum!  If you do go, bring your camera, plenty of memory cards and batteries, a wide brimmed hat, chair, and sun screen.

I actually had 3 cameras set up for the air show this year.  My trusty Canon 60D with Tamron 200-500mm lens, and the Olympus E-M5 with 7.5mm Rokinon Fisheye, Olympus 17mm f/1.8, and Panasonic 45-200mm.  I also brought along my Red Dot Sight (RDS) for my E-M5.  The idea was to use it instead of the electronic viewfinder (EVF).  I could keep both eyes open, put the red dot on my target, follow it in the sky and snap away.  It didn’t quite work out for me, more than likely because I need more practice.  So the RDS went back in the bag and while I did use the E-M5 from time to time, it mostly stayed in the bag.

My 60D and big Tamron always work.  And I did start out using them.  That is until I got the FZ1000 out of the bag.  It felt perfect in my hands.  Larger in size than my E-M5, and maybe even a bit bigger than my 60D’s body, but much lighter.  It has a much better viewfinder than my E-M5 (in my opinion), and shoots faster than the 60D or E-M5 (12 fps vs 5.5 fps and 9 fps).  And the best thing is that it does very well with fast moving objects, especially in good light, which was very plentiful.  Although I’ve read many, many reviews and personal accounts on the FZ1000’s performance, I was still impressed when I experienced it in person.  Once I got the feel of the FZ1000 on the first day of the show, the 60D went back in the bag and stayed there.  I never used it again for the next 2 days of the air show.

The FZ1000 looked a little out of place compared to my photography friends Canon 1DX and other photographers equally large Canons and Nikons.  But I wasn’t there to impress anyone with my gear.  I was there to enjoy the show, and that meant not lugging around a heavy bag of stuff.  Yes, my 60D and Tamron 200-500mm offer a lot of reach but the FZ1000 can get out there too at 400mm.  And did I mention that it’s fast?  Wow (again), is it fast?!  As soon as I brought it up to my eye and half pressed the shutter, it would almost immediately lock on and I could fire off a burst at 12 fps.  There were plenty of misses, but also a lot more keepers.  In fact my keeper rate was so good that I came home with upwards of 4,000 frames to sift through.  I’ve been steadily reviewing my photos since the event last week and have deleted hundreds.  Having so many is allowing me to get very picky, which is a good thing.  There’s really no reason to have 4 or 5 near duplicates of virtually the same image.  Having such a fast burst rate can really fill up a memory card too.  Not complaining, just sharing.  One more thing to share is memory card write speed.  My Transcend 32 GB SD cards are not quite fast enough to keep up.  Looks like I’m going to need to upgrade them.  Good thing they don’t cost too much.

Getting back to the reach, the 60D and 200-500mm Tamron have an advantage over the FZ1000’s 400mm.  But as the show went on and I got more used to the FZ1000, I found 400mm to be quite enough.  The trick is to wait for the planes to come closer.  I noticed that everyone around me would start shooting when the planes were much too far away.  All you are going to get when you do that is a little dot on the screen with a bunch of sky.  All of the planes made plenty of passes and would usually come around for what’s known as a photo pass.  That means when they flew by they would bank and tilt their wings giving you a much better view.  They were also much closer than when they were grouping up and trying to get into a formation.  I also took advantage of takeoffs, landings, and the planes moving back and forth on the hot ramp.  This was another area that the FZ1000 worked perfectly.  I didn’t need to change lenses when I wanted a wide shot.  I just zoomed out and pressed the button!  If something changed, I could quickly zoom back in and grab a detail shot.

Are there any downsides to the FZ1000?  Sure!  Compared to my 60D the battery life is poor.  But the same can be said for my E-M5.  The remedy is to have extra batteries, no big deal.  For it’s size, the FZ1000 is fairly light weight.  It doesn’t have the build quality that my E-M5 does.  That doesn’t mean it’s a delicate little flower, you just need to be mindful not to get too rough with it.  No different than any other piece of electronic equipment.

And now for the results!

Something to note about the photos above, they’ve all been edited in one way or another. None of this is straight out of the camera. I shoot RAW with the express intention that the images will be post processed.

I have so many photos from this air show that I’m going to create a new gallery for them, so check back from time to time for that. And since I brought them with me, I am going to do a follow up on the air show and my 60D and E-M5.

That’s it for this post, I hope you enjoyed it! Until next time, Happy Shooting!