Wednesday, 25 July 2012

One concert, three lenses

When going to a concert recently, I brought the GH2 camera. Since I did not know how far from the stage I would be able to get, I brought a selection of three lenses: The Lumix X PZ 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6, the Lumix G 20mm f/1.7 pancake, and the Sigma 30mm f/2.8:

It turned out that I was able to get very close to the stage, so I thought why not try all three of them? That way, I can evaluate which is the better one.

The stage was rather sparingly lit, and I used the 1080p 25fps mode of my European GH2 camera. The aperture was always set to the maximum for all three lenses, and the shutter speed was set to the slowest available: 1/25s. I had the camera set to auto-ISO, and I'm guessing it chose ISO 3200 at all times, except when using the bright f/1.7 aperture of the 20mm lens, when the ISO could realistically have been dropped to around 1000-1600.

Lumix X 14-42mm f/4-5.6

At 14mm, I am just barely able to capture all the three musicians at the same time. I hold the camera a bit unstably in the beginning, as there is some movement in the crowd.

One advantage of this lens, is that it has power zoom. So you can zoom during video recording, and it works pretty well. I have tried this at 4:08 in the video, and again at 6:04 and 8:15, so you can see for yourself how it goes. Some would say that one should never zoom during a video recording, as it will just serve to make the footage more confusing. I tend to agree with this, still, it is good to have the possibility of a power zoom.

Lumix G 20mm f/1.7

Using the 20mm lens, I can only frame the two closest musicians at the same time.

As I recorded this, I had left autofocus on, and I could feel that the lens was constantly jogging the autofocus back and forth during the video recording. This is surely not good for the video footage. When using this lens, it is almost always better to prefocus and then turn off autofocus before starting the video recording.

Sigma 30mm EX DN f/2.8

With this lens, I was only able to frame the two most distant musicians. Again, I left autofocus on, and it appears to have worked very well during the video recording.

This is the longest lens of the three, but still, I was able to hold the camera rather stably during the video recording. This takes a bit of practice, and the articulated LCD viewfinder of the GH2 is invaluable for such use.


Out of the three, the Lumix G 20mm f/1.7 pancake is the brightest, and it is probably the only one which can capture the dimly lit stage at a correct exposure. However, I'm thinking that most concerts are going to be better lit than this, so the low light characteristics are probably not that important. The Lumix G 20mm lens also has a rather slow and noisy autofocus, and it is best to not leave autofocus on during video recording.

The Lumix X 14-42mm lens is the most versatile in terms of focal length, being a zoom lens. If you don't know how close to the stage you can get, this might be a sensible lens to bring. Also, it has OIS, which could make getting a stable video footage more easy. In my case, the concert stage was dimly lit, and the camera was not able to expose the video sufficiently at ISO 3200, 1/25s with this lens, due to the limited aperture. But I don't think this should be a problem for most use, as I think most concerts will be better lit.

The Sigma 30mm f/2.8 lens is the most challenging to hold stably, as there is no OIS, and it is the longest prime lens. I think this lens handled the high contrast lightning the best, out of the three. The concert stage has a very high contrast, which is a challenge to most lenses, easily causing flare and ghosting. But the Sigma 30mm lens captured the most crisp video image, I think, despite these conditions.

All in all, I think all these lenses turned out to be useful, in different ways. If I wanted to capture all three musicians at the same time, all the time, I should have brought along the Lumix G 14mm f/2.5 pancake lens, as it combines the wide field of view with a reasonably bright aperture, and an efficient autofocus. However, in my experience, it is prone to flare and ghosting at high contrast situations.


  1. maybe the 12-35mm f2.8 will be more useful in this scenario.

    1. Yes, that is a good point.

      In fact, the person standing beside me was sporting a D700 with a 24-70mm f/2.8, pretty much the equivalent lens to the Lumix X 12-35mm f/2.8.

      The downside of using a lens like the 12-35mm, though, is that it is so large. The stage crew might decide it looks to professional, and demand that you step out of the way.