Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Product news

Here is a summary or recent interesting product news, and my comments to them.

Panasonic GX7


Of course, the big news right now is the Panasonic Lumix GX7, which was announced on August 1st.



To better understand what the fuss is all about, let's look a the key features of the GX7, compared with other premium mirrorless cameras:

CameraCrop factorTilt LCDEVFIBISPDAFFlashCompactFocus peakingPrice
Lumix GX72xYesYesYesNoYesYesYes$900
Olympus E-M52xYesYesYesNoNoMediumNo$900
Olympus E-M12xYesYesYesYesNoMediumYes$1400
Olympus E-P52xYesOptionalYesNoYesYesYes$950
Lumix GH32xYesYesNoNoYesNoNo$1100
Lumix G62xYesYesNoNoYesMediumYes$750
Sony NEX-61.5xYesYesNoYesYesYesYes$650
Sony A71xYesYesNoYesYesNoYes$1700
Sony A7R1xYesYesNoNoYesNoYes$2300
Fujifilm X-Pro11.5xNoYesNoYesNoNoYes$1200
Fujifilm X-E11.5xNoYesNoNoYesYesYes$800
Fujifilm X-E21.5xNoYesNoYesYesYesYes$1000
Canon EOS M1.6xNoNoNoNoNoYesNo$300
Nikon 1 V22.7xNoYesNoYesYesYesNo$800



By looking at the table above, it is clear that the GX7 ticks a lot of the boxes, and that is why it has generated so much interest. People have been complaining about the high initial price of the GX7, but comparing with other cameras with similar features, the price does not look so bad.

The GX7 is the first Panasonic MFT camera to feature in-body image stabilization (IBIS). Previously, this was the realm of Olympus only. It is clear, though, that the IBIS of the GX7 is not as advanced as that of the Olympus E-M5 or E-P5. Still, it will make it more easy to use non-OIS prime lenses with the GX7, like the Lumix G 20mm f/1.7 or the Olympus 45mm f/1.8 in low light.

On-sensor PDAF is the new hype nowadays. This has not yet been implemented with Micro Four Thirds cameras. PDAF promises faster AF, and less focus jogging back and forth to confirm the focus. CDAF, which is used by Micro Four Thirds cameras, does very well for single frame photos of non-moving objects. This is more than good enough already with Micro Four Thirds cameras. Where PDAF could improve this further, is continuous focus following moving objects, and autofocus during video recording.

However, I think it is fair to say that the real life benefit of on-sensor PDAF is unclear still. Even without PDAF, I think that the Panasonic GH3 focuses really fast during video. And based on what I have read, the PDAF currently used is somewhat limited in effectiveness.

Another area where Micro Four Thirds has been slow to catch up, is focus peaking. This is a technique which aims to highligh areas in focus in the viewfinder, to aid manual focus. See it demonstrated here with Sony NEX-3N. However, the newest MFT cameras now feature focus peaking, making it easier to use adapted legacy lenses.

The Panasonic Lumix GX7 also adds a retro like look, appearing to be inspired by Olympus and Fujifilm. However, it appears to retain a good ergonomy, based on the pictures. I think it has the potential to become a really popular camera.

At this time, Sony and Olympus have started cooperation between their camera businesses. This could give Sony access to the IBIS technology, and Olympus access to PDAF, further filling in the gaps in the table above. According to rumours, the coming high end Olympus OM-D E-M1 will feature on-sensor PDAF technology from Sony.

Panasonic have said in interviews that they don't plan to implement on-sensor PDAF in the near future.

Of course, people don't choose a camera system based on these key technologies alone. The lens selection is also important. And Micro Four Thirds has a very good lens selection, much better than the competitors. The lenses are also smaller than similar lenses from other systems.

Panasonic Leca DG Nocticron 42.5mm f/1.2


Here's a premium, large aperture portrait lens. Panasonic have co-branded it with Leica, meaning that it gets a high price tag, and a very good quality. This lens is for those who think that Olympus 45mm f/1.8 does not have a large enough aperture, or need more selective focus. The new lens is also going to be better for hand held video recording, since it features OIS.



Canon EOS 70D


Canon have struggled in the sensor department the most recent years. They have used their 18MP sensor technology in a number of camera generations, and have lagged behind the competition.



With the Canon EOS 70D, though, they aim to correct this. The camera has a brand new 20MP sensor, which is very innovative. Essentially, every one of the 20 million sensor photosites are split in two. When focusing, the camera can compare the light coming from different parts of the lens onto the same pixel, to see if they are out of phase, and how much. This should make the camera able to see if the image is in focus, or if it is focused too close or too far, and if so, by how much. Hence, you should get PDAF focus performance, also with the mirror up.

And this is important. A lot of people like to compose images on the LCD, rather than using the optical viewfinder, and they expect the focus to be as fast with LCD viewing. This camera is aimed towards them, and Canon is also gearing up to use this technology in their future mirrorless cameras. After all, their first mirrorless camera, the Canon EOS M focuses horribly slow, in my experience. So Canon really needs this technology.

Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8


For APS-C DSLR cameras, Sigma have announced the 18-35mm f/1.8 large aperture zoom lens. It is the largest aperture zoom lens made for DSLR cameras, and is probably going to be very popular. Previously, you needed to buy prime lenses to get this speedy aperture.



So, is Sigma going to release this lens for Micro Four Thirds? I doubt it. First of all, the focal length is not as useful for Micro Four Thirds, where normal zoom lenses usually start at 14mm. Also, this lens is designed for the long register distance of DSLR cameras. Everything else similar, Sigma should be able to design the lens smaller for Micro Four Thirds, due to the shorter register distance. Usually, wide angle lenses are easier to design on a shorter register distance.

If mirrorless cameras start selling more, then Sigma might design a large aperture zoom lens specifically for this format, which could be smaller in size.

5 comments:

  1. "They are shown below, with the new version to the right."

    I think you need to flip the image and the table as well... or just correct the tekst.

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    1. Thanks for the comment. The text was wrong, I fixed it.

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  2. Another improvement I suggest: also organize the new (L) vs. old (R) pictures side by side, instead of a single line with old and then a single line with new pictures. At least a 2x2 matrix can be adapted in the same column order as the table and lens presentation picture.

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  3. OK, these were comments about the new vs. old 14-140 mm lens comparison...
    I noticed you do show new vs. old pictures on a single line as I intended when commenting after reading the first part of the article. Why not always do it that way, although I would prefer to show the old to the left and the new to the right. That is also the order in which the ads below the article appear...

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    1. Yes, you are right. I thought about this myself, but ended up having the comparison images horizontally per lens, because some times there are three images per lens. That makes more sense to layout horizontally, since most screens are wider than tall. But I agree that it is inconsistent.

      Also, in the "First impressions" article, I have a different order of the new and old lens than in the main "Review" article. I guess most of the time, people will see only one of them at once, in which case it is no problem. But if you have both on the screen at the same time, it can be confusing.

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