Monday, 15 September 2014

Product news

These are exciting times, with a lot of product announcements in relation to the Fotokina trade show. Here is a short summary:

Lumix G 35-100mm f/4-5.6


This lens is designed to match the Lumix GM1 and GM5 camera, both in terms of styling and size.


It is expected to cost US$400. But it will probably be primarily sold in twin lens kits with the new GM5 camera.



The Lumix G 35-100mm f/4-5.6 is a very compact, short tele zoom. It is not a lot more compact than the longer and much cheaper Lumix G 45-150mm f/4-5.6, though. So I would seriously consider the longer of the two, unless you specifically want a lens which is styled similarly as the GM1 and GM5 cameras.

Lumix GM5


The predecessor to the very compact Lumix GM1 camera. It addresses one of the concerns with the GM1: The missing eye level viewfinder:


It also adds a flash hot shoe, but loses the built in flash. Regarding flash use, keep in mind that this camera still uses the same shutter module from the GM1. It is good in the sense that it is very inaudible, but it has a very poor flash sync speed of only 1/50s. This makes the camera less than optimal for fill flash use outside during daytime. Read more about the shutter unit here.

The camera also improves upon the predecessor in terms of video features, giving access to full HD recording in 50/60 FPS (depending on region, PAL/NTSC). If you are interested in a small Micro Four Thirds camera, I would recommend getting the Lumix GM5, rather than the GM1

Lumix G 14mm f/2.5 II


A somewhat strange and unexpected release from Panasonic is the updated version of the Lumix G 14mm f/2.5 (my review):


There is some uncertainty about what has changed between the old and the new version. As it stands now, I am thinking that this is purely a cosmetic change. The optics are certainly the same, and probably the focus and aperture mechanism. So I think this is just a redesign to make the lens styled like the new GM5 camera.

This is just what happened to the 20mm lens, by the way, which received a makeover last year. Here are some tests I made to see if there was any real difference.

Lumix LX100


Not a Micro Four Thirds camera, but very interesting anyway. The competition has toughened a lot lately in the premium compact market. We used to have a competition about bringing out the most impressive aperture, which the Lumix LX7 won by using a f/1.4-2.3 zoom lens.

Then came the Sony RX100 series, which changed the game by upping the sensor size to the so called one inch sensor.

Panasonic's answer was launched today, the Lumix LX100:


It further ups the sensor size by using a Four Thirds type sensor, at about twice the area of the one inch sensor. However, the image circle does not cover all of the sensor, meaning that effectively, the sensor size is about 1.5 times that of the one inch sensor.

In terms of features, this camera appears to have it all: A very bright aperture range of f/1.7-2.8, electronic eye level viewfinder (EVF), 4k video, and to top all this, it also has retro styled shutter wheel, exposure compensation wheel, and even an aperture wheel around the lens. These retro items are probably aimed to compete with the Fujifilm line of cameras, e.g., the Fujifilm X100.

The only negative aspect of this camera is that it is larger than the competitors. However, to incorporate such a fast lens, it needs to be fairly large.

And regarding the lens size, why is it so much smaller than the Lumix X 12-35mm f/2.8 (my review), which has similar specifications, and also cover the Four Thirds sensor size? The LX100 lens actually has better specifications, as the aperture opens up more than one more stop in the wide end. I guess there are three answers:

  1. The LX100 has a smaller image circle than the Micro Four Thirds system, to accommodate the multi aspect sensor.
  2. The LX100 doesn't have a lens mount, and can use an optical design with a shorter register distance, putting the exit pupil closer to the sensor. That allows making a smaller lens construction, especially for the wide angle part of the zoom.
  3. Even if the LX100 has a larger aperture in the wide end, this probably does not require any larger optical design. Generally speaking, a normal zoom can be made faster in the wide end without much extra effort in the optical design. Rather, I think the Lumix X 12-35mm f/2.8 lens aperture is deliberately capped in the short end, to have a constant f/2.8 across the zoom range.

The LX100 appears to have a leaf shutter. This is good news, as it allows for a fast flash sync, a silent shutter which is stealthy when photographing people, and shutter shock should not be a problem.

This camera looks like the perfect premium compact right now. I think Panasonic have made a winning camera, let's see what the competitors come up with to top this one.

It is not perfect, though. It does not have a tilting LCD screen, and the screen is not touch sensitive. Further, it is a bit unclear from the specifications if it includes a built in ND filter. ND filter can be good when you want to photograph using fill flash outdoors on a sunny day.

Olympus 40-150mm f/2.8


This PRO labeled zoom has been awaited a long time already. In this official announcement, the price is given, US$1500, which is not too bad.


The lens is mostly useful on Olympus cameras, given that it does not have any optical image stabilization. The size of the lens is perhaps unexpectedly large, being 60% longer and 150% heavier than the competing Lumix X 35-100mm f/2.8 from Panasonic. Of course, the Olympus lens also has a 50% longer focal length, and a wider zoom range, which is very useful.

Like the other PRO rated lenses, this one is "weatherproofed", meaning that you can bring it out even if it rains, but you cannot submerge it, of course. It is also dustproof and freezeproof. To get the most out of the lens, especially in terms of environment protection, it is best to combine it with the Olympus OM-D E-M1 camera.

Olympus also announced the very first tele converter for Micro Four Thirds, the MC14:


As you can see from the image, the tele converter has an front lens element which protrudes significantly. With this construction, you physically cannot mount it to most Micro Four Thirds lenses, in fact, doing so might damage the lens and the converter. When using it on the 40-150mm lens, it becomes a 56-210mm f/4 lens.

The converter is designed for use with the Olympus 40-150mm f/2.8 exclusively at this time. Perhaps it will be supported by future lenses, like the 300mm f/4 which Olympus have said they may bring out. The tele converter would make it a 420mm f/5.6 lens, very useful for bird photography. Personally, I would rather use the Nikon 1 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 lens for birds (my review), though, which is another 800mm equivalent option.

Conclusion


After a period where Sony were dominating the premium compact camera line with their RX100 series, Panasonic are now back on top with the Lumix LX100.

With the introduction of the Lumix GM5, they have a very capable premium compact system camera, which is quite stylish too.





6 comments:

  1. LX100 screen is not tiltable nor touchscreen...Unfortunately...

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  2. Olympus have also announced a 1.4x teleconverter along with the 40-150 lens. It would be great if this works with existing m4/3 lenses!

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    1. Yes, this is true.

      As the teleconverter has an extending front lens element, the converter cannot be used with the Lumix X 35-100mm f/2.8. Neither can it be used with most other lenses. Probably it is electrically coded so that it only works with the Olympus 40-150mm f/2.8 lens.

      Mounting the tele converter to other lenses may cause physical harm to it or the lens, as it the front lens element is extending quite far.

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  3. Additoinal info about Panasonic Lumix G 14mm F2.5 II ASPH. (H-H014AE): The inclusion of stepping motor makes the focusing action smooth and silent for use in both photo and video recording. When mounted on the Digital Singles Lens Mirrorless cameras of LUMIX G, you can take advantage of the high-speed, high-precision Contrast AF system. (www.digitalrev.com)

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    1. Yes, I saw this too, but I doubt that there is any difference in the new version of the lens. Two reasons:

      1: The old 14mm lens was already focusing very quickly and virtually inaudibly. There is no need for an update to the focus mechanism.

      2: The 20mm lens is the slowest focusing lens in the Micro Four Thirds lineup. Still, when there was a new version of the lens last year, it was done without any change to the focus mechanism at all. Even if it was actually needed. See my comparison of the old and new lens here.

      Based on this, I don't believe that there is any focus difference between the old and new 14mm lenses. I believe the difference is purely cosmetic.

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