Posts Tagged ‘PANASONIC’

HDR IMAGE FROM A P&S JPEG

Well, here’s an HDR-processed image from a camera that I’ve recently made a return to. The original was a jpeg – there’s no option, as this camera doesn’t support RAW files – and I’ve really enjoyed the convenience of not having to spend ages on a pc, processing RAW files from those cameras from manufacturers that seem to rely on their models’ RAW capability to get away with dreadful in-cam jpeg processing.

One notable exception is the Olympus E-P1 ….although RAW-capable, I seem to always be very pleased with its jpeg output, needing little in the way of post-processing to get the results I’m after. As you know, I’m taken with its colour output as well – exceptional is the word. Just not pocketable.

This camera I’ve recently returned to is also able to offer exceptional colour output – but it’s certainly not OOC (‘out-of-camera), and the files need a little work to achieve their potential.

And the camera – it’s the Fujifilm F200EXR.  

Why ? Simple.  Just great dynamic range capture that rivals that of some DSLRs, in a single exposure without any fuss. I thought I’d look elsewhere – mainly in seeking great colour output from a pocketable compact – and managed that with the Canon S90…no doubt, a great piece. But not-so-great DR is noticeable, and even the RAWs don’t enable quite the DR of the F200EXR with such clean images. That’s quite something, as we’re comparing in-cam jpegs with pc-processed RAW files. Hmmmm.

So, one should never assume that the latest, greatest RAW-enabled compact is gonna do it everytime. Progress with caution – because sometimes, it’s not necessarily ‘progress’.

PANORAMA FROM M43 (E-P1) FILES

(Click for XXXXL version …19MB file …OK, compressed for web use)

I’ve already stated before that files from my E-P1, at its lowest ISO setting, are not a million miles away from those of my Nikon D3 – as was, now sold because of that very fact ! I still use a pair of D200s, which produce fine results for any DSLR- type shooting …weddings/sport … anything where very fast AF is essential for static or moving objects/subjects !

Shooting with my Olympus E-P1 yesterday, in very bright sunlight (yes, I could see what I was doing with that lowly 230k res screen, and from heights & angles I couldn’t easily have achieved with a DSLR), I took six individual shots for this example.

Stitched from these six images, this panoramic could be successfully produced as a huge high-resolution print, with great colour accuracy and sharp detail. Using the E-P1 in this way enables its already great 12.3 MP output to knock at the door of medium-format in terms of quality and image size …but there are caveats :

  • MF offers greater dynamic range, with less shadow noise … although multiple m43 files can get close with careful software usage
  • MF offers smoother output, from that relatively huge sensor …  combined m43 files can approach the look, again with careful setup
  • MF requires a very substantial investment : from c£12k to £25k, plus lenses from around £3k each …m43 is affordable for most
  • MF currently has a relatively low ISO capture range, typically topping-out at 1600
  • MF is hefty & unwieldy to cart around for long

Medium Format has so far been the choice of many high-end published architectural &  fashion photographers – where the commissions are often consistently & suitably lucrative to make the investment in MF worthwhile, and editors are extremely demanding relative to output quality and fine detail.

Continuing from my last post, the relevance here is that the next generation of cameras with a Four-Thirds sensor – the new Panasonics about to be formally announced, and the inevitable Olympus versions that will follow – will also enable very many keen photographers to attain a breathtaking standard of very large output quality … where of course the subject & lighting lend themselves to being photographed with multiple files, to then be stitched.

If you’ve not tried image stitching yet, with your own m43 setup, try three vertical shots – or three horizontals – allowing around 20-30% overlap on each image. These can be stitched in software : PS, Arcsoft (which I use myself), or one of many others out there. These days, this software has been developed to the point where little if any manual intervention is required, even without close attention to tripod use/nodal point etc at time of capture. A final crop is often all that’s needed to complete your own masterpiece.

PS : For optimal quality, whereas these were six very quick, hand-held shots, one should always use a tripod for ultimate quality (don’t forget to turn off the IS !). It’s also then preferable to work from TIFF files (these were o.o.c. jpegs), and to set your camera to manual, to choose optimal aperture & exposure settings. These do all count, none of which I did for the example here. The final large image has also been compressed for web use. But you get the idea ….

LOW-LIGHT LX3

On such a warm day – it’s been 31c here this afternoon – I just took a look through some old LX3 images languishing on one of my external drives, searching for one particular photograph I remember shooting one evening in winter, when it was considerably cooler & more comfortable. It’s an image I shot soon after I bought my LX3, that has been one of the ‘most-viewed’ on my zenfolio site (where there are tons of other LX3 images as well). For more, just go to http://nickbland.zenfolio.com

The feedback I got on this image reminded me of one of the reasons I was so excited at having an LX3 – its low-light capabilities were, and still are,  proof that this Panasonic really did change the perception – and the reality – of what could be expected of a compact camera : with a superb light-gathering Leica-designed lens, in combination with a sensitive imaging sensor and cutting-edge (at the time) processing circuitry, it was at its launch pretty well untouchable.

That it still holds up is testament to its innate quality, and begs the question : Just how much better will/can the LX5 be ?

But that’s not all. There’s further speculation as of this morning that there are in fact four new Panasonics being unveiled in Sweden this week – but only to a private/dealer audience. Further details for the rest of us later in the month …you may like to bookmark this page, and check back here for more details as soon as they’re available.

Of particular interest is that there’s the possibility – and it is only that – that Panasonic will introduce two new cameras this year that will be of particular interest to the LX3 brigade :

  • LX5 (no LX4 likely …4 being considered unlucky in Japanese culture)
  • ANOther model, with m43 sensor and fixed lens, along the lines of the Leica Digilux3/Panasonic L1 in size and style

Both exciting propositions, then – and also likely to see the light of day as Leica-branded versions. More soon.

RAW CONVERSION

Chatting to a friend yesterday, he mentioned to me how he’s still enjoying his LX3 – bought on my recommendation – and, knowing I’d sold mine “Do you miss it at all ?”   Made me think – sharp Leica wide aperture lens, 24-60mm range, selectable aspect ratios including 16:9, dynamic BW setting …stunning camera, no doubt.  What also came to mind immediately was how the white balance was still ‘out’ as at the last firmware update, bringing back the dreary memory of ages spent on clunky SilkyPix raw conversions, which seemed a long, S-L-O-W process – because it was. I know many aren’t as fussy about colour as I am…but it did drive me to distraction eventually.

I’ve since replaced my LX3 with another compact camera, that happens to be smaller this time, that also shoots RAW, and has brilliant colour rendition, as well as a superb – and really fast & intuitive – RAW converter bundled with the camera. Example above. This is my ‘everyday’ pocket camera, with a 28-105mm (equiv) focal range, no lens cap, fast startup, superb 3″ LCD, and razor-sharp lens (as has the LX3). It’s a Canon S90, capable of unbelievable results from such a tiny package.

With recent rumour (again!) of an LX3 replacement from Panasonic, and a publisher waiting on me getting my hands on it for a forthcoming book, I again wondered how useful an improved, LX3-style but up-specced Panasonic may be to me….Answer : hugely !

Looking back over some of my LX3 output of 2009, I do have a lot of fond memories, and realised that mine got very heavily used – not that you’d know it from its appearance. It was sold in ‘as new’ condition, because it literally did look ‘as new’, and the guy that bought it obviously felt that that was accurate. So, add great build quality to the LX3’s many attributes.

I do think we’ll learn more about the LX5 shortly, and I’ll be up for one, no doubt. There’s still that certain ‘something’ from the LX3 that makes its images special, and I could even be tempted to just get another anyway ….if I can find a supporting RAW converter that I can live with, and that’s fast.

Regardless, when the LX5 does appear, I share the hope of many on aspects such as reduced noise, wider focal length coverage (say 24-80) whilst maintaining quality, improved colour rendition for o.o.c. jpegs, and improved controls & handling. Immediate availability of a suitable case would also be appreciated.

Not long to wait now for an ‘official’ announcement from Panasonic – likely in the next couple of weeks – and I suspect that the camera will be available fairly soon afterwards. Why ? Because competition continues to intensify, and especially in this climate, every sale counts.

MICRO FOUR-THIRDS - A NEW STANDARD ?

MICRO FOUR-THIRDS - A NEW STANDARD ?

It of course could be construed as either :

‘Fallen for It ?’ … head-over-heels with these new, high quality cameras (& lenses) that offer SLR quality in miniature Or : 

‘Fallen for It ?’ … the Penny/Doris marketing (wrong !) of a system solution to a non-existent problem

There are certainly at least two schools of thought on the arrival of m43, now that both Olympus & Panasonic have truly small bodies, along with a few m43lenses. I definitely lean towards the former, although, in my last post, I indicated that I already have several compacts & DSLRs …but, so far, no Micro Four-Thirds camera (or lenses) …and here’s why :

1/ There’s so far a distinct shortage of available lenses in the m43 format …although there are several potentially useful 43 lenses  eg one that caught my eye today, the Olympus 12-60  ie 24-120mm equivalent – but it’s a fairly large lens, relative to m43 body size, and it pretty well negates the point of a useful, truly miniaturised system.

2/ The end of October sees a likely New Product announcement from Olympus – and the general concensus is that this will be something along the lines of ‘E-P2’ …probably with the inclusion of an in-built viewfinder, and possibly on-board flash.

3/ I learned today that following at least one major Ricoh Japan/Ricoh UK staff meeting last year, Ricoh will definitely be in the ‘small body/interchangeable lenses’ game …and some product is likely fairly soon

4/ Nikon are apparently developing a ‘2.5x’ small system …so, for example, a 10mm lens will be equivalent to 25mm (in 35mm terms) …and surely so must Canon and, by implication, Sony ?

5/ Fujifilm are known also to have taken great interest in the early succes of m43, and are rumoured to have products of a ‘similar’ nature in development.

6/ Samsung NX models are likely soon …not m43 standard, but a miniatuised system along the same lines

7/ Additional to the existing E-P1, I also have reliable confirmation that Olympus will launch a total of three new m43 bodies, planned to see the light of day over the next six months … although my source expects that this may more likely stretch over 9/12 months …but that’s still an ambitious output, and Olympus are ‘very seriously comitted’ to m43.

8/ Based on that last statement, we should see the introduction of several new m43 lenses …hopefully sooner rather than later.

Given that m43 is really just in its infancy, and already seems to offer superb performance …albeit with a few fixable deficiencies so far …this is, from what was expected to be niche, fast becoming a type of product range seen by the major (& smaller) players as critical to their ongoing survival – let alone their ongoing success and increased market share & profitability. 

Extrapolate accordingly, and if the consumer-led, and pro-led, revolution really gets under way, we’ll really be spoilt for choice. That has to be a great situation for all of us absolute enthusiasts, and marks a truly interesting era in digital imaging. I’m observing all of this in some detail, and will step in when I feel the time’s right…and that doesn’t necessarily mean waiting for too long – but there really is so much on its way AND SOON.

In the meantime, if you’re already using, or considering a DSLR, you may find some interesting reading at http://nikonpro.wordpress.com

For more, see also http://1001noisycameras.com

LONDON COLOUR : AUTUMN IN REGENT'S PARK

LONDON COLOUR : AUTUMN IN REGENT'S PARK

And here’s the colour version – shot on the F200EXR’s ‘Standard’ (Provia) film mode – that I’m pleased with, especially considering that I’ve not yet updated the firmware ….which apparently lends some warmth to the Auto White Balance rendering.

Much more at http://nickbland.zenfolio.com ….images from F200EXR/LX3/CX1/D200/D3 …you get the idea

DOES IT WORK ?

DOES IT WORK ?

(Macro image from Ricoh CX1)

Prompted to post this, following several recent e-mails from readers of my (various!) blogs …. hope this answers some questions for you : 

The LX3 is acknowledged as one of the very best compacts out there, and enjoys a huge fan base, which has perhaps grown further lately as some potential buyers – swayed by the announcement of the Olympus E-P1, Panasonic GF-1, Ricoh GRDIII (and CX2), and Leica X-1 – have more recently decided that this fixed-lens model, producing consistently great-quality images, has to be considered a relative bargain at around £350 …and have bought-up all available free stock. Pretty well globally.

But whilst the LX3 undoubtedly has a huge, die-hard fanbase, there have been a couple of other contenders for buyers’ cash …notably the Ricoh CX1 and Fujifilm’s F200EXR.  Both have proven extremely popular.

For those interested in all of the (potentially boring) technical differences between these three ‘pocket rockets’ – you’ll need to look elsewhere. Life’s too short. But if it’s real-world usability and satisfaction rating you’re more interested in, you’re at the right place. No waffle, here’s how it goes :

 

1/ LX3 : Excellent in very many respects:

  • Stunning lens (of course), starting at 24mm f2 …but ends at 60mm (equiv).
  • White balance dramatically better than it once was – I feel there’s still a little room for improvement. Reds are still oversaturated, even when cooled-off. If you like Canon colour, you’ll like LX3.
  • BW – in ‘Dynamic’ form …very film-like, fantastic high-contrast, highly-detailed results.
  • Multi-film mode – three separate, consecutive images
  • Multi-Aspect mode : very useful. 4:3, 3:2 and 16:9 options
  • Superb Mega O.I.S
  • Slightly ‘hollow’ feel to chassis
  • RAW files – very detailed, but need to use (time-consuming) SilkyPix software to extract quality
  • Separate lens-cap
  • Almost pocketable (!)
  • User interface – a bit fiddly, but ok

 

2/ Ricoh CX1 : vastly underrated

  • Some say it’s a far cry from ‘GRD output’ – I disagree (unless you want to pixel-peep… but why would you?)
  • White balance – superb. Multi-awb is a useful extra. Great colour rendition, and fantastic ‘Outdoor’ setting
  • Electronic level …excellent, should be standard on all cameras 
  • Very flexible 7x zoom focal range – 28-200mm(equiv), capturing images that the LX3 is simply incapable of
  • Image stabilisation very effective – and this camera is capable of surprisingly good low-light images
  • Rapid response …focus, image display, scrolling, changing options ….CMOS etc means very fast all ’round
  • Reliable exposures, and wide dynamic range (without the inhibiting DR Double-Shot mode)
  • As advertised, not prone to sky ‘whiteout’  …more useful and more impressive than I expected
  • Multi-film (Colour, BW, sepia) works brilliantly – exactly same image processed three ways
  • Multi-Aspect – but only one at a time : 4:3, 3:2, 1:1  (needs addition of 16:9!)
  • Stunning 920k screen – looks like the image you download and view on pc screen
  • Amazing 1cm macro capability
  • User interface – as good as it gets – intuitive, fast, logical, reliable
  • Great build quality exceeds all other compacts I’ve ever used
  • Very recently superceded by the new CX2,  with even greater 28-300mm(equiv) focal range

 

3/ Fujifilm F200EXR : useful award-winner

  • EXR sensor promises much, delivers some (sometimes)
  • Sensor option (three in total) has to be manually selected for best results
  • Some strange metering/exposure reactions, so inconsistent results …even in fairly ‘normal’ shooting conditions
  • Irritating real-world aspect : the high-contrast (but fairly lo-res) screen makes you wonder what you’ve captured … or not
  • Images often – but not always – look far better on computer display, once downloaded (thank heavens !)
  • Multi-Aspect modes : can select one at a time from 4:3, 3:2 and 16:9
  • 5x zoom range : 28-140mm (equiv) …again, captures some images that LX3 just can’t
  • Image stabilisation ok, but definitely not as effective as CX1’s
  • Some blackout after image capture, as if processor working really hard
  • Feels ‘lightweight’ and small in the hand, compared with bulletproof CX1 build and solid feel 
  • 12MP files (jpeg only) are very detailed …although images not quite as responsive to processing as CX1 jpegs, in my experience
  • New F70EXR has wider focal range, and is less expensive – but its sensor is more highly pixel-packed
  • Overall – great camera, hoped for more than it has delivered (so far, at least)

 

Hope this helps you draw your own conclusions on usability for your own needs – because that’s all that really matters.

Without doubt, all three are very high-quality cameras, and all are capable of great results much of the time, even under very difficult conditions.

Images in separate galleries from all three models at http://nickbland.zenfolio.com – enjoy !