Sunday, December 26, 2010

Panasonic 14-45mm Micro Four Thirds Lens

I received the Panasonic 14-45mm m4/3's lens for Christmas. It's a great lens to buy since it's silly cheap (less than $300) and has since been discontinued by Panny in favor of a 14-42mm lens that blows chunks in comparison.

I'm already a huge fan. It's very small and, as far as kit zooms go, the best I have ever used. Autofocus is fast and accurate, contrast and color are excellent, even the build quality is a cut above the rest.

Sharpness is shockingly even across the frame, and oddly, is at it's best in the center at 14mm, and at the corners at 45mm. My only wish would have been more speed. Again, as far as kit zooms go, F3.5 is about as fast as you're going to get, so it's hard to knock the lens too much. The only kit-ish lens that I can think of (it's frequently packed in with the EOS 7D) that is definitely better is the Canon EF-S 15-85mm... which costs well over twice as much. AND is still a max-ap of 3.5.

If you're in with the m4/3's format, trust me, pick this lens up. It's better than Olympus' current offerings, is cheap as all get-out, and won't be widely available for much longer.

This is a sample photo taken at 45mm. The lettuce is super-sharp, and even the bokeh is quite good.

UPDATE: Importantly, this lens is very sharp wide open, but it sharpens up appreciably put down a stop or two. It is sharpest in the middle of the range. It's amazingly sharp at 30-40mm.

From fō-tō-gră-fē

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Electronic Viewfinders Are Great!

I just had something of a revelation. Perhaps it's because I've become used to using my cameras with glasses on, but I never noticed how great electronic viewfinders are. The vast majority of people with sight problems are near-sighted, meaning they can see stuff that's up in their grill piece, but out on the horizon is a giant blur. Since optical viewfinders are precisely that, optical, the light going in is of the same distribution as that coming out of the viewfinder. So if the object is far away, you either use the diopter in the viewfinder or deal with using glasses.

Electornic VF's remove that need entirely. You can use glasses, not use glasses, it doesn't matter. The image is taken in by the camera and then reproduced less than an inch from your eye. The EVF's diopter is only necessary for those who are far-sighted. I love my EVF!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

DPReview Reviews the Nikon D7000

DPReview, the absolute bestest digital camera website on the interpipes, has reviewed the Nikon D7000 and given us a complete understanding, only hinted at with other reviews, of the camera's advantages over others.

We had some early tests showing it do very well in comparison to Canon, we had the DxOMark review that had it completely trouncing the Canon, and finally this. A full, blow-by-blow analysis. It's as we should have expected. The Nikon does outperform the Canon in almost every way, but where it does this is fantastic. The Nikon has a dynamic range of 9.2 EV, with all of the extra range going into the shadows.

You might prefer extra range in the highlights, since it's easier and cleaner to bring out blown highlights than it is to try and illuminate shadows. I go the other way. Shadows define the drama of a shot for me. I want a super-smooth transition to black and pure black when I get there. I don't want to have to punch up the blacks and contrast in post to fix that problem. I expose for the highlights and then work with the curve in post.

That extra shadow range results in noise-free shadows. On page 17, the reviewers compare a dark shot from the Nikon to one from the Canon and apply a +3.0 exposure to clearly reveal shadow noise. The Nikon? Almost none. Brilliant.

That being said, Canon's image pipeline is still better at extracting detail. But while this criticism might have been of importance in earlier models, I think that in these days of 18Mp cameras, the better detail is almost inconsequential. Moreover, to see the differences in detail will require lenses that almost no one will buy. I'd imagine that most people in this segment of the market will buy the camera and either use the kit lens (which undoubtedly sucks) or buy a $500-$800 zoom lens which won't come close to exceeding the sensor's ability.

It's taking awhile, but the megapixel wars seem to be waning. Color reproduction and noise levels are much more important, and it's here that the Nikon handily beats the Canon. Bravo Nikon.

Nikon D7000 Review (DPReview)