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Author Topic: Ideas about putting together a lightweight digital system  (Read 4512 times)
slowframe
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« on: March 14, 2012, 08:33:06 PM »
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Any advice would be much appreciated, I'm not much of a gear head.  I'm interested in putting together a very simple, comparatively lightweight, kit for landscapes.  I shoot primarily at an EFOV on a 35mm camera of around 20mm, 45mm, and 90mm, but I'm flexible within some limits.  I am happy to cover all lengths in a zoom or to carry three primes, or a zoom and a prime.  I need to be able to use a graded ND filter and a polariser, but I'm willing to consider changing which ones I use to accommodate a new camera and lenses.  This is as secondary kit to use on longer trips when keeping weight down is desirable.  Ideally, I'd like to keep my weight down to the range where the camera weighs no more than 700 grams (less is better) and using lighter-weight lenses. 

Currently I shoot film for the most part on a Voigtlander Bessa IV and have the relevant lenses, but even there in terms of lenses I'm willing to change.  Does anyone have a view about whether the newer M4/3 cameras produce attractive results in landscapes- I'm especially interested in prints rather than electronic results?  I haven't seen prints from them or from many digital cameras that I can identify.  At present the largest enlargements I normally make are 20" x 20" (I shoot a lot at 1:1), and it's hard to imagine that I have need to go any larger.  I don't need many features, but I do care about weight. ease of manual exposure and focusing, and image quality (from RAW files, OOC jpegs aren't of much interest to me). 

I'm sorry to ask such a general question, but while I can afford to spend once on a good digital system, I can't afford to keep cycling through bodies or lenses and want to make an intelligent decision.  I'll sort out a tripod and filters once I figure out a camera and lenses.

Thank you for any thoughts.
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theguywitha645d
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« Reply #1 on: March 14, 2012, 09:30:05 PM »
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I think a m4/3 or APC mirrorless system could work well for you. I have made 20 inch prints from my E-P1 with Cosina Voightlander lenses and have been very pleased with them. The Panasonic and Olympus lenses are for the most part better. The latest, almost to be released, Olympus OM-D/E-M5 might work nicely for what you do as the body and new zoom lens is weatherproof. I would wait for reviews to come out.

I would try to get your hands on some of these cameras. Just to see how they feel and the way they operate. It will also give you an idea what working with an EVF/Monitor is like. Many folks have made a good transition to mirrorless cameras, a few have not.
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scooby70
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« Reply #2 on: March 14, 2012, 09:50:03 PM »
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The previous poster said it all but I just wanted to add that I use a Panasonic G1 mostly with a manual 25mm f0.95 Voigtlander lens and I find it to be a very film like experience as the size and weight of the camera and lens is more in line with the film cameras I previously used than the bloated and heavy DSLR's. I mostly use primes but the 14-42mm kit lens is small and light and produces sharp images.
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slowframe
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« Reply #3 on: March 14, 2012, 09:53:46 PM »
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Thank you for your reply; that's very helpful.  It's especially good to hear some positive results for printing.  I'm quite open minded about using an electronic view finder.  The EM-5 looks pretty interesting, from what I can find online.  I'll wait until there are more sample images and until I can handle one in a store, at least, before rushing to judgment.  



 
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theguywitha645d
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« Reply #4 on: March 14, 2012, 10:02:19 PM »
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Just one more thought, if you are shooting with a Bessa rangefinder, the new Fuji X-Pro1 might be an interesting choice for you. While not a rangefinder proper, it would have both an OVF and EVF.
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slowframe
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« Reply #5 on: March 14, 2012, 10:21:21 PM »
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That's also reassuring and sounds like a good fit for me.  I'm glad to hear that m4/3 might do the trick and will echo film shooting to some extent, which would bring a nice feeling of familiarity.  My main experience with digital cameras is with a point and shoot, which was convenient but not terribly satisfying.



Thank you for your reply, it's much appreciated.

The previous poster said it all but I just wanted to add that I use a Panasonic G1 mostly with a manual 25mm f0.95 Voigtlander lens and I find it to be a very film like experience as the size and weight of the camera and lens is more in line with the film cameras I previously used than the bloated and heavy DSLR's. I mostly use primes but the 14-42mm kit lens is small and light and produces sharp images.
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slowframe
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« Reply #6 on: March 14, 2012, 10:37:54 PM »
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That sounds like an interesting idea.  I had taken an interest in the x100 when it came out, but there seemed to be a lot of controversy in photo forums about ease and reliability of operation. I think I really need to try out a camera of that cost in person, since it seems like there are so many dogmatic fans and also skeptics of the x series cameras that it's hard to sort the wheat from the chaff in the first-hand reviews of the product. I'm not really a rangefinder (or rangerfinder-inspired camera) nut per se, but I do like the much smaller physical profile of the camera and lenses.  On the down side, I suppose, it's more difficult to get things right using filters than on an SLR.  But, the EVF must work through the lens, so it's probably possible to see what's going on adequately well with the Fuji or an M4/3.

Thanks for the suggestion.  This gives me a few things to look into more closely once the cameras are around to try in person.



Just one more thought, if you are shooting with a Bessa rangefinder, the new Fuji X-Pro1 might be an interesting choice for you. While not a rangefinder proper, it would have both an OVF and EVF.
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stever
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« Reply #7 on: March 15, 2012, 12:33:54 PM »
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from my brief comparison of Panasonic GX1 and G3 to Canon 7D and 5D2, you may find m4/3 marginal for 20x20 prints.  on the other hand, i'd say the GX1 or G3 is as good as the 20D which was the first digital camera i thought practically comparable to film.  and Panasonic has enough high quality lenses

the x-Pro 1 is interesting (although not nearly as light and compact), but i'm certainly going to wait for some thorough testing to demonstrate that the clever sensor - and editing tools to go with it - deliver as hyped

from test results, the Nex-7 is the only "available" compact/light camera that can - with good lenses - deliver larger prints.  problem is limited availablility - so far - of many lenses that realize the capability of the camera

of course, there's the M9
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armand
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« Reply #8 on: March 15, 2012, 01:56:02 PM »
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I think a m4/3 or APC mirrorless system could work well for you. I have made 20 inch prints from my E-P1 with Cosina Voightlander lenses and have been very pleased with them. The Panasonic and Olympus lenses are for the most part better. The latest, almost to be released, Olympus OM-D/E-M5 might work nicely for what you do as the body and new zoom lens is weatherproof. I would wait for reviews to come out.

I second that. I just placed a preorder for the EM-5, first time I preorder a camera (I would wait for reviews though if you are not in a rush).
Seems to have a good quality sensor, the lenses available are good to very good (and too many reasons to go overboard with the money Wink), it's half the size and volume of a DX system and has some weatherproofing also.
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k bennett
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« Reply #9 on: March 15, 2012, 04:37:28 PM »
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I have a complete m4/3 system, to go along with a Canon 5D Mark II and a pair of 1D Mark IV cameras. I use the m4/3 for travel, personal work, and as a walk-around camera. With careful technique, a 16x24 inch print looks very good, and a great 13x19 is easy. (By that I mean using a tripod, careful focusing, etc. - exactly the same careful technique required with any camera.)

Right now we have a GF1, a G1, and a GH2, along with the 14-45, 14-42, 45-200 zooms, and the 14, 20, and 45/1.8 prime lenses. The GF1 and G1 share the same sensor, which is fine at lower ISO values, while the GH2 is a newer and better 16-mp sensor. The 14-45 is quite nice, and is much better in all ways than the 14-42 for still photography. However, the prime lenses - especially the Panny 20/1.7 and the Olympus 45/1.8 - are just simply excellent.

To create a lightweight system that covers the focal lengths you want, I would buy a Panasonic G3 or GH2, or the new Olympus OM-D, and the Panasonic 7-14, and either the 14-45 or the 20 and 45 primes. Which lenses depend on whether you will want to shoot street or portrait or photo-j with them, or just lock it down on a tripod for landscapes. My next purchase is the 7-14 (though I'm pretty sure it won't take filters on the front, which might lead you to the Oly 9-18.) Which camera you want depends entirely on taste - all of them have a built-in EVF, while the Oly has in-body stabilization. I've grown so used to the Panasonic user interface that I would just keep buying those, but of course YMMV.

Good luck. Shooting with the small cameras is fun.
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slowframe
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« Reply #10 on: March 15, 2012, 07:29:30 PM »
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Although I'm open minded and would like to see how the x-pro 1 tests out, I'm inclined to wait quite a while on the x series cameras.  With the caveat that I haven't seen any prints, I've seen some stellar images made by the x100.  However, the cameras all sound buggy, and I imagine that just a few iterations down the road, a really satisfying version might be produced.  The sensor does interest me, but I can't say that I've got a clear sense of which elements of the technology chain, including the question of AA filters, determine ultimate image quality.  I don't really care about jpegs from the camera, but even with RAW files there are, as far as I can tell, many variables arising from how individual sensor/software combinations are implemented. 

Thanks for the heads up on prints.  This again makes me think that I really need to see some test results and some field-tested images. 

from my brief comparison of Panasonic GX1 and G3 to Canon 7D and 5D2, you may find m4/3 marginal for 20x20 prints.  on the other hand, i'd say the GX1 or G3 is as good as the 20D which was the first digital camera i thought practically comparable to film.  and Panasonic has enough high quality lenses

the x-Pro 1 is interesting (although not nearly as light and compact), but i'm certainly going to wait for some thorough testing to demonstrate that the clever sensor - and editing tools to go with it - deliver as hyped

from test results, the Nex-7 is the only "available" compact/light camera that can - with good lenses - deliver larger prints.  problem is limited availablility - so far - of many lenses that realize the capability of the camera

of course, there's the M9
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slowframe
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« Reply #11 on: March 15, 2012, 07:31:33 PM »
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I can wait for a little bit- I did see a test for the EM-5, but it was written in German, which makes it impossible for me to read.  I'll try google translate.



I second that. I just placed a preorder for the EM-5, first time I preorder a camera (I would wait for reviews though if you are not in a rush).
Seems to have a good quality sensor, the lenses available are good to very good (and too many reasons to go overboard with the money Wink), it's half the size and volume of a DX system and has some weatherproofing also.
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PeterAit
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« Reply #12 on: March 15, 2012, 08:00:25 PM »
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I cannot say enough good things about the Panasonic 4/3 system, current camera model the G3. The lenses are all Leica glass, I believe, and you get 16 MP images. It does not do well at high ISOs, images are noisy, but for landscape work this should not be a problem. In fact, I am in the process of selling my Nikon D700 kit because it has no image quality advantages over the Panasonic and is much heavier and bulkier. You can see some images at my website (below), the Alaska portfolio was all taken with the previous body, the 12MP G2. Last month I spent a week in Nicaragua and was able to easily tote my G3 kit with 14-600 mm equivalent lenses, negotiating muddy jungle trails that would have been problematic or impossible with the Nikon gear. I find the prints to be highest quality. My take is that sensor technology has advanced to the point where the "superiority" of full-frame sensors is pretty much non-existent (high ISO work excepted).
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Peter
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slowframe
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« Reply #13 on: March 15, 2012, 09:43:01 PM »
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Thank you for the very specific information about prints and lenses.  14-45 covers a good range.  I've read good things about the Olympus 12mm- with that I'd have most of what I shoot completely covered.  Two smallish lenses and smallish camera, that does sound nice!  Just out of curiosity, is there any reason to think, adjusting for focal length, that using some of the better Cosian/Voigtlander lenses in screwmount or M wouldn't produce sharp results?  The edges of the image circle will far overshoot the sensor- can you safely expect good cent sharpness as a result?

I may eventually invest in a bigger camera, but I am interested in seeing what I can get out of a smaller camera. 



I have a complete m4/3 system, to go along with a Canon 5D Mark II and a pair of 1D Mark IV cameras. I use the m4/3 for travel, personal work, and as a walk-around camera. With careful technique, a 16x24 inch print looks very good, and a great 13x19 is easy. (By that I mean using a tripod, careful focusing, etc. - exactly the same careful technique required with any camera.)

Right now we have a GF1, a G1, and a GH2, along with the 14-45, 14-42, 45-200 zooms, and the 14, 20, and 45/1.8 prime lenses. The GF1 and G1 share the same sensor, which is fine at lower ISO values, while the GH2 is a newer and better 16-mp sensor. The 14-45 is quite nice, and is much better in all ways than the 14-42 for still photography. However, the prime lenses - especially the Panny 20/1.7 and the Olympus 45/1.8 - are just simply excellent.

To create a lightweight system that covers the focal lengths you want, I would buy a Panasonic G3 or GH2, or the new Olympus OM-D, and the Panasonic 7-14, and either the 14-45 or the 20 and 45 primes. Which lenses depend on whether you will want to shoot street or portrait or photo-j with them, or just lock it down on a tripod for landscapes. My next purchase is the 7-14 (though I'm pretty sure it won't take filters on the front, which might lead you to the Oly 9-18.) Which camera you want depends entirely on taste - all of them have a built-in EVF, while the Oly has in-body stabilization. I've grown so used to the Panasonic user interface that I would just keep buying those, but of course YMMV.

Good luck. Shooting with the small cameras is fun.
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slowframe
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« Reply #14 on: March 15, 2012, 09:53:25 PM »
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I just had a look at your website; very nice work.  The composition on the Alaskan photo of the green sprig jutting out from some pebbles and stones really caught me eye.

High ISO work isn't a priority to me- not really an issue for landscapes, anyway, as you say.  I'm willing to work some noise in the images at higher ISOs if I need to for other shots.  As with the other replies, this really has me looking forward to getting out.  I'm not likely to make it to the jungles of central America, but even in my more humble excursions, I think I won't miss and extra kilogram or two (or more) of equipment.



I cannot say enough good things about the Panasonic 4/3 system, current camera model the G3. The lenses are all Leica glass, I believe, and you get 16 MP images. It does not do well at high ISOs, images are noisy, but for landscape work this should not be a problem. In fact, I am in the process of selling my Nikon D700 kit because it has no image quality advantages over the Panasonic and is much heavier and bulkier. You can see some images at my website (below), the Alaska portfolio was all taken with the previous body, the 12MP G2. Last month I spent a week in Nicaragua and was able to easily tote my G3 kit with 14-600 mm equivalent lenses, negotiating muddy jungle trails that would have been problematic or impossible with the Nikon gear. I find the prints to be highest quality. My take is that sensor technology has advanced to the point where the "superiority" of full-frame sensors is pretty much non-existent (high ISO work excepted).
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k bennett
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« Reply #15 on: March 16, 2012, 06:42:28 AM »
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Thank you for the very specific information about prints and lenses.  14-45 covers a good range.  I've read good things about the Olympus 12mm- with that I'd have most of what I shoot completely covered. 

Here's another Olympus 12mm review that you might find interesting and possibly helpful. And the same photog's view of the Olympus 45mm lens.

In my own mind, I would get the 7-14/4 over the 12/2 for general landscape and travel work. That's not to say I don't lust after the 12, since most of my personal work is people and documentary.
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scooby70
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« Reply #16 on: March 16, 2012, 07:09:28 AM »
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I cannot say enough good things about the Panasonic 4/3 system... My take is that sensor technology has advanced to the point where the "superiority" of full-frame sensors is pretty much non-existent (high ISO work excepted).

I was recently looking at some on line RAW images taken with various new model cameras at higher ISO's and I compared one of my existing cameras to these new models. Whilst the newer designs produced better higher ISO images I did notice that the example online files from my existing camera looked rather good, and then I spotted that the shutter speeds they'd used for all cameras were into the 1/2000's sec. With such good light levels I'm not surprised that the images looked good but in reality I don't think I'd be using ISO 3200 in such good lighting. If I was using ISO 3200 I'd expect my shutter speed to be considerably less than that, much less than 1/100 with a wide to mid range focal length, surely.

Comparing my own micro four thirds shots to my 5D mk1 I'd say that the 5D is maybe a stop better at ISO 1600 but that my micro four thirds cameras are perfectly usable at that ISO, ISO 3200 being a bit hopeful but usable if you can expose to the right, do some careful processing and don't expect large gallery quality prints.

On the positive side I find that I can hand hold micro four thirds cameras and get usable images at much lower shutter speeds than I can my 5D. With my 5D and a 50mm f1.4 I'd expect my keeper rate to start to drop as I fell below 1/80th sec but with a micro four thirds camera I can hand hold a 25mm at 1/30th or so, in fact I recently got a keeper at 1/15th sec f0.95 and ISO 400. Figures like that go some way to redressing the 5D's superiority at ISO 1600/3200 IMVHO.
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PeterAit
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« Reply #17 on: March 16, 2012, 07:15:42 AM »
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I agree that the Lumix 7-14mm (14-24mm eqiv) is worth a look. I've been using it for a while and the results compare very favorably with the Nikkor 14-24mm.
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Peter
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« Reply #18 on: March 16, 2012, 08:47:34 AM »
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there have been some tests and discussion of screw and m-mount lenses on m4/3 and other mirrorless cameras - photozone, Reid Reviews, Dlloyd.com (the last two subscription), and by Michael.  the long and short of it is that new retrofocus designs work pretty well and older designs not so well because the cover glass on the sensor results in severe chromatic abberation and poor resolution outside the center of the image
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viewfinder
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« Reply #19 on: March 16, 2012, 08:51:56 AM »
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Slowframe,...before you go any further you need to look at a 20x16 inch landscape print from any m4/3 camera.    Expectations and what is acceptable are VERY subjective between photographers.   I use Sony NEX 3 camera to produce 20x16 inch prints and, to my eyes, they are visibly better than those from m4/3.   Some of the m4/3 cameras are very nice and seductive, but you like me, may think that there is no point in using a good camera when there are better ones for the same (or less) money.
« Last Edit: March 16, 2012, 08:54:01 AM by viewfinder » Logged
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