Sunday, 24 November 2013

Focus breathing with Leica 25mm f/1.4

The Lumix G 20mm f/1.7 is a classic M4/3 lens in the true sense of the word: It was the first prime lens offered by Panasonic. And it was very successful, due to the small size and the impressive sharpness.

However, it has a flaw: The focus mechanism is the old style which moves the whole lens assembly back and forth. This is slow and noisy. Modern cameras like the Panasonic GH3 overcome the slowness quite well, making the lens more usable even for autofocus during video. It still fair to say that it is a slow focusing lens.



Leica Summilux 25mm f/1.4 and Lumix G 20mm f/1.7

The Leica Summilux 25mm f/1.4 is a more recent lens with a promise to fix this: It has the more modern internal focus design. This means that only one lens group moves inside the lens when focusing. This is much faster, and generates less noise. Plus, it makes the lens more solid, as it has no moving parts on the outside.

But, can you believe it, there is a snag anyway. The internal focus design has a drawback: It causes the focus breathing effect. This means that the focal length changes as the focus distance changes.

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Overview of Olympus cameras

Following up my overview of Panasonic cameras, here is a presentation of the Olympus cameras, with a summary of their main features and differences.

While Panasonic released the very first Micro Four Thirds camera, the Lumix G1, back in 2008, it was Olympus who first made a real impact with their retro styled E-P1. Olympus have always drawn on their legacy by calling their compact M4/3 cameras "PENs", referring to the Olympus Pen half frame cameras from the 1960's and onwards. Also, their SLR styled cameras are called "OM-D", referring to the compact, reliable and successful series of film based Olympus OM SLR cameras from the 1970's.

These two lines of cameras make up their current offerings:

CameraOlympus OM-D E-M1Olympus OM-D E-M5Olympus PEN E-P5Olympus PEN E-PL5Olympus PEN E-PM2
Price$1500$1000$1000$600$400
AnnouncedSep 10th, 2013Feb 8th, 2012May 10th, 2013Sep 17th, 2012Sep 17th, 2012
Dimensions130 × 97 × 63mm122 × 89 × 43mm122 × 69 × 37mm111 × 64 × 38mm110 × 64 × 34mm
Weight497g425g420g325g269g
StyleSLRSLRCompactCompactCompact
EVFYesYesOptionalOptionalOptional
Tilt LCDYesYesYesYesNo
PDAFYesNoNoNoNo
Focus peakingYesNoYesNoNo
Built in flashNoNoYesNoNo
In a nutshellWeatherproof, pro ergonomics, 4/3 lens compatabilityWeatherproof, retro designEnthusiast friendly, but expensiveCompact, useful featuresVery compact, more stripped of features
Body

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Is the Leica 25mm a portrait lens?

Portrait lenses have traditionally had a focal length of around 85mm on the classic 135 film format. On a Four Thirds sensor, that corresponds to about 42mm, which explains why most kit zoom lenses stop at 42mm.

In addition to the focal length, though, the portrait lenses typically also have a fast aperture, at least f/1.8. The Olympus 45mm f/1.8 comes very close, and is in fact the first real portrait lens for Micro Four Thirds. It is a very good lens, and at an affordable price.

However, some may want an even faster aperture, for better background blur and bokeh. So it may be tempting to turn to the Leica 25mm f/1.4. After all, it is currently the fastest (in terms of aperture) autofocus capable Micro Four Thirds lens.



To test how these lenses perform as portrait lenses, I have tried to photograph a static face, a statue. The statue has natural proportions, i.e., the size of the head is the same as for a genuine human. I focused on the eyes, which is the common thing to do for portraits. Here they are:

Olympus 45mm f/1.8 at f/1.8, focus distance about 1m, 3 feetLeica 25mm f/1.4 at f/1.4, focus distance about 0.6m, 2 feet

To better see the differences, I have superimposed both images into one animated GIF:


What we see here is that at 25mm, and at a closer focus distance, the face becomes distorted: The chin and nose looks bigger, and the eyebrows look a bit asymmetric.

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Review: Porsche Design Mikado Pen

This article deviates from what I normally write, since it is not primarily about photography. However, I have included some details about photography here as well. For example, methods for product photography, and the effects of diffraction. If you are mostly interested in photo, you could skip to these section at the end of the article.

It is quite common to see owners of high value brand names to licence them out to other manufacturers. From photography, one of the most common examples is Leica. They are allowing Panasonic to produce cameras and lenses with the Leica brand name. This helps Panasonic sell more photographic equipment, while allowing Leica to capitalize on their brand name. Everybody wins. See the Panasonic Leica 25mm f/1.4 below as an example of Leica branding of premium Panasonic lenses:



In the premium car world, we see the same with many high end brands. For example, Ferrari is licensing their name to toys, electronic products, clothes and more. This surely generates a lot of short term profit for them, but risks lessening the perceived value of their brand.

Porsche is doing the same with their Porsche Design series. However, unlike Ferrari, they are mostly putting out high quality premium items. One example is their pen series, which is produced by Faber-Castell.

Friday, 1 November 2013

Overview of Panasonic cameras

It was Panasonic who released the very first Micro Four Thirds camera, the Lumix G1, back in 2008. While it was a very ergonomic camera with photography oriented functions and one of the best kit zoom lenses in its class, it never made much impact. It was not until Olympus released the retro looking E-P1 that the format took off.

Since this time, they have released a number of cameras. Here is an overview of the current models.

CameraLumix GH3Lumix G6Lumix GX7Lumix GM1Lumix GF6
Price$1000$600$900$750$500
AnnouncedSep 17th, 2012April 24th, 2013Aug 1st, 2013Oct 17th, 2013April 9th, 2013
Dimensions133 × 93 × 82mm122 × 85 × 71mm123 × 71 v 55mm99 × 55 × 30mm111 × 65 × 38mm
Weight550g390g402g204g323g
StyleSLRCompact SLRRangefinderCompactCompact
EVFYesYesYes, tiltingNoNo
Tilt LCDArticulatedArticulatedTiltingNoTilting
Flash hotshoeYesYesYesNoNo
Focus peakingNoYesYesYesYes
IBISNoNoYesNoNo
In a nutshellWeatherproof, pro ergonomics, the best videoCompact, value for money, good on featuresRetro rangefinder styleVery compact, retry styleCompact, enthusiast friendly
Body