The Changing World of Still Photography

Posted Mar. 27th, 2010 by Daniel J. Cox

A couple of months ago a good friend and frequent Natural Exposures Photo Adventure traveler Leon Soriano introduced me to the amazing new Panasonic Lumix camera called the GF1. It’s part of the  Micro Four Thirds system created by Panasonic and Olympus back in August 2008. It’s all a part of the quest to make still cameras smaller, as well as merge the world of still and video capture. I’ve been waiting for my favorite camera company, Nikon, to do something in the small point and shoot department similar to the GF1 but alas it hasn’t happened. So for the time being I’m using this new, spectacular little image capturing device. Take a look at our recent Africa video. All of the people scenes were shot with the GF1.

One of its main attractions is its size. It’s bigger than a point and shoot but 1/4 the size of my normal digital SLR’s. It shoots RAW files from a 12-megapixel chip. It takes an amazing range of lenses including 7-14mm, 14-45mm, 45-200mm, 20mm 1.7, and many more to come. Keep in mind that due to the 4:3 system you have to multiply all the lens ranges by two. So the 7-14 is actually a 14-28mm in 35mm SLR format terms. One of the most notable attributes is that Micro Four Thirds system lenses and bodies will all interchange with each other. What this means is if Olympus builds a better, faster super wide lens such as a 24mm F/2, I can buy that lens and put it on my Panasonic. If it’s a Micro Four Thirds lens it retains all the built-in lens functions such as AF, etc. If I have the Micro Four Thirds system from Olympus with a host of lenses and Panasonic comes out with an amazing new body that shoots stunning files in low light, I just buy the Olympus and all my Panasonic lenses are good to go. It’s a phenomenal way to keep the value in your camera system.

gf1The other most used feature I’ve come to appreciate is the option of shooting HD video. Some users are disappointed in the fact it’s only 720p HD video, but for me that’s not an issue. I wouldn’t mind having 1080p, but for the majority of the projects I shoot 720p is plenty. Most of my video work is posted to the web, on computer screens and the like. Even on a large flat panel TV, 720p is still quite astounding. The GF1 retains its ability to autofocus even while shooting, unlike the recent digital SLR’s that have shown up on the market incorporating video into the bodies. I can’t say enough about this new camera format.

The one caveat to all of the above is the fact that Panasonic could use some pointers from the likes of Nikon when it comes to the buttons, dials, and extra doodads that all digital cameras must have. I’ve been shooting Nikons nearly my entire career, with the exception of a short six-month stint shooting both Nikon and Canon back in 1996. It was then that the superior ergonomics and handling of the Nikon system made me decide not to make a complete switch. I was tempted, but a fast-handling camera is as important as quick AF, superior files, etc. Panasonic needs a hand in developing this end of their camera line. Other than that it’s a superb still/video story telling machine that I’m using every single day. I love this camera.

Read a review of the GF1 on DP REview

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There are 2 comments on this post…
  1. Stacy KellenbergerOn Jul. 1st, 2010

    Hi Dan, I was hoping you could give me some advice. I had the pleasure of attending The Everglades Trek Dec. 2009, it was really a great experience. Your a great teacher. 
    I really want a new lens, I  have a nikon 55-200 VR and a sigma 70-300mm (don’t think the sigma seems very sharp & then sometimes I think it’s operated error). I am looking at the nikon 80-400mm Vr and the sigma 150-500mm. I think I’ve talked myself out of the sigma and have read lots and lots of reviews on the nikon. Mostly great, some say it’s auto focus us slow and you can’t use the nikon teleconverters with it?   I basically 
    want it because as you know it’s never close
     enough. I end up cropping just about everything in the computer. So I just want a little more reach and sharp crisp images.   I like to photograph birds, nature and just about everyting actually. Unfortunately I can’t afford the 200-400mm nikon. The camera bodies I have are the D80 & D200. So I was wondering if you think this would be a good addition to what I have or  should I wait and keep saving forever. LoL
    Any advice on lenses would be greatly appreciated. 
    Or my other choice I’ve been mulling around is getting the nikon micro 105mm ( like macro too! ) and a really sturdy great tripod ( I know if I get a bigger lens I still need a good quality sturdy tripod). So any recommendations on that would be great to.

    Thanks for your time,  
    Stacy Kellenberger   

    Sent from my iPod

    Sent from my iPod

    • Portrait of Daniel J. Cox

      danieljcoxOn Jul. 2nd, 2010

      Stacy, Great to hear from you. Sounds like you have been doing your research and I agree with everything you mentioned as potential issues with the Nikon 80-400mm lens. It is in fact very slow to focus compared to other lenses that have the motor built into the lens itself. The 80-400 is shaft driven and is powered by a motor in the camera. It’s also true that you can’t use a teleconverter with it. So those are two downsides. Unfortunately, I have little or no experience with the Sigma lens you mentioned but I have had people on my workshops that seem to like it. As far as the 80-400 goes I’m hopeful that Nikon may soon be planning to update that lens and in a perfect world they may improve the issues it now has. Who knows when this may happen but it is something that has been rumored for quite some time. Photokina, the largest photo trade show in the world is taking place this fall and we may see some new lenses announced at that time. You also mention the 200-400 which is my main workhorse wildlife lens and it really is a worth the extra money if you can afford it. However, I know that’s not always the case, especially if you are doing this for fun or just a hobby. If it were me I would hold out until this fall after Photokina and then I would most likely go for the 80-400 whether it’s a new version or the same old lens. This is the biggest hole in Nikon’s lineup and I always have a difficult time making recommendations when it comes to this lens. One other possibility you might want to consider is the 70-200 with a 1.7 teleconverter. That lens combination on a D80 or D200 will give you a 510mm. lens. The 80-200 has the motor built into the lens and is rocket fast. This setup will cost more than the 80-400 but much less than the 200-400. Hope that helps and thanks for getting in touch.

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