Merry Christmas to All With Some Lumix News
Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Gift Giving, or whatever you celebrate as long as it’s positive to your fellow homo sapiens. I thought I would share some Lumix news snippets for the holiday season including some preliminary tests with the new Leica 200mm with 1.4X and 2X teleconverters and Lumix G9.
Panasonic Image App
First up is the updated Panasonic Image App. It’s a great tool for transferring photos from your Lumix cameras to your phone or tablet. I also use it to shoot some of the videos I do for myself. Like the one below I did for Mike’s Camera promoting my upcoming Denver, Colorado event.
I also use it to transfer images to my iPad when in the field shooting with our NE Explorers on our Invitational Photo Tours to make it easier to show exactly what I’m seeing. They love it! It’s much better than shooting an image and pulling it up on the back of the camera LCD. I find it’s a great teaching tool.
The newest version has support for the GH5 and remote control via Bluetooth only. I’m guessing this feature is to take advantage of the lower power requirements of the newest Bluetooth technology. The app is something I use regularly, and thanks to constant updates by Panasonic each iteration makes the connection process easier and more consistent.
Lumix G9 Still Photographic Beast
I recently received the new Lumix G9—what a fabulous new piece of photographic machinery. The shutter sound is the finest I’ve ever heard on any camera. Obviously, that’s not imperative in the scheme of things, but it just sounds like pure, unadulterated quality! Silky, soft, super quiet, and very smooth. I’m planning a much longer in-depth review after I’ve had more time, but here are a few tidbits I’m loving right out of the gate and below that some things I hope to get used to.
Love These Features
- Smaller than the GH5, slightly larger than the G85
- WB, ISO and +/- Exposure Comp button, best placement of any camera today
- Same battery as GH4 & GH3. It’s a great advantage to keep same batteries across models.
- Ability to charge the battery via USB while in the camera.
- 6.5-stop in-camera image stabilization for shorter lenses
- 20.3-megapixel sensor with no low pass filter
- No blackout between frames even at 20 FPS
- Huge 0.83X (in full-frame camera terms) EVF that has three adjustable settings
- Two UHS-II SDXC card slots. Other cameras only have one that is SDXC UHS-ll. That’s a big deal.
- Better high ISO noise characteristics. I’m seeing about 1 stop improvement. JPEGs look amazing.
- 9FPS AFC with mechanical shutter. 20FPS AFC with electronic shutter
- 60FPS electronic shutter in AFS mode.
- 6K Photo Mode that like the GH5 gives us 18-megapixel stills shot at 30FPS in video mode.
- 80-megapixel high-resolution shot mode. Can’t wait to try this on landscapes in New Zealand.
- Updated and improved DFD (Depth From Defocus) for better tracking of fast moving subjects.
- Bluetooth LE 4.2 and Wi-Fi (5GHz) is also built-in, for connection to smart devices.
Things I’m Trying to Get Used To
- Top LCD panel like I had on my Nikons. Not a huge fan of this change. I prefer the GH5 setup but other reviewers are singing its praises.
- Mode Control Dial on the left side of camera, ontop of the shutter frame dial. Hard to see FPS icons beneath dial with my aging eyes
- On/Off button beneath Shutter Button, just like Nikon’s I used shoot. Muscle memory has learned the GH5 and other Lumix On/Off switch placement and I’m having a heck of a time remembering its position on the G9.
- Buttons on back of camera. Different positions than GH5, GH4, GH3. Hard to get used to
Leica 200mm & 1X & 2X Teleconverters Lens Test Charts
Like the Lumix G9, the new Leica 200mm F/2.8 is absolutely oozing professional grade. It has a buttery smooth aperture ring at the front of the barrel. The manual focus band, made of metal, also has the feel of polished perfection. The build of this lens is one of heft with ultra fine craftsmanship and gives the impression you could use it to crack ice for the celbratory drink you’ll want to enjoy after purchasing such a fine piece of glass. Panasonic is really perfecting their pro lenses and they’ve become impossible to ignore.
The lens incorporates Dual IS capabilities when used with a Lumix body with IBIS and by all accounts, mine included, it’s getting 6.5 stops of Dual IS. In other words, the rule of thumb that states you should use a shutter speed equal to or greater than the lens you’re shooting to get sharp handheld images is out the window. With 6.5 stops of Dual IS you can take that 400mm down to a shutter speed of 1/15th to 1/8th of a second, handheld for goodness grief. This technology is hard to believe.
One thing that becomes pretty obvious is the difference between all the lens combinations relating to vignetting. When you look at the comparison of pictures in Mylio above, you notice there is one—the last image in the lower right corner—that exhibits pretty serious vignetting. That image is from the Leica 100-400mm zoom. Quite frankly this doesn’t surprise me since zooms are always more problematic when it comes to lens vignetting. Thankfully, in real-world shooting situations I’ve almost never noticed this vignetting effect and it’s easily fixed with my favorite RAW conversion software DXO PhotoLab. Lightroom and Luminar 3 also have great vignetting removal tools. Here’s a link to a new article on the use of Luminar 3.
However, sharpness is another issue. From what I can see, the new Leica 200mm F/2.8 is considerably sharper than the Leica 100-400mm. That doesn’t surprise me either. Fixed focal length lenses almost always have an advantage over zooms. What did surprise me is how good the 200mm is with teleconverters. Based on my 57-year-old eyes, the 200mm, when combined with the new Lumix 2X teleconverter, is sharper than the Leica 100-400mm when the 100-400mm is extended out to the 400mm position. That puts both lenses at an equivalent 800mm. That’s pretty amazing and will be welcomed news for those who want the slight light advantage of the 200mm with the 2X telecenter at F/5.6 compared to the 100-400mm at 800m being F/6.3. For those who wish to pixel peep I’ve uploaded originals of all the test images for download. Links to those files are below.
Lens Chart Photos for Download
Just click on the following link: Leica 200mm lens tests. Password: lenstests
Lens Chart Capture Details
All photos of the lens chart were shot with a single Lumix FL580 strobe placed in a Speedbox 70. The single strobe was fired wirelessly using a main flash (Lumix FL360) on-camera as a commander to control the wireless FL580. All frames were shot at the widest opening, since it’s the fast glass we’re all paying for when shooting any of theses lenses. I don’t care what the lens looks like at F/8 since very seldom do I shoot in light that bright. Also, I do these tests with a flash since using stobes eliminates any possibility of softness due to camera shake or movement. With a flash you get as sharp as a lens can get.
Autofocus is FAST!
I haven’t had a chance to really test the AF capabilities of the new camera or lens, but on the day I shot the video for Mike’s Camera, I jumped a small flock of mallards on an open pond. Once airborne the G9 locked on and followed their flight almost perfectly. Below is a screenshot of Mylio showing the thumbnails I’ve rated with with the typical star rating I use for AF tests. 1 star is out of focus. 2 stars is not razor sharp but good enough for Internet or general use. I should mention I never keep any photos rated two stares based on focus. For me it’s either in focus or it’s out. But I do take into consideration images that are close to perfect for all my AF tests. Finally there is the 3 star rating that represents perfect, razor sharp focus.
The first frame is not sharp but all frames thereafter are crisply focused. You can even see water droplets falling from the underside of one duck as he flies off. I would have loved to have the birds flying at me since that’s an even tougher challenge for any AF system, but I’m very encouraged to see the AF accuracy as they made their getaway.
Current RAW Support for Lumix G9
And that’s about it folks. That’s all I’ve got on this beautiful Christmas morning, snow falling outside our window and Andy Williams on Pandora. I hope this finds one and all in great spirits and hopefully surrounded by friends and family.
Please note that I work with Panasonic as a Lumix Luminary. Some may think this will affect my integrity regarding these kinds of reviews. Nothing could be further from the truth. I worked with Nikon, unofficially, for nearly 35 years and I never received a dime. But I did so because I believed in their products. I now feel the same about Panasonic Lumix. Panasonic approached me to become a Luminary almost ten years after first purchasing one of their cameras, the Lumix GF1. Though Panasonic pays me a small stipend annually, no amount of money is worth the trust I’ve established with my readers and people who know me. I feel it’s important for my readers to know my connection to Panasonic so you can decide for yourself.