New Technology To Help Us Take Better Photos

Posted Sep. 5th, 2017 by Daniel J. Cox

Panasonic’s On A Roll

It’s a been a great year so far for Panasonic’s Lumix line of cameras that’s giving us new technology to help us take better photos. Most notably the introduction of the hard to get Lumix GH5 that’s helping me get great birds in flight photos. I’ve been shooting the GH5 now since it was first released, and it’s been a fabulous new tool. Panasonic recently released a couple of videos highlighting some of their most current technology in the GH5. Panasonic General Manager Tsutomu Mori discusses some of those features in more detail in the videos below.

This first video is all about the unique autofocus system they’ve developed known as Depth From Defocus. This is the technology that recently helped me shoot the quick and nimble flying puffins on my recent shoot in Alaska: Birds in Flight. Prior to the GX8, G85, and now the GH5, I was only able to capture birds in flight images like the ones below with my most current Nikons.

Birds in Flight

birds in flight

Horned puffin in flight from my recent shoot in Alaska. Captured with the Lumix GH5 and the Leica 100-400mm set to 300mm (600mm equivalent).

birds in flight

Horned puffin in flight from my recent shoot in Alaska. Captured with the Lumix GH5 and the Leica 100-400mm set to 300mm (600mm equivalent).

Handholding the 800mm Lens

The second video is about the technology behind the Dual IS, meaning the lens has image stabilization built in as well as the body.

Below is photo of a sea otter, once again, shot on my recent trip to Alaska. What’s amazing about this image was that it was

This beautiful, adorable sea otter is a regular site at the island where we photograph puffins. Captured with the GH5 and Leica 100-400mm lens at 400mm. Keep in mind 400mm is an equivalent of an 800mm lens being handheld on a moving boat! Crazy, crazy amazing!

shot at 400mm (800mm equivalent), handheld on a boat in heavy swells. In other words I was bobbing and weaving in a way Muhammad Ali would have been proud of, with the ability to hit my mark like the right hook he knocked Sonny Liston out with on February 25th. 1964.

Here’s a screenshot of the image blown up to 100% in Mylio.

All this and a recent firmware update for the GH5 that is lighting the video world on fire. Matt Frazer, Lumix’s master of video technology, talks about the new firmware update version 2.0 in the video below. I leave this piece for last since most people on my Blog are still photographers and I’m hesitant to be too vocal about the amazing video capabilities the Lumix cameras have. Why? Because the video is so revolutionary on the Lumix cameras that that’s all people hear about, which overshadows the still photo capabilities of the exact same camera/cameras. Make no mistake about it, these cameras do both stills and video exceptionally well.

Would love to hear your thoughts on all of this or if you have any questions about the images you see in this post.

Luminary Disclaimer

In the spirit of complete transparency, I want all my readers to know that I am a Lumix Luminary. That means I get paid a small stipend for writing about a system I absolutely love. That said, I want you all to know there is no amount of money more important than my integrity. Much to the chagrin of my Lumix colleagues, I often point out the bad with the good regarding Lumix technology and their camera gear. My belief is honesty and truthfulness will not just help you, but it also helps a company I love to work with. To that end, it’s full steam ahead telling it like it really is. 

Daniel J. Cox


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There are 11 comments on this post…
  1. Portrait of Ray Hirsch

    Ray HirschOn Sep. 21st, 2017

    Hi Dan,
    I would like your opinion regarding using the 100-400Leica/Pany on an EM-1mkii versus using the same lens on the GH5. Right now the only Lumix body I have is a GX8 since I sold my GH4. I am wondering whether I would see a noticeable difference between the performance of the GH5 versus the EM-1mkii using this lens for birds in flight shooting. The other option would be to buy the Oly 300mm F4 which should perform better on the EM-1mkii, but again I have no idea how superior the GH5 would be in focus accuracy and acquisition time. You are my birds in flight guru, so if you think I would see a significantly better success rate shooting BIF, I will probably go for it. All the best to You and Tanya, and have a great time in Africa.


    • Portrait of Daniel J. Cox

      Daniel J. CoxOn Sep. 21st, 2017

      Hi Ray, You’re question is quite timely since I’m currently working on a Blog post about this very subject. I recently shot a couple of thousand+ photos, of puffins in flight, on my recent trip to Alaska. I shot most of them with the Lumix GH5 and the Leica 100-400mm. I also had the Olympus OM-D EM-1 Markll with the 300mm F/4. Unfortunately, my plan to test them side by side didn’t work out since I shot so many more frames with the GH5 and Leica. I had planned to make it as equal as possible, but weather conditions and puffins not being home, took two days of planned shooting out of the test. Therefore, I concentrated on the Lumix and Leica. That said, I did shoot a little over 300 images with the Olympus which gave me a reasonable idea of what to expect.

      Horned puffin in flight from my recent shoot in Alaska. Captured with the Lumix GH5 and the Leica 100-400mm

      In short, neither camera did nearly as well as I had hoped. Between the two, the Leica and Lumix seemed to do better at birds flying straight at the camera. The Olympus seemed to do better with birds flying broadside to the camera. Not sure why a camera that can do pretty well with a fast moving subject coming straight at it was less effective on a subject that stayed relatively consistent from left to right or vise versa. I haven’t figured out the percentages yet but I can say it’s way below what my D4 would have captured.

      Horned puffin with a beak full of small fish it’s bringing back to it’s chicks in the borrow. Shot with Olympus OM-D EM-1 Markll with Olympus 300mm F/4

      OK, so that’s not the best news but I can tell you that Lumix is working hard on this exact challenge. And compared to the GH4 or any other Lumix camera, the GH5 is far superior for Birds in Flight. The G85 is not far behind it however. Also keep in mind, puffins have to be the most difficult fast moving subject you can shoot. Sure there are some guys on the internet that have been shooting swallows but swallows are hit or miss for ANY system. I don’t want to come off as a bird snob but I choose my subjects based on how appealing the subject is to buy viewers, editors I work with etc. So I work with the colorful (puffins) or eagles or sandhill cranes and geese. The last of these subjects are much slower than puffins and I had great luck with the Leica 100-400mm with the GH4 during my trips to Bosque del Apache where cranes come flying in like B52 bombers.

      Sandhill cranes on flight over Bosque del Apache NWR. Lumix GX8 with Leica Vario-Elmar 100-400mm lens. ISO 320

      Finally, I can’t put my finger on it as to why, but the pictures I’m getting with the GH5 and the Leica 100-400mm are far superior to all the other Lumix cameras I was shooting with before the GH5. The 100-400mm seems to be sharper on the GH5. Why that would be I can’t say. Maybe more accurate AF possibly? All I can tell you is I’m a huge fan of the GH5 and I haven’t even discussed the unbelievable results I’m getting with the 6K Photo Mode. Lumix engineers have much improved both 4K & 6K Photo Mode on the GH5 compared to all the other Lumix cameras. Especially the GH4. It’s super easy to use on the GH5 and the results are stunning.

      Cocoi heron in flight on the Cuiaba River in the Pantanal. Shot in 6K Photo Mode with GH5 and Leica 100-400mm.

      So there you have it. Not much help most likely. I do know many folks using the Leica 100-400mm with the OM-D Markll and if you choose to go that route I’m sure you will be happy. But Panasonic is on a roll and they aren’t standing still. I must say that I was expecting the OM-D Markll to possibly blow the GH5 out of the water, but thankfully that didn’t happen. I was actually surprised how poorly the OM-D did based on the phenomenal hype the AF system got when it was first released. It turns out it’s adequate but I’m sure it will also get better. Let me know if you’re still confused. I would be happy to flip a coin for you?

    • Louis BerkOn Oct. 9th, 2017

      Although I am not even close to being in the same league as Daniel, I too have found that the 100-400 on the GH5 is superior to when I used it on the GX8 for bird photography. In fact, I was on the point of selling my 100-400 before I purchased the GH5 and now I feel I am getting out of the lens what I expect from a Leica-type design. It is not just the faster capture rate – listening to the shutter firing away at 10fps on the GH5 is almost a magical experience (for me!) – but it definitely creates sharper more detailed captures. I may be sticking my neck out here but I have always been able to tell the difference between sensors with an AA filter and those without and I think it does make a difference. I can only assume that two things have improved the performance of the 100-400 on the GH5. Perhaps some kind of firmware update which improves lens performance and secondly – dare I say it – that the issue of shutter-shock, about which I used to be quite dismissive – is now more clearly apparent when comparing the bodies. That said, for the majority of my work, which is urban landscape photography, I am still using my GX8 and mostly 12-35/2.8 because it produces such fine and easy to post-process images. I have two particularly fine bird captures in my blog at my website if you want to see examples.

  2. Dale SOn Sep. 14th, 2017

    2 Years?! I don’t want to wait that long , I just want Panasonic to announce the GX9 in the next 2 weeks.
    I love what the GH5 represents but I don’t need all the advanced video stuff personally, but I would love all the photocentric features + dual card slots, IBIS etc in a more refined GX8 form factor and a lot of fellow GX8 owners are in agreement.

    But every time the topic has come up there’s denial of it’s existence. That’d be unfortunate because the slot in the lineup is wide open for it in the $1200-$1500 range, targeted at people like wedding professionals etc who need the best but can’t justify the extra expense for video features they won’t use.

  3. Louis BerkOn Sep. 8th, 2017

    Interesting point about the quality of stills images. The only camera in truth which has higher IQ than any of the cameras I have ever owned are my Sigma DPxM and Quattro bodies using the Foveon layered technology. But they are difficult beasts to use and are only useful for landscape or still life photography (although I’ve seen good fashion photography but using lots of strobes as you can’t really shoot them above iso100). No other sensor I have seen can beat them for pixel level sharpness – without going into the megabucks medium format backs, which again are limited in what they can do..

    However, back in the real world where content is more important than IQ – where getting the moment may be more important than perfection, then we long ago passed the point where stills cameras needed any more pixels, except perhaps for the kind of cropping which wildlife photography needs. Even then, 20mpx should be enough!

    I’ve put two photos on my Flickr account which I think give an idea of the abilities of the GH5 even if the IQ is not as high as I would like.
    The account can be reached here:

    The first is the swallow photo. That was panned, 300mm, 1/4000, f5.7, iso1250. There is enough detail to provide convincing content and yes, it could be improved but I’m not aiming for a National Georgraphic cover.

    The second is the fox photo, which I’d argue is quite endearing and has received a lot of positive feedback in Facebook groups. In fact, the photo is not very sharp at the 100% level. Nor could it be as it was shot handheld at iso3200 and 1/50 second. But what other camera could achieve that _handheld- at 400mm (800mm with the crop factor considered) in near dusk light.

    Handheld being the operative word. Photography is about opportunity – look at the fantastic photos on film which can never be as sharp as a top of the line modern digital camera. But they are still fantastic to look at. Having a device which can be handheld that gives you the opportunity to gather interesting content is more important to me than absolute perfection.

    Not that I will turn down absolute perfection if Panasonic can deliver that, as you hint, in the future.

    • Portrait of Daniel J. Cox

      Daniel J. CoxOn Sep. 8th, 2017

      Thanks Louis, very interesting and helpful information. Could not agree with you more about content creation at the expense of absolute perfection.

  4. Louis BerkOn Sep. 8th, 2017

    Daniel, it is great that you are preaching about the stills capabilities of the GH5. I bought mine primarily for wildlife, mainly birding but I have used it a couple of time for content creation for a book I’ve just finished. It works flawlessly.
    But back to birds in flight, I captured one of my best bird photos of the summer – a swallow coasting over the surf on a beach on the south coast of England with the GH5, shortly after purchasing it. I’ve also captured a lot of photos of our local fox – many at dusk where the new dual IS is a real boon, especially when hand holding the 100-400. I mainly use the lens at 300mm to take benefit of the f5.7 aperture but it is useful having the extra headroom once you get good focus on a subject. When I pick up the GH5 what goes through my mind is “be careful what you wish for”. I can recall many conversations in photography forums about the need for a pro-body – well it has arrived. But it is a beast compared to the svelte outlines of the GX8. The size is disconcerting at first but I found I soon adapted to it and indeed enjoyed the additional confidence of using a solid, well engineered body. Just my thoughts, hope they are use. The photo of the swallow is currently on the blog at my website and my flickr stream contains some fox photos, as well.

    • Portrait of Daniel J. Cox

      Daniel J. CoxOn Sep. 8th, 2017

      Good to hear from you Louis. I agree with you about the “be careful what you wish for” idea. I also found the GH5 a bit larger than my original desire. But I’ve easily gotten used to it and appreciate the bit larger size that keeps my hand from overwhelming the controls. What many people don’t realize is, it’s the lenses that are the real size and weight benefit. So a slightly larger body is not an issue.

      I appreciate your comment about the positive attributes of the GH5 as a still camera and your enthusiasm for me discussing it. The reason so few people think the GH5 and the GH4 before it are not necessarily still cameras, relates to the unbelievable VIDEO technology Panasonic is producing. To be completely honest here, ALL cameras are near a wall with what can be done for still image capture. But what Panasonic is doing in the video realm is nothing short of virtually impossible and has never been done before. Thus, they get a lot of attention for that feat. Meanwhile, the GH5 shoots stills comparable to the traditional DSLR’s yet little is said since we’re already used to great image quality in still images. What’s going to be really exciting is what’s coming in the next two years. I can’t divulge specifics but I can tell you that it won’t be long and new technology is going to slam the door on the argument, for good, that we need full frame cameras to produce professional results. Lumix and Olympus are already doing that but soon there will be few disbelievers.

      Would love to have you post a link to your web page showing the swallow image. Thanks for stopping by and joining the Natural Exposures online community.

  5. DeanOn Sep. 8th, 2017

    Not impressed with your hand-held GH5, PL 100-400mm sea otter, Why? Because I’ve seen you shoot a Nikon D4/600mm f4 HAND HELD from a 12-foot aluminum boat on the Rio Cuiaba in the Pantanal! You could shoot the Keck II Telescope hand held. You are a human tripod! So, quit showing off! ;0)

    • Portrait of Daniel J. Cox

      Daniel J. CoxOn Sep. 14th, 2017

      It’s true, I used to shoot the Nikon 600mm F/4 hand held but it was never fun or easy. Now we have the Leica 100-400mm (200-800mm equivalent) and Olympus 300mm F/4 (600mm equivalent) that gives us similar or better optics at a fraction of the weight and cost. The ability to shoot these lenses quickly due to their much smaller size and weight is giving me more action images than has been possible in the past. Why? Because I can throw the lens up instantly as action takes place. That wasn’t possible with my 600mm F/4. Below is an example of a Cocoi Heron that jumped up as we drive around the bend on the Cuiaba River jus this morning. This shot would have been just memory had it not been for the small size and weight of the Leica 100-400mm.

      Cocoi Heron flies overhead as we round the bend on the Cuiaba River. Shot with the Lumix GH5 and the Leica 100-400mm zoom.

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