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A Re asessment of the GK and GH Lumix

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  • A Re asessment of the GK and GH Lumix

    I mean all exchangeable lens cameras of Panasonic, following the G1, with the built in EVF. I used the G1, so I leave other G's type users to correct me if some changes have taken place in what I am going to refer.

    "Re assessment" sounds exaggerated. So let's belittle to - my remarks about the line after three weeks of intensive daily shooting. Intensive shooting, some hundred or over, frames per day, day after day, gave me a different perspective about the camera.

    Not a new basic evaluation, but a more critical one. Not everything is honey there, and some basic things could be corrected. Specially if compared to the Powershot line, which is not perfect either. I recall the Powershots and not the APCs, since I consider the Panasonic 10x EVF as a great advantage over the non-10x APCs, with a mirror as a further punishment.

    So let's start my rambling, where my viewpoint is as a street photographer.

    The camera is too light and too small for a steady one hand operation. To overcome this I added a light plastic/metal bracket, whose grip I further filled inside with metal, as to achieve over half a kg for body only. Then it starts to be one-hand steady, and comfortable one hand handling. The grip of the camera gripped with the tip of my fingers, my palm pressing the bracket. Those DSLR beasts which with lens weight a kilo and half, definitely are not for full day street photogs. Unpossible weight for us, possible weight for News Photogs holding the camera here and there.

    Making the G3 smaller and lighter is a clear trend to the more amateurish fellows, although the type of the camera isn't. Who may like such a camera (the G3) stucked in the middle way between a non eyefinder camera and a more pro and bigger integral eyefinder G - let the marketing department of Panasonic solve it, they should know what are they doing.

    Before my trip I asked somewhere at the forum, what area of the EVF frame is blessed with facial detection and got the answer. But I asked the wrong question. It doesn't go by far/near to the frame borders, but by face dimension or distance from the camera. Somewhere between four and five meters from the camera, perhaps more, it will not detect any face with wide primes or zoom at wide angle. This is crucial when you, like me, attach wider primes, giving you smaller faces.

    I took with me a new 14mm prime (legacy 28mm). During the first days I started to feel I waisted the money. Until the night arrived and that extra fraction of stop between it and the zoom definitely made the difference. Night doesn't forgives. This, written on the paper, or on the screen, sounds rare, but under light stress, you pray for each bit of extra light, or extra stop. You are all the times walking at the borders, and you cannot allow your standard zoom slightly and unintentionally moving towards smaller angle and lesser speed.

    Being this the case, wouldn't be smarter to purchase the 20mm/1.7 ? It is up to the taster choice, but by night, walking at the streets, the (legacy) 40mm seems to me more problematic to use because of its focal length, despite its better brightness. Therefore, in retrospective, I truly adapted to the 28mm and I feel I did the right thing for me, even if by chance.

    Besides, I found the 14mm comfortable to carry attached to the camera, for inside housing within a small bag with the detached zoom aside, or below, as your emergency ever fast ready all weather lens.

    But don't be fooled by the pancake prop. You cannot go around with the pancake nude. You have to put a filter to defend the lens. With a filter you will be touching-greasing-dyrting the filter surface and cleaning back all the time. Or you can put a rational metal hood preventing your fingers mess there. A 'rational' hood will double the pancake length, but it will be still compact enough to satisfy your compactness needs.

    For some unclear reason I used to have the left upper button on AFC, plus facial detection for most of the times. Yet if facial or people detection is what I most want, I noticed that by setting the button to AFS you see a series of changing green squares showing where the camera is focusing when faces are far. Meaning that beyond the limits of true automatic people detection (yellow square at the EVF), the camera will tell you at least what is it doing. Not bad.

    What I found great, truly great, was the MF position of the same button with the indigenous lenses of the kit. This position enables you to manually focus at 10X enlargement (!) in order to overcome in-the-middle window glasses, etc. between you and your subject. Great and comfortable. This is part of what EVF is about and the promise it brings for the future. Just remember, unlike me, to reset the button when you don't need MF anymore, as you can continue shooting several "AF" shots until you realize you are in MF at the former distance.

    Another great feature is at the right top button, when you set the little handle to single frame. I don't know what is the combination by which when I set it to single frame, the camera shows you, after firing, the center area enlarged 10x for focusing check.


    This is due to improvement if Panasonic wants to improve the series, not just to compact. Because seldom the central area of the frame is what you focused at all. Obviously at face detection it will not be, and at center square focusing and re-composing, it is not either.

    Here the Poweshots have a better hand. When you display the picture already done, Canon shows you what area you focused at, and you can enlarge and check that area with accurate feeling you have done your job, or not. Panasonic please take note.

    The eyefinder, EVF in our case, is by itself a great great advantage for the street photographer. First, most people, including seasoned photogs who don't know the micro business, think you are working with a film camera, i,e, you are not a serious danger.

    Furthermore, having most of the times the LCD closed, gave me the feeling folks around cannot ask you to show what have you done, if you have pictured them or not. Rather, my frames shows them, when they paid attention to the camera, with a very strange facial mode as if they were asking what this guy is doing. This is not an expression of reluctance, but of doubt.

    The LCD was great for floor level frames.

    I found a definitely problem with the "Q. (quick) Menu" button, on the top right. A street photog (obviously Panasonic has no obligation with us) is not absolutely outdoors or indoors. He/she is alternating swiftly between a street, a shadow, indoors, then a metro with several different inside lights, and vice-versa. Here Canon's Powershots design overpowers with ease the Panasonic G cumbersome and slow light-type menu change. The basic conception of the Quick Menu is for me, wrong - the round around trip should be changed for something faster. Better for Panasonic to swallow their pride, or pay the fine, and copy the Powershots here.

    I have found the battery life acceptable, using no more than 3 batteries for most of the day and night with the camera "on".

    Finally and before my verdict, the diopter adapter is very loose, thus confusing you with no focus, while in fact the diopter wheel has changed position. Next time I will fix somehow the wheel, perhaps with tape.

    Now take into account that all these problems arised to me the first time I went to shoot a lot of frames within a single day. They are not perceived when you use the camera ocassionaly.

    So my verdict is that I would pay a thousand bucks for such a camera, without the video, if it was professionalized more in what I found problematic. Fully silencing the camera shutter will not hurt at all. Having control of the EVF light level would be great, since when overviewing your frames back, the EVF is much better and usefull than doing the job with the lcd. But after some hundred frames reviewed with the EVF bright light, your eye starts to suffer. Not the image quality is for me the first priority to improve in this camera level, nor the high iso race.

    Perhaps the issue is that with the food the hunger comes altogether. But again, I would be ready to pay more, not for video, not for megapixels, but for what Panasonic gave us with genious touch - ergonomics, user advantages and EVF.

    tv/telephone/old toaster. And a computer !