11.20.2013

Kirk's Krazy Kameras of the Year. What I like. What I want and what I used.

From "Janis" at Zach Theatre. Newly Antiquated Sony FF Camera.

If you've read the blog for any length of time you'll know that I love to try out new cameras but I have strong prejudices about what constitutes a "good" camera and the metrics I use to determine what "good" means don't always have direct connections to a camera's technical specs or DXO-type ratings. I also value a camera with personality, simplicity and understandable design----inside and out. I buy them and test them. I sell the ones I don't like. I borrow cameras from friends and from camera makers and I test them and give them back. Turn offs? Crappy sounding shutters, Impenetrable menus, Stuff that gets in the way of taking pictures. Turn ons? Eccentric design and great usability. Total turn offs: GPS as a lauded feature. NFC in cameras.....as in: "let's just bang this sh*t together and maybe they'll share."

Learning how to use new cameras and their sometimes insanely designed menus and buttons can keep your brain fresh and quick---just like doing tough crossword puzzles. One of my friends took me to task for learning new camera stuff and insisted I would be better off just mastering one solid camera for a long time. But that seems to me like doing the same crossword puzzle over and over again. Where's the challenge there? (Yes, dear literal reader, I know the challenge is really in taking the images....).

As we're in the fourth quarter of what seems to be a fast moving year I thought I'd take a moment to talk briefly about the cameras that hit my radar this year. The wacky ones, the solid ones and the one's I want to buy.  The ones I'm very tired of hearing about, etc. First up is a camera I spent a lot of time with over the last three months...

I consider the Samsung Galaxy NX camera to fall into the "wacky" camp. I've been using a pre-production (tester) model which I sent back a week ago but I'm waiting for a finished, selling version to hit my doorstep this week or next. If you haven't read about it yet it's a product that is soooooo aimed at people who are intrigued/consumed by the idea of being connected that it's unreal. As a camera-only the interface is so foreign to me. All touch screen and very few buttons. While it's nice to have a huge screen on the back for some stuff I'd much prefer that the EVF be the primary viewing portal and I wish that the Samsungers had put more resources into the EVF.  Here's my quick take on the camera as it existed for me. The sensor is very nice, generates very good files and it's pretty much like the one in the NX 300 which is a camera I like. The lenses are very competitive and some, like the 60mm macro (which I have also returned) are exemplary. But I actually don't enjoy being connected all the time and I'll confess that I used the camera as a camera a lot in the "airplane" mode. I did use some of the connectivity features such as the wi-fi capability to send a few images out and to test on locations but really, I kept the camera in the "airplane" mode for most of the time I used it. Probably says more about my age and work experience than anything else but I want the camera to pay attention while we're photographing and not be absentmindedly downloading some new update for the copy of Angry Birds I loaded in a moment of weakness which I am now unable to trash.

I'm not in the target market for endless connection. I can imagine some people find the ability to shoot, connect and do just about everything on the go enchanting. This camera may be their dream machine. I dread sitting behind them in the darkened theater as they surreptitiously attempt to check their e-mails and surf the web during a live performance.....on a super bright, five inch screen. What's a five inch screen really good for? It's a hell of a lot of fun in the studio.


The Samsung Ultra-Connected Camera has Launched at Amazon.com

If you think GPS, Facebook, Instagram and Tumblr are as valuable as oxygen you might want to consider this camera. If you are into pure photography and want a Samsung......I'd get an NX 300. Put the left over cash into a 60mm macro.... and the 30mm.

What is my current crush? My unrequited infatuation?



The Panasonic G6 is perfectly priced and insanely full featured

To be honest, while I've looked longingly at the Leica Vario X and thought about the Sony RX1, the smaller camera that has my finger hovering over the "buy with one click" key for the past week and one half has been the Panasonic G6. I wasn't the least bit interested until I handled one first hand at the show in New York last month. The camera is small, light, perfectly grippable and darling. While we all have different ideas about what constitutes good camera design I come down on the design side that calls for haptic nirvana---even at the cost of retro trendiness. The basic design reminds me of the Leica S2 and all the controls seem to be where I want them to be. According to several video websites the camera just flat out kicks the butts of most (much more expensive) DSLR implementations out there.

The 16 megapixel sensor is the same one as on the GH2 but the processing electronics are much faster. There's a wickedly good (almost as good as the Sonys) EVF and the camera has focus peaking, microphone input with manual sound controls, all for a whopping $598.  And that includes a new version of their kit lens which is (according to the lens testers) vastly improved.

If I were smart I'd go click that link now because every time I write something like this (hello Pentax K-01.....) the prices jump back up to wherever they were when I couldn't afford the product. And when I pause I lose.

Speaking of the Pentax K-01....



The Pentax K-01 is the coolest Clown Camera with the highest performance

I bought a Pentax K-01 this year on a lark. The camera shop had a used yellow one sitting on a shelf and I made them an offer they decided not to refuse. I walked out of the store with the whole package for less than the price of a lens. And now I'm really glad I took the leap. The camera is as slow and loud to focus as anyone has ever described it. And I still don't like having to do all my framing on an LCD screen.... But generally all is forgiven when I look at the images that come out of the camera. They are great. Thick and rich files that have colors which seem to go on forever and ever.

And I've gotten past both the raucous focus noise and the lack of an EVF. I use the lenses in MF to take advantage of Pentax's focus peaking feature (yes. it's silent and works perfectly). I use a Hoodman Loupe of my new Darth Vadar loupe for viewing.


I've enjoyed shooting the camera so much that I bought a brand new black and silver version to go with the yellow one. It's for those times when we're going formal....

My continuing work fascination with Panasonic. The country cousin of the Olympus clan...

Let's just be frank. The little cameras are good picture takers but the full frame cameras do straight forward work in the still rodeo very, very well. I love the a99 and think it's better than a GH3 right up until I switch work modes from still-o-graphy to video. Then the GH3, for almost a third the price, comes along and just kicks the Sony camera's butt in an embarrassing and thorough way. I know. I have both.


Panasonic take the title as best video production camera under $1,000. (And it's a really good photography tool as well!).  It's a GH3

I've now used the GH3 on remote locations as the primary camera in an annual report shoot and also in makeshift portrait studios in corporate offices and its still photography chops are really good. The files take direction well in Photoshop and the camera shoots under most lighting conditions with grace. But when we switch modes to motion and do an interview it just sits up and shines. I bought two last month, brand new, from a bricks and mortar retail camera store for $998 a piece. Will they make it past client snobbishness? They already passed muster with a big, east coast production company....

The files are big, less compressed than most of their competitors and the camera just flat out works for video. I'm hooked. I'm using it as a primary system and using the Sonys when I need narrow DOF or very high ISO work.  And that big frame in the Sonys still knocks it out of the park for most AD's.

I try to pay attention to cameras with moving mirrors but it's hard to maintain focus. Bazinga.



I played with a Canon 6D and think it may be one of the nicest full frame cameras out now at a decent price. And it focuses rings around the new Sony a7's....

So. I'm not a big fan anymore of cameras that don't have EVFs but if I had to make an exception or, if I wanted a full frame DSLR that focused faster than anything in the mirror less space with moving targets I'd probably go with the 6D. The image quality is pretty much on par with all the more expensive FF cameras with the possible exception of a tripod mounted Nikon D800. The camera is small enough, light enough and unencumbered with a bunch of extraneous stuff.  But I've used one several times and everything is where it should be. I owned that 24-105 lens and that, coupled with a longer lens is all most people would need for a dandy career of shooting social stuff and general commercial work.  It's the camera and lens combination I'd probably be using if I wanted high quality and I was a confirmed minimalist. Don't know why I like this body so much but it's cheap and one of the better feeling cameras in the full frame pantheon. And the shutter sounds so much better than the Sony A7r's....

Sometimes it is all about the lens. This is the first one I re-bought when I stumbled back into the Panasonic world. It's sharp and flaw free. It's also fast. I wish it had image stabilization but you can't always get (exactly) what you want...




Here's a lens I've bought twice now. It may be the best of the m4:3 lenses. At least at the most usable focal length....

The focal length is a 50mm equivalent and that resonates for me since I was brought up shooting normal lenses on 35mm cameras. If I want to go a little wider and keep that amazingly sharp look I'd be looking into the 15mm as soon as it hits the market...


Lofty Dream Cameras? There's one on my list...


My friend, Paul, recently sold both his Hasselblad HD-4  and HD-3 cameras and most of his Hblad lenses in order to buy what he considers to be the best of the medium format cameras, the 37 megapixel Leica S2. I'm pretty much in agreement with him although we differ over preferred lens sets. He's an architectural shooter so he's rounding up wide angles and having amazing glass adapted to the S mount. I'd be happy with a 70mm, the 120mm and the 180mm. And I'd also like to drive a small Bentley....But it's always good to have an aspirational tool in the back of your mind. Maybe after I put the kid through college I'll move something like this to the front of my mind. And yes, it's a different look than that which you would get from a D800. But I would swallow hard before I dropped the $ 27K on a new one.

Many of us are in pause mode now with cameras. If you own one of the newer ones you are probably coming to grips with the idea that there's not much more improvement to be had. That said, there's always room for lens improvement. These are the two lenses that are on my radar right now.....

Heart Throb lenses for regular cameras. The Sigma Art Series 35mm and 85mm...

Cameras I am tired of hearing about no matter how good they may be. Everyone loves them. Everyone has them. They are like the Kardashians of cameras.... The D800. Yes, we know. Awesome, awesome sharpness...especially on a tripod. Kinda like the Brooks Bros. suit of 35mm style cameras. The Olympus OMDs....will everyone end up driving the same Mini Cooper? Do they have a Berlitz guide out for the menu yet? The Nikon Df.  I'm sure it will make great images....if anyone uses it for something besides photo vest bling. Price to value ratio?  I'd give it a D or an f...

More to follow as I remember more and more of the stuff I used this year and went.....sigh.




20 comments:

Peter F. said...

Hi Kirk, Another fun read. That G6 with the new Pany 14-140 would be a nice combo,don't you think?

Did you dump your Sony NEX's?

Peter F

John Hall said...

"If you've read the blog for any length of time you'll know that I love to try out new cameras..."
Kirk, that has to be the understatement of the year. Here's to another year of VSL; cheers!
John

Unknown said...

"Price to value ratio? I'd give it a D or an f..." Excellent comment, but it is a camera I would enjoy if it was priced better.

Anonymous said...

I have an OMD E-M5 and your right about the sucky menu. As long as I set and forget, the camera works great. Maybe someday Olympus might borrow the menu system from the sony alphas now that Olympus and Sony are joined together. that would turn a good camera into a much, much nicer camera.

Michael R.

Claire said...

Well, well. I won't comment -again- on the NX cameras, we both know what I think of them. The K-01s look like a ton of fun. I'm still not personally convinced by the m4/3 thingy, but if it floats your boat at the moment, that's great, and yes I hear for video they're just king of the hill. I would imagine at some point you'll just HAVE to play with an A7 ;)

Anonymous said...

Canon 6D with the new Canon EF 35mm f/2 USM IS is a fine combo.
http://www.photozone.de/canon_eos_ff/847-canon35f2isff

Anonymous said...

I'd give the Sony A7's a chance.

Huge FF splendour and with a metabones adaptor you get as much lens swapping fun as you do with M4/3rds.

You just need to get past the sound of the shutter.

I think it is worth it..

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the mini-reviews. Does anyone know if any other Pentax cameras have the same picture quality as the K-01?

I don't have the talent to shoot with the K01, but the K3 might compensate for my errors a little better.

- Dave H.

STEVE WILLARD said...

I like my little Lumix G3. If only they would use DNG for raw like Pentax.

STEVE WILLARD said...

Why won't Panasonic adopt DNG instead of the silly Silkypix. It would make things so much simpler.

Michael Matthews said...

Looking forward to a review or any detailed posting on handling the G6 which includes setup. I figure 98% of it will apply to my closeout G5.

That's an excellent photo atop this entry as it shows up in Google+. It should lure in a ton of fresh, new readers.

mshafik said...

That was an amusing read, but now you've got me confused again, at first you draw my attention to the G6, and the more I read about I like it. Then on the same day I was about to click the "buy" button you catch me with a "don't buy the G6, it has an old sensor", so I don't.

And now you make me want to buy it again, what do I do? :-(

Kirk Tuck said...

mshafik, Glad you asked me that. I meant to circle back to you on our previous conversation and update. My original understanding was that the chip was the same one as in the G3 and G5 and while it may be very similar I have subsequently read a bit more. It's the same basic chip as the GH2 which was a great video chip and in the previous use a so-so Jpeg chip. The G6 has much faster and more evolved processing which may be as important as the physical properties of the sensor itself. So, even if it is the same sensor as the GH2 the camera can now do much more extensive processing in the same time frame which should mean better files out. We'll see. I've requested one from Panasonic for some longer term testing and I'll produce a review of it specifically with that performance in mind. Although.....knowing how impatient I can be I may just pick one up and do it sooner... Thanks for keeping me on track!

Ken said...

Kirk,mI'mmused to your camera 'explorations' by now and actually enjoy them. The GH3 and GX7 have entered my field of view and I'm curious what you DON'T like about the GH3? Thanks for the ever interesting reads.

Anonymous said...

m43 has enough going for it to float along for some time. the lens mount, image circle, and sensor size are matched very well. The sony A7/r are examples where the mount and so on are not quite matched so that special optical techiques are required such as offset microlenses. Quite a few blogs are showing that on the new Sonys, anything wider than 35m starts to have problems with the steep light angle to the sensor. Its great that many lenses can be adapted to the new Sonys, but looks like new wide angle lens designs will be required to take better advantage of the FF sensors.

I'm just an advanced snap shooter, so for me, m43 was a very good trade off in size, weight, and IQ vs APC and FF. I wanted a camera to carry with me most of the time. also with Olympus, the in body stablization was an important factor in buying into m43.

Kirk, I'm envious. You get to use so many cameras, lenses, and accessories. A big reason I read your blog is because you post your views of what you use.

Michael R

James Pilcher said...

Hello Kirk,

What ever happened to Ripe Camera? Did I miss the memo? It seems to me that this post is "ripe" for that new venture you started in October.

As always, your posted an excellent article in this 2013 summary. By the way, how is the video on the S2? (smile)

j said...

I have lusted after the S2 for some time now. I like to turn around sayings. Anytime a friend of mine gets a new car, I say, "You could have gotten a pretty nice camera for what you paid for that car." I am thinking of the S2.

atmtx said...

Kirk,

I like my Canon 6D and have had some success with it. I share your recommendation as a good, relatively inexpensive, full frame camera.

I also agree that I enjoy the mirrorless cameras a heck of a lot more.

mshafik said...

Thanks for the feedback Kirk, much appreciated, I'll be waiting to hear about the G6 in how it compares to the GH3 in video. I saw a few video comparisons on Vimeo and it was almost as good as, in good light.

I even downloaded a few RAW files including high ISO to see how they worked in lightroom, and I was impressed, it's not best in class, but it is at least 80% as good.

Please keep the posts coming, I enjoy reading your thoughts.

Anonymous said...

Since several folks have questions about the G6, here's what I learned from renting one for a few days during the summer:

- Video is fantastic. At 24mbps AVCHD the output was hard to distinguish from that of the GH3 (which I'd also rented), which is very high praise. The G6 doesn't support higher bitrates or straight to .mov file recording like the GH3, but unless you're a pro I think the G6's video ought to be good enough for just about anyone (and it may even be good enough for a lot of professional work). In the mirrorless world it absolutely trounces the Olys and is a definite step above the Sony NEX-6 and -7.

- The story on stills isn't as rosy. At low ISO settings it's pretty good, better than my old GH1 but not quite as good as the GH3, EM5 or an NEX-6. At higher ISOs the "old" sensor betrays its presence -- at ISO 3200, the amount of color noise and loss of dynamic range was very similar to the GH1 (and well behind the cameras with recent Sony sensors). If it hadn't been for the poor low light performance, I would have bought the G6 rather than the NEX-6 I ended up getting.