I shot a photography assignment with the Olympus 12-100mm and the GH5 yesterday. Here are a few random observations.
A client I'd done work for ten years ago called me a few weeks back and asked if I could do a photo shoot to replace the images on their website that had been there for over a decade (now that's how to get your money's worth out of a photographer!). When we did the original website it was cool just to have a well designed site and basically the photography was little more than a documentation to prove that the staff existed and that the firm actually had physical offices. Nothing fancy to the photography.
Now so much water has flowed beneath the bridges that photography for a website is a different conversation. The firm still has a central office but it's more of a way station. Most of the executives are working from home or from small, single person, satellite offices that are close to their homes. The client's thoughts about websites have changed as well. Rather than have individual headshots against anonymous backgrounds they wanted to do something much more casual and almost conversational with their people photography. Their business is still a "people" business and they want their people to be visible but they want to be seen as approachable, likable and congenial. Also important was to show their cohesiveness as a team.
I like their out of the box thinking. They asked me (as the assignment) to join their six person executive leadership team for lunch at a new restaurant and to shoot candid images of them at lunch as they talked and laughed and shared a meal together. The client checked with the restaurant and made sure it was okay with them to have me shooting, almost randomly, in their main dining room during a busy lunch. This being Austin, Texas, home of the very idea of laid back, it was no problem.
The restaurant is near downtown and is in a re-purposed power plant facility. It's very cool. There were a couple stories of glass windows and all the furnishings were spare and modern. We wouldn't be lighting anything but I had full license to be as intrusive and
directorial as I needed to be --- at least as far as our group/table was concerned. The close quarters and consideration for the other diners (our table was pretty well separated from everyone else's) meant I needed to pack light and work with a certain social agility and discretion to preserve the general atmosphere. I went back and forth the night before between the Sony A7Rii with a 24-70mm Zeiss lens or the Panasonic GH5 with the new 12-100mm f4.0 Pro zoom on the front. I went with the later. Mostly for the much greater range of focal lengths but also out of sheer curiosity.
Here's what I found after using the camera for a couple of hours and shooting about 500 images:
I worked with the lens wide open at f4.0 for the entire time. The results were wickedly sharp and there was adequate depth of field for every use. When I examined the files in Lightroom I was impressed with the tight, sharp quality to every frame.
While the room was well lit I did need to move people around since the wall of windows created a pretty big difference on faces. People facing the window were never in direct light but the giant wall of indirect light made the people facing it look fabulous while people with their backs to the window were backlit. I worked one side of the table for a while, getting lots of usable shots and then had people switch places. I shot raw and the camera's sensor did a great job of holding detail in the highlights.
In post processing I found that I was easily able to boost shadows to the tremendous degree we have gotten used to getting from Sony sensors. Shooting mostly at 400 ISO I was able to pull up shadows by as much as three stops and not get too much noise in the files.
The lens is interesting. I don't think anyone would every complain about the biting sharpness and effective contrast snap of this lens but the one area I'm still getting used to is overall handling. The zoom ring goes in the opposite direction from what I'm used to and I keep going wide when I wanted to zoom tight, and vice versa. The lens is big and heavy but then so is the GH5 body. They are mostly a good pair when used together.
I played with the mechanically connected manual focusing for a while and it felt existentially good to have access to a "real" manual focus capability but, in all honesty, the camera and lens focus so quickly and with such accuracy that I soon tired of trying to do everything myself and just defaulted to AF.
I was very happy to have made the camera and lens choice I did because I loved using the long half of the focal range to punch in and isolate faces and gestures. Had I chosen the other system I would have wanted to supplement the 24-70mm lens with the much heavier and more cumbersome 70-200mm f4.0 G lens I have.
I can't give you exact measures and I know that Panasonic's dual focus capability doesn't work with non-Panasonic lenses but I was more than happy with the very, very good image stabilization I got from the lens. It really was quite magnificent and, I think that since all Olympus bodies have come with great I.S. for some time the internal I.S. of this lens must have struck engineers as a better method or....they may have wanted to ensure maximum performance even when using bodies that didn't have I.S. Either that or they wanted to ensure maximum flexibility when used with Panasonic cameras. Better to be able to sell well into two markets instead of just one.
Regardless, I was able to handhold non-moving subjects all the way down to 1/15th of a second, even with middling focal lengths. I didn't go further in my exploration as f4.0 usually got me what I needed at 1/100th or 1/125th of a second. If I needed more light I "rode" the ISO us as high as 1,000, if necessary.
Even with the mechanical shutter enabled the camera is nicely quiet and acoustically discreet. The finder is wonderful and the EVF is comforting and crisp.
There is one more problem with the lens that I haven't mentioned yet, but this may affect me more than you. Once I saw just how good the images were both from the camera's sensor and the lens I couldn't help but start looking at more of the Olympus Pro lenses. The one that is currently burrowing into the acquisitive areas of my brain tissue is the 25mm f1.2. For only $1200 US I could be the owner of yet another........normal focal length lens. Ah, the two ends of the spectrum ---- for the $69 7Artisans 25mm f1.7 to the Olympus Pro 25mm in the space of a week. What an odd universe in which I seem to live.
(one bit of relief when considering a $1200 normal lens is to watch my Leica toting friends drop multiples more on Apo Summicrons for their darling little cameras. It's all relative, yes?).
To sum up. I love the performance I've gotten from the lens and sensor combo. I love the camera's handling and feature set. I'm getting comfortable with the lens. From 500+ frames I've edited down to 350 to show the client. Not a bad ratio. My lunch at Boiler 9 (at the Seaholm Power Plant project) was good and fun. I hope this style of assignment catches on. I'll never go hungry.
In other notes: I am currently reading the novel, Prussian Blue, by Philip Kerr and finding it to be a wonderful read. A detective in Hitler's pre-WW2 Bavaria uncovering massive fraud and theft. The parallels are dizzying. If you like history and smart detective stories this one is in the same hallowed pantheon as the novels of Ian Rankin. Can't put it down. It's even slowed me down from going off to "look" at that new Olympus lens that's currently in stock locally...... Summer is for reading novels!