11.07.2017

My favorite "point and shoot" camera is also a "serious" camera.

I think we can pretty much agree that the traditional "point and shoot" camera is nearly extinct. The all-in-one configuration that, in days of film, were mostly 35mm cameras with fixed mid-range zoom lenses and optical finders  set up in the rangefinder style. The reason they were popular was a combination of convenience and, surprisingly, image quality. The lenses rarely got fancy and stayed in a focal range and speed that made designing and manufacturing easy. The large size of the 35mm film was also a benefit and the "noise" profiles of the "camera files" could be improved in seconds by loading whatever the latest, best fast film of the day happened to be.

So, why did the "point and shoot" start its decline and then fall off the map in the recent days of digital photography? I think that's a pretty easy question to answer: The bulk of the digital point and shoot cameras used tiny, tiny sensors that were far worse than film in anything other than blazing daylight. Then there was the race for longer and wider zoom lenses which led to an actual decrease in optical quality that even a rank consumer could gauge. Finally, the screens on the backs of the basic point and shoots were mediocre while the early EVFs were atrocious. The real question might be: Why would anyone buy one of these cameras in the first place?

There were always exceptions to the sallow picture I've painted in the previous paragraph. The Sony RX100 series. The Panasonic LX series and even, to a certain extent, the likable Canon G series (at least the 9 and 10). But for the most part the digital equivalent of the film point and shoot was a miserable product.

At the high end it's been replaced by cameras like the Sony RX1 line, the Fuji X-100s and a few others.

It seems to me that the true replacements to the point and shoot cameras we used to love are the new entry level cameras from the mirrorless camera makers. The one I gravitated toward is the G85 but it is similar to the Olympus EM10iii and even the Fujifilm XE-3. If you want a true point and shoot you'll probably gravitate toward the Sony RX100V but I wanted a few more things that the Sony doesn't provide.

I wanted enough grip space to be able to handle the camera comfortably in the same way that I hold and use my cameras when working professionally. I wanted a camera with interchangeable lenses that would allow me to play with older lenses but also access all the new stuff I'd bought for the GH5s. I also wanted a camera that would share my existing cache of batteries that I use with the FZ2500.

That led me to the G85.

The camera is a micro four thirds model. It's set up like a traditional DSLR, with a vestigial pentaprism hump and all the basic design cues. While the sensor isn't state-of-the-small-camera-art when it comes to resolution the color character is of the moment and the sharpness is superb. It's probably a result of removing the anti-aliasing filter from the sensor array.

I spent $899 for the camera when it was on sale. That included the 12-60mm kit lens which features the dual image stabilization capability which gives the camera+lens a stability approaching the market leading Olympus cameras. The range of the lens is great and the optical quality is very good. Not as needle sharp and contrasty as the Olympus 12-100mm I've been using almost non-stop, but very good for a kit lens.

The G85 starts up quickly and the EVF is very well done for a camera in this price class. The camera is solidly built and gives one the impression of workmanlike reliability and purpose.

But why would I even need/want a camera like this if I have two GH5s and a nice selection of more esoteric zoom lenses?

If I were less timid I'd just use the GH5s for everything and replace them if they are destroyed, stolen or used up. But I'm always thinking that I want to preserve them for working projects. For jobs that generate money. The G85 gives me 90% of the potential of the GH5s (for still work) in a mini-system (camera+lens) that's about a third the replacement cost of the GH5+lens.

The G85+kit lens is also much smaller and lighter than its bigger sibling which makes it more pleasant to carry constantly when serious photography is not the priority of the day.

I'm currently shooting for work and pleasure with mostly just two camera models; the G85 and the GH5. They share lenses and they share menus, for the most part. I still have the FZ2500 but use it sparingly now that the GH5s have taken over most of the heavy lifting in video.

This represents the smallest number of cameras I have ever owned since started out as a hobbyist in 1978. It's a very freeing experience. There's little of the indecision about what to take to work that used to haunt me. After working with the Olympus 40-150mm I'm also thinking about selling the FZ2500 which would get me down to just three cameras. The Olympus lens does a great job supplying a "long lens" solution and I could apply the proceeds of the sale back into more lenses.

But the G85 is a bit of a linchpin. It gives me a "what-the-hell" camera to take out in the rain, in dust storms, during hipster stampedes, and other situations in which having to watch out for your money making cameras kills the mood and hampers risk taking.

In the end the GH5s cement their position in my work universe every time I use them. The G85 is expendable. Fun but expendable. Everyone should have a capable camera whose demise would not break one's spirit or one's bank account. For everything else there is the iPhone... But the G85 might be cheaper to buy and is cheaper to operate......

9 comments:

  1. The G85 is my go-to camera these days with the aforementioned and seriously good 12-60 “kit” lens. Kirk you might want to add the tiny Olympus 45/1.8. It is as cheap as chips, and is a sensational portrait lens. Fits in any pocket and takes amazing photos when the light starts to fade.

    Max from Down Under

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  2. Hi Max, I have the darling little 42.5mm f1.7 Panasonic and love it. That lens is much like the Olympus but gives me dual I.S. with both the G85 and the GH5. Thanks.

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  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  4. Kirk
    Did I miss something along the way, what happen to your Sony 7llr. If it is gone, does that mean you now feel you can get full fame results from your GH5?
    Dan

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  5. If you say the G85 is 90% of what the GH5 is when it comes to stills, what is the missing 10%? I'm on the fence with both.

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  6. I put gaffer's tape over the "Lumix" and the "G" and my G85 pocket rocket became a pint-sized anony-cam, a nondescript, black silhouette of a camera, useful for dodgy neighborhoods (including, sadly, much of San Francisco these days) where one does not wish to call attention to the photographic device in your hand.

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  7. Kirk,

    you got some thinking to do ... Panasonic just release the G9 (aka GH5 Mk Photo :-))

    https://croq.blog/2017/11/press-release-the-ultimate-outdoor-wildlife-camera-panasonic-lumix-g9/

    Question is if it is 1000 quie better than a G85.

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  8. Kirk,
    The Panasonic Line of Cameras is a much more affordable system to mere mortals. I am in total love with my GX85 Lumix with the kit 12-32mm lens. It has the flip up LCD which I find easier to make use of while walking around and doing portraits. I am stunned at the quality of the pictures from this little $595 kit. Thanks for sharing your life and photo insights with us. Enjoy your Thanksgiving.

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  9. Thanks for this precious information i really appropriate it.

    Sony A7rII Pakistan

    ReplyDelete

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