So, what do you get the photographer-who-has-everything for his birthday? I know, I know! How about a new 70-200mm lens for his Lumix system? Yeah. That would work.

Lumix 70-200mm f4.0 Pro. 

Guest post by Studio Dog.

How often do you have a birthday? It's really only once a year for humans, right? So I thought hard and long about what to get my favorite photographer on his special day. I mean the guy never buys anything for himself, right? No kibble. No liver treats. No tennis balls. So I asked around and I almost got him a guide to better understanding Olympus camera menus but that seemed too difficult for him. He is a bit slow on the uptake. But then one of his closest admirers suggested that perhaps a new lens would be a better gift. 

I took them at their word and went out in search of a nice, shiny lens that might bring a spark of joy to his birthday. And there it was. A brilliant Leica 90-280mm f2.8-f4.0 Zoom lens for only $6395. It was a bit more than I wanted to spend so I asked that sales guy in the plaid jacket with the skull head bolo tie hanging in front of his striped shirt if there was perhaps a less expensive lens....something better than Canon or Nikon but not as pricey as the Leica. He assured me that this particular lens would do the trick.

It's a Panasonic Lumix Pro series 70-200mm f4.0 lens. I put it next to his food bowl this morning along with a chewed sock (so he'd know who it was from) and I have to say that I think Kirk liked it. He started to drool, rolled over on his back and let me scratch his stomach and, boy! was his tail wagging...

But what a selfish human, no matter how much I hint around (and believe me I am NOT subtle) he still won't share! He refuses to play "fetch" with his new toy. And to tell the truth I feel a bit deflated --- he keeps playing with it, and I've bitten it a couple of times, and neither of us can find the squeaker. How does Panasonic get away with making such pricey toys if they don't even have a squeaker.

Ah well, you never really know what makes these humans happy. But I think it will be a good birthday for him, I nearly caught that plump squirrel in the backyard and I'm pretty sure I'll get him next time. And, unlike that ungrateful human, I'll actually share.

I found the squeaker. Every time he reads this he squeaks just a bit.

Must smell pretty good to humans...

Day of the Dead in Austin. Flailing around with a Lumix S1 and the kit lens, trying to stay out of operational confusion.

It was  perfect day for a parade and festival. Saturday the 26th. Cool in the morning and comfortable by noon when the hour long parade started heading west from IH-35, on Sixth St. I got into downtown just ten minutes before the start of the parade and hadn't done a logistics/parking analysis before I got there. I didn't waste time, I just parked at the Fairmont Hotel and hustled in to the heart of downtown. 

I went in heavy/lite; one camera and one lens, but a bulky combination of Lumix S1 and the overwhelming 24-105mm kit lens. I roamed around and shot stuff at random. I didn't really have much of a plan to my shooting but I did want to get my hands all over this camera and lens and start getting comfortable with it.

Halfway through the afternoon I got a call from a photographer friend who was in town. I took a break to meet him for coffee over at the Hilton Hotel and then headed back to the Fairmont to grab my car. I've been keeping an eye on one homeless guy and his (incredibly great) dog who hang out at Sixth St. and Brazos, and when I checked in with them on Friday I asked if they needed anything. The answer was an umbrella and a warm blanket. I needed to drop those by. 

Since fate provided me with a good, new parking place right in the center of town I finished my delivery and headed back into the afternoon-long festival for the Day of the Dead. Loved the face painting, the altar assemblages and the general warm, happy tenor of the crowds. Everyone was just enjoying a perfect day in Austin.

What did I learn, camera-wise, from my four hours weaving around downtown?  I learned that the Lumix S1 is the heaviest camera I've owned in a while; more so with the 24-105mm f4.0 on the front. I learned that you really have two less than perfect choices when it comes to power management with that camera: You can set the camera to shut down within seconds of removing your eye from the eyepiece, or your finger from the shutter release button, which then requires you to "wake up" your camera every time you want to take a photograph or....you can use it in a more regular mode where the camera eventually goes to sleep but gives you minutes of "ready" time instead of seconds. And if you choose the second option you can have the added excitement of watching the indicator of charge in your battery drain faster than most modern cameras. This, in spite of having an extra big (comparatively) battery. 

I learned that I really like the flexibility of having a wide range of focal lengths at my disposal but that I like even better the restraint and concentration that's a result of just having one focal length at a time to shoot with. Give me a zoom for work. Give me a prime if I'm pretending to do ART.

The camera focuses quickly. I used the AF-C and it worked well. I used the AF-S and it worked even better. A strength of the camera not mentioned before is the way it consistently nails exposure. I had few frames I needed to massage, the exposure was right on the money in a way that allowed me a lot of leeway in post. No blown highlights nothing approaching the dark vacuum of space detail-less black. 

The camera files have a smoothness to them that I like and I'm crediting to the long dynamic range. I used the standard zoom lens mostly at f4.0 so I'm happy with the way the focus falls off in the backgrounds but equally happy when I punch in to 100% and see nice details and well delineated eyelashes. Tossing a bit of shade at the idea that lenses can't be useably sharp wide open....

Still not sure why I bought this camera and have a passion to learn it. Boredom? Grass is greener on the other system? Nostalgia for my Panasonic G9s? Good advertising on the part of Panasonic? The Lure of being able to use Leica lenses on it? I'm not sure I know yet. I'm not sure I'll ever know. But there you are. 

I didn't shoot nearly as much as I usually do but that had less to do with the camera and lens and much more to do with my state of mind yesterday. I worked hard in the pool that morning; we clocked nearly 5,000 yards in our hour and a half. By afternoon I was tired but happy. I think my motivation in going downtown was less to test a camera than it was going down to enjoy the event and just be....outside with people. 

There was a person at the event shooting with a 4x5 view camera.
That takes commitment. More about him in a later post.

Loving the theatrical contact lenses.

No Costume. All spirit.

Lumix does red roses well. 

Leafy Greens.

Did they make Frida Kahlo into a saint when I wasn't paying attention?

The cutest thing I saw all day long. 

What's a parade without spectators?

Love the background. That's nice bokeh.