Auto Focus Micro Adjustment and the Sony a77

I couldn't really adjust for this lens but that's okay, 
I know from recent experience that it's "wicked sharp."

As I work more and more with the Sony a77 I find lots of things to like about the camera and very few disappointments. One of the reasons I chose to go with the a77's as my primary shooting cameras ( in addition to the brilliant EVF and really nicely implemented video) was the Auto Focus Micro Adjustment control.  I've been pre-occupied with other camera controls in my quest to really master the camera and I left lens adjustments to last.

But recently I've been working nearly wide open with the 50mm 1.4 lens and I noticed that it would routinely back focus. This led me to jump into the menu and get busy.  I also noticed that my 70-200mm G lens (a whopping $2000) wasn't as sharp as my previous Canon and Nikon zooms so I thought I'd take a crack at that one as well.  In the end I tried every Sony lens I owned on both bodies and now, after hours of being really compulsive and fastidious, I am even happier with my little Sony system than before.

When I first accessed the control the ability to adjust was greyed out on the menu. I finally decided to push the "clear" button and a message came up telling me that 30 lenses had already been registered and that I would lose all those settings if I continued.  Since I'd been using the camera with this control deactivated anyway I decided that it would be "no skin off my nose" to go forward.  I pushed clear.  Now I could make adjustments to any of the Sony branded lenses I put on the camera and it would save up to thirty lenses of my choice.  Do I think the camera was used before me? Decidedly not. I think the camera comes that way by default.

I actually kept notes as I worked.  The 50mm needed a "minus 8" correction.  The 70-200 needed a "minus 6" correction and the 50mm 1.8 DT lens needed a -3 correction.  Most of the lenses were right on.  The little 85mm 2.8 shocked me.  I've always used it to shoot portraits and nothing with sharp lines or edges. When I blew up my test file with the LensAlign it was so sharp wide open that I was temporarily giddy.

I tested all my lenses at 2.8.  I figured most gaussian lens designs will have a bit of focus shift from wide open to 2.8 and that trying to get them just right at 1.4 was perhaps a futile endeavor.  Happily, once I adjusted the 50mm 1.4 at 2.8 I went back and checked it wide open and was happy to find the same correction needed.  At least the lens is consistent.

I tested eight lenses and I did this on two bodies and there were mild differences between bodies.  I almost messed up the test entirely as I had inadvertantly set the focus mode to local which allows the camera to choose between a little cross of squares.  When I aimed at the target I would get different readings each time and when I tested at different distances I needed different numerical values as well.  Once I realized my mistake and set the  camera to center spot AF everything fell right into place.

The 70-200mm is now very sharp wide open and wickedly sharp one stop down.  I took the time to re-test at every marked focal length and found that, once you've set the right value, it tends to be the same for all.

In addition to the stellar performance of the 85mm 2.8 I was also amazed at just how sharp the 16-50mm 2.8 lens is.  It's the sharpest wide to short tele high speed zoom I've ever played with. I can go out shooting now with a sense of assurance that I'm getting the ultimate performance for myself and my clients.  And it was a bonding experience for me and my camera.


A large part of inspiration is patience.

A few years back we were doing an annual report for a California company that built and managed water and wastewater treatment plants across the southern United States.  It was a wacky trip that started in Houston and rolled over to Gulfport and Biloxi, Miss. and then off to California It was our first annual report done entirely with digital cameras.  I used two of the Fuji S2 cameras but I snuck along a little Leica M6 with a sampling of lenses.  Just enough to get the job done....Just in case.

Right before I headed to the airport my favorite camera pusher, Ian, called me.  The Nikon 12-24mm lens for DX cameras had just come in, he had one on hold for me.  Did I want it?  You bet.  Those were the days when there were very few wide choices for cropped frame cameras and most wide angles designed for film looked like crap on the full frame cameras.  Good thing I stopped by because 80% of the images in that year's annual report probably came from that one optic.

But this particular blog post doesn't have much to do with lenses at all.  It's more about patience.  We got into Biloxi around noon and headed to our location.  The sun was direct, the plant looked boring and the sun showed off every inch of rust or wear. I shot the stuff on the list but none of it was more than technically good snapshots.  We were going to call it a day and head back to the hotel, have a few drinks and a good dinner but something kept us there. 

I finally said, to the art director and the direct client, "You guys go on ahead and I'll catch up with you after the sun sets."  But they were troopers and stuck with me.  As the sun started to go down the clouds and the sky got more and more interesting.  We kept going back to stuff we'd shot before and re-shooting and re-shooting.  The plant was quiet and there were few people around.  I used my clients as models to show scale and add a human component.

We knew we were getting better stuff as the light lunged for the horizon.  The intensity of the light dropped and the color temperature dropped as well, giving the landscape a golden glow for a short time.  We went back and started shooting the same stuff again.  We knew by now what angles would look good.

When the sun dropped down over the horizon the light became omni-directional, soft as premium toilet paper and the color of the light started it's gentle shift through the register.  Now things were fun. The year before we'd looked at black and white Polaroids as they came sliding out of their wrappings.  This year we hovered around the little screen on the back "oohing and awing" over the colors and the increasingly gentle tones. 

Fifteen or twenty minutes later the light changed again. We were enjoying the wonderful reflections in the waste water tanks.  And we shot another round.  We didn't think it could get much better but for some reason I still can't fathom we all silently agreed to stay a little longer and see what happened. It was so un-corporate and so cool creative.  I couldn't imagine how it would have looked on a spreadsheet schedule.  Something like this probably: "Shoot WW treatment plant, wait 15 minutes, repeat.  Wait fifteen minutes, repeat." And somewhere a bean counting lawyer would intone heartlessly, "Are we paying for all these repeats?"

But then the sun and the afterglow disappeared altogether and we discovered....long exposures.  We spent another hour or so shooting all the images we'd shot before glowing in blue against the warm yellows of the plants lights.  It was a rare act on all sides of patience.  We could have tossed on a polarizing filter and pounded out shots of the plant, right on schedule and have been back to our hotel by 5:15 pm to watch CNN, have a few glasses of wine and tell tall tales over an expense account dinner.  But it seemed like the goddess of patience came down and dusted us with a magic wand until we achieved what it was we really wanted.  

I shot maybe fifteen different scenes after the sun went down.  And I can't really say that it was "my" creative prowess that served us that evening.  We worked together as a creative team.  Each of us spotting some great angle or some coincidence of color and tone that worked just right. I just translated the collaborative energy into digital files.

What's the reward for patience? How about being inspired again and again by what could, by most counts, be considered a boring subject?  How about savoring the calmness of the moment? How about seeing what your camera will do with changing light colors and intensities. 

When the job wrapped up I got a phone call.  The client wanted to know how well the images would print large.  I said I'd do a test.  Now I know that no professional photographer seems confident enough to do any sort of enlargement these days with anything but a 24 or 36 megapixel shot but we were working with Fuji's insane (but remarkable) interpolated 12 megapixel files that in reality were coming off a six megapixel sensor.  I sent the images off to the professional lab and they printed them at 24 by 36 inches on a LightJet printer.  The enlargments were amazing.  Just amazing.  No appreciable noise at our usual ISO 100 or 200 settings and endless color and tone.

They say that patience is a virtue.  But I think it is its own reward.  And I would say that the first step on the road to patience is a beautiful tripod and a low ISO.  Taking time to let the camera soak in all the photons it wants in a leisurely and civilized way.  

I think we need to be on guard against impatience.  You can't hurry the creative process of children and photographers any more than you can hurry nature.




Jana. In the city.  Dead of Summer.

It's pretty rare for me to shoot stuff in full sun.  But sometimes you've got to try new stuff just to see what your camera will do.  This image started life as a file from a Canon 5Dmk2 camera and an 85mm 1.8 lens.  I shot it in the raw format and I tried to see just how much detail I could capture in the highlight areas on Jana's forehead and nose.  The real trick is to keep the highlight detail without plunging everything else in to the abyss of blocky shadows.  Some of it is careful metering but a lot of it is the wonderful dynamic range in some of the cameras we've had the pleasure to have owned.  The Canon 5Dmk2 was one of the those cameras.

But lately I've had equal success with the Sony a77.  It's all in how you use the cameras.  And how much you know about their personalities.  And to really know the personality of your camera you have to take it out on a series of "dates" and play with all the buttons.

I've shot the Sony a77 at ISO 3200 in the theatre and found it a bit noisy for my taste when I blow up the files.  But I've also shot a number of studio and full sunlight projects with the camera at ISO 50 and it's amazingly good there. In fact, it's exciting at ISO 50.  Why? Because the dynamic range is something to write home about.  How did I know it would happen like that? Because I took the camera out and shot people in the full sun and tested it.

I'd never met Jana before but I wanted to have a real person to shoot so I looked around on a model site, got in touch with her and arranged to meet her and one of her friends at a downtown coffee shop.  We spent a couple hours walking around downtown talking, shooting film and getting to know each other's aesthetic tastes.  After that we shot together again for one of my book projects.  

I've found that shooting test charts and boring set ups in studios is a flawed way to really understand a camera's potential. You have to shoot what you'd normally want to shoot with the camera to really understand it.  

All cameras are flawed in one way or another.  The denizens of the web forums would have you believe that some cameras are holy because of their high ISO performances alone.  Others are fixated with mega-loads of mega-pixels. I'm partial to the way cameras feel in my hands and how they operate.  But I guess the real point is that only you can assess whether the amalgam of parts and design and science that make up a particular camera connect with you.

If you read enough on the web you'll either ultimately be wildly confused or you'll end up chosing a consensus camera and never even touching or considering the camera that might be the "Goldilocks" camera for you.  Not too big, not too small, not to loud, not too ugly.  Just right.

I've just about finished testing every single parameter of the Sony a77 camera and next week I'm going to do the exercise of writing a full on review of the camera and a couple of my favorite lenses.  It's a flawed camera.  But no more so, in my estimation, than the Canon 5D mk2, the Nikon D700 and any number of other cameras I've worked with.

In a nutshell there are three reasons I still like the Sony a77 and haven't traded my two copies away for whatever the camera of the moment is:  1.  The camera has a very wide dynamic range, is very noise free and has wonderful tonality at ISO 50.  And, according to DXO's measurements it really is 50.  Not an electronically pulled 100.  2.  Once you've mastered using a good EVF on your camera for stills and especially for video you will never want to go backwards, even if the camera has some quirks.  And 3. I've come to respect and use some of the weirdo features I never, ever thought I'd touch.  I like the Multi-Frame noise reduction setting.  I humbly admit I like the built-in HDR capabilities (but I try hard to make the effects invisible).  I like the built-in electronic +1.4 and +2.0 teleconverter button.  That means I can keep the 50mm 1.8 or 1.4 on the front and push a button to get closer for a tight portrait.

The bottom line is that my a77 is more fun than previous cameras I've owned.  And the wonderful 50 ISO helps me work wider with studio flash and helps me get images with a look that's fairly unique among inexpensive DSLR's.  What I get is limited depth of field with high sharpness, wider dynamic range and incredible detail.  And for most of what I shoot that always trumps being able to shoot sports by candlelight.  In fact, with the exception of set up sports shots for advertising and the kid's swim team in full Texas sun, I never shoot sports and don't understand why that and BIF ( which stands for "birds in flight" and is another aspect of photography I have absolutely no interest in) capabilities in a camera seem to make so much difference to the other hundreds of thousands of camera buyers who also don't shoot those things.  If you do you might want a different camera....

But to be honest my perspective was built up over years and years of shooting and making money with big medium format cameras on tripods with slow, sharp, grainless film.  After showing a portfolio to people who potentially will pay for my work I've confirmed that real art directors still value the same things they valued in the film days.  To paraphrase:  They want their images sharp and technically perfect.  They know how to degrade them in post.  They can grunge up a beautiful shot but it's ten times harder to take a grungy file and make it sharp again.

Will your camera do what you want it to do? The only way to really know is to test.  Don't trust my opinions or Thom Hogan's or DPReview's.  Trust your hands and your eyes and the output onto your screen or prints of images that you like to shoot.  That's all that counts.

The process every photographer secretly (or not so secretly) fears. Putting together the portfoliio.

The floor of the studio while deciding what to include for a portfolio show.

I have a portfolio show with an advertising agency today. When I first set it up with the art director I assumed I'd be showing my work to him and maybe one or two more people.  It was my intention to throw some work on the new iPad and sort it into galleries with an app called, "Portfolio" and then let them fingertip drag their way through.  It's a nice, intimate way to show one's work and it doesn't require a bunch of physical work.

Of course there's always Murphy's Law. In the interim between setting up the portfolio show and the appointment this afternoon someone at the same agency called me up and asked me to bid on a fairly big project. Then, when I confirmed our portfolio show the art buyer let me know that eight of the creative people in the agency would be attending.  Yikes! Eight people hovering around a (now) tiny iPad?  Curses.

What to do and what to show?  I decided I'd do the show with both a traditional 13 by 19 inch leather portfolio case, filled with prints, and the iPad.  I might also bring along a beautiful little 8x8 inch leather book filled with black and white portraits.

The nerve racking part of the whole process is the question of what to put into the big print book. So I did what any crazy artist would do and immediately dumped the better part of 1200 large prints onto the floor of the studio and started sorting. And here's the sad reality:  I'll be sorting and changing and sorting and changing right up until the time of my appointment, trying to fine tune the selection. Not an efficient way to spend the day.

My "brilliant" friends who are also professional photographers would laugh at me.  They've got bound books (which removes all temptation to meddle) filled with their greatest hits.  But I like to custom populate my portfolios with images that are aimed at the market I'm pitching.  If an agency is heavy into healthcare I want to make sure that I've got a good sampling of the images I've done for hospitals, cardiology practices, cancer practices and oral surgeons.  At the same time I don't want to come in so heavy in one category that I can't represent my interest in other kinds of  industries in which they may have good clients.

My wife, a graphic designer of many years, tells me to put together a book of great portraits and just to show what I want to get. Nice advice. But it would really depress me to go in with a book of great portraits only to hear, "These are lovely but we were hoping to see some food as we just landed a big hotel account..."  Or something along those lines.

While this may sound like something only commercial image sellers should have to worry about I think it's also germaine to amateur photographers as well.  I think nothing is as ruthlessly, painfully instructive for every artist than the task of narrowing down your work to your top  thirty to fifty pieces. In fact, I think we should all undertake the discipline of having to put together a big, printed portfolio (say 13 by 19 inches?) because it will make you really look at your work with a critical eye.  Does the work hold together stylistically? How will handle the inevitable vertical and horizontal interplay between prints? Does your chosen subject matter hold up for 25 or 50 images?  Do you have 25 to 50 keepers? (sometimes I feel like I have ten....)

Try it as an exercise.  Put together a beautiful portfolio of 25 images. Don't put in anything that's not perfectly seen and well printed. Don't put in stuff that's so limited in appeal that only you would get the emotional appeal of the image. Don't stick it in a nappy plastic binder. Invest in a real portfolio case.

What will this buy you?  Well, when people ask you about your photography work you will have a very impressive and comfortable way to present what you do.  I think everyone would agree that seeing beautifully printed images writ large beats the heck out of watching your "friends" scroll through the screens of their cellphones, "Looking for that great shot..." Your audience will be impressed if only by the fact that they've probably never seen photographs well presented before.

It's a way of organizing your vision and your style.  And the process will probably nail down, for you, what you really like to see and what's just the same kind of fluff everyone else is shooting and showing on the web.  But the most important aspect of putting together the book is the solid feeling of having really done something with your work.

A company called Itoya makes some really nice, inexpensive portfolio books with leather-like covers and crystal clear insert pages.  Do your own ink jet prints or send them to a lab that's well profiled like Costco.  In Austin we have an additional embarrassment of riches in that we have good custom labs at Holland Photo Imaging and Precison Camera.  I have a fair number of prints done at Holland Imaging because they run specials on large prints imaged onto C-print papers, including metallic finishes that look really cool.

Okay.  I think I've got it.  One big book, one small black and white book, and my greatest hits on the iPad.  Now, what am I going to do for leave behinds? 

I should stop coasting and do this (portfolio showing) more often. Practice makes perfect.  Now where have I heard that before.....

Edit: After the show.  I went with my plan of showing a book of square, black and white portraits (10 by 10 inches in a nicely book bound presentation), seven different galleries on an iPad and one big book of 13 by 19 inch color prints.

Of the eight people present several were intent on viewing everything on the iPad. The lead creative director loved the big color and everyone, universally, liked the black and white book.  The reasons to bring both are ample.  I think the big prints had the most impact but the iPad supplied depth for people whose brains are wired that way.  In the end the iPad paid for itself because, in response to a spontaneous question from the creative director, I was able to play for the group some video projects on which I've been working. That opened up another line of potential business.

I took along ten copies of a postcard (5.5 by 8 inches) which has one of my favorite images of a weathered looking concrete contractor in a hard hat in front of a wall of incoming storm clouds. The group asked for contact information and was delighted with the cards.

After I update this I'll sit down and write each person a "thank you" note.  And that completes my portfolio show.   Thanks for your interest.


Local Photo Hero, Michael O'Brien (by way of NYC) still has the real stuff.

©2012 Michael O'Brien.  Do not use or copy without his direct permission.

Michael O'Brien and an NPR reporter went in search of Texas ranchers affected by the long drought. Michael used a 4x5 inch view camera and black and white Polaroid positive/negative film to capture the images.  Go and see the photographs and hear the story of last year's incredible drought in Texas.  

The images are so uniquely different than what we normally see.  They are incredibly lit.  I can't wait to see them as big prints, chocked full of detail and tone.

To see more of Michael's work:  http://www.obrienphotography.com/


Lead Singer In Church.

I like portraits that look like this. I like all the stuff out of focus in the background and I like the almost defiant stare from my subject.  I like that she's not overly made up. I like that her hair curls up and sticks out on the right side of her head.  The image was done with a Zeiss 85mm 1.4 ZE on a Canon 1Dmk2n.  The light is pretty obviously just what's available.

I guess my point in showing this and talking about it is that I didn't have a traditional client telling me how to shoot.  Rosie and I were out on Willie Nelson's ranch on a misty fall day with no one to please but ourselves.  So much of developing and holding on to a style you like has to do with spending enough time playing and shooting what you want.  Not what you think someone else wants.

I think it's all about practicing the fun.


Ben and Kirk shoot a commercial for Zach Scott's rendition of Xanadu.

Xanadu for the stage is a send up of the movie version from the early 1980's.  And this is the TV commercial that Ben and I worked on to promote the show:

It's fun, it's silly and it's 15 seconds.  Ben and I loaded up the car, set up the green screen and shot a bunch of variations with two of Zachary Scott's talented actors.  Ben acted as grip and sound man while I ran the camera. Creative Concept and Postproduction were done in-house at Zachary Scott Theatre by web marketing guru, David Munns.

Tech Notes:  We used a Westcott muslin ChromaKey green background (10 by 20 feet) lit by four 500 bulb LED fixtures.  The key and fill lighting was done with two 1000 bulb LED fixtures.  The actors are backlit with two of the battery powered Fotodiox AS-312 LED panels, gelled with a weak magenta filtration.  Both of the 1K bulb panels were covered with diffusion materials and the fill was further softened with a Westcott FastFlag diffuser.

We shot with a Sony a77 in the AVCHD 1080 60i setting alternating between the 16-50mm kit zoom and the 80mm Hasselblad Zeiss Planar lens on an adapter.  Focusing was done manually, assisted by Sony's really cool Focus Peaking.

Ben was wrangling a Rode Videomic on the end of a no-name "fishpole." When I looked at the footage on a 27 inch monitor I was amazed at the quality.  Even better, under controlled lighting, than my previous Canon 5Dmk2.  

The theatre is also editing down a :30 second spot to follow up this teaser.

Ben and I will be at the dress rehearsal next week. I'm shooting stills for publicity and Ben will be shooting BHS ("behind the scenes") video for the web.

Just thought I share a little project with y'all.

Edit: Several people asked if I filtered the LED lights that were used as the main lights on the actors.  The answer is no. I did a custom white balance at the beginning of the shoot and it seemed just right.  As the sensors in cameras get better and better so too does the ability to do really good white balances; even with sources that have lower CRI's.


Street Shooting in America. Downtown Austin.

A Whole Different Color Palette, A whole different look.

It's funny sometimes.  I'll mention the color palette or "look" of a particular camera and all the measurement nerds will rush in and tell me in volumes how any image can imitate any other image with a little bit of deft work in Photoshop.  Then I'll talk about the "look" of a particular camera to the newly converted (fill in the blank with: Olympus, Fuji or whatever) owner and they'll wax eloquent about "Olympus Color."  In their minds it's a prime reason to own the system.

But even if it makes technical workers unhappy just about every family of cameras has a distinct look and feel and, while you might get 90% there duplicating that feel from another camera with hours of PhotoShop work, if you have eyes you'll see the DNA of the camera's family come shining through.  I've written before that I own several different camera systems because I like the way some handle some subjects and others handle different subjects.

All of these images are from the Kodak SLR/n. It was the second series of DSLR cameras that photographers could shoot without an anti-aliasing filter in front of the sensor. (The first were the DCS 760 series in which you could choose user changeable IR filters with no AA or an AA filter with IR built in.  The SLR/n was a "no choice" camera. You shot with no filter. That's how it came from the factory.  Shooting without the AA filter made the files much sharper. The detail is rendered at a very high level.  Just like in the new Nikon 800e.  But the SLR/n had big, fat pixels and it could go two or three stops deeper into the aperture ring before provoking sharpness defying diffraction.  The camera was heaven and hell to shoot with.  Some things, like fabric with repeating patterns would cause moiré to pop up like garden weeds. But with portraits and architecture the files would be richly detailed.  

The Kodak SLR/n had a more muted color palette and a longer contrast range than present day cameras.  This meant that the files had lots and lots of dynamic range and could hold on to detail in the shadows and highlights just like a badger.  I'd love to see a DXO rating for the sensor.  I imagine that it clicks all the right boxes for their parameters.

This (above) image is a full frame from the camera.  The file would have been 4500 pixels by 3000 pixels but I've reduced it to 2000 pixels on the long side to make everything load up quicker. 
The file below is (once you've clicked on it, opened it in a separate window and then clicked it again...) a 100% crop from the image above.  I have compared it with similar files from both the 24 megapixel Sonys and the 24 megapixel Nikon D3200 and, to my eye, the Kodak actually resolves slightly more detail. This image was taken with the standard 50mm Nikon 1.8 lens.

Debates rage as to which D800 people should consider but you would do yourself a service to read Thom Hogan's recent review here:  Hogan's D800 Review  You might be startled by what you find out about the effects of diffraction and the differences between cameras.  I'll cut to it. The D800e (without filter) is best at wide apertures with fast lenses.  Neither is amazing once you stop it down.  Not the ultimate camera for people (architecture photographers) who need f11 and f16.

While my Kodak cameras are getting long in the tooth and starting to have handling and button issues I am still happy every time I pick up the SLR/n to shoot. I find that it's combination of full frame, wonderful colors and high sharpness is pretty wonderful.

I prefer it to a number of more recent and highly regarded products from other companies.  A pity that Kodak's products were ahead of their times (and the discernment of general users) while their marketing was ten years behind.....

This is a photo of my friend, Bernard.  We were having lunch at Artz Ribhouse, the latest casualty of the recession.  I love the out of focus areas in the background. The 50mm on the Kodak is pretty sweet.

Mismatched cameras and lenses. Fun for an afternoon.

I like heading out the door with a camera in my hands and no real agenda to follow.  Sometimes I use my walks as a time to hand test cameras I'm interested in or cameras I want to write about but sometimes I just want a camera with me for random visual note taking and messing around.  Yesterday morning I had a delicious swim and then Ben, Belinda and I went to P. Terry's Hamburger restaurant for burgers. I had the veggie burger. Plus one for the whole wheat buns and the good jalapeños.  Then I got in the car and went over to Precision Camera where I spent some time playing with the Fuji Pro 1 (a beautiful camera with lots and lots of focusing issues), a Fuji X100 (hit the buttons three times before they work?) and this year's swim suit model of cameras, the Olympus OM-D (all the parts are just right and the shutter sounds sweet but.....I just can't pull the credit card out yet).  Can't figure out why this camera always makes me feel better when I hand it back to its owner or to the sales clerk...probably something in my wiring, certainly nothing wrong with the camera. Not in the face of the reviews and kudos it's received from all the people I trust.

I guess I have my eyes on the new Sony full framer and I just don't want to get too badly side-tracked in the languorous Summer months.  

So I headed downtown to walk around and shoot with a wild pair.  My second favorite Pen camera of all time, the EP3, and a weird lens choice, the Panasonic 14-140 HQ zoom lens.  Earlier in the day I vacillated between taking the Olympus 45mm 1.8 (too purposeful), the 25mm Summilux (too chattery on the EP-3) or something else.  Then I spied this beast of a lens and thought, "Why not?"

Right off the bat there was one thing I really loved about this combination. The lens has its own IS built in.  I could turn off the body IS and turn on the lens IS and I would have a stabilized image in the finder of the camera.  In fact, that's why I bought a Panasonic 14-45mm lens as well.  Even at the longer focal lengths the camera's finder image becomes rock solid.

If my own habits are any indication this must be one of the most overlooked lenses around. I've owned it since I bought my first GH2 and yet the only times I think about it are when I'm getting ready to shoot video.  Several reviewers give the lenses some lukewarm praise with the usual stuff  accentuating mediocre corner performance or the lower contrast at the longer end but I've found, overall that it's a really good performer.  Especially on the right camera.  It's also nice to have focal lengths (35mm FOV)  from 28mm to 280mm and have them all be very usable.

I walked to Lance Armstrong's bike shop (Mellow Johnny's) to look at transportation/street bikes and ran into a guy I'd met years ago on a photoshoot at Dell, Inc. He noticed the weird mismatch between camera and lens and that's what got us talking.  I saw some really cool bikes  from a company called, Public Bikes.  Here's a link to their website:  Public Bikes V7 (the one I'm thinking about...).  Still pondering the bikes. I love my electric Bodhi Bike but sometimes I just want a light framed manual bike....for those manual moments.

(above) That's a good looking bike but I don't really like the front rack. I'd like a back rack and maybe a pannier to one side.  Good to see people out biking all over downtown yesterday.  There's still an incredible number of really fit humans in Austin. Not everyone in America weighs 300+ pounds.......at least not yet.

Being fit, however, doesn't mean people will always make good choices about their shoes...

I took the neck strap off my EP3 a couple of days ago and stuck a cheap wrist strap on it instead.  I don't walk with anything in my hands and I leave the cellphone in the car so I was able to keep the camera in my left hand for the entire time. It was a refreshing change from having the camera banging away at the end of a strap, at my side.  And it was much more "ready."  

When I shoot with the EP3 I always use the VF-2 finder so I don't have to wear my glasses and also do the "baby with a stinky diaper" pose, holding my camera way out in front of me with my arms outstretched.  While the EP2 is my favorite of the Pens for nostalgic reasons when it comes to having fun shooting, and getting great results, the EP3 is a bit easier to work with in terms of response.  I kept the camera on the aperture mode, trying to keep the lens at or near its wide open settings for most of the time. I'd correct exposure by riding the exposure compensation button while viewing the image in the finder.

I was shooting on a bright day so the camera had no trouble at all focusing quickly and locking on, even at the long end of the zoom where the max. aperture hits 5.6.

Don't know why but today I was fascinated with manhole covers.  They really can be such fun industrial art.

While the EP3 isn't as advanced as the EM-5 I like it because I feel as though I've mastered the menus and I userstand all the shooting potential of the camera. I've mentioned before that I think 12 megapixels is somewhere close to the sweet spot for digital cameras at the moment. Big enough to look detailed on the coming generation of retina computer screens yet small enough to work quickly in post processing.  I was processing files today from the Nikon D3200 which creates 25 megabyte files alongside the raw files from the EP3.  The difference in speed is pretty stunning. Even with a fast manchine.

I also prefer the look and feel of the EP2 and EP3 bodies to anything else.

Circling back to the lens I must say that while there are single focal length lenses that produce somewhat sharper files the Panasonic lens does a fine job.  Especially when you run it through the sharpening and clarity filters in one of the post-processing programs that are ubiquitous.

I prefer to import my files into Lightroom 4.2, give them a brief once over and then size and send them to a program called, Snapseed.  I look at Snapseed as an almost universal "quick adjust and enhance" program. I use the general brightness and saturation settings and also do some sharpening in that program.

The series of images (above, just below and one more below that) are on good argument for using a flexible, high quality zoom like the Panasonic. At the long end I have very good reach for pulling in subjects which are at a distance from the lens. But I can also turn around and get a wide angle shot.  With the Panasonic I can shoot mostly wide open and still be sure that I'll get usable shots.

I'm certainly not advising people to run out and buy what I use. Everyone's taste, hands and sensibilities are so different. In fact, from day to day the cameras I use tend to change. But every once in a while it's nice to have a comparatively small system that does powerful work.