A Sunday Morning Walk at the Waterfront of Old Portland, Maine

Gear: Diminutive Panasonic GM5 plus 12-32 kit zoom.

I was visiting my daughter in the Portland area a couple of weekends ago, and we decided that it was a nice morning for a long walk in the city. I’d not yet seen the Waterfront area of Old Portland so we headed in that direction to have breakfast at Becky’s diner on Hobson Wharf. 

It was a Sunday morning and my daughter tells me there is not a lot going on in winter even in this high-interest area until 10:00 when stores open for business. The result of this is that during our walk after breakfast we saw surprisingly few people. This is quite obvious in the photos below. 

There were several large groups of joggers, however.  And we did see a group of people waiting to board one of the ferries that goes out to the islands.  I wonder how many people live on the islands and commute to Portland to work?  What a great way to commute.

Without people to look at, the highlight for me was the architecture.  The building at “121 Middle Street” was the showpiece in my opinion. I have a photo below.

What I have learned online after the visit is that it was constructed in 1867, after Portland’s 1866 fire. The building is now on the National Register of Historic Places (as of 1973).  It is called Thompson Block and occupies several addresses: 119, 121, 123 and 125 Middle Street. I’m looking forward to returning and spending more time photographing the area in more detail.

A few more:


One Photo: Some Simple Symmetry

This was supposed to be a simple record shot of the season’s biggest storm. [Maybe a record shot is all it is; but I really like it.]

Starting Wednesday evening, we received a dump of over 14” of heavy wet snow during the “dark hours” (6pm to 6am). It is hard to believe it didn’t rain because surface temperatures never got below 35F degrees, so you can imagine how moisture-full the snow was.  I spent most of the night awake listening to trees and limbs breaking and crashing to the ground.  With gusts of wind as high as 40mph, it sounded like a train was traveling through our property.  We lost eight trees.  All maples with trunks about 8-10” in diameter. They basically snapped in half.  The good news is there was no damage to house or cars.  We did need to have some immediate chainsaw work as one tree covered our driveway. With no driveway access, then there’s no way to get fuel for the generator!

Anyway, back to the image below and some comments about processing the raw file in Lightroom.

The image after cropping and processing

This was taken on our porch looking out to a small deck and into a forest of maples beyond the snow covered lawn.  I did not see the entire symmetry of the image until I inspected the image on my computer monitor, and noticed with some cropping that even the tree in the background added symmetry to the image.  I had not noticed that when I framed the image initially.  There are so many times that I see things on my monitor that I never saw through the viewfinder.  Sometimes that is good, sometimes it is not. This time it was good.

Here’s what I did:

Photo as originally composed and exposed.

Using the Transform panel I made a full adjustment for level, vertical, and horizontal

Cropped to make symmetrical

In the basic panel I clicked on "auto".
In the detail panel I sharpened to 50, detail and masking to 25.

That's it!  Now it's time to shovel off that deck...


I’m Now Taking the Panasonic GM5 with me Skiing

For many years I’ve been skiing with the Panasonic weatherproof TS3 point and shoot camera in my ski parka pocket.  I’ve also taken this camera on fishing trips.  The images have been fine, but whenever I encountered what might make a “portfolio” shot (rarely) I wished I had something with me with a bit more image quality.  Nevertheless, for electronic viewing all is good; but I have found that when printing anything more than perhaps 8” x 10”, the images seem smeared and lack detail in random low contrast areas, even at a normal viewing distance.  That being said, non-photographers don’t really notice this; I wish I could learn from them as it would save me a lot of money on gear.

I could argue that my photos while skiing have been mere snapshots (perhaps with one or two exceptions) for which better image quality was not needed.  After all, the quality is just fine for sharing as jpg attachments to emails and texts, and for posting on Facebook or Instagram.  For all of these uses I never use anything more than a 1,200 pixel wide or tall image, which means cropping or downsizing from the native 4000 x 3000 pixel resolution (12mp). 

The main advantages of the TS3 are (1) size, (2) weatherproof, cold proof, shock proof, (3) 28-128mm equivalent zoom lens (5) one-handed operation. The disadvantages include (1) a zoom toggle located so it is nearly impossible to NOT press it with your right thumb when shooting one-handed, (2) three image bracketing is not “sticky”, in other words you must go into the menu to set it each time you turn on the camera, and (3) images are jpg only which greatly reduces post processing latitude.

Quick link to camerasize.com: http://j.mp/2oSMuBL

This season, after acquiring a used GM5 in the fall, I decided to carry something with the potential for better image quality, albeit at the cost of (1) larger size, (2) no weathersealing, (3) a lens limited to 24-64mm equivalent, and (4) the need to use two hands to operate it. 

But I like the fact that this little mFT camera has a sensor that is significantly bigger (the squared dimension is approximately 8x larger) than the Panasonic TS3.  And bracketing is “sticky” so that once set it is active each time I power up.  I like to bracket when out skiing, as getting an accurate exposure is difficult on the snow.  Rather than fuss around getting the “right” exposure, it is easier to shoot a bracket and worry about it at home. I don’t combine images, I just pick the best of a three shot bracket. I also appreciate that the GM5 has a viewfinder.  In bright sunshine an LCD is hard (for me) to see, making it a nightmare to compose. Though the EVF is quite small, it is acceptable and I prefer it over the LCD.

Here are a few shots I like.  No dramatic landscapes or snowscapes, unfortunately. We don’t have the same huge panoramas here in New England that my friends in Rockies do.


The Panasonic GX9 and "Bright Shiny New Object Syndrome"

I was excited when Panasonic announced the GX9 last week because I have loved the GX80/85 since purchasing it last summer. I immediately saw the new model as a quite reasonable upgrade to the GX80/85, and not as an upgrade (actually more like a downgrade) to the larger-body GX8. 

This is my GX80/85 with Olympus 12-40 and $10 eBay purchase half-case.
The GX9 looks the same but with an EV compensation dial 
nestled under the mode dial.  The GX9 is also a couple of millimeters
 larger in each direction (width, height, depth)

It is no wonder that those who love the format of the GX8 are voicing discontent on the photography forums. After all, the new camera looks like a GX80/85 and not a GX8. Why the heck didn’t Pany just call it a GX90/95 and save themselves a lot of ill-will.

The GX80/85 versus GX9 comparisons below are from: http://camerasize.com/compare/#770,673. You might want to go to camerasize to check out a comparison with the GX8 which I have not included below.

It is the GX8 that deserved a true upgrade this month: The GX8 is now 2 1/2 years old, whereas the GX80/85 is not quite 2 years old. We are left wondering if a true GX8 upgrade will indeed ever happen. It’s as if Panasonic has decided to be done with the GX8 form factor (was it unsuccessful?) and combine the two GX bodies (GX80/85 and GX8) into just the smaller body going forward. 

Physical Features …

The way I see it, the GX9 actually inherited most of its physical characteristics from the GX80/85. Here is a list I have pulled together of physical attributes that are coming from the GX80/85, in no particular order:

  • Lack of anti-alias filter
  • Lack of weather sealing
  • Maximum mechanical shutter speed of 1/4000
  • Electromagnetic drive to combat shutter shock
  • Body style (though a couple of millimeters larger in each direction)
  • 3” tilt screen, 
  • EVF (field sequential design)
  • EVF size and resolution, 
  • Button placement
  • 5-axis IBIS (GX8 has 4-axis; both have Dual IS)
  • Pop up flash 

On the other hand, the GX9 has inherited only a few physical features from the GX8:

  • EV Compensation dial (though located differently), 
  • Tilting EVF (though smaller), 
  • Focus mode lever around one of the back function buttons
  • 20 mp sensor. 

Inside the Body…

Inside the body there are a few firmware upgrades that I am happy about, and which were not on the prior bodies:

  • Minimum shutter speed setting.
  • EV compensation dial (I have read) is active when shooting in manual exposure and auto ISO. (This was not available during the short time I owned the GX8, though I suppose it may have been changed by later firmware updates, if any.)
  • Blue Tooth

The Lure of the Pre-Order …

Because I see this as a nice upgrade to my GX80/85, I have been dangerously close to hitting the preorder button at one of the big New York vendors.  On the other hand, I must remember that I have a habit of being overly attracted to “bright shiny new objects”, and the GX9 is just such an object.  I may yet purchase it, but I also know (quite frankly) that the GX9 should not be expected to improve my photography over the GX80/85…. 


A Few Flowers from the Tower Hill Botanic Garden

I found a couple of hours Sunday to take a trip to the local botanic garden. It’s called Tower Hill Botanic Garden. 

I made my trip simple by taking one camera and one lens, the EM-1 and 12-100mm F4 zoom. These images were taken at various focal lengths, at either F4 or F8. The focus bracketing and stacking feature might have helped; but again, I wanted to keep things simple. Purposely, I left the tripod at home.

[Had I remembered at the time that my Panasonic GX80/85 has a feature called “aperture bracketing”, I might have grabbed that body instead. With one press of the shutter you can get several or even all F stops. Next time!]

For each composition I shot one image at F4 and one at F8, not knowing which I’d prefer until I got back to my computer.  It’s always a compromise. Choose F4 and get a blurry-ish background that reduces distractions, or choose F8 and get more of the subject in focus due to greater depth of field. 

Native aspect ratio is 4:3 with Olympus (and Panasonic) cameras, but all of these have been cropped to a more square aspect ratio of 5:4 (as is found with a 8” x 10” print.)

Five F4 images:

100mm 1/250sec 800ISO

100mm 1/250sec 500ISO

50mm 1/100sec 500ISO

100mm 1/250sec 200ISO

Five F8 images:

100mm 1/200sec 800ISO

100mm 1/200sec 1000ISO

100mm 1/200 ISO3200

100mm 1/250sec 3200ISO

100mm 1/200 2500ISO


My First Year with the Olympus 12-100mm F4 PRO Zoom | Part 2 of 2

Part 1 was about size and weight and one comment about sharpness....

Part 2 is about features and handling....

In my opinion the most wonderful thing about this lens is its flexibility.  This is not just because of the wide range of focal lengths, but the fact that you can fill the frame at essentially all focal lengths (not at 12mm, but at 14-100mm) with a flower that measures 3” across.  This lens has well for for me, for flower and food photography.  I have owned the Olympus 60mm macro lens since its introduction, but now hardly need it for flowers and food. 






Though there are times I’d prefer the option for a shallower depth of field for people photography, I nevertheless enjoy the no-brainer ease of just shooting wide open at F4.  For me that is usually candidly photographing family.



The 12-100 is all I need for car photography, which I have enjoyed a few Saturdays during the summer on the lawn of the Larz Anderson museum near Boston. Again, I typically shoot wide open. 





But most of my images are landscape and travel images. The lens has been perfect for that, as I hate changing lenses. Even if the 12-100 were glued to the EM-1, and therefore I had no other choices, I think I’d be happy.  






I also like the physical and ergonomic aspect of the lens.  It has a “snap back” or "clutch" focus ring which changes the focus ring from a fly-by-wire focusing system to what feels like a mechanic focus ring with hard stops at both ends of the focus range.

Fly by wire focusing available on the left.
But notice on the right that the focus ring has been pulled down
to reveal a distance scale with hard stops at both ends of the scale.

I like that the rings (focus and zoom) are metal, not rubber.  They do not show wear, which I think will be helpful when (or if) I ever sell the lens.

Metal focus and zoom rings.

Switching the image stabilization off when using a tripod is easy as there is a switch on the lens barrel. And finally, there is the L-Fn function button on the lens barrel next to the image stabilization switch. Because the EM-1 body has only the one AFL/AEL button, one option is to set it for AEL and use the function button on the lens to lock focus.

On/off switch for image stabilization and an additional function button.

I have found only one downside, and that is the 72mm filter size. This is my problem, not the problem of the lens, because unfortunately my largest filters were only 67mm.  Looking back, of course I should have done what so many have recommended. I should have bought 72mm filters (or even the next size bigger!) from the very beginning. Then just spend a few dollars to get a set of step up rings.  Oh, well. Live and learn. 

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