My new Panasonic G2 is beating up on my Olympus E-620

I have been happy with the Olympus E-620, and the purchase a few months ago of the Panasonic G2 was a spontaneous purchase prompted by one of those one-day deals on Amazon... body only for $290! Both cameras are built with the small "slr-look", and they share (I have read) the same 12mp Panasonic sensor. The E-620 is a 4/3 format (43) and the G2 is a micro 4/3 format (m43). The biggest difference (for me) is the optical viewfinder (OVF) of the Olympus versus the electronic viewfinder (EVF) of the Panasonic. The fact that the Oly does not shoot video is of no consequence to me.

I do not yet have any m43 lenses for the Panasonic, so I found myself comparing the image quality of the two bodies using my Oly 14-54II. On the Panasonic I needed a 43-to-m43 adapter to use this lens. I purchased the one made by Panasonic as it was a bit cheaper than the Olympus adapter. As I recall, the price was under $100.

Using my 24" computer monitor with HD resolution, I found that even at 100% magnification there was very little difference in image quality and noise levels between the G2 and E-620. However, I found this only to be true after I realized each camera "rounded" their ISO measurements differently. For example, F5.6 @ 1/100th @ISO400 on the Oly gave the same exposure as ISO200 on the Pany. Otherwise, if you shoot at identical ISOs you will assume the Panasonic is noisier. This conclusion was confirmed by the measurements at DXOmark which showed that both cameras would actually be shooting at ISO300 in the example described above. Each camera rounds its ISO numbers in opposite directions!

Once this was understood, I found that image quality was similar (all shots were in RAW and processed in Lightroom) when one adjusts for the different ISO rounding. I say "similar" and not "exact" because I found the 14-54II to result in slightly sharper images when mounted on the G2. I was expecting just the opposite; but my guess is that my results were due to the less aggressive anti-alias (AA) filter on the G2's sensor. That's just a guess based on what I have read on the Internet; in reality the difference may only be due to camera sample variations. Nevertheless, when printed as 8x10s I didn't notice the difference... well, maybe I noticed a slight difference, but it was only because I knew there was supposed to be a difference!

With the 14-54II attached, the E-620 is a pretty nice combo, as the Olympus body has image stabilization built into it. Panasonic body's lack image stabilization.  On the other hand after a one week vacation with the lens attached to the Panasonic I never found any shots out of focus. In my preferred P-mode or A-mode, the Panasonic nicely kept shutter speed at 1/focal length and I set maximum auto ISO at 1600. In the travel shots I took, the ISO remained at 400 or less perhaps 90% of the time. The lens itself weighs under 16 ounces and balances well on either camera. Anything heavier in my opinion would result in awkward ergonomics.

What I like about the E-620 that is missing in the G2

1) Auto ISO is enabled in manual exposure mode. I love this feature when shooting nature shots such as butterflies. With my Oly 70-300 I typically pick a speed of 1/250th and an aperture of F8. With auto ISO you can still get an automatic exposure, as the camera will pick the ISO required for a good exposure. This is a great feature now that most cameras provide ISOs in 1/3 stop increments and high ISO is getting better with each new generation of sensors. I don't understand why this feature is not available in the G2. I know its available on Nikon and Canon dSLRs, and I even have it on my Panasonic super-point-and-shoot, the LX5.

2) Camera build quality. The Olympus feels like it was built by a camera company. The Panasonic feels like it was built by a computer company.  For all I know the Pany is sturdier, but it has more of a plastic-y feel to it (to me). The Oly feels like quality.

3) Shutter sound. Oly's shutter sounds nice to me. Like a precision machine. The Pany has more of a "clunk" to it. The Pany sounds cheap to me, though I am getting used to it.

4) Vertical Grip. I have this. I like having a place for my pinkie finger to go, rather than having it curled up under the body.  The grip helps the ergonomics overall, because I shoot a lot of vertical landscapes. It is also helpful with the heavier 70-300.

Olympus E-620 + vertical grip + 70-300mm zoom

5) Presets. The E-620 has two "presets" that can be programed through the menu system.  Unlike custom modes on the G2 which are accessed through the command dial, presets on the Olympus require diving into the menu.  I counted 9 clicks of either the 4-way arrow pad or the "OK" button to access a preset.  Terrible.  On the other hand, it does have an advantage, and this is why it is listed here.  A preset can be programmed with all your preferred settings, and when accessed, the preset preferences can be used in any mode on the command dial (P, A, S, or M).  (Note:  with the custom modes on the G2, you need to program whether it will be operated specifically in P, A, S, or M.)

What I like about the G2 that is missing on the E-620

1) Viewfinder. The G2's electronic eye-level viewfinder (EVF) is larger than the optical viewfinder (OVF) on the E-620 and I find this a huge advantage. The difference is especially noticeable to me because I wear glasses. This results in my eye being further away from the viewfinder, rendering it smaller. With the G2's EVFEVF and the 3" LCD when shooting or for playback. One big advantage of this EVF is that you can magnify your image (there are actually two magnification levels). This is very helpful when focusing manually, and manual focusing is required with legacy lenses (see #5 below). On the other hand, you do give up clarity. The EVF is nowhere near as sharp and crisp as an optical viewfinder, because an OVF allows you to view your subject directly through the lens, rather than on a little television.

2) Direct Bracketing Button. To bracket with the E-620 you have to go into the menu and set two parameters: the sequential shooting speed rate and the bracketing desired. This is a real pain. The workaround is to use the "preset" function (see #5 above) but this must still be accessed through the menu, and about nine clicks.  Then nine more clicks to turn it off. On the other hand, the G2 has a slider (not actually a button) on the top plate with bracketing being one of the choices. I have it set for 5 shots at 1 EV intervals. I bracket a lot of my landscape shots, so the G2's slider is a real bonus for me.

3) Custom Modes. On the control dial on the top plate there are three Custom modes available. The Olympus has none. I have C1 set up with settings I prefer when using an external flash (fixed ISO, flash WB, A-priority, and center-weighted metering, for example). C2 is set up for my preferences while shooting legacy lenses in aperture priority.

4) Better automatic exposure settings. (This conclusion is based on my preference for P-mode or A-mode, and auto ISO.) I like the fact that the G2 exposure programming protects a speed of 1/focal length. For example, with a 100mm lens, the camera will maintain a speed of 1/100th sec. even if it needs to increase the ISO to the maximum you have set it for (my maximum is set for ISO 1600). Yes, I know about image stabilization, but I prefer to shoot at 1/focal length and not less, and would rather have the ISO increase than have the speed decrease. The E-620, on the other hand, will drop the shutter speed before maxing out at ISO1600. I don't like that. Other folks do.
5) Legacy Lenses. Using the appropriate lens adapter (my Nikon to m43 adapter was about $20), you can use all kinds of old manual focus lenses. You just need to be sure that the lens has an aperture ring. Because of the EVF, even if closed down to a small diameter aperture, the viewfinder will "gain up" to provide the brightness needed to see your subject. And the magnification feature can be very helpful with manual focus. I have loved using my old 5.8cm (58mm) Nikkor F1.4. This lens was inherited from a friend of my dad's back in the early 1970s. Based on the serial number it was built in Japan in approximately 1963. That makes it nearly 50 years old! I have had so much fun with this system (camera-adapter-old lens) that I've now bought three other old Nikkors on EBay: 50mm F3.5 micro, 105mm F2.8 micro, 85mm F1.4.

Panasonic G2 + Cowboy Studios lens adapter + Nikkor 56mm F1.4 circa 1963

Final Comments:
There are plenty of differences between these two camera bodies, but the above are the main ones for me. If I had to pick just one camera, it would easily be the G2. However, I have kept the E-620 for use with the 70-300. With a lens that big (21 ounces and 5+ inches closed) I want the image stabilization provided by the Olympus body. Interestingly the lens actually focuses faster on the G2. But without image stabilization, the G2 body is not the best solution for this lens.  I own the vertical/battery grip for the E-620 which makes using the 70-300 delightful. On the G2, this lens is a bit heavy. Also the ability to shoot with auto ISO in manual mode is a big help to me with the E-620/70-300 combination when shooting flowers and butterflies. That's because I can get an automatic exposure while at the same time determining manually my desired shutter speed and desired F-stop.

There's lots of new stuff coming out from Olympus and Panasonic, and I am looking forward to lusting over all of it!


Harsh Light versus Soft Light

While going through this years crop of photos from Maine, I came across these two of basically the same scene.  The first was taken in harsh mid-day sun (2:30 in early July), while the second was taken toward the end of the day (4:30 in October).  The light was much lower in the sky for the second image, and there was cloud cover to diffuse the light. 

The first shot has more of a blue color cast to it, while the second has more amber.  The harshness of the light in the first shot is made obvious by the dark shadows on the ramp and the very bright, perhaps even overexposed, areas such as the ramp itself.

One advantage of the second image is that it is much easier for the camera's sensor to capture the different tones when the light is softer and more diffused. There are lots of mid-tones with not too much in the way of very dark or very light areas.  Conversely, in harsh light it is very easy to have areas of both overexposure and underexposure.

Which is better?  I think the second image is helped by the clouds in the distance.  But even without the clouds I think I prefer the second image.  YMMV.


Club "Salon" entries for November 2011

These are my five November entries in my photo club's monthly "salon".  The first two were submitted as prints.  The black and white was taken on top of Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park in Maine.  A dramatic sky like this was a hint that it might make a reasonable black and white print.  The butterfly was photographed in a local butterfly house.

The final three images were digital submissions.  The Ladyslipper was in the "nature" category. In the spring I had found a patch of these in pine woods on town conservation land.  This was a real find, and I went back several times to get some good light.  The other two images were entered in the "open" category.
View from Cadillac Mountain
Glasswing Butterfly on Lantana Flowers
Lady Slipper

Maine Morning

Old Truck Hood


The Panasonic LX5 shines in Maine, beats my dSLR 85% of the time.

During a two week vacation in Maine this summer, I brought along my little Panasonic LX5 and my bigger Olympus E620 dSLR.  I was quite surprised that of the 660 images I have decided to keep (hard drive space is cheap these days!)  that fewer than 100 were taken with the E620.  That's less than 15%!

[A few trip pictures are included below.  I have posted about 35 images on my Website, here: www.peterfraileyphoto.com/mainevacationjunjul ]

All pictures were taken in RAW + JPEG, and both cameras have full manual controls.  When it comes to one important feature for me, the LX5 is better: it has a broader f-stop range for 3 shot exposure bracketing. You can bracket up to 3-stops, compared with only 1-stop on the Olympus. And it is easier to get to the bracketing on the LX5 because you are able to program the function button for that purpose.  The Olympus takes a lot more clicks to get into the bracketing. 

Another nice feature of the LX5 is the 24-90mm equivalent lens. I prefer this over the 28-108mm equivalent lens on the E620. 

When I say that the LX5 beats my Olympus E620 85% of the time, I am not talking about image quality.  I am talking about usability.  Especially for landscape and travel photography. As a tool, I picked the LX5 85% of the time during this trip.  This wasn't planned, it just happened.  It wasn't because I expected better image quality.  It was based on a subliminal mental formula: (camera to carry = image quality + size of camera + convenience + ease of use +  fun factor.) 

The image quality piece of the formula was not on this trip as important to me as it might be to others.  That's because I realize that 98-99% of the images I keep on my computer will never be printed. Nor will they ever win any contests, no matter what camera was used.  They will be seen at no wider than 650 pixels on this blog (about 1/3 of a megapixel), or no wider than 1550 pixels on my Web site (about 1.5 megapixels) or no wider than 1920 pixels (less than 2 megapixels) on my 24" monitor or an HD TV.  For this purpose everything I get from the LX5 is "good enough."  Actually, for these images, I usually keep the JPEG and dump the RAW.

Some of the LX5 images from this trip have already been posted previously. No one has told me that I should have had a better camera for any of these. That's not to say these images could not have been improved upon; but improvement has nothing to do with the camera.

As far as printing goes, perhaps 12 images (2% of the 660) might be printed.  At 9" x 12" or smaller it is hard to tell the difference. To be honest, as much as I like the LX5 (obviousy), if I knew which 12 images would turn out to be the best, it is for those shots that I would want the Olympus.

I have posted larger and more pictures (about 35 images) on my Website, here: www.peterfraileyphoto.com/mainevacationjunjul


I just added a "Flowers" gallery to my Web site

I created a new gallery on my Web site for flower photos, and have just today uploaded 80 or so images .  These were taken with a variety of cameras, even a couple of point-and-shoot cameras.  But perhaps my favorite technique at the moment involves hand-holding an Olympus dSLR with a 70-300 zoom lens and shooting at about 1/250th second to eliminate any subject motion from even the slightest amount of wind. 

At 150mm with this zoom lens there is a 1:2 macro setting which basically fills the viewfinder with a 3" flower at a focusing distance of about 33".  Since many of my flower images are taken in public gardens it is important to stay on the marked paths.  This Olympus lens gives me the reach I so often need.

Here's a direct link:



Images from coastal Maine (part 4): leading lines

While reviewing my pictures from our trip to Maine I noticed a few that are examples of "leading lines"; that is, lines that draw (hopefully) the viewer into the image.  These leading lines are in the form of diagonal straight lines and s-curves.  I found it interesting that there were several red buildings that I was attracted to.


Images from coastal Maine (part 3): foggy days

As part three of this series of posts of images from Maine, I thought I would put together some foggy weather images.  Maine is known for its coastal fog; however, we had very little of it on our trip.  But here are a few images where there was enough fog to get a feel for it, but no so much that I didn't dare carry my camera.


Images from coastal Maine (part 2): Blue sky with puffy clouds

In my prior post I mentioned the advantages of image-taking during the golden hours.  On the other hand, this is rather limiting when you are traveling. 

All of the images below were taken mid-day.  I took them mid-day because that is the time I was there!

I love blue sky and puffy clouds and the sky is often its blueist mid-day and when the sun is at your back.  But you need to watch your exposure.  The white clouds are easy to overexpose, and they will look like featureless white blobs.

A strategy for dealing with this is to use a bit of "exposure compensation" (perhaps minus 2/3rd of one stop) to retain the detail in the clouds. Even the simplist cameras will often have this feature, often referred to as EV compensation.  Usually you will have a button or a menu item that is written as "+/-". Adding "+" numbers will result in a brighter exposure. Adding "-" numbers will reduce the light and make the overall picture darker or less exposed.

By adding -2/3 EV compensation the clouds will look better, but the shadows in the foreground will get darker.  This is not necessarily a bad thing.  But if you want to fix it, a bit of "fill light" in processing software like Adobe Lightroom can often help.

I'm not sure I was entirely sucessful in these shots, but I don't think the clouds are noticeably "blown out".


The next three images were taken at Colonial Pemaquid State Historical Site, and the site of Fort William Henry that was originally built in 1692

Pemaquid Lighthouse

Whitehead Light Station

Birch Point Beach State Park.  Beaches up there are never crowded... it seems; though this was taken on Thursday, June 30th, just before the long 4th of July weekend.

Near Owls Heads Lighthouse

Public Beach south of the center of Camden

Belfast waterfront

Bridge over Penobscott Narrows, Bucksport

From the town landing in Blue Hills


Images from coastal Maine: The golden hour

The "golden hour" is often viewed as the best time to take photographs.  Typically it's one hour after sunrise and one hour before sunset.  But I believe this has to be taken loosely, as it depends on your location.  Technically, according to Wikipedia, the golden hour is created when the sun is at an altitude of 10-12 degrees.  In the Arctic circle I think this could last most of the day.

The golden hour is known for its soft and warm light.  There are no harsh shadows or bright highlights, such as occur during the middle of the day, and which are hard for a camera to record.

During a two week vacation in Maine, I took a few images during the golden hour.  However, with the sunrise so early in the morning (twilight around 4:45, as I recall) it was pretty hard to motivate ourselves to wake up, grab coffee, and go out and meet the morning mosquitoes.

The first three were taken with a point and shoot camera.  I'm a big fan of small cameras.  In the first instance, I took shots with both a point and shoot and a dSLR.  Though technically the dSLR had better results (but not that much better), the lighting and composition was just a little better with the point and shoot.  It goes to show me that lighting and composition are far more important than the camera you are using.

In the second and third scenes a point and shoot was I had with me at the time.  And the final shot was taken with an Olympus dSLR with my best lens.  I tried this final scene with my point and shoot, but it just didn't get as much detail out of the clouds as did the dSLR.

Two mornings:

Two evenings:


Some shutter therapy at Tower Hill Botanic Gardens today

I wanted to get out and take some pictures today.  The sky was awesome and the weather dry and cool, though there with a bit more wind than I like for flower photos.  The drive to Tower Hill is easy for me and I always enjoy stopping at Davidian's Farm Stand for a couple of  Apple Cider Donuts on the way.

Overall there seemed to be lots of flowers, but upon closer examination it was clear than many were past their prime.  But after all, it is the middle of September and summer is almost over.

Based on what I see in the few pictures I did take, the bright day allowed me to easily shoot at high speed even with low ISO and this was sufficient to freeze the action.  I used my Panasonic LX5 for all of these shots.  As always, these are hand-held.