Why I like the micro 4/3ds format on the Lumix GH-2

Minolta XD-11 SLR camera
Image via Wikipedia

A nice feature of the Lumix GH-2 from Panasonic, as well as other micro four thirds cameras, is their ability to use a wide variety of lenses.

I had two old Minolta film cameras and had several old lenses that work great with the GH-2, using a Minolta to m43 adapter ring.

Here’s a photo of my collection (picture taken with a Canon SX-1):

The lenses are from left to right:

  • On the GH-2, the Panasonic Lumix 45-200mm zoom
  • Vivitar 135mm prime, f/2.8, Minolta mount, purchased for $20. Works as a 270mm f/2.8 on the GH-2. I really like this lens.
  • Sigma 28mm to 70mm zoom, f/2.8, Minolta mount, bought it back in the 1980s.Works as a 56 to 140mm f/2.8 equivalent zoom on the GH-2. In many ways, this is one of my favorite lenses.  It is fairly fast and is almost a normal lens (56mm equiv.) at the wide angle end, plus very sharp under pixel peeping conditions.
  • Sigma 24mm wide angle prime, Minolta mount, bought in the 1980s. This is my fake 50mm standard lens – really, a 48mm equivalent.
  • Minolta 50mm prime, f/1.4, came with my original Minolta SRT-101 film camera. Works like a 100mm f/1.4 lens – super for indoor and night shots.
  • Minolta 50mm prime, f/1.7, came with an original Minolta X700 film camera.
  • Tamron 4mm-12mm zoom, f/1.4, C-mount CCTV lens, purchased for $144. Used only in 1920×1080/24p video mode. Works equivalent to a 21mm lens on a 35mm film camera when used in the 1080/24p video mode. Also works as a super macro lens.
  • Not shown: Lumix 14-42mm f/3.5 zoom that came with the GH-2.

This was the first time I’d pulled everything out and this collection seemed impressive.  Okay, okay, may be I am easily impressed. I know, its not Canon L-series glass. But it doesn’t cost as much as a new car either!

In fact, except for the Lumix lens, there’s not much money in this at all. I had all the Minolta lenses stored for decades.

The micro 4/3ds format enables use of all those old and often very good lenses. Either ones you already have, or ones that you can buy cheaply on Craigslist, EBay, or some camera stores and pawn shops.

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The story behind the Windows XP background photo #photography

Energy Blue desktop, featuring the new Royale ...
Image via Wikipedia

I always thought it looked like rolling hills in northern California. But I had heard otherwise – from people supposedly “in the know”. But they were wrong – the photographer who took the photo says he took it in Napa County area.

Windows XP desktop screen is a Napa image.


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Video editing on the iPad #videography #ipad

Image representing iPad as depicted in CrunchBase
Image via CrunchBase

I am apparently the last person on earth who does not yet have an iPad. Anyway, those that have them are using them for video editing, as described here: Quick-edit Videography with iMovie for iPad « Moving at the Speed of Creativity.

Me, I still use my MacBook for portable work. Why? I like having over 100 Gigabytes of disk storage available, plus an external disk drive as well. I store stills and video on board while traveling.

For event videography, I sometimes record direct to disk, routing the Canon XH A1’s firewire output direct to the Macbook. This copies the HDV equivalent files to the disk, for captureless editing. At 12 to 13 GB per hours, this uses up considerable disk space rather quickly!

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Unique Micro Four Thirds (m43) Lenses

Nikkor 50mm f /1.8 lens for the Nikon F-mount.
Image via Wikipedia

A neat opportunity with the micro 4/3ds cameras is the opportunity to readily use older lenses or, for DSLR-type cameras, non-standard lenses.

I recently bought a remarkable Vivitar f2.8 135mm prime lens for the Minolta mount for $20 on EBay. Wow. On the micro 4/3ds camera, there is a 2x multiplier so that this becomes an f2.8 270mm lens. For $20 🙂

With a Minolta to m43 adapter ring, this works like a champ. My first two photos with this wonderful lens are below – click on the photos for full size.

The first one illustrates the narrow depth of field, photographing my BBQ grill cover from the side. Photographed using the GH-2, Minolta to m43 adapter ring, and the Vivitar f2.8 135mm lens. Who says you can’t get narrow depth of field with a micro four thirds camera?

The second is the required flowers shot.

Again, click on the photos to see full size.

I also picked up a Tamron 4mm to 12mm C-mount surveillance camera zoom. For shooting video, this makes a fantastic wide angle lens, providing the equivalent of a 10.4mm lens in 1920×1080 video mode.  C-mount lenses were used on professional 16mm cameras and many professional video cameras of the past. They are also used on surveillance cameras today. If you get one, make sure it has “1/2 inch” coverage. There are tons of C-mount lens for sale on EBay.

When I have more time, I will have to shoot some demo videos and more photos to illustrate. If only we could get a nice, slow, motorized zoom on one of these cameras, I wouldn’t need my video cameras!

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Stock Photos and Royalty Free music

Royalty Free Stock Photos at Fotolia.com. Good photos, low prices.

Other good sources include the Zemanta plugin in WordPress that tries to fetch public domain photos for use on your blog. I only use them for non-commercial purposes as many of them go back to Flickr or Wikipedia and other public sources.

For music, check out Incompetech.  Free for personal, non-commercial use – although I have donated to him as donations are certainly encouraged.

Separately, I posted a civil war battle re-enactment video on Youtube last night and shortly thereafter received a Youtube email saying that my video may violate a Sony music copyright.  All videos on Youtube are automatically scanned by a pattern matcher that looks to see if copyrighted music is in your video.

A problem I have noted in the past is that this cannot distinguish between legitimate, even licensed use of music. In my case, they objected to the use of Taps, music written by a bugler and a General during the U.S. Civil War in about 1862, to honor the death of soldiers. By about 1871, Taps had become standard at military funerals and was formerly established as a standard in 1891. My recording came from the United States Army. I am having a hard time seeing how Sony has a copyright on a US Army performance of a Civil War era piece of music and have submitted this to Youtube’s dispute resolution.

Here is the video – a 2005 re-enactment of a Civil War battle:

That video was shot originally in SD and even a little bit in digital 8 or Hi8 analog formats – I no longer remember. I remastered the video yesterday to take advantage of technology improvements available since 2005. This included color adjustments, slight sharpening, new titles, and eventually output of the 720×480 original video in 1440×960 size before uploading to Youtube. The result, surprisingly, is a video that looks much better than SD – its not HD, of course but it really does look a lot better. Watch it full screen!

Meanwhile, I am just starting to edit the 2011 battle re-enactment. I will be using almost exclusively, video shot on a GH-2, a bit on a Canon SX-1, and only a little on the XH A1 video camera. That latter is because I made a stupid boo boo and did not get the quality I wanted on the video images. Unlike past years, which are all edited on Final Cut Pro, this year’s is being edited using Sony Vegas Movie Studio Platinum 11. Vegas does native AVCHD video editing, as well as Canon’s H.264 native format, and handles HDV – all without doing format conversions. I do not know when I will finish this as other things are a higher priority on my time.

Digital still photography

Until now, most of my still photography was mostly family and vacation snapshots with only a bit being serious still photography. Most of my photography has been at 30 frames per second.

As a very happy owner of a Panasonic Lumix GH-2 – which I bought for video work, of course – I am now getting interested in still photography once again. I say “once again” since I had (and still have) a darkroom that has not been used much in recent years. In other words, I used to do lots of still photography.

This week I joined the 21st century and begin working with RAW images. Having not been shooting and editing RAW images until now makes me feel like, well, a dork.

I downloaded the trial versions of Adobe Lightroom and Apple’s Aperture. I like both of them and especially like the electronic download price for Aperture ($80 at the Mac App store).

Unfortunately, after I imported an iPhoto library the program began crashing and bogged down to unbelievably slow, even after applying a number of tricks that do improve the speed. But the crashes, and Apple’s creating confusion about its professional products with the release of FCP X have some thinking that Apple may not continue on with Aperture. Since the release of version 3 – which was buggy and suffered from slow performance – their sales plummeted. Most of those problems have been fixed in 3.1 and it seems the new $80 price point might be an attempt to win back market share – or at least test if there is a market for Apple at that price. Who knows?

Regarding Final Cut Pro X – its billed as a successor, and therefore, presumably upgrade, to Final Cut Pro 7. But they left out sufficient features that many think it is a downgrade and are not happy with FCPX. Thousands of professionals have signed a petition to Apple asking them to re-instate FCP 7. They have good reasons to complain. FCP X drops features from FCP and is not compatible with FCP 7. That means, say, if your team is adding new editing workstations to work on existing projects, your team is stuck – FCP 7 has been discontinued and FCP X cannot edit your current FCP 7 projects. Quite a mess.

In fact, FCP X is an upgrade to Final Cut Express. Apple discontinued Final Cut Express upon introducing FCP X. They also added in features like importing from iMovie, something that professional editors have about zero likelihood of using. The key idea that seems missed so far is that FCP X is a upgrade to FCE. And while FCE was officially discontinued, it kind of looks like FCP was itself discontinued. It’s Final Cut Express – may be that is where the “X” comes from, “Express”?

Is Apple abandoning the professional market? That market always was small – but was influential in terms of respected individuals and teams buying Apple and encouraging others to do so. The bigger market is the pro-sumer market, not professionals. With the success of iPhone, iPod, and iPad, does Apple need those influencers still? Probably not.

Which gets us back to Aperture. Many now think Aperture may go the same way as FCP – which means, end of life.  It was a professional product – perhaps with the price drop, Apple is trying to re-position it as a pro-sumer product and out of the crosshairs of Adobe’s better products.

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