Tuesday, April 22nd 2014
I mentioned on Saturday that a little mishap occurred, resulting in my lens cap sinking into the Floating Harbour in Bristol. This was unfortunate because, having used my camera with and without a lens hood, I know by experience just how important a piece of equipment it is. I would have to acquire a new one as soon as possible but, this being a bank holiday weekend, I would have to wait until Tuesday.
Accordingly, this morning I rang my favourite camera shop, London Camera Exchange in the Strand, and asked two questions. You can probably guess the first. The second question was the result of making a decision that I had been mulling over for some time.
I bought my present camera, a Panasonic Lumix DMC-G1, in November 2008 (see A new picture box), and this proved to be a good purchase, being a very capable camera but also reasonably small in size. However, nothing lasts forever, and for a while now the camera has been showing increasing signs of age and wear. For example, I have to jiggle the control knob to get it to stay on the chosen setting, and even once this have been selected, it may slide off. The extremely useful pull-out and rotatable preview screen is also beginning to fail: I can pull it out only a little way before the screen goes dark. Should I have the camera repaired or should I upgrade?
If I upgrade, what should I buy instead? There is plenty of choice at a range of prices and little to choose between the leading contenders. The Panasonic Lumix DMC-G range, however, has a couple of important advantages. The first is size. They are very compact cameras owing to the fact that they are not true SLRs and therefore do not have to find room for the retracting mirror. (The viewfinder and preview screen both show the scene through the sensor, giving a virtual 100% coverage of the field of view – as good or better than the average SLR.) I can comfortably carry the camera, with the standard 14-42mm lens (and lens hood) fitted, in a pouch attached to a belt. I can whip it out, take a photo and put it away again, almost without anyone noticing. The second advantage in upgrading to a later version of the same series is that I already have the lenses and would need the body only.
So I called the London Camera Exchange and enquired, first, whether they had a petal lens hood for a G1 14-42 lens. The answer, disappointingly, was no. I then asked whether they had a Panasonic Lumix DMC-G6 body-only, to which the answer was yes. So off I went to the Strand as to a meeting with destiny.
The camera came with a battery but, of course, no lens hood, as there was no lens. Having committed myself to the purchase I asked whether they were sure they didn’t have a lens hood. It turned out that they did, but that it was on a camera. No matter, they were happy to sell it to me.
A third reason for sticking with a known brand is that I assumed the learning curve involved in getting to know the camera would be less steep than with a different make. In fact, I find there are quite a few differences between the G1 and the G6. For example, I used to use my G1 as a telescope. If I turned a small knob on the top to manual focus, I could then twiddle the focussing ring and the camera would magnify the view. This was intended as an aid to focussing but it was also useful for reading dates high up on tall buildings! With G6, sadly, it isn’t so easy. To change to manual focus, you have to go into the settings, travel down several layers and then set and save. Then you have to do the same thing in again to set it back to auto-focus. This is a definite minus.
I am quite pleased with the picture quality. The sensor on the G1 is 12meg and on the G6 this has been increased to 16meg. Sensor sizes are increasing all the time and there are cameras in roughly the same price bracket with 24meg or more, but 16 is already quite meaty. With the G1, I found that to get a maximum of detail in the image I needed to take photos in RAW (RW2) mode, convert these to Tiff with the supplied software, and edit them as necessary. Having experimented with the formats in the G6, I have found that the Jpeg is actually better than the RAW. Converting the RAW image to another format using the included SilkyPix software produces a result that looks pale and a bit misty compared with the sharp nicely coloured Jpeg version.
The camera has a few bells and whistles not present on the G6. I am particularly interested in one of these: panorama mode. How often have you admired a landscape knowing that you have no chance of capturing it in its entirety with your camera? You could of course acquire stitching software and attempt to join several photos together but the result is often less than perfect. Being able to capture a panoramic view in the camera is a definite plus. I look forward to trying it.
I have taken a few test pictures, of course (I have some lovely views of our kitchen sink!), but my first chance to try out the camera properly will be on Saturday when we make a trip to… well, you’ll have to wait and see! The proof of the pudding is in the taking of pictures!