Tag Archives: photography

Panasonic GF1 or Olympus E-PL1?

I’m currently owning an old superzoom (Canon Powershot S3 IS) and the Panasonic LX3 and am getting ready to move up to a “real” camera. emoticon - wink I’m convinced that the Micro Four Thirds (m4/3) system is the right choice for me, as I suspect I would never actually carry a full-size SLR with me.

Coming from the LX3, which is a camera I really love, I have a bit of Panasonic bias. I like the way it performs and handles, and that has at least up until recently made me convinced that I should get a GF1, especially since it has (had) a much better AF performance than the Olympus PENs.

So hard to choose!

However, I’m starting to slowly change my mind. I was recently playing with an E-P1 in a shop and was first very annoyed with the Auto mode which consistently chose slower shutter speeds than was possible to manage without a tripod. Then after about 20 shots, I realized that the in-body image stabilization (IBIS) was turned off. After enabling it, I suddenly got almost 100% sharp photos instead. (Btw, I guess this tendency to select too slow shutter speeds is a firmware bug or something? Shouldn’t it take into consideration whether IBIS is enabled or not?)

Unfortunately, Panasonic chose the route to put image stabilization in their lenses, but not in all of them (and obviously not in rivaling Olympus lenses). Olympys, on the other hand, chose the in-camera body stabilization instead, which means that any lens attached enjoys the benefit of stabilization. 3 stops of IS is pretty huge. In the Panasonic LX3, I can sometimes take sharp photos at 1/8 shutter speeds without a tripod I if set it to burst mode and take 3-4 photos at the same time.

This leads me to think that buying a camera without IBIS is a pretty bad idea, given that many lenses (20mm/1.7, 7-14mm, 9-18mm) don’t have IS in the lens either. Also, with the new firmware update, it appears that Olympus isn’t that far behind in terms of AF performance anymore, although the kit lens isn’t very fast of course (though I didn’t find it slower than my LX3).

So, I’m now a bit torn. I’m starting to lean towards an E-PL1 because it also has a built-in flash, and the out-of-the-box colors of the JPEG images are simply stunning. In general, it feels like it has many advantages over its bigger brothers E-P1 and E-P2 while at the same time being cheaper.

At the same time, I really want the Panasonic 20mm/1.7 lens and think I’d use that more than any kit zoom, and I realize that buying that lens separately ends up getting pretty expensive compared to buying it as a kit lens with the GF1.

Am I overrating the importance of IS here? It feels to me like buying any Panasonic m4/3 is a bad idea if you care about low light performance and want to also use the camera as a casual social setting camera.

It’s such a shame that Panasonic chose the in-lens IS route here, since it really makes me less interested in their cameras even though they seem to perform better in many aspects. At this point, I would even go as far as saying that I am hardly interested in what a future GF2 will look like, because I already know that it will force me to use 3-4 stops higher shutter speeds compared to any Olympus camera with the same pancake lens.

Nokia N900 impressions

I’ve been using the Nokia N900 for a couple of weeks now and I have both good and bad things to say about it. To give you an idea of what I’m comparing with, my previous phone was a Nokia N95. Here’s my list of impressions:

Pros

  • The screen is pretty good, and I rarely have a problem clicking on links and buttons using my thumbs. The fact that it’s resistive feels like an advantage in this incredibly cold Swedish winter. Next to a Nexus One, however, it’s obvious that the color reproduction could be better.
  • The Mozilla-based MicroB browser really is awesome. Scrolling and zooming is so smooth and quick that it feels like surfing on the iPhone, only this time you’re using the real web. By far the best web browsing experience I’ve had on a mobile device.
  • The fact that I can use it to call VoIP, Skype, Gtalk, and regular cellular networks is amazing.
  • The Conversations application seamlessly integrates IM and SMS in an intuitive manner.
  • The media player handles almost anything you throw at it after installing a few extra software packages.
  • Great synchronization with Exchange-based mail services (e.g. Zimbra, which Mozilla uses).
  • Nice multiple desktop solution (though lacks useful widgets).
  • Battery life is impressive in active use such as in a phone call. Though see the standby time below…
  • The “one-click” (actually a few clicks) publishing of both photos and videos to services like Facebook and Flickr is really neat. Though see below about the camera quality…
  • It really is fun to use it. And it’s open source! And it can run Firefox!

Cons

  • This thing is heavy! I thought my N95 was heavy, but this is significantly heavier. It definitely feels like a solid device, for better or worse.
  • The camera is actually worse than the 3-year-old N95 camera in a number of ways: terrible colors in low light, terrible metering, light leaks making the subject in focus appear washed out, and the field of view is narrower than the N95 camera. In comparison, here’s a photo taken by the N95. Both are 5-megapixel cameras.
  • The standby time is a joke. I don’t know what I’m doing wrong, but sometimes I can just keep the phone in my pocket during the whole day and it will discharge in less than 8 hours. I first kept all accounts logged in (Skype, VoIP, Jabber), but have since then compromised a bit and only keep Jabber online. Still, the battery isn’t impressive.
  • The horizontal layout is annoying most of the time. When I’m out and about, it feels awkward that I can’t use the phone with one hand. I understand the “handheld computer” legacy (I even owned an N810), but feel that my typical use is much more like a regular smartphone than a portable computer. Ideally, all applications should support both layouts.
  • The keyboard, while certainly better than the N810, is still not really good. It’s too easy to click on the wrong keys, and there’s no auto complete feature that can detect (and correct) common spelling mistakes.
  • The auto suggest feature only shows one suggestion, so 90% of the time it’s not suggesting the word you want and as a result you end up ignoring the suggestions altogether.
  • The physical unlock switch is only comfortable to use when in horizontal layout. It’s nearly impossible to reach with one hand if you just want to make a quick call.