FX, DX or MFT?

Combining the very small pocket camera like Lumix GM5 with an additional semi-professional body like Olympus OM-D is a strong argument for Micro-Four-Thirds compared to the big Nikon D750.


Yesterdays visit at our local camera store and a very helpful consultancy finished this option for me. As I like taking low-light pictures with fast lenses and without flash the small CCD sensors have major disadvantages according to measurement made by DxOLab:

  • ISO 495: 1″ The Sony RX100 III
  • ISO 896: MFT best Low-Light ISO rating is given to the excellent Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II
  • ISO 1347: APS size like Sony A6000 and I assume also for Fuji X-T1 which I used to do nice shorts up to ISO 1600 with visible loss of quality.
  • ISO 2956: Nikon FX family or even remarkable ISO 3279 for Nikon Df

The benefit of MFT vs. 1″ of one stop is compensated by the Sony with the bright lens of 1.8 vs. 3.5 at the Lumix.

There is one stop differences between MFT vs. APS and even more compared to FX. Why is this? It is simply the size of the sensor pixel which make the differences.

So overall, MFT is not small enough for a real pocket camera and not good enough for the semi-pro cameras. That’s why I will choose the Sony RX 100 for the pocket and either Fuji or Nikon for APS or even FX camera body.

 

 

 

Fujifilm System Cameras

Fujifilm proves to be a major player in the digital age of photography. And that is really amazing as Fuji started with making motion picture films more than 80 years ago. Today, Fuji is strong in machines that print photo albums, big and small traditional prints in photo shops around the world, on the one hand and shaping the camera market with superb digital cameras and lenses on the other. The success of digital print with their acquisition of XEROX is of course very much hidden from the public. But I remember my dedicated photo dealer from Kronberg near Frankfurt who fell in love with his new Fuji-Xerox printing machine around 2002. The public probably first recognized the shift with Fuji release of the X100 at photokina in 2010. Setting the tone for retro-look digital camera with excellent image quality and good old usability with buttons and menus like on computer screens. At the same time profits from “chemical” film business dropped from 60% to Zero in a decade. Overall the Economist nicely phrased it 2012 in on sentence:

“Kodak acted like a stereotypical change-resistant Japanese firm, while Fujifilm acted like a flexible American one.”

Anybody in doubt about the successful shift from analog to digital world was convinced by Fuji’s release of the X-T1 in 2014 – the flagship for the x-series. This nice body replaces a traditional semi-pro camera, is much smaller and lighter, features a great digital viewfinder, behaves well in low light conditions and more.


I tested this nice body with the extra hand-battery grip and the standard zoom 18-55mm 1:2.8-4 for three weeks and like many things:

  • First it works like my old Miranda. I love setting manually shutter-time, f-stops at the lens, and ISO with solid dials. For me it even outperforms the Leica on useability. This is perfectly described in Fuji camera catalog

“Each engraved marking on the dials reminds you of the essential appeal of using a precision photographic tool. The X-T1 brings you back to the very essence of photography – the control of light – and it comes via the manual shutter speed, exposure compensation, ISO sensitivity and metering dials. Including the drive dial, all five dials are intuitively arranged on the camera’s top-plate and the use of double-deck dials both simplifies operation and streamlines the elegant design.”

But there are a view things I wish to be better:

  • There is not GPS sensor included. Adding these few extra Euro to a expensive camera is not a price issue! And the strange argument of the camera industry that GPS drains battery is just an excuse. Using WiFi to get GPS from a smart phone also drains. And all I want is a button where I can say manually to get GPS data now.
  • WiFi connection and Remote App really sucks. Here you can see that Fuji is strong on digital cameras but misses the boot on internet, social media, and connectivity altogether.

Looking at the overall Fuji x-series offering I also miss a pocket size camera like the Lumix GM-5. This is quite natural as the xf-lenses are much bigger than MFT. But there is still a convincing collection of smaller and less expensive Fuji x-series bodies out there.

Overall the Fuji X-T1 can replace my Nikon world completely.

Leica experience. Like it… later…

Leica sounds like old fashioned analog camera. Right. But Leica is also high-end full frame rangefinder digital camera for professionals and my use-case (2) semi-pro. Leica’s old M system made it to the digital world. With it’s current Leica M and Leica M-P the old value of manual cameras and the advantage of digital cameras merge very nicely.


Leica is famous for its lenses and photographers. For me Leica was always linked to the French photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson and of course real German engineering and manufacturing quality.


Be aware, that Leica is very different from any other camera:

  1. Manual focus: combining the rangefinder and the viewfinder into one large, bright view with a brighter double image in the center;
  2. Only aperture priority: set the shutter speed automatically, or fully manual expose;
  3. Really, really expensive: Leica M with only one lens is more than €7’000.

If price is an issue stop reading. A full Leica M equipment is the equivalent to a small car:

Leica shopping list Price
Leica M 240 6.520 €
SUMMICRON-M 50mm f/2 1.990 €
SUMMILUX-M 35mm f/1.4 ASPH 4.645 €
90mm f/2 APO ASPH 3.520 €
SUMMILUX-M 21mm f/1.4 ASPH 6.590 €
UV-Filters 4x 400 €
Multifunctional Handgrip M 750 €
Artisan & Artist for Leica Bag 269 €
SF 58 Flash 300 €
Visoflex EVF2 Electronic Viewfinder 400 €
TOTAL 25.384 €

So, no price discussion beyond this point here.

Today, I played around with a Leica M including the Handgrip and the Summicron-M 1:2 35mm ASPH lens. This is a real camera. The manual focus requires some practice but runs quite smooth and naturally. Changing aperture is easy and not hindering at all. Even full manual mode is nicely supported with indicators in the viewfinder.

I have mixed feelings about the electronic viewfinder you can put on top. You can turn it up by 90° and therefore offers a lot of flexibility. But the picture is not really crisp and the mechanical feeling is not Leica-like – because it is build by Olympus ;-)

I was a little bit disappointed by the sharpness of the test pictures. I printed fotohits test pictures of a Leica M with Summarit-M 35mm 1.2 and a Nikon F810 with Nikkor 24-70 2.8 G ED on 20x30cm² prints and compared them. Believe it or not: the Nikon is sharper even though this is a zoom lens! Looking very closely to the pictures I believe the test rather compare the JPEG algorithm quality and maybe less the optical. Leica JPEG shows many JPEG artifacts.


Leica vs Nikon

 

 

 

 

Anyhow. I will buy a Leica M, once I don’t know how to spend my money. Some products just have to be very expensive – like a Ferrari – otherwise they will never become a far dream or wish. Feeding five people and paying mortgage as of today leaves enough time to wait for the right time: Leica! Like it, later.

Bean counting on size & weight

Very honestly, I am not a bean counter. But here I somehow enjoyed the engineering skills making excellent beautiful high end  cameras so small and light. I asked myself how much more do I have in my pocket if I choose MFT or Fujifilm x-mount system. Here is a comparison:

Camera lens [mm F] W [mm] H [mm] D [mm] Weight [g]
Sony RX100 III Zeiss 8.8-25.7 1.8-2.8 101,6 58,1 41,0 290
Lumix DMC-GM5 no lens 98,5 59,5 36,1 211
Lumix DMC-GM5 Lumix 12-32 3.5-5.6 98,5 59,5 60,1 281
Olympus PEN E-PM2 no lens 110,0 64,0 34,0 225
Olympus PEN E-PM2 Olympus 14-42 3.5-5.6 110,0 64,0 56,5 318
Fujifilm X-M1 no lens 117,0 67,0 39,0 280
Fujifilm X-M1 Fujinon XF 18 2.0 117,0 67,0 72,7 396

The Sony is clearly a pocket camera and offers the smalls Height and Depth with a fixed lens. The Lumix wins the Width dimension and the Olympus offers shortest Depth amongst the interchangeable lenses.  Weight is a clear win for the Lumix. The Fujifilm plays in a different size and weight league.


In the end it is a race between Sony and Lumix. But the above table is not completely fair, as the Sony offers “much more light” with F=1.8-2.8. Getting this with the Lumix MFT lenses  pays a high price on weight and size:

Camera lens [mm F] W [mm] H [mm] D [mm] Weight [g]
Sony RX100 III Zeiss 8.8-25.7 1.8-2.8 101,6 58,1 41,0 290
Lumix DMC-GM5 no lens 98,5 59,5 36,1 211
Lumix DMC-GM5 Lumix 12-32 3.5-5.6 98,5 59,5 60,1 281
Lumix DMC-GM5 Lumix 12-35 2.8 98,5 59,5 109,9 516
Lumix DMC-GM5 Lumix 14-42 3.5-5.6 98,5 59,5 62,9 306
Lumix DMC-GM5 Olympus 14-42 3.5-5.6 98,5 59,5 58,6 304
Lumix DMC-GM5 Lumix G 20 1.7 98,5 59,5 61,6 298
Lumix DMC-GM5 Lunix G 14 2.5 98,5 59,5 56,6 266
Lumix DMC-GM5 Olympus 25 2.8 98,5 59,5 59,6 306

A comparable Sony/Zeiss lens at MFT is the Lumix 12-35mm F2.8. But it is long and heavy, lifting the weight of the Lumix up to 485g, and the depth of 109,9mm makes it like a big box in your pocket. The fixed focal length pancake lenses both from Lumix and Olympus give a much better pocket feeling. As a compromise I would then choose the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GM5 with the Lumix 12-32mm F3.5-5.6 as the standard zoom and pick a fixed focus Lumix G20mm F1.7.

 

Finally, the winners in the competition for smallest and lightest are:

  • Sony RX100 III with fixed mounted Zeiss lens,
  • Panasonic Lumix DMC-GM5 in the category of exchangeable lens cameras.

Here is a great web-page comparing the two camera sizes also visually.

Adding a new compact – say Sony

Digital compact cameras with fix mounted lenses both zoom and fixed focal length are the choice for many. But if you really look for highest quality the choices are very slim. Bright lenses, small body, and high quality sensors are basically owned by Sony RX100 and Fujifilm Finepix X.

Overall, the choice for my use-case “(1) snap-shot” camera is very clearly the Sony RX100 III. It is not only very small (101.6 × 58.1 × 38.3 mm³), light (290g), and ergonomic, but also bright and sharp with its 1:1.8-2.8 Zeiss Zoom 8.8-25.7mm. This is a typical 24-70mm zoom in the FX language. 20 MP is also more than enough for this use case. The magazine fotohits offers all technical data and  details test results.

It only misses the GPS sensor.


That’s why it is on my Amazon watch-list. The official price is €850 and with €720 online it is a fair deal.

Fuji just released their new X30. Foto Hits technical details. Maybe check again? It is bigger and heavier: 423g, 118.7×71.6× 60.3 mm³  but offers a longer zoom: 7.1-28.4mm which translates to  28-112mm in FX. And misses a GPS, too. It has only a WiFi interface to smart phones to capture location data to store them in the pictures.

This blog has a nice Sony RX100 comparison also with Lumix GM1.

 

The Micro-Four-Thirds world

Kodak, Olympus, and later Panasonic joined their forces two win in the world of digital cameras that are smaller then Nikon’s or Canon’s DSLR. They created an “open standard” to win this new market: First the “Four Thirds” and later the “Micro-Four-Thirds” (MFT). The word open is a relative term. For me as a software guy this is very closed as these standards are patent protected and available only under non-disclosure agreements. But for standards in photography this is much more open than the rest of the business ecosystem.

The MFT describes the size of the the sensor imaging area with 17.3×13.0 mm², the mechanics and electronic interfaces of the lenses. The size of the sensor is bigger than typical 1-inch and is 30% smaller than APS-C. It was designed purely for mirror-less digital photography and video in mind.

With the huge success of mirror-less digital cameras like the Olympus OM-D and Panasonic Lumix series there are more than 20 camera models, more than 25 zoom lenses, and more than 40 fix focal lenses in the MFT market. Several Olympus, Panasonic, and Leica lenses have an excellent quality reputation.

  • Olympus only newest camera bodies in MFT
    • Small, that could fit to use-case “(1) snap-shot”
      • PEN E-PM2
      • PEN E-PL7
      • PEN E-P5
    • Bigger, that could fit to the use case “(2) semi-pro”
      • OM-D E-M1
      • OM-D E-M5
      • OM-D E-M10
  • Panasonic Lumix only newest camera bodies in MFT
    • Small, that could fit to use-case “(1) snap-shot”
    • Bigger, that could fit to the use case “(2) semi-pro”

The small bodies, high quality, and retro look of the MFT cameras also offer good useability.

To-Be-Done here:

  1. Pick the right small Lumix
    1. nice GM1 Review
  2. Pick a small and bright lens
    1. great interactive overview
    2. MFT overview

How do I want to shoot my pictures in the future?

Doing requirements engineering with oneself is a little bit strange. But as there are so many camera offerings in the market it is nearly impossible to pick and choose right away. Buying my first Nikon in the 90s was much easier!

Overall, I see three very distinct use cases taking pictures:

  1. Capturing snapshots while traveling with my family or alone; Taking family & friends pictures right away. This requires a camera that is always with me – like my mobile phone. But I expect better picture quality! Here I want a small camera I can use just with one hand, have in my pocket or laptop bag always with me.
  2. Hunting for “serious” pictures as a hobby; This can be landscape, perfect people portraits, capturing the real athmosphire of a special event, macro pictures, HDR experiments, time-laps movies, and anything new that is coming up. This is a camera where I can control everything well. Clear viewfinder, two hands around a camera-lens equipment that feels simply good. Camera industry calls this semi-professional.
  3. My wife, kids, and friends take pictures and expect the “push-just-the-right-button” camera.  This camera should not be two heavy, not too brittle, and has the “one-button”.

This really looks like that one camera type cannot fulfill all these requirements. Let’s see how this boils down to technical requirements and their priorities.

 

Criteria 1) Snapshot 2) Semi-Pro 3) One-Button
Size (A) < 140 x 80 x 50 (C) (C)
Weight (A) < 300g (C) < 900g (B) < 600g
Picture Quality (B) best of small (A) best of best (C) just good enough
Lens (A) one bright zoom (A) collectors wishes (C) none
Focal width (FX) (B) 28-70 (A) 20-400 (C) 35-50
Usability (A) quick & reliable, with one hand (A) manual controls, two hand ergonomic grip (A) autopilot
Viewfinder (B) optical or digital or none (A) optical or perfect digital (C) screen is enough
Connectivity (B) WiFi (B) WiFi, LAN (C)
GPS (A) build-in (A) plug-in (B) build-in -
low light (A) > ISO xyz (A) > ISO xzy, indirect flash (C) small flash
price (B) ~ €1’000 (C) ¿limits? (B) no extra €

 

My Samsung Galaxy size is fine for (1) snapshot 137 x 71 mm2.

Continue with Nikon digital

Somehow I never liked the DX CCD chip size. This is just a subjective thing but as cameras are my hobby facts are less of an issue, aren’t they?

Today, Nikon offers excellent and affordable digital FX cameras. With the D800 release I thought that is the camera I had been waiting for more than 10 years. But some reviews indicating that this is rather a studio and tripod camera kept me waiting. The D600, D610 seemed to be OK. The D750 feels right. This could be a Nikon plan:

Many options, lots of money to spend until my retirement. And except my old SB-25 flash I can use my old lenses here. But does this really fit my requirements. Mhmm… Good idea. What about my requirements? That is the topic of my next blog.

 

Finding the next digital camera…

Due to my work in 3D digitizing I was happy to be an early adoptor of digital photography. It all started with Kodak DCS we had at the Daimler research lab in Ulm in 1994. This was a Nikon body with standard lenses like 50mm 1.4 and mainly used for photogrammetry. From time to time we took some photos on the side and here is one Georg Wiora shoot: my wild time as a PhD student.

In my private life I relied on my Nikon F601, my favorite lens 85mm 1.8, a Tokina 28-70mm 2.8-3.5 for everyday’s purpose, and the strong SB-25 flash. Later I sold the Tokina and a seldom used Sigma 70-210mm (ugly pictures). As digital DSLR became stronger I got a F80 with a 28-80mm 3.3-5.6 very cheap. That is my Nikon collection now:

While waiting for the “perfect” digital camera my wife was smarter and surprised me with a christmas present in 2002: Canon DIGITAL IXUS v3. The IXUS turned out to be my omnipresent partner with reasonable quality resolution of 2048 × 1536 for nice family pictures. The combination of IXUS and Nikon analog served our needs quite well. Even when the IXUS went “CCD-dark” at one day in 2010, Canon was so kind to replace it with a complete new model: the Canon DIGITAL IXUS 70. The new IXUS has a higher resolution 2304 × 3072 but the lens is not as sharp. Over time the cameras in mobile phones reached the quality of the IXUS: BlackBerry, iPhone 3s, and now my Samsung S3 offer enough for snapshots. That’s why the IXUS stays home most of the time.

My father bought a Miranda collection in the late 70s, I proudly completed over time:

  • Miranda Auto Sensorex EE
  • Miranda 50mm 1.4 EC Auto: I love it
  • Soligor 28mm 2.8 EC Auto: only OK
  • Soligor 135mm 2.8 EC Auto: I love it
  • Soligor 85-210mm 3.8 MC Auto (include Macro): Cannot recommend it. Very blurry…
  • Additional exchangeable viewfinders: VFE-1, VFE-3
  • Extension tubes for Macro

This is a great camera performing like a Nikon F3. I did all my learning with it and will never give it away!

During our last vacation in Ireland I was not really satiesfied with the picture quality of the IXUS or all the smartphone cameras we had with us. At my friend house I played with the amazing small and good Sony DSC-RX100 I with Zeiss lenses. At the same time I got the first news about the Nikon D750 and here we are with the question: Do I continue with the Nikon DSLR camera approach and buy a Nikon D750 (the D810 seems to be more for static shooting) or should I switch to a smaller system camera now?

Here are my options:

  1. Stay on the Nikon train:
    • D750  €1900 and some more add-ons
  2. Switch to digital Leica, yes expensive!
    • Leica M9, M, M-P €3000-€6900
  3. Switch to Micro Four Thirds
    • The small Lumix GM5 with lenses €1300 and up
    • little bit bigger Lumix GX7 with lenses €700 and up
    • or some other
  4. Switch to Fuji x-mount
    • the small Fuji X-A2
    • or the bigger Fuji X-E2, Fuji X-Pro1, or Fuji X-T1
  5. Just replace the IXUS with a good small high performance lens compact camera
    • Sony DSC-RX100 I, II, or III €350-€650
    • or some other brand Fujifilm.

Let’s explore these options over time in the following posts..  Sources for my decisions are:

Meteoplug = Meteohub + DreamPlug Online

It took me more than two years to find a better solution to run a local data collection server in my home. Up to now I used an old laptop with all energy saving options available. But this turned out to be noisy and not really reliable. Moreover the software that comes with my Weather Station and Energy Control on Windows is buggy like [….]

My newest gadget is a DreamPlug with preinstalled Meteohub software. This collects now data from my Weather Station and Energy Monitor. Believe it or not: It is a Debian Linux system and was plug-and-play!  Meteohub pushes every 5 Minutes a GNU-plot generated .png file via FTP. Here is the latest version

Latest Temperature Measurement from my Weather Station

Next step is to make a nice dashboard…