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4/3 vs. DSLR. Left D7000 home Review GX1, Nauticam, YS-D1...Pics included


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#1 NWDiver

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Posted 14 August 2012 - 11:11 AM

While others have done more in depth/technical reviews, this is offered from a more "average Joe" point of view. With some apprehension I decided to leave my Nikon D7000 and accompanying 20lbs of gear at home. In its stead I wanted to check out one of the “new” 4/3 systems. For this trip the line-up was the Panasonic GX1, Nauticam housing, 2x Sea & Sea YS-D1 strobes, Nauticam Macro Adapter with the Aquatica +10 diopter, Lumix 14-42mm lens and the Lumix 8mm fisheye lens.

MORE INFO AND PHOTOS WILL BE Available at Optical Ocean Sales: Underwater Photo & Video Equipment - 800-359-1295

Size/Weight
Traveling and diving with a 4/3 system was sooooo much easier than a DSLR system.

DSLR WA System w/strobes 17lbs
4/3 WA System w/strobes 8.5lbs

Carry-On with everything I need to shoot and download including chargers, 16 AA batteries, laptop, 2-3 lenses, ports, strobes, arms, clamps, etc.

DSLR System: 35lbs
4/3 System: 21lbs

There are major weight savings due (of course) to the housing, camera, lenses and ports.

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Performance Underwater

We were on the edge of two typhoons and conditions were very, very poor. A professional film crew we met left saying “shooting conditions were the worst they had ever seen in Sipidan. Photos provided are not for their artistic value but to show potential of camera, strobes and lenses.

Due to the minimal weight and compact overall size I had no qualms about back-rolling in with this system. Not something I typically do with a DSLR system.
The 4/3 system did reduce drag underwater noticeably. So much easier to swim into currents when needed. That is a big acknowledgement for me. I have always found it comical when people worry about a housing being 1.5” wider than another when really the size of their BC, type of fin, way they kick, and waistlines are much bigger factors.

Nauticam GX1 Housing
The Nauticam GX1 housing proved to be very dependable. All the controls worked smoothly, and their layout is logical. One minor issue was having to take my hand off the handle to adjust the top-mounted control wheel for shutter speed, aperture and flash compensation.

The ergonomic design of the housing made it comfortable to hold the housing with my right hand and my left hand on the tray handle. I shot mainly in manual, and as mentioned moving between shutter speed, aperture, and ISO was simple and straightforward. The Nauticam housing makes all the menu items available and is easy to adjust as needed. You can really swim and shoot this rig one-handed. In addition you can, in a reef friendly manner, position this small set up to get shots not possible with a DSLR system. I did have to keep reminding myself to POP THE FLASH UP ON THE CAMERA BEFORE SHOOTING!

Panasonic GX1
This is a very capable camera. Shooting in manual, I found the menus simple and logical. The camera and various lenses focus quickly and accurately even in lowlight situations. If shots were missed, it was typically due to waiting for the camera flash to recycle vs. the lens/camera hunting for focus. Given all the sand in the water I tried to avoid using my focus light as much as possible. The video looks good and I found it fairly easy to White Balance with good results.

On dry land this is a great walking around camera compared to a DSLR. I did find the way the buttons are laid out, I often hit the Function 1 or Display buttons with my thumb. But otherwise, I just put it on a wrist strap and enjoyed not having a couple of pounds bouncing around my neck.

Lenses
The Lumix 3.5-5.6, 14-42mm ASPH lens proved to be more capable than expected. Combined with the Nauticam Macro Lens Adapter and the Aquatica +10 diopter, good macro results are possible. You do have to get fairly close to the subject when using the diopter, but once in range the auto focus is relatively reliable. There’s no problem filling the frame with a medium-sized nudibranch. For new shooters who buy this as their kit lens, you can go out with the flat port and get good results.

NOTE: Photos have some minor correction for color and exposure. NO sharpening or cropping has been applied.

Shot with +10 Aquatica Diopter
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Shot with Aquatica +10 Diopter


Shot with +10 Aquatica Diopter
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I lean to shooting wide angle, and can’t say enough good things about the 8mm Lumix G Fisheye 3.5 lens. This is a lens that is at it’s best when you are almost touching the subject. Shoot it at f.8 -11 for good to excellent corners. It’s quick to focus, and so tiny behind the 4.33” Nauticam dome. I thought I would really miss the flexibility of my Tokina 10-17mm lens but I didn’t! It reinforced the old saying “your fins are your best way to zoom.”

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Heavy Photoshoped due to sand/backscatter
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For underwater photographers lenses including the Lumix 8mm Fisheye and 45mm Macro or eventually the Olympus 60mm macro will be must-haves. With all the new mid-range zooms, it’s hard to pick a “best of”, but as mentioned, I found the Lumix 14-42mm to be surprisingly good for medium-sized down to macro subjects.

Strobes
Clearly the YS-D1s are not a 1 to 1 replacement for YS-250 strobes. I can see a few situations where one may miss the power of 250s. I did not miss their weight or bulk. Frankly I don’t miss the Inon Z240s at all.

When shooting big schools of fish, or massive coral heads with the 8mm, I found you need to put on the 120-degree diffusers and put the strobes on ¾ to full power. Otherwise, I typically left the 100-degree diffusers on, popping them off here and there when I wanted more punch.

As mentioned in a previous review, the controls on the YS-D1 are easy to engage. When moving them into different positions I did have to often check I did not shut them off or change/move them from manual to TTL.

I did shoot in A priority and TTL and found the system to work fairly well with a few underexposures, IMHO. I actually found them to work better when shooting manual and TTL. But I like to play with light and never have been one to use TTL in general.

I will probably purchase one or maybe two more YS-D1 for redundancy and for those rare occasions you have gin clear water and huge subjects. Heck four of them are still smaller and lighter than two YS-250s!

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In General
I am convinced that the m4/3 class are going to be the cameras for all but the most demanding photographers. The combination of size, weight, travel-ability, excellent picture quality, and growing pool of lenses is more than enough to meet most divers needs. It’s a great way to get into the hobby and it is unlikely you will feel the need to upgrade anytime soon. For those moving up from compacts, you will be smiling from day one and wondering why you did not move up sooner.

As a long time DSLR shooter, there are things I missed about my Nikon D7000. Due to the maximum 1/160 shutter sync speed, I found it hard to shoot good “sunball” shots with the GX1. I missed my VIEWFINDER, maybe that makes me a dinosaur but so be it. I do shoot electrical sync cords with my D7000, so on occasion did find it frustrating to have to wait for the GX1 camera flash to recycle.

That said, the GX1 and its class fellows have me seriously thinking about making the switch from a DSLR. Anyone interested in 50 pounds of Nikon gear????

Edited by NWDiver, 14 August 2012 - 11:32 AM.


#2 Glasseye Snapper

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Posted 14 August 2012 - 04:35 PM

Thanks for your impressions and nice images. It sounds great and things still seem to be improving rapidly with higher end systems in the pipeline to offer good electronic viewfinders, faster flash sync (Olympus EM-5 already has 1/250) and autofocus. Exciting times when you are looking to upgrade.

Bart
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#3 NWDiver

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Posted 15 August 2012 - 06:34 AM

The Autofocus on the GX1 and lenses was much better then I expected. If honest think it is "as good" as my D7000, can't think of many shots where it hunted.

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Edited by NWDiver, 15 August 2012 - 06:34 AM.


#4 tdpriest

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Posted 15 August 2012 - 10:14 AM

It could be the effect of depth of field, but the focus doesn't look that stunning. I'm not about to regret deciding not to go down the 4/3 route, despite the frustrations of excess baggage!

Tim

#5 Deep6

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Posted 15 August 2012 - 11:04 AM

It could be the effect of depth of field, but the focus doesn't look that stunning. I'm not about to regret deciding not to go down the 4/3 route, despite the frustrations of excess baggage!

Tim


The 4/3 format does have a two stop increase in DoF e.g. f4 ~= f8 in 35FF. You eyes are better than mine; what's the focus problem?
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#6 derway

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Posted 15 August 2012 - 05:08 PM

Seems like lots of crude in the water, making all look hazy.
Don Erway
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#7 NWDiver

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Posted 15 August 2012 - 05:36 PM

As noted we were getting brushed by two typhoons. Water was so rough many sites were unavailable. Everything was covered in sand and the water was often milky. I read an article saying some of these cameras performed best in the f5.0-f8 range regarding corner sharpness, so I shot in that range quite a bit.

I like the GX1 and think it is a great upgrade for compact shooters. A good option for those who are looking in the 4/3 class but it is not a DSLR. The Oly OMD looks very promising...

Edited by NWDiver, 15 August 2012 - 05:42 PM.


#8 spencerjb22

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Posted 15 August 2012 - 11:43 PM

Personally I don't get the constant "weight advantage" on airlines. I work tirelessly to take me to dive destinations and as we all know they are NOT cheap. I always buy extra luggage regardless, I have booked a trip to SA and MOZ next year that's cost around £6000 for me and the wife, the excess baggage costs to cover me with all internal flights and gives me ample room has costs around £65.00. In relation to the cost of the trip, it's a nominal amount. Whether i was taking a compact, 4/3rds or DSLR system I would pay for this anyway.....any stress removed from going on holiday is worth paying imo.

Edited by spencerjb22, 15 August 2012 - 11:44 PM.


#9 girelle

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Posted 16 August 2012 - 04:48 AM

I've make the same choice and I have now an Olympus OMD- EM5 in Nauticam housing instead of my Nikon D 90. I 'm completely happy with this new set , not only when I think about our next travel but also when I'm underwater it's so easy to manage there as it handiness is perfect .
At my level of skill ,the pictures I get are enough good to satisfy my needs, I'm not a professionnal photographer after all ,and soon I will post some of them .
To be completely honest I must say that this is not a particularly cheap option ):

#10 NWDiver

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Posted 16 August 2012 - 05:59 AM

Yes the price of the 4/3 systems, depending on housing, are getting into DSLR range. For now another big Plus for DSLR is lenses but with time and processors this will probably change.

I agree that to fret over the cost of packing heavy DSLR systems when looking at the total cost of a trip is a little silly. With my system, the betterhalfs video system, dive gear, etc...we are checking 4 bags at 40-50lbs each, carry-ons over 30lbs. That is just the way it is. But it was sure nice marching around with a 20lb carry on vs. a 40lbs carry on. Much easier to shove in the overheads of the smaller airlines. The size factor underwater was a pleasant "surprise" to me never having shot anything but a DSLR.

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Edited by NWDiver, 16 August 2012 - 06:06 AM.