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Tips on using your Panasonic G3 Micro Thirds camera

introduction

  • the Panasonic G3 and its more expensive and higher featured counterpart, the GH-2 represent the pinnacle of mirrorless camera systems technology in 2011.
  • along with the new Olympus Pen EP-3, EPL-3 and EPM-1 they have dramatically improved contrast detect autofocus so that they are just as fast or faster than dSLRs in focusing on static subjects.
  • unlike the Olympus PEN and Panasonic GF models, these Panasonic models have a built-in electronic viewfinder and flip out swivel LCD touch screens which to me are a critical advantage compared with an optional add-on EVF and fixed or tilt only LCD screens with the Olympus models.
  • so let's see how to make the most of these awesome cameras - assuming you HAVE READ the instruction manual - in particular to work out the nuances of how the touch screen works!!!

protect the camera and lenses

  • when not in use, rotate the LCD screen so it faces the camera and won't get marked.
  • keep the camera and lens dry and away from dirty dusty environments as they are NOT weathersealed.
  • consider buying a protective UV filter for each lens.
  • when changing lenses, do so in a dust free environment and as quickly as possible to minimise dust going onto the all important sensor.
  • do NOT put anything anywhere near the sensor unless you are knowledgable about cleaning it.
  • do NOT apply excessive pressure to the touch screen, thus avoid having the hand holding the camera place pressure upon it.
  • don't use your fingernails on the touch screen nor any solvents.
  • if your touch screen is selecting the wrong spot, go to the menu and select [CALIBRATION] and follow the instructions to calibrate the touch screen - you will need the supplied stylus pen.

change the default settings

  • set the date and time in the menu system
  • ensure the IS switch setting on the lens is turned on (unless you are using a tripod in which case,turn it off)
  • ensure digital zoom is OFF - NEVER use this for still images, but it may be useful for movies.
  • if you are taking photos that are important to you, and you have enough spare memory on your memory card, then set [QUALITY] to RAW+jpeg and optionally, [PICTURE SIZE] to large
  • if you want to take some quick shots to publish to the web or to email, set [PICTURE SIZE] to small BUT remember to put this back to large for next time.
  • set [LONG SHTR NR] to ON in case you forget - this will take a second “black” image of the same duration of your first image for long exposures, and then the camera will use this data and subtract it from your first image automatically to reduce thermal sensor noise artefacts. There is no penalty for leaving this on during normal use, so best to leave it on.
  • consider turning on [GUIDE LINE] so you can better compose your frame
  • consider turning off [AUTO REVIEW] so you are not automatically shown the photo you just took as this can slow you down and you might miss a photo opportunity
  • MOVIE Mode:
    • consider changing [REC MODE] to [MOTION JPEG] and [REC QUALITY] to [HD] if you just want to publish it to YouTube or you want to play it on a computer easily or edit it easily.
    • [AVCHD] gives smaller file sizes and can be played back via HDMI on a TV but can be problematic playing on a computer or editing it unless you have the correct software.
    • turn [WIND CUT] on if it is windy and you want to reduce the wind noise
    • the G3 also has Microphone level meter which can be displayed, and also a manual mic level adjustment (4 levels) which can be handy at concerts
    • the shutter speed in Movie Mode is quite important, this can be fixed using [FLICKER RED.] option - try 1/50th sec, but if there are flourescent lights you may need to try other speeds to avoid flickering.

using the electronic viewfinder

  • on the GH-2, the camera detects when your eye moves to the viewfinder and automatically activates it whilst deactivating the LCD screen. The GH-2 also has manual over-ride switch which can keep the LCD screen deactivated.
  • on the G-3, there is no autodetect, so you must manually switch between EVF and screen
  • if the lines and numbers in the viewinder appear blurry, adjust the diopter setting for your eyesight using the little dial on the left of the viewfinder until they are sharp.

managing the focus

  • note: each lens has its own closest focus limit - usually 0.3m for normal kit lens and 1m for telephoto kit lens.

choose the main focus modes

  • via menu on G3, or via top left lever on the GH-2
  • AFS = Auto Focus Single shot
    • this should be your main AF mode as it is the fastest
  • AFC = Auto Focus Continuous
    • use this for special situations, perhaps movies and for relatively slowly moving subjects
  • MF = Manual Focus
    • use this for legacy lenses which do not have AF and for when AF is troublesome such as shooting through dirty windows, when it is dark, or fast moving subjects (pre-focus on a area where the subject will be)
    • rotating the focus ring on a Micro Four Thirds or Four Thirds lens will automatically activate a magnified view to more accurately adjust focus
    • half-press shutter button to exit this magnified view mode

choose your AF mode

  • press the left of the rear buttons
  • this will display AF mode options available:
    • face detection AF
      • this mode is suitable for most people shots but can be a little slow at times
      • when a face is detected, the AF area marker turns yellow, then when AF is attained after half-press shutter it turns green
    • AF subject tracking
      • handy for locking onto a relatively slow moving subject
      • when the subject is in the AF area marker in the centre of the screen, half-press shutter and camera will remember the appearance of that subject and keep tracking it as it moves.
    • 23 area AF
      • camera detects objects within 23 different regions and will try to select the ones it thinks is most relevant to focus on
      • this can be a bit hit and miss, so I generally avoid it
    • 1 area focusing
      • this is my preferred mode for most subjects, I tend to use it by moving the camera so subject is positioned on the AF region, then half-press shutter button until AF is attained, then re-compose whilst still half-pressing the shutter.
    • pin point AF
      • this is allows you to use a AF region much smaller than the default one which can be handy in some situations.

using autofocus

  • avoid covering the AF assist lamp with your fingers if you use this feature - I generally have this turned off (see menu)
using the shutter button to autofocus
  • half-press shutter button and when focus has been attained the AF indicator stops blinking and turns green, you can then press the button fully to take the photo
using the LCD touch screen to autofocus
  • Set the [TOUCH AF] of the [TOUCH SETTINGS] in the [CUSTOM] menu to [ON].
  • turn on Touch Shutter function by touching the icon on the screen (ie. the x should not be visible on it)
  • in AFS mode, touch the subject on the screen and when focus is attained a photo will be taken
  • in AFC mode, touch the screen will trigger the shutter once the AF light is green - if you keep your finger on the screen, if the subject moves into focus the shutter will be triggered.
using the Fn button to lock the focus
  • set [AF/AE LOCK HOLD] = ON
  • pressing Fn button then will attain AF and lock it, even if you take your finger off the Fn button and even if you half-press the shutter
  • to unlock it, press Fn button again and the lock is cancelled
  • very handy for many subjects, especially in low light when AF is slow!!
  • you may also wish to set [AF+MF] = ON,and this will allow you to manual focus after AF has been locked if you need to do some fine adjustments.

Setting the white balance

  • the white balance refers to how the camera should process the colors in the image to take into account the color of the light hitting the subject
  • for most situations, just use AWB (auto white balance)
  • for subjects with no white or pure grays, AWB may not work well and will give variable results (eg. paintings in art galleries)
  • likewise, you may want to maintain some warm sunset glow rather than neutralise it with AWB.
  • you can try the presets such as sunny day, cloudy day, flourescent lighting
  • if you shoot in RAW mode, you can always adjust WB on the computer.

setting a custom white balance

  • when it is important, particularly for accurate rendering of skin tones,paintings, etc, you should do a CUSTOM WHITE BALANCE
  • first you need to find something that is neutral gray or white upon which your light is hitting
  • press the WB button on the rear to bring up the options, then press WB1 or WB2 option (you have 2 custom presets to save to)
  • then touch [WHITE SET]
  • aim camera at your target then press [SET]
  • REMEMBER to put WB back to AWB when you are finished with your custom setting otherwise you will get some weird colors!

Setting the exposure

set the ISO

  • in general, you can keep ISO set to iISO (Intelligent) as this analyses the subject movement as well as brightness
  • in some situations you may want to specify an ISO (eg. manual exposure mode or manual flash mode)

set the exposure mode

  • for most subjects iA will work really well but it will mean you will not have much control over any settings - just remember to pop up the flash if it is getting dark!
  • check out photography cheat sheet for more details on exposure modes

over-ride the brightness

  • as good as the camera is, sometimes the camera will make it too bright or too dark in the auto exposure modes
  • to address this, adjust the exposure compensation setting

using the flash

using the built-in flash as a fill-in flash to lighten shadows

  • you must manually push the flash switch to open the flash and activate it
  • set the flash setting to Forced flash on (the lightning icon without the A)
  • note, the fastest shutter speed you will be able to use is 1/160th second thus you should perhaps avoid Aperture Priority mode in bright sunlight as this may lead to over-exposure, use any other exposure mode instead.
  • set the [FLASH ADJUST] setting in the menu to a minus value according to how little flash fill-in you want (eg. minus 1EV)

using an external flash to bounce light off walls

  • slide the flash into the hotshoe and turn it on
  • rotate the head of the flash so it aims at a suitable wall or ceiling and the light from that surface will light your subject appropriately
  • you may need to make sure the menu on the flash shows the flash mode is TTL
  • set the [FLASH ADJUST] setting in the menu to zero
  • you could just use iA mode and as long as the ready lamp on the flash is lit up, you are ready to take your photo.

using legacy manual focus lenses

  • this is where you can have a lot of fun on the cheap, buying old discarded lenses and a cheap adapter from Ebay.
  • set [SHOOT W/O LENS] = ON otherwise you will get an error message when you turn the camera on with such a lens attached
  • set focus mode to MF as AF is not possible with these lenses
  • to activate magnified MF mode, turning the focus ring will not work as with normal lenses so you need to:
    • set [MF ASSIST] = ON
    • press AF button on the rear to bring up the focus region
    • move the focus region using the touch screen or the buttons on the rear to the subject
    • press SET to activate magnified view
    • manually focus lens
    • half-press shutter to exit magnified view
  • set exposure mode to A (aperture priority) as the camera cannot adjust the aperture of these lenses, YOU will have to manually adjust the aperture.
  • be aware that auto TTL flash with legacy lenses are likely to give poor results - resort to manual flash, or an external flash with non-TTL auto mode (you will need to set the aperture on the flash as well).
  • many of the automatic modes will not be available

buy a few extra accessories to really help your images

  • the following 52mm filter sizes assume you have the standard Panasonic kit lenses.
  • 52mm polarising filter - great for blue skies, forests, window reflections, slow shutter waterfalls using a tripod, wide aperture shots in bright sunlight
  • Cokin A filter holder, 52mm adapter, and ND soft gradient filter (eg. Cokin Gradual G2 A121 filter) - great for creating stormy clouds, etc.
  • a wide aperture lens for indoors and low light work - eg. the Panasonic Lumix 20mm f/1.7 pancake lens (~$350 in the US) with a 46-52mm step up ring to allow your 52mm filters to be used on it.
  • a flash gun you can swivel and bounce but is not too big - eg. Olympus FL-36 flash (or the R version ~$199 in the US)
  • a tripod for night shots, slow shutter speed water motion shots.
  • Adobe Lightroom image editing software to create some really nice looks for your images.
photo/panasonicg3_tips.txt · Last modified: 2012/04/06 21:08 by gary1