New cameras as at early Sept 2009 – my dream camera, what would I consider buying and what would I take hiking or traveling?

Written by Gary on September 3rd, 2009

If only they would get together and combine the best features of the Panasonic GF-1, GH-1, Olympus E-P1 and the Canon G11, and add a couple more features, we would have a dream compact digital – here is what I would like:

  • E-P1’s image stabiliser built-in and which could be activated if there is no optical IS option – otherwise use the optical IS, especially in movie mode and to speed up AF
  • GH-1’s video capability, fast AF, over-sized sensor for non-cropped 16:9 aspect ratio and swivel LCD, and ability to use the Leica-D aperture rings on the lenses
  • GF-1’s optional EVF but with the possibility of using alternative external or remote EVF, or at least a live HDMI video out so that one could record raw video output to an external device at higher video bit rates if desired, or in uncompressed format to allow stacking for astrophotography , or even RAW video capture for extra high quality video that could be graded better (post-processed)
  • G11’s flash sync to 1/2000th sec with full flash output for better fill-in flash in bright sunlight
  • an option to shoot only with the electronic shutter for silent operation such as during weddings
  • I can live without the flash built-in, but at least give us remote TTL flash capability as with Olympus dSLRs and a sync port in case the EVF is sitting in the hotshoe
  • camera electronic level indicator as with Olympus E-30 or Canon 7D, or perhaps better still, an option to have the sensor self-level as with the new Pentax dSLR
  • someone please design a tilt-shift adapter for MFT which would then effectively convert nearly all non-MFT lenses to tilt-shift lenses – this is really ONLY possible on MFT bodies, so please can we have one?
  • and while on that point, a Canon EOS-MFT adapter which allows you to change the lens aperture

But then, who would buy another camera once they have all those features?

Oh, yes, we would need a dedicated body without the IR blocking filter for infrared photography and astrophotography.

My conclusions on what camera to buy now:

  • if you want the best AF HD video available in a still camera – the GH-1 is it
  • if you want a pocketable camera that is great for travel and bright situations, the Canon G11 with its high flash sync, slightly smaller size and 5x zoom with optical viewfinder looks a great option, but bear in mind its limitations as outlined in the previous post
  • if you want a slimline interchangeable lens camera that is potentially pocketable, then there are two options depending on your priorities:
    • the GF-1’s inbuilt flash, faster AF and optional EVF will better suit most inexperienced point and shoot photographers while giving them a lot of room to grow
    • the E-P1’s built-in image stabiliser is a better match for using a pancake lens or legacy MF lenses, so for the street photographer or sentimentalists who just want to have fun using almost any lens ever made, the E-P1 makes better sense than the GF-1
  • if you need an entry level dSLR then I would have a close look at the new Olympus E-600 / E-620 or the heavier E-30 or the weatherproof E-3 (although I would probably wait for its next version unless you get it at a good price) and consider mating it with a Olympus ZD 50-200mm f/2.8-3.5 lens – you won’t get a lighter kit with the similar telephoto reach, image quality, versatility and wide aperture anywhere! In addition, the combination of ZD 9-18mm lens and the kit lenses make for a great travel combination.
  • if you need a sports camera capable of 8fps with good telephoto reach, then consider the new Canon 7D or the Nikon D300s and perhaps consider the really heavy 70-200mm f/2.8 IS lenses or a 400mm f/5.6L lens
  • if you want an entry level full frame camera and you don’t really need sports AF or burst rate capability, then the Canon 5DMII is probably the way to go, although the new Sony a850 with its built-in image stabiliser may end up giving you more consistently sharper images
  • if you have money to burn and want the current ultimate full frame dSLR- wide angle zoom combo , then it’s the Nikon D3x and the superb AF-S 14-24mm f/2.8 lens – one of the best reasons to buy into Nikon – if you can afford it!

For a hiking trip where weight is an issue but inconspicuous is not, this is my preferred kit:

  • Olympus dSLR E510/E520/E600/E620/E30/E3 – any will be fine although the E-3 will give you benefit of almost water-proofed kit for when it rains, plus, Olympus ZD 50-200mm f/2.8-3.5 SWD lens because it is so versatile, weather-proofed, with such high image quality, nice bokeh, reasonable macro at 1.2m and gives telephoto reach of 800mm in 35mm terms when used with the beautiful EC-20 2x teleconverter, and can be used in MF on the GH-1 for very cool HD videos – this lens is one of THE REASONS to buy into the Olympus dSLR range – no other lens matches its versatility and image quality for the price and weight.
  • plus, Panasonic GH-1 with 14-140mm HD lens giving 28-280mm coverage with HD video to 560mm in 35mm terms, plus FT-MFT adapter
  • that only leaves a ultra-wide angle and I would probably go for the ZD 9-18mm (which I don’t own but gets very favorable reports) as it will AF on both cameras and provides a nice 18-36mm range, image stabilised on the Olympus camera
  • in reality, I would also probably add my Leica-D 25mm f/1.4 FT lens if low light was going to be a problem.

Now for travel overseas, what would I take?

  • here’s a very interesting forum with quite diverse ideas on what to take to Cambodia
  • but, what would I take? I would always take 2 cameras so I do not need to be changing lenses, and as light and inconspicuous as possible – yep, dump the Canon and Nikon dSLR gear!
  • Olympus E-P1 with either the 17mm f/2.8 or perhaps better still, the Lumix 20mm f/1.7 pancake lens, will give fantastic low light capability with built-in IS and good ISO 1600, making it ideal for indoors and street photography as well as usual travel snapshots – perhaps take the Olympus retractable zoom kit lens as well for times when you need a bit of zoom PLUS FT-MFT adapter so you can shoot video with your FT lenses if needed PLUS if you can afford it, the Lumix 7-14mm MFT lens for ultra-wide angle shots.
  • PLUS a Olympus E-600 or 620 with kit lenses and ZD 50mm f/2 macro (for when you need to blur the background, and makes a nice compliment to E-P1 with 20mm lens), plus ZD 9-18mm if I didn’t have the 7-14mm MFT lens (I would also love to take the ZD 50-200mm but its a touch big & heavy, while others may go for a wider aperture kit lens such as the ZD 14-54mm II lens (will AF on the E-P1 too) or ZD 12-60mm)

3 Comments so far ↓

  1. Charles says:

    I agree with E-P1 and E-6×0 make a good travel combo. They use the same batteries IIRC which puts it a little above Panasonic’s offerings. (maybe one reason they should still make a 4/3s SLR)

    Seems like you overlap on lenses quite a bit though. The 9-18, 20mm 1.7, 14-54 or 12-60, 50mm macro and either the 45-200 for the E-P1 or 40-150 seem like a good combo. The rotating screen on the E-620 seems too good to give up for wide angle.

    In general I agree though. The GH1 and GF1 combo would be pretty nice. 7-14, 20mm, 14-150, 45mm macro and maybe the 100-300 when it’s released if you wanted the reach.

  2. admin says:

    Having the same batteries is not to be under-estimated, and you make a great point there Charles – I have always loved that my C8080, E330 and E510 all used the same battery – although different to the E-P1 and E-6×0.

    As for the lenses, i wouldn’t be taking all of those, i was just indicating the various options for a standard zoom (the kit lens, ZD 14-54mmII or ZD 12-60mm), and a couple of options for ultra-wide – either the MFT 7-14mm or the ZD 9-18mm.

    As you point out, that still leaves a gap in the telephoto end, and although the ZD 40-150mm kit lens is not too bad, there will be other options as you suggest such as the 100-300mm and the 45-200mm MFT lenses.

    I think you need a wide aperture lens, hence the 20mm f/1.7mm and the ZD 50mm f/2.0 (or its upgrade when it comes) which I feel is a better option than the new 45mm macro as it can also be used on FT as well as MFT.

    I also agree, that for those with a GH-1, the option of also using a more compact GF-1 with 20mm f/1.7 lens would make a nice combo – just a pity the GF-1 doesn’t have an image stabiliser.

  3. Charles says:

    Agreed about the image stabilizer. I’d probably have the GH1 or the GF1 on order if they did have it, especially if they could AF my HG lenses, like the E-P1. Panasonic has some other silliness going on, like not being able to get English menus if you buy the camera in Japan, as well as battery issues.

    I’ll hold out a while longer, but m4/3s is looking tempting. I hope the rumors that Leica is jumping in is true.

    m4/3 EVF cameras, a FF rangefinder and S2 MF camera with OVF. It’s an interesting lineup for Leica if true.