Monday, February 15, 2010

Using 35mm lenses on the Panasonic GF1

So in continuing with the previous post about the new micro four thirds system (m4/3), I thought, as always, it's best to demonstrate results rather than just talk about them. As soon as I heard about the GF1's ability to record 720p HD video, I immediately thought of my Vivitar Series 1 90mm f/2.5 lens. Not only will I, with the correct adapter, be able to shoot tac sharp macro stills with this little guy; I can also record live action on a macro level. National Geographic style right? Ok well, maybe not THAT good, but pretty excellent quality.


One thing I feel necessary to address, due to my own curiosity, is the adapters. Since the release of the m4/3 system, more and more adapters for virtually any camera lens mount ever made, are appearing. The biggest problem, I feel is the complete lack of information on most of them. It seems many are being manufactured in China and being sold on eBay. Sure they boast of their supreme "quality" and all but like most other products, those that shout the loudest are typically compensating for their utter or complete lack. Unfortunately, I have little insight to offer on these adapters. For Christmas, my family bought the GF1 and a Nikon F mount t0 m4/3 adapter for me. They got it from amazon and it appears to be made by "fotodiox". It looks like it cost about $75 too. After some use, it seems a tad loose on the nikon mount side. Also, when locked into place, the nikon lens scale is slightly off center, in relation to the top of the camera (I made this mistake when I rigged a nikon adapter for my old Vivitar Series 1 105mm in MD mount. I JB welded the two parts without remembering to align them so the distance scale would face topside.) More importantly, if a lens, such as the Vivitar 90mm, has a built-in tripod mount, the camera now sits at an angle and the tripod must be adjusted to compensate for a level shot. But these mounts are "precision" made, you say. The other thing I am noticing is that while many of the mounts go for between $35-75 USD, some companies are making them and selling them well into the $100 range, sometimes for a little over $200! Again, lack of detailed imagery leaves me with very little insight into just why these miniature rings of metal command such a premium price. I can't believe just because (if they do at all) something like aligning the distance scale would make the adapter so much more costly. Materials may be one explanation but again, they all claim similar builds. One may just be actually doing it, while the other "claims" it. I know Voigtlander appears to make a pretty solid m4/3 adapter for their Leica M mount lenses. Once again though I surmise this purely based on a better image of the product and a good experience with the companies other equipment. That adapter runs a hefty price too. I suppose, in the end, my finances being what they are, I can live with the cheaper adapter!

Above is the GF1 with the Vivitar Series 1 90mm macro, 1:1 converter, and m4/3 adapter.

Test Shots

I own this camera because I have ultimate versatility with lenses. That being said, I have to take special care using these 35mm lenses, especially something like these Series 1 lenses, being that they weigh over 1 lb. while the camera relatively speaking, feels like a feather. You will want to take care and support the lens primarily so as not to damage the mount.

GF1 Test Reel from David Kovaluk on Vimeo.

This is a small test reel I pulled together from the past couple weeks of shooting. I threw in a favorite song by The Books. If you haven't listened to them before, they make music using clips, found sounds, invented and traditional instruments, and anything else they can get their hands on.

I have not done a whole lot of video work, as is most likely evident in this reel. In the first sequence, I was hand holding the camera just above steering wheel. The fog was out in force that day as I was on my way to work and I spontaneously decided I should get a shot crossing the bridge. Regarding the macro shots of the shrimp, they were taken with my Series 1 90mm through the glass of my small aquarium. My tank is actually a thick glass cylindrical vase, which I have converted into an underwater habitat. The glass actually has (what appear to be) part lines and its thickness is relatively uneven. In filming the little guys I often see "warbling" going on as I pan the camera across the glass. I'm not blaming all my poor camera work on this, but most of it haha!

Below is the new and improved shrimp abode, complete with three new inhabitants: algae eaters.

Side Note: Above is actually the first iteration of my shrimp tank concept. I don't have an image (and am currently away from the house) of version two, where the filter is nearer the top and a large piece of driftwood fills out the central region giving the shrimp a little more to play on. Version 1 also failed because the shrimp kept sneaking down into the filter by slipping past the tray on which the gravel and moss balls sit. I didn't think there would be enough room...ha!


In terms of still images, the GF1 performs just as one would expect, excellent (just as long as you are using a great piece of glass to begin with). I will say, in its "natural" setting, which is where I typically use it, the images come out less saturated than on the neutral setting of my D700. I shoot this way because on the vivid setting, I find the images come out too bold and tend to break down quickly. I shoot RAW + .jpg right now despite not being able to process RAW efficiently (I need a newer CS version).

Using the Vivitar 90mm, I have made a still of the Panasonic Lumix 20mm f/1.7 lens and a 100% crop, as well as a crop from an image of my newly acquired Mamiya 65mm f/3.5 TLR lens (Blue dot). Picked it up for $15 on craigslist in very clean condition with a slightly gnarled top filter thread, still accepts filters though! Actually, I had the Mamiya c220 and sold it some time back but have been wanting another just because I loved using it. I suppose now I have an excuse...(don't tell the girlfriend!) In case she reads this, I won't be buying it any time soon.

I first image was made at f/4. I can't get over how much I love that 90mm lens. It's my favorite lens I have ever owned. The Mamiya image was made at a higher f/stop, f/8 I believe. I posted it because I feel it a good representation of the kind of crisp detail the GF1 delivers right out of the camera! These images have only been minorly retouched (a bit of curve added for contrast and some color boost, also a piece of dust or two removed because I hate dust).

I have also used the Nikon AF-D 80-200mm f/2.8 lens on this camera as well as with the added TC-201 MF 2x teleconverter. With the lens alone images look great! Once the teleconverter is on, things fall apart. Not that the GF1 has anything to do with that. These cameras have a 2x crop factor making my 200mm, a 400mm tele.


Not that there was much going on in this write-up in terms of the unsolved. Just wanted to show a few examples of how versatile these cameras truly are, and the kind of quality one can get out of them even when using them in non-traditional fashions. I am crazy about the micro four thirds concept and really hope they continue to develop and support it!

1 comment:

  1. I love the clip of the little critters battling. Good stuff.