A day with a Panasonic GH2 and Vario-Elmar 14-150mm zoom

Panasonic GH2 Leica D 14-150mm Vario-Elmar Zoom Lens


A glorious sunny day with clear blue skies, though pretty cold. I spent the day in two locations. Firstly at Bourneville Village. This is a suburb of Birmingham, built by the Cadbury family around their chocolate factory. My grandmother worked there many years ago, when they let you eat as much chocolate as you wanted. Apparently it didn't take long for people to never eat it again!! At the top of the page is the friends meeting house. Because of the quaker history of the family, Bourneville has no pubs, and none of the shops are allowed to sell alcohol.


The building in the following two pictures is now the art department at Birmingham City University where Ann teaches. 


Panasonic GH2 Leica D 14-150mm Vario-Elmar Zoom Lens


Panasonic GH2 Leica D 14-150mm Vario-Elmar Zoom Lens


I'm using the crop sizes quite a lot, in some cases shooting 2 or 3 versions of each shot. The GH2's larger sensor means these can be shot at a decent size. 1:1 ratio images are very useful for picture library websites, since the thumbnails look larger than other shapes. On the GH2 they come out at 12MP or a 34MB file, which is the same as the full-sized 4:3 ratio files on the rest of m4/3. I like to do this in-camera instead of cropping later, as I will often adjust the composition. This also applies to the 16:9 ratio images I shoot.


The second group of images were shot at the Lickey Hills Country Park. I used a tripod for these pictures.


Panasonic GH2 Leica D 14-150mm Vario-Elmar Zoom Lens


This area has a lot of conifer trees, and while I'm not a fan of these normally, they do provide a display of vegetation in the winter. I love winter light, but the bare trees can get a bit depressing after a while. 


Since I was using a tripod I shot some images to create HDR's in Photoshop. 


Panasonic GH2 Leica D 14-150mm Vario-Elmar Zoom Lens


Panasonic GH2 Leica D 14-150mm Vario-Elmar Zoom Lens


This allowed me to get some detail from the backlit tree trunks. 


However I must admit I prefer the higher contrast of the "normal" shots like the one below, which actually didn't turn out that differently with a bit of adjustment using the Photoshop ACR raw development sliders. 


Panasonic GH2 Leica D 14-150mm Vario-Elmar Zoom Lens


This was the first time I'd used the Leica D 14-150mm Vario-Elmar zoom for any significant shooting on the GH2. I'd tested the lens briefly when I got the camera, and at the time it seemed to me that the AF was a little slower than on the GH1. Yesterday I was thinking that this is may be only really a problem in low light as I had no trouble in the bright sunny conditions. However as always I would add the proviso that I do shoot mostly landscape, so my idea of fast and slow AF may not be relevant to everybody.


With my feelings about the Leica and my concerns about carrying it around, I think I was perhaps hoping that I could convince myself that the GH2 provided similar quality.  Though the results from the camera and lens were excellent and it is certainly a much more versatile and convenient system than the Leica, it does still fall short of the M9's image quality. Even though the 14-150mm is one of the best zooms you can buy, and the GH2's sensor and image processing one of the sharpest, the Leica still produces a distinct quality jump. 


Its not as though this is impossible to achieve with other equipment. To a large extent its the result of no anti-aliasing filter. However no-one except Leica (and Sigma with their Foveon sensor) seems to be prepared to do this. Are other manufacturers frightened of the reviews they would get? The talk these days is all about high ISO performance and pushing the limits of what light we can shoot in to extremes. Cameras with no AA filter tend to be worse at this, though strictly speaking AA filters don't reduce high ISO noise. However, from what I read, AA filters do affect high frequency contrast, taking away some of the sharpness when removing moire, which is their prime function. This does also have the effect of reducing noise as well.


All the cameras I've used with no AA filter, Kodak Pro 14n and SLR/n, Sigma SD14 and Leicas M8 and M9 have produced the sharpest results. They have also produced the worst high ISO results. Though it must be said that the M9 isn't bad. Its surprisingly good up to ISO 1600.  


I don't think the situation is going to change. Thom Hogans idea of Nikon releasing cameras with a no-AA filter option is probably destined to remain just that, an idea. I think camera manufacturers basically think the performance of their sensors is good enough, and the non-AA option will remain with the niche manufacturers such as Leica, Sigma and some of the MF digital back makers. On the Pentax 645D, all the samples I've seen, both raw and jpg seem to indicate its got quite a heavy AA filter, which is par for the course from Pentax. If it didn't, I really would have sold everything and bought one. 


Words - David
Images - David and Ann