More Panasonic GH2 - More M Mount lenses

Panasonic GH2 Voigtlander 75mm f1.8 Heliar Classic

Back when I put together my "review" of the GH2 I did say that I would be having a look at how my M-mount lenses performed on it. However, other than some brief indoor tests with the Zeiss Planar 50mm f/2 - - I never got round to it. I've only been doing all this because my 90mm came back from Leica a few days ago and I thought I would see how it performed on the GH2. In the post mentioned I did say that the GH2 seemed to show up the difference in lenses more, but for some reason I never followed that up. I'm sure that was because of the results I got with all the other m4/3 cameras I used. I really couldn't see that M-mount lenses were significantly better than the 4/3 or m4/3 lenses I was using. 

Yesterday I took out the Voigtlander 35mm f/1.4 and 75mm f/1.8, Zeiss 50mm f/2 lenses in addition to the 25mm f/0.95. Just like with the Leica 90mm, they all produced stunning results. 


Panasonic GH2 Zeiss 50mm f/2 Planar

The Zeiss 50mm f/2 Planar was especially good. I took out my 45mm f/2.8 macro lens to compare it with and couldn't believe the difference. The 45mm is a great lens and when I got my second copy recently I was really pleased with the first pictures I took with it. However the Zeiss betters it! I was so surprised by the difference that I went and took more comparison shots to see if what I was seeing was right. It was. I've said before that the Zeiss 50mm is a VERY sharp lens and its certainly the best I've ever used on my Leicas. It is now the best I've ever used on m4/3 as well.

I used the two Voigtlander M-Mount lenses for the first time on the GH2 and both were really good. Very impressive results.

Panasonic GH2 Voigtlander 75mm f/1.8

Panasonic GH2 Voigtlander 35mm f/1.4 Multi Image Panoramic Stitch.

I also used the Voigtlander 25mm f/0.95 Nokton which as far as I'm concerned is the best "native" m4/3 lens. I'm going to send a pleading letter to them to make a fast wide-angle!!

I created this image with it.

Panasonic GH2 Voigtlander 25mm f/0.95 Multi Image Panoramic Stitch.

It consists of 28 separate images stitched together in Photoshop. The stitched file was 325MB. That the equivalent of a 114MP sensor!!  The level of detail was unbelievable. However it took a while both to take and to stitch together. 

So why the difference with the GH2?

A good question and one I really don't have an answer to. Is there a weaker anti-aliasing filter on the GH2? I can't say I've seen any comments that would indicate that, though it may be the case. The results I've got from all my Panasonic and Olympus lenses on the GH2 have been a slight improvement over the GH1 in terms of sharpness, though I have noticed that they are somewhat "grainier". This is similar to what the Leica M9 produces. Very sharp images but I usually have to employ a noise reduction programme to smooth out the skies. Maybe it is a weaker AA filter that is doing this or different in-camera processing. All of this refers to raw files by the way. The jpgs the camera produces are very similar to those from other Panasonic cameras. They are less noisy, less "grainy" and slightly softer. Also all pictures are taken at ISO 160, and apertures of f/5.6 to f/11. The majority of the images shown in this series are at f/8. I should also point out that at these apertures I got very little, and in some cases none at all, chromatic aberration or fringing.

Whatever the reason for this increased sharpness, I'm quite excited by what it offers. I've also come up with some Adobe Camera Raw parameters for raw development that give me results very close to the Leica M9. A kind of digital Fuji Velvia look if you like. In addition I'm shooting with what the camera regards as slight underexposure. I've always thought that Panasonic m4/3 cameras work in a kind of "holiday snaps" exposure mode anyway. What they think of as "correct exposure" is way too light for me. The M9 will usually come up with an exposure reading thats about 1 stop below what the Panasonic indicates. I usually have the GH2 set at about -2/3 stop. It gives better highlight detail, contrast and colour saturation, all of which I prefer for landscape photography. 

Though I'm excited by the prospects this can offer, it does pose somewhat of a dilemma, as to what I'm currently using. However I'm going to postpone that debate for a while and just enjoy the results. 

Finally, if this gives the impression that I'm advocating that all GH2 owners immediately rush out and buy expensive m-mount lenses, then I must say very firmly that I'm not. The lenses I'm talking about are all manual focus and some of them, though small, are pretty heavy. Its a fiddly, slow process getting precise focus on these lenses and if you're looking for a fast shooting response to a situation thats moving quickly, these lenses are completely useless for that. As ever these are personal subjective observations.

There are however lots of good S/H lenses out there that compare very favourably in terms of price with the Panasonic and Olympus lenses, which after all aren't particularly cheap. Since its introduction m4/3 has always been a great vehicle for legacy lenses. With the gradual growth of the "native" lens ranges this has become less talked about somewhat, but it still gives m4/3 the widest range of options of any camera system.

Words - David
Images - David and Ann