Nov 19, 2009 at 9:42 am #1242297
Hi! So, I've been shopping around for an interchangeable lens DSLR to upgrade my photo capabilities from my current point & shoot, and I've narrowed my choice down to two setups…
1) Lumix DMC-GF1 with a single LUMIX G aspherical pancake lens (20mm F/1.7) at ~$900
– or –
2) Canon Rebel XSi with a Canon 18-55mm (f/3.5-5.6) lens AND a Canon 55-250mm (f/4.0-5.6) telephoto lens at ~$850.
The Lumix is smaller and lighter, but I do like the look & feel of both setups. I read somewhere that Lumix are generally higher end cameras than Canon, so I think the price differential is probably fair. I guess I'm worried about the lack of multiple lenses on the Lumix setup, and I don't think I can afford to add another lens beyond this purchase for a while. Main subjects will be backcountry landscapes, perhaps close ups on small outdoors features (flowers, insects, footprints, streams), and maybe some hiker portraits too.
Do you think that having a single lens like the Lumix one above will be an issue for me as a beginning DSLR user? Would I be better off mastering multiple lenses then upgrading my whole setup, or would I be better off starting with the better camera and adding more lenses later if I need them? Any thoughts or ideas would be appreciated! ;-)
Cheers, James.Nov 19, 2009 at 1:02 pm #1546498
Rick DreherBPL Member
@halfturboLocale: Northernish California
Good questions all, and not easily answered!
In favor of the GF1 and 20/1.7 you have an extremely compact and light, high-quality camera and lens. The lens is both fast and sharp, faster and sharper than either Canon zoom and to get its equivalent in a smaller, lighter package you'd be looking at the (fixed lens) Sigma DP2, and that's about it.
But of course you have the limitation of a single focal length, at least until you add another lens or two. (In case you didn't know, you can use any µ4/3 system lens, plus all 4/3 dslr lenses via an adapter.) Those of us who are used to and indeed learned photography on prime lenses recognize that this is both a blessing and a curse. This focal length won't capture sweeping wide landscapes (at least until you learn to stitch panoramas) and you won't be capturing bear noses from 75 yards. It will be fine for portraits and for any low-light situation.
The Canon set offers the vast flexibility of two zooms covering a broad focal length range (not especially wide, though). From what I read those kit lenses are pretty decent optically (no personal experience with them) and likewise, the body should deliver good images. The lenses are far slower, of course, which will force you to use higher ISOs in low light. If one of your goals is to minimize image noise, that's an important consideration in you decision.
Likewise, the Canon and either lens will be much bulkier. Is that important? Finally, do you desire the GF1's HD video?
Those are my quick responses. They're two very different paths so I'd look down the trail a year or two and consider what sort of system I want to build over time. µ4/3 is quite new but without a doubt the most important innovation in digital photography in a while. If it continues to be successful and Panasonic and Olympus really expand their offerings, it will have a lot of backpackers ditching their dslrs. Sadly, we still have to wait and see whether that happens.
RickNov 19, 2009 at 3:25 pm #1546534
I’ve owned the GF1 with the 20mm pancake lens for less than a month, yet I can tell you unequivocally that you need to buy one right now. The 20mm lens provides such fine detail that you can enlarge the image on your computer to “zoom” in on what you need. The lens/body combination is sized just right for a jacket pocket, and is light enough to avoid having to subscribe to Backpacker Magazine and giving up all things light. I’ve also enjoyed using my old school analog lenses with this camera. The second photo is not a crop of the first, rather a separate photograph which has been cropped.Nov 19, 2009 at 3:39 pm #1546536
Dondo .BPL Member
@dondoLocale: Colorado Rockies
Wow, that's pretty fine detail in the second photo. How much did you crop?Nov 19, 2009 at 4:42 pm #1546549
I'm not at the correct computer to upload the original photograph, so I will have to estimate that there is about a third more landscape on each side of what you see here. I'm not sure what that transfers to, but it does show the point I was making about the detail in the recording of the image with the GF1. The first image has been saved at a markedly reduced mb than the 4.5mb it was captured in. Try enlarging it for a sense of what the GF1 can do.Nov 19, 2009 at 6:26 pm #1546576
@rick: Thanks for the balanced perspective. Very helpful. I was leaning toward the GF1, simply because it is smaller and lighter and I could see myself actually bringing it into the backcountry, I think the Canon setup would be too much to port around everywhere, and I'd probably miss the crucial moment, as I mess about with the lenses!
@joseph: Great pics. I think the cropping idea sealed it for me. Hadn't even considered that method of "zooming". Nice.
So, quality wins, then, time to dust off the old Amex card… if I feel the need for additional lenses or gear, they'll just have to go onto my wish list for sometime in 2010. Thanks guys!Nov 19, 2009 at 6:59 pm #1546581
Glad this thread helped. I don't think you will regret the GF1.
Remember, if you have lenses from a 35mm SLR you can purchase an adapter (cheap on ebay) and use those old school lenses. Even if you don't have them now they can be had for a fraction of the cost of a digital micro 4/3s lens. A 50mm prime becomes a good portrait lens for that cute kid in your avatar. Here is a photograph using my Zuiko 50mm lens.
Nov 23, 2009 at 1:44 pm #1547464
Bradley DanylukBPL Member
I won't debate that the GF1 is an excellent camera for what it is, but I do feel the need to point out that this whole thread seems to be operating under the (false) presumption that the GF1 delivers superior technical image quality than the Canon – just based on the OP "having read somewhere that Lumix are generally higher end cameras than Canon." I must ask where you heard that. It's very sweeping – not to mention untrue.
I prefer Nikons myself, but the point is that the Canon is a DSLR with a bigger sensor and a great deal of product maturity. The Lumix has a smaller sensor and is just about first-gen. The Canon consistently ranks higher in every category – but especially colour reproduction, dynamic range, and noise.
I'm thinking of making the switch to micro 4/3 at some point, but the image quality is just not there yet. For me, it's worth it to lug a DSLR and get images I can count on. You could call this all pixel-peeping but the dynamic range especially is a deal-breaker for me. I want blue skies, not white ones. This does show up in everyday pictures at regular size.
BTW, the Lumix GH-1 actually has a pretty significantly better sensor than the GF-1. It has about one stop better noise and dynamic range performance. That said, it's still not at DSLR level.Nov 23, 2009 at 4:15 pm #1547508
Carter YoungBPL Member
@kidcobaltLocale: Western Montana
From what I have read about the Lumix GF-1, it seems to be fine for what it is: an interchangeable lens camera that's larger than a Canon G11 but smaller than an XSi. I've also read that you need to shoot RAW and go through the processing to get the best from the GF-1.
Not factoring in lenses at this point of the discussion, the XSi will have better image quality than the GF-1 simply because of the difference in sensor size (329 square millimeter for the XSi vs. 225 for the GF-1). But considering that very good photos have been taken with Canon G9, G10, and G11s with a sensor size of 43 square millimeters, perhaps there's not much of a difference between the two choices you present.
There is, however, quite a bit of difference in lens availability between your two choices, and there's no doubt that the Canon package is a more complete and effective photographic tool than the Lumix. The Canon 18-55IS lens is OK, but the 55-250IS is quite good, and the images you'll take with a cheap 50mm 1.8 or the relatively inexpensive 70-200 4.0L will be astounding.
Of course, you have to consider what you want to do with your images and how much weight you choose to carry. I do backpack with the XSi and the 18-55, but other times I use a Canon G9, and sometimes I carry a little Lumix DMC-LS70. When Galen Rowell started into serious photography, he was already an accomplished climber, and thought that what he wanted was something small and light, so he chose a Pentax SLR system that used Kodak 110 Instamatic film cartridges. Needless to say, he changed equipment as his ambitions grew.
I've been quite impressed with the results I've obtained with my G9, so much so that I'll be buying a Canon S90 as my next small camera. You may want to consider the S90 as an alternative.Nov 23, 2009 at 6:37 pm #1547558
Rick DreherBPL Member
@halfturboLocale: Northernish California
As a clarification, while the GF-1 and GH-1 are not technically DSLRs (lacking mirrors and pentaprisms) their sensors are de facto "DSLR level" because µ4/3 is sourced from 4/3—a DSLR format. The GF-1 has a standard 4/3 sensor while the GH-1 sensor is slightly larger than standard to accommodate selectable aspect ratios.
The current four thirds cameras of whatever flavor compete head-on with the APS format cameras, so anybody starting fresh can select a system based on body and control design and available lenses. If you want significant leaps in image quality you must look to full frame and beyond.
RickNov 23, 2009 at 7:06 pm #1547578
Thanks! Didn't want to start a war… ;-) I understand the limitations of my Lumix GF1 choice, but in doing the trade off between simplicity, quality, weight, flexibility etc, I concluded that the quality-to-weight ratio of the Lumix would beat the higher quality of a "true" DSLR like the Canon Rebel. I did want the flexibility of interchangeable lenses versus going with a compact digital system.
In the end I spent a lot of time looking at the olympus ep1 and the lumix gf1, and concluded that the GF1 was best in class for lightweight interchangeable lens systems, and compared the Nikon, Sony and Canon DSLRs, concluding that my favorite was the rebel, hence the comparison. My view of the lens quality came from a couple of comments posted by a friend of mine about her experience going from older Canons to her current Lumix – probably not relevant in this comparison, since she does not have either of the options I posted, but it was relevant IN MY HEAD nonetheless! Like Homer Simpson, I can only get stuff out of my head by putting new stuff in.
Anyways, I have ordered my GF1 with the 20mm pancake aspherical lens, and I am very comfortable with my choice, for my needs as a lightweight backpacker first, and beginning digital photographer second. Hopefully, I will now have a m4/3 system which will expand as my skills expand and stretch as far as I am capable of going.
Thanks for all your great commentary, it is very comforting to know that there are those out there on this forum who have real expertise and are willing to advise a beginner on early choices… I really appreciate your guidance.
Cheers, James.Nov 24, 2009 at 2:41 pm #1547837
@gmg4lifeLocale: East Bay
I think you really summarized it well when you said that you are a lightweight backpacker first and a photographer first.. it really comes down to what your priorities are and how willing you are to carry additional lenses and the whole nine yards.. I for one am a photographer first and a backpacker second so I for one choose to take the entire setup.. sacrificing a little bit of other stuff in order to carry all my camera gearNov 28, 2009 at 7:51 pm #1548663
Bradley DanylukBPL Member
I realize this wasn't asked, but seeing as how wides and ultrawides are probably the most useful lenses for landscape photography, I thought I'd mention the Lumix 7-14mm. It's a bit pricey but optically great, and of course smaller and lighter than any DSLR equivalent. If I were to go micro-4/3 today, it would probably be the only lens I bought.
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