Part 1 of my comments of the Panasonic GX85 here. The GX85 has some similarities to the E-PL8, but since I don’t have one such unit, a comparison against the 3.5 year old E-PL6 will have to suffice. So, about the GX85. This is a long post, so it’ll have to be split into a couple of parts.

Quite a bit heavier, deeper and larger than the E-PL6. The overall size will matter, since the camera is just barely pocketable and only in a large jacket pocket. It’s also offered in three colors: black with a silver top, brown, and fully black. The brown unit would have looked lovely with the 17mm f1.8, but every other m4/3 lens I’ve got is black – so, it was the black unit.  It feels dense and well-built, and the weight seems nicely distributed around its entirety.

Doubt if there’s a more lovely-looking combo than a silver-colored E-PL6 with the 17mm f1.8. The GX85, all things on balance, isn’t that bad looking though.

Size-wise, the GX85 is clearly larger than the old E-PL6 it’s replacing. Weight-wise heavier too at 426 vs 325g.

GX85 with the 12-32mm pancake lens.

An almost minimalist look when viewed from the front, and its top-panel is relatively free of dials, buttons and knobs. This is a personal preference of course, but I like dials, buttons and knobs! If there’s any one thing that almost made me buy the Pen-F instead, it would be that. There’s also a leather-type grip on the camera’s right, but it’s not sufficiently deep for you to get a good handhold if you’re mounting large lenses. A wrist strap of some type is necessary (might do a post on that at some point too).

Very fast start-up and AF. The GX85 is good to go as soon as you flick the power on lever (though if you’ve got the 12-32mm pancake lens mounted, you might need to extended out from collapsed mode first too). AF and confident. There’s also a nifty feature to adjust to varying levels the size of the focusing box. A similar feature is also found on the Olympus cameras, but it isn’t nearly as graduated as it’s here on the Panasonic.

One of the most annoying things I felt on the E-PL6 was its plasticky and finnicky mode dial. It was too easily turned, and very often, I’d find myself in M or S(hutter) mode when fishing the camera out of the bag. The GX85’s mode dial doesn’t feel metallic either, and it’s somewhat stiffer than the E-PL6. That it’s slightly recessed from the edge of the camera helps, but unlike the E-M1, the absence of a mode lock button means that it’s still possible for accidental changes of recording mode.

The GX85 powers-on quickly. Mixed feelings about the command dial though.

Most people won’t bother about shutter sounds as long as it’s not too loud. Odd as this might sound, I like the GX85’s shutter release sound! It’s reasonably soft, and offers a reassuring double ‘thud’ when triggering a release. If I had to rate my most recent cameras in minutiae like this from love to hate it, it’d be the GX85, X70, E-M1, E-M5, and the relatively loud and annoying ka-plak coming out of the E-PL6. And for fully silent shooting in quiet and stealthy environments (e.g. churches, weddings), the GX85 has an electronic shutter.

Fixed-position electronic view finder. Unlike the E-Ms’, the viewfinder doesn’t use a separate eye-cup – which is well and good. The E-M5’s eye-cup is especially fiddly and comes loose easily. Two such have already been damaged from wear and tear, necessitating a costly replacement each time. As for the view inside the EVF itself, responses have been decidedly mixed. Many Internet gadget reviewers have remarked that the quality of the 2.76M dot effective field-sequential-typed EVF might had been alright some years back, but against today’s modern cameras, its quality is a step-down. Its most serious issues include possibly visible color tearing. And also that the eye needs to be perfectly lined up against it, otherwise you might see ghosting in selected elements, especially aperture and shutter speed text information. I’d put the EVF on the GX85 below that of the almost 5 year old E-M5 now. Oh – It’s still usable, just not anywhere near what you’d get with older cameras coming off Olympus.

The GX85’s touch-screen monitor isn’t fully articulating, which will make wefies with the kids tough, unless I go with a wide-angle lens and have good luck blindly composing a wefie that doesn’t ungraciously snip off one of our foreheads in the frame! The monitor is flushed with the camera’s back – nice! – and its hinge also feels extremely sturdy – distinctly more so than the E-PL6 – and decent size. The touch-screen itself is useful in configuring the camera and choosing spot AF.

On the other hand and unlike Olympus, the screen seems to have low nose-rejection (!) if Touch-AF has been enabled. I’ve had my focusing AF accidentally changed a couple of times now when my nose contacts the screen! Its got so bad that I’ve since configured one of the FN buttons to quickly disable the touch-screen, and turn it on only when I need to choose an AF spot.

Viewfinder’s in a fixed position, with the diopter adjustment dial beside it (can’t see from this picture though).

More handling notes in the next post!

Mention Panasonic, and one would immediately think of the electronics giant whose refrigerators, TVs, laundry machines and all manner of household appliances line electronic stores like Courts, Harvey Norman and Best Denki here. The Japanese company though is as widely regarded by photographers as one of the main manufacturers of cameras and lenses.

I’ve owned a couple of Panasonic cameras now – including the compact LX7 that was used to take several of the wide-angled and panoramic shots of The Minton while it was still in construction, and also more recently the LX100. The four year old LX7 is still going on great and was recently used by Ling to take several hundred pictures of Malay clothes tailored made by mom-in-law. The LX100 used a m4/3 sized sensor and was wonderfully featured, but the lack of overall sharpness and especially softness in the corners when shot wide was a real bother.

Like Olympus and possibly even more so, Panasonic has been quite illustrious in continually releasing new and improved camera bodies and lenses. In fact, they’ve got as many as four distinct lines which in the m4/3 system, all with fairly recent updated models: the GF9 at entry level, the DSLR-styled G85, the video-centric, top of the line GH5, and two rangefinder-styled mid-priced entries: the GX8 and GX85. Of these: the GF9 is very compact, attractive styling, a tilt up/down screen for wefies, but does not offer sensor stabilization which I need as the majority of my m4/3 lenses are Olympus which are typically not optically stabilized. I wasn’t interested in another DSLR-styled (G85) camera – the E-M1/M5 combo is still my go-to when I have to do event photography at work – and the similarly styled GH5 is extremely expensive. Finally, the GX8 is over-sized.

The GX8 (left) is about as large as the E-M1 Mark I, and actually even heavier!

The GX85 (right) is literally the GX8’s little sibling in only size and not what it’s packing.

The GX85 as regarded as the younger and cheaper sibling of the GX8 from a pricing point of view at least, but the GX85 offers a number of newer and really useful features on top of the GX8, largely on account of it being released about a year later. The GX85 has been receiving a lot of praise, as it essentially offers a state of the art camera, jam-packed with technological achievements, and at USD799. Panasonic Singapore carries this model, and it’s recommended retail price is SGD1149 – fairly close to the USD equivalent. Not surprisingly, that Singapore RRP didn’t drop when large retail stores like Amazon dropped that attractive price even lower to USD699 just before the year ended. This price-point would really make Olympus sweat, since it’s only marginally more than the USD649 the Olympus E-PL8 commands, but the E-PL8 isn’t nearly as feature-packed as the GX85. It misses an EVF, support for 4K video modes, built-in flash, 3 instead of 5 axis stabilization, and overall build quality doesn’t feel as premium as the GX85.

Recommended Retail Price for the Panasonic GX85 @ Jan 2017.

So, when I did find a brick and mortar store here which was selling it for lower than the RRP at SGD929 – which at USD663 is substantially cheaper than even Amazon – I didn’t hesitate. I did think whether to just get the body sans 12-32mm kit lens, but while I’ve got plenty of kit lenses in the 12/14mm to 40mm-ish range, the general consensus is that the Panasonic’s 12-32mm pancake isn’t too shabby, and it can be separately sold away if necessary later. And the bundle even includes a couple of extras: a couple of Sandisk 16GB cards that are slow for my needs, and a very useful extra OEM battery.

Next post on my first impressions of the GX85 and first handling!

Normally, most non-techie persons wouldn’t be aware of the in and outs of the smartphone industry. But the Samsung Note 7 battery exploding fiasco of 2016 was so widely reported that it even became talking points for persons who couldn’t normally be more bothered with techno-trends. I wasn’t ever planning to replace the Samsung Note 5 with the 7, since I didn’t need the new features nor did I especially like the more curvy form factor. But the Note 5’s battery has started to become less effective in the last 5 months now – so I reckon a change of phone late this year might be necessary.

Ling is still using her Samsung Note 3 with a relatively still new battery, and Facebook friends with her will see that she posts a lot of pictures and notes on things that fascinate her, including plants, cooking, nature and our two kids of course. The Note 3 offers a fairly good resolution for its sensor type, but like most camera phone sensors and their accompanying lens, suffer also from distortion, noise and other optical imperfections. One thing that Ling has which makes all these normal limitations less significant though is framing. And this is one thing I have to hand it to the wife – she takes more compositionally interesting shots than I do! One could of course attribute it in part to that the Note 3’s camera lens is pretty wide-angled, but I think it’s more that she has that photo-gene that I lack.

So, here’s a small selection of pictures from her camera, and why I especially like them. The aspect ratio of the Note 3’s camera is also quite different from what I normally shoot with on the m4/3s, and there’s no cropping of the pictures below.

Candid shot taken near our old home in Sengkang; slight angle tilt, and that the kids’ posture are in almost perfect sync.


Baking at home; picture is tightly framed, and strong contrasting colors of yellow, purple and white.


Peter’s favorite fetal-sleeping position; notice the booster position underneath his torso, and that that the photo was taken at the body-down angle – very different from how I’d instinctively take a similar shot.


Harvesting baby tomatoes at home; that H is slightly out of focus, and the composition draws attention to the tomato and her palm in the lower half of the picture.


Ling’s current pet project – two lime caterpillars that were feasting on our balcony plants, which the wife then lovingly re-homed them in a container for their upcoming pupal stage lest they are easy pickings for bids. Liked this shot as both fellows are facing opposite directions.

 

While there’s a decent number of camera manufacturers who’ve sign onto the now almost a decade-old Micro Four Thirds system, most of the prominent camera bodies we see today continue to largely come from the two standard bearers of the system: namely, Panasonic and Olympus, incidentally also the two companies who released the standard in 2008. Oh, there are a couple of other manufacturers who have made bodies, with Xiaomi recently releasing their first m4/3 body – the YI M1 – with their usual bargain bin pricing. There were few takers though for Xiaomi’s camera, with sites like DPReview scoring the camera a relatively low 69% (the Olympus/Panasonic cameras routinely score 80%s or higher).

That aside, there was a slew of new camera bodies from Oly-Sonic (LOL) last year. At the top range and fresh out of the factory, the E-M1 Mark II and GH5 – both of which are priced at USD2K and well out of the usual norm for m4/3 bodies. At the entry-level, there’s the E-PL8 and GF9. I tried the E-PL8 at the Olympus showroom @ River Valley Road, and while it features obvious design improvements from the earlier E-PLX cameras, I reckon I’m ready to explore bodies other than from Olympus now, having owned the E-PL1, E-PL2 and E-PL6. The GF9 with its flip-up screen is a boon for selfies/wefies, but the majority of my lenses are Olympus-es, and the GF9 does not offer sensor stabilisation. So, a non-starter there.

The mid-tier (pricing and performance wise at least) is where I’ve been taking a hard look at, and it’s the Olympus Pen-F vs the Panasonic GX85 – or GX80 / GX7 Mark II depending on where you are in the world. Ok, there’s also the G85, but I’m not looking for another DSLR-type m4/3 body. While the two cameras are at different price points, with the delta being as much as SGD600 between them, they share several similarities. For instance:

Rangefinder-styled

Somewhat similar mass and dimensions

Built-in sensor stabilisation (hooray!) with options to couple them also with lens-based stabilisation using different technologies

On the other hand:

The GX85 is that SGD600 cheaper, shoots 4K video (been wanting to finally move away from 2K video), very useful 4K photo capture, slightly better AF, silent shooting, video output is less prone to distortion, cleaner menu design, slightly better battery life, and it’s not Olympus. I’m a little bored of Olympus, yep!

The Pen-F has arguably/maybe very slightly better stabilisation, is aesthetically far better looking, has a better EVF, lots of dials for the geek in me, possibly stronger internal frame with its use of metals, slightly higher resolution, fully articulating screen. And for all these, you pay SGD600 more.

The Olympus Pen-F. I’m in love! (From Olympus-Malaysia)

The more pedestrian looking Panasonic GX85 (Picture From Imaging Resource).

Do I really need a new m4/3 body? Nope – but it sure is fun to do a comparison and think of reasons why I could use one! :)

Memory cards are a dime a dozen these days, with prices coming so low and capacity limits far outreaching camera sensor image resolutions. In fact, it’s quite common for new cameras to come bundled with Secure Digital memory cards. These freebies are fine for single shot or casual use, but if you’re thinking of firing shots in RAW in quick succession or even in drive mode, they’re just too slow.

I’ve accumulated a small mountain of memory cards over the years now, so figured it’s time to do a simple benchmark cycle of selected cards. This isn’t a scientifically grounded test by any means, but it does give a rough indication of where some common memory cards lie in along the performance spectrum.

Clockwise from top-left: SanDisk Extreme Pro, SanDisk Extreme, SanDisk Ultra, SanDisk SDHC, and Panasonic SDHC.

Test environment: using the Aftershock S17, and CrystalDiskMark v5.

SanDisk Extreme Pro SD 32GB

I bought a couple of these for the E-M5 several years ago. They were quite pricey back then, and while prices have come down quite a bit, they still command a premium over other cards. There are better performing cards than these now, but they are still worth the money you’ll plonk for them from cost/GB against the performance you get.

SanDisk Extreme Pro SD 32GB

SanDisk Extreme SD 64GB

The cheaper and supposedly slightly less quick sibling of the Extreme Pro. This was picked up well after I’d bought the Extreme Pros and mostly for the X70. Interestingly, the 4K performance surpasses the Pro cards:

SanDisk Extreme SD 64GB

SanDisk Ultra SD 16GB

This one’s a freebie card from some years back:

SanDisk Ultra SD 16GB

Panasonic SD 16GB

Another freebie that came with the Panasonic LX100 that was sold away earlier this year.

Panasonic SD 16GB

SanDisk SDHC SD 16GB

Yet another pretty old freebie and slow as molasses.

SanDisk SDHC SD 16GB

 

The Olympus E-PL6 spent the better part of 2016 in the cabinet: earlier this year, it started developing stuck shutter curtain issues alongside the touch screen becoming a little finicky. The latter was an annoyance but it didn’t affect photo-taking functionality. The stuck shutter was a different challenge altogether – the camera simply could not work when it struck. No amount of DIY solutions seemed to stick, and the repair job would have involved a trip down to the Olympus Service Center situated in the River Valley area – not exactly the easiest location to get to. All not very pleasing, since the E-PL6 is just over 3 years old, not been heavily stressed nor mistreated.

Still; I finally got round to making the trip down in early December. The repair took 8 days, and – surprisingly – wasn’t that expensive:

Damage could had been worse!

The first pictures of the repaired E-PL6 was again with my preferred lens I have for it: the 17mm f1.8 – and I’m reminded why this particular combo is one of my favorites for taking candid shots of the kids.

There’s a Nam Kee Handmade Pau eatery located at River Valley Point, and it also features an open kitchen concept. Peter liked the char siew buns so much he actually got all snarky when Ling asked him for a taste LOL.

Unlike Peter, Hannah is photogenic and likes having her pictures taken.

Hannah still has the little Nikon camera I bought her for her birthday 2 years ago. This picture required White Balance to be manually dialed in because of the strong red seats in the Monster Curry restaurant we had dinner at.

Dim Sum lunch @ Crystal Jade Jiang Nan at Toa Payoh. The restaurant’s setting provided a rich array of colors for pictures. The JPGs produced by Olympus are slightly saturated though I can see why they are really pleasing for many owners. That said, I prefer still to edit from RAW images.

Just before bedtime. She rotates between a whole bunch of stuff toys to bring to bed every night.

In short, the E-PL6 is still easily capable of producing lovely pictures with high keep-rates, with the touch AF really helping in nailing focus down each time. I really wish though that Olympus’ equipment weren’t failing so soon. This is the E-PL6’s second visit to the repair center already – the first visit after the shutter release spring becoming dislodged – and the camera’s touchscreen remains wonky. Even the E-M5 has also started randomly locking up on occasion.

Oh well; we’ll see how it goes.

2016 was a comparatively slow year – new gear wise at least – for the cameras I use. I still keep a expenditure log of items I buy, and over the year, acquisitions were a low half-dozen items that totaled up to about $1.4K and mostly in part from the Fujifilm X70 I picked up in April:

Several MaximalPower BLN-1-compatible batteries for the E-M5 and E-M1

Fujifilm X70

Hoya Pro 1 Digital UV 49mm for the X70

Meike MK320 TTL flashgun for the Fujifilm system

Hoya Circular Polarizer 62mm for the Olympus 12-40mm f2.8

Another Meike MK320 TTL flashgun and for the M4/3, and currently on the way

Of the m4/3 bodies; the E-M1 has gone along not only for two vacations but along for a couple of event shoots (mainly concerts and student graduation events), and ergonomics and utility wise has proven itself as reliable as I can get them within my photography skill level, though I’m still wrestling with getting the best out of its support for Continual AF + Tracking. The almost five year old E-M5 still gets stashed in my everyday bag on account that it’s just much smaller than the E-M1 and nearly as full-featured. The 3 year old E-PL6 though developed stuck shutter problems and has just been sent for repair at Olympus Service Center, and while it’s yet to return, that the repair job could cost as much as $130 was a little annoying considering that many pre-loved E-PL6 can be had for just over $300 now.

Lens-wise; Interestingly, unlike the Sigma 70-200mm f2.8 I had for my old Nikon system, the Olympus 40-150mm f2.8 has seen far more use in a year than than the Sigma ever did. The Olympus accompanies the 12-40mm f2.8 for every event shoot I’m on now (and also when a second body like the E-M5 is real useful!), is marvelously brisk and confident in getting AF lock, and very beautiful proportioned too. And of the three main primes, the 25mm f1.4 still gets used the most, followed by the 45mm f1.8 and finally the 17mm f1.8.

Hannah still remains the only other person in our family who seems interested in photography (E-M5 / 25mm f1.4 @ Keisuke Ramen at Parkway Parade).

Learning the piano using the Suzuki Method (E-M1 / 45mm f1.8).

Peter’s Pre-Nursery year-end concert (E-M1 / 40-150mm f2.8).

Supermoon on Nov 15 (E-M1 / 40-15mm f2.8 with MC-14 teleconverter). Taken at the longest end at about 600mm FF equivalent, and had to crop still!

For all intents from the kind of photography I do normally anyway, I reckon that my lens range has remained about complete in 2016. That said, I was wondering if there were still other lenses and things to explore acquiring for 2017. For instance:

E-M1 Mark II: Singapore was one of the two lucky countries around the world to get stocks slightly ahead of other countries. I tried one such unit while at the Olympus showroom, and came out of it impressed: even better ergonomics than the Mark I, quieter and almost near silent shutter release, and very fast AF were the most noticeable traits. From the first reviews, the new model also features substantially better battery life and better C-AF. What’s less impressive though is the camera body size – it’s almost as large as entry-mid level Nikon DSLRs now and also that it costs a small fortune. So no – I’ll pass for the moment, not when the Mark I still suffices for what I do.

Olympus 12-100mm f4: released at about the same time as the E-M1 Mark II above, this one is Olympus’ ‘pro’-grade lens with the kind of focal range that is typically associated with travel zooms. Convenient as it might be when it comes to vacations, we don’t travel as much these days and the 12-100mm range isn’t for my kind of everyday use as well. And it’s a full stop difference between f4 and f2.8. So; pass too.

Olympus 7-14mm f2.8: now we’re talking! It’s been a while since I shot ultra wide-angle, and the number of years I had the Sigma 10-20mm for my Nikons remind me that UWA shots are also not my every-day thing. That said, this is one lens that actually offers a (wide) focal length that I currently do not possess for the m4/3. So this one’s a maybe – if I can find someone selling a pre-loved copy of it for cheap.

Olympus 75mm f1.8: still widely regarded as among Olympus’ sharpest and the ultimate portrait lens, though not quite for indoor use given its focal length. And the focal length is covered already with my 40-150mm f2.8 albeit at a stop slower. Still, tempting – perhaps at some point in the future.

The Fujifilm X70 produces great shots and is usable in good lighting, but indoors it’s a real dog for moving subjects with its AF constantly hunting about. I might just sell it away in 2017. Moreover, while deciding whether it was worthwhile to send the E-PL6 for repair, I did consider if I should just chuck the camera and get an equivalent compact replacement. And of that: the Panasonic GX80/85 is ostensibly a cheaper brother to the company’s top-of-the-line GX8, though funnily, it offers very useful features not found on its more expensive predecessor. However, it’s not exactly a small camera, and its screen doesn’t flip-up for family wefies – so, nope. Olympus has also released its newest iteration in the E-PL line, the EPL8, and it sure looks nice with slightly bumped up specifications and updated features from the E-PL7. I had mixed feelings handling it at the Olympus showroom though: the camera didn’t feel dense and not quite possessing the premium build I expect for its asking price.

So – my wishlist for m4/3 in 2017:

A camera about the size of the Panasonic GM5 with 2016-ish sensor technology.

With sensor stabilization (most of my m4/3 lenses aren’t optically stabilized!)

Touch-supported and flip-up screen for wefies

Going for S$700 or less.

And if not, there are of course the 1″ sensor small pocketable compacts like the Canon G7X II, Sony RX100 Mark V, and the just recently released Panasonic LX10, with the first camera on the list there nicely discounted here though my preference is for a small compact m4/3 still. In any case, more to report next year if something new does come into the radar!

I don’t think there are many Singaporean families who’ve yet to visit Universal Studio Singapore (USS) – our island’s very own theme park – since it’s opening 5 years ago. We’ve largely put it off because the kids, at various points, were too young – and we also have this thing about avoiding crowds where possible!

Still, when my workplace selected the USS as this year’s Family Day outing venue and in the month of September with heavily discounted admission prices, I figured this was about as good a time to visit as any. I reckon there’s enough material online already about the place, so without getting into the park introduction bits, here are our summarized notes on the trip.

On account that Peter can only be energetic for so long in a typical day before he gets grouchy, our trip out to USS was early in the morning and we were right there lining up for entry when the park opened at 10AM. That probably isn’t the best time for most visitors, since you only have a very small window to get to the popular rides before the inevitable long queues form up. Since the park closes at 7PM, it might just be better to get to the park in the early/mid afternoon onwards when the queues start thinning out.

Parking was easy though this early early in the morning with spots aplenty, though the charges were hefty. We paid $16 for an approximately 6 hour parking.

The most popular rides all begin on the right turn after Hollywood zone, and that was pretty much the direction most of the crowd made a beeline for as soon as they were past the gate at 10AM. If you’re crowd adverse and don’t mind missing the rollercoasters, take the left and start with the Madagascar rides.

And some brief comments on the rides and shows we got to.

Madagascar: A Crate Adventure: easy-going river boat ride that takes place inside the hull of the large cargo ship featured in the films. The seats are a little small for large adults though and uncomfortable.

Far Far Away: Shrek 4D Adventure: the preamble in the main holding area was a little too long and to the point where the kids got a little restless, but the 3D stereoscopic show itself was lots of fun – especially with the water, wind and seat vibration effects. The freely provided 3D glasses were flimsy though and not quite capable of providing anything beyond a small degree of visual depth.

Far Far Away: Magic Potion Spin: the children’s Ferris Wheel Situated inside the zone’s gift shop. Pretty long and slow moving queue (albeit inside a comfortably air-con room) since there are just six carriages that can sit at most two each. Nothing particularly exciting but it’s at least a nice place to hide out from humid weather.

The Lost World: Jurassic Park Rapids Adventure: Peter couldn’t be admitted into this one, so it was just Hannah and Ling – and from the way they described it, it was pretty fun though both got a little drenched!

The Lost World: Waterworld Show: very well-done up show that starts at 1:15PM. The arena-type sitting can sit hundreds, and avoid the soak zone if you don’t want to get drenched from the water splashes from the Jet Skis nor the performers pranking the audience before the main show begins.

The Lost World: Dino-Soarin’: another child-friendly ride, with the pterodactyls-styled cars going about faster than they look from the outside. Queues move slowly though as the ride is popular.

Sci-Fi City: Accelerator: whirling twirling ride with cars that can sit a family of four easily. Child friendly though those particularly susceptible to vertigo will want to give it a miss.

New York: Sesame Street Spaghetti Space Chase: another low-intensity and mostly sedate ride for children. Queues cleared pretty quickly.

New York: Sesame Street: When I Grow Up: situated inside the large Pantages Hollywood Theatre, and a reasonably done up live performance show featuring several of the show’s most popular characters. The most fun part though was at the end when bubbles were released from the ceiling and floated down. The two kids had a lot of fun chasing all the bubbles down LOL.

It took us about 5 hours to do one round in the park, and we skipped most of the most popular rides, figuring that we’d likely come back in a few years when Peter and Hannah are older. Pictures below were taken on the E-M1/M5s with 12-40/40-150mm f2.8s. The E-M5/40-150mm performed very well again, capturing the action-centric shots during the Waterworld Show though we were seated well away from the front of the stage.

The audience volunteer getting pranked by the show's performers.

The audience volunteer getting pranked by the show’s performers.

'Smokers' making their appearance on Jet Skis.

‘Smokers’ making their appearance on Jet Skis.

A full-sized PT boat with a live-sized gatling gun that spewed pyrotechnics!

A full-sized PT boat with a live-sized gatling gun that spewed pyrotechnics!

Time to break out the bazooka! The actor performing the role of The Deacon, one of the late Dennis Hopper's defining roles.

Time to break out the bazooka! The actor performing the role of The Deacon, one of the late Dennis Hopper’s defining roles.

Universal Studios Singapore - we'll be back in a few years!

Universal Studios Singapore – we’ll be back in a few years!

 

Early impressions of the Fujifilm X70 after about a week of use!

The default color profile coming out of the X70 is subtly different from Olympus m4/3s. Not a scientific test now as I’m not a visual person, but the natural lighting colors do look very slightly more natural, though this is finally really personal preferences. The typical pictures at ISO3200 look less noisy than m4/3s equivalents.

The all-round metallic body feels well-built, cool to touch, and dense. In a nice-touch, the eyelet hooks are also removed as factory-shipped too. That’s always the first things I remove when I get a new m4/3s body.

The Exposure Compensation dial sits at the far right corner. It’s slightly recessed though and quite stiff. Quite helpful in avoiding situations where one accidentally brushes against it and dial in unwanted exposure compensations, as it’s happened a few times with the mode dials on Olympus E-PL bodies now.

The metallic lens cap is internally padded, and fits snugly onto the lens. The lens itself doesn’t have a filter thread, so the dedicated 49mm adapter ring is needed to fit a filter and/or 49mm lens cap.

The menu item layout is more visually appealing than Olympus, though I don’t think the organization is really any less confusing for first users of the Fujifilm system.

Silent shutter option. Nice!

In-camera charging via the micro USB port. Super convenient than having to bring a dedicated charger unit. This feature should be a standard inclusion in all cameras.

And lastly, the X70 offers many of the usual amenities we’ve come to expect from modern cameras – including setting a minimum shutter speed, and lower/upper limits of the ISO setting.

aa

The rear LCD is bright and high-resolution. It’s surrounded by a thick bezel though, so not particularly optimal use of actual possible space.

On the other hand:

AF speed is so-so. It’s not nearly as brisk as Olympus’ m4/3s cameras from the last several years now, and the difference is even more evident in low-light situations.

Non-stabilized lens and no provision for in-body stabilization either. I’ve been spoiled by the Olympus m4/3 camera bodies, and especially the 5-axis in-body stabilization system on my E-M5 and E-M1. Sharp handheld shots of 1/5s are totally possibly on those bodies and just too hard on the X70.

No hot-shoe cover. Had to buy cheapo third party replacements for it.

RAW support isn’t available in Program-Auto mode, while Auto-flash mode is available only in Program-Auto. I figure that’s why it’s called ‘auto’ mode, but it would had been better if these options were available for advanced users as an optional items to enable than to disallow them altogether.

Oddly, image playback takes a bit of time to start-up, though once it’s in playback mode, images do scroll briskly.

The Selector quadrant of buttons don’t offer good key travel and are quite stiff. The E-M5’s selector also had low key travel but buttons weren’t nearly as stiff or mushy.

The Auto mode selector level is close to the master on/off switch. The first couple of days I kept accidentally toggling the auto mode from Aperture priority to full-on auto, instead of powering on/off the camera. That took some getting use to.

The package came with accessories, several of which were high quality original equipment from manufacturer – the lens hood, adapter ring, leather case and strap, and an extra battery. The leather case got put aside as while it provides a better grip hold for the X70, also adds more bulk, and I don’t find its design appealing either. The other four accessories are useful though.

A couple of other accessories are also on order, including a 49mm Hoya Pro 1 Digital filter, which is a few dollars more expensive than the normal Hoya filters but which glass elements are easier to clean. Alongside that, a tempered glass ear LCD protector, and finally also – the Meike MK320 TTL flash gun for the X70, which cost less than half the price for the already bargain bin-priced Nissin i40 I’ve got for m4/3s. A mini-review for the Meike perhaps once I receive the unit in a few weeks.

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The X70’s top panel.

Some pictures of the kids next!

I reckon I’m one of those very lucky hubbies – since I have a wife who chuckles whenever I bring home a new toy! This time round, it’s the Fujifilm X70.

The impetus for this new acquisition started 2 months ago when the Olympus E-PL6 started developing sticky shutter problems. Not sure why since it’s been handled carefully for the almost 3 years I’ve owned it. While the stuck shutter can be rectified by removing the battery and memory card at each occurrence, it’s also caused me to miss key moments where the kids were doing something I wanted to capture.

I’ve previously owned relatively-large sensor compact cameras before. The Panasonic LX7 – which can still take decent pictures in good light; the Panasonic LX100 – which offered a very useful focal length and was fast at the widest angle, but got sold away as I couldn’t live with the odd color casts and also was just too soft around the corners.

For our upcoming Melbourne June 2016 trip, I’ve been eyeing a replacement compact that would accompany the E-M1 and the two f2.8s (12-40mm/40-150mm) coming along for the trip. The compact would need to meet these requirements:

Relatively large sensor of at least 1″.

Bright f2.8 or faster lens.

Flip screen for the family wefie.

Compact, preferably. Pocketable, even better.

Non-interchangeable lens systems. One camera system is enough!

A whole list of models got included – the Sony RX100 series, the Canons G7X and G9X, and a couple of bridge cameras even – the Panasonic FZ1000, Sony RX10 and Canon G3X. The three bridge cameras all start at f2.8 and support up to the minimal focal length I reckon I would shoot at in Melbourne, with the RX10 going way beyond that even. But they are also huge, heavier than the E-M1/12-40mm, and bulkier. The Canon G3X is slightly smaller in body compared to the other two bridge cameras, but misses out on a built-in viewfinder – a key omission that would have made telephoto shots difficult to manage.

The Sony RX100s are compact and fairly pricey, though the oldest of the series still widely sold – the Mark II – is relatively cheap now with in-store discounts. The Canons G7X and G9X are at an affordable price-point and meet most of the basic requirements, but I’ve still have niggling concerns about 1″ sensors using on the Sony RX100s and Canons, and the Canons also reportedly have poor battery life.

A student of mine previously loaned me his Fujifilm X100 some four years ago, and I really liked its amazing colors and center sharpness, though not its general usability and pedestrian AF speeds. The most current version of that series – the Fujifilm X100T – wasn’t in consideration as it was fairly large for a compact, and well-past the price I was prepared to pay for it though a grey import would have saved me a few hundred dollars. And finally, there’s the Sony RX1R II – the full-frame fixed lens compact. A cell group friend owns that, but I would have had to sell my left arm to afford the $4.9K it costs!

So, I was pretty much set on the Canon G7X and was about to pick it up until I stumbled upon the Fujifilm X70 quite by accident while trawling the discussion forums. The key characteristic of the X70 is that it’s, essentially, a shrunk down version of the X100s and going for a lot cheaper than that even. The US street price for the X70 is US$699. The local distributed version here goes for US$800 – which after including GST, shipping charges here, and the bunch of freebies (thrown in for the local bundle, seems priced fairly after all.

The Fujifilm X70!

The Fujifilm X70!

My first impressions of the X70 next!