I’ve written about the GM-1 already and it was pretty obvious that I liked it, but there is a need for more to be said. It is absolutely phenomenal. During my previous non-technical reviews, most of the images shown were shot at high ISO (6400). It was winter here in Afghanistan, which means a dark, brooding household full of staff oscillating between homicidal and suicidal inclinations. The images I shot reflected that pervasive atmosphere. I needed the high ISO due to the low light levels inside the house and the grain helped create the images I felt.
Since then, I have used the camera here and there and much of it has been in the same vein, making fairly high contrast graphical images and there is a reason for this: the camera is so nimble, yet so capable. It just begs to be picked up, making it easy to enjoy taking photographs simply because doing so is so much fun. With a wrist strap used, the already minimal weight vanishes and you can wave it around like Elizabeth R’s white gloves.
I was curious to hear how other people were getting on with theirs and it seems opinion is almost universal. Those who want every trick and function generally leaned towards the extremely capable GX-7 or Olympus OMD EM-1, but those who were looking for a very portable Goldilocks (like me) seem to be fairly ecstatic. Here are a few of the sort of reviews I am talking about: Ming Thein Review & Amateur Photographer Review
Yesterday, I took another couple of flights and this camera accompanied me, along with my Sony A7R. I took the Sony because I would like to produce a few flagship images for this series, which I may well print to 40” and, with the Sony Zeiss 35 FE f2.8 attached, it is a superb aerial solution. The reason is that this lens performs so spectacularly well at wide apertures, that you can be sure of high shutter speeds and razor sharp performance across the field. I shot mine between f3.5 and f4.5 (giving shutter speeds from 1/1500th to 1/8000th and from a technical perspective the results are incredible. The helicopter was an old Russian Mi8 and so as well as the lateral speed (relative speed being higher than with a fixed sing because you are closer to the ground at cruise), there was a lot of vibration. At points it felt like riding a washing machine on spin with bricks inside, down stairs. 1/500th was not going to cut it.
I had this Sony on my lap, but the little GM-1 took the majority of photographs. Why? Because it is so fast and nimble! The zoom covered pretty well every focal length I wanted (unfortunately I could not use the wide end due to parts of the helicopter fuselage coming into frame), but I had a field day between about 28 and 60mm (FF equivalent). In particular, I found myself shooting somewhere in the 40-55mm range, which is unusual for me. It just happened to provide the perfect compliment to the 35mm on the Sony and matched many of the scenes scrolling by.
The GM-1, being so small and light, could easily be directed at various angles right up against the round window. Along with the zoom, this allowed me the fastest possible composition changes and window filth avoidance measures! The AF was lightning fast, locking on every time in a blink, the shutter was extremely responsive, silent and the exposures bang on every time. I caught a bit of flare every now and again, but that was mainly due to the fact that the white fuselage protrusion just below the bottom of most frames was catching the sun and throwing up an incredible amount of flare. I just had to ensure I kept it nicely out of frame.
I shot everything at ISO 200 in RAW (of course) and the little Panny was an extension of my hand throughout. The image stabilised zoom covered everything I needed and the technical performance was absolutely fantastic. This kit lens is top notch. As I said in my review, the corners at the wide end (12mm – 24mm in FF speak) are not perfect, but very decent for most scenes, but by 14mm (28mm FF) everything has tightened up quite a bit in the periphery. At focal lengths between about 20 and 28mm, the lens is truly outstanding and quite a few of the frames I shot at around 25mm showed a level of performance you expect from L series primes at perfect apertures i.e. absolutely razor sharp across the whole frame with no visible degradation of fine detail whatsoever. Unbelievable!
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