Opinions Please -- is this as good as it gets?

Discussion in 'This or That?' started by backdoc, Mar 13, 2011.

  1. backdoc

    backdoc Mu-43 Regular

    Feb 9, 2011
    I would like to get comments on the quality of the photos that I have uploaded to my gallery.

    In particular, what I would like to know is, could I get better quality from a different camera, say, an DSLR?

    I expect a majority of my photos will be taken indoors, just like these. My camera is the GH2. The lens in most of these photos is the kit 14-42.

    Personally, I find the ones over 400 ISO to be quite blurry. I also find that when taking a group of 3 people, sometimes 2 are in sharp focus while the 3rd isn't.

    I have a couple of days before I exceed the time to exchange the camera. I could get a DSLR for less than what I paid for this. Would a DSLR suit me better for my type of photos? Or, is this as good as it gets for indoor shooting? Or, probably more likely, the problems aren't the camera. I just need to improve myself.

    2 out of 3 in focus

    400 ISO, quite sharp to me

    400 ISO, blurry -- maybe camera movement?

    800 ISO, blurry -- maybe just out of focus? Aperture says the focus point is off just in front of the subject

    Oh... And, feel free to tweak any of the photos.
  2. kytra

    kytra Mu-43 Regular

    Feb 28, 2011
    For available light and action probably you would fare better with a DSLR. However the blurry shots are probably out of focus and not because of the high iso
  3. DHart

    DHart Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jan 7, 2010
    Scottsdale, Arizona
    Real Name:
    I have no idea of your background or knowledge of photography, so please forgive me if I say something you are already well aware of. What I will say here is directed toward those with relatively little photography knowledge.

    I think you need to do more testing and control in your use of the camera and lens to determine what influences are acting on your images.

    Indoor photography is more demanding of cameras, lenses, and photographers simply because with lower ambient light levels, it is more difficult to achieve good focus and image sharpness. Fast lenses and image sensors which perform better in lower light levels can become essential for good image making under low light levels. and the use of good flash can become an important element in these conditions as well.

    Is the GH2 up to the task? For the most part, especially in non professional applications I would say yes... Especially with fast lenses. can you do better with a larger sensor and fast lenses, yes you can. But I don't think you need to go that route. One thing you should consider is using the 20mm f/1.7 lens and Higher ISO. The GH2 performs better than any other m4/3 camera at high iso. I've obtained fantastic image quality with the GH2 at ISO 2500 and the 14-140 lens, hand held at 1/15 sec, full telephoto extension, no flash! So I know the camera can perform in lower light levels. Would I choose it for professional work... I would opt to use a full frame sensor 5DMkII for that, but this would be overkill and very expensive, perhaps, for your interests.

    Image sharpness, image focus, and lack of blur (these are all different things) are functions of a variety of factors including camera movement, subject movement (both relative to shutter speed and flash duration, if flash is the dominant light slice), focus point and accuracy, lens characteristics, aperture setting, etc. ISO can influence this as well, as it influences shutter speed and performance of the sensor.

    Many people who take pictures but have little skill or knowledge in photography have no idea how critical the stability of the camera is in obtaining crisp images. Camera movement is perhaps the primary reason why some people have a difficult time getting crisp images even when the camera is doing its job perfectly. Pay close attention to keeping your camera as still as possible when you gently press the shutter button... this is a huge issue for many who take pictures.

    Another important factor can be controlling the focus point that the camera uses to autofocus. The GH2 is awesome in this regard. get to know how to do this when circumstances warrant it.

    The GH2 is capable of great sharpness, but when you have sharpness, focus, or blur issues (all different things), you've really got to try to determine just which of those elements are causing the issue. Your subject may be sharp and in focus and not blurred, sharp and in focus and blurred, in focus but unsharp, in focus but unsharp and blurry, etc.

    The GH2 is not ideal as an action/sports camera, so if that is going to be an important aspect of your photography you may be better served by a dslr, otherwise you've got a great camera in your hands and the results you obtain with it will be a function of your increasing skill and knowledge as an image maker.

    Good photography can sure look easy and today's cameras make it easier to get good results even when a photographer has no idea what he or she is doing. But in spite of the wonder features of today's advanced cameras, the knowledge and skill of the photographer remains a vital component to superior image making.

    EDIT to add... Sorry for being so long winded... I guess I just felt like writing!
    • Like Like x 7
  4. Alanroseman

    Alanroseman Super Moderator Emeritus

    Dec 21, 2010
    New England
    With absolutely no sarcasm intended.

    The answer to your question, is no. That is not as good as it gets.

    Pay careful heed to the reply offered by Don Hart..

    Photography, like all else, in life looks easy until you try to do it yourself. The GH2 is a wonderful camera, and with a little practice, well maybe lots of practice, you're going to get the results you're looking for.

    The good news is, shooting in todays world costs nothing but hard drive space, a great advantage to those starting out in the digital age.

    Blast away! You'll be surprised how quickly people are complimenting your images..

  5. SRHEdD

    SRHEdD Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Feb 24, 2011
    Viera, Florida USA
    Real Name:
    We've mentioned this before as well...

    If you're holding the camera at arms' length, you could be inducing more vibration than if using a VF-2 and holding it closer to your chest. At slower shutter speeds, EVERYTHING adds to negative image quality. DSLRs are always held closer, obviously.

    A viewfinder accessory may help you.
  6. Alanroseman

    Alanroseman Super Moderator Emeritus

    Dec 21, 2010
    New England
    Unless I misread, he says he's using a GH2, if so, no EVF required.... already there. Be a help on the GF2 though...
  7. iliakoltsov

    iliakoltsov Mu-43 Regular

    Aug 7, 2010
    GH2 is a fantastic gear, it has one huge problem latency in the viewfinder very small yes but for Karate where you need to catch a split second is a bit annoying. I am currently using a G1, i can tell you that what you need really is 2 things : in low light force the AF to be center only , and increase the iso so that it is around 1/the focal length shutter speed that way you sure that you will not get any blur. You have one of the best M4/3 gear Lens and body :). Now another hint all the lenses wide open do not perform to their optimal capacity, in other words ALL lenses need to be stepped down in order to gain sharpness.

    The beauty of the photography is that no matter what gear you have ( good gear helps :p ) you can produce stunning pictures if you know how to.

    Last thing concerning the shutter speed 1/focal length use it when you have no stabilization, with stabilization you can easily go under but as a general rule try to follow it.
  8. nuclearboy

    nuclearboy Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Jan 28, 2011
    Ellicott City, MD
    Real Name:
    I have had similar poor results in school gymnasiums which are relatively poorly lit for photography. I have been disappointed with the lower light performance of my EPL-1 and 14-42 kits lens (mainly due to being hand held with a slow shutter and in some cases not properly focused). In many cases, I cannot ask the action to stop so I can get the shot correct. In general, I blame the majority of the problem on the slow lens.

    My solution was to spend more money on the Panasonic 20mm f1.7 lens. Shutter speeds are typically more than 4 times faster and the pictures have improved. That said, sports shooting in school gymnasium type environments is still a challenge even for full size DSLR equipment.
  9. demiro

    demiro Mu-43 All-Pro

    Nov 7, 2010
    I think a faster lens is definitely needed, but then you are limited to the 20/1.7, which can be kind of short, or else MF options. Unfortunately this is where :43: still falls short. You can pick up a used Canon 40D and 85/1.8 lens for <$800 and take killer karate shots; indoor basketball; swimming; etc. So if that type of photography is a major priority I would probably look beyond the GH2.
  10. cucco

    cucco Mu-43 Regular

    Dec 28, 2010
    Let me add a couple things here.

    With regards to compact DSLRs (which I know, the GH2 is technically not, but I'll lump it in), you're going to be hard pressed to get a better "kit" than this for the money. Yes, there are cheaper kits that do well and you could save $200 by going with a Sony A33 kit or similar, but considering everything that the GH2 does well and still manages to keep the size down, you're back to being hard pressed again.

    If you don't mind the size of a larger DSLR, sure, go for it. But if you do, consider putting your GH2 on ebay. You may fetch more than you paid for it.

    Consider a couple things though -
    1 - to get significantly better than the GH2, no basic DSLR kit will get you there. Instead, you're looking at a DSLR with perhaps a 70-200 f2.8 lens (for sports action). Let's say that's $700 for the body. Even if you go with a Sigma lens for the telephoto lens, you're still talking an extra $1000 for the lens. Go with an OEM and you're talking $2000. Then there's the size issue. A 70-200 f2.8 is a BIG piece of glass.

    2 - If you're unsure of how to properly focus a GH2, a DSLR won't be any better. In fact, the focusing on the GH2 is actually better than on most DSLRs I've messed with.

    3 - Don't be afraid of higher ISOs on the GH2. I've shot night scenes at 3200 ISO with great results - especially after a little noise reduction.

    4 - Consider investing in a decent tripod and/or monopod. They'll do wonders for some of your blurred images.

    5 - Keep playing with the camera. It's an amazing piece of gear and you'll really love it once you get used to it.

  11. flash

    flash Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Apr 29, 2010
    1 hour from Sydney Australia.
    Real Name:
    buy yourself a hotshoe mounted flash...... crisis over.....

    OK. Now the long version.

    If you're new to real photography. Welcome. It's going to ba a wild and bumpy ride. But the end result is worth the pain.

    Unfortunately you've fallen for the great trick of advertising. That different gear will make all the difference to your pictures. It wont. Buying a low/mid range DSLR isn't going to improve you focusing over a GH2. It wont fix the exposure problems. And it wont allow you to take better pictures. The camera/lens you have now is perfectly adequate. Sure there are lots of things to buy. But I'm going to recommend you keep it as simple as possible for now. The only thing you really need is more stopping power and that means more light. An hotshoe mounted flash like th FL-50 would be ideal.

    The shots you posted have a few issues and it may be difficult to see where to start. They're underexposed. The focus is off on most of them and the ambient light levels are low.

    Firstly, with the group shots, TAKE CHARGE OF THE SHOT. "Hey guys. Line up nice and straight so I can make sure you're all in focus". If you keep all your subjects the same distance from the camera they'll all be on the same focus plane. Focus on the eyes and then recompose to take the shot.

    The other three shots all have the focus on the wrong point. The trophy, the background and I'm not sure where in the last one. One of the things about bigger sensors is that you have a smaller zone of acceptable sharpness in front and behing the subject. It's called the depth of field. On a compact the DOF is huge so you can hide focus problems. Not so with m 4/3 and above. You need to nail the focus. The result will be nicer images than a compact and it's a skill that's learned from practice. Buying a DSLR is only going to make it harder to get a good focus point, not easier.

    The "grain" you have isn't sensor noise. It's underexposure. Find where the exposure compensation function is and learn to use it. These big, dim halls are notorious for fooling the meter into underexposing. You should be able to get great shots at ISO 800. Try a +1 stop exposure compensation and see if that helps.

    It's going to take a while but I'm sure you'll get there.

  12. John M Flores

    John M Flores Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jan 7, 2011
    Somerville, NJ
    As much as I like my GH2, there are several things that prevent it from being a serious sports camera:

    1 - A fast zoom for indoors. The 20/1.7 is very fast, but primes only work if you can control the distance to your subject. You can't always do that in sports, so that's where a zoom comes in handy. Additionally, narrow depth of field and moving subject don't mix well - the slightest movement can move them out of the focus zone.

    An M43 14-45 F2.8 with image stabilization would be great - fast enough to use in a gym while taking advantage of the greater depth of field that M43 offers. Alas, such a beast doesn't exist.

    2 - High ISO performance. I find ISO1600 to be very usable, while ISO3200 is for desperate measures only. Don't get me wrong - ISO1600 is great - it was unthinkable just a couple of years ago. And when paired with the 20/1.7 you can take pictures in near dark - as long as the subject isn't moving. A Pentax K-x, in comparison, will shoot ISO3200 as clean as the GH2's ISO1600. And it has image stabilization. That's 2-3 stops advantage, so a 1/15 shot that's all but guaranteed to be blurry is suddenly 1/30 or 1/60 and you have a fighting chance of getting a shot that's sharp.

    3 - Viewfinder. Others have mentioned the slight lag. I'm also talking about the slow recycle from shot to shot. Maybe there's a setting I need to tweak, but I still can't get it as responsive as a dSLR, even though there's a mirror involved.

    That's not to say that you can't shoot sports with the GH2. You can - it will just take some practice. I have a photographer friend that was playing with a cheap Nikon P&S at the NYC Marathon several years ago and he got some great photos - because he had figured the camera's shutter delay into his timing.

    Then again, you can just shoot video...

  13. backdoc

    backdoc Mu-43 Regular

    Feb 9, 2011
    !! THANKS !!

    There are no condescending answers. If I knew the answers, I wouldn't be asking the questions. All comments are appreciated, very appreciated.

    I have a lot of room for improvement of my skills. There is no doubt about it. I'm looking forward to the learning process. But, I think I got the answer to my question. All things being equal, the DSLR is going to out perform my GH2 for this type of shooting.

    I like the camera. The only thing I have found that I don't like about the camera is that the AF assist is located in a place where my hand will block it. I would have to make a conscience effort to avoid that. Otherwise, the camera features are very nice. I realize that there is more to the shooting experience than pixel peeping. Being able to quickly and easily access the features is important, too. And, so far, I think Panasonic has done a fine job with that. But, the bottom line is that is has to perform well in low light for my needs because, as mentioned, these types of shots are more difficult. With my limited experience, I don't need to be fighting an uphill battle with my camera on this.

    I can get a K-r with an 18-55 and 50-200 for $670. It's supposed to perform better than most in low light. The 60D with 18-135 for $1200, which is still less than I paid for my current set up (GH2 with 14-42 and 45-200). The 60D has a swivel LCD. That's very high on my list of priorities. Any comments on these?

    I understand that the 20 mm 1.7 would probably help with some of the blurriness because I will be able to shoot faster shutters. But, I can't just can't spend more money on the camera right now. It's already cost me $1300 + my sd card.
    • Like Like x 1
  14. WJW59

    WJW59 Mu-43 Veteran

    Feb 20, 2011
    After looking at the EXIF on the images in the gallery, it looks like most of the blurry ones were using shutter speeds of 1/20 to 1/40 sec. This is slow for action shots or for handheld shots in not so great inside light.

    I'm fairly new to the M43 world (E-PL2) but even using the VF-2 and holding the camera to my eye, in low light I need to stick to the old rule of 1/focal length (of the 35mm equivalent) to get consistent results. Now, the Oly does have IS and my hands have never been the steadiest, but test shooting indoors with our cats (who move at the sight of a camera) has found that to get consistent results I set my shutter speed on the 14-42 to 1/125 and let the ISO and aperture go where the will. If I use a monopod, I tend to drop the shutter speed one or two stops, depending on how steady I feel, and get good results. Going by these rules, the only blur I get is the motion blur of a running cat. :biggrin:
  15. mauve

    mauve Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Mar 9, 2010
    Paris, France
    If I were you, I'd pay real attention to some remarks you seem to underestimate right now :

    - If you want to use available light, you'll need a really fast glass. Fast zooms are deep in pro territory, constant f/2.8 don't come on the cheap side of things; look for more than a grand. The better high iso IQ of the K-r will only give you 1 stop more than the GH2. A kit zoom won't improve your pictures by magic.

    - The depth of field of an APS-C sensor is shallower than the DOF of a :43: sensor, all things being equal. It means you'll need to nail the focus even more precisely. What you'll get in speed with a faster AF from a DSLR, you'll lose in accuracy if you lag just a fraction of second between AF lock and shutter trigger.

    - A good flash gun can do wonders with your current setup, cheap. Also, knowing to adjust for the right exposure could give you the f/stop you're currently missing, free.

    - Learn to use manual focus; preset your lens where things are likely to happen, and when something crosses the imaginary line you've been focusing on, shoot. That's how I did sports when I had an OM-1 back in the 90's and was working part time for a local newspaper.

    - sports reporters burn memory cards faster than you imagine; they use monopods in daylight, with 2.8 constant zooms, and shoot at least at 7 fps. From this, they keep maybe 5 pictures in the end. They bin about 99.9% of what they shoot. Don't expect to do better with a DSLR costing 1/10th of theirs, but copy what you can : use C-AF and burst mode.

    - practice, practice, practice. Get closer (light is mathematically tied with the square of the distance - divide the gap by 2, get 4 time more light). Shoot more.

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  16. Luckypenguin

    Luckypenguin .

    Oct 9, 2010
    Brisbane, Australia
    Real Name:
    Is the 20mm going to be too wide for these type of shots? I agree with flash, best (reasonably priced) solution is a big external flash unit with a zoom function. I'd also be manually selecting the centre focus point if you aren't already. The Pentax K-r might have reputedly better noise control at high ISOs but fundamentally the 18-55 and 50-200 lenses are no better suited to this kind of work than your current Panasonic lenses.

    BEST setup for this of work would be something like a Canon DSLR with 17-55 f2.8, 70-200 f2.8 and a 580EX II Speedlite...not for less than $1300 I'm afraid.
  17. John M Flores

    John M Flores Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jan 7, 2011
    Somerville, NJ
    This leads to an interesting question - for each of the brands, what's the most cost-effective sports setup? I'll exclude the flash for now, since I think many amateur sports discourage their use.

    Here's my contribution (based on what I know) and with prices from Google Shopping:

    Pentax K-x body: $449
    DA* 50-135 F2.8: $820
    TOTAL: $1269

    Pros: 4.7 FPS, ISO 3200 usable, F2.8, image stabilization (in-body), IQ of lens is very good at all apertures. 50-135 is suitable for small gyms and places where you can get close to the action.

    Cons: Pentax AF in general and DA* 50-135 in particular not as advanced and quick to focus as Canon and Nikon, 135mm not long enough for larger venues.

    Can anyone else contribute the Canon, Nikon, Sony, et. al. perspectives?
  18. demiro

    demiro Mu-43 All-Pro

    Nov 7, 2010
    Even a constant 2.8 can be inadequate for sub-optimally lit gyms. I've found that a 1.8 prime is necessary, or at least highly welcomed. I think this is where Canon and Nikon shine. You can pick up reasonably priced 85/1.8s, and 50/1.8s are very cheap.
  19. Luckypenguin

    Luckypenguin .

    Oct 9, 2010
    Brisbane, Australia
    Real Name:
    You would struggle to buy a USED Canon EF 70-200mm f2.8L IS USM for $1269. Even non-IS models can fetch over $1000 (once again, used - not brand new). I don't know where the K-x body sits relative to Canon. Is it a 550/600D competitor?
  20. backdoc

    backdoc Mu-43 Regular

    Feb 9, 2011
    Thanks again everyone for all of the help and advice.

    I'm going to have to think about all of the input and post back later.

    But, in general, it is sounding as though the least impact on this type of shooting is the camera body itself. The lens selection for a particular body may be a bigger factor for choosing a body than the particular features of the body itself.

    For this type of shooting, one of my biggest challenges is going to be that the settings that this type of shooting require are going to decrease my depth of field. In turn, that's going to make it more difficult to get good focus. With a narrow DOF, there's not much tolerance for focusing.

    More skill, a faster lens, external flash and (tri|mono)pod are all things that will help that situation.

    This seems to be a true statement: "A $1000 body with a $250 lens makes less sense than a $250 body and a $1000 lens, if I don't care about other features the camera may offer."