Friday, 16 March 2012

Digiscoping News: Panasonic DMW-GF1 & 14-45 mm/ f3.5 - 5.6

Bronze-winged Jacana
Metopidius indicus
Ratchaburi  16.03.12

I must say that it is very unlikely that I would have made any progress whatsoever with digiscoping were it not for subscribing to Digiscoping Birds. Members have been generous in their support and help and it is a good place to learn about the craft and what actually works. If you are interested in digiscoping I strongly recommend you to subscribe and lurk! 

It is now recognised that an Electronic View Finder (EVF)  is an absolutely indispensable tool in the digiscoper's box. I have used a loupe to view the LCD since I started and they have limitations. A further factor is my camera of the choice, the Nikon P6000, has comparatively low LCD resolution, at 230,000 dots on its 2.7 inch screen. These factors really govern what you see when you are composing your image and are critical to focus; moreover the birds are rarely up close so getting tack sharp focus is challenging.

When a second-hand Panasonic GF1 kit came up for sale in Thailand a few days ago with an EVF I had to get it. No matter that the model is obsolete, no matter that there are higher specification cameras out there, this appeared to be a perfect camera and having checked with Tara Tanaka, 2011 Digiscoper of the Year and a major Panasonic 4/3 advocate, I didn't need any more encouragement.  The camera has a 3 inch LCD with 460,000 dot resolution. However it has an EVF and while the resolution here is less than the LCD and less than the Nikon P600 at 200,000 dots, the key is it allows the user to magnify focus.

My reading of the reviews was the GF1 was seen as a great improvement on the much lauded G1. It has been replaced by the new GX1. I had a look at the latter's specifications and to be honest I don't need a top of the range specification. The GF1's spec will be perfectly adequate for my needs and will get me started in the 4/3 camera world. I can wait for the much lauded Nikon V1 and the Panasonic GX1.

So the above shot of  a Bronze-winged Jacana would have been difficult at best with the Nikon P6000: I would have lost a lot of the detail and I doubt whether I would have managed to get sharp focus. This is the nub of the matter: the EVF enables you to zoom in for fine focus, no loupe needed. This shot is the result of fine focussing using the EVF, it's been cropped and tweaked a little; it won't win any competitions but there is enough there for me to think I am heading in the right direction. The bird was probably about 40 yards' distant. I used the 14-45 mm/f3.5 - 5.6 Lens attached to the Kowa 25x LER using the Kowa DA-10 adaptor. The lens's adaptor thread is 52 mm so it screws directly onto the DA-10 adaptor without any step rings. Vignetting disappears about 20 mm and the shot was taken at 26 mm.

A further factor in persuading me was the transaction would not attract customs duty which sometimes can add a further 20% to the total cost. Plus it included a 20 mm pancake lense, a spare battery and a release cable. I'll need to get a step-up ring to use the pancake lens; I am told this is a great lens.

So watch this space and hopefully you'll see better quality images as I get to know my way around this new system. But let me just say this set-up works and potentially works very well for digiscoping birds.

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