The Quest: Choosing Canon 60D or Panasonic GH2

I am on a quest. I recently sold off my Pentax gear. After years of using a great kit, I dumped it to buy a mid level DSLR capable of shooting full manual video. I am convinced that Pentax will never consider HDSLR video anything more than a hobby. But what to buy as a replacement? I’m undecided. I’m pretty much just thinking out loud here.

I am looking at a $1000 or less. I seem to have settled on either the Canon 60D or the Panasonic GH2. I am looking for full manual video control and good still image capture. of course, any interchangeable lens camera is going to look better than my Point & Shoot. I’m also not too concerned about workflow, because both have to have their native files converted for work in Final Cut.

So I’ve been reading up on the two. This review from EOSHD gives the contest firmly to the GH2. There are tons of “hacks” you can do on the GH2 to get all sorts of video effects and colors. The GH2 is generally thought of as an amazing video camera. Here is a video from EOSHD comparing it against the $10,000 Red Scarlett. The under $800 body doesn’t fair too badly.

I am still leaning toward Canon because Canon makes a lot better lenses than the 4/3s stuff. And adapters don’t translate the auto functions. So you lose all the auto focus advantage on the GH2, and the GH2s smaller sensor means longer DOF, which means harder to control DOF in our shooting situations. And I don’t think I’m going to be hacking my camera. If I had to pick right now, I’d get a Canon 60D with the 50mm f1.8 “nifty fifty” lens to start.

But the GH2 is so flexible with video. Both stock and with all of the hacks out there. And you can use almost any lens you want. The smaller mirrorless body allows you to adapt a lot of different kinds of lenses. (Pentax K, M42, Canon EF and FD, Nikon, and more.) Canon can convert some lenses too. At work we have an M42 to EOS adapter.

Part of me just wants to be different. I shot Pentax for a long time. I began to enjoy the fact that I was using a system that was not like the rest of the Canikon people. I really liked shooting something with a lens that cost under $50 that made people say, wow that’s a nice picture. But I am not sure I have the time or motivation to test the hacks and get drawn into the techno world of the GH2 community. I see a lot of test videos, and people geeking out about what you can do, more than great video projects that happen to use a GH2. Maybe the same can be said for the Canon bodies.

Being different is fun. But, if I had found a cheap Nikon way back when I got my first DSLR, I would have gotten that system. I was just looking for a DSLR under $300, and I found a Pentax *ist DS with kit lens for $295 (a great deal back then). The rest was just bonus. I’d still recommend Pentax to anyone looking to shoot on a budget that is willing to use manual controls. I never spent more than $230 on any lens in my Pentax kit. Not because all Pentax lenses are that cheap, but because you can find cheaper alternatives to the high dollar ones if you are willing to shoot manual.

So, back to this dilemma. Not sure what is on the horizon for either manufacturer. I am probably waiting a couple of months before I take the plunge, and maybe something will come out before then. Meanwhile I’m reading reviews and watching video. Weighing the options.

[Edit: I made my decision]

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Changing Loyalty: Leaving Pentax for… Canon? Panasonic?

I put my entire Pentax DSLR system up for sale tonight.

I know to most people that’s not that big of a deal. And, on many levels for me, it isn’t that big either. I didn’t choose Pentax for any good reason, but I did really like the system. No other system allows you to shoot stills on a budget like Pentax. If you like manual focus, you can get amazing lenses for cheap. Using lenses from 20+ years ago was a real perk of the Pentax world. I spent the last few years assembling a collection of modern and antique lenses to cover everything from 16mm to 300mm.

So, why jump ship?

Because Pentax is never going to take video seriously. Because of my plans and dreams with the show, I eventually need a DSLR that can do full manual, full HD video. I had hoped that Pentax would come along with a great body that could use all my old lenses and give me great stills and video. But every time I turned around a new body had limited video capability. But I kept hoping.

Last week at CES, Pentax, who was recently bought by Ricoh, did not announce or release anything, even though they had a booth. And John Carlson,Senior Manager of Sales and Marketing at Pentax USA, gave an interview where he covered some of the companies views on video in DSLR:

DE: What can you say about features on video in your–either SLR or system camera lines–you were really the first to offer manual aperture control during video capture, but our sense is that since then, you’ve lagged a little bit on features. Things that are becoming common elsewhere, such as full-time auto-focus or manual audio level control. What would you like to see come to product line in terms of video?

JC: I think there’s a couple of things I’ve seen with our competitors that are very compelling, like auto-focus during video, and more manual controls of exposure during the video. However, I think what’s important is to realize that while that stuff is… would be nice to have, it’s not absolutely necessary. We’ve worked with some producers that have done some great videos that we have on our YouTube channel, that definitely show even in pretty complicated lighting situations, you can effectively use a camera like the K-5 to get good quality video. Using things that you may not think of, like the exposure lock button that will essentially let you set the exposure, things like that. Just watching some of these professional cinematographers using the different lenses to their capabilities, and realizing these guys don’t use auto-focus anyway. The true advanced cinematographers out there are doing it all manual, and planning your shot, and really thinking it out. I think you consider those things, and our cameras are definitely very capable.

DE: What’s your sense for how customers are using the video capabilities of the system cameras? This is one thing I have a question about, is how many of them are still photographers that are becoming video enthusiasts, or how many are like, you know, I’m a still photographer and I’d like to take an occasional video snapshot?

JC: You definitely see a lot of the traditional photographers almost questioning why you need video, but then you have the people that have kind of expanded their repertoire of what they can do with a camera, by realizing that you add a little movement to an image and it can add a lot. Definitely in the nature photography, you know… A still image of a snowstorm is okay, but you get a moving image of a snowstorm, a video, and it adds something totally different to it.

I had hoped that with patience Pentax would see the benefit of the large market of video professionals who use DSLRs. It seems apparent that no matter what new body Pentax releases, full manual video control is just not going to be a part of it. Video is seen as a nice way to capture video snapshots. Professionals who want to use Pentax have to trick the body, and Pentax USA is OK with that just being the way it is. That means if I wish to own a more capable DSLR for video I have to look elsewhere. And that is disappointing.

So, I’m going to leave Pentax. I have not decided if I will end up with Canon (likely) or maybe a Panasonic GH2. I don’t know for sure yet. The GH2 can use an adapter to handle all sorts of lenses, from Pentax to Canon. I have a lot of friends who shoot Canon.

I’m leaving a close-knit, if somewhat snarky, community. Because Pentax isn’t as popular as other DSLR systems, there are not that many “Pentaxians.” I’m also leaving the cheap lenses that made Pentax so appealing to a budget DSLR user. Modern, good glass is not cheap.

I am going to gain ability and stability. Which ever body I end up with will have full HD video control. And be from a company that supports the future of that in DSLRs.

Now to figure out which is the best for me.

Don’t Lead Like My Daughter

My youngest is in preschool. We were heading to the car after school and she ran ahead. We needed to make several turns to weave our way to the car, and at every junction she would slow down, and look back to make sure she was turning the right way. Once she knew the direction the rest of us were going she would speed off again, happy to lead us onward.

She was leading by consensus. She had no idea which way to go, and was not actually making the decision, but was waiting on the crowd to clue her in one where we were going, whether she was ahead or not. It really didn’t matter if she had slowed down and dropped behind us. We would still have gotten to the car. She wasn’t really leading, she just looked like she was.

If she had been actually leading, and come to a place she was unsure of the direction, she could have come to the crowd for advice. I’m sure we would have told her what direction we thought we should go. But in the decision would still have been hers. If we were really following her, she could have taken us another route to reach the same goal. And if we were really following her, we would trust her to get us there.

Of course, we don’t trust a three year old to lead us to the car. But do the people you are leading trust you? Are you actually leading or just running ahead to look like you’re leading?

Chart a Course and Mind the Rudder: Dealing with Criticism

Chart a course, and mind the rudder. Keep your focus on the destination. And pay attention to what gets you there.

There are times when you will face criticism. I’m not talking about the constructive kind from people you trust. I’m talking about the out-of-left-field kind. People who haven’t been a part of the process, who don’t understand it, but feel the freedom to speak into it anyway.

It may be that you are doing something differently. Maybe they like the way things are. Maybe they don’t like the changes. Either way, listening to them will totally derail your project. Or maybe they are coming from another perspective and think you’re not doing enough, or moving fast enough. Whatever it is, there are times when you need to disregard people who don’t have a clue but still feel the freedom to criticize.

Now, there are other times when God has placed people into your path that can speak truth into a project. Their constructive advice can improve and strengthen what you are working on or toward. These are people you already know or can easily recognize.

If God has given you a vision, and you are doing what you know he has called you to do, then criticism that is completely contrary to the direction your headed is probably not from God. It is easy, especially in creative endeavors, to second guess and worry. Is it good? Is it right? Be very careful who you listen to. Hear criticism as it comes, but don’t take it on it’s face. Evaluate it.

Keep your focus on the goal. And work toward reaching it. If you get advice that helps you toward that end, then use it. But don’t be distracted by things that pull you away from the path. Mind the rudder, and keep the boat on course.