Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Panasonic G1 vs Canon 5D. Which Do I Love More?

obakesan left a comment asking me why I seem to be taking a progression from the Panasonic G1 to the Canon 5D. I think this question would make a nice blog post.

Let me say this up front. I like both cameras for different reasons.

The G1, despite its small size, is quite a capable camera. The major attraction for me, is the short lens to sensor register. This means lenses that normally can not be used on the Canon can be used on the G1. I have a boatload of Canon FD, Minolta MD, and Konica KR, as well as the c-mount lenses that I really want them get used. One can now buy pretty much any lens adapter for the G1, from the obscure DKL to the Canon EF mount, for pretty reasonable prices. The c-mount lenses especially, are the reason enough to buy the G1. I adore some of the very old cine lenses. Some of them have characteristics that are just can not be duplicated in modern lenses. There is a reason why the prices of cine lenses have skyrocketed.

Another feature that attracted me to the G1 is its Electronic View Finder. I know some will look down on it and prefer instead an optical view finder. I was skeptical of its quality as well before I tried it. It turned out to be one of the G1's best features. It is amazingly easy to get accurate focus using EV to manually focus a lens. For critical focus, like a f1.2 lens, this camera will produce more keepers than a camera with an Optical View Finder.

That's about it. I do not care much about small size. I am quite happy lagging a 1Ds each day and commute to work on my bicycle. So why did I put roughly 16,000 frames on the G1 in the last ten months (and mostly in the first 5 months after getting it)? The lenses. You can see that pictures from auto focus lenses account for less than 0.5% on the G1. Virtually all pictures were taken with manual focus lenses. After I tried the lenses I wanted, the interest started to move back to the 1D III and 5D, but since the 1D III didn't stay with me for long, the 5D has become my primary camera.

Due to the G1's 2X multiplying effect, finding a lens as wide as 28mm equivalent is a huge challenge. One would need a 14mm lens. For this reason, the 5D is an attractive choice.

Since the first frame I shot with the 5D, it constantly surprises me with high quality images. The light AA filter produced images with very high accutance. Even a cheap lens can produce very descent images. The short comings of the G1 are the strengths of the 5D: Wide angle, low noise, fast focusing in low light. I won't hesitate to use ISO 1600 on the 5D, but unless I have to, I would not use even ISO 400 on the G1. The G1's ISO reminds me of the Canon 1Ds that I had. Good quality at base ISO.

With the 5D, I can slap on a fast 24mm, 28mm, 35mm or even a 50mm lens and shoot in the dark winter evenings. This is increasingly so as the winter days get dark very early here in Toronto. The only wide angle lens I have for the G1 is its slow kit lens with a maximum aperture of f5.6 at the long end. Even with image stabilization, one can not get usable images when the light dims.

I still use the G1 regularly, but not as much I used to. This probably will not change until Spring rolls around.


  1. Hi

    thanks for your answer. I think we've got our G1's for perhaps different reasons (nothing strange about that). What drew me to the G1 was that (unlike yourself) I was not happy do drag my large DSLR around all day, but was slightly discontent with the images which I got from my (5 Megapixel) coolpix camera. In RAW it was acceptable, but RAW takes 20 seconds to write locking the camera up (so not real functional).

    I actually did not have any legacy lenses around before getting the G1 and so I made my purchases of adaptor and lenses after getting the camera.

    On the topic of the EVF, I was quite wary of that (having seen horror shows on other devices), however I was intrigued by the concept of the tracking AF. Lacking as yet a lens to do this I am yet to make much use of that feature (lens on the way however).

    So in the light of your preferences I understand why the G1 sits in the house while the 5D is out and about. I worry that even if I buy a 5D that it will sit in the house more often than not.

  2. The small size and light weight of the G1 with interchangeable lens mount is indeed the primary reason it becomes so popular. I have had my share of the point and shoot, up to the Canon G9 but finally gave up on them. I just could not get the image quality I want from them when light dims, and I shoot a fare amount of pictures in dim lights.

    Focusing tracking is not a strong point for the G1. I have both the kit lens and the 45-200 and focusing tracking is not that fast.

    If size matter more to you, and you are happy with the image quality of the G1, perhaps acquireing a bigger camera is not a good idea, although, once you see the image quality from the 5D, you may want to shoot with it more often.

  3. Hi

    my 45-200 arrived today, and I'm not really impressed with focus speed.

    I'll test more and write on my blog over the weekend of my impressions.

    as to 5D quality, seen plenty of images and even borrowed one. Just not side by side of same subject, thus its really hard to be as sure as one who has both

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  5. I bought the G1 for the flip out screen and it's small size. I have a Canon 40d with several L lenses and it stays home most of the time now. I have had a few photographers tell me the G1 is mostly a gimmick camera. They go on and on about the limitations of a small sensor, blah blah blah. I disagree. It helps me to get shots that would almost be impossible to get with a DSRL. I find it to be a very valuable photography tool. If you keep the ISO low the results are outstanding. I love the electronic viewfinder. It zooms in 10x when you use manual focus so you can get perfect focus with little effort. DSLR's cannot do this without using liveview. The flip out screen helps me to get odd angle shots very easily. I was on a beach the other day and saw a dog running in and out of the water. With my Canon, I would have had to kneel on the beach (and get my pants full of wet sand) to get an eye level shot. With the G1 I used the flip out screen and was able to get the shot while still standing. The flip out screen is also great for flower shots. You can get so many different angles effortlessly. Try shooting up on a flower with a traditional DSRL. It's very difficult. Most times you have to hold the camera and guess. Not with the G1. You place the screen at the the angle you need and get in focus shots every time. I wish Panasonic would make a pro camera with the G1's features. I would love to be able to use much higher ISO's and still get great quality. Also, I would like 6 or 7 frames per second for fast moving subjects.

    One more thing I love about the G1 is you can choose different grids to display in the viewfinder or on the back screen. You can get perfect alignment with very little effort. Then, later you don't have to waste some of you photo by cropping. This also helps with the rule of thirds. You can easily see which parts of the photo are where the lines intersect.

    Despite the G1's minor limitations, I am very happy with it. I refuse to be swayed by tech snobs that keep saying a small sensor can't give you the quality you need. As long as you keep the ISO low this camera is capable of taking some very nice shots. I am very impressed with the quality. I take this camera everywhere I go. It is a joy to shoot with.

  6. David, all good points. The 7D now has built-in grids in the view finder, and it can be turned off, negating the need to replace the focus screen to get grids. The G1 is a great little camera. Very light weight yet capable. I really should use it more often too.

  7. the G1 comes close I wantet in a Digital Camera. I always was a fan for non autofocus and with a bright splitscreen, there is nothing around on modern DSLR, may you pay extra for special focusscreens.
    And to use "OLD" Lenses ?? was they wonderful at there time ???
    Still outperforms todays A-focus Lenses, ther Qualities are far more superior than todays Lenses, is it a Lens from the 50's or 80's they are still very good. So I hope Panasonic will one time use Sigmas Sensor, that would be wonderful.