If you remember during my one camera/one lens/one month experiment, I was smitten with my Panasonic GF1 and thought that I might leave my Nikon D700 behind for the trip to Italy. Well, I didn’t leave the D700 behind, but I did spend a little time exclusively with the GF1 while I was there. So, how did that work out?
You tell me.
This was taken with the GF1 and the 20mm f/1.7 lens at the church in Monterossa al Mare. The statue of Mary was at the top of the steps leading to the church, which was fully in shadow with the sun above but behind it. I knelt down on the steps to shoot looking up at her and as I did, a small cloud obscured the sun ever so briefly, causing the crepuscular ray you see beaming down on the statue. It was a moment not to be repeated; it was gone as quickly as it arrived. I just happened to be in the right place at the right time… with my camera. (The only post-processing I did here, other than convert the image into black & white, was to darken the shadows of the church in order to increase the contrast of the light falling on the statue. The crepuscular ray is as exactly as it was shot.)
If memory serves, I spent two other shooting sessions using the GF1 and not the D700. I’ll be posting more images on Flickr, so you’ll be able to see which images were taken with which camera, but I guarantee that you’ll only be able to tell from the EXIF data, not from the images themselves.
There are a few things that struck me about using the GF1 vs. the D700:
Of course, carrying my GF1 with a couple of lenses in a small bag makes a big difference in weight vs. the D700 and all the trappings. I was a little more limited in lens selection, both from a focal length standpoint (I don’t have a really wide micro 4/3s lens) and from a lens speed standpoint (many of my Nikon lenses are f/2.8 and a couple are faster). Most of the time, however, I was able to compensate for these drawbacks by changing my POV or bumping up the ISO setting. If I really wanted a particular shot that the GF1 couldn’t get, I was able in most cases to go back later with the D700 and get it. I missed a few shots, but I was willing to take that chance. (I do plan on purchasing a wide angle lens for the GF1, though.)
Because the D700 is a full frame sensor, I had much better control over depth of field than with the GF1. While my Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 has very nice DOF and bokeh, there were situations where I wanted to use the D700 and my 85mm f/1.8 to really isolate the subject. The other situation where the D700 really shines is in low-light photography. I have several images of Vernazza shot from the mountain above it during twilight that have nearly no noise in them at all. I was shooting at ISO 100 (!) at f/22 (!!) with 20-30 second exposures. The D700 performed brilliantly.
Unfortunately, I did not have a chance to do any side-by-side comparisons of the same shot with both cameras. I had one or the other with me all the time, but never both, and I never thought to go back and take the same shot again with the other one. Perhaps I’ll try that here at home when I think about it.
I am still very impressed with the GF1 as a daily shooter and I still carry it with me most of the time these days. The image quality and the portability of the micro 4/3s cameras are a potent combination, and would serve well in many situations. But there are still times when nothing but the big gun will do—and that’s when I’m glad I have the Nikon.