This is a bit longer post than usual, but I needed to get my thoughts down on paper (so to speak).
I’ve really been enjoying my Panasonic GF1 since it arrived just before Christmas last year. Looking at my Lightroom library for 2010, I find that almost 70% of my pictures were made with the GF1 and the 20mm lens, the other 30% being made with my Nikon D300.
I first attributed the difference to novelty or perhaps to the fact that the GF1 was so much easier to carry with me. I think the size and weight are part of it, but the D300 clearly takes a better picture, on average, and has a viewfinder you can’t help but love. But I find I actually prefer using the GF1.
I’m now pretty sure that I’m favoring the GF1 because it’s so familiar! Shooting with the GF1 just feels “right” to me, and I think this is so because the GF1 is so like the camera I started with, the Canonet QL17 GIII. When using the GF1, my camera memory takes over, laid down by many years of repetition with the Canonet. I know exactly where to stand to get a shot, without looking at the LCD. I know which shots to avoid, because they can’t be framed with the fixed lens. I can see more photographs quickly.
The Canonet was my first camera and it accompanied me everywhere from the early 70’s until the early 80’s, when it broke and I couldn’t afford to have it fixed. Years later, when I had the money, instead of fixing the GIII I invested in what I saw as a better camera, a Nikon FM2n. This was followed by a series of newer (and larger) Nikon cameras, eventually arriving at the D300. I’m embarrassed to say how many Nikon lenses I’ve bought over the years.
So I pulled out the Canonet manual and did a quick comparison with the GF1:
|Canonet QL17 GIII||Panasonic GF1 20mm|
|Dimensions||120 x 75 x 60 mm||119 x 71 x 36.3 mm|
|Weight||620 g||448 g|
|Field of View||40 mm||40 mm|
|Shutter Speeds||1/4 – 1/500||60 – 1/4000|
|Aspect Ratio||3:2||4:3, 3:2, 16:9, 1:1|
The Canonet is a bit larger, but not noticeably so, but weighs a good bit more. I actually prefer the additional weight in my hand, but not in my pocket or around my neck. Where the rubber meets the road, they are exactly the same: 40mm field of view and max aperture of f/1.7. I tend to use the GF1 as I did the Canonet – shooting aperture priority in the 3:2 aspect. The digital advantages of the GF1 are obvious. The advantages of the Canonet are a good viewfinder and a very quiet shutter. I didn’t realize how loud the GF1 is until I did the comparison. There may be a LVF1 viewfinder in my future.
There’s a lot to be said for using one camera and one lens for a number of years. You learn the capabilities of the combination and exploiting these capabilities becomes second nature. I sometimes also think that my numerous lens choices hinder rather than help my photography – it’s hard to remember which lens worked well in which situation. In the end, if I can avoid buying additional lenses, I think the GF1 will improve my photographic eye and skills.
More about the classic QL17 GIII can be found here. Details of the GF1 can be found just about everywher.