M4/3 Pano

Published 27 March 2011

There has been a lot of hype since the launch of the first Micro 4/3 camera has launched. We take a few popular ones for a spin to test just how good can it be as a light weight alternative to DSLR panography.

The Cameras

M4/3 Camera has a generally crop factor of 2. Meaning lenses attached such as the 7-14mm below, at 7mm, compared to a full frame camera, is 14mm. In other words, more shots needed? We’ll find out.

For a in-depth comparison or review, hop over to DPreview. Comparison table of the 2 cameras is here, as of writing, DPreview just launched their new comparison page. It’s even better than before and it’s often useful for us to use it for comparing sensor sizes, JPG output sizes etc for panorama calculations when needed.

Olympus PEN E-PL2
Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF2

First impression of the cameras…the GF2’s menu make it look like a toy camera whereas the E-PL2 has a more serious menu and dedicated knob control.

The Len(s)

The widest native mount lens we can find is the Panasonic Lumix G Vario 7-14mm f/4 ASPH and Panasonic Lumix G Fisheye 8mm F3.5

Compared with the Samyang 8mm and Peleng 8mm in sizes.

There’s of course others like the announced Samyang 8mm for the M4/3 and even the 7.5mm seen on the right, below.

Wideness

Comparing the wideness using the diagram below. It’s a good start.

Above Copyright Julie K. Used with Permission.

GF2 with the 8mm

GF2 with the 7-14mm

E-PL2 with 8mm

E-PL2 with the 7-14mm

Hardware

We ran into minor problems with the E-PL2 as it’s tripod mount screw is not align with the lens barrel and when the camera is mounted with the 8mm, it’s too far off to get the proper nodal point needed for good, error free stitching, so we had to improvise. Nodal Ninja has accessories to fix some of those problems.

1. Non aligned lens

See pic below. The lens is not aligned to the upper rail of the Nodal Ninja 3.

Why we hate that? Adding anything to fix this most the time, cause the battery compartment or SD card compartment or in this case, BOTH to be blocked. It might be a small annoyance but it waste valuable time when doing a big number of panos, you run of of SD card space or battery juices runs out and you need to do a swop.

Fixed with the adapter attached.

With the attachment added, changing lens when needed will be a hindrance. Note the 2 little rollers on the bottom of the mount of camera. You may have to fully disassemble this to attached another lens like when we had to swop the 7-14mm with the 8mm during this test shoot.

2. Fixing upper rail distance

Before:

and after:

We used the same screw used in the stopper that would have come with your purchase of the Nodal Ninja 3 or 5.

Now that the hardware are ready, let’s do some panography and stitching.

Workflow

GF2 @ 7mm 60 Degrees

The GF2 with the 7-14mm at 7mm, one shot every 60 degrees on the Nodal Ninja 3. Feeding PTGui the auto exif information doesnt seem to work. Setting it to Rectilinear, 8mm and multiplier of 2 works fine.

Output

GF2 @ 7mm @ 60 degrees produces quite a big nadir and zenith to patch.

Zenith

nadir

GF2 @ 8mm 60 Degrees +30 degrees and 60 Degrees -30 degrees

Use Circular then 180 degrees in PTGui. Feeding the 12 images gives better results but with more images, it may be hard to be freezing action needed to make an interesting panorama.

Zenith is covered with 2 rows and produces a small nadir to patch. With the 7mm, the results are the similiar.

E-PL2 with 7-14mm @ 7mm 60 Degrees +30 degrees and 60 Degrees -30 degrees

First feeding the 12 images pops an alert. The sensor cannot be determine.

Set it to Rectilinear, 8mm and 2x multipler. The results were a surprise….

The zenith and nadir has missing overlaps. Seems a +- tilt of 35 degrees or more will be needed. No biggie but the sensor size do not seems to be of the same size, that can’t be since both belongs to the same 4/3 family of cameras. The overall final resolution? Both cameras were set to the default 4:3 shooting mode.

E-PL2 with 8mm 60 Degrees single row

The 8mm fisheye with it’s hemispherical effect, covers more for the same number of shots.

Output to screen

Our standard output must be viewable on a 24 inch LCD  or larger monitor with no degrading of the panorama. Simply put it, It must be pleasing on the eye with no pixelation noticeable.

EPL2 7mm 2 Rows

View

EPL2 8mm Single Row

View

GF2 7mm Single Row

View

GF2 8mm 2 Rows

View

All of them perform quite well taking into account the sensor is half the size of a full frame.

Converters

Owning an existing ranges of lens for the Canon mount, we went about asking what many have since asked. What about converting those Canon fisheye lenses into micro4/3 mounts? See here.

Conclusion

M4/3 panography…possible, sure. Light weight, yes, cost effective? Not that much.

At time of writing, the Panasonic 8mm is USD$700 (Link), the 7-14mm is USD$980 (Link). The GF2 is USD$700 and E-PL2 is USD$560. Citing the GF2 with our love for the 8mm, that’s USD$1400 or around SGD $1765.

You might want to settle for a entry DSLR if weight is not a concern with a Samyang 8mm. The Panasonic 8mm fisheye is a fantastic lens, it’s lightweight, it’s beautifully built. We love it. If however, weight is a concern, the FC-E8 with a LX3 or LX5 as some people are doing, should be cheaper and lighter.

We will definately prefer to have a full circular image even with the 8mm but due to the snesor crop factor of 2x, it’s not possible now. Could there be a 4 or 4.5mm like the Sigma 4.5mm for crop 1.6x DSLR sensors that allow full circular images? We hope so.

Links:

Samyang 7.5mm (http://samyang.pl/article,8,news)

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