Seven Weeks With The Lumix S Pro 24-70mm f2.8 (Pre-Production) Lens
“Mmmmm, this is going to be special”. This was what I said to myself as soon as I looked at the the very first test frame I shot with the lens on my Lumix S1R. Followed by, “Its so sharp!”. This was a very good way to start shooting with a brand new lens. In fact, a pre-production model at that, with early, pre-production firmware.
I felt rather honoured when Panasonic Lumix UK got in touch to see if I’d like to test out the unreleased S Pro 24-70mm f2.8, ahead of it’s global launch on August 28th, 2019, which was around 1.5 months away. Unboxing the generic brown box, cutting away the bubble wrap, revealed the new lens. I found out the lens had been carried by hand, all the way from Japan! I got out some black tape, covered up all the markings and began shooting.
It’s a bit of a special feeling knowing only a handful of people globally have seen the lens and I’ve been asked to test it and make images with it to be possibly used for the global launch. It’s also quite stressful, knowing photographs have to be made to not only showcase, but live up to every aspect of what was already proving to be a spectacularly good lens.
One of the characteristics that hit me as I begun shooting more and more, was that this wasn’t just a sharp lens, but it had something special. Pure clinical sharpness is ok for forensic type photography, but for being creative, for conveying mood, for sharing a story, one also needs gentleness, subtlety and grace. The rendering from this lens has all of that.
Generally, a 24-70mm f2.8, is a bread and butter lens; pretty much everyone will have one in their bag and it’s the standard professional zoom. Versatile, useful and a safe choice. What I found special though, was this wasn’t just a bread and butter lens. Where one may have a standard zoom for safety, one would also have a special prime with nicer rendering, for making those special portraits or creative shots.
Well, the S 24-70mm f2.8 has all of that. It’s truly special to have all these qualities wrapped up in one lens. Versatility and speed, but also beautiful rendering, colour, contrast, detail and well, a bit of poetry too. I found it captured light and colour beautifully and rendered a nicely soft background in out of focus areas. As much as I hate talking about this and using the word bokeh, it does have beautiful bokeh! (I need to add my dislike is purely based on people who only care about bokeh and nothing else, especially not the craft of photography).
It is chunky though. I felt the same way as when I first picked up the S Pro 50mm f1.4. Although I wished all of the S Series lenses could be a little smaller, just as with the S 50mm, as soon as I started shooting with the S 24-70mm, it justified it’s size and won a place in my camera bag. In fact, I pretty much didn’t shoot with anything else and seven weeks on, it’s always been mounted on either my S1 or S1R.
It just produces beautiful images and no matter what type of subject I point it at, it does as I ask and produces what I want. Fast to react and precise in rendering.
Super fast and silent AF, outstanding build quality and stunning optics. I have a feeling the scientific types at DxO Labs are going to enjoy putting this through their rigorous tests.
So please don’t read this small post as a review; it really is a quick preview. I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves. Keep in mind though that this is a pre-production lens with early, non final firmware and so is definitely a pre-release lens. Yet, it helped make these images with grace. I can’t wait to get my hands on the final thing! If you have an L Mount camera, I suggest you try it too!
A bittersweet email from the British Journal of Photography and 1854 Media Awards let me know that “…your entry made it to the second & final round of judging, we regret to tell you that your image has not been shortlisted on this occasion”.
Still, nice to make it that far! Rather than the work remain unseen, thought I would share my Portrait Of Britain here and show the ten images I entered for the awards.
Many thanks to the judges and many congratulations to those shortlisted.
Camera and lens details can be found in all the captions below. All raw files were edited and processed using Adobe Lightroom Classic and finished off in either Alienskin Exposure X4 or Nik Collection Silver Efex Pro.
Thrilled to have two of my photographs selected by the curators of the BPPA’s (British Press Photographers’ Association) tremendously powerful and not to be missed, Assignments 2019 exhibition. The show is beautifully curated and thanks has to be given to the talented team of curators, comprised of some of the brightest beacons in the photojournalism industry. Many thanks to Tom Stoddart, John Downing, Nikki Sutherland, Lawrence Lustig and Julie Edwards.
At the private view of the exhibition, it was an absolute joy to meet Fleet Street’s legendary press photographer John Downing for the first time. He had been a huge inspiration for me and my ethos of never being without a camera came from reading about his work. When a colleague pointed out my photograph (The Joys Of Life), it was an absolute honour to hear him kindly praise the image, saying it was one that he had chosen personally and to hear his kind compliments about the composition, timing and light, pushed me to blush!
This photograph was made on a Panasonic Lumix G9 and Leica DG 50-200mm lens. The raw image was processed in Adobe Lightroom and the monochrome treatment was finished in Nik Collection’s Silver Efex Pro on an Apple Mac Pro and fully calibrated Eizo CG monitors.
The second image kindly chosen by the curators was of a homeless man, seemingly passed out from wine, after another hard day on the streets.
The photograph was shot on a Sony RX1RII camera. The raw image was processed in Adobe Lightroom and the monochrome treatment was finished in Alienskin Exposure X3, on an Apple Mac Pro and fully calibrated Eizo CG monitors.
Three and a half weeks with the full frame mirrorless Lumix S1 Camera
Story telling. That’s what my reason is for picking up a camera. As a photojournalist, a street photographer, a portrait photographer, a commercial photographer, my need for a camera is to capture the essence, subtlety and feel of my subject, tell their story at that moment.
The Lumix S1 has been with me for over three weeks and I found myself not shooting with anything else. The birth of a new system for Panasonic Lumix, and the start of a fresh new camera system. Yet the camera feels completely accomplished. My prototype camera, with pre-production early firmware, behaved impeccably, never letting me down. It didn’t matter the subject matter, the level of light , the speed, the cold; it just worked.
To sum up, in a nutshell, the S1 is extremely impressive. The quality is just stunning, in every aspect; image quality, camera handling, system design and build quality.
The ergonomics are spot on. The camera just fits and within minutes I was already taking pictures. The button layout, joystick positioning, the placing of the AF button on the back (something crucial for my way of working) is spot on. One superb new feature for this Lumix is the lock button at the back, which can lock the rear buttons. Anyone who runs around with their cameras knows how easy it is to inadvertently find they have set the camera to monochrome HDR mode with bracketing on long exposure! The menu system is also a joy to use; its very well thought out, laid out and the design behind it means there is very little need for referring to the manual.
The build quality and finishing on the camera and lens are sublime. This is definitely a premium, high end camera. One made for serious, daily use, in all sorts of environments. Most professional photographers refer to their cameras as tools; they are the beginning of the journey as it’s only the photograph that matters. These tools are expected to work in all sorts of conditions and never fail; ever. I have a feeling the philosophy behind the design and build of the S Series is going to fit that bill fully. The camera and lenses just inspire confidence in every respect.
I was initially a bit worried at having one camera battery during my testing; I made sure to always pack two USB battery power banks (one wonderful aspect of the top end Lumix cameras is USB charging, which is not only a great convenience when home, but is an indispensible feature for when in the field). It turns out, even with the camera set to sleep after 10 minutes and leaving the camera on constantly, I was managing to still have around 50% battery after close to 1000 photos. All this, in relatively cold conditions.
For most of my initial test period of three weeks, I only had the Lumix S Series 24-105mm f4.0 lens. I’m definitely a fan of faster aperture prime lenses, as I tend to shoot in very low and difficult light. With the lens and body stabilization, married to astonishing high ISO performance meant that I was never really left wanting a faster lens. I didn’t miss any shots. Having said that, I had heard many great things about the S Series 50mm f1.4, so couldn’t wait to make some photographs using that.
One thing that can’t be denied is that the S 50mm definitely has presence. It’s a big and heavy lens. Initially, I was disappointed with the size and weight. I had wished for a smaller lens. Within 15 minutes of having it on the S1, I had shot a couple of test shots under some arches of a member of the Japanese team from Panasonic; the quality was stunning. The sharpness, tonal rendition, shadow and highlight detail, soft falloff of the background. This lens completely impressed. It has character and perfection at the same time. After seeing the results, the size no longer became an issue and the lens almost never came off my camera during three days of shooting with it at Panasonic’s launch event for the S Series in Barcelona, Spain. As a nice icing on the cake, the 50mm is also certified by Leica.
The S 24-105mm also definitely impressed me. I have to admit to being a bit of a lens snob; I’m used to shooting with Leica, Leica DG, Zeiss and in earlier years, Angeniuex lenses. I was absolutely bowled over. Not only is this lens sharp, it’s perfectly contrasty and has a phenomenal tonal range. It dealt with shooting in low light or having bright lights without issue. Build quality and feel of the controls match the craftsmanship of the camera.
One thing that has surprised me completely is the level of subtlety I’ve been able to photograph with the S1 and the new S Series lenses. Darker scenes with very subtle gradation and tonal differentiation have been rendered perfectly. The shadow detail and highlight detail have been amazing, even when the same image has had both extremes. It’s also worth pointing out the auto white balance (AWB) worked extremely well, in all but the very mixed and extreme extreme artificial light. I’ve managed to get this level of subtle micro detail and tonal differentiation using a raw converter which is new to me; whilst Silkypix worked and it was a joy to be able to shoot and process raw files on a preproduction prototype camera, I can’t wait for when my preferred imaging software, Adobe’s Lightroom, supports the raw file from the S1. Using software I know intimately is sure to bring a bigger smile to my face when I’m processing images shot on the S1 and extracting even more detail, character and subtlety.
Alongside my eagerness, with almost childlike enthusiasm, to shoot with the S Series 50mm f1.4, I’m was also super impatient to shoot with the larger megapixel cousin, the S1R. In every aspect, the cameras look and behave identically. It’s the sensor and some settings which differ (mainly the highest ISOs and certain video functionality). I only had the S1R for a few hours during the launch event, so my impressions are based on a brief encounter, which left me breathless at the results this camera produces. The size and detail of the images are simply mind blowing, producing a 47.3mp image, which in high resolution mode produces a mid blowing 187mp image. This is truly top end medium format territory, in a smaller and much more dynamic package.
Unique in the full frame market, is the union of Panasonic Lumix and Leica, two camera manufacturers, collaborating around the L Mount, along with Sigma (which I would assume will bring some of their superb ART lenses in the L Mount). This is great news for the Lumix S Series as well as the existing Leica SL community. Panasonic Lumix’s three lenses (24-105mm f4.0, 50mm f1.4 and 70-200mm f4.0) joining an already available portfolio of Leica SL lenses. By 2020, Panasonic Lumix is due to release a further seven lenses.
It’s a truly remarkable to be so enthused about a new camera system after 30 years of professional photography. My excitement for this system reminds me of when I picked up my first SLR, 34 years ago. Roll on March 2019, when these will be available in the shops!
The photograph was commended in the Urban View section and is the second time the competition has kindly awarded my work. The image will be printed in the forthcoming book and will be part of the digital display at the exhibition. Many congratulations to the winning photographers and judges.
London Independent Photography; Ealing Satellite Group Exhibition
Opens On September 7th, 2018.
19 photographers from Ealing London Independent Photography, have created a collection of work in response to a set of Oblique Strategies originally written by Brian Eno. The images address the challenges of creativity and how they can be overcome by ingenuity and lateral thinking.
Exhibition: 7th – 15th September 2018 Open weekdays 12pm – 7pm (Fridays until 8pm), weekends 11am – 6pm
The project can be seen on our Pixelrights gallery website, Ealing Photo Gallery, where there is an opportunity to also purchase prints.
Also, massive thanks to Hauke from Fire & Flame for all the fabulous design work, not only creating all the fantastic leaflets, invitations and so on, but for also creating the elegant layouts and typography for the actual exhibition pieces.