Saturday, December 15, 2012

Great GH3 review over at Soundimageplus

I haven't unboxed my GH3 yet (too busy - don't ask), so I'm living vicariously through the first GH3 still shots and reviews from bloggers such as David over at soundimageplus and emm at cheesycam.  My favorite camera description of all time has to be David's intro to Part 1 of his GH3 review and user experience. Hilarious.

In the meantime, here is my boxed GH3, still in its Adorama shipping parcel - with an unopened Kingston 128GB SDXC card ($85 from Amazon as of today) sitting on top of it.  And the sun is out today too. I can almost hear it calling: "open me, open me now..."

Friday, November 30, 2012

Stoked - Just Got a UPS Tracking Number for my GH3!

Sweet.  I ordered on September 18th and it is scheduled to arrive on December 4th.  I didn't think it would get here until Christmas.  Good job, Panasonic.  Good job, Adorama.  You can get yours for $1299 from Amazon here or from Adorama here.

I will post some side-by-side stills and video with my unhacked GH2 as soon as the GH3 gets here.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Canon T3i closing out - $599 w kit lens!

With the arrival of the T4i, Canon is discounting the still very capable T3i.  Readers of this blog will know that I recommend the Panasonic GH2 at this price point for video - but if you shoot more JPEG stills than video - or if you already own EOS lenses, Canon makes great cameras for the money.  In time for the holidays, the T3i is now $599 with the 18-55mm kit lens at Amazon new  - and even less than that refurbished.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Panasonic GH2 with 14-42 kit lens for $499.99 at Amazon!

Let the games begin.  With the imminent arrival of the GH3, the markdowns of the venerable (but still capable) GH2 begin in earnest.  As of today, November 19th, 2012, the GH2 with the 14-42 kit lens is listed for $499.99 at Amazon.  I'm pretty sure this is a one-day pre-Black Friday sale - but this is the same pattern we saw with the GH1 when the GH2 was released.  Pretty soon, it will be hard to find a new GH2 - at any price.

Get 'em while they're hot!

Monday, October 1, 2012

Canon Goes *Way* Upmarket with 4K C500

It looks like Canon is serious about competing with Arri, RED and Sony for the high end cinematography market.  Rolled out today at a big shindig in Hollywood (hat tip to Creative COW), and priced at $26,000, the new 4K C500, big brother to the $16,000 C300 and $6,500 C100, appears to undercut high resolution RAW cameras such as the Arri Alexa, the RED Epic and the Sony F65 - all of which cost over $50,000.

If you're a Canon shooter with a big budget feature to shoot this Christmas, you can pre-order your EF mount or PL mount C500 at Adorama today for November delivery. Your card won't be charged until it ships!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Pre-ordered my Panasonic GH3 DSLM!

It's here!  As Andrew Reid at eoshd says, "This camera is basically a dream..."  I have to agree.  The convergence of pro stills and video in the same camera makes the GH3 the realization of the hybrid camera dream.

As a GH2 still shooter who was dissatisfied with the build quality, autofocus speed and the lack of dynamic range in my stills, the new magnesium alloy body, lightning fast autofocus and HDR mode are what I have been waiting for.

As a GH2 video shooter reluctant to hack my camera, I have been waiting for a high bit rate camera with a stable codec capable of shooting 1080/60p with one hour plus video clip length (outside of the EU), manual audio level control, a headphone jack, XLR inputs (or at least an external accessory with XLR inputs), and clean recordable HDMI output.

So, for $1300, Panasonic has given us much of what has been on photographers' and filmmakers' wish lists for the last couple of years - and more besides (official specs here).

After being tempted by one or two of the plethora of cameras that Sony has announced over the last few weeks, I have put my pre-order in for the GH3.  Sony came closest to getting my business with the $3600 EA-50 or the $2800 A99, but $3600 is a lot of money for a prosumer camera - and the A99's 30 minute continuous shot limit makes it a "video clip" camera, and not a video camera.

It is a great day to be a photographer/filmmaker!

If you enjoy these posts, please support this blog by pre-ordering your GH3 through these links from Amazon for $1299.00 or Adorama for $1299.99.  They won't charge your card until it ships.

Thanks so much.

Friday, September 14, 2012

It's almost here! New GH3 video from Panasonic US!

This morning, Panasonic posted a promo video for the GH3 (hat tip to 4/3 rumors) - which may or may not be pulled before the official announcement scheduled for Monday.   I admit that I'm biased - but this camera looks like it has been worth the wait.  Hard to tell from Vimeo, but the still images are impressive - it certainly looks like Panasonic has overcome the GH2's dynamic range challenge.  And with a ruggedized body and weathersealing; a battery grip; 1080/50 or 60p and 72mbps ALL-I encoding - this camera, if it adds the rumored headphone jack and retains the GH2's unique competitive advantages of near moire-free video and unlimited video clip length, becomes the hybrid camera to beat in the DSLR/DSLT/DSLM form factor.  If the price (and image quality) are right, Panasonic will sell a lot of these.

And is that Philip Bloom we see shooting with a GH3 at about 2:46 into the video? If so, it certainly is nice that he has an articulated, swiveling LCD to look at and doesn't have to crouch down behind the camera - not at all like the shot where he had to lie down on the beach in his review of the 5D Mark III with its old-fashioned fixed LCD :)

Friday, September 7, 2012

Blackmagic Design Rocks the Cinema World - Again!

I guess you can tell from the name of this blog that I'm a bit of a revolutionary - that's why I like "insurgent" companies like Blackmagic Design - whose mission in life seems to be to upset the old order.  Well, they did it with the original $2995 Blackmagic Design Cinema Camera (BMCC) for EF mount a few months ago, and now they've done it again with a new Micro 4/3 (MFT) mount version, announced at IBC 2012 in Amsterdam.  The new version will be available in December for the same $2995 price! (see image below, with Voitglander 17mm f/0.95)

This is great news - one of the major criticisms of the original camera has been the EF mount - which seemed to be a poor match for the size of the BMCC's sensor, limiting lens choices at the wide end.  This problem is dealt with much more easily with the new MFT mount.  With the MFT mount, the camera is opened up to a range of manual lens options not available with the EF-only mount, such as the $549 SLR Magic HyperPrime Cine 12mm T/1.6 - while still retaining the ability to use manual PL or Nikon lenses with inexpensive adapters - or EF lenses in auto mode with a $600 Redrock LiveLens Active Lens Mount.

So, for $4 or $5K (plus SSDs), you can have a camera with 2.5K resolution that shoots 12 bit RAW with 13 stops of dynamic range and will mount just about any lens ever made?

Although this blog is nominally about the hybrid still/cinema camera convergence, and this is "just" a cinema camera - I am still excited.  Because what this blog is really about is the revolutionary democratization of image-making made possible in this century by the breakneck pace of change in technology.  When I was in film school, Super 8 sound cameras were revolutionary.  The idea that amateurs could actually get lip-synced sound in their movies without a clapboard and a Nagra was pretty heady stuff. My Super 8 sound camera actually had full manual audio level control (I wish my GH1 and GH2 had that!).

But sadly, the image quality from those cameras was terrible, even by 1970s standards.  The images were grainy (even at low ISOs - or low ASAs in those days), the registration was awful, so the picture jumped around, and the resolution was so low it couldn't stand up to projection on the big screen.  Okay, 16mm was better for projection, but not much better.  And it was an order of magnitude more expensive (not just the cameras and lenses - but the film stock and processing cost a fortune).

Fast forward to today - and with a few thousand dollars, a film school or amateur or indy pro crew can produce image quality with nearly the dynamic range of film that will stand up to the 2K projection in most theaters. No more excuses.  Thanks Blackmagic Design!

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Thursday, August 23, 2012

Dan Chung from DSLR News Shooter gets the 411 on the NEX-EA50

Great hands on with a pre-production model of the EA50 at a trade show in China.  I love how Dan takes charge of the interaction with the Sony rep :)  I was wrong about the power zoom - it is compatible with any NEX camera using the zoom control on the lens!  Great news for VG20 and FS100 shooters.  Worth watching to see how Dan takes the lens off the EA-50 and puts it on a 5N he "happens" to have in his pocket.  This is my favorite trade show hands-on ever.

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Saturday, August 18, 2012

Goodbye Frankenrigs! Hello Sony NEX-EA50!

Sony has taken another huge step towards the convergence of large sensor interchangeable lens hybrid still/video cameras with the new NEX-EA50 for $4500, including a new 18-200 servo zoom lens (also compatible with the FS700, but not and the FS100).  Here's the usual over-produced Sony release video (story continues after the jump):

The specs look like Sony engineers and marketeers have been reading my mind.  Shoulder mount large-sensor camcorder with high resolution 16MP stills (with RAW). 1080/60p. Built-in XLR inputs with full manual audio level control and pro quality sound. A top handle. A real power zoom with a rocker instead of Panasonic's stupid ring. As anyone who reads my posts on this blog and elsewhere knows, I am a big fan of Panasonic's GH1 and GH2 cameras (I own both).  And I've been looking forward to the rollout of the GH3, rumored to be next month at Photokina in Berlin.

But, even without seeing a whole range of images from this camera, if it only matches the image quality of the VG20 (which I have some experience with) this new entry from Sony steals a lot of Panasonic's thunder.

The Panasonic GH3 is unlikely to have XLR inputs or a shoulder mount - so shooters will still have to buy shoulder rigs and external recorders, closing the price gap with this new camera.

If the GH3 is introduced at the $1000-$1200 body only price point (comparable to the OM-D EM-5 and NEX-7), shooters would have to add a $300 power zoom lens, a $170 XLR capable external recorder, a $220 XLR boom mic and a $1000 Redrock shoulder rig to make it as functional as a straight-out-of-the-box EA50.

And if the GH3 doesn't have a headphone jack and 1080/60p, it is going to lose a lot of sales to this camera - perhaps including mine.

Worse for Panasonic - at the ~$4000 price point, the EA50 arguably has better video camera ergonomics than the AF100 - with the addition of the still camera chops that the AF100 lacks (it is even a better still camera than the $8000 8MP capable Sony FD700!).

No, it doesn't have the AF100's built-in ND filter or HD-SDI-out, but a $30 variable ND filter and a $180 HDMI to SDI converter will fix that for significantly less than adding the cost of a shoulder rig and separate still camera to the price of the AF100.

This camera really hits a sweet spot for shooters who want to upgrade from a DSL camera to a hybrid still/video camcorder with built-in XLRs - but aren't that excited about bringing their shoulder rigs along with them - and don't want to pay $8000 for the still/video capable FS700.

And for those thinking about the FS100, who want a shoulder mount and the ability to shoot high quality stills - and who want to pay about $1000 less for a camera with the 18-200 lens included - it might be worth giving up a little sensor size and image quality (Andrew Reid at eoshd disagrees with me ;)).

I think Sony's going to sell a lot of these.

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Thursday, June 28, 2012

Canon T4i vs Panasonic GH2 shootout in progress

I rented the new Canon T4i with the 40mm STM (STepper Motor) pancake today for a side-by-side comparison with an unhacked Panasonic GH2.  I will shoot the comparison over the next few days, with the emphasis on the T4i's new video friendly features (autofocus in video mode, silent lenses, touch screen rack focus).  If there's anything else you'd like to see - please let me know in the comments section - I'll incorporate it in the shoot if I have time (it's a 3 day rental).

First impressions: After selling the T2i and shooting with the GH2 for a year and a half, I'd forgotten how big the mirror-box camera are.  Even with the pancake lens, the T4i seems heavy and bulky compared to the GH.  And I'd also forgotten how annoying it is not to have auto-switching between the viewfinder and the LCD - and to lose the viewfinder when I want to shoot video (grrr).

That said, I'd also forgotten how nice the Canon menus and interface are.  I haven't used the T4i's touchscreen for video yet, but I have used it to set the date and time - and it is a lot more responsive than the GH2's touchscreen.

This is going to be a great shootout!

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Friday, June 8, 2012

"New" Canon T4i - 2010's Features - Today

The new Canon T4i/650D was introduced today with several new features - to include a touchscreen, autofocus in video mode, new silent autofocus lenses, a built-in stereo mic and a new DIGIC 5 processor. Digital Camera World in the UK has the first hands-on preview:


As a former Canon T2i owner,  it is nice to see that Canon is making an effort to catch up  - and I look forward to seeing video images from the new DIGIC-5 processor, but it is hard to get too excited. I have had a touchscreen, video autofocus, a silent AF lens and a stereo mic on my relatively moire-free (and less expensive) Panasonic GH2 for a year and a half.

All that is left now for Canon is to do something about the 12 minute clip length limit and the viewfinder that goes black in video mode.

That said, this would be a great camera for digital filmmakers who have a significant investment in Canon glass. And the new high ISO modes made possible by DIGIC-5 look promising.  Hopefully, DIGIC-5 will push Panasonic towards higher ISO/better stock low light performance as they finalize the GH3.

Canon USA press release here.

Available for pre-order at Amazon and Adorama.

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Thursday, April 5, 2012

Sony NEX-FS700 First Video - "Sony, I cain't quit you"

Ok, Sony. I resisted the FS100 and the VG20 - but you've got me with the FS700. I will be selling the GH1, GH2, TM900, H1 recorder, DR-40 recorder, ND filters - and eyeing everything else I own for its resale value. I must have this camera.

This is as close to the still/video singularity as any camera under $10K.  Its competitors at that price point, the FS100, AF100, 5DMkIII, D800 and GH2 all require too many compromises, hacks or add-ons.  I just want to go back to where I can pull out a camera, a microphone and a set of headphones and produce clean images in normal light without a bunch of matte boxes to make up for the lack of ND filters, recorders to compensate for poor in-camera audio, or thousands of dollars worth of lights to make up for crummy low-light performance.  And I don't want to have to sharpen a fuzzy image in post (5DMkIII), avoid shooting patterned objects for fear of moire (D800) or hack my camera (GH2) to get the best out of it.

240fps HD slow motion, 4K and HD-SDI on top of that?  This camera really is the proverbial game changer.

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Monday, April 2, 2012

It's Real! - Sony NEX-FS700 Press Release & Photos!

Goodbye AF100.

For "under $10,000", Sony's new Super 35 cam is getting closer to the still/video singularity.  A real video camera with large photosites, almost no moire or aliasing and stunning low light capability (if it's anything like the FS100), it will also produce 8MP still photos.  It will be no Nikon D800 or Canon 5DMkIII for stills - but those cameras don't have XLR inputs, HD-SDI out, a top handle, or camcorder style control of video.

With built-in ND filters and HD-SDI out, it blows away the two main advantages the AF100 had left.  And when it gets its 4K upgrade, look out Scarlet X -- and as for the C300, well, 'we hardly knew ye'.

I am as excited by this camera as I was for the AF100 (before I was let down by its resolution, low light performance and lack of still photo capability) and as I was for the FS100 (before I was let down by the lack of NDs, HD-SDI and stills).

With this camera, DSLR/DSLT/DSLM shooters like me might be able to finally sell all their old camera bodies and workarounds (external recorders w XLR inputs, attenuating cables to connect recorders to cameras, matte boxes w ND filter slots, backup small sensor camcorders, etc., etc.) and just buy one large sensor, interchangeable lens video/still camera.

If you're a Sony NEX shooter, of course, you're golden, because you already have system lenses.  Good thing I still have NEX adapters left over from renting the VG20 for my VG20/GH2 side-by-side comparison.

I'll be renting the new FS700 as soon as it comes out for a test - so please watch this space - and, if you like this blog, please support us by shopping with our sponsors through these links: Adorama, Amazon, Crutchfield, OneCall, and Unique Photo.

Thanks - and more video power to the people (press release after the break).

Euro Model Overview

Press Release


NEX-FS700U Delivers High Quality, Flexible and Creative Shooting Options for Workflows of Today . . . and Tomorrow

PARK RIDGE, N.J., April 2, 2012 -- Sony is pushing the creative boundaries once more with the new NEX-FS700U Full-HD Super Slow Motion camcorder, the latest in Sony's line of NXCAM interchangeable E-mount camcorders. The new Super 35mm model is designed for high-speed shooting, capable of capturing footage at up to 960 frames per second. The camera also features a range of capabilities such as 3G HD-SDI output and built-in ND filters. Additionally, it also offers several creative options, shooting styles, and enhanced ergonomics – all based on customer feedback -- to deliver a flexible production tool that can fit seamlessly into a variety of shooting applications.

"This camera opens a new door to creative shooting," said Juan Martinez, senior product manager at Sony Electronics' Professional Solutions of America group. "You can record beautiful high speed full HD movies with the freedom of creative interchangeable lens choice. The NEX-FS700U, with its super slow motion mode, is ideal for promos, TV dramas, commercials and documentaries as well as sports and a variety of event shooting."

The camera delivers full HD quality at 120 and 240 frames per second in a 16 or 8 second burst mode respectively. The NEX-FS700U's high sensitivity and low noise shooting capability makes super slow motion shooting more convenient without the need for additional equipment. Its 480 fps and 960 fps at reduced resolution are available for faster frame rate recording.

The NEX-FS700U camcorder uses a new 4K "Exmor" Super 35 CMOS sensor (Total 11.6 million pixels). This high-speed readout chip is optimized for motion picture shooting, giving high sensitivity, low noise and minimal aliasing.

The NXCAM line's E-Mount flexibility is designed to accept virtually all SLR and DSLR 35mm lenses, with the use of simple, inexpensive adapters without optical degradation. FS series owners can use their existing lenses and add more lenses without being limited to brands or mounts.

Users can capture high-quality still images with the NEX-FS700U. The camera also includes "face detection" and auto focus to help ensure that a subject is always kept in focus.

With the NEX-FS700U, operators can take advantage of the camera's built-in ND filters, with a newly designed ND filter wheel that rotates across the sensor like a turret. The wheel includes positions for Clear, 1/4 (2 Stop), 1/16 (4 Stop), and 1/64 (6 Stop).

The camera is 60/50Hz switchable to give shooters the freedom of working in any geographic region without being restricted to only PAL or NTSC recording.

The NEX-FS700U's 3G HD-SDI and HDMI connectors can output full HD 50p and 60p, in addition to standard HD 60i, 24p, 25p or 30p frame rates with embedded time code and audio. With 3G HD-SDI, it can output native 23.98, 25, 29.97 progressive signals. Users can elect to output PsF over the 3G HD-SDI. Thanks to flexibility of the digital ports virtually any external recorder can be paired.

Users can save up to 99 camera profile settings on a memory card, and can copy the same setting to multiple cameras. Compatible media includes SD and Memory Stick cards, and Sony's HXR-FMU128 flash memory unit that attaches to the camera.

The NEX-FS700U features a robust detachable top handle, secured by a pair of screws (a cold shoe, plus two sets of 1/4 and 3/8 inch holes) to allow secure mounting for heavy accessories. The handle is attached with a rosette mount.

A key element of the handle is an "active grip" that features four buttons for commonly used functions – expanded focus, auto iris, still capture and recording start/stop. Function buttons are also enlarged to make operation easy even while wearing gloves.

The camcorder's enhanced design also includes anchor points for compatibility with third-party accessories and a more durable design than previous models.

Sony is planning a future firmware upgrade that will enable the NEX-FS700U to output 4K bitstream data over 3G HD-SDI when used with an optional Sony 4K recorder.

The NEX-FS700U (body only) and NEX-FS700UK (with 18-200mm zoom lens) are planned to be available in June at a suggested list price less than $10,000.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Short Side-by-side of TM900 and FZ150

I shot a very quick side-by-side of the TM900 and the FZ150 last month, but didn't post it because the "outdoor" comparison was shot through a window screen, the piece was edited in Windows Movie Maker (poor compression) and doesn't really show what either camera is capable of.  But I haven't had time to re-shoot it, and it does show a few things - e.g., a color reproduction comparison and the relative smoothness of the zooms - so I've decided to post it. Please watch at 1080p.

Bottom line: both cameras shoot great 1080/60p video in auto modes.  I will say this - I love my GH1 & GH2, but they take the most work to get great still/movie images.  The TM900 takes less work, but you still have to understand white balance and iris and shutter speed, etc. to stay out of trouble.  But the FZ150 takes almost zero effort to get great images.  When I just want to pick up the camera and shoot, I pick up my wife's FZ150. Bonus: it's the least expensive!

I will shoot a better comparison when I get some time - it may take a month or two, but I'll make it happen!

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Sunday, March 11, 2012

Tascam DR40 4 Channel Digital Recorder 15% off at Amazon!

Amazon special offer on the Tascam DR40 portable 4 track digital recorder.  I just scored one of these 'H4N killers' for $161.38 (regular price $189.96 - a 15% discount).  Discount is credited at checkout.

That's only $60 more than I paid for my Zoom H1.  They won't last long at this price.  Get 'em while they're hot!

Great review here.

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Friday, March 2, 2012

Canon 5D MkIII Available for Pre-Order at Adorama!

The Canon Mk III, announced yesterday, is already available for pre-order for $3499 from Adorama.  Expected delivery is March 30th.  Replacing the full-frame 5D MkII, the Mk III responds to the Nikon D800 with many of the features that Canon hybrid still/video shooters have been clamoring for.

On the plus side, Canon seems to have:

  • Dealt with their moire problem by eliminating line skipping with the powerful new Digic 5+ processor,
  • Upped the ridiculous 12 minute continuous video recording time limit to 29 minutes,
  • Included a headphone jack and full manual audio gain control - and the sample videos from Canon look pretty good (here, here and here)...
But on the minus side:

  • It still has a fixed LCD, so you'll need to buy a loupe to shoot outdoors
  • It has no EVF (because of the antiquated DSLR mirror box), so you'll need a monitor for high/low/around the corner shooting angles
  • And it is not clear to me that it has the ability to autofocus in video mode - although Canon's forthcoming silent autofocus lenses indicate that it will.

I plan to rent this camera for a side-by-side with the $900 Panasonic GH2 as soon as it becomes available.  Stay tuned - I'll let you know how it goes!

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Tuesday, February 7, 2012

CNET "First Look" at Olympus OM-D EM-5

Good looking camera.  Pre-production model, so displays are off and no sample images.

NOTE: CNET removed this video after I posted it. I guess they jumped the gun on the official announcement - doh!. I will repost it here as soon as they put it back up.

NOTE 2: It has not gone back up on YouTube, but here it is on CNET TV.

Sadly, looking at the specs on CNET (which is always dangerous), the camera seems to be limited to a single interlaced frame rate - 1080/60i. No 24p, no 30p - and certainly no 60p. They didn't even bother to put in a fake progressive frame rate with a pull down removal.

Without even getting into the question of the codec (QT vs AVCHD), I'd say that the OM-D is a video "fail".

Makes me wonder whether Olympus has some sort of "non-compete" agreement with Panasonic for video.

Looks like the GH3 watch will have to continue!

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Friday, January 27, 2012

Panasonic TM900 - First Impressions

As I've written in earlier posts, I've been looking at camcorders to complement the high quality shallow depth of field video capabilities of the GH2 for "run & gun" quick reaction shooting.  I wanted:
  • bulletproof autofocus,
  • 1080 24p and 60p,
  • manual audio gain,
  • mic and headphone jacks,
  • 180 degree (forward facing) flip-out LCD,
  • power zoom and
  • high quality stills.
As the only large sensor, interchangeable lens 24p hybrid still/video camcorder, I thought the Sony NEX-VG20 might fit the bill - but after renting it, I concluded that I didn't want to pay a thousand dollars extra for what was essentially an NEX-5N in a camcorder form-factor.  And it didn't have a power zoom.

My wife's Panasonic FZ150 does almost everything I wanted a camcorder to do, and I really like the quality of its images, but it didn't have a headphone jack, manual audio gain or 24p - so I started looking for a standard small sensor camcorder that did.

I wasn't locked in to Panasonic, but, once again, a Panasonic camera was close to being the best in its category, met all of my requirements - and cost a lot less than the VG20.

Here are a couple of pictures of my new (refurbished) TM900 with the Azden SMX10 Stereo Mic (used with the GH2 before I went wireless), 46mm-58mm step-up ring, UV filter from an inexpensive 58mm 3-filter set, and Mennon DV-s 58mm lens hood that I already had.  12.1MP JPEGs taken with the FZ150:

And here is a 14.2 MP JPEG of the FZ150 taken with the TM900:

First impressions?  The camera produces great stills and video - like most other Panasonic hybrid cameras.  One challenge that I consider major (others may not) -- the still flash is inside the lens ring and creates blinding glare when there is a filter on the lens.  I had to remove my UV filter to take the picture above. Horrible design decision.  And a minor challenge -- the TM900 is my only Panasonic hybrid without the ability to shoot RAW.  But these are minor nits, given the overall performance of the camera.

I will compare video from the TM900 with the FZ150 in a future post.

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