Hybrid Photography is a quickly emerging art form that combines still photos, video, audio and graphics and pushes the boundaries of creative vision. As more and more photographers realize the importance of integrating Hybrid into their workflow, the need for cameras that can capture high quality photos, videos and audio equally well becomes increasingly important.
The gold standard for Hybrid Cameras at present is the Panasonic Lumix GH3, followed closely by the Olympus OM-D E-M5 and Sony NEX 6. Each of these cameras are exceptional, and will set you back $1,000+ USD, plus whatever you spend on lenses. Not too shabby if you’re a pro shooter and compare these systems to what you’d spend on a pro DSLR setup, but is there a lower cost alternative for the enthusiast or aspiring Hybrid Photographer on a budget?
Let’s take a quick look at some of the alternatives in the “mid range” price level.
Sony has the NEX 3n and NEX 5r, as well as the RX100 fixed lens compact. All of them will take great still and video, but none of them have an EVF. The RX100 is a fixed lens compact, so you won’t be able to switch lenses for different effects, and even though the NEX 3n and NEX 5r are interchangeable lens cameras, the selection of native lenses in the NEX lineup is pretty sparse at present. The NEX 5r does have wifi though, so that’s a plus.
Olympus has the PEN Lite E-PL5 and PEN Mini E-PM2. They’re micro 4/3 cameras, so there’s a ton of great lenses from which to choose. Furthermore, they’re equipped with the same sensor and image processor as the flagship OM-D E-M5, so you know the Image Quality is going to be top notch. But they also lack EVFs and the level of control that you’ll get with the flagship model.
Panasonic has the former flagship Lumix GH2 and last year’s sleeper camera of the year, the Lumix G5. Each has a fairly substantial DSLR-like form factor, complete with an EVF and fully articulated touch screen, and as micro 4/3 cameras they have access to the same arsenal of high quality lenses as do the Olympus cameras.
The GH2 is somewhat of a legend where video is concerned, but it may fall a little short in the still photos department when compared to it’s rivals. It’s also now a 3 year old camera with 3 year old technology. Nonetheless, the Lumix GH2 still remains a strong hybrid camera if you can get one for a good price.
The Lumix G5 is another great mid-range camera, and in my opinion, the most overlooked camera of the last year. It’s also easily the best bargain in this field – you can get one for about $498 USD with a kit lens. The G5 sports the same sensor as the GH2, but it’s also loaded with an updated Venus Processing Engine that gives it better Image Quality, faster autofocus and better low light performance. It’s advanced enough for a pro to use, but it’s also easy enough for a beginner. It shines as a stills camera, but while it does take great video as well, it lacks the manual video control that you get from some of it’s competitors, and there’s no external microphone jack.
Each of the above is a workable option, but each has it’s own list of concessions.
Enter the Panasonic Lumix G6
A cursory look at the Lumix G6 reveals that Panasonic have strived to combine the best features of the Lumix G5 with everything that it was missing. In fact, in talking to my friend and MC contributor Giulio Sciorio (of SmallCameraBigPicture.com), who was testing the G6 last week, he told me that the new camera has some features that he wished the GH3 had.
The Lumix G6 has a 1440k-dot OLED electronic viewfinder, a fully articulated 3-inch touchscreen that tilts and swivels by 180 degrees and 270 respectively and a super fast start up time of 0.5 seconds!
It’s stays true to the G5’s pedigree as a top notch still photos camera and ups it’s game with an all new Venus Processing Engine that gives the G6 even quicker autofocus speeds, even in low light. It also has a 7fps burst mode (or 5fps in AF tracking mode), maximum ISO 25,600 (extended), it has 19 creative filters and focus peaking (It’s the first Panasonic Camera to be so equipped)! The G6 is also Wi-Fi capable for instant sharing of images to the web or smart devices, as well as remote control with your smart device via the Free Panasonic Lumix Link App and it has NFC (or Near Field Communication), which allows you to instantly pair your camera by touching it to another device that also has NFC capability. There’s a new Clear Retouch in-camera editing feature that allows users to remove unwanted items in an image by tracing a finger over the item in question and remove it without affecting the overall photo.
Where the G6 has really upped it’s game though, is in the video department. Like the G5 before it, the Lumix G6 can record up to 1080/60p video in AVCHD or MP4, but the G6 also incorporates new video modes including a 24p video mode that will allow you to create a film-like effect when shooting full HD videos. The G6 also records stereo audio and is equipped with a 3.5mm external microphone input that was lacking on it’s predecessor. The G6’s Live and Touch autofocus functions allow “professional-like rack focusing” (moving focus from one item within your frame to another on the fly), and there’s also Timelapse and Stop Motion modes.
All in all, the Panasonic Lumix G6 appears to be a serious Hybrid machine. It is poised to be not only one of the best mid range Hybrid Cameras, but one of the best Hybrid Cameras period. This is definitely one to keep your eye on. (Read more about the Lumix G6 features and specs on Panasonic’s webiste – video test above shot with the Panasonic Lumix G6)