FZ200 airshow #6: Panasonic TC, and inexplicable improvements

Started Jun 17, 2013 | Discussions thread
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FZ200 airshow #6: Panasonic TC, and inexplicable improvements
Jun 17, 2013

Another airshow at Old Warden yesterday. Weather was mostly dull, yet again -_- It even rained a bit, but we did get some sun towards the end.

On test this time, were the Panasonic 1.7x teleconverter and 12fps bursts.
Other settings etc. were the same as I used last time (see below)
I did NOT turn on "conversion" for the teleconverter in the camera setup.

Summary of Results:

1. I had significant and very noticeable improvements in my panning accuracy, which in turn led to an improvement in my "keeper" rate, and the average quality of the photos. This is surprising, given I was using the long end of the teleconverter a lot, which ought to exaggerate camera shake and poor panning. I can't explain these results, it's weird.

2. I took over 4000 shots using a single battery! (12fps is pretty crazy. I tried to keep bursts short, but wasn’t very successful, so I ended up with a giant number of photos). That one battery still had plenty of juice left afterwards too - it had only just gone from 2/3 to 1/3 according to the camera display.

Blurb:

You can easily tell how good your airshow panning technique is. Just look at bursts of shots taken while panning: if each photo in a burst looks very similar, with the plane in the same position within the frame each time... your panning is good. If each shot in the burst shows the plane in a different position within the frame, your panning is bad and you probably have a lot of duds with the plane showing motion blur.

In yesterday’s shots, I think my panning was better than I've ever managed before. It was a very noticeable improvement. But why? O_o

Maybe it's just "practice makes perfect", or I just had a good day. Seems a bit unlikely though... this is my 6th airshow in 8 weeks, I hadn't picked up my camera at all since the last show 2 weeks ago... I wouldn't expect any dramatic improvements at this point.

I guess shooting at 12fps (double my "usual" 5.5fps) would mean that any motion blur due to poor panning, would appear to be reduced, but it's NOT just that: I had entire bursts where the plane hardly moved within the frame start-to-finish, and the images were sharper and better focussed than I'd usually get for a burst covering the same amount of elapsed time.

12fps does not autofocus between shots. Did this make the difference? It seems the most plausible. At previous airshows, I have mostly used 5.5[AF] - including the last show, where I flirted with 5.5 (no in-between AF) for a while… but then switched back to 5.5[AF]. I didn’t see much difference at the time - but then, the camera’s rear screen is not so good for judging such things on-the-fly.

The Panasonic 1.7x Teleconverter:

This is the first time I have used the Panasonic 1.7x teleconverter at an airshow. I've always used a Canon 1.5x TC-DC58A previously. It was completely inappropriate for Old Warden – way too much zoom and I simply couldn't shoot half the time due to lack of available wide angle. The Canon is much better in that respect, but I wanted to give the Panasonic a try at least once.

I have to say, I was quite impressed with the Panasonic TC. In "static" tests I did ages ago, the Canon gave sharper results - so I used it from then on, and the Panasonic gathered dust. But the "real world" results I got from the Panasonic yesterday were in no way disappointing.

I had concerns that I might need to set Stabilizer ON with the longer focal lengths... in which case the Panasonic TC might have an advantage. But those fears are now dispelled. I was doing better than ever yesterday, in spite of using a teleconverter and Stabilizer OFF.

I am likely to stick to the Canon though - a bit less reach, but arguably sharper and it has a lot more wide-angle available than the Panasonic (or Nikon TC's for that matter) before vignetting.

Here's what my TC setup actually looks like:

Airshow setup, with Canon teleconverter

Red dot sight on a Photosolve Xtend-a-sight mounting, TC, grip for left hand attached via a tripod mounting ring. Note the furry self-adhesive windcutter under the RDS - huge reduction in wind noise for video.

If I need a neutral density filter while I'm using a teleconverter, I put one between the adapter tube and the teleconverter - easier to put on for prop-planes, and remove for jets.

The grip is by no means necessary, and you lose the ability to use the side zoom/focus control. But I find it helpful - more comfortable and balanced than holding the adapter tube directly, or the camera itself. The tripod mounting ring is a cheap plastic copy of a Canon "Ring D". It's slightly too big, but I fixed that by replacing the thin original lining with furry Velcro. The handle is roughly under the centre of gravity, making it nicely balanced in use.

Airshow setup with Panasonic teleconverter

Home-made plate, linking the tripod mounting ring, to the cameras built-in tripod mount

This prevents the TC adapter tube rotating relative to the camera, so it can't accidentally unscrew during use, or over-tighten and strip the threads. It's made of rigid aluminium, which is not easy to bend - so I cut it from a cheap aluminium hobby box, so it would have the right-angle bend already made.

I can still open the battery/card door...

Example photos:
You can see some of my PP'ed photos from yesterday >> HERE <<

My "keeper" rate for yesterday was about 1/4.
I usually get less than 1/5 (sometimes a LOT less).
How do I judge a "keeper"?
Well, I make a quick first-pass review, and anything where the subject is:
a) Not well-focussed, or
b) Motion-blurred, or
c) Poorly exposed (underexposed, or too much blown highlights), or
d) Not framed well enough (too far away, too close to edges, clipped etc), or
e) Just not a pleasing angle...

...gets deleted. I am brutal! But I will make a few exceptions if I find an image pleasing for some reason, or there's something unusual/interesting about it.

Of the remaining images, I will closely compare shots taken in a burst, keep one or two of the best ones, and delete the rest no matter how good they are.

Next tests:
Back to Old Warden again in 2 weeks (weather permitting), where I will continue with the same settings and 12fps, but I'll be using the Canon TC. Perhaps yesterday's results will turn out to be a fluke? I will probably try turning TC conversion "ON" too - this will excessively limit the wide angle zoom range (Bad), and restrict the maximum aperture to f4 (Good? Maybe!).

Settings used:
My current "C1" custom airshow setup:

  • "Standard" photo style Co +1, Sh -1, Sa +1, NR -2
  • JPG only
  • ISO AUTO, ISO Limit Set 400, Extended ISO OFF
  • Stabilizer OFF
  • AFS
  • 12fps burst mode
  • 23-area focus
  • "Multiple" metering mode
  • Quick AF ON
  • i.Resolution OFF
  • i.Dynamic OFF
  • Digital Zoom OFF
  • Autoreview OFF
  • I adjust shutter speed and exposure compensation as I go.

I have the same setup saved to custom "C2-1", but with stabilizer ON. This is for very slow shutter speeds ie. when attempting full-disc prop-blur. (Requires ND filter)

My "C2-2" is the same as C1 again, but TC conversion "ON". I might use this to restrict aperture to F4 maximum.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ200
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