Week 50, 2017: Cameras for concert photography, Olympus E-PL8, Panasonic LX850, LX85

Sound Advice

By Don Lindich

Week 50, 2017

Q. I go to concerts often and need a good low-light camera because flash photography is not only forbidden, it is annoying to the performers and those around me. I’m typically close to the stage so I don’t need a super zoom. It needs to be small as SLR cameras and big, protruding lenses get scrutinized at shows. Price is not an issue, what do you recommend?

-T.L., Boston, MA

A. Good low-light photography requires a big sensor and image stabilization, and ideally a large aperture (fast) lens, too. Preferably you would have all three, especially with moving subjects like performers at a concert.

Regular readers know I am a strong proponent of the mirrorless Micro Four Thirds system from Olympus and Panasonic, and it is a perfect match for your needs. Here are two models that are around the same size as a point-and-shoot camera, yet have a big sensor and the image quality and low light capability of a much larger digital SLR.

The Olympus E-PL8 has extremely effective 3-axis image stabilization in the camera body, so whatever lens you use will be stabilized. This beautiful, stylish camera is currently on sale for $449, and a 14-42mm pancake zoom is $198 more, bringing your price to $647. The 14-42mm pancake is not a fast lens, but fast zooms are bigger than the camera itself and will draw scrutiny from security personnel. If you are willing to spend a bit more I suggest you get one or two fast, fixed length lenses to go with the zoom. The incredibly sharp Olympus 25mm/1.8 lens and 45mm/1.8 lenses are currently on sale for $249 each. For your application it would be hard to do better than an E-PL8 with the 25mm and 45mm lenses.

Panasonic’s LUMIX GX850 is even smaller than the E-PL8 and includes an excellent 12-32mm zoom lens for $549. The small size means there is no image stabilization in the camera, so you must choose lenses with optical stabilization. The maximum 32mm zoom of the lens also offers a bit less reach than the 42mm Olympus lens. Panasonic does offer a small 35-100 mm zoom and a 45mm/1.8 lens with stabilization. Panasonic’s video quality is spectacular so if making videos is part of your plan I would take that in to consideration as well.

Though it is not as small as the others, Panasonic currently has a special offer on the LUMIX GX85. You can get the GX85 with the tiny 12-32mm zoom lens and a regular-sized 45-150mm zoom lens for only $599. (Select free lens option partway down the page on Amazon.) The full-featured, technologically-advanced GX85 has a big sensor, in-camera stabilization and optical stabilization in the lenses, getting you the whole enchilada! Though smaller than an SLR, it is bigger than the point-and-shoot sized E-PL8 and GX850 so probably not ideal for your application. Other readers may be looking for a new camera though so I included it here, as it is an amazing deal. 

Q. Two years ago you recommended a scanner that will scan multiple images at a time, scanning prints as well as 35mm slides and negatives. Unfortunately a lot of the negatives and slides I have are from my dad’s medium format Rolleiflex and are much larger than 35mm film. What scanner do you recommend that can also handle medium format film?

-J.W., Manning, SC

A. The scanner was the $199 Epson Perfection V550. You will be happy to know it can also scan medium format slides and negatives. I am proud Rolleiflex owner myself and have scanned many Rolleiflex slides and negatives with the V550.