Next week I'll spend a day at this hotel making portraits for a high technology company.
I've shot with Panasonic cameras since the days of the GH2. I've owned and used the GH3, GH4 and now two versions of the GH5 and most recently I've added a G9 to the mix. Largely on the strength of my almost visceral reaction to the splendid files I've been getting from the GH5S. Not huge files by any means, but extremely well built files with great color and tonality. I figured the newest color science might actually run in the family and so, here we are with a G9. And just in time as our dance card is filled with assignments as far as the eye can see.
I hate diving straight into shooting paid work with a new camera. There could be new settings or buttons that stump me while I'm right in the middle of a project or the camera could (rarely) be defective in some way and it's better to find that out and get it swapped out for a new one ASAP. My routine is to put a known lens on the front and head out the door to shoot the camera for a couple hours or a couple hundred frames and see if there are any surprises. Certainly I would hate to pack an untested camera and take it on a trip out of town. That would be my idea of a nightmare scenario.
I put a new battery in the camera and a Hoodman Steel 128 GB V60 UHS II SD card in the "A" slot on the camera, formatted the card, and then added a 25mm f1.7 Panasonic lens to the package. I put the camera into the "A" mode, set the aperture to f 4.0 and headed into downtown. It was a warm and sweaty day with temperatures in the 90's, and the humidity was just a tad lower than a a wall of steam. Good weather for a photographic Godzilla to terrorize small villages, or the whole of downtown Austin by waving a little camera around in my hands and trying to breathe fire. Which did not work.
Thankfully, the camera did.
I had previously tried out the camera at the bricks and mortar showroom, but only in the most cursory way. I noted that the finder had a bit of pincushion distortion and that the shutter release was very, very sensitive (too sensitive, I thought at the time...). The finder was large and bright and that stuck with me. But standing at the counter at a camera store and aiming it at the staff and clicking off frames under wildly mixed light is hardly the best way to assess the potential of a camera. Right?
Since I was shooting with an inexpensive 25mm lens which does not have image stabilization the first thing I noticed was how good the in body image stabilization is with the G9. While pressing the shutter button just before shutter actuation you can see the image become rock solid. I quickly learned to accommodate the sensitive shutter and now have no issues with it at all. The combination of the slight pressure needed to trigger the camera, coupled with top tier image stabilization means that I can handhold the little 25mm lens down to at least 1/4th of a second and at that setting expect good and convincing sharpness.
As to the perceived pincushion distortion....I have a theory that the EVF is showing us the pre-corrected file as a preview and only applies the geometric lens correction post exposure; during the writing out of the file to the memory card. Once the image is committed to the card and called up for review it doesn't seem to have the same pincushion distortion. This could all be conjecture on my part but that's my stumbling around in the street observation. At any rate, my facile and interesting brain sorted out the issue of the pincushion-ism rather quickly and cancelled it out of my conscious thoughts while I was shooting.
Of all the cameras I've shot with from Panasonic this one has the most pleasing shutter sound and is perhaps the quietest when used with the mechanical shutter. Of course, all the recent models have a silent, electronic shutter setting so I guess the underlying point is moot. If you need quiet you can dial it up. But it's nice to have the aural feedback of the mechanical shutter, it makes the practice of photography seem more real.
One thing I am very happy with, even though I've barely spent time with the new camera, is the color and tonality of the files when shooting Jpeg. I assume I can get even better results with raw files but there are many instances when the Jpegs will work well. More emphatically so when one already likes the color one is getting from the camera.
The camera is not too small and not too big so I guess this makes it less of a Godzilla camera and more of a Goldilocks camera, but that's a good thing. The buttons have a much different feel than the buttons on the GH5 but, again, within a few blocks I had already compensated and changed my neural subroutines to match my desired perception: = nice buttons.
All of the images here started as standard, non-inflected Jpegs. I dragged them through an app called SnapSeed and applied a light dose of "structure" or slight exposure "course correction" but no heroics were performed to save or overly enhance the files above or below.
What's my first day's response to the camera? This is the 2018 equivalent of the 1955 introduction of the Leica M3. A nicely sized and weighted camera with a beautiful finder (yes, I am referring to both) that balances nicely with a 'normal' focal length lens and does beautiful work without calling too much attention to itself. I was not loud, didn't suck down the battery at a rapid clip and turned out files that were exactly what I wanted. I don't know what more a sane person would ask from a camera.
The web tells me what insane people might want from a camera and I think it has some of that stuff built in but things like Wi-Fi and Bluetooth are not intrusive. I'm pretty sure there's no built in GPS so I guess we should count our blessings. The package works well.
But let's also take a second to talk about the lens. The 25mm f1.7 Panasonic is kind of a sleeper, always overshadowed by either the Leica 25mm Summilux or the Olympus 25mm f1.2, but it's actually a very competent performer, especially at f2.8, f4.0 and f5.6. It's quite usable wide open but it really shines at the smaller apertures. It's not the simple design you might be accustomed to if you've shot with so called "nifty-fifty" lenses from Canon and Nikon. It's actually a more complex design with an ultra high refractive element in the front, two aspheric elements somewhere in the mix and eight elements in seven groups; which is more complex than most of the "kit" lenses on the market. It seems reasonably priced at $249 but frequently is offered, on sale, for around $149, at which price I consider it to be a bargain. Nay, a steal.
But look for yourself. The images here were all done with the Panasonic 25mm and I'm not finding much to complain about. Even the one with the huge specular highlight on the top corner of the office building is actually well controlled for flare, etc.
All-in-all I'm finding a lot to like about the look and feel of the G9 files as well as the basic handling of the camera. Someday I'll program all the function buttons and make a "cheat sheet" so I can remember what is where. Until then I think I'll just use the controls I know and leave the rest to fate.
The camera is now on the short list for the trip to Iceland. So is the lens.
If you have a G9 can you tell me what sort of logic you used when programming the function buttons? There's so many options to choose from.....
Packed up for a quick shoot nearby.
Environmental art on the Lamar Blvd. underpass. Nice.