My first subdued romp through the naked city with a Panasonic G9 in my hands. Like a photographic Godzilla through Tokyo.

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. 

Getting in and out of the country quicker and better. And getting around inside better as well.....

B. at the Met.

The last time I flew back into the U.S.A. from outside the country was in 2017. I drove back in from Mexico earlier this year but the border crossing in a car wasn't anywhere near the ordeal that coming back home on a plane was.

In the airport in Toronto there were long lines to clear customs and many delays. It seemed unusual to me since I was definitely not traveling during a peak travel season.

I've also noticed many more delays and clogs when going through security for domestic flights as well. I usually get the TSA PreCheck on my tickets though I've never signed up for the program and that's a great help but often my kid will barely make a plane because of the regular lines for airport security and that's even if he arrives an hour or two before his flight. It may be that Austin-Bergstrom airport is just getting relentlessly busier and this is part of the overall growth pains of living in a bursting city.

At any rate, I seem to be racking up travel commitments left and right. I have the workshop in Iceland coming up in late October thru early November, followed by another workshop in the U.K. the first week and a half of December. Before I go off on those fun trips though I have four or five travel days to the east coast in the last two weeks of October. That's a lot of climbing on an off planes but it's also potentially a lot of standing in TSA security lines and taking shoes off and putting them back on again.

I can't complain because the work is great and the workshops have the promise of being incredibly fun. But I've decided that I need to make the airport/Kirk interface more efficient so, after much research I decided to apply for a program called Global Entry that's run by the Customs and Boarder Security Agency. Once you sign up, have a background check and a face to face interview, turn over your fingerprints, Oh, and pre-pay a non-refundable $100 application fee you might get approved. The agency is very clear that there's no guarantee and if you don't get approved  you aren't getting your $100 back. Tough love.

But...if you do pass the background check and all the screening you become a member of this program called Global Entry which makes you a "trusted traveler" and allows you to skirt customs and get into the country in an express lane at immigration. The bonus is that the same program and fee also provides the TSA PreCheck benefit. You get to go through the short line and forgo the privilege of taking off your belt and your shoes!

So, I started the process online and filled in all the blanks. I've had the same job for 32 years with the same employer (that would be me...) and I've lived in the same house for 22 years. I have never been arrested or investigated or implicated. I'm like a darn Boy Scout. I thought the whole thing would be a slam dunk but there's always a catch. The catch here is the backlog. It's either a very popular program or one supplied with meager resources.

I'm told by the website that I should have a conditional answer within 3-4 weeks and then I'll need to schedule the face to face interview, for which there are no more open slots anywhere in the Southwest U.S. for the rest of the year. Interesting conundrum, yes? As a person with an overwhelming sense of entitlement I immediately queried whether or not I could expedite the process by paying more but that doesn't seem to be an option.

I guess I'll just have to wait out the process and use the new privileges when, and if, they become available.

I'm writing this to ask if you have applied or used the program and to hear/read your responses about it. Can you please share your actual experiences with me? It would be much appreciated. In the interim I'll head over to the DMV to practice my waiting skills.........