FIRST DAYS WITH THE G9
Taking good photos is all about the grey matter behind the eye, as every individual sees the world with a unique perspective. The camera is our paintbrush, that enables us to present that vision to a wider audience. But as with any tools, they should operate intuitively and be a pleasure to use rather than slow you down or frustrate.
Image – Hidden falls. Leica 12-60mm
With this in mind I headed out to a few local venues around our house here in Liguria to get a better feel of the Panasonic G9 camera with Leica 12-60mm & 100-400mm lenses. I should note that in these first escapades I am not seeking to test every function and indeed I doubt I will ever use many of the advanced functionality available to me, but when I head for the hills I want to be able to quickly and efficiently understand where the main buttons are and that they work seemlessly so I can concentrate on the images not the technology. So how did they behave?
Image – In the mist. Leica 12-60mm
Well my instant impression is one of quality. The equipment is not light and flimsy, rather solid and professional. The grip is very comfortable and all the buttons and dials are solid and firm. What does take a little getting used to is the sensitive shutter release button, and I had to take it out of silent mode to feel I was connecting with the moment of release. After 3 days I am now used to this and as with the location of some of the buttons (exposure compensation, ISO & display) once you are used to them they are generally very easy to find without taking your eye from the viewfinder. Most are “on” the camera and not buried deep in menus which is a real blessing. Less intuitive is the location of the playback button which I find a little awkward to reach with my left hand which doesn’t naturally sit within easy reach.
Image – Door detail. 12-60mm Leica
The EVF is thus far excellent and is one of the features I have become very accustomed to over the past few years over its optical cousin (I note I am shooting stills and have not tried its video capabilities to date). The tilting rear display has yet to be used very often but it feels very sturdy and it has significant adjustment options both high and low angles. The fact it can be folded away is very useful to me when working in rugged environments.
I do wish all manufacturers could sit down and agree terminology but this is not Panasonic’s fault per se and after a read of the manual I am becoming familiar with the main terms and features presented. (I often download alternative manuals eg the excellent Friedman archive manuals). But what I do like is the standard in camera ability for multi exposure and time lapse, both of which are likely to get an outing on the trek (almost a norm these days but still nice to see). A 60 second shutter release will address most normal long exposure requirements (and is better than many) though I was hoping the free remote app might allow for longer exposure but this does not appear to be the case.
Image – Rocchetta Nervina. Leica 12-60mm
I rarely use this feature in the field but I felt a 4 click single image delete operation to be a little excessive in truth but in its favour the multiple delete was extremely clear and effective.
Both lenses are very pleasant to use, solid, compact though not so light as to cause concern. The ability to zoom to 800mm on the longer zoom is quite extraordinary for one so small. Both have smooth confidence inspiring operation and the image stabilisation (though not often used) seems to allow what seems to be about 3 stops “extra”.
I look forward to pixel picking the results but on a constrained trip the lenses size and overall weight of the combined package saves a significant burden on my overall pack weight where every gram counts.
Image – Leaves in water. Leica 100-400mm
I have been out in low cloud and a small amount of rain though have yet to really test the weatherproofing functionality which is always a key for me. Likewise, this trip will not include any super cold environments (better not, I have not packed for anything below -5 degrees) so it would take a more northerly trip to test this. But I will report back in due course.
The burst speed on continuous is memory munchingly stunning, way more than I would need for most purposes but a level above anything I have used. I can envisage situations where this would be extremely interesting to try out but given I will have reduced capacity on this trip will probably leave this for another day.
Image – Water detail. Leica 100-400mm
Battery has been excellent for a small camera and I got at least 900 images on a single charge (low power mode and no lengthy review period) though it did seem to lose the second half of the charge quicker than the first, just like the fuel tank in my car! More testing needed here. It charges via a USB from my external battery pack – which incidentally is charging fantastically from the Anker 21w solar panel I will be carrying with me.
Image – Lone house. Leica 12-60mm
App functionality including WiFi/Bluetooth download has been very easy to operate and even I managed to set this up with no hair loss, swearing or camera throwing. No mean feat I can assure should. So I am now very hopeful to get posts onto social media and a blog. Another stress gone.
I have left the format set to MFT with grid lines in the viewfinder and in truth am rather enjoying it as a format. I have decided for this venture I will stick with this for now and crop in post, though I might change my mind so make no promises.
I guess there are two main functions of image that are most relevant for me though. Firstly, overall quality across the frame at the various apertures across the zoom and depth of field. My standard is an ability to print up to 100cm in the long dimension (assuming I have done my bit and been technically competent). I realise there will be some compromises to be had given my requirements on weight for the trek (I simply cannot carry primes without breaking my back) and as with all lenses I firstly check the quality performance reviews (of which there are several) and bear in mind the limitations of any lens when out in the field. If I can avoid the “weak points” most issues can be resolved. This is true of any lens.
Image – In the clouds. Leica 100-400mm
The 9 leaf aperture should help a smooth Bokeh and I appreciate there may be a compromise here over full frame but I have yet to test this in any detail so will have to get back to you on this one.
I have only had the briefest of chances to review the images to date as I have been out in the field but attach a few of the images taken so far. They are taken from the jpegs with almost no adjustment and without printing but I am very happy with what I see so far. A more rigorous test will follow on my return.
Image – Main Street. Leica 12-60mm
To conclude, I am really enjoying using this system so far. I am very impressed with the build of both camera and lenses. Real world use in the field is intuitive save the odd button placement (is any camera perfect on this score?), battery is good for a camera so small and I can recharge it via USB (using solar power:-). I can honestly say that I now feel confident to take this as my solo camera into the field for 3 weeks which frankly is one less stress. We will sure find out soon enough as I head for the hills tomorrow!!!