Wednesday 10 November 2021

First Days with the G9


Panasonic G9, Olympus m.Zuiko 12-40mm f2.8 PRO

So far the G9 has been a pretty raging success for me. I’m over 1000 shots in on it in 5 days of ownership. That’s compared to 450 in the first week with the Z5, 440 for the E-M5.2 and 1000 for the E-M1.2. We'll see where I am by next Thursday, but it's likely to exceed the E-M1.2 count by a bit.

The image above is from a spot I've been meaning to revisit for a long time, it's a great view of downtown Toronto and the last time I shot there was in 2007 if I recall correctly, I was shooting with the Pentax K10D and Pentax DA 16-45/4 which I sold off in early 2008 to get my first D300. This is from Boradview Avenue about mid-way between Danforth Ave and Gerrard Ave, looking southwest towards the CN tower. It's really one of the best angles to shoot the city from, and since you're looking over the Don Valley but the DVP is mostly invisible from here, there's nothing really to distract the eye. I've driven by here a number of times recently and have been meaning to stop and get the shot. Last night I was finally able to do so and I'm glad I did. While I'm just not that interested in Cityscape work anymore, I do like to dabble in it occasionally.

The G9 worked very well for this. It's got a couple nice features for long-exposure work, specifically it counts down the remaining exposure on the display both when making the exposure (for exposures longer than 1 second) and while doing the dark-frame subtraction (aka Long Exposure Noise Reduction), which means you are never staring at the camera wondering when your camera will be responding again. The fact that it can be set to take bracket sets as a burst is nice as well, I've always preferred this as it makes getting good matching bracket frames much easier and it's something I've found lacking on a lot of recent Mirrorless Cameras including both the E-M5.2 and the Z5 (I'm sure there's probably some hidden setting I'm missing on the E-M5.2, but the Z5 simply didn't do this, and the Nikon DSLR's did).

Overall, the G9's ergonomics are just dead on, it's like a combination of all the ergonomic high points of the Z5 and E-M1.2 in one body, with a couple improvements of its own. Having a 3 position AF/MF switch under my thumb is excellent and beats the 2x2 switch on the E-M1.2 (which is more flexible as you can choose what it does, but flexibility doesn't add anything for me here because I use that for AF mode switching), plus a joystick like the Z5, but I can also get the touch AF control like the E-M1.2 if I want it. AF is as far as I can tell generally more configurable than the E-M1.2, although I do lose the ability to set a custom focus range limiter like the E-M1.2 can. It's more flexible than the Z5 because you can assign specific modes to buttons (which none of the Z's can).

Oddly, this is the first camera I've owned since the NEX-7 that won't let me re-assign the record button. That's not too big an issue here as it's located in a convenient but reasonably out of the way spot and there are so many other configurable control points (19 in all counting buttons, touch buttons and assigning joystick and 4-way actions) that I'm not losing anything by having a few buttons dedicated to specific functions (the WB, ISO and Exp Comp buttons are also dedicated functions)

Friday 5 November 2021

Z9 is Here and it's awesome. I bought a different '9' instead


Sony A7II, ZA FE 16-35/4 OSS

The Nikon Z9 got announced last week and frankly, it's utterly amazing. Not only did it come in cheaper than expected ($1000USD less than the Sony A1, $500USD less than the Canon R3), but it's clearly a class leader in many respects. Not everywhere, but in enough places that Nikon's got a clear winner here. Interestingly it becomes the first performance-oriented camera to completely drop the mechanical shutter in favour of its extremely fast (3.7ms or 1/270th) electronic shutter.

Would I buy one? Nope. It's too big (integrated grip) and too heavy (1350g) for my uses. But it is amazing and has some features I really want to see come down the line, especially the dual-tilt LCD setup which should become standard on the Z7III and Z5II (the Z6III should get flip/twist as it's the 'video' body of the 3 lower-end FX Z's)

Does this have any impact on my gear choices? Not really. 

With regards to gear, I've been struggling. I've really liked the results I was getting with my Partner's A7II and the ZA 16-35/4 I picked up for it last month, but I still struggle with the LCD setup and ergonomics, as well as the speed of the body. Pretty much the same complaints I had when it was my body, and when I had my first A7II. Nice body overall and still very competent, but not as well suited for my style of working as I'd like.

I've been on the lookout for a while for another E-M1 Mark II body, but haven't seen anything crop up. However I've seen a few Panasonic G9's crop up for good prices. The G9 is pretty much Panasonic's take on the E-M1 Mark II. It's a little more capable in some areas (better video, better EVF and astonishingly, even more configurable) and a little less in others (inferior AF-C, not quite sealed as well, IBIS is not as effective as Olympus's market-leading system)

As I was sitting on a bunch Henry's store credit, I grabbed a G9 when one popped up yesterday (they go quick) and am going to give it a good try-out. It's got all I want in terms of ergonomics, is compatible with my m43 lenses and gets me some very nice automation as well. I'm looking forward to seeing what it can deliver, I've not owned a G series newer than the G3, and not owned a Panasonic since the GX7 (I did quite like the GX7). This kind of puts a stake in chasing the dragon for a bit I hope, I'm going to be on m43 for a while yet. 

In terms of lenses, I might just look at the 8-18/50-200 pair to round out my kit. I'd already been considering the 50-200 over the Oly 40-150 Pro, but the latter just makes more sense for an Oly shooter because of Pro Capture and the focus stacking features. Likewise the PanaLeica lenses make more sense on the G9 for DFD and DualIS (the 50-200 is an IS lens, unlike the 40-150Pro).

Interestingly, the G9 is actually larger than the A7II, on par in size with the Z5, and the handling is quite similar as well overall. The biggest difference is the G9's EVF optics are not as good as the Z5's, although the panel itself is on par. I can see distortion in the corners with the G9 due to the somewhat over-magnified display (0.83x to the Z5's 0.80x). It is a much nicer EVF than the E-M1 Mark II has, I'd call it my second favourite after the Nikon Z's.

Handling on the G9 is excellent, ergonomically it's very close to the Z5, but it's got WAY more configurability than the somewhat limited Z5 and the rear switch above the LCD is dedicated to AF (which I will use) rather than a Video/Stills switch (which I won't use).  

The G9 becomes the first mirrorless body I've had with a settings LCD on top. It's not something I missed in my transition from DSLR to Mirrorless, we'll see if I find it useful on the G9. 

Initial testing is good. The AF is as fast as I've ever seen (the G9's weakness is fast AF-C, which I don't really do, even then it should be as good as the Z5 and better than the A7II, AF-S is insanely fast from initial playing). I've setup a basic config, but I will be tweaking it before I get my C1/2/3 fully setup for long-term use. 

One thing I really like is the included charger is a USB Charger. Hallelujah! It does seem VERY slow to charge, but the fact I can readily run it in the truck as well as charging the camera directly off USB makes for a big win. I picked up a second battery, an actual Panasonic one, so I should be good for battery life as the batteries are relatively large capacity. I've heard that the new and higher capacity S5 battery might work in the G9 as well, but would need a different charger. Might check that out if I have any issues with battery life, but I'm not expecting to. I've generally done fine on the E-M5II with 2 1st party BLN-1's, or 1 st party and 2 3rd party ones and the BLN-1 is much lower capacity than the BLF19 the G9 uses (1220mAh for the BLN-1 vs 1860mAh for the BLF19). The G9 has a thirstier EVF and LCD, but 50% more capacity and a proper power-saver mode should offset that.

With regards to the Sony stuff I picked up last month, the 70-300 will stay with the A7II for my partner, the 16-35/4 I'm undecided on, it could go to fund an m43 wide or tele, or I might just hold onto it for now. For the two m43 lenses I traded in towards the 70-300, well I'll miss both, but they weren't all that well suited to my working style. I may re-acquire them in the future if I manage to stick with m43 though, the 45 is dirt cheap and the 75 should continue to come down in price for a while.