How the LUMIX G9 camera helps me create better stories

How the LUMIX G9 camera helps me create better stories

By: Kevin Allen Pepper

As I sit here going through the functions of the new LUMIX G9 before my next Wildlife Bootcamp Workshop at the Yukon Wildlife Preserve, I am excited at the potential that this camera offers me.

I started to think back to when I first picked up a camera… I did not know the cameras capabilities, nor did I know how the pros that I studied were able to take the images they did. They had this knack of creating wonderful images I only wished I could emulate.

It wasn’t until much later that I started calling that knack of creating stunning wildlife images as, “the art of seeing”.

Developing your eye for photos is the biggest learning curve you’ll have as a photographer. It’s also the hardest… and not because you think you don’t have an artistic eye… it’s for another reason. I have a thought on that… and I will address that later in the article.

The technical aspect of learning a camera’s functions is the easy part. Mastering the exposure triangle and understanding how to manipulate these functions to achieve different results is just a matter of studying and repetition.  It’s a must do step that so many forget to focus on first… So my suggestion is, focus on that first.

As I go through the functions of this new LUMIX G9, I am amazed how easy it is to drill down into the menu, how the camera ergonomically is intuitive on where function buttons should be placed on a camera for easy access.

I think back to my first digital camera’s capabilities, and now as I look at this body, I am amazed how far we have come in a decade.

Let’s run down the main features of this camera…

20.3MP Digital Live MOS Sensor and Venus Engine

Optimized for high-speed high-resolution imaging, the G9 packs in both a 20.3MP Light MOS Micro Four Thirds sensor and an enhanced Venus Engine processor to create sharp, detailed stills and UHD 4K video. This configuration maximizes resolution while keeping noise to a minimum, permitting the use of sensitivities up to ISO 25600. It is also very fast, enabling continuous shooting rates of up to 60 fps with AF-S and 20 fps with AF-C when using the G9’s electronic shutter or 12 fps for AF-S and 9 fps for AF-C using the mechanical shutter.

UHD 4K Video Recording

Supplementing the camera’s stellar stills feature set is UHD 4K video recording at up to 60p. The G9 offers internal recording with an 8-bit color depth and 4:2:0 sampling using Long GOP compression to keep files sizes manageable. Users also have access to various frame rates, including 60p, 30p, and 24p in UHD 4K and 60p and 24p in Full HD. Slow motion video is available in the Creative Video Mode with support for 60 and 48 fps resolution in UHD 4K and up to 180 fps in Full HD.

In order to maximize image quality, the G9 features a full-size HDMI output for using an optional external recorder to receive 8-bit 4:2:2 footage at all resolutions up to UHD 4K at 30p. Also, both a 3.5mm headphone jack and 3.5mm microphone input are available for improving audio capture.

6K and 4K PHOTO

Utilizing the G9’s video recording capabilities, a trio of still shooting modes is available for recording continuous 8MP stills at a 60 or 30 fps shooting rate or 18MP stills at a 30 fps shooting rate.

Burst: This mode will allow you to continuously record while holding the shutter button down, making it ideal for instances where you need a fast frame rate in order to capture the best moment.

Pre-Burst: This mode is ideal for times when you’re unsure of the critical moment to press the shutter button and will record images one second prior to and one second after pressing the shutter button in order to give you 60 frames to choose from.

Burst (S/S): This mode most closely follows the video recording process by pressing the shutter button once to start recording and again to stop recording.  It also allows you to playback your video, pause at the chosen moment, and use the shutter button to mark a chosen frame from the video and save it as a single 8 or 18MP frame.

Dual I.S. 2

Helping to achieve the utmost sharpness when photographing handheld, Dual I.S. 2 combines the G9’s sensor-shift image stabilization technology with lens-based image stabilization to compensate for a broader range of movement types to render sharper, clearer imagery. Dual I.S. 2 requires the use of compatible Lumix lenses featuring O.I.S. This stabilization system is able to compensate for approximately six and a half stops of camera shake.

Body Design and Built-In Wi-Fi

A large OLED Live View Finder has an impressive 3.86m-dot resolution and up to 0.83x magnification for eye-level composition. This viewfinder also has a maximum refresh rate of 120 fps for clear, lag-free imagery.

A larger means for image composition and playback, the 3.0″ 1.04m-dot rear LCD monitor has a free angle, tilt and swivel design to support viewing from a variety of angles. It is also a touchscreen, which permits intuitive menu navigation and settings control.

A backlit top status LCD provides immediate access to current settings without needing to raise the camera to eye level.

Dual UHS-II SD card slots are present, which provides settings such as Relay Recording to automatically switch cards when one is full; Backup Recording, which records the same data to both cards simultaneously; and Allocation Recording, which lets you save certain files to each card for easier organization.

Constructed from magnesium alloy with a die-cast frame, the G9 features a durable design that also incorporates extensive sealing at each joint, dial, and button to render it both splash- and dust-proof as well as freezeproof to -10 C (14°F).

A joystick is available on the rear of the camera to make changing many settings easier and more intuitive, such as changing a focus point.

The sleek flat-body profile incorporates both front and rear dials for intuitive control over aperture and shutter speed settings. Multiple assignable function buttons are also available, including a function lever.

Built-in 5.0 GHz Wi-Fi connectivity with NFC and Bluetooth 4.2 Low Energy allows for wireless image sharing and remote camera control from linked smartphones and tablets. Bluetooth LE also enables a constant connection to your mobile device, allowing for functions such as geotagging and automatic image transfer.

225-Area Advanced Depth-From-Defocus AF System

For accelerated autofocus performance, and Advanced DFD (Depth-From-Defocus) technology is employed to quickly calculate the distance to subjects and adjust the focusing position in as little as 0.04 seconds, which enables continuous shooting up to 20 fps with continuous AF. This contrast-detection type focus method benefits both still and video recording modes, as well as subject tracking applications where subject color, size, and motion vectors are used to intelligently lock-onto the moving subjects and ensure precise focus. The sensitivity and speed can be adjusted to further improve performance with certain subjects. It also features 225 AF areas, which provide excellent control over where the camera will focus. Additionally, supporting working in low-light conditions, a Starlight AF feature enables accurate AF performance down to -4 EV.

Benefiting manual focus operation, focus peaking is available that highlights bright edges of contrast with a colored outline for quickly recognizing your focus point, as well as Touch MF Assist for touch-to-focus operation. Other AF features include an AF Point Scope setting that temporarily magnifies the subject by 3x to 10x for confirmation of the focus position and a custom selectable AF zone for Multi AF / Custom Multi AF.

80MP High Resolution Mode

By using sensor-shift stabilization technology the G9 can use a High Resolution Mode to capture and compile eight separate images to create a single 80MP raw file. This system creates a more highly detailed and color accurate image than a single shot alone can produce and can create an image with a 10368 x 7776 resolution.

Other Camera Features

A mechanical focal plane shutter enables a fast maximum shutter speed of 1/8000 sec, as well as a top flash sync speed of 1/250 sec. An electronic shutter function also avails a top shutter speed of 1/32,000 sec to better enable working in bright conditions and with wider aperture settings. This shutter is rated for approximately 200,000 actuations.

A Night Mode will automatically adjust brightness of the EVF and LCD for comfortable viewing in low-light conditions.

An optional external USB power pack can be used to supply power to the camera via its micro-USB ports

Depending on the lens in use, the included DMW-BLF19 battery provides approximately 400 shots per charge when using the rear monitor, or less with the electronic viewfinder. But put the camera in battery saver mode and you can expect up to 900 shots per charge.

The Art of “Seeing”:

When you realize all the power you have in your hands, you can start to learn from others: read tutorials, ask questions from people you perceive as better than you, watch YouTube videos, read user reviews of your specific camera… then just apply what you learned with the camera in your hand.

Learn how lighting conditions, foreground/background elements, shape, lines and color are all things you should note in your environments as you begin to learn to “See” your scene. These can also be learned by studying the greats… I personally would, and still look at, photos from Ansel Adams, David Muench, Eliot Porter and Henri Cartier-Bresson to find inspiration.

There are also many rules that you can read about.  Each of these rules will help you begin to “See” your images better… the rule of thirds, shoot to the right, sunny f16 rule, etc, etc… Understanding them is a good place so start… then the creativity comes when you start to consciously choose to embrace, or break, these rules while creating your own photography style.

And… that leads me to the part where I said, I would address that later.

So why is developing your eye the hardest? It’s my opinion that showing off your work when you are first learning is like giving permission to allow a total stranger to consider how your mind thinks… it makes us all a little insecure… and that insecurity is what initially holds us back… That is why it takes time for photographers to hit their stride and be confidant to show off all their images…

Be honest, how many of you have taken a photo and had that internal thought that it’s not that good of a photo… then someone you perceive to be a better photographer sees it, and gives you a compliment… Remember that instant confidence?

It doesn’t have to be in person you know… it can even be feedback you get on social media as well…

Flat out… We are our own worst critics… and that self-doubt holds you back.

Thinking back to when I first picked up a camera… wow, I was just a kid, and I was inspired by my father… I would take rolls of photos for photography class… I remember looking at the images and thinking, “that’s horrible, throw that one out, that’s crap, that’s blurry. Wait, that’s not blurry, that’s a photo that looks like a dog is running because of the blurry legs, but the head is in focus.”

I showed my teacher and he explained it was called “Motion Blur” and it’s a desirable image that many photographers try to achieve”

There it was – Instant confidence… I clicked the shutter and took an image someone thought was excellent…

Fast forward a couple years from my first photography class (OK OK, three decades, but who’s counting) and here I am a professional photographer that teaches others the art of photography on workshops around the world.

I have refined my style and I am constantly trying to refine it. I now strive to tell a story in my images. It is my opinion that there is a photo, and then there is a photo that tells a story. That’s what I try and do, I try and tell a story with an image. I think about the photos I want to take, what story I want to tell in this image, I want you to try and feel like you were there.

I try to do that by using my knowledge of the cameras functions, and I use the composition techniques that I have learned. Then I try to put them all together to create an image that I am proud of.

Remember this… “Learning the craft of photography is not a competition with ANYONE. It’s a self-journey of learning and finding the joy that comes from refining your own personal style. Not everyone is going to like your images.  All that matters is that you do, and you start trusting your abilities.”

So get out there, press the button and take the shot no matter the final product. A blurry or mis-composed image is always better than no image at all! Each and every image you take is a step in the right direction, it’s a step to more confidence, it’s a leap in helping you define your style, gaining that self confidence that makes you want to show your story to the world!

Happy Shooting Everyone…