Testing the limits of the Panasonic LUMIX G9

Testing the limits of the Panasonic LUMIX G9

By: Chris Pepper

It had been a few months since I had used the G9, so there was a lot of anticipation for this trip and I want to share the results with you!

It was really nice to travel with just a messenger bag through three airports across Canada. In my bag I had the G9, GH5S, Leica 12mm F1.4, Lumix 12-35mm F2.8, Lumix 35-100mm F2.8, Leica 100-400mm, spare batteries, a Goby travel tripod, a few extra SD cards and my laptop. By the time I got in the cab in Yukon my shoulders said thank you for traveling so light. Nothing beats traveling with micro 4/3 gear compared to big bulky DSLR’s and huge lenses.

I like to push all my gear to the limits if possible: weather, different shutter speeds, different lenses and different styles of photography. I want to start off by first stating that this camera fit in my hand like every other Lumix micro 4/3 camera I have shot with. The dials were all in familiar locations and the menus, well they were the same as my other Lumix models, except for some new upgrades.

My regular set up for all Lumix cameras is: back button focus and generally AFC or MF settings with the mode dial set to burst continuous shooting. I found the AF to be super-fast as well as adjustable for each type of scenario I was shooting in. Another feature I enjoyed is the ability to adjust exposure compensation without having to go into the menu. Instead a quick push of a button on the top right of the camera and I was set. This helped for adjustments to preserve my whites especially when shooting in the snow and adjusting for shadows in my landscapes. I have been a view finder shooter for many years. I can honestly say now I only use it for wildlife and for all my landscapes I use the back LCD screen. I love the fact that what I see in my LCD is more or less an exact representation of the image I see in Adobe Bridge when I’m previewing my photos.

First test was the northern Lights, why not go big, right? My location was the Yukon Territory in September last month. I have photographed the lights many times so I tried some different settings to see what happens when I push the camera and what happens when I don’t push the histogram to the right, resulting in heavy editing to see how well the images handle being pulled apart in Photoshop.

Top of the world aurora

This first image was from the Top of the World highway. It was an extracted raw image from a time-lapse I was performing in camera. My settings were ISO 800, F1.4, 3.2 seconds long. Normally when I’m shooting the lights I like to push my ISO more but for a time-lapse I like to keep it a little lower to manage highlights when you get flare ups in the lights. So this was a perfect image to push a little when I was editing. If you are exposing properly there should be more shadow detail in the trees along the foreground. You can see they are really shadowed so I had to push up my whites in the image to make the sky a little brighter. I couldn’t be more impressed with the turn out of this image, as well as the time-lapse I created in camera.

For my time-lapse set up I used the above settings mentioned ISO 800, 12mm F1.4, 3.2 seconds with one second intervals, I also had long exposure noise reduction turned off. I have not added any music to the video and the footage is raw unedited from the MP4 file created in camera.

Next was an image where I pushed the histogram to the right, it was a fairly inactive aurora, so no dancing of the lights. My settings for this image were ISO 320, 12mm F1.4, 15 seconds exposure. I should also add that I manually adjusted my focus, as well set my white balance to a specific Kelvin and used 3450. I find this to be very close to a good representation of what the sky should be set to. So, on this image when I was editing I actually brought down the highlights a little as the whole scene was fairly lit and there was a little bit of a breeze causing the trees and vegetation to move slightly.

Gold in the water

Let’s move on to the next subject: birds and animals. For this I was using the G9 paired up with the Leica 100-400mm. Last time I had the G9 I used it with the Leica 200mm F2.8 so this time I wanted something with a zoom capability just in case I needed it. I still can’t get over I’m shooting 200-800mm equivalent and it is so light compared to a DSLR. You be the judge of whether the quality is there or not?

First subject is a cross fox up near the Arctic Circle, we noticed him jumping in a low bush along the roadside and we were able to hang out with him for a good 15-20 minutes. This image was with the 100-400mm, G9, ISO 800, 1/320th F5.6 at 280mm so almost 600mm equivalent.

Cross fox

I do like to include animals in their natural landscape but when I’m shooting with this lens I love the ability to just keep zooming in and getting that detail. Not to mention the stabilization in lens and in camera to allow a tack sharp image at a low shutter speed. The time of day was very close to first light but we were quite clouded over due to our elevation, and his colour blended in so well to the natural vegetation. I was surprised how well the AF picked him up with each shot I took. My settings were AF sensitivity -2 so it didn’t pick up the grass blades that kept coming between me and the subject. AF area switching sensitivity was set to 0 and Moving object prediction was set to 2. I had these setting already done in camera as I was predicting which conditions I would find in the area.

My next subject was a bald eagle in a tree, super easy for the camera to pick up focus and lock on. It was just a matter of keeping the camera to my face and waiting for the perfect opportunity to capture a shot. I took about 8 images in this sequence and they were all tack sharp but I really liked the wing movement in the launch so I picked this image to show you. For settings, I had the G9, 100-400mm @ 400mm (800mm equivalent) with no crop. ISO 400, 1/1250, F 6.3

Bald eagle leap Yukon

As I mentioned earlier I really like the fully articulating LCD screen on Lumix cameras. It allows me to flip it and still be able to see it in harsh or direct lighting conditions. Combine that with in body stabilization and it allows me to hand hold the camera at many different angles. When I shoot landscapes I always have the pop up histogram as well as zebra highlights to see what’s over exposed in my image prior to shooting. In most of my images I use manual focus plus I have on focus peaking so I can see exactly what part of my image is in focus.

I find one of my go to lenses for landscapes these days are the Lumix 35-100mm F2.8, it offers great stabilization and sharp image quality. Something about the compression of the image allows me to relate more than a wide angle lens. It also allows you to pick the area you want to be the foreground and not depend on what’s right in front of you at the time. For example, in front of this pond were some scraggly looking grass and the sky had no clouds. So using the 35-100mm allowed me to isolate the parts of the image I felt were most impactful.

This image was taken with the G9. Lumix 35-100mm @ 35mm, ISO 250, F6.3, 1/400th of a second handheld, Lens IS off

Morning light in Yukon

I put this camera through its paces over the past two weeks in the Yukon, from doing 2000 plus image time-lapses in the night in minus temperatures, then wildlife in the morning and back to landscapes at the flick of a switch. I really enjoyed having the dials set for my custom shooting features; it made flipping back and forth really easy for me. Taking the time to set these features in the beginning saved me so much time for sudden unexpected situations. As photographers, these are the moments we miss the most, let’s be honest. How many times have you grabbed a camera and just starting shooting something without really looking at the settings because you had limited time to get the shot? I sure know I have come across many situations, and having these quick setting available gave me a better opportunity to photograph my targets.

High resolution mode came in handy for some keeper shots I knew I would possibly want to do a massive print with one day. Having an 80MP image is a game changer in today’s world. So many camera manufactures played the mega pixel race for years and now full frame cameras are taking some massive files. Am I jealous?? Well yes but also no. Why would I want 1000, 40MP images from an outing to fill up my hard drives and use one, possibly two images? Then I would have to dumb them down to such a small file size to use on social media so I wouldn’t have to wait 4 hours on sketchy Wi-Fi to load up an image to FB. Now if I want the option of a bigger file size, I just go into the menu and turn the high res mode on. So the images I want large I can do so and then set the camera back to a regular shooting mode. I still have faith that the 20MP image could create a well detailed 24×36 canvas with more than enough info.

During part of my trip I was on a glacier flight. This is one of the highlights each year when I return to the Yukon. I found this year that I was shooting for patterns and lines, as well looking for isolated patches of colour. Once we flew down the glacier and one of the islands in a lake had some beautiful colours as well great contrasts along the edges in the water. This image was taken from 4000 feet with the G9, 35-100mm @ 45mm, ISO 500, F 7.1, 1/320th of a second.

Tropical island Kluane lake

The G9 did not disappoint on this trip. It actually out performed any Lumix camera I have used in the past. It performed well in low light situations where subjects blended into the environment and created some of the best dynamic range I have experienced in the Lumix line up to date.

I’m looking forward to adding this camera to my Lumix family as I can only see better images to come in the future.