DANO Pendygrasse

odds and ends from an unusual life

Switch: Canon G9 to Panasonic GF1

From Canon G9 to Panasonic GF1

warning: this blog contains photo geekery, pictures of flowers and real opinions.

I loved my Canon g9. I shot the hell out of that camera. In fact, I bought a spare, that’s how much I loved it. I walked around with it all the time, bought an underwater housing for it and found myself falling in love with photography again, largely as a result of having a very versatile and capable camera with me at all times.

After a couple years of non-stop use though, I started to see some of its limitations and when I started to see the reviews of the micro four thirds cameras, with their relatively large sensor and ability to use high quality lenses, I felt the very real pangs of camera envy growing.

I read review after review, dug out my old Contax G2 with its 45mm f2 and 90mm f2.8, read reviews of all the adapters, looked at shots and video clips and opinions on message boards…I obsessed. Then after I got home from Sweden this year, I pulled the trigger. I ordered the GF1 with the 20mm f1.7 and the 7-14 f4 from
“The Camera Store” in Calgary. I like supporting a small non-chain camera shop, and the fact that they support my friend Mark Gallup clinched it for me. The price was as good as I could find in Canada and from the time I hit the “buy” button until the time it was in my hands was about 4 days. My review of “The Camera Shop” is 10 out of 10.

So you get a new camera…what next? Charge the battery, read just enough of the manual to take a picture, and shoot the first thing you come across. I walked out on the deck, cranked the 20mm wide open and shot the garden. Then I shot the dog. Then I took some video. I’m sure you know this story. I worked my way through the ISO settings, shot inside and out, checked the close focus distance and started to download the shots to take a peek.

The 20mm, wide open at 1.7, 1/1600th ISO 100. Looks pretty good eh?

100% crop of the above image with no sharpening, noise reduction or whatever. Hmmm. Nice.

This is what my patio looks like with the 7-14 on 7mm, f4, 1/2000. Note the interesting distortion and fabulous teak patio furniture.

My computer didn’t recognize the rw2 files. I use CS3 and bridge. I like it, don’t try to convert me. I’m happy. I used to be able to download, rename, convert to .dng and add metadata all in one step, but obviously I was going to have to change my workflow. After some tinkering I figured out how to convert to .dng, and realized that for my needs, mpeg was going to be way easier to deal with than avhdc codec for video format. So now my downloading takes a little longer. The “Silkypix” included software has a smattering of followers and supporters so I downloaded it, but the UI turned me off. I might get there eventually, but I’m too impatient to learn a new system right now.

Eventually I ended up with the .dng files that my computer knew what to do with and I was ready to get started. And the files were good. First the 20mm lens. It’s sharp as shit. Wide open sharp, stopped down sharp, really good. It’s also fast, and that, combined with improved performance at higher ISO compared to the G9, makes this setup a killer in dim light. Which is good, because I’m not that enamoured with the GF1 onboard flash.

The 7-14 is not as fast, but it’s a really nice lens. It’s expensive though, and I probably should have thought about some longer lens options before I got something so specialized. I did however, have to shoot some house photos for a Real Estate listing the day after I got it, and found it to be pretty much the perfect lens for the job. No barrel distortion makes for a nice open room without the freakshow angles. I haven’t really done a ton of walking around with it yet, but I liked it for landscape and environment shots when I was

Shows the whole room without the crazy distortion of a fisheye.

I didn’t use this one for the listing, but I like the symmetry.

So one of the things I was most excited about with this camera was the ability to use some of the lenses from my old Contax G2. I read extensively about the pros and cons of all the adapters, and it sounds like some of them were evolving as I was reading, but I eventually settled on the Metabones because of its large focusing ring. (Bought on ebay, shipped from hong kong, took about ten days -ish)

After it finally arrived, I was back out on the patio, shooting the garden, checking out the specifics of the lenses and trying to get used to manual focus with and lcd and 90mm that is equivalent to 180mm on 35! Here is what I have to say about all that. Handheld is really hard with the 90mm. The GF1 helps you to manual focus by zooming in on the screen, and it’s really effective, except that when you are using such a long lens any minute movement from your hand translates to a drastic shake on the screen. Is it impossible? No, of course not, and I have used the 90mm quite a bit, but it is difficult. So I mentioned it. You could easily solve this problem with a tripod, but then you’re carrying a tripod. The 45mm was quite a bit easier to focus because of its shorter pull and it is a pretty amazing piece of glass. I leave the adapter on it most of the time.

Back out to the garden with the 45mm. OOOOooooooo!

100% crop. No processing.

The process of shooting slows down with the manual focus prime lenses, and for some this defeats the purpose of a small, high quality camera. I admit, when I’m out walking the dog with my wife and she’s just trucking away, I often have mere seconds to compose, focus and shoot before being left behind. In that situation the Zeiss lenses aren’t my go to choice.

No chance I’d be pulling out my DSLR in this situation. 20mm, 1.7, 1/25th with +2/3 stop exposure comp

I found the autofocus to be extremely fast and accurate, catching moments like this where the g9 would have lagged.

So here is the crux of the issue; when does your small camera become too big? That’s obviously different for everyone, but for the GF1 to be truly portable for ME, the 20mm is the lens I’m working with. When you start using the other lenses it becomes a whole different class of camera. And that’s not bad, because the quality is in a whole different class. But I miss the versatility of the G9’s zoom relative to its body size.

I went by the Monster office the other day and there was one of the MTB athletes in there. They needed a quick portrait for the website and I had my GF1 and 20mm. In 5 minutes, with ambient light, I had a shot I was happy with. To me, that tells the whole story. Could I have got it with the G9? Well sure, I mean, they’re all just cameras, but the quality of the image with the GF1 is better and I feel way more confidant pulling it out to get the job done.

This isn’t the shot, but you get the idea.

There have been lots of times when I have wished that I still had the G9 in my pocket, but so far I still reach for the GF1 when I’m walking out the door. I have lots of opinions and impressions, if I haven’t covered something that interests you, leave a comment.


GF1 Pros:

Image quality
Lens quality and variety.
Speed of operation

G9 Pros:

Camera size

Everyone loves sunsets

Long exposure with the GF1 balanced on a mossy rock and 2 sec. self timer. 1 sec, f22.

The 7-14 excels at this sort of thing.

Nice light in the woods.

Black and white? I hear the black and white mode that’s built in is nice. Haven’t tried it yet.