I just bought a new Panasonic Lumix G9 Pro + Leica 12mm f/1.4 Lens as my new street photography/video setup. I think it is probably the best still camera/video camera in the photography market (as of 2018):
It seems a bit random why I got a Panasonic Lumix G9 Pro. Why?
- I wanted a still/video camera: I shot a lot with Cindy’s old Lumix LX100 and actually ended up really liking it. Panasonic/Lumix is probably the most underrated camera: the videos look fantastic, the lenses are fantastic (they have a collaboration with Leica), the menus are simple and intuitive, the economics of the cameras are great (feel great in the hand), and their “intelligent Auto/iA mode is surprisingly good”.
- I like Micro 4/3rds — I think that it is probably the best sensor for street photography. Why? You get more depth-of-field (everything is in focus), because when you’re shooting at f/8 with micro 43rds, it is like shooting f/16. Not only that but the autofocus is INSANELY FAST and accurate.
- I wanted to try something new: My Ricoh GR II died, and I wanted to use a camera with ‘meaningful differentiation‘ — which means I wanted to experiment/try out a new camera system that was different from the competition. I looked at like a million cameras at all the BIC cameras in Japan, and all the cameras were the same. I wasn’t really that impressed with the new SONY A7-cameras (the cameras lack soul, and the menus are confusing as hell). To be honest, RICOH GR II, Fujilfilm cameras, Olympus, Sony cameras are all fantastic for street photography– but I wanted to try something new for the sake of it. The Lumix G9 seems to have all these new gimmicky features (6k burst photo mode, post-focus), but at least it is new, and innovative, and fun to experiment with! With the Panasonic, I am having fun re-learning all the menus, bells and whistles of the camera, and functions/features.
Lumix/Leica 12mm f/1.4 Lens
I got the Lumix/Leica 12mm f/1.4 Lens (roughly a 24mm full-frame equivalent). Why?
I’ve been shooting a lot of 24mm in street photography with the Lumix LX100, and I quite like the challenge of the super-wide perspective. I want to keep shooting with this focal length.
The Lumix G9 is a pretty big/beefy camera– I would call it has a “medium” weight//it feels great in the hands, but is still a bit heavy. I tried the smaller 12mm Lumix f/2.8 lens, but the tiny pancake lens wasn’t balanced with the G9 Pro. The new Lumix/Leica 12mm f/1.4 Lens (is quite big), but balances the G9 quite well.
Random tip: If you want to shoot your own GOPRO POV videos, just get a GoPro -> Hotshoe Mount adapter (just find it on Amazon), and you can do it too! Here is a closeup of the mount:
Anyways, the G9 pro and the 12mm f/1.4 is a good balance.
Shooting without thinking
My idea in street photography is that capturing the ‘decisive moment’ is the most important thing. Being able to shoot without thinking is the key.
I believe in the ‘set it and forget it‘ philosophy in photography/street photography/life. Which means; use the simplest settings in street photography, to be able to just “point and click”.
The settings I’ve been using with the Lumix G9 pro is simple: I just keep it in “Intelligent Automatic” (iA) mode, which automatically chooses the focusing, aperture, shutter speed, ISO (everything). I just have to focus on framing, composition, and getting close.
Micro 43rds (and any new digital camera) has fantastic image quality. Looking at the JPEG files of the Lumix G9 Pro (shot in medium JPEG mode) and processed with ERIC KIM PRESETS (ERIC KIM CHROMA) look PHENOMENAL!!!!
Seriously these photos look amazing:
No buffering / no delay / silent shutter
There is like zero delay, zero shutter lag, and you can turn the camera to ‘silent shutter mode’ which almost makes street photography too easy (in a good way).
I think there is this strange bias in photography that in order for a photograph to have any merit, it must be “really hard” to shoot. I think this is false– I believe that the purpose of the camera is to become invisible. The less the photographer has to think with his tools/equipment, the more he/she can focus on creating visual art. The tool in street photography needs to become invisible.
You won’t really be “stealth” shooting with this camera; but you will be able to shoot so quickly that your subject won’t notice you (before) you shoot the photo
When shooting with the G9 pro and 12mm, of course it looks like a massive DSLR. People react negatively to it — they get scared by the setup. But the good thing is that because the G9 pro is SO FAST, so quick, and so responsive — I am able to shoot a photograph REALLY QUICKLY, before my subjects can even notice me/react to me. Therefore I am like a gunslinger in a western: I can ‘draw my gun’ and shoot very fast, before the subject can even ‘dodge’ or react negatively to me.
The best way to be more ‘stealth’ when shooting with this camera (or any big camera setup in street photography) is to use the “video camera technique”. The basic idea is to pretend you’re shooting a video, and people will mostly ignore you. That means no ‘sudden movements’ when you’re shooting.
Super-close focusing / macro!
The closeup focusing of the Lumix G9 (and pretty much any micro 43rds camera) is epic. You can get SO CLOSE to your subjects (around .2 meters with the 12mm f/1.4 Leica lens), which gives me more creative options. I can make photos like this (getting this close):
The other day I went to the Gay Pride event/parade in Tokyo, and had SO MUCH FUN photographing all the beautiful folks there:
Shooting with an uber-wide lens (24mm) while getting close to your subjects allow you to make more interesting dynamic compositions like this person in chrome.
Honestly there is nothing wrong or bad with this camera. Like the Fujifilm XT-2; it is practically perfect.
At this point all cameras are great. It doesn’t matter which camera you shoot with, as long as it fits your hand well, as long as you like it, as long as the ergonomics fit you.
Generally speaking for street photography the best ‘bang for the buck’ camera is the RICOH GR II. But I think this new Lumix G9 Pro is the best still/video camera on the market now.
I’m gonna keep shooting more with it, and give you more of my thoughts with it.
JUST SHOOT IT.
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