Lumix GX9 - Dedication to Street Photography
“For me, photography is not a means by which to create beautiful art, but a unique way of encountering genuine reality.” - Daido Moriyama
My first mirrorless camera was a Panasonic Lumix GX7 which I bought more than three years ago, at that time I did not know anything about photography. When I was deciding which camera to buy, I only saw three facts: Mirrorless cameras from Panasonic and Olympus can share lens, there was a large number of lens to choose from, and, they were relatively cheaper compared to the ones from other systems. After I got the camera, I often walked around the city streets and keep pressing shutter button. Daido Moriyama said photography is a “way of encountering genuine reality”, to me it translates as people all have ideals and hope, but living in the society we have to face a lot of pressure and can hardly breath, street photography then becomes a way to release the pressure, through camera lens, you could see another reality, which can be more real or more fake, depends on how you look at it.
In the context of street photography, GX9 has re-added the tilty EVF, on the street, looking down has much less pressure compared to looking forward (usually at people’s face); It also adds minimum shutter speed setting, even when using aperture priority (for large DOF) you could set a minimum shutter speed to freeze motion, this way both DOF and speed are ensured. In terms of megapixels, color rendering and other improvements, those are not that important for the purpose of street photography.
I’ve used Fujifilm’s mirrorless camera, also Olympus which is the same MFT camera as Panasonic, admittedly, these two brands have quite a few features that are not present on Panasonic mirrorless, such like Fuji’s film simulation and retro dials, Olympus color rendering and high resolution composite, in term of photography, it feels like Fujifilm and Olympus both have some nostalgic feeling that the home appliance company could not offer, however, what is “nostalgic feeling” then? Retro dials, film simulation, or maze-like menu that forces you to slow down and think?
50mm equivalent focal length is called as standard lens, Cartier Bresson used it for most of his work, but many people nowadays think that 50mm can be too narrow on the streets. Actually the lens did’t become narrower, it’s the age that’s getting more and more narrow. The street now is vastly different from the streets half a century ago, there’s no spare space for 50mm to frame and composite.
Similarly, in an eletronic age, “nostalgic feeling” has only left a shell, with film heart replaced by digital sensors, and people now value control and performance. Olympus menu…er…Fuji’s operation speed…it’s been good on eletronic side since GX7, elegent menu and easy to use control. Here’s one example that I can’t emphasize enough: some people like swithcing off LCD display on the back of camera when shooting, and they also set EVF with eye sensor, so that it’s only activated when you look through the finder; On top of this setting, if you want to change anything, with a button click, Panasonic turns on the back LCD with what you intend to change, when you finish, it turns off LCD just like before. However, with Fuji or Olympus you have to either look at the small LCD in view finder, or turn on the back LCD and turn it off when you finish changing settings which can be very annoying.
Camera reviews usually cover AF speed, Panasonic’s AF has been good since GX7, that I can confidently rely on its multi-point auto-focus. It locks on objects that are nearer to the camera, unlike Olympus which would usually focus on background that are more contrasty. In fact, Panasonic’s AF is also contrast based, but they’ve made it similar to phase detection AF.
From the way Panasonic fix things, one could see the difference between a traditional optical/camera company and an electronic company. In order to fix shutter shock, many cameras have added a small delay between pressing shutter and taking photos, Panasonic found their own way by making a electro-magnetic shutter which is said to greatly reduce shutter shock, it also makes the shutter sound much quieter, especially compared to GX7 which sounds like a machine gun. This is very important for street photography, one of the selling points of the just-announced Leica M10-P is also the quietest shutter ever.
As far as I could feel, the build quality of Panasonic’s med-high end cameras are always good, however, while enjoying electronic-wise improved features, people complain about lack of “nostalgic feeling”; In fact, there isn’t a big leap in term of features from GX7 to GX9, instead, there are only improvements. The persistency of design is precisely like our dedication for street photograhy, isn’t this also a kind of “nostalgic feeling”?