What I Learned by Changing My Camera
What I Learned by Changing My Camera
Earlier this year I went through an interesting exercise; I changed my camera system. I went from using a Fuji XT3 as my main camera to using only a Panasonic G9. Doing so rekindled my enthusiasm but also brought back painful memories of my last system transition. But best of all, I believe it improved my photography. What I hope to do in this article is share some of my experiences and learnings.
The Experiment of Changing my Camera
In September 2020 I decided to purchase a new micro 43 camera to use alongside my main Fuji XT system. After evaluating some of the different camera specs, I opted for a new Panasonic G9 with Leica 12-60 lens. At the time I had all kinds of ideas of how I would adopt the new system and then after a couple of outings, I stopped using it. I can’t exactly explain why. It may have been a combination of factors including the UK lockdown, but I just stopped using it and then even forgot that I owned the camera.
Roll forward to May 2021 and I felt the need to lighten my camera load to travel light. I was finding that hauling a backpack full of Fuji gear around, whilst not heavy, felt cumbersome at times. I just wanted to head out with a small shoulder pack, a couple of lenses and a few small filters. That’s when I remembered the underutilised Panasonic G9.
After a first successful outing with the G9, I had the idea of using that rather than my Fuji system. That’s when I decided to challenge myself to use only the G9 for an entire month. As it happens, the experiment lasted almost 2 months and was quite enlightening.
Frustrating Memories of Changing Camera Systems
The first problem I encountered when using the G9 seriously wasn’t one that I expected. Rather than an operational problem using the camera, I found I struggled when processing the RAW files. I just couldn’t make them look the way that I wanted them to or that I thought they would have looked if shot with my Fuji XT3.
When I shot and first tried to process this image, I was more than a little disappointed by the colours. No matter what I tried, I couldn’t recreate the image colours that I thought I had seen. Yellows looked far too warm and saturated whilst blue turned to cyan and looked sickly. Eventually after a lot of experimentation using PhotoLab, Lightroom and Capture One, I can now produce images that I’m reasonably happy with. What I can’t say is that there was one thing that changed to fix the problem. It seems to have been a collection of small changes.
This experience whilst editing the G9 RAW files reminds me a lot of when I made the switch from Olympus to Fuji. Whilst I didn’t notice much change to the colours in my images, I did experience issues with sharpness. Eventually I learned how to produce images that I loved from the Fuji RAW files but that was after probably 12 months or more frustration.
But there is a positive from I can take from my frustration. In my search to improve the processing of Fuji RAW files, I found myself experimenting more with my software. Ultimately, it improved my photo editing and the same is happening again with the G9.
Other Areas of Struggle
As well as my problems processing the Panasonic G9 RAW files, there were a few other areas of struggle. Although I say struggle, these were much less noticeable and soon overcome.
The first problem was in remembering the controls. I would often find myself hunting through the menu system of the G9, looking for something that was a switch on the Fuji camera body. After a few frustrating outings, I spent some time reading the Panasonic menu. It didn’t make for a riveting or even enjoyable read but I did work out how to access the features I expected to use most. I then added these to the user menu so that I had easy access in low light conditions.
My next problem was also one of learning the camera, but I don’t mean the operational controls. Instead, I’m talking about areas like shadow and highlight recovery in the RAW file. Levels of depth of field I could achieve at different focal lengths and where to place the point of focus. How much distortion there was with the lens and how this might affect the image during RAW conversion. Learning a new camera properly takes time and experience during post processing.
Finally, there was the aspect ratio of the micro 43 system. In some ways I quickly adapted but in other ways, I found the 43-format difficult to work with despite having used it for years.
Switching my Camera Back to Fuji
After a couple of months of not using my Fuji XT3, I switched back to that camera. This was also an interesting process. Firstly, it felt like I had reconnected with an old friend. I hadn’t realised how much I had missed using the Fuji. Perhaps that’s because when I previously changed from the Fuji XT1 to the XT2 and then the XT3, the cameras felt and worked the same. This is such as great approach from Fuji and one that I hadn’t previously appreciated so much.
Something else that I found was that I was now appreciating the technical quality of the Fuji images more as well as how the RAW files responded to editing. The colours looked great as did the fine detail in my landscapes.
Interestingly, I did initially struggle with similar problems to when I switched to the Panasonic G9. Whilst it didn’t take me as long to overcome them, they were there.
What I Learned by Changing My Camera
If I had to sum up the entire experiment, I would say that it had been a success. Initially I didn’t know what to expect or if there would be any benefit. In all honesty, I think I expected the change to be simple, other than perhaps struggling to remember how to use perhaps a couple of features that I don’t have on the Fuji. I certainly didn’t expect to struggle to return to use the Fuji after such as short time with the Panasonic.
Despite all my problems, each challenge seemed to provide a benefit that improved my photography and in particular my photo editing. In that respect, it was extremely valuable and continues to be so. You see, since completing the experiment, I’ve continued to use the Panasonic G9. It hasn’t gone back to sitting on a shelf gathering dust and I enjoy using it. Most importantly though, I found the entire experience has given me additional enthusiasm for photography.
If you have access to a second camera system, I recommend trying a similar experiment yourself. You never know what unexpected benefits it might bring.
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