I left you with the last article with selling my Canon 5D MKII to help finance my New York move and my last shoot in San Francisco being with my beloved Canon 50D with Carl Zeiss 50mm lens.

After about 4 days of travelling across the country to get to New York, living in my car for a few days while I find an apartment and a few days in my new place, I would use my Canon 50D for New York Fashion Week! I quite frankly completely forgot about it though I had dreamt about attending for years. I just photographed the attendees coming and going. But it was fun. You could feel that New York energy.

The Panasonic GX8

I used my Canon 50D for about a year in New York. I did quite a bit of street photography and one photo shoot. The model for that was quite the nightmare after the shoot. She was the first encounter of those types of New Yorkers who are real scumbags. They come in all shapes and colors. Though those types are more rare than you’ve probably been led to believe. The people of New York City have been quite lovely to me.

With all the street photography I was doing, I felt the Canon 50D was a bit heavy to carry for hours on end. It wasn’t normally an issue with event photography as even if those jobs were 3 – 4 hours long, I would sit down here and there. Call me stupid. I would just keep walking and walking during a photo-walk until I got hungry.

So I went to the amazing B&H Photo and started looking at cameras. I wanted something small and light. What reminded me to check Panasonic was my Lumix point-and-shoot that I talked about in my 1st Camera Evolution blog article. I looked at the Lumix GX8 and really liked the style. 20MP, micro-four-thirds-sized sensor with the type of lenses I really liked. A $1000 with a 12-60mm f/3.5-5.6 kit lens. I decided to give it a try. B&H has a good return policy.

Image: Ricardo Gomez Photography

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It was a revelation.

I was a bit overwhelmed by the amount of functionality of the camera. Mind you, the newest ‘professional’ camera was from 2009. 11 years ago. So the amount of settings and functionality I had with the GX8 was far beyond I realized. Though I set the camera to largely aperture priority and concentrated on the basics. You then build up on that.

The image detail and color was amazing! This is a kit lens on there? The lens doesn’t feel all that great. It feels very plastic and light. Cheap feeling. But in the 4 years I’ve had it and the work I’ve put through it: zero problems. I’ve gotten some great photography out of it! A few weeks later, I would be taking it on a trip to my first European trip to Paris!

Images: Ricardo Gomez Photography

Images: Ricardo Gomez Photography

The images I was getting from the camera and lens was just blowing me away. Especially the colors and detail. It was hard for me this was a fairly inexpensive camera and kit-lens. I mean, there is no way I could’ve gotten the quality with the 50D and not without a huge weight penalty with much bigger lenses. It slipped in my Billingham and disappeared with my day-kit. I really couldn’t be any happier with the performance.

The Leica 85mm f/1.2 Nocticron Lens

I don’t remember how I came to the conclusion, but a few months after I bought my GX8 and Paris trip, I bought the best lens I ever owned: The Leica 85mm f/1.2 Nocticron. I had read and viewed quite a bit of reviews about it and purely on performance and quality, the lens was amazing. The only two things that people had against it was that it was big, for a m43 camera, and expensive.

Image: Ricardo Gomez Photography

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Well, the best usually is. Expensive that is.

It actually took a while for me to learn how to use it effectively. While the depth of field on it isn’t as shallow as my Zeiss 50mm (which I sold to finance the purchase of the GX8), you need to be more precise to get perfect focus. I also had to learn how to better use autofocus especially since I never used it on my Canons.

But with lenses, especially certain brands like Zeiss and Leica, it’s about their signature ‘look’ and the Nocticron didn’t disappoint! While it didn’t quite have the Zeiss look I loved, it was a different kind of love. Different but equally amazing. Especially when shooting at f/1.2. That’s where the Nocticron really shines.

My First New York Shoot with My New System

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I heard from people here and there that my fashion portfolio was ‘too California’ and it needed updating. Agreed. Too many smiley faces. Yes, New York fashion is a bit more serious looking and models have a certain look as well.

I was thinking about getting a more ‘pro-level’ camera for the shoots. But I was incredibly happy with the performance I was getting with my GX8 and Nocticron. When I compared it with my Canon 5D MKII images, it was right there if not better with that setup. And I was incredibly happy with the quality of the images with the Canon. The only thing is the GX8 doesn’t have dual-slot memory cards, which I consider a defining feature of a modern, professional level camera, and lighting systems didn’t support Panasonic cameras very well at the time. That would soon change.

My first shoot was with Olga. She really embodied what I imaged New York models to be. 5’11. Size 4 (I think). That Russian look. Those eyes. XXXX was a bit different.

Images: Ricardo Gomez Photography

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Long story short: the shoot was fantastic! The models were fantastic. I really didn’t have to tell them much to get the shots they wanted. The fact that they were some of the best models I’d ever worked with and found them via a regular casting call, really speaks volumes about the depth of talent in New York. I had also worked with a makeup artist, Carissa, who did quite the fantastic job as well.

Even now, 3 years later, I can’t convey the level of satisfaction I had with that first shoot with my new camera system. I would go onto several more shoots updating my fashion portfolio with more and more great talent. The support for lighting systems that supported the Panasonic was starting to improve. Before I would move onto the next and current level of camera technology, even Profoto would be supporting Panasonic systems.

Images: Ricardo Gomez Photography

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My Panasonic GX8 and Canon 50D had a baby! My Panasonic Lumix G9

I knew I was going to get a more professional-level camera. While the GX8 was pretty fantastic, there were several functions I wanted and needed:

     • Dual Memory Card Slots. Some people harp about professional digital cameras only having one card slot not too many years ago. My Canon 5D MKII which was a serious, professional camera only had 1 memory slot. But these days, there’s no excuse not to have it. It’s cheap insurance not for card failure. But for transport and handling mistakes and accidents involving people.

     • Battery Grip and Ergonomics. My hand would cramp up after an hour or two just because the camera body was so small. Plus, there was no battery grip which I mostly needed to hold the camera in a much more comfortable way in a portrait orientation.

     • Versatility. The GX8 was really built for street photography. When you combine the ergonomics, performance and features, it just doesn’t add up to something you can use on a professional level for anything other than street photography.

I had been looking at the Panasonic GH5 but when the G9 was released a few months later, I knew I had my next camera. Again, went on down to B&H Photo and held the camera in my hands. The GH5 just didn’t feel like a photographer’s camera. The G9 did.

Me and the Panasonic Lumix G9 at B&H 2 Years Before I Would Own One

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The thing with cameras, in my opinion, is that you know one is for you when you just hold it in your hands. It’s weird, but that’s how it works for me. When I held my Lumix DMC-LX3, Canon 50D, Lumix GX8 and now, the G9. The only camera I didn’t feel that way was my Canon 5D MKII. The image quality was definitely a jump from my Canon 50D. However, the camera felt awkward to use. I never enjoyed using it.

Me At Home with My New G9!

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The first time I used the camera was on a photo walk on a hot summer day in 2019. Almost exactly 3 years after I purchased my GX8. I noticed an instant difference. The color science was different. Not a huge difference but noticeable. And I liked it. Images seemed a nudge sharper. No anti-aliasing filter.

But really, my G9 feels like the perfect camera for me. It’s about the same size as my Canon 50D but has the same and slighter better tech of the GX8 with all the professional features I wanted.

And the price…. Got it on sale for $1300. In terms of image quality, it’s better but not superior to the Canon 5D MKII. The only place the Canon beats the Panasonic by a nice margin is in low light performance. Which makes sense because of the sensor size of the Canon. But in performance and features, the Panasonic is superior to the Canon. Best of all: cheaper! Almost half the cost.

Images: Ricardo Gomez

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I haven’t done many shoots with the G9 but of course, it worked perfectly every time. I bought a second one for event photography. For fashion shoots, beauty shoots, event photography, portrait photography, street photography, it’s worked perfectly.

Images: Ricardo Gomez Photography

Is it perfect? Well, no. Of course not. But it’s being nit-picking. I would love technical specifications bumped up a nudge especially in the color bit-depth and low-light performance. Maybe some extra dynamic range. Really, I don’t see the need to upgrade for quite a while to get work done.

But that’s strictly on a ‘need’ basis! And the basis for next month’s article. What I am planning for the future!

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Ricardo Gomez Photography

Originally from San Francisco, Ricardo is now a New York-based photographer specializing in editorial and commercial photography.
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