85mm | ISO 200 | 1/2000 sec | F2.8
The South Lake Union Block Party is pretty standard as far as block parties go these days; loud music and expensive beer in a vacant lot in the heart of Seattle’s South Lake Union neighborhood. Over the course of putting the finishing touches on our full review of the Panasonic Lumix DC-GX9, I wanted to get some real-world autofocus experience to put our more formal testing into better context.
So, on a hot and hazy Seattle afternoon, I took the GX9 and Lumix G Vario 35-100mm F2.8 lens down to see the band Acid Tongue, and exclusively used Touchpad AF and Tracking the entire time. Here’s what I found.
All images in this article were shot with the GX9 and Lumix 35-100mm F2.8 and are processed in Adobe Camera Raw.
47mm | F2.8 | ISO 200 | 1/4000 sec | F2.8
Touchpad AF on the GX9 allows you to drag your finger around the screen to move your AF point while the camera’s viewfinder is up to your eye. This is great for quickly moving around a single area, but I also found it’s a great way to take advantage of the sticky AF tracking that the GX9 is capable of.
Firing off single shots, I was really impressed at how consistently in-focus my images were
If you’re using tracking while composing via the rear LCD, you simply tap on what you want to track; to disengage tracking, you have to hit the ‘Menu / Set’ button, or you can tap elsewhere on the screen to track another subject instead.
When you use tracking with the electronic viewfinder, you can use Touchpad AF to move the area over the subject you want to track, and half-press to initiate autofocus. You can then re-compose at will, with an AF box tenaciously tracking your chosen subject. Firing off single shots, I was really impressed at how consistently in-focus my images were.
100mm | ISO 200 | 1/4000 sec | F2.8
Since you can’t simply tap the screen to change subjects when using the electronic viewfinder, I found another way of working: dragging on the rear screen automatically disengages tracking, and once you place the area over a new subject and release your thumb, it begins tracking that new subject. Pretty neat.
While you may be able to get similar results by just moving a single area around with the Touchpad and ignoring tracking altogether, I tend to like using tracking in these scenarios to allow me more compositional freedom – and if the subject moves erratically to another point in the frame, the camera will help me keep up and get more images that I wouldn’t have been able to get otherwise.
It’s not perfect
51mm | ISO 200 | 1/1300 sec | F2.8
As always with autofocus tracking, there are times when it doesn’t quite work. When subjects move from bright light to shadow, the tracking algorithm can sometimes get tripped up and shoot off to the background, or simply fail to focus on anything at all. Additionally, there is some shot-to-shot lag in the GX9 that can make it difficult to follow your subjects.
The GX9’s keeper rate is significantly higher if you shoot single images as opposed to bursts
So why not simply shoot bursts then? Well, we’ve found in our testing that the GX9’s keeper rate is significantly higher if you shoot single images compared to bursts (stay tuned for the autofocus page in our full review for the details). So I made a call to take the shot-to-shot lag and impressive focus accuracy over shooting bursts with a lower hit rate.
|100mm | ISO 200 | 1/1600 sec | F2.8|
The GX9 was a really good companion for this type of event. Paired with the Lumix 35-100mm F2.8, I had a compact, responsive package that wasn’t all that conspicuous, but I had plenty of reach and ended up with far better image quality than, say, a 1″-type superzoom. Of course, this combo can’t quite match up to a full-frame DSLR and a 70-200mm F2.8 lens, but that’s not really the point here.
Sure, the GX9 wouldn’t be my first choice for critical, action-oriented work (and Panasonic makes higher-end models for that sort of purpose anyway). But for the casual user who wants a small, stylish camera and wants to occasionally photograph a concert or sporting event for fun, the GX9 is easily up to the task.