A trip to Brighton with the Lumix G9
I was off to Brighton on Thursday with a relatively small camera bag. I expected to be bringing an awkward parcel back, so I didn’t want the weight of full Nikon gear. My aim was to have a mooch around, with some time to think and process all the heavy stuff in life at the moment, and to take some images of the sea and of this crazy town that was once my student playground.
The specific reason for going on this date was to photograph readers at a Pighog Poetry gathering at The Pipeline. This was going to be my first gig using MFT gear only – I have written before about the value of these lightweight cameras for hill-walkers and mountaineers and for unobtrusive photos at a test match – now I wanted to try my G9 in a venue that I knew to have awkward lighting.
In my bag
I took a Lumix G9 with four lenses: the Panasonic Lumix G 20mm f/1.7 ASPH II (shown on the body here), the Panasonic Lumix G 42.5 mm f/1.7 ASPH, the Samyang 7.5mm f3.5 Fisheye and the Panasonic Lumix G Vario 45-200mm f/4-5.6 Power OIS II. The last of these is probably the weakest link, in terms of aperture, when facing potentially poor lighting. Despite the low light at Pipeline, I was hopeful of sitting near enough the front of this small venue that I could get by with the shorter focal lengths. In the event, a smaller aperture was actually an advantage, in an odd way…
Pighog Poetry @ The Pipeline
This month’s Pighog was very well attended (for a small venue!) and was possibly the best I have ever been to. Poetry can be dull it is true, but people who think it has to be dull need to experience evenings like this. I felt transfixed by the power of words to bring shafts of illumination into corners of life that you hadn’t seen, noticed or experienced before. Motherhood, loss of mothers (the proximity of Mothers’ Day made those poignant), the portrayal of the working classes in film and TV, paedophile priests, homelessness, depression – all of them suddenly lit up in completely unexpected ways. Sometimes I get away early from Pighog for the long drive home, having taken my pictures for Michaela – but not on the 16th March 2023. A superb night!
If you were one of the open mic readers whose name is missing here, please get in touch – I would love to fill in the blanks!
The key lesson of the evening
Up to now I have always shot gigs with my Nikon DSLRs. They have focal plane, mechanical shutters, which can cause their own forms of distortion, but which are generally great at venues like Pipeline. I have shot poetry nights there before.
Overall, I was really pleased and impressed by the way the G9 handled the lighting. I could work at low ISO with the two fast lenses and the fisheye, but moving the ISO up to 1250 for the long zoom still gave good results.
Electronic shutters are ideal for spoken word gigs like this because they are completely silent. But they have one drawback which is visible in most of these pics and which I hadn’t taken into account…
I didn’t even fully realise I was getting this issue at Pighog, at least initially, until I switched to the 20mm lens and forgot to drop the ISO. The result was using an extremely fast shutter speed – far faster than I needed to. As a result, the banding that was being caused by the LED lighting became far more visible. Slow speeds weren’t so much of a problem, although you can see it in many of my photos above. But these two images of Rachel Spence show the difference between electronic and mechanical shutters at fast speeds. Using a mechanical shutter deals with this completely, but then it makes an audible click. That wouldn’t be an issue at the rock gigs the Pipeline is known for, but I didn’t want clicking during a gig with such rapt attention all around me. In future I will let the shutter run slower at this venue…
As well as the poetry gig itself, I had time for a good mooch around. I took a bunch of day and nighttime shots – from the pier and on my walks to and from car and venue. The afternoon was drably cloudy, and the photography got more interesting as the light faded and the lights kicked in. I was keen to see how the MFT body worked in low light.
A really good evening out – Michaela seems happy with the pics – and next time I will be confident to take the Lumix again, but rather wiser about LEDs causing banding with electronic shutters! The way the G9 handles low light is really impressive – this is a superb camera which can hold its own so far as this (semi-) pro is concerned.
All Brighton images taken with Lumix G9; the “what was in my bag” image taken with Nikon D5 and Sigma 105mm f2.8 macro
All images © copyright Andrew King Photography