When I first found out I’d be traveling to Austin, TX to assist Giulio Sciorio with the Hybrid Advertising Campaign for precision rifle maker Tracking Point, I was excited. When I found out I would be handed the brand new unreleased Panasonic Lumix G6 to use for all the behind the scenes content, I was overjoyed. The brand new camera model, which is designed for the advanced enthusiast to professional had just been announced about a week or so prior to my leaving. This was definitely going to be an interesting photographic trip, which would give me plenty of material to bring back here and share with everyone on how this camera performs and where I think it stands as a professional tool.
The camera spoke to me in the way I like to create and it really felt like an extension of my photographic mind for this job.
Panasonic has really done a great job updating their G series of cameras. Compared to using my G5 (which is my main shooter) jumping over to using the Lumix G6 for the job was not much of a learning curve, but it was a little intimidating. With it’s 7 function buttons, new bulldog broad shoulder form factor, manual video controls, built in Wi-Fi and even in camera retouching, the G6 is really a whole new animal. At first I found myself picking it up to use here and there while at the same time using my G5 and GH2, but as we started the 2nd day of shooting I never put the G6 down. The camera literally spoke to me in the way I like to create and it really felt like an extension of my photographic mind for this job.
All In For The Win
There is so many different features that have been added or re-designed with this camera, that I’m not sure I can list everything here. What Panasonic has accomplished appears to be a new direction from their previous offerings. In the past they have used an approach that limits features in the different cameras as they change price points and model lines. This has worked very well for them, but when a professional decides to pick up one of the other cameras that is not a GH2 or GH3, it can be a little frustrating to adapt to with some of the limited options. For example, not having manual video controls on anything lower than a GH series camera or not being able to customize some of the specialized looks.
Fortunately Panasonic has made the decision to throw everything in and more. We now have manual video controls, a new refined body design, a dedicated panorama mode (which works VERY well!), a 1/8th audio input jack, built in Wi-Fi with NFC Connectivity, Still Frame (claymation) movie mode, multi-exposure, improved performance, and FOCUS PEAKING! The Panasonic Lumix G6 has had so many features added, that it now equals if not surpasses what the GH3 can do as a still camera. I’ve been told that some of these new features may be exclusive to the G6.
Getting The Job Done
As I’ve stated before, I am very confident in my abilities as a photographer. I can pick up any camera and capture what needs to be captured to get the job done. The new Panasonic Lumix G6 was no exception to this, though it was a little intimidating with the new features. If anything, it improved the camera to photographer relationship, and that is a pretty big deal for any new piece of equipment. When I wanted to create a certain look, the G6 did not disappoint. It was simple, easy, and very effective. I could turn the mode dial over to the Artistic Filters or Panorama Mode, which let me use different filters to create different looks as well for each panorama. When I needed to have more control over my video settings, manual video mode was right there for the taking.
Of course knowing that I would be writing about my experience with the G6 left me trying to find a practical use for every new feature. That was actually a more difficult task than I thought it would be, but one thing that really stood out in comparison to my experience with my own G5 is that Panasonic has updated the processing power and buffer size of the new camera. It kept paced with almost everything I could throw at it, including shooting RAW+JPEG and multiple frames and video clips one after another. This is something that my G5 will bog down on, and it is probably the single most negative issue I have with using my camera for my professional work. When I take several photos in a portrait session then want to check the look or show the client, the camera tells me I must wait for it to write. Thankfully with the new improvements to the G6, the camera only made me wait for it less than a handful of times during the entire campaign.
Seeing The Whole Wide Picture
I have always had a love / hate relationship with panorama style photographs. On one hand, they are really neat and fun to look at. The fact that you can create this large landscape that can be zoomed into and scanned across is really quiet fascinating. On the other hand, trying to combine multiple photographs using photoshop with large file sizes slows down all but the fastest computers. It makes the idea of the panorama photograph nice, but the practical use of it not enjoyable to accomplish. This is where Panasonic has solved this dilemma with the new Panorama mode, which has a dedicated space on the mode dial of the G6.
Finally, built right into the camera is the ability to make stunning panorama photographs. The way they have implemented this feature makes it extremely easy to use. In my time with the G6, I was able to make a whole gallery of panoramas that ranged from color, black and white, horizontal, vertical, and even a couple of near 360 degree views. I never needed a tripod, I never needed to use a computer, and the camera spliced it all together right then and there. Unfortunately, it’s had the side effect of making it so I’m continuously looking for that panorama mode on my current cameras and sorely missing it.
Creating A Complete Video Package
One of the issues that many photographers have had with the Panasonic cameras is the lack of manual video controls in the models that are lower than the GH series. With the new Panasonic Lumix G6 this has finally been remedied. On the larger mode dial there is now a dedicated movie mode which offers manual video controls. Previously you could only shoot video alongside any still photo mode, but it would retain full automatic exposure control once the record button was pressed. This worked fairly well for most situations, but it was not the camera for an advanced videographer or film maker. The new manual movie mode is a welcome addition to the G series, but it is still differentiated from the GH series by not incorporating the more advanced recording options like high-bitrate modes, i-frame codecs, and fast and slow motion built in. They may not have given every feature of the advanced cameras, but Panasonic didn’t just stop at manual controls.
In a first for any Micro Four Thirds camera, the new Lumix G6 has been given Focus Peaking. This is pretty astonishing considering most cameras out there right now do not have this. Panasonic’s implementation of this feature works very well, it stays out of the way until it’s needed, it’s not gimmicky or distracting like some other brands, and it actually works. In my time with the G6 I mounted several of the older legacy lenses that I have in my kit and I can tell you that it makes using manual focus only glass much more enjoyable. I would not have a problem using this on any job. The only places where the focus peaking has trouble is in low light environments. When going to a moderately dimly lit Tex-Mex place for lunch with Giulio, I could not get the focus peaking to assist me while inside. It did not cover the screen in random dots or mislead me at all though, it only acted as if focus peaking was not turned on. I will remind you that we are using a 0.2 BETA Firmware on this G6 Prototype and the final release version may be improved. I will be updating this article when we receive a final release version.
Another welcome addition to the G6 is a 1/8th inch audio input jack for an external microphone. This is another great feature that makes using the camera for video work all the better. While shooting on location in Austin we were often dealing with some windy conditions, especially at the Austin Gun Club. Being able to mount the Panasonic Shotgun Microphone to the G6 was amazing. I was able to get clean audio from Giulio talking, even with some pretty harsh wind conditions and dust. Thinking about audio is really a necessity when shooting the hybrid style of photography. Now with the improved features to the G6, it is worthy of all but the most advanced film makers who need the extra settings and power of a GH3 or dedicated filmmaking rig.
Is The G6 For Professionals?
I’ve been using it’s predecessor the Panasonic Lumix G5 as my #1 camera in my kit since I switched to using micro four thirds. It has been a good camera, but it has had some quirks that have made me plan on getting a GH3 at some point in the near future. After using this new Lumix G6 for over a week, I am convinced this camera is a major step forward as a professional tool. I would not have any problem using it for every type of shooting I do. While in Austin, we frequently discusses just how good the G6 was. We were being pelted by high winds, tons of dust, and the occasional thunderstorm and the G6 never skipped a beat. It is not weather sealed like the GH3, but it is nearly as tough. In fact Giulio had only brought his GH3 and assortment of lenses to shoot this job. If for some unforeseen reason the GH3 were to stop working, the G6 would have been used as the main camera without a second thought.
For the longest time, micro four thirds has been an enthusiast camera system. Only within the past year or two have professionals started to take notice. For the most part, Panasonic has focused their energy into the GH series for professionals. With this new Lumix G6, they are really stepping up their game. Panasonic is going after the Professional Market and we are looking at the future of photography right now. If this is any indication of what’s to come, the next couple of years are going to be very exciting for micro four thirds. For example, the inclusion of 7 changeable function buttons on the G6 makes this camera highly customizable. It has Wi-Fi with NFC Connectivity built right into the camera so I can drop files straight to my iPad, iPhone, Android or some computers as they are being shot. I have the ability to share on social media almost right as I’m taking the photographs. It’s built extremely tough with a new body design, higher quality materials, and features that make the G6 worthy of professional use.
The Panasonic Lumix G6 has not made great strides and leaps in it’s image quality in comparison to it’s predecessor, but the G5 is no slouch. As an entire package though, Panasonic has another hit here with a professional level camera that happens to fit nicely with the advanced enthusiasts as well. The new and improved manual video controls, audio input jack, and focus peaking make this camera an amazing tool for videographers on a budget. It would work wonderful for electronic news gathering, run and gun situations, and creating whatever imagery you can come up with. It lacks the advanced film makers options present in the GH series, but if you really don’t know what i-Frame codecs are or need very high bit rate or playback speed manipulation built into the camera, you won’t be missing these features. This camera screams, “Hey look at me, take me out and create!” and that is exactly what I’ll be doing with this camera. Panasonic is really moving with the Lumix G6, and it’s in the right direction!
With the combination of features that the Panasonic Lumix G6 offers, and a price tag of $749 with the redesigned 14-42mm f3.5-5.6 lens bundle (Yes this lens is a big improvement over the first version and comparable to the original 14-45mm), I am expecting there to be a high demand. Pre-Order yours today by clicking here and save a spot in line so you can receive your new camera as soon it is released. By following our links you are helping to support Small Camera Big Picture so we may bring you more amazing content.