Test Surfers: Observations on Panasonic G9 and 100-300 I

ooheadsoo

Mu-43 Veteran
Although the Panasonic G9 and the 100-300 v1 are not brand new to my collection, shooting action and shooting with a super telephoto is not something I do, and I am a complete novice. Therefore, outside of a couple failed sessions in my backyard, this weekend was probably the first time I had the chance to use this camera/lens pairing to shoot some surfers at White Point, San Pedro, CA.

Observations:
  1. Although I felt I was fairly close to the surfers, 300mm was barely adequate. The sample shots in the next post below have all been cropped, albeit some are pretty close to full width. All shot were taken at 300mm, iirc.
  2. The light was pretty bad, very strong backlighting. Much like the classic wedding photographer's challenge of shooting for bright white and blacks in the same shot, the bright white surf and black wet suits were hard to expose for. There was no contrast in the lighting on the surfers' faces, I erred on the side of keeping the exposure on the wetsuits black in post.
  3. All shots taken with mechanical shutter.
  4. I started the session shooting AF-S. After reviewing some photos for sharpness, I found that this method was unable to maintain sharpness despite what should have been a decently deep DOF and what I perceived to be only moderately fast movement. Focus and shutter release set to shutter button half-press.
  5. Focus reacquisition was more challenging in this mode due to the evf lag/blackout combined with the high fps.
  6. Switching to AF-C with back-button focusing on the G9 with the 100-300 v1 results in approxmately 3fps. It's pretty slow and I know "decisive" moments were missed due to the slow speeds.
  7. Overall impressions of sharpness were better with AF-C. There were more shots where faces were not only just a blob of pixels.
  8. At 3fps, it was much easier to track the surfers because there was so much time to look through the viewfinder inbetween shots. This is clearly a double-edged sword.
  9. I do not feel like I ever achieved critical sharpness in any of the shots, regardless of AF mode. It's really hard to get sharp shots, even with shutter speeds above 1/2000. I'm sure my hand-held tracking technique was also severely lacking. Lastly, with the somewhat low angle to the surfers, I believe spray and mist and possibly general turbulence played a part in sapping sharpness.
  10. Next time, don't be lazy and break out the tripod. I brought it for nothing...
Please provide c&c. What are some ways I could have improved composition? How can I improve sharpness? What are some better AF techniques?
 
Last edited:

ooheadsoo

Mu-43 Veteran
P1024824_DxO.jpg

300mm 1/3200 f/5.6 iso200

P1024826_DxO.jpg

300mm 1/3200 f/5.6 iso200

P1024885_DxO.jpg

300mm 1/1000 f/5.6 iso200

P1024920_DxO.jpg

300mm 1/1300 f/5.6 iso200

P1024999_DxO.jpg

300mm 1/2000 f/5.6 iso200

P1035065_DxO.jpg

300mm 1/1300 f/5.6 iso200

P1035212_DxO.jpg

300mm 1/2000 f/5.6 iso200

P1035079_DxO.jpg

300mm 1/1600 f/5.6 iso200

P1035130_DxO.jpg

300mm 1/1300 f/5.6 iso200

P1035145_DxO.jpg

300mm 1/1000 f/5.6 iso200

P1035202_DxO.jpg

300mm 1/1300 f/5.6 iso200

P1035276_DxO.jpg

300mm 1/3200 f/5.6 iso640

P1035283_DxO.jpg

300mm 1/4000 f/5.6 iso640

P1035313_DxO.jpg

300mm 1/3200 f/5.6 iso640

P1035320_DxO.jpg

300mm 1/2500 f/5.6 iso640

P1035385_DxO.jpg

300mm 1/3200 f/5.6 iso640

P1035424_DxO.jpg

300mm 1/2500 f/5.6 iso640

P1035421_DxO.jpg

300mm 1/2500 f/5.6 iso640

P1035454_DxO.jpg

300mm 1/4000 f/5.6 iso640
 
Last edited:

Gillymaru

Mu-43 Top Veteran
Those aren’t too bad form your first attempt, keep practising and you will improve.
A couple of bits of advice to you might be...
Try and get a spot with the least amount of backlighting, see which way your shadow falls and head either up or down the beach.
I always shoot surf with + 1/3 to a full stop over what the camera reads. I find it easier to pull back any highlights and sometimes the spay will be blown out but you can’t do much about that with strong sunlight..
Minimum shutter speed is 1/800 sec. I set the camera to auto iso and let it go where it wants.
Try using 6 k photo mode it’s fun and you can get some great sequences.
I use SAF mostly, works well enough most of the time.
I use a monopod, beats holding the G9 and 100-400 in the sun for too long and if you want to shoot video it helps.
Hope these are some use to you, and good luck with your next shoot.
 

ooheadsoo

Mu-43 Veteran
Try and get a spot with the least amount of backlighting, see which way your shadow falls and head either up or down the beach.
I picked the spot because I was nearly parallel with the surfers and I thought I could get some more dynamic poses. Well, to be honest, I picked the spot because that was where the picnic table the wife and baby chose was located...If I had my way, I would have made my way to the rocky outcropping where the birds were roosting, but I didn't have the right shoes on.
I always shoot surf with + 1/3 to a full stop over what the camera reads.
Agreed, after my first or second bursts, I settled on a full stop over the camera meter reading. Blinkies show the froth blowing out, but in my experience with the picture profile I use on the G9, the exposure comes out better when there are some blinkies showing (i.e. perhaps the jpeg is blowing out, but the RAW is still usable.)
Minimum shutter speed is 1/800 sec.
Good to know, I'll have to keep that in mind.
I use SAF mostly, works well enough most of the time.
Do you use continuous drive with SAF, or do you also use SAF in conjunction with single shot? Also, do you use back button focus, or have AF tied to the shutter button? I should mention that after I switched to AF-C, I used back-button focus.
I use a monopod
I didn't bring one since I didn't know for sure I would be using the 100-300, but I might just throw one into the car next time. This trip was mainly a beach outing for the family. The surfers were a nice bonus :)
 

dirtdevil

Mu-43 Top Veteran
Did you mention the type of focus you were using? Try "area" (it will focus on a square and by default it's in the middle of the screen) and spot metering mode. I would expect you have to shoot very fast too at 1/1000th, with lowest iso as possible.

I would then try to aim for the feet of the surfer, his board/top of the wave section, it's easier for the camera to accomplish than trying to focus on his body (I would assume, I might be wrong).
 

ooheadsoo

Mu-43 Veteran
Did you mention the type of focus you were using? Try "area" (it will focus on a square and by default it's in the middle of the screen) and spot metering mode. I would expect you have to shoot very fast too at 1/1000th, with lowest iso as possible.
Yes, shot with single area, but I left metering on default scene evaluative +1 full stop exposure compensation. I started with the single area AF box in the middle of the frame, but I eventually moved it lower, as there was no foreground interest of note, and I thought it would be more interesting to have background, if needed. It was extremely bright so I just left it at ISO200 and let the camera decide. Shutter speed never dropped below 1/1000 in this set I am showing here, with most shots between 1/2500 and 1/4000. Next time, if I get to shoot with more interesting light, I will be sure to go to auto ISO and set an appropriate minimum shutter speed.
 

ac12

Mu-43 All-Pro
I would go out in the morning, when you have the sun at your back, and illuminating the faces.

Depending on your need for tracking, I use one of several support options
  • hand holding, using a target rifle stance. But this is not as effective when the camera+lens is not heavy. IOW better with a heavier FF camera+lens than a light m4/3 camera+lens.
  • kneeling stance. More stable than a standing stance, especially in the wind.
  • monopod. But I found a monopod almost useless if there was a breeze, and totally useless in any strong wind, because I would be blown by the wind.
  • tripod. For following moving subjects, I would use a gimbal head. I tried ball and 3-way pan heads, and they just did not work.
  • bean/sandbag on the picnic table.
As for lens, that is why I have my mirror lenses; 500 and 800mm. To reach out where the 300 is too short. But, these are MANUALLY focused lenses, so you have to learn to follow focus.

One problem with long shots is, you have more "stuff" in the air between you and the surfers. Stuff like water and salt spray, dust, smog, etc.

Good first try. Keep at it and you WILL get better.
 
Last edited:

ooheadsoo

Mu-43 Veteran
I would then try to aim for the feet of the surfer, his board/top of the wave section, it's easier for the camera to accomplish than trying to focus on his body (I would assume, I might be wrong).
I'll see if I can try that the next time there's a chance. One thing to note, at the distances at which I was shooting, the single area box pretty much covers the entire body.
I would go out in the morning, when you have the sun at your back, and illuminating the faces.
This is actually mid-morning light. For this angle, I would have had to come for a late afternoon session to get the sun on the faces. This is why I should have gone to the rocky outcropping...
kneeling stance. More stable than a standing stance, especially in the wind.
I find a sitting stance with both elbows on knees is also stable, but hard on the back depending on your body proportions. I don't think I did this, at least in my earlier bursts. Another lesson to keep in mind.
monopod. But I found a monopod almost useless if there was a breeze, and totally useless in any strong wind, because I would be blown by the wind.
In my limited experience, monopods are better when "braced" against a fixed surface, like the edge of a bench, railing, etc.
Good first try. Keep at it and you WILL get better.
It was quite fun, I think I will try again the next time there's an opportunity. When I found out the time of day I had to go and was checking the angle of the sun on photographer's ephemeris, I had really mixed feelings about bothering to bring the camera, but I'm glad I did.
 

speedy

Mu-43 Hall of Famer
Is your 1-300 the original, mk1 version? The aperture and focus motors are known to be very sedate on that lens. Not ideal for faster action.
For AF settings, I just stick to the plain Jane set 1 that the camera comes standard with, go mechanical shutter, and use the central diamond pattern in the custom multi menu tab. I have the rear control wheel (the one surrounding the 4 way controller) set to focus box resize. This allows you to quickly and easily set the diamond AF pattern to cover your subject, plus a little bit. I think that this gives the AF system a lot more data to work with, and calculate more precisely what and where your subject is, much more so than trying to hold a single AF point on your subject.
If you're having difficulty in tracking your subject, set the EVF to 120 fps refresh rate. This should help there.
I didn't see if you were shooting raw or jpeg. If jpeg, set iDynamic to high, picture style to standard, use the central, or centre weighed average metering mode, your highlight zebras to 105%, and don't worry about blowing out a few highlights.
 

ooheadsoo

Mu-43 Veteran
Is your 1-300 the original, mk1 version? The aperture and focus motors are known to be very sedate on that lens. Not ideal for faster action.
It is the mark I, which I denoted as 100-300 I. I guess I should have made that easier to spot. I've always wondered about the slow motors with this lens. If they didn't intend for you to shoot action...then what? Do a lot of people shoot landscapes or portraits with over 100mm?? :hmmm:
I have the rear control wheel (the one surrounding the 4 way controller) set to focus box resize. This allows you to quickly and easily set the diamond AF pattern to cover your subject, plus a little bit. I think that this gives the AF system a lot more data to work with, and calculate more precisely what and where your subject is, much more so than trying to hold a single AF point on your subject.
That's an interesting use of the rear wheel. I currently have it set to ISO. If I learn how to use auto ISO more effectively by manipulating the minimum shutter speed, I think I could try re-purposing this wheel as you have it set. The ISO control implementation is the one learning curve bit that I still haven't come to grips with as far as transitioning from Nikon.

So I take it you use AF-C and burst mode for this kind of action?
I didn't see if you were shooting raw or jpeg.
Shooting RAW+Jpeg.
 
Last edited:

speedy

Mu-43 Hall of Famer
If you're shooting raw+jpeg with iDynamic switched on, you'll find the raws are quite underexposed if you have a few extreme highlights in your scene. Because that's how your camera works in jpeg+iDynamic.

I've always wondered about the slow motors with this lens. If they didn't intend for you to shoot action...then what? Do a lot of people shoot landscapes or portraits with over 100mm?? :hmmm:
Quite a few people seem to shoot static birds and Wildlife. I've seen some absolutely brilliant shots taken at the supposedly soft 300mm end with this lens. I'll see if I can dig them up.
That's an interesting use of the rear wheel. I currently have it set to ISO.
I've got one of directional arrow keys set for that. The joystick is magnitudes better for moving AF points around, zipping through menu's and options and once you're in the ISO menu, the dial still changes the ISO values. So you get the best of both worlds.
It's only if you're in shooting mode, or moving the AF point around, that you get the resize function happening. Brilliant.
 
Last edited:
I’d be happy with any of those shots, do like the birds in the background, they look like spectators.

I have nothing to suggest technically, but with regards to ISO, if you set it manually, doesn’t the G9 have a function button on the rear dial which can act like the Olympus “2+2” control? If you use that for iso it might free up controls like the rear wheel?
 

ooheadsoo

Mu-43 Veteran
Thanks. That was my intent.

The G9 has a dedicated iso button, so unless there's some ergo reason for it, the only reason to assign iso to anything is to have direct access on a wheel without any button presses. I'm not sure how 2+2 works, but I don't think the G9 has something like that.
 
Last edited:
Thanks. That was my intent.

The G9 has a dedicated iso button, so unless there's some ergo reason for it, the only reason to assign iso to anything is to have direct access on a wheel without any button presses. I'm not sure how 2+2 works, but I don't think the G9 has something like that.
Ah of course I forgot that :doh:
 

speedy

Mu-43 Hall of Famer
The G9 has a dedicated iso button, so unless there's some ergo reason for it, the only reason to assign iso to anything is to have direct access on a wheel without any button presses.
That's why I have ISO set to one of the 4 way directional buttons. The 3 buttons behind the shutter button (ISO, WB & exposure comp) are a tiny bit cramped for my liking. They've modded them a bit on the S1 & S1R, even if they only had 2 buttons instead of 3 I think it would be a lot better.
Minor issue, very easy to work around.
 
Last edited:

ooheadsoo

Mu-43 Veteran
I think it's apparent I struggled with some focus issues. However, for those of you who are more experienced with this subject, do you think continuous autofocus is necessary at these distances and aperture (5.6+)?

I was also thinking about video...if I needed to shoot with AF and continuous was needed, that would mean I need to keep the target box on the surfer at all times, leading to some pretty stale compositions. Also, if the surfer carves or otherwise quickly changes direction, isn't it highly likely, with continous AF on, that the camera will start to hunt?
 

ac12

Mu-43 All-Pro
I think it's apparent I struggled with some focus issues. However, for those of you who are more experienced with this subject, do you think continuous autofocus is necessary at these distances and aperture (5.6+)?

I was also thinking about video...if I needed to shoot with AF and continuous was needed, that would mean I need to keep the target box on the surfer at all times, leading to some pretty stale compositions.

Also, if the surfer carves or otherwise quickly changes direction, isn't it highly likely, with continous AF on, that the camera will start to hunt?
If it is any help. All the surfing pics in the somewhat distant past were done with MANUALLY focused lenses. There was no AF back then.

That is the problem with AF, you have to keep the AF point on the subject.
Tracking AF might be your solution, but I have no idea how well that works in YOUR camera and in that situation. My limited experience with tracking AF was that it can be distracted by a busy background and loose track of the subject.
You have to test this with YOUR camera, and YOUR subject.
With manual focus, you can let the subject move anyplace on the screen.

Enlarge the focus box to 3x3 or 5x5 then go shoot and see if/how it works to make it easier to track a moving subject.
Tip, my experience has been, the tighter I frame the subject in the camera, the harder it is to track it. So I usually leave room around the subject, then crop in the computer.
 

ooheadsoo

Mu-43 Veteran
I'm aware of manual focus techniques. My first camera was an old Zenit with, I believe a 55mm, and I have manual focus nikkor 50/1.8, 50/1.4, 55/1.2, and lenbaby 85/2.8 lenses for my nikon FF setup so I've done a tiny bit of manual focus following, such as when photographing a parade or processional. But I have never shot action at these long distances. Any practical advice would be nice in preparation of the next time I can try again.

Truth be told, my eyes are weak and I simply can't see well enough to determine manually through a viewfinder whether an image is critically sharp, which is why AF is such a godsend for me.

Ah! One more thing I'd love feedback on: are the photos not critically sharp due to focus issues or camera shake, or what combination of both?
 

ac12

Mu-43 All-Pro
I'm aware of manual focus techniques. My first camera was an old Zenit with, I believe a 55mm, and I have manual focus nikkor 50/1.8, 50/1.4, 55/1.2, and lenbaby 85/2.8 lenses for my nikon FF setup so I've done a tiny bit of manual focus following, such as when photographing a parade or processional. But I have never shot action at these long distances. Any practical advice would be nice in preparation of the next time I can try again.

Truth be told, my eyes are weak and I simply can't see well enough to determine manually through a viewfinder whether an image is critically sharp, which is why AF is such a godsend for me.
Yup, as we get older, AF REALLY helps.
I grew up with manual lenses, but except for my MF and LF film cameras, I really don't care to go back to manual focus.
And AF is really a blessing when it comes to shooting fast sports.

But, AF also cost $$$$. I got my manual focus 500 mirror for less than $150 vs. $1,400 for a Nikon 200-500 AF zoom. As little as I shoot LONG, I could not justify the $1,400 price of the 200-500 AF lens. The manual mirror was good enough for me.

Check the manual for your camera.
There might be manual focus aids that you can turn on.
 
Top