It’s not very often that I hanker after a new camera – I’ve always been far more interested in pictures than shiny new equipment. Lately though, I’ve been looking at the merits of Compact System Cameras for travel photography, and with a three week trip to Costa Rica on the horizon it seemed a good opportunity to give one a try.
My trusty Nikon D300s serves me very well for macro, flower and garden photography (usually paired with a 105mm Micro-Nikkor) but is relatively heavy and not at all discrete for reportage and street photography. My Fuji x-10 on the other hand, although a handy little compact, seems a little inadequate for such an epic trip.
I’m expecting to encounter a wide range of subjects in Costa Rica; plenty of exotic plants and gardens of course, but also atmospheric landscapes (jungles can be very rainy and humid, even in the dry season) and cameos of local life.
In short, I was looking for a mid-priced lightweight yet versatile camera with an element of weatherproofing, small enough to fit neatly into a hiking hip-sac but still capable of delivering top quality images. After handling a variety of makes and models it was the Lumix DMC-GX8 that I ended up taking home with me.
So why the GX8? As I intimated earlier, I’m not the first photographer you would choose to carry out a camera review! I’m not really interested in pixel counts, ISO tests or comparisons with other models – most modern cameras will score highly every time and often it’s just personal prejudice that separates winners from losers in photo-magazine reviews.
The truthful answer is that it just felt right. The camera is well balanced, with a sizeable grip (I don’t do well with small, fiddly cameras) and is styled on the now ‘retro’ rangefinder cameras so favoured by many of my favourite documentary photographers past and present.
The inner workings of the camera are anything but retro of course. On the technical side I was very impressed with the speed of the autofocus and, as a ‘right-eyed’ photographer, the large viewfinder sticking well out from the camera body is a real bonus. It also has state of the art 4K video apparently, meaning that I can shoot moving subjects and pick out the best frame from the sequence at a respectable 9 megapixels. Whether I ever use this facility remains to be seen. The tilting flip-screen on the other hand, something I’ve been curious to try, will no doubt prove to be ideal for both candid street photography and ground-level flower shots.
I’ll be sticking with the 14-42 mm (28-84 mm equivalent) kit lens supplied with camera for the time being. This standard zoom will, of course, be woefully inadequate for photographing distant parrots and monkeys in the forest canopy – I’ll be leaving those shots to my wife Janet and her Lumix TZ100. Or, if the wildlife is still too far away to get decent photographs we’ll just buy the postcards! Instead, I’ll be focusing on flowers, details, candid photography and mood shots, all subjects for which the GX8 and its micro 4/3 sensor are ideally suited.
So that’s the theory – I’ll let you know how we get on in practice!