first light – panasonic lumix g9

I received a new-for-me camera today, a Panasonic Lumix G9. The G9 was released November 2017, for the rather lofty sum (for me) of US$1,700. Of course, that’s $300 less than the the eye-watering (again, for me) initial MSRP of the Olympus E-M1 Mark 2. For me, the enticement to purchase the G9 came in December when the body price was marked down $500 to about US$1,200. This violated my unspoken rule to never pay more than $1,000 for a body, but I broke that rule this time and purchased a copy of my own.

It’s only been a few hours so I obviously haven’t had much time to work with the camera. I already have one Lumix in this line, the GH4, which I purchased when it was dropped to $900. I already had a pair of batteries for the GH4 (which are the same as used by the G9) and I’d already gotten used to working with the general Lumix controls and menus. Yes I’m aware that the G9 is not a GH4 (or GH5 for that matter) when it comes to controls. They are different, in some places rather radically so, due to the G9 having an LCD panel on the camera top, on the same side as the grip. But it was surprisingly easy for me to put in a charged battery into the G9 and dive right into the menus and set it up very similar to the GH4 in very short order.

For a quick test I mounted the Panasonic Lumix 30mm/2.8 macro on the camera and ran a number of photos of my white¬†bougainvillea through the camera. What I found while photographing the flowers is that the G9’s five axis IBIS is superb. I know that the 30mm macro also has ILIS (it has the older Mega O.I.S.), but I don’t know if IBIS works with Mega O.I.S. the same way it does with the newer Power O.I.S. Regardless, the platform is remarkably stable. With the G9’s joystick on the back and the ability to pick a single focus point, I was able to quickly and effortlessly move the single focus point over the white floret and then take the photo. This is a far cry from focus and recompose methods of the past. I was able to composed in a general way, then move the focus over the specific part of the composition I wanted in focus.

Focus, as well as exposure, was accurate each and every time.

I don’t know yet all the ways I’ll use the G9, but for macro flower photography it as almost instantly become my go-to body of choice.

I’ll have more to write about as I continue to use the G9.

a look back at 2018, and a look forward to 2019

This Year

This year has been a year of quiet personal victories. At the start of this year I wanted to lose weight because I’d hit an all-time high of 285 pounds. I’ve never weighed that much before, and going into 2018 I was literally feeling it, especially in my joints; knees in particular and my hips. I was also diagnosed for the first time with beginning Type 2 diabetes, which required I start taking a medication for that, and I’ve been on other medications to keep my blood pressure in check.

This year I managed to lose 30 pounds. I’m still on the meds, but the pain in the joints has subsided substantially. I still get them from time to time, but I’m a lot more mobile with a lot less chronic pain. I attribute the weight loss in part to a much better diet that I share with my wife. That diet is a common sense diet; cutting back drastically on all sugars in the diet as well as all simple carbohydrates, many more greens and real vegetables, a total ban of red meats of all types (including processed meats) substituting vegetable-based proteins as well as poultry and fish in moderation.

The change has produced not just a weight loss but a better overall feeling.

And then there’s been the near-daily use of the therapy pool my wife and I built in the back yard. At 5,000 gallons, it’s not big enough to swim in, but it’s deep enough to perform water therapy and exercise in, and it has helped tremendously with joint pain as well. My wife uses it to just float and relieve her chronic back pain. Neutral buoyancy (i.e. just floating) in the water is far more effective than just about any pain medication.

In addition to the physical aspects of life, there’s the mental and emotional. I have to admit I’ve been in a state of depression for the last few year, going back to 2013 and my layoff. I’d already been in something of a downward slide due to the chronic main in my left knee, that started in October 2011. I’d tried for over a year to relieve it with physical therapy, but that didn’t work. In November of 2012 I had my first knee operation, a partial. By the time I was laid off the following year I’d just gotten to the point where I was getting back into the swing of things. I did manage to get another job, but for the most part I went into a hole and stayed there in stasis for the next four plus years. It was 2018, facing retirement, that something clicked inside my head (or soul, or both) and I really started to look around for the first time. I’m now on an SSRI and thinking more clearly and feeling much better. I’ve begun to repair my life and thinking more rationally. The driver for all of this is how much I love my wife and how much she needs me now. And if I don’t come back for her, I fear loosing her while I’m in a self-centered fog, and in the process, the loosing the better part of my self.

Next Year

The one key goal for 2019 is to drastically reduce my use of my cell phone. My time needs to be a lot more productive, not squandered viewing a tiny screen. Around June 2018 I started moving towards this goal when I deleted all social apps from my iPhone (Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram). Now if I feel the need to go on any of them then I do so with my PC browsers when at home (Facebook and Twitter). For Instagram, especially if I want to publish anything, I use an Android phone, a Motorola G6 Plus I picked up on sale, that isn’t on any mobile network and requires WiFi, again at home. I treat the Motorola as an Android tablet that’s able to upload via Instagram. The elimination of all of those apps has reduced my cellphone usage quite a bit, but there’s still a ways to go.

iOS 12 introduced Screen Time (see screen shot above). I’ve been watching the statistics play out, especially overall usage time, and to be honest, they embarrass me. I’m still trending way to high in overall time usage, and even when I don’t, I discovered that I will, on average, pick up my iPhone 34 times/day.

Thirty-four times per day! What the hell for? Now that I’m aware of what I’m doing I discover I’ll pick up my phone while driving, not to do anything, but just reflexively reach out and pick up the phone. Talk about a Pavlovian response. So for 2019 the goal is to break that habit, and from there, to cut down on the total amount of time I spend staring at that tiny screen.

A secondary goal for 2019 is to get off the Apple hardware upgrade train. I have an iPhone 8 Plus, and it’s more than sufficient for what I need to do. My wife has gotten off, sticking with her iPhone 7 Plus. Neither one of us is enamored with where the iPhone design is going. I for one won’t give up my physical home button. Both my wife and I had to give up the headphone jack, and we’ve both come to truly regret loosing that feature. I’m done losing features just because Jony Ive wants to be cool. I have no idea what I’ll do when I finally need to upgrade my handset, but I intend to keep mine until Apple stops pushing out software upgrades for the hardware.

That also applied to computers. I have a 2012 Mac Mini server that I’ve managed to keep going with memory upgrades (to 16GB) and by replacing the spinning HDD with an SDD. It still continues to be updated with macOS. My 2015 MacBook Pro was purchased in 2015 with max memory and a 1TB SDD, so it’s pretty much set. I like the fact it still has USB ports as well as a slot for my SDXC camera cards, so I won’t be replacing it unless, and until, it can no longer be updated with the latest macOS or the hardware just flat out dies. So I’m pretty much on my way to keeping that goal through 2019 and beyond.

Finally, as I near a point in time where I really retire, I want to get involved back into society and volunteer work to help try to solve some of the hard problems we face. It’s not enough to blog or tweet against the Orange Buffoon in the White House. I need to get out and work at the grass roots level to build a better society. Real service as apposed to lip service.

2019 is going to be a transitional year for me personally, and I believe for the country, and the world, as a whole. I am, as they like to say now, ‘woke’.