Samsung Galaxy NX. Kit Lens.

I had a fun, raucous and loud assignment this past weekend. I was asked to photograph the opening of the new location for the Children's Museum (re-named, The Thinkery) on Saturday. I spent most of my day there and, capriciously, used five different cameras to take nearly 2,000 images. When I left my house at eight in the morning it was the coldest day we've had yet this year in Austin, with the temperature hovering aroun 27 degrees. I packed two Panasonic GH3s, one Panasonic G6 and a Sony a99 into my big Domke bag, along with a fun assortment of lenses. But wait, that's only four cameras... Oh, yeah, I also had a brand, spanking, new Samsung Galaxy NX body and a kit lens lingering on the passenger seat of the car. It had been there overnight for a routine "chill test."

When I got to the new museum location at the old Mueller Airport (now a trendy, cool and growing neighborhood) I grabbed the bag and left the Samsung in the trunk along with my swim bag and an extra tripod. The first stop was into the main museum building to check in and then across the street to the big, multi-level parking garage. The wind was whipping and their was moisture in the air. We would start in the parking garage and there would be a mariachi led parade over to the museum. I grabbed out the Sony a99 with the 24-105mm lens and a flash and started making images of kids and their parents enjoying hot chocolate and coffee. The light levels in the garage were very low and it was a difficult location in which to shoot. If I pointed the camera at the walls the outside lighting overwhelmed the interior light and burned to white, even with the flash. I tried to compose images without showing the outside but it wasn't always possible. 

We started the parade and I made images of the whole short procession. When we got into the museum there were a few speeches, a ribbon cutting and then the kids got to tear through a big paper barrier and enter the guts of the museum. I shot the speeches with a mixture of flash, fill flash and available light and figured I would sort out the right direction in post. The paper barrier shot was very much an on camera flash shot.

After the images that required flash were over with I dripped the Sony and the flash into the bag I left under the client's desk in the second floor warren of offices. I spent the rest of the morning shoot with three other cameras: A GH3 with the 14-42mm, a GH3 with the 45-140mm and the G6 with the 25mm 1.4. The cameras all focused quickly and accurately and the files from the GH3s are good and clean up to 3200 ISO. Occasionally I would switch the 25mm to one of the GH3s just to see how the cameras looked with that lens at higher ISOs. After a couple hours shooting available light with that combination I pulled out a 40mm 1.4 Olympus manual focus half frame lens and put in on the G6 in order to try out the focus peaking feature. It worked great, even at f2. 

Around one in the afternoon I decided to put all the rest of the cameras up and go out to my (refrigerated) car to get the Samsung Galaxy NX and use it for a while, just to mix things up. Rookie mistake here. As soon as I walked into the well heated museum space with the 27 degree camera and lens everything condensed over. Instant fog filter. I put the camera under a hand dryer in one of the restrooms and gave it twenty minutes or so to warm up. As soon as the moisture cleared the camera was up and ready. In the next few hours I shot nearly 800 images with the camera and the kit lens at every setting from ISO 400 to ISO 6400 and I decided that, now that I'm shooting with a full production version of the GNX instead of a series of prototypes and pre-prototypes, that the GNX is a pretty good shooting cameras with really good files. Now I regret sending all the super cool lenses back.... 

As the day wound down I finished up with the 25mm Pana/Leica lens on the G6 body and was very happy with how fast (very) and fluid the operation of that combination was. 

So, when I finish shooting a job like this I try to get into post production mode the very next day. I shoot large, super-fine jpgs in all of the cameras (this is to be interpreted to mean that I shot at the largest size setting and the lowest compression setting for each camera) and I am able to do a fair amount of Jpeg file tweaking in the Apple, Inc. program, Aperture 3. 

First thing in the morning, before coffee, I head to the office to ingest every file into Aperture, renaming them with a different code for each camera. I also append metadata and caption info. Once I have them ingested and I've had some coffee I make a quick pass through the whole folder looking for obvious trash (blinks, wildly bad exposure or pegged color) and I dump those files.  Then I go through files with lots of versions and try to find the best versions from each group while dumping all the lesser versions. Once this is done I get down to the work of post processing. Nearly every file is touched; either in a  batch mode or individually and it can be as time consuming as the post processing that wedding photographers do. 

I start with color correction because doing exposure first and then color correcting will shift the first exposure correction and require a second pass. After the color correction I move to exposure  and brightness settings, then on to contrast, then to definition and clarity, then to saturation (most cameras need a slight decrease, the GH3s need a tiny increase...) and finally on to sharpening. I try not to sharpen much as the camera Jpeg engines are already tweaked with my preferred sharpen settings.

Once everything is tweaked I go through one more time to see if there is anything I can throw away. That done I burn three sets of DVDs. One for the client and two for my archives. I know DVDs aren't archival but I also know that some jobs have lifespans that are measured in a few years, even months and not everything I shoot is so amazing that I need it to outlive me. I also have the originals backed up on two hard drives. A final fallback is my written disclaimer to clients advising them that once I have delivered a set of final files they are responsible for archiving their copy. We have no legal obligation after 30 days to maintain the files or provide replacements. In practice we keep them for as long as we can but it moves clients to at least think about safeguarding the IP they've paid for and will need to use in the future. 

How do I like the cameras? The Sony has the best files of all but the worst exposure consistency and the worst auto white balance. I'm starting to think of these full frame, DSLR cameras as more studio cameras or cameras to shoot when you can tether them and take your time to assess the shot closely. The Samsung has the second best files in terms of depth, resolution and low noise. The AWB is somewhere between the Sony a99 and the m4:3 cameras. The best compromise (and all cameras are compromises) is the GH3.  The files from those two cameras stand up well to scrutiny even at 3200 ISO at 100%, if you shoot them bright enough. Underexpose and you'll get back high ISO files from just about all cameras. For sheer joy of shooting the G6 is the best of the bunch. It is so small and light that it becomes almost invisible in actual use. I love it with the 25mm Pana/Leica on it. It weighs next to nothing but the EVF is good and the files, though not as noise free as the GH3 are very good and sharpen up nicely in post. It's a least a full stop noisier than the GH3 but with a fast lens you go right back into the whole compromise thing.

Next time I shoot a day long event I'm leaving the Sony stuff at home and shooting exclusively with my trinity of Panasonics. I love pre-chimping with the EVFs and I love carrying around three cameras with different lenses that, in total, weigh less than the one DSLR with a zoom and a flash. 
Your mileage may vary and you may have emotional reasons or nostalgia to deal with in selecting your gear. It's all a compromise so everyone gets to make the compromises that work best for them. That's the way the photo world works. That's my story from the weekend.

I will say one more thing. I was familiar with the menus and the operation of the cameras and had shot all of them pretty extensively before but if you really want to know how a camera handles then use it for a fast paced, all day assignment. I guarantee that by the end of the day you'll find out what bothers the hell out of you and what makes you smile. Saturday reinforced my feeling that the G6 is a wonderful and well thought out camera for the money. Its only flaw is that there is no "constant preview" (or setting effect, in Sony language) in the manual mode and I think there should be. Even if we can never fix this one thing in firmware I'm happy with the camera.  Too plastic?  No, that's just silly.