Blogger events can be a little strange. Thrown into a room of strangers, most of whom introduce themselves by their Twitter handle, initial conversations can be strained. I find these introductions awkward, conscious that not only is our name grammatically incorrect (something I mutter acknowledgment of after meeting anyone), but because despite clear introductions, I seem unable to call people by their real name. Instead, I’ll refer to their ‘social name’ throughout conversations, like a bizarre fan girl. Moreover, blogger events, as social as they seem, are some of the most unsocial events I’ve ever attended. Tasked with content to produce and hashtags to promote, bloggers spend much of their time understandably buried in their phones or talking animatedly to their cameras. It all feels a bit like a parallel universe, where the event only really exists in and amongst tweets or Instagram photos.
Claire and I are therefore always a little apprehensive about attending these sorts of gatherings. In the early days, one event we went to asked that we reviewed a meal at a beautiful restaurant. Unfortunately, we ate the entire meal before we remembered to photograph it. We looked up to see our fellow bloggers diligently photographing the food from every imaginable angle; clambering up on their chairs to get the perfect shot.
All we had left was a smear of gravy and a lone broccoli floret.
However, when an email landed in our inbox inviting us to spend the day with Lumix UK, learning about their new GX80 camera, we jumped at the chance. As photography lovers, spending the day with some top photographers whilst exploring London sounded ideal. Furthermore, as die-hard SLR fans (and with the obligatory bad backs to prove it), we were intrigued to see just how much punch this little camera could pack. Perhaps travel didn’t have to mean hauling around an enormous camera, whilst looking like a stray member of the paparazzi.
So, as Wednesday dawned and the UK sizzled in a heatwave, I headed to London to meet with the Lumix team and some fellow travel bloggers. Claire, unfortunately, was trapped inside a courtroom in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, condemned to a few weeks of Jury Service, and so I was flying solo. On the way there, I tried to figure out how to introduce myself to the rest of the team: ‘the twin that travels?’ or ‘one of the twins that travels’? In the end, I settled on straight up ‘Laura’.
Arriving at Bermondsey Square Hotel, we were greeted by our photography gurus for the day: Jacob James, a Panasonic Ambassador and Carol Hartfree, a Panasonic Imaging Specialist. Neatly laid out around the table were shiny new GX80 cameras, ready to meet their new owners. After meeting my fellow travel bloggers (and trying not to blurt out their Twitter names), we settled down for a short photography tutorial from Jacob, including a showcase of his incredible work. As someone always trying to improve my own photography, I found this part fascinating; learning to utilise natural light and colour to compose outstanding images.
Next up came an introduction to the star of the show: the GX80.
Panasonic’s latest compact camera is perfect for travel bloggers who want high quality shots, without the weight and inconvenience of a bulky SLR (the story of my life). Aesthetically, this little camera is beautiful. With a huge LCD display at the back, the camera feels solid and classic; reminding me of a Leica.
As well as producing high quality shots, the camera is also packed with impressive features. First up: its 4k video and photo features. Offering 4 x the detail and quality of regular HD, this feature allows you to capture some incredible footage (particularly useful if you enjoy creating video content). More impressive was the 4K photo mode, which allows you to shoot at fully 30fps and then extract 8MP stills from the footage. I was a little dubious about this feature, expecting the extracted images to be blurred or distorted, but I was bowled over by their clarity. Another handy feature is the camera’s 4K post-focus option. Rather than agonising over depth of field whilst taking your photographs, this allows you to take a series of frames at different focus distances, and then records them together as a 4K movie file. From this, you can then tap the image to decide what you want to bring into focus and what you want to move out. Conveniently, and as is increasingly common, the camera also has built in Wi-Fi (ideal for transferring photographs straight to your mobile phone when on the move) and an auto-stitching panorama mode; great for landscape photography.
With introductions to our new GX80s complete, it was time to give them a go and to board our transport for the day: the Pedibus. A giant table sat atop 8 bikes may not seem the most natural way to enjoy a photography tutorial, or indeed to explore London, but Lumix thought differently. Watching as the bike/table hybrid was slowly lowered from its trailer, I wondered what Claire was doing. I guessed that whilst she was busy dishing out the law to wanton criminals, I was here, about to spend a morning aboard a moving table, clogging the streets of central London.
Clutching our GX80s we clambered aboard, where we were told to keep one hand on the bars in front and cautioned against leaning back too far. Feeling the pedals beneath me, I was immediately reminded of Laura Trott, GB’s gold-medal Olympic cyclist. I’d watched her the night before, zoom around the velodrome and I was feeling inspired. Sensing a wave of adrenaline, I leant slightly forward and reminded myself to ‘drive through the heels’.
Hearing the word ‘GO’, I pushed down, managing to move the pedal around 1cm. We lurched forward a couple of feet. This Pedibus was no carbon fibre racing bike; it weighed a tonne. We pushed on, creeping our way out onto the roads of central London, swerving briefly into oncoming traffic before wobbling our way towards the curb. Now sweating a little, and avoiding eye contact with the many people filming and photographing us, we finally made our way to London Bridge. Cruising along in the sunshine, we had a chance to catch our breath, sit back, and start snapping.
Using the cameras Intelligent Auto programme (there’s not time for Manual Focus when you’re pedalling a table through London), I was impressed at its sensitivity to the bright sunshine reflecting off the river; the exposure was excellent. I also tested out the 4k video, impressed at its clarity and smoothness as we trundled across the bridge.
After more shooting, we pushed onwards towards Borough Market, with our music now blasting loudly out of the front of the bike. With Queen’s ‘Don’t Stop Me Now’ playing, we’d hit our stride; powering up the hill like team GB’s cycling team. I’d forgotten all about Laura Trott: I was now Bradley Wiggans. After lurching left onto the congested side streets of Borough Market, crowds of people in front of us parted ways, letting us past. I felt a bit like the Queen must feel, or the Pope in his Pope-Mobile – really special. We hopped off the bike and began exploring, keen to see more of just what this little camera could do.
Whilst walking around the many brightly coloured stalls of the market, I decided to give the ‘Post Focus’ option a run for its money and quickly became addicted. It’s a great function that allows you a great deal more flexibility when it comes to choosing the focus of your photographs, and retains all the quality and clarity you’d expect of a regular photograph.
With our final shoot complete, we tentatively got back in the hard saddles and pushed on for our last leg: ready for our triumphant crossing across Tower Bridge. Pedalling up the steep hill, panting and clutching onto our new cameras, I was only faintly aware of the beeping horns and legions of angry motorists behind us. Filming the beautiful towering blue bridge above us as we cycled through, we had a better view than any pedestrian. The Pedibus had triumphed and our new Lumix GX80s were there to record the whole thing, in all its 4k glory.
Thank you Lumix for such a fun, albeit surreal day, and for the GX80: a little camera with a lot to offer.