Panasonic G9 Review
Aiming to impress stills photographers in the same way that the GH5 has wowed videographers, the new Panasonic G9 is a new flagship compact system camera aimed at enthusiast and professional users, making the bold promise to deliver "the highest picture quality in the history of Panasonic cameras". It features the same 20.3 megapixel sensor with no low-pass filter as the GH5, but claims to surpass it in terms of still image quality thanks to internal improvements in resolution, gradation and colour reproduction. One feature that's brand new to the G9 is the High Resolution mode, which allows the camera to capture 80-megapixel equivalent images by rapidly taking 8 separate images and combining them into one. Other key features include an improved 6.5-stop Dual Image Stabilizer (when used with compatible lenses), astonishing 20fps continuous shooting with full-time auto-focusing (60fps without), the world’s fastest auto-focusing speed of 0.04 sec, and for the videographers out there, 4K 60p video recording which almost matches the GH5 in terms of specification (but not quite). Ergonomic improvements include a 3680k pixel OLED Live View Finder with a large magnification ratio of 1.66x / 0.83x, a new status LCD on top of the camera for quickly checking the camera's key settings, the welcome inclusion of a thumb-controlled AF joystick on the rear, and support for the fastest UHS-II SD Memory Card standard via dual card slots.
The Panasonic G9 will be available in January 2018 in three kit options:
- Body Only (RRP: £1,499 / €1,729 / $1,699)
- M Kit – Panasonic G9 & Panasonic 12-60mm Lens (RRP: £1,699/€1,929)
- L Kit – Panasonic G9 & LEICA 12-60mm Lens (RRP: £2,019 / €2,329)
Ease of Use
Measuring 136.9 x 97.3 x 91.6 mm and weighing 579g body only, the Panasonic G9 is slightly smaller and lighter than its sister GH5 model. At first glance it the two cameras look very similar, with the G9 clearly following the design lead of the GH5. The Lumix G9 is also similarly made out of a magnesium alloy, full die-cast front and rear frame and is also splash/dust-proof and also freeze-proof down to -10 degrees Celsius. The tripod socket is in-line with the centre of the metal lens mount and the camera has a shutter release life of 200,000 shots, again exactly the same as the GH5. Where the two cameras differ is the top of the body, with the G9 gaining a status LCD that has required the controls in that part of the camera to be repositioned.
The Panasonic G9 ships either body only, with the Panasonic 12-60mm f3.5-5.6 lens, or with the excellent Leica 12-60mm f/2.8-4.0 lens that we predominantly reviewed it with. There's an optional new DMW-BGG9 battery grip, which houses an extra battery to extend the overall battery life and replicates all of the principal controls, sharing the same splash / dustproof design as the G9 body. If you're going top use the G9 with a telephoto zoom or fast prime lens, we'd definitely recommend adding the DMW-BGG9 grip.
Panasonic have significantly upgraded the dual image stabilisation system on the G9, even in comparison with the GH5. It works in the same way as the GH5, combining 2-axis stabilisation from the lens (if available) with 5-axis stabilisation from the camera body, but the body I.S. system in the G9 has been dramatically improved, now making it possible to use 6.5 stops slower shutter speed than with it turned off, compared to the GH5's 5-stops of compensation. The dual image stabilisation system works for both stills and video recording.
|Front of the Panasonic G9|
The Panasonic G9 continues to use a 225-point Contrast AF system, just like the GH5, but it now has a claimed speed of just 0.04 seconds, compared to the GH5's 0.05 seconds. We very much doubt if you're going to notice any difference between the two, but it does mean that Panasonic can claim that the G9 has the world’s fastest auto-focusing speed. It is again dependant on which lens is used, though, with only certain lenses supporting the clever DFD (Depth from Defocus) technology. Despite not being a phase-detection system, the G9 focuses incredibly quickly, accurately and quietly on both still and moving subjects. Once again, there are a wide range of AF modes - multiple-area AF with up to 225 focus areas, 1-area AF with a selectable focus area, Face/Eye Detection, AF Tracking, Custom Multi and Pinpoint AF. As it's name suggests, the Custom Multi AF mode allows you to configure the AF points from a wide range of options and patterns, and you can save up to four customised choices when the AFF mode is selected.
The G9 offers an improved Wi-Fi function that can now take advantage of the 5GHz IEEE 802.11a/n/ac standard in addition to the in addition to the conventional 2.4GHz (IEEE 802.11b/g/n). Establishing a wi-fi connection lets you use your smartphone to change the key camera settings and even fire the shutter button remotely, while the auto transfer function automatically backs up your photos onto a tablet. You can also use GPS data from your smartphone to record the shooting location onto your images. The Bluetooth option inherited from the GH5 establishes a low-energy, permanent connection between the camera and a smart device for easier transfer of images.
The Panasonic G9's new High Resolution Mode combines 8 shots that are shifted by one pixel every time and then merged together into one super-resolution image, either 40 or 80 megapixels, with the resulting Raw files being a whopping 125Mb in size. The camera ideally needs to be mounted on a tripod or other stable surface and it doesn't work very well if there's a moving subject in the frame, but otherwise it's a great feature that will particularly please landscape photographers looking for the highest possible resolution.
On the video side, the G9 can record 4K movies at 60fps, and there's also a 180fps full HD slow-motion mode. The main difference between the G9 and the GH5 in terms of video is that the former can only record in 4:2:0 8-bit, whereas the latter can record in 4:2:2 10-bit, which may or may not be a deal-breaker for the dedicated videographers out there.
|Rear of the Panasonic G9|
Located on the front of the Panasonic G9 is a tiny focus-assist and self-timer indicator lamp, lens release button, two customisable Function buttons (one more than the GH5), metal lens mount, flash sync socket and a very deep, rubberised hand-grip that's even nicer to use than the one of the GH5. There's also a brand new Function switch in the bottom-right corner that by default toggles the camera to silent mode/electronic shutter, but as with most buttons that Panasonic add, it can be customised to one of a multitude of different options. The majority of the G9's exterior is a textured black plastic, with the handgrip, right-hand and left-hand corners finished in a tactile rubberised coating.
Most of the differences between the GH5 and the new G9 in terms of control layout are found on top of the camera body. On the left is a newly relocated lockable shooting mode dial, now sitting on top of the burst mode/6K photo/bracketing/self-timer/time-lapse dial. In the middle is an external flash hotshoe, and to the right of that when viewed from the rear is a large status LCD screen, much like you'd find on any prosumer DSLR camera, but new to the Lumix range of mirrorless cameras. It's a useful addition that shows all of the key camera settings in a clear way, and is a feature that we'd expect to see retained on all future high-end Lumix models.
Alongside the status LCD screen is a large one-touch movie record button and a rear control dial that is now more intuitively set into the top-edge of the camera. Also more logical than the GH5 is the row of three buttons - white balance, ISO and exposure compensation, which make it easy to access the camera's key exposure controls- with the front control dial and shutter release button in front, the latter now encircled by the on/off switch. All in all, the inclusion of the status LCD has improved the layout of the top of the camera, instead of making it more cluttered as you might perhaps have expected, so kudos to Panasonic's engineering team here.
The Panasonic G9 employs both a traditional mechanical shutter and a completely silent electronic shutter, which as well as not spooking your subject ensures that it's completely sharp by avoiding any unwanted pixel shifting. The Delay Shutter option helps to remove the effect of hand-shake by releasing the shutter after a specified time (8, 4, 2 or 1 seconds), a feature that's also used for the new High Resolution shooting mode.
|Top of the Panasonic G9|
The Panasonic G9 starts-up and is ready to take a photo in less than a second, and it takes about 1/2 second to store a JPEG and Raw image, allowing you to keep shooting as they are being recorded onto the memory card, with no perceptible LCD blackout between each image. The Panasonic G9 has an amazing Burst mode which enables you to take 60 frames per second with the focus and exposure locked at the first frame, or even more impressively 20 frames per second with full-time AF tracking, both for up to 600 JPEG images or 60 RAW files at the highest image quality. No blackouts occur in the LCD screen even during high-speed burst shooting, which means that you can continue to track your subject whilst shooting at 20fps - impressive stuff.
There are also three 6K Photo functions - 6K Burst Shooting, 6K Burst (Start/Stop) and 6K Pre-burst - which all record continuous 18 megapixel stills at a 30fps shooting rate. 6K Burst allows you to continuously record 18 megapixel images at 30fps, 6K Pre-Burst does the same but for one second prior to and one second after pressing the shutter button in order, giving you 60 frames to choose from, and 6K Burst (S/S) allows you to playback your video, pause at the chosen moment, and use the shutter button to mark a chosen frame from the video and save it as a single 18 megapixel frame. The G9 also offers the same option for 4K Photo, which doubles the capture speed to 60fps but lowers the effective resolution to 8 megapixels.
The traditional shooting mode dial on the left-top of the camera is identical to the GH5, letting you choose from the different exposure modes. The usual selection of Program, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, and Manual are available for the more experienced photographers. Additionally there are 3 custom modes, marked C1, C2 and C3, which allow you to configure your favourite settings and quickly access them, Intelligent Auto for less experienced users, and the Creative Movie mode which provides access to all of the camera's extensive range of video options. The Panasonic G9's Creative Controls, denoted by an artist's palette on the shooting mode dial, offers 22 different options. There are also 8 different customisable Photo Styles in the Main Menu which still allow full control of the camera's settings.
Turning to the rear of the Lumix G9, we find a large 3 inch OLED touchscreen with 100% scene coverage that is almost as good as the GH5, but not quite. This rotating, free-angle monitor is hinged on the left side of the camera and can be flipped out and twisted through 270 degrees. You can use the screen as a waist-level viewfinder, holding the camera overhead, and even for turning the G9 on yourself for the inevitable selfie. There's also the added benefit of being able to fold the screen away against the camera body to protect it, preventing it from becoming unduly marked or scratched. The main difference between the GH5 and G9's screen is that the latter only has 1,040K dot resolution, slightly down on the GH5's 1,620k dots.
|Swivelling LCD Screen|
The Panasonic G9 inherits the GH5's intuitive touchscreen interface. The most immediately noticeable function is the ability to use the 1-area AF mode to focus on your main subject simply by touching it on the LCD. If the subject then moves, the Panasonic G9 cleverly follows it around the screen using the the AF tracking function. If the subject exits the frame entirely, simply recompose and tap it again to start focusing. Impressive stuff that makes focusing on off-center subjects fast and intuitive. There's also a clever feature called Touchpad AF allows you to move the focus point area with your finger on the LCD while you're looking through the EVF, something that's been "adopted" by other manufacturers. It is a little too easy to accidentally press the screen and set the focus point to the wrong area for the current subject, but a simple tap in the middle of the LCD will center the AF point (or you can turn this feature off altogether). The size of the AF point itself can also be changed via an interactive onscreen slider.
If you prefer to manually focus rather than use the lightning fast AF system, you can magnify any part of the subject by 1x, 5x or 10x by simply dragging the yellow box around the screen. The final touchscreen ability from an image composition point of view is the ability to release the shutter, with a small icon on the right hand screen enabling this functionality, and then a single on-screen tap all that's required to take the picture. All of the menu options can be changed via the touchscreen interface, including the Main menu system. You can also control image playback by touching the screen, with the ability to tap a thumbnail to see the full-size version, scroll through your images by dragging them from side to side, and magnifying them up to 16x.
The clever Post Focus mode allows you to take a series of photos all with a different focus point, and then choose your preferred one after you've captured the shot. This can be more useful for some subjects than others, for example macro shots. Focus Stacking uses the same technology to take multiple shots with different aperture values, then combine them into a single image and choose how much of the subject is in focus, again good news for macro photographers. The Panasonic G9 also has a time lapse function in which you can set the time interval and the number of images to take, plus a multi-exposure option that lets you combine up to four exposures in a single frame, while the Stop Motion Animation mode allows you to create unique stop motion videos.
Compared to the GH5, the Panasonic G9 has a much improved electronic viewfinder. It shares the same 100% field of view, 10000:1 contrast ratio and 3,680K-dot resolution, but now has an even higher magnification ratio of approx.1.66x / 0.83x (up from 1.52x / 0.76x on the GH5), making it a veritable pleasure to look through. The EVF now operates at a native rate of 120fps, twice the speed of the GH5, with a minimum lag of less than 0.005 sec, which helps make it completely flicker-free.
|The Panasonic G9 In-hand|
Also located on the rear of the Panasonic G9, from left to right, is a Playback button, an LVF button for manually switching between the two viewing methods (useful if you turn the eye sensor off) which can also be configured as the Fn3 button, conveniently located AF/AE Lock button which is surrounded by the AF Type switch, and a thumb-controlled joystick that is more refined and nicer to use than the one on the GH5. It allows you to quickly and easily select the AF point without taking your eyes off the subject and is a very useful inclusion on a camera that is designed to shoot fast moving subjects.
Underneath are the shared Fn1/AF mode button and then an unmarked 4-way navigation pad system with circular scroll wheel and Menu/Set button in the centre. Unlike other G-series cameras, the four directions on the d-pad don't have a specific function, other than to move through and select options, playback images etc. The circular scroll wheel can also accomplish many of the same things. The main menu system on the G9 is the same as on the GH5, namely very clear and straight-forward to use. There are up to 7 main menus represented by a column of icons on the left of the screen, depending on which shooting mode you're currently using, which then show 8 options onscreen at once.
Completing the rear of the Lumix G9 are two more buttons, Quick Menu/Fn2 and Display/Delete. The Q.Menu button provides quick access to most of the principal controls, including ISO speed, image size, image quality and white balance (there are 16 settings in total, depending upon the shooting mode selected). You can still access all of these options from the main menu system too. In the shooting mode, the Display button alternates between turning the display off, the main camera settings as icons, no settings at all, and an Info Display which shows the current key settings in a clear graphical format.
Concluding our tour of the Panasonic G9, on the bottom is a metal tripod socket that's positioned in-line with the middle of the lens barrel, the battery compartment offering up to 380-shot battery life when using the Live Viewfinder, and on the right side are the Remote port and the dual SD/SDHC/SDXC memory card slots, which both utilise the fastest UHS-II standard. On the left is the Remote/Mic socket for use with the optional remote shutter release or 3.5mm external microphone, and three connection ports, including a port for external headphones (again 3.5mm in size), latest USB 3.0 port, and a very welcome full-sized HDMI port.