Panasonic Lumix G9 Snap Verdict
While the GH5 is largely known as a video camera, it’s also a very capable stills camera. The fact that the Panasonic Lumix G9 has the same sensor and processing engine, but has been tuned for stills rather than video is, therefore, good news for photographers. It also feels like a high-quality camera, being light yet sturdy with a good-sized grip while the touch-control is accompanied by a healthy array of physical controls.
For Panasonic G9
- Compact weather-sealed body
- Stabilisation system rated at 6.5EV
- High-quality EVF and screen
Against Panasonic G9
- Sub-full-frame sensor
- Awkwardly positioned joystick controller
- 400-shot battery life in standard mode
What is the Panasonic G9?
The Panasonic Lumix G9 is Panasonic’s flagship stills-camera and it sits alongside the GH5 at the top of the company’s interchangeable lens camera line-up. Like the GH5, the G9 is a mirrorless camera with a Four Thirds Type sensor and a Micro Four Thirds lens mount. Panasonic says the camera is aimed at enthusiast outdoor and wildlife photographers.
The GH5 was a massive launch for Panasonic’s Lumix brand, it was widely anticipated, warmly welcomed and accompanied by the promise of firmware upgrades to give additional functionality. Now those upgrades have been released and the GH5 is fully-formed.
However, while it’s a good stills camera, its advanced video specification means it’s widely regarded as a video camera. Consequently, Panasonic has to turn its attention to its more stills-orientated cameras and introduced the G9 as its flagship stills model.
Shortly before its official announcement, I got to see the G9, so let’s take a look at what it has to offer.
Sensor and processing engine
Panasonic tends to put its sensors in several cameras so it comes as no surprise that the G9 has the same 20.3Mp sensor and Venus 10 processing engine as the GH5. However, according to Barney Sykes, Panasonic UK’s Senior Product Marketing Manager, the sensor and processor have been tuned very differently to suit the G9’s stills-shooting focus.
While 20Mp images will suffice for many situations, the G9 also has a High Resolution mode that enables 80-megapixel images to be created in jpeg and raw formats in-camera. In this mode the camera takes a sequence of 8 images in quick succession, shifting the sensor a little between each shot. These images are then merged to create a single larger image with more detail.
According to Panasonic UK, this is a tripod-only mode and it takes approximately 4 seconds to process the image – that’s about half the time that the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II takes.
Like the GH5, the G9 has Dual IS, a system that can combine 5-axis sensor shifting-stabilisation and lens-based stabilisation. The lens based-stabilisation aspect is particularly important with long lenses.
The GH5’s IS is very effective with a claimed shutter speed compensation factor of 5EV. In the G9, however, the Dual IS delivers a claimed correction of 6.5EV at all focal lengths, which puts it on a par with the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II. It also functions in both stills and video mode.
Sensitivity (ISO) Range
Like the GH5, the G9 has a native sensitivity range of ISO 200-25,600 with ISO 100 offered as an expansion setting.
For comparison, the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II has a range of ISO 64-25,600 while the Fuji X-T2 has a native range of 200-12,800 that can be expanded to 100-51,200.
I’m a little surprised that Panasonic hasn’t incorporated the lowest setting into the native range or added a lower value, but there’s always a lot of attention paid to the higher values.
Prior to the arrival of the GH5, Panasonic was using a 49-point contrast detection system in its mirrorless system cameras. The GH5 introduced a 225-point system and this has now been used in the G9.
It gives good coverage across the imaging area and it compares well numerically with the 121-point system in the OM-D E-M1 II, but it’s important to remember that the Olympus camera has a hybrid AF system that combines phase detection and contrast detection. Will the G9’s be able to match the tracking capability? Panasonic certainly seems to think so.
Panasonic has reduced the time that the G9 takes to process the information required for autofocusing and this brings a claimed focus acquisition time of just 0.04sec, the World’s Fastest according to Panasonic.
In addition, there are a few refinements that have been made to the AF system including an
AF-point Scope mode that enlarges the area to allow you to check that the right area has been targeted, focus point switching for when you swap between horizontal and vertical shooting and loop movement of the AF point so you can scroll continuously through the points rather than having to go from one side to the other and back.
Perhaps the most exciting introduction, however, is Custom AF mode which allows you to tailor the response of the AF system to suit the subject and shooting conditions. That’s something we increasingly expect to see with a high-end camera that’s capable of shooting action.
We’ve seen an escalation in continuous shooting rates recently with electronic shutters also allowing silent shooting. When the electronic shutter is in use, the G9 can shoot at up to 20fps (frames per second) with continuous autofocusing (AFC), that puts it level with the full-frame Sony A9. That’s good news for wildlife photographers who don’t want a clicking shutter to disturb their prey.
If you want to shoot faster still, the G9 can shoot full-resolution images at an incredible 60fps in single-AF mode, that is, with the focus set at the start of the sequence. That’s good news for shooting static action like water splashes or fleeting facial expressions.
At full-pelt, the G9’s buffer enables up to 50 raw files to be captured. If you switch to use the mechanical shutter, the maximum shooting rates drop to 9fps with AFC and 12fps with AFS, but the burst depth expands to 60 raw files.
In addition, Panasonic’s 4K Photo and 6K Photo modes are on hand with their convenient modes to help with capturing brief bursts of action. These modes use video technology to capture sequences of images which can then be extracted to create 8Mp (4K) or 18Mp (6K) still images.
The G9 can shoot 6K Photo images at 30fps for up to 10minutes. Alternatively, 4K Photo mode can be used at 60fps for 10 minutes or 30fps for a maximum of 30 minutes. Shooting for 10 minutes at 60fps produces a lot of 8Mp images!
The G9 may be the stills version of the GH5, but it would be very odd for a Panasonic camera to not have 4K video capability. However, not wishing to eclipse the GH5 and the fact that the G9 is tailored to still shooting means that the video spec is a little parred back in comparison with the video camera.
Nevertheless, the G9’s video spec makes pleasant reading as 4K (3840×2160) footage can be shot at 24, 25, 30, 50 or 60p at a maximum of 150Mbps in MP4 format. Those interested in slow motion playback can shoot 4K footage at 60fps or Full-HD (1920×1080) at 180fps.
Predictably, the G9 can’t match the bit-depth of the GH5 and records 8-bit colour in 4:2:0 to the SD card (except for 4K at 60/50p). Both headphone and mic sockets are provided and are the standard 3.5mm type.
Dual Card Ports
Dual card ports have been flourishing recently with the Sony A9, Olympus OM-D E-M1 II, Fuji X-T2 and Fuji X-Pro2 all having them. Naturally, Panasonic has followed suit and the G9 has dual SD/SDHC/SDXC ports. Even better news is that both of these ports are UHS-II compliant to help maintain the high shooting rate and bust depth as well as 4K video recording.
Screen and Viewfinder
Like other Panasonic G-series cameras, the G9 has an electronic viewfinder built-in and located in the centre of the top-plate like a mini-DSLR. It’s a similar 21mm 3,680,000-dot OLED device as is found in the GH5 but it has a variable magnification factor that can be set to 0.83x, 0.77x or 0.7x.
Also, at 120fps the refresh rate is double that of the GH5’s EVF and there’s a lag of just 0.005sec, which should combine to make it easy to follow fast-moving subjects.
There’s also a 3-inch touch-sensitive vari-angle OLED screen with 1,040,000 dots on the back of the camera.
In common with several other recent cameras, including the Fujifilm X-E3, the Panasonic G9 has Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity built-in to simplify image sharing and remote operation.
The Bluetooth 4.2 (BLE: Bluetooth Low Energy) system allows a constant connection with a smartphone or tablet for easy reconnection to the Wi-Fi system for image transfer. In addition, we’re told that images can be transferred automatically between the camera and a smartphone.
|Date announced||8th Nov 2017|
|Price at launch||£1,499.99/$ Body only, £1669.99/$ with Lumix 12-60mm f/3.5-5.6, £2,019.99/$ with Leica 12-60mm f/2.8-4|
|Sensor size||Four Thirds type (17.3 x 13mm)|
|Effective pixel count||20.3 million|
|Lens/Mount||Micro Four Thirds|
|Sensitivity range||Still image: 200-25600 (expandable to 100-25,600) Video Mode: 200-12800 (expandable to 100-25,600)|
|Reflex AF system||N/A|
|Live View AF system||225-point Contrast detection|
|Max shooting rate||20fps with AF-C, 60fps with AF-S|
|Max video resolution||4K (3840 x 2160) at 60p, 50p, 30p, 25p, 24p with no cropping|
|Storage||Dual SD/SDHC/SDXC (UHS-II)|
|Viewfinder||21mm electronic with 3,680,000 dots OLED|
|Screen||Touch-sensitive vari-angle 3-inch OLED with 1,040,000 dots|
|Dimensions||136.9 x 97.3 x 91.6mm / 5.39 x 3.83 x 3.61-inch (excluding protrusions)|
|Weight||579g / 1.28 lb (Body only), 658g / 1.45 lb (SD card x 1, Battery, Body), 868g / 1.91 lb (SD card x 1, Battery, H-FS12060 lens included), 978g / 2.16 lb (SD card x 1, Battery, H-ES12060 lens included)|