Reviews |Panasonic Lumix G9 II Hands-on Review

Panasonic Lumix G9 II Hands-on Review

Panasonic Lumix G9 II review
Review

Price when reviewed

£1699

€1899 / $1599

Our Verdict

My first impression of the Panasonic Lumix G9II are that it’s a very capable camera with a nippy autofocus system and responsive subject detection. The ability for it to detect animal eyes is a significant step forward for Panasonic G-series cameras. It also gives quick access to the key features and feels good in your hand, but it’s large for a Micro Four Thirds camera and has the same body as the full-frame Panasonic Lumix S5 II.

For

  • Phase detection focusing with subject detection
  • V-log pre-installed
  • Hand-held 100MP High Resolution mode

Against

  • Large for a Micro Four Thirds camera

What is the Panasonic Lumix G9 II?

The Panasonic Lumix G9 II is the replacement for the original 20.3MP Panasonic Lumix G9, which was announced in November 2017 as the company’s flagship stills camera. The G9 Mark II has a significantly higher resolution sensor, faster continuous shooting rates, enhanced High Resolution mode, better image stabilisation and improved video capability. The most exciting news for many, however, is that it’s the first Panasonic Lumix G-series camera to feature phase detection autofocusing (PDAF). Panasonic was late to the phase detection party as the Panasonic Lumix S5 II, announced in January 2023, was the first camera from the company to feature it.

The target market for the Panasonic G9 II is ‘solo creators’. Those people who work by themselves shooting stills and/or video without a team. Naturally, Panasonic also hopes to entice existing Micro Four Thirds users, especially those looking to upgrade from a lower-level camera or the original G9.

Specification

  • Camera type: Mirrorless Micro Four Thirds
  • Announced: 12th Sepetmber 2023
  • Sensor: 25.2Mp Four Thirds type (17.3 x 13.0mm) Live MOS
  • Lens mount: Micro Four Thirds
  • Autofocus system: Hybrid (contrast and phase detection) with 779 phase points, 315 contrast points
  • Stabilisation: 5 axis in-body IS to 8EV, 7.5 with Dual IS
  • Screen: 3-inch 1.84-million-dot vari-angle touchscreen
  • Viewfinder: 3.68-million-dot OLED electronic viewfinder with 0.74x magnification
  • Key video specifications: [5.8K] 5760×4320 (4:3) at 29.97p, 200Mbps (4:2:0 10-bit LongGOP) (H.265/HEVC, LPCM) or 23.98p, 200Mbps (4:2:0 10-bit LongGOP) (H.265/HEVC, LPCM), [5.7K] 5728×3024 (17:9) at up to 59.94p, 300Mbps (4:2:0 10-bit LongGOP) (H.265/HEVC, LPCM), [4.4K] 4352×3264 (4:3) at up to 59.94p, 300Mbps (4:2:0 10-bit LongGOP) (H.265/HEVC, LPCM), [C4K] 4096×2160 at up to 119.88p, 300Mbps (4:2:0 10-bit LongGOP) (H.265/HEVC, LPCM), 59.94p, 800Mbps (4:2:2 10-bit ALL-Intra) (H.264/MPEG-4 AVC, LPCM), 59.94p, 600Mbps (4:2:2 10-bit ALL-Intra) (H.264/MPEG-4 AVC, LPCM), 59.94p, 200Mbps (4:2:2 10-bit LongGOP) (H.264/MPEG-4 AVC, LPCM), 59.94p, 200Mbps (4:2:0 10-bit LongGOP) (H.265/HEVC, LPCM)
  • Sensitivity: Stills: Normal: ISO 100-25600, extended to IOS 50, V-Log ISO 500-12,800, extended to ISO 125. Video: Normal: Sensor output is 60fps or less (Base ISO 100): 50 (Extended ISO) / 100-12800, Sensor output is 61fps or higher (Base ISO 100): 50 (Extended ISO) / 100-3200 / 4000-12800 (Extended ISO) V-Log: Sensor output is 60fps or less (Base ISO 500): A125-400 (Extended ISO) / 500-12800, Sensor output is 61fps or higher (Base ISO 250): 125-200 (Extended ISO) / 250-3200 / 4000-12800 (Extended ISO) Hybrid Log Gamma: Sensor output is 60fps or less (Base ISO 250): 250-12800 Sensor output is 61fps or higher (Base ISO 250): 250-3200 / 4000-12800 (Extended ISO)
  • Shutter speed: Stills: 60-1/8,000sec, Electronic front curtain shutter: Bulb (Max. 30 minutes), 1/2,000 – 60 Electronic shutter: Bulb (Max. 60 sec), 1/32,000 – 60 Video: 1/25,000 – 1/25m Creative Video M mode / MF mode: 1/25,000 – 1/8
  • Maximum continuous shooting rate: Mechanical shutter: H: 14 frames/sec (AFS/MF), 10 frames/sec (AFC) (with Live View), Electronic front curtain shutter: H: 14 frames/sec (AFS/MF), 9 frames/sec (AFC) (with Live View), Electronic shutter: SH75: 75 frames/sec (AFS/MF), SH60: 60 frames/sec (AFS/AFC/MF), SH75 PRE: 75 frames/sec (AFS/MF), SH60 PRE: 60 frames/sec (AFS/AFC/MF), SH20 PRE: 20 frames/sec (AFS/AFC/MF)
  • Memory: Dual SD card slots, both UHS-II
  • Battery life: With SD card: 370 images, 1300 images (Power Save LVF mode)
  • Weight: 658g / 1.45 lb (Body, Hot Shoe Cover, Battery, SD Memory Card x 1) (excluding body cap), 575g / 1.27 lb (Body, Hot Shoe Cover) (excluding body cap)
  • Dimensions (WxHxD): 134.3 x 102.3 x 90.1 mm / 5.29 x 4.03 x 3.55 inch (Body only, excluding protrusions)
Panasonic Lumix G9 II review

Features

Like its predecessor, the Panasonic Lumix G9 II is a Micro Four Thirds camera and features a Four Thirds type sensor. However, the pixel count has been raised from 20.3MP in the original camera to 25.2MP in the new model. The Panasonic Lumix G9 II is equipped with a brand-new Live MOS sensor which features phase detection autofocus (PDAF) technology. According to Panasonic, this system improves upon that in the S6 II.

The Lumix G9 II has 315 contrast detection focus points and 779 phase detection points. It also has an improved subject detection system that is able to detect animal eyes as well as their body, potentially making it much more useful for wildlife and pet photography. There’s also car and motorcycle detection along with human subject detection (with Eye AF).

The new 25.2-megapixel Live MOS Sensor is combined with a new processing engine that is claimed to deliver high-resolution images with stunning colour depth. The pairing also enables continuous shooting at up to 60fps (frames per second) in AFC (continuous autofocus) mode when the electronic shutter is employed and 10fps with the mechanical shutter. Those rates are said to be maintained for up to more than 160 raw and Jpeg images, 170 raw images or over 200 Jpegs images.

In addition, the SH Pre-burst recording feature allows shooting to start up to 1.5 seconds before pressing the shutter release, capturing approximately 113 consecutive shots in one sequence.

Micro Four Thirds cameras have a good track record for in-body image stabilisation (IBIS), and the 5-axis system in the G9 II has been enhanced to enable up to 8-stops of compensation. This drops to 7.5-stops 5-axis with longer lenses. There’s also Dual I.S. 2, and advanced Active I.S.

Videographers can also use the IBIS system to correct perspective distortion.

Panasonic’s Photo Styles are onboard to give stills and video a specifics look. These have been extended to include Leica Monochrome, V-Log is pre-installed and there’s a Real Time LUT function, allowing for personalised colour expression through LUT files.

The Lumix G9 II also builds on the G9’s 80MP High Resolution mode with a 100MP version that can be used hand-held, not just on a tripod. There’s also Live View Composite mode which is useful for shootings tar trails, traffic trails and fireworks.

Panasonic Lumix G9 II video features

The Panasonic Lumix G9 II supports 4:2:0 10-bit 5.8K full-sensor recording, plus 5.7K (17:9) recording for extra framing flexibility.

There’s also 4:2:0 10-bit C4K/4K at 120p/100p for slow motion video creation and support for Apple ProRes video when recording to an SSD connected via the USB-C port.

Panasonic Lumix G9 II review

Build and handling

The Panasonic G9 is quite a large camera for a Micro Four Thirds model, its sensor is smaller than an APS-C format camera’s yet it has similar dimensions to some full-frame cameras. This hasn’t changed for the Panasonic G9II. It’s similarly sized to its predecessor, but comparing its dimensions with those of the Panasonic Lumix S5II reveals that it’s the same as the full-frame camera. The control layout is also identical so it seems that Panasonic is using the same body for its flagship G-series camera as it does for the full-frame S5II. That said, the S5 II and G9 II are significantly smaller than the full-frame Panasonic Lumix S2R and S1.

That’s mixed news. Some people will appreciated the extra room between buttons and the large grip, especially with long lenses, but those looking for a small, compact camera are likely to be less happy. That said, a significant part of the Micro Four Thirds advantage is the smaller size and weight of the lenses. The effective doubling of the focal length is very attractive to wildlife photographers, for instance. The Panasonic Leica DG Vario-Elmar 100-400mm f/4-6.3 Asph. Power O.I.S., for example, has an effective focal length of 200-800mm, yet it’s only 83x172mm in size and weighs less than 1Kg.

Like its predecessor, the Panasonic Lumix G9 II is dust and splash resistant. It can also operate at down to -10°C and up to 40°C.

Panasonic Lumix G9 II review

Panasonic Lumix G9 II controls

While the control layout of the G9 II is different from the G9’s it’s not a radical change and its the same as the S5 II’s. The exposure mode is set using the dial on the right side of the top plate, while on the left, a second dial controls the drive mode. Quick adjustments to exposure can be made using the front and rear control dials. This generally gives a smooth shooting experience but I noticed that I occasional adjusted the shutter speed accidentally. I’ll look into this further when I get the camera in for a longer-term test.

What’s particularly welcome is the upgraded mini-joystick, which now works in eight directions instead of just four, allowing for swift and precise selection of the autofocus (AF) point, including diagonal movements.

Panasonic Lumix G9 II review

Similar to its predecessor and the S1 series, the Lumix G9II features a handy switch on the right side of the viewfinder for setting the focusing mode. This enables quick transitions between single, continuous AF, or manual focus modes without the need to navigate through menus. This switch surrounds a button that provides rapid access to AF point selection and subject detection options, including Animal detection and Human Eye detection. The button is within convenient reach of my right thumb for pressing when I’m looking in the viewfinder.

Panasonic Lumix G9 II review

Screen and Viewfinder

The resolution of the OLED electronic viewfinder on the G9II is the same as on the G9, 3.68-million-dots. It also has a refresh rate that can be set to 60fps or 120fps. Although there are viewfinders with higher resolutions, such as the ones found in the Panasonic S1R and S1, boasting a 5,760,00-dot viewfinder, the G9II’s viewfinder performed admirably during my initial testing.

Panasonic has used the same 3-inch 1.84-million-dot vari-angle touchscreen on the G9II as is on the S5II and S5. This versatile screen can be flipped to face forward, making it ideal for vlogging, and it can also be tilted and rotated to assist in capturing high- or low-angle shots in both portrait and landscape orientations.

Having had the opportunity to shoot with a pre-production G9II sample, I can confirm that the screen offers a clear view that closely matches the captured image. My testing took place at a safari park in Kent on a bright sunny day, and I didn’t encounter any unusual issues with reflections, but the viewfinder is a better option in direct sunlight.

Panasonic Lumix G9 II review

Performance

Thanks to the faithful reproduction offered by the Panasonic G9 II’s electronic viewfinder, exposure error is virtually eliminated. Instead of looking at an exposure scale, you can rely on what you’re seeing to assess colour and exposure.

This means that there’s hardly any need to move away from the default multi-zone metering mode. Naturally, there are times when the exposure compensation control is required in the automatic and semi-automatic exposure modes to get exactly the result you want, but so far this hasn’t been required in any situations when I wouldn’t anticipate it. When a couple of giraffes came into the view on the horizon, for example, they were almost silhouetted against the bright sky – but that’s also how the appeared to me as I squinted in the bright conditions.

I’ve praised the automatic white balance system in Panasonic Lumix G-series cameras before and it doesn’t disappoint in the G9II. I’m happy to report that it delivers pleasant and natural-looking results in a range of natural lighting conditions.

I need to explore the G9II’s colour options further when I get the camera back for a longer test, but my first impression is that the Standard Photo Style setting proves a good all-rounder, although there maybe times when you want to push the saturation up a tad.

Panasonic Lumix G9 II autofocus performance

Panasonic has ben reluctant to introduce phase detection focusing, preferring instead to stick with contrast detection backed by it DFD (Depth From Defocus) technology. Thankfully, it has now bowed to user pressure and the G9 II joins the S5II in having phase detection focus as well as contrast detection. It’s a good move because the G9II’s AF system is fast and decisive. The subject detection, specifically the animal and animal eye detection proved very useful a the safari park that was the venue for the pre-announcement press briefing.

The animal detection system works well, putting a box around most animals that I framed in the viewfinder. The eye detection is also good, but some animals give it a greater challenge than others. The giraffe’s patterning, for instance, cause a bit of confusion and it sometimes settled up their nostrils. It worked well with baboons and could even detect their eyes when they were side-on in some cases.

It’s a solid start and I expect that there will new firmware upgrades that improve it over time as more and more images are analysed.

Image Quality

The Lumix G9II makes a sizeable jump in resolution in comparison with the G9. And a 25MP sensor is likely to be more attractive to some photographers than a 20MP chip. Photographing animals means I have had good opportunity to check the level of detail available in the G9II’s images and the results look great. So far, I can only examine the Jpeg images, not the raw, files, but there’s plenty of detail visible in the animals’ fur and they look natural at 100% on the computer screen.

The Lumix G9II also holds its own well at higher ISO levels, preserving an impressive level of detail up until about ISO 12,800. Some images captured at ISO 25,600 are also of commendable quality, with noise being kept at bay well. However, I found a few areas that are missing the finer details and for this reason, I would aim to make ISO 12,800 my maximum setting for shooting Jpegs. I’ll investigate this further when I get the camera in for longer and when it’s possible to process raw files.

Another aspect that I want to explore further is the G9’s dynamic range, but my initially impressions are that it handles high contrast situations well, avoiding premature loss of detail in both brighter and darker areas.

Panasonic Lumix G9 II High Resolution mode

When the G9II’s improved High Resolution mode is activated via the drive mode dial, the camera captures four images and composites them to make a 100MP image. It takes a few seconds for the series of images to be rendered together after their capture.

The end results look good, even when the camera is hand-held rather than mounted on a tripod, however, I want to experiment further to see how the system copes with moving elements in the frame.

Panasonic Lumix G9II sample images

Verdict

I’ve been able to shoot with the Panasonic Lumix G9 II for a few hours and I chose to concentrate on stills photography rather than video. I’ll look at it video capability soon. Overall, I’m impressed by the camera so far. It captures pleasant-long images with a good level of detail and it keeps noise under good control. There’s a raft of useful features, a good-quality viewfinder and a screen with responsive touch-control.

The G9II’s hybrid autofocus system also performs well in bright sunlight and in dark interiors. The subject detection system makes a significant leap over the G9’s with the ability to detect and focus on animal eyes.

My only current bugbear with the G9 II is that it’s larger than it needs to be – matching the full-frame S5II in dimensions. That may suit some photographers, and it does feel good in your hand, but I know many would prefer a smaller camera more in keeping with the Micro Four Thirds format.