Some people think that the Panasonic LUMIX G9 is one of the great unsung cameras of the age. It has great in-body stabilization, quick autofocus, an ergonomic build, a flip-out touchscreen, 4K/60p video, a burst rate of around 10 fps, and double card slots.
And yet, it only has an “enthusiast” price tag. So, maybe it’s time to have a look at this review and see if the Pansonic LUMIX G9 should be on your list of cameras to consider.
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Panasonic Lumix DC-G9 Overview and Specifications
Panasonic Lumix DC-G9
The Panasonic G9 is a mirrorless interchangeable-lens camera. It was introduced in early 2018. It’s based on the Micro Four Thirds system.
At the time, it was the flagship of the stills-oriented part of Panasonic’s lineup. Two full-frame models have been added since (S1 and S1R), at more than double the price.
But the G9 remains a highly capable camera for almost all applications. Except for great low-light performance, it gives you many of your dream features in an ergonomic, well-thought-out package.
Who Is the Panasonic G9 For?
There are several types of creators whom the G9 can benefit. I’m writing creators, not only photographers, because it’s an impressive camera for video as well.
So, definitely, the first target demographic is hybrid shooters. For those, who simultaneously shoot video and stills, but are on a capped budget, the G9 gives many possibilities no other comparable camera offers. It offers extremely high-quality video files, at 4k/60p, or 4k/30p in 10 bit.
Then, there are action, sports, and wildlife photographers. This is a more populated field, and the G9 competes with some excellent cameras, such as the recently reviewed Sony A6400. The Sony doubtlessly has the edge in autofocus and ISO performance. But the G9 has great advantages as well, such as burst rates or ergonomics, still resolution, or the aforementioned video features.
And there are those who want a great, economical camera for casual use. Travel, documentary, street, and family photography are areas where the G9 offers a real alternative to larger-sensor APS-C cameras.
So, let’s see the Panasonic G9‘s features in more detail and how they help real-life usability.
Mount and Compatibility
The Panasonic G9 is built around the Micro Four Thirds (MFT) mount and system. Sensors in this system are smaller than APS-C sensors.
Now, usually, MFT camera bodies are small, and this is one of their great features. Not so much with the G9: this a DSLR-sized device, but an extremely ergonomic one at least.
However, the other strengths of the MFT system are still true. Lenses can be scaled down, and smaller sensors are more effectively stabilised. In the age where noise levels are hardly a concern at most ISO levels, many photographers prefer these.
Besides Panasonic, several camera makers share the MFT mount, such as Olympus or Blackmagic. Even more lens manufacturers build lenses for it, which is a significant thing to consider when investing in a system. Third-party companies, most notably Sigma, offer fantastic and low-cost lens options.
Native lens options by Panasonic include some excellent lenses as well. In the telephoto range, there are 100-300mm f/4 (200-600mm eq.) and 200mm f/2.8 (400mm eq.) lenses, both hand-holdable and stabilised. There are also great standard zooms, such as the 12-35mm f/2.8, or the 12-60mm kit lens. One of the best primes for MFT is the 42.5mm f/1.2 lens.
You can also adapt larger lenses designed for larger sensors thanks to the short flange distance. There are also speed booster adaptors available for Canon EF and Nikon F mounts. These concentrate the image circle of the full-frame lenses onto the smaller sensor and shorten their focal lengths. This largely gives back their full-frame behaviour and light gathering capability.
Sensor and Image Quality
The Panasonic G9 has a Four Thirds-sized sensor, which measures 13mm x 17mm. This gives it a crop factor of 2.0x, although it can’t be directly compared to full-frame due to their different aspect ratios. It has a resolution of 20 megapixels, which is the standard for MFT.
In terms of dynamic range, this sensor is excellent. It doesn’t lag too much behind larger options. In my non-scientific measurement, it seemed to give me around 12 stops of dynamic range. This sensor, however, is not ISO invariant, so you need to nail your
High ISO performance, as you’d expect from a sensor this size, is not great. Up to ISO 3200, images are fairly clean, and they’re still quite usable at 6400. However, that’s what I’d consider the upper limit of the G9.
Note that the default noise reduction setting applies some reduction even to raw files – I recommend turning this off. You’re better off cleaning up your images yourself during editing, instead of letting a generalised algorithm do the job.
The sensor is stabilised on 5 axes. On its own, it gives about 5 stops of correction. Pair the camera with a lens that also has optical stabilisation (most of them have), you get 6.5 stops! And this stabiliser is one of the smoothest I’ve seen in video mode, too.
If you’re not shooting moving subjects (or deliberately go for longer speeds), this actually makes up for the size difference against full-frame cameras. In such situations, the G9 will perform better than cameras with unstabilised full-frame sensors.
In the image below, I was able to perfectly hand-hold 1/3s at 60mm (120mm eq.). And this is not a one-time success: my keeper rate at this speed was around 80%. At 1 second, it dropped to around 25%.
Another great feature made possible by the sensor stabilisation is the high-resolution mode. This mode takes 4 or 8 shots while moving the sensor incrementally at sub-pixel precision. The resulting, stitched images measure 40 or 80 megapixels. This option is available in raw and jpg, but you need to keep the camera steady on a tripod.
In terms of colours, Panasonic’s picture profiles are fairly neutral, as are the raw colours of the G9. Whether you’re shooting raw or jpg, you can expect to get easy-to-work-with files.
Autofocus and Burst
Autofocus is one of the most ambivalent features of the G9.
Most of the time photographers (including myself) prefer phase-detection-based autofocusing systems. Phase detection technology relies on the phase differences of light rays coming through different paths in the lens. This makes it possible to calculate precise focus without actually moving anything in the lens. Once it’s calculated, the lens can move the focusing element(s) exactly where they should be.
However, the G9 doesn’t have phase detection. It relies solely on contrast detection. This technology is generally considered subpar to PD, because, in order to achieve sharp focus, the lens needs to go beyond the point of sharpest focus and come back. This generates comparatively more lens movement, and results in slower acquisition of focus. Usually.
In the G9, you’ll find a new type of contrast detection autofocus, called the Depth from Defocus technology. This works by continuously wobbling the focusing elements in the lens back and forth very quickly, and analysing the live preview. This looks really confusing and weird the first time you see it in the viewfinder. You need to learn to trust the camera that it will take a sharp shot. In my experience, it does, nearly every time.
The technology is only fully compatible with Panasonic’s native lenses. Other Micro Four Thirds lenses can be used with the normal contrast-detection system.
Face and eye detection work well, although not as effectively than Sony’s system. Focus peaking is available.
The Panasonic G9 offers many different continuous shooting (burst) modes. These make it a highly capable action camera.
With continuous autofocus tracking and mechanical shutter, it can deliver 9 frames per second, for around 50 raw files. With tracking and electronic shutter, this number increases to 12 fps.
There are also shorter, super-high-speed options. With these, you don’t always get continuous autofocus, and there’s also no live view. But you can record 50 raw images in a row at either 20 fps (tracking) or 60 fps (no tracking). These can be fantastic for documenting things like water drops or shooting photo-finishes, especially the 60fps option.
The G9 has the potential to be a fantastic video camera in experienced hands. It inherits much of the feature set of the GH5, Panasonic’s video-centric MFT workhorse.
First, it gives you 4k footage at 30fps in 10 bit, or at 60fps in 8 bit. Both options come with high bitrates and record internally to the memory cards. The 10-bit 4k footage responds to grading beautifully, especially with the Log profiles. 4k at 60fps in 10 bit is also possible, but only with an external recorder through the HDMI port.
Second, the built-in stabiliser enables you to shoot hand-held in many situations. It’s just as smooth as the stabiliser in the GH5 but slightly even stronger.
Continuous autofocus also works well, better than in the GH5, actually. It tracks subjects seamlessly and pulls focus smoothly.
The G9 is well supplied with ports for video. It has a microphone input jack (3.5mm) and a headphone output jack (3.5mm) for monitoring your audio. It also has a full-sized HDMI port for outputting clean video feed. With these, you can turn the G9 into a mobile, but versatile and high-quality video camera.
Body and Handling
There are two ways to look at the G9‘s body design. One is that it goes against everything Micro Four Thirds cameras are known for. It’s not compact, and it’s not light at 137mm x 97mm x 92mm and with a weight of 658 grams.
The other is that this has never been the point. The features the G9 offers need a larger body, and so does its primary audience.
It’s built like a tank. I don’t know of a single seemingly more durable
The body is fully weather-sealed, resistant to rain and dust. Many MFT lenses are weather-sealed as well.
A 3″ fully articulating touchscreen is located on the back. The camera is fully optimised to work with the touchscreen interface. However, there are many customisable function buttons, and all the base function buttons you’d find on a full-sized DSLR. It also has a focusing joystick.
You’ll find a small, DSLR-style secondary LCD on the top, which always shows your
I loved that there are three control dials. They offer quick manual controls, making shooting in manual mode an extra bit easier compared to cameras with two dials only. Most cameras, even professional models, only have two dials actually.
I also really liked the OLED electronic viewfinder, it’s one of the best on the market. It’s bright, responsive, and huge. At 0.83 equivalent magnification, it’s much larger than my Canon 5D MkIII‘s optical viewfinder. The G9’s EVF also offers two viewing modes, one optimised for photographers with glasses.
Battery life has never been a strong point of mirrorless cameras, and it’s no different with the G9 either. However, it offers a slightly larger reserve than its direct rivals, at above 400 shots per battery charge. Thanks to the large design of the camera, tripod plates don’t obstruct the opening of the battery compartment.
A key professional feature that separates the G9 from much of its competition is the dual card slots. Both are compatible with UHS-II SD memory cards. The card door is located on the side of the camera. You can swap one of the cards while the other one is recording.
Given the hybrid nature of the Panasonic G9, it has many alternatives that can compete with some of its features. However, there are not many cameras that outperform it in all fields. Those that do cost a lot more.
Perhaps the most direct rival is the Olympus OM-D E-M1 MkII. The second generation of Olympus’ prosumer line, this camera offers similar or better stills features (including phase detection) but lags behind in video. Image quality is basically identical between the two.
The recently reviewed Sony A6400 has awesome autofocus and a modern APS-C sensor. It’s much better suited for low-light use. However, it’s also subpar in most video features, except that it’s not limited at 30 minutes of recording. Check out my review here.
The Canon EOS M6 II is Canon’s recent flagship APS-C mirrorless. It matches up to the G9 in most of its stills features and autofocus, but its image quality is not quite up to the Sony. It’s also very small, unergonomic, and doesn’t have great battery life.
The Canon EOS 7D MkII is Canon’s flagship APS-C DSLR. Introduced in 2014, it shows its age today, but I’ve felt it’s quite comparable to the G9 in some aspect. One is its toughness, build quality, and ergonomics – both are fantastic. They’re also similar in image quality, autofocus, and burst rates (though the 7D can’t do the super-high rates with electronic shutter). In terms of video, the 7D MkII is way behind.
For video production, you might consider Panasonic’s GH5. It has all the video features of the G9 but gives more precise
And finally, if budget is not a limitation to you, there’s one more. The recently announced Canon EOS R6 is a full-frame
The Panasonic G9 is an excellent hybrid camera for a bunch of applications. It excels in action and casual photography, and video recording in good light.
It’s one of the most comfortable and ergonomic mirrorless cameras I’ve ever tested.