Panasonic G9 Conclusion

As we write this conclusion, Panasonic has just taken the wraps off their new full-frame cameras, the S1 and S1R. While there's something new and shiny on the horizon, there is still a lot to like in the company's Micro Four Thirds lineup, including the Panasonic G9, which released at the beginning of this year.

The Panasonic G9 is the company's flagship stills-oriented camera and sits above the Panasonic G85. Compared to the G85, the G9 has many advantages including a 20.3-megapixel sensor, for example, the same one used in the Panasonic GH5. Whereas the GH5 appeals more to video shooters, the G9 is aimed more at stills shooters, although they are both very capable hybrid cameras. The G9 also features a larger electronic viewfinder than the G85, dual card slots, faster JPEG shooting, a faster electronic shutter and many other improvements and new features.

Image Quality

The G9 gets a boost in megapixel count from 16 to 20 when compared to 2017's G85. Further, the G9 includes improved image processing thanks to the latest-gen Venus processor. These two improvements add up to noticeably better image quality.

Leica DG 8-18mm f/2.8-4.0 lens at 12mm (24mm equiv.), f/7.1, 2s, ISO 200.
Click for full-size image. Click here for RAW image.

The Panasonic G9 delivers images with good contrast and pleasing color. Due to the lack of an optical low-pass filter, the G9 can produce some aliasing artifacts, but that also means it delivers images with very good fine detail. At its base ISO of 200, the Panasonic G9 captures sharp, detailed images which can hold up nicely against its APS-C competition. Compared to the Olympus E-M1 Mark II, the G9 delivers cleaner images with better sharpness and more nuanced processing. With that said, the G9 was lab-tested with a new lens, so it has a slight advantage over previously-tested MFT cameras in that respect. Overall, though, sharpness from the G9 is very good, with only minor edge-enhancement artifacts around high-contrast subjects.

As you increase the ISO, the G9 pulls further away from the G85. This is due in large part not only to improved hardware, but also the improved software inside the camera. Despite having smaller pixels than the G85, the G9 produces images with less noise at ISO 1600 and beyond.

Leica DG 100-400mm f/4.0-6.3 lens at 400mm (800mm equiv.), f/6.3, 1/1250s, ISO 12,800.
Click for full-size image. Click here for RAW image.
Leica DG 100-400mm f/4.0-6.3 lens at 400mm (800mm equiv.), f/6.3, 1/1250s, ISO 12,800.
100% crop from the original JPEG file. Click for full-size image. Click here for RAW image.

In our print quality analysis, we found the G9 to produce excellent 30 x 40 inch prints at base ISO, a good 16 x 20 inch print at ISO 800 and a fine 11 x 14 print at ISO 3200. Beyond ISO 3200, quality does degrade quite a bit, knocking acceptable print size down to 8 x 10 at ISO 6400 and 5 x 7 at ISO 12,800. (We don't recommend prints at its top ISO of 25,600.) Given its sensor size and megapixel count, the Panasonic G9 delivered a solid performance in our print quality testing.

Autofocus and Performance

Looking first at how the G9's autofocus did in the lab, it proved to deliver excellent overall performance despite not having any phase-detect pixels. Full-autofocus shutter lag was a mere 0.121 second, which is as fast or faster than many pro-level DSLR cameras.

In the field, the situation was generally positive as well, with the 225-point DFD-powered autofocus system delivering fast and accurate results. The camera occasionally could get confused and lock onto the background, but it was typically able to quickly recover.

Leica DG 100-400mm f/4.0-6.3 lens at 400mm (800mm equiv.), f/8.0, 1/125s, ISO 200.
Click for full-size image. Click here for RAW image.

With respect to shooting performance, the G9 generally excelled in our lab tests. The camera is fast to power on, capture an image and cycle from shot-to-shot. In terms of continuous shooting, the G9 is a very fast camera. With the mechanical shutter, it can capture RAW and JPEG images at just over 12 frames per second. Buffer depths proved impressive as well, allowing for over 80 RAW frames with 14-second clearing time –and 600 JPEG images, which cleared in a similar amount of time. It's worth noting that the G9's shooting speeds when using AF-C drop to 9 fps, which is still quick. When you shoot with the electronic shutter, you can capture full-size RAW and JPEG images at a whopping 60 frames per second, which is extremely fast; when using continuous autofocus, the burst rate drop to a still-impressive 20 fps.

Camera Body and Handling

Similar to the GH5, the G9 has a large front grip that lets you easily grip and hold the camera. It's a comfortable camera to use. The G9 also includes ample physical controls, which makes changing settings on the fly a breeze while in the field.

The G9 is the first Panasonic mirrorless camera to include a top-deck LCD panel, which gives it an appearance similar to a high-end DSLR, although considerably smaller than something like a Nikon D850 or Canon 5D Mark IV. The G9 is essentially a shrunken-down DSLR, while being mirrorless and feeling every bit as capable as larger cameras. Being mirrorless, the G9 relies on an electronic viewfinder, which delivers a 35mm-equivalent magnification of 0.83x. This large viewfinder works very well for composing images and tracking subjects. The G9's EVF refreshes at 120 fps and doesn't have blackout, which we enjoyed a lot out in the field. In fact, at the time of our first Field Test, we found it to be one of the better EVFs out there.

The top deck of the G9 is very well-organized.

With its dual control dials, comfortable grip, great EVF and considerable number of physical controls, the Panasonic G9 offers a great user experience and is a very well-designed Micro Four Thirds camera.

Video Features and Performance

While the GH5 and GH5S may be the more popular cameras for videographers, that does not mean that the G9 doesn't have video chops. There aren't quite as many modes and features on the G9 as there are on the GH5-series of cameras, but the G9 does offer a lot, including 4K UHD video capture at up to 60 frames per second, which is something not very many cameras offer, let alone ones with these kinds of still photography capabilities and at this price point.

There isn't V-Log, 10-bit video or unlimited recording on the G9, but the footage from the camera is crisp and autofocus proved to be decent, although somewhat prone to hunting even when the subject was in focus. While 4K quality at all three offered frame rates, 24, 30 and 60p, was good, we were similarly impressed with the Full HD video quality, which naturally delivers less resolution than 4K video but still looks nice. The story is not as positive with the high frame-rate video mode, so we recommend shooting at 4K/60p and slowing it down rather than using HFR mode. Similarly, the high ISO video performance is not very impressive, although you can get good-quality video up through ISO 3200. ISO 6,400 is noticeably degraded, so it is best avoided if possible.

Summary

Overall, the Panasonic G9 is a very good Micro Four Thirds camera and is a particularly good stills camera. With that said, despite it being Panasonic's flagship stills-shooting Micro Four Thirds camera, the G9 still has impressive video capabilities, although without all the same features as the GH5. With its DSLR-like design, the G9 is very easy and intuitive to use while delivering high-quality images that can compete against some APS-C cameras.

Lumix G Vario 12-35mm f/2.8 II lens at 17mm (34mm equiv.), f/11, 1/160s, ISO 200.
Click for full-size image. Click here for RAW image.

The Panasonic G9 has many excellent shooting features, great overall performance and is a great value within an overall robust and versatile camera system. There have been a lot of great cameras released since last December, but the Panasonic G9 might be one of the most underrated of the bunch. If you are looking for a stills-focused Panasonic MFT camera, look no further than the Panasonic G9. Without a doubt, the Lumix G9 earns a spot as a Dave's Pick!

Pros & Cons

  • Same excellent 20-megapixel Four Thirds sensor as GH5
  • Improved JPEG processing produces better color, contrast and detail than predecessor
  • Fast startup
  • Swift single-shot AF performance
  • Can autofocus in very low light
  • Low shutter lag
  • Continuous shooting at up to 60 fps with e-shutter (20 fps with C-AF)
  • 12 fps with m-shutter (9 fps with C-AF)
  • Generous buffer depths
  • Reasonably quick buffer clearing
  • In-camera High Res composite mode generates up to 80.6-megapixel images
  • Class-leading 0.83x magnification OLED EVF with 100% coverage
  • Very effective in-body image stabilization supports Dual IS 2
  • Dual SD slots with UHS-II support
  • Robust, weather-sealed construction
  • Well-designed camera body
  • Lots of physical controls
  • Top deck status display
  • Fully articulating touchscreen LCD
  • 4K UHD video capture up to 60p
  • Full HD video up to 180p
  • Good battery life for its class
  • Built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth
  • USB 3.0 Micro B port
  • HDMI Type A port
  • Can be powered or charged via USB
  • External headphone and mic jacks
  • North American (NTSC) version tested has no PAL video support
  • 10 min limit for 4Kp60 video clips, 29:59 limit for other resolutions and framerates
  • Does not offer V-Log, 10-bit video or .MOV file recording, all features the GH5 includes
  • Unimpressive High Frame Rate video mode
  • DFD AF not as capable as leading hybrid systems for continuous AF
  • Autofocus joystick didn't always register movement
  • DSLR-style design means that the G9 is not quite as compact as some of its Micro Four Thirds competition
  • Stills susceptible to moiré and other aliasing artifacts due to lack of OLPF
  • Context-sensitive noise reduction and sharpening can lead to some (minor) artifacts in JPEGs
  • High-Res mode is very sensitive camera shake
  • Flash not supported in High-Res mode
  • No built-in flash (common for pro models)


 



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