Panasonic G9 Field Test Part II

A lot of great video features including 4K/60p recording

by Jeremy Gray | Posted 02/15/2018

Recap of Field Test Part I

In my first G9 Field Test, I discussed the camera's ergonomics and handling; image sensor and image quality; performance; autofocus and more. In the second Field Test, I will be discussing the camera's video features and performance. The G9 is a very capable video camera, as we will see, but it's not without its shortcomings. Let's find out how it does on balance compared to its predecessor and competition.

Video

The G9 is a very capable video camera, not only in general but especially for its price point. Priced well under $2,000, the G9 can record 4K video at up to 60 frames per second, which is very impressive and still fairly uncommon for a camera at this price. There is a downside to this 4K/60p video, however, which is that the recording length is limited to 10 minutes. By reducing the frame rate to 30 fps, the G9 can record 30-minute long 4K clips. While many video features are shared between the Panasonic GH5 and the G9, the former does deliver longer 4K/60p clips. The G9 records 4K/60p video at a bitrate up to 150Mbps and 30p video at 100Mbps. The video output tops out at 4:2:0 8-bit quality unless you use the full-size HDMI output, which offers 4:2:2 video at 30p, although it's still 4:2:0 when using 60p.

G9 4K/60p Video
3840 x 2160 video recorded with 12-35mm f/2.8 II lens at 35mm (76mm eq. with 16:9 crop) at 60 frames per second, 1/125s shutter speed, f/8 aperture
Download Original (225.2 MB .MP4 File)

G9 4K/30p Video
3840 x 2160 video recorded with 12-35mm f/2.8 II lens at 35mm (76mm eq. with 16:9 crop) at 30 frames per second, 1/60s shutter speed, f/11 aperture
Download Original (136.4 MB .MP4 File)

That said, the G9 delivers a ton of great features. The camera records using the full width of its sensor, cropping off only the top and bottom of the frame for 16:9 aspect ratio video, and it does not have any pixel binning or skipping at either 4K UHD or Full HD resolutions. Speaking of Full HD recording, the G9 can record 1920 x 1080 video at a very impressive 180 fps.

G9 Full HD High-Speed Video
1920 x 1080 video recorded with 12-35mm f/2.8 II lens at 35mm (76mm eq. with 16:9 crop) at 180 frames per second, automatic shooting settings and locked focus
Download Original (180.8 MB .MP4 File)

Autofocus

In my first Field Test, I discussed how good the G9's autofocus performance is when recording still images, even at high continuous shooting speeds, and its video autofocus is similarly impressive. The camera is quick and decisive with its focus and very rarely hunts once focus has been acquired, at least in good light.

G9 Autofocus Speed Test Video
3840 x 2160 video recorded with 100-400mm lens at various focal lengths at 30 frames per second
Download Original (273.8 MB .MP4 File)

In good light, the autofocus is very good. However, in lower light, there is some occasional hunting. You can see in the video below that the G9, despite the subject being fairly high contrast, struggled slightly with acquiring and maintaining focus.

G9 Low Light Autofocus Test Video
3840 x 2160 video recorded with 12-35mm f/2.8 II lens at various focal lengths at 30 frames per second, f/4.5 aperture, ISO 200
Download Original (167.6 MB .MP4 File)

The focus modes are highly varied and include touch AF single point mode, fully automatic autofocus and subject tracking. I utilized subject tracking for the eagle video below to ensure that the eye remained in focus and the G9 did a very good job. In the second video below, the G9 did similarly well even when the subject was moving across the entirety of the frame. I was impressed with the subject tracking capabilities, especially considering that the lens was set to a very long focal length in both cases.

G9 4K Video #1
3840 x 2160 video recorded with 100-400mm lens at 300mm (653mm equiv.) at 30 frames per second, f/11, ISO 100
Download Original (447.2 MB .MP4 File)

G9 Subject Tracking Autofocus Test Video
3840 x 2160 video recorded with 100-400mm lens at 300mm (653mm eq. with 16:9 crop) at 30 frames per second
Download Original (569.6 MB .MP4 File)

Video Quality

The G9 records video across a pretty wide range of ISOs, 100 to 12,800. In the video below, we can see a sample of each. I selected a difficult scene with respect to exposure and dynamic range so that I could more easily see how contrast changed with an increase in ISO. The first thing worth noting is that at ISO 100, which is an extended, non-native ISO setting, the entire scene is a slightly different brightness despite using the same exposure compensation setting during recording. It's not uncommon for extended ISO settings to deliver slightly different dynamic range.

G9 4K ISO Test Video
3840 x 2160 video clips recorded with 12-35mm f/2.8 II lens at 12mm (26mm eq. with 16:9 crop) and with various apertures to match exposure across ISO range. ISO settings are labeled on each clip.
Download test video (819.1 MB .MP4 File)

At low ISOs, the video quality is very good. We get some nice preservation of shadow and highlight detail, and there is good rendition of fine details. At ISO 800, there is some softening of the fine details, but the overall image still looks good. The softening continues at ISO 1600 and starts to produce a sort of blur effect across the entire frame. Contrast and colors are still nice, however, so it's certainly usable. ISO 3200 is similar in many respects but continues to become softer. ISO 6400 and 12800 video show instances of false color and are very soft; I would not use either of them unless it was absolutely necessary.

G9 4K Video #2
3840 x 2160 video recorded with 12-35mm f/2.8 II lens at 21mm (45mm eq.) at 30 frames per second, f/11, ISO 200
Download Original (131.8 MB .MP4 File)

On a related note, the G9 offers the very useful ability to independently set Auto ISO lower and upper limits for video. It's very nice to have the option to set different auto ISO behavior for still and video recording.

Overall, video quality from the G9 is excellent from ISO 100 to 400, very good at ISO 800, pretty good at ISO 1600 and 3200 and fair at best at ISO 6400 and 12,800. The camera is very capable of producing excellent 4K UHD video footage.

Usability

The fully articulating screen, which is very useful for stills photography, is perhaps even more useful for video recording. The G9 offers live histogram and zebra warnings, which is very nice, especially when recording video. You can start a recording using the dedicated movie record button or the shutter depending on your shooting mode. Touchscreen functionality works great for video, much like it does when shooting stills. You can control exposure parameters with on-screen buttons, which is ideal for times you don't want to introduce audio issues or camera shake by rotating the camera's dials and pressing physical buttons.

Unusual for a fairly compact camera, the G9 has a full-size HDMI output. Via this output, you can playback up to 4K/60p video files, depending on your display, and the G9 also offers fully clean HDMI output.

The G9's image stabilization is excellent, and I'll discuss it further with respect to still images in my third Field Test. In the video below, I shot handheld at 364mm with different image stabilization settings and you can see how dramatic the effect can be, particularly when using electronic image stabilization. Of course, using electronic image stabilization does create a slight crop, which is visible in the video comparison. The crop is not massive, so it is not a big problem, especially as compared to recording shaky handheld video.

G9 Image Stabilization Test Video - Electronic IS On
3840 x 2160 video recorded with 100-400mm lens at 364mm (793mm eq. with 16:9 crop) at 30 frames per second, lens IS enabled and electronic IS enabled
Download Original (83.4 MB .MP4 File)

G9 Image Stabilization Test Video - Electronic IS Off
3840 x 2160 video recorded with 100-400mm lens at 364mm (793mm eq. with 16:9 crop) at 30 frames per second, lens IS enabled and electronic IS disabled
Download Original (72 MB .MP4 File)

Field Test Part II Summary

Not Panasonic's best 4K camera, but still very good

What I liked:

  • Very good 4K video quality
  • 4K/60p video recording
  • Strong autofocus in many situations
  • Articulating screen works well during video recording

What I disliked:

  • Doesn't quite match the GH5 in terms of video features
  • Only a 10-minute clip length when recording 4K/60p video

We saw in my first Field Test that the G9 is a very good stills camera. As it turns out, it's also a very good camera for shooting video. 4K UHD video quality is excellent across a pretty wide range of ISO speeds and autofocus/exposure performance is generally quite good too. Compared to the competition from outside Panasonic, the G9 is great for video. However, within Panasonic's lineup, the GH5 (and GH5S) do have the G9 beat in the video department. While it may top the GH5 with respect to some of its imaging features thanks to improved processing, the G9 does not quite match up with the GH5 across the board for video. Both cameras offer 4K/60p recording, for example, but the GH5 has a longer clip length and higher bit rate. There are other video features present in the GH5 that aren't in the G9, but nonetheless, the G9 delivers a lot to like for its price point. Overall, the G9 is an excellent camera for video, especially if you also desire a very good stills camera.

G9 4K Video #3
3840 x 2160 video recorded with 8-18mm lens at various focal lengths at 30 frames per second, f/8, ISO 200
Download Original (216.3 MB .MP4 File)

In my next Field Test, I will be concentrating on the shooting experience and shooting modes of the G9, including its high-resolution composite mode, wireless features and much more. I will also look at time-lapse video in the next Field Test. Stay tuned to Imaging Resource for more on the G9.



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