Panasonic G9 Review
|Full model name:||Panasonic Lumix DC-G9|
(17.3mm x 13.0mm)
|Viewfinder:||EVF / LCD|
|Native ISO:||200 - 25,600|
|Extended ISO:||100 - 25,600|
|Shutter:||1/32000 - 60 sec|
5.4 x 3.8 x 3.6 in.
(137 x 97 x 92 mm)
|Full specs:||Panasonic G9 specifications|
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Panasonic G9 Review -- Now Shooting!
11/08/2017: Hands-on First Impressions
12/08/2017: First Shots with production-level firmware
12/19/2017: Performance page posted
01/24/2018: Field Test Part I posted
02/15/2018: Field Test Part II posted
02/23/2018: Field Test Part III posted
06/29/2018: Video Features & Analysis
Panasonic G9 Overview
Panasonic has no shortage of experience in the digital camera business. It's been 16 years now since the company first kicked off its Lumix camera line with the simultaneously-launched LC5 and F7 compact cameras in late 2001, and close to a decade since the late-2008 launch of its first mirrorless model, the Micro Four Thirds-format Lumix G1. Now, the company brings that experience to bear with perhaps its most exciting camera yet, the Lumix G9, offering much of what impressed us in the more video-oriented GH5 while handily outperforming that camera in the still imaging department, and in a smaller, less expensive body, to boot.
Following in the footsteps of the popular G7 and G85 (which, in some markets, was actually known as the G8), the G9 is a ground-up redesign aimed at significantly improving both handling and image quality. Based around the GH5's 20-megapixel image sensor with, as is typical these days, no resolution-sapping optical low-pass filter, and with its output handled by the latest-generation Venus Engine image processor, the DC-G9 is said to offer the highest still image quality of any Lumix camera to date!
In particular, Panasonic is promising that the Lumix G9 will best its predecessors with greater detail and lower noise levels, especially as the sensitivity ramps up, as well as with more effective sharpening, better suppression of ghosts and flare, plus better color control, which should prove especially noticeable in skin tones and blue skies.
And if you need even more detail with relatively static subjects, the G9 also debuts a clever resolution-enhancing multi-shot mode akin to those seen in recent models from its Micro Four Thirds-partner Olympus, as well as in some Pentax DSLRs and the recently-launched Sony A7R III mirrorless camera. Panasonic's High Resolution mode, much like that used by Olympus, captures a total of eight shots in a couple of seconds, and then combines them for saving in RAW or JPEG formats. The final result is an 80.6-megapixel image which packs in significantly more detail than can be captured in a single shot at the camera's native 20.2-megapixel resolution.
Of course, while image quality is key to a good camera, it's not the first thing you're going to notice when you take it out of the box. Compare it to its predecessors and the G9 really grabs your attention with its completely new magnesium-alloy body, which is now not only splashproof and dustproof, but also freezeproof to 14°F (-10°C) too. Its chunkier handgrip up front and much more generous eyecup on back are the most obvious differences from earlier models, but it also sports a whopping 30 dedicated controls, up from 22 in the G85.
The new chassis sports much-improved ergonomics and more than a few new features, with a generously-sized top-deck status LCD, an intuitive rear-panel joystick for AF point selection, and a triplet of dedicated white balance, ISO and exposure compensation buttons within easy reach of your shutter finger. It also features a lockable mode dial which sports a total of three Custom positions, one up from the G85's two positions. And there's a new front-deck function switch which allows you to quickly toggle back and forth between groups of seven different functions.
The rear-panel LCD is essentially unchanged from that of the G85. Its got a 3.0-inch diagonal, and a resolution of 1,040kdots. It's still attached to a side-mounted tilt/swivel mechanism, our favorite among many different LCD articulation mechanisms on the market for its added versatility, making it easy to get shots high in the air or low to the ground, regardless of their orientation.
The G9's new viewfinder offers class-leading magnification
And when you look even more closely, you'll find some less obvious improvements around the G9's body, including dual UHS-II rated SD card slots, and an uprated electronic viewfinder that's still OLED-based with a manufacturer-claimed 100% coverage, but now sports a more generous 3,680kdot panel resolution, 0.83x magnification (35mm-equivalent) and 21mm eyepoint (from the viewfinder lens). That's as compared to 2,360kdots, 0.74x magnification and a 20mm eyepoint in the G85.
And the new finder also allows not just a blackout-free, user-selectable 60fps or 120fps refresh rate (the latter with an impressively minimal lag of just 0.005 seconds), but also allows control over magnification in three steps, should you wish to do so, perhaps because you want to hold your eye a little further from the eyepiece. Really, the only downside of the new EVF is that it has a more abbreviated dioptric correction range of -4 to +3 diopters, down from the -4 to +4 diopter range of the G85's finder.
Of course, there's a price to pay for all these added controls and features. While it's still a fair bit smaller than the GH5, the G9 is also significantly larger than was the G85 in every dimension, and it's a fair bit heftier, too.
At 5.4 x 3.8 x 3.6 inches, it's about a third of an inch wider, a third of an inch taller and two thirds of an inch deeper than its predecessor. And compared to the GH5, it's almost identical in width, a quarter of an inch less tall and half an inch less deep. In terms of weight, the 23.2-ounce (loaded and ready without a lens) G9 is a pretty noticeable 5.4 ounces heavier than was the G85, and just 2.4 ounces lighter than the GH5.
And of course, since the body is newer and larger than that of its predecessor, if you're upgrading from the G85, you'll also need to buy a new grip. The DMW-BGG9 grip you'll want is priced at around US$350 at launch.
If you are upgrading from the G85, though, you may find it rather easy to overlook the need for a new accessory or two here or there. That's because the G9 is going to give you performance that puts it in an entirely different league from the earlier camera.
Where the G85 was limited to around six frames per second with continuous autofocus or a reasonably swift nine to ten fps with focus fixed from the first frame, the Panasonic Lumix G9 will deliver a whopping 20 fps with continuous autofocus, and a seriously impressive 60 frames per second without, when using the electronic shutter. And that's not just at its full 20.2-megapixel resolution in JPEG format, but also when shooting in raw format, and you'll also find a fairly respectable 50-frame buffer for either format according to Panasonic.
That level of performance also blows the GH5 out of the water, incidentally. The more expensive (but also more video-centric) flagship model is rated at nine fps with continuous autofocus or 12 fps without (with no speed advantage when using the electronic shutter), though the G9 is rated at those same speeds when using the mechanical shutter. Both cameras have buffer depths rated at about 600 JPEGs or 60 raw frames at 12 fps or slower.
The G9 sports a new Advanced Depth from Defocus (or Advanced DFD) autofocus system that's closely related to -- but actually said to slightly outperform -- that which we've seen previously in the GH5. As well as more than quadrupling the total number of autofocus points from 49 in the G85 to a whopping 225 in the G9, the new autofocus system is said to better track subject motion and to be less prone to overshooting when camera to subject distance suddenly stops changing, especially when shooting in 4K and 6K Photo modes.
The new AF system also vaults the Lumix G9 to the top of the industry's league tables in terms of single-point autofocus, according to its maker. The time to achieve a focus lock is now said to be as little as 0.04 seconds, just a smidgen faster than the GH5's 0.05 seconds and the G85's 0.07 seconds. In part, the reason for this level of speed is that Panasonic now has the system operating at an extremely swift 480 samples per second.
The G9 also offers an uprated, more powerful stabilization system
The five-axis image stabilization system in the G9 is another area where the camera bests not only its immediate predecessor, but also its flagship sibling. Although it uses the same gyro sensor as in the GH5, the use of new algorithms which take into account data from the accelerometer and even from the image sensor while determining a motion vector to stabilize mean that it can now calculate that vector more accurately. And what that means in the real world is that the system can now offer a manufacturer-claimed 6.5 stop corrective ability, a noticeable step forward from the 5-stop correction offered by the GH5 and G85.
To better stabilize longer lenses, the Panasonic DC-G9 can combine its in-camera, sensor shift-type stabilization system with the built-in optical stabilization system found in some lenses. This system is known as Dual I.S. 2 in Panasonic parlance, and will prove its worth when shooting at longer focal lengths, but you needn't use a lens with Dual I.S. 2 compatibility to gain the image stabilization's full corrective strength at wider angles, as Panasonic literature indicates a corrective strength of 6.5 stops even with unstabilized lenses.
The G9 offers plenty of other improvements, too
Other improvements in the G9 include a new 6K Photo mode as seen previously in the GH5, mirroring in its functionality the earlier 4K Photo function from the G85 which remains available in the newer models as well. In a nutshell, the modes allow you to shoot video footage with a still-friendly shutter speed at 4K or 6K resolution, for high-res 8.3-megapixel or 18-megapixel frame extraction.
The 4K / 6K Photo mode also now offers a pre-burst photo function to allow you to get the shot even if it happened slightly before you pressed the shutter button. And there's a new top electronic shutter speed of 1/32,000-second, and the mechanical shutter, which tops out at 1/8,000-second has a rated life of 200,000 cycles, just as in the flagship GH5.
There's a new night mode which can be applied separately to either the electronic viewfinder or LCD monitor, and which like the similar mode on recent Pentax DSLRs disables all but the red channel of the live view, image review, menus and overlays, so as to ensure the minimum possible disturbance to your night vision. And you can also now configure a 3-10x display enlargement around the selected autofocus point for easier visual confirmation of focus. In addition, you can assign custom functions to a button on your lens, loop from one side of the frame to the other when selecting AF points, and switch between autofocus points automatically when changing from portrait to landscape orientations or vice versa.
And while it's not aimed at video with quite the same focus as is the GH5 -- most notably, it does have a relatively short 10 minute clip length limit in 50/60p 4K mode, and a 30-minute limit at lower frame rates, it does still support capture of full sensor-width video with no pixel binning or skipping at both 1080p and 4K resolutions. The G9 can, as alluded to just now, record 4K ultra high-def footage at up to 60 frames per second, and Full HD video at up to a whopping 180 fps.
For our money, one of the coolest features of the G9 can be found in a rather unexpected area: Power supply.
Like many cameras, it supports charging battery packs in-camera via a USB charger cable, but it also allows USB power supply, with the camera capable of running completely off the power supplied to it from a USB connection. We measured ourselves, and found that the G9 draws some 700-800mA when inactive, and typically stays under 900mA even when under load, only occasionally peaking at one amp.
At those rates, that means you could power the G9 with a 10,000mAh battery pack similar in size to a pack of playing cards and sold for as little as $25 which would give you battery life on the order of 11 hours or so. And with a rather larger 20,000mAH pack (which is about the same weight as two of the Canon LP-E19 batteries used in the EOS 1DX II), you could power the G9 for close to an entire day.
If you want to stretch the battery life even more, you can also activate a new Power Save LVF mode which puts the camera to sleep completely whenever you take the viewfinder away from your eye, and then requires a half-press of the shutter button to bring it back to life. Be doing so, which is easy if you just remind yourself to half-press the shutter button whenever you're raising the camera to your eye, you can more than double the rated battery life from 380 to 920 frames in conditions otherwise similar to the standard CIPA test.
Unusually modern wireless connectivity comes standard in the G9
The G9 includes both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi radios. The Bluetooth radio is a 4.2 Low Energy-unit that keeps power consumption to a gentle sip, allowing for an always-on connection. The Wi-Fi radio is unusual that, at least in some countries, it's both 2.4 and 5GHz-compatible and supports not just the 802.11b/g/n standards, but also the much faster 802.11a/n/ac standards as well.
You can not only remote control the G9 complete with a remote live view feed -- and even wake the camera remotely-- via Wi-Fi, but also remote control it without a live view feed using the much lower-power consumption Bluetooth radio to conserve battery life. Of course, you can also use the Bluetooth connection to your smartphone to geotag your images. And you can copy settings between camera bodies via your smartphone, a nice touch if you need to shoot with a random body assigned from a pool.
And it's not just wireless communication that's unusually well-specified on the G9. The wired connectivity has also been showered with love, with the new model providing a USB 3.0 Micro B connector compatible with the original-spec USB 3.0 SuperSpeed (Gen 1) standard. Catering to external recording and tethered playback, the G9 also has a Type-A HDMI port. Output is 4:2:2 at 8 bits, except for 4K 60p which is 4:2:0. Of course, the G9 includes 3.5mm external stereo mic and headphone jacks, a 2.5mm remote control port, and a PC-sync socket.
The G9 will be sold body-only in the US market, priced at around $1,700. It's expected to start shipping from early January 2018. The camera ships with a single battery pack, a USB-powered dedicated battery charger, an AC/USB adapter, USB 2.0 & USB 3.0 cables, shoulder strap, eye cup, body cap, flash sync socket cover, hot-shoe cover, and manuals. As mentioned previously, you can expect to pay US$350 for its optionally-available battery grip accessory.
• • •
Panasonic G9 Hands-on First Impressions
A preliminary field test with Panasonic's photo-centric flagship camera
For Panasonic, the GH5 has been a tremendously successful camera, especially for the video creators out there. Packed with professional-level video features, I think many folks forget that it also shoots terrific photographs. With the new Lumix G9, it seems Panasonic themselves feels there is room in their lineup for a second flagship model, one that is, in fact, more focused on still photography as opposed to video -- though it's still packed with lots of video features.
Ahead of its debut, I was able to spend a few days shooting with this new top-tier Micro Four Thirds camera, and wanted to share some of my initial thoughts from the field. And although the camera body is still in the early firmware stages, it feels very stable and bug-free from my experience so far. We've also been given the green light to publish full-resolution images from the camera. (Head over to the G9 Gallery and Lab Samples pages if you want to begin browsing images.) As I said, I've only had a few days to shoot with the G9, so the isn't a comprehensive Field Test, but rather more of "hands-on first impressions" that delves into the camera's ergonomics and design as well as touches on an initial assessment of its image quality and performance. We will, of course, test and compare the camera much more thoroughly in the coming days and weeks, so please stay tuned!
Panasonic G9 Field Test Part I
An impressive mirrorless camera with great design & performance
Camera Body and Handling
In William Brawley's hands-on first impressions of the Panasonic G9, he went into a lot of detail regarding the G9's ergonomics and handling. I want to add my two cents as everyone's experience with a camera will be a bit different.
With that said, I certainly echo William's sentiments that the G9 feels very secure in the hand. The G9 feels fantastic. The grip is chunky without making the camera huge. It's large for a Micro Four Thirds mirrorless camera, but it is still pretty compact and lightweight without sacrificing anything by way of physical controls. It is like a downsized pro DSLR.
Panasonic G9 Field Test Part II
A lot of great video features including 4K/60p recording
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.
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.
Panasonic G9 Field Test Part III
The G9 includes a plethora of great shooting features
In my first two Field Tests, I focused on the camera's design, image sensor, autofocus, performance and then its use as a video camera. In this third and final Field Test, I will be discussing the shooting experience in greater detail and discuss shooting modes, wireless functionality and more. The Panasonic G9 has a lot of good features, such as time-lapse shooting and 6K Photo, which will be discussed in this Field Test. Finally, I will wrap up my overall thoughts of the Panasonic G9 based on my real-world testing.
While a large part of a camera's shooting experience comprises its design, ergonomics, image quality and autofocus, there are other aspects that matter a lot, too. Metering is an example of this. It's not often I encounter serious issues with a camera's metering system because most cameras work well in that regard. The G9 is one of those cameras. Its 1,728-zone metering system offers intelligent multiple, center-weighted and spot metering modes, with the lattermost being tied to the active autofocus point. Further, the camera has +/- 5 stops of exposure compensation, which is overkill in most cases, but still welcome.
Panasonic G9 Video Features, Specs & Analysis
Though primarily for stills, the Panasonic G9 is a pretty great video camera
If you've ever used a Panasonic Lumix GH5 or GH4, the G9 feels pretty familiar. Aside from a deeper and more robust grip and some buttons being slightly moved around, the camera itself feels pretty much the same. The Quick Menu, which is the handiest default button on Lumix cameras for video shooters, is in a slightly location than on the GH5, down from near the AFS/AFC/MF toggle area to just below the Menu button/wheel. The record button is also different than on the GH cameras, located to the right of the top-facing LCD.
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