Panasonic G9 Video Features, Specs & Analysis

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Posted: 06/29/2017

When I see how Panasonic approaches their camera design, I really wish everyone looked at image-making the same way they do. All their modern cameras are really quite excellent at all types of image capture and give both photographers and videographers something to be excited about. Now, the GH5 is a video camera first and photo camera second, while the G9, on the other hand, is a photo camera first and video camera second. But where they differ from others is that the dip between the "first" and "second" is not a steep one. The GH5 makes great photos and, likewise, the G9 makes great videos.

Body Design

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.

The on/off switch is a more "Nikon-style" than the GH series as well, with the toggle switch around the shutter release button. Speaking of the shutter button, the sensitivity of it seems much, much higher than on the GH series. For those unfamiliar, you can initiate video recording, by default, by either using the record button or the shutter release button. On the GH series, you have to do a solid, firm press on the shutter release to start capture, which is nice because you can do a half-press to confirm autofocus and it prevents you from accidentally starting a recording. On the G9 though, just slightly more than the pressure required for a half-press starts the video recording, which I accidentally initiated at least two or three times per session while shooting with the G9. The sensitivity is way too high, so I recommend turning off the ability to start recording with the shutter button. I actually love having the option to use the shutter button to start recording, but here it's just an inconvenience given how sensitive it is.

The top design of the G9 (top) vs. the GH5 (bottom)

One last note: this is a very personal preference, but I don't like the location of the shutter speed adjustment dial on the G9. Rather than technically on the backside of the camera, nestled nicely above the Menu wheel like it is on the GH series, the G9 instead puts it on the top-deck of the camera, and it is not easy to quickly hit without looking down at the camera. To me it feels like an unnecessary change that actually makes using the camera harder to use. In order to reach that dial, my hand has to contort quite a bit and compress on itself, and it's just not comfortable or intuitive.

Capture Settings, Options, Autofocus and the Like

There are only a few video capture options on the G9 (well, few compared to the GH5 which has a ton) but you have everything you need here for basic videography. You have both 24p and 30p, and you also are gifted 60p in both 4K and 1080p resolutions. Additionally, you have some high frame rate options in 1080p at 180 frames per second. You don't get the plethora of iterations on those settings like you do on the GH5, you don't get .MOV file format nor 10 bit capture, and you also don't get V-Log, but as a stills camera first, I'm OK with all that. Besides, against other stills-first cameras on the market, this is easily the most full-featured in terms of video.

Overall, the footage looks crisp, clear and vibrant whether you are in 4K or Full HD. I noticed some very obvious white balance shifts that came as a result of using auto white balance (I eventually turned it off), and through use it seemed a bit more finicky and prone to adjustment mid shot than other Panasonic video cameras I've used. However, it's also possible I was just shooting in environments where such shifts were more noticeable (rapidly moving clouds, interspersing sun, different colors on surfaces).

On that same note, the autofocus was good, but I felt it tried to hunt for an in-focus target too frequently, rather than settling on something for a time before looking again to make sure it was in focus. This, as with the white balance, may have just been my shooting conditions. I eventually opted for manual focus for much of my shooting (as I normally do with video cameras). So, in a few words, the autofocus could be better, and it often doesn't keep focus exactly where you want it.

As mentioned you have three options in 4K: 24p, 30p and 60p. Each of these looks pretty much identical in terms of quality, so feel free to use any of them as you see fit. This is really good news specifically with 60p, since blending slow motion shots with your regular speed shots is going to look very nice, clean and without a visual loss in quality. In Full HD, you have four options: 24p, 30p, 60i and 60p. Side by side with the 4K counterparts, the 1080p footage does not seem to suffer from quality loss like is common with just about every camera out there right now outside of the GH5/GH5S. Panasonic used to have the quality drop problem, like in the GH4, but seems to have solved it in more recent cameras as there appears to be no dip in quality here. This sets the Lumix G9 as one of the few cameras in its category that allows you to shoot in either 4K or 1080p and not be concerned with a quality loss.

Here is a full list of video formats available on the Lumix G9:

  • 3840 x 2160p at 23.98/29.97/48/59.94 fps (MP4)
  • 1920 x 1080p at 29.97/59.94/180 fps (MP4)
  • 1920 x 1080p at 23.98/29.97/59.94 fps (AVCHD)
  • 1920 x 1080i at 59.94 fps (AVCHD)

(The above options are for the NTSC version of the G9 sold in North America. The PAL version of the camera adds 50 fps at 3840 x 2160p and 1920 x 1080i, 25 fps at 3840 x 2160p and 1920 x 1080p, but removes 1920 x 1080i at 59.94 fps. High Speed Video on the PAL version adds 150 fps at 1920 x 1080p and 50 fps at 3840 x 2160p.)

Note that the certain Full HD options are only available in AVCHD, which is a very unintuitive format that batches video files into a single file that is, especially on Mac, very hard for beginners to figure out, as the actual video clips themselves are buried in multiple levels of package files and folders on the camera's memory card. If you want to shoot in 1080p24, your only option is to use AVCHD, which is really unfortunate given how annoying the format is. I would recommend sticking to MP4 if possible, but then you would lose out on the 24p functionality. It's kind of a lose-lose situation.

With regard to the high frame rate options, you can select them in the menu separate from the quick menu I generally use for changing frame rates in Panasonic cameras. It isn't listed as a frame rate option, but rather only in the HFR (high frame rate) section. Here, you will see the option to record in 180 fps in 1080p, 60 fps in 4K, and 48 fps in 4K. If you select any of these modes via the HFR menu, you get locked into 100% full auto capture. You cannot adjust any exposure settings, autofocus is not supported, audio is not recorded, and all video is output already in slow motion; in the first two settings (1080p180 & 4Kp60) playback is 30 fps, while in the last option (4Kp48) playback is 24 fps. (On PAL cameras, 1080p150 & 4Kp50 playback at 25 fps.)

Shooting in HFR mode is extremely limiting, and in the case of the 180 fps, not very high quality: The footage is grainy and lacks detail. If you want to shoot in 4K and use the HFR functionality, I highly recommend instead that you capture with the standard 4Kp60 frame rate option rather than through the HFR mode and then slow the footage down yourself in post. 4Kp60 is divisible by both 30 and 24 pretty easily (2x slow, 2.5x slow), so you won't miss the 48 fps option found in the HFR menu. Since you're locked in to whatever the camera deems you should be shooting in when you're in the HFR mode, it's not a functionality I can recommend.

Looking at the ISO performance, it is unfortunately not very impressive, at least not when compared to the GH5 or especially the GH5S. Quality is very good, however, through ISO 3200, but once you get up to 6400 it starts to break down. On the plus side, 6400 and 12800 are the top two highest ISOs available on the G9, so it's not like you have a lot of options given to you above where the ISO shines best. On the downside, this performance is about even with what I expected out of the old GH4, and it really limits what you can do in dark environments where you cannot control the lighting. For a camera that has done very well up to this point, it's quite disappointing to see the G9 stumble here, especially when you can look at the GH5, a camera from this same generation, to see considerably better ISO performance in video.

Summary

Pros:

  • Many capture settings, including 4Kp60, which is standout for a camera that is mainly for stills capture
  • Excellent video quality across the capture options, with no loss in sharpness/crispness of video from 4K to 1080p capture
  • High frame rate options
  • Well-designed body, with many buttons and features identical to the popular GH series

Cons:

  • Most 1080p options found in the terrible AVCHD video format
  • HFR mode forces you into full auto exposure mode
  • ISO performance is about at GH4 levels, which is unimpressive in today's market
  • Autofocus is at best par for the course, and at worst uninspired

For a camera that has as many cons as pros, you would think I wouldn't recommend it. The thing is, despite its downsides, the G9 is still very nice video camera. Since it's primarily a stills camera, I can't put too much emphasis on the slightly dumbed-down video features. If you wanted a high-powered video camera, Panasonic makes that in the GH5. As an accompaniment to the GH series, the G9 ticks all the right boxes. Footage will match well with the GH5, and the number of capture options is still impressive. Panasonic remains the only company that seems to be willing to pack 4Kp60 into many of their cameras, and for that we should all be grateful. Sure, the G9 is not perfect for making videos, but it will do a pretty darn good job.

 



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