Panasonic GX9 Conclusion
Panasonic GX9 Conclusion
Panasonic 12-32mm f/3.5-5.6: 32mm, f/5.6, 1/640s, ISO 200
The Panasonic GX9. Is it the successor to the GX8 or the GX85? The model name suggests one thing, but the design and features suggest another. The GX9 shares a lot with the GX85, including overall size and shape, though it incorporates some nice design features from the GX8. Inside, it sports a new 20MP Four Thirds sensor, updated Venus Engine processor, Dual I.S. and 4K UHD video up to 30fps.
Read on below to see how the camera fared in our testing, and whether or not it's the right fit in your camera bag...
When it comes to image quality, there's a lot to love from the Panasonic GX9. Thanks to its higher-resolution 20-megapixel Four Thirds sensor, the GX9 offers more resolving power than the 16MP GX85. At 20MP, the GX9 offers all-around excellent image quality, with sharp, detailed images and very good dynamic range for a Micro Four Thirds camera. To date, we've not yet seen a higher-resolution Micro Four Thirds camera, so the Lumix GX9 is right up there with modern standards. Compared to the GX8, which also used a 20MP sensor, the GX9 captures finer detail and sharper images thanks to the lack of an optical low-pass filter as well as improved JPEG processing. Color and contrast have also improved. As with other OLPF-less cameras, however, the GX9 is more prone to unsightly moiré and other aliasing artifacts on subjects/objects like buildings and certain fabrics.
The GX9 offers great performance at higher ISOs and is as good or better than other 20MP Micro Four Thirds cameras we've tested. We found excellent detail and well-controlled noise up to around the ISO 1600 mark, with detail loss and stronger noise reduction becoming more noticeable at ISO 3200 and beyond. Further, around ISO 6400 chroma noise become an issue as well. In terms of physical print quality performance, the GX9 does a really nice job, even besting its GX8 "predecessor" at some ISOs. At ISO 6400, for example, the GX9 can produce a good 8 x 10-inch print, whereas the GX8 topped-out at a 5 x 7.
For fans of JPEG shooting, the GX9 introduces a new Photo Style presets aimed at black and white photography. The new L.Monochrome presets (L.Monochrome and L.Monochrome D to be exact) replace the video-centric Cinelike D and Cinelike V Photo Styles of the GX8. Combined with the existing "Monochrome" picture style, the GX9 offers lot of flexibility when it comes to creating pleasing monochrome photos. Plus, the all-new Grain Effect filter gives photographers an extra level of creativity, offering three levels of film-like grain that can be added to your images. And with the GX9's in-camera RAW processing, you can easily go back and tweak your shot and apply whatever Photo Style or film grain filter you want.
Panasonic 25mm f/1.7: 25mm, f/1.7, 1/60s, ISO 800, L. Monochrome Picture Style
Like most Panasonic Lumix cameras, the GX9 offers a healthy dose of video features, including 4K UHD video up to 30fps with a 100Mbps bitrate and no recording limit (although longer videos may be split up into separate files depending on the format and SD card used). Spec-wise, it provides similar video features as found in the GX85. Quality-wise, video looks really nice, especially 4K video. There's a lot of crisp, fine detail, good dynamic range, and colors look realistic and pleasing without over-saturation when using the default "Standard" Photo Style. The camera's Dual I.S. image stabilization technology does wonders for smoothing out handheld shooting, which is very convenient.
Despite good video quality, the GX9 feels aimed more at casual video shooters. The camera lacks many of the advanced video features seen on higher-end Lumix cameras, including higher bitrate options, Log profiles and more, plus the body lacks both microphone and headphone jacks. There's also no NTSC/PAL switching (it's NTSC-only for the North American model we tested), and 4K video resolution has a noticeable crop compared to Full HD video.
In terms of speed and performance, the Panasonic GX9 is a nimble and responsive camera. Autofocus, especially in single-shot AF mode, is extremely quick and when combined with a very low shutter lag, the GX9 can be at the ready and able to fire off shots at a moment's notice. AF-S autofocus performance in our lab testing proved very quick and was competitive with even prosumer-level DSLRs. Continuous AF performed fairly well in our testing as well. It didn't have a perfect C-AF keeper rate, though not many cameras do. It did reasonably well at keeping pace with a moving subject, though the camera's focus sometimes had trouble keeping up with each frame and focused slightly behind from time to time.
Continuous mode speed is impressive for its class as well, with AF-S burst rate testing just a hair faster than Panasonic's own 9fps spec. With continuously active AF, the burst rate drops down to around 6fps, which is decently quick for general shooting, but the GX9 is not designed for super-fast action or sports photography. That said, the GX9 does incorporate Panasonic's 4K Photo technology, allowing for fast 30fps image capture, but at a reduced 4K (aka 8-megapixel) image size. The GX9 does introduce a couple of new 4K Photo features, one of which is an Auto-Marking feature that lets you scrub through your 4K Photo sequence and mark keeper shots for easier image processing and sorting later. There's also a new Sequence Composition feature, which lets you shoot a burst of 4K Photos and then build a composite image in-camera. As Dave Pardue found out, the feature works quite well and can yield some interesting results. However, you need to be careful to watch your backgrounds and which frames you select to composite together, as stitching errors and other artifacts can occur.
Panasonic GX9's Sequence Composition mode.
If you do happen to shoot bursts, the GX9 will let you capture a lot of frames thanks to its generous buffer depths, particularly with JPEGs (RAW and RAW+JPEG modes will fill up the buffer much more quickly, but the GX9 still does quite well). What it does less well is clearing that buffer full of images. Even with a super-fast SD card, the GX9 will, for example, take around 29 seconds to empty a full buffer of RAW+JPEGs. Unfortunately, the GX9 is not UHS-II compatible, which would likely have helped dump those images out of the buffer faster. Some good news, though, is that you can still take more photos while the buffer is clearing as well as access menus and adjust settings. (Some cameras lock you out while the buffer is clearing.)
Handling & Design
As mentioned earlier, the GX9 is more of a GX85 successor than it is to the GX8, and the most telling evidence of that is in the camera's design. In terms of size and shape, the GX9 is very similar to the GX85. Whereas the GX8 offered a more substantial grip, beefier body with rugged weather-sealing and an articulated LCD screen, the GX9, on the other hand, is more compact with fewer controls, a tilting LCD and, unfortunately, no weather-sealing. The GX9 does borrow some features of the GX8 that the GX85 doesn't have, including a tilting EVF, a physical AF mode switch and a dedicated exposure compensation dial, so it is a bit of a hybrid beast all around.
The touchscreen on the GX9 works well and feels responsive, both for moving the AF point around and when navigating on-screen menus and buttons (the GX9's main menu system is also full touch-interactive). The EVF itself gets a downgrade from the OLED viewfinder in the GX8 to a "field-sequential type" LCD. The resolution isn't as good, and visible RGB tearing or rainbow-colored artifacts can be seen on fast motion or when blinking, which is pretty distracting. Plus, the EVF feels a bit cramped, and the display is somewhat small. It's a similar EVF experience to that of the GX85, with added tilting feature. Still, having an EVF is better than not having one at all, that's for sure!
Image stabilization works really well for both stills and video, helping with usability in low-light situations, slower shutter speeds and handheld video shooting.
The Panasonic GX9 is an interesting little camera. It's small, lightweight and gets a lot of things right, including image quality, autofocus, and performance. On the other hand, it's a bit of a confusing situation knowing just which Panasonic camera this GX9 replaces, who it's for, and whether or not you should upgrade to it.
First and foremost, the naming of the camera model is cause for confusion. In most markets, including North America and Europe, Panasonic calls this camera the Lumix GX9, which makes you think it's the logical successor to the GX8. However, the GX8 was Panasonic's highest-end "rangefinder-style" mirrorless camera, sporting a larger weather-sealed body with more physical controls and buttons and no built-in flash. Instead, look to the GX9's Japanese market name: the Lumix GX7 Mark III. Here, it seems to be the logical update to the GX7 Mark II, which for us here in North America is the GX85. When comparing the GX9 between the GX85 or the GX8, it appears to be more of a successor to the GX85 than the GX8. Based on feature set, build quality and size, the Panasonic GX9 can be thought of as the update to the GX85.
Panasonic 12-32mm f/3.5-5.6: 12mm, f/5.6, 1/500s, ISO 200, L. Monochrome Picture Style
And that's not a bad thing. The GX85 is a great camera, and the GX9 provides a lot of nice upgrades over that particular model. But it feels unfortunate to those who are waiting for a new flagship "rangefinder-style" Lumix camera, one to take the reins over from the GX8 that debuted all the way back in 2015. Sadly, it seems that a true GX8 successor is either not coming at all, or we'll just have to wait a bit longer.
All in all, regardless of which camera it replaces, on its own the Panasonic GX9 is really nice and solid little camera. It's small, lightweight and feels nice in the hand. It takes excellent photos, right up there with some of the best Micro Four Thirds cameras. And it shoots pleasing 4K video as well as offers a host of nifty 4K Photo shooting modes. It packs a lot into a small package -- exactly what many of us expect from a "Micro" Four Thirds camera. Kitted out with a versatile 12-60mm lens, the GX9 comes in right at $1000. It's not the best value around, but it's a fair price for a solid camera and cheaper than the GX8's original body-only price. Indeed, the Panasonic GX9 definitely earns a Dave's Pick.
Pros & Cons
- Great image quality for a Micro Four Thirds camera
- Good high ISO performance for its class
- Sharper images thanks to the lack on an optical low-pass filter
- Improved JPEG processing compared to it predecessor
- New shutter mechanism is said to reduce shutter shock by 90%
- In-camera RAW processing
- Very good dynamic range
- Fast autofocus
- Low shutter lag
- Very fast single-shot cycle times
- Fast ~9fps burst mode with deep buffers
- Autofocuses in very low light
- 4K PHOTO features, including new Sequence Composition mode and Auto-Marking feature
- Tilting EVF
- EVF feels small but offers accurate frame coverage
- Accurate LCD monitor coverage
- Built-in Wi-Fi now with added Bluetooth LE connectivity
- Dual I.S. system works great
- Lightweight build with solid construction & comfortable ergonomics
- Responsive and handy tilt touchscreen LCD
- Good video quality with full-time AF
- In-camera battery charging
- Not really a GX8 successor
- Sluggish buffer clearing (and does not support UHS-II cards)
- Below average battery life, but ECO Mode can greatly extend battery life
- Images more prone to moiré and other aliasing artifacts
- Sequence Composition can show compositing artifacts if you're not careful
- RGB artifacts visible in EVF
- No weather-sealing
- No headphone or mic jacks
- 4K video is cropped