Panasonic GX9 Image Quality Comparison

Below are crops from our laboratory Still Life target comparing the Panasonic GX9's image quality at a few ISOs to its "numerical" predecessor's, the GX8, as well as against several competing models at similar price points or in similar categories: the Canon M5, Fuji X-T20, Olympus PEN-F and Sony A6300.

NOTE: These images are from best quality JPEGs straight out of the camera, at default settings including noise reduction and using the camera's actual base ISO (not extended ISO settings). All cameras in this comparison were shot with our very sharp reference lenses. Clicking any crop will take you to a carrier page where you can click once again to access the full resolution image as delivered straight from the camera. For those interested in working with the RAW files involved, click these links to visit each camera's respective sample image thumbnail page: Panasonic GX9, Panasonic GX8, Fuji X-T20, Olympus PEN-F and Sony A6300 -- links to the RAW files appear beneath those for the JPEG images, wherever we have them. And remember, you can always go to our world-renowned Comparometer to compare the Panasonic GX9 to any camera we've ever tested!

Panasonic GX9 vs Panasonic GX8 at Base ISO

Panasonic GX9 at ISO 200
Panasonic GX8 at ISO 200

Here we compare the GX9 to its (numerical) predecessor, the GX8, at base ISO. As you can see, the GX9 image is sharper and slightly more detailed, however be aware we have since changed lab lenses and aperture for Micro Four Thirds cameras since the GX8 was shot, moving from a Zuiko 50mm f/2 at f/8 to a Leica Nocticron 42.5mm f/1.2 at f/5.6 which results in slightly sharper images with less diffraction. Still, some of the increase in sharpness is due to the GX9 dropping the optical low-pass filter the GX8 has. We also see improved contrast, what appears to be slightly stronger default sharpening, and more pleasing color from the GX9's revised processing, though there's also an increase in aliasing artifacts.

Panasonic GX9 vs Canon EOS M5 at Base ISO

Panasonic GX9 at ISO 200
Canon EOS M5 at ISO 100

The 24-megapixel Canon M5 has a slight resolution advantage over the 20-megapixel MFT Panasonic GX9, but it isn't resolving significantly more detail in most areas here (the majority of the resolution advantage is in the width of the image because of its wider 3:2 aspect ratio, as we frame this shot vertically). The GX9's image is however significantly sharper than the M5's, while containing narrower sharpening haloes. The Panasonic shows higher noise levels (but keep in mind its higher base ISO), yet it does show some minor artifacts from its area-specific noise reduction already here at base ISO, for example rougher edges. The GX9 also shows more aliasing artifacts, thanks to the lack of an optical low-pass filter. Both cameras produce nice colors, though the Panasonic's are a bit brighter in general, while the Canon's are a little more accurate overall.

Panasonic GX9 vs Fujifilm X-T20 at Base ISO

Panasonic GX9 at ISO 200
Fujifilm X-T20 at ISO 200

Above we compare the Bayer-filtered MFT Panasonic GX9 to the X-Trans-filtered APS-C Fuji X-T20. Again, you would expect the 24-megapixel X-T20 would have a noticeable resolution advantage over the 20-megapixel GX9 here, but both cameras have similar resolutions on the vertical axis (4000 vs 3888 pixels) which is how this scene is framed, so the resolution difference is very minor and mostly boils down to different demosaicing algorithms and processing. Noise appears higher from the GX9 in flatter areas, but the Panasonic also produces a crisper image with slightly better detail, though default sharpening also appears to be a little higher. The GX9 does noticeably better in both the red-leaf and pink fabrics, but it also shows more aliasing artifacts. Both cameras produce pleasing colors.

Panasonic GX9 vs Olympus PEN-F at Base ISO

Panasonic GX9 at ISO 200
Olympus PEN-F at ISO 200

The Panasonic GX9 and Olympus PEN-F share very similar if not identical sensors, so the differences we see here are mostly down to different approaches in processing. The Olympus image is a little more contrasty with more "pop", but the Panasonic one retains a bit more detail in many areas, preserves more of the coloration caused by offset printing in the mosaic label, and contains less noticeable sharpening haloes around high-contrast edges. However, the GX9 image is a little noisier. Both produce pleasing color, though the PEN-F's is a little more accurate overall.

Panasonic GX9 vs Sony A6300 at Base ISO

Panasonic GX9 at ISO 200
Sony A6300 at ISO 100

Again, the 20-megapixel Panasonic GX9 is fairly closely matched in terms of resolution here, because its 4/3" sensor has only 112 fewer pixels than the A6300's 3:2 APS-C sensor on the vertical axis and we frame this shot vertically. Still, its smaller sensor and higher base ISO means noise is higher from the Panasonic, which does impact fine detail. Sony's default processing also produces a slightly sharper, crisper image with higher contrast, giving its image more "oomph." Overall, we prefer the Panasonic's colors here, though, as the A6300 has a more pronounced yellow to green shift. Both cameras produce aliasing artifacts such as the moiré patterns in the red-leaf fabric.

Panasonic GX9 vs Panasonic GX8 at ISO 1600

Panasonic GX9 at ISO 1600
Panasonic GX8 at ISO 1600

Here at ISO 1600, we see the GX9 holds onto more fine detail and provides better sharpness, contrast and color than the GX8, while noise levels in flatter areas remain comparable. Both blur our troublesome red-leaf swatch quite a bit, however the GX9 retains a bit more detail, but also shows higher luminance noise.

Panasonic GX9 vs Canon EOS M5 at ISO 1600

Panasonic GX9 at ISO 1600
Canon EOS M5 at ISO 1600

The GX9 continues to produce a crisper image with better fine detail in most areas than the M5 here at ISO 1600. The Panasonic's default noise reduction also leaves behind much less noise in the flatter areas than the Canon's, however its area-specific algorithm does produce some unwanted artifacts in the form of rough edges and a "grain" that has a more "digital" look.

Panasonic GX9 vs Fujifilm X-T20 at ISO 1600

Panasonic GX9 at ISO 1600
Fujifilm X-T20 at ISO 1600

The GX9 continues to hold its own against the X-T20 here at ISO 1600, with lower noise in flatter areas and slightly crisper detail, though noise reduction artifacts are a little more evident. The X-T20 image has higher luma noise but lower chroma noise, and while not as crisp-looking, fine detail looks smoother and more refined. Subtle detail is actually a little better in the tricky red-leaf swatch from the X-T20, however contrast is higher from the GX9 giving the Panasonic the advantage, however aliasing artifacts continue to be visible from the GX9.

Panasonic GX9 vs Olympus PEN-F at ISO 1600

Panasonic GX9 at ISO 1600
Olympus PEN-F at ISO 1600

Wow, what a difference here at ISO 1600. The Panasonic GX9 easily comes out ahead here, with much better detail and only slightly higher noise levels in flatter areas. Fine detail in the PEN-F image looks smudged and overprocessed in comparison.

Panasonic GX9 vs Sony A6300 at ISO 1600

Panasonic GX9 at ISO 1600
Sony A6300 at ISO 1600

This is actually a difficult comparison to call. The GX9 retains similar amounts of fine detail in the mosaic crop, but the Sony's has higher contrast. Luma noise from the GX9 is lower in flatter areas and it also has a tighter grain pattern, however chroma noise is higher. Both show noise reduction artifacts, but the Sony's noise "grain" is a little coarser and more objectionable in flatter areas. Contrast and detail are better from the Sony in our tricky red-leaf fabric, however the GX9 is able to continue to resolve more of the fine thread pattern.

Panasonic GX9 vs Panasonic GX8 at ISO 3200

Panasonic GX9 at ISO 3200
Panasonic GX8 at ISO 3200

The GX9 shows significantly improved image quality over the GX8 here at ISO 3200, with better detail, contrast and color. Noise appears better controlled in flatter areas from the GX9 as well, though both really struggle to retain any fine detail in our tricky red-leaf swatch.

Panasonic GX9 vs Canon EOS M5 at ISO 3200

Panasonic GX9 at ISO 3200
Canon EOS M5 at ISO 3200

Once again, the GX9 delivers a crisper, more detailed image than the M5 here at ISO 3200, while at the same time controlling luminance noise much more effectively in flatter areas.

Panasonic GX9 vs Fujifilm X-T20 at ISO 3200

Panasonic GX9 at ISO 3200
Fujifilm X-T20 at ISO 3200

Here at ISO 3200, the X-T20 starts to catch up the GX9 in most respects. The GX9 remains a little bit crisper with lower noise, however you can tell it's working harder to squeeze out a good image, generating more noise reduction and sharpening artifacts in the process. Still, it's quite a feat for a MFT camera to produce an image that is competitive with the APS-C X-T20 at this ISO.

Panasonic GX9 vs Olympus PEN-F at ISO 3200

Panasonic GX9 at ISO 3200
Olympus PEN-F at ISO 3200

The Panasonic GX9 pulls ahead further from the PEN-F at ISO 3200, with superior detail retention and sharpness, though contrast remains higher from the Olympus. Still, an easy win for the Panasonic here as the Olympus image begins to look like a painting in comparison.

Panasonic GX9 vs Sony A6300 at ISO 3200

Panasonic GX9 at ISO 3200
Sony A6300 at ISO 3200

Another tough call here at ISO 3200, thanks to very different approaches to processing. Both cameras do a good job hanging onto fine detail, however the Sony produces higher, almost exaggerated contrast, but higher noise as well. Detail in our red-leaf swatch looks much better from the Sony, but much of it is badly distorted and false. Which is better overall really boils down to personal preference, but it's nice to see a MFT camera like the GX9 compete so well with a leading APS-C model at this ISO.

Panasonic GX9 vs. Panasonic GX8, Canon EOS M5, Fujifilm X-T20, Olympus PEN-F, Sony A6300

Panasonic
GX9
ISO 200
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
Panasonic
GX8
ISO 200
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
Canon
EOS M5
ISO 100
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
Fujifilm
X-T20
ISO 200
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
Olympus
PEN-F
ISO 200
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
Sony
A6300
ISO 100
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
Detail comparison. High-contrast detail is also important, pushing the camera in different ways, so we like to look at it separately. As you can see, the Panasonic GX9 offers improved contrast and color across ISOs, as well as slightly better detail compared to the GX8. At higher ISOs, the GX9 easily bests the only other Micro Four Thirds camera in this group, the Olympus PEN F. Contrast isn't has high as the Canon M5 at base ISO, however the GX9's doesn't drop off quite as much as ISO climbs. The GX9's performance is competitive with the X-T20's even as ISO climbs, however the Sony A6300 comes out ahead of the pack here.

 

Panasonic GX9 Print Quality Analysis

Excellent 30 x 40 inch prints at ISO 100/200; a good 16 x 20 inch print at ISO 1600 and a solid 8 x 10 at ISO 6400.

ISO 100/200 prints are excellent across the board at 30 x 40 inches, delivering rich, vibrant colors and crisp detail throughout. Wall display prints are possible at even larger sizes, depending on your viewing distance, until you run out of available resolution. The prints here at base ISO and extended low from the GX9 are really quite superb and worth printing large!

ISO 400 images are quite good at 24 x 36 inches, displaying crisp fine detail and excellent color reproduction. 30 x 40 inch prints are fine here for wall display purposes and less critical applications as well, but it's best to remain at 24 x 36 inches for your most critical prints.

ISO 800 yields a very good 16 x 20 inch print, with only a minor loss in fine detail crispness and showing very little in the way of apparent noise. The 20 x 30 inch prints here are not bad at all and can definitely be used for less critical applications, though anything higher reveals a bit too much noise in certain areas of the print.

ISO 1600 is also capable of delivering a good print at 16 x 20 inches! This is a nice feat for a Four Thirds sensor system at this ISO. There is a minor trace of chroma noise in flatter areas of our test target, and yet fine detail is still rendered nicely at this size as well as good color reproduction throughout. For the most critical printing at this ISO we recommend a size reduction to 13 x 19 inches, but the 16 x 20 does indeed pass our "good" grade.

ISO 3200 delivers a solid 11 x 14 inch print. There is some obvious softening in the red channel at this point, which is a fairly common theme as ISO rises in modern digital cameras, but noise is well-controlled at this print size overall, and there's still plenty of definition in the finely detailed areas of our Still Life target.

ISO 6400 prints an 8 x 10 image that just passes our good seal of approval, and this is yet again a high bar for a Four Thirds sensor to pull off. All contrast detail is now lost in our tricky target red-leaf swatch, but again this is very common for all but full frame sensors and larger by this ISO. Good color reproduction remains, and generally good fine detail, so we are confident in calling this print size "good."

ISO 12,800 yields a 5 x 7 that almost passes our good grade, and can definitely be used for general purpose printing and less critical applications. For anything important we recommend the 4 x 6 inch prints here.

ISO 25,600 comes close to passing our good grade at 4 x 6 inches, and like the 5 x 7 above can certainly be used for casual printing at this size, but for anything important we recommend shying away from this ISO entirely.

The GX9 continues the excellent tradition of this line from Panasonic in the print quality department, even pushing usable print sizes a notch higher at a few critical ISOs than its (numerical) predecessor, the GX8. Indeed, to be able to produce a good 8 x 10 inch print at ISO 6400 is a nice feat for this sensor size, and we therefore feel confident recommending the Panasonic GX9 for higher-end printing purposes. In addition, everything from ISO 1600 and lower is really quite good, and your prints will thank you for it.

About our print-quality testing: Our "Reference Printer"

Testing hundreds of digital cameras, we've found that you can only tell so much about a camera's image quality by viewing its images on-screen. Ultimately, there's no substitute for printing a lot of images and examining them closely. For this reason, we routinely print sample images from the cameras we test on our Canon imagePROGRAF PRO-1000 printer, which we named our "Printer of the Year" in our 2015 COTY awards.

The Canon PRO-1000 has a lot of characteristics that make it a natural to use for our "reference printer." When it comes to judging how well a camera's photos print, resolution and precise rendering are paramount. The PRO-1000's more than 18,000 individual nozzles combine with an air feeding system that provides exceptional droplet-placement accuracy. Its 11-color LUCIA PRO ink system delivers a wide color gamut and dense blacks, giving us a true sense of the cameras' image quality. To best see fine details, we've always printed on glossy paper, so the PRO-1000's "Chroma Optimizer" overcoat that minimizes "bronzing" or gloss differential is important to us. (Prior to the PRO-1000, we've always used dye-based printers, in part to avoid the bronzing problems with pigment-based inks.) Finally, we just don't have time to deal with clogged inkjet heads, and the PRO-1000 does better in that respect than any printer we've ever used. If you don't run them every day or two, inkjet printers tend to clog. Canon's thermal-inkjet technology is inherently less clog-prone than other approaches, but the PRO-1000 takes this a step further, with sensors that monitor every inkjet nozzle. If one clogs, it will assign another to take over its duties. In exchange for a tiny amount of print speed, this lets you defer cleaning cycles, which translates into significant ink savings. In our normal workflow, we'll often crank out a hundred or more letter-size prints in a session, but then leave the printer to sit for anywhere from days to weeks before the next camera comes along. In over a year of use, we've never had to run a nozzle-cleaning cycle on our PRO-1000.

See our Canon PRO-1000 review for a full overview of the printer from the viewpoint of a fine-art photographer.

*Disclosure: Canon provided us with the PRO-1000 and a supply of ink to use in our testing, and we receive advertising consideration for including this mention when we talk about camera print quality. Our decision to use the PRO-1000 was driven by the printer itself, though, prior to any discussion with Canon on the topic. (We'd actually been using an old Pixma PRO 9500II dye-based printer for years previously, and paying for our own ink, until we decided that the PRO-1000 was the next-generation printer we'd been waiting for.)

 



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