Panasonic GX9 Review
|Full model name:||Panasonic Lumix DC-GX9|
(17.3mm x 13.0mm)
|Viewfinder:||EVF / LCD|
|Native ISO:||200 - 25,600|
|Extended ISO:||100 - 25,600|
|Shutter:||1/16000 - 60 sec|
4.9 x 2.8 x 1.8 in.
(124 x 72 x 47 mm)
includes batteries, kit lens
|Full specs:||Panasonic GX9 specifications|
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Panasonic GX9 Review -- Now Shooting!
Micro Four Thirds fans: Do you love shooting stealthily, and catching your subjects at their most candid? If so, the 20.3-megapixel Panasonic GX9 is aimed at you! A followup to 2015's popular GX8 that, first and foremost, looks to be focused on reducing size and cost, the GX9 nevertheless includes a fair few new features of its own... but admittedly, also brings a few areas in which features had to be dialed back a little too.
What's new and what's not: GX9 in a nutshell
So what's new in the GX9 beyond the trimmed-down, less noticeable body? Panasonic has removed the optical low-pass filter, added an (admittedly, rather weak) built-in flash strobe, and improved the image stabilization system, autofocus tracking and image quality. It's also added a Bluetooth radio alongside the existing Wi-Fi one, reduced shutter shock by 90% and added a raft of new features to the 4K Photo system, as well as a couple of fun new artistic effects for black and white photography.
The viewfinder and rear display have both changed from OLED types to spec a TFT LCD for the display and a field sequential LCD for the EVF, respectively. The display has just fractionally higher resolution than before, while the viewfinder has significantly lower pixel resolution, but makes up for it by showing all three colors at every pixel location sequentially at high speed.
Both viewfinder and rear display are still articulated, but the latter now uses a less-versatile tilting mechanism, in place of its predecessor's side-mounted tilt/swivel screen. The new shutter mechanism, while quieter and far less prone to causing shutter shock, also tops out at 1/4,000 second with X-sync at 1/200 second, where the earlier GX8 could manage 1/8,000 second and sync at 1/250 second. And battery life has been slashed by around one quarter, meaning you'll definitely want to activate the aggressive power saving mode or carry a couple of spare batteries with you.
Panasonic GX9 price and availability
In other respects, the GX9 is a whole lot like its predecessor, with similar resolution, sensitivity range, and much the same autofocus, exposure and video capture capabilities, but with improved performance and for a whole lot less money. Where the GX8 sold for US$1,200 body-only, the GX9 will be available for US$1,000 in a kit with Lumix 12-60mm f/3.5-5.6 lens. (A rather nice deal, as the lens itself lists for US$500 separately, making the kit a $300 savings.)
For the full story on what's new and what's not, click here to jump down the page to our full overview. Or alternatively, read on for our initial real-world thoughts in our first field test below!
To jump to our detailed Overview, click here.
Panasonic GX9 Field Test Part I
A compact, high-performance and versatile travel-friendly camera
by William Brawley | Posted 02/13/2018
*Updated with Monochrome Picture Style and new Grain Effect comparisons. See below.
Panasonic 25mm f/1.7: 25mm, f/2, 1/6400s, ISO 200, L. Monochrome Picture Style
As the model name suggests, the new GX9 is the replacement model for 2015's impressive GX8 rangefinder-style mirrorless camera. The new GX9 maintains that characteristic shape and overall style, including its unique tilt-up electronic viewfinder, while offering some pleasing usability changes, including improvements to its control layout, an updated body shape, and new features. Plus, on the inside, there are a lot of exciting new goodies and advancements to the camera's image quality, high ISO noise performance, as well as fun and rather clever in-camera tricks revolving around Panasonic's 4K PHOTO technology.
Before the announcement, I was able to spend some time with the new rangefinder-esque Micro Four Thirds camera (albeit brief at this point) and wanted to share some initial impressions of the camera's design, image quality, and some performance features. And don't forget to check our Samples Page for our First Shots series of lab images as well as our Gallery Page for an even more in-depth look at the GX9's image quality.
OK, onto the details...
Panasonic 25mm f/1.7: 25mm, f/4, 1/1000s, ISO 200, -0.3EV, L. Monochrome Picture Style
Design and Ergonomics
As mentioned, the GX9 replaces the GX8 and keeps the same rangefinder-style body design with top-left corner-mounted EVF -- as opposed to a central "hump" viewfinder as on DSLR-styled models like the GH5 and G9. The GX8 was rather beefy and almost chunky with a thick body and fairly full handgrip. For the GX9, Panasonic slimmed things down a bit, although it's little difficult to tell unless you have both cameras side-by-side.
GX9 shown here with accessory eye-cup attached.
The GX9's body is slimmer than the GX8's thanks in part to a new rear LCD touchscreen. The GX8 used a fully articulated, vari-angle LCD panel, while the GX9 opts for a more straightforward tilting screen. The GX8 used a fairly chunky articulating hinge mechanism, while the GX9's tilt screen can sit more flush up against the camera body. Now, I know there are two camps of people, those who like tilt screen and those who prefer vari-angle ones. Not many cameras give you the option of both styles, so compromises have to be made. For me, personally, I love the fact that they switched to a tilting display. I don't shoot a lot of videos -- where a vari-angle screen makes more sense -- thus the tilting screen on the GX9 is a welcomed change. The tilt-screen lets me easily shoot low or high without having to flip out a screen, which feels more prone to breaking and takes more time to maneuver.
The GX9 body is not only thinner, but its handgrip is also less pronounced. The thinness is a nice change, I think -- I'm all for compactness when it comes to travel- and street-centric cameras -- but the smaller grip might be frustrating for those with larger hands. There's still some "purchase" for your fingers to grip around, but you can't really let the camera "hang" from your fingers as you can with the GX8. Overall, in fact, the GX9 feels much more akin to the GX85 in terms of size and shape.
Thankfully, to compensate for the smaller size, Panasonic introduced an add-on grip base-plate (that's also compatible with the GX85), and while it's an additional accessory you'd have to buy, it does add a substantial grip to the camera as well as a little more height. If you often shoot with bigger, heavier lenses, then this accessory is close to a must-have. Pet-peeve warning, however: The base plate screws into the camera's tripod socket (though pleasingly has its own tripod socket), but it completely blocks the battery/SD card door, forcing you to unscrew the baseplate to replace the battery or memory card.
GX9 shown here with accessory grip baseplate and eye-cup attached.
Overall, my initial impressions after shooting with the camera are overwhelmingly positive. The camera is lightweight and very solid-feeling (despite no longer being weather-sealed like its GX8 predecessor). The grip is actually a bit more substantial-feeling than I had expected, especially thanks to the rear thumb grip that provides some extra security. The textured leatherette material, however, can feel a bit slippery, especially if your hands get sweaty. To me, the GX9 strikes a nice balance of remaining small and compact, yet offering enough of a grip for it to feel comfortable and secure, whether you're snapping shots with one hand or two.
As with the GX8, the GX9 also includes the clever tilting electronic viewfinder. Personally, I often just used the tilting LCD if I wanted a top-down shooting position, but it's nice to have the option of a top-down EVF, too. The screen inside the GX9's EVF uses a field-sequential LCD panel rather than the nicer OLED screen of the GX8 (it's the same EVF as in the GX85). Nevertheless, images in the EVF are sharp, but it's not quite as good as the GX8's. I also noticed some minor RGB tearing artifacts on the EVF screen if I blinked or moved my eye around.
Out of the box, the GX9 doesn't have much an eye-cup around its EVF, and it hardly blocks any stray light. Thankfully, Panasonic sells an add-on eye-cup that's much wider and deeper -- also nice for those using glasses. Unluckily for me, I didn't have the add-on eye-cup, which means out in the bright sun, I often found myself using my hand to block out light while shooting.
My one main "gripe" with the GX9 is the lack of a joystick control, or at least some other directional pad control that lets me immediately move the AF point while the camera it up at my eye. I've really come to rely on this type of control, and I get frustrated when cameras don't have this functionality. The G9, GH5, and GH5S all feature joysticks, but Panasonic has yet to implement this on their lower-tier models. Neither the GX8 nor GX85 has joystick controls, and the GX9 follows the same path.
Now, to be fair, you can use the rear touchscreen LCD simultaneously with the EVF -- a feature called Touch Pad AF. It keeps the touchscreen portion of the rear screen active while you use the EVF, letting you slide your finger around the screen to move the AF point precisely where you want it. This works quite well, except if you're left-eye dominant like I am. Since I use my left eye with the corner-positioned EVF, my nose ends up touching the screen, inadvertently moving the AF point. Therefore, if I want to reposition the AF point quickly, I have to bring the camera down from my eye and use the LCD panel to tap where I want the AF point.
Another "missing" feature I encountered was a dedicated drive mode dial. I understand that there really isn't room on the camera for this extra dial, but I really appreciate the physical, easily-visible indicator of what drive mode you're in and ability to quickly change shooting modes.
Panasonic 12-32mm f/3.5-5.6: 32mm, f/5.6, 1/640s, ISO 200
Panasonic 12-32mm f/3.5-5.6: 12mm, f/5.6, 1/400s, ISO 200
Image Quality - Initial Impressions
Overall, the image quality from the GX9 is very good. So far, I've shot primarily at lower ISOs, and the fine detail is excellent. The GX9 uses a 20MP Four Thirds sensor like its predecessor, yet foregoes the optical low-pass filter for some extra resolving power. I shot a lot around the city of Atlanta, with lots man-made subjects like buildings, bricks, fences, and screens that would be notorious for showing moiré and aliasing artifacts. The GX9 does a great job at avoiding or combating these artifacts with its in-camera JPEG processing, though I did manage to find some moiré artifacts in a few images, so it's not perfect.
Panasonic 12-32mm f/3.5-5.6: 16mm, f/4.1, 1/1600s, ISO 200, -0.3EV
Notice the moiré pattern on the metal facade of this building.
Panasonic also put a big emphasis on the GX9's color accuracy with its JPEGs, particularly when it comes to blue skies. So far, from the images I've seen, colors (in the "Standard" picture style) look pleasingly vibrant without looking oversaturated. Dynamic range seems impressive, as well, at least from the JPEG images I've seen so far. I was shooting in sunny, daylight conditions with harsh shadows, and for the most part, the resulting high-contrast photos show lots of shadow detail and good highlight retention.
Panasonic 12-32mm f/3.5-5.6: 20mm, f/4.6, 1/1000s, ISO 200
Although I assume more advanced photographers will likely shoot in RAW and post-process images after the fact, Panasonic does a lot for those who simply want to capture and create images in-camera. As such, they've introduced another Monochrome picture style, as well as a pretty realistic Grain Effect filter, for film-like grain. The GX85 introduced the "L. Monochrome" black-and-white picture style, and the GX9 goes one further with a more dynamic "L. Monochrome D" style. L. Monochrome D style tweaks the black level and tonal gradation compared to the standard Monochrome style; you'll get deeper blacks and enhanced contrast.
Panasonic 25mm f/1.7: 25mm, f/2.8, 1/1250s, ISO 200, -0.3EV, L. Monochrome Picture Style, Grain Effect "Standard"
I enjoyed shooting in the Monochrome picture styles. I don't often shoot in black-and-white, so it was fun stylistic change. One cool trick (that's not exclusive to the GX9) is that if you are shooting in RAW+JPEG, your view on the LCD and EVF is black and white while set to the Monochrome styles. This can help focus your eye on seeing lines, patterns, light, and shadow in black and white without the distractions of color, and should help improve your monochrome photos.
Panasonic 12-32mm f/3.5-5.6: 12mm, f/5.6, 1/500s, ISO 200, L. Monochrome Picture Style
Plus, you then have a full-color RAW file should you want a color image later on. Even better is that the GX9 offers in-camera RAW processing, so if you happen to find yourself shooting tons and tons of monochrome images like I was, you can easily go back and re-process the RAW file to make a new photo with any picture style and with numerous image quality adjustments.
Monochrome Picture Styles Comparison
In this section I'll compare the "Monochrome," "L.Monochrome" and the new "L.Monochrome D" Picture Style presets. In these comparisons, the RAWs were all processed in-camera into each of the different monochrome picture styles.
|Standard Picture Style|
|Monochrome Picture Style|
|L.Monochrome Picture Style|
|L.Monochrome D Picture Style|
|Standard Picture Style|
|Monochrome Picture Style|
|L.Monochrome Picture Style|
|L.Monochrome D Picture Style|
In both of these comparisons, you can see how the L.Monochrome presets increase the overall contrast compared to the standard, flatter "Monochrome" preset. You'll also notice in the second comparison set how the L.Monochrome presets darken the blue sky more noticeably than the standard Monochrome style. The new "L.Monochrome D" style tweaks the contrast compared to the regular L.Monochrome picture style, with a subtle increase in shadow detail yet with a noticeable boost to highlights and other bright areas.
"Grain Effect" Filter Comparison
The GX9 introduces a new Grain Effect filter preset, which aims to emulate the fine grain appearance of film. Below is a quick comparison between the different strengths of the Grain Effect filter, processed from an original RAW file in-camera. Be sure to check back here later, as I hope to be able to compare the GX9's film grain effect against other notable competitors to see how they all stack up.
|Grain Effect "Off" (Shot with L. Monochrome D preset)|
|Grain Effect "Low"|
|Grain Effect "Std"|
|Grain Effect "High"|
Performance & Autofocus - Initial Impressions
Although we've already tested the GX9's performance in the lab, we need to field test the camera more thoroughly, however I still wanted to touch briefly on the camera's real-world performance so far. Overall, the GX9 is very nimble and responsive. Start-up time is quick, so you can pull the camera out and be ready to shoot in no time. Menus and settings changes feel responsive, much like other recent Panasonic mirrorless cameras I've used.
Panasonic 25mm f/1.7: 25mm, f/2.5, 1/3200s, ISO 200, L. Monochrome Picture Style
Like other Lumix models, the GX9 doesn't use phase-detect autofocus, but rather Panasonic's own DFD (Depth From Defocus) technology to provide quick, accurate and nearly wobble-free contrast-detect AF. Panasonic's made big strides regarding the speed and overall performance of their DFD autofocus technology, and on the GX9, it performs remarkably well from what I've seen so far. Single-shot AF is very fast, especially for a camera that doesn't support phase-detect. In my experience so far, the camera locked onto subjects quickly without any hunting or missed focus. Granted, this was mostly in the daytime and on subjects with decent lighting and contrast. However, I did shoot some indoor photos, and the GX9 performed admirably.
I've yet to truly test continuous AF, however, so look for an in-depth investigation of that in a future Field Test.
Panasonic 25mm f/1.7: 25mm, f/2, 1/250s, ISO 800
I did briefly test 4K PHOTO and the new in-camera Sweep Panorama modes. 4K Photo is super-quick and can capture a lot of images in a short span of time. To be fair, I was using a fast 95MB/s SanDisk Extreme Pro memory card, but I didn't feel like I had to wait much for the camera to finish buffering all these images before I could either start reviewing frames or shoot more. The GX9 can however be a little sluggish at clearing a long burst of full-res images, as shown in our lab results.
Sweep Panorama Mode
Panasonic 12-32mm f/3.5-5.6: 12mm, f/8, 1/640s, ISO 200, L. Monochrome Picture Style
Similarly, the Sweep Panorama mode is simple to operate, and the camera generates the resulting pano shot in just a few seconds. Like a smartphone, to begin the panorama shot (you'll need to switch to Panorama mode, of course), you simply press the shutter button down fully, the GX9 will then automatically rapid-fire multiple frames as you pan the camera. To complete the panorama image, however wide you want it, just press the shutter release once more. Then the camera composites the final image right away. The camera doesn't give you any warnings about panning too quickly or slowly, but the resulting image quality is usually quite good. For the most part, the stitching looks pretty seamless, although I did notice some compositing errors, such as repeating objects and textures, which you can see in the example below.
Lastly, as for battery life, the GX9 uses the same rechargeable lithium ion pack as the GX85. The GX9 is CIPA-rated for just 260 shots/charge (LCD) or 250 shots/charge (EVF), which is pretty underwhelming and not as good as the GX8's rating. Before taking it out to shoot, our lab technician also warned me that the battery life wasn't very good. In my experience, though, it felt decent. I was able to get through about half a day of shooting (approximately 9:30am to 2:00pm), testing still images, a few 4K PHOTO sequences and panoramas (but not videos), and did not deplete my single battery pack. I took about 380 RAW+JPEG images on a single charge in standard mode (non-Eco Mode). I was, however, pretty judicious about turning the camera off if I wasn't using for a few minutes, so your mileage may vary. In the end, I do recommend picking up a spare battery just in case.
Field Test Part I Summary
Overall, the Panasonic GX9 is a fun, lightweight and solid little camera. The image quality observed so far is quite nice, with the camera's new OLPF-less sensor capturing lots of fine detail, pleasing colors and good dynamic range for a Four Thirds chip. Its performance is quite nimble, as well, making it an ideal companion for the street or travel photographer needing something quick, discrete and speedy.
Panasonic 12-32mm f/3.5-5.6: 13mm, f/5.6, 1/250s, ISO 200, -0.3EV
Although it technically replaces the GX8, it seems more like a beefed-up GX85 rather than a direct successor the GX8. The GX8 featured weather-sealing, had a larger and nicer OLED EVF, mag-alloy chassis, better battery life, an external mic/remote jack, and was offered in a body-only configuration, while the GX9 makes no claims for weather resistance, uses a smaller field-sequential LCD for the EVF, is mostly polycarbonate plastic (though it feels very solid), and is being sold kitted with a zoom lens. But, at US$999, it's also a bit more affordable than the GX8's body-only launch price, and this is with a 12-60mm lens, so it's a fairly high-performance, full-featured camera setup at a good price point.
Panasonic 25mm f/1.7: 25mm, f/1.7, 1/60s, ISO 800, L. Monochrome Picture D Style
Panasonic 25mm f/1.7: 25mm, f/1.7, 1/60s, ISO 800
The GX9, nevertheless, offers some new tricks and features that the GX8 did not have, such as faster AF-S burst speed, the new 4K PHOTO Sequence Composition feature, a built-in flash, and a tilting rear LCD (good or bad, depending on your personal preference). Overall, despite sitting between the GX85 and GX8 in a sense, the GX9 is shaping up to be an excellent mirrorless camera for the advanced or enthusiast photographer looking for a compact, high-performance and versatile travel-friendly camera.
• • •
Panasonic GX9 Overview
What's new and what's not in Panasonic's more affordable street shooter
by Mike Tomkins | Posted 02/13/2018
A smaller, lighter body
As we noted at the outset of this review, the GX9 debuts a brand-new body that's significantly smaller than that of its predecessor, the GX8. Interestingly, the overall body design and layout is more strongly reminiscent of the more recent (and even more affordable) GX85, suggesting a common design ethos (and team) behind the pair.
Compared to that of its direct predecessor, the GX9's body is much smaller, especially in terms of depth, thanks to a much shallower handgrip. A full 0.6" (13mm) has been trimmed off the depth of the camera, as well as 0.4" (9.2mm) off the depth, and 0.2" (5.8mm) off the height. Dimensions are 4.9 x 2.8 x 1.8 inches (124 x 72.1 x 46.8mm). Weight has also fallen by some 1.3 oz. (37g), enough to be noticeable with the lightest of lenses mounted. Loaded and ready to shoot (but without a lens), the GX9 weighs around 0.99 pounds (450g).
Compared to the GX85
Although it bears a strong similarity to that of the GX85, the GX9's body is just fractionally larger and heavier than that model, but you'd probably not be able to notice that difference, even comparing side by side. There are also a couple of minor control differences: The GX9 adds an exposure compensation dial, mounted wedding cake-style underneath the mode dial, as well as an AF mode switch above the LCD, and puts its power switch in a different location And it places the mode and exposure compensation dial tower to the very rightmost end of the top deck.
Compared to the GX8
The difference in size between the GX85 and GX9 is little enough to be unnoticeable, but that between the GX8 and the other pair is vast. The GX9 is a significantly smaller camera than that which precedes it, and with smaller size comes lesser surface area on which to place controls. Yielding to reality, the GX9 drops several less-important controls -- the dedicated Quick Menu button, as well as the front deck, top deck, and rear deck Function buttons have all vanished, with their functions subsumed by other controls.
The front dial and the shutter button which it encircles now sit atop the body itself, rather than the top of the now much-shallower handgrip. There's also a new rear dial, while the mode dial which sits like a layered cake above the exposure compensation dial now has one fewer mode for reduced clutter. (Where the GX8 had three Custom modes on the mode dial, the GX9 has but one.) One of the remainder was ditched, and the other replaced with a new Scene position on the dial.
A new flash, but less versatile screen articulation
Continuing the control differences, the video record button now sits inside the power switch, and there's a new flash button just to the left of the AF/AE lock button on the rear deck. And as if that wasn't plenty, there's a new popup flash. (Albeit, a rather weak one with a guide number of just 6 meters at ISO 200, equivalent to 4.2 meters at ISO 100.) On the rear panel, the side-mounted, tilt-swivel screen (hands down, our favorite articulation type!) has been dropped in favor of a vertically-tilting mechanism that allows tilting upwards some 80 degrees, or downwards by up to 45 degrees. (Still better than a fixed screen, but definitely a downgrade from the earlier tilt/swivel unit.)
And there are still a few more changes. The tilting electronic viewfinder design of the GX8 remains, but the GX9's AF assist lamp moves down and closer to the lens mount, its speaker jumps from the top deck to the rear thumbgrip, and its access panel jumps across the camera from left to right. This last has a new sliding cover design which slips back into the camera body for safekeeping when open. It covers Micro USB and Micro HDMI connectors, but not a remote/external mic jack, as the GX9 no longer supports them.
A familiar sensor stripped of its low-pass filter, paired with a next-gen Venus Engine
Although the 20.3-megapixel Digital Live MOS image sensor used in the GX9 looks much the same as that used in the earlier GX8, Panasonic nevertheless tells us to expect improved image quality. It's likely this has been accomplished thanks to newer algorithms in the current-generation Venus engine used by the GX9, coupled with the fact that Panasonic has decided to remove the resolution-sapping optical low-pass filter from atop the image sensor. Removal of the OLPF in particular should allow better microcontrast and capture of finer details, albeit with an increased risk of false color or other moire-induced artifacts.
Little change on the sensitivity or performance fronts
Given that the sensor itself looks to be unchanged, it's perhaps not surprising to see that the sensitivity range and burst capture performance also look to be little-changed. Panasonic rates the GX9 as capable of shooting with single autofocus at rates of up to nine frames per second using either the mechanical or electronic shutter. By way of contrast, the GX8 was said to be one frame per second slower with the mechanical shutter, but one frame per second faster with the electronic shutter.
With continuous autofocus active, capture slows to a maximum of six frames per second, and burst depths are unchanged at upwards of 30 raw or 100 JPEG frames. ISO sensitiity remains 200 to 25,600 by default, with the ability to expand the lower end to ISO 100, and with a reduced maximum of ISO 6400 for video capture.
A more sophisticated stabilization system
The GX9's five-axis image stabilization system is an upgrade over the previous four-axis system, and by functioning in parallel with the optical image stabilizer in some lenses, the GX9 can provide even more effective Dual I.S. stabilization. (Although not the more sophisticated Dual I.S. 2 type.) To our recollection, Panasonic didn't provide a rating for the corrective strength of the GX8's Dual I.S. system, but the GX9's newer one is rated at four stops of correction when shooting at a 120mm-equivalent focal length with the H-FS12060 kit lens.
A field-sequential LCD viewfinder replaces the high-res OLED one
In place of the 2360k-dot organic LED viewfinder of the GX8, the GX9 uses to an LCD-based, 2760k-dot-equivalent electronic viewfinder. As before, it's mounted in a 90-degree vertically tilting articulation mechanism, handy for shooting from low angles. You'll note we said "equivalent" the second time just now in reference to the dot count. Why is that? Well, the GX9's EVF is what's commonly called a field-sequential type, just as was used in the earlier GX7, meaning that it only shows one color -- red, green or blue -- at any given moment, for every pixel on the screen. To achieve full color display, it cycles through all three colors at high speed, one after another and repeatedly.
The advantage of this is that you see full color at every pixel location. The disadvantages are that there's the potential for rainbow-colored artifacts on fast motion, and that spatial resolution is much lower than the "equivalent" figure would suggest on a standard display. Don't misunderstand, resolution is still pretty high, at 1,280 x 720 pixels. But it's not as high as it would seem to be from the dot count figures, once compared to the 1,024 x 768 pixels of the GX8's 4:3-aspect OLED viewfinder. Of course, the newer camera can display full color at every pixel location where the GX8's viewfinder relied on adjacent red, green and blue subpixels, so it will make better use of each pixel location... but not three times better!
The GX9's viewfinder has an approximate 1.39x magnification (35mm equivalent: 0.7x), and a manufacturer-claimed 100% field of view. That magnification is down from 1.54x (35mm: 0.77x) on the GX8. And eyepoint has fallen from 21mm to the eyepiece lens in the GX8, to just 17mm from the eyepiece lens in the GX9. Thankfully, both the eye sensor used to automatically disable the EVF, as well as the built-in -4 to +3 diopter correction capability are retained unchanged from the GX8.
A slight increase in LCD resolution but a less versatile display
As we mentioned previously, the side-mounted, tilt-swivel screen of the GX8 has been dropped. Instead, the GX9 uses a vertically-tilting mechanism that allows tilting upwards by around 80 degrees, or downwards by as much as 45 degrees. It's better than a fixed screen, but most of us at IR see this as a downgrade, albeit one likely made in the name of saving size and weight. Side-mounted tilt/swivel screens are just more versatile, catering to a wider range of photographic options than can tilt-only screens. And that includes selfie capture: You won't be able to see the GX9's screen from in front of the camera.
But while the articulation mechanism is a bit of a shame, the GX9's new 1,240k-dot, 3.0-inch LCD monitor does have a little higher resolution than that which it replaces. And while, sure, OLED displays typically have more vivid color and better contrast than LCDs, they also tend to live shorter lives. We wouldn't be too worried about this particular change, ourselves. Like that of its predecessor, Panasonic rates the GX9's touch-sensitive screen as having approximately 100% field of view.
A new live view boost function brightens the display in low light, slowing the frame rate as necessary. There's also a manual focus assist function with 20x magnification.
A built-in flash strobe and optional wireless support too
We already mentioned the new built-in flash of the GX9, but we'll quickly recap here. It's pretty weak, with a guide number of just six meters at ISO 200. (Most cameras typically quote this at ISO 100, where it equates to 4.2 meters). And x-sync has fallen to 1/200 second, down from 1/250. Although the built-in flash doesn't support it, the GX9 continues to support wireless flash with the optionally-available FL200L, FL360L or FL580L flash strobes.
Improved tracking for an otherwise-unchanged autofocus system
Panasonic tells us that it has worked on improving autofocus tracking in the GX9, and we're guessing it had some performance on tap to play with, courtesy of the updated Venus engine image processor. We understand that it now uses a 3D measurement across the entire image when determining subject motion, and can not only avoid focusing on obstacles that come between camera and subject, but can even track subjects beyond the standard autofocus areas, so long as the subject was under the selected AF point when tracking began.
But in other respects, the Lumix GX9's autofocus system looks to be basically unchanged from that of the GX8. It's still solely a contrast-detection system supplemented by Panasonic's clever Depth from Defocus technology when using the company's own lens line. And it still has a total of 49 autofocus points to choose from. Focus acquisition speed is said to be unchanged from the GX8, too, at around 0.07 seconds to detect and confirm a focus lock. All the usual features you'd expect are present and accounted for, including both face and eye detection, as well as pinpoint AF for greater precision.
A new shutter mechanism that's gentler, quieter, but also slower
The GX9 sports a brand-new shutter drive mechanism which is in most respects a significant upgrade, but which does have a couple of potential drawbacks. Based around an electromagnetic drive, it's said to have only one-tenth the shutter shock of the previous system, helping photographers to maximize per-pixel sharpness. It's also noticeably quieter than the old mechanism. But one downside is that it now tops out at a fastest shutter speed of 1/4,000 second, where the GX8 could shoot at 1/8,000 second. Yes, you can shoot with an electronic shutter all the way up to 1,16,000 second, but you'll likely find the results impacted by rolling shutter effect. And as we mentioned previously, X-sync has also fallen from 1/250 to 1/200 second.
Cinelike photo styles replaced by L.Monochrome ones
Panasonic has made a couple of tweaks to its photo styles for the GX9, courting black and white fans with new L.Monochrome and L.Monochrome D modes. These replace the Cinelike D and Cinelike V modes with which the GX8 wooed videographers, and all monochrome modes on the GX9 are also compatible with a new, very film-like grain effect if you're after that look. You can apply the effect at one of three preset strength levels.
4K and Full HD video are unchanged, but 4K Photo gets an overhaul
Like the GX8 before it, the Panasonic GH9 can capture Full HD or 4K video footage, the latter at up to 30 frames per second with a 100Mbps bitrate. But while video capture is basically unchanged, the capabilities of the related 4K Photo mode have come in for a big overhaul.
4K Photo mode does record video, but not with the intention of you actually watching it. Instead, each video frame is captured with settings more akin to what you'd want for still photography -- a high shutter speed, first and foremost -- and then you extract individual still frames at a high 8.3-megapixel resolution in-camera.
4K Photo in the GX9 now includes an auto-marking function which identifies the frame from a sequence which is most different to the rest, presuming it more likely to be a keeper. It can also account for motion and faces in 4K Photo sequences, and uses these, too, to mark key frames you're likely to want to check manually. The result is lighter work made of the process of sorting through hundreds of 4K frames for the keepers.
Sequence Composition can create cool multiple exposures in-camera, with some work
The new sequence composition function is potentially even cooler. It allows you to take anywhere from three to 40 frames in a row, and then automatically combine the subject from multiple frames into a single shot, allowing you to see its progression over time. Ghosts of previously-captured frames are shown on-screen, so you can see when the subject has moved enough. That's key, because results can be poor if your subject overlaps in multiple frames. Also, you'll need to shoot on a tripod when using this mode.
Also new for the GX9's 4K Photo mode are Post Focus, Focus Stacking, Light Composition and 4K Live Cropping tools. The first two do just as it says on the label, allowing you to choose the correctly-focused frame post-capture, or to stack multiple frames for increased depth of field. The light composition tool, meanwhile, is reminiscent of Olympus' Live Composite mode, saving the brightest value for any given pixel location to help record light trails. 4K Live Cropping, meanwhile, allows you to crop a window as low as Full HD resolution from a 4K feed, moving it around the image frame so as to provide motion as if shot on a slider or racking zoom, even when the camera itself is completely static.
Bluetooth connectivity supplements Wi-Fi for an always-on connection
If there is but one connectivity trend in the industry at the moment, it's always-on wireless connections. And like many other cameras recently, the GX9 adopts a secondard Bluetooth Low Energy radio with which to supplement the already-extant Wi-Fi radio in the GX8. The Bluetooth 4.2 LE radio uses minimal power and remains active all of the time. It's then used to raise the much faster Wi-Fi connection automatically as needed to allow for remote capture and image sharing with your smartphone or tablet. It's also used to remotely wake the camera from your phone, and to piggyback off your phone's GPS for geolocation information.
A smaller battery translates to a big reduction in battery life
With a smaller body and a smaller battery to fit, it's probably not surprising that the GX9's battery life has taken a plunge. Doubly so when one considers the use of a field-sequential LCD instead of the traditionally more efficient Organic LED display in the viewfinder, plus the presence of a more powerful processor and a built-in flash.
The result is that you can expect almost a 25% reduction in battery life versus the GX8. With a little math, the new 7.2V, 1025mAh, 7.4Wh battery would suggest around a 15% reduction in battery life from the previous 7.2V, 1,200mAh, 8.7Wh pack, so the rest presumably comes from a more power-hungry camera.
Using the bundled Lumix 12-60mm f/3.5-5.6 (H-FS12060) kit lens, Panasonic rates the GX9's battery as capable of just 260 frames with the LCD panel or 250 frames with the EVF, down from 340 or 320 frames with the GX8. This can be hugely improved to a claimed 900-frame battery life if you're willing to make the most of an aggressive power-saving function that can put the camera to sleep one, two, three, five or 10 seconds after you take your eye from the viewfinder, and then power it back up only once you half-press the shutter button.
Available accessories for the GX9 will include the DMW-EC5 eyecup (US$19.99) and the DMW-HGR2 hand grip (US$59.99), the latter also being compatible with the GX85. The hand grip doesn't include any provision for extra power or controls, as some do, but is instead just an ergonomic/cosmetic accessory.
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