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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The Panasonic GX9 is an interesting little camera. It's small, lightweight and does a lot of things well, including image quality, autofocus, and overall performance. But does it replace the GX8 or the GX85? Regardless of which camera it replaces, on its own, the GX9 is a really nice camera. It's compact, it feels nice in the hand, and it takes great 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 -- and for a great price.Pros
Great image quality; Good high ISO performance for its class; Improved JPEG processing; Fast autofocus; Fast ~9fps burst mode.Cons
Smallish field-sequential EVF; Below average battery life; No mic/headphone jacks; Noticeable crop on 4K video.Price and availability
Available since March 2018, the Panasonic GX9 is priced at US$997 in North America in a kit with the Lumix 12-60mm f/3.5-5.6 lens.Imaging Resource rating
4.5 out of 5.0
Panasonic GX9 Review
A smaller, lighter body
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.
The Panasonic 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 dedicated 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, image quality is improved. 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 allows better microcontrast and capture of finer details, albeit with an increased risk of false color or other moiré-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 is also similar. 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 sensitivity 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 12-60mm 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 is 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 on certain subjects. 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 GX9 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 secondary 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 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.
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 sells 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.)
• • •
Panasonic GX9 Field Test
A compact, high-performance and versatile travel-friendly camera
Before the announcement, I was able to spend some time with this new rangefinder-esque Micro Four Thirds camera and wanted to share my experience with the camera's design, image quality, and some performance features. 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 GX9 Image Quality Comparison
See how the GX9 compares against its competition
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, Canon M5, 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 Print Quality
But how does it do on paper?
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.
Panasonic GX9 Conclusion
The best-ever bang for your buck from Panasonic?
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 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 more fine 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.
In the Box
The Panasonic GX9 retail kit w/12-60mm lens package (as reviewed) contains the following items:
- Panasonic Lumix DC-GX9 Camera Body (in black or silver)
- Panasonic Lumix G Vario 12-60mm f/3.5-5.6 ASPH Power OIS Lens
- Lens hood and caps
- Hot Shoe Cover
- Body Cap
- DMW-BLG10 Rechargeable Lithium-Ion Battery Pack (7.2V, 1025mAh)
- AC/USB Adapter
- USB Cable
- Shoulder Strap
- Limited 1-Year Warranty
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