Panasonic G9 Review

Introduction

The Panasonic G9, released in spring 2018, marks Panasonic’s latest photography-centric flagship camera. While it is a prosumer camera marketed towards photographers. It inherits several successful high-end video features from the flagship GH5 to deliver a well-suited package the cinematographer can appreciate. It features the same 20.3 Micro Four Thirds (MFT) MOS sensor, without an Optical Low Pass Filter (OLPF), and the same superior 5-axis image stabilization. However, it’s sensor has improved to increase resolving detail, color reproduction, and noise reduction.

Not only that, but the image stabilization system now delivers a whopping 6.5 stops of total shake reduction, which makes it superior to the GH5. Impressive. This camera competitors primarily with the Olympus E-M1 Mark II, Canon 1DX and Nikon D5. In many ways, though, its Panasonic’s response to the E-M1 Mark II. They’re both high-end MFT cameras built for prosumers and professional-level photographers.

However, Olympus has a longstanding history with producing excellent still-centric cameras, and this type of camera is certainly their specialty. Has Panasonic made enough improvements to convince diehard loyalists it’s a worthwhile switch? Not only that, but this is also a camera marketed towards sports, wildlife, and action photographers who shoot with conventional digital SLRs. Is this a camera that an SLR purist would be willing to switch over to instead?

Is this new camera ready for the needs of professional photographers? In today’s post, we tackle these very questions.

LUMIX G9 Mirrorless Camera Body

What are some of the goods, bads, and the uglies of the Panasonic G9?

Pros:

Image Quality

Image quality in both sharpness and dynamic range is excellent, considering this is typically a downfall of MFT sized sensor. When compared to equivalent APS-C cameras, namely the Canon 80D and Sony a6500, both dynamic range and ISO performance are equal up to ISO 3,200. The differences between these cameras are only distinguishable following ISO 3,200. Considering most MFT struggle at ISO 1,600, this is a much needed improvement. 

It has an awe-inspiring continuous burst rate.  It delivers 20 fps with AF-C or 60 fps without AF-C when using the electronic shutter. Nice. Not only that, but it also provides 50 RAW images before buffering. Overall, this makes it an excellent choice for sports and wildlife where quick bursts are essential to capturing critical moments. Alternatively, users can also take advantage of either the 4K or 6K Photo modes. These modes capture a video clip at either 60 fps or 30 fps, respectively, which you can then extract still images from after the fact. The options for resolution vary, however. For 4K, you get an 8-megapixel image, while for 6K, you get an 18-megapixel image. 

This camera also has a dedicated Hi-Res Shot mode, which shoots a sizeable 80-megapixel image via a technique known as “Sensor Shifting.” Essentially, it moves the sensor ½ a pixel while taking eight separate exposures. These eight exposures are then stitched together automatically to deliver a single rendered image, either as a RAW or as a JPEG.

For product or landscape photography, this is bar none a selling point feature of this particular camera. This feature is a cheat to avoid the cost associated with purchasing a medium format camera that has this amount of resolution natively. However, any movement that occurs during the few seconds will cause ghosting/motion blur throughout that area of the frame. And while this is an impressive feature to achieve greater resolution, it will not outperform an equivalent 80-megapixel medium format camera. 

Video Quality

Video quality is another strength of this camera, both in flexibility as well as the sharpness of the footage. This camera records the following formats: 4K UHD up to 60p at 150 Mbps, 1080p FHD up to 120p, and 720p HD up to 180p. In all, this camera is undoubtedly capable of delivering footage akin in many respects to the video-centric GH5, with only minor trade-offs. 

It has focus peaking

It has zebras

It has histograms

Focusing Performance

Focusing performance is improved, notable so indeed. This camera employs the latest contrast-based algorithms and uses Panasonic’s Depth From Defocus (DFD) technology. It has a total of 225 AF areas, covering nearly the entirety of the imaging sensor. In terms of performance, the single point to point focusing is incredibly fast and accurate. Both continuous focusing and subject tracking initially were quite hit or miss, however. Thankfully, Panasonic has delivered several dedicated firmware updates since release to significantly increase subject tracking and continuous AF performance, especially when filming. Overall, these updates have made a sometimes troublesome system quite useful. This focusing system, however, does have extensive options and customization. With that, it will undoubtedly take a bit of trial and error to discover best practices. While not as full proof as Sony’s hybrid system, with practice, you will find best practice and gain mastery over the specific situations you encounter. 

Battery Performance

Battery life is excellent, 400 shots in regular shooting or upwards of 920 shots when power saver mode is enabled. Remarkable considering this is a pitfall of most compact mirrorless cameras. 

Display & Viewfinder

It has a 3-inch 1.04 million dot vari-angle touchscreen LCD. This display is not only bright and sharp but works well for navigating the menus of the camera and as an AF touchpad. 

It has a 3.69 million dot OLED live electronic viewfinder with an impressive 0.83x magnification and 120 Hz refresh rate. These specifications far outcompete the majority of viewfinders found even in mirrorless cameras on the market today. Surprisingly, this also includes the newly released Nikon Z6. There are many selling point features for this camera, and this is undoubtedly one of them.

Not only is the viewfinder larger than life, but Panasonic has also now addressed eyepoint as well with the camera. The viewfinder has a dedicated button that cycles between three separate modes, effectively functioning as a digital crop mode. When pressed, it crops tighter into the monitor but leaves the viewfinder 100% field of coverage unchanged. This means users can customize the viewfinder’s eye relief to their like and is a necessity as it makes it difficult to get true 100% coverage otherwise. In all, this is one of the highest specifications available on any EVF available today. 

Unlike GH series cameras, this camera marks the first to feature a dedicated top deck secondary viewfinder, which is also backlit. This LCD is particularly useful when composing without the rear LCD, as it gives photographers exposure and other critical shooting information at a glance. At the time of release, this was the first-ever mirrorless camera to deliver this feature. 

User Interface

All on-screen menus are fully adjustable via touch and well optimized for this type of input. Overall, the menu layout and structuring on this camera are organized and quite user-friendly, something unspoken about the competition. 

Physical Interface & Ergonomics

Physically, the button layout is quite logical and in line with the traditional design scheme typically found in digital SLRs. Nonetheless, Panasonic has doubled down on its utilitarian design to deliver a very functional camera. But one that has excellent versatility and customization, with a good number of physical dials for immediate access to standard shooting parameters. Sure, it lacks the show-stopping sex appeal of a Fujifilm camera, for example, but it’s incredibly functional and surely doesn’t disappoint during use. Compared to traditional MFT cameras, the handling of this camera is excellent due to it’s more SLR sized form factor. And it offers a deep grip, which balances well when shooting with longer focal lengths. 

It offers three custom function buttons, Fn1-Fn3. 

It has two dedicated adjustment wheels, Aperture on the front and Shutter Speed on the rear. 

It has a dedicated AF joystick, a welcomed feature inherited from the GH5 that both speeds up AF point selection as well as menu navigation. 

It’s entirely dust and weatherproof down to temperatures of -14 F due to a robust magnesium alloy body. 

Niche Features/Extras

No matter who you are, image stabilization is a transformative feature, especially for handheld work. This camera takes stabilization to the next level by improving on the already successful system from the GH5 to deliver an even more refined version of Panasonic’s Dual IS II technology. By itself, 5-axis image stabilization is excellent. But, when paired with select Panasonic lenses with optical stabilization, the result is an outrageous 6.5 stops of total stabilization. Outside of the E-M1 Mark II flagship camera from Olympus, this camera delivers the best performing stabilization on the market.

It also features a distinct feature called Image Stabilization Lock, which locks the stabilizer at a set value and essentially makes the footage look identical to a tripod. We’ve noticed this is typically an overlooked feature, as it is quite niche. However, it provides a distinct advantage for those desiring more flexibility when shooting handheld. 

It has dual SD cards, both of which support UHS-II.

It has three custom shooting modes, C1-C3, for quick access to shooting presets via the mode dial.  

It has a headphone input port.

It has a microphone input port.

It has a full-sized HDMI port, a rare feature for a midrange mirrorless camera. 

It supports USB charging. 

The Panasonic Image app gives users full control over all manual functions within the camera’s Wi-Fi range. This app is fully featured, well implemented, and is excellent in practice.

Cons:

Video Quality:

Unlike the GH5, this camera only shoots an 8-bit color internally. Users requiring more demanding color for heavy color grading to video in post will have to look elsewhere. 

It lacks waveforms and vectorscopes. 

It lacks both Log and HLG profiles. The only option for flat color profiles is Cinelike D and Cinelike V. 

Video recording time caps out at the industry standard, 29 minutes, and 59 seconds. 

Low Light Performance:

Low light performance is the real gripe of this camera. But, in all reality, in everyday circumstances, it will be sufficient. Yes, images degrade starting at ISO 3,200, which is rather low considering the competition goes well over ISO 6,400 with easy. Lacking low light performance is primarily the result of its smaller sensor. Thankfully, we can bypass this to a reasonable extent by leaning on the camera’s image stabilization system instead of increasing ISO when shooting in low light. Using stabilization, you can shoot at upwards of shutter speeds of a ½ second at ISO 100, granted this not freeze motion occurring through the frame so there will be motion blur. 

Focusing Performance:

Focusing performance is still a gripe with this camera. However, not to the same extent experienced during the camera’s initial release. The camera uses a contrast-based AF system, which delivers incredible performance with practice, but again that’s with practice. The system is not precisely full proof or seamless like systems found in equivalent Sony or Canon cameras. Its main weakness occurs when filming outdoors or in heavy contrast environments. In these situations, it still struggles, and, in all, leaves us a bit disappointed without the confidence we need to rely on continuous AF during filming. Nonetheless, as mentioned above, focusing performance overall is much improved and vastly superior to both the G85 and G7. Focusing when filming looks far more natural and, while not suited to pro-videographers, is unquestionably adequate in most circumstances for casual use.

Physical Interface & Ergonomics:

Something to consider, this camera is massive in comparison compared to traditional MFT cameras. Not necessarily a con, but a needed trade-off considering it has in-body stabilization. However, if you’re moving from a smaller form factor camera, you will surely be surprised by its size. 

Features Removed:

It lacks a built-in flash.

Is the Panasonic G9 a good starting camera?

Yes, it makes an extraordinarily capable starting camera. While its a photography-centric camera, it comes hard stacked with features videographers require, which makes it quite a well-rounded package. There’s an extensive gap in features offered by cameras at this price point. With this camera, that gap closes. It delivers excellent imaging performance, video capabilities, and a stabilization system that is best in class amongst its competition. It includes a myriad of video centric features in an otherwise still focused camera.

While it does not outshine the GH5 by any means, it feels a horizontal gap in Panasonic’s line and an excellent choice for the photographer needing casual video. Considering the depth of features for both photography and videographer here, it’s a massive steal for such a low price. If you’re a beginner just starting, this is an excellent choice. The only real drawbacks to this camera are the smaller sensor size and the complex autofocusing system. Outside of these two drawbacks, this camera is virtually flawless, which is quite rare in cameras within this price.

What are the best lenses for the Panasonic G9?

General Photography: 

LUMIX G VARIO 14-140mm, F3.5-5.6 II ASPH
LUMIX G X VARIO 35-100mm, F2.8 II ASPH

Specifically for Macro Photography:

LUMIX G Macro Lens 30mm, F2.8 ASPH
LUMIX G LEICA DG MACRO-ELMAR 45mm, F2.8 ASPH

Specifically for Landscape Photography:

LUMIX G LEICA DG SUMMILUX 15mm, F1.7 ASPH
LUMIX G II Lens, 20mm, F1.7 ASPH

Specifically for Portrait Photography:

LUMIX G Lens 42.5mm, F1.7 ASPH
LUMIX G VARIO Lens, 45-200mm, F4.0-5.6 II

Best bundles for the Panasonic G9

bundle

Is the Panasonic G9 a good camera for you?

Depending on your needs, absolutely. In the MFT realm of cameras, this camera delivers exceptional value for the money spent. The MTF system overall provides a longstanding tradition of improvements and one that meets a wide array of demographics and styles. Not only that, but Panasonic has some of the best lens selection available. Panasonic recently released its newest S1 flagship lineup of full-frame cameras, and we ask, where does it leave the G9? Well, no fear, friends. This camera stands steadfast on it’s own and a competitor in today’s marketplace. It is still an excellent, well-rounded and versed camera that’s perfect for the multimedia shooter. 

This is a standout camera and excellent release from the camera maker. Surely, it’s one that any photographer can fully take advantage of to produce incredible results. From the outside, it’s design and styling is similar to its video-centric brothers, but the control set and added niche features make it excellently optimized for photographers. Mirrorless cameras reached a point now where they’ve become more efficient and effective in areas of photography we once only trusted with SLRs. This camera marks an excellent example of such. Its a camera that aims to court and convince traditional SLR users to switch, and one that does so incredibly well. It aims at the SLR market and is undoubtedly swaying a fair share of loyalists. 

In many ways, this camera represents Panasonic’s response to the Olympus EM-1 Mark II. This release also fills a gap in their horizontal lineup of cameras. It does so by simultaneously differentiates itself from the ever-increasing video-focused GH series while also inheriting a number of its proven successes. Quite a feat. It shares a good amount of underlying technology from the GH5, and in all, delivers a compelling package as to why current Panasonic shooters should seriously consider upgrading or switching to this new platform. It makes a new animal from the camera, a real photographers camera that just soo much more. It makes a breakthrough for Panasonic while it remains true to what they’ve always done best, delivering excellent hybrid cameras with an emphasis on functionality and usability. 

For those of you who shoot sports, wildlife, or action, this is your camera. You will surely not be disappointed with the continuous shooting performance, compact form factor, and rugged build of this camera. This camera still delivers with excellent performance in a package that is far lighter and smaller than what’s typically needed, all without much comprise. 

For videographers, if you don’t intend to shoot a lot of high-end films, this camera is an insanely capable video camera for the price and makes a compelling package. While it lacks several advanced features like Log profiles or high-end codecs, its an excellent tool for the run and gun videographer. Quite frankly, if the Panasonic GH5 didn’t exist, this camera would be one of the top video cameras on the market today, especially at this price point. 

In all, this is an extraordinary release from Panasonic that simultaneously breaks new ground while it remains true to what Panasonic’s always done best. While it’s only been a year into its initial release cycle, the camera is still among the best performing in its class and one to watch in 2019.

Overview
  • Image Quality
  • Video Quality
  • Focusing Performance
  • Low Light Performance
  • Dynamic Range
  • Battery Performance
  • Display & Viewfinder
  • User Interface
  • Physical Layout & Ergonomics
4

Summary

The Panasonic G9 is a photographic centric camera, but one that comes hard stacked with features videographers require making it quite a well-rounded package. It delivers excellent imaging performance, video capabilities, and a stabilization system that is best in class amongst its competition. Panasonic aimed marks this camera to sway traditional SLR users to switch, and we believe they’ve exceeded exceptionally in doing so with this camera. While it inherits several proven successful features from the GH5, it represents a new breed of camera for the manufacturer. It’s a real photographers camera that just soo much more. It remains in line with what Panasonic’s always done best. Yet, it makes a breakthrough as an excellent performing hybrid camera that’s perfect for multimedia shooters. This camera stands steadfast and is undoubtedly a competitor in today’s marketplace. This is one to watch in 2019.