Panasonic GX9 Review

Introduction

The Panasonic GX9 is the latest release in Panasonic’s GX lineup of cameras. Released initially spring 2018, it sits in the middle of Panasonic’s range and one they call a “premium street photography camera.” The naming convention used by Panasonic is confusing, but this camera is a development and replacement of the previously released Panasonic GX7 and spiritual successor to the GX80/GX85. This camera is not a successor to the GX8 however. At first glance, you may mistake this camera for the GX80, but don’t be fooled.

This camera inherits features from the higher end Panasonic GH5 and flagship G9 implemented into a GX8 body. Namely, it inherits the 20.3-megapixel Live MOS sensor from these cameras. Not only that, but Panasonic has also opted to remove the optical low pass filter, an element its predecessor possessed.

With its small compact size and rangefinder-style, it makes the ideal travel camera. When the GX8 was initially released, it quickly rose as Panasonic’s top tier photography centric camera. In the interim years, that role transitioned to the G9. Now, in comes the replacement for the GX8, but is this the top tier photo-centric camera users expected? Alternatively, is this a mid-tier release aimed at street photographers lacking the budget for the G9? Is this still Panasonic’s best street photography centric camera? Today we find out. 

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What are some of the goods, bads, and the uglies of the Panasonic GX9?

Pros:

Image Quality

The inherited 20.3-megapixel sensor found in the flagship G9 coupled with the removal of the optical low pass filter surely deliver sharp and contrasty images. This sensor is capable of resolving fine detail, somewhat of an expectation now for four-thirds cameras, and no different here. This camera delivers sharp JPEG images straight out of the camera, and it’s built-in color profiles create flattering color rendition, especially in skin tones. In all, this is a camera that convinces users to shoot JPEG and one that does so very well indeed. In all, it delivers G9 performance into a compact GX sized body and is a winner in image quality. 

It has a new B & W filter (L Monochrome D) that supplies images with better dynamic range, noise performance, and punchy images akin to film. 

It also has a new grain simulate mode as well, which randomly generates grain and supplies images with a more film look.

Video Quality

It supplies 4K Ultra HD video at 24/30 fps and 1080p Full HD at 60 fps. Typical of Panasonic, this camera is very competent in video performance. Both 4K and 1080p deliver sharp, high-quality video that looks excellent straight out of the camera. 

It has a 4K photo function, which allows users to pull an 8-megapixel still from the recorded 4K clip. 4K photo is a welcomed and helpful addition when shooting complex action that would be difficult to photograph otherwise. This feature intelligently picks the best moments from the burst reducing the work users need to find the perfect moment — a nice plus. 

Focusing Performance

It has a 49-point contrast-based AF system, which provides quick and accurate focusing as a result of inheriting Depth from Defocus (DFD) technology. DFD significantly reduces hunting across all lighting conditions. The camera can focus down to EV -4 at its centermost point. Though it is not the fastest AF system, especially when compared to the GH5 and G9. However, it uses an algorithm that is highly intelligent and rarely mistakes the subject from the background. Overall, it delivers focusing performance users can trust. 

Display & Viewfinder

It has a tilting LVF, an element removed from its predecessor the GX85, which is both convenient and discreet. There are specific cost-saving measures taken with the LVF to reduce the final price of this camera. We cover these measures in the con’s section below. 

It has a 3-inch 1.24 million dot touch LCD that also tilts. The OLED display is bright, sharp, and has excellent contrast, even outdoors. Overall, the implementation and performance delivered are among the best in class. 

User Interface

The user interface and menus on this camera are both simple and well organized. The addition of a touchscreen means users can navigate the interface solely through touch, which is well integrated and works flawlessly. There is even a quick menu, which, once set up, allows users to access all functions essential to their workflow with on button press. Outside of that, users can also create a custom “My Menu” tab, allowing them to also customize the main menu as a preset to their liking. The addition of these features makes customization and usability excellent.

Physical Layout and ergonomics

This camera is extremely lightweight, coming in at only 400 grams, and compact. It doesn’t compromise any button functionality. It has dual adjustment dials, dedicated focus mode lever, exposure compensation wheel, and several other functions. We can tell the buttons on this camera are extensively thought out, and optimized to provide users immediate access to a wide array of standard features. The design takes the successful elements from the GX7 and delivers a far improved camera. 

The solid grip, though small, offers ample gripping surfaces and is sufficient across a variety of Panasonic Lumix sized lenses. It has an attractive leather style coating plus an indent for more comfortable finger placement. Previous GX85 users will feel welcomed when handling this camera, as it inherits much of its design. 

Niche features offered/Extras

It charges via USB. 

It has an HDMI output port. 

It has a built-in panorama mode that stitches the images in-camera.  

It has a built-in pop-up flash, helpful to deliver fill light in a pinch. This flash can also act as a master to trigger wireless flashes. 

It has a continuous burst rate of 6 fps with AF-C or 9 fps with AF-S. Respectable. It also has a buffer which supplies approximately 40 RAW and 100 JPEG images. 

It has a feature called “Post Focus,” which allows users to take a series of images then change the point of focus after the fact. This feature is particularly helpful in situations when shooting at a shallow depth of field, where achieving critical focus is challenging. 

It has 5-axis in-body image stabilization (IBIS) which provides upwards of four stops of vibration reduction, an improvement over the 4-axis IBIS of the GX8. This improvement makes this camera on par with the GX85. It also has Dual IS, which couples with IBIS when using compatible lenses, syncing them together for further improved stabilization. Overall, this feature assists users considerably when shooting handheld or in low light. 

It has Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, allowing connectivity to mobile devices. It supports transferring of images, remote shooting control in both photos or videos, and GPS geotagging. Overall, these features work well. 

Cons:

Low Light Performance

Low light performance is lacking. The camera has an ISO range from ISO 200 to ISO 25,600. While its performance is similar to the G9 in this regard, it only provides usable images up to ISO 3,200. Anything above that becomes quite questionable, and usability is dependent on the specific scene photographed. Thankfully, we can bypass this by using the four-stop IBIS in conjunction with Dual IS when using the appropriate lens. Users can take advantage of IS to shoot at lower ISOs by allowing it to compensate for the handshake.

Video Quality

During 4K filming, users will experience a 1.25x crop factor. This added crop is problematic as it reduces the native sensor’s resolution and forces users to alter their technique to compensate. Not only that, but this camera experience rolling shutter when filming in 4K, though not as severe as the competition. If you want maximum resolution, 1080p is best. The quality of the 4K video is good, however.

It initially lacked flat profiles (Cinelike D and Cinelike V) but, thankfully, Panasonic added these later as a firmware update. 

It lacks 120 fps across any video file formats. So, if you desire super slow motion, you will have to look elsewhere or perform this function manually in post. 

Focusing Performance

AF performance, namely focusing speed is slow when filming and even more so during 4K. It’s slow AF performance makes it not the ideal for filming complex or fast action. 

Battery performance

Battery performance is adequate, not excellent. Panasonic rates the battery life for 260 shots and 100 minutes of 4K video on a single charge. The industry standard for mirrorless cameras, however, is 320 shots. With that, this camera lags slightly in this regard, and you’ll surely need additional batteries for all-day shooting. Thankfully, it does feature a power saver LVF mode which, when enabled, increases the battery performance to 900 shots on a single charge. Now that’s acceptable.  

Layout and ergonomics

This camera is tiny, and with that, a secondary grip of some sort is a needed accessory to increase gripping surface and improve comfort. Without one, the likelihood of accidentally dropping the camera is reasonably high. 

The placement of dials and controls, while convenient, means that your hand naturally rest over a number of these controls. Unfortunately, this increases the probability of accidental and unwanted changes. The rear adjustment dial, in particular, is a culprit, as it is adjacent to the exposure compensation dial.

The LCD is doesn’t fully articulate like the G90, it only tilts. Sadly, this makes this not the ideal choice for a VLOG camera. 

When using a grip, it blocks the battery compartment door and becomes incredibly cumbersome.

The LVF lacks massively. Firstly, it has a 16:9 aspect ratio which is tailored for video but not for stills. The display should be 4:3, and since this can’t be changed the screen in the LVF is unnecessarily small. Secondly, it just doesn’t appear sharp, regardless of how much adjustment occurs to the diopter. Thirdly, it also experiences color tearing if the camera is moving while your viewing, where the color shifts sporadically and appears to be out of focus. The color tearing is both incredibly noticeable and quite distracting. Overall, avoid the LVF unless necessary. The LCD is a far better alternative to view and compose.  

Features removed

It lacks dust and weather sealing.

It lacks a microphone input port. 

It lacks a headphone input port. 

It uses the older generation Micro USB port and thus both transfer and charging speeds are slow. 

Is the Panasonic GX9 a good starting camera?

Yes, surely. Bear in mind; this is a defined photo-centric camera, which happens to shoot high-quality video. Admittedly, it wouldn’t make sense to use this individually as a primary video camera, as it lacks necessary features. Panasonic inherently designed this with the moving photographer in mind, not videographers. Instead, it’s lightweight, compact design makes it ideal for both travel or street photographers wanting discretion while shooting. Overall, it makes a solid entry-point into the Panasonic ecosystem and the micro four-thirds realm of interchangeable lens cameras. It delivers similar high-end image quality without the additional bulk and added intimidation factor. If you’re looking to shooting in a run and gun fashion, this is your best option. 

What are the best lenses for the Panasonic GX9? 

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 GX9

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Is the Panasonic GX9 a good camera for you?

If you are a street, travel, or lifestyle photographer then absolutely. It’s compact rangefinder design, and fast focus makes it the ideal camera for these mediums. The GX9 is a camera that is quite comprehensive and leaves users with the impression that it’s a camera made with purpose, not just price. In all, it delivers an excellent size to performance ratio. Despite its size, it still manages to supply both superb usability and handling. Panasonic was spot on with the release of this camera and created one of the top street photography cameras to date. 

If you are primarily a videographer and video performance is crucial to you, look elsewhere as the lacking features will hinder you. Consider the Panasonic GH5 or G9 instead. The fact that this camera lacks both headphone and microphone ports will surely limit its use for serious videographers. This camera is best tailored for casual use or as a b-roll camera. 

If you’re a run and gun photographer who desires convenience and ease when traveling, this is your camera. This camera delivers industry demanding features in a lightweight body. Overall, it is an excellent value and bang for the buck, even considering the features it lacks. 

If you’re a previous Panasonic user, namely GX7 users, you should consider upgrading. You will be pleased with the features improved upon, with a barely perceivable increase in size. 

In conclusion, this camera has many compromises that may surely surprise users expecting a straight upgrade. However, it still performance and leverages its compact size to culminate into an all-round performer. If you want an all-in-one, well rounded, and inconspicuous camera with several proven features from Panasonic, then this is your camera. While the GX9 lacks headline-grabbing features and is a more conservative approach, it results in an excellent overall camera and one that’s competitive in 2019. 

Overview
  • Image Quality
  • Video Quality
  • Focusing Performance
  • Low Light Performance
  • Dynamic Range
  • Battery Performance
  • Display & Viewfinder
  • User Interface
  • Physical Layout & Ergonomics
3.7

Summary

The GX9 is a camera that is quite comprehensive and leaves users with the impression that it’s a camera made with purpose, not just price. It is undoubtedly a photo-centric camera, which happens to shoot high-quality video. It’s lightweight, compact design makes it ideal for both travel or street photographers wanting discretion while shooting. In all, it delivers an excellent size to performance ratio. Despite its size, it still manages to supply both superb usability and handling. Panasonic was spot on with the release of this camera and created one of the top street photography cameras to date.  It still performance and leverages its compact size to culminate into an all-round performer. While the GX9 lacks headline-grabbing features and is a more conservative approach, it results in an excellent overall camera and one that’s competitive in 2019.