UPDATE: Pre-order the Panasonic G9 from Amazon here: http://bit.ly/PanasonicG9
Meet the Panasonic G9, the company’s newly announced flagship DSLM (Digital Single Lens Mirrorless) Micro Four-Thirds camera system that answers the question, “what would happen if you took the Panasonic GH5 and made it lighter, more compact, more affordable, and more focused on taking still images?”
The truth of the matter is that the G9 and the GH5 are strikingly similar cameras, boasting many of the same specifications including the image sensor, displays, AF systems, and even the same video resolutions and frame rates… But as we’ll lay out in this PREVIEW article, the G9 is the camera you want to buy if you primarily shoot still subjects, while the GH5 remains one of the best budget video cameras on the market.
PANASONIC G9 PROS
- Up to 60fps in full res 20.3MP RAW (AFS) or 20fps RAW (AFC)
- 4K up to 60fps & 1080p up to 180fps
- 80MP RAW High Resolution Mode
- Highest image quality in the history of the LUMIX G Series
- Lighter (658g) & more affordable than the GH5
PANASONIC G9 CONS
- No 10-bit video, HLG HDR, or V-Log
- No USB C
- No 14bit RAW
- No phase detection or Hybrid AF
PANASONIC G9 KEY FEATURES
- 20.3-megapixel Digital Live MOS image sensor; no optical low-pass filter; AR coating on the sensor
- VENUS Engine 10 image processor
- Contrast AF + up to 225-point DFD (Depth From Defocus) points; 0.04 sec AF time; Face/Eye Recognition; Tracking AF; 1-area AF; Pintpoint AF; Custom AF Modes
- 12bit RAW a/o JPEG shooting
- 20.3MP full res Burst Shooting at 20fps (AFC) or 60fps (AFS)
- 6K PHOTO (18MP) at 30fps AFC; 4K PHOTO (8MP) at 60fps AFC; 6K & 4K PHOTO Pre-Burst
- 80MP 8-shot High Resolution Mode; 10368 x 7776 pixels; JPEG or RAW
- 5-axis In-Body Image Stabilization; up to 6.5 stops of compensation; compatible with Panasonic Dual I.S. 2.0 lenses for more performance
- 4K/60p Video Recording; Full HD 1080p 24-180fps Variable Frame Rate Video Recording; 4:2:2 8bit HDMI out; 4:2:0 8bit internal; NO 10-bit video, V-Log, or HLG
- Blackout-free OLED Live View Finder (LVF); 3,680K dot; 120fps or 60fps; 0.7x, 0.77x, or 0.83x magnification; and Night Mode viewing (removes blue only on screen, not on images)
- Largest-in-class Status LCD
- 3.0″ Free-angle Rear LCD Monitor (1040k dot)
- Rear joystock
- Dual UHS-11 SD Memory Card Slots
- Splash-proof, Dust-proof, Freeze-proof down to 14°F (-10°C)
- USB 3.0 (Type B)
- Bluetooth 4.2 & Wi-Fi 5Ghz, Panasonic Image App, Lumix Tether App (for PCs)
- Battery Life: 380 shots (standard); 920 shots (Power-saving LVF Mode)
IMAGE SENSOR & PROCESSOR
Panasonic took the GH5’s 20.3MP Digital Live MOS sensor (no low-pass filter allowed!), added an AR coating to reduce ghosting and flare, and bumped the processing power up on the Venus Engine 10 processor. This combo should improve color accuracy, skin tones, dynamic range, and gradiations between bright and dark subject matter while reducing noise and fringing while shooting backlit subjects. Panasonic says the G9 boasts the best image quality of any Lumix camera system. Ever.
BUILD QUALITY & ERGONOMICS
The G9 is built around a magnesium alloy full die-cast front/rear frame that’s been weather-sealed in all the important places, making it splash-proof, dust-proof, and freeze-proof down to 14°F (-10°C). Panasonic moved the main mode dial to the top left of the body to make room for the largest-in-class Status LCD. There’s also a rear joystick to help select AF points. I haven’t held one in hand, personally, but the GH5 was a pleasure to hand-hold and this body, while lighter, is very similar. The camera also boasts dual UHS-II SD card slots for maximum performance and reliability.
The G9 boasts the same blackout-free OLED Live View Finder (LVF) and 3.0″ Free-angle Rear LCD Monitor (1040k dot) as the GH5, but adds a Status LCD onto the top right of the body (where the mode dial is on the GH5) so you can see all of your settings without looking through a viewfinder. The LVF can be set to 120fps or 60fps, comes with three different magnification settings (0.7x, 0.77x, or 0.83x), and includes a Night Mode, which removes the blue color from the on-screen image to reduce eye strain (photos are not affected).
5-AXIS IMAGE STABILIZATION
Panasonic, Olympus, and Sony are absolutely KILLING it with their in-body image stabilization and Panasonic seems to be playing to win here. The G9 features the same 5-axis in-body image stabilization as the GH5, but it’s been tuned with a new algorithm to give you up to 6.5 stops of exposure compensation (what!?!?) with our without Panasonic’s Dual I.S. 2.0 compatible lenses. Basically, the camera body alone will give you up to 6.5 stops on 180mm or wider equivalent lenses, while Dual I.S. 2.0 lenses extend that 6.5 stop capability to 280mm equivalent glass.
AutoFocus remains a similar Contrast AF + up to 225-point DFD (Depth From Defocus) points, but it’s been improved again to “achieves the world’s fastest AF speed of 0.04 sec.” Basically, this AF badboy is constantly checking focus at up to 480fps and you can adjust the area and size (up to 225 focus areas) of where you want it to find focus. The rear joystick makes these changes easy to do, and you won’t have to lift your eye away from the LVF to make them. Other modes include Face/Eye Recognition, Tracking AF, 1-area AF and Pinpoint AF. This DFD system isn’t my favorite AF on the market, but Panasonic promises that this one’s up to tracking and locking onto fast-moving objects that are approaching the camera.
STILL IMAGE PERFORMANCE
As the stills-focused sibling, here’s where you can expect the G9 to outperform the GH5, and boy does it.
Where the GH5 rocks out an (impressive) 20.3MP RAW image burst mode at 9fps with continuous AF engaged (AFC) and up to 12fps with single-point AF engaged (AFS), the G9 ramps all with way up to 20fps AFC and a staggering 60fps AFS… All while shooting in 12bit RAW files or RAW + JPEG.
Sadly, 14bit RAW is not an option, which is a (wait for it) bit of a letdown.
Like the GH5, the G9 also boasts 6K PHOTO and 4K PHOTO bursts modes with improved frame rates, which translate into 18-megapixel and 8-megapixel images, respectively. 6K PHOTO can do up to 30fps AFC, while 4K PHOTO can dow up to 60fps AFC. And there’s even a pre-burst mode for 6K/4K PHOTO, which fills your buffer with images and stops when you release the shutter. This way, even if the action you want happens before you click the shutter, you won’t miss it.
A feature you won’t find on the GH5, Panasonic has joined Olympus and Sony with their own version of the pixel-shifting high res shot, which blends 8 consecutive shots to give you an 80-megapixel (10368 x 7776 pixels) RAW or JPEG image. Given the internal sensor movement, these modes are intended for product shots or architecture because any in-frame movement will blur and/or give the image the look of a longer exposure (I highly recommend playing with this mode around rivers and waterfalls precisely for this reason).
In addition to the new High Resolution Mode and improved processing, the biggest difference between the G9 and GH5 show up in the video department, although when you look at the main specs, these differences might not jump out for you. Both cameras boast industry-leading 4K video at up to 60fps, variable frame rate Full HD 1080p video at up to 180fps, full-sized HDMI outputs, mic and headphone inputs…
But where the GH5 can do 4:2:2 10-bit to an internal SD card or to an external HDMI recording, taking advantage of V-Log and HLG HDR capabilities for advanced color grading — not to mention 6K anamorphic — the G9 is limited to 4:2:0 8-bit video and 4:2:2 8bit video via HDMI. For the G9, there is no 10bit, V-Log, or HLG HDR.
Battery life comes with a tale of two modes. In normal mode, running your LVF and rear LCD, you’ll get up to about 380 shots. But there’s also an LVF Mode, which turns off the LCD and gives you up to 920 shots or pretty similar performance to running around with a DSLR when you’re not constantly checking your images between shots. This is on-par with the GH5.
Like every modern camera, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi are a must to allow for smartphone remote controlling, tethering, and/or the transfer of image files for instant Instagram sharing. In this case, the specs are Bluetooth 4.2 & Wi-Fi 5Ghz, and this camera will work with the Panasonic Image App as well as the Lumix Tether App (for PCs).
PICK UP THE PANASONIC G9 IF…
You’re a stills-first shooter with an aging ILC or DSLR, the G9 might just be the best DSLM camera system Panasonic has ever made. Light, compact, and rugged, you’ll be able to take the G9 anywhere and shoot anything from product shots to action. Plus, in a pinch, you can shoot variable frame rate 8-bit video, which is good for anyone who isn’t producing HDR / 10bit content.
SKIP THE PANASONIC G9 IF…
You’re a video-first shooter. If still images are your secondary needs or passion, the GH5, which is one of t t most popular and capable Panasonic cameras ever made, is available now and ready to go. Stick with this camera if you want full 10-bit HLG HDR 4K, V-Log, and 6K anamorphic video capabilities.
For about the same price and available now, you could check out the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II, which is another, super-fast, still-first Micro Four Thirds camera system. We’ve tested that in person and it’s an awesome, rugged camera that mostly keeps up with the G9 except in terms of video frame rates where the E-M1ii is limited to 4K/30p and 1080/60p.
PANASONIC G9 PRICING & AVAILABILITY
The Panasonic G9 (aka the Lumix G9) is available for pre-order now at $1,699.99 (body-only) from Amazon here: http://bit.ly/PanasonicG9 and should be available in late January or early February 2018.
- Battery Grip (DMBW-BGG9) – $349.99
- Eye Cup (WMW-EC4)
- Shoulder Strap (DMW-SSTG9)