On Trial – Pana­sonic Lumix DC-G9

Pana­sonic ramps up its as­sault on the pro cam­era sec­tor with a more photo-ori­en­tated ver­sion of its Lumix GH5 flag­ship which pro­vides yet an­other mirrorless al­ter­na­tive to the high- end D-SLR.

ProPhoto - - CONTENTS -

The hy­brid Lumix GH5 has been Pana­sonic’s best seller over re­cent months, but not ev­ery­body wants such an ex­ten­sive set of video ca­pa­bil­i­ties – so now there’s the more pho­tog­ra­phy-ori­en­tated G9. It uses the same sen­sor and pro­ces­sor, but adds a num­ber of im­por­tant new still cap­ture func­tions.

they’Re com­ing thick and fast now… pro-level mirrorless cam­eras, that is. The last few months have seen the ar­rival of Sony’s A9 and A7R III – join­ing the likes of Fu­ji­film’s X-Pro2 and X-T2 plus the Olym­pus OM-D E-M1 Mark II – as mirrorless de­signs more tar­geted at pro­fes­sional users. The tide is un­doubt­edly turn­ing.

Pana­sonic’s Lumix G9 – an­nounced late last year, but just be­com­ing avail­able now – is also de­signed with pro­fes­sional us­age in mind, sup­ported by a grow­ing sys­tem of Le­ica-de­signed high-per­for­mance lenses, in­clud­ing a new DG El­marit 200mm f2.8 Power OIS tele­photo (equiv­a­lent to a 400mm f2.8).

As a Mi­cro Four Thirds for­mat cam­era, the G9’s clos­est ri­val is the E-M1 II, but the Pana­sonic's fea­ture set and spec­i­fi­ca­tions also put it in the frame with the full-35mm for­mat A9 and A7R III.

Both Olym­pus and Pana­sonic are prov­ing that the smaller sen­sor is no longer in­fe­rior in terms of im­age qual­ity… and, in­deed, an ad­van­tage when it comes to lenses such as the lat­ter’s 100-400mm tele­zoom (ef­fec­tively a hand-hold­able 200-800mm).

The G9 is based on the GH5 flag­ship with some of its video ca­pa­bil­i­ties wound back and re­placed with ad­di­tional photo-ori­en­tated fea­tures (in con­trast to the re­cently-an­nounced GH5S which goes even fur­ther as a pro­level video cam­era).

The bodyshell is an all-new de­sign and makes the G9 look more like a D-SLR than ever, es­pe­cially as there’s now a large LCD info panel on the top deck which is a first for a Lumix G se­ries mirrorless cam­era. There’s also a much beefier hand­grip and a more pro­nounced cover over the EVF… look­ing for all the world like a pen­taprism hous­ing. No prizes for guess­ing who Pana­sonic is try­ing to ap­peal to here.

The body pan­els are mag­ne­sium al­loy over a diecast chas­sis and with full weather seal­ing plus, as with the GH5, in­su­la­tion to en­able shoot­ing in sub­zero tem­per­a­tures down to -10 de­grees Cel­sius. Per­haps in­ten­tion­ally, the G9 looks and feels a lot more like its di­rect ri­val in the Mi­cro Four Thirds for­mat, the Olym­pus OM-D E-M1 Mark II.

The EVF – or “Live View Fin­der” as Pana­sonic calls it – uses the same 3.686 megadots OLED panel as the GH5, but with an in­creased mag­ni­fi­ca­tion of 0.83x (35mm equiv­a­lent) and the op­tion of switch­ing to 0.77x or 0.7x set­tings. Ad­di­tion­ally, the re­fresh rate is switch­able be­tween 60 and 120 fps, the lat­ter elim­i­nat­ing black-out when shoot­ing at faster frame rates… which is an­other plus for the elec­tronic fin­der over an op­ti­cal one. This is all-im­por­tant be­cause the viewfinder ex­pe­ri­ence is a key dif­fer­ence be­tween D-SLRs and mirrorless cam­eras, and Pana­sonic is work­ing hard to make its EVFs bet­ter and bet­ter.

The G9’s mon­i­tor screen is a 7.62 cm TFT LCD panel with a res­o­lu­tion of 1.036 megadots and ad­justable for both tilt and swing. It pro­vides full touch­screen con­trols in­clud­ing for aut­o­fo­cus­ing, me­ter­ing and shut­ter re­lease in live view; and is also ad­justable for bright­ness, con­trast, colour saturation and colour bal­ance (red tint or blue tint).

Ex­ter­nally, the G9 is a whole lot more tra­di­tional than any­thing Pana­sonic has done be­fore, but its er­gonomics are ex­cel­lent.

The con­trol lay­out is based on a main mode dial with front and rear in­put wheels. As on many D-SLRs, the main dial has a se­lec­tor lo­cated at its base for the drive modes (which in­cludes the self-timer op­tions) and the G9 also has a joy­stick-type con­trol, an­other com­mon fea­ture on the higher-end re­flexes. The joy­stick’s main role is en­able faster and more ef­fi­cient se­lec­tion of the fo­cus­ing points, but it’s multi-func­tional so serves as a nav­i­ga­tor too.

There are dual mem­ory card slots for the SD for­mat and both sup­port UHS-II speed de­vices which de­serves a round of ap­plause be­cause lim­it­ing one slot to UHS-I re­ally harms pro­duc­tiv­ity by com­pro­mis­ing, in par­tic­u­lar, the over­flow and back-up file man­age­ment modes. As on the GH5, the G9’s op­tions here in­clude the fa­cil­ity, while us­ing the over­flow or Re­lay (as Pana­sonic calls it) set-up to re­place the full mem­ory card while the cam­era is still record­ing to the sec­ond one.

Per­for­mance Boost

As noted at the start, the G9 shares all the GH5’s key imag­ing com­po­nents, start­ing with the 21.77 megapix­els ‘Live MOS’ sen­sor which has an ef­fec­tive pixel count of 20.3 mil­lion and goes with­out an op­ti­cal low-pass fil­ter to op­ti­mise the res­o­lu­tion and dy­namic range.

Pana­sonic con­tin­ues to squeeze yet more per­for­mance out of its M43 sen­sors, to the point where size re­ally doesn’t mat­ter any more (as is also the case with the lat­est ‘APS-C’ for­mat im­agers).

Much of this is down to the lat­est­gen­er­a­tion ‘Venus En­gine 10’ im­age pro­ces­sor which not only de­liv­ers more speed, but also em­ploys a num­ber of pow­er­ful al­go­rithms to en­hance var­i­ous as­pects of im­age qual­ity. ‘Mul­tip­ixel Lu­mi­nance Gen­er­a­tion’ and ‘In­tel­li­gent De­tail Pro­cess­ing’ work on the bright­ness and con­trast, while ‘Three-Di­men­sional Colour Con­trol’ – the third di­men­sion be­ing bright­ness, in ad­di­tion to saturation and hue – is de­signed to give more ac­cu­rate colour re­pro­duc­tion across a wider range of shades. Fi­nally, ‘HighPre­ci­sion Multi Process NR’ is a more in­tel­li­gent method of noise re­duc­tion, pri­mar­ily to bet­ter pre­serve def­i­ni­tion and de­tail­ing at higher ISO set­tings. Ad­di­tion­ally, there have been fur­ther tweaks over the GH5, specif­i­cally to boost JPEG per­for­mance, again con­cen­trat­ing on the colour re­pro­duc­tion and noise re­duc­tion.

JPEGs can be recorded in one of three sizes – the largest be­ing 5184x3888 pix­els – with two com­pres­sion lev­els and the op­tion of 4:3, 3:2, 16:9 and 1:1 as­pect ra­tios (al­though the lat­ter three are all crops). RAW files are cap­tured in one size only with 12-bit RGB colour. There are two RAW+JPEG set­tings, giv­ing a choice of fine or stan­dard com­pres­sion on a large JPEG. A few more op­tions for RAW cap­ture – such as Nikon of­fers on its higher-end D-SLRs – may be an op­por­tu­nity missed here.

In terms of shoot­ing speed, the G9 can fire at 12.0 fps with the AF/AE locked to the first frame or 9.0 fps with con­tin­u­ous ad­just­ment which is quite re­spectable… but this is with the cam­era’s con­ven­tional fo­cal plane shut­ter.

Switch to us­ing the sen­sor-based shut­ter (a.k.a. the con­fus­ingly ti­tled “elec­tronic shut­ter”) and things speed up very dra­mat­i­cally… as fast as 60 fps with AF/AE locked to the first frame and 20 fps with con­tin­u­ous ad­just­ment (which matches Sony’s A9). So, we’re gunna need a big­ger buf­fer which, for­tu­nately, Pana­sonic has in­stalled, giv­ing a burst length of up to 600 max­i­mum-qual­ity JPEGs or 60 RAW frames. This means you can ac­tu­ally use 20 fps (or even 60 fps) for more than a sec­ond or two of ac­tion.

Like the A9 – it’s prob­a­bly just a co­in­ci­dence that the two fastest mirrorless cam­eras share the same model num­ber – the G9 re­ally is all about speed, with Pana­sonic specif­i­cally pitch­ing at pho­tog­ra­phers in the fields of sports, ac­tion, ad­ven­ture and wildlife… all tra­di­tion­ally high-end D-SLR ter­ri­to­ries. Not sur­pris­ingly, the G9 can record 4K UHD video at 50 fps (PAL stan­dard) with this faster frame rate en­abling bet­ter re­pro­duc­tion of sub­ject move­ment and smoother slow-mo­tion ef­fects. Full HD video can be recorded at up to 150 fps for 6x su­per slow-mo footage.

Six-Shooter

The pro­ces­sor’s ca­pac­ity to han­dle this much data has use­ful spin-offs for stills pho­tog­ra­phers be­yond just the faster con­tin­u­ous shoot­ing speeds. Pana­sonic has been pro­mot­ing its video-de­rived ‘4K Photo’ modes for a num­ber of years now and which have utilised still cap­ture at 30 fps with var­i­ous burst op­tions.

A 4K video frame is worth 8.3 megapix­els so these high-speed shoot­ing modes have proved to be use­ful for a va­ri­ety of ap­pli­ca­tions (and not just sports or ac­tion). Like the GH5, the G9 steps up to ‘6K Photo’ cap­ture which de­liv­ers 18 megapix­els frames and that’s more than enough res­o­lu­tion for a whole lot of uses. Ad­di­tion­ally, the ‘4K Photo’ modes are now avail­able at 60 fps which ef­fec­tively dou­bles the chances of grab­bing the de­ci­sive mo­ment. Of course, shoot­ing at 60 fps you’re go­ing to end up with a huge num­ber of frames in a very short time which presents some lo­gis­ti­cal chal­lenges, so Pana­sonic is also re­fin­ing the han­dling op­tions for ‘4K/6K Photo’ cap­ture, in­clud­ing bulk sav­ing in fivesec­ond batches, touch­screen brows­ing and batch pro­cess­ing for au­to­matic noise re­duc­tion or cor­rec­tion of any rolling shut­ter dis­tor­tion. At these very fast shoot­ing speeds, ob­vi­ously the cam­era’s sen­sor shut­ter is be­ing used.

There’s a choice of cap­ture modes called Pre-Burst, Burst and Burst Start/ Stop which run at ei­ther 30 or 60 fps in ‘4K Photo’ and 30 fps in ‘6K Photo’. Pre-Burst is in­ter­est­ing be­cause it starts record­ing prior to shut­ter re­lease which means it’s ahead of you as far as an­tic­i­pat­ing the ac­tion… by ei­ther 30 or 60 frames de­pend­ing on the se­lected mode. While Pre-Burst is timed at two sec­onds, the Burst mode al­lows for un­lim­ited shoot­ing while the Burst S/S mode elim­i­nates the need to keep the shut­ter but­ton de­pressed… one press starts the se­quence and a sec­ond stops it. A Pre-Burst op­tion is now also avail­able for these lat­ter two modes and also when shoot­ing nor­mally at the 30 fps and 60 fps speeds, again record­ing a sec­ond’s worth of im­ages prior to shut­ter re­lease. There’s also the op­tion of set­ting a loop func­tion which di­vides the Burst S/S record­ing into two minute seg­ments and then starts au­to­mat­i­cally delet­ing any­thing older than be­tween ten to 12 min­utes… should you need to wait this long for some­thing to hap­pen… and by which time you could al­ready have 36,000 frames!

Con­tin­u­ous aut­o­fo­cus is au­to­mat­i­cally ac­ti­vated with the ‘4K/6K Photo’ modes and they can be used with any of the stan­dard ‘PASM’ ex­po­sure con­trol modes (al­beit with a few re­stric­tions). All four frame as­pect ra­tios are avail­able with 4K cap­ture, but only 4:2 or 3:2 at 6K. How­ever, the 8.3 MP or 18.0 MP im­age sizes are es­sen­tially main­tained in each in­stance so, for ex­am­ple, the 6K frames are 4992x3744 pix­els at 4:3 and 5184x3456 pix­els at 3:2.

Also de­rived from 4K or 6K video record­ing are the ‘Post Fo­cus’ and ‘Fo­cus Stack­ing’ modes. ‘Post Fo­cus’ cap­tures a high-speed burst at ei­ther the 6K (30 fps) or 4K (30 or 60 fps) res­o­lu­tions, chang­ing the fo­cus point in each frame… which, in this case, rep­re­sents a burst of 225 frames. Sub­se­quently, by sim­ply tap­ping on any part of the dis­played im­age (ex­cept for at the very edges), you can se­lect the frame which used that par­tic­u­lar fo­cus­ing point. Al­ter­na­tively, all or a se­lec­tion of im­ages can be merged in-cam­era via the ‘Fo­cus Stack­ing’ op­tion with the po­ten­tial to greatly ex­tend the depth-of-field ir­re­spec­tive of the lens aper­ture used.

Due Process

The G9 is en­dowed with a full suite of JPEG pro­cess­ing func­tions, in­clud­ing seven ‘Photo Style’ pre­sets, 22 ‘Creative Fil­ter’ ef­fects, lens cor­rec­tions (for vi­gnetting and dif­frac­tion), res­o­lu­tion

en­hance­ment, long ex­po­sure noise re­duc­tion and dy­namic range ex­pan­sion. There’s also a ‘High­light/Shadow’ con­trol which works in a sim­i­lar way to Pho­to­shop’s Curves, with ad­just­ments ap­plied to a tone curve dis­played in the mon­i­tor screen.

You can also tick the boxes for an in­ter­val­ome­ter (up to 9999 frames), a mul­ti­ple ex­po­sure fa­cil­ity, mul­ti­shot HDR cap­ture and some­thing new on a Lumix G cam­era, a pix­elshift­ing ‘High Res­o­lu­tion’ mode. This is a fea­ture we’ve al­ready seen on the high-end Olym­pus OM-D models and cer­tain Pen­tax D-SLRs, but Pana­sonic’s ver­sion is dif­fer­ent again and cap­tures four im­ages to record full RGBG colour at each pixel point and then an­other four to boost the res­o­lu­tion to 80.6 megapix­els for both JPEG and RAW files. The re­sult is dis­cernible im­prove­ments in both the colour re­pro­duc­tion (es­pe­cially in the high­lights) and the def­i­ni­tion. The cam­era needs to be on a tri­pod, of course, as the eight frames are cap­tured in se­quence which will take a while if you’re us­ing slower shut­ter speeds. For the same rea­son, the best re­sults are achieved with largely static sub­jects.

Pixel-shift­ing (the G9 ac­tu­ally uses half-pixel shifts be­tween each ex­po­sure) is de­rived from the sen­sor­shift method of im­age sta­bil­i­sa­tion which can now be ex­cep­tion­ally finely-con­trolled. Com­pared to the High Res mode, Pana­sonic is en­cour­ag­ing you to leave the tri­pod at home more of­ten with its lat­est de­vel­op­ment of the five-axis ‘Dual I.S.’ sta­bil­i­sa­tion which ex­tends the cor­rec­tion for cam­era shake up to 6.5 stops. Dual I.S. 2 em­ploys a com­bi­na­tion of a gyro, ac­celerom­e­ter and data from the im­age sen­sor to more ac­cu­rately de­ter­mine the di­rec­tion of move­ment. It can also op­erate in con­junc­tion with com­pat­i­ble ‘Power OIS’ lenses, pri­mar­ily to pro­vide en­hanced sta­bil­i­sa­tion with longer fo­cal lengths. The ex­tended cor­rec­tion range ef­fec­tively en­ables hand-held shoot­ing with shut­ter speeds as slow as one sec­ond and ef­fec­tive fo­cal lengths up to 280mm. You need a steady hand, but we did in­deed man­age to shoot at one sec­ond (al­beit only at an ef­fec­tive fo­cal length of 120mm) and any­thing static in the frame was sharply ren­dered. This means you can start play­ing around with the ef­fects of slow shut­ter speeds – on mov­ing wa­ter, for ex­am­ple – with­out need­ing a tri­pod.

Sharp­en­ing Tool

Aut­o­fo­cus­ing per­for­mance is cur­rently the ma­jor re­flex-ver­sus-mirrorless bat­tle­ground with Sony, in par­tic­u­lar, mak­ing sig­nif­i­cant ad­vances with the A9 and A7R III. Pana­sonic has upped the ante too, with its lat­est ‘Ad­vanced DFD’ sys­tem which, al­though us­ing only con­trast de­tec­tion, is as fast as any D-SLR phase-de­tec­tion aut­o­fo­cus­ing sys­tem.

The ‘Depth From De­fo­cus’ method­ol­ogy works by com­par­ing the depth-of-field in a con­tin­u­ously rolling pair of im­ages – now cap­tured at 480 fps – and us­ing the dif­fer­ence to de­ter­mine the lens’s out-of-fo­cus char­ac­ter­is­tics and hence the sub­ject dis­tance. Pana­sonic claims an AF speed of just 0.04 sec­onds which may not mean much by it­self, so be re­minded that the G9 can shoot at 20 fps

with con­tin­u­ous aut­o­fo­cus­ing ad­just­ment be­tween the frames.

Like the GH5, the G9’s aut­o­fo­cus­ing sys­tem has 225 mea­sur­ing points ar­ranged in a 15x15 pat­tern which gives pretty good frame cov­er­age. You can choose be­tween au­to­matic or man­ual point se­lec­tion, the lat­ter with the op­tion of an even more se­lec­tive ‘Pin­point’ area mode or, al­ter­na­tively, a ‘Cus­tom Multi’ mode which en­ables the num­ber of points and their pat­tern to be quite pre­cisely tai­lored to the sub­ject. There’s the choice of cen­tral, hor­i­zon­tal or ver­ti­cal pre­set pat­terns which are ad­justable for both size and po­si­tion. Ad­di­tion­ally, up to three cus­tom-made pat­terns can be stored and these are cre­ated by sim­ply nav­i­gat­ing around the full 225-points grid – the joy­stick re­ally comes into its own here – and se­lect­ing which points you want to be ac­tive… it’s that flex­i­ble. Al­ter­na­tively, the AF area can be set to one of seven sizes from a sin­gle point up to a clus­ter of 156 ar­ranged in a 13x12 pat­tern.

Switch­ing be­tween sin­gle-shot and con­tin­u­ous AF op­er­a­tion can be done man­u­ally or left to the cam­era (based on the de­tec­tion of sub­ject move­ment), and sub­se­quently both the face de­tec­tion and sub­ject track­ing func­tions can be fine-tuned.

The G9 re­ally is all about speed, with Pana­sonic specif­i­cally pitch­ing at pho­tog­ra­phers in the fields of sports, ac­tion, ad­ven­ture and wildlife… all tra­di­tion­ally high-end D-SLR ter­ri­to­ries.

Face de­tec­tion can be pro­grammed for recog­ni­tion and to, more specif­i­cally, find the left or right eye, while the track­ing is ad­justable for three pa­ram­e­ters – AF Sen­si­tiv­ity, AF Area Switch­ing Sen­si­tiv­ity and Mov­ing Ob­ject Pre­dic­tion. These are con­tained in four sce­nario- based de­faults which cover var­i­ous char­ac­ter­is­tics of sub­ject move­ment ( speed, di­rec­tion, etc.), but can be mod­i­fied to bet­ter- match a par­tic­u­lar set of cir­cum­stances.

Man­ual fo­cus­ing is as­sisted by a mag­ni­fied im­age, a sim­ple dis­tance scale or a fo­cus peak­ing dis­play which is avail­able in a choice of five colours, each with two in­ten­sity lev­els. The mag­ni­fied im­age is shown ei­ther full- screen or as a pic­ture- in- pic­ture in­set panel and it’s also avail­able for fo­cus con­fir­ma­tion with aut­o­fo­cus­ing. The G9 also has a new fea­ture called ‘AF Point Scope’ which brings up a mag­ni­fied view – at ei­ther 3.0x or 10.0x – cen­tred on the ac­tive fo­cus point( s) and eas­ily tog­gled on and off. Fi­nally, AF+ MF op­er­a­tion pro­vides a full- time man­ual over­ride along with what­ever as­sis­tance method has been pre­s­e­lected.

Light Work

The G9 has the same 1728-points TTL multi- zone me­ter­ing as the rest of its Lumix G si­b­lings, the al­ter­na­tive mea­sure­ment meth­ods be­ing ei­ther cen­treweighted av­er­age or spot. The sen­si­tiv­ity range is equiv­a­lent to ISO 200 to 25,600 with a one- stop ‘ pull’ to ISO 100, and the Auto ISO range can be pro- grammed for both max­i­mum and min­i­mum speeds (with Auto op­tions for both).

There are no man­u­ally- se­lected sub­ject/ scene modes, but in the ‘ iA’ fully-au­to­matic mode the G9 per­forms scene recog­ni­tion ( plus a whole host of other pro­cesses) which cov­ers the sta­ples such as por­traits, land­scapes, close- ups and sports ac­tion. The main auto ex­po­sure modes are sup­ple­mented with pro­gram shift, an AE lock, up to +/-5.0 EV com­pen­sa­tion and auto brack­et­ing which can be ap­plied over se­quences of three, five or seven frames with up to +/-1.0 EV ad­just­ment per frame. There are also auto brack­et­ing modes for white bal­ance, fo­cus and aper­tures ( i. e. depth- of- field).

The fo­cus brack­et­ing can be pro­grammed for se­quences of up to 999 frames with the fo­cus shifted in each us­ing one of ten pre­s­e­lected step sizes. Ad­di­tion­ally, you can vary the se­quenc­ing or­der. The aper­ture brack­et­ing func­tion can be set to a se­quence length of three or five frames, but there’s also an ‘All’ set­ting which cap­tures a shot at ev­ery one of the at­tached lens’s full-stop aper­tures.

The G9’s fo­cal plane shut­ter has a speed range of 60-1/8000 sec­ond with flash sync up to 1/250 sec­ond and a ‘B’ set­ting with a timer limit of 30 min­utes. To fur­ther em­pha­sise the cam­era’s pro-level cre­den­tials, Pana­sonic says this shut­ter unit is rated to 200,000 cy­cles. As men­tioned a cou­ple of times pre­vi­ously, there is also the op­tion of us­ing a sen­sor-based shut­ter which has a speed range of 1-1/32,000 sec­ond and, of course, is com­pletely silent and vi­bra­tion-free. There’s also a hy­brid ‘Elec­tronic First cur­tain’ which uses both shut­ter types, start­ing the ex­po­sure elec­tron­i­cally and fin­ish­ing it with the FP shut­ter’s sec­ond cur­tain (which is ac­tu­ally a set of blades). This re­duces both noise and vi­bra­tion com­pared to when only us­ing the FP shut­ter, but still per­mits the use of elec­tronic flash. In­ci­den­tally, to elim­i­nate vi­bra­tions when us­ing the FP shut­ter with very long lenses or when do­ing macro work, there’s a de­lay timer which can be set to one, two, four or eight sec­onds.

Au­to­matic white bal­ance cor­rec­tion is sup­ple­mented by a set of five pre­sets, pro­vi­sion for cre­at­ing up to four cus­tom mea­sure­ments, the just-men­tioned auto brack­et­ing and man­ual colour tem­per­a­ture set­tings.

Ad­di­tion­ally, up to four colour tem­per­a­tures can be stored for im­me­di­ate re­call, fine-tun­ing is avail­able for all set­tings (over am­ber-to-blue and/ or green-to-ma­genta) and the auto cor­rec­tion can be switched to a ‘keep warmer tones’ op­tion to pre­serve the am­bi­ence when shoot­ing un­der cer­tain types of in­te­rior light­ing.

In Con­trol

There’s al­ways been quite dif­fer­ence in the de­sign philoso­phies of the two mi­cro Four Thirds pro­tag­o­nists, es­pe­cially with Olym­pus’s em­pha­sis on more clas­si­cal styling, but with the G9’s more pho­tog­ra­phy-ori­en­tated em­pha­sis, it’s a lot closer in spirit to the Om-D E-m1 mark II… which could make for some in­ter­est­ing buy­ing dilem­mas.

Ex­ter­nally, the G9 is a whole lot more tra­di­tional than any­thing Pana­sonic has done be­fore (at least since the orig­i­nal L1 back in 2006), but its er­gonomics are ex­cel­lent and the hand­grip is cer­tainly the most com­fort­able yet on a G se­ries cam­era body. As noted ear­lier, the D-sLR dis­guise is de­lib­er­ate and the G9 doesn’t just look like one, it han­dles just like one too, es­pe­cially in terms of the con­trol lay­out. And it’s the big­gest Lumix G body to date, closer in size to a mid-range D-sLR. match it with the more clas­si­cally-styled Le­ica-branded lenses – such as the DG Vario-El­marit 12-60mm f2.8-4.0 zoom that’s one of the kit op­tions – and the G9 is as old­school as the E-m1 II, if not more so.

While in­clud­ing the top panel info dis­play has re­quired some changes to the con­trol lay­out – most no­tably mov­ing the main mode dial to the other side of the EVF hous­ing – it’s

fun­da­men­tally the same as that of the GH5, but un­ques­tion­ably much im­proved er­gonom­i­cally. The rear in­put wheel is now a proper dial and so more com­fort­ably thumb-op­er­ated while the main short-cut but­tons – such as for white bal­ance, ISO and ex­po­sure com­pen­sa­tion – are more rounded and so are eas­ier to find and use by feel alone. How­ever, sim­i­lar to the GH5, there’s seem­ingly end­less scope for cus­tomi­sa­tion avail­able across 20 con­trols which in­clude a trio of ded­i­cated multi-func­tional ‘Fn’ but­tons, the nav­i­ga­tor, the joy­stick and a set of touch­screen tabs… all dou­bling up for the record or re­play modes. Ad­di­tion­ally, there’s a new ‘Fn Lever’ with two po­si­tions so you can switch be­tween set­tings within the as­signed func­tion (for ex­am­ple, the ‘Pic­ture Style’ pre­sets).

In the case of the var­i­ous Fn but­tons and tabs there are no fewer than 16 menu pages of as­sign­a­ble set­tings (17 in some in­stances), but it’s ac­tu­ally not as daunt­ing to set up as it might seem. As ever, Pana­sonic’s menu sys­tem is log­i­cally ar­ranged and easy to nav­i­gate so even the deep­est set­tings aren’t dif­fi­cult to ac­cess and ap­ply. The var­i­ous re­designs in­tro­duced with the GH5 are here too, namely an in­crease to eight items per page, the pro­vi­sion of a scroll bar which tracks your progress through each chap­ter and the ad­di­tion of a cus­tomis­able My Menu which can be loaded with up to 23 items culled from a to­tal of 173 (i.e. the to­tal menu sys­tem).

Nav­i­ga­tion can be via the joy­stick, rear con­troller, the in­put wheels or, of course, the touch­screen. Like­wise for ‘Quick Menu’ con­trol screen in live view (which is also cus­tomis­able) and the mon­i­tor-based in­for­ma­tion dis­play (which also serves as a con­trol screen). New on the G9 is a Night Mode set­ting for both the EVF and the mon­i­tor which es­sen­tially puts a red fil­ter over ev­ery­thing so your night vi­sion isn’t com­pro­mised by the brighter nor­mal dis­plays.

The live view screen can be con­fig­ured with a real-time his­togram (which can be moved around the frame as de­sired), a dual-axis level in­di­ca­tor, a high­light warn­ing or ze­bra pat­terns (which don’t ob­scure the im­age so much), one of three guide grids and a cen­tre marker.

As on the GH5, the re­view/re­play screens in­clude a split screen with a thumb­nail and ba­sic cap­ture info on one side and a scrol­lable set of five ad­di­tional info screens on the other. These show, in se­quence, more cap­ture data, a set of RGB and bright­ness his­tograms, the ‘Photo Style’ pa­ram­e­ters plus the High­light/Shadow con­trol set­tings, the white bal­ance mode with any fine-tun­ing; and the lens de­tails, in­clud­ing the in-cam­era cor­rec­tions.

The play­back func­tions in­clude thumb­nail pages of 12 or 30 im­ages, zoom­ing at up to 16x, a cal­en­dar thumb­nail dis­play and a slide show with a choice of tran­si­tion ef­fects and back­ground mu­sic.

The in-cam­era edit­ing func­tions in­clude re­siz­ing, crop­ping, im­age ti­tling, RAW-to-JPEG con­ver­sion and the ‘4K/6K Photo’ mode pro­cess­ing func­tions men­tioned ear­lier.

Pana­sonic’s ‘6K Photo’ high-speed cap­ture de­liv­ers 18 megapix­els still frames and that’s more than enough res­o­lu­tion for a whole lot of uses.

This all adds up to some­thing pretty spe­cial and an­other com­pelling rea­son why your next cam­era should be mirrorless.

Of course, the G9 has built-in WiFi – with QR code con­nec­tiv­ity – but it also has Blue­tooth LE for an al­ways-on, low-en­ergy con­nec­tion, en­abling re­mote cam­era con­trol via smart­phone and then sub­se­quent data trans­fer via WiFi.

Speed And Per­for­mance

Loaded with our ref­er­ence 128 GB Lexar Pro­fes­sional SDXC UHS-II/U3 (Speed Class 3) ‘2000x’ mem­ory card, the G9 cap­tured 115 JPEG/large/fine frames in 9.621 sec­onds, giv­ing a shoot­ing speed 11.95 fps which pretty well nails the 12 fps quoted speed. The test files av­er­aged 8.1 MB in size, and there was no de­lay emp­ty­ing the buf­fer.

This first time trial was with the fo­cal plane shut­ter and the G9 moved up a gear in Su­per High Speed mode with the sen­sor-based shut­ter… 50 best-qual­ity JPEGs in a light­ning-fast 2.492 sec­onds which rep­re­sents a speed of 20.06 fps. With this test, the av­er­age file size was 9.06 MB. As with Sony’s A9, the top speed with the FP shut­ter eas­ily matches the fastest D-SLRs, and then blows them into the weeds when us­ing the sen­sor shut­ter. The G9’s aut­o­fo­cus­ing isn’t quite as gob-smack­ingly im­pres­sive as the A9’s – which needs to be ex­pe­ri­enced to be be­lieved – but it’s still ex­cep­tion­ally fast and un­err­ingly ac­cu­rate so in the con­test that re­ally mat­ters – against the best D-SLRs – it’s eas­ily up for the fight. Given the re­spon­sive­ness and speed, it’s hard to be­lieve that it’s still ex­clu­sively a con­trast-de­tec­tion sys­tem.

In terms of the imag­ing per­for­mance, Pana­sonic again demon­strates that sen­sor size doesn’t re­ally mat­ter that much any more, and a lot de­pends on the so­phis­ti­ca­tion of the data pro­cess­ing, par­tic­u­larly the noise re­duc­tion. The G9’s best-qual­ity JPEGs look glo­ri­ous with lots of well-de­fined de­tails, seam­lessly smooth tonal gra­da­tions and ac­cu­rate colour re­pro­duc­tion. Even with­out tweak­ing the colour and con­trast via a ‘Photo Style’ pre­set, the JPEGs have a pleas­ing clar­ity and crisp­ness with a nice bal­ance of real-world and mem­o­rised colour (that lit­tle ex­tra saturation that we all in­stinc­tively re­spond to).

Noise is well-man­aged up to ISO 3200 so the colour saturation, sharp­ness and dy­namic range are all still very good in­deed. And the G9 seems to per­form bet­ter than its GH5 cousin at the two higher set­tings so, at ISO 6400 in par­tic­u­lar, the level of de­tail­ing is still quite high and re­ally lit­tle af­fected by the noise re­duc­tion pro­cess­ing.

Nev­er­the­less, as with the GH5, the RAW files pro­vide plenty of scope for ad­just­ing ex­po­sures post-cam­era so it’s pos­si­ble to shoot at lower ISO set­tings and then brighten the shad­ows with­out any in­crease in noise in these ar­eas while good de­tail­ing is re­tained in the brighter high­lights.

Given it’s go­ing to be duelling with both ‘APS-C’ and full-35mm for­mat D-SLRs, the G9 needs to de­liver a strong high ISO per­for­mance and it cer­tainly does enough here to be well and truly in the game.

The Ver­dict

If Pana­sonic feels that it hasn’t quite been get­ting through to pros in quite the same way that Olym­pus has – and specif­i­cally those still wed­ded to their D-SLRs – the Lumix G9 is the cam­era to do it.

On the out­side it’s the most tra­di­tion­ally-styled Lumix G model to date while, on the in­side, it’s the most ad­vanced at least as far as its pho­to­graphic ca­pa­bil­i­ties are con­cerned. This makes for a pretty en­tic­ing com­bi­na­tion and brings the G9 into play not just if you’re also con­sid­er­ing the OM-D E-M1 II, but also the Fu­ji­film X-T2 or the Sony A7 II. Elite com­pany in­deed, but the G9 out­per­forms them all in one way or an­other.

It also needs to be re­mem­bered that the G9 is sig­nif­i­cantly more af­ford­able than ei­ther the Sony A9 or A7R III, but still de­liv­ers 20 fps shoot­ing (with AF ad­just­ment), a no-black-out EVF, a pretty snappy AF sys­tem, full weather pro­tec­tion, five-axis im­age sta­bil­i­sa­tion and a bat­tery grip op­tion. Then there are the er­gonomics (pos­si­bly the best in the busi­ness, ei­ther mirrorless or D-SLR), the ‘6K Photo’ modes (now much more use­ful at 18 MP per frame), the ‘High Res’ mode (if you want 80 MP), the 6.5 stops of sta­bil­i­sa­tion and the at­ten­tion to the lit­tle de­tails for which Pana­sonic has be­come known.

This all adds up to some­thing pretty spe­cial and an­other com­pelling rea­son why your next cam­era should be mirrorless.

Ap­pro­pri­ately, it’s ten years since the launch of Pana­sonic’s first mirrorless cam­era, the Lumix G1 (and, in­ci­den­tally, Pana­sonic’s 100th an­niver­sary too), and 27 models later, the G9 is un­doubt­edly the crown­ing glory. In com­par­i­son to the cam­era mak­ers with a pho­tog­ra­phy her­itage, Pana­sonic is still a rel­a­tive new­bie, but with the Lumix G9, it un­doubt­edly comes of age.

The G9’s up­graded im­age sta­bil­i­sa­tion gives up to 6.5 stops of cor­rec­tion for cam­era shake. This im­age was taken hand-held with a shut­ter speed of one sec­ond which is clearly ev­i­dent in the move­ment of the waves, but any­thing static is still sharp.

A com­par­i­son of mag­ni­fied sec­tions clearly il­lus­trates the en­hance­ments to def­i­ni­tion and colour re­pro­duc­tion when us­ing the ‘High Res’ cap­ture mode.

Dual mem­ory card slots both sup­port the UHSII speed stan­dard for SDHC and SDXC de­vices, and al­low a full card to be swapped while the cam­era is record­ing to the other.

Main mode dial is lock­able and has a drive mode se­lec­tor lo­cated be­low.

A first on a Lumix mirrorless cam­era – but very com­mon on higher-end D-SLRs – the top panel info dis­play has ad­justable back­light­ing and pro­vides an ex­ten­sive ar­ray of read- outs.

Joy­stick con­trol en­ables faster and more ef­fi­cient se­lec­tion of aut­o­fo­cus­ing points.

Rear con­trol panel cen­tres on a cir­cu­lar nav­i­ga­tor/ key­pad. Along with the ‘Fn’ but­tons a to­tal of 20 con­trols and tabs are cus­tomis­able.

Mon­i­tor screen is fully ad­justable for tilt and swing and pro­vides ex­ten­sive touch con­trol op­er­abil­ity.

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