The new Panasonic Lumix DC-G9 is a flagship interchangeable lens camera aimed primarily at stills photographers. Sitting alongside the video-centric GH5 in Panasonic’s high-end Micro Four Thirds lineup, the G9 is designed for speed, durability, and versatility.
Between using one for a few days and digging into its lengthy spec sheet, here’s what we think you need to know about it.
Same 20.3MP sensor as GH5
The G9 features the same 20.3MP CMOS sensor as the GH5, capable of a maximum output of 5184 x 3888 pixels. As such, baseline performance in stills mode should be very good indeed. Panasonic did a lot of work with the GH5 to improve JPEG image quality over earlier generations and despite being a video-oriented camera, the GH5 compared well with competitive models from the likes of Olympus and Fujifilm.
Revamped JPEG engine
The really good news is that Panasonic’s engineers didn’t stop with the improvements they made in the GH5. As a stills-focused flagship, the G9 has been further tweaked, with improved color and noise reduction in JPEG mode. We were pretty happy with JPEGs from the GH5, but the improvements in the G9 are obvious. Organic textures are rendered more naturally, and images taken at medium / high ISO sensitivities look better, thanks to more intelligent noise reduction.
Large, high-resolution EVF
The G9’s OLED viewfinder is really something. A resolution of 3.86 million dots (equiv) and 120 fps refresh rate means that it’s detailed and contrasty, and with an equivalent maximum magnification of 0.83X (in full-frame camera terms) it’s enormous, too – and very immersive. Looking through the G9’s finder, it’s easy to forget that it uses a Micro Four Thirds sensor. If the viewfinder image is too big for you (for instance if you wear reading / sunglasses) the magnification can be dialed back to 0.77X or 0.7X if/when required.
Obviously, being a mirrorless camera, a full range of shooting information and various shooting aids (like focus peaking, an electronic level etc.) are available in the G9’s viewfinder, just as they are on the rear LCD.
20fps burst shooting with AF-C
The G9’s conventional mechanical shutter tops out at 9 fps with AF-C, but shifting to a fully electronic shutter ups that to an impressive 20 frames per second. If this still isn’t fast enough for you, the G9 can also shoot at a maximum rate of 60 fps using its electronic shutter with focus locked.
For best performance, you’ll want to install a UHS-II Class 3 (U3) SD card. The G9 offers two card slots, both of which support the UHS-II standard.
The G9 isn’t meant to replace the GH5 and cannot match that model’s professional video features, but despite the focus on still imaging, its video feature set is still pretty solid. The headline feature is 4K/60p video at a maximum bitrate of 150Mbps but other features, like focusing peaking, zebra stripes and flicker reduction are good to see, and should make the G9 useful for multimedia professionals as well as casual or occasional video shooters.
Encouragingly, the G9’s autofocus in video mode seems much improved over previous models and less prone to ‘hunting’. In the words of our very own technical editor Rishi Sanyal, this makes autofocus in video mode ‘usable’. High praise indeed, as anyone who knows him will tell you.
4K / 6K photo
The G9 also offers 4K and 6K photo modes, which essentially capture high-resolution stills images as video frames, at up to 30fps (6K) and 60fps (4K). Effective resolution is 18MP for 6K photo files and 8MP in 4K photo mode. Panasonic claims that the Venus Engine 10 processor enables more effective ‘Post Recording Refinement’ to improve image quality in 4K/6K photo modes, by reducing noise and rolling shutter effect.
80mp high-res shot mode
Among the most interesting features to emerge into the consumer and professional stills camera market in the past few years have been the various sensor-shift modes, offered by the likes of Olympus and Pentax, aimed at increasing resolution (in one way or another). The G9 joins the club with an 80MP high-resolution shot mode (with JPEG and Raw output) which works by shifting the 20MP sensor by half-pixel increments, eight times – and then combining the exposures into a single, high-resolution image.
We haven’t been able to give this feature a proper try-out yet, but we’d expect it to offer the same benefits as the similar mode built into Olympus’s high-end Micro Four Thirds cameras. At the very least, it should offer a very useful resolution boost for still life and product photography. We’re hopeful that capture is fast enough to also make it useful for landscape work, assuming minimal or no movement within the scene.
6.5 stops of image stabilization
No – that’s not a typo. The G9’s 5-axis system is rated to offer image stabilization to the tune of 6.5 stops of correction, with short lenses and/or longer lenses, in combination with optical stabilization. We’ve been very impressed with improvements made to image stabilization in recent Panasonic and Olympus M43 cameras, and the G9 continues this trend.
To put this in perspective, 6.5 stops of correction means that you should be able to hand-hold a 100mm (equiv) lens at shutter speeds of slightly longer than a quarter of a second. Watch this space for some real-world test results.
Improved DFD autofocus
Panasonic’s clever Depth-from-Defocus (DFD) technology delivers impressively fast and accurate autofocus – including tracking – considering that it’s a pure contrast-detection AF system. In the G9, Panasonic claims that this 225-point system has been further improved compared to the GH5. In addition to various automatic AF area modes, an AF joystick is nicely positioned for use by the right thumb, and the G9’s 1.04 million-dot rear LCD can be used as a touch panel for AF point positioning with your eye to the viewfinder, if required.
Professional build quality
The G9 is built to be a flagship stills camera and as such it offers excellent build quality, with dust and moisture-sealing and a cold weather performance rating down to -10°C (14°F). Designed for use outdoors and in tough conditions, the quality of the G9’s die-cast magnesium alloy construction is obvious as soon as you pick it up. Less tangible, but a time-honored shorthand for durability is the G9’s shutter rating, which like many professional DSLRs should withstand (at least) 200,000 cycles.
USB 3.0 and Bluetooth LE / WiFi
Like the GH5, the G9 features a USB 3.0 interface, but via a conventional Micro-B-type connector, rather than USB C. Not quite as versatile, but probably more practical for the stills photographers at whom the G9 is being aimed. The G9 can be charged via USB and powered from it, too – increasing the camera’s versatility when tethered or used remotely. Bluetooth LE 4.2 and Wi-Fi (5GH) is also built-in, for connection to smart devices.