Panasonic gets professional with impressive new Lumix G9 all-rounder
Tech Review: Panasonic Lumix G9, €1,729
Panasonic's new Lumix G9 aims to do for Micro Four Thirds stills photography what the company's GH5 (and, recently. GH5s) model has done for videography: turn it into a fully viable alternative for professionals and ambitious amateurs.
It's priced as such, too, coming in at around the same cost as a Fuji X-T2 or Canon 7D Mark ii.
Its 20-megapixel sensor is complimented by some pretty excellent Leica-designed lenses, with Panasonic adding the impressive Leica 12-60mm (24-120mm equivalent in 35mm terms) model as a kit lens option with a €400 discount. (It also offers a cheaper Panasonic 12-60mm lens at a €250 discount.)
Like other Panasonic cameras, it has a flip-out touchscreen, which helps for shooting at angles and for video. It also has a joystick to control focus or menus, as a complement to the regular D-pad controls on the back.
This is a substantially bigger camera than the size that Panasonic (or other Micro Four Thirds models) have traditionally opted for. The upside to this is ergonomics. It is designed to fit beautifully in your hands, with a perfectly-sized grip.
I was able to walk around with it one-handed for much of the time I used it. This was aided by the nicely-placed buttons, especially the two click-wheels for shutter speed and aperture. Their placement makes it easy to adjust shots very quickly. This is quite important to me, as the main reason I miss shots is I can't adjust settings in time (by 'in time', I mean within one to two seconds).
The build quality of the G9 is absolutely superb. With a metal construction (or magnesium alloy, to be precise), this won't break anywhere near as easily as other cameras if you happen to drop it or bash it off something by mistake. It's also 'weather proof' (though not completely) and freeze-proof, allowing you to use it in wet and cold conditions without much worry.
Of all the features the G9 has, I think its advanced stabilisation is my favourite.
It accounts for a whopping six-and-a-half stops when paired with the right lens (such as the 12-60mm kit lens). It's hard to emphasise just what a big advantage this is. I was able to get steady, sharp shots right down to a sixth of a second, handheld. This is a massive bonus for shooting in dim light as it means you can keep the ISO a lot lower, thus avoiding grain or noise in shots.
To put its stabilisation into context, this is way, way better than cameras from Fuji, Canon or Nikon. (I remember getting really frustrated with an expensive Canon 35mm 1.4 lens I bought a couple of years ago because it was impossible to use handheld at shutter speeds of under one five hundredth of a second without incurring blur.)
It also does very well at video stabilisation. When you walk along with recording, it almost looks like you're using some sort of gimbal. It's not perfect and you will see some crude transitions between shots if you pan quickly or have particularly shaky hands. But overall, this element of the camera is absolutely superb.
Another big plus is its continuous shooting and autofocus. It shoots 20 frames a second with the electronic shutter or nine frames a second on the mechanical shutter. This is beyond the capabilities of most cameras other than very high-end (and much dearer) Sony or Nikon models.
It's astonishingly fast for someone coming from a camera they bought five years ago. For instance, when it comes to something like a bride walking down the aisle, it should mean you get every single moment as it will lock on to her and change focus every time she moves forward. It's not perfect, though. In practice, I found that I had a better hit rate when using the mechanical shutter - at nine frames a second - than when using the electronic shutter at 20 frames a second. I appreciated its dual memory card slot.
This is important for two reasons. First, it gives you a decent backup if a memory card fails (which does happen). But second, it allows you to load and edit photos onto a physical devices such as a tablet or laptop and still have a memory card in the camera in case a shot immediately happens while you're editing. This may not be a typical scenario for many, but it is for me, when I'm at a press conference, furiously uploading shots as I take more simultaneously.
The card slots are fast, too, at UHS 2 standard.
I also appreciated the USB charging facility. It means that I can recharge the battery using the same power bank I bring for my phone or iPad. When you're trying to travel light, this makes a big difference.
Speaking of the battery life, it's decent on the G9, though not as good as bigger DSLRs. You'll get around 450 shots out of it, or up to 1,000 shots in an 'eco' mode.
Being a Micro Four Thirds camera means that the sensor is about half the size of a 'full frame' camera like a Canon 6D or a Nikon D610. Because of the way camera technology has evolved, this doesn't matter so much for many aspects of photography. There is one element, though, where it does: dynamic range.
The G9 does pretty well here, but it simply doesn't compete with larger sensor cameras. For the same reason, you will see a bit more noise in very low light shots on the G9 than you will on a full frame camera, but the gap is definitely narrowing.
Would I recommend this camera? If you want an advanced all-rounder for both video and stills, with a good range of lenses, this is excellent.
Its only comparative weakness is dynamic range in low light, for which a full-frame camera really is better.