Lumix G9: A Still Photo Centric Camera From Panasonic

Posted Nov. 15th, 2017 by Daniel J. Cox

It’s been about a week now since Panasonic announced the Lumix G9. I’ve held off writing anything, wanting to digest it all before giving my take on what looks to be a great new camera. For all those folks who were blinded by the incredible video capabilities of the Lumix GH4 and GH5, Lumix has now made it possible for you to remove your blinders.

The G9 is Panasonic’s still photography beast of a machine. A newly redesigned body proves that Lumix is serious about building cameras for several different groups.

I’m guessing there will still be those who say, “I’ve never heard of Lumix,” as a reason to keep their blinders in place. But may I suggest you do so at your own peril since ignoring this electronic/technology powerhouse, you may get left behind—much like what’s happening to the world’s two largest camera companies that refuse to accept that photographers no longer want to carry large, heavy, expensive gear. Does anyone remember Kodak dragging their feet, wanting desperately to keep selling film?

I first had a chance to see a non-working prototype of the G9 this past summer when Lumix engineers came to visit me in Montana. I was aware they were working on a photo-centric camera, but I had no idea they would stuff so many high tech capabilities into such an amazingly small package. The other surprise they dropped was the new Leica 200mm F/2.8 and teleconverters. My only real disappointment in that meeting was the lack of information on the Leica 50-200mm F/2.8-4 we’ve all heard rumors about since last year. 4/3 Rumors recently ran a post stating that a Lumix executive announced the 50-200mm—indeed coming in 2018, but who knows for certain?

Lumix G9 Specs

Below is a bulleted list of the G9 specs. We’ll talk about most of these in further text.

  • 20.3MP Digital Live MOS Sensor
  • Venus Engine Image Processor
  • UHD 4K60p Video
  • 80MP High-Res Shot Mode
  • 5-Axis Sensor Stabilization; Dual I.S. 2
  • 0.83x 3.68m-Dot OLED Viewfinder
  • 3.0″ 1.04m-Dot Free-Angle Touchscreen
  • Top Status LCD; Rear Joystick
  • Advanced DFD AF System; 6K PHOTO
  • ISO 25600 and 60 fps Continuous Shooting
  • Dual UHS-II SD Slots; Wi-Fi & Bluetooth

Standout Features

20.3MP Digital Live MOS Sensor and Venus Engine

Optimized for high-speed high-resolution imaging, the G9 packs in both a 20.3MP Light MOS Micro Four Thirds sensor and an enhanced Venus Engine processor to create sharp, detailed stills and UHD 4K video. This configuration maximizes resolution while keeping noise to a minimum, permitting the use of sensitivities up to ISO 25600.

Dual IS Gives 6.5 Stops of Image Stabilization

Panasonic’s Lumix engineers are not only claiming 6.5 stops of Image Stabilization with Dual IS up to 280mm, but they’re also claiming 6.5 stops for non-IS lenses that aren’t telephoto. In other words, 6.5 stops of Image Stabilization for lenses that are wide angle to normal range, even if they don’t have IS built into the lens. I hope I have that right, seems hard to believe but we shall see.

80MP High-Res Photo Mode

This is a feature that several camera companies are now implementing. In short, the G9 collects eight images, shot within split seconds of each other, and the camera then merges them together to give you a monster file. There are concerns by nature shooters that anything that moves in the frame, like blowing leaves, could be a problem, but for rushing water and silky skies, I think this new tool will be a huge bonus. Could be a problem, but so far there are some positive looking tests already appearing across the net.

Crazy Frame Rates

OK, I have to give credit where credit is due. Olympus started the 60 frames per second RAW shooting capabilities. I’ve never talked to anyone who has used this feature on the Olympus, and I have to say, who wants to edit 60fps? But…it’s there if and when you need it. No traditional DSLR comes even close. This is a fabulous feature. Something that Panasonic has done differently than Olympus is to make sure both the G9’s SD card slots are SDXC-ll capable. Meaning you have super fast speeds to both cards. Olympus chose to have two slots, but one is SDXC-ll and the other is SDXC-I. With the G9’s dual SDXC-ll SD card capabilities, you can actually shoot at 60fps, and when one card is writing the image, the other card can take over to handle the extra data, giving the first slot time to clear.  The 60fps actually becomes a useful tool, but I will personally use it sparingly since I can’t imagine sifting through that many images. The additional frame rates are: 20fps with AF-C when using the G9’s electronic shutter, 12fps for AF-S, and 9fps for AF-C using the mechanical shutter.

Advanced DFD AF System

For accelerated autofocus performance, Advanced DFD (Depth-From-Defocus) technology is employed to quickly calculate the distance to subjects and adjust the focusing position in as little as 0.04 seconds, which enables continuous shooting up to 20fps with continuous AF. This contrast-detection type focus method benefits both still and video recording modes, as well as subject tracking applications where subject color, size, and motion vectors are used to intelligently lock onto the moving subjects and ensure precise focus. The sensitivity and speed can be adjusted to further improve performance with certain subjects. It also features 225 AF areas which provide excellent control over where the camera will focus. Additionally, supporting working in low-light conditions, a Starlight AF feature enables accurate AF performance down to -4 EV.

Benefitting manual focus operation, focus peaking is available. This highlights bright edges of contrast with a colored outline for quickly recognizing your focus point, as well as Touch MF Assist for touch-to-focus operation. Other AF features include an AF Point Scope setting that temporarily magnifies the subject by 3 to 10 times for confirmation of the focus position and a custom selectable AF zone for Multi AF / Custom Multi AF.

This is all about Predictive AF, and this is a big one if it’s improved over the GH5. I’ve had very good luck with the GH5’s Predictive AF capabilities, but they could use some improvement. I’m betting Panasonic nails this technology of focusing on the image sensor as opposed to off sensors, or a combination of both, like Nikon, Canon, Sony, and even Olympus currently use. There are many who swear Phase Detection AF will never be replaced by the Contrast Detection AF (that only Lumix is using), in any kind of pro-oriented camera. But it stands to reason that focusing on the sensor is always going to be more accurate. With the G9’s ever improved Depth From Defocus (DFD), they’re betting big on going a different way, and I predict they’ll win this one. We’ll how the G9 does.

Large 3.6 Million Dot Changeable EVF

The LUMIX G9 has the largest-in-class LVF with a stunningly high magnification ratio of approximately 1.66x / 0.83x (35mm camera equivalent). The magnification ratio can be switched among 0.7x, 0.77x, and 0.83x according to the shooting situation. The high precision and speed OLED (Organic Light-Emitting Diode) display features 3,680K-dot high resolution and 100% field of view. Lumix is claiming NO BLACKOUT between frames even in high burst shooting. This will be a very welcomed feature if true. Other EVF options that sound interesting include:

  • An eye point of approximately 21mm, offering high visibility with comfort for users wearing glasses. It is always sharp and clear from the center all the way to the corners.
  • The LUMIX G9 incorporates Night mode which provides mild backlighting. It lets the user watch the subject comfortably immediately after viewing the monitor while in a dark situation for a long period of time.

6K and 4K Photo

Utilizing the G9’s video recording capabilities, a trio of still shooting modes are available for recording continuous 8MP stills at a 60 or 30fps shooting rate or 18MP stills at a 30fps shooting rate.

  • Burst: This mode will allow you to continuously record, making it ideal for instances where you need a fast frame rate in order to capture the best moment.
  • Pre-Burst: This mode is ideal for times when you’re unsure of the critical moment to press the shutter button and will record images one second prior to and one second after pressing the shutter button in order to give you 60 frames to choose from.
  • Burst (S/S): This mode most closely follows the video recording process and allows you to playback your video, pause at the chosen moment, and use the shutter button to mark a chosen frame from the video and save it as a single 8 or 18MP frame.

Body Design and Built-in Wi-Fi

  • A large OLED Live View Finder has an impressive 3.86m-dot resolution and 0.83x magnification for eye-level composition. This viewfinder also has a maximum refresh rate of 120fps for clear, lag-free imagery.
  • A larger backside LCD for image composition and playback, the 3.0″ 1.04m-dot rear LCD monitor has a free angle, tilt, and swivel design to support viewing from a variety of angles. It is also a touchscreen, which permits intuitive menu navigation and settings control.
  • A backlit top status LCD provides immediate access to current settings without needing to raise the camera to eye level.
  • Dual UHS-II SD card slots are present, which provides settings such as Relay Recording to automatically switch cards when one is full, Backup Recording, which records the same data to both cards simultaneously, and Allocation Recording, which lets you save certain files to each card for easier organization.
  • Constructed from magnesium alloy with a die-cast frame, the G9 features a durable design that also incorporates extensive sealing at each joint, dial, and button to render it both splash- and dust-proof as well as freezeproof to 14°F.
  • A joystick is available on the rear of the camera to make changing many settings easier and more intuitive, such as changing a focus point.
  • The sleek flat-body profile incorporates both front and rear dials for intuitive control over aperture and shutter speed settings.
  • Multiple assignable function buttons are also available, including a function lever.
  • Built-in 5 GHz Wi-Fi connectivity with NFC and Bluetooth 4.2 Low Energy allows for wireless image sharing and remote camera control from linked smartphones and tablets. Bluetooth LE also enables a constant connection to your mobile device, allowing for functions such as geolocation and automatic image transfer.

Other Camera Features

  • A mechanical focal plane shutter enables a fast maximum shutter speed of 1/8000 sec, as well as a top flash sync speed of 1/250 sec. An electronic shutter function also avails a top shutter speed of 1/32,000 sec to better enable working in bright conditions and with wider aperture settings. This shutter is rated for approximately 200,000 actuations.
  • A Night Mode will automatically adjust the brightness of the EVF and LCD for comfortable viewing in low-light conditions.
  • An optional external USB power pack can be used to supply power to the camera via its micro-USB port.
  • Depending on the lens in use, the included DMW-BLF19 battery provides approximately 380 shots per charge when using the rear monitor, or 360 with the electronic viewfinder.
  • Photo Style modes: Standard, Vivid, Natural, Monochrome, L. Monochrome, Scenery, Portrait, Custom, Cinelike D, and Cinelike V.
  • Creative Control modes: Expressive, Retro, Old Days, High Key, Low Key, Sepia, Monochrome, Dynamic Monochrome, Rough Monochrome, Silky Monochrome, Impressive Art, High Dynamic, Cross Process, Toy Effect, Toy Pop, Bleach Bypass, Miniature Effect, Soft Focus, Fantasy, Star Filter, One Point Color, and Sunshine.

Better High ISO Capabilities, Lower Noise

Just tonight the folks at 4/3 Rumors received a series of images shot with the G9 and the GH5, comparing their higher ISO characteristics. It looks impressive. I’m not exactly sure how the gentleman who sent these test images was able to shoot the same example of a glass with both cameras. Will let you check out the 4/3 Rumors Blog post and decide for yourself. If these images are the real deal, the G9 has a pretty significant advantage over the GH5. Below is one of the samples on the 4/3 Rumors site. Both shot at 3200 ISO.

Click on over 4/3 Rumors for more samples and additional info on the new Lumix G9.

Leica 200mm F/2.8

There’s a lot to like about the new G9, but Lumix also announced a brand new lens. I have to say this one really caught me off guard. I’ve been hearing about a coming 50-200mm F/2.8-4 zoom which I’ve been excited to finally see. But for this announcement, we got a very specialized—and what looks to be exceptional quality—fast, prime lens.

The new Panasonic Leica 200mm F/2.8 (400mm F/2.8 equivalent)

As much as I wanted to see the rumored 50-200mm, I think having this 400mm F/2.8 equivalent is a great move on Panasonic’s part. I have my doubts it will sell as well as the 50-200mm, when the latter eventually appears, but the new Leica 200mm fits the needs of many sports shooters. The Nikon and Canon 400mm F/2.8 lenses are legendary in the world of sports, and having an equal quality optic that is a fraction of the cost and fraction of the size and weight is a good thing for MFT users going forward. I personally think this lens suggests Panasonic knows something they’re not talking about yet. That something I believe will be a new sensor some time in the not too distant future. It’s a step up in sensor technology that will be a huge advancement for these small but mighty Micro Four Thirds cameras. Maybe that will be the surprise for the 2020 Olympics. Panasonic has always been a big part of the Olympics and 2020 will be no different. It’s not that far off and a very short time compared to how long Nikon and Canon have dominated the photographic landscape. Until then we have what is being called a minor, but worthy, update in Dynamic Range and better high ISO capabilities in the new G9.

That’s It For Now

So that’s about it. The above is basically just a compilation of specs and initial reviews from others around the web. I should mention that I had a chance to shoot the G9 before its official announcement but sadly had to turn it down. Panasonic U.S. contacted me with the idea of shooting sample photos, but there was no way to get a camera to me since I’ve been out of the country for the past three months. It would’ve been exciting to have used it here in Madagascar where I’m writing this. I’m told I’ll get my chance in early December. Stay tuned to the Blog for how that all goes.

More Web Links for Additional Lumix G9 Reviews and Info

4/3 Rumors lengthy list of links to Lumix G9

Lumix G9 Review Petapixel

Lumix G9 Review Imaging Resource

Lumix G9 Review The Independent

Lumix G9 Review Camera Decision

Lumix G9 Review Tech Radar

Lumix G9 Review Trusted Reviews

Lumix G9 Review Photography By Richard

Lumix G9 Review Photography Blog

Lumix G9 Review Pocket-lint

Lumix G9 Review Digital Camera World

Lumix G9 Review Forbes

Add Your Voice!
There are 9 comments on this post…
  1. Gary ColnerOn Dec. 4th, 2017

    Hey there Dan,

    With the release of the G9, what is the future of the GX series?

    • Portrait of Daniel J. Cox

      Daniel J. CoxOn Dec. 5th, 2017

      Gary, I’m not sure of future of the GX series. Frankly the GX8 was not a huge success for Panasoinc. That said, they are notorious for going back to the drawing board and making changes. I would love to see the GX series follow the lead design wise of the Olympus Pen-F minus the goofy Special Filters dial on the front right side of the Pen. The good news is Panasoinc is on a roll with several new products getting great reviews. This will encourage them to hang in there and with their size and expertise as a world leading electronics company they have the financial foundation to ride out wins with the losses.

  2. Markus BolligerOn Nov. 20th, 2017

    Instantly after the announcement of the G9 I posted my pre-order to my dealer – including the Leica Vario-Elmarit 12-60mm f/2.8-4.0 and the 8-18mm f/2.8-4.0. This pre-order in a hurry is evidence enough what I think about the new LUMIX, I think … Yes I mean it, I have already sold my fullframe equipment, and tomorrow the Nocticron comes in.

    By scanning the specifications I realized within seconds that the G9 is the camera I have been waiting for many years.

    But on the other hand I am also a little bit frustrated the 50-200mm f/2.8-4.0 doesn’t appear soon.

  3. Louis BerkOn Nov. 20th, 2017

    Daniel, this is from a post I made in the GetDPI forum – the section dedicated to m43rds – and it explains my brief time with the G9 last week – feel free to edit it out if you think it too long for the cork board – but I thought you’d be interested in a ‘man in the street’ reaction to the G9+200/2.8.

    “I had a fun morning today. Park Cameras were hosting a day with Panasonic at their London shop so I popped down to check out the G9 and the 200/2.8.

    Firstly, the G9. I really like the feel of the camera. I thought I wouldn’t because I am not a great fan of big grips but it fits really nicely in my average sized hands. I’ve always felt the GH5 has stretched my hand but the G9 does not. I think it is because the width of the camera body itself is thinner. I was able to compare in weight the G9 and GH5 both with the 12-60 lens on them and it surprising how much lighter the G9 feels – even though it is only 100g lighter. It feels less dense – I feel I can hammer in nails with the GH5. The G9 actually more reminds me of my GH2 (if anyone can remember that body). I thought I would not like the combined metering/shooting mode dial on the left but it is soon forgotten. The only thing I miss is the additional function button behind the three top plate buttons which is not on the G9. The Panasonic rep fully understood my point that the placing of the playback button on the left of the body (it is on the right near your thumb on the GX8) is not very useful.

    There are some things with the G9 I was not aware of (or just did not take in) but the most convenient is a button on the front of the body you can use to ‘punch-in’ focus, even in AF, to magnify the focus point. The rep also showed how the firmware allows you to step through the ‘pre-burst’ – which operates in RAW – to take out the frames you want.

    It is clear that Panasonic have put a lot of thought into this camera. I know all manufacturers say the same but I can really believe it having played with the camera. The GH5 feels like a top quality pro body like a D5. The G9 feels more like a prosumer body like the D850. That is not a criticism. I think it is just the fact that it is not the same solid lump as the GH5 – and from my point of view that is a distinct benefit as I search for the ultimate light high performance camera for bird photography.

    At present I do not tend to take the GH5 with me when I do urban photography. It is is too heavy. But I am fairly sure I would not feel the same way about the G9.

    I can’t honestly say I noticed that the viewfinder or back screen were better than the GH5 but I have been a convert to EVFs since my GH2. In fact, for me, the OVF is dead. Except for a film camera, I’ll never own a digital camera again that does not have an EVF. Looking back on the experience, though the fact that the EVF made no impression on me is probably a good thing because in effect I was immediately comfortable with it and it was so high quality I did not even think twice about using the viewfinder.

    Having probably hooked me on the camera the rep then reeled me in with the Leica 200/2.8, which she claimed was only one of 3 in the country(!). This is a fine looking optic. It is a very nice size – pretty much the same as 100-400 when closed up. It feels good on the camera. I used it with and without the 1.4x converter. From what I was able to see of the results the IQ was identical even with the teleconverter.

    I was allowed to take the combination out into the street to do some test shots with my own card – which was very kind. The rep was happy for me to share the result but with the proviso that I make it clear that both the camera and lens are on their pre-launch firmware and not final. LR does not yet support the raw format of the camera so the sample below is a jpeg straight out of the camera using the 1.4 converter. The subject was about 15-20 feet from me. You can click through to the full sized jpeg. If there is anything wrong with the photo – it is me and not the camera/lens.

    iso800 280mm f4.0 1/400 – Aperture priority mode, spot metering. – check out the tiny hairs on the top of his ear and the scales on the skin between the fingers of the hand holding the phone.”

    You can see the one shot I was allowed to keep at – be aware it is a 7mb file.

    The 200/2.8 is eye-wateringly expensive until you compare it to a similar optic from Canon or Nikon. I think it is incredible (in a good way) that Panasonic is making such a lens. If this alone doesn’t communicate that m43rds is come of age as a serious prosumer and professional system, I don’t know what else does. I was going to add the Olympus 300/4 to my Panasonic-based system which by comparison is now good value for money but that was a reluctant thought as until now there has been no alternative. I appreciate that Daniel makes a good case for zoom lenses – and the promissed 50-200 is attractive but already owning the 100-400 I’ve wanted to add a long prime as well. Another point in favour of the 200/2.8 in my climate is that winter in the UK is a lot of grey skies and dim light. I was considering – again reluctantly – adding the D500+300pf to my arsenal but I think the G9+200/2.8 might just have saved me from starting a second system – which I also prefer to avoid.

  4. davidhOn Nov. 17th, 2017

    Daniel – how about a side-by-side comparison of the GH5 and the G9 calling out where they are equivalent, and where one has an edge?

    I took the plunge for the GH5 this past spring – and I’m quite happy with it even though I don’t really use it for video much. From the limited things I’ve read about the G9, it seems like it takes most of the GH5’s strengths but de-emphasizes video features – but I’m sure that’s quite an oversimplification. What’s not clear to me yet is to what extent the G9 exceeds the GH5 (for stills). Thoughts?
    Always enjoy your blog. Thanks.

  5. AlexOn Nov. 17th, 2017

    “This is all about Predictive AF, and this is a big one if it’s improved over the GH5. I’ve had very good luck with the GH5’s Predictive AF capabilities, but they could use some improvement.”

    Dear Dan,

    thank you for another great article. I’m really happy to see that you criticize the AF capabilities
    in some cases and I guess the improvement you are talking about is referring to the
    AF behavior while shootig BIFs on overcast days or with busy backgrounds?

    I’ve spent a lot of time with my GH5 photographing wildlife this year and I have a few ideas
    in terms of improving the AF capabilities with help of some features.
    Even if Panasonic improved the AF over the GH5 this features would be a win for sports and wildlife.
    If you don’t mind I’d like to send you my ideas in the next couple of days and ask you what you think of it.
    Maybe it’s worth been sended to our friends in Osaka.

    Kind regards

    • Portrait of Daniel J. Cox

      Daniel J. CoxOn Nov. 17th, 2017

      Would be happy to take a look Alex. You can send them to the main address.

  6. jim HeywoodOn Nov. 16th, 2017

    I did not bite on the GH5 because I did not need the video capabilities but I have ordered the G9. Don’t “get” the comments on types fo focus and perhaps we can talk about this early next year.

    • Portrait of Daniel J. Cox

      Daniel J. CoxOn Nov. 16th, 2017

      Ahhh… Jim, your a patient man Kemosabe. Panasonic just keeps upping the bar and at a pace that is hard to believe. Will be shooting the G9 starting in December. Stay tuned to the Corkboard for further insights.

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