Panasonic’s Lumix DC-GH5 has only had a more video- centric flagship in its portfolio, and that’s changing with the Lumix DC-G9. Focusing more on high-speed continuous shooting and fast-paced autofocus for action shooting, the G9 does not lose sight of the video capabilities, as the 4K video feature at 60 frames per second, which is extremely rare in still cameras. While testing, the Panasonic Lumix DC-G9 now has to show what it is good for in the lab and in practice, and what the picture quality of the Micro Four Thirds DSLM is.
Ergonomics and Workmanship
Although the Lumix DC-G9 is a Micro Four Thirds camera, Micro is still the image sensor on the camera. The G9 is not only nearly 1,700 euros expensive, but also an official knocker: almost 14 inches wide, ten inches high and nine inches deep. It surpasses even the full-frame cameras Sony Alpha 7R III and Alpha 9 with its four times as large image sensor in the width of a whole centimeter in width, the weight is about the same with 660 grams without lens almost equal. Make up ground in the sense of compactness, the Panasonic can only as soon as a lens is attached, because due to the half focal length for the same frame, these of course much more compact than a full-frame camera.
But the Panasonic G9 is full in the hand and makes an absolutely robust impression. The housing is almost completely made of metal and is provided with seals against the ingress of dust and splash water. It is even better sealed than the Sony Alpha cameras, but due to the rather poor sealing of the Sony models is not a feat. Even heavy downpours are no problem for the Panasonic, with temperatures as low as minus ten degrees Celsius. A prerequisite is, of course, a suitably sealed lens, which is compatible with the Leica DG Vario-Elmarit 1: 2.8-4.0 / 12-60 mm Asph. Power OIS is available as a set with the camera at a total price of just under 2,300 euros. It was also used in our test and is an excellent standard lens for the G9, because it is in no way inferior to the perfect workmanship and the modern design of the camera. Incidentally, this combination, including memory cards, weighs a good kilogram on the scales.
The handle of the G9 is well formed and nestles perfectly in the hand. He is, like the camera, neatly tall. The generous and extremely non-slip rubber coating improves the grip enormously, also the clear notch on the upper end contributes to its part, so that the camera rests firmly on the middle finger. The G9 is a real flatterer, even the little finger can still find room. On the back is a corresponding, also rubber thumb rest stop, also the left side of the case is covered with the grained rubber, even if the left hand should rest better under the lens.
The enormous and high-resolution electronic viewfinder gives rise to real enthusiasm. It offers a 0.83-fold magnification in the small picture equivalent – there can not compete neither a full-blown full-size DSLR, nor a mirrorless full-frame system camera from Sony. Despite the size offers the viewfinder with 3.7 million pixels a very fine resolution. The refresh rate is either liquid 60 or extremely fluid 120 frames per second, the latter, of course, consumes more of the battery. The viewfinder is also provided with a lush eyecup that covers the side incident light well. The large viewfinder can only be completely overlooked with the eye. However, if you look through the viewfinder with attached glasses, the picture is no longer completely visible. But even for Panasonic has a clever solution: A small button on the side of the viewfinder switches the used area in three steps. At the smallest level, the viewfinder image is completely visible even with attached glasses, but of course, correspondingly smaller overall and, of course, also lower resolution. The compromise is likely to be the most useful for eyeglass wearers, if the diopter compensation is not enough.
The rear monitor with its diagonal of 7.5 centimeters and a resolution of 1.04 million pixels, however, only offers standard food. The 3: 2 aspect ratio is a good compromise between the 4: 3 sensor image for photos and 16: 9 for videos. The fact that the brightness with less than 700 cd / m² is not exactly lush, so you better fall back on the brilliant viewfinder in the sun, was the camera forgiven. Practically, it is a touch screen. As is usual with Panasonic, the screen can be swiveled sideways and then rotated 270 degrees, which allows recordings from all possible perspectives. If you want, the screen can also be folded upside down to the camera for protection, since the viewfinder also functions as a menu and playback display.
The only thing you lose with the screen flipped upside down is the extra function keys that pop up on it. The ability to place the autofocus on a subject detail using a finger tipper, which also works when looking through the viewfinder, is of course no longer possible with the screen folded upside down. But the G9 offers a joystick on the back of the camera. There is also a four-way selector with handy rotating function ring, two function wheels on the camera top, one for the thumb and one for the index finger, and a number of other switches and buttons that can be partially occupied with functions. Very handy is also the function lever on the front of the camera, next to the bayonet easily accessible for the left hand.
The menu, through which you can set these and many other functions, but has not become much clearer due to the variety of functions. Although Panasonic strives for a meaningful grouping, but many functions and configuration options make many menu items required. Thus, the menus are divided into several superimposed categories and pages that can be scrolled. A little bit helps the new “my menu” thereby to be able to call preferred menu items faster because they can be stored here.
On the monitor and in the viewfinder, various information can be displayed. These are not just the recording settings, but also an electronic 3D spirit level, various grid line patterns and a live histogram. While the exposure preview in the live image in P, A, and S modes responds directly to the exposure compensation, in M you must press the shutter button halfway. (In an earlier version it was said that the G9 did not have a reasonable exposure preview in M, but that was obviously due to the not quite final firmware version of our test device, because with another G9, which we could try out now, the exposure preview worked as described with half-pressed trigger.)
Extremely lush, the G9 is provided with interfaces. On the left there is a microphone and a headphone jack, the HDMI interface is even equal to the A-standard full size. Why Panasonic, however, waives the USB-3.1 interface on the USB-C standard and instead uses the extended Micro USB socket, opens up to us. The older GH5 shows that Panasonic knows USB-C. After all, it can also be used by normal micro USB connector, for example, to recharge the battery or to power the camera.
The lithium-ion battery is removed from the bottom of the camera, where the corresponding compartment is far enough away from the tripod thread located in the optical axis. With its 14 watt-hours, it provides energy for at least 400 shots according to CIPA standard, when using the viewfinder instead of the screen, it is five percent less. The battery actually lasts a long time and the battery indicator is sufficiently accurate, even if percentages instead of four bars would be more practical. An external charger is included with the G9, which also uses a micro USB port for the power supply. This way, the battery itself can be recharged externally without a power outlet, for example from a USB power bank. The supplied USB power supply has 1.8 Ampere.
The memory card slot is the same as the remote control connector on the grip side of the camera. The tray accommodates two SD cards and is compatible with SDHC and SDXC as well as UHS I and UHS II, whereby the maximum write speed of 106 MB / s is hardly beyond the level of UHS I. In any case, UHS II is far from exhausted, here is still a lot of room for improvement. Incidentally, the G9 also allows the connection of a portrait grip including battery. This can double the running time of the camera, and the handling for portrait shooting improves. Due to the already large grip and high weight of the camera, the handle in landscape mode offers no advantages except the extended runtime.
Although the Panasonic Lumix DC-G9 is aimed at photo enthusiasts, Panasonic does not omit the intelligent automatic with limited influence by the photographer, nor on various filter effects. So even a photo enthusiast who likes to control aperture, shutter speed, and ISO sensitivity can simply take a snapshot without worry or simply hand the camera to someone who does not know it. What the G9 lacks, however, is a pan-panorama function. However, the greatest space on the program dial is taken up by the classic creative programs P, A, S and M, as well as the three individually assignable user programs. Incidentally, the ISO automatic function, including exposure compensation, works as desired even with manual exposure.
The continuous shooting function of the Lumix G9 is a bit confusing. It is activated via the small lever below the program dial, with Roman “I” and “II” two modes to choose from, which can be quickly activated. The continuous shooting speeds and whether they work with electronic or mechanical shutter and with or without autofocus tracking, however, are set via the menu. However, here too it is not clear how fast the series pictures are actually taken, because SH1, SH2, H, L and M are wordily explained, but completely without numbers in the camera menu. SH1 and SH2 work with electronic shutter, optionally with or without pre-burst mode. In pre-burst mode, pictures are stored conveniently before the shutter button is pressed, which increases the hit rate. While SH1 works at 20 frames per second and AF-C, SH2 achieves 60 frames per second, but the focus and exposure are frozen at the first shot. However, both modes save only 50 pictures, so they only run for 2.5 or 0.8 seconds.
In H, M and L, on the other hand, as with normal photos, the camera works either with mechanical shutter, electronic first and mechanical second shutter curtain to reduce vibrations or with completely electronic shutter. M takes seven continuous shots per second while L only shoots two. Both work with live view and autofocus tracking. In H, the continuous shutter speed depends on whether you have activated the AF-S or AF-C. With AF-S there are twelve continuous frames per second, but no live view. With AF-C, there are only nine continuous pictures per second, but there is an autofocus tracking and a live image.
Unlike SH, the number of continuous pictures in H, M and L is not limited, but depends only on the memory card capacity. The buffer is big enough for long, fast series, in JPEG a fast memory card can usually even be described completely at full burst speed. In Raw, with fast memory cards, it is enough to shoot around 90 pictures at high speed (12 fps) before the burst rate drops due to a full buffer. The write speed at full buffer is about 106 MB per second, which is not exactly fast for a UHS-II interface. The memory card would have enabled 250 MB / s. For comparison: The still fastest camera is the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II with 170 MB / s. Incidentally, the G9 buffer is emptied again within a few seconds, as soon as you finish the recording series. The camera remains ready to shoot at any time.
If you like continuous shooting, you can not only vary the exposure, but also the white balance, the focus and much more if you wish. Exposure bracketing includes up to seven images with an exposure distance of up to one f-stop, which is good for decent HDR recording series. A combination with the self-timer is not a problem. If you want, you can also use the camera’s own HDR mode, which aligns and joins the images directly. Alternatively, you can manually adjust the exposure distance or leave the camera to choose.
The autofocus works contrast-based with DFD technology. This provides a trick for a very fast autofocus: Two different sharp images are taken in quick succession and based on the comparison and the lens properties, the camera can determine and control the focus point pretty accurate on the contrast autofocus must be done only if necessary, a fine adjustment. Specifically, the G9 only takes 0.11 to 0.13 seconds from the moment the shutter button is pressed to the actual recording. This already includes the 0.05 to 0.06 seconds long shutter delay, which occurs even without autofocus. However, here is the all too smooth trigger. Although the first pressure point is quite noticeable, but until then there is almost no resistance and also he is very small.
The autofocus can also follow moving subjects well. For this purpose, either a point autofocus, which can be placed anywhere, a tracking function and a multi-field control with 221 autofocus points available, where you can adjust the active area in number and location of the focus points used. When focusing manually, you can not only be supported by a focus magnifier, but also by a focus-singing function.
Although the Panasonic Lumix DC-G9 does not have a built-in flash, there is a small plug-in flash included, but there is not only a compulsory TTL system flash shoe, but also a flash sync socket. So studio flashes and large system flashes can be easily operated, with corresponding control unit on the camera even in wireless mode. The flash sync speed is 1/250 seconds, with system flashes allowing high-speed sync as well. Without flash, the mechanical shutter is up to 1 / 8,000 second fast, the electronic even up to 1 / 16,000.
The video function works like the GH5 with 4K resolution at a very fluid 60 frames per second. With up to 150 Mbps, a high video quality is also possible. At Full HD resolution, the refresh rate can even be increased to 180 frames per second. The sound can be input to the video either via the integrated stereo microphone or via an externally connected video, a level display, modulation and a wind filter are also available. If desired, videos can be exposed manually and some of the filter effects are also available. You can save in either AVCHD or MP4 format, each with H.264 compression. The autofocus leads the G9 also on request.
The Panasonic Lumix DC G9 is equipped with a highly effective sensor-shift image stabilization, which runs together with the optical image stabilization of the lens in dual mode, which increases the effectiveness again. This should allow up to 6.5 f-stops longer exposure times shake-free. In fact, four stops are not a problem, at 8.1 second exposure time with 120 millimeters of focal length (mm film equivalent), we received reliable and clear shots. In five f-stops (4.1 second exposure time) most shots were sharp, with six stops (2.1 second exposure time) were sharp images possible, but the committee was great. Of course, this is always very individual and depends on numerous parameters such as your own “shaking”, the shooting distance etc. With a short focal length, it is also possible to take sharp shots in the range of seconds. By the way, a third, purely electronic image stabilizer works on video recordings if desired.
Another interesting feature is 4K or 6K photo. Here, at 60 or 30 frames per second, video sequences are recorded with H.265 compression, from which afterwards still images with 8.3 or 18 megapixels can be extracted directly in the camera. However, the quality is not quite as good as in photos with the same megapixel number. While 4K-Photo has a free aspect ratio of 1: 1, 4: 3, 3: 2 and 16: 9, only 3: 2 and 4: 3 are available for the 6K-Photo, while the sensor resolution is sufficient for the other aspect ratios just not out. Especially exciting are post-focus shots. Here, the camera with 4K or 6K photo passes through the focus area of the subject, so you can still select the sharpness in hindsight. Even a focus stacking is possible directly in the camera.
In playback mode, raw data images can be converted into JPEGs, and some basic editing options such as cropping are available. Even videos can be split and put together. The slideshow feature even works with effects and background music, which can be handy when connected to a TV. Thanks to Wi-Fi, images can also be transmitted wirelessly to TVs, computers, tablets or smartphones. A corresponding app even allows the remote control of the camera via WLAN, including the setting of recording parameters and a live image transmission. Details can be found in our photo tip in the following links. In addition, the G9 offers a Bluetooth function for energy-saving permanent connection.
Your image quality had the Panasonic G9 in our test laboratory with the set lens Leica DG Vario-Elmarit 1: 2.8-4.0 / 12-60 mm Asph. Prove power OIS. The five-time zoom covers a small-image-equivalent focal length range of 24 to 120 millimeters and offers with its short closest focusing distance of 20 centimeters a maximum magnification of 1: 3.3, which corresponds to a small picture equivalent of 1: 1.65 and thus allows beautiful close-up or macro shots. The entire results of the laboratory test, on which the following considerations are based, are available for a small fee via the additional links. The purchase also supports free content such as this camera review.
The G9’s Micro Four Thirds sensor achieves a physical resolution of a good 20 megapixels, which means a pixel pitch of 3.3 μm on the small CMOS sensor. Nevertheless, the G9 has a surprisingly high signal-to-noise ratio. It ranges from ISO 100 to 800 in the good range of more than 40 dB and only just below the critical level of 35 dB at ISO 6,400. Color noise and brightness noise remain at a low level. Only at the two highest ISO sensitivities of 12,800 and 25,600 is the brightness noise easily visible, although it remains fine-grained. A slight improvement of the measured values at ISO 3200 compared to ISO 1600 suggests a stronger noise suppression from this sensitivity.
The texture sharpness moves to the highest level up to ISO 800 before slowly starting to sink. However, only a slight loss of finest details becomes visible beyond ISO 1600 (which confirms the stronger noise suppression assumed from this sensitivity), but even at ISO 6,400 there are just a few details left. With ISO 3.200 one is on the safe side and still receives a good picture quality with many details and almost no noise. The input dynamics range up to ISO 3,200 at a level of more than eleven f-stops and will not drop below ten f-stops even at even higher sensitivities, which is an excellent value. This allows the Lumix G9 to capture details from the brightest to the darkest areas.
The measurement of the tone curve shows a very strong division of the contrasts for a crisp reproduction. The output tonal range is very good up to ISO 800 with over 224 out of 256 possible brightness gradations and good up to ISO 3,200 with well over 160 levels. The actual color depth is also at a very high level, with more than eight million colors reproduced by ISO 800, even more than four million by ISO 3.200 and more than two million by ISO 12,800. The white balance accuracy is high and the color fidelity is very good. Larger deviations are only in the purple and red area, where especially the saturation for bright colors is raised.
The offensive, but extremely good image processing of colors and contrasts is opposed by a strong restraint in the sharpening and detail processing. It comes to almost no sharpness artifacts, but this leads to a relatively low for 20 megapixel sensor resolution effective resolution. Even at maximum, there are only 47 line pairs per millimeter (lp / mm) in the small picture equivalent, actually it could be good and like 20 percent more. This highest resolution in wide angle on F4 is dimmed down in the image center. No matter which focal length you choose, in the image center, the resolution is always over 40 lp / mm, as long as you do not fade farther than F8. Then the diffraction starts and reduces the resolution.
The edge resolution is highest at medium focal length (50 mm small image equivalent) and ranges from the open aperture F3.5 to F8 in the range of 34 to 38 lp / mm. In the wide angle, however, you have to fade to F4 to scratch the 30 lp / mm, which are barely exceeded. Beyond F8, the resolution also drops again here. At the long focal length you also have to fade one level, then there are up to 32 lp / mm resolution. Thus, the edge loss of the resolution is up to 40 percent, which is quite strong, but can be pressed by the right choice of aperture and focal length to less than ten percent.
Color fringes in the form of chromatic aberrations are generally low, at most in the wide angle at open aperture they are easily visible in the corners. There is also a visible distortion only in the wide-angle, but it remains below two percent and is therefore only moderate or for a wide angle even slightly less than usual. At medium and long focal length there is virtually no distortion in JPEG. The edge darkening is also low overall. At the focal length extremes this occurs in the outermost corners of the picture at the open aperture. But from F5.6 on she does not play a significant role anymore.
Why Panasonic is so ambivalent in the image editing, remains a mystery. The photo enthusiast, who works on his images anyway intense, that will hardly bother, because for him anyway the raw data format is optimal. If you do not want to edit your photos and prefer JPEG, you will not get an optimal result.
The Panasonic Lumix DC-G9 also features a high-resolution recording function. From the tripod four shots are combined to a resolution of up to 80 megapixels. This works directly in the camera and leads to a visibly higher resolution, which we were able to confirm in the laboratory measurement. This is a premiere, so to speak, because so far we could convince such a function in any camera manufacturer really and confirm in the laboratory in the effectiveness. Although the effective resolution remains well below that possible with this number of pixels, it still achieves values such as a full-format camera with a resolution of more than 40 megapixels – and that with the 12-60mm zoom lens. We measured at the 80 line pairs per millimeter in the image center, which is well above the maximum of 47 lp / mm, which are possible with a simple shot.
In direct visual comparison, the Panasonic is in high-resolution mode at 12 mm and F4 approximately on par with the 42 megapixel resolution Sony Alpha 7R III and the 24-105 mm at 24 mm and F4. The quality of the 46 megapixel resolution Nikon D850 with the 24-70 mm F2.8 at 24 mm and F5.6 is also achieved in the center of the Panasonic, at the edge of the picture, the Nikon stands out even with a large distance. Only the Canon EOS 5DS R surpasses all others, but with the 35mm F1.4 fixed focal length dimmed down on F4 it had a trump up its sleeve and did not have to compete with a zoom lens. Too bad that the high-resolution recording works only on static subjects from the tripod.
The Panasonic Lumix DC-G9 is in many ways a fantastic camera, but this is also reflected in the high price. The housing processing moves at the highest level, the camera is very robust and offers excellent ergonomics. However, the case is big and heavy for that. The functionality is huge and the adaptability of the user interface leaves nothing to be desired. With some detailed solutions, however, there is still room for improvement. In addition, the G9 shines with the high performance at the top level, even if it does not set any records in the series rate and memory speed.
In addition, the Lumix impresses with their above-average video capabilities. The picture quality, however, is ambivalent. While the Panasonic runs at its best in terms of dynamic range, signal-to-noise ratio and low noise at high detail rates, the resolution achieved remains far behind the capabilities of the sensor, but this is mainly due to the far too restrained image processing in this area. Particularly impressive is the high-resolution mode, which is only suitable for static subjects, but at the Panasonic leads to breathtaking results, which can compete with the best full-size vehicles.