It has been almost six years since Panasonic released the original G9, but that was back when six years was a normal time between camera cycles. By today’s standards, that is an age to wait. However, for Panasonic, this means that the Panasonic Lumix G9 II is actually a fully-fledged upgrade from the first model that you can honestly get excited about.
With Panasonic’s recent focus on its full-frame cameras, with the very well-received Panasonic Lumix S5 II and the growing number of L-Mount Alliance members, many were speculating that Panasonic might be phasing out its Micro Four Thirds (MFT) lineup. Panasonic and Olympus were the pioneers of the MFT sensor and mount, pushing it as a solution to achieve high-quality images with smaller cameras like the technical marvel of the Panasonic GM1. However, as market forces moved toward full-frame cameras, it seemed like Panasonic’s MFT ambitions might be put on ice.
Panasonic is certainly not letting up with the format, though, with the advantages it brings to video as well as genres of photography where having a 2x crop factor brings its own benefits. Panasonic clearly still sees potential in the market, but the camera landscape is very different now than in 2017 when the original Panasonic G9 was released. Is there still a place for this stills-centric MFT camera?
Panasonic Lumix G9 II: Specifications
|Sensor||Micro Four Thirds Live MOS|
|Maximum resolutions||5776x4336 (L) / 4096x3072 (M) / 2944x2208 (S), high resolution mode 11552x8672 (XL) / 8192x6144 (LL)|
|Autofocus||Phase Detection AF system / Contrast AF system|
|ISO||100 - 25,600|
|Burst shooting||14fps AF-S or 10fps AF-C mechanical shutter, 75fps AF-S or 60fps AF-C electronic shutter|
|Buffer||RAW+JPEG 160+, RAW 170+, JPEG 200+|
|Video||5.8k30p, 4.4k60p, 4k120p, FHD 240p|
|Screen||1.84m dot, 3.0in LCD|
|EVF||3.68m dot OLED, 60/120fps|
|Weight||658g / 23.21oz (including battery and SD card)|
|Size||134.3 x 102.3 x 90.1 mm / 5.29 x 4.03 x 3.55 inch (body only)|
Panasonic Lumix G9 II: Key Features
The standout feature of the Lumix G9 II lies in its enhanced autofocus system. The upgraded autofocus not only facilitates quicker and more precise focusing through an expanded 779-phase detection autofocus system (known as hybrid phase AF on Panasonic cameras) but also introduces more advanced subject recognition and tracking algorithms.
These improvements enable effective tracking of subjects like humans and animals, including their eyes, as well as vehicles such as cars and motorcycles. While it may not match the extensive subject recognition capabilities of some other brands, it certainly covers the essential areas that the majority of photographers require.
Under the hood, the camera boasts a newly designed 25.2MP Live MOS Sensor paired with a brand-new processing engine. By employing a high-resolution pixel shift mode, the G9 II can now generate 100MP images handheld.
The G9 II boasts a top burst speed of 60fps with continuous autofocus, which can be pushed to 75fps without autofocus when using the electronic shutter. However, with the mechanical shutter, the G9 II achieves a more modest 14fps (AF-S) or 10fps (AF-C).
Additionally, the camera features a pre-burst mode that can be set for 1.5, 1, or 0.5 seconds before fully depressing the shutter. This feature proves especially valuable for sports and wildlife photographers, who are a primary target audience for this MFT camera.
Panasonic has also significantly enhanced its image stabilization system, now offering up to 8 stops of in-body stabilization (known as BIS in the Lumix branding). However, this is slightly reduced to 7.5 stops when using lenses longer than 60mm. The camera also incorporates advanced Active IS to provide additional stabilization during more pronounced movements, such as walking or panning.
In the realm of video, the Lumix G9 II introduces new features. Alongside the greatly improved autofocus system, it offers impressive video capabilities with resolutions of 5.7K 60p, 4K 120p, or FullHD 240p. The camera can record in 4:2:0 10-bit, delivering up to 13 stops of dynamic range when shooting in V-Log. Furthermore, it supports recording in Apple ProRes format and enables direct recording to an external SSD.
Additionally, users can create and install real-time LUTs directly onto the camera, and apply them to both photos and videos. The camera includes 19 pre-made LUTs, including the new Leica Monochrome option.
Panasonic Lumix G9 II: Build & Handling
The overall quality of the build is great; the camera undeniably feels solid and well put together, which is backed up by its weatherproof sealing. Following on from the first G9, Panasonic has continued to put every button, dial, and wheel that most photographers are ever going to need on the G9 II.
There are three command dials, a directional pad, an upgraded eight-way joystick, as well as buttons to change the ISO, exposure, autofocus, and white balance in a jiffy. This camera is a proper old-school photographer's camera, with tactile controls and not much hidden behind complicated or fiddly touchscreen menus.
However, there are a few notable changes from the prior model – the biggest difference being the removal of the top screen, which has been replaced by a separate mode dial. I know some users are very attached to their top screens but, personally, I am not really bothered by its omission, as in reality, on modern cameras with information-laden EVFs, I almost never actually use these screens. So few cameras actually have these screens now that it's probably time to pour one out for the top screen.
The G9 II has not changed so much that existing G9 users won’t feel right at home, though, and for new users the system just works. I am not usually a regular Panasonic shooter, but I adapted to the camera controls incredibly quickly.
The overall body design has been changed a little since the last model, with the top of the camera being flattened down from the more rounded design of the G9. The G9 II now looks identical to the Panasonic Lumix S5 II, and with a lens on you won't even notice the difference.
Overall I think the camera looks good, although I feel it looks a little dated in design. I don't think Panasonics are the most premium-feeling cameras out there, with other brands using materials and textures I prefer, but existing Panasonic users might be more inclined to its styling.
One thing to note is that the G9 II is not a small camera despite its smaller sensor, which was one of the big selling points of the MFT format originally. Panasonic is definitely just marketing this as a fully professional camera with a professional body and great ergonomics, which it excels at, but if you were hoping to make a size saving by buying MFT, then this camera won’t help with that.
The only thing about the build I could find that was unimpressive was the flappy doors that cover the ports on the side of the camera. I found the doors would open far too easily, and wouldn't stay closed unless firmly pressed in, which was a minor and occasional hindrance, but not overly troublesome. Undoubtedly, I will have more time to nitpick when I have the camera again for the full review.
Panasonic Lumix G9 II: Performance
Photo performance was solid during my brief initial hands-on, the G9 II takes really nice images with a good amount of detail. At 25MP there is some room to play with when cropping, although I found the stills yielded some of the finer details when cropped. However, this only becomes an issue when printing large images – for which this camera would not be the first choice anyway.
For use on the web and social media, you should be able to crop images from the G9 II a fair amount while still looking good. Color and dynamic range on JPEGs out of the camera was excellent, and the automatic white balance was accurate and consistent throughout the shoot despite the changing lighting conditions.
To put one misguided assumption around MFT cameras to bed, image quality is not automatically weaker than larger sensors, although dynamic range and low light performance do usually suffer, which I will test in the full review.
There is a mess of math around focal lengths and subject distances but, in general, MFT can’t achieve the same background blur versus larger sensors at the same distance, which can give images a flatter look in some situations – so that's something to consider for the G9 II.
The major boon of using a Micro Four Thirds sensor is the extended reach it gives you. MTF sensors have a 2x crop factor, which means that the 100-400mm lens I used for testing was equivalent to a 200-800mm lens on a full-frame camera.
On paper MFT lenses still are not small, despite the decreased sensor size, but when compared to full-frame lenses that rival their equivalent length they are significantly smaller, lighter, and cheaper.
The image stabilization between the camera and the lens was exceptional. Even at 400mm (800mm equivalent) the combination of the 7.5-stop in-body image stabilization plus the additional optical stabilization in the lens itself gave me not only a steady view through the EVF but also sharp, shake-free images.
Panasonic Lumix G9 II: Sample images
Panasonic Lumix G9 II: Video Performance
It is in its video performance where the Panasonic Lumix G9 II really shines. The Panasonic Lumix S5 IIX is probably the best mirrorless camera for video right now, and the G9 II inherits so much of what makes that camera great. Even in my short time testing the camera, I was immediately impressed with not only the video quality but also Panasonic’s huge improvements in image stabilization and focusing.
For the purpose of ensuring I came away with usable footage from my brief hands-on, I have so far only tested the standard 4K 24p video from the G9 II – but it is immediately impressive, although the camera is capable of so much more. The video straight out of the camera is sharp, with great colors and very good dynamic range.
Above: Test footage taken directly from the camera shot with the Panasonic Leica DG Vario-Elmar 100-400mm F/4-6.3 ASPH Power O.I.S. Lens
My initial tests were conducted during a safari around a wildlife refuge organized by Panasonic. This put the new 8-stop (or 7.5, on my lenses over 60mm) in-body stabilization to the ultimate test. Bouncing around in a jeep using a 100-400mm lens the image was impressively stable, not gimbal-level stable, but handheld this appears to be some of the best image stabilization I have come across.
It is still a little jerky in movement like panning and walking, but the stabilization comes into its own with holding a static shot steady. Panasonic has added improved advanced image stabilization modes, so I am keen to try these out in the final review.
Panasonic has improved the autofocus so much in the G9 II, and it now rivals the AF speed and accuracy of other systems, although still lags a little behind in the amount of subject recognized. Now, however, the system is capable of animal tracking, including animal eyes – and after using it extensively on a day full of the widest variety of animals imaginable, I am pleased to say it works very well.
The G9 II snapped onto every animal subject quickly and accurately, and more importantly it tracked them across the frame. Eye autofocus was also impressive; it didn’t quite get every animal's eye, but I will let it off due to the number of different animals, and its overall hit rate was very good.
Panasonic Lumix G9 II: Early verdict
Panasonic has firmly established itself as the leading camera manufacturer for video enthusiasts at the moment. The Panasonic Lumix G9 II delivers an authentic hybrid camera experience, boasting a comprehensive spec sheet that caters to both photography and videography enthusiasts. The G9 II's video capabilities are nothing short of astounding, thanks to its highly effective in-body image stabilization and vastly improved autofocus system that now rivals the competition.
For still photography, the camera's Micro Four Thirds sensor shines when you require greater reach for capturing sports or wildlife moments due to its 2x crop factor. The G9 II is capable of producing stunning images; however, it's worth noting that images may appear slightly softer when cropped and might exhibit a somewhat flatter quality due to the characteristics of the Micro Four Thirds sensor.
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If you are almost sold on the Lumix G9 II but wish it had a full frame sensor, then the Panasonic Lumix S5 II is the camera you are looking for. With the same body and features as the G9 II, but with a bigger sensor allowing better low light performance and depth of field, although this will come at the cost of reduced focal length versus the G9 II.
If you are a MFT fan, but maybe aren’t into the styling of the Lumix G9 II then the OM System OM-1 is a worthy alternative. It comes in at slightly more expensive, but it offers a lot of the same feature set as the G9 II give or take. Plus you can still use any MFT lenses you already own, including Panasonic’s.