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Panasonic Lumix G9 review

Panasonic commits to stills photography with its new high-speed, high-end mirrorless camera

Our Verdict

The Panasonic G9 is a very fast and effective camera for both 4K video and fast-action sports and wildlife photography. It’s unexpectedly substantial in your hands, which gives you a good grip, especially with longer lenses, and its image quality is very good, despite the smaller MFT sensor. For regular static subjects, though, there are plenty of rivals that deliver the same quality for less cash.

For

  • 20/60fps continuous shooting
  • 4K UHD video
  • Fast and effective autofocus

Against

  • Some viewfinder lag in burst mode
  • Smaller sensor than most rivals
  • Lacks DSLR battery life

Billed as the ultimate outdoor and wildlife camera, the G9 is Panasonic’s flagship photo-oriented camera. It joins the company’s video-orientated GH5 and GH5S at the top of the range.

The GH5 has served as the flagship Lumix camera for the best part of the year now, but as a camera targeted towards enthusiast and professional videographers, it's never been a direct rival to most other mirrorless cameras. Its price has reflected this somewhat, leaving the likes of the GX8 and G80 as the more fitting options for those focused on more traditional stills shooting. 

The new G9, however, changes things at the top of the Lumix line. While its name may make it appear as though it's a straightforward update over the existing G7, it's a decidedly more serious camera pitched at a more demanding user. 

Indeed, it appears as a perfect complementary model to the GH5 and especially the new GH5S, being optimised for stills rather than video. With a more defined grip than the GX line, a focus on fast burst shooting and refinements to its AF system, the camera appears as a challenger to the likes of the action-focused Canon EOS 7D Mark II and Nikon D7500, as well as recent high-end mirrorless options such as the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II.

The G9 is sold body only and with a cheaper 12-60mm f/3.5-5.6 kit lens, but if you want the best quality, the Leica 12-60mm f/2.8-4.0 is the one to go for

Admittedly, much of what we're seeing introduced in the G9 is not entirely new, and no doubt Panasonic realises it must now play catch up if it's to win over DSLR users and those not strongly tied to other mirrorless systems.

The 60fps burst mode, which reduces down to 20fps with continuous autofocus, is just slightly better on paper than the 60fps/18fps option offered by the OM-D E-M1 Mark II, while claims of 6.5-stop image stabilisation are also mirrored by that camera. 

The option to define different autofocusing options for easy recall is something Canon users are very familiar with, and something Fujifilm users have enjoyed on recent cameras like the X-T2. The Night Mode option, meanwhile, which turns the screen and EVF completely red, has also appeared on recent Pentax models. Even so, it's the fact that we now have all of these features and many more in a single model that makes the G9 so attractive. 

The G9's body is as big as a that of an enthusiast DSLR, but this gives it better balance and grip with longer telephoto lenses

Features

  • 20.3MP Micro Four Thirds sensor, no OLPF 
  • 4K video recording and 6K PHOTO option 
  • 80MP High Resolution mode (raw & JPEG)
  • 60fps burst shooting (20fps with C-AF) 
  • EVF, 3.68m dots and 1.66x magnification (0.83x in 35mm terms)
  • 225-area AF system with Depth From Defocus (DFD) technology 
  • Illuminated top-plate LCD screen 
  • Advanced Body I.S. (Image Stabilizer) and Dual I.S. (6.5EV stops)
  • Dual SDHC/SDXC slots (UHS-II support in both) 
  • Splash-proof, dustproof and freezeproof (-10°C) body
  • Wi-Fi, Bluetooth LE
  • 380-shot battery life

The G9 inherits the 20.3MP Micro Four Thirds sensor from the GH5, and this has no optical low-pass filter. The image processing engine is the same as the GH5's, but Panasonic says the processing itself has been improved.

It also has the same kind of High Resolution capture mode introduced by Olympus, which takes a sequence of images with a tiny shift in the sensor position for each, before combining them into a single 80MP image.

Panasonic's Leica DG Elmarit 200mm f/2.8 Power O.I.S telephoto could be the perfect lens for sports and wildlife fans, with a focal length equivalent to 400mm in 35mm terms

Panasonic says the G9 has the world's fastest AF speeds for mirrorless cameras, with a focus time of just 0.04sec with the Leica DG Vario-Elmarit 12-60mm f/2.8-4.0 ASPH. It uses Panasonic’s Depth From Defocus (DFD) autofocus technology and there’s a joystick on the back of the camera for moving the focus point around the frame.

It might not be a video specialist like the GH5 or GH5S, but the G9 can still capture 4K video, and Full HD video at up to 180fps for a 3x slow motion effect on playback. At 380 shots per charge, battery life is about average for a mirrorless camera, but there's an optional BG-G9 battery grip for extended shooting and better handling with longer telephoto lenses.

Round the back, the G9 boasts a vari-angle touchscreen display, a top-quality OLED viewfinder and a thumbstick for positioning the autofocus point/s