Panasonic Lumix G9 review

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

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The G9 is pretty big for a Micro Four Thirds mirrorless camera, but that’s no bad thing because it gives it better handling with larger lenses like constant aperture zooms or telephotos. It’s about the same size as a mid-range enthusiast DSLR.

The smaller sensor, however, does mean that the lenses for this camera are correspondingly smaller and lighter than their DSLR-specific counterparts. The G9 might not be any smaller than a DSLR, but your kitbag is still likely to be a good deal lighter.

The G9 with the new Leica DG Elmarit 200mm f/2.8 Power O.I.S lens

The G9 with the new Leica DG Elmarit 200mm f/2.8 Power O.I.S lens

The G9 feels solid and well made, but the external design is somewhat underwhelming for a top-of-the-range camera. Its sharp edges and crease lines are typical of Panasonic’s current look, but it feels somewhat downmarket compared to its smoother-profiled DSLR rivals.

Picking it up, anyone familiar with the GH5 will see that the two cameras are designed along very similar lines, although the influence of previous G-series models is apparent. The deep grip makes its suitability for telephoto optics obvious, and means that those used to the handling of a typical DSLR will be satisfied, while the inclusion of a top-plate LCD, something we've not seen before on the Lumix model, should also please the same audience.

The G9 features a new Night Mode

The G9 features a new Night Mode

Like many other top-plate LCDs, this can be illuminated quite simply through a flick of the Nikon-style power control around the shutter release button, whereupon bright orange lights at its sides spring to life. The information in this screen is presented nice and clearly, perhaps not as large as on a similar DSLR displays, but the range of information here is still broad.

Another new feature is a lever on the front of the camera that allows you to instantly switch from one combination of camera settings to another. Again, while this is reminiscent of the similar lever that has graced previous Olympus models, its inclusion here is welcome. For a camera of its size it's a little fiddly and on the small side, but, hopefully, this should make it slightly harder to unintentionally knock out of position.

The new top-plate LCD screen can be illuminated

The new top-plate LCD screen can be illuminated

The new High Resolution shot mode, which blends a number of images into a single high-resolution file, is also something we've seen from Olympus and Pentax. In use, the eight images are not only captured quickly but processed in what feels like a couple of seconds. The fact that you need to use this mode on a tripod, and with static subjects, makes fast speeds here less crucial, but if you imagine you'll need to use this repeatedly in a short space of time, you'll no doubt appreciate it.

One of the joys of using Panasonic's GH5 is its 3.68million-dot viewfinder, so that fact that we have the same resolution here is great to see. Here, however, it's bolstered by a higher magnification, equivalent to 0.83x in 35mm terms, against the 0.76x magnification of the GH5. Furthermore, the feed has the potential to be more stable, thanks to more effective image stabilisation systems.

A new lever on the front allows the camera to be switched between two different shooting setups

A new lever on the front allows the camera to be switched between two different shooting setups

This camera is designed as a dedicated sports/action specialist, and the main controls you’ll need are straightforward. Underneath the main mode dial is a drive mode dial with settings for single-shot mode, continuous shooting and Panasonic’s special 6K PHOTO modes.

The model offers many physical direct controls on its top plate, including three separate dials

The model offers many physical direct controls on its top plate, including three separate dials

Once you’ve selected your continuous shooting mode, you need to make sure the AF lever on the rear of the camera is set to AF-C (continuous) and then select the focus pattern, which you can do via the Fn2 Q.MENU button. The choices here are Face/Eye detection, Tracking, 225-area, Custom Multi and 1-Area, while a final option, Pinpoint, is available only in the single-shot AF-S mode. 

The viewfinder is an improvement on the already excellent viewfinder found in the GH5

The viewfinder is an improvement on the already excellent viewfinder found in the GH5

For action subjects you’d be unwise to take your chances with the automatic 225-area AF mode because the camera will decide what to focus on and it may not be what you expect. You’re better off with the Tracking mode (if you expect your subject to move around the frame) or the Custom Multi mode, where you need to keep a cluster of AF points over your subject as it moves. You can change the size of this cluster according to how much movement you expect, and how confident you are of your ability to follow it.