CNET también está disponible en español.

Ir a español

Don't show this again

Cameras

The Panasonic Lumix G9 seeks the GH5's cachet, but for stills

Panasonic hopes a combination of speed, tonal tuning and body design will tempt serious photographers.

Panasonic wants its new Lumix G9 to be the GH5 for still shooters; a small, light, fast and flexible alternative to traditionally bigger cameras for outdoor and action photography.

sensor-size-for-mag-02.png

The relative sensor sizes.

Lori Grunin/CNET

In reality, it's a direct competitor for the Olympus E-M1 Mark II and an indirect competitor for the Nikon D7500 or Canon EOS 7D Mark II, cameras optimized for shooting action. In the same price class as those, the body ships in January for $1,700 (directly converted, that's about £1,290 and AU$2,220).

While Micro Four Thirds cameras have a lot to offer -- they're much smaller systems, for one, and because there's no mirror they can attain much higher frame rates -- the smaller sensor never seems to deliver the image quality of a larger one across the entire sensitivity range, like the D7500's. Though the 7D Mark II is cheaper at about $1,350 (£1,350 and AU$2,200).

Familiar insides

On the inside, it's the GH5; the G9 has updated image processing and algorithms which allow it to eke out a slightly better noise profile and autofocus speed, enables a few more features and improved image stabilization which Panasonic claims delivers a whopping 6.5 stops.

The improved processing also enables it to increase the speed of the electronic shutter, which in turn enables high-speed continuous shooting: 20 frames per second with autofocus and autoexposure or 60fps without when using shutter. (With the mechanical shutter it's the same as the GH5.)

The image processing is also optimized differently than the GH5, prioritizing accuracy for memory colors (skies, grass, skin tones), reproducing textures and maximizing tonal range. But it's still only 12-bit raw, a limitation of the current generation of Four Thirds sensors.

The G9 offers only one completely new feature over the GH5: an 80-megapixel high-res mode which takes eight shots at 0.5-pixel offsets (up, down, left, right and the four diagonals). This is similar to Olympus' 50-megapixel High-Res Shot mode. But if you're going to have a tripod-requiring multishot mode, I'd rather see it incorporate an implementation like the Sony A7R III's, where it's used to improve tonal range rather than increase pixel count.

In exchange for these new capabilities, however, the G9 loses some of the significant video features of the GH5, such as 10-bit color and QuickTime MOV support.

Less familiar outside

But not wholly unfamiliar. Most of the rejiggering is on the top, where Panasonic added a status display -- the type you see on midrange and high-end dSLRs. It also moved the mode dial to the right side and consolidated it with a drive-mode dial, as well as repositioning a few other dials. Most notably, the video record button, which is easily reachable on the GH5, requires an awkward hand contortion on the G9.

You can program a couple of drive modes for quick change via a switch on the front of the camera (or on the mode dial), which is novel, and it has a nice, bright viewfinder that's even bigger than the one on the GH5. You can toggle different magnifications, which sounds great but in practice didn't strike me as all that useful.

Power features like dual UHS-II SD card slots, 5GHz Wi-Fi support and a USB 3 connection remain, though Panasonic swapped the GH5's USB-C connector for a USB 3 Micro-B. The body also retains the weather-resistant build of the GH5. A new perk is a dedicated tethering app.

Panasonic also debuted an attractive 200mm f2.8 Leica lens, which seems like a natural pairing with the G9 -- it's shipping at the same time -- but it's also a pricey $3,000 (directly converted, roughly £2,280 and AU$3,900). 

My take

The more I dug into it, the fewer significant differences I could find between the G9 and the GH5, at least for still photography. But I've always like Panasonic's image quality (for M43), and I'm a big fan of the smaller lenses the system enables. So a cheaper version of the GH5 with the redesign advantages seems like a great idea to me.

Comparative specifications


Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark IIPanasonic Lumix G9Panasonic Lumix GH5 ($1,699 at 42nd Street Photo)

Sensor effective resolution

20.4MP Live MOS

12-bit

20.3MP Live MOS

12-bit

20.3MP Live MOS

12-bit

Sensor size

17.3x13mm

17.3x13mm

17.3x13mm

Focal-length multiplier

2.0x

2.0x

2.0x

OLPF

No

No

No

Sensitivity range

ISO 64 (exp)/200 - ISO 25600

ISO 100 (exp)/ISO 200 - ISO 25600

ISO 100 (exp)/ISO 200 - ISO 25600

Burst shooting

18fps (electronic shutter); 

10fps (mechanical shutter) 

84 raw/117 JPEG

(60fps/15fps with fixed AE/AF)

20fps (electronic shutter); 

9fps (mechanical shutter)

60 raw/600 JPEG

(With fixed focus and exposure, 60fps with eshutter and 12fps with mechanical shutter)

9fps

100 raw/600 JPEG

(12fps with focus fixed on first frame)

Viewfinder 

(mag/ effective mag)

EVF

2.36 million dots

100 percent coverage

1.3x - 1.48x/ 0.65x- 0.74x

OLED EVF

100 percent coverage

3.68m dots

1.66x/0.83x

OLED EVF

100 percent coverage

3.68m dots

1.52x/0.76x

Hot Shoe

Yes

Yes

Yes

Autofocus

121-point cross-type phase detection AF

121-point contrast AF

225-area 

DFD Contrast AF

225-area 

DFD Contrast AF

AF sensitivity

n/a

-4 - 18 EV

-4 - 18 EV

Shutter speed

60 - 1/8000 sec (1/32000 with electronic shutter); bulb to 30 minutes; 1/250 sec x-sync (Super FP to 1/8000)

1/8,000 to 60 secs (1/32,000 electronic); bulb to 60 minutes; 1/250 sec x-sync

1/8,000 to 60 secs (1/16,000 electronic); bulb to 60 minutes; 1/250 sec x-sync

Shutter durability

200,000 cycles

200,000 cycles

200,000 cycles

Metering

324 area

1,728 zone

1,728 zone

Metering sensitivity

-2 - 20 EV

0 - 18 EV

0 - 18 EV

Best video

H.264 QuickTime MOV

C4K/24p @ 237Mbps; UHD/30p, 25p, 24p @ 102Mbps; 1080/60p, 50p, 25p, 24p @ 202Mbps

H.264 MP4

4K UHD/60p @ 150Mbps; 1080/60p, 50p, 25p, 24p; 1080/180fps

H.264 QuickTime MOV

C4K/24p @400Mbps; UHD/30p, 25p, 24p @ 400Mbps; 1080/60p, 50p, 25p, 24p @ 200Mbps 4:22 10-bit; 1080/120fps

Audio

Stereo, mic input

Stereo, mic input, headphones

Stereo, mic input, headphones; optional hot shoe XLR adapter

Manual aperture and shutter in video

Yes

Yes

Yes

Maximum best-quality recording time per clip

29 min

10 min

Unlimited

Clean HDMI out

Yes

Yes

Yes

(4:2:2 10-bit simultaneous internal and external)

IS

IS Sync

(5 axis)

Dual IS 2

(5 axis)

Dual IS 2

(5 axis)

Display

3 in/7.5 cm

Tilting touchscreen

1.04m dots

3 in/7.5cm

Articulated touchscreen

1.04m dots

3.2 in/8cm

Articulated touchscreen

1.62m dots

Memory slots

2xSDXC (1xUHS-II)

2xSDXC UHS-II U3

2xSDXC UHS-II U3

Wireless connection

Wi-Fi

802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.2

802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.2

Flash

Included add-on

No

No

Wireless flash

Yes

Yes

Yes

Battery life (CIPA rating)

440 shots

(1,720 mAh)

380 (VF), 400 (LCD)

(1,860 mAh)

400 (VF), 410 (LCD)

(1,860 mAh)

Size (WHD)

5.3x3.6x2.7 in

134x91x69 mm

5.4x3.8x3.6 in

137x97x92 mm

5.5x3.9x3.4 in

139x98x87 mm

Body operating weight

20.2 oz

574 g

23.2 (est.)

658 g (est.)

25.6 oz (est.)

725 g (est.)

Mfr. price (body only)

$1,799

£1,850

AU$2,800

$1,700 

$2,600

£1,700

AU$3,000

Release date

December 2016

January 2018

March 2017

Share your voice