REVIEW: Getting hands-on with the Panasonic G9 for stills
11 May 2018 | Category: Stills
Announced towards the end of 2017, the LUMIX G9 forms one of Panasonic’s trio of flagship cameras. Although capable of recording 4K video and having a number of 4K features, it is aimed primarily at stills photographers, with specifications likely to mostly appeal to those looking for high-quality photographs. By contrast, the GH5S is meant to appeal to those who are primarily videographers, while the GH5 is designed as a good all-rounder.
The headline feature for the G9 is actually very similar to the Sony A9’s headline specifications, in that it can shoot at 20fps with continuous autofocus and without viewfinder blackout. That makes it particularly appealing to sports and action photographers, but it’s also good for other subjects too, such as wildlife.
Other specifications include a high-resolution 3,680k-dot electronic viewfinder and a fully articulating 1,040k-dot touch-sensitive screen. It uses a contrast-detect autofocusing system, which makes use of Panasonic’s DFD (Depth from Defocus) technology. The sensor has 20.3 megapixels – making it a lot smaller (physically), than the full-frame device inside the Sony A9.
If you’ve never shot with a Micro Four Thirds camera before, you might be worried about whether the smaller sensor will be detrimental to final image quality – this makes it the perfect camera to hire and see how you get on. Read on to find out how it copes in a variety of different shooting situations…
Panasonic G9 Build and Handling
As far as Micro Four Thirds cameras go, the G9 is actually one of the chunkiest available. But although the body of the camera itself might necessarily be much smaller than bodies which feature a larger sensor (it compares quite closely with cameras such as the Sony A9 and the Fuji X-H1), it has the benefit of a smaller overall system size.
So, in essence, that means that when you add up the total weight and size of the camera, plus lenses, you end up with something much smaller and lighter. That can be a huge bonus when you’re travelling or having to transport your gear long distances – wildlife photographers for example, who may need to trek to a given spot to find their subject may appreciate the respite the smaller system offers. Another benefit of the smaller sensor is that the equivalent focal length of the attached lens is doubled – so a 50-200mm lens becomes a 100-400mm lens for example, getting you closer to the action without having to carry very large long focal length lenses with you.
The bulk of the G9’s body has a textured coating, while the body itself is weather and dust resistant – great news for a wildlife-oriented camera that may be used in all kinds of weather conditions. There’s a deep hand grip which makes it comfortable to use the G9 for long stretches of time, but it’s also worth considering the DMW-BGG9 grip, too.
On the top of the G9 you’ll see an LCD screen, one of the only cameras of its type to offer such a feature. It doesn’t show anything while the camera is turned off, which is a shame, but when switched on, you can see a host of useful information displayed, such as shutter speed, aperture, metering, how many shots you’ve got left and so on.
Also on the top of the camera is a dial for switching between exposure modes, with space for up to three groups of custom settings – an incredibly useful feature for those who often find themselves switching between different shooting scenarios. This dial can be locked into place, preventing accidental changes while on the move or in a bag. There’s also a switch for choosing drive mode, and a trio of dedicated buttons for ISO, white balance and exposure compensation. A dial towards the back of the top plate is used to control different functions and is joined by another on the top of the hand grip.
On the back of the camera there’s a joystick which you can use to move around menus, or perform actions such as moving the autofocus point around the frame. You can also use the touchscreen (even while working with the viewfinder) to set the AF point, so it’s a matter of preference which you use. Speaking of the viewfinder, the bright, clear finder offers a fantastic view of the scene.
You can switch to a 120fps frame rate if you want the smoothest of experiences, but bear in mind that your battery can drain a little quicker by doing so. Meanwhile, the articulating screen is extremely handy for composing from all sorts of awkward angles, and can also be useful when recording video.
As already mentioned, the G9 offers class-leading burst shooting, which is great for wildlife photography. It can shoot at 20fps with continuous autofocus, which is boosted to an incredible 60fps if you’re happy to set the focus point in the first frame. The buffer (the amount of shots you can take before needing to take a break) is a relatively modest 50 shots. While that doesn’t compare too well with the Sony A9’s 241 raw shots, it should still see you get the shot more often than not.
Panasonic G9 Image Quality
The G9 is particularly well suited to shooting wildlife photography, with the obvious advantage of the very fast frame rate and the smaller sensor getting you closer to your subject.
In good light, colours are nice and vibrant, while detail is resolved very well. It is very capable of following a moving subject, especially those which are moving in a reasonably predictable pattern. It’s also well-suited to other typical subjects, such as landscapes and portraits, making it a very solid all-rounder too.
Perhaps the G9’s weakest area is in low light – that’s not to say it puts in a bad performance – but if your primary area of interest is lower light photography, there are better options out there, such as the Sony A7S III. Exposures are generally well-balanced when using the all-purpose metering option, while automatic white balance copes well with various different lighting conditions.
Battery life is rated at a middle of the road 400 shots. In the real world, we usually find that it lasts a full day of shooting - but it can of course drain quicker if you’re doing lots of quick bursts. It’s therefore worth adding extra batteries, and/or the battery grip to your bag for long shoots, especially where wildlife is concerned.
Panasonic G9 Conclusion
Although the primary focus of the G9 may be on wildlife and sports photography, it’s also a very good all-rounder. One weak link is its capability in low light – but if you find yourself primarily shooting in bright conditions, you’ll be hard to pushed to spot too much of a difference between pictures taken with the G9 and those with much larger sensors.
The headline feature here is of course the fast frame rate – 20fps is extremely impressive, and when you combine it with a long focal length lens, the results for wildlife and sports photography are fantastic.
We’d easily recommend the G9 to anyone thinking about shooting fast action but who wants to keep their kit on the small and light side - why not hire it to find out if you like it?