Photography Panasonic Lumix G9 first look: "It's really hard to fault on any level"

Photo of Mogens Johansen

Our expert photographer takes a look at a new camera aimed at serious enthusiasts and professionals that's a good choice for travellers. 

Much secrecy preceded a simultaneous worldwide launch of a new Panasonic Lumix G series product. So, it was with quite a bit of anticipation I attended the Australian launch in Sydney this week, where Panasonic finally revealed their new product.

The new Lumix G9 sits alongside the Lumix GH5 as the company’s flagship camera. The Lumix G9 is aimed at serious enthusiasts and professional photographers who are interested in wildlife, sport and travel photography, whereas the Lumix GH5 is a hybrid video and stills camera that is aimed more at serious videographers.

Panasonic product marketing manager Scott Mellish was, predictably, excited about his new product. “This is the ultimate stills camera, it is ideal for the enthusiast and serious photographer, especially in the fields of wildlife and travel photography," he said.

"This camera is faster than the photographer — it is really responsive and has an amazing processor on board."

The G9 is a handsome-looking thing, with a slick design and good ergonomics. The intuitive button and dial layout was a pleasure to use during my brief test. I liked the GH5 when I reviewed it last year, but for me this is better. It is much more a photographer’s camera, yet it still offers 4K video and Panasonic’s outstanding 6K photo modes. 

It uses the same 20-megapixel Digital Live MOS sensor and Venus Engine processor as the GH5. The weatherproof body feels robust, but is light and compact. And, it really is fast: it can shoot 20fps (AFC) and 60fps (AFS) busts in full 20-megapixel resolution RAW and/or JPEG. The new blackout-free LVF means you can continuously track and keep the subject in focus.

The auto focus has been improved. It is a contras AF with what Panasonic calls DFT (Depth from Defocus) technology. It is super fast and the tracking performed faultless during my limited testing, which included tracking swimmers in an ocean pool.

The 5-Axis Dual Image Stabiliser in the camera body and lens has been tested to support up to 6.5 stops of image stabilisation. It enabled me to comfortably hand-hold the camera at really slow shutter speeds.

Panasonic has followed the lead of Olympus and included a new 80-megapixel high-resolution mode. The camera automatically takes eight consecutive images and combines them in camera to produce an 80-megapixel RAW and/or JPEG image. The camera achieves this by using the image stabilising system to shift the sensor slightly for each of the eight images. This feature is perfect for landscapes, but not suitable for moving subjects. This mode does require that you have the camera on a tripod, but if you are looking to optimise quality in a landscape photograph you would use one anyway, so I don’t see that as a barrier.

The G9 comes with dual SD UHS-II card slots that allow simultaneous recording to both cards. The camera can now also be charged using USB charging and can be operated while running off a portable USB power pack if needed.

This camera will be a very good choice for travellers who enjoy wildlife photography. It's really hard to fault on any level: it's a well-thought-out camera that is built to the highest standards. The compact nature of the mirrorless Micro Four Thirds sensor camera system means that both the camera and lenses are much lighter and a full-frame DSPR or mirrorless system camera. Sure, you lose a bit of quality because of the smaller sensor, but the camera and the lenses are first class and if you need the extra quality for a stunning landscape shot there's the option of using the new 80-megapixel high-resolution mode.

The Lumix G9 body will retail for $2499. A Lumix G9 Leica kit with a 12-60mm f/2.8-4.0 lens will cost you $3499 and a Lumix G9 Pro kit with a 12-35mm f/2.8 lens will also set you back $3499.

Panasonic also announced a new Leica DG Elmarit 200mm f/2.8 lens, which will ship with a 1.4x teleconverter and retail for $4299. This is a fast, quality, lightweight 400mm full-frame equivalent lens that is easy to hand hold thanks to the 5 Axis Dual IS camera and lens stabilising system.

Fact File

Disclaimer

Mogens Johansen travelled to Sydney as a guest of Panasonic.

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