Panasonic fires a salvo across Olympus’ bow

Panasonic Lumix DC-G9

Panasonic has just released a very potent camera at a very competitive price. This camera seems to outdo both Olympus’ OM-D E-M1 MkII and its own highly-rated Lumix DC-GH5 and it does so at a substantially lower price ($1699 vs $1999).  Competition is good!

So the new Panasonic Lumix DC-G9 is a stills camera with great video capabilities (as opposed to the GH5 which is a video camera with great stills capabilities).  With the G9, Panasonic’s goals seemed to be to go directly after the Olympus E-M1 MkII and they focused on image quality, ergonomics and speed. The G9 uses the same 20Mpix sensor as the GH5, but a new processing engine is apparently producing much better JPG image quality and about a 1 stop better noise performance along with better dynamic range. 

In terms of speed, the G9 boasts 9 frames per second with the mechanical shutter and a stunning 20 fps with full auto-focus with the electronic shutter. If you need more speed, you can get up to 60 fps with the autofocus locked on the first frame. The G9 also sports a faster autofocus with an improved Depth from Defocus (DFD) system and it apparently works much better in video mode than it does on the GH5! (Autofocus in video mode is the GH5’s Achilles’ heal.) 

In terms of ergonomics, the G9 is about the same size as the GH5 and a bit bigger than the E-M1 MkII. This is big for an M4/3 camera but if you plan to use it for sports or wildlife with longer lenses, this size is just about perfect. The control layout looks fantastic and includes an autofocus joystick and a DSLR-style top LCD panel (yeah!). The grip is larger than the GH5’s as are the thumb grip and the eyecup. The electronic viewfinder looks to be a stunner with 3.86 Mpix, 120 fps refresh rate and a class-leading 0.83x magnification ratio. It also doesn’t black-out during high-speed shooting! The G9 also sports dual SD cards, WiFi, USB 3.0 (which can charge while tethered) and Bluetooth LE. The G9 is built to pro standards and as such it is freeze, rain and dust proof. It is available with an accessory battery grip. 

The G9 has an Olympus-like 80Mpix high-res mode (pixel shifting) and a 6K photo-mode which allows you to pull 18 Mpix frames out of a video stream. As for video capabilities, Panasonic smartly kept them just short of the GH5’s so as to not cannibalise that camera’s market. For me, since I hardly shoot any video, this is of no concern whatsoever. 

And now for the kicker: Panasonic claims the G9 has 6.5 stops of image-stabilization efficiency, and when combined with a Panasonic image-stabilized lens it allows to keep an effective 6.5 stops at long focal lengths. This is a stunning achievement and a full 1-stop better than Olympus’ “best in the world” image stabilization. Expect a prompt response from Olympus on their next model!

All-in-all it looks like a stunning camera and a welcome addition to the M4/3 family. I can’t wait to get my hands on one. 

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B&H: Lumix DC-G9 Mirrorless Micro Four Thirds Digital Camera (Body Only)