Saturday, May 30, 2020

Panasonic Lumix G9 Review

Panasonic LUMIX G9 Review
May 2020, Carl Garrard

*G9 has arrived in all of its metal and dial glory
Today's editorial is one based around using a brand new factory fresh Panasonic G9 that incorporates firmware version 2.1 (the latest as of this article date). From the ground up, Panasonic designed its G9 prioritizing the pleas and requirements of still photographers into a true pro level camera. In a way, the G9 is the yin to the GH5's yang; a camera originally designed to prioritize videographers requirements. But, by adding new firmware to an already quietly popular pro level stills oriented camera, Panasonic would blur the line between the two models while simultaneously endearing current owners of the G9. Not only that, but the firmware would create new customers for it as well. Customers like me. The new comprehensive firmware bolsters excellent video quality and functionality, while simultaneously giving it performance boosts in autofocusing for stills photography. The G9 is reborn, an even better camera. Thus, I've named it the G9 Mark II.
PANASONIC LUMIX G9 Current Pricing


With this review, I'm deviating from the recent trend here on Photographic Central. This article completely changes gears from the older, simpler, bargain stills oriented camera reviews. Instead, I chose the Panasonic G9, a leading edge mirrorless technological tour de force. Panasonic's G9 panders to my inner tech geekery, and is a popular camera to mirrorless fans. Admittedly, my preference is for more traditional cameras normally, but that doesn't mean I don't also have a soft spot for leading edge technology either. It really just depends on my mood.

Ports, controls, and slots, oh my!

Although the G9 was announced in late 2017, this camera still has the best performing technology available from Panasonic for micro four-thirds users. When they announced the new firmware for the G9 , they future-proofed a nearly already future-proof camera. With its price drops, new firmware, and no seemingly no end to its production life, the G9 represents a very tempting proposition on the camera market no matter what brands you prefer to use. At least for now, I believe the G9 is not only the best bargain in mirrorless cameras, but is without a doubt the best mirrorless camera you are going to get for your dollar from any manufacturer.

With the G9 , Panasonic have pulled no punches, they've pulled out all the stops, and they've thrown in (most of) the kitchen sink for you. However, what I find most appealing about the G9 , is that the build quality, ergonomics and controls, and viewfinder are all given priority to the stills shooter first. Well fancy that, a camera that was designed first and foremost to be a stills camera. Although the firmware now makes it a highly capable video device, the handling and controls cater to the stills photographer the most. I believe this is a rule that should always be followed by designers, so kudos to Panasonic for recognizing that.

ISO 100 Raw. Love the raw files.


The G9 gets major points for build. A complete magnesium chassis houses all the tech, and the camera feels cool to the touch. So do the glass coated screens. All of the dials and buttons feel "next level" quality. The grip material is dense and will last a long time. Doors feel tight, tolerances are precise. The eye cup is the removable type. It's not Leica M quality build, but definitely high end enough to satisfy build quality fanatics like myself.

Panasonic have done a good job ensuring the camera is sealed. One area Panasonic generally excel above others, is how precise and aligned all of the edges and doors and buttons and fit to one another. There's just this jewelers touch that Panasonic have with their engineering. I wouldn't necessarily call them the most robust cameras, because they aren't, but they are tightly engineered to the likes that I could confidently say they lead the industry in this regard. 

Having a peek at all the doors, and what I could find on the net about the G9, I'd be more than fairly confident it could handle rain, snow, and dusty conditions without trouble. I'd not pit the G9 against a pro level Pentax or Olympus rival for sheer resistance to the elements, but I'd be confident enough to consider the G9 for serious outdoor work. Enough, that it would not be a concern that would linger in the back of my mind. 

The small switch on the front is a silent mode switch, that can also be customized/configured. I tried it, I like it.


Generally I am very pleased with the ergonomics, but they aren't perfect, only a couple of head scratching design choices here. These are really sort of nitpicks because the rest of the camera makes so much sense, I just found myself scratching my head wondering why they made these choices.

A well sorted camera from the top. Sort of a blend of design queues from Nikon, Minolta, Pentax, Canon, and Panasonic, all in one.

The playback button is in an odd location. Playback and delete buttons should always be close to one another, and I find myself looking, sometimes squinting (delete button) for them every time. I know you can customize them but that's a band aid fix.  I also think the icons on the drive mode selector under the mode dial are too small and crammed in there. The AF joystick and FN1 button location should be switched as well, as is the AF joystick is a pretty big stretch for the thumb. Some of the buttons feel spongy, others give you a satisfying-like click. I prefer the latter as they don't feel "unfinished".

Dual slots, Tony Northrup should be pleased.

Can't say enough about the grip, the feel and location of the two control dials are also ideal. Especially the top control dial being behind the shutter release, that's the best location always. The big lockable mode dial is nice easy to adjust and see. The two programmable buttons on the front of the camera I tend to forget about, but like Nikon do, they are in the right place.

Nothing missing from the front that you need.

My thumb and forefinger usually find the right buttons and dials quickly without the need to take my eye of the viewfinder. It's a comfortable and largely well organized camera to use.


One strength of the G9 is the promise of what it is capable of. Stills, video, time-lapses/timelapse videos, multi-file stacks, are all possible and extremely well implemented. Bar top level sideline sports shooting, the G9 is capable of just about any photographic or videographic task you'd want.

However, it is missing an in camera Panorama feature that nearly every other Panasonic has (really? why?).  Add that it's all weather, has excellent battery life and you can take it and use it just about anywhere anytime.

ISO 6,400 is the limit I'll go, and it's highly usable. Converted raw with ZERO noise reduction.


Once the G9 is powered up, it is a very fast camera. Whether we're talking about its autofocusing speed, image review indexing, shot to shot times, buffer clearing, it doesn't matter. The G9 is a speed demon in just about every regard. Processing speed is just amazing, in just about everything associated with it.

The only area the G9 isn't as impressive, which baffles me, is the start up and shut down procedure. It's ready after being powered on in about a one and a quarter second, similar to other mirrorless cameras. And powering off can up to six full seconds to complete. Mirrorless cameras operate more like fast computers than cameras in this regard, so if you are used to the immediacy of a DSLR, it takes just a little getting used too. Otherwise this is really just a nit pick. 

Continuous frame rates (up to 20fps electronic, 9fps mechanical), high speed video, fast clearing buffer, are impressive. This is one of the fastest cameras I've ever used.


Jpeg Files: Jpeg output is highly dependent on what settings you use in any camera. So I've simplified my analysis of Jpeg output to three key areas of performance that matter most to me.
  • Noise reduction: Even with noise reduction set to the lowest setting, the G9 still has heavy handed noise reduction at all ISO settings. My benchmark for baseline analysis for comparison would be an uncooked raw file. It's easy to see how heavy handed the G9's noise reduction is on Jpegs. For a pro level camera, this is disappointing to me. 

  • Detail retention: Detail is good (not excellent) at base ISO levels up to about ISO 400. If it weren't for the heavy handed noise reduction, it would be excellent up to about ISO 1600.
  • Color Accuracy: In general the G9 has what I'd call typical Panasonic colors, at times the colors are very odd (again dependent on setting), others quite pleasing and accurate. It all depends on what Jpeg output profile you've chosen. Natural would  be a good place to start if you want accuracy, and do not bump up the saturation or contrast. Keep both at zero. 
Sunset. ISO 200 f/8 Panasonic 14-140mm II lens.
Love the fast e-shutter for shots like this.

Raw Files: Raw file output is marginally dependent on what raw converter you use. I categorizes raw converter programs/apps in two ways, those that bake (tamper with files), and those that do not. For most applications, I use DNG converter (one that bakes), and raw therapy (one that does not bake).
  • Eroding of detail begins: ISO 3,200. Color noise begins to take over some detail here and upwards.
  • Color bleeding begins: ISO 6,400 and up. 6,400 is still quite acceptable however, but for my needs wouldn't shoot higher than this setting.
  • Fixed pattern banding begins: Raw files have exhibited no fixed pattern banding, this is a proven sensor in this regard and an excellent performance.
  • Detail: Excellent detail. The lack of an AA filter helps matters, along with the myriad of fast and sharp lenses available for m/43
  • Noise: What impresses me about the image quality of the G9, is how much  Panasonic have managed to squeeze out of it's sensor. Noise is well controlled through ISO 3,200, as much so as APS-C rivals. I see no practical difference to larger sensor APS-C cameras I own, so I shoot the G9 the same as I would those cameras.
  • Dynamic Range:  Dynamic range is excellent too, about 13 stops in raw files. If you want a DXO rating/comparison, the G9's image quality is near identical to Olympus's flagship OMD-EM1 Mark II/III/X in my opinion. Since I have tested the Mark II personally, I can attest to that comparison. Food for thought: The G9's overall image quality surpasses my Sony A900's full frame sensor in every single metric. There's similar detail, better dynamic range, and better ISO image quality at every setting.
Santiago Peak, ISO 200 140mm f/8
Ranger my new adoptee, ISO 1600 Raw.


With a total of three screens, the G9 does an excellent job of communicating information to the photographer. You'll be hard pressed to find a better eye level evf on the market, and if you do, likely there will be little to no real benefit for the money. It has a v mode button that actually reduces magnification in three total sizes to provide better eye relief for those that desire it. It's rear multi-angle touch screen is glass coated and provides a high level of detail and contrast. It's top plate LCD is large for this type of screen, and shows more than enough information to the photographer. It's activated via the on/off sliding switch similar to Pentax DSLRS. 

Best EVF I've used to date. Detailed, fast refresh, and gigantic view. Both the rear and top LCD have glass covers.


Panasonic's main menu has a color coded and tabbed menu/sub menu system that is easy to understand and navigate. It's highly detailed but Panasonic have organized it very well. It's one of the better menu system implementations out there, easy on the eyes and brain, and the best in the m4/3 space. You can customize three menu slots on the mode dial, and you can create your own "my menu" as well. The Q.Menu is also customizeable to your preferences. This all may seem daunting at first, but well worth the effort taking the time to organize the camera menus to your needs as it improves your shooting experience with the G9 greatly.


Just some highlights I've jotted down based on the notes I've taken during the course of this review. Panasonic have a particular attention to detail in their designs that I like, and I'd say to date, the G9 is the epitome of their design decorum. I have been very impressed with the G9 during my time with it.

  • Build quality is absolutely superb. I respect how a well built camera feels in my hands. This is the best built Panasonic camera I've used yet. Full magnesium chassis, top, bottom, front and back. No skimping.
  • Most controls are phenomenal, placed and prioritized properly, making it extremely intuitive and comfortable to use. There is little frustration in the way between myself and the final photograph most of the time
  • The viewfinder is something else, a true argument against an optical finder. Huge view, detailed, clear, customizeable.
  •  It's list of capabilities and features reads like a photographers wet dream. Pro's or rising amateurs will not be let down.
  • Impressive is hardly the word, Panasonic have cut very few corners. They have included everything you could want from a crop sensor camera.
  • They have managed to squeeze as much detail and dynamic range out of a 20mp sized 4/3rds sensor. This sensor performs better than many full frame sensors designed just a decade ago. 
  • Performance in every respect is beyond what you'd expect. Fast fast fast. No lag is sexy.
  • Thoughtful design considerations are everywhere inside, outside, and around the G9. What a great camera, and a sublime effort from talented engineers. 
  • Very quiet shutter mechanism (manually), feather touch shutter release 
  • Single AF speed is probably the fastest on the planet
  • Dual card slots
  • Battery life is excellent
  • Weather sealing is excellent
  • Addition of night mode for screens is a nice addition
  • 80mp HI res mode works quickly and effectively (just make sure and use the right raw converter)
  • Massively customizeable AF system
  • A full printed paper manual is included. Yes, we still want them.
Love the raw files, lots of latitude in post for a sensor this size.

There is no such thing as a perfect camera. Sorry Casey. I want one too. However, its up to us all to remind manufacturers when they make head scratching decisions or omissions to a design. Nothing on this list is a deal breaker for me, but in the spirit of objectivity and disclosure to the reader, they need to be mentioned regardless. And if this list seems nitpicky at first, it may very well be. However, sometimes the smallest things can make the biggest impact on usability. You never know till you use a camera for a while.
  • Hand held panorama mode is missing, which is an odd omission considering I have that feature in nearly every modern Panasonic camera I have. I'm sure it could be added in via firmware. 
  • On the display screen, I want the ability to see my af points, and my histogram only. Nothing else, not all the info at the top and bottom of the screen too. There's no way to get rid of that extra information without losing your histogram. Many Panasonic's have this same trait.
  • Camera switches automatically to AF-S when you are in AF-C, in lower light. I'd rather it not do that, so I can hunt for higher contrast areas. I understand why it's done, but when I switch a physical dial to a setting, I expect it to stay that way until I decide otherwise.
  • Strap lugs, I'd prefer flush mounted types as opposed to those ghastly silver posts sticking out of a gorgeous camera. Flush mounted rectangle types are much better. At least Panasonic have put them out of problematic areas.

  • On one hand I love the feather touch shutter release, on the other hand I feel Panasonic went too far in making it too light. A little more definition between half press AF and release, would  be nicer to me.
  •  Battery charger. I understand cost savings but really, a USB charger only? Surely they could have included a folding standard socket plug on the back as well. For a camera of this level, it's an interesting decision.
  • Noise reduction on Jpegs needs to be able to be set to ZERO, none, zilch. -5 should be off, +5 should be full strength. 
  •  If some of the buttons feel spongy, that's not by accident. For anyone shooting video, spongy soft buttons keep the noise down on the camera. I still think they are too spongy. I like a button to give me feedback such as a small click, like some of the other buttons on the G9 do. Make them all like that, use a separate mic if you need to keep noise down.
  • I'd like there to be limitless time for video recording, but oh well.
  • Lack of a built in flash isn't a major concern for me, but could be for others. I don't see the point in not including one on the G9. Certainly it can't be related to weather sealing.
  • Continuous AF performance is hindered by DFD focusing. Had Panasonic figured out a way to include phase detection in the G9, I think it would be a camera that made more waves.


I am not let down by the G9. Single frame autofocus is blisteringly fast, and highly accurate (more so than the GX8 I own). Performance is quick to say the least. It's a comfortable camera to hold, and mostly intelligently intuitive to operate. It manages to organize it's massive capabilities and complexities very well. It's also built very well, and has mostly great tactile feedback (with some caveats). 

Raw image quality is also up to par. It manages to exceed my expectations for its sensor size, which puts it against anything else I own for serious photo work (anything I'd sell). There are no hidden bugaboos with its raw image quality. It has clean detailed output with excellent dynamic range inline with APS-C cameras I use. 

While it's not a perfect camera, just a few minor changes to the exterior control assignments and their locations, plus an addition of a couple features (Panorama and no limit video recording) would make it even more highly polished well rounded camera. Panasonic have done a fine job at creating a photographers specific camera while not leaving out the video types at all, and I can see why it's so popular. For those who don't  want to jump to the S series full frame Panasonic's, the G9 is a more affordable/smaller LUMIX S1 in many regards. 

As capable of a performer as the G9 is, I can't help but wonder what the G95 will be like. There are some aspects on paper I am more attracted to the G95, and some I'm not. Had the G9 had an AF system that performed as well in continuous tracking as it's peers, the G9 would really be a camera more would look at. Likely Panasonic are limited to DFD technology because of the lack of available sensors that have phase detection hardware built in.

As is, the G9 is probably the best overall m4/3 camera I've used. In the future, I'd like to see a G9II with a 24-28mp sensor capable of pixel binning at 12mp, and including phase detection. A little more organization and tweaks to its design, and Panasonic could really compete with serious sports cameras. They already have all the other bases covered. What a great camera.

For more specifics, you can read the entire review.

Stay focused.

Carl Garrard

p.s. If for some chance you want to support me, all you have to do is shop with the hyperlinks I've included. Thank you again for taking time out of your day to visit. 

PANASONIC LUMIX G9 Current Pricing

You can make some nice monochrome images with this camera, I prefer to adjust in raw.

Optical Illusions... reflection perhaps.

*Cover image of G9 shot with GX8 at ISO 5,000 using desktop monitor lighting.


  1. I agree with you review the only things I don't like is the shutter button which is way to light and not distinct between the two stages,and the af tracking isn't up to sony although far better than pentax, thanks for a great review of a great camera

  2. Glad we agree, appreciate you taking the time to read, and comment! Agree in most cases better than Pentax on AF tracking, for sure.

  3. Although the G9 was announced in late 2017, this camera still has the best performing technology available from Panasonic Rajshahi best it for micro four-thirds users. When they announced , I believe the G9 is not only the best bargain in mirrorless cameras, but is without a doubt the best mirrorless camera you are going to get for your dollar from any manufacturer.

  4. I'd agree on that comment. It is definitely a huge bang for the buck especially if you look for a great used deal on a like new body. I do like the EM1X a lot and in some respects it's better than the G9 for stills shooters, or was, until all the firmware updates for the G9 made it even better. Tough call, G9 with a battery grip or the EM1X... both win really.