Why We’re So Excited About the Panasonic Lumix G9

I had a chance to test out Panasonic’s latest mirrorless high-performance beast last week at their launch event in Bondi, and boy am I keen! Packed full of features designed to make you swoon, here’s what I thought from my first hour with the G9.

Shot with the Lumix G9
f6.3, 1/1000 sec, ISO 100

Hosted at the iconic Icebergs on Bondi Beach, overlooking the Pacific and That Pool By the Ocean and treated to a Seriously Fancy Lunch, myself and a very excited group of tech media types got to be amongst the first to meet the G9 and the Leica DG Elmarit 200mm f2.8 lens, testing their new and noteworthy features on the seascape and sipping champagne. Did I mention I was flown in from Brisbane specifically for the event? Media life is so difficult. Sigh.

The G9 was designed with sports and wildlife photographers in mind – as evidenced by its promotional example shots of giraffes, cheetahs and dudes on motorbikes. That means it’s rugged, despite only weighing 579g – weather-sealed, splash-and dust-proof, and freeze-proof to -10 degrees C – and it performs with speed and precision. Shooting at 20fps AF-C or 60fps AF-S is complete overkill for me as a wedding photographer – drunken guests don’t move that fast – but for anyone in sports or wildlife photography that burst speed could be the difference between nailing the hero shot and going home with nothing. Add to that the blackout-free live viewfinder which means you can keep watching and tracking your subject while you shoot, and with autofocus speeds of approximately 0.04 seconds, there’s no excuse to ever miss the focus again.

Beyond face and eye recognition, which have been staples in digital camera autofocusing technology for years now, the G9 offers Deep Learning technology which detects the human body, learns while you use it and, over time, improves your autofocus even more. Ladies and gentleman, we’re living in the future.

6K photo mode is a step up from the existing Lumix 4K photo mode (which is also an option on the G9), allowing you to capture a burst of 18MP images continuously at 30fps with NO buffer limit. Let me say that again. NO buffer limit – you’ll soon forgot how it felt to wait for your camera to write your burst shots to your card, as long as you’re using nice fast cards. There’s also a pre-burst shooting mode which starts shooting 0.4 seconds BEFORE you press the shutter, so if you’re someone who often misses the moment by a hair, you’ll no longer need to worry.

What really excites me about the G9 is the Dual IS 2 image stabilisation – technology so intense it can give you 6.5 stops of image stabilisation. For someone who shoots in the dark a lot, loves the contrast of movement and stillness in one frame and hates lugging tripods around, this blew me away.

Shot with the Lumix G9. f13, 1 sec, ISO 200
Shot with the Lumix G9. f13, 1 sec, ISO 200

The above two shots were taken with a neutral density filter, since we were shooting over Bondi at around 2pm (which is actually 1pm – I’m a Queenslander, OK?) but you could be forgiven for thinking it was shot pre-sunrise or just after sunset from the way the water is blurred. They are both one second exposures, shot handheld.

“The new algorithm precisely calculates shake information from the gyro sensor, image sensor and accelerometer sensor for highly accurate shake detection and compensation, in particular for low frequency movement,” says the press release. “When can I have one to play with at a wedding reception?” says I.

Convenience for the photographer is key in the G9’s design. Panasonic have added a status LCD on top of the body – a feature I’ve personally yearned for in mirrorless bodies – to make setting details visible at a glance. USB charging means one less bulky power adapter to pack when travelling while also having the option to recharge from a portable power bank, and plenty of customisable buttons mean you can set your camera body up exactly how you like it and never dig through a menu again.

Shot with the Lumix G9 – this is the regular 20MP version of the shot, the next shot was taken with the 80MP high resolution mode. f8, 1/1000 sec, ISO 200. Click to see the larger version on Flickr.
Shot with the Lumix G9’s 80MP high resolution mode.
f8, 1/1000 sec, ISO 200. Click to see the larger version on Flickr.

Admittedly, it’s rare that I’d want or need to capture an 80MP image, but the G9 makes it possible with its 80MP High Resolution mode. You’ll need a tripod to make the best of this setting, but if you want incredible detail in your image for a landscape, architecture or product shot to rival a medium format camera, you can have the G9 automatically shoot 8 consecutive images and combine them in-camera to produce one 10368 x 7776 pixel file. Conveniently, it can also capture the regular 20MP version for you while you’re at it, and comparing them side-by-side never gets old.

I didn’t have a chance to test the video components of the G9, but it does offer 4K shooting at 60fps or full HD shooting at 180fps, which excited the cinematic nerd in me. I loved shooting video with the GH5, particularly for its super-steady IS, so I’d imagine I’d love shooting video with the G9 even more.

From spending only an hour with it in limited shooting conditions, I found the G9 to be truly innovative, powerful and comfortable – which is to be expected from the company who first introduced mirrorless technlogy a decade ago. I can’t wait to get my hands on one and really sink my teeth into its features even more. Camera RAW support isn’t available for the G9’s files yet, so I haven’t been able to check out my RAWs, but if you’d like to see more of my G9 test shots from the launch event you’ll find unedited, un-resized JPEG versions on my Flickr here.