A brief initial review of the GX9 vs GX8

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jalywol
jalywol Forum Pro • Posts: 10,490
A brief initial review of the GX9 vs GX8
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I've been trying to figure out what I can get to replace my aging GM5, so I tried a couple of newer Panasonic models over the past couple of months.

I had great hopes for the G100, as it was a small body and yet had the 20MP sensor. . Oddly enough, I found it too big to really fill the direct niche of the GM5, yet too small to handle easily (which is odd because the GM5 is just fine in hand, even though it's really tiny), and I also didn't care for whatever tweaks Panasonic did to the color rendition on it. The one I had also had a hinky battery door, so that was the nail in the coffin, so to speak, and back it went.

I did, just for the heck of it, borrow a G9 from a friend for a couple of days, since the sale they had on them was very tempting, just to see how its output compared to my GX8, and I found it way out of my comfort range in terms of size and grip depth. Nothing like big time discomfort when you try something out, to cure G.A.S. ...

So, I took a chance, and decided to order a GX9. It's a bit bigger than I would like, but still smaller than the GX8, and it has no AA filter; the better IBIS and the better color algorithms; and lower noise at slightly higher ISOs than the first gen iteration of their 20MP sensors. What I didn't know is whether I could deal with the EVF, since the one in the GX85 was so dreadful, with its coke-bottle lens effect, and all reports had the GX9's being exactly the same as that.

Well, the thing came a couple of weeks ago...and I couldn't get a single sharp shot with it! After working with it for two days, and becoming increasingly frustrated, i did some basic shooting tests, and oh, yeah, it was most assuredly defective . So, I sent it back for exchange, and the second one works just fine. So, this review is based on my experiences so far with that one.

First, the good:

The best thing about this camera is that the color rendition is just excellent. Panasonic really stepped it up more than one notch here; They finally tweaked out the greenish cast to the yellows that they were prone to, yet didn't go over to the full Oly-type super lush color rendering, for which I am very grateful.

Next is overall functionality. Even though it does not have as many buttons as the GX8, it has enough for my purposes, and it does have the two dials plus the exposure dial, so it's plenty adjustable.

The flippy LCD is also something I prefer, and I find I am using that far more than I use the FAS on the GX8. I'm not a hard head about what kind of articulation a camera has; If a camera has everything I want in other features, the screen type is not a make-or-break issue for me. However, since I do prefer to use the flippy screen and the GX9 has a nice one, it gets points from me on that score.

This brings us to the EVF: I was expecting it to be, well, BAD. Fortunately, I was very pleasantly surprised to find that Panasonic had put a better lens in the front of the EVF this time, so no coke-bottle distortion! Hallelujah! Of course, it's not a BIG panel in there, and it is field sequential, but the FS rainbow effect is much, much, reduced over earlier generation versions. A GX8 it's not, but it is absolutely eminently usable, and noticeably better than its GX7, and GX85 predecessors.

Lower light AF is very good, I think it locks on to things just a little better than  the GX8 does in very low light.

Overall sensor noise control is improved over the GX8.  This is especially obvious as you start bumping up the ISO a bit.  I still wouldn't want to use M43 much over ISO 3200, but my overall impression is that I can shoot acceptably detailed and clean shots in lower light up to ISO 1600 easily with the GX9, and I even have pet shots with very good fur detail at ISO 3200 with it.  On the GX8 there is much more detail loss at low light ISO 1600.  Now, this is subjective as I have not sat down and shot identical images to compare, but judging from what I have to do in PP to clean up the shots, I think there is a decided advantage to the GX9 in this area.

Now the downsides:

The IBIS is OK, when used on non-stabilized lenses, but it's definitely not as good as the Oly version.  It's a little better than the version on the GX8, but not, surprisingly, as much better as I thought it would be.  On the other hand, when used with a Panasonic lens with stabilization, the Dual IS is VERY effective.  It does makes kind of a clunk when it engages (the version on my GX8 does also, but I was surprised that this one does too).

Panasonic did some tweaks to their touch screen options after the GX8, so the ability to shut off the touch screen while still allowing access to the virtual function buttons on it is no longer an option (I think the GX8 might have been the only camera that let you do that, though, as all of the other current ones don't either).

If you are left eyed, the distance the eyepiece protrudes out behind the screen is too shallow, so your nose tends to move the focus point around....I have the larger eye cup on order, which should take care of that, but, since you can't turn off the touchscreen only partially, it's something left-eyed shooters should be aware of if they want to leave the touch screen functions on.

I have had a couple of instances with the GX9 ( the one I have now, not the defective one I had exchanged) where it simply refuses to focus and yet still takes the shot.  It's not common, and it's usually after it has racked the lens back and forth to capture focus on something without success, but instead of continuing to try to focus, at that point it just stops and lets you actually shoot, with the result of just a big blur.  Not sure what that's about, and it might be a lens/body issue (it seemed to do it more on the plastic fantastic Oly 40-150mm f 4-5.6). I have to explore that a bit more to see if I can narrow down when it's actually occurring.

The grip is...meh.    I'll probably try and dig up a half case for it at some point, which will solve that nicely.

And, last, but not least, it feels and works like a decent, middle of the line camera, which is what it is.  It does not have the build quality or feel of a higher end mechanical device, which the GX8 does.  I'm not faulting it for this; it was not nearly as expensive as the GX8, so I did not expect all the little niceties that that body has to have made their way to this one.  The good thing is that the GX9's output is really excellent, which compensates for losing some of the GX8's elan .

Conclusion:
Excellent middle-end M43 camera in a decently small form factor with great looking output. The EVF isn't world class, but it's very usable, with the updates it has from the previous models with it. I'm keeping this one!

Some photos below with examples of the really quite nice color rendition of this body:

Freshly molted Mallard in his lustrous new plumage

My favorite marsh

Pokeweed berries!  No, not edible...

Very slow moving bees in the chill out there today. (It's a Carpenter Bee).   And yes, they do bore holes in wood to nest, ergo their name.

-J

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