Conclusion

Pros Cons
  • 20MP sensor increases resolution with no increase in pixel-level noise
  • JPEG noise reduction/sharpening is improved
  • Improved JPEG color, especially in challenging light
  • High quality UHD 4K/60p video capture
  • Best in class image stabilization for still shooters
  • Best continuous AF performance we’ve seen from a contrast detect system
  • Improved subject recognition
  • Continuous shooting at 20 fps with continuous AF
  • Buffer at 9 fps is virtually endless
  • High Resolution mode offers extra detail, useful for static subjects
  • Large electronic viewfinder
  • Rugged, weather-sealed body with easy-to-access controls
  • Top plate LCD
  • AF joystick
  • Highly-customizable
  • Face Detect AF can finally be turned on without a trip to menus
  • Dual UHS-II high speed card slots, with support for V-class
  • USB 3 (Type C) jack can power and charge camera
  • Wi-Fi and Bluetooth
  • Depth from Defocus flutter is distracting when shooting action
  • EVF resolution drops when shutter is pressed
  • AF joystick can not move points diagonally and is not responsive enough
  • Nose activates touchpad AF, no option to limit activation area
  • Screen can not be flipped out when ports are in use
  • 20 fps mode using electronic shutter can result in rolling shutter effect

Overall Conclusion

Edited to taste in ACR.
ISO 2000 | 1/100 sec | F2.2 | 30mm equiv.

It seemed for a little while there, the two biggest players in the Micro Four Thirds world were splitting off into their own separate niches with Olympus going after the pro stills crowd by way of the EM-1 series and Panasonic, the pro video crowd with the GH series.

No longer is this the case: the Panasonic G9 looks to take a square shot at the heart of the market Olympus is after with the OM-D E-M1 II. A quick look at our comparison table proves the point: the two match up eye to eye in nearly every specification. And as such, the Panasonic G9 is in all regards worthy of being the brand's top tier stills-oriented camera (even if it is a beast at video, too).

The E-M1 II has been out for well over a year now, originally priced at a steep MSRP of $2000. The Panasonic G9's MSRP is $1700, which is clever: even with discounts on the Olympus, the Panasonic is priced to undercut it. Ultimately, the EM-1 II won a gold award when we tested it back in November 2016. It's now January 2018, meaning the G9 is a bit late to the party. So does it offer enough over the E-M1 II to score a gold as well? And more importantly, should you buy it?

Handling

The G9 is fairly lightweight, its magnesium alloy body is extensively weather-sealed and the large grip is very comfortable: you can access a ton of control with a single hand without compromising your hold on the body. It's absolutely covered with customizable controls, and Panasonic's touchscreen interface is among the best. That is, unless you're a right-eyed shooter and you want to use it as a touchpad with your eye to the finder: then it's too responsive and results in frequent 'nose AF.'

The G9's top plate LCD is something you won't find on any other Micro Four Thirds camera.

The G9's top plate LCD is something you won't find on any other Micro Four Thirds camera, and is something this reviewer really appreciated. The body also offers an AF joystick, unfortunately using it leaves a bit to be desired: you can't move AF points diagonally and point movement feels sluggish. You also have to release and re-press to change direction. But perhaps firmware can fix these issues.

The G9 also offers dual high-speed SD card slots and USB 3.1 connectivity: the camera can be both powered and charged over USB. Lastly, the absolutely enormous 0.83x OLED electronic viewfinder is both beautiful and immersive.

AF and performance

Out of camera JPEG.
ISO 3200 | 1/1000 sec | F2.8 | 400mm equiv.

The G9's Depth-from-Defocus autofocus system is the most capable we've seen yet in a Panasonic body. The camera can maintain focus at its top burst rate of 20 fps with no issues. And while the 20 fps burst mode is limited to about 50 shots, the 9 fps burst speed (using the mechanical shutter) can go for hundreds of frames. AF-C performance at 9 fps is equally impressive.

The G9 can track a subject at its top burst speed with a very good hit rate.

Even more impressive is the fact the G9 can track a subject at its top burst speed with a very good hit rate. All this is good news, but its worth pointing out that the way in which its Contrast Detect AF system works is by very rapidly 'wobbling' the focus element back and forth to constantly ensure peak sharpness. In use, this 'wobble' or 'flutter' can be pretty distracting in the EVF, especially if you're trying to follow action. This was a problem I consistently ran into while shooting basketball.

Panasonic made improvements to Dual I.S. 2 in the G9, which works by combining the camera's 5-axis sensor stabilization with lens-based stabilization (on compatible lenses). Those improvements have paid off, because the G9 offers the best stabilization of any camera we've tested. We were able to measure 5 2/3 stops of added hand-hold-ability at 200mm, besting the previous champ EM-1 II at the same focal length by 2/3rds a stop.

Image and video quality

Panasonic claims to have improved JPEG color in the G9, specifically blues. And indeed, the blue gradient in the sky of this image looks quite good. Out of camera JPEG. Photo: Carey Rose
ISO 200 | 1/500 sec | F5.6 | 24mm

Raw resolution from the G9 is on par with its fellow 20MP Micro Four Thirds sensor cameras, with well-balanced noise throughout the ISO range. JPEG color also looks quite good (on par with the GH5). Panasonic also improved noise reduction at higher ISOs and the G9 does a much better job than its siblings at not blurring away fine detail.

Video quality is also seriously impressive, especially given that this is a stills oriented camera. The bit rate and chroma capture when shooting 4K isn't as high as the GH5, and as a result, detail is not quite as fine, but more most casual users, the video quality looks awesome.

The final word

Edited to taste in ACR. ISO 4000 | 1/250 sec | F2 | 30mm equiv.

Between the Panasonic G9 and Olympus' OM-D E-M1 Mark II, advanced and professional Micro Four Thirds users now have two extremely capable flagship cameras to choose from. And honestly, trying to pick one over the other is like splitting hairs. It very much comes down to personal preference. Both offer excellent resolution (given their sensor size), fast burst rates, excellent 4K video and outstanding stabilization.

Micro Four Thirds users now have two extremely capable flagship cameras to choose from.

I prefer the menus and controls of the Panasonic G9, as well as its faster maximum burst rate. But I also appreciate the reliability of the EM-1 II's phase detect AF system, which doesn't result in a distracting EVF 'flutter' when using AF-C, as is the case with the G9 and its Depth-from-Defocus contrast detect system.

Of course, for a very similar price to the EM-1 II and G9, one can snag the sports-shooting-beast Nikon D500. To that point, if you are not already invested in a system and stills are your primary focus, I'd have to recommend the D500 over either m43 options. Its AF performance is in a league of its own, despite the limited number of available DX lenses. That said, if your needs require a balance of stills and video capability, the Panasonic G9 can pull double duty with greater ease than the Nikon - and unlike the Olympus, it offers UHD/60p.

Ultimately, we gave the EM-1 II a gold award, but the G9 walks home with a silver. Here's why: though the two are equally competitive, the Panasonic is playing catch-up to a camera released more than a year ago. And just being competitive is not enough to earn our top mark. But it is still certainly worth your consideration.


Scoring is relative only to the other cameras in the same category.
Click here to learn about the changes to our scoring system
and what these numbers mean.

Panasonic Lumix DC-G9
Category: Semi-professional Interchangeable Lens Camera / DSLR
Build quality
Ergonomics & handling
Features
Metering & focus accuracy
Image quality (raw)
Image quality (jpeg)
Low light / high ISO performance
Viewfinder / screen rating
Performance
Movie / video mode
Connectivity
Value
PoorExcellent
Conclusion
The Panasonic G9 is one of the most well-balanced Micro Four Thirds camera to date. Capable of super fast burst speeds, with reliable AF as well as good-looking 4K, this camera can easily handle double duty. It offers outstanding image stabilization, great image quality and tons of customization all packed in a reasonably lightweight, weather-sealed body.
Good for
Just about any photographer craving a camera that can handle both high-speed still photography and 4K/HD-video duty. Anyone seeking complete control of their camera.
Not so good for
Serious sports and action shooters, who would be better suited buying a camera with phase detect AF.
85%
Overall score