Panasonic Lumix DC-GX9 review
Body and controls
The Panasonic Lumix DC-GX9 is fractionally larger than the GX85, but noticeably smaller than the GX8. We think the overall design is understated and attractive, and though the controls aren't perfect, there's a lot to like for all kinds of photographers. Your only option for a kit lens in the US is the 12-60mm F3.5-5.6 Power OIS lens, which offers a good zoom range but makes for a much larger overall package than, say, Panasonic's 12-32mm F3.5-5.6 collapsible kit zoom.
- Well-built metal and composite body, but no claims of weather-sealing
- Plentiful external controls and good customization options
- Tilting screen with good touch response, tilting EVF is really neat but a bit small
- Built-in flash is appreciated, but is weaker than competitors' offerings
- Nifty side-door hides HDMI and micro-USB ports, the latter of which is used for charging - there are no headphone nor microphone ports
The Panasonic DC-GX9 has a mid-sized, well-built rangefinder-style body. The top and bottom plates are metal, with the rest of the body being composite, which includes most dials. The body is wrapped with fake leather which isn't as 'sticky' as we'd like. The right hand grip is fine for small-to-mid-sized lenses though we'd spring for the larger DMC-HGR2 grip for larger lenses.
The GX9 fits fairly well in the hand, though it's worth pointing out that the lower half of your thumb rest right on top of the four-way controller, so buttons can be accidentally pressed - they're also quite flush with the rear of the camera with little travel, making them harder to operate with your eye to the finder.
Top of Camera
Panasonic has squeezed quite a bit into the top of the GX9, including the tilting viewfinder, a hot shoe and pop-up flash and an array of controls. The shutter release button is surrounded by the top control dial, the movie record button sits inside the power switch and the metal mode dial has just the right amount of resistance. Though some of us like the position of the exposure compensation dial, others found it too difficult to manipulate and wanted it placed further back towards the thumb rest - your mileage may vary.
LCD and Viewfinder
The GX9's LCD got a bit of a resolution bump compared to the GX8, moving from 1.04 million (720 x 480) to 1.24 million dots (1280 x 720). The display tilts upward by about 80° and down by 45°.
The touchscreen features on the GX9 are similar to those found on Panasonic cameras released over the past several years. In addition to standards like tap-to-shoot, menu navigation and image playback, you can always use the display as a touchpad to select an autofocus point, which is handy, since the GX9 lacks a joystick to handle that.
The feature that makes the GX9 stand out from other mirrorless cameras is its tilting electronic viewfinder, which has an unusual 16:9 aspect ratio. As before, the EVF tilts upward 90°, which the street photographers in the DPReview office appreciate. The finder is noticeably smaller than the one on the GX8 and, although the specs show that it has more total dots, the field sequential panel doesn't display them all at the same time, so the resolution is actually 2.76 million equivalent dots, rather than 2.36M actual dots on the GX9.
Field sequential displays can cause something called color tearing, which gives a sort-of rainbow effect when the user blinks or the camera is rapidly panned. Some people are more sensitive to these than others, so your mileage may vary.
Something lost in all of the GX9's specs is that it regains the built-in flash that the GX8 lacked. With a guide number of 4.2m at ISO 100, it's pretty weak compared to the Fuji X-E3 (8m from its included external flash) and Sony a6300 (6m), but it's better than nothing. For more power, there's a hot shoe, with an X-sync time of 1/200 sec. The flash can be bounced manually, which is a nice touch.
Both of the GX9's ports are on its right side, and Panasonic put a clever retracting door over them to keep out dust and who knows what else. As you can see, the ports here are micro-HDMI and micro-USB, with the latter able to charge the battery in-camera. There is no external battery charger included with the GX9.
Rear of camera
The rear of the camera has a plethora of controls, including three customizable Function buttons. There are 11 pages worth of options that can be assigned to those buttons, covering just about everything in the menus, With three custom shooting modes to choose from, you can have three separate sets of function buttons pre-set for various situations.
The DC-GX9 has a pair of menus which can be customized. First is the Quick Menu, to which you can assign up to ten functions, or leave it at defaults. We recommend switching it to 'custom,' which results in a much more touchscreen-friendly experience. There's also a 'My Menu' tab that does exactly what it sounds like: You can pick any menu option and throw it into a dedicated tab that can be the default when you press the Menu button.
The GX9 unfortunately comes with a rather simplistic Auto ISO system. You can set the range of ISO values to use and you can specify a minimum shutter speed, but leaving the minimum shutter speed to 'auto' sees the camera just using 1/60 sec as the minimum much of the time, though with longer focal lengths, it will attempt to keep your shutter speed to 1/focal length. There's no option to bias it faster or slower, or have it automatically compensate for your focal length.
There's also an 'intelligent ISO' setting which attempts to set the ISO based on camera movement, but once the camera starts needing anything over ISO 800, it continues to default to 1/60 sec shutter speed.
Both Auto ISO settings function with the camera in manual mode, which is a nice touch. This also carries over to using the GX9 in manual movie mode, which is always nice to see. This means you can set your shutter speed and aperture manually, and let the ISO value control the brightness with the option to 'gain' up or down using exposure compensation.
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