First Impressions

By Jeff Keller

The only thing I knew about the DC-GX9 before Panasonic came out to show it to us was its name. My first thought was it was a DC-G9 with the tilting EVF of the GX7 and GX8, which sounded really appealing. What the GX9 ended up being was a GX8 with modest but still important improvements. At the same time, in many ways the GX9 feels like a downgrade from its predecessor, possibly because Panasonic is repositioning it as a rangefinder version of the DMC-G85.

Converted to taste from Raw using in-camera converter. ISO 2000 | 1/80 sec | F3.8 | Panasonic Leica DG 12-60mm F2.8-4 lens @ 62mm equiv. | Photo by Jeff Keller

When I picked up the GX9 for the first time I was happy to see that it retained the solid feel of its predecessor, despite no longer being weather-sealed. It's also smaller and lighter, though not dramatically so. While the camera offers a decent grip for your right hand, as soon as I tried the optional grip (which, if you've seen prices on other brands, is a bargain at $59) I didn't want to take if off. Yeah, it made the camera a bit chunkier, but I felt a lot more comfortable holding it, even with the Panasonic Leica 12-60mm F2.8-4 lens attached.

Cropped to taste. ISO 2500 | 1/60 sec | F3.5 | Panasonic Leica DG 12-60mm F2.8-4 @50mm equiv. | Photo by Jeff Keller

I do wish that the control layout was carried over from the GX8, though. That camera had larger, better-placed control dials and buttons that protruded more from the rear plate than the nearly flush ones on the GX9. Having the exposure comp dial a bit further back would have been an added bonus, as I found it hard to reach with my thumb. I appreciate that Panasonic moved the video record button to a more sensible place on top of the power switch, as it was hard to find on the GX8. Panasonic's move from a fully articulating LCD to a tilting model on the GX9 is fine by me.

ISO 200 | 1/640 sec | F7.1 | Panasonic Leica DG 12-60mm F2.8-4 @ 24mm | Photo by Jeff Keller

There are many people who get excited about the GX9's tilting electronic viewfinder, such as my coworker Dan Bracaglia, but I'm just not one of them. Maybe it's because I'm not a street photographer looking to be discreet or just haven't given it enough time. Needless to say, I kept wishing that there was a way to lock the EVF in the 'down' position both for familiarity, and because it doesn't like to stay in that position. I think more people will agree that the downsizing of the EVF (from 0.77x to 0.70x) and the return to a field sequential panel aren't welcome developments.

ISO 200 | 1/640 sec | F8 | Panasonic Leica DG 12-60mm F2.8-4 @ 88mm equiv. | Photo by Jeff Keller

The camera has all of Panasonic's usual bells and whistles, including the 'Jeff Favorite' Post Focus feature, which has rescued me from several poorly focused macro photos. The new Sequence Composition feature is not only fun to use - it also gets me thinking about various photos I can shoot to take advantage of it. I'm not big on using Film Simulation modes and Art Filters, but after seeing Panasonic's new L. Monochrome D with grain effect in action, there might be a change in plans.

I'm finding the Panasonic GX9 to be an easy-to-use tool to bring along on my weekend trips, as long as I bring a battery or two to spare.

Being mostly a landscape, architecture and occasional macro shooter, I didn't come close to stressing the GX9's Depth from Defocus autofocus system. More often than not it nailed focus - and quickly. Since I end up moving the focus point with my nose when Touchpad AF is turned on, I wish that Panasonic had managed to stuff a joystick onto the GX9, but there's just no room.

Converted to taste from Raw using in-camera conversion. ISO 6400 | 1/100 sec | F4.5 | Panasonic Leica DG 12-60mm F2.8-4 @ 100mm equiv. | Photo by Jeff Keller

I've shot a decent amount thus far and have been really pleased with the results. Thus far I've only used the Leica DG 12-60mm F2.8-4 lens which is generally very sharp. Colors, newly improved on the GX9 (in terms of skin tones and sky gradation, according to the company) look great, and Panasonic seems to have toned down the amount of JPEG noise reduction, so grass no longer looks like mush. Since there is no support from Adobe yet, I haven't been able to really push the GX9's Raw files to their limits. The in-camera Raw editor works well, though I really wish you could zoom in or display a histogram.

Converted to taste from Raw using in-camera converter. ISO 200 | 1/640 sec | F8 | Panasonic Leica DG 12-60mm F2.8-4 @ 46mm equiv. | Photo by Jeff Keller

I'm about to embark on a voyage to Australia and New Zealand with another camera (can't take the GX9 out of the house just yet) and I'm growing to love having Bluetooth support. Pairing with the GX9 was very easy, not even requiring a trip to my phone's settings menu (it's all done within Panasonic's app). The main reason I'm excited about BT is for the ability to seamlessly add location data to every photo I take, because I'm going to quickly forget whether I took a photo in Napier or Dunedin. It's also nice to have a simple shutter release feature for taking photos with the camera perched perilously on a Gorillapod.

ISO 200 | 1/400 sec | F6.3 | Panasonic Leica DG 12-60mm F2.8-4 @ 30mm equiv. | Photo by Jeff Keller

Though I've only used it for a few days, I've found the Panasonic GX9 to be an easy-to-use tool to bring along on my weekend trips, as long as I bring a battery or two to spare. The camera is quick enough so I don't miss a shot and the photos that I've taken thus far look very good.