Panasonic Lumix DC-GX9
While not quite shirt-pocketable, the GX9 and bundled lens are a nice combo for everyday shooting and video recording, and a good choice for a traveller’s camera.
The 5-axis Dual I.S. makes the camera usable at slow shutter speeds, while the new electromagnetic shutter mechanism minimises shutter shock.
Panasonic’s integrated Wi-Fi system is one of the easiest to use and the camera’s logical menu system will help novice users to capitalise on the many functions on offer.
The built-in flash is weak but adequate for fill-in light for close subjects. And there are plenty of special effects to play with.
The latest rangefinder-style camera from Panasonic, the DC-GX9, is a relatively minor update to the DMC-GX8, which was announced in July 2016. Its body design is similar to the GX85, which we reviewed in April 2016, although the GX9 sports a 20-megapixel sensor. All three cameras feature Dual IS stabilisation, which combines sensor and lens shift corrections. But, where the GX8 was dust- and moisture-resistant, neither the GX85 nor the GX9 are. Price-wise, the new camera sits between the GX8 and GX85.
Angled view of the new Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX9 in black, fitted with the 12-32mm f/3.5-5.6 lens that will be offered with the camera. (Source: Panasonic.)
The GX9 is targeted at much the same audience as its predecessors: photographers looking for a capable, compact camera with an EVF and 4K video support. Small enough to be used for both everyday snapshots and documenting trips, it will attract DSLR owners looking to shift to a more compact camera system without losing features or functionality.
Its resolution is higher than the GX85’s. This brings into line with other recent cameras from both Panasonic and Olympus, which are shifting from 16- to 20-megapixel sensors.
There’s a wide choice of M4/3 lenses to suit almost any photographic situation from both Panasonic and Olympus ““ as well as leading third-party manufacturers. And while the Olympus lenses won’t be able to utilise the GX8’s new Dual I.S. technology, they can take advantage of the GX9’s sensor-shift stabilisation
Like its predecessors, the new camera is offered in the classic silver and black or all black design. It’s magnesium alloy body is quite a bit smaller and lighter than the GX8, but slightly larger and heavier than the GX85, which also lacks weather-resistance.
This illustration shows the main differences between the GX9 (top) and GX8 (below) camera bodies. (Source: Panasonic.)
The re-design of the camera body has seen a substantial reduction of the depth of the grip moulding, accompanied by the shifting of the shutter button and the surrounding front dial to the top panel, as in the GX85. The AF-assist LED is close to the lens mount, as in the GX85.
The power on-off lever has also been scaled down but gains the movie button, a feature shared with the GX85. The stacked mode dial/EV compensation combo has been moved to the right rear corner of the top panel.
The top panel of the GX9 (black version) with no lens fitted. (Source: Panasonic.)
The mode dial gains a position for accessing the Scene presets but loses two of its Custom memory modes. The Function (Fn) button has also been dispensed with.
Rear view of the GX9. (Source: Panasonic.)
Changes have also been made on the rear panel, the most useful being the addition of a new control dial (like the GX85’s), which is semi-inset below the mode/EV dial. The twin speaker holes are now located on the rear thumb grip instead of on the top panel.
The GX9 gains a built-in flash, a feature missing on the GX8 but present in the GX85. Like the GX85’S, it’s pretty feeble, with a guide number of just 6 meters at ISO 200. It’s popped up by pressing a button just above the top right corner of the monitor and pressed down manually with a fingertip. A hot shoe is provided for external flashguns, like the FL200L, FL360L or FL580L and wireless flash is supported with them (although not with the built-in flash).
The EVF and monitor have also changed, the former from an OLED screen to a field sequential LCD, while the monitor is a TFT LCD display. There’s been a slight increase in resolution for both screens, but the EVF’s magnification is slightly reduced.
As in the GX8, it tilts vertically through 90 degrees (whereas the GX85’s is fixed in position). Instead of fully articulating as the screen on the GX8, the monitor now tilts up through 90 degrees and down through about 45 degrees, like the screen on the GX85.
There’s a new Live View Boost setting in the Custom menu for brightening the screen in dim lighting. It works by slowing the refresh rate. Manual focus assist is also available with 2x magnification.
The interface port compartment has been shifted from the left side panel to the right, as it is on the GX85. Its cover slides into the camera body when it’s opened. Inside the compartment are the Micro USB and Micro HDMI ports but, unlike the GX8 (but like the GX85), the GX9 has no microphone/remote control jack.
The battery and SD card slot share a compartment in the base of the grip, which is secured with a sliding catch. The GX9 can use the same range of SD cards as the GX8. The new camera’s battery is smaller than the DMW-BLC12 battery used in the GX8 and its capacity is substantially less; 260 shots/charge vs 340 shots/charge for the GX8. This is low, even for a mirrorless camera.
Because no battery grip is available for the GX9, Panasonic has included a Power Save LVF mode that will close down the camera one, two, three, five or 10 seconds after you take your eye from the viewfinder, and then power it back up when you half-press the shutter button. It claims to extend battery capacity to around 900 shots/charge is you set the sleep time to one second.
No battery charger is provided; the battery is now charged via an AC adaptor and USB cable (both supplied). A metal-lined tripod socket is located towards the front of the base plate, in line with the optical axis of the lens.
Internally, the GX9 gains the same electromagnetic shutter mechanism as the GX85, which is quieter and less susceptible to shutter shock. This reduces the top speed of the mechanical shutter from 1/8000 second in the GX8 to 1/4000 second and the top flash synch from 1/250 second to 1/200 second.
The sensor-shift stabilisation system has been upgraded the four-axis system in the GX8 to the same five-axis system as the GX85’s. It’s compatible with Panasonic’s Dual I.S. technology (although not the more up-market Dual I.S. 2 system) and rated at four stops of shake correction with the H-FS12060 lens, which is offered with the camera in some markets.
The 20-megapixel Live MOS sensor in the GX9 lacks a low-pass filter making it able to record higher levels of micro-contrast and finer details (but with a risk of moirø©-related artefacts). It also uses the latest Venus Engine processor, which benefits from continuous updates to processing algorithms.
Native ISO sensitivity remains unchanged from ISO 200 to 25,600 for still photos, with the maximum ISO for movies at ISO 6400. Expansion is available to ISO 100 at the low end of the range.
Autofocusing is largely unchanged since the GX8, although tracking performance has been improved through the updated Venus Engine processor. Panasonic has revised its Photo Styles options, replacing the Cinelike D and Cinelike V modes with the L.Monochrome profile from the GX85 and a new L.Monochrome D mode.
While the GX9 has essentially the same recording capabilities for both 4K and Full HD video clips as its predecessors, the camera’s 4K Photo settings have been improved with an auto-marking function that is designed to help users find the ‘best’ frames from the recorded video sequences. It does this by looking for the frame that differs most from the rest at the same time looking for motion and faces. This makes it easier to find frames you’re likely to keep in longer sequences.
A new Sequence Composition function lets users capture and combine between three and 40 frames into a single shot that records an action sequence over time. ‘Ghost’ images of recorded frames and visible so you can see significant changes in movement. Due to the longer exposure time required, the camera must be tripod-mounted when this mode is used.
Functions supported in the 4K Photo mode include Post Focus, Focus Stacking, Light Composition and 4K Live Cropping, which were introduced in the GX850. The final addition is low-power Bluetooth, which supplements the Wi-Fi provided in the GX8. Presumably it’s designed to reduce the power drain of the Wi-Fi while providing always-on wireless connectivity. Functions available via Wi-Fi are the same as in other G-series cameras.
Playback and Software
Nothing much has changed since the G6. The software bundle is the standard Panasonic offering and contains the latest versions of PhotoFun Studio and Silkypix Developer Studio plus a 30-day trial version of Super LoiLoScope.
If, like us, you dislike Silkypix, and can’t wait for Adobe to update Adobe Camera Raw, the freeware converter, Raw Therapee, which we used for processing raw images used for this review, will do the job well enough.
(It’s available at http://rawtherapee.com/downloads.)
Shots taken with the review camera were generally nicely exposed with a decent dynamic range and good colour fidelity, even with traditionally difficult hues like purples and apricots, as shown in the Samples section below. Saturation in JPEGs was well constrained and plenty of detail was recorded in shots.
Autofocusing was very fast, even in low light levels and the camera also handled backlit shots with aplomb, focusing quickly and accurately. We encountered no problems with moirø© in either still shots or movie clips.
Imatest showed JPEGs from the review camera came quite close to meeting expectations for the GX9’s 20megapixel sensor. RW2.RAW files converted into 16-bit TIFF format with Raw Therapee exceeded expectations by a comfortable margin. Resolution held up well with both file types across the camera’s sensitivity range, as shown in the graph of our Imatest results below.
Long exposures were handled well and the camera maintained consistent brightness levels as the sensitivity was increased. Dynamic range was acceptable at low ISO settings but wider in the middle of the ISO range. Noise and softening were evident in long exposures at ISO 12800 and ISO 25600, although these images would be usable at small output sizes.
The low guide number (6 metres at ISO 200) of the built-in flash meant that shots taken with the lens at 32mm were under-exposed at ISO settings up to ISO 800 and slightly over-exposed at ISO 25600. The influence of ambient lighting was obvious from ISO 6400 on and shots taken at the two highest settings were obviously noise affected.
White balance performance was similar to other G-series cameras we’ve reviewed. We didn’t see much difference between the colour renditions of the auto mode and the AWBc mode, which is designed to prioritise the colours in the subject over the lighting.
With both settings, a slight warm cast remained under incandescent and warm-toned LED lighting while shots taken in both fluorescent lighting and with the camera’s built-in flash had close to natural colours. There are no presets for fluorescent and LED lighting. The tungsten present tended to slight over-correction, adding a blue cast, while the flash preset added a faint warm tone.
Manual measurement delivered neutral colours under each type of lighting and plenty of in-camera adjustments are available. Kelvin settings are also provided.
Video performance was similar to the GX85’s and generally very good. Recorded clips had wide dynamic ranges and natural-looking colours. Audio quality was generally very good, although the wind filter struggled to subdue anything stronger than gentle breezes.
Autofocusing was also fast and very accurate for both stills and video shooting. In movie mode, the system defaults to continuous AF to enable it to keep track with moving subjects. We found very little lag in the system, which was able to maintain focus even on subjects that were moving quite quickly. Exposure adjustments were able to keep track of changes in brightness as subjects moved and when the camera was panned or zoomed.
Our timing tests were carried out with a 16GB Panasonic SDHC 1 UHS-3 card, which was supplied with the review camera. This card boasts a read speed of 90MB/s and write speed of 45MB/s, which is fast enough to handle 4K video recording. Provided the lens was unlocked first, the review camera powered up in roughly a second.
We measured an average capture lag of 0.15 seconds, which was reduced to less than 0.1 seconds when shots were pre-focused. Shot-to-shot times averaged 0.35 seconds without flash and 2.6 seconds with.
Going by the indicator icons on the monitor that show files being processed but we estimate the following average processing times: high-resolution JPEGs – 0.25 seconds, RW2.RAW files – 0.3 seconds and RAW+JPEG pairs – 0.35 seconds.
Recording times and buffer capacities for the continuous shooting modes available matched Panasonic’s specifications where, interestingly, the same frame rates apply to the mechanical and electronic shutters. For these tests, the camera was in AFS mode and focus was fixed on the first frame. At the highest frame rates, Live View is not supported.
In the High-speed mode, the review camera recorded 50 JPEGs in 5.5 seconds, giving a frame rate of approximately 9.1 frames/second. Processing of the final frame was completed within 6.4 seconds.
With RW2.RAW files, the camera slowed after 30 frames, which were captured in 3.3 seconds, and is a similar frame rate to JPEG recording. It took approximately 18 seconds to clear the buffer memory. Changing to RAW+JPEG capture, we found the buffer memory filled at the 29th frame but the frame rate remained unchanged. Processing was completed in 30.5 seconds.
The middle and low speed settings record at six and two frames/second respectively with live view supported during capture. Both settings are available for bursts of RW2.RAW files and frames are processed on-the-fly with processing completed within roughly a second of the last frame captured.
The GX9 has only just been released in Australia yet already, local online re-sellers have begun to discount. Listed on-line prices range from AU$1198 and AU$1300 with the 12-32mm f/3.5-5.6 kit lens.
If you’re looking for an enthusiast-orientated, compact, interchangeable-lens camera with 4K support and can’t afford the asking price of the GX9, the GX85 is an attractive option. There’s not much difference between 16 and 20 megapixels and the GX85 with the 12-32mm kit lens is selling for between AU$800 and AU$900, which makes it something of a bargain.
The GX8 is no longer available so the GX9 will give you the more sophisticated 20-megapixel sensor and newer Venus Engine processor as well as all the Panasonic 4K shooting modes, in-camera stabilisation and panorama stitching, focus peaking, Wi-Fi, HDMI output and touch-screen controls. But you won’t get built-in GPS, a headphone jack, dual card slots or separate compartments for battery and memory card.
While not quite shirt-pocketable, the GX9 and bundled lens are a nice combo for everyday shooting and video recording and a good choice for a traveller’s camera. The 5-axis Dual I.S. makes the camera usable at slow shutter speeds, while the new electromagnetic shutter mechanism minimises shutter shock.
Panasonic’s integrated Wi-Fi system is one of the easiest to use and the camera’s logical menu system will help novice users to capitalise on the many functions on offer. The built-in flash is weak but adequate for fill-in light for close subjects. And there are plenty of special effects to play with.
It’s difficult to compare local prices with prices from off-shore re-sellers for this camera because a different kit lens (the 12-60mm f/3.5-5.6 ASPH. POWER O.I.S.) is bundled with the camera body. Nevertheless, once shipping and insurance costs are accounted for, they come close to or are slightly above the local RRP. So you’re better off buying locally.
Image sensor: 17.3 x 13.0 mm Live MOS sensor with 21.77 million photosites (20.30 megapixels effective), without low-pass filter
Image processor: Venus Engine
A/D processing: Not specified
Lens mount: Micro Four Thirds
Focal length crop factor: 2x
Image formats: Stills: JPEG (DCF, Exif 2.31), RAF.RAW, RAW+JPEG; Movies: MP4 (4K), AVCHD, MP4: H.264/MPEG-4 AVC (Audio format: AAC (2ch)
Image Sizes: Stills ““ 4:3 aspect: 5184 x 3888, 3712 x 2784, 2624 x 1968, 3328 x 2496(4K PHOTO); 3:2 aspect: 5184 x 3456, 3712 x 2480, 2624 x 1752, 3504 x 2336(4K PHOTO); 16:9 aspect: 5184 x 2920, 3840 x 2160, 1920 x 1080, 3840 x 2160(4K PHOTO); 1:1 aspect: 3888 x 3888, 2784 x 2784, 1968 x 1968, 2880 x 2880(4K PHOTO); Movies: 4K/25p: 100Mbps, 4K/24p: 100Mbps, FHD/50p: 28Mbps, FHD/25p: 20Mbps, HD/25p: 10Mbps; AVCHD FHD available at 28Mbps/50p, 17Mbps/50i, 24Mbps/50i recording (sensor output is 25fps), 24Mbps/24p
Aspect ratios: 4:3, 3:2, 16:9, 1:1
Image Stabilisation: Image sensor shift type (5-axis / 4-stop), Dual I.S. compatible
Dust removal: Supersonic wave filter
Shutter (speed range): Focal-plane shutter 60-1/4000 sec with mechanical shutter; 1-1/16,000 sec with Electronic shutter; flash sync at 1/200 second
Exposure Compensation: +/- 5EV in 1/3EV steps (+/-3EV for movies)
Exposure bracketing: 3, 5, 7 images in 1/3, 2/3 or 1 EV steps, max. +/-3 EV, single/burst
Other bracketing options: Aperture, focus, WB
Self-timer: 2 or 10 seconds delay or 10sec. delay, 3 images
Intervalometer: Yes, time-lapse
Focus system: Contrast AF system with DFD technology, Post Focus and Focus Stacking available
Focus modes: AFS (Single) / AFF (Flexible) / AFC (Continuous) / MF; One Shot AF, Shutter AF, Half Press Release, Quick AF, Continuous AF (during motion picture recording), Eye Sensor AF, AF+MF, MF Assist, Touch MF Assist, Focus Peaking, Touch AF/AE Function, Touch Pad AF, Touch Shutter; Starlight AF
Exposure metering: 1728-zone multi-pattern sensing with Multiple, Centre-weighted and Spot metering patterns
Shooting modes: Program AE, Aperture Priority AE, Shutter Priority AE, Manual
Photo Style modes: Standard, Vivid, Natural, Monochrome, L. Monochrome, L. Monochrome D, Scenery, Portrait, Custom
Creative Control modes: Expressive, Retro, Old Days, High Key, Low Key, Sepia, Monochrome, Dynamic Monochrome, Rough Monochrome*, Silky Monochrome*, Impressive Art, High Dynamic, Cross Process, Toy Effect, Toy Pop, Bleach Bypass, Miniature Effect, Soft Focus*, Fantasy, Star Filter*, One Point Colour, Sunshine* (* still photos only)
Colour space options: Adobe RGB, sRGB
ISO range: Auto / Intelligent ISO / 100 (Extended) / 200 / 400 / 800 / 1600 / 3200 / 6400 / 12800 / 25600 (Changeable to 1/3 EV steps) ; ISO 100-6400 for movies
White balance: AWB / AWBc / Daylight / Cloudy / Shade / Incandescent / Flash / White Set 1, 2, 3, 4 / Colour temperature setting 1, 2, 3, 4
Flash: TTL Built-in-Flash, GN6.0 equivalent (ISO200 /m)
Flash modes: Auto, Forced On, Slow Sync., Forced Off;1st. Curtain Sync., 2nd Curtain Sync.; red-eye reduction is available
Flash exposure adjustment: +/-3EV in 1/3EV steps
Sequence shooting: Max. 9 frames/sec. with mechanical shutter, 30 fps with electronic shutter and 4K Photo mode
Buffer capacity: > 100 JPEGs or >30 raw files
Storage Media: SD, SDHC, SDXC cards ((Compatible with UHS-I UHS Speed Class 3 standard)
Viewfinder: Tiltable LCD EVF with 2,760,000 dots equivalent, Approx. 100% FOV, Approx. 1.39x magnification, 17.5 mm eyepoint; dioptre adjustment -4.0 – +3.0 (dpt), eye sensor
LCD monitor: Tiltable 3.0-inch, 3:2 aspect TFT LCD with static touch control, approx 1,240,000 dots
Live View modes: 2x, 4x Digital zoom
Playback functions: 30-thumbnail display, 12-thumbnail display, Calendar display, Zoomed playback (Max. 16x), Slideshow (All / Picture Only / Video Only, duration & effect is selectable), Playback Mode (Normal / Picture Only / Video Only), Protect, Rating, Title Edit, Face Recognition Edit, RAW Processing, 4K PHOTO Bulk Saving, Light Composition, Sequence Composition, Clear Retouch, Text Stamp, Resize, Cropping, Rotate, Video Divide, Time Lapse Video, Stop Motion Video, Rotation Display, Picture Sort, Delete Confirmation, Creating Still Pictures from a Motion Picture
Interface terminals: USB 2.0 Micro-B, microHDMI TypeD / VIERA Link
Wi-Fi functions: IEEE 802.11b/g/n, 2412 MHz – 2462 MHz (1-11 ch), Wi-Fi / WPA / WPA2, Infrastructure mode; Bluetooth v4.2 (Bluetooth Low Energy)
Power supply: DMW-BLG10PP rechargeable Li-ion Battery Pack; CIPA rated for approx. 260 shots/charge
Dimensions (wxhxd): 124 x 72.1 x 46.8 mm
Weight: 407 grams (with battery)
Distributor: Panasonic Australia, Ph. 132 600; www.panasonic.com.au
Based on JPEG files taken with the 12-32mm f/3.5-5.6 kit lens.
Based on RW2.RAW files converted into 16-bit TIFF format with RawTherapee 5.3.
Auto white balance with incandescent lighting.
Auto white balance with fluorescent lighting.
Auto white balance with flash lighting.
Auto white balance with warm-toned LED lighting.
50-second exposure at ISO 100, 25mm focal length, f/5.1.
30-second exposure at ISO 200, 25mm focal length, f/5.6.
10 second exposure at ISO 1600, 25mm focal length, f/7.1.
4-second exposure at ISO 6400, 25mm focal length, f/9.
2-second exposure at ISO 12800, 25mm focal length, f/9.
1-second exposure at ISO 25600, 25mm focal length, f/9.
Flash exposure at ISO 100, 32mm focal length, 1/60 second at f/5.6.
Flash exposure at ISO 200, 32mm focal length, 1/60 second at f/5.6.
Flash exposure at ISO 1600, 32mm focal length, 1/60 second at f/5.6.
Flash exposure at ISO 6400, 32mm focal length, 1/60 second at f/5.6.
Flash exposure at ISO 12800, 32mm focal length, 1/60 second at f/5.6.
Flash exposure at ISO 25600, 32mm focal length, 1/80 second at f/5.6.
12mm focal length, ISO 200, 1/400 second at f/6.3.
Crop from the above image magnified to 100%.
32mm focal length, ISO 200, 1/200 second at f/7.1.
Extra Tele Converter Zoom at 1.4x magnification; 32mm focal length, ISO 200, 1/200 second at f/7.1.
3×2 aspect ratio: 32mm focal length, ISO 200, 1/200 second at f/7.1.
16×9 aspect ratio; 32mm focal length, ISO 200, 1/100 second at f/5.6.
1×1 aspect ratio; 32mm focal length, ISO 200, 1/250 second at f/8.
Indoor fluorescent/halogen lighting; 46mm focal length, ISO 200, 1/500 second at f/7.1.
12mm focal length, ISO 400, 1/60 second at f/3.5.
32mm focal length, ISO 1250, 1/80 second at f/5.6.
32mm focal length, ISO 200, 1/250 second at f/7.1.
12mm focal length, ISO 1250, 1/60 second at f/4.5.
12mm focal length, ISO 2500, 1/20 second at f/5.6.
Wide brightness range subject with iDynamic on Auto; 12mm focal length, ISO 200, 1/200 second at f/4.5.
32mm focal length, ISO 200, 1/125 second at f/5.6.
32mm focal length, ISO 400, 1/200 second at f/7.1.
22mm focal length, ISO 800, 1/1250 second at f/9.
Still frame from AVCHD Full HD (1920 x 1080) movie clip recorded at 50p/28Mbps.
Still frame from AVCHD Full HD (1920 x 1080) movie clip recorded at 50i/17Mbps.
Still frame from AVCHD Full HD (1920 x 1080) movie clip recorded at 25p/24Mbps.
Still frame from AVCHD Full HD (1920 x 1080) movie clip recorded at 24p/24Mbps.
Still frame from MP4 4K (3840 x 2160) movie clip recorded at 25p/100Mbps.
Still frame from MP4 4K (3840 x 2160) movie clip recorded at 24p/100Mbps.
Still frame from MP4 Full HD (1920 x 1080) movie clip recorded at 50p/28Mbps.
Still frame from MP4 Full HD (1920 x 1080) movie clip recorded at 25p/20Mbps.
Still frame from MP4 HD (1280 x 720) movie clip recorded at 25p/10Mbps.
RRP: AU$1399 (with 12-32mmf/3.5-5.6 lens); US$999 (with 12-60mm f/3.5-5.6 lens)
- Build: 8.8
- Ease of use: 8.8
- Autofocusing: 8.9
- Still image quality JPEG: 8.7
- Still image quality RAW: 9.0
- Video quality: 9.0