One week into the G9. A rolling review.

saladin

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Rightio.

Given that i have been very content with my current MFT bodies, it'd be fair to say that I "ummed and aahhed" about whether to invest in the Panasonic G9. Particularly as one of the early adopters, which i never do, generally opting to buy superseded models. This habit saves money, allows manufacturers to iron out the seemingly inevitable gremlins and perhaps most of all gives me time to scour the internet for information, camera reviews/ samples and user opinions.

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However, since i did indeed go out and order one, i figure that I may as well become (hopefully) a small piece of information on which others can draw as I have done myself so often. As a result, I will start to document my time with this beastie in this thread, and update it if and as I find new things to discuss.

I wont post too many pics of the camera itself, you can find plenty of product shots online and they'll almost certainly be better than mine!

I've now had the G9 for a week and a half or so. Frustratingly, my time using it has been scarce, and often characterised by low contrast, overcast conditions. Still, we do what we can.

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To begin with, my immediate impression of the G9 was its size. It feels big for a MFT camera, and that can be a legitimate negative for many users. You really need to handle these flagship camera's - actually, any camera - and see if it suits you or your needs. But if you do handle the G9, you may also be struck - as was I - at just how robust and rugged it feels. My overiding impression was less of a bloated MFT and more of a miniturised Nikon D750! Which way you view it will impact on a buying decision. The textured finish is very useful overall, offering a sure grip in the hand and instilling a feeling of prestige befitting a camera that is, admittedly, not cheap. Its not all roses, however, because that same texture was soon irritating my middle finger where the bottom of the shutter-button buttress presses into it. Particularly with the longer lenses. The form of the camera is wonderful, the grip shape is very nicely done. It's just that small bit of texture in one spot that was annoying me.

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The above pic shows not just the size of the G9 against my Gx8, but also the makeshift fix I have used to solve the issue - two pieces of duct tape. Somewhat incongruous on a new camera, yet somehow also an early start on the pathway to the weatherbeaten Pro camera look! All Pro camera's end up held together with tape, wire and as much brassing and wear and tear as possible, no? If ever I hope to apply to Magnum or Nat Geo for a job, my 1st step will be to belt hell out of my gear.....

In my hands, the layout is almost perfect. Almost. We'll get to that shortly. I shoot back button focus on my camera's. The AF/AE lock button is positioned exactly where i want it for this purpose. The thumb rests in the small molding between this button and the top control dial. Both are an easy sweep to left or right, for my smallish hands, though you'll find some online reviews less happy with the positioning. As you would expect, no camera fits everyone. The Focus selector switch around the focus button suits my use well. You can toggle between AF-S, AF-C or manual focus without lowering the camera from the eye.

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The joystick location to the lower left of the focus switch is fine - as long as you accept that this is not a one-handed camera. I find it slightly awkward if trying to operate the camera solely with the right hand. But with support of the left hand, you can instantly and easily have the focus point on the move. I do agree with other reviews that it would be nice to have the focus point able to move diagonally across the frame, but i dont find it particularly slow like some have. Its a huge improvement on the d-pad shuffle that my other Lumix camera's require to get the AF point off its backside and shuffling around. I should note that i'm a "screen closed" shooter, so the even faster touch-pad method of moving the AF point doesnt apply to me. If it does apply to you, then the joystick perhaps has less value. Or perhaps not, as i have found a couple of useful applications for it.

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In normal shooting modes, a centre press of the joystick returns the AF point to frame centre. Press it again and it returns to where ever it just came from. I like this setup, it offers rapid transfer of the point if you are alternating between framing centrally or perhaps off centre. I havent used it for this as yet, but I can envisage shooting football where i may want the player on the right of frame with 'live room' to kick the ball into left of frame, and then in the next moment want centre focus at a tackle, turnover etc. Perhaps it may not work as smoothly as that, but effectively having two distinct and pre-loaded focus points just a click away is a neat thing for sports (and maybe other scenario's too).

The other possibly interesting 'quirk' about the joystick is in Pinpoint Focus mode. Again, pressing the joystick gets the point moving. It also calls up four small arrows and you can use the top control wheel to zoom these arrows in or out, which effectively sets the magnification level of the expanded Pinpoint screen. However, once you have these arrows showing on the screen, a centre press on the stick calls up the Pinpoint expanded inlay and you can then use the stick to move the point around within this expanded inlay.

Here's how it looks:

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The nett effect of this appears to be an extremely accurate placement of the pinpoint AF within an already expanded view of the focusing screen. So far, its the only mode i have come across in which the joystick can effect the focus location within a magnified view, but it makes sense that it should operate this way in PinPoint. It may be a handy setup for macro use, but i cannot really say as macro isnt something i've shot seriously.

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There are most likely further uses for the joystick that I havent yet stumbled on. But the short lesson is that I think its a great thing to have on this camera. I should add that the joystick is partially programmable. It can be turned off entirely. It can be set to AF movement (the default and for me probably the only use).

But it can also be set to "Menu", where a centre press takes you to the custom menus and you can then use it to scroll through in very rapid fashion. There is also a more opaque "FN" setting that allows you access to programming of FN 11, 12,13,14,15. But in the brief play i had with it, i couldn't then work out how to actually enable those FN buttons, which of course are not physical buttons at all, but rather virtual ones in the software. No doubt I'd eventually work it out.

Obviously, I could always read the manual. Which I would. If there was one! Outrageous that there isnt one in such a complicated and function-filled camera. Yes, yes, of course you can access the PDF. But personally, I hate that. I want a paper manual. I find trying to access specific sections on a smart phone incredibly slow and frustrating. For a camera costing multiple thousands of dollars here in Australia, I cannot believe I dont get one. For many users, though, this wont be an issue at all, and Panasonic certainly aren't on their own in going fully digital for their instructions. Be that as it may, for me and how my brain works, its one of my active dislikes about this camera so far.

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Which may as well lead us to another active dislike I have (and currently my only genuine gripe with the camera itself). The location of the Playback button. It doesnt work for how i like to operate. To be fair, i have specific setups. I like to shoot with screen closed and auto-review turned off. I only want to see taken photo's when i want them, not every shot. But when i DO want to see them - to check focus or the exposure blinkies- , its often immediately and usually in the viewfinder without lowering the camera. On the GX8, for example, the playback is perfectly positioned for my right thumb. The button even has a raised detent to identify it by feel. Not so on the G9. Here the playback is hung out on the left of the lcd screen. If we accept - as detailed earlier- that this is a two-handed camera, then yes, i can manage to hit Playback without lowering the camera. But in that case, I actually want the button even further left than it now is. As a left eye shooter its not as bad as it could be, i can at least fit my left thumb in , but all the same I consider it to be a bit betwixt and between. As noted, this is my major issue with the ergonomics of the G9 and in reality, it may not be an issue for the majority of users at all.

To give Panasonic credit, the FN1 button can indeed be programmed to playback, which would more or less give me exactly what i want. But i've enjoyed the default setting of FN1 as AF-mode access, and on balance have deemed that more useful right now. Instead, I'm toying with the idea of one of the front FN buttons as playback. So lets talk about those buttons for a moment.

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In short, i love front plate buttons. The more rapid access to settings that i can have on my right hand, the better. The camera speed is exponentially better if you can get to the changes you use a lot, immediately. The G9, bless its soul, has two of them. Lovely. The top one, to put it bluntly, is absolute perfection for my fingers. Thumb on focus button, 1st finger on shutter button, middle finger is just long enough to rest dead-centre on the function button, which sits proud of the front plate by a few mm. But not so long that i will inadvertently push it. This is in stark contrast to the Gx8's front plate FN button, which is flush with the camera body, awkward to find and yet paradoxically prone to accidental presses. A big win to the G9 here. My other Lumix camera - the wonderfully versatile G85- doesn't have a front plate button at all, but i can forgive her this for her diminutive size. That said, the G9 rules here.

By default, this button was set to AF-Spot Check. I cannot imagine a better choice for this button because Spot Check is proving an extremely useful (and fun) tool in general, and a fast workaround for occasional failings in the everyday AF setting. (We'll get to that, I'm sure.....). It all adds up to a very fast and adaptable setup that is totally worthy of a flagship camera status.

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The second front button sits lower and for me is a little problematic. It sits below my fourth finger, which would otherwise be the perfect length. Its an awkward movement to get down onto that button with that finger. It would though, be perfect for my little finger. If said finger was just a little longer. And a little stronger. Its oh-so-close, but not quite, and necessitates a small twist in my gripping hand to push home that button. (As a brief aside, its actually triggering small flashbacks to my compulsory Year 7 typing classes at school and a bespectacled teacher leaning forward to admonish me that " Your L's and P's are too faint. You need to do finger exercises, Jason". You can imagine the raucous and lewd replies that drew from fellow male students...)

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Err, where were we? Oh yes. Its a tiny, tiny thing but when you talk about "Pro camera's" its far more often the controls and layout than Image quality that apply. I currently have this set to "wifi" but I'm not convinced its the best use of such a valuable control position and as noted earlier, it may change to playback or even something else. In any event, i am already adapting to its positioning and i suspect it will soon be second nature. Anyone with larger hands (or a longer little finger!) than mine most likely wont have a problem and I'd encourage all owners to evaluate how they shoot and make these buttons part of your shooting setup.
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The other front control is the dual-mode switch. I have set that at the moment to Pinpoint AF for instant access to it rather than going via the AF-mode on FN1. I need another photo walk to decide if i need it there or not, and it will depend a lot on how the standard AF goes in dim lighting. Again, I'll cover early thoughts on that soon.

Hmm. Elsewhere, I love the combined Drive and mode dials. This just works. I actually find it preferable to separate ones now, and far far superior to having to delve into menu's or even the D-pad to alter drive modes. Oh, and the Red Ring screams Pro Level Leica camera and adds at least $400 to the camera value, right? Uhh, right guys? Hello? Well, its utterly shallow but I do indeed feel that the camera looks more serious for this Red Ring, lol. Take that more as a comment on my foolish perceptions. What is real though is the handiness of clicking immediately to burst mode, or 6k photo, or even timelapse and most specifically the time-delay shutter. Some camera's drive me nuts trying to recall how to access 2 or 10 second shutter delay. Not so on many Panasonic camera's, and certainly not so on the G9. Full marks from me on this.

What else have I noted in the early days? Hmm. Lets see. Ok, the LCD. Now, i was totally ambivalent about the appearance of this item on the G9. I didnt think it would bother me, I didnt think i would use it. It seems i was wrong. I do use it. Lets clarify one thing - if you subscribe to the common template of an ideal streetshooting camera, the G9 probably isnt the natural camera one would reach for. Its a bit bigger and chunkier, and the Dslr styling isnt generally the stereotypical layout. Even though plenty of great street work is absolutely done with such a camera.

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However, Panasonic have a couple of natural advantages imo that some others do not. They are, in order, the ability to recognise an aperture ring, and the wonderful 15mm Panasonic Leica lens. Being able to glance down at the camera at waste level and set your aperture as the world drifts unknowingly by is a very nice thing indeed. And then the lens gives you a contrasty and sharp 30mm field of view with which to capture the scene.

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What has this to do with the top deck LCD and the new G9? Well, to my surprise, I found that i started to use it to expand the visual advantage of the aperture ring. I now had a quick and surreptitious way to not only check, but make accurate adjustments, to all manner of settings, such as ISO, WB and exposure comp without needing to open out the LCD screen. And of course, it will now let you see the aperture even on lenses without an aperture ring. I first realised how much i was going to use this whilst absently leaning against a traffic light pole, unconsciously making adjustments and firing off a shot immediately the viewfinder reached my eye.

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This is indeed a Pro feature I now believe, as it expands the shooting experience in situations that call for it. I suspect it will be useful - for me- in many, many situations. Your mileage, as they say, may vary. But i am no longer ambivalent. The trade off - no room for Exposure Comp dial - I can live with on this style of camera. And they give you options for that anyway. I've set the front control dial to Exp Comp in Ap Priority and it works well once the muscle memory sets in.

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Another addition, and one that I wasnt aware of and dont recall seeing noted in any reviews so far, is the expanded ability to recognise the Olympus Pro Lenses FN buttons. Imo, this is a huge step. Formerly - on my GX8 at least - the camera could 'see" the onlens FN button but it would only act to interrupt Continuous AF. Not any more. Oh no. Now its actually programmable! AF Point Scope, AE Lock, Focus Area set and more can be assigned. In some ways it may be a moot point because most crucial functions for my use will end up easily accessible on the body, but I'm thinking that DOF Preview on the 40-150pro may prove handy at times. And other users may have other uses, naturally. Be that as it may, I'm so pleased just to have the versatility and increased cross-brand compatibility. I hope we see more of it.

Early reviews spoke of improved Jpeg engines and cleaner high Iso's. I'm not yet in a position to definitively opine on this (and may never be, I struggle with empirical comparisons of "good" and "better") but here's a shot at ISO 12,800:

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I mean, just contemplate that for a moment. 12,800! I recall the days where much bigger sensors fell apart at ISO 1600, and now we're at the point where we worry about comparisons of usability at ISO12,000? I've stopped worrying about it because I struggle to even envisage a use that i may have in the real world at those levels. A Wedding reception dance floor with no flash sync? Maybe. I doubt it. If that was paid work and I really needed better, then ok. I'd buy what I needed. Astrophotography? Yeah, that one i could perhaps see. But ultimately, its that old chestnut: How good is good enough? And can you carry Good Enough? Here's a field shot at (i think) ISO3200:

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Gut feel says that the images are a bit cleaner off the sensor but I haven't run direct comparisons as yet. One thing - and to be clear this is entirely subjective - is that at 100% viewing, the images can be quite beautiful at lower ISO's. Particularly some of the L.Mono jpegs look very smooth and you'd think would print an A4 100% crop without a problem. Thats just from viewing a screen shot of course. But I may get into IQ in more depth in an update.




Not unrelated to the whole ISO and MFT debate is the IBIS factor. Panasonic are claiming an Olympus-style 6+ stops of IBIS ability. Again, I'm somewhat bemused at attempts to measure this in an empirical fashion since my shaky hands my not be your shaky hands. But in the interests of giving folk an idea, here's the unstabilised Olympus 40-150Pro on the G9 at 1 second exposure.

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What that equates to, im not sure. I am sure that i dont really care. Its good. How good is almost irrelevant to me since i doubt i'll ever shoot a field shot with that lens at that exposure.

And now, I'm tired and will sign off. I hope this proves of value to fellow users and prospective owners. or even those just with an interest. In the next one, I'll give some thoughts on field use, AF, some more thoughts on Image quality, an early play with the new Hi Res mode and so forth. Ive also done a few days with the optional grip, and a little bit of junior basketball. More on that to come.

Thanks for Looking.


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All images shot here are SOOC jpegs, or tweaked jpegs. The monochrome images were shot in L.mono. I'm not convinced of raw compatability with my software yet (even though ON1 can open them) as there are a few strange effects.
 
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Steven

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Interesting. the noise at 3200 ISO seems to be very similar in character to noise at 12800 ISO.
 

drtom

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Thanks for the lovely images and helpful review. I am thinking of getting a g9 and for me your observations are very helpful. I hope to read about your experience with the hi-res mode.
Cheers,
Tom
 

speedy

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To begin with, my immediate impression of the G9 was its size. It feels big for a MFT camera, and that can be a legitimate negative for many users. You really need to handle these flagship camera's - actually, any camera - and see if it suits you or your needs. But if you do handle the G9, you may also be struck - as was I - at just how robust and rugged it feels. My overiding impression was less of a bloated MFT and more of a miniturised Nikon D750!

Mine just turned up at the door about 30 minutes ago. Battery on charge as I tap this out. I think it feels marvelous. It's a lovely camera to hold. Not as big as I imagined, doesn't really feel any heavier than my GX8. I'm guessing that's got a lot to do with the lovely deep grip. Has a really nice solid feel to it, without feeling heavy. It almost feels too light for the impression & feel of chunkiness & solidity it gives :) I really like it so far, without shooting a single frame with it, & I admit to being a bit concerned about size/weight, after playing with a mates GH5 for 1/2 an hour or so. Thanks for the thoughts/pic's. I may even add some of my own somewhere.
 

saladin

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Go for it mate. And perhaps we need a Melbourne district G9/Gx8/motorcycle catch-up extravaganza at some stage. There's at least two of us qualified to attend...... lol
 

scotttnz

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Great post, thanks. I was seriously tempted to buy a G9 after handling it. The size and layout feels perfect for my hands. I thought the G85 was pretty good, but the slightly roomer grip of the G9 is even better.

On reflection (I think) I have decided that putting the money into a longer fast prime will give me more of what I want. So I will probably pick up one of the 42.5\45 options duty free when I fly in March, or perhaps the Oly 75. Unless I keep reading your thread and you find that the G9 is a big step up from the G85 in ways that matter to me.....then all bets are off.
 

retiredfromlife

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I like that you can now program oly pro lens buttons and that pin point focus box sounds interesting.
Edit;
And I forgot to mention a great review, covered a few things not mentioned by the well known online reviewers. That's why I like real world reviews.
 
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Gillymaru

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Great words and pictures thanks for putting the time in to help others. I agree about the playback button, I just can’t cone to terms with it at this early stage and honestly I don’t chimp much :).
 

ozimax

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Great read. Eager to read more if and when time permits you to add to the post. Many thanks.

Ozi
 

Lu1Wang

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G9 is definitely aimed as a E-M1ii killer, and it's the most amazing M4/3 camera available. I'm a big fan of M4/3 system trying to push for technical boundaries. Definitely worth the price compare to other high end bodies from FF and APSC world.

I still find that DSLR-wanabe top LCD pretty appalling and useless though. But again, I'm simply not good enough to dial in full manual without looking at EVF or live comp. This is definitely aimed at more experienced photographers.
 

Kennikins

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Great review! Im looking forward to some words on the in camera photo stacking facility using post focus.......
 

Sam0912

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Been tempted by the G9, as well as the EM1/2, but have other financial priorities this year, so I’m happy playing with my GM5 for now.....I reckon the GX9 and possibly EM5/3 May be out when I have the cash to upgrade, so May a a tricky choice.

I’m already loving your review, seems to be what I think when I look at the G9, very good layout, but definitely one to have a play with in a camera shop first to get a grasp on the size and layout.

Looking forward to your next update and fantastic photos, thank you
 
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I still find that DSLR-wanabe top LCD pretty appalling and useless though.
Yes, why would anyone who can display just about anything they want on the EVF take their eye away from the action, move the camera down from their face, and look at a silly LCD?

I'd'a used that precious real-estate on some programmable buttons or a knob or something… like on the OM-D E-M1…
 
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I take it you walk around, everywhere, with the camera glued to your eye socket then?
I take it you aren't really interested in an answer to your question, but just wanted to post something snide and meaningless?

I guess those who prefer to chimp can look at the screen on the back, then.

You've already got an EVF and an LCD view screen. One more — especially a B&W, low-contrast one — just seems pointless.
 
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You really should qualify that. By adding "in my opinion" Which is fine. Mine is different to yours. So be it.
Okay, okay, it just seems pointless to me.

Happy now? Sheesh. This board really needs a "block user" function. Never mind; just found the "ignore" function. Life's too short for argumentative types.
 
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