Lumix and Leica? Well, all right. What's in a name?
This is what I was talking about when I said yesterday that Micro 4/3 users are lucky. (I got the song lyric wrong—thanks to toto for pointing that out. Now please do not tell me anything more about that song, please.) Not content to let Olympus hold the brass ring for the top camera in the Micro 4/3 category with its E-M1 Mark II, Panasonic has replied with its own assault on the top spot—the new G9, now the company's top Lumix for still pictures.
The press release touts a number of interesting features. First of all, though, it's bigger than the company's recent GX8, which itself was mildly criticized for being a little bigger than it had to be (I personally thought the GX8 was Goldilocks—not too big, not too small, but just right). CameraSize says the G9 relative to the GX8 is 3% (3.7mm) wider, 25% (19.4mm) taller (most of that in the central prism-style hump), 45% (28.5mm) thicker (most of that in the beefy handgrip), and, at 658g, the G9 weighs 35% (171 grams) more than the GX8 at 487g. It's bigger than the Fuji X-T2, too, which has a larger sensor but no IBIS.
A few of the features:
• They've upgraded the processor to get the most out of the new 20-MP sensor that I liked so much in the GX8, claiming the "highest picture quality in the history of LUMIX cameras." The new camera is claimed to have better DR and better noise reduction and color rendition in the JPEG conversions. New is an 80-MP-equivalent sensor-shift mode for static subjects.
• The 5-axis "B.I.S." (sic, for body image stabilizer), combined with 2-axis O.I.S. (optical image stabilizer) in the lenses, adds up to "Dual I.S. 2.0." Various claims are being bandied about on ye Net, such as "class-leading IBIS" and 6.5 stops improvement and so forth, but you have to stop and think about what those claims actually imply: namely that laggard Panny now comes up to the standard of Olympus's refined, effective IBIS. Really? That's a darn high bar. An even higher bar: that the G9's "B.I.S." alone is as good as Olympus's with unstabilized lenses. So, okay, we hope: but I've had problems with this and I'm going to be from Missouri on this one. I was unimpressed with the very modest IBIS on the GX7 (calling it a 1-stop improvement seemed about right), and Dual I.S. on one GX8 I used worked fine with a newer 12–35mm lens, but on another, with an older model of the same lens, didn't work right. I would await serious tests and reviews from the bigs.
• Huge EVF. Can't wait to see it. The GX8 has the best EVF I know of. Better than the GX8 means way good. [UPDATE: Jeff pointed out that the Leica SL is better than the GX8 and that's true. —Ed.] DPReview says of it, "we've...been blown away."
As an all-out assault on the all-in E-M1 Mark II, the G9 is going to have an awful lot to cover. But mainly, apart from the three features above: dust- and weatherproof body; greatly improved AF speed and focus tracking (although whether the latter comes up to a good DSLR remains to be tested), with 20 FPS bursts with continuous AF and 60 FPS with locked focus; focus stacking in-camera; somewhat better battery life; and dual card slots, both of which take UHS-II cards.
Most promising (despite all the above) might be what Panasonic says about the design:
The LUMIX G9 includes a largest-in-class Status LCD on the top, allowing users to check the settings at a glance.
The Fn lever makes it possible to change the setting quickly once frequently-used settings are assigned. The LUMIX G9 also comes with a joystick at the optimal position to achieve intuitive focus area control without taking the eyes off of the viewfinder, together with a focus lever and AF mode button. Dials on the grip and Fn buttons are also located in the best position to operate unseen.
Early reports from people who've handled the camera are highly positive, indicating that Panasonic's camera designers might have pulled a Fuji, paying close attention to all the details that add up to operability. (Fuji, on the X-T2, even considered the sound of the shutter, which is delicious.)
Finally, the G9 starts at $1,699. Although the E-M1 Mark II is currently on sale for only $100 more, $1,799, Panasonic's initial price is $300 less than the $1,999 regular retail price of the E-M1 Mark II.
I'm hopeful that some of the capabilities of the new G9 will trickle down to a still un-rumored but always possible GX9—I love the GX8's form-factor—but in the meantime, professionals and those who like living at the edge of the envelope may well find a lot to like in the G9. (For those who don't like living at the edge, there's still the GX85, which, in my humble estimation, is one of those special cameras that people really like even after they buy it. It's not available without a lens, unfortunately, but subtract the stand-alone price of the 12–32mm collapsible zoom and you come out with $300 for the camera. It's a good deal, is what I'm saying.)
Back to the G9, isn't it nice to have two choices of a push-the-tech camera in Micro 4/3? Micro 4/3 users get good toys...I'm stickin' by that.
P.S. Here's another one that will make you think...courtesy, again, of CameraSize.com:
John Krumm: "Well, as a former E-5 user, it looks about right-sized to me:
Original contents copyright 2017 by Michael C. Johnston and/or the bylined author. All Rights Reserved. Links in this post may be to our affiliates; sales through affiliate links may benefit this site.
(To see all the comments, click on the "Comments" link below.)
Featured Comments from:
Daniel: "The idea of small and light is nice but a camera that is too small to be comfortable in use doesn't work well. Some of these cameras are just too small for larger hands. Made even worse with winter gloves. I still love the feel and comfort of the 1-series Canons with a 400 ƒ/2.8 on a monopod on the sidelines of sporting events. Just a matter of what is comfortable in use."
Winwalloe: "The only design feature that bothers me on this camera is the side hinge for the rear screen. It means having to make you camera 'wider' when you want the rear-screen to face up or down."
Mike replies: I also don't like that about it. The way I use a rear screen is for stealth, and it's much easier, quicker, and less conspicuous when the screen simply tilts up. The Fuji X-T2 rear screen is ideal in this regard, to my tastes.
Above: Panasonic G9 back screen in tiltable position;
below: Fuji X-T2 back screen