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Friday, 14 August 2020


As usual, you make the camera sound very appealing. You must have done this before. I like the sink photo and the photo of Mo's field. And I wish I had a grip like that for my XT-30 (I bought the useful but heavier Meike grip. The who way you had to tell yourself to "get over it" and put a little effort into learning the camera (and adapting to it) was instructive. I find that when I rent cameras I can be pretty ruthless. Don't like the way it feels? Take a couple shots and send it back... I don't usually do that when I buy a camera, even though I always have to adjust. My XT-30 was way smaller and more awkward to use than my stolen XH-1, but I bought a grip and now like it a lot, and only wish for IBIS once in a while. I'll still likely get the XT-4 for the big battery and IBIS eventually. Waiting for a sale that might not come...

“And the shutter sound is laggy, which made me uncomfortable at first—it mimics the sound of a slow shutter speed , ...“

Do you mean it has a fake shutter sound, or that it does some noisy housekeeping immediately after the exposure, like cocking itself for the next exposure.

I’m trying to remember a motor driven camera in the late 70s that you could set up to wind the film after you let go of the shutter release so that you could delay all the racket if you wanted.

The totally silent shutter on some recent Sony cameras would have me upgrading if I were still taking pictures around people. Maybe someday I’ll be close enough to other people for them to hear my camera. Well one can wish.

I was looking for a new mother for my orphaned Contax G lenses (of excellent Carl Zeiss breeding) after original mummy G2 camera was no longer repairable due to worldwide dearth of parts.

I was considering a few options and the GX9 came out as serious first choice. After receiving an adapter for G lens to micro 4/3 system, I found that my 21 and 28 mm lenses cannot mount due to the protruding rear elements.

I finally settled on the Fuji X-E3. Now all my Contax G lens babies got a new mummy.

I guess for your sensor discussion, this is your Miata, a light straight 4. Do you really need the big V8 of full frame to enjoy your photography?

I’ve been tempted to pick up a GX9, if only to use that magical 20mm 1.7 again. I haven’t used that lens since the GF1 ten years ago, but every time I run into photos made with it in my Lightroom archive I smile a little.

But I just went to camerasize.com, and compared the GX9 with the Fuji X-E3, my everyday camera these days. The Fuji is smaller and lighter! You lose the tilting screen, but other than that, you get a bigger sensor, 24MP, and the Fujichrons to use with it. If you already have a Fuji but also want a small camera for walks or whatever, a used X-E3 seems like a no-brainer to me, they are under $500 right now.

Mike, the system is micro4/3 not 4/3 which is long dead and buried. The sensor is still 4/3.

I aligned with your part II Mike. Bought the GX9 when it first came out, primarily for the IS. I never took to it. Bought to replace a Fuji X100T, which I still find an ideal camera, except for the lack of IS.
I use the GX9 but still find it awkward and non-intuitive.

Glad you warmed to the new camera.

I have a GX7 as a complement to my main camera, the G7. I use the GX7 as a premium compact substitute and carry anywhere camera. As such, it is an occasionally used camera; I'm not so bothered by small flaws as you were. I might feel differently if it were my main camera but I have to say, I haven't found much to complain about.

If the GX9 is improved, it must be in fairly subtle ways because the GX7 seems good to me. Looking at the pictures, the grip on the GX9 looks like a downgrade on the GX7 grip - which looks like a silly rubber wedge but is effective for my hands.

One thing about Panasonic that is never mentioned in reviews, is that while they make good cameras, they are reasonably cheap second hand. Clearly, not that sought after. It is not difficult to pick mint previous generation bodies for a couple of hundred pounds or less if you shop wisely.

I am using the GX7 with the two collapsing lenses for the GM series, the 35-100mm and the 12-32mm. With these lenses, the rubbery bump of a grip works surprisingly well and the twin control dials are great. Front dial for aperture, rear for exposure compensation. I don't seem to miss a dedicated Exp comp dial.

The camera has a lot more metal than any other Lumix I've used and feels more luxurious as a result, which is a self indulgent bonus, especially in a camera that cost me £149 from MPB UK and arrived looking brand new with a 6 month warranty. Did I mention that Panasonics hold their value poorly!

The viewfinder is smaller than the other Panasonics I have but decent and the tilt feature is occasionally useful. The flip up type screen is well constructed but worries me because I'm used to the fully articulated type which I normally keep reversed - safe and out the way.

Image quality is the same as any other 16MP camera and better than a lot of older full frame cameras. It's popular to criticise m4/3 sensors but for the majority of use cases, this is pure snobbery. You could probably print up to 24" wide before you would see any advantage to full frame. I wouldn't expect to see any visible advantage to the newer 20MP sensor in the GX9, outside of pixel peeping for the sake of.

If the GX9 is the same size as the GX7, I'd be hesitant to use bigger, heavier lenses on it. I'd stick to the miniature lenses. Even my lightweight 90-150mm feels unbalanced on the GX7. A small body has its limitations. That's why I have the G7, with its chunky grip.

I have quite a collection of 16MP models in use now: GX7, G7, X-T1, K5, as well as a bunch of retired cameras. People sneer at lowly 16MP sensors, but they are still very good and now very cheap and perfect for any print you can get from a desktop printer. I've done careful comparisons of prints from my GX7 and my DP2 Merrill (roughly 28-30MP Bayer equivalent) and in 19"*13" prints, there is no visible difference in detail.

People tend to overbuy in my opinion. A GX7 or GX9 type camera is really good enough for almost all general photography where you don't have specialised needs (like giant tele lenses).

That’s a lovely set of rural images, Mike. Reminds me a bit of what an old Life Magazine spread on the Finger Lakes might present. You should print them. It’s a good example of the best of what Micro Four-Thirds does well.

I’d love to help with your follow-ups but I can’t easily do so. I have a GX9 (kit) but it’s packed with the last of my mft gear waiting shipment to a buyer next week.

“I almost never mind vignetting” you write.
Vignetting bothers me to no end, if I can see that it was done. And it’s being done a lot, way too often and way too obvious. Like a pre set without subtlety

I've been using GX7 as my main camera for full five years now, I really love the camera - the biggest lens I have is Leica 25/1.4, the grip is just about right. I've been using adapted "big" Olympuses FourThirds 50-200/2.8-3.5 and 7-14/4 just fine. Yeah, both were unbalanced, but not that much, actually!

Regarding the shutter: maybe, the mechanical sound is not so awesome, but this system seems to be an answer to various discussions and complaints about shutter shock not only in the GX8.
https://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/panasonic-gx9/panasonic-gx9A.HTM says:
„The GX9 sports a brand-new shutter drive mechanism which is in most respects a significant upgrade, but which does have a couple of potential drawbacks. Based around an electromagnetic drive, it's said to have only one-tenth the shutter shock of the previous system, helping photographers to maximize per-pixel sharpness. It's also noticeably quieter than the old mechanism. But one downside is that it now tops out at a fastest shutter speed of 1/4,000 second, where the GX8 could shoot at 1/8,000 second.“ See also: https://photopoint.com/cameras/panasonic-gx9/
Greetings from Austria / EU, with many thanks for your interesting blog, Helmut.

MIKE! The power line shot is a masterpiece. the alignment of the jet trail ..... WOW!

@ Hugh Crawford: Maybe a Nikon? Their "silent shutter" always used to be just as noisy as the normal shutter, but delayed, until their Z offerings came along - then they really did become silent.

I can’t find the source/quote, but as best I remember, a Leica executive mentioned a couple of years ago (at Photokina?) that Leica produced about 1000 film M cameras annually, and that demand was increasing (particularly in the Asian market).

Thanks for the review and pictures, you do live in a wonderful place. I have owned the Gx7 and found it a discreet and capable camera, my only issue with it, was my ability to accidentally turn it off on a regular basis down to butter fingers!
I have a GX8 love its viewfinder, especially with the larger panasonic eye cup, just sucks you in, also it looks like a serious piece of equipment, just my tuppence worth.

In response to the featured comments inquiring about AF speed and shutter sound/vibration.

AF speed is close enough to instant as to be untouched by any competitor. Including during video recording.

Shutter sound/vibration is what you'd hear/feel if Rolex designed and produced a new design for a camera. Absolute muted precision. Vibration is non existent. You could measure it, I suppose, but it approaches zero.

I know the above because both systems are identical to those in the G85. Of which I have two that are heavily used.

That is a very good summary, Mike, and it mostly agrees with my own experience.

I've had a GX9 for just over 2 years, and it is my street photography/lightweight travel camera. I got to the point where I was fed up carrying a full frame DSLR for this, and the GX9 suited my purpose (and budget) fine. It simply looks like a small, anonymous black box - just how I like it. It is my first Panasonic camera: overall, it has been an excellent choice.

The biggest criticism is one I share with you: as you put it "the camera isn't an ergonomically excellent design out of the box. It's small and a bit finicky." Small - well, that is the point, so that's fine. But the interface and handling is finicky. The worst thing is that if I'm walking around with it turned on, holding it in my right hand makes it extremely easy to accidentally change settings: my natural grip overlaps several control buttons on the back. I'm getting used to having to use just my thumb to grip on the back, so as not to press any buttons, but it is still a nuisance.

That aside, it is a pleasure to walk around with all day. The 15mm f/1.7 with the GX9 makes a lovely combination. I also have the 12-60mm Panasonic-Leica: a terrific lens, with a zoom range that suits me down to the ground. The dual IBIS with this zoom works extremely well.

Shutter sound. I'm not sure what you mean by "laggy"? It doesn't sound that way to me, especially. I just made a few shots to see what it sounded like. It doesn't worry me at all, and is pretty quiet compared to my DSLRs. In any case, you can set a silent shutter.

Autofocus. jseliger makes the point that Panasonic's AF has fallen behind Sony and Canon. But is it plenty good enough for my style of street shooting (essentially f/5.6 and be there). I often use the touch-autofocus-shoot method: frame on the rear screen, and then touch it to autofocus on the point touched and shoot. It is essentially instantaneous and works a treat. That method also seems to work better in very low light than the regular autofocus: on nightshoots, I'll use that method when normal autofocus won't register the subject.

Batteries. Yes, they have limited life. I generally carry two fully charged spares, and usually preemptively change the battery early in the afternoon if I've started shooting in the morning. They are so small though, it isn't much of an issue to carry them.

The raw files make very nice prints. For the most part,I don't print much bigger than 33cm on the long side, and the raw files give very good prints at "normal" ISO levels. But I don't generally like shooting higher than about ISO1600 with the GX9. By comparison with my full frame D810, the high-ISO files feel "brittle" in post-processing.

For my purposes, it is a camera that, as you put it, I've really made friends with.

"Here's an example of a slight limitation of the small sensor. Shooting with camera-determined autoexposure"

The term AE means little, unless one knows the EV setting.

", the sunlit bit at the top of the tree trunk in the background is too overexposed [for Mike] to recover completely."

Gross canard! Easily "recovered" even in the small JPEG. Not really "recovered", as the data is all there in the JPEG, just compressed at the top of the histogram.

"In this shot a very bright evening sun is either in the frame or just out of it (I don't recall exactly), "

This is a critical difference. IF the sun was in the frame, even the best of MF sensors would have a blown out area, and the usefulness as example is not there. If outside the frame, then lower exposure should have captured the top.

"and with a lot of HDR I could just get the slight striations in the sky in the upper right, which is enough sky for this small JPEG. "

I imagine that you don't mean real HDR, which involves combining different exposures, but some sort of processing of a single exposure. The GX9 easily does auto bracketed exposures for real HDR. That said, it seems whenever I do that, I find a single exposure that can do it all.

"No telling if it would be enough in a print or a larger JPEG. Exposing for the sky here, on the other hand, resulted in the dark areas being too dark [for Mike] to bring up in post."

There's that fat duck again. Many contemporary sensor systems are what DPReview calls ISO Invariant. What they mean is that there is no difference between a greater in-camera exposure and post exposure amplification of brightness.

There are caveats, seldom more than about three stops, and works best at low ISOs.

This means that one may, in fact, do what you claim can't be done. Here's an example, where I intentionally greatly underexposed a very high contrast subject, to hold highlights, then pulled up the shadows.

If one wants sunset sky colors and less dark foreground, they are there even in the small JPEG.

If that may be done to a small JPEG, imagine that may be done with the Raw file!

The GX9 is an excellent camera, but not the only one with high ISO invariance. DPR is regularly including that in their tests.

Not suggesting, Mike, that you should have the tools, experience and ability to so this DR stuff, only that absolute statements such as ". . . resulted in the dark areas being too dark to bring up in post." should perhaps be qualified.

[I wish I had your skills. What you say is fair enough, but I think you should look at the appropriateness of your suggestions to the product. It's true that I can't evaluate files using expertise I don't possess. But I thought my comments would be appropriate to most people's experience. 99.5% of potential buyers for a small, handy Micro 4/3 camera are going to have neither the software, nor the technical chops, nor the time and willingness to work on their files like you might. I could be wrong. It always bothered me when, for example, an audio reviewer would test a pair of small, vinyl-clad, budget 2-way speakers using a source that cost $16,000 and amplification that cost $35,000; if you review a phone you should use the processing built in to the phone, right? So I applied quick, basic processing only, mostly in ACR. (I did selectively work on the farmer on the tractor in the shot with the horses.)

In any event, I'm very clear in all my reviews about the fact that I'm just reporting on my own experience, nothing more. --Mike]

It clearly makes a large difference whether a user has sampled (much less kept) the GX8. It spoils one on the more typical GX body, now a GX7 mark III in Japan. Like Pentax making a K-1 primarily to thank Pentax owners*, or automakers spawning a premium label, a few devotees within Panasonic are needed to maintain the GX8 (mark I) line. We'll see if anyone moves on that. If that model or the E∙M1.ii had a tilt screen I'd own it already.

* I still have days when I wish Ricoh had 'gone there' with micro43, whether in its own name or via Pentax..

Has anyone else had this thought: How cool it would be for the GX9 to have the bulkier grip of the GX1.

". . . I thought my comments would be appropriate to most people's experience. 99.5% of potential buyers for a small, handy Micro 4/3 camera "

Perhaps so. As it is for you, I can't speak for the experience of others.

I carefully chose GX9 bodies for what I consider serious photography, not because they are frivolous, as small, handy might imply, but because they pack the same IQ into easier to carry and use bodies as Panny and Oly's larger cameras.

I use them mostly with Leica 12-60 and 100-400 and Panny 7-14 and the 8 mm fisheye and occasionally with various Panny and Oly primes. They have delivered the kind of images I expect from those lenses; what I wanted from them.

In addition, my comments on ISO invariance and DR apply equally to many recent cameras. I know from experience that they apply to the Sony A7 series, and to their 1" sensor RX10 IV, and from reviews that they apply to many other cameras.

Regarding the work Moose did on Mike's files: Nice job! And it didn't necessarily need to be a lot of work, either. When dealing with high-contrast lighting, I just do a batch correction in Lightroom on every photo, boosting Shadows and dropping the Highlights. Then I go back through and adjust each photo, to taste.

That might be considered as advanced technique to most Panny buyers, but probably not to most readers of a serious photo blog like Mike's. When I read this GX9 review, I heard him saying that highlight and shadows were not recoverable at all, even in that tree/garden image which has pretty soft lighting.

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