11.08.2017

Let's talk about the new Panasonic G9.

An Ancient Studio Shot for Client, 3M. 
Heat Shrink Tubing.

It's been exciting to see Panasonic get some of the same treatment that Nikon and Sony have been getting from the review sites and bloggers. They launched a new camera today and one of the remarkable things about this launch was how well they were able to keep the announcement under wraps. We only started hearing real new in the middle of last week!

The new camera is the model G9 and it seems aimed at assuaging the feelings of traditional photographers who seem to have issues with too much video capability being resident on the cameras they want for still shooting. So, what does the new camera deliver that the fairly recent GH5 doesn't?

According to Panasonic, both cameras use the identical 20.3 megapixel sensor. The G9 has what is described as an improved Jpeg engine which takes advantage of the huge processing power of the camera's imaging pipeline to provide improvements in color rendering and tonal nuance. While I think this is a good thing the underlying, but unstated, assumption is that the raw files from both cameras are more or less identical...

The new camera shoots up to 20 fps in continuous focus mode when used in the electronic shutter setting. Some people will see this as a valuable capability. I don't but then I also don't like team sports, or watching team sports, or being around people watching team sports so it's a feature that is lost on me. Another metric I find more or less meaningless is difference in point to point autofocus lock on. The GH5's spec was .05 seconds while the G9 spec is .04. If you can detect a difference
of one one hundredth of a second improvement then you are a rare and amazing human.

A feature that will appeal to a narrow segment of professional users will be the high resolution mode which requires that the camera be locked down on a tripod. For every day hipster use it's a non-starter but for photographers like myself who are often called upon to shoot lots of different product in the studio this is a wonderful thing and almost, almost pushes the camera into the "must have" category. 

In order to make the camera ultimately still photographer friendly Panasonic has whittled away a few video features. While the body keeps the full size HDMI port, the microphone and headphone jacks it loses the denser video codecs and institutes a 10 minute time limit for 4K, 60p video recording. According to an interview I watched with one of the Panasonic technical people the new record limit was required to compensate for a different internal mechanical structure that is less able to deal with heat than in the GH5. This points to less vigorous heat-sinking but the bright side of this mechanical change may be that the sensor is less encumbered by weight and able to achieve a new 6.5 stop image stabilization standard. If the new I.S. pans out in actual practice then Panasonic will be able to match Olympus in making ultimately steady photos. Sounds great to me. 

The video codecs top out at 150 mbs while delivering a 4K image from the full frame. If you use the HDMI connector to send video to an external digital recorder you can bypass most of the internal heat generation and you can also shoot until the cameras battery is drained. With the battery grip you should be able to shoot for well in excess of 4 hours, if you have big enough SSD cards in your Atomos (or other external recorder).  I have a feeling most people in the market for this camera will be happy enough with the basic video performance. Even without the prodigious specs of the GH5 I find the 4K video from the lowly G85 very satisfying and useful. If the G9's performance lies somewhere between these two cameras I think mostly only the hard core professionals and, of course, the pixel peepers will see any difference. 

The body seems well designed and, the people I've spoken to who have handled it find it to be even more comfortable in the hand than the GH5. The grip is generous and the controls are well laid out. But the camera is only $300 less expensive than a GH5 and some will really miss the ultimate video performance and the promise of still photography heat proofing on a massive level. Surely these things are worth $300 in this context? Yes?

So, what is the compelling feature that would drive me to ante up for this camera in January 2018? I'm presuming you've already guessed but I have to say that the magical feature would be the huge 3,68 million dot OLED electronic viewfinder with its .83 magnification (most cameras have mags in the low 70s...). There is even a control to lower the magnification to make seeing the entire frame easier for people who wear glasses. The EVF is, to me, the defining feature that makes this the still camera of choice for anyone working in the micro four thirds systems. This finder unmatched by any other digital camera on the market today. In fact, I feel sorry for the users of Nikon and Canon DSLRs who refuse to try current EVFs. They just don't seem to know what they are missing...

This might also be a wake up call to Sony to improve the magnification and stand off of their EVFs as well.

Will I buy one? That's an easy question to answer:  You know I will. But should I? Ahh. If I use only the logical centers of my brain and weigh the new feature set (.01 faster focus acquisition, high res mode, brilliant EVF, slightly better Jpegs) against what I already have in the GH5 I'd be much better off just continuing to buy better and better lenses for the cameras I have. Now, when the hell is that 45mm f1.2 Pro Olympus lens going to get here?

10 comments:

Mike said...

In reading the first looks on this camera, it sounds like one that could ultimately push me away from the Nikon system I still cling to. I'm only dabbling in video at this point, with the vast majority of my paying gigs being based in still photography. This could be a more versatile camera for me personally, since I do still shoot some sporting events in low light; high frame rates and good performance at high ISOs are still of some value to me, if only a few times a year. If the autofocus proves to be quick and accurate, it could make me switch.

Frank Grygier said...

Olympus better get busy and improve the 4K video and lower the price of the EM1 II. This camera will hurt them more than anyone else.

Fred said...

Well that was quick :-).
At first blush it looks like for me, that the extra bucks for the GH5 would be worth it. Or again for me, to spend the next year really wringing out the G85 that I recently bought. And for a lot less money I could get a couple really cool primes for my G85. But 6.5 stops of image stabilization is neat. It may need an FAA warning since not only will it probably float in the air by itself, but it might be dangerous for small women and children to use since it might pick them up right off the ground. I look forward to next summer's reviews.

EdPledger said...

A question, regarding autofocus with your Olympus lenses. I am assuming there are no issues with acquisition or focus accuracy when used with the G5. Correct? Not being a sports photographer the speed is only of minor concern to me. Lordy...I find focus on my EM-1 with old 4/3 lenses like the 14-54 to be adequate. But I am interested especially in the focus accuracy.

I have already pre-ordered a G9. Matching the stabilization of my EM5ii, having the hi-res mode, but with the better EVF and a tiny edge in the sensor is enough for me. Price-wise, when I got my EM5ii new a couple years ago with the accessory battery grip, the total price was not a whole lot less than the current EM1ii or G9 prices. I had given some thought to a Sony A7Riii, but didn’t like the ergonomics or hi-res implementation. And the price difference between an A7Riii and either the Oly or new Panasonic is about enough to get a good used FF body if I just have to get one. Now, to sit back and wait till the end of January.

Eric Rose said...

It looks interesting but I think I will wait until The Camerastore does their video review. I might just drive down to the store and see if Chris will let me play with his advance copy of the camera. All in all getting an off camera video recorder seems to be the key to getting good video from either the G85 or this G9. I don't do professional still photography anymore so the 20M sensor is not a super big deal for me. I have been very happy with the still images I have gotten from my G85 and as you have mentioned the 4K video from the G85 is very usable. I guess what I am doing is convincing myself that if I'm going to ditch my G85 I might as well buy a GH5.

Eric

Gato said...

Looks most interesting, although for $1700 I think my old GX8 will go another year or so. Maybe I'll start watching used prices on the G85.

I find it interesting that Panasonic is going for the combination of professional features and higher pricing in small sensor cameras. Although the overall system of camera and lenses can still be considerably smaller and cheaper than full-frame gear.

There are features here I like, but being retired from professional photography I think I can wait until features trickle down -- or these babies start showing up on the used market.

ODL Designs said...

That is a lot of camera! Now I am eyeballing Olympus to issue the long awaited fw2 and smoke this upstart g9

With all the processing power in the em1.2 I would hope for a big video improvement. I mean if you can do 60fps in raw and jpeg, you can do it in 4k.

Daniel Walker said...

Kirk
I agree, where is the Olympus 45. I am waiting for your insite before deciding between that or the 12 to 100. I know the decision logic should be different however I only have enough money for just one of these.
Dan

Ron Zack said...

This is the Panasonic I've been waiting for. I'm seriously thinking of selling off my small collection of Nikon equipment, and getting one of these instead. It has just about everything I want in a camera.

Anonymous said...

Will the G9's video IQ and continuous AF be better than the GH5. Not so impressed, going by Max Y's recent tests:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4rNtEEMIgrY&t=187s