Panasonic's compact GX9 gets high-end sensor, dual stabilization
Panasonic's enthusiast-grade compact Micro 4/3rds street and travel shooter has received a solid upgrade with a 20-megapixel, low-pass filter-free sensor, dual in-lens/in-body stabilization, tilting EVF and live view screen, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and creative shooting modes – in a smaller and nicer-looking body than ever.
The GX9 looks like an old rangefinder body, with style to spare in silver and black, and offers both a tilting EVF and a tilting 16:9 live view screen on the back. That's right – a tilting screen, not a fully articulating one like its predecessor, the GX8. That means it'll be great for low-angle "shoot from the hip" action, but no good for selfies.
The sensor gets a significant upgrade to a 20-megapixel unit with no low pass filter –something like the one in the GH5 pro video powerhouse – that should provide good, sharp, clear detail and nice rich colors.
Another GH5 feature that comes across to the GX9 is the dual 5-axis in-body/in-lens stabilization gear, which does a terrific job of saving borderline hand-held exposures that might otherwise have wobbled themselves into blurriness. ISO extends up to 25,600, and there's a multiprocess noise reduction algorithm in place, but if the GH5 is any indication we wouldn't expect this to be a standard-setting low light shooter.
Panasonic bills this as an enthusiast level axe. As such, it offers full manual controls as well as a ton of auto options, RAW shooting and a bunch of creative modes like multi-exposure, focus stacking and three creative monochrome options for black & white shooting. Another interesting one is sequence composition, which takes a sequence of moving images and cuts them together in-camera, so you can see the motion stopped at several different points in one image.
The autofocus is a super-snappy depth from defocus contrast-based system that Panasonic claims will grab focus in less than a tenth of a second through its 49 focus points.
And connectivity is great, with Bluetooth and Wi-Fi image sharing to computers and smart devices – or you can go old-school with a USB cable, in which case (unlike the GH5) the camera will charge itself off the computer while you're plugged in.
Video isn't forgotten, with 4K/30p or 24p shooting available at a 100 Mbps bitrate. The dual image stabilization system will be a major help here, and there's video-friendly live view features like zebra striping and focus peaking.
On the negative side, the GX9 includes a pop-up flash that was absent on the GX8. There's a hot shoe too if you want to put a proper bounce-able flash on top, but "enthusiasts" will want to make sure they steer clear of auto mode, or else that thing will pop up and make all your subjects look like deer in headlights.
The body is also no longer weather-sealed, it has a slightly smaller EVF than the GX8, and the battery life also appears to have taken a slight hit – although there's a nifty power saving feature for the main screen that can get you up to 900 shots from a charge – provided you set the camera to sleep after 1 second of inactivity. These slight negatives do have a payoff, though, in the form of a significantly smaller and more travel-friendly body.
The GX9 will hit stores in a month or so, with a retail price of AU$1,399 in Australia, with a 12-32mm f/3.5-5.6 kit lens that'll give you a solid zoom range equivalent to a 24-64mm on a full frame, in a very compact and travel-friendly form factor. In the United States, you're looking at US$999, with a 12-60 f/3.5-5.6 kit lens that gives you some extra zoom at the telephoto end, but sticks out twice as far from the body.
The whole thing looks like a solid, tight and very compact machine for carry-around use. That sensor offers as much resolution as you'll find in any Micro 4/3rds body, and there's enough features bleeding through from Panasonic's top end models to make this a pretty appealing little weapon in our eyes.