This is a three-page article
- Page 1 – Physical Features, Screen and EVF
- Page 2 – Flash, Improved Focusing, Adding Grain in Monochrome
- Page 3 – New Shutter, High Speed Capture, Video features, Other New Features, Conclusion
New features and functions
While there may not be the dramatic advances that we saw in the recent G9, the GX9 still brings with it quite a number of significant improvements over its predecessor – some of which are less immediately obvious than others. The camera uses the Dual IS 5-axis image stabilisation system that we have seen before, and which brings better stability in all directions as well as co-operation between body and lens.
A built-in flash!
Thankfully Panasonic has decided to include a built-in flash for the GX9. It’s a tiny pop-up affair and too small to really do much damage other than to throw some light in the eyes and to reduce the depth of shadows with its guide number of 4.2m @ ISO 100 (or GN6m @ ISO 200). More importantly perhaps is that this little flash gives us direct access to Panasonic’s wireless flash system – so without having to buy a flash unit for the hotshoe we can control DMW-FL200L / FL360L / FL580L flash guns when they are located off-camera.
The flash is hinged too, as in the past, so it can be easily bounced from a ceiling or a wall – depending on which way round you are holding the camera. Raised about 17mm from the body, the flash sits about 50mm above the lens axis, and offers red-eye reduction, 1st and 2nd curtain sync, slow sync and multi-group/channel wireless control with +/-3EV of flash exposure compensation.
Panasonic has made some improvements to its focus system for the GX9. A new 3D measuring system covers the whole frame making it easier for the camera to track moving subjects, even when they disappear for a moment behind something else. The improved tracking mode also allows the camera to continue focusing on the subject even when it leaves the selected AF area.
The GX9 system also inherits the focus point switching introduced in the G9 that adjusts the position of the AF area when users continue to shoot the same subject in vertical and then horizontal compositions. We also have the loop movement of the AF point, so that it can be navigated out of the frame on the left of the picture as a quicker route to getting to the right hand edge of the shot than navigating back across the picture area.
The camera also gets the Low Light AF mode that was introduced in the G9, that allows autofocusing even in very low light conditions – such as when shooting astro subjects. To help us see what we are doing the camera offers a Live View Boost mode, and in manual focus we have the fantastic 20x magnification mode that was introduced in the GH5s – and which I hope will come to other existing models via firmware.
The camera introduces a new Photo Style called L Monochrome D, which is a more dramatic black and white look. The D stands for Dynamic rather than Dramatic, but that is essentially what it does – adds drama. Blacks are deeper and tones are generally darker and more moody.
All three black and white Photo Styles (Monochrome, L. Mononchome and L. Monochrome D) also get a dose of grain that can be sprinkled by the user in the degree they see fit. The grain can be applied in Low, Standard and High settings – or off – to emulate the feeling of black and white film grain. To my eye the Low setting looks like an ISO 400 traditional emulsion, and the Standard setting more like ISO 1600. The High setting looks like a 400 speed film pushed to 3200 and processed in an accelerating developer – it’s quite harsh.
The grain effect can also be added post capture if you use the Raw Processing function in the play-back menu. The three monochrome Photo Styles are available to choose and the grain added in the same three increments. If you intend to use this, select the black and white Photo Style you want to use and do all the other processing before adding the grain. It might be because my camera is very pre-production, but I found the grain slows down all the other processes and makes saving take longer too. Not much, but enough.