The Lumix GX9 – what’s new?

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New shutter

Panasonic has loaded the GX9 with a new electro-magnetic shutter unit that is both quieter and smoother than the unit used in the GX8. The sound is completely different, and will be much less noticeable in the street than before. This isn’t the same shutter unit as the G9 of course, but its effect at the moment of exposure is the same – much more discrete. Panasonic says the new shutter design reduces the physical impact of the unit’s motion by 90% – so there will be much less danger of shutter shock knocking the resolution out of your images. This upgraded shutter unit also means that we have a choice of electronic first curtain for the first time in a GX model.

High speed capture

Somehow or other the camera manages an extra shot in a second in its highest drive setting. With the AF set to Single Shot and in the highest burst mode the GX9 can squeeze out 9 frames per second – a whole extra picture per second over the GX8 and four more than the GX7 could. Switch the AF to AF-C and that rate drops to a still-respectable 6fps. The fastest mechanical shutter speed is 1/4000sec instead of the 1/8000sec we got in the GX8 – but in a body as small as this, mechanical shutters are hard to make. The top electronic shutter speed is still 1/16,000sec.

The 4K Photo mode has taken on a couple of new features too. Now the camera will try to identify at what stage in your clip the most important things happen, and will drop a marker on the timeline to show you where they are. It looks for a clear view of a face or for the moment there’s movement in the frame. So if you are filming a bird on the perch the camera will drop a marker in the frame where it detects the bird taking off. Users can instruct what the camera should look for, faces, motion or both, according to the type of situation.

This is a simulation of what Sequence Composition will look like. My camera is using firmware v0.1 and this feature isn’t finished. I can see what it does and how it works, but the finished results isn’t just quite the way it will be in v1.0

We can now also combine frames from the same sequence into one frame – to create a form of multiple exposure. Using the Sequence Composition mode we select all or individual frames and the camera will automatically drop them on top of each other so we get one image with the subject staggering across the view.

Video

As much as this definitely a stills camera it also has the trademark video features we’d expect in a Lumix G body. The video options are much the same as we have in the GX8, but a slight upgrade is that we can now shoot at 30fps in 4K and 60fps in FHD. Both modes are 8bit and the best 4K data rate is 100Mbps. These extra frame rates help with the rendering of motion in the footage, but also give us a little more flexibility if we want to slow motion down in post processing. The 4K video and 4K Photo modes crop the sensor, which adds length to the lens in use.

As you might expect though, the GX9 has neither microphone or headphone socket.

Other points

There are a few extra things worth pointing out that will appeal to some users.

1. The camera has taken on the new Lumix G menu system that was introduced with the G9, so it is slicker than the GX8 and the features even easier to locate.

2. If you are a user of Auto ISO you can now determine the longest shutter speed that the camera can select – which is useful when shooting moving targets.

3. Bluetooth v4.2 is built-in, so the camera can have an always-on connection with your smartphone if you want. This makes the process of getting images from the camera to the phone easier – and instant.

4. A new power save mode switches off the back screen and only activates the EVF, and actually the camera, when the camera is brought to the eye. It is designed to go to sleep after a short period of no use but to wake very quickly too. In this mode Panasonic says we can expect 900 images per charge of the DMW-BLG10E battery. This is a different battery to that used in the GX8 – it’s smaller and holds 1025mAh of power. It’s the same unit that’s used in the GX7, the GX80 and the LX100. It can be charged in-camera via the USB port.

Conclusion

This is very much a GX camera, offering advanced and sophisticated levels of control and functionality in a compact interchangeable-lens body. It is a good deal smaller than the GX8 and I think that will appeal to a lot of people. There will also be those who bemoan the shrinkage from the GX8’s lovable form, but with a few hours use I suspect they will come around to the design and appreciate the more portable and discrete characteristics.

The camera is actually pocketable for those with normal outdoor coats, and its smaller form makes it a camera much more likely to be taken out at every opportunity than the GX8 is. As much as I love the GX8 it often has to stay at home while the GX800 accompanies me on evenings out. This new model sits somewhere between the GX8 and the GX800, and is actually exactly right for many occasions. The smaller body and reduced grip make it less suitable for use with long lenses, but Panasonic will introduce an accessory grip DMW-HGR2 that will make handling front-heavy set-ups more comfortable.

The model I have used for this review is loaded with firmware v0.1 so it is some way off being finished and some of the functions have yet to be loaded for me to use. Please judge image quality in these examples with that in mind, and be assured that when I get a production model I’ll post pictures that can be scrutinised more closely.

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