Design and screens
While the DC-G9 conforms roughly to the prism-top DSLR-style design we expect from a G series camera there is quite a lot that’s different about this model. The crease in the prism housing is just the mysterious beginning (what is it for?) as over on the right of the body’s top plate we find a full-on LCD status display panel. This was quite unexpected, but in use is very welcome. The panel is similar to those we see on some DSLRs and keeps us up to date with ten pieces of information that we need to keep abreast of the whole time. When changing ISO, for example, it can be easier to view and make the alteration on the top plate display as when in operation no other information is on show.
When working in the dark the on/off switch can be twisted to the right a little to activate an orange backlight for the LCD so it can be used and viewed in all conditions. The rear screen and viewfinder can also be also tuned for use in dark situations with the introduction of a Night Mode that dims the display and drops a red filter over them so they aren’t so blinding to view in the dark and so the rear screen doesn’t light up the whole forest when it plays back a picture.
The 3in 3:2 rear screen has a 1040k-dot resolution that’s just short of that used on the GH5, but the OLED viewfinder 3,680k-dot resolution is the same. What makes this viewfinder different though is the magnification and refresh rate. At 0.83x the view feels very big indeed (Panasonic says it the biggest on the market for a CSC) and makes seeing detail in the image and the information panels in the display quicker and easier to use. The 120fps refresh rate in the screen makes action and panning look very smooth, and makes the image being displayed more comfortable to concentrate on.
If you feel the 0.83x magnification is too great (the GH5’s finder is 0.76x) the camera offers the facility to reduce it to 0.77x or 0.7x via a V.Mode button on the prism housing. Sometimes a highly magnified view can make composition more difficult as users may need to scan the view with their eye to see everything, while a smaller view makes it easy to see everything in the shot in one go. The big view though is very impressive and I found gave me a stronger connection with the scene – as well as making it easier to me to see the detail.
The body of the DC-G9 is made from magnesium alloy, and is sealed and protected against splashes, weather, dust and the cold. It feels as tough as the GH5 – if not more so. The shutter is also built to last, with a quoted life of 200,000 mechanical actuations. If you mostly shoot with the electronic shutter it will take a long time to get through all those shots.
A new function lever has been added to the front of the body that allows direct access to a specific setting of the camera. While other function buttons might provide a short cut to the Photo Styles, for example, this level can take us directly to the Portrait Photo Style. The exact purpose of the lever is determined in the Operation setting menu, and the lever can be programmed to activate the electronic first curtain shutter, a particular quality setting or an oft-used exposure bracketing sequence. I used it to give me quick access to the Night Mode with both LCD and viewfinder set to red screen viewing. In total though there are 16 options for this new lever.
As with the GH5 we have twin SD cards slots, and in this model both are UHS-ll compatible.
Using the new Venus Engine gives Panasonic more power to make improvements to image quality as processing can be more detailed and complex. Panasonic says it has managed to squeeze a little extra dynamic range out of the sensor by working on how the brightest tones in an image are represented – so we should be able to enjoy more detail in skies for example.
Colour is also improved with better skin tones and blues in sky areas, some of which has been achieved by producing finer gradation of tones and colour shifts. Noise reduction and sharpness processing has also been worked on, and now we can expect clearer details in images shot at ISO 400 and up. A new anti-reflective coating on the sensor is said to reduce internal reflections and ghosting, which should help with both clarity and getting as much light to the pixels as possible. The new coating is particularly useful when shooting at night when there is a light source, such as a street light, in the scene.
Panasonic is using the phrases ‘Multipixel Luminance Generation’ and ‘Intelligent Detail Processing’ as names for the new technologies that deal with tonal graduation, colour and resolution. I intend to find out more about these technologies and what they actually mean, and will report back. Either way, Panasonic claims this camera offers its highest ever image quality, and so far that seems to be true.