The Panasonic Lumix G9 Mark II is a mirrorless camera sporting a new 25 Megapixel Micro Four Thirds sensor now with even faster burst shooting and phase-detect autofocus, yay! Yep, Olympus and OM Digital may have employed PDAF for some time now, but the G9 II becomes the first Lumix G camera with it, thereby addressing the major complaint most people had with the original G9.
The newer G9 II was announced in September 2023, almost six years after the original G9. Like the O-G9, as I think I’ll refer to its predecessor, the G9 II is marketed at photographers first, particularly those who already own stills-oriented Lumix G cameras, like the first G9. They love the system for its portability, especially with long lenses for wildlife. But under the hood the G9 II also sports powerful video capabilities, which in some respects rival or even beat the GH6, so owners of the GH5 and earlier GH models will also be tempted.
I tried out a sample running almost final firmware which Panasonic described as delivering final quality and performance. I’ll show you what’s new and improved, as well as presenting some initial tests and comparisons in the video below, although I’m planning on making a much more in-depth report once I’ve spent some quality time with a truly final sample. If you prefer to read the written highlights, keep scrolling!
Let’s check out the body first which may be triggering some deja-vu, as the G9 II essentially inherits the body of the full-frame S5 II launched earlier this year. Same size, same controls, albeit roughly 80g lighter, due to the different sensor, shutter and IBIS units.
You may be thinking a full-frame body is unnecessarily large for a Micro Four Thirds camera, but the O-G9 was essentially the same size and weight, so owners of that version won’t have to worry about additional heft.
G9: 137x97x92mm, 658g // G9 II: 134x102x90mm, 658g
While the G9 II may employ a different body to the original G9, both grips actually feel remarkably similar in both size and shape. Their build quality also feels essentially the same and when I asked, Panasonic wouldn’t say whether one enjoyed better sealing than the other.
By adopting the S5 II body and control layout, I’d also expect the G9 II to be essentially the same as that model in terms of sealing too, although eagle-eyed Lumix fans will notice the vents under the viewfinder head of the S5 II are no longer present.
I don’t believe this will make much difference to sealing in practical terms, but it does mean the G9 II sadly lacks the active cooling of the S5 II, partly to further cement it as more of a stills camera, but I’m sure to also differentiate it from the GH series. The lack of cooling fan is also a factor in the weight difference.
That said, using the default settings, I was still able to record over an hour and a quarter of 4k 25p or 1080 50p video in a warm room, and there’s a menu option to allow the camera to get hotter before shutting down.
Before delving into the controls, one small but important difference between the G9 II and its predecessor is swapping rattly strap lugs for fixed slots on the sides. Not only do these avoid unwanted sounds when filming, but also make the camera easier to accommodate within a cage.
Moving onto controls, the G9 II is again pretty much identical to the S5 II, which means while there are a number of similarities with its predecessor, there’s a few key changes to mention.
Starting from the top left surface is a non-lockable drive dial with positions for single shooting, two burst modes, the high resolution pixel shift mode, an interval timer and the self timer.
The two drive positions are customisable, so you could have, say, the top mechanical burst speed assigned to one and the top electronic to the other, but like the S5 II, there’s no longer the 4k or 6k Photo options of the original G9.
That said, Panasonic heard our collective complaints about the S5 II and have already added pre-burst options to the G9’s electronic bursts, so arguably the most useful 6k Photo capability is now available in a more useful form.
The original G9 also had its drive dial on the upper left side, but it was beneath a lockable exposure mode dial. In contrast, the G9 II mode dial is now to the right of the viewfinder head, and like the S5 II, has sadly become non-lockable – a shame.
This is also where you’ll find the power switch collar, moved from the shutter release position of the original G9, and while the movie record button is in roughly the same location as before, it’s now larger.
But by moving the mode dial, there’s sadly no more room on the G9 II for the top display panel of its predecessor. These have really gone out of fashion in recent years, with Fujifilm being one of the few to still include them on flagship models, but I’m sure I’m not alone in mourning their absence. They’re useful for checking settings at a glance from above without troubling the main screen, and I also just find them kinda cool.
The G9 II’s mode dial shares the same options as the S5 II, so along with traditional PASM, you get Intelligent Auto, Creative Movie, S&Q, and three custom positions.
You can record video while you’re in the standard exposure modes, but by setting the dial to Creative Movie, you’ll unlock the full menus and quality options.
Like the S5 II, the front finger dial is now positioned around the shutter release, turning horizontally like the thumb dial behind it, rather than vertically like its predecessor. Both dials turn with good tactile feedback, and I’m delighted the G9 II’s shutter button is no longer as sensitive as the original model.
Behind the finger dial are the same three hard buttons dedicated to White Balance, ISO and Exposure Compensation as the original G9, which are adjusted by pushing while turning one of the dials. I’m glad they remain here.
From the rear, there’s an AF mode collar by the viewfinder with a button in the middle to adjust the AF areas. To its right are an AF ON button and a joystick which, in a minor upgrade, now supports the eight directions you’d expect versus the four on the previous model.
Equally important, the joystick is now more easily within reach compared to the original G9’s joystick which proved a bit of a stretch for my thumb.
Below these is a large, tiltable rear thumb wheel, so with three control dials, a drive dial, AF collar and three hard buttons, you should be able to adjust pretty much every aspect of exposure, drive and autofocus without entering a menu.
Moving onto composition, the G9 II inherits the same 3.68 million dot OLED viewfinder as the S5 II, and since the panel can be filled by the native 4:3 photo shape, it delivers a taller image with a slightly higher magnification of 0.8x. I’ve filmed the actual G9 II viewfinder here.
While the original G9’s viewfinder magnification was technically a tad larger at 0.83x, I noticed little difference when swapping between them. In terms of detail, both are a step-up over the 2.36 million dot viewfinders of many rivals around this price point.
You can also boost the refresh rate from 60 to 120Hz, which makes fast panning look smoother, but like many cameras, I noticed a mild drop in viewfinder detail at the faster refresh.
The main screen is the same as the S5 II, a 3in panel with 1840k dots, making it the same size but more detailed than the O-G9.
Like its predecessor, it’s mounted on a side-hinged, fully-articulated mechanism, allowing it to flip and twist to almost any angle including forward to face you, or back on itself for protection. Note the GH6’s articulation remains a differentiator.
On the left side are two rubber flaps: behind the top one are 3.5mm microphone and headphone jacks, while behind the lower are USB-C and full-size HDMI ports.
Like the S5 II, the single flap for the mic and headphone jack can very slightly obscure the screen when facing forward – not a big deal, but it seems a bit odd when the original G9 avoided this when using a mic only by giving each port its own flap.
It’s interesting to recall the O-G9 also sported a full-size HDMI port, although today gives its age away with an old USB 3 dual-socket interface. That said it also has a pc sync port that’s sadly no longer present on the Mark II. Sorry strobists.
Meanwhile power is provided by the same BLK22 pack as the S5 II, rated at 2200mAh, making it more powerful than the 1860mAh battery on the original G9.
That said, like the S5 II, it still only squeezes a fairly modest 370 shots out of it under CIPA conditions. While that’s roughly similar to the original G9, the battery life still falls behind the competition a little, although I found a fully charged pack could last me a good day’s shooting with a mix of stills and video, but you’ll probably want to keep a spare handy. Luckily you can charge and power the camera over USB C.
If you’d like longer life or more to hold onto, the G9 II has a couple of battery grip options. First is the original BGS5 designed for the first S5, but only offering a four-way joystick. Second is the new BG1 grip which now offers an eight-way joystick, and Panasonic tells me this should also work on the S5 II.
On the grip side of the camera you’ll find a 2.5mm remote port plus two SD card slots, both supporting UHS-II speeds like its predecessor, and able to backup photos and video to both cards if desired.
So the G9 II lacks the faster CF Express card slot of the GH6, which can’t help but slow the flushing of a full buffer and limit maximum video bit rates, but in an unexpected upgrade inherited from the S5 IIx, it will support an external SSD connected over USB.
Like the S5 IIx, the G9 II is fussy about which models it will work with – Panasonic recommends a SanDisk Extreme Portable – but it does provide the chance to use drives that are faster, larger and cheaper than SD, not to mention able to connect direct to a computer or phone.
I’ve connected a 1TB drive here, and like the S5 IIx, when connected and enabled in the menus, it’ll take over all recording duties, disabling the dual SD slots until you turn it off again in the menus. So no chance to record to both SSD and SD at the same time I’m afraid.
But look at the recording times that 1TB gets you: 11 hours of 5.8k at 200Mbit, almost 15 hours of 4k at 150Mbit, or over 22 hours of 1080 at 100Mbit, plus the faster speed means it’ll support those higher bit rate video options shown in the menus. And the SSD is also happy to record still photos, with over 10000 shots shown here remaining.
Obviously an external SSD is not going to be as convenient as simply having a fast internal card slot like CF Express, and it’ll also consume more power, plus to avoid it dangling precariously you’ll need to find an accessory to hold it in place.
But again it does provide the option to have a large amount of fast and affordable storage, while still allowing the camera to accommodate a pair of low cost SD cards for general use.
Turning to the mount, the G9 II will accommodate any lens designed for the Micro Four Thirds standard, including a wealth of options from Panasonic, Olympus and third parties. Due to the sensor size, the field of view of all lenses is reduced by two times, so a 25mm lens will deliver a view equivalent to 50mm on full-frame.
Most lenses should exploit the phase-detect autofocus, subject detection and stabilisaton of the body, albeit with a handful of inevitable restrictions.
Having access to the most established catalogue of native mirrorless lenses has always been a highlight of Micro Four Thirds cameras, and thanks to both its maturity and full-frame obsessed influencers, there’s a healthy market of used options.
So let’s briefly check out some of my favourite lenses at MPB, where I personally buy and sell my used photo gear. I’ll be quoting pounds as I’m in the UK, but MPB also operates across Europe and the US.
Let’s start with the Olympus 17mm f1.8, a great general purpose lens that sells new for about £400, but can be bagged in excellent condition from around £250 at MPB.
Or for a taste of the exotic, how about the Olympus 8mm f1.8, a bright fisheye lens that’s great fun for vlogging as you’ll see later. Normally just under a grand new, but almost half price used in excellent condition at MPB.
Or if you decide the original Lumix G9 is still good enough for your needs, you can grab one from around £500 in good to excellent condition, versus almost double that brand new.
MPB is the largest online platform for used photo and video equipment, and I use them to sell gear I don’t need anymore or to grab a deal on a used bargain. Check them out at MPB.com or using the links in the description. Thanks for sponsoring this video and now back to the review!
As you know, the headline upgrade on the G9 II is a new 25.2 Megapixel Live MOS sensor with phase-detect autofocus and a base sensitivity of 100 ISO, or 500 ISO in V-Log.
Amazingly this makes it the first Lumix G camera with phase-detect AF, a technology Olympus brought to Micro Four Thirds cameras some years ago.
That said, they haven’t gone as far as to make the sensor a stacked design, so while the readout is claimed to be faster than before, it almost certainly won’t be as quick as the stacked sensor in the Olympus OM1, albeit costing a few hundred more. I’ll make some direct comparisons in a future video.
While it would have been easy for Panasonic to inherit the subject detection algorithms from the S5 II, they’ve actually delivered an upgraded system for the G9 II.
Enable AF Detection in the menu and you can choose from Human, Animal, Car or Motorcycle, with the first two options letting you either detect multiple subject bodies or drill-down to an individual face and eyes. In use I found the face and eye options were great for portraits of single people or animals and birds, but when there was more than one subject or they were more distant, the full body detection was the one to go for.
Note you should update the firmware of any lens you’d like to use, and I successfully used the G9 II with the old Leica DG 25mm f1.4, Olympus 75mm f1.8 and Olympus 8mm f1.8 Fisheye lenses. I hope to try many other combinations in the future!
I was also able to try out the G9 II with a selection of bigger lenses at a UK safari park during a press event for the camera. I mostly used the Leica 100-400, and with the G9 II set to animal face and eye, it did a good job locking onto the desired subject, whether it was a Rhino, Giraffe, Ostrich or Zebra.
As a side note though, I noticed Panasonic is using a traditional small tracking box around the eyes of detected animals and birds, but has kept the cross-hairs when detected humans. Clearly the recognition software was developed at different times but I feel it would be visually more consistent to use one or the other.
I also had a chance to photograph seagulls in flight with the G9 II and 100-400 zoom, an attractive portable combination for wildlife. I’ll show you detailed examples in my follow-up review, but for now just wanted to say it locked onto birds eyes, or their body shape from a distance and successfully tracked most of them, at least when avoiding the busiest backgrounds of an urban seafront.
Car detection also worked well in my initial tests, quickly placing a rectangle around the nose of vehicles, even when they’re traveling at high speed.
Panasonic claims the IBIS system is now good for up to eight stops of compensation, of course depending on the lens and conditions. I tried it with my trusty Olympus 75mm f1.8 prime, which has no optical IS of its own. On the day I needed a shutter speed of at least 200th of a second to handhold a sharp result without IBIS, versus a sixth with IBIS. Clearly this demonstrates the potential benefit of IBIS, although in this example only corresponds to five, not eight stops. That said, I managed four stops on the original G9 with the same lens, so at least there’s some improvement here.
In terms of photo options, there’s the usual wealth of Photo Styles, although note the addition of Leica Monochrome and V-Log as standard, as well as real-time LUTs which can be as suitable for customising the style of stills as the video they’re traditionally associated with.
There’s the same four aspect ratios as the G9, albeit missing the panoramic crops of the S5 II. Note as a Micro Four Thirds camera, the sensor’s uncropped native shape is 4:3, not 3:2, and I personally enjoy this squarer format. There’s two JPEG compression options and the chance to record them with a RAW file or a RAW by itself, but strangely for a modern camera, no option to switch JPEG for 10 bit HEIF, nor any RAW compression choices either. JPEGs can be captured at the full 25.2 Megapixel resolution – that’s 5776×4336 pixels, or at lower 12.5 or 6.5 Megapixels.
A highlight remains the High Resolution mode which exploits electronic bursts and IBIS to capture multiple frames while shifting the sensor fractionally between each. The standard mode takes 16 frames and combines them in-camera afterwards to generate an image with up to 50 or 100 Megapixels, and in JPEG, RAW or both formats. A new option lets you capture these high resolution composites handheld, although you will lose the chance to choose motion blur processing.
There’s also an updated iDynamic Range option which captures two different ISO settings on a single frame – presumably exploiting a dual-gain sensor – before combining them into one image which Panasonic claims can have over 13 stops of dynamic range.
I’m also pleased to see Live View Composite for the long exposure fans, as well as the usual bracketing options including focus, and timelapse or stop motion modes. But I think you’ll be doing any focus stacking in software afterwards.
In terms of bursts, the mechanical shutter will fire at up to 10fps with autofocus or 14 with single AF. Slower speeds are also available. Switch to the electronic shutter and you can fire at 20 or 60fps with AF, or a huge 75fps with fixed focus. All three electronic speeds also support a pre-burst capture option with the choice of 0.5, one or 1.5 seconds of action recorded prior to pushing the shutter fully down; the older G9 only had 0.4 seconds of pre-burst buffering.
I prefer having the pre-burst built-into the standard drive modes rather than the 4 and 6k Photo interface of before, and it also looks like you can fire electronic bursts in RAW as well. The fast shooting capabilities are definitely a highlight of the G9 II.
Moving on, the G9 II may be marketed as a photo-first camera, but is also a powerful option for videographers. So much so, owners of models like the GH5 may opt for it over the GH6.
The G9 II will record 1080 up to 240p, 4k up to 120p, or 5.7k up to 60p. You can switch the camera’s video frequency between 50Hz for PAL regions, 60Hz for NTSC frequencies or 24Hz for cinema use. There’s also 5.8k in an Open Gate format that’s perfect for making multiple crops, and which also benefits from the taller 4:3 shape of Micro Four Thirds.
There’s a variety of encoding formats from H.264 and H.265 to All-i and ProRes, the latter exploiting external SSDs to support very high bit rates. If you’re filming 1080 up to 50p, you can even record ProRes internally onto SD.
Unlike the original G9 which made you pay extra, there’s V-Log included as standard, and you’re also getting the benefits of more confident phase-detect autofocusing, more sophisticated subject detection, improved stabilisation and claimed faster sensor readout. There’s also waveform and vectorscope monitors as standard.
So while it may not be pitched as a hybrid camera, some of those video features are pretty high-end, and lest we forget, the GH6 may have a CF Express slot, but lacks the PDAF of the G9 II.
Let’s have a quick look at the G9 II’s video autofocus in action, with yours truly wandering back and forth in true YouTuber style. This was filmed with the old 25mm f1.4 lens and the camera set to human face and eye detection. Remember this is a very old lens which refused to firmware-update, but you can already see it’s avoiding the pulsing of previous Lumix G cameras. Let’s give it a tougher challenge with the Olympus 75mm f1.8, again wide-open and using face and eye detection. Keep an eye on the background bokeh blobs for any unwanted fluttering – I think it’s looking pretty good here, and again impressive given the age of the lens.
For comparison, here’s the original G9 doing the same test with the same lens, and while the AF for video may actually be better than you remember, there’s definitely some visible pulsing and a lack of confidence compared to the Mark II.
While the sensor isn’t a stacked design, Panasonic claims to have improved readout speed, in turn hopefully reducing rolling shutter – well you’d hope so given the six year difference between them. I compared the G9 and G9 II rolling shutter in 4k 25p 10 bit and actually found them to be quite similar.
Panasonic also reckons they’ve improved the video stabilisation, especially if you’re using the optional E-Stabilisation which is available in Standard or High flavours, both of which incur a crop. I found the High option worked well for handheld vlogging with a wide lens.
Lumix G9 II verdict so-far
As someone who’s used Micro Four Thirds from the very beginning, I’m always happy to see the launch of a new body, proving there’s still plenty of life in the most established mirrorless system. And there’s no denying the G9 II is a worthy flagship, packing the best autofocus and subject detection from a Lumix G to date, ultra fast shooting with pre-burst options, excellent stabilisation, great image quality, and seriously good video which in some respects out-rivals the GH6. In fact there’s little to complain about other than wondering whether investing more in a stacked sensor would have made much difference to the target audience.
But in a market where the same money could alternatively buy a Fujifilm X-T5 or even Panasonic’s own full-frame S5 II, the G9 II really only makes sense to someone already committed to Micro Four Thirds who can exploit its benefits over other formats. Someone who’s bought into the mobility argument and looking to upgrade to a top-end body to make the most of their existing lens collection. For them, it’s really only between the G9 II, GH6 and Olympus OM1.
The G9 II is not only the newest, but a little cheaper and has faster bursts, not to mention better video capabilities than the OM1, but Panasonic isn’t shouting about video on the G9 II and by the time you’re spending this much, it’s not a huge stretch to that stacked sensor of the OM1 and a company that’s bold enough to run their bodies under a tap – two aspects which will appeal to the wildlife photographers they’re targeting.
Should Panasonic have aimed higher for the G9 II, increasing its price to include a stacked sensor, or perhaps merge with the GH series to deliver a true hybrid flagship? Since it’s already so close, why not go the extra mile? I believe it’s because Panasonic sees the value in a camera aimed more at photographers alone, deliberately underplaying the video side of things. So if you’re a brand-loyal Lumix owner who mostly shoots stills, and you’ve been waiting patiently for a G9 upgrade to make the most of your Micro Four Thirds lenses, then the G9 II is for you.
It’s a great camera overall, but I feel Panasonic is marketing it to a very specific audience that could have been broader. If you’re into video, maybe currently using an older GH model, I’d also strongly recommend considering the G9 II, as ironically it could end up being one of the strongest options for the money, and for me is actually preferable to the GH6.Check prices on the Panasonic Lumix G9 II at B&H, Adorama, WEX UK or Calumet.de. Alternatively get yourself a copy of my In Camera book, an official Cameralabs T-shirt or mug, or treat me to a coffee! Thanks!