On this page I’ll go into detail about the Lumix G9’s image quality. I’ll start with a full sweep of the sensitivity from 100 to 25600 ISO in JPEG and RAW, followed by six examples of the new composite High Resolution Mode in practice; if you’re most interested in the latter, just scroll down beyond the noise sequence.
To illustrate the noise levels on the Lumix G9, I photographed the following still life scene at every sensitivity from 100 to 25600 ISO (note the base sensitivity is 200 ISO) in JPEG and RAW. I processed the RAW files in Adobe Camera RAW with sharpness turned up (50 / 0.5 / 36 / 10) and noise reduction disabled to see what’s going on behind the scenes. I then took the same crop from each JPEG and RAW file, indicated by the red frame below, and presented them in a table for comparison.
In the table below you can see 100% crops taken from the composition above. The JPEGs are straight out of camera, while the RAW files have been processed with high sharpening and zero noise reduction; this approach is very unforgiving and designed to reveal noise early-on, but indicates what information you have to work with later.
Between 100 and 400 ISO, the G9 delivers very clean and detailed results, with a faint sprinkling of noise only beginning to appear on the RAW crops below from 800 ISO upwards. At 3200 ISO, the noise has become quite visible on the RAW crops below, but the in-camera processing and noise reduction has done a good job at keeping it at bay while retaining detail on the JPEGs. Sure there’s some softening and smudging, but on the whole it’s a fair result. Like other Micro Four Thirds bodies, there’s a significant loss of detail at 6400 ISO upwards, especially at 12800 and 25600 ISO – these are really for emergency use at lower magnifications – but again on the whole I’m very satisfied by the quality across the more common ISO sensitivities.
Scroll below this table for examples of the High Resolution Mode in action, or skip to my samples page!
Panasonic Lumix G9 High Resolution Mode
The Lumix G9 offers a High Resolution mode that captures and combines eight images to boost detail and eliminate false colour and moire artefacts; you can choose to generate 40 or 80 Megapixel files in JPEG or RAW, and the process takes around 0.3 seconds to capture and four seconds to process in-camera. The 40 and 80 Megapixel images measure 7296×5472 and 10368×7776 pixels; compare that to the native single-frame 20 Megapixel images that measure 5184×3888 pixels. The camera uses an electronic shutter in the High Resolution Mode, so the longest exposure time is limited to one second (per frame). If you shoot in RAW, you can also generate a 40 Megapixel version from an 80 Megapixel original – or vice-versa – in playback.
Olympus also offers a composite high resolution mode on the OMD EM1 Mark II and OMD EM5 Mark II which again captures and combines eight images in-camera to boost the resolution and reduce colour artefacts. The process is fairly quick, but Panasonic’s is faster on the G9. Meanwhile Sony’s A7r Mark III offers a pixel-shift mode that captures four frames to reduce colour artefacts, but demands that you assemble them in software later, making it much less convenient than the Olympus and Panasonic versions.
While the implementations are different, the capture process on all three require a tripod to keep the camera steady and a static subject; any motion between frames, such as water or clouds, people, birds or vehicles in the background, or even branches waving in the wind can cause undesirable compositing artefacts. As such all are best-used in controlled studio environments for product, still-life or archival photography, although it is possible to enjoy some success outdoors with landscapes and architecture.
Bottom line? You’re unlikely to capture 80 Megapixel’s worth of real-life detail, but in my examples, the 40 Megapixel versions often contained visibly greater detail than the single frames, as well as fewer colour artefacts. Motion can be an issue, but if you’re careful – or lucky – the High Resolution Mode really can deliver a boost in quality.
Here are six examples of how I used it in practice; in each case I’ve pictured the single frame version first with a red frame to indicate the area(s) cropped for closer examination. Below each complete frame are three crops taken from the 20, 40 and 80 Megapixel versions, presented at 100% for comparison.
Overall the High Resolution Mode on the Lumix G9 is genuinely capable of capturing finer details than the native single frames. Like similar modes on rival systems, you have to be very careful with your technique and also prepare yourself for the possibility of artefacts and often minor gains. But when the planets align, you really will enjoy visibly superior results that are well worth aiming for. In my tests the 80 Megapixel versions may have failed to deliver much if any benefit over the 40 Megapixel files, but the latter could genuinely delight.
Next check out my samples page.Check prices on the Panasonic Lumix G9 at Amazon, B&H, Adorama, or Wex. Alternatively get yourself a copy of my In Camera book or treat me to a coffee! Thanks!