Want to shoot like a street photographer? The compact Panasonic GX9 is your tool

After giving photographers the ability to shoot first and focus later, Panasonic is bringing more in-camera photo trickery with the new 20.3-megapixel Lumix GX9. Announced on Feb. 13, the compact mirrorless camera adds several new 4K Photo options while giving the body an upgrade with a tilting electronic viewfinder.

The GX9 is all about street photography, with a compact design that makes it discrete when used. Attach a small prime lens and you have yourself a lightweight Micro Four Thirds camera that you could easily pocket, making it ideal for travel as well. The GX9 uses the same sensor as the 2015 GX8: a 20.3-megapixel Micro Four Thirds chipset, but with the optical low pass filter removed for enhanced detail. While the megapixel count is unchanged, Panasonic says the GX9 offers more true-to-life color than the predecessor. With a compatible Panasonic lens, the camera supports dual image stabilization by combining a two-axis optical stabilizer in the lens and a five-axis in-body system.

Panasonic says the GX9 offers more true-to-life color than the predecessor and, with a compatible Panasonic lens, supports dual image stabilization.

While the flagships Lumix G9 and GH5 can record 4K video at 60 frames per second (fps), the GX9 does it at 30 fps or 24 fps. Because this camera is designed for photography, that isn’t a disadvantage; besides, 4K/30fps is still very good, and demanding filmmakers probably would not look at the GX9 as a main camera anyway. What the GX9 does share with the G9 and GH5 is continuous recording in 4K, which is a feature most cameras don’t offer (it will stop when the card is full or the camera gets too hot). Switching to Full HD 1080p video will up the frame rate to 60 fps.

Panasonic’s Depth From Defocus autofocus system allows for communication between camera and lens as fast as 240 fps, with an autofocus speed of 0.07 seconds. Panasonic improved the tracking performance by integrating 3D measurement of the entire scene. Panasonic says the change helps prevent the autofocus from being deterred by other objects entering the frame, along with tracking in the background if the subject leaves the frame. Autofocus modes include Low Light AF, one-shot, face/eye detection, and Pinpoint AF.

With continuous autofocus, the GX9 can shoot at 6 fps. That speed bumps up to 9 fps if focus is locked on the first frame. It isn’t as fast as the G9, but this camera isn’t designed for fast action photography, Panasonic says. As for shutter noise, it’s 90-percent quieter than before.

The GX9 expands Panasonic’s growing list of 4K Photo mode options. Along with the post focus and focus stacking, the GX9 adds a Light Composition mode that was first introduced on the ZS70. Using this option, the camera looks for the brightest pixels and saves those brightest areas — useful for fireworks, stars, and other types of night shots. Like the other 4K Photo options, Light Composition is made from extracting stills from a 4K video, which lowers the resolution to 8 megapixels.

Another new option for 4K Photos is Auto Marking. The feature turns video into 30-fps stills, which is great for timing shots but not so for the number of images to sift through at that speed. To compensate, Auto Marking will look through those shots and choose the frames that are the most different from the others, simplifying the photo culling process.

Another new feature in 4K Photos mode is Auto Marking, which turns video into 30-fps stills

The 4K Photo modes also now include a sequence composition stromotion. The effect creates an in-camera composite that layers the action at different points, all onto the same background image. Like with focus stacking, the stromotion is a popular but time-consuming post-editing function that Panasonic is bringing in-camera and making it easy to create.

For fans of black and white film photography, a new L.Monochrome D photo style creates black and whites with more emphasis on both the shadows and the highlights. Camera styles also now include film-like noise that can be added in camera. Unlike most digital grain preproduction, Panasonic says the noise is random in order to more closely mimic film styles.

The built-in electronic viewfinder can tilt up to 90 degrees for more flexibility in shooting positions — a feature users requested. That updated viewfinder is wide-screen with a 2,760k-dot resolution and 100-percent color reproduction. The GX9 also has a 3-inch LCD screen that tilts up; it’s the same as the GX85’s, but with higher resolution (1,240k dots).

panasonic lumix gx9 launched img 2273

Size comparison between the Panasonic GX9 and GH4

Other new features include Bluetooth low energy for constant pairing with a smartphone, as well as low-level functions like adding GPS data photos, remote shutter, and remote video start/stop; Live View Boost and 20x MF Assist that let you zoom in and focus on objects as tiny as stars; a redesigned port door that slides into the body, rather than flip out; and in-camera battery charging when the GX9 is connected via USB.

The GX9 will list for $999 with a 12-60mm lens, with availability slated for the end of March. It comes in all-black or silver-and-black. The price is a drop from the $1,200 that the GX8 first launched at, though in the U.S., the GX9 will not be available as a body-only option. Optional accessories include a hand grip ($60) and eye piece for the viewfinder ($20).

During a pre-briefing, Panasonic showed us some prints made from photos taken with the GX9. Compared side by side with prints from a GX8, the colors in the GX9 photos were richer and exhibited greater accuracy (from what we’re told, at least) and detail. Black and white photos had the grain typically found in film; monochrome enthusiasts at the briefing seemed impressed. Panasonic did not demo any video — again, the company is pushing this as a street photographer’s camera. For those who want a compact interchangeable lens camera, the GX9 certainly fits the bill.