Panasonic, Please Come Back! Lumix GX9 Re-Review

Panasonic, Please Come Back! Lumix GX9 Re-Review

Compact, packs a punch, and relatively cheap. The GX9 is one of the many cameras recently discontinued by Panasonic which has undoubtedly found a well-deserved following. The manufacturer has been unfortunately turning away from smaller cameras, and that is a damn shame. The GX9 is a perfect proof.

Last Small Great?

There are cameras that are known by the masses, usually deservedly so, and then there are those that have not been a massive hit for various reasons. Some cameras, however, do deserve a spot in the limelight even after their discontinuation thanks to the used market keeping them at reasonable prices whilst staying great pieces of kit. Panasonic has been at the forefront of Micro Four Thirds ever since its conception back in 2008 and has been one of its loudest champions ever since. Well, up until recently at least. I personally remember one of the company’s representatives claiming that the “full frame fad is dead” and that smaller sensors are the future. While smaller sensors can do really well there is never a need to throw around such bold claims only to do a complete 180 a decade later. 

Nowadays, it feels like Panasonic is treating the M4/3 standard as a bit of an afterthought with all its focus pointed firmly toward the 35mm full-frame L-Mount system. Or at least they kind of forgot what made it great in the first place. So what is the Lumix GX9? And why do I hold it in such high regard?

Unassuming yet capable

First and foremost, the camera is small. And I mean small. So compact, in fact, that paired with either the 20mm f/1.7 prime or the kit lens 12-32mm pancake, you can easily fit it in a small Peak Design Field Pouch and you’re good to go. The body weighs less than 500 grams, but it still feels well-built and robust. Nothing in terms of performance was sacrificed to keep the camera so compact. But more on the insides later. Let’s talk about the outside first.

The Design and Controls

The camera looks rather unassuming from the outside. Its small frame and simple shape make it seem like your standard holiday shooter perfect for your dad to take on his weekend city escape. But once you look closer you notice that the camera has clearly been designed by someone who shoots a lot and thinks about his designs. The body is not entirely flat as we’re used to with many compact cameras. The front has a decent grip, which might not be enough to hold onto on its own but combined with the rear thumb support it feels better than the recently released Nikon Z f, for example. The shutter button is neither too clicky nor too mushy. It’s just right.

In terms of mode and exposure controls, you’ve got all the basics covered. The shutter is surrounded by a control wheel, while your second wheel is right above the aforementioned thumb rest. The rightmost dial is double-layered the smaller top dial is your standard PASM switcher, while the lower one is a clearly marked exposure compensation dial. Both are neatly tucked behind the outer edge of the body and quite stiff, so the chances of turning either of them by accident are, as Cillian Murphy’s Oppenheimer would say, “Near zero.” The last button on the top is a red-labelled video record one enclosed in an easy to reach on/off switch. 

Well-designed dials and controls

Most of your exposure settings are easily reachable and well-defined, and instead of getting in the way feel like the right choice in terms of stiffness, placement, and design. The back of the camera offers your traditional directional pad with pre-labeled functions and a few more flush buttons. Two of those can be customized by the user but not all. I especially like the mechanical AF mode switch allowing you to quickly choose between AF-S, AF-C, and MF. 

The rear 3” LCD screen offers a decent resolution of 1.24 million pixels and a two-way tilt going nearly 90 degrees up and 45 degrees down. This is not a vlogger’s camera nor is it made for selfies so don’t try to turn the screen forward. Two more mention-worthy features are the built-in flash which can be held facing upward to bounce off the ceiling and a hotshoe which is often omitted in smaller bodies such as this one.

I haven’t even mentioned the most interesting part of the GX9, which is undoubtedly the viewfinder. On paper, it does not sound like much: 2.79 million pixels with a 0.7x magnification. It is not the largest nor the clearest window to look through but it is still one of my favorite ones to this day. You see, it is not fixed to the body. It can tilt up. This feature alone makes the camera a much more enjoyable experience than many other cameras. Whether you’re shooting street photography, trying to document what’s going on around you, or even having a portrait session, the ability to shoot from a lower angle and still be able to comfortably look through the viewfinder is priceless. Not hiding behind the camera but instead looking into it and still being able to talk to your subject makes so much difference. It’s hard to explain, it has to be experienced. I’m sure if you’ve ever used a TLR or a Hasselblad 500, you understand what I mean. This feature alone just works so well.

A brilliant tilting viewfinder. A simple design elevating the camera to a different level.

The Power Inside

Micro Four Thirds are often scuffed at for the small sensor size. Many say the dynamic range is not capable of keeping up with larger sensors or that the detail captured is not sufficient. Depth of field is also an often repeated gripe many have with these sensors. And while yes, larger sensors do perform better at all of these things, that does not mean a good micro 4/3 sensor cannot produce great results. Technology keeps advancing and improving. The 20.3-megapixel Live MOS sensor in the GX9 was pretty damn good for its time and it can still produce good files today. It lacks an optical low pass filter so it can capture a decent amount of detail and its native ISO range stretches from 200 to 25600. Yes, the higher values are grainy, but still fairly usable if your tolerance is not product photo level low.

I used the camera extensively on my first trip to the Donbas frontline back in 2018, where I took it with me everywhere as my small, unobtrusive, silent camera, and the files I brought back with me are still some of my favorites. Even shots that I took in a covert underground base lit only by a weak petrol lamp using the basic 12-32mm f/3.5-5.6 lens at ISO 12800 and later pushing it additional two stops in post came out pretty damn usable, especially considering the camera was even able to focus in such a low-light situation.

The sensor is mechanically stabilized up to 4 stops and can capture up to 9 frames per second. There are no phase-detection points on the sensor whatsoever. Panasonic was still adamant that contrast detection was all you’d ever need at that time. We’d have to wait for the recently released S5 II to get that technology embedded in the sensor. That being said the autofocus of the GX9 is pretty snappy and accurate. You only need to expect some pulsating in the AF-C mode as the contrast detection system has to do exactly that, confirm the best contrast. It’s more than enough in stills, but don’t count on it too much in video.

AF mode switch and plenty of controls on the back.

Speaking of video, we get our standard 8-bit 4K/30p at 100 Mbps with no external microphone input, so nothing too fancy, but nothing unusable either. The video is decent when you’re in a pinch, but it's not the main selling point of the camera. Remember when Panasonic used to sell cameras with photography as the main feature? Those were the days. 

Works Well, Better Than Some Today

Some of the features in the now five-year-old camera are still more advanced than some current cameras on the market. Like the ability to transfer raw files straight to your phone over WiFi. I’m still waiting for Fujifilm to implement that feature into their app and cameras. The side door hiding the MicroHDMI and the, unfortunately, older MicroUSB ports is quite possibly the best-designed side door I’ve ever seen in a camera to date. The ability to charge your battery internally on the go is something Canon for example still has not fully grasped today yet the GX9 does easily with nearly any power adapter. The battery not being the smallest one possible and lasting me in the range of 500 shots is pretty impressive for such a compact camera.

Of course, the camera comes with all the bells and whistles we’re used to from Panasonic nowadays like the 4K pre-burst, 4K burst capture, post-focus, and other modes. Those are undoubtedly nice to have when they’re needed. Same with the inclusion of multiple photo styles like the Cinelide D, Cinelike V, or my favorite Leica Monochrome D, which looks beautiful. Shame those can’t be applied in post to the raws through Lightroom just like the Fujifilm film simulations can in the form of profiles.

Small sensor, small mount, big potential.

What I Liked

Well, I think it is pretty obvious, but let’s sum it up. The tilting viewfinder is by far one of the best features of the Panasonic Lumix GX9. The way you control the exposure is evidently well-thought-out and just makes sense. The image quality is decent for a micro 4/3 camera and the speed of both the autofocus as well as the shutter ensures you seldom miss a moment. One thing I haven’t mentioned yet is the sound of the shutter. It’s subtle, not too aggressive, and the opposite of intimidating. Last but not least is of course the compact size mixed with good ergonomics.

What I Disliked

There is not much I disliked about the camera. I’d probably say the inability to map more buttons to my preferred functions especially the video record button at the top. The single card slot is not an ideal solution for data safety, but it is understandable considering the body size. The predecessor GX8 had one extra feature we’ve lost here and that is weather sealing but the GX8 was also noticeably larger so I can forgive the GX9 for the lack of weather sealing as well.

The one thing I dislike the most about the GX9 is the fact it has been officially discontinued with no replacement in sight. Along with the end of the LX100 II, or the GX80, it seems that Panasonic is abandoning the small camera market to focus on the full-frame bodies. So much so that they’ve even used a full-frame body to house an micro 4/3 sensor inside it to make a successor to the G9. One of the best-designed micro 4/3 bodies is being replaced by just a gutted S5 II with a smaller sensor losing most of what made it great. 

I hope Panasonic will not leave micro 4/3 in the dust as an afterthought to concentrate solely on the 35mm market. Smaller, compact, faster cameras were popular for a reason. And it’s not just the bodies I’m talking about. The glass is just as important. So please, Panasonic, come back and keep Micro Four Thirds alive. There are many like me who love smaller sensors for many different reasons. 


Ondřej Vachek's picture

Ondřej Vachek is a Prague based independent documentary photographer and photojournalist with multiple journeys to war-torn Ukraine where he covered everything from the frontline in the Donbass to the civilian life adapting to the new normal. Avid street photographer with love for writing and storytelling.

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Loved the GX8. Skipped the GX9 because I thought surely they will come out with a Mark 2 that's weather sealed. Still waiting.

There are rumours of a G100 successor, but that was a vlogger camera. It's not the same. I really hope we get a GX9 II or a GX10 eventually.

The G100 was marketed as a vlogger camera, in execution it was a terrible vlogging camera and a solid pocket stills camera with a 20mm/15mm f1.7 or something similar.

The GX8 to GX9 change is the first time I've ever seen a camera model get thoroughly downgraded from the previous model. Truly baffling.

I think the key reason was the size. The GX8 is quite a bit larger than the 9.

I had a GX8 as well, and the GX9 was a huge disappointment. Love the form factor.

I also love my GX9. My only real issue with it is that I don't love processing the RAW files that come out of it. I'm probably a bit spoiled by my Sony FF cameras that I use professionally in that regard.

I like small walk-around cameras for street, travel, family moments, etc. This camera has fit the bill in that regard, but I've found that I like to be able to get SOOC jpegs that are pleasing along with my RAWs when I'm not shooting for a job, and I only like the b&w jpeg processing on this camera - I don't find the color processing very pleasing.

I ended up buying a Ricoh GRIIIx since I can literally throw it in the pocket of a jacket or even my pants, and I like the color film simulations quite a bit more. That being said, the GX9 easily competes in b&w, and I can get shallower depth of field based on lens choice, despite the smaller sensor.

Having said all of this, I would be extremely hesitant to ever part with my GX9, unless they made a GX9 II.

Yeah. The raw files can't exactly compete with modern full frame ones, but you get a lot smaller and lighter camera, lenses, fast framerates all for a fraction of the price and unless you're a 200% pixel peeper the images are very usable. I have multiple images printed out hanging on my walls and they look beautiful.
I usually avoid zoom lenses let alone the kit ones but I thoroughly enjoyed the 12-32mm pancake that came with the camera. Having a 24-64mm equivalent at this size is nice.

I love my GX9. I use it alongside my G9, or put the 14mm f2.5 lens on it and put it in my pocket.

The only failing, so far, which it shared with the GX7 (I had the same problem on two bodies), is that the thumbwheel has become flaky, and registers changes in the opposite direction to which it is turning.

(I skipped the GX8 because it was too big.)

Ooh! That's a neat lil lens to use with the GX9 😍

Really hope Panasonic are reading this! I don't have the GX9 but I do have the GX80 and absolutely love it. I also have a G9 and G100 and the GX80 is the one that goes in the bag the most. I have been looking at GX9s on second hand market but still a part of me hopes that Panasonic will release a successor soon with the newer sensor.

Every article I've read about the G9ii seems to have lots of people calling for a new GX camera so fingers crossed.

GX80 (I think it's called GX85 in America) is like the GX9's smaller brother. A great little camera! There are talks about a G100 II, but I wasn't a fan of it since it lacked IBIS, a tilting viewfinder, and had a vlogger screen.

Having switched entirely to Sony FE three years ago for my event work, I'm finding it very hard to part with the last few bits of my formerly extensive MFT kit, chief among them the GX9, 7-14/4, 12-32/3.5-5.6, and tiny 35-100/4.0-5.6. The GX9 is just a pleasure to use, and the image quality is better than my LX10 or FZ1000II. Yes, I have a collapsing 28-60 for my Sony a7RV, but the GX9 with 12-32 is still a lot smaller.

Absolutely agreed.

Panasonic's introduction of the full frame S line would completely make sense to me, if they were going to focus their M43 products on smaller form factors. Instead, we have the G9II that is the same size as a full frame?

I'm still using a GM5 (and still loving it), I'd be willing to pay the full boat G9 price for a modern update to it with PDAF and the bells and whistles. A GX10 would be an ok compromise. But instead there's just . . . . nothing.

Exactly. It would make sense if they split their cameras like Fujifilm does. APS-C are relatively small, fast, affordable and GFX are larger, focused on image quality and more premium in price.
Panasonic could've done something similar with m4/3 and 35mm.

The weirdest part about it is that they have the ecosystem for it already in place, too. Part of the reason I still love Panasonic after all these years is the wonderful assortment of glass I've slowly acquired. (The 42.5mm Nocticron may look a little funny on the tiny GM5, but it takes astonishing photos.)

Why spend all this time establishing a great lens ecosystem (and continuing to update it), only to stop making the bodies to support it?

The Gx9 is my first "modern" camera after shooting my last film roll in the late 90's.
I bought it used, along with a 20mm 1.7, after reading reviews.
But the camera is not really meant for beginners.
The tilting viewfinder is wonderful but the camera is a slippery brick.
It's bulky, heavy, not really pocketable, and the grip is unuseful.
The screen is not fully articulated, so you can not fold it closed.
I sold it after 6 months, to buy an underated G5 for less than a hundred. And kept the 20mm !
Don't miss the 4K-thing and video features I dont need...

I like small walk-around cameras for street, travel, family moments, etc. This camera has fit the bill in that regard, but I've found that I like to be able to get SOOC jpegs that are pleasing along with my RAWs when I'm not shooting for a job, and I only like the b&w jpeg processing on this camera - I don't find the color processing very pleasing.

For six years now, my walk-around camera for street, travel and family moments is a Fuji X70. The SOOC jpegs are great and it's small and inconspicuous.

I don’t understand the shift away from smaller bodies in M43. I thought that was the point?
I still use my GM1 regularly. It’s my favourite camera, even ten years later (I also own a G100, G9 and GX85). If they released an updated version I think it would fly off the shelves.

if there was a GX9 II with joystick , phase detection autofocus + new sensor , I WOULD BUY IT

Panasonic's TouchPad AF is so much better than any joynub. Even if my GX9 had a joynub, I'd never use it. Sony's touch is not as responsive, though it has gotten better in the latest generation, so I use touch and joynub 50/50 on my Sonys.