After some hiatus, Panasonic has finally announced a new microFourThirds Lumix camera, G9 II, and updated two telephoto zoom lenses.
Specifically, after a seven (7!) year hiatus, Panasonic finally introduced a follow-up to G9, a high-end stills-oriented camera, and the two refreshed telephoto zooms are well-known 35–100mm F2.8 and 100–400mm lenses.
G9 II camera
The new camera is a departure from the design language of the previous model, the new one is significantly more angular and is taller, and narrower than the previous model. Mark II model gained a larger and more ergonomic AF joystick but lost the top-plate LCD screen, central lock button for mode dial, and customizable lever at the front. The new model looks like the Panasonic S5 II with a microFourThirds mount and sensor, making it a big camera for the system (just like its predecessor), despite keeping the exact same weight as the previous model. Unfortunately, it also gained a lot of price, as well.
The sensor is a new, 25-megapixel unit, with on-sensor phase-detection sensels and dual-range sensitivity, similar to the one in GH6, but apparently with improved noise characteristics and a new base and expanded low ISO – base ISO is now 100, and ISO 50 is available. PDAF sensels make it the first Panasonic microFourThirds camera offering the technology. Updated AF also brings new subject detection algorithms, and Depth from Defocus technology is still present and used in single AF mode. PDAF system has 775 points, while DfD has 315 – a boost from 225 AF points of the earlier model. There’s an updated IS system, making the camera capable of shooting 100 mpx handheld high-resolution photos – thanks to the new processor, composite high-res mode no longer requires a tripod.
There are a few features copied directly off the S5 II model, like a full-size HDMI port, USB-C PD charging and 10 GBps transfer speed, and the ability to record to an external SSD. The same body as S5 II means all the accessories and video rigs can be used on G9 II, as well. Despite being primarily a stills camera, a lot of advanced video features make the G9 II a very capable hybrid, B-roll video camera – with built-in support for V-Log and open gate 5.8K recording. Also new, the Leica Monochrome profile has a slightly different contrast curve than the existing L.Monochrome D profile. But, there were some losses – 4K and 6K photo modes are no longer provided.
There are also a pair of refreshed lenses – the Leica DG Vario-Elmarit 35–100mm F2.8 Power OIS and the Leica DG Vario-Elmar 100–400mm F4–6.3 ASPH. Power OIS II. Both are revised and updated versions of existing lenses, with new optical designs and features.
The 35–100mm F2.8 lens is the third generation of the existing lens and now features an updated optical design that is good enough for Leica certification and a name change. It also has Dual IS 2 compatibility with a 5-axis image stabilization system, Nano Surface coatings, and more precise aperture control for smoother exposure changes during video recording.
With this update, the 100–400mm lens has gained support for Panasonic’s 1.4× and 2× teleconverters, at focal lengths ranging from 210–400mm. This has been achieved through a new design that keeps the rear lens element separate from the teleconverter’s elements. Additionally, the lens is now freezeproof, and the updated optical design allows for improved macro performance. It can now achieve a magnification of 0.5× with the lens alone and up to 1× with a 2× teleconverter.
A new high-end camera body, with new technology, is always a welcome addition. It’s still a big camera, but it is feature-packed and has impressive video capabilities. As with all new releases, the price hike is significant and although expected, it is not welcome.
The updated autofocus system finally brings Panasonic cameras in line with the competition and makes the new camera a viable alternative to OM System’s OM-1. It remains to be seen in the wild, but PDAF should make this camera a good fit for adapting big FourThirds lenses, which usually dwarf and unbalance smaller mirrorless bodies.
Both updated lenses are evolutionary upgrades of existing models but with real improvements, both optically and mechanically, not just updates to a new finish and name.
Although not revolutionary, lens updates are expanding the usability of both lenses, especially the 35–100mm lens. Even without the teleconverter, a 100–400mm lens is always diffraction-limited, and the converter certainly does not improve that. However, for its main application, seeing subjects can be critical, and that’s where the teleconverter should help. Hopefully, optical tests will confirm optical improvements empirically.
Price-wise, according to the local webshops, the G9 II is being sold for 1900€, the 100–400mm lens for 1700€, with no price for the 35–100mm lens yet, but it is expected to be ~1250€.
Personally, I hope to see the same tech updates being introduced in other models, especially in the smaller models. I’d certainly like to see most of the features from G9 II in rangefinder-styled models, the next GX-series camera. A new compact GM-series camera would also be welcomed.
The new potential GX9 II camera should keep the same sensor, with all the AF and sensitivity upgrades. A faster frame rate is not the essential upgrade to the GX-series camera – along with high-res and video modes. On the other hand, ergonomics should definitely be improved with a slightly extended and rubberized grip in the style of the original GX7, in my opinion.
The newly envisioned GM9 camera should use the sensor with AF updates and it could even go by without the sensor IS system, but the most important fact of that potential camera would be its mere existence – there haven’t been new updates in the GM series since 2015.