The Panasonic G9 for Wedding Photographers with Michael Anthony
I have been a big fan of mirrorless cameras for a while now. My love for them began when I started traveling frequently for destination wedding work. I had always loved the imagery that my DSLRs produced, but I didn’t love lugging around a 70-pound bag on flights and through airports. On a wedding day, we often have to go places that our bags simply can’t roll—and the addition of lighting equipment required us to hire an assistant so we could keep up with our clients.
At the time, there was no better way because a DSLR was just the way we did things.
As mirrorless camera technology has improved, Sony has offered some incredible options for photographers. Their bodies have the most sophisticated technology I have ever used in a camera. When we initially switched our primary camera systems to Sony from Canon, we were surprised that our gear pack did not really shrink much. This is because the size of lenses has remained the same in relation to the sensor they cover. Sony’s glass, although excellent, is still very large and heavy.
Many photographers have stayed clear of APS-C or Micro Four Thirds cameras because of the perception that they will not deliver professional-quality photographs compared to their full-frame counterparts. While a full-frame camera system offers superior quality in most situations, you would be hard pressed to tell the difference in 90 percent of situations between a full-frame system and an MFT/APS-C system.
Panasonic introduced mirrorless camera technology to photographers not too long ago, focusing on the Micro Four Thirds platform, which uses a sensor that is about half the size of a traditional full-frame sensor. A smaller sensor generally means less dynamic range and more noise at higher ISOs. We have been using Panasonic cameras since the GH4 for video, so we were familiar with the technology. The processing engine in the camera prevented us from using it for wedding photography because of its autofocus and low-light performance.
When Panasonic released the GH5, they made a solid camera with a refined sensor and autofocus system, but this camera was still very focused on videographers and provided a solid hybrid set of features. In early 2018, Panasonic introduced its G9, their flagship still-photography camera.
Every image in this article was photographed with the Panasonic G9. They say a picture is worth 1,000 words, so the easiest way to see the image quality is to look at the images laid out here.
When I purchased a G9 for our studio, it was as a test to shoot alongside our full-frame Sony bodies. After taking images side by side with my Sony A9 with an 85mm (42.5 for the G9) lens, I placed both images next to each other and asked five photographers to guess which one was shot with the full-frame camera. Four of the photographers answered wrong. From there, we decided to use the G9 as a primary camera system, but kept the full-frame system for daytime shooting. This camera creates amazing imagery, and the tradeoff of image quality versus portability is well worth it.
Here are a few areas of interest to wedding photographers who are considering a move to a lighter system.
This is the number-one concern to photographers before switching to a smaller system. With a smaller sensor, there are limitations to the quality of the pixels available in a given frame. In the last few years, there have been astronomical leaps in the quality of camera sensors. As with most technology, over time things become better, and we are at the point now where a smaller-sensor camera under optimal conditions can produce images that are fine for printing.
Dynamic range on this camera has been improved over the GH5 by 1/3 of a stop. There is more than enough info to work within our style of HDR editing in the highlights and shadows. Does a full-frame camera have more dynamic range? Of course, but it’s very rare that I need to use all of it, and that applies even with our G9’s.
Color reproduction with this camera is very good. It has a new processing engine that produces some of the best in-camera JPEGs of all of our cameras. The Raw files contain a lot of color information that can be manipulated in post. The engineers improved color gradations in both skin tones and blue skies, which is especially noticeable compared to the GH5 or any other previous-generation camera.
Panasonic added an anti-reflective coating to the sensor that allows for much clearer images at night or when shooting into the sun.
MFT cameras have always provided a very sharp image. The smaller sensor tends to render sharper detail, and without the anti-aliasing filter, you can take advantage of better detail rendition without moiré, which Panasonic has eliminated through software in its processing engine.
How about noise performance? This is usually the Achilles’ heel of a smaller sensor system. The G9 has improved ISO performance, and I have found usable images up to ISO 3200.
But you can also let more light in with a lower ISO. With a smaller sensor, you have double the depth of field, so a 1.8 lens will give you DOF close to a 2.8 lens, which means you can let in more light with one of the stellar fast primes available and still get your subjects in focus. All this being said, while DOF is larger, the bokeh rendition with a good lens like the Leica Panasonic options is super smooth.
All in all, if you are a skilled shooter, the G9 can provide you with ample quality for your wedding clients.
The G9 uses a 223-point contrast detection autofocus system that acquires focus in an industry-leading .04 seconds—in other words, it gets on target fast. Tracking has been improved, and is the best I have seen in a contrast detection system. The Panasonic also offers not only face and eye tracking like most of this generation of mirrorless cameras, but it also affects the ability to track the body of your subjects. The single-shot modes work the best because of the ridiculously fast and accurate target acquisition. Low-light autofocus works as well or better than that of any DSLRs I have used.
Now to get to the good stuff. The G9 features a 60 Raw FPS blackout free-burst mode in single-shot mode. No more missing the damn bouquet toss. This is one of my favorite features because you are able to capture any minute detail while basically capturing Raw video. This feature is innovative, but does have limitations. For starters, when using continuous mode, the number of shots in burst mode is reduced to 20FPS, which is more than you will likely need anyway. The camera also has a 50-frame Raw buffer, which is the only thing I wish would have been improved because you can use that burst mode for only a fraction of a second; I would appreciate a little more wiggle room in the next generation.
This is an area where I feel the G9 is vastly superior to any camera on the market. The body is ultra-lightweight, but the camera has a very large grip that fits perfectly in the hand. The touchscreen is the most intuitive that I have used in a camera, and the menu system should be standard in every camera.
The camera features a top-panel LCD, and I didn’t realize how much I missed it from my DSLR.
The MFT mount of the G9 can use any of the Panasonic or Olympus lenses, and there are a lot of high-quality ones to choose from.
When mounted with a 35–100 (70–200 equivalent), the camera is about half the size and a third of the weight of a full-frame option.
While I exercise with weights almost every day and am in relatively good shape, any wedding photographer will agree that at the end of a 10-hour wedding, your back will thank you for switching to an MFT system. Along with the overall size savings, the weight savings over a full-frame gear pack is incredible. We can fit two cameras and nine lenses in a backpack when we travel, along with chargers, laptops, iPads and other gear, with room to spare.
The camera features dual SD cards that are both UHS-II compatible. Two batteries can last us an entire wedding.
The viewfinder, one of the largest in the industry, allows you to see the entire photo from edge to edge. It’s fast and responsive, and the EVF is my single favorite feature about mirrorless cameras. I want to see the image I am creating in real time—a feature I will never go without again.
Image Stabilization and Other Features
The G9 features 6.5 stops of in-body image stabilization, which means that if you have steady hands, you can all but eliminate the need for a tripod at slow shutter speeds. Panasonic offers lens stabilization that, when combined with the IBIS, creates Panasonic’s Dual-IS, which leads to incredibly sharp images.
Price and Lens Selections
One of the best things about the MFT system is that it is substantially less expensive than a full-frame equivalent without sacrificing build quality. The bodies are only $1,700 retail, and the glass is substantially less expensive as well. The whole system was easy to acquire, freeing up capital for marketing and other expenses.
I like being able to use lenses from multiple manufacturers. The Leica glass that Panasonic produces is incredible in both build quality and functionality. AF is fast, IS is included and the glass is about 1/3 the size of 35mm lenses. Leica prime lenses are my favorite, especially the 12 1.4, 25 1.4 and 42.5 1.2. Olympus has a large range of lenses that are compatible with the G9 as well.
Wedding photographers have to constantly challenge industry norms. Many photographers cannot believe we are shooting weddings with an MFT system, but we are hard pressed to tell the differences in quality when comparing MFT and FF images side by side. Our cameras are just a tool to help us accomplish that task. Use whatever gives your clients the best experience possible.