Panasonic have clearly spent a lot of time working on the ergonomics of the G9 and it really shows. They have managed to squeeze into a relatively compact body the best features of both m43 and DSLR formats. In the hand this camera feels superb – it is as good if not better to handle than any other camera that I am aware of and feels exceptionally well built. For me it is neither too big nor too heavy.
The grip is exactly the correct size for my right hand, three fingers fit on the grip perfectly with my index finger sitting atop the grip with the perfectly placed shutter button, pre-production models of the camera were said to have an overly sensitive shutter button but I don’t find that to be the case here. The front wheel is very easy to operate whilst the rear wheel sits nicely under the thumb, both are very tactile and have a nice positive action.
Moving the thumb down gives very easy access to the rear control dial and also across to the focus point joystick which is perfectly placed for me even though I don’t have large hands.
The postioning and ability to customise the three dials means that you have direct acccess to the full exposure triangle without the need to press any buttons or remove your eye from the evf. My preferred set up gives me:
Aperture Priority – Aperture on the front wheel, Exposure Comp on the rear wheel and ISO on rear control dial.
Shutter Priority – Shutter Speed on the front wheel, Exposure Comp on the rear wheel and ISO on rear control dial.
Manual – Aperture on the front wheel, Shutter Speed on the rear wheel and ISO on rear control dial.
If you want to use Exposure Compensation in Manual it’s a simple task to switch to Auto ISO with the rear control dial, one push of the Exposure Comp button on top of the grip then gives Exposure Comp control to the Rear Wheel – very easy to use and very well implimented.
On the left hand side of the top plate is the mode selection dial, it is large and clearly marked – the button in the centre of the dial locks the mode to prevent accidental changes – in addtion to the normal modes 3 custom selections are provided for. Beneath the dial sits the drive selection lever for single shooting, continuous (2 customisable speed settings), 6k/4k photo, post focus, self timer and time-lapse. The selector works well although the icons are perhap a little difficult to read.
The screen and evf work in perfect harmony, the sensor in the evf that turns off the screen when you raise the camera to your eye works instantly, there is no risk of moving the focus point with your nose on this camera.
The touch screen is a good size and is very responsive, easily as good as the screens on the latest phones, Touch AF works extremely well and the menu system is very easy to work through and logically laid out. One slight criticism is that when a menu item is not available (greyed out) the camera does not tell you you why, for example some photo modes are not available when shooting raw so it would be helpful if the camera said “mode not available when shooting raw” so that you knew that you needed to switch to jpeg.
Coming from a DSLR I like the top plate LCD, it is easy to read and instantly shows you the key settings and exposure metrics, it is particulary useful if you are using the camera at lower than eye level on a tripod as it is somewhat easier to read than the mass of data shown on the main screen. I know it is not popular with some diehard m43 shooters but for me as an ex DSLR user of many years I think it will really help my transition to the m43 format.
The evf has been praised by some reviewers and subject to some criticsm from others, as someone that has moved to an evf from a conventional optical viewfinder I think it is fair to say that there are pros and cons of both. There is a lot to say about the G9 evf so much so that I will write a separate blog post about it, suffice to say here that it is large, bright and functions well.
Other things I like about the G9 include the placement of the remote socket (needed for Bulb exposures), it is handily placed on the grip side of the camera so will not be interfered with if an L bracket is fitted (this was a real pain on the Canon 5D mk3 where all sockets were on the L bracket side). The physical buttons are all well placed and have a nice action to them, none are likely to be pressed accidentally. Equally the Auto Focus (Single/Continuous) switch is well placed although perhaps a little fiddly to use.
One thing I am not keen on is the “rubbery” nature of the socket covers, I do wonder if they will wear over time and again they are a little to fiddly to open, particularly the remote socket as it is located quite close to the strap hanger.
Overall I am very pleased with the way the camera feels in the hand and it certainly feels very well balanced with the larger (by m43 standards) lenses. I think it will be a pleasure to use – lets hope it’s image quality lives up to it’s design and build quality – time will tell.