Hey everyone! Look, the opinions are pretty polarized in regard to Panasonic’s newest m4/3 camera, and I feel that both sides are right. On one side, we have those of us that are excited to see the form factor shrink a little bit with the cost coming down to a remarkably reasonable level. On the other side, we have those of us that are lamenting the lack of ergonomics, weather sealing, fully functional, high spec EVF and general feel that the GX8 has been downgraded.
As someone who has owned every GX model made (less the GX80/85 which I have shot with fairly extensively, however) I do feel I’m in a position to throw my opinion around a bit. Not that you have to agree, nor even listen, but here’s what I think…
Panasonic has long been my choice in the micro 4/3 realm. Nothing against Olympus, but being a photographer that shoots multiple systems for different situations, I find Oly to be difficult and quirky to jump back and forth between where the Pana cams seem far more geared to a seamless interface from a generalized photography and UI standpoint. Oly is great if you shoot nothing but Oly, however for me, I’ve never been able to jive with the Oly cams I’ve shot with personally.
I entered into the m4/3 world with the introduction of the Lumix GF1 (a camera that over the years I’ve traded, and gotten back, and still have!). It was fairly revolutionary, and is a beautiful little machine that married quality, system size reduction and most of all, fun. From there the GF line went off a cliff in my opinion with new GF cameras being released like rabbits, culminating in Panasonic splitting the “rangefinder” sized line into the GF and GX lines. The GX1 was also a solid camera, and one that birthed the idea that the form factor of a rangefinder styled body could start to balance size and function while not compromising either. From there, the GM line took the short lived mini mantle with only two models, and then we ended up getting one of my favorite Lumix cameras of all time in the GX7. The GX7 is still one of my favorite cameras I’ve yet used. Other than a lack of weather sealing, there isn’t much I can criticize it for. Then, instead of continuing the GF line, Panasonic decided to split the GX line into two with the addition of the GX8 and GX80/85. The GX8, for it’s initially somewhat odd ergonomics, packed a lot into a relatively compact package. At the time, it was by far the best performing sensor, it was weather sealed, it had a wonderful EVF and while initially I wasn’t too into the ergonomics, I’ve grown to truly appreciate the depth of the grip in that I can shoot it with the system’s larger optics with confidence and comfort. What it lacked in absolute size reduction, it made up for in being a total package for those of us wanting to use larger, faster optics but not wanting a DSLR-esque EVF hump, and in that way I saw it as a kind of ‘lightning in a bottle’ model for the system. That we had the choice to size down if reduction was our primary need with the GX80/85, or gain a more ‘professionally’ rounded, admittedly bigger tool in the GX8, everyone was happy, right? Well, you should have been anyway.
Alright, we all know now that the GX9 is certainly more GX80/85 upgrade than GX8 upgrade now that it has been announced. The weather sealing is absent, the EVF is smaller and crappier than the GX8, and the “grip” harkens back to the smaller GF bodies (and mimics the GX80/85). This camera is a GX90/95 by all accounts, not a true GX9, so why didn’t they just call it that? Why in the world would they so obviously dumb the GX line down to a single stream when surely there was room for both? We all would have loved the GX9 had it been called a GX90/95, knowing that it packed a ton in at under $1000 (with a solid lens!) while reserving the posibility to get what many of us truly wanted in an actual GX8 replacement, somewhere down the road. This to me is the tragedy. Not that the GX9 isn’t a potentially great camera at a very reasonable price, because it really is, but that it is not what many of us expected of a top of the line, rangefinder styled camera to follow up the GX8.
We can point to the fact that the GX7 wasn’t weather sealed, or that the GX8 was the first ‘non-DSLR body style’ to provide such a solid EVF, sensor and overall package, but once you get offered a taste of something, it’s hard to accept the major steps backward that the GX9 in fact is, by direct comparison. That’s all.
Now, if Panasonic has something else up their sleeve, I’ll be happy, but that will go nowhere in helping them gain any credence as to their bizarre naming nomenclature. The GX9 should absolutely have been the GX90 or GX95, period. Even if they never decided to extend the life of the GX “pro” line, it would have at least lent some weight to their decision making. Those who are excited about this camera would still have purchased it, and those wanting an actual upgrade to the GX8 would have been able to hold onto a glimmer of hope. Instead, those of us waiting for a true upgrade to the GX8 were left wanting with nothing more than a well priced, poorer specified slap in the face as consolation.
The GX9 is a camera that I may see myself purchasing if it ever becomes available as body only, and gets a discount to drop it down to around $500, because, sure. The GX8 sensor without the anti aliasing layer providing even more fine detail? Yeah, I’m down. (Yes, I do fear it’s the GX8 sensor, not the GH5/G9 sensor fwiw as initial reviews mentioned as such, but are now harder to find record of, which is fine because it’s a great sensor) For the time being, I am going to continue to use my weather sealed GX8, with amazing EVF and save myself a grand which I had (and more) ready to go for this camera, until it was announced this week. The most frustrating part to me is that this, for all intents and purposes, looks like a wonderful upgrade to the GX80/85, and a great deal, but a true GX9, it is not.
Thanks Panasonic, you’ve broken my heart. Kinda.