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Panasonic Lumix S9: It's Compact, Full Frame and Brilliant...if you can overcome these things.

5/22/2024 Matt 0 Comments

Recently, Kai W found himself in the stunning city of Kyoto, a place where historical architecture and traditional arts blend seamlessly. But this visit wasn’t just about soaking in the culture; it was about uncovering the latest gem from Panasonic—the all-new Lumix S9.

The Lumix S9: A New Compact Marvel

Panasonic has just announced a compact full-frame camera, the Lumix S9. The first thing that stands out is its size—reminiscent of the Fujifilm X100 series but with the advantage of a full-frame sensor. This size reduction hasn’t come without sacrifices; notably, the S9 lacks a hot shoe and a mechanical shutter. Despite these omissions, Panasonic has retained one crucial feature: the industry-leading stabilization system.

Stabilization: Panasonic’s Ace in the Hole

Panasonic’s stabilization is a standout feature, especially in the compact S9. The sensor-shift stabilization system, the same one found in the Panasonic S5 II, ensures smooth and stable shots, making it ideal for both video and stills, even in low-light conditions. This feature alone can make the S9 a compelling choice for photographers and videographers who prefer to travel light and leave the gimbal or tripod at home.

Who Is It For?

Panasonic’s promotional material hints that the S9 is aimed at social media creators. The packaging and marketing align with the aesthetic of Sony’s vlogging cameras, suggesting a target audience of trendy, young influencers. However, the S9 lacks a dedicated microphone for vlogging, which means creators might need to use an external mic to capture high-quality audio.

Open Gate and Real-Time LUTs: A Content Creator’s Dream

One of the S9’s notable features is its ability to shoot in 4K or 6K open gate. This means the camera uses the entire sensor, allowing for easy cropping to various aspect ratios, perfect for different social media platforms. Additionally, the real-time LUT feature is a boon for creators who want to see their video’s final look while shooting, saving time in post-production.

Ergonomics and Controls: A Mixed Bag

Shrinking the body size has led to the loss of some controls and buttons found on the S5 II. For example, the S9 lacks the AF selector switch and the trio of buttons on the top plate. This can make quick adjustments a bit more cumbersome. Moreover, the smaller size sometimes leads to accidental button presses, like the playback button or the unmount button, which can be frustrating during a shoot.

Lens Options: A Crucial Consideration

The S9 is launching with a 26mm pancake lens, which is compact but fixed at f/8. This fixed aperture might not appeal to everyone, especially those who need more flexibility. While there are plenty of L-mount lens options, many are not as compact as one might hope. Panasonic’s 1.8 lenses are decent in size, but for ultimate portability, smaller 2.8 primes would be ideal.

Battery Life and Recording Limits

Battery life on the S9 could be better. In practical use, the camera goes through batteries quickly, which might be a concern for long shoots. Additionally, there are recording limits—10 minutes for 6K and 15 minutes for 4K—which can be restrictive for certain projects.

Conclusion: A Brilliant Yet Sensible Choice

The Panasonic Lumix S9 is a highly functional and capable camera packed into a small, convenient body. It offers great image quality, top-notch stabilization, and useful features like real-time LUTs and open gate recording. However, it’s not without its quirks, such as the lack of a hot shoe, fixed f/8 lens, and limited battery life.

For social media creators and those looking for a compact full-frame camera, the S9 is a solid choice. It combines the best aspects of the S5 II in a more portable package. Still, it feels like Panasonic is just shy of making the S9 the ultimate tool for creators. With a few tweaks, like better mic integration and more compact lens options, the S9 could truly shine.

In summary, the Lumix S9 is a fantastic addition to Panasonic’s lineup, especially for those who value portability without compromising on full-frame performance. It’s a camera that’s brilliant in many ways but comes with a few trade-offs that potential buyers need to consider.

Images and video via Kai W and Lok Cheung