Panasonic Embraces Smaller Camera Trend With Gen Z-Inspired Lumix S9

android, panasonic embraces smaller camera trend with gen z-inspired lumix s9

Panasonic Embraces Smaller Camera Trend With Gen Z-Inspired Lumix S9

Panasonic is latching onto the small camera trend with its slimmest full-frame mirrorless model yet, the Lumix S9. But while other recent cameras with similar frames, like the Fuji X100VI and Ricoh GR III HDF, use APS-C size sensors and permanently attached lenses, the S9 is a full-frame mirrorless camera that works with the full range of L-Mount Alliance optics.

Designed With Gen Z's Input and Influence

To realize its svelte build (2.9 by 5.0 by 1.8 inches HWD, 1.1 pounds), the S9 omits some features that are considered standard for full-frame cameras—it doesn't include an eye-level viewfinder or mechanical shutter. The lack of a proper viewfinder may rub veteran photographers the wrong way, but Panasonic tells us it came to the decision after polling younger creators about must-have features for a camera. In this case, the verdict was in favor of a smaller chassis and in-body image stabilization, both of which the S9 support.

The lack of mechanical shutter is less of a concern for many use cases. Some cameras with fully electronic shutters suffer from rolling shutter distortion when snapping action shots, but the S9 uses the same sensor and processing engine as the S5 II, a camera that's proven to be good enough for wildlife and sports snaps in its electronic shutter mode. We expect the S9's e-shutter to satisfy the needs of most creators, though we'll note that it's no good for flash photography. The S9 doesn't support flash photography at all, it omits an in-body strobe. While it has a cold shoe to mount accessories, there are no electrical contacts to support an external flash. If flash photography is one of your interests, the Lumix S5 II includes a hot shoe and mechanical shutter for 1/250-second synchronization.

(Credit: Panasonic)

Other imaging features from the S5 II continue on without compromise. The S9 uses the same hardware to support its in-body image stabilization feature and provides up to 6.5 CIPA-rated stops of compensation, along with a 24MP full-frame sensor and supports up to 30fps focus drive with a pre-capture option, phase detect autofocus with subject recognition, and a 96MP handheld multi-shot mode. The S9 even shares its battery with the S5 II; it's rated for up to 470 shots per charge. The camera supports on-the-go USB-C charging from a power bank too.

For images both JPG and Raw formats are available, while video is recorded with 10-bit color in your choice of a widescreen 16:9 or open gate 3:2 aspect ratio. The latter is useful for creators who want to pull widescreen, vertical, and square crops from the same video clip; a 6K mode is there for serious projects, while social mavens can instead use a 3.8K Lite option for smaller file sizes. The 3.8K resolution is meant for delivery to smartphone screens.

The S9 also adds a pair of new digital zoom features. Crop Zoom works with prime lenses and achieves a tighter angle simply by apply an in-camera crop to JPGs and saving them at a smaller pixel size. Hybrid Zoom extends the functionality to zoom lenses and is smart enough to dial back the crop based on the focal setting of the lens on the fly. In both cases the full resolution, uncropped photo is saved as a Raw format image, assuming you have Raw+JPG capture turned on in the camera, that is.

As for framing up shots, a vari-angle LCD is the answer. The swing-out display is specced in line with most other mirrorless cameras, it has a 3-inch screen size, touch support, and a sharp 1.84 million dot resolution. I've not had a chance to try it in person, but expect it to be a fine option for picture taking; it's no different than what Panasonic includes in the larger S5 II after all. The only real concern is brightness. You'll surely have to ramp up the backlight to cut through glare on sunny days, which comes at the cost of battery life.

Pick Your Style, Inside and Out

The S9's looks are as much of a feature as its size. The camera body is available in black only, but comes with four different leatherette color options so you can get one that matches up with your fashion sense. We've not seen any in person, but the Crimson Red, Dark Olive, and Night Blue colorways all look good in photos. The darker hues give the camera body a sense of timeless style. If you prefer a subtler look, the Jet Black option is as stealth as it gets.

You'll need to buy the camera in a kit if you want some flair. The blue, green, and red versions are only available in a hard bundle with the Lumix 20-60mm zoom lens, while the black edition is sold either in a kit or as a body only.

(Credit: Panasonic)

While many cameras are available with different leatherette wraps, the S9's imaging engine is customizable too. It has the expected JPG modes—standard, vivid, black-and-white, and the like—built-in, but goes a step further with support for customizable picture profiles. Panasonic is referring to these as LUTs as the concept is similar to the Look Up Tables that are used in video production to apply a creative color grade in the editing room.

The S9 leans into the LUT concept. It supports up to 40 customizable LUTs and includes a button to swap between them. Each LUT supports configurable color rendition and film grain. You can create your own looks or load up ones crafted by influencers and Panasonic itself via the Lumix Lab smartphone app. The appeal here is one of both convenience and individuality—using a LUT to give an image a filtered look takes less time than editing a Raw image using Adobe Lightroom or other desktop software, and since you can create your own profiles you'll be able to give images and video a look that's in line with your personal aesthetic preferences.

Panasonic is rolling out a new companion app, Lumix Lab, to support the LUT feature. Lumix Lab is an ostensible replacement for the long-running Panasonic Image Sync mobile app and promises to bring a few quality-of-life features—quicker pairing and file transfers—and works as a full-featured editing app for photos and videos. Panasonic tells us that forthcoming Lumix cams will also work with the Lab app, while those on the market already are restricted to the older Image Sync app for the time being. It expects that to change over the course of the next year as more features are added to the Lab app—it's missing remote control at launch, for example. Lumix Lab is a free download for Android and iOS.

(Credit: Panasonic)

Small Lenses Coming

The body style omits a handgrip, which makes it a better fit for use with small zooms and prime lenses. Smallrig is releasing an add-on grip for creators who want a bit more to grab onto. We don't have pricing for it yet, but it's machined to match the camera and also adds a baseplate with Arca-Swiss dovetail cuts so it can mount directly to compatible tripods.

If you prefer to go without a grip the S9 works with a number of appropriately small primes that are already on the market, including Sigma's svelte I Series prime line. I can see the Sigma 45mm F2.8 DG DN Contemporary as an ideal match for photogs who want a light carry option.

Panasonic is working on some new, small lenses too. It's releasing the Lumix S 26mm F8 pancake prime to go with the camera. This particular lens is restricted to manual focus and its fixed aperture only snaps photos at f/8, which may puzzle photogs who look to a full-frame camera to get the blurred background, bokeh look.

(Credit: Panasonic)

Instead the 26mm F8's appeal is to documentary and street photographers who care more about getting most of the world in focus and snapping photos in the moment, without any inkling of delay introduced by an autofocus system. The 26mm F8 is quite small; it extends a mere 0.71 inches from the camera body and weighs just 2.1 ounces.

There is one big drawback to consider aside from the manual focus aspect. The lens does not have a filter thread so there's no way to add neutral density to support long exposure photos or proper video shutter angles for bright light recording. Even so, Panasonic says the optical quality is far better than what similar small, manual lenses deliver. We'll have to see if that's true in testing, but at least the S 26mm F8 is priced attractively at $199.99.

And while the S9 is launching with the in-market S 20-60mm F3.5-5.6 zoom as its starter lens, a new, smaller zoom is on the way. The Lumix S 18-40mm F4.5-6.3 covers a slightly wider angle and its optics retract into the barrel for storage so the lens doesn't take up too much room in your camera bag, but we don't know much else at this point. Panasonic is holding back full details, specs, and pricing for a future date.

Pricing and Availability

The S9 is expected to be in stores in late June and costs $1,499.99 as a body only in Jet Black, or $1,799.99 in a kit with the Lumix S 20-60mm in all four color options: Crimson Red, Dark Olive, Jet Black, or Night Blue. In addition, for a limited time customers who pre-order the camera as either a body or kit will receive a free Lumix S 26mm F8 lens.

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