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Olympus E-M1 versus Panasonic G9

The Olympus OM-D E-M1 and the Panasonic Lumix DC-G9 are two enthusiast cameras that were revealed to the public, respectively, in September 2013 and November 2017. Both the E-M1 and the G9 are mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras that are equipped with a Four Thirds sensor. The Olympus has a resolution of 15.9 megapixel, whereas the Panasonic provides 20.2 MP.

Body comparison

An illustration of the physical size and weight of the Olympus E-M1 and the Panasonic G9 is provided in the side-by-side display below. Three successive views from the front, the top, and the rear are shown. All width, height and depth dimensions are rounded to the nearest millimeter. You can also toggle the display to switch to a percentage comparison if you prefer that the measures are being expressed in relative terms (in this case, the camera on the left side – the E-M1 – represents the basis for the calculations across all the size and weight measures).

Olympus E-M1 vs Panasonic G9 front
E-M1 versus G9 top view
E-M1 and G9 rear side
Body view (E-M1 on the left)

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Panasonic G9 is considerably larger (108 percent) than the Olympus E-M1. Moreover, the G9 is markedly heavier (32 percent) than the E-M1. In this context, it is worth noting that both cameras are splash and dust-proof and can, hence, be used in inclement weather conditions or harsh environments.

The above size and weight comparisons are to some extent incomplete since they do not consider the interchangeable lenses that both of these cameras require. In this particular case, both cameras feature the same lens mount, so that they can use the same lenses. You can find an overview of suitable optics in the Micro Four Thirds Lens Catalog. Mirrorless cameras, such as the two under consideration, have the additional advantage of having a short flange to focal plane distance, which makes it possible to mount many lenses from other systems onto the camera via adapters.

The table below summarizes the key physical specs of the two cameras alongside a broader set of comparators. If you want to switch the focus of the display and review another camera pair, just select a new right or left comparator from among the camera models in the table. Alternatively, you can also move across to the CAM-parator tool and choose from the broad selection of possible comparisons there.

Camera Body Specifications
Camera Camera
Width
Camera
Height
Camera
Depth
Camera
Weight
Battery
Life
(CIPA)
Weather
Sealing
(y/n)
Camera
Launch
(year)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(amazon)
Used
Price
(ebay)
Olympus E-M1 (⇒ rgt) 130 mm 94 mm 63 mm 497 g 350 YES 2013 1,399discont. check
Panasonic G9 (⇒ lft) 137 mm 97 mm 92 mm 658 g 400 YES 2017 1,699 latest check
Fujifilm X-H1 (⇒ lft | rgt) 140 mm 97 mm 86 mm 673 g 310 YES 2018 1,899 latest check
Olympus E-M1 II (⇒ lft | rgt) 134 mm 91 mm 67 mm 574 g 440 YES 2016 1,999 latest check
Olympus PEN-F (⇒ lft | rgt) 125 mm 72 mm 37 mm 427 g 330 no 2016 1,199 latest check
Olympus E-M5 II (⇒ lft | rgt) 124 mm 85 mm 45 mm 469 g 310 YES 2015 1,099 latest check
Olympus E-M10 (⇒ lft | rgt) 119 mm 82 mm 46 mm 396 g 320 no 2014 699discont. check
Olympus E-P5 (⇒ lft | rgt) 122 mm 69 mm 37 mm 420 g 330 no 2013 999discont. check
Olympus E-M5 (⇒ lft | rgt) 122 mm 89 mm 43 mm 425 g 360 YES 2012 1,299discont. check
Panasonic GH5s (⇒ lft | rgt) 139 mm 98 mm 87 mm 660 g 440 YES 2018 2,499 latest check
Panasonic GH5 (⇒ lft | rgt) 139 mm 98 mm 87 mm 725 g 410 YES 2017 1,999 latest check
Panasonic G85 (⇒ lft | rgt) 128 mm 89 mm 74 mm 505 g 330 YES 2016 899 latest check
Panasonic GX8 (⇒ lft | rgt) 133 mm 78 mm 63 mm 487 g 330 YES 2015 1,199discont. check
Panasonic GH4 (⇒ lft | rgt) 133 mm 93 mm 84 mm 560 g 500 YES 2014 1,499discont. check
Panasonic GH3 (⇒ lft | rgt) 133 mm 93 mm 82 mm 550 g 540 YES 2012 1,299discont. check

The listed prices provide an indication of the market segment that the manufacturer of the cameras have been targeting. The E-M1 was launched at a somewhat lower price (by 18 percent) than the G9, which makes it more attractive for photographers on a tight budget. Usually, retail prices stay at first close to the launch price, but after several months, discounts become available. Later in the product cycle and, in particular, when the replacement model is about to appear, further discounting and stock clearance sales often push the camera price considerably down. Then, after the new model is out, very good deals can frequently be found on the pre-owned market.

Sensor comparison

The imaging sensor is at the core of digital cameras and its size is one of the main determining factors of image quality. A large sensor will generally have larger individual pixels that offer better low-light sensitivity, provide wider dynamic range, and have richer color depth than smaller pixels in a sensor of the same technological generation. Moreover, a large sensor camera will give the photographer more control over depth-of-field in the image and, thus, the ability to better isolate a subject from the background. On the downside, larger sensors tend to be more expensive and lead to bigger and heavier cameras and lenses.

Both cameras under consideration feature a Four Thirds sensor and have a format factor (sometimes also referred to as "crop factor") of 2.0. Within the spectrum of camera sensors, this places the review cameras among the medium-sized sensor cameras that aim to strike a balance between image quality and portability. Both cameras feature a native aspect ratio (sensor width to sensor height) of 4:3.

Olympus E-M1 and Panasonic G9 sensor measures
Sensor size

While the two cameras under review share the same sensor size, the G9 offers a higher resolution of 20.2 megapixel, compared with 15.9 MP of the E-M1. This megapixel advantage translates into a 13 percent gain in linear resolution. On the other hand, these sensor specs imply that the G9 has a higher pixel density and a smaller size of the individual pixel (with a pixel pitch of 3.34μm versus 3.76μm for the E-M1). However, it should be noted that the G9 is much more recent (by 4 years and 1 month) than the E-M1, and its sensor will have benefitted from technological advances during this time that compensate for the smaller pixel size. Coming back to sensor resolution, it should be mentioned that neither of the two cameras has an anti-alias filter installed, so they are able to capture all the detail the sensor resolves.

Unlike the E-M1, the G9 has the capacity to capture high quality composite images (80.6MP) by combining multiple shots after shifting its sensor by miniscule distances. This multi-shot, pixel-shift mode is most suitable for photography of stationary objects (landscapes, studio scenes).

E-M1 versus G9 MP
Sensor resolution

For most cameras, data on sensor performance has been reported by DXO Mark. This service determines an overall sensor rating, as well as sub-scores for low-light sensitivity ("DXO Sports"), dynamic range ("DXO Landscape"), and color depth ("DXO Portrait"). The following table provides an overview of the physical sensor characteristics, as well as the sensor quality measurements for a selection of comparators.

Sensor Characteristics
Camera Sensor
Class
Resolution
(Megapixel)
Horiz.
Pixels
Vert.
Pixels
Video
Format
DXO
Portrait
DXO
Landscape
DXO
Sports
DXO
Overall
Olympus E-M1 (⇒ rgt) Four Thirds 15.9 4608 3456 1080/30p 23.0 12.7 757 73
Panasonic G9 (⇒ lft) Four Thirds 20.2 5184 3888 4K/60p - - - -
Fujifilm X-H1 (⇒ lft | rgt) APS-C 24.0 6000 4000 4K/30p - - - -
Olympus E-M1 II (⇒ lft | rgt) Four Thirds 20.2 5184 3888 4K/30p 23.7 12.8 1312 80
Olympus PEN-F (⇒ lft | rgt) Four Thirds 20.2 5184 3888 1080/60p 23.1 12.4 894 74
Olympus E-M5 II (⇒ lft | rgt) Four Thirds 15.9 4608 3456 1080/60p 23.0 12.5 842 73
Olympus E-M10 (⇒ lft | rgt) Four Thirds 15.9 4608 3456 1080/30p 22.8 12.3 884 72
Olympus E-P5 (⇒ lft | rgt) Four Thirds 15.9 4608 3456 1080/30p 22.8 12.4 895 72
Olympus E-M5 (⇒ lft | rgt) Four Thirds 15.9 4608 3456 1080/60i 22.8 12.3 826 71
Panasonic GH5s (⇒ lft | rgt) Four Thirds 9.9 3680 2700 4K/60p .. .. .. ..
Panasonic GH5 (⇒ lft | rgt) Four Thirds 20.2 5184 3888 4K/60p 23.9 13.0 807 77
Panasonic G85 (⇒ lft | rgt) Four Thirds 15.8 4592 3448 4K/30p 22.8 12.5 656 71
Panasonic GX8 (⇒ lft | rgt) Four Thirds 20.2 5184 3888 4K/30p 23.5 12.6 806 75
Panasonic GH4 (⇒ lft | rgt) Four Thirds 15.9 4608 3456 4K/30p 23.2 12.8 791 74
Panasonic GH3 (⇒ lft | rgt) Four Thirds 15.9 4608 3456 1080/60p 22.7 12.4 812 71

Many modern cameras are not only capable of taking still images, but can also record movies. The two cameras under consideration both have sensors whose read-out speed is fast enough to capture moving pictures, but the G9 provides a better video resolution than the E-M1. It can shoot movie footage at 4K/60p, while the Olympus is limited to 1080/30p.

Feature comparison

Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. The two cameras under review are similar with respect to both having an electronic viewfinder. However, the one in the G9 offers a substantially higher resolution than the one in the E-M1 (3680k vs 2360k dots). The following table reports on some other key feature differences and similarities of the Olympus E-M1, the Panasonic G9, and comparable cameras. If needed, the dpreview camera hub, for example, contains further detail on the cameras' specs.

Core Features
Camera Viewfinder
(Type or
'000 dots)
Control
Panel
(Y/n)
LCD
Size
(inch)
LCD
Resolution
('000 dots)
LCD
Attach-
ment
Touch
Screen
(Y/n)
Shutter
speed
(1/sec)
Shutter
flaps
(1/sec))
Build-in
Flash
(GN)
Build-in
Image
Stab
Olympus E-M1 (⇒ rgt) 2360 no 3.0 1037 tilting YES 8000 10.0 no YES
Panasonic G9 (⇒ lft) 3680 YES 3.0 1040 swivel YES 8000 20.0 no YES
Fujifilm X-H1 (⇒ lft | rgt) 3690 YES 3.0 1040 full-flex YES 8000 14.0 no YES
Olympus E-M1 II (⇒ lft | rgt) 2360 no 3.0 1037 swivel YES 8000 18.0 no YES
Olympus PEN-F (⇒ lft | rgt) 2360 no 3.0 1037 swivel YES 8000 10.0 no YES
Olympus E-M5 II (⇒ lft | rgt) 2360 no 3.0 1037 swivel YES 8000 10.0 no YES
Olympus E-M10 (⇒ lft | rgt) 1440 no 3.0 1037 tilting YES 4000 8.0 5.8 YES
Olympus E-P5 (⇒ lft | rgt) no no 3.0 1037 tilting YES 8000 9.0 7 YES
Olympus E-M5 (⇒ lft | rgt) 1440 no 3.0 610 tilting YES 4000 9.0 no YES
Panasonic GH5s (⇒ lft | rgt) 3680 no 3.2 1620 swivel YES 8000 12.0 no no
Panasonic GH5 (⇒ lft | rgt) 3680 no 3.2 1620 swivel YES 8000 12.0 no YES
Panasonic G85 (⇒ lft | rgt) 2360 no 3.0 1040 swivel YES 4000 9.0 6.2 YES
Panasonic GX8 (⇒ lft | rgt) 2360 no 3.0 1040 swivel YES 8000 10.0 no YES
Panasonic GH4 (⇒ lft | rgt) 2359 no 3.0 1036 swivel YES 8000 12.0 17 no
Panasonic GH3 (⇒ lft | rgt) 1746 no 3.0 614 swivel YES 4000 6.0 12 no

The G9 is a current model that online retailers, such as amazon, will have in stock. In contrast, the E-M1 has been discontinued (but it can be found pre-owned on ebay). As a replacement in the same line of cameras, the E-M1 was succeeded by the Olympus E-M1 II.

Summary

So what is the bottom line? Is the Olympus E-M1 better than the Panasonic G9 or vice versa? A synthesis of the relative strong points of each of the models is listed below.


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Reasons to prefer the Olympus OM-D E-M1:

  • More compact: Is smaller (130x94mm vs 137x97mm) and thus needs less room in the bag.
  • Less heavy: Is lighter (by 161g or 24 percent) and hence easier to carry around.
  • More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced segment (18 percent cheaper at launch).
  • More heavily discounted: Has been available for much longer (launched in September 2013).

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Arguments in favor of the Panasonic Lumix DC-G9:

  • More detail: Has more megapixels (20.2 vs 15.9MP), which boosts linear resolution by 13%.
  • High quality composites: Can combine several shots after pixel-shifting its sensor.
  • Better video: Provides higher definition movie capture (4K/60p vs 1080/30p).
  • More detailed viewfinder: Has higher resolution electronic viewfinder (3680k vs 2360k dots).
  • Easier setting verification: Has a control panel on top to check shooting parameters.
  • More flexible LCD: Has swivel screen for odd-angle shots in portrait or landscape orientation.
  • Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (20 vs 10 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
  • Longer lasting: Gets more shots (400 versus 350) out of a single battery charge.
  • More modern: Reflects 4 years and 1 month of technical progress since the E-M1 launch.

If the number of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the G9 is the clear winner of the contest (9 : 4 points). However, the pertinence of the various camera strengths will differ across photographers, so that you might want to weigh individual camera traits according to their importance for your own imaging needs.

E-M1 04:09 G9

In any case, while the comparison of technical specifications can provide a useful overview of the capabilities of different cameras, it remains partial and cannot reveal, for example, the handling experience and imaging performance when actually working with the E-M1 or the G9. User reviews, such as those found at amazon, can sometimes inform about these issues, but such feedback is often incomplete, inconsistent, and biased. This is why expert reviews are important. The following table reports the overall rankings of the cameras as published by some of the major camera review sites. The detailed reviews can be accessed, respectively, on the websites of cameralabs.com, dpreview.com, ephotozine.com, imaging-resource.com, and photographyblog.com.

Review scores
Camera camera
labs
dp
review
ephoto
zine
imaging
resource
photography
blog
Camera
Launch
(year)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(amazon)
Used
Price
(ebay)
Olympus E-M1 (⇒ rgt) HiRec 84/100 Gold 4.5/5 4.5/5 4.5/5 2013 1,399discont. check
Panasonic G9 (⇒ lft) HiRec 85/100 Silver 5/5 .. 5/5 2017 1,699 latest check
Fujifilm X-H1 (⇒ lft | rgt) .. .. .. .. .. 2018 1,899 latest check
Olympus E-M1 II (⇒ lft | rgt) HiRec 85/100 Gold 4.5/5 5/5 4.5/5 2016 1,999 latest check
Olympus PEN-F (⇒ lft | rgt) - 82/100 Silver 4.5/5 4.5/5 5/5 2016 1,199 latest check
Olympus E-M5 II (⇒ lft | rgt) HiRec 81/100 Silver 5/5 4.5/5 5/5 2015 1,099 latest check
Olympus E-M10 (⇒ lft | rgt) - 80/100 Gold 5/5 4.5/5 5/5 2014 699discont. check
Olympus E-P5 (⇒ lft | rgt) HiRec 78/100 Silver 4.5/5 4.5/5 5/5 2013 999discont. check
Olympus E-M5 (⇒ lft | rgt) HiRec 80/100 Gold 4.5/5 5/5 5/5 2012 1,299discont. check
Panasonic GH5s (⇒ lft | rgt) .. 84/100 Gold 4.5/5 .. 4.5/5 2018 2,499 latest check
Panasonic GH5 (⇒ lft | rgt) HiRec 85/100 Gold 4.5/5 5/5 5/5 2017 1,999 latest check
Panasonic G85 (⇒ lft | rgt) HiRec 84/100 Gold 5/5 4.5/5 4.5/5 2016 899 latest check
Panasonic GX8 (⇒ lft | rgt) Rec 82/100 Silver 4.5/5 5/5 4.5/5 2015 1,199discont. check
Panasonic GH4 (⇒ lft | rgt) HiRec 85/100 Gold 5/5 5/5 5/5 2014 1,499discont. check
Panasonic GH3 (⇒ lft | rgt) HiRec 79/100 Gold 4.5/5 5/5 4.5/5 2012 1,299discont. check

The review scores listed above should be treated with care, though. The ratings are only valid when refering to cameras in the same category and of the same age. Hence, a score should always be seen in the context of the camera's market launch date and its price, and comparisons of ratings among very different cameras or across long time periods have little meaning. Also, please note that some of the review sites have changed their methodology and reporting over time.

Other comparisons

In case you would like to check on the differences and similarities of other camera models, just use the search menu below. An an alternative, you can also directly jump to any one of the listed comparisons that were previously generated by the CAM-parator tool. If the camera you are interested in is not available, kindly get in touch, and I will try to update the database with the necessary infos.

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