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Panasonic GH5 versus Sony A9

The Panasonic Lumix DC-GH5 and the Sony Alpha A9 are two digital cameras that were officially introduced, respectively, in January 2017 and April 2017. Both the GH5 and the A9 are mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras that are based on a Four Thirds (GH5) and a full frame sensor. The Panasonic has a resolution of 20.2 megapixel, whereas the Sony provides 24 MP.

Body comparison

The physical size and weight of the Panasonic GH5 and the Sony A9 are illustrated in the side-by-side display below. Three consecutive views from the front, the top, and the rear side are shown. All width, height and depth measures are rounded to the nearest millimeter. If you prefer, you can also use the toggle button to switch to a comparison in percentage terms (in this case, the camera on the left side – the GH5 – represents the basis for the calculations across all the size and weight measures).

Panasonic GH5 vs Sony A9 front
GH5 versus A9 top view
GH5 and A9 rear side
Body view (GH5 on the left)

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Sony A9 is notably smaller (10 percent) than the Panasonic GH5. Moreover, the A9 is slightly lighter (7 percent) than the GH5. 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. A larger imaging sensor will tend to go along with bigger and heavier lenses, although exceptions exist. You can find an overview of optics for the two cameras in the Micro Four Thirds Lens Catalog (GH5) and the Sony FE Lens Catalog (A9). 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)
Panasonic GH5 (⇒ rgt) 139 mm 98 mm 87 mm 725 g 410 YES 2017 1,999 latest check
Sony A9 (⇒ lft) 127 mm 96 mm 63 mm 673 g 650 YES 2017 4,499 latest check
Nikon D500 (⇒ lft | rgt) 147 mm 115 mm 81 mm 860 g 1240 YES 2016 1,999 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
Panasonic G9 (⇒ lft | rgt) 137 mm 97 mm 92 mm 658 g 400 YES 2017 1,699 latest check
Panasonic G85 (⇒ lft | rgt) 128 mm 89 mm 74 mm 505 g 330 YES 2016 899 latest check
Panasonic GX85 (⇒ lft | rgt) 122 mm 71 mm 44 mm 426 g 290 no 2016 799 latest check
Panasonic ZS100 (⇒ lft | rgt) 111 mm 65 mm 44 mm 312 g 300 no 2016 699 latest check
Panasonic GX8 (⇒ lft | rgt) 133 mm 78 mm 63 mm 487 g 330 YES 2015 1,199 latest check
Panasonic GH4 (⇒ lft | rgt) 133 mm 93 mm 84 mm 560 g 500 YES 2014 1,499discont. check
Sony A6500 (⇒ lft | rgt) 120 mm 67 mm 53 mm 453 g 350 YES 2016 1,399 latest check
Sony A7 II (⇒ lft | rgt) 127 mm 96 mm 60 mm 599 g 350 YES 2014 1,999 latest check
Sony A7 (⇒ lft | rgt) 127 mm 94 mm 48 mm 474 g 340 YES 2013 1,699discont. check

The listed prices provide an indication of the market segment that the manufacturer of the cameras have been targeting. The GH5 was launched at a markedly lower price (by 56 percent) than the A9, which puts it into a different market segment. 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 size of the sensor inside a digital camera is one of the key determinants 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.

Of the two cameras under consideration, the Panasonic GH5 features a Four Thirds sensor and the Sony A9 a full frame sensor. The sensor area in the A9 is 276 percent bigger. As a result of these sensor size differences, the cameras have a format factor of, respectively, 2.0 and 1.0. The sensor in the GH5 has a native 4:3 aspect ratio, while the one in the A9 offers a 3:2 aspect.

Panasonic GH5 and Sony A9 sensor measures
Sensor size
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Sensor size

With 24MP, the A9 offers a higher resolution than the GH5 (20.2MP), but the A9 nevertheless has larger individual pixels (pixel pitch of 5.94μm versus 3.34μm for the GH5) due to its larger sensor. Moreover, the A9 is a somewhat more recent model (by 3 months) than the GH5, and its sensor might have benefitted from technological advances during this time that further enhance the light gathering capacity of its pixel-units. Coming back to sensor resolution, it should be mentioned that the GH5 has no anti-alias filter installed, so that it can capture all the detail its sensor resolves.

GH5 versus A9 MP
Sensor resolution
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Sensor resolution

Since 2007, DXO Mark has published sensor performance measurements that have been derived using a consistent methodology. 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"). Of the two cameras under consideration, the A9 offers substantially better image quality than the GH5 (overall score 15 points higher). The advantage is based on 1 bits higher color depth, 0.3 EV in additional dynamic range, and 2.1 stops in additional low light sensitivity. 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
Panasonic GH5 (⇒ rgt) Four Thirds 20.2 5184 3888 4K/60p 23.9 13.0 807 77
Sony A9 (⇒ lft) Full Frame 24.0 6000 4000 4K/30p 24.9 13.3 3517 92
Nikon D500 (⇒ lft | rgt) APS-C 20.7 5568 3712 4K/30p 24.0 14.0 1324 83
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
Panasonic G9 (⇒ lft | rgt) Four Thirds 20.2 5184 3888 4K/60p - - - -
Panasonic G85 (⇒ lft | rgt) Four Thirds 15.8 4592 3448 4K/30p 22.8 12.5 656 71
Panasonic GX85 (⇒ lft | rgt) Four Thirds 15.8 4592 3448 4K/30p 22.9 12.6 662 71
Panasonic ZS100 (⇒ lft | rgt) 1-inch 20.0 5472 3648 4K/30p 22.8 12.5 559 70
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
Sony A6500 (⇒ lft | rgt) APS-C 24.0 6000 4000 4K/30p 24.5 13.7 1405 85
Sony A7 II (⇒ lft | rgt) Full Frame 24.0 6000 4000 1080/60p 24.9 13.6 2449 90
Sony A7 (⇒ lft | rgt) Full Frame 24.0 6000 4000 1080/60p 24.8 14.2 2248 90

Many modern cameras are not only capable of taking still images, but can also record movies. Both cameras under consideration have a sensor with sufficiently fast read-out times for moving pictures, but the GH5 provides a higher frame rate than the A9. It can shoot video footage at 4K/60p, while the Sony is limited to 4K/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 A9 offers a slightly higher resolution than the one in the GH5 (3686k vs 3680k dots). The adjacent table lists some of the other core features of the Panasonic GH5 and Sony A9 along with similar information for a selection of comparators. The full specs-sheets can be found in the camera manual or, for example, in the dpreview camera hub.

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
Panasonic GH5 (⇒ rgt) 3680 no 3.2 1620 swivel YES 8000 12.0 no YES
Sony A9 (⇒ lft) 3686 no 3.0 1440 tilting YES 8000 20.0 no YES
Nikon D500 (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 3.2 2359 tilting YES 8000 10.0 no no
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
Panasonic G9 (⇒ lft | rgt) 3680 YES 3.0 1040 swivel YES 8000 20.0 no YES
Panasonic G85 (⇒ lft | rgt) 2360 no 3.0 1040 swivel YES 4000 9.0 6.2 YES
Panasonic GX85 (⇒ lft | rgt) 2765 no 3.0 1040 tilting YES 4000 8.0 6 YES
Panasonic ZS100 (⇒ lft | rgt) 1166 no 3.0 1040 fixed YES 2000 10.0 YES 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
Sony A6500 (⇒ lft | rgt) 2300 no 3.0 922 tilting YES 4000 11.0 6 YES
Sony A7 II (⇒ lft | rgt) 2400 no 3.0 1230 tilting no 8000 5.0 no YES
Sony A7 (⇒ lft | rgt) 2400 no 3.0 1230 tilting no 8000 5.0 no no

Both the GH5 and the A9 are current models that good online retailers will have in stock. You can check the latest prices, for example, at amazon. The GH5 replaced the earlier Panasonic GH4, while the A9 does not have a direct predecessor.

Summary

So what conclusions can be drawn? Which of the two cameras – the Panasonic GH5 or the Sony A9 – has the upper hand? Below is a summary of the relative strengths of each of the two contestants.


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Arguments in favor of the Panasonic Lumix DC-GH5:

  • Maximized detail: Lacks an anti-alias filter to exploit the sensor's full resolution potential.
  • Better video: Provides higher movie framerates (4K/60p vs 4K/30p).
  • Larger screen: Has a bigger rear LCD (3.2" vs 3.0") for image review and settings control.
  • More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (1620k vs 1440k dots).
  • More flexible LCD: Has a swivel screen for odd-angle shots in portrait or landscape orientation.
  • More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced category (56 percent cheaper at launch).
  • More heavily discounted: Has been on the market for longer (launched in January 2017).

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Advantages of the Sony Alpha A9:

  • More detail: Has more megapixels (24 vs 20.2MP), which boosts linear resolution by 11%.
  • Better moiré control: Has an anti-alias filter to avoid artificial patterns to appear in images.
  • Better image quality: Scores substantially higher (15 points) in the DXO overall evaluation.
  • Better low-light sensitivity: Can shoot in dim conditions (2.1 stops ISO advantage).
  • Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (20 vs 12 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
  • Longer lasting: Gets more shots (650 versus 410) out of a single battery charge.
  • More modern: Was introduced somewhat (3 months) more recently.

If the count of individual advantages (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the match-up finishes in a tie (7 points each). However, the relative importance of the various individual camera aspects will vary according to personal preferences and needs, so that you might like to apply corresponding weights to the particular features.

GH5 07:07 A9

In any case, while the specs-based evaluation of cameras is instructive in revealing their potential as photographic tools, it remains incomplete and does no justice, for example, to the way the GH5 or the A9 handle or perform in practice. 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 where reviews by experts come in. The adjacent table relays the overall verdicts of several of the most popular camera review sites. The full reviews are available, respectively, at 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)
Panasonic GH5 (⇒ rgt) HiRec 85/100 Gold 4.5/5 5/5 5/5 2017 1,999 latest check
Sony A9 (⇒ lft) .. 89/100 Gold 5/5 5/5 5/5 2017 4,499 latest check
Nikon D500 (⇒ lft | rgt) HiRec 91/100 Gold 4.5/5 5/5 5/5 2016 1,999 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
Panasonic G9 (⇒ lft | rgt) .. .. .. .. .. 2017 1,699 latest check
Panasonic G85 (⇒ lft | rgt) HiRec 84/100 Gold 5/5 4.5/5 4.5/5 2016 899 latest check
Panasonic GX85 (⇒ lft | rgt) HiRec 82/100 Silver 5/5 4.5/5 5/5 2016 799 latest check
Panasonic ZS100 (⇒ lft | rgt) HiRec 82/100 Gold 4.5/5 4/5 4.5/5 2016 699 latest check
Panasonic GX8 (⇒ lft | rgt) Rec 82/100 Silver 4.5/5 5/5 4.5/5 2015 1,199 latest check
Panasonic GH4 (⇒ lft | rgt) HiRec 85/100 Gold 5/5 5/5 5/5 2014 1,499discont. check
Sony A6500 (⇒ lft | rgt) HiRec 85/100 Silver 4.5/5 5/5 4.5/5 2016 1,399 latest check
Sony A7 II (⇒ lft | rgt) Rec 82/100 Silver 4.5/5 5/5 5/5 2014 1,999 latest check
Sony A7 (⇒ lft | rgt) HiRec 80/100 Silver 5/5 4.5/5 5/5 2013 1,699discont. check

The review scores listed above should be treated with care, though. The ratings were established in reference to similarly priced cameras that were available in the market at the time of the review. Thus, a score needs to be put into the context of the launch date and the launch price of the camera, and comparing ratings of very distinct cameras or ones that are far apart in terms of their release date have little meaning. Also, kindly note that some of the listed sites have over time developped their review approaches and their reporting style.

Other comparisons

In case you would like to check on the differences and similarities of other camera models, just make a corresponding selection in the search boxes below. Alternatively, you can follow any of the listed hyperlinks for comparisons that others found interesting. If you cannot find the camera you are interested in, please send me an email, and I will try to update the database with the necessary infos.

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