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Sony A9 versus Panasonic GH5

The Sony Alpha A9 and the Panasonic Lumix DC-GH5 are two digital cameras that were revealed to the public, respectively, in April 2017 and January 2017. Both the A9 and the GH5 are mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras that are based on a full frame (A9) and a Four Thirds (GH5) sensor. The Sony has a resolution of 24 megapixel, whereas the Panasonic provides 20.2 MP. Read on to find out how these two cameras compare with respect to their size, their sensors, their features, and their reception by expert reviewers.

Body comparison: Sony A9 vs Panasonic GH5

The side-by-side display below illustrates the physical size and weight of the Sony A9 and the Panasonic GH5. Three consecutive perspectives from the front, the top, and the back are presented. All width, height and depth dimensions are rounded to the nearest millimeter. You can also use the toggle button 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 – the A9 – represents 100 percent across all the size and weight measures).

Compare Sony A9 vs Panasonic GH5
A9 versus GH5 top view
A9 and GH5 rear side

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Panasonic GH5 is notably larger (12 percent) than the Sony A9. Moreover, the GH5 is markedly heavier (8 percent) than the A9. 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 Sony FE Lens Catalog (A9) and the Micro Four Thirds Lens Catalog (GH5). 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.

Concerning battery life, the A9 gets 650 shots out of its NP-FZ100 battery, while the GH5 can take 410 images on a single charge of its DMW-BLF19 power pack.

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 camera 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)
Sony A9 (⇒ rgt) 5.0 in 3.8 in 2.5 in 23.7 oz 650 YES 2017 4,499 latest check
Panasonic GH5 (⇒ lft) 5.5 in 3.9 in 3.4 in 25.6 oz 410 YES 2017 1,999 latest check
Nikon D500 (⇒ lft | rgt) 5.8 in 4.5 in 3.2 in 30.3 oz 1240 YES 2016 1,999 latest check
Olympus E-M1 II (⇒ lft | rgt) 5.3 in 3.6 in 2.6 in 20.2 oz 440 YES 2016 1,999 latest check
Panasonic G9 (⇒ lft | rgt) 5.4 in 3.8 in 3.6 in 23.2 oz 400 YES 2017 1,699 latest check
Panasonic G85 (⇒ lft | rgt) 5.0 in 3.5 in 2.9 in 17.8 oz 330 YES 2016 899 latest check
Panasonic GH4 (⇒ lft | rgt) 5.2 in 3.7 in 3.3 in 19.8 oz 500 YES 2014 1,499discont. check
Sony A7 III (⇒ lft | rgt) 5.0 in 3.8 in 2.9 in 22.9 oz 610 YES 2018 1,999 latest check
Sony A7R III (⇒ lft | rgt) 5.0 in 3.8 in 2.9 in 22.9 oz 650 YES 2017 3,199 latest check
Sony A6500 (⇒ lft | rgt) 4.7 in 2.6 in 2.1 in 16.0 oz 350 YES 2016 1,399 latest check
Sony A7R II (⇒ lft | rgt) 5.0 in 3.8 in 2.4 in 22.0 oz 290 YES 2015 3,199discont. check
Sony A7S II (⇒ lft | rgt) 5.0 in 3.8 in 2.4 in 22.1 oz 370 YES 2015 2,999 latest check
Sony A7 II (⇒ lft | rgt) 5.0 in 3.8 in 2.4 in 21.1 oz 350 YES 2014 1,999discont. check
Sony A99 (⇒ lft | rgt) 5.8 in 4.4 in 3.1 in 28.6 oz 500 YES 2012 2,799discont. check
Sony A77 (⇒ lft | rgt) 5.6 in 4.1 in 3.2 in 25.8 oz 470 YES 2011 1,999discont. check

The price is, of course, an important factor in any camera decision. The listed launch 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: Sony A9 vs Panasonic GH5

The size of the imaging sensor is a crucial determinant 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. Furthermore, a large sensor camera will give the photographer more possibilities to use shallow depth-of-field in order to isolate a subject from the background. On the downside, larger sensors are more costly to manufacture and tend to lead to bigger and heavier cameras and lenses.

Of the two cameras under consideration, the Sony A9 features a full frame sensor and the Panasonic GH5 a Four Thirds sensor. The sensor area in the GH5 is 73 percent smaller. As a result of these sensor size differences, the cameras have a format factor of, respectively, 1.0 and 2.0. The sensor in the A9 has a native 3:2 aspect ratio, while the one in the GH5 offers a 4:3 aspect.

Sony A9 and Panasonic GH5 sensor measures

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 pixels. 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.

A9 versus GH5 MP

For most cameras, data on sensor performance has been reported by DXO Mark. This service is based on lab testing and assigns an overall score to each camera sensor, as well as ratings for dynamic range ("DXO Landscape"), color depth ("DXO Portrait"), and low-light sensitivity ("DXO Sports"). Of the two cameras under review, the A9 provides substantially higher image quality than the GH5, with an overall score that is 15 points higher. This 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 table below summarizes the physical sensor characteristics and sensor quality findings and compares them across a set of similar cameras.

Sensor Characteristics
Camera Sensor
Class
Resolution
(Megapixel)
Horiz.
Pixels
Vert.
Pixels
Video
Format
DXO
Portrait
DXO
Landscape
DXO
Sports
DXO
Overall
Sony A9 (⇒ rgt) Full Frame 24.0 6000 4000 4K/30p 24.9 13.3 3517 92
Panasonic GH5 (⇒ lft) Four Thirds 20.2 5184 3888 4K/60p 23.9 13.0 807 77
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
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 GH4 (⇒ lft | rgt) Four Thirds 15.9 4608 3456 4K/30p 23.2 12.8 791 74
Sony A7 III (⇒ lft | rgt) Full Frame 24.0 6000 4000 4K/30p 25.0 14.7 3730 96
Sony A7R III (⇒ lft | rgt) Full Frame 42.2 7952 5304 4K/30p 26.0 14.7 3523 100
Sony A6500 (⇒ lft | rgt) APS-C 24.0 6000 4000 4K/30p 24.5 13.7 1405 85
Sony A7R II (⇒ lft | rgt) Full Frame 42.2 7952 5304 4K/30p 26.0 13.9 3434 98
Sony A7S II (⇒ lft | rgt) Full Frame 12.0 4240 2832 4K/30p 23.6 13.3 2993 85
Sony A7 II (⇒ lft | rgt) Full Frame 24.0 6000 4000 1080/60p 24.9 13.6 2449 90
Sony A99 (⇒ lft | rgt) Full Frame 24.0 6000 4000 1080/60p 25.0 14.0 1555 89
Sony A77 (⇒ lft | rgt) APS-C 24.0 6000 4000 1080/60p 24 13.2 801 78

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 faster frame rate than the A9. It can shoot movie footage at 4K/60p, while the Sony is limited to 4K/30p.

Feature comparison: Sony A9 vs Panasonic GH5

Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a variety of features. The two cameras under consideration 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 Sony A9 and Panasonic GH5 along with similar information for a selection of comparators. If you need more detail on the specs, you can find comprehensive listings, 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
Sony A9 (⇒ rgt) 3686 no 3.0 1440 tilting YES 8000 20.0 no YES
Panasonic GH5 (⇒ lft) 3680 no 3.2 1620 swivel YES 8000 12.0 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
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 GH4 (⇒ lft | rgt) 2359 no 3.0 1036 swivel YES 8000 12.0 17 no
Sony A7 III (⇒ lft | rgt) 2359 no 3.0 922 tilting YES 8000 10 no YES
Sony A7R III (⇒ lft | rgt) 3686 no 3.0 1440 tilting YES 8000 10.0 no YES
Sony A6500 (⇒ lft | rgt) 2300 no 3.0 922 tilting YES 4000 11.0 6 YES
Sony A7R II (⇒ lft | rgt) 2400 no 3.0 1229 tilting no 8000 5.0 no YES
Sony A7S II (⇒ lft | rgt) 2400 no 3.0 1229 tilting no 8000 5.0 no YES
Sony A7 II (⇒ lft | rgt) 2400 no 3.0 1230 tilting no 8000 5.0 no YES
Sony A99 (⇒ lft | rgt) 2359 YES 3.0 1229 full-flex no 8000 6.0 no YES
Sony A77 (⇒ lft | rgt) 2359 YES 3.0 921 full-flex no 8000 12.0 12 YES

Both the A9 and the GH5 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.

Review summary: Sony A9 vs Panasonic GH5

So what is the bottom line? Is the Sony A9 better than the Panasonic GH5 or vice versa? A synthesis of the relative strong points of each of the models is listed below.


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Arguments in favor of the Sony Alpha A9:

  • More detail: Offers more megapixels (24 vs 20.2MP) with a 11% higher linear resolution.
  • 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 assessment.
  • Better low-light sensitivity: Requires less light for good images (2.1 stops ISO advantage).
  • Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (20 vs 12 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
  • More compact: Is smaller (127x96mm vs 139x98mm) and thus needs less room in the bag.
  • Longer lasting: Can take more shots (650 versus 410) on a single battery charge.
  • More modern: Is somewhat more recent (announced 3 months after the GH5).

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Advantages 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 versus 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 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).

If the count of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a measure, the A9 comes out slightly ahead of the GH5 (8 : 7 points). 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 before making a decision on a new camera.

A9 08:07 GH5

In any case, while the comparison of technical specifications can provide a useful overview of the capabilities of different cameras, it remains incomplete and does no justice, for example, to the way the A9 or the GH5 handle or perform in practice. At times, user reviews, such as those published at amazon, address these issues in a useful manner, but such feedback is on many occasions incomplete, inconsistent, and unreliable. This is where reviews by experts come in. The adjacent table relays the overall verdicts of several of the most popular camera review sites (cameralabs, dpreview, ephotozine, imaging-resource, photographyblog). You can find the full text of the reviews by clicking on the site logo in the table header.

Review scores
Camera cameralabs dpreview ephotozine imaging-resource photographyblog Camera
Launch
(year)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(amazon)
Used
Price
(ebay)
Sony A9 (⇒ rgt) HiRec 89/100 Gold 5/5 5/5 5/5 2017 4,499 latest check
Panasonic GH5 (⇒ lft) HiRec 85/100 Gold 4.5/5 5/5 5/5 2017 1,999 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
Panasonic G9 (⇒ lft | rgt) HiRec 85/100 Silver 5/5 .. 5/5 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 GH4 (⇒ lft | rgt) HiRec 85/100 Gold 5/5 5/5 5/5 2014 1,499discont. check
Sony A7 III (⇒ lft | rgt) HiRec 89/100 Gold 5/5 .. 5/5 2018 1,999 latest check
Sony A7R III (⇒ lft | rgt) HiRec 90/100 Gold 4.5/5 5/5 5/5 2017 3,199 latest check
Sony A6500 (⇒ lft | rgt) HiRec 85/100 Silver 4.5/5 5/5 4.5/5 2016 1,399 latest check
Sony A7R II (⇒ lft | rgt) HiRec 90/100 Gold 5/5 4.5/5 5/5 2015 3,199discont. check
Sony A7S II (⇒ lft | rgt) Rec - 4.5/5 5/5 5/5 2015 2,999 latest check
Sony A7 II (⇒ lft | rgt) Rec 82/100 Silver 4.5/5 5/5 5/5 2014 1,999discont. check
Sony A99 (⇒ lft | rgt) - 84/100 Gold 4.5/5 reviewed 4.5/5 2012 2,799discont. check
Sony A77 (⇒ lft | rgt) 91/100 81/100 Silver - 4.5/5 5/5 2011 1,999discont. check

The review scores listed above should be treated with care, though. The assessments were made in relation to similar cameras of the same technological generation. A score, therefore, has to be seen in close connection to the price and market introduction time of the camera, 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 camera comparisons

Did this review help to inform your camera decision process? In case you are interested in seeing how other cameras pair up, just make your choice using the following search menu. Alternatively, you can follow any of the listed hyperlinks for comparisons that others found interesting. If the camera you are interested in is not available, kindly get in touch, and I will try to add information on that model to the database.

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