Panasonic GX9 vs Olympus OMD EM5 III vs Fuji XT30

panasonic GX9 vs Olympus Em5 III vs Fuji XT30

In this post I’m going to compare the Panasonic GX9 vs Olympus OMD EM5 III vs Fuji Xt30. As you probably know, I’ve shot Panasonic, Olympus and Fuji cameras for years now, going back to the the Panasonic G3, EM5 and X Pro1. I want a compact and lightweight camera that I can use mainly with prime lenses for some projects that I have planned in the Philippines later in the year. The project will be documentary and involve lots of candid portraits as well as some street photography. I plan to use whichever camera I choose with a (35mm equivalent focal lengths) 50mm and 85 ish mm prime lenses as those are my preferred focal lengths for the kind of shooting that I have planned. On the Panasonic and Olympus I shot the Pana-Leica 25mm 1.4,Olympus 45mm 1.2 and Sigma 56mm 1.4 while on the Fuji I paired it with the 35mm 1.4. I had planned on using the 56mm 1.2 as well but in the end couldn’t get hold of one in time for my testing but the AF performance is pretty much on par with the Fuji 35mm lens and having owned the 56mm previously I know how it performs.

 

Firstly let me say that all the specs are available online so I’m not going to go through them all here. I’ll just talk about those that mattered to me for the project that I have planned. Those being image quality, AF, handling and performance.

Fuji XT 30

While the GX9 and EM5 III uses a 20mp Micro 43 sensor the Fuji XT30 makes use of the larger 26mp APS-C sensor found in the XT3 so it should be a no brainer that the image coming out of the Fuji is better and it performs better when pushing your ISO higher. The thing is that when reading forums on the internet they would lead you to believe that the difference is night and day and this simply is not the case. Yes the Fuji is slightly better once you get up to 3200+ ISO but the differences wont be enough to make or break an image. For me the more interesting question was about the colour each camera produced and I was particularly interested in the Acros black and white profile of the XT30 as a lot of my project will be shot in black and white. Quite frankly I chose the XT30 as one of the most affordable ways to get the Acros profile.  In my opinion the image quality produced by all the cameras is good enough for what I had in mind.

Olympus EM5 III

 

Fuji are heralded within the media for being excellent for portraits, skin tones and the Acros profile and in a lot of situations I know why. I love the organic look of the colours coming off the X-Trans sensor and under the right lighting conditions the Acros profile produces some beautiful black and white images. However sometimes the colours can feel just a little flat while the Panasonic and Olympus in my opinion actually produce more pleasing colours more of the time. I am a big fan of the colours that both Panasonic and Olympus cameras put out SOOC. For me they win when shooting colour images but the Fuji does well for black and white work. This is why I bought an XT 30 just for this project. However I like the Fuji and Panasonic black and white rendering equally and it really depends upon the subject and light as to which is better in a given situation.

Panasonic GX9

In terms of handling all the cameras are small, lightweight and discreet. They are quick in use and it is easy to quickly change settings on them. I prefer that the Olympus has a separate door for memory cards and I still prefer the PASM system employed by virtually every camera manufacturer rather than the separate dials for shutter speed employed by Fuji. (note the XT30 has a shutter speed dial which when using most Fuji lenses combines with the Aperture ring to give control over exposure). The XT30 does not have and ISO dial unlike its big brother the XT3.

All the cameras feel well built although I’d have to give the nod to the GX9 and Em5III (although I have heard issues reported around the strength of the tripod plate on the EM5II) as they just feel a little higher quality finish and of course the Em5III is weather sealed.

I had fully expected to love the little Fuji XT30 but there were 2 major issues for me once I had a little time with the camera. Firstly, I wanted to shoot the 35mm 1.4 and 56mm 1.2 for my project and quite frankly the AF motors on these lenses still proved to be pretty poor. I had hoped that with the latest generation of camera bodies the AF when using these lenses would have improved but unfortunately (and this is no fault of the XT30’s) it hasn’t. Now I know that a lot of Fuji users love these lenses and in terms of their image quality, yes they are gems but the problem I had while testing the gear out (on not very trying subjects) was that it took multiple shot to get perfect focus. No, it wasn’t a bad copy of the lens, this is exactly how I remember my previous version being as well. I guess it is my own fault for hoping for an improvement that simply can’t be provided by a newer camera. These lenses desperately need updating and I really hope Fuji is working on this as their more modern lenses perform much faster. However it is these lenses that I particularly wanted to use. I’m not interested in the f/2 primes as I’m giving up some of the benefits of that APS-C sensor when shooting with them. In all honesty I like the ergonomics and handling of the EM5 III the most, so unless the XT30 is going to give me tangible benefits (which it would if these lenses auto focussed quickly enough) over it then I’m not going to choose it. The EM5 III is simply more fun and gives me more confidence that I can nail the focus every time.

 

fuji xt30 image quality
Fuji Acros ISO 4000

While the Fuji XT-30 does offer slightly improved High ISO performance the differences are minimal and I’d still place my limit of acceptable IQ for portraits at ISO 3200, exactly the same as the Micro 43 cameras.

olympus em5 III black and whit eimage
Olympus EM5III Monochrome + Green filter , ISO 2000
panasonic gx9 black and white photo
GX9 , L Monochrome Pofile, ISO 200

The second major issue (and one which even had me and my wife spend and evening trying to figure out) was the Fuji App to transfer images to your mobile device. I have used this app before, along with the ones form every other major camera manufacturer (except Canon). The best ones are from Olympus and Panasonic, Sony’s is fine too and Nikon’s although temperamental usually works. Well this Fuji App is a complete and utter bag of S**t. I spent hours trying to get it to connect to my phone, my wifes phone, my tablet and in the end gave up. When I’m out in the middle of nowhere taking photos and I want to quickly transfer some images then this is a big no no for Fuji. I didn’t previously have this issue when I owned the XT2 so I can only assume that the updated app is either useless, has compatibility issues or it’s the XT30’s fault. Either way in the end no matter how beautiful the Acros black and white images were, far too many were out of focus and when they were in focus the app made viewing them on my mobile device impossible. The Fuji is sadly out of the race and has been sent back.. As you saw in my Olympus OMD EM5 III Review this camera does everything that 90% of people will need it to do with no fuss. It makes photography easy and fun and dare I say it, quite cool too.

 

However I already own the Panasonic GX9 and a GH5 so is the Olympus at approximatley £1000 twice as good as the Panasonic GX9 which can be had for under £500 (as of early 2020)?

 

In the Olympus’ favour it has slightly better IBIS, is weather sealed, has a better viewfinder and offers Hi Res mode as well as the useful long exposure modes such as Live Bulb and Live view. In the Panasonic’s favour for me is the fact that it uses the same menu system and has the same colour profile as my existing GH5 and so using the two together would be a more seemless experience and mean my lazy ass doesn’t have to memorise two menu systems. It is of course half the price.

 

When I wrote my Olympus EM5III review it was before the Coronoavirus Pandemic had really hit the UK hard. Money and business was quite good and I could afford the additional cost of the EM5III over the GX9. However as I sit here writing this (early April) the UK economy has basically shut down, business has dried up and I am now putting a much higher priority on bang for buck to ensure that I get the most out of any investment that I make in to a camera or system. This puts cost way higher up my list of priorities than would previously have been the case and I’m sure like many photographers out there I am now really asking myself the question, do I honestly need these extra features and are they really going to make a difference to my work and earning potential.

 

For me, in the end it comes down to the image I can produce. Yes it is nice to have the better viewfinder but the one in the GX9 does not hinder me from getting the shot. I also quite like the tilt mechanism on it. Yes, hi res mode would be nice to have and I can see myself using it quite a lot for landscapes but the projects that I have lined up will be fine with 20mp of resolution. Am I going to suddenly start doing a lot of long exposure photography to make use of live bulb and live view…..If I’m bluntly honest with myself then no, that just isn’t going to happen.

Does my camera need to be weather sealed? Well a lot of us like to kid ourselves that a certain specification is an absolute must. I hear people all the time saying that weather sealing is absolutely essential. I don’t buy it for the most part. I used to live in the Outer hebrides, a place where the weather could not be more challenging to a photographer. My cameras back then didn’t offer top notch weather sealing and you know what I did when the heavens opened… I popped my camera back in my camera bag and waited for the torrential wind blasted downpour to pass. Just before and just after the storm is the best time to photograph anyway not during it. Even if the cameras were weather sealed like a tank the front element of the lens woud be covered in rain and ruin any image. The philippinnes, just like the Outer Hebrides is prone to sudden torrential downpours but for the subjects that I plan on shooting it is irrelevant as I doubt many portrait subjects will be willing to stand out in the rain while I photograph them. Long story short, weather sealing is nice to have but not essential for me.

 

Both the GX9 and EM5 III have fast enough AF speed for my needs. Yes the Olympus may be a little better at tracking thanks to its phase detect Af points but it doesn’t make a difference for what I shoot as the GX9 is quick to focus and has decent face and eye detect AF.

Conclusion

The crux of the matter comes down to which camera offers the features that I need in the cheapest package and this is where the GX9 delivers in spades. IMO it is probably the best value camera in the photographic universe at the moment.

In terms of output it is virtually identical to the Olympus EM5 III however it actually bests it in my opinion in one area that is vital to my project. The black and white profiles of the latest generation of Panasonic cameras and in particular L Monochrome D is just about my favourite black and white profile of any camera.

 

Despite wanting the Fuji XT30’s black and white output the |fuji sytem currently has too many compromises to work for me (Slow AF, No IBIS, Poor Wifi App, No PASM). Despite quite liking a lot of the EM5III features I don’t really need them. My Panasonic GX9 takes beautiful black and white images (particularly in the L Mono and L Mono D profile) and offers everything that I need in a small lightweight package. It doesn’t hurt that it looks beautiful too. So I’ll be using it alongside my GH5 for my projects this year.

 

 

 

4 Comments

  1. Nice to read your opinion on these cameras.
    I own a GX9 like yours and have an EM5MkII, a Pen-F and a recently bought a Fuji X100V. So far I found no problems with Fuji App and I can download seamlessly my image on the fly with fast connection via USB. I guess it’s either a problem with you X-T30 or with X-T30 in general bu I did not noticed it. Panasonic app on my GX9 drives me crazy because I’m unable to operate geo tagging, no matter which device I use to do that. About B&W I guess it depends on the kind of tastes each one of us has. The best I’ve found so far is in the Pen-F which tramples everything else for the shear number of control and tweaking it allows. This is because I like my B&W to be REALLY punchy with high contrast and very deep blacks (red filter). The fact that the camera allows now as far as 16 different custom mode all dial accessible is a big deal thank to the recent firmware which transformed it to the levels the EM1mk2 experienced. I also prefer the tilty/Filly screen some times because I shoot a lot with a vertical framing. The GX9 is great for the smooth soft B&W involving skin and buttery backgrounds, but here fuji ACROS can do sometimes even better, but I guess we should put lenses in the equation and sensor size as well. The tilting viewfinder is GREAT when filming something because it greatly stabilize my My hold and allows me to move focus on the touchscreen witrhout smearing my glasses in the process. Experience teaches me that Panasonic lenses work better on Panasonic bodies 99% of the times: his is due to the DFD that greatly speeds up proper focusing. There is nothing arcane in that: it is just that the database in the camera only comprises Lumix lenses but not Olympus or Sigma. I did some testing with the 20mm F1.7 (which is slow), and on the GX9 is definitely faster then on the Pen-F or the EM5MkII. Panasonic seems also being slightly less triky when coupled with third part equipments, i.e my Viltrox speedbooster when focusing with Canon EF lenses. I guess it’s the same with the Sigma 56mm you own. In the end, because you switched most of your equipments from Olympus (EM1mkII) to Panasonic (GH5), I cannot fault your decision and in the end, because we already tend to carry around too much stuff, trying to slim down the operating aspects is the most important thing. One thing that really changed the way I use my GX) is a Panasonic leather half case I bought in Japan 2 years ago (I think it was labelled as GX7MkIII grip). It gives the camera that 10mm more space at the bottom that allows my pinky some rest and it also slightly beef up the front grip without changing the size of the camera too much, and now mounting an Olympus 12-40 f2.8 is really confortable

    • Hi,

      Thanks for your detailed comments. I owened a Pen F a few years ago and actually tested it against the XT2 with Acros at that time. I have the results here on my website somewhere and like you, I preferred the output from the Pen F. It is fantastic for black and white images thanks to the different modes and amount of customisation available. Shame I can’t seem to find one easily these days. However as you say the GX9 is very nice for black and white portraits and my upcoming project will involve a lot of these so it fits in perfectly. I agree in certain situations the Acros can produce equally as nice black and white images but I find Panasonics Monochrome L profiles to do so in more circumstances. I find the light has to be very contrasty to get the best out of Acros. I also owend an X100T and used it as my only camera for about 1 year and loved it. Like you I had no issues with teh Fuji App back then so I can only assume it is an issue between the XT30 and the latest version of the Fuji App.
      I’m quite interested in testing out the X100V. How have you found the auto focus? It is at quite a premium compared to the previous model at around £1200 when I can pick up an X100F for around £600. It’s nice to see it now has weather sealing and an updated lens. How is th elens performance up close and wide open now? It used to be a little soft on the older models but I never really found it to be an issue.

      All the best
      David

  2. IMO, if you already have the GX9 and you are not totally into JPEG shooting, there is little reasonson to buy a GX9 specifically and I’d rather keep the EM5mkIII for everything else Olympus has to offer. Where the Pen-F shines IMO in in B&W panoramas, where I feel the GX9 can’t reach the same amount of contrast and punch, but in everything else is more the good enough and if you like to introduce a slight grain, L Monocrome D is less intrusive for portraits.
    About the X100V I can’t compare it with older versions which I did not own. Looking at the softness people reports I can tell you straight away this new lens is tack sharp, even more the then equivalent interchangeable 23mm f2.0. If you like 35mm this as good as you can get at F:2.0. The new ND filter is 4 stop which is handy and the focus is… well, I could compare it with my Lumix 20mm F1.7 II if you know what I mean: it is accurate but it is not fast my any mean. About actual use, I pre-ordered the camera and picked it up the day before the whole Lock Down begun here in Italy: I had to risk going to San Marino (a few Km away form where I live) because I had already paid the full price and absolutely had to retrieve the camera before It became impossible, or risk it to be shipped to me via a currier. I got in the shop, picked it up and got right back home as fast as i could. Since then (28 February) everything had been locked up and I can only take pictures of things at home. If I had known what was to come at the begin of February I’d probably had postponed such an expensive purchase, but by the date the camera was delivered it was too late to back down.
    Stay safe: the pandemic in England has just begun and will get worse.

    • I didn’t realise you are in Italy. Stay safe and I hope everything gets better soon. yes we are on lockdown here too. Likewise I am delaying camera purchases at the moment until we get back to some semblance of normality. I think the reason to buy the GX9 over the EM5 III is purely a financial one. Here in the UK the EM5III is £949. The GX9 is £449. It does 90% of what the EM5III can do for 50% of the price so that’s quite impressive. Yes the EM5III is definitely the better overall camera and if you can either afford it or are sure ou will make use of all the additional features then it is worth it. However I can also see why people would still choose the GX9 given the price difference and relatively similar performance. Personally I would like to have the EM5 III but at the moment I just can’t justify it and will spend my money on other more pressing matters (such as building a house to get out of the rat race). Then I can buy all the cameras I want after that.

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