From Portugal to the Arctic Circle (@-25 degrees Celsius), the Panasonic Lumix G9 was my trusty companion for action, sports and nature photography. Both the lightning-fast continuous AF of the Lumix G9 and the fastest single AF of all cameras tested to date were impressive. The weather-resistant body and super-silent mechanical shutter were super. And the specifications of the Panasonic Lumix G9 don't lie: 4K 60p (150 Mb/sec) video, 4K and 6K Photo, a double UHS-2 SD card slot, 5-axis image stabilization, 40- to 80-megapixel high-resolution shots.
The Panasonic TZ200 is a compact camera with a large, 1-inch sensor. These types of cameras are very popular and are also marketed by Canon and Sony. What makes the TZ200 different from the other 1" models is the big zoom range and built-in viewfinder in an extremely compact body. For travel photographers or just for anyone looking for a good almost-all-in-one camera that fits in a pocket, this is probably the ideal camera.
Panasonic Lumix GH-5 is the new top model from Panasonic. It is a robust camera with good image quality for photographers and especially extensive capabilities for videographers. That makes GH5 one of the best hybrid cameras on the market. There is so much to say about this camera that we will regularly update this review in the coming months with test results and practical experiences.
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX15 is Panasonic’s itty-bitty powerhouse in pocket cameras intended for amateur/starter photographers who place an emphasis on being able to get great pics with lots of creative options: 1-inch, 20-megapixel sensor, f/1.4-2.8 Leica Vario-Summilux zoom lens with 3x optical zoom (marked on the camera as 24-72mm, the approximate 35mm-equivalent in 4:3 mode. The zoom range amounts in terms of field of view "what you see in the picture" to 36-108mm in 35mm-equivalent when filming in 4K. Next to an optical zoom, the camera has a 6x “Intelligent” zoom, 5-axis image stabilization, 4K Video (with zoom), and 4K Photo including post-focus and focus stacking. The itty bitty part? 310 g (11 ounces, including battery and memory card), 105.5mm by 60mm by 42 mm (4.15” by 2.36” by 1.65”).
I am often asked, “What camera do you take with you on vacation?” This year, that was a Panasonic Lumix G80. And that turned out to be outstanding. This mirrorless system camera, just like its predecessor (Panasonic G7), looks externally like an SLR camera. The Panasonic G80, which is dust- and splashwater-tight, is for sale including a Panasonic Leica 12-60mm zoom lens, for just a bit under 1,000 euros. You can by the body alone for a hundred euros less. Actually, that’s a waste. The Panasonic Leica 12-60mm zoom lens, just like the G80, is water-tight. That is true for far from all lenses, while your camera is best protected against dust and splashwater if the lens is also sealed. Then the 100 euros for this kit lens, which also has a big field of view at 12mm, is an attractive price. If you place no importance on extra seals against dust and splashwater, and the G80 is beyond your budget, then look at the Panasonic GX80, which appeared a few months ago and has a lot in common with the G80. The G80 has buttons though, so that, for example, changing between AF and manual focus is easier on the G80.
In the group of cameras focused on the amateur photographer, there are lots of choices. The Panasonic G80 holds its own, because it has many features that you do not, or seldom, find on cameras with a shop price of under 1500 euros.
In the price class of up to 1500 euros, most cameras are not extra well-sealed against dust and splashwater. That is a point on which the G80 distinguishes itself from many competitors. A really distinctive characteristic of the Panasonic G80 is that this camera has a freely turning and tilting touchscreen and is simultaneously dust- and splashwater-tight. That is not unique, since the Olympus OM-D E-M1 mk2 and the Panasonic GH4 have it as well, but the vast majority of cameras that are dust- and splashwater-tight have screens that cannot or can only somewhat tilt.
Panasonic G80: BUILD QUALITY, COMPETITORS & FEATUREs
The Panasonic G80 looks solid and modern, and it is, although the modern stuff is more in the options that this camera offers. If you compare the Panasonic G80 with one if its distant ancestors, it is striking how much more mature these cameras have become in terms of build quality. There are plenty of buttons on the body, including a number of custom buttons, so that you have the most-used functions in easy reach. At the same time, the buttons are nicely spread out, so that they are easy to operate. The special button for choosing the various 4K photo functions is handy. The Panasonic G80 has a 16-megapixel sensor without an anti-aliasing filter, so that the resolution is equal to that of a 20- to 22-megapixel sensor with an anti-aliasing filter.
Panasonic G80 vs Panasonic G7
The Panasonic G80 is the successor of the Panasonic G7. In appearance, the two cameras have a lot in common, but Panasonic has still implemented a great many improvements:
Both cameras have a 16-megapixel sensor, but by omitting the anti-aliasing filter and using a more modern processor, the G80 has about 10% more resolution.
The Panasonic G80 has, next to 4K, post-focus as well.
The G80 has in-body image stabilization (in combination with a Panasonic lens: 5-axis); the G7 only uses lens image stabilization.
The G80 is extra well-sealed against dust and splashwater.
G80 has a quieter shutter and an electronic first-curtain shutter, so that any shutter shock is eliminated.
The viewfinder of the Panasonic G80 is even bitter (0.74 vs 0.7) than the viewfinder of the G7.
Panasonic G80 versus OTHER amateur cameras
I think that the image quality for most photographers who are looking for a camera in this price class is a less decisive factor than it was a few years ago. There is, for example, no visible difference in resolution between a 24-megapixel Canon SLR sensor with anti-aliasing filter (Canon 750D, 760D, 7D mk2) or the 16-megapixel sensor without anti-aliasing filter of the Panasonic G80. If you look at the color reproduction of RAW files in Lightroom or Photoshop, then the differences between cameras from different brands in this price class from the Panasonic G80 are very small. There are differences between the picture styles in the jpg files, but that is a matter of choosing the camera settings that suit your personal preferences.
We have previously praised to the heavens mirrorless system cameras with an electronic shutter because you can take photos with them without making any noise. But you do not always want to use an electronic shutter, for example because a “jelly effect” can result from the rolling shutter effect if you take a picture of a fast-moving subject. Good news for those who prefer a mechanical shutter: Panasonic’s most recent shutter is perhaps the quietest mechanical shutter available today. Panasonic has also uses this mechanical shutter in the GX80. Panasonic, Olympus and Sony have succeeded in having the image stabilization in the lens work together with the image stabilization in the camera ("5-axis image stabilization"), so that you can stabilize the image very well. And the image stabilization works from wide-angle, where the in-body image stabilization is most effective, to telephoto, where the in-lens image stabilization is most effective. In comparison with SLR cameras, cameras from Panasonic, Sony and Olympus have a big advantage here.
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A shot like this is a challenge for most cameras, because most AF systems make use of AF points that are so large that the camera focuses on a branch in the foreground instead of on the eyes of the monkey. And because this shot is made with a field of view that corresponds with an 800mm lens on a camera with a full-frame sensor, the focal depth is insufficient to still get a successful shot. With Pin-point AF, you can choose a very small AF point on a Panasonic camera, so that you can easily focus precisely on your subject in such situations, without being bothered by the environment. In this case, I chose a different solution (stepping down to f/8, so that I got greater focal depth).
Panasonic cameras are among the fastest cameras available today when it comes to AF. That also applies for the Panasonic G80 with the 12-60mm.
We test the AF speed of cameras by measuring the time that a camera needs to focus from infinity to 1.5 meters. Most cameras also have a release delay (the time that passes between pressing the button and actually taking the picture) of 50 to 100ms. Add in the tie that a camera needs to focus (depending on the camera and lens, usually between 100ms and 1 second), and you know how long it takes from the moment that you want to take a picture (when you press the button) and when the picture is actually taken. Those who want to capture exactly the right moment (wedding photography, street photography, travel photography) do well to choose a camera/lens combination with a high AF speed. The way in which we measure the AF speed is a "worst case" approach. Usually, there will be a smaller distance involved, because the AF is usually not set to infinity and you are usually focusing at distances larger than 150 cm. The advantage of this worst-case approach is that the differences between a slow AF and a fast AF are maximum, and thus the most reproducibly measurable. The Panasonic G80 and the 12-60mm kit lens needed 0.15 seconds to focus from infinity to 150 cm and are thus among the best cameras that we have ever reviewed. With the 14-140mm kit lens, you might even get slightly better results. The Panasonic G80 can also take a picture slightly faster if you use the pre-AF mode, where the camera more or less continuously focuses and does not have to focus when the release button is pressed, so that only the release delay remains between the moment that you press the release button and the picture is actually taken.
For following a fast-moving subject, the auto focus of the Panasonic G80 with continuous AF does not disgrace itself when, for example, you are photographing a car that is heading straight toward the camera. Even so, this camera has to acknowledge its betters as far as continuous AF is concerned in action cameras like the Nikon D500 and the Canon 7D mk2. When you use pattern recognition to have the camera follow a subject, then that difference disappears, and the Panasonic G80 does perhaps just as well as those other cameras. I would not be too quick to use that mode, though, because it takes a while before the AF locks onto the subject, so that a fast-moving subject will already be gone before the camera starts to track it. That is not a flaw of this Panasonic camera; it applies equally to cameras of other brands.
AF WITH EYE AND FACE RECOGNITION
When you look at a picture that portrays a face, then practically everyone automatically looks at the eyes. It is thus important that the eyes be sharply in focus. An SLR camera has a separate AF sensor, with a maximum of a few hundred thousand pixels, while a mirrorless system camera like the Panasonic G80 uses practically all the pixels on the 16-megapixel sensor to focus. A mirrorless system camera has, in comparison with an SLR camera, much better capability of accurately recognizing the nearest eye. With eye detection, the Panasonic G80 recognizes up to 15 faces, focuses on the nearest eye and determines the right exposure on the basis of the other faces.
SCREEN AND VIEWFINDEr
The only disadvantage of (designing) a touchscreen on a camera like an SLR camera is when I touch the screen with my nose when looking through the viewfinder, so that the focal point is unexpectedly moved. Fortunately, you can freely tilt and rotate the screen of the Panasonic G80. When I am not using the touchscreen, then I turn the screen to face the camera, so that the screen does not get scratched during transport. And if I want to use the touchscreen to choose the AF point, then I look through the viewfinder and move the screen out of the way. With a bit of practice, you can choose the AF point quickly and accurately by tapping on the screen.
The viewfinder of the Panasonic G80 is bit, with 0.74x bigger than most cameras in this price class, and with fast refresh. Electronic viewfinders have a much nicer picture than they used to, so that some people will no longer get the impression that they are “watching TV” instead of looking through an optical viewfinder. You can see from the dynamic range and the color reproduction in the viewfinder image that it isn’t an optical viewfinder, but that is counterbalanced by other advantages relative to an optical viewfinder. If you want to photograph in the dark, you can still see with an electronic viewfinder what will appear in the photo when you can no longer see anything through an optical viewfinder. With an electronic viewfinder, you can see what the photo is going to look like before you take the picture, so that you don’t have to move your eye away from the viewfinder to check on the screen on the back of the camera how the shot looks, which is something you see many photographers with an SLR camera doing.
As far as sharpness is concerned, it has now become more difficult to see clear differences between cameras in the same price class. From our Imatest measurements, the resolution of the Panasonic G80 showed more or less equivalent results with the Olympus PEN-F. You get the best out of the sensor of the Panasonic G80 when you match it with one of the fixed-focal length lenses from Panasonic or the Panasonic 12-35mm f/2.8 or the Panasonic 35-100mm f/2.8.
In our Imatest measurement at 200 ISO, the Panasonic G80 showed a bit larger dynamic range than the Canon 80D, the best Canon camera with an APS-C sensor as far as dynamic range is concerned. In comparison with the Sony and Nikon cameras with an APS-C sensor, the dynamic range of the Panasonic is a bit lower.
Both the standard jpg files out of the camera and the RAW files opened in Photoshop or Lightroom deliver beautiful colors. To my mind, the leaves are a bit too yellow if you use the standard image style. In artificial light, the white balance is not quite perfect, and there is a clear orange color haze. Over the years, Panasonic sensors have managed to record colors with increasing saturation, so that the orange haze in artificial light is more noticeable now than in earlier models. For those who photograph in RAW, that is easy to correct afterwards.
Even under difficult conditions, the signal-to-noise ratio at 3200 ISO is still good enough to be able to edit the image without noise becoming disruptive. But if you really take a lot of pictures at 1600 ISO and higher, then a camera with a bigger sensor might be a better choice. At low ISO values, it is remarkable how close the signal-to-noise ratio of micro-43 cameras comes to that of cameras with a large sensor.
Reviews from abroad? The Panasonic G80 is called the G8, G85 or G81 abroad.
Video & 4K Photo
Panasonic and Sony offer video specifications and options on the less expensive models, while Canon for example chooses to only put 4K video on models over 4000 euros. When it comes to ease of use and innovation, Panasonic is currently perhaps the leader of the pack. In part, that is because Panasonic succeeded—years ago—in making 4K video recordings without overheating the sensor, processor or battery. And in all those years, each time a photographic innovation has been added to the newest Panasonic model, it was based on 4K video. For action photography, you can get a shot, thanks to 4K, that occurred even before you fully pressed the shutter button. See whether this sounds familiar: You are waiting for that one exact moment when something special happens, and you press the release button a fraction of a second too late. One of the capabilities of 4K photo is that a series of 8-megapixel jpg shots is stored that are taken just before the shutter release is pressed. Another capability is Post Focus: the Panasonic G80 analyzes the image and determines what is the furthest way and what is the closest of the subjects that you see in the viewfinder. Then the camera takes a short 4K video, in which the focus is shifted from front to back. From that video, you can save the shot that is focused exactly where you want it. For those who want to take pictures with astronomically large focal depth, focus stacking is idea, because you can take a series of hundreds of shots in which the focal distance is altered just a bit. If you use a tripod, you can combine these to create shots taken with telephoto lenses and macro lenses in which the picture is sharp from front to back.
Ever tried with an SLR camera and an 800mm lens to get a long-shutter time shot of the moon without a tripod? You can’t. It’s impossible to keep the moon in frame and to focus properly because you cannot hold such a big lens/camera combination sufficiently steady. You can choose a short shutter time, but the viewfinder image is very messy then, because the image stabilization of SLR cameras is less effective then. With the Panasonic G80 and the Panasonic Leica 100-400mm, you have a combination that fits nicely in your hand. Thanks to the extremely effective image stabilization, you have a quiet viewfinder image, even if the camera moves because you are not using a tripod. And with a shutter time of 1/50 of a second at a focal length of 400mm (with a field of view that corresponds with that of an 800mm lens on a camera with a full-frame sensor), you get a sharp picture of the moon.
The image stabilization of the Panasonic G80 is, according to Panasonic, 1 stop better than the image stabilization of the Panasonic GX80. That is remarkable, since the Panasonic GX80 appeared about six months ago and the 5-axis image stabilization of the GX80 was not only a significant improvement relative to the Panasonic GX8, it was also among the very best image stabilization on the market today, along with that of Olympus and Sony cameras, for both video and photography.
From the very first tests of the Panasonic G80, it appeared that the image stabilization tried to compensate during panning for video, so that the video image became jumpy. Panasonic has released a firmware update for this, which we were not able to test. Make sure that the first thing you do for your Panasonic G80 is to get a firmware update.
A camera with a micro-43 sensor offers more focal depth than a camera with a full-frame sensor. Certainly when there is a lot of light, it becomes more difficult to isolate a subject from the background when the fastest shutter time is only 1/2000 sec. The Panasonic G80 has a mechanical shutter that is not only surprisingly quiet (the same shutter as on the GX80: see the comparison of the GX80 with a Canon on YouTube), but which also goes down to 1/8000 of a second. A shot taken with the Panasonic G80 at 1/8000 sec, 100 ISO, f/2.8 has the same bokeh and focal depth as a shot taken on a camera with a full-frame sensor exposed at 1/2000 sec, 100 ISO, f/5.6. With the completely silent electronic shutter, even shorter shutter times are possible, although you should not use them for a fast-moving subject because otherwise you run the risk of the rolling shutter effect.
4K Photo and video, incl. focus stacking and Post-Focus
Fast and versatile AF
5-axis image stabilization and DFD AF only work with Panasonic lenses
No auto-ISO during video
Over- or under-exposure during Auto-ISO in the M-mode not possible
The design of the Panasonic G80 is restrained, and a glance at this camera does not reveal how versatile this camera is. This camera is user-friendly for a starting photographer. Sending files to your smartphone or bringing GPS data from your smartphone to your camera is extremely easy. The Panasonic app with which you can remotely operate the G80, for both photo and video, is perhaps the most user-friendly app of its kind on the market. Panasonic cameras have the shortest delay between the time when you press the shutter release and when the photo is actually taken of all the cameras that we have reviewed. On a camera with an optical viewfinder, you see what is happening more quickly in comparison with an electronic viewfinder, but the eventual photo is taken later on a camera with an optical viewfinder. And if you want to photograph in the dark, the AF of a Panasonic, Nikon or Sony camera still works when other brands can no longer focus because it is too dark.
The Panasonic G80 simultaneously offers a build and image quality and user options that are fit for even an advanced photographer. I would advise an advanced photographer in any case to take along 1 or more of the Panasonic Leica lenses if you are going to photograph with the G80. Not only the Panasonic Leica 100-400mm, but also one of the bright fixed-focal length lenses like the Panasonic Leica 42.5mm f/1.2 or the Panasonic Leica 12mm f/1.4.
"Some say that it eats Canon SLR's for breakfast, and Leica's for lunch, all we know is that it's called The Panasonic GX80 / GX85!"
Smartphone cameras are good. System cameras with interchangeable lenses are better. Regardless of brand, modern cameras with interchangeable lenses, both SLR and mirrorless system cameras, deliver an image quality that satisfies perhaps more than 90% of hobbyist photographers. No wonder, then, that weight, size, ease of use, video options and versatility are becoming increasingly more important arguments in the choice of a camera with interchangeable lenses.
4K changes photography: This shot of a thrush was taken during a walk in the woods without a tripod and with a long telephoto lens on the Panasonic GX80. For 4K video recordings without a tripod with a telephoto lens (210 mm), the image stabilization ensures that the individual frames are sharp, but you see the image move. One of the advantages of 4K is that you can crop an image to Full HD. I hae purposely shown the black edges that are created with software image stabilization in order to illustrate what the image would look like if you had made a Full HD recording by hand that you later wanted to stabilize with software. By cropping the stabilized shot to Full HD, I end up with a great memory of this thrush thanks to the Panasonic GX80. And extreme enlargement without a loss of quality.
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Street, portrait and travel photographers often choose a camera that has the viewfinder on the top left, instead of in the middle. Think about Leica cameras. Sport photographers and former SLR owners prefer a camera with the viewfinder in the middle, like the Panasonic G7 or Panasonic GH4. At the moment, you can choose from 3 Panasonic cameras with a rangefinder appearance (with built-in viewfinder at the top left in the camera). The Panasonic GX80 is between the GX7 and the GX8, but it also has a couple of unique characteristics:
As far as price is concerned, the GX7 is ridiculously inexpensive, the GX80 nicely inexpensive, and the GX8 attractively priced.
The Panasonic GX80 is just a bit heavier than the GX7 and 20% lighter than the GX8.
The 20-megapixel sensor of the GX8 is equipped with an anti-aliasing filter. The GX80 has a 16-megapixel sensor without anti-aliasing filter (~19 megapixel). That produces practically the same resolution for the two cameras, which is about 10% higher than the resolution of the 16-megapixel sensor of the GX7 with anti-aliasing filter.
The GX8 is a bit larger and has a clearly larger grip, so that the GX8 can be better combined with larger lenses, like the Panasonic 100-400 mm. The nicely compact Panasonic 35-100 mm f/2.8 fits better on the GX8 than on the GX80, I think.
The GX8 is dust- and splashwater-tight. The GX80 and the GX7 are not.
Because the GX8 is larger, it has more buttons, including two extra Fn buttons, to which you can assign your own function. The GX8 has a separate button for over- or under-exposure. With the GX7 and GX80, the thumbwheel has a double function: if you press it, you can over- or under-expose with it. Press it again, and the thumbwheel returns to its original function (setting shutter time or aperture).
On the back of the GX80 body, in the upper middle, there is a Fn button, which is assigned to a 4K menu by default. The GX8 and GX7 do not have this, and it increases the ease of use of the different 4K options: not only 4K Pre-burst, 4K Burst, and 4K start stop, but also Post-Focus, 4K Live crop and Light Composition.
If you use the mechanical shutter, then the GX80 is much quieter than the GX7 or GX8.
Build quality & image stabilization
The GX80 has the quietest mechanical shutter of all the Panasonic G (G, GF, GH, GM, GX) series.
It is a camera that you can keep with you all the time, to express your creativity in documenting memories. The target audience for the Panasonic GX80 is the large group of starters who have gotten a taste for photography and are looking for a fashionable, compact, versatile camera to use unnoticed in everyday circumstances without standing out. The Panasonic GX80 has an entirely newly designed electro-magnetic shutter, which is quieter and causes fewer vibrations ("shutter shock").
You capitalize on the advantage of a viewfinder at the top left on the camera—certainly on a camera with a touchscreen—when you look through the viewfinder with your right eye. If you do that, then your nose does not end up pressed against the screen of the camera. You can then also position the focal point in exactly the right place with your thumb while keeping the viewfinder in front of your eye. With an SLR camera, all the AF points are in the middle of the image. Here, you can precisely place the AF point over an area that is nearly twice as large with 1 click on the touchscreen. Not everyone loves an electronic viewfinder, but the viewfinder image is just as big as the viewfinder of an SLR camera with a full-frame sensor: nearly one-and-a-half times as large as the viewfinder of an SLR camera from this price class. Once you become accustomed to the viewfinder, then you experience the smaller viewfinder of an SLR camera with an APS-C sensor like looking through a tunnel. For those who wear glasses, the viewfinder of the Panasonic GX8 is easier to see than the viewfinder of the GX80, where you have to place your eye closer to see the whole viewfinder image. Thanks to focus peaking and enlargements of the image in the electronic viewfinder, you can focus much more accurately with an electronic viewfinder than with an optical viewfinder. And in the dark, an electronic viewfinder still gives a clear image when an optical viewfinder has already become useless.
Lightning-fast and very accurate AF
For measuring the AF speed, we choose a "worst-case scenario" from infinity to one-and-a-half meters. That allows us to measure accurately. In practice, the distance difference is usually smaller, but the fastest camera is still the fastest. The AF of the Panasonic GX80 focused faster in our test from infinity to 1.5 m than all SLR cameras, as shown during our AF test of the GX80.
The vast majority of photos will be made in the Single-AF mode. For testing the AF speed, we manually set the camera to infinity and measure the time that it takes to focus to one-and-a-half meters. If we compare the AF speed of an SLR camera with the AF speed of a mirrorless system camera, then the Panasonic shows convincingly that system cameras can focus faster. With the Panasonic 12-60 mm lens, the Panasonic GX80 focused in 0.05 seconds. The camera also has a Quick AF mode, with which the focus time can be shortened in practice, because the camera then focuses before you put your finger on the release button. We have not yet tested any SLR camera that can match that. Fifty milliseconds corresponds with the release delay of many SLR cameras; that is the time that a camera needs to take a picture after focusing. Depending on the lens and the camera, you still need to add between 200 ms and 1000 ms for an SLR camera as the time the camera needs to focus.
The fast AF time of Panasonic cameras is, I think, on account of at least 4 factors:
The high refresh rate at which the sensor is read out. (The sensor signal will be used to focus.)
When using Panasonic lenses: Depth by Defocus, where the camera can estimate on the basis of the bokeh how far has to be focused. The AF motor then makes a very quick adjustment, followed by precise focusing with contrast detection.
The relatively short focal distance of micro-43 lenses and the associated, larger focal depth.
The low weight of the lens element that is moved.
Enormous progress has also been made with continuous AF and focus tracking as far as the AF speed is concerned, although on that point the fastest SLR camera will beat out the Panasonic GX80. It would not surprise me if Olympus or Panasonic show up at the next Photokina with surprisingly fast continuous AF. The Sony A6300 and the Nikon 1 cameras are also surprisingly good on this point. For the GX80, it doesn’t matter much, since this is not a camera that has sports photographers as a target audience.
Fast focus does nothing for you if it isn’t also accurate. When testing lenses, we always measure how accurately the AF focuses. Panasonic cameras and lenses (also on Olympus) cameras are among the very best on that point.
Body and lens work together: 5-axis image stabilization
Traditionally, camera manufacturers chose to build image stabilization into the lens. The disadvantage of this approach is that in each lens image stabilization should be built in, which cost and weighs extra. There are still more lenses which no image stabilization built than lenses that have come with image stabilization. Minolta - and after the acquisition, Sony - was the first with image stabilization built into the camera. This allowed you to benefit with all lenses from stabilization, but the in-body image stabilization (IBIS) was less effective than the lens stabilization of other brands. Olympus then came up with IBIS which was at least as good as in-lens stabilization, probably even better. That's why Olympus released until recently only lenses without stabilization. Until recently, because especially with telephoto lenses with an extremely long focal length, accurate in-lens stabilization is most effective. Olympus 300mm f / 4 is the first Olympus lens with built-in image stabilization. About the same time showed Sony, Olympus and Panasonic (Panasonic in GX8) that it was possible to make the in-body image stabilization work together with in-lens image stabilization.
When testing the Panasonic GX8, we saw that the 5-axis image stabilization of the Panasonic GX8 was not yet as effective as that of Sony or Olympus. The designers at Panasonic faced no small challenge. On the one hand, Panasonic cameras lead with 4K video. When recording 4K video, so much data is generated that the chance is very good that the sensor will overheat. While testing Canon SLR cameras in Liveview, I found to my great irritation that the mirror popped down after about one minute—probably with the idea of preventing overheating (and with the Canon 760D we aren’t even talking about 4K video, but regular HD). With Panasonic that problem did not arise. I suspect that they securely mounted the sensor of, for example, the Panasonic GH4 on a big heavy block of copper to be able to drain away all the heat that is generated during 4K video recordings. For 4K video, this solution works well, since I never experienced the camera getting too hot during video recordings with a Panasonic camera. But for good in-body image stabilization, you do not want a big block of copper hanging off your sensor. The greater the freedom of movement of the sensor, the more effective the IBIS. “Dream on,” the pragmatics say. But Panasonic did one better.
Tests results for the image stabilization of the GX80 (5 stops profit) are flat-out impressive. It is a neck-and-neck race between Olympus, Panasonic and Sony: all with 5-axis image stabilization.
When you hold the body of the Panasonic GX80, after you have removed the lens, then you see the first indication that the freedom of movement of the sensor has increased: you see the sensor, freed from its copper block, wobbling cheerfully. That means there is a great chance that the Panasonic GX80 can achieve very high returns through image stabilization. I tried it out with the Panasonic 12-60 mm. In the screen of the Panasonic GX80, the message “Dual IS” appeared, as an indication that the image stabilization of lens and camera were combined into one 5-axis image stabilization. I took 10 shots each with and without image stabilization, of which the resolution was measured with the help of Imatest. The first thing that stands out is that even at a short shutter time of 1/200 sec, we benefit from the image stabilization. The second thing that stood out is that a shot made with a shutter time of 1/200 sec without image stabilization is as sharp as a shot taken at 1/6 sec with image stabilization. That is really very good.
The newest lenses, like the Panasonic 12-60 mm or the Panasonic 100-400 mm, are already equipped with firmware that enables collaboration between the camera image stabilization and lens image stabilization. For 11 Panasonic lenses, like the Panasonic 14-140 mm, the Panasonic 35-100 mm f/2.8, Panasonic 12-35 mm f/2.8 or the Panasonic 42.5 mm f/1.2 or f/1.7, a firmware update is needed in order to benefit from the 5-axis image stabilization. The first thing to do if you buy a Panasonic GX80 is to update your lenses.
Panasonic GX80 image quality
If you stay lower than ISO 400, then even with the Panasonic FZ1000 that has a smaller 1-inch sensor, you get pictures whose image quality you cannot distinguish from that of an SLR camera. A micro-43 sensor is larger and has a surface that amounts to 25% of the surface of a full-frame sensor. An APS-C sensor catches twice as much light (1 stop difference), and a full-frame sensor, four times as much light (2 stops difference) as a micro-43 sensor.
High resolution and image quality
Click on the illustration for a larger version
If you want to have the same focal depth, the advantage of a larger sensor is sometimes lost: a shot taken on a camera with a full-frame sensor and a 50 mm lens at ISO 400, f/8, 1/100 sec looks the same as a shot taken with a micro-43 camera and a 25 mm lens at ISO 100, f/4, 1/100 sec. The same applies for the bokeh and the focal depth, but also the signal-to-noise ratio. That is, if we assume that the same sensor technology is applied in both cameras. Relative to some SLR cameras, the image processing on the Panasonic sensors is so good that dynamic range and signal-to-noise ratio below 6400 ISO are so good that the differences are much smaller than you would expect based on the sensor size. Over 6400 ISO (the exact limit is open for debate, since that depends on image processing, lighting conditions and the requirements that you set for an image as the photographer), it still applies, however, that the larger the sensor, the better the image quality. As far as image quality (resolution, usable dynamic range, color reproduction and signal-to-noise ratio) is concerned, the Panasonic GX80 has more than enough going for it to satisfy most photographers with an A3-size print.
If you omit an anti-aliasing filter from in front of the sensor, then the chance of colored interference patterns with very fine, regular patterns, as shown above (and in practice, fine fabrics or buildings at a distance), becomes greater. Because modern cameras have such a high resolution that you less often enlarge the image to 100% or more, moiré will not soon be noticeable, even if should occur in a shot. It is possible that Panasonic ensures that moiré is eliminated in the image processing. I did not see it in the practice shots. The only example that I found is the partial enlargement above of a shot of a test card. In Lightroom or Photoshop, you can also easily remove any moiré locally with a retouch pencil. Because you remove moiré locally, the image quality in the rest of the image is not affected and remains high.
In general, the color reproduction of the Panasonic GX80 is very good, even at higher ISO values. The very first micro-43 cameras lost saturation at the very highest ISO settings, but that appears to be a thing of the past. I find the Olympus and Panasonic colors to be very natural. The standard jpg files of the GX80 tend a very little bit toward yellow-green. I got the impression that you see that a bit in the practice shots as well. But it’s spring now and all the plants are also a very fresh green in real life as well. In artificial lighting, you’re best overruling the automatic white balance and manually setting the camera to artificial light for the best results. Normally, we assess the color reproduction of RAW files on the basis of RAW files converted with Lightroom (Adobe standard). At the moment, converting RAW files from the GX80 in Lightroom is not possible. We therefore converted the RAW files with SilkyPix for determining the noise and the accuracy of the color reproduction. When editing RAW files from Olympus, Nikon, Sony or Canon, then aside from Adobe standard, you can also choose the brand-specific image styles in the bottom tab (camera calibration). I suspect that Adobe has therefore made the correction profiles with the goal of getting as close to the standard image styles out of the camera as possible. It would be great to get this option for Panasonic RAW files as well, since the colors of the jpg files that are stored in the camera are so natural that it sometimes takes me some effort in Lightroom or Photoshop to get colors from a RAW file that come close to those of the jpg file.
This is a detail from a 4K Photo shot, made in the woods, at a relatively high ISO value. What appeals to me is the noise in the background, which is reminiscent of the traditional grain from analogue photography.
The difference between a RAW shot made at 200 ISO and 6400 ISO, developed in Silkypix, is visible if you enlarge the image to 100%. The resolution suffers from the noise suppression. For many, that will be a non-issue ("I practically never use images at an enlargement of A3 or more, never mind shots taken at 6400 ISO."). Even I have the tendency not to go higher than 1600 to 3200 ISO; that is a bit higher than with the older Panasonic cameras. It is possible that omitting the moiré filter made a small contribution to the improvement of the signal-to-noise ratio, but in any case, it is a consequence of the efforts of the Panasonic engineers to achieve better image processing.
Ergonomics, design and options are ideal for street photography, wedding photography or travel photography
Beautiful, clear and big (0.7x!) electronic viewfinder
High build and image quality
16-megapixel camera with the resolution of a 20-megapixel camera
Compact and light
Built-in, advanced image stabilization (now for Olympus lenses as well!)
Screen tilts but does not turn
Not extra-well sealed against dust or splashwater
Viewfinder not as easy to see for those who wear glasses as the viewfinder of the GX8 is
"Some say that it eats Canon SLR's for breakfast, and Leica's for lunch, all we know is that it's called The Panasonic GX80 / GX85!"
Make a checklist sometime of wishes that you have for your ideal camera. Think for example about: budget, built-in image stabilization, 4K video, tilting screen, great-looking and yet discreet, light and compact and yet user-friendly. Check off per camera whether they fulfill your requirements. The chance is good that the Panasonic GX80 will land very high on your list. I don’t use the paraphrase from the testing report in TopGear (The Stig) without reason. The Panasonic GX80 is capable of much more than you would expect based on its modest appearance.
If you don’t make many prints at A3 or larger, then a camera with 16-megapixels will be more than enough. More important arguments for choosing a specific camera are ease of use, options and ergonomics. Not everyone prefers an SLR camera, even without considering weight and size. They choose a compact, discreet camera with built-in viewfinder and the look of a rangefinder camera. For this group of photographers, the Panasonic GX80 is a bull’s eye.
The combination of extensive 4K video options and built-in image stabilization make this camera unique in the price class of up to 1,000 euros. An electronic viewfinder does not outclass an optical viewfinder, but in comparison with the GX7, the difference relative to an optical viewfinder has become significantly smaller. An electronic viewfinder does have a couple of advantages that you do not have with an optical viewfinders on an SLR under 1,500 euros. The viewfinder image of the Panasonic GX80 is just as big as the viewfinder of an SLR camera with a full-frame and nearly 1.5 times bigger than the viewfinder of an SLR camera from this price class. Thanks to focus peaking and enlargement of the image in the viewfinder, you can focus much more accurately and quickly with an electronic viewfinder than with an optical viewfinder. In the dark, an electronic viewfinder still gives a clear image, while an optical viewfinder has already become useless. Image quality of photo and video are outstanding. Built-in image stabilization is extremely effective. With post-focus, 4K Photo and 4K video, a new world of photographic possibilities will open up for you.
If you have large hands, photograph often in poor conditions or prefer lenses with a long focal length, then the Panasonic GX8 might be a more suitable candidate. If you want to use the camera primarily for video, then the Panasonic GH4 is a more obvious choice. In all other cases: It is a pleasure to work with this handy camera. The AF of the Panasonic GX80 is really lightning fast. 4K photo offers the option of recording action at 30 frames per second and saving the best picture in the camera. Go ahead and argue with them, the photographers who choose a Panasonic GX80 over a Leica or a Canon.
Perhaps the most well-balanced camera selection of all camera manufacturers can be found at Panasonic. A special place was taken by the recently released Panasonic GX8. Panasonic's camera selection varies from a camera with the advantages of a system camera and the ergonomics of an SLR (Panasonic G7), a compact hybrid with both video and photo quality and professional-level options (Panasonic GH4), to the ideal bridge camera with a large sensor and an enormous zoom range (Panasonic FZ1000) or a high-end compact (Panasonic LX100). For beginners to professionals, there is a Panasonic camera that meets all the requirements. The Panasonic GX8 is intended for highly demanding amateur photographers or professional travel and street photographers who are more charmed with the appearance and the shape of a rangefinder camera than an SLR camera. What do you think about a dust- and splashwater-tight camera with a freely rotating and tilting screen? A fastest shutter time of 1/16,000 seconds, 6 shots per second with continuous AF and 4K video, without needing to connect an external recorde? With a larger viewfinder than a professional SLR camera? With an AF that still works at -4 EV and that also focuses faster and more accurate than a Canon 1Dx? A camera that can even focus on the light of a star? As the cherry on top, Panasonic promises that you can take pictures with this camera in which you only determine afterwards where you want the focus. The Panasonic GX8 offers the highest image quality of all Panasonic G cameras and is not even the top model of the G series.
Are you a newcomer to the hobby of photography? Are you looking for a light, compact camera with attractive looks and the ease of use of a smartphone? But with much better image quality? Or are you an amateur photographer who just wants to have an affordable, small, compact camera with interchangeable lenses as a supplement to your big camera? Then the Panasonic GF7 just might be something for you. The Panasonic LUMIX GF7 has been for sale since March 2015. With the GF7, thanks to the 180-degree tilting screen, you can make selfies, and you have Wi-Fi connectivity for sharing pictures via social media. That makes a switch from smartphone to a mirrorless system camera nearly obvious.
Panasonic GF7 list price: € 499.95 (incl. 12-32 mm)
Not everyone likes to photograph with a camera that has no viewfinder. In bright sunlight, a screen is more difficult to see. In the current offerings, the Panasonic GF7 is therefore more attractive to starters, I think, than to amateur photographers. If you want a compact camera with viewfinder, then you could choose the Panasonic GM5, which is even more compact—but also a bit more expensive—than the Panasonic GF7. The Panasonic GX7 is currently for sale including kit lens for 200 euros more than the GF7, and that also makes it very attractive for an amateur photographer who would like to have a compact camera with viewfinder. The Panasonic G7, a mirrorless system camera with the ergonomics, ease of use and image quality of an SLR, is an attractive alternative for more experienced amateur photographers.
Panasonic GF7 specs
180-degree tilting, 3.0-inch touchscreen with 1040 pixels
Advanced creative and automatic functions, including Self Shot, Jump Snap, Creative Control, Time Lapse and Stop Motion Animation
Fast Contrast Auto Focus, which also works in the dark (-4EV)
Face/Eye Detection AF (super-handy for making portraits)
Electronic shutter for silent shots and the fastest shutter time of 1/16000
1920 x 1080 Full HD-video images in AVCHD Progressive or MP4 (MPEG-4/H.264) format
Panasonic GF7 vs Panasonic GF6
The Panasonic Lumix GF7 is the successor of the GF6. Now the Panasonic GF6 is still for sale. If your budget permits, I would choose the Panasonic GF7. First, the Panasonic GF7 looks more modern, although that might sound strange for a camera with a retro look. Second, the smaller 12-32 mm lens of the Panasonic GF7 is not only easier to take along, it also takes very good pictures and offers a wider view than the 14-42 mm lens that is delivered standard with the Panasonic GF6. A focal distance of 12 mm or 14 mm sounds like a small difference, but there are many situations—when photographing indoors or in crowded streets—where it is incredibly useful to get more in the shot. You cannot always take a step back. The lens alone would be enough for me to choose a GF7 over a GF6, but there are more considerations. The Panasonic GF7 is a bit more compact than the GF6, and the screen of the GF7 can turn so far that you can make a selfie with it. That is not possible with the screen of the GF6, which also has less resolution. The Panasonic GF7 focuses faster and better than the GF6. In the dark (to -4EV), the Panasonic GF7 still focuses sharply where many other cameras have already given up. The Panasonic GF7 offers 22 filter effects and a panorama mode, which you will not find on the GF6.
Panasonic GF7: Build quality & Features
Design, build quality and ergonomics
A second battery is certainly advisable for those who take a lot of pictures.
The size of a camera is strongly dependent on taste. Some photographers find an SLR camera too heavy, while many photographers think that extra weight is a plus. There are also photographers who think a given camera is too small for their hands, while others—for example because they are accustomed to a smartphone—think: “What are you talking about?” A compact camera is more handy to take along. That is an important plus point, since if you don’t take a camera along because you find it too big, then you won’t take any pictures at all. The other side of the coin, of course, is that you have to fuss about more with a small camera in order to change the camera settings. How much that bothers you is a personal consideration. It is key in any case to try out a camera before you buy it. Most small cameras necessarily have a small battery. This is also the case for the Panasonic GF7. You can take about 200 pictures before the battery has to be recharged. Users of smartphones are spoiled consumers with big, bright screens of gorilla glass. Whether the screen of the Panasonic GF7 is made of gorilla glass, I don’t know. But it is a beautiful, bright screen that remains visible from an angle. Only on very sunny days does the image become more difficult to see.
Adding GPS data
All cameras from Panasonic communicate perfectly with other devices, with the help of free apps from Panasonic. Not only can you remotely operate the Panasonic GF7 with your smartphone, you can have the smartphone collect GPS data, which you then add simply to the shots that you have made with the Panasonic GF7. You can thus, for example in Lightroom, find your vacation photos on a map. The big advantage compared with built-in GPS is that GPS uses a lot of power, so that you can take fewer pictures with the same power on a camera with built-in GPS. That’s why fewer cameras with built-in GPS are coming to market.
Versatile, fast, light-sensitive and accurate AF
The advanced Contrast AF system of the Panasonic GF7 is really very fast and extremely accurate. With the Low Light AF mode, you can focus more accurately on the subject with little environmental light, without an AF help-light having to be used, even if stars are the only light source. That also works with Nikon SLR cameras, but otherwise we seldom encounter AF that still works under such conditions. The touchscreen gives you the ability to precisely place the focus where you want to have it. Next to the regular Facial Recognition AF (the camera focuses on a face as soon as one appears in frame), the LUMIX GF7 also has Face/Eye Detection AF, which automatically focuses on the eyes of the subject—ideal for making great portraits.
High image quality: resolution, color reproduction, signal-to-noise ratio and dynamic range
A micro-4/3 sensor is significantly larger than a (1/2.3”) compact camera sensor, but it is also larger than the sensor of luxury compact cameras like the Sony RX100 series. That ensures that the Panasonic GF7 offers visibly better image quality (dynamic range and signal-to-noise ratio) than a smartphone or compact camera. At the lower ISO values (below 1600 ISO), you will see little difference in a print at A3 size as far as noise and sharpness are concerned from a shot made with an SLR camera with an even larger full-frame sensor. The same applies for the color reproduction: it gives up nothing to an SLR.
The closer the color of the camera (circle) comes to the reference color (square), the better. In daylight, the color reproduction (left) is better for every camera than the color reproduction in artificial light (right). If you photograph in RAW, then you can still adjust the white balance afterwards without a loss of quality. If you photograph in jpg, then you get the best result if you set the white balance of the camera to artificial light.
Many cameras capture an image in such a way that the shadows are very dark. You then have to seek refuge in image editing in order to make the details in the shadows appear. With Panasonic's advanced Intelligent D-range Control function, you can improve that in the camera. Each part of the image, from light to dark, is shown with the details retained, as you experience it in reality.
The jpg files of Panasonic cameras are less sharpened with the standard settings than they are with other brands. Panasonic makes that choice deliberately, because they are striving for as natural an image as possible. If you prefer jpg files with higher contrast and a bit less sharpening, then that is simple to adjust on the camera.
Click on the illustration for a larger version. Panasonic GF7 + 12-32 mm @ 12 mm f/5.6, 200 ISO (RAW)
The best camera is the camera that you have with you at the moment you want to take a picture. Practically everyone has a smartphone with them, but due to the high dynamic range of this backlit shot and the lack of a wide-angle lens in practically all smartphones, that would produce a disappointing picture. The Panasonic GF7 and the 12-32mm kit lens offer a high dynamic range and a wide view, which you would not have been able to capture with a smartphone.
Lenses for the Panasonic GF7
Because you don’t buy a camera with interchangeable lenses without reason, I recommend eventually buying a small and yet bright Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 as well, so that you can photograph in the dark without a flash and because of its legendary image quality. But the first acquisition has to be the Panasonic 35-100mm f/4 (the ideal partner for the 12-32 mm: nearly as compact but more telephoto to pull a subject in closer).
Video, selfies and more.....
The LCD screen of the Panasonic GF7 does not rotate, but it can tilt 180 degrees, which is ideal for making a selfie.
With one press of a button, you make unique, creative video recordings with the Panasonic GF7. Panasonic is famous for the high 4K video quality of high-end micro-43 cameras like the Panasonic GH4, which as far as user options and image quality are concerned, can compete with much more expensive cameras. In order to make the video image quality as high as possible, the image processor has to process an enormous amount of data, and Panasonic has done that very well. This means that Panasonic cameras that do not offer 4K, like the Panasonic GF7, do produce a very nice image in Full-HD. In comparison with video recordings made with a GoPro or a smartphone, the relatively large sensor of the Panasonic GF7 delivers a beautiful, noise-free image.
With the Time Lapse mode, changes in a scene over a long period can be documented. The Stop Motion Animation function is a familiar technique from the film world (Wallace & Gromit), whereby you bring dolls to life in an animated film. What many photographers do not realize is that making an animated film can drastically lower the lifespan of a mechanical shutter. For a 50p animated video of 50 seconds, you take 2500 shots (if everything goes well the first time). The lifespan of a mechanical shutter often lies around 100,000 shots. Because the Panasonic GF7 also has an electronic shutter, you can use that for making an animated video, so that the mechanical shutter lasts longer.
Wi-Fi & Jump Snap
The LUMIX GF7 has Wi-Fi-connectivity, with which you can transfer files to a smartphone or PC. But you can also operate the camera remotely with it, with the help of a free app from Panasonic. And if you combine the GF7 with one of the two power zooms, then it is even possible to have the camera zoom in or out remotely via the app. That is not possible with most system cameras if you operate them remotely. Next to photos, you can also make videos, while you use the smartphone as a remote control for adjusting the shutter speed or aperture. The recording options are thus unequaled. Images can be immediately shared by social media, thanks to Wi-Fi.
You currently see on ever-more cameras that manufacturers are playing with options for making photographing easier and more playful. Face detection, whereby the camera automatically focuses if a face appears in frame, is a general phenomenon among mirrorless system cameras. The LUMIX GF7 also has a new function: Jump Snap. With this, the camera takes a picture while the photographer jumps into the air with a group of friends. The smartphone that is used as the remote control automatically detects the highest point of the jump and releases the shutter of the LUMIX GF7 while everyone is hanging in the air. You would have difficulty pulling that off with a self-release mechanism.
Fast shutter (1/16,000). And completely silent!
The Panasonic GF7 has two different shutters: a traditional mechanical shutter that you hear when you take a picture, and a faster, completely silent electronic shutter with which the pixel rows on the sensor are read lighting fast in sequence. In a smartphone and many compact cameras, there are also electronic shutters. Even so, you hear a sound with those cameras when you take a picture, an imitation mechanical shutter via the speakers. On the Panasonic GF7 you can set the volume in such a way that the “shutter noise” is so soft that only the photographer hears that a picture has been taken. The only disadvantage of an electronic shutter is one you see when photographing very fast-moving subjects, such as the rotors of a helicopter or a train that is racing horizontally across the frame. Because the rows on the sensor are read in sequence, vertical lines on the fast-moving train are a bit crooked on the photo. Modern electronic shutters are so fast that this pitfall only becomes visible in extreme situations. Even so, the prevention of any “rolling shutter effect” is the reason that Panasonic equips its cameras with not only a silent electronic shutter, but also with a traditional mechanical shutter. The photographer has the choice.
A short shutter time freezes the action of fast-moving subjects. You might think that the fastest shutter time of 1/16,000 of a second of the Panasonic GF7 is better for that than the flash time of a flash (~1/1000 sec) or the fastest shutter time of 1/4000 that you find on many other cameras. Where other cameras use a smaller aperture to prevent over-exposure in sunny situations, because there is no shutter time faster than 1/4000 sec possible, with the Panasonic GF7 you can continue photographing with a large aperture until there is so much light that even 1/16,000 of a second is not short enough. For most moving subjects, a fastest shutter time of 1/1000 is quite sufficient. Even so, I think that somewhat more experienced amateur photographers will more frequently use the very fast electronic shutter of a Panasonic camera, as soon as they realize what is possible with it. Not for freezing the action, but for the creation of a beautiful background blur (“bokeh”). If you love bokeh, then the little Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 is a fantastic choice for the Panasonic GF7.
Move your mouse over this shot.
A micro-43 camera has a much larger sensor than a smartphone. With a smartphone, this shot would be sharp from the foreground to the background. Even at a focal point of 12 mm, where you have a great deal of focal depth, you can still play a bit with the background blur with the GF7. The background is nicely vague, so that the subject is more striking, and at the same time still recognizable.
Conclusion Panasonic GF7 review
Conclusion Panasonic GF7 review
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Good build and image quality (photo and video) and extremely compact
Fast and accurate AF system, which also works in the dark
Completely silent mode
Suitable for selfies and incl. Wi-Fi for social media
Screen only rotates up (up to 180 degrees)
Short battery life
Too long, didn’t read (TL/DR)? Panasonic GF7 is perfect for those who have outgrown a smartphone or compact camera and are switching to a compact, versatile camera with interchangeable lenses.
The Panasonic GF7 is easy to operate for a beginner. A more experienced amateur photographer who does not mind the lack of a viewfinder will also appreciate this little and yet versatile camera. The image quality is just as good as that of the more expensive Panasonic cameras. On a few points, that is even better than the image quality of some SLR cameras. The compact 12-32mm lens on the Panasonic GF7 (lighter and more compact than the kit lenses of other brands) does become a bit larger when you use it, but it offers a high image quality (read our Panasonic 12-32mm test). With a 12 mm focal distance, you also get a more spacious view than the field of view that standard lenses of other brands offer. Those who photograph indoors will appreciate not only the wide view of a 12 mm lens, but also the accurate auto focus in the dark and the ability to photograph without any noise. Various functions such as Jump Snap, panorama mode and the Wi-Fi options mean that you will not quickly outgrow this silent little guy.
Panasonic G7 is a mirrorless system camera with a high-resolution electronic viewfinder and the look of an SLR camera—only with a lower weight, smaller dimensions, a silent shutter, 4K video and smaller and lighter lenses. The 4K video options—photography and video—of the Panasonic G7 are unique. Anyone who is charmed by the image quality and user friendliness of the Panasonic GH4, but does not want to spend a thousand euros on a camera body should consider a Panasonic G7. Or someone who bought a Panasonic G6 in 2013 and has developed a taste for photographing with a mirrorless system camera. Even if you do not have a 4K monitor, there are still many options to benefit from on with 4K.
List price Lumix G7: 699.95 euros
The Panasonic LUMIX G7 is available starting in June 2015, for a list price of € 699.95 (body only). For just 100 euros more than the body price, you can buy this camera including a kit lens. The Panasonic 14-42 mm kit lens has undergone a metamorphosis and gotten a matte black appearance that fits perfectly with this camera. As far as optical performance is concerned, the new kit lens is the same as the Panasonic 14-42 mm that we have reviewed. The Panasonic G7 looks more angular and modern than the Panasonic G6 or GH4. The black version has a great “stealth character” and striking and distinguished at the same time. The rubber ensures that the camera is easy to grip. The Panasonic Lumix G7 does not have a metal body that is extra-well sealed against water and dust, like the Panasonic GH4 has. This is a nice, light workhorse for many amateur photographers. Next to the black version of the Panasonic G7, there is also a silver version, which is reminiscent of a Fujifilm T1 in appearance. The Panasonic G7 offers everything that a photographer needs: a sensor with sufficient resolution for prints 70 cm long, 4K video, the option to record fast actions by shooting up to 30 (8 megapixel) images per second with 4K photo, without the buffer of the camera filling up within a couple of seconds. Due to its light weight, good grip, ease of use and options, it is a good candidate for becoming your daily companion for a new way of making 4K photos and 4K videos.
Panasonic G7 specs
4K video (30 bps, 24 bps) and 4K Photo ("photographing with video")
Fast contrast AF thanks to Depth from Defocus (DFD), whereby the bokeh of Panasonic lenses is used to quickly get to near-focus, in order to then focus accurately with contrast AF.
16MP Digital Live MOS sensor with new Venus processor
Compatibility with the most modern (UHS-II SDXC) memory cards (more of a consideration for video than for photography)
360-degree panorama function
Shortest shutter time of 1/16000 sec
2.36 million dot electronic viewfinder
1.04 million dot rotating and tilting monitor
Panasonic G7 vs Panasonic G6
Under the hood (4K video) and on the outside (50% brighter screen and more buttons: Dual Mode Dial & Drive Mode Dial), the camera is significantly modernized with respect to its predecessor. Shortly after the introduction of the G7, it is certain that it might be interesting to bargain hunters to grab an inexpensive G6 if you do think you are going to make use of the 4K capabilities. The difference in list price is 300 euros, and that could be more in practice.
Tastes naturally differ, but I think the design of the Panasonic G7 is much more attractive and modern than that of the Panasonic G6. In terms of ergonomics, I find that a somewhat more rounded G camera (like its predecessors) fits slightly better in the hand than the more angular Panasonic G7. It is a difference that you might notice when doing a direct comparison in the store, or when unpacking your new G7. But you quickly get used to it. The Panasonic G7 sits just as nicely in the hand as an Olympus OM-D E-M5 or OM-D E-M1.
Panasonic G7 versus GH4, GX7, GM5, GF5
As far as image quality is concerned, these Panasonic camera differ little from each other. With all these cameras, you can make fantastically good prints of 30 x 45 cm. In terms of ergonomics, Panasonic has made a great package of characteristically different cameras that are tailored to different target audiences:
The Panasonic GH4 is the flagship with an aluminum body that is extra-well sealed against dust and splashwater (if you also use a lens that is extra-well sealed against dust and splashwater). It is a professional camera, and the difference with the Panasonic G7 is tangible. The Panasonic GH4 offers more video options, for example the ability to connect an Atomos Shogun for 10-bit video recordings.
The Panasonic GX7 looks like a rangefinder camera and is ideal for street photography, for example, or for anyone who prefers working with a camera on which the viewfinder sits on the corner, so that your nose does not hit the screen. The Panasonic GX7, just like the G7, is more of a photographer’s camera than the GH4 or the GF7. Panasonic GX7 does not offer 4K video, but Full HD video.
The Panasonic GF7 is a compact starter’s camera, with social media options and a screen with which you can make selfies. The Panasonic GM1 is even more compact than the GF7, but it does not have a moveable screen.
The Panasonic GM5, just like the G7, has a built-in viewfinder, but it is super-compact. That makes it less of a workhorse than the G7. The GM5 is intended for the experienced photographer who always wants to have a compact camera with a high-quality sensor (and interchangeable lenses) with them.
The target audience of a Panasonic G7 is the amateur photographer who appreciates the ergonomics and the ease of use of an SLR, but in a more compact and quieter camera that offers more (4K) video options. Depending on your taste, you could also do well with a Panasonic GX7.
Panasonic G7: Build quality, competition and features
Panasonic G7 versus Canon 100D
The Panasonic G7 is just as small and light as the Canon EOS 100D—the smallest and lightest SLR camera today. Modern cameras offer good image quality, but the Panasonic G7 is a mirrorless system camera with many extras.
In the electronic viewfinder, a warning against over-exposure, a histogram, level and focus peaking for manual focusing can be shown. That is not possible with the optical viewfinder of an SLR camera.
The Panasonic G7 has the best video aspects with 4K, which is also expanded with 4K photography for capturing action at 30 images per second.
The viewfinder image of the Panasonic G7 is much larger than the viewfinder image of the Canon 100D.
The 100D does not have WiFi; the G7 does.
The G7 has a faster shutter (1/16,000 vs 1/4,000) and a longer shutter time (60 sec vs 30 sec), which offers extra room to play with bright light and in the dark.
The 100D is less expensive.
The G7 shoots a max of 10 jpg shots per second in full resolution; the 100D a max of 4/sec.
Screen and viewfinder
The resolution of the built-in OLED-EVF (the same as the EVF of Panasonic's top model, the GH4) is increased with respect to the Panasonic G6 to 2.36 million subpixels. The electronic viewfinder thus has a much higher resolution than its predecessor and has also gotten a higher "eye point" (21 mm instead of 17.5mm), so that as a wearer of glasses you can more easily see the entire viewfinder image. With a refresh rate of 120 Hz, the image is also nicely quiet. Electronic viewfinders are getting increasingly nicer and better, and it would not amaze me if within a few years all cameras were fitted with an electronic viewfinder. The image that you see through the viewfinder is just as large as the image that you see through a viewfinder of a professional SLR camera and larger than that of most amateur SLR cameras. An electronic viewfinder offers more functions and in the dark gives a better image (but more noise) than an optical viewfinder. Where you practically cannot see anything more in the dark with an optical viewfinder, with an electronic viewfinder you can still review your composition and focus.
The tilting LCD screen has, just like that of the Panasonic G6, over 1.04 million subpixels. With the info button on the back of the camera body, you determine how much information you get in frame and whether you want to see the electronic level.
For animation films, the G7 is better than an SLR
The Stop Motion Animation function is a familiar technique from the film world (Wallace & Gromit), in which you bring puppets to life in an animated video. What many photographers do not realize is that making an animation video can drastically lower the lifespan of a mechanical shutter. For a 50p animation video that is 50 seconds long, you make 2,500 shots (if every shot is right the first time). The lifespan of a mechanical shutter is often around 100,000 shots. Because the Panasonic GF7 also has an electronic shutter, you can use that for making an animated video and the mechanical shutter will last much longer.
Photographing at 30 images per second
High-resolution and image quality
The Panasonic LUMIX G7 also offers a large number of automatic and fast Auto Focus (AF) functionalities with which you get precise and clear images, even if there is little time to prepare for the shot. With the advanced Contrast AF-system, the camera is exceptionally accurate when shots are made with bright lenses, even compared to top-class DSLR cameras. With the Low Light AF mode, you can focus more accurately on the subject with little environmental light without an AF help lamp having to be used. In addition to the regular Face Recognition AF, the LUMIX G7 also has Face/Eye Detection AF, which focuses automatically on the eyes of the subject.
Even sharper thanks to Diffraction Compensation
The more pixels there are on a sensor, the sooner you lose focus as a result of diffraction when you choose a smaller aperture. That applies for every brand and type of camera. It is a phenomenon of physics. What is elegant about the Panasonic G7 is that, in the main menu, you have the option of choosing Diffraction Compensation. The camera then applies extra sharpening if you choose a small aperture. Olympus also offers this option in some cameras. It is a subtle difference.
Versatile and super-light sensitive AF (up to -4 EV!!)
With an SLR, the number of AF points—and preferably the number of cross-AF points—is reported. The more, the better. Users of an SLR camera have gotten used to only being able to focus in the center of the image. That is inherent to the method of traditional phase-detection AF. With a mirrorless system camera, it works differently: the Panasonic G7 has 49 AF fields that are distributed over practically the entire image and of which you can adjust the size. By using a small AF field, you can very accurately aim at the point that you want to have sharp. This is ideal for those who want to play with focal depth using a telephoto lens or bright lens when a subject has a lot of details, where a larger AF sensor could make a mistake.
For making a video, you do not want the camera to start focusing during a shot, or when you touch the release button. Videographers therefore usually turn the AF off. But you will sometimes miss the accuracy and the speed of AF. For video makers, the One Shot AF is a solution. You use the camera during video with manual focusing, but can call in help from the AF at any given moment. This option has been on Panasonic cameras for a while, but you have to know how to find it. In the fourth picture on the right, you see the menu setting where you can choose One Shot AF. After that, you can use the AF/AE button to the right, next to the viewfinder, during video recordings, to focus with help from the AF, while the camera is on manual focus.
Micro-43 cameras (Panasonic also produces sensors for Olympus) have a remarkably high dynamic range. If you only look at the sensor size, then you would expect that an APS-C camera to do roughly 1 stop poorer than a full-frame camera and a micro-43 camera to do 1 stop poorer than an SPS-C camera. The Panasonic G7, just like the GX7 and GH4, does noticeably better. For making jpg shots and using the 4K Photo mode (8 bits instead of 12 bits RAW), it is worth the effort to experiment a bit with the different camera settings in order to retain as much dynamic range as possible. The white of the breast of the great crested grebe in the shot below (shot in the 4K Photo mode) shows no detain anymore. In contrast with RAW shots, there is no exposure space here in order to save the highlights afterwards. It would have been better to underexpose the shot more (the histogram shows that there is room for that) and then to make it lighter afterwards. With the advanced function Intelligent D-range Control, you also have more control over the end result, if you have set that in advance.
The color reproduction depends more strongly in daylight on the image style than on the brand of camera. Most cameras have very good color reproduction in daylight when you choose the most natural image style. (For jpg files, when editing of RAW files in Lightroom or Photoshop, there is only one image style: Adobe standard.) The names of the image styles that offer the most accurate color reproduction do differ by brand. The differences are greater in artificial light. With the light source we use for testing, the automatic white balance of practically all cameras cannot cope. All cameras give overly saturated, orange colors. The Panasonic G7 did relatively well on this point. Those who photograph in RAW can adjust the white balance simply afterwards. Those who photograph in jpg will do better by setting the white balance to artificial light for the best result.
Color reproduction with automatic white balance in daylight.
Color reproduction with automatic white balance in artificial light.
Camera manufacturers are constantly busy with improving the signal-to-noise ratio, whereby they are getting increasingly better in retaining details while suppressing noise. Differences are small and are mostly visible at the high ISO values. Because our scores consist of a weighted average of low and high ISO noise measurements, the Panasonic G7 earned the same scores with us as, for example, the Panasonic GX7 (a camera that according to Panasonic has the same sensor). That is not to say that there has not been any progress made; it is a subtle difference that is achieved in particular at the higher ISO values. The illustration below of the improved noise suppression of the Panasonic G7 in comparison with the Panasonic G6 comes from Panasonic. What was even more noticeable to me than the lowering of the noise was the higher detailing in the fence in the back on the right.
4K video: I already can’t do without it
The Panasonic Lumix G7 shines with 4K-video images in 3840x2160 at 25p (without interpolation) or 24p in MP4. It goes without saying that you can also make videos in Full HD 1920 x 1080 at 50p in AVCHD or MP4 (MPEG-4/H.264) while retaining Full-time AF.
There is a world of difference between a 2-megapixel photo and an 8-megapixel photo. The same applies to video: 4K is much more beautiful than Full HD. Even if you do not yet have a 4K screen, 4K video already offers advantages. First of all, you take pictures in the video quality of the future; in a couple of years, we will think Full HD recordings are out of date, and you will be happy that you started early with 4K. It means that you will have more enjoyment later from the shots you are taking now. You can cut out images from a 4K video to Full HD, without a loss of quality. I recently saw a demonstration of how you make individual Full HD images of the interviewer and the interviewee in editing of an interview that was made with one 4K video camera. Add an overview (the 4K original down-sampled to Full HD), and it looks like you made a video recording with 3 Full HD cameras. Thanks to the high resolution of 4K, you can also pull a subject in closer by cutting down the 4K recording to Full HD. The sharpness and signal-to-noise ratio of a 4K video that you reduce to Full HD is visibly better than one from a Full HD camera that is made directly in the camera. The Samsung NX500/NX1 and Nikon 1 J5 also offer 4K video, but the Nikon films in 4K with a maximum of 15 bps. The 360-degree panorama function is new. There is also WiFi on it. The shortest shutter time is 1/16000, which is not only handy for action photography. The extremely short shutter times namely also makes it possible to play with the focal depth, even if there is already a lot of light.
4K Photo Mode: on all cameras within a couple of years
With a 4K burst, you make a series of shots, including shutter noise like you are used to with an SLR camera, but quieter, because no mirror is popping up and down. With a 4K pre-burst, you not only capture the moment that you pressed, but up to 60 images (2 seconds) before and after. This is ideal if it is about getting the timing right, as when capturing a spontaneous laugh or the popping of a soap bubble. 4K (start/stop) looks the most like recording a video: you press the shutter to start and to stop, and in the meantime 30 shots per second will be made, completely without noise. The difference between 4K video and 4K S/S is that with video (depending on the mode) interpolation of individual images can take place, and with 4K S/S, it does not. In addition, the EXIF information is stored with 4K S/S when you save an image from a photo series in the camera.
If you photograph in the 4K Photo Mode, the series shots will be stored as MP4 files, which are comparable in terms of image quality with jpg shots. You thus do not have the extra exposure space available that RAW files offer. You can adjust the image styles yourself in order to prevent over-exposure of the shots. If you do that, you have to adjust the contrast, sharpening and saturation again afterwards. I like this method, which is commonplace for videographers, very much as a photographer. You prevent noise in the shadows and reduce overexposed highlights.
With the Stop Motion Animation function, a familiar technique from the film world that is used to give the impression that a still-standing object is moving, people can create animations or puppet-based masterpieces at home.
WiFi & 4K Pre-Burst
The LUMIX G7 is equipped with WiFi connectivity, so that you can simply transfer GPS information from the smartphone to the files on the camera, or can send photos from the camera to a smartphone or desktop. This allows images to be shared directly via social media. It does not work with NFC, but you can choose a password-free connection, which is just as user-friendly.
After downloading an app from the Google store, you can also use a smartphone or tablet as a remote control for your camera. That is nice if you want to make shots from your tripod with long shutter times. You do not have to use self-release if you operate the camera with a smartphone. That is faster. You can make both photos and videos while using the smartphone (since I think that it will be the most commonly used for this) as a remote control for all possible functions: for example, operating the shutter or the aperture and to zoom in or focus.
In some shooting situations, it can easily happen that you click a bit too late. You look through the viewfinder and wait for a smile from your model. But you click just a bit late. Then the 4K pre-Burst photo mode is for you. In this mode, the camera is constantly making video recordings, of which 1 second is saved. At the moment you click, the camera continues for 1 more second. You thus have 60 shots of 8 megapixels. Because there are 30 shots from the moment before and 30 shots from the moment after you click, it can no longer happen to you that you clicked too early or too late. This method does use more power than the normal way of photographing, so if you want to do this often it is handy to take along an extra battery.
Electronic shutter: 1/16,000 and completely silent!
The Panasonic G7 has two different shutters: a traditional mechanical shutter (up to 1/4000 of a second), which you hear when you take a picture, and a faster (up to 1/16,000 of a second), completely silent electronic shutter whereby the pixel rows on the sensor are read out in sequence at lightning speed. On the Panasonic G7, you can set a shutter noise that is so soft that only the photographer hears that a photo has been taken. The only disadvantage of an electronic shutter is one that you see when photographing extremely fast-moving subjects, such as the rotors of a helicopter or a train that is racing horizontally across the image. Because the rows of the sensor are read out in sequence, vertical lines on the fast-moving train are a bit slanted on the photo. Modern electronic shutters are fast, so that this disadvantage is only visible in extreme situations. I have never encountered it under normal circumstances. Even so, this is the reason that Panasonic fits its cameras with not only a silent electronic shutter, but also with a traditional mechanical shutter.
A short shutter time freezes the action of fast-moving subjects. You might think that the fastest shutter time of 1/16,000 of a second of the Panasonic G7 is therefore much better than the lighting time of a flash (~1/1000 sec) or a fastest shutter time of 1/4,000 that you find on many other cameras. For most moving subjects, a fastest shutter time of 1/1000 of a second is quite sufficient. Even so I think that a bit more experienced amateur photographers will use the very fast electronic shutter of the Panasonic G7 more, as soon as they realize what is possible with it: not for freezing action, but for creating a beautiful background blur. If you love bokeh, then the little Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 is a fantastic choice for the Panasonic G7. Where other cameras use a smaller aperture to prevent overexposure in sunny situations, because no shutter speed faster than 1/4000 of a second is possible, with the Panasonic G7, you can keep photographer with a large aperture until there is so much light that even 1/16,000 of a second is not short enough.
Best SD card for the Panasonic G7
There are many different kinds of SD memory cards for sale. If you are planning to make 4K video recordings, then it is smart to buy a UHS 3 card like the Sandisk Extreme UHS 3 that is shown here. For those who do not shoot many videos, 32 GB is large enough. Even a UHS-1 Class 10 card like the SanDisk Extreme Pro (95 MB/s) is probably fast enough for 4K video recordings. In practice, we never ran into problems with this card while making 4K recordings on the Panasonic G7 or the Panasonic GH4. We used a series of 9 SD cards to make series shots with RAW files. The Panasonic G7 is one of the first cameras that can take advantage of UHS-II SDXC memory cards, with a reading speed of 280 MB/sec. We found no differences in the writing speed between this card and the other Class 10 SD cards (various brands and varying in size) that we tested on the Panasonic G7. In all cases, we could take about 20 RAW shots before the buffer was full.
Conclusion Panasonic G7 preview
Conclusion Panasonic G7 review
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Fast and accurate AF system that also keeps working in the dark
Completely silent (electronic) shutter
Suitable for UHS-II SDXC memory cards
4K photography is only possible in jpg
Too long, didn’t read (TL/DR)? The Panasonic G7 has the ergonomics and the ease of use of an SLR camera. With 4K and photographing at 30 photos per second, the Panasonic G7 adds a new dimension to our hobby.
The Panasonic G7 is just as small and light as the Canon 100D, the smallest and lightest SLR camera of today. Both cameras offer good image quality, but the Panasonic G7 is a mirrorless system camera with many extras. The most obvious one is of course 4K video and photographing at 30 images per second. The Panasonic G7 offers multiple forms of 4K photography, so that you can capture the action in an intuitive way. Which is more pleasing is a matter of personal preference of the photographer.
SLR has provided many years of good service, but when you're out with your camera, then such a system is big and heavy. Mirrorless system cameras are a good alternative then, even though you still can't head out without a camera bag. The search for the ideal compact camera with a large sensor and a zoom lens continues. Panasonic joins that new segment with the Panasonic LUMIX DMC-LX100. This is a high-end compact camera with a Micro Four Thirds sensor, bright zoom lens from Leica (24-75 mm, f/1.7-2.8), RAW, manual operation and 4K video. Wow.
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If you want to make a video of film quality, then until recently you needed a professional budge for a Canon 1D C, Canon C500, or a Blackmagic Production Camera 4K. Until recently. In January 2014, the Panasonic GH4 was announced, and is now available. With a suggested retail price of 1,500 euros, the Panasonic GH4 brings 4K, or "Ultra HD", with resolution twice as high (4 times as many pixels) as full HD, within the reach of many.
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The Panasonic GM1 is built with a very compact body with changeable lens, on which to a large extent the control takes place via an attractive 3” touch screen with more than 1 million pixels. The camera has a 16 megapixel sensor – not unusual for MFT-bodies. We already know this sensor from the GX7.