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Review Panasonic G7

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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.
 
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Panasonic G7

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

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Panasonic G7

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.

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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

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Panasonic G7

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.

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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. 
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Versatile and super-light sensitive AF (up to -4 EV!!)

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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.

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Dynamic range

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.
Highlights

Color reproduction

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.
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Color reproduction with automatic white balance in daylight. Color reproduction with automatic white balance in artificial light.

Noise

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.  
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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.

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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.
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Conclusion Panasonic G7 preview

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Conclusion Panasonic G7 review

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Amateur
Year:2015
Overall score:7.3
Resolution:6.5
Dynamic Range:7.8
Noise:7.5
Color:8.3
Whitebalance:6.5
Megapixels:16
Sensor:M43
Sensor magn.:0.70
fps:8
Weight (gram):410
MSRP NL (Euro):699

 

Pros

  • Solid build and image quality
  • 4K photography 8mp photos at 30 images/sec
  • Fast and accurate AF system that also keeps working in the dark
  • User friendly
  • Completely silent (electronic) shutter
  • Suitable for UHS-II SDXC memory cards

Cons

  • 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.
Ivo Freriks
Author: Ivo Freriks
With Camera Review Stuff I hope to make a modest contribution to the pleasure that you get from photography. By testing cameras and lenses in the same way, evluating the results and weighing up the pros and cons, I hope to help you find the right camera or lens.

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