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Review Panasonic GF7

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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)

GF7
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

  • 16-megapixel Sensor
  • 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
  • Wi-Fi-connectivity

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

GF7backside
Panasonic GF7

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

GPSAll 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

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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.  
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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.

sampleimage
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.
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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).
Panasonic20mmLUMIX35100f4

Video, selfies and more.....

SelfieGF7

The LCD screen of the Panasonic GF7 does not rotate, but it can tilt 180 degrees, which is ideal for making a selfie.

Video

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.

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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

GF7flash

Conclusion Panasonic GF7 review

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Starter
Year:2015
Overall score:7.3
Resolution:6.5
Dynamic Range:7.7
Noise:7.5
Color:7.3
Whitebalance:9.9
Megapixels:16
Sensor:M43
Sensor magn.:-
fps:4.5
Weight (gram):266
MSRP NL (Euro):529

Pros

  • Good build and image quality (photo and video) and extremely compact
  • Fast and accurate AF system, which also works in the dark
  • User friendly
  • Completely silent mode
  • Suitable for selfies and incl. Wi-Fi for social media
  • Attractively priced

Cons

  • No viewfinder
  • 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.

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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