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.
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.
Panasonic G80 + Panasonic Leica 100-300mm @ 318mm, 200 ISO, f/5.8, 1/160 sec
FAST AND VERSATILE AUTO FOCUs
Panasonic G80 + Panasonic Leica 100-300mm @ 400mm, 2200 ISO, f/8, 1/250 sec
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.
HIGH IMAGE QUALITY IS NOW THE NORm
Panasonic G80 + Panasonic 12-60mm @ 12mm f/6.3, 1600 ISO, 1/60 sec
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.
Panasonic G80 + Panasonic 12-60mm @ 12mm, f/4.5, 3200 ISO, 1/25 sec
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.
Panasonic G80 + Panasonic 12-60mm @ 12mm f/6.3, 1600 ISO, 1/60 sec
Tourists at the covered fish market in Tokyo.
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.
5-AXIS IMAGE STABILIZATION
Panasonic G80 + Panasonic -Leica 100-400mm @ 100mm, f/14, 400 mm, 1/50 sec
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.
ConclusiON Panasonic G80 REVIEW
- High build and image quality for photo & video
- Dust- and splashwater-tight
- Freely tilting and turning touchscreen
- Fits nicely in the hand
- Very quiet mechanical shutter
- Fantastic image stabilization
- 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.