I have been shooting with the Panasonic GX7 for one year now. I got it last september just in time for a quick trip to Vermont. As soon as I held it in my hands, I was in love. It was the perfect match for my hands. It felt just right.
The camera is beautiful with its rangefinder's look. It's a Micro 4/3 camera. That means that all the gear I use on my Olympus OM-D E-M5 works with that Panasonic camera. That is one of the thing I like a lot about Micro 4/3: The compatibility. I am not only talking about the lens but also about the flash and even the way to remotely control them from the camera.
When I bought my GX7, my transition toward mirrorless was already begun. I was shooting more and more with my OM-D and the 5D Mark II was siting in the bag or at home. All the Micro 4/3 cameras that were launch over the last 2 years are actually very good. The evolution of the technology these past years is so exciting. It's amazing to see what Panasonic, Olympus, Fuji and Sony are doing. I really hope that Canon and Nikon will awake at some point and start innovating instead of just siting on their laurels (to be polite). Back to the story: I wanted a backup camera for my OM-D that would be able to shoot better video so Panasonic was the way to go.
- 16MP 4/3" sensor
- 3.0" 1,040k-Dot Tilting Touchscreen LCD
- 90° Tilting 2,764k-Dot EVF
- Full HD 1080p Video at 24, 30 and 60 fps
- In-Body MEGA O.I.S. Image Stabilization
- Built-In Wireless and NFC Connectivity
- Focus Peaking and Magnification Windows
- ISO 125-25600 (Adjustable Max Auto-ISO)
- Shutter speed up to 1/8000s
- Burst mode up to 5 fps (40 fps with the electronic shutter)
- Integrated tilting flash with sync speed up to 1/320s
There are some nice improvements on the GX7 in comparison to my E-M5: ISO down to 125, shutter speed up to 1/8000s and WiFi to name a few. Olympus added those things to the Pen E-P5 and the OM-D E-M1 since then but no luck for the E-M5. The faster shutter speed and lower ISO are great when you want to shoot wide open on a sunny day.
There is a small integrated flash that can be used as a fill flash or to remotely control external flash in manual or TTL. The sync speed is 1/320s but it drops to 1/250 when you use an external flash. This small thing can be tilted if you want to bounce it on the ceiling. You have to hold it with a finger though but it's quite easy to do.
Like the OM-D, it has Internal Stabilization but it's not as good. The one in the GX7 is only 2-axis instead of the revolutionary 5-axis one offered by Olympus. The biggest benefit of the IBIS inside the Olympus is that it works in video mode too. I think Panasonic made a mistake here because it is really useful. It might be because of their different philosophy. Panasonic is pushing its Power OIS technology in almost every lenses they produce. They chose to stabilize the lens instead of the body of the camera. The GX7 stabilization is still useful though as shown on the right.
The battery is very small and light. The bad side of that is it doesn't last very long. I can get around 300 pictures before it runs out. They are not as pricey as other cameras batteries so I bought four of them. The new LX100 that comes out in November uses the same BLG10 so all those spare batteries will be useful.
The video produced by the GX7 are much more beautiful than those of the Olympus. Their CODEC is better and so is the bitrate. You also have the option to shoot 24p and 60p. I still have a lot to learn in video but I'm working on it. Here is a short clip in 60p that I did last year for this post on my French Blog.
One thing that is really helpful on the GX7 is Focus Peaking. It's almost a necessity in video but it helps a lot in photography too, especially when I'm using an old legacy manual lens. There are actually two Focus helpers: the focus peaking, which adds a color pattern where the focus is, and a magnifying window that can show up when you turn the focus ring or double tap the screen.
In auto-focus mode, you can tap the screen to tell the camera where to focus. You can even set it to focus then take a shot. The Touch Focus is also available in video mode so you can do rack focusing by pressing the area you want on the screen. It is not perfect though so it can hunt a bit.
There is a silent mode that uses an electronic shutter. The camera is completely silent while in that mode. It's perfect when you are in a church or if you want to do street photography. When you use the electronic shutter, you can also use a burst speed of 40 images per second but the resulting images are a bit lower resolution (4 MP) and you can only do that in JPEG (no RAW). It can be used to do funny things like this though. :)
I was wondering if I would use the WiFi function a lot. After a year, I have to admit that I can't live without it anymore. I almost never use my OM-D now because it lacks WiFi. It is so useful to be able to shoot and automatically transfer the pictures to a tablet, phone or computer. When you shoot an event, you can post live pictures on the social networks.If you shoot for a client, he can see the pictures while siting on a comfortable sofa. Your client can even be in his office, 2000 km from you, and see the photos right away.
Panasonic did a really good job when they developed their mobile app. It's really easy to pair with a phone or tablet, especially with NFC. After that, you can remotely control your camera with access to all important functions from exposure (aperture, shutter speed, ISO) to focus and even to zooming if you have a power zoom. Like on the camera, you can tap to focus or tap to take a picture. You can control the camera in video mode too. There is even an option to geotag your pictures using the GPS of your phone.
That opens a lot of possibility for using the GX7. You can put it almost anywhere and control it remotely from your phone. Some examples: on a basketball board, on the side of a car with succion cups, on a drone to take aerial shots, in a tree close to a bird nest to see the little birds hatching, ... I did not test the range of the WiFi functions though.
Like the E-M5, the GX7 handles high ISO pretty well. The higher you go in ISO, the less forgiving the camera gets if you under-expose a shot. Since you have a live view and histogram, it is quite easy to nail the exposure though. I find the noise level good up to 3200 ISO and usable up to 6400 ISO. The noise is more organic than on my 5D Mark II. It looks more like grain than noise.
What I like the most about the GX7 is the ergonomics. It seems everything is at the right place for me. The grip is very comfortable and the two dials for controlling aperture and shutter speed are at the perfect spot on the camera. The AE/AF Lock button is just under the end of my thumb when I hold the camera. The buttons at the rear of the camera are small but not to cramped together. There are dedicated buttons for ISO, White balance, AF Selection and Drive mode and there are 4 physicals Functions buttons (+ 5 more virtual buttons on the right side of your screen. All those buttons and dials are customizable. There is a switch to change from auto to manual focus and I use it a lot, especially in video.
The screen is sharp, with good contrast and is easy to see even in full sunlight. It's not fully articulated like on the GH series but it's tiltable like the OM-D. The electronic viewfinder is better than the E-M5 but not as good as the Olympus VF4. The nice thing though is that viewfinder is also tiltable which makes it useful when shooting from a lower standpoint. I would like a bigger eyecup. It would make it more comfortable to shoot with glasses. There is also a tunnel effect when I look in it with my glasses so I have to be more careful when I frame my shots. The EVF is on the right side of the camera which is quite useful. If you are a right-eye shooter, your nose don't smear the screen. If you are a left-eye shooter, your nose don't get in the way of your right hand controlling the camera.
The tripod screw is aligned with the middle of the lens and even with a big tripod plate, the battery and SD card slot are still available. There is an AV Out, a HDMI and a Remote port but unfortunately, no microphone or headphone jack. If you want to record video, you will need to rely on an external recorder like the new Zoom H5 for the sound.
Some more shots with the Panasonic GX7:
Pros and Cons
- Beautiful design with very good ergonomics
- Very good image and video quality
- WiFi to transfer and remotely control the camera (with well-thought software)
- Lightweight and small
- Very fast AF on still subjects
- Tilting EVF and Screen
- Good High ISO performances
- Focus peaking and magnification
- Touchscreen make it easy to set focus point
- You can customize every button and dials to make it behave exactly how you want
- You can save your settings to custom modes on the Mode Dial
- Silent Mode
- AF/MF Switch
- Very easy to set a custom white balance
- In-Body Image Stabilization (IBIS)
- EVF could be larger and with a better eyecup
- Screen could be fully articulated
- Battery life is short (but the battery is small)
- Tracking and continuous AF not very good
- IBIS not as good as the one on the OM-D E-M5, E-M1 and Pen E-P5
- No IBIS in video mode
One year ago, I fell in love with this camera and after all this time, the honeymoon is still going. The GX7 set fit perfectly in my hands and it just feels right. I enjoy using it so much. When I go out with my family, I almost always grab the GX7 with the Panasonic 20mm f/1.7. That has been my favorite combo for a year now. The image quality is great and I know I can go down to 6400 ISO if necessary. I even shot a few at 12800 ISO in a dark Irish Pub and it is still ok. It looks great and feel good.
Enjoying using a camera is a BIG part of photography. We have to remember that we do it for fun and for the love of the craft first, even if it is our job. Gear is not that important after all. Vision is way better. So why would I use bulky and clunky gear when all I need to realize that vision is skills, knowledge and a small camera?
One nice side effect is my kids can use this camera. A 5D Mark II with a 35mm lens is way too heavy for a 10 years old to hold, adjust, frame and take the shot. My 9 years old boy took this shot of me yesterday when I was working on this post and I think he did a pretty good job even if he does not have any photography knowledge. I explained a few things to him before taking the shot although I'm not sure he was really listening.
I hope this post can help convince people that Micro 4/3 cameras are now as good and even better than many traditional DSLR. It is so enjoyable to travel with a lightweight kit and to go unnoticed when you take pictures or videos. It is a lot easier to take candid shots. You can even shoot from the hip while still be able to frame your shot like you mean it.
The gear I used for the pictures in this post:
- Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX7
- Panasonic 20mm f/1.7
- Rokinon 7.5mm Fisheye
- Olympus 45mm f/1.8
- Olympus 75mm f/1.8
- ONA Union Street Messenger bag
- Sandisk Extreme Pro 16GB Cards
The Panasonic GX7 is actually on sale at B&H Photo for an insanely low price of 497.99$ (I paid a lot more for mine). You can find it HERE.