Panasonic took a group of Asia-Pacific journalists to Fraser Island’s Kingfisher Bay resort, put a $1500 camera in their expectant hands, and said, "Go shoot and tell us exactly what you think”.
We consistently heard from unbiased colleagues and experts over the two days that this new GX7 is the stuff dreams are made of. Professional photographer Ken Duncan waxed lyrical “Panasonic will have prise this from my cold dead hands.”
I am out of my depth with systems cameras (those that use interchangeable lenses and can be driven to attain spectacular results). Fortunately, it has an idiot mode (IA) that does everything - but I cannot help feel that I should be doing more, much more, with this latest piece of Panasonic Lumix engineering.
What gets photographers excited - apparently a new G series?
The key to this excitement is the mirror-less design. Most DSLR (digital single lens reflex) cameras use a mirror to see through the lens via an optical viewfinder – this traditional way helps to retain any investment in expensive lenses.
This DSLM (digital single lens mirror-less) camera is newer technology - sleek (122.6mm w x 70.7 h x 54.6 d) and lighter (weights about one third of a traditional DSLR at 360g for the body). As lenses can be mounted closer to the 16MP, 1.33” (hence the term ‘four thirds’ format) live MOS sensor they too can be much smaller and lighter.
The GX7 received its greatest praise for its tilt-able, electronic, live viewfinder (LVF) with 2764k-dot resolution. The LVF allows for more flexibility in framing a shot as it tilts up to 90- degrees and it is almost 100% colour accurate. This is a compelling usability feature.
Other strong praise included:
- In-body image stabilisation that works with legacy lenses as well
- Focus peaking
- Up to 1/8000 second shutter speed for use with high-speed lenses and open aperture for bright light, shallow depth of field, focus.
- Up to 1/320 flash synchronisation
- more than 20 lenses, adaptors and accessories
- Oh and it took amazing quality photo’s (even I was impressed at what I could do)
Panasonic position this a street camera – to bring an artisan’s vision to life. In essence, it is small, discrete, enormously flexible, fast, and perfect for amateur or professional use to capture the world around us.
The features in more detail
We have mentioned the tilt-able LVF. There is also a 3”, 1040k-dot, touch monitor that delivers almost 100% field of view. It uses in-cell touch technology to reduce external light reflection and it provided high visibility even at Fraser Island’s strong, sunny, bright, beach. It tilts up by 45% and down by 80 degrees.
It uses an SD card (SDHC, SDXC, UHS-I standard) to record still 4:3 and 16:9 images in JPEG, RAW or MPO format with fine (L), normal (M) and standard (S). It records video images in 1920x1080p (or less) in AVCHS and MP4 with Dolby 2ch Digital. There was a comment that the video functionality was slightly less than Panasonic’s GH3 (which costs far more). The pixel file size for 4:3 is 4392x3499 (L), 3232x2424 (M) and 272x1704 (S).
Some commented on the effectiveness of the Auto Focus system (AF) which has single, flexible, and continuous modes and does face detection, AF Tracking, 23-area focusing and more. I liked the ability to drag the focus point around the touch screen. Others liked the exposure control with 1728-zone multi-pattern sensing system. It ranges from ISO 125 to 25600.
Some were impressed with a huge range of in camera filters and features. There are too many to list so here is a selection: Clear Portrait / Silky Skin / Backlit Softness / Clear in Backlight / Relaxing Tone / Sweet Child's Face / Distinct Scenery / Bright Blue Sky / Romantic Sunset Glow / Vivid Sunset Glow / Glistening Water / Clear Nightscape / Cool Night Sky / Warm Glowing Nightscape / Artistic Nightscape / Glittering Illuminations / Clear Night Portrait / Soft Image of a Flower / Appetizing Food / Cute Dessert / Freeze Animal Motion / Clear Sports Shot / Monochrome / Panorama.
I liked the burst shooting mode – up to five frames a second - it filled an SD card a little quickly.
The LCD flash was perhaps the weakest link – yes it does all the usual things like red-eye reduction but as it is a systems camera you will hot shoe sync with a range of flash guns up to 1/320 second.
There were frequent comments about using the nine programmable function buttons (four on the body and five on the touch screen) to set up custom profiles.
The camera has USB 2.0, miniHDMI Type C (Viera Link) and remote 2.5mm sockets.
It uses a 7.2V, 1025 mAh battery for about 320 images (CIPA standard) so a spare battery is a good investment. It can also be externally powered which is handy for video use.
It has a Wi-Fi N and NFC pairing – it works with iOS and Android smartphones and it will display images on a smart TV via a tablet.
The GX7 is available shortly at a body only price of $1,249 and with lens bundles from $1,349.
OK - out to the beach just in time to see the sunset and trepidation gradually turned to comfort - making a promise that the camera and I would become friends. Now where is the manual?
The experience was excellent but regrettably, this camera is wasted on me. I last professionally used a system camera in the early 70’s and it was complex extremely hard work to take the perfect shot. Since then I have become a contented point and shoot person where all I need is enough megapixels and optical zoom to take competent happy snaps.
This camera is pretty much the epitome of compromise. An amateur photo buff with reasonable budget will get a fantastic camera and a professional will get a camera that provides exceptional value and flexibility. Ken Duncan, Australia’s leading panoramic photographer was blown away by what it could do and that is good enough a recommendation for me.