Sunday, July 10, 2016

The Panasonic Lumix GX85/GX80 (Japan GX7 Mark II): TheTraveller Successor

The Panasonic Lumix GX85/GX80 or GX7 Mark II (Japan):
A very classical rangefinder style digital modern camera
My first introduction to M4/3 image captor format was with the Olympus Pen EP-3, The camera and lenses dimensions were just perfect in my sense for an everyday compact camera. The only irritating omission was the absence of a traditional viewfinder and using the add-on EVF accessory simply destroy the homogeneity of the basic idea. Later the coming days of the OM-D series solved partly the problem by integrating a workable EVF and by offering in-body stabilization.

Panasonic have developped over the years a complete series of rangefinder style cameras such as more recently the GX7, GM5 and GX8 models all cameras doted with a good EVF and in-body stabilization. It reunited other successful features such as standard 16MP image sensor or the moe recent 20MP sensor for the GX8, touchscreen and tilt-able or fully orientable (GX8) LCD screen. The GX7 was a near perfect size model and the GM5 was a real traveler camera.
Many still photographers prefer the tilt-able screen
option over the fully orientable side-screen alternative
designed more for videographers

Now Panasonic have decided to refresh the GX7 by presenting the new GX7 Mark II (in Japan market) relabelled GX85 or GX80 into the other world markets. The "Mark II" designation clearly indicate the filiation with the previous and original GX7 version.

Many factors are differenciating the original GX7 from its successor, the Lumix GX85 / GX80 / GX7 Mark II. I will review some of them that I have found more determinant.

Less grip compared to the original
GX7 but more than the GM5
The Grip Factor
The Panasonic Lumix GX85 / GX80 have not the same grip volume as the original GX7. It results in a smaller prehension confort. Since the camera is more on the moderate heavy side for its overall dimensions it will ask you a more careful attention in bringing, holding and manipulating the model.  But compare to the previous and diminutive Lumix GM5,  the Lumix GX85 / GX 80 offer a more secure way to work with its body. It  is always possible that in the near future an add-on accessory grip will be proposed for some of of us  who are asking for a better grip.

The Switch Factor
The On/Off switch is is located on the upper right side of the body of the camera but reaching it with your thumb may ask you a strong contorsion exercice. All the other operating dials and fonction buttons are classically presented. No more direct dial for the the automatic and manual focusing setting is present on the Lumix GX85 / GX80 model. That absence can be compensated by using the autofocus with manuel correction option.

Reactivity and Focus Factors
In general the Panasonic Lumix GX85 / GX80 is a very reactive camera fast enough to capture spontaneous pictures of acting subjects. If you have chosen to work with larger aperture prime lenses such as F1.7 or more the auto focus adjustment seems to be faster and on target most of the time. Screen touch focus selector can be another option easy to reach when you are more selective with less usual subject target (that option can be also desactivated on demand).

The Monochrome Factor
Some of my previous viewers know already my love affair with black and white photography and the Panasonic GX85 / GX80 will perfectly respond to that task by offering two monochrome photography options: MONO and MONO L. Ether versions give you a tonal palette from black to gray to white which is rich and detailed. Black and white photography rendering with digital still camera is now a mature feature. Professional results are obtained right from the start preventing that way more destructive post-treatment manipulations.

The Sensor Factor (16MP vs GX8's 20MP)
Panasonic have chosen to maintain the commun standard 16MP sensor for the GX7 Mark II. Quality  output of the picture using this sensor has been already demonstrated several times over the past. A marginal improvement can be observed by the fact of the absence of an anti-aliasing filter initially used to prevent  the moirĂ© effect. These changes may offer you better image cropping factor ability without noticeable quality decrease.

Severe cropping is possible without altering the overall quality of the picture.
None retouched original picture

The Viewfinder Factor (Tilt GX-7 EVF vs Fixed GX85/GX80 EVF)
The Panasonic Lumix GX85/GX80 s doted with an in-board EVF without the previous option of upper tit-ability present in the original GX7. That option has been offered with the newest rangefinder style Panasonic flagship model the GX8 which is in fact a larger camera with all-weather sealing and maybe more capability to resist from intense using. Apart from the tilt-able option, the previous (GX7) and the newest (GX85/GX80) EVFs are behaving in the same matter giving a good but more contrasty representation of the actual image. The big advantage of using EVF is its direct relation with the final result registered by the image captor. It is an almost perfect tool to preview black & white results. Moreover the EVF allow you to do instant review of your last picture taken without losing contact with your subject.

The Design Factor (Angular vs rounded GX7)
The Panasonic Lumix GX85/GX80 is marginaly a more boxy camera compare to the first version of the GX7. It represent a certain drawback in term of ergonomic design of the model. Body style is more classical which is a popular present trend among many camera manufacturers. On a daily using basic sharp angular design camera are less confortable to work with to say the least but it is partially compensated by the more discrete presence of the device in face of the subject.

The Stabilization Factor (GX85/GX80 more in-board Axis)
Modern cameras need to be stabilized for many reasons. They are smaller and lighter packages and we are facing most of the time faster subjects or contexts that need to be adequately  stopped or freezes. The Panasonic Lumix GX85/GX80 offers the two stabilization options with in-board stabilization sensor and the possibility to combine lens stabilization (if offered by the lens model used) and sensor stab. Most of the time the stabilization factor will increase the definition of your picture output in a decisive way. Dont prevent yourself to use it extendely.

The Lens Factor (Panasonic G lens system + Zuiko M. options)
One of the decisive factor of selecting to work with M4/3 ILC format cameras resid in the the very interesting choice of lenses available on the market. These lenses can be versatile, fast or specialized and their overall dimension stay compact and lightweight. For sure my preference goes for the prime (focal fixed) lenses with moderate larger aperture such as the Panasonic Lumix G 20 F1.7 or G 42.5mm F1.7 OIS models. There are perfect matches to bring you good to outstanding results from the camera. For a one-lens traveler combination  you can consider the Lumix G Vario 12-32mm F3.5-5.6 OIS that is offered at a ridiculous selling price when you decide to buy the GX85/12-32mm package. There are many others lenses that can fit your specific need and the Olympus Zuiko M lenses can be also another option.

Other factors
The in-board flash of the Lumix GX85/GX80 can be a good help for using the fill-in flash technique and you have the possibility to put an external unit if you are a heavy flash user.

As usual for ILC mirrorless cameras an extra battery is clearly a must recommendation. For charging them an external charger seems to me a very practical add-on. I hope in some way that an add-on grip will be in someway available in the near future.

In short the Panasonic Lumix GX85/GX80 (GX7 Mark II) represents a very interesting successor of the previous GX7 and GM5 models.