Panasonic Lumix GX7 Review - The Panasonic Lumix GX7 is the latest advanced CSC from Panasonic, and is a model they consider their best ever. Does this claim hold up?
Panasonic’s Lumix GF1 was one of the first CSCs designed to appeal to enthusiasts and professional photographers looking for a compact alternative to their DSLR kit. Since then a number of rivals have entered the fray, and while the GF1’s natural successor, the GX1, was a well-received follow-up, it was quickly eclipsed by rivals like the Sony NEX-7 and Fujifilm X-E1.
And now you have the GX7, with the jump in numbering referencing the fact that Panasonic feel this is more than just a subtle upgrade to the GX1. In fact, Panasonic reckon this is their best camera yet, so lets find out if it is.
Panasonic Lumix GX7 Review – Features
While the Panasonic Lumix GX7 may share a similar 16MP resolution to the likes of the GX1 and pretty much every other recently announced Panasonic CSC, the chip at the heart of the GX7 is completely new. Panasonic’s engineers have worked hard to reduce the circuitry on the sensor, enabling Panasonic to feature larger photodiodes in the same surface area, while the sensor’s micro-lenses have also been optimized.
Combined with the Lumix GX7’s new Venus Engine image processor, this should see better light-gathering capabilities over previous models, delivering improved image noise performance as well as a broader dynamic range. This is reflected some way in the camera’s ISO range, running from 200-25,600 (expandable to a base ISO of 125 if required).
But the Panasonic hasn’t just been concentrating on improving the senor, with the Lumix GX7 featuring a raft of updates and developments over the GX1, most notable of which is the inclusion of a built-in electronic viewfinder.
While the GX1 offered an optional EVF that attached via the hotshoe and accessory port, this for some could feel a little bit of a compromise, so a built-in solution will be a welcome addition for a lot of potential new users. Not only that, but it offers a tilt functionality, raising up 90 degrees that will benefit photographers in some shooting situations.
The 0.7x (35mm equivalent) magnification compares favourably to rivals, while the 2.7m-dot equivalent resolution is also strong. As we’ve seen on previous Panasonic EVFs though, it’s based around field sequential technology as opposed the more commonly used OLED and high-res LCD displays in rival models. This sees at any given time just one colour is displayed (red, green, or blue), with colours alternating to provide full colour at every pixel location and as such, the GX7 is able to boost approximately 100% Adobe RGB gamut coverage.
There’s also an eye sensor allowing the EVF to be automatically activated when the camera is raised to the eye, with the sensitivity of which being able to be toggled between high and low in the menu.
Partnering the Panasonic GX7’s tilt-angle EVF is a tilt-angle 3in touch-sensitive display with a 1.03m-dot resolution, with the display being able to be flipped outwards 90 degrees, while a down-facing tilt of 45 degrees is also possible.
The GX7 features Panasonic’s Light Speed AF technology, with a sensor data read out time of 240fps that should see focus speeds around 0.06secs. That’s not all, as those shooting in low light will welcome the GX7’s Low Light AF, with the GX7 capable of focusing in lighting conditions as dark as -4EV (roughly equivalent to starlight), while there’s also Pin-point AF that as the name suggests, allows you to pin-point an area of focus.
For the first time on a G-series camera, the GX7 offers users of legacy glass (such as Leica M-mount lenses via a mount adapter) or Olympus and Sigma Micro Four Thirds-fit lenses a sensor shift image stabilisation system. This is activated when a non-IS lens is mounted on the GX7 and to ensure the correct level of correction is applied, shooters can dial in the lens’s focal length from 8-1000mm.
With the GX7 keen to appeal to enthusiast and pros, it’s nice to see a top shutter speed of 1/8000sec, while the maximum flash sync is impressive at 1/320sec. There’s also the ability to flick between the mechanical and electronic shutter, with the later delivering near silent capture for discreet shooting.
In this mode (accessed via the Custom section of the GX7’s menu) flash, AF illuminator and all camera sounds are disabled, while the ISO range is restricted to between 200-3200. The GX7 can shoot at up to 5fps provide you’re in single AF with its mechanical shutter, while its also possible to shoot 12 frames at a rate for 60fps using the electronic shutter should you wish.
NFC and Wi-fi connectivity
As we’ve seen with a host of recent Panasonic launches including the Lumix G6 and LF1, the GX7 features both Wi-fi and NFC (a connection is established by to compatible devices by simply tapping them together) connectivity. In conjunction with the free Panasonic Image App for either iOS or Android, it’s possible to transfer and share images out in the field, while the GX7 can be controlled and triggered using your smartphone or tablet.
With Panasonic building an enviable reputation when it comes to video capabilities, the GX7 shouldn’t let the side down. Offering Full HD 1920 x 1080 50p video in either AVCHD Progressive or MP4 formats, as well as 50i, 25p and movie-like 24p in AVCHD and 25p in MP4. This is all with stereo sound, though its a little disappointing to so no additional connections for a stereo microphone.
Finally there’s a growing number of Creative Control filters that now includes two new monochrome modes – Rough and Silky, and along with other effects such as Time Lapse Shot, Stop Motion Animation and Clear Retouch (enabling you to clone-out objects within a scene), the GX7 offers a total of 22 filter effects.
Panasonic Lumix GX7 Review – Design
There’s no getting away from the fact that the Panasonic Lumix GX7 is quite a bit larger than both the GX1 and GF1, with similar proportions to both the Sony NEX-7 and Fujifilm X-E1. This appears to be a conscious decision to appeal to enthusiasts and pros who are perhaps less concerned with size, with handling taking greater precedence. This is underlined by the amount of exterior controls dotted round the body, this despite the touch-sensitive interface also offered by the GX7, and quite an upgrade from the GX1.
One of the most welcome additions to the GX7 is perhaps for photographers is the inclusion of dual control dials – one positioned at the front round the shutter button that falls easily to the index finger, while the other pokes out of the rear for easy adjustment with the thumb.
This rear control dial as we’ve seen with some previous Panasonic cameras also doubles as a confirmation button or changing control depending what mode you’re in.
The mode dial and on/off switch have moved to the end of the body, with the mode dial requiring just the right amount of force to rotate the dial – I can’t envisage it easily getting knocked out of position in transit.
There’s now a dedicated AF/AE lock button, which also features a AF/MF switch running round the outside of it, while the GX7 sports an impressive four programmable function buttons (there’s an additional 5 programmable function buttons accessed via the touchscreen), allowing you to really tailor the GX7 to your specific shooting needs.
One of the few arrangements to be carried over from the GX1 is the 4-way set of controls, offering hard-wired access to ISO, AF, Drive and White Balance, with a menu/set button at the centre.
Getting back to the look and feel of the GX7 and I have to say its a success. It may not quite have the same design pedigree as the Olympus PEN E-P5, but the functional, clean design works well, while its available in either black or a two-tone silver/black finish.
While the rear of the EVF may jut-out a little from the body, the tilt-angle screen sits flush with the rest of the body and feels integrated into the design, compared to some models where the inclusion of a tilt-angle display often seems like an after thought to the design.
While some exterior elements of the GX7 are plastic, the magnesium chassis and tactile rubber finish round certain areas of the camera provide a premium feel, while shifting the lens mount to the right has allowed Panasonic to equip the GX7 with a very comfy handgrip.
Panasonic Lumix GX7 Review – Performance
There’s no doubt that the inclusion of an EVF on the GX7 will be warmly received by a lot of photographers, providing you with a much more intuitive way of shooting compared to holding the camera at arms length and composing with the rear display.
The performance of the EVF in the GX7 shouldn’t disappoint either. As you’d expect, detail appears crisp while the display itself is large and bright. Thanks to the field sequential LCD the display is pleasantly saturated, delivering faithful colour reproduction of the scene.
The potential drawback of using this technology is that the relatively slow refresh times compared to OLED and LCD displays can result in the image appearing to tear as you move it, but I have to say that the GX7’s EVF copped with this very well.
The ability to angle the viewfinder too is also a big benefit for low angle shots or even shooting from the waist, as while the rear screen may suffice for most of these occasions, the tilt-able EVF will come into its own when shooting in bright light.
The EVF’s eye sensor works well, quickly swapping to the EVF display when the camera is raised to the eye when the Sensitivity is set to High, while there’s a Low setting should you fell its perhaps a little too sensitive.
The GX7’s rear display delivers the kind of clarity you’d expect from a 1040k-dot resolution, with plenty of detail and just as we saw with the EVF, nicely saturated colours. While it doesn’t quite have the same breadth of movement as we’ve seen with some other Panasonic G-series cameras that are hinged at the side, it never the less provides a range of handy shooting angles that compares favourably with rivals.
If there’s one minor gripe, its that the 3:2 aspect ratio of the screen doesn’t marry up with the native 4:3 format of the GX7’s sensor, resulting in small black bars running either side of the image, though for those shooting video in 16:9 format or images in 3:2 (at a reduced resolution), this may offer the best all round solution.
The capacitive-type touch display delivers one of the best user experiences we’ve had from a touchscreen-based CSC, with only light touches and gestures required. While there’s a plethora of body-mounted controls that we’ll touch on later, adjustments can be made on screen, while the touch AF and touch shutter are quick and responsive.
Reviewing images couldn’t be easier either, with light swipes required to flick through images, while pinching the screen zooms in on the image, just as you would with a smartphone.
The touchscreen does speed up general shooting as well – scrolling through the GX7’s Quick menu, and settings with more than one deck of options such as video or white balance and you can only scroll through settings horizontally, rather than being able to quickly tap up or down to jump to a desired setting.
This is where the touchscreen comes into play, with a single quick tap of the screen all that’s need. It’s a similar story with the single area AF selection – using the 4-way d-pad to position the AF area can be a slow process, especially if you’re moving from one side to another, so again, a quick tap of the rear display on the point you want to focus on is preferential.
Marry the touchscreen display to the GX7’s dual controls and countless programmable function buttons, and you’ve got a very refined camera to shoot with. Controls fall to the hand nicely when shooting in aperture or shutter priority, I really liked the way that once the front control dial has been programmed to set exposure compensation the GX7 is very quick and intuitive to use. Along with other core settings such as ISO or Drive just a quick tap away, the GX7 delivers a very polished performance.
There are no complaints about AF speed either, with the GX7 promptly acquiring focus thanks to the fast data read out time, while I found I was able to attain focus with the GX7 in some really poorly lit, low-contrast environments that would cause some rivals to really struggle.
If you want to be pretty much pixel-perfect with your focusing, then the Pin-point AF mode found on the GX7 is a welcome feature, and allows you to refine focus easily thanks to the magnified area round the AF crosshair.
If you’re going to be using manual focus, then the GX7’s Peaking mode and magnified preview, as well as the nicely weighted transition through the focusing range delivers precise control.
The GX7’s built-in image stabilization system works well, automatically detecting a non-IS equipped lens and delivers a comparable performance to lens-based systems with shorter focal length optics.
Shooting at 5fps, the GX7 has shoot 9 Raw files consecutively before the before slows with a Class 10 SDHC card, or will happily shoot a continuous burst of JPEG files without slowing up for over 50 files, which for this kind of camera will be more than adequate for the majority of shooting situations.
Panasonic Lumix GX7 Review – Image Quality
Colour and White Balance
The quality of colour output from the Panasonic GX7 was good, though perhaps a little under saturated for some tastes in the camera’s Standard colour setting, though Vivid and Scenery provide more punch if needed. Colour was consistently maintained until after ISO 6400, where colours became a little muted compared to lower sensitivities.
The GX7’s AWB coped well under a range of lighting conditions, but under tungsten or fluorescent it was perhaps a little to successful, with slightly warmer results being desired.
Just as we’ve seen with the G6, the GX7 uses the new 1728-zone multi-pattern sensing system that we found copes admirably under a host of lighting conditions, though on occasion is does have a slight tendency to underexpose the scene by 0.3-0.7 of a stop. The dual control dials on the GX7 does mean that this can easily and quickly be corrected without the need to lower the camera from your eye.
The GX7 also features a i-Range mode, with Low, Standard and High settings as well as either Auto or Off. Shooting in the High mode and there’s slightly improved dynamic range in both the shadows and highlights, though its not as pronounced as some rivals.
The GX7 offers a decent resolution of 16MP and our lab tests showed that its capable of resolving detail down to just over 24 lines per mm (lpmm) at a base ISO of 200, dropping down to 20lpmm at ISO 6400, comparing well to APS-C rivals and matching the Olympus E-P5.
Looking at our JPEG files and the GX7 displays smooth, noise-free results until ISO 1600, where close inspection reveals in-camera image noise control has resulted in very fine detail suffering slightly, though image noise is barely evident. At ISO 6400 and image noise is still well controlled.
Chroma (colour) noise is almost non-existent, while Luminance (grain-like in texture) noise is noticeable, its not to the detriment of the image. That said, in and effort to quell image noise fine detail has been lost, with some areas becoming mushy in appearance. At this sensitivity, results are on par with the Olympus E-P5, but can’t compete with the smoother and more detailed results of the Fujifilm X-E1.
Looking at the Raw files and at ISO 3200, chroma noise is more apparent. That said, it’s complimented but relatively fine luminance noise to deliver an overall pleasing result with great levels of detail compared to the equivalent JPEG file. At ISO 6400 it has a more noticeable effect on the image, but with some post-capture image adjustment, can be kept in check.
Raw V JPEG
Comparing JPEG and Raw files side-by-side and the JPEG files display great levels of contrast and saturation, while in-camera sharpening has also been applied. As we’ve mentioned, Raw files display more chroma noise at higher sensitivities, but retaining more detail.
Panasonic Lumix GX7 Review – Verdict
For a camera of this type, the Panasonic Lumix GX7’s specification is very comprehensive, delivering a host of features that will keep the keen enthusiast or professional user more than satisfied in most situations.
While the GX7’s design might not be able to rival the Olympus PEN E-P5 in the looks department, it’s still a nice looking camera, which is complimented by a sturdy, durable build and comfy grip. The plethora of programmable body-mounted controls is also welcome, and all adds to the excellent shooting experience offered by the GX7. It really is a very nice camera to shoot with, and special mention should go to the built-in EVF that delivers a more intuitive and natural way of working.
The new sensor performs very well, delivering very good levels of detail. Image noise performance is perhaps not quite as strong as some APS-C rivals such as the Fujifilm X-E1, but for those shooting up to ISO 6400, the GX7 does a very good job at controlling noise (though for best results, shoot in Raw).
While it costs more than the GX1 did when it was launched, the GX7 is quite a different proposition and justifies the extra outlay. Not only that, but its actually more affordable than one of its closest rivals, the E-P5, which doesn’t have the luxury of a built-in EVF.
The GX7 is a very polished and well-made camera that not only delivers excellent results, but is also a pleasure to use at the same time. Panasonic has made a bold statement saying that the GX7 is their best Lumix camera to date, and we have to say we fully agree.
Panasonic Lumix GX7 Review – Sample Image Gallery
These are just a small selection of images captured with the Panasonic Lumix GX7. For a full range, head on over to the Panasonic Lumix GX7 review sample image gallery.
It’s almost two years since Panasonic launched the GX1 – a model that at the time of its release was the premium alternative to the GF-series of CSCs in the Lumix lineup. Instead of branding the next generation GX-series model as the GX2, Panasonic has skipped straight past the GX2, GX3 and GX5 to the Lumix GX7 – a camera that’s not only claimed to revolutionise the GX-series, but is also said to be the best camera Panasonic has ever launched according to the manufacturer. These bold statements clearly indicate we’re not looking at a subtle upgrade here but at a camera that has returned to the drawing board and been re-designed from the ground up.
The first thing that strikes you the moment the GX7 is picked up is its size and weight. Compared to the fairly modest dimensions of the GX1, the GX7 is a chunkier model that’s more akin to the size of the Fujifilm X-E1 and Sony NEX-7. A pronounced rubberised grip offers more to wrap your hand around, and as a result of being larger and heavier, it contributes towards a solid and premium feel in the hand.
The GX7’s pronounced rubberised handgrip has a superb profile to wrap your hand around.
Similarities between the GX1’s button arrangement and the GX7’s are few and far between. Other than the mode dial that’s similar to the GX1, the GX7 is a completely different camera to look at and operate from the rear. The On/Off switch is in the perfect position to be flicked with your thumb, and when you combine this with the near-instant startup time, there’s no waiting around for a startup screen to disappear before you shoot. There are up to nine function buttons dotted around the body, with the Fn3 button being assigned to Wi-fi, which we used to connect to our iPhone 5 using Panasonic’s Image app. Connection speed was very quick after the Wi-fi passcode had been entered, however images in the playback mode of the app couldn’t be viewed – something we put down to the camera being a pre-production sample that’s yet to receive its final firmware before it goes on sale.
As many as nine function buttons are dotted around the GX7’s body, including a Wi-fi button that’s located at the bottom right for instant connectivity.
The importance of having a viewfinder on a CSC shouldn’t be underestimated and the addition of the GX7’s EVF is very well received. Though it’s not particularly large, it displays an incredibly crisp image for composition or playback purposes. In harsh lighting it’s a godsend. With the option to tilt it up by 90degrees to suit your preferred angle, we have to say it’s one of the best electronic viewfinders we’ve used on a CSC. The idea of having it fixed on the corner of the body is certainly a step in the right direction and saves you having to carry an optional EVF that attaches via the hotshot and plugs into an accessory port. Although the EVF isn’t as slimline as the viewfinder on the Fujifilm X-E1, it’s certainly a step in the right direction. We relied on it in many bright situations where reflections on the screen restricted a clear view of our subject matter. We noticed there was a slight hesitancy between the screen feed and the EVF, but this isn’t a major cause for concern.
The Panasonic GX7’s electronic viewfinder features a high 2.7million dot resolution – making it a great substitute to the screen in bright lighting conditions.
Adopting Light Speed AF, the GX7’s autofocus performance felt on par with the AF speed of the GH3. For the most part, the camera was used with the 20mm f/1.7 pancake lens, which is to be sold with the camera for £999. The Touch AF technology on the GX7 let us move the AF point to the far corners of the frame, and after taking a bit of time to get familiar with pin-point AF, we used its 10x magnify option to ensure focus was exactly where we wanted it to be – something that’ll come into its own when shooting fine details or macro subjects.
The 3in, 1,040k-dot LCD screen can be pulled out and tilted for high or low shooting.
After shooting 192 images, we noticed the three-level battery gauge was down to one bar, but a total of 320 images can be expected from a single charge of the GX7’s battery when it’s paired with the 20mm f/1.7 pancake lens. The EVF and 1,040k-dot, 3in screen were our favourite features after spending a day with the GX7, but you get the feeling everything has been very carefully thought through – from the twin control dials to adjust aperture and shutter speed on the fly, to the AF/MF switch that is millimetres away from where the thumb rests at the rear.
The twin control dials that are positioned beside the mode dial and beneath the On/Off switch offer independent control of Aperture and Shutter Speed in Manual mode.
To sum up our first impressions, the GX7 feels every bit like the premium compact camera it’s designed to be. It has stiff competition in this area of the market from the likes of Fujiffilm, Olympus and Sony so we’ll have to be patient for the full review sample to arrive – something that’s going to be difficult after enjoying the user experience so much during our brief hands-on.
Our first impressions were based on using the GX7 for a full day at a Panasonic Press Event held at Longleat, Wiltshire.