Thursday, August 1, 2013

Hands-on review: Panasonic GX7

Hands-on review: Panasonic GX7

Hands-on review: Panasonic GX7

The Panasonic Lumix GX1 was announced back in November 2011, so an upgrade seems well overdue. But according to Barney Sykes, Panasonic UK's product manager, the company wanted to give users a significant step up, and consequently we've had to wait until now for the Panasonic Lumix GX7.

Although the Panasonic GX7 has the same pixel count as the GX1 and Panasonic's other recent compact system cameras, the 16MP sensor is new and not the same as the one in the Panasonic G6, Panasonic GF6 or Panasonic GH3.

Although it's not back-illuminated, we are told that there's less circuitry on the sensor, which means that there's more space available for the photodiodes and micro lenses, so they're bigger than before. Bigger micro lenses and diodes enable more light to be captured, and this means that the Panasonic GX7's sensor produces a stronger image signal and wider dynamic range images with less noise than previous models.

Panasonic also claims that there's less noise produced by the signal transistors and in the signal transfer process. In addition, the Panasonic GX7 has a new Venus Engine image processor, which enables multi-process noise reduction.

All these facto rs combine to give the Panasonic Lumix GX7 a 1/2-2/3stop improvement in noise performance in comparison with the G6. Panasonic also claims that video detail resolution is improved.

Panasonic GX7 review

The Panasonic GX7 body-only price is £819 (around US$ 1,255 / AU$ 1,365), while it will cost £899 with the standard 14-42mm lens included. A kit with a 20mm f/1.7 lens will also be available for £999 (around US$ 1,530 / AU$ 1,665).


Although the new sensor should improve image quality, the Panasonic GX7 makes a couple of upgrades to the Panasonic GX1 that may outshine it for some users. The most significant of these for many photographers is likely to be the addition of an electronic viewfinder.

This 2.76 million dot device is built into the new camera, but it can be tilted up through 180 degrees to enable you to view scenes more easily from above when shooting at low angles. According to Panasonic this EVF's colour reproduction is a close match for the Adobe RGB colour space.

Panasonic GX7 review viewfinder

Panasonic has also upgraded the main LCD screen to a 1,040,000-dot unit mounted on a tilting bracket. As before, this is a touch-sensitive device, but it's the more responsive electrostatic type.

Helpfully, a sensor next to the viewfinder detects when the camera is held to the eye and switches off the main screen automatically while activating the EVF. When Eye Sensor AF is activated, the camera starts auto focusing when you look into the finder.

Panasonic has put a lot of effort into improving the autofocus performance of its CSCs, an d the Panasonic GX7 reaps the full reward of this with an AF system that is claimed to operate in -4EV (what Panasonic refers to as star light) and has a response time of 0.06 seconds.

As before, there are five AF options; Face Detection, AF Tracking, 23-Area, 1-Area and Pinpoint. However, in Pinpoint mode the Panasonic GX7 shows the enlarged view (from 3x to 10x magnification is available) as a picture-in-picture so you can still see the whole scene, as well as a magnified view of the area around the focus point for easier composition. There's also a picture-in-picture magnification option in manual focus mode for the same reason.

Focus Peaking display is also available on the GX7 and this shows the location of the peak of focus in MF and AF+MF mode. The detection level can be set to 'High' or 'Low' and the colour can be selected to stand out from the shooting environment. In 'High' light blue, yellow or green are available and in 'Low' blue, orange or white ca n be selected.

Panasonic GX7 review

Thanks to the new processing engine, the Panasonic GX7 can shoot continuously at up to 4.2fps in continuous AF mode. There's also a top shutter speed of 1/8000sec (like the Olympus E-P5), which should prove useful when using lenses such as Panasonic's Lumix G 20mm f/1.7 II ASPH wide open.

In a break from the norm for Panasonic, the GX7 has in-camera stabilisation. This will activate automatically when non-stabilised optics such as Leica's M lenses are used - which can be mounted via an adaptor - but it's deactivated when Panasonic's OIS lenses are mounted.

To ensure the correct level of correction is applied the photographer can enter a non-stabilised lens's focal length from 8mm to 1000mm.

As we have come to expect, the Pan asonic GX7 has a collection of Creative Control filter effects available. Although these can be used when shooting raw and JPEG images, it's not possible to retain control over aperture and shutter speed.

Yellow, brown, red and green filter effects can be used to manipulate contrast when shooting with the Monochrome option, and the image tone can be adjusted across the blue-yellow axis. There's also a Rough Monochrome option that adds granular noise, and a Silky Monochrome option that softens the image.

Like Panasonic's other recent CSCs, the Panasonic GX7 has Creative Panorama mode, which enables panoramic images to be captured while using the Creative Control filter effects.

Interestingly, there's a new option to adjust image contrast prior to capture by manipulating a contrast curve. This can be done by dragging the curve with a finger on-screen or using the physical controls, or by using a preset curve.

Like the Panasonic GF6 and Panasonic G6, th e Panasonic GX7 has Clear Retouch feature, which enables objects to be cloned out of images in-camera. There's also a stop motion animation mode for creating short movies from a sequence of stills.

Time Lapse Shot and Stop Motion Animation mode are also available.

Panasonic GX7 review

While Panasonic has improved the GX7's video capability with the addition of a 50p option and focus peaking (also available for stills), there's no external mic port.

In keeping with Panasonic's other recent compact system cameras, the Panasonic GX7 has Wi-Fi communication and NFC (Near Field Communication) connectivity built-in. NFC enables the camera to connect quickly w ith other NFC-enabled devices such as Android smartphones and tablets, while the Wi-Fi communication makes wireless control of the camera and image transfer possible via an app.

Build quality and handling

Although it has a tilting electronic viewfinder (EVF) and a tilting LCD, the Panasonic GX7 is only a little bigger than the Panasonic GX1 that it replaces. It still has the same flat top and rectangular shape, but the EVF sticks out a little from the back of the camera, making it marginally less pocketable.

The camera has a magnesium alloy body, which gives it a solid, high-quality feel. There's also a decent-sized grip that provides a comfortable hold.

Despite the presence of a touchscreen, the Panasonic GX7 has the full complement of physical buttons and controls. These feel well made and responsive. Having a mode dial on the top-plate makes it possible to switch quickly between shooting modes, which include all the enthusiasts' favourites (apert ure priority, shutter priority and manual) as well as a collection of scene modes and Creative Control options.

The touchscreen also responds quickly to a light touch, but we will need to use the camera outside in bright conditions before we can pass judgement upon its performance.

Panasonic GX7 review back

We have only used a pre-production sample of the Panasonic GX7 for a relatively short time, but the electronic viewfinder seems impressive, providing a nice clear image with plenty of detail and good colour. It should be especially useful when shooting in bright light or trying to follow a moving subject.


So far we have only been able to use a pre-production sample of the Panasonic GX7, but the early signs are very good. The sample photos that we have seen indic ate that it can capture an impressive level of detail, and we are looking forward to shooting with a full production sample to investigate Panasonic's claims for image quality.

Panasonic's recent AF system found in the GF6 and G6 has impressed us with its speed and accuracy, so we have high hopes for the Panasonic GX7's ability to shoot moving subjects. We will need to use the camera in a wide range of conditions before we can draw any firm conclusions, but the Panasonic GX7's AF system appears to function well even in very low light that would challenge the average DSLR.

We have found the metering and white balance systems in Panasonic's compact system cameras to be very capable, and we have no reason to doubt that the Panasonic GX7 will prove just as capable, but we will test it fully to be sure.

Pa   nasonic GX7 review

Early verdict

Our initial impression of the Panasonic GX7 is very good. It seems like a very nicely constructed camera that should meet the needs of experienced photographers looking for a small camera that accepts interchangeable lenses and enables plenty of control.

The changes that Panasonic has made to the 16MP sensor are also very promising, but naturally we need to put the Panasonic GX7 through our full suite of lab and real world tests before we can give a definitive verdict on its capability.


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//PART 2