Design and features
It has been a few years since Panasonic launched the GX1, a camera that straddled the middle ground between the video-targeted GH line and the beginner GF range. Skipping a few model numbers along the way, we now have the GX7 which is the closest to a rangefinder-style camera the company has had in quite some time.
It's an attractive-looking camera with features to match.
The body itself is not too dissimilar to the GX1, except this time it has a protruding, ergonomic grip and plenty of customisable options including four function buttons. A magnesium alloy frame promises durability, while also being relatively lightweight for street photography. Two dials for controlling exposure options sit on the top and rear of the device. The GX7 feels very comfortable to use and sits well in the hand, weighing 402 grams as body only or 512 grams when coupled with the kit 14-42mm lens.
Also adding to the inconspicuous street photography feel is the electronic viewfinder, which can tilt up 90 degrees from the camera body. It's high resolution, too, with 2.7 million dots. The same goes for the touchscreen itself, which can also tilt 80 degrees up and 45 degrees down, away from the camera body. According to Panasonic, the screen on the GX7 offers a wider viewing angle than on previous G-series cameras, thanks to a different transmitting backlight. The viewfinder and the touchscreen match each other in colour output, which is excellent and means consistent results can be achieved for users constantly switching between the two.
The GX7 proves that electronic viewfinders can be great. However, we would have liked to see more of a comfortable or cushioned eye cup to help make focusing easier.
Connectivity has been a major push for a lot of manufacturers, with the GX7 being no exception. Wi-Fi is available for the standard transfer of photos and videos, as well as using a smartphone or tablet as a remote viewfinder. Near-field communication (NFC) is provided for establishing a connection more easily between devices. Something that is a little out of the ordinary and very useful is the tethering functionality. Set up the GX7 to connect directly to a device such as a smartphone, and photos will be pulled over to the device automatically as you shoot — no need to manually select which images to send across after the fact.
The built-in flash pops up from the camera body and can also be tilted back for different creative effects. Also on the mode dial, a dedicated creative filter option gives access to 22 different looks, from retro, monochrome to sunshine. There is a built-in HDR mode available for users shooting in JPEG only. Time lapse and stop motion options are also provided in the menus.
The sturdy mode dial on the GX7.
Previous Panasonic cameras have provided image stabilisation via the lens. The GX7 turns this upside down by including image stabilisation in the camera body itself, similar to Olympus ILCs. This means that a range of legacy lenses (and Olympus Micro Four Thirds lenses) are stabilised when attached to the camera body. However, if you mount an existing Panasonic lens with stabilisation built in, the GX7 will use the system based in the lens.
Want to take photos with shallow depth of field even in the middle of the day? The GX7 supports this with a maximum shutter speed of 1/8000 second, so you don't need a neutral density filter. Shadow and highlight controls are available in the GX7 and can be adjusted using curve overlays, similar to the options available on the Olympus OM-D cameras.
Focus peaking is available in both video and photo modes, with three different colour overlays and two intensity levels to choose from. Manual focus aficionados will enjoy the camera's expanded focus implementation that shows an enlargement of the area as an overlay on the screen. The GX7 has a native ISO range from 200-25,600, though this is expandable in the settings. Video recording is in either AVCHD or MP4 at 50p, 25p or 24p, with full-time autofocus and manual controls available.
Connectivity is provided via HDMI and AV out (the latter via a proprietary port) and a remote port. There is unfortunately no option for an external microphone input, limiting audio functionality for video use.
General shooting metrics (in seconds)
- Start-up to first shot
- JPEG shot-to-shot time
- RAW shot-to-shot time
- Shutter lag
Olympus OM-D E-M1
Panasonic Lumix GX7
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Continuous shooting speed (in FPS)
Olympus OM-D E-M1
Olympus OM-D E-M5
Panasonic Lumix GX7
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
The GX7 is a reasonably nimble performer, being able to grab 4.3 frames per second in continuous shooting mode with autofocus or 5 frames without continuous autofocus. There is an even faster burst mode which can take 80 frames in rapid succession using the electronic shutter, resulting in a rate of around 42 frames per second. These are taken at a reduced resolution of 2272x1704.
It can grab 25 RAW images in a single burst before processing them, and an unlimited number of JPEG photos.
The autofocus system is particularly effective, with the GX7 acquiring focus very quickly on all our test subjects. It's up there with focusing systems on equivalent SLRs.
Panasonic rates the battery at 350 shots.
The GX7 delivers some of the sharpest images straight out of camera that we've seen from an ILC — when paired with a premium prime or Leica lens. Testing with the kit 14-42mm lens delivers less sharp but still impressive results. Colours on default settings are accurate and vivid without being cartoonish.
Automatic exposures are accurate, with a slight tendency to underexpose rather than overexpose — a desirable trait. All the camera and lens combinations we tested the GX7 with showed almost zero noticeable chromatic aberration.
The GX7 produces detailed RAW files, with quite a lot of latitude for highlight and shadow recovery where needed. Both the JPEG and RAW files are quite similar, however, the Standard picture mode for JPEG images produces a slightly flatter, less vibrant image than is read directly from the sensor.
A closer look at the RAW and JPEG files that the GX7 creates, with 100 per cent crops inset.
Image noise was not a problem at all at lower ISO settings, with ISO 3200 being the first sensitivity level at which noise showed up with any sort of force.
Video quality is very good, with the GX7 displaying smooth motion and a sharp image in a variety of situations. Not having access to an external microphone port does limit the usability of the audio track. Recorded using the in-camera mics, audio is acceptable but not exemplary. Overall, the video quality is superior to that from the Olympus OM-D E-M1 thanks to the AVCHD format and the selectable frame rates for recording.
Unfortunately, there is no in-body image stabilisation available during video recording, so to achieve smooth and shake-free videos, you will need to use a stabilised lens.
Exposure: 1/250, f/7.1, ISO 200
Exposure: 1/60, f/3.5, ISO 2500
Exposure: 1/250, f/7.1, ISO 200
Exposure: 1/60, f/.5, ISO 800
This is Panasonic's flagship ILC thus far, bringing excellent image quality and a very fleshed-out feature set to the range. To get the most out of this camera, we highly recommend skipping the kit 14-42mm lens and investing in a different lens to get the most out of the sensor.
The GX7 is available for AU$1249 as body only in silver or black. Kit configurations include the 14-42mm with the silver body for AU$1349; 20mm f/1.7 with the silver body for AU$1499; and 25mm f/1.4 Leica lens with the black body for AU$1949.