When the Panasonic Lumix GX8 was released many complained that it was too large – at odds with the essence of Micro Four Thirds due to its size. Something echoed by the comments in Digital Rev´s video entited: “Is Micro Four Thirds dead?” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bwLqxqWfWMQ) – and whilst not specifically Panasonic related, it does point out very clearly that Micro Four Thirds cameras are getting to be rather on the large side and are therefore competing with the likes of Sony´s full frame cameras. So did Panasonic pick up on this? We will probably never know for sure, however their newest camera seems to have scaled things back down again. Enter Panasonic’s latest Micro Four Thirds camera – the GX80/GX85/GX7 Mark II. (Subsequently referred to in this article as the GX80). Note – GX85 model name is used in the USA.

Unboxing was a simple and straightforward affair. It comes with the usual collection of manuals and a Lumix strap that I immediately tossed to one side, a battery (the same as the GX7) and finally the camera that already came fitted with the 12-32 Panasonic collapsible pancake kit lens.

The thing that was immediately apparent was the GX80´s diminutive size. This camera is actually smaller than the GX7, however it is heavier than its predecessor. With the battery inserted I turned it on and it was obvious that this camera is by no means as solidly build as the GX7. The on switch feels very plasticky and the tilting screen feels much more fragile than the GX7. The housing is also not a spot on the magnesium alloy housing of the GX7. I imagine this was done to reduce weight to allow for the new “in body image stabilisation” and redesigned shutter mechanism. Both the body and the 12-32mm kit lens are made in China.
There are only two ports on the camera: Micro HDMI and USB.

Features:

Sensor
The sensor in the GX80 is alleged to be the same 16 megapixel sensor as the GX7 but with the anti-aliasing or optical low pass filter, as it is also known, removed. Panasonic claims a 10% increase in sharpness, with the suppression of moiré and false colour being handled by their new Venus engine. I would tend to agree after having applied my usual output sharpening in LightRoom and then having to re-export without. Unfortunately moiré is still present in raw files, so raw shooters will have to edit this out in post.

Native ISO is 200-25600. Expanded ISO goes down to 100. Speaking of ISO – auto ISO now works in manual mode – a step up from the GX7. Unfortunately Auto-ISO still doesn´t offer the ability to set a minimum shutter speed.

Image quality is pretty much standard for Micro Four Thirds. If you already have a GX7 and only use it as a stills camera, I wouldn’t recommend upgrading to the GX80 just to get better image quality.

Shutter
The newly redesigned shutter mechanism is a significant improvement over the GX7 and GX8 shutters. The GX7´s mechanical shutter was simply too loud to be used in a quiet environment. The GX80 shutter design changes this. It is now so quiet that I do not have to use the electronic shutter. Unfortunately the mechanical shutter is restricted to 1/4000th second shutter speed and flash sync speed has been reduced to 1/160th.

5 Axis In Body Image Stabilisation
The GX80 now touts full 5 axis image stabilisation, which, if you also pair it with certain panasonic lenses, works in tandem to provide even better stabilisation. Additionally, for the first time in panasonic cameras, this works during video recording. Good news for videographers looking for a well priced 4k camera. I would say for handheld video recording this is on par with Olympus´s stabilisation. The stabilising mechanism is faintly audible during operation.
With the power off, tilting the camera in your hands feels as if the mechanism is sliding around freely inside the housing.

Video
The camera comes equipped to shoot UHD at 25p 100Mbps and 24p 100Mbps, Full HD at 50p 28Mbps and 25p 20Mbps, 1280×720 25p 10Mbps and finally VGA 25p 4Mbps. The camera doesn´t come equipped with any log profiles. The standard colour profile in the camera is quite nice, offering crisp vibrant colours. The lack of a microphone jack is a downside especially since the built-in mic is absolutely dreadful. No amount of tweaking the settings to reduce wind noise helps. That said you can pick up external recorders for a reasonable price, or even use your mobile phone paired with an external mic.

12-32mm Kit Lens
The kit lens is a Lumix 12-32 f/3.5-5.6. The copy that I received has a plastic mount instead of the metal mount normally found when it is purchased separately. The plastic mount isn’t really a problem as this lens weighs so little and it doesn’t exactly protrude. The quality of the images it produces is really quite impressive. There is some barrel distortion present at the wide end, but nonetheless very useable and fairly straightforward to correct in post. Alternatively stop down for an improvement. The lens also comes with a really tiny pinch cap (37mm filter thread), which I immediately lost and haven’t seen since the day I received the GX80.

Flash
The built in flash has a guide number of 6 (metres), one less than the GX7. You can bend it backwards in order to bounce the flash off a ceiling, but as it is so weak you would need really low ceilings! If you are really close to your subject then you can use the built in flash as fill in a pinch. If you are serious about flash photography then you would be better served getting a cheap external flash like those from Metz specifically designed for the Micro Four Thirds system which offer decent power. The built in hot shoe is standard – I have tested it with a Canon 430 EX II in manual mode without any problems.

Taken at ISO100, 32mm, f5.6 , 1/125. Canon 430EX II flash. Cropped to 2:3. No other edits.
Taken at ISO 100, 32mm, f5.6 , 1/125. Canon 430EX II flash. Cropped to 2:3. No other edits.

Custom Modes
You now only have one C setting on the mode dial. You can then select between C1, C2 and C3 via the touch screen. It´s a bit more fiddly than on the GX7, but all part of the space saving design.

Panorama Mode
The GX80 now comes with a panorama mode. The shutter is fired continuously as you pan the camera. Results are pretty good, however it is prone to stopping during panning in low light situations.

GX80 Panorama
GX80 Panorama Test

Dynamic Monochrome
The GX80 now includes a dynamic monochrome picture profile. I normally don’t shoot monochrome but I decided to test it out.  Here was the result straight out of camera along with the raw image that I edited in Silver Efex Pro 4. I personally prefer editing my own B&W rather than leaving it up to the camera.

P1010393
Straight out of camera
P1010393-Bearbeitet
Edited in Silver Efex Pro

 

AF System
The AF system now sports 49 AF areas – up from the GX7´s 23 area AF. Panasonic has also added Depth from Defocus technology to help it lock onto things with more speed and accuracy. It only works with specific Panasonic lenses however. Nevertheless I have still had it lock onto the background instead of the foreground subject several times. It utilises Contrast Detect Autofocus and is lightning fast in AF-Single.
The GX80 now also comes with eye detect AF, which seems to be a very hit and miss affair and even when it works it never quite seems to hit the centre of the eye.  Pinpoint AF is probably going to be the more useful AF mode for portrait shooters.
The AF system can focus down to -4 EV which is pretty impressive and the camera also comes with an AF assist lamp on the front.

Post Focus
Post focus allows you to take a photograph and then select the focus point after the fact. It is limited to 4K resolutions and works by taking a video of the subject and focussing quickly through the range whilst doing so. You can pick the photo you want to save via the camera on screen interface or by editing the 4k video file that is created on your SD card.

4K Photo Modes
There are three 4K photo modes: 4K Burst, 4K Burst (S/S) and 4K Pre-Burst. 4K Burst shoots as long as your finger is held down on the shutter button. 4K Burst (S/S) starts and stops the recording when the shutter is pressed. 4K Pre-Burst records all the time and stores a seconds worth of video up until the shutter is pressed. The pre-burst mode comes with a warning that when the camera exceeds the temperature rating it will default to 4K burst!

Roll over the image to see 4K Post Focus in action

Bracketing
The GX80 comes with several bracketing options. For focus bracketing (focus stacking) for example you can configure how many images you wish to have and the step size for the focus. This feature seems to work very well when importing into Adobe PhotoShop and using the stacking functionality. The GX80 also offers aperture bracketing and WB bracketing.

Viewfinder/Touchscreen Display
The electronic viewfinder (EVF) is taken straight from the GX7, however on the GX80 it no longer tilts upwards. It has a diopter setting on the right hand side and is a 2764K high resolution unit with 16:9 aspect ratio and 0.7x magnification. Some people report seeing rainbow patterns due to the field-sequential LCD used in this viewfinder.
The rear 3″ display is tiltable as per the GX7 – 90° looking down onto it and about 45° looking upwards. It is not fully articulated, which I personally prefer. It seems better than the one on the GX7, especially in sunlight. The GX80 has a 60 FPS refresh rate which makes LiveView look very smooth, but may come with the cost of reduced battery life.

Wi-Fi
Wi-Fi is pretty much unchanged from the GX7 implementation however, the GX80 lacks NFC capability. With Wi-Fi you can connect to your mobile phone, using the Panasonic Image App, or your computer. When using the app you can copy photographs locally to your phone or use it as a remote control for your camera. Performance is pretty good when I tested it with the iPhone 6s Plus. It is also possible to setup a share on your computer and send your photos to it. Using LightRoom it is then possible to monitor this share and emulate tethering functionality – however I found this to be incredibly slow, probably due to the USB 2.0 port on the camera.

Battery/Charging
The GX80 does not come with a charger. You have to charge the battery in camera via the supplied USB cable. If you were thinking of having an external battery pack plugged in then you will be disappointed as you cannot use the camera whilst it is being charged this way. I purchased a couple of extra third party batteries and a charging cradle for about 20€. Whilst I was shooting at this years Comic-Con in Germany I noticed that the camera body had gotten quite warm and the third party battery only lasted for about 50 shots. With the official Lumix battery it was considerably better, however after my previous experience I was being extremely careful and ensuring that I turned off the camera if I wasn´t shooting for any length of time. I also turned down the display brightness and changed its refresh rate to 30 instead of 60.

Conclusion
This is a fun little camera with a micro four thirds sensor that has a few niggles, but nothing onerous. It offers really nice image quality for photos and 4K video as well as a whole host of interesting little extras for a very good price. The dual IS system is amazing, easily on par with Olympus´s system and probably a taste of things to come with the GH5. The GX8 has a few advantages over the GX80 – namely the 20MP sensor, weather sealing and a mic input. However in Europe the GX8 is still a fairly expensive camera coming in at over 1000€ body only. The GX80 is currently priced at 699€ with the 12-32mm kit lens and is far better value for money. For me the GX80 features easily make it a better choice over the GX8.

Buy from B&H Photo

 

Thanks Heidi for this thorough write up.  You can see more of Heidi’s work at

Instagram: heidi.harding.photos
500px: 500px.com/adelheid_de
Web: http://adelheid.photography

 

And Heidi has some real world samples from a recent Comic-Con

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