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Date: 02/08/2013 | By: Mathieu

Should I buy the Pen E-P5, or wait for the new Panasonic GX7?

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Should I buy the Pen E-P5, or wait for the new Panasonic GX7?

Panasonic is becoming more and more serious about the DSLM (Digital Single Lens Mirrorless) market. Today, the Japanese firm announced the new Lumix GX7, the successor to the GX1, packed with loads of new and advanced features such as a tiltable built-in viewfinder, 1/8000 shutter speed, focus peaking and excellent video quality to name a few. This combination of advanced features in a cool retro package makes it one of, if not the most complete mirrorless interchangeable lens camera on the market today. Along with the GX7, Panasonic also announced the new Leica DG 42.5mm (85mm equivalent) called Nocticron with a fast aperture of f/1.2! It was about time that either Panasonic or Olympus released a lens that fast for the M43 system, and this one could definitely become the portrait lens every Micro Four Thirds user dreams about.

The GX7 is very similar in terms of specs and price to the new Pen E-P5 released by Olympus just a month ago (read our complete E-P5 review here). It is without a doubt one of the best Micro Four Thirds cameras out there right now. So, this begs the inevitable question: Should I buy the E-P5 or wait for the new GX7?

The Olympus Pen E-P5
The new Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX7
The new Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX7

Let’s start with the similarities. There’s no getting around that the GX7 and the E-P5 share a lot in common:

  • The same sensor characteristics: 16MP Micro Four Thirds Live MOS sensor
  • 1/8000 shutter speed
  • Built-in Wifi
  • ISO 125 to 25600 for the GX7, ISO 100 to 25600 for the E-P5, practically identical
  • 3-inch touch screen display
  • Built-in flash.
  • Focus Peaking
  • Internal stabilization.

The last is actually a novelty for Panasonic DSLM cameras. It seems that they have integrated their Mega O.I.S. stabilisation, which is usually found on their lenses, inside the GX7 body. This is great news because it means you will have stabilisation even with non-stabilised lenses. Will it be as efficient as the Olympus 5-axis stabilisation? I will have to compare them to answer that. The 5-axis by Olympus is without a doubt a reference in the camera market, so I’m sure Panasonic has worked hard to create a comparable experience.

So, what is the difference then?

Well, as you have probably guessed from the pictures, the most important difference is the viewfinder: it is built into the GX7 but is optional on the Pen E-P5. In my opinion, this is the only main difference that you should really consider when deciding between the two. I’ll withhold judgement until I can try the GX7 to confirm what I think about the image quality. I believe it will be equal to the E-P5, just as the OM-D E-M5 and the GH3 perform very similarly for still images.

The built-in viewfinder can make or break the deal here because:

  • Built-in means less fragile
  • Not something extra to buy
  • Something that appeals more to advanced and professional photographers.

Of course, there is the issue of quality we must consider: Olympus really hit a home run with the external VF-4 viewfinder for the Pen E-P5 (read our in depth review), so I’m curious to see if the built-in EVF of the GX7 will match the sharpness and quality of the VF-4. That will be a large determinant in the decision of consumers.

The small rectangular Unlock button
The Olympus VF-4 external viewfinder.

Another aspect worth mentioning is the superior video codec on the GX7 (AVCHD Full HD up to 60fps) and the NFC (Near Field Communication) capability. You should be able to share pictures between the GX7 and another device possessing that technology.

The Pen E-P5, on the other hand, is faster (9 fps vs 5fps) for continuous shooting.

Another interesting thing to test will be the ergonomics and functional side of the camera. I love how Panasonic always manages to include a lot of comfortable function buttons and easy customisation options on its cameras. They seem to have been very meticulous in the development of the GX7, but Olympus too has improved many of these aspects with the new E-P5.

The GX7 dials.
The GX7 dials.

So, should you buy the Pen E-P5 or wait for the GX7?

I would say that if the presence of a built-in viewfinder is non-negotiable for you, then the GX7 is surely the better option. The optional VF-4 for the Pen E-P5 is great, but will cost you extra money. I’m pretty sure all the rest is almost identical in the end but I can’t confirm until I try both. The only other determinant I can think of would be personal preference of one design over another, but I cannot help you with that!

Anyway, the GX7 should be available in September 2013, if you can wait until then. 😉

And then there is that new Leica DG lens… I want to put my hands on it as soon as possible, if Heather will let me!

The new Panasonic Leica DG Nocticron 42,5mm f/1.2 portait lens.
The new Panasonic Leica DG Nocticron 42,5mm f/1.2 portrait lens.

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About the author: Mathieu Gasquet

Mathieu Gasquet is a professional photographer with French and Italian origins. Besides running his own video and photography studio 3Dit Lab, he is also the official photographer for the National Cinema Museum in Turin. You can follow him on Google+, Twitter or Facebook!

  • Albert

    No the GF5 does not have the hot-shoe so i’ve tested with internal flash underexposing. I told you “similar but not identical conditions”.
    By the way, I contacted Olympus and they asked me to return the camera for repair.

  • Albert

    I did some more tests with Oly kit lens (14 – 42) and results are the same.
    I also found this interesting article:
    about IBIS comparison of GX7 and EM5 (well not the E-P5 but I think it is indicative).

  • Mathieu

    It might be a long shot, but could it be related to some kind of sync problem with the Canon Flash? Or did you use the same flash also with the GF5?

  • Albert

    I’ve tested, in similar but not identical conditions, a Lumix GF5 camera (12mpx Panasonic sensor), obtaining a HUGE amount of noise but no banding.

  • Albert

    Yes, you are right, this is exactly what I’m doing (apart that I’m developing RAWs in camera). But the issue is a little bit more specific and misterious to me.
    It happens when:

    1 – there is a dark color in shadow areas (in this case brown)
    2 – using external, third party, flash (Canon) and manual exposition, underexposing deliberately

    It does not show in the same condition (1) but using internal flash in fill mode instead of third party flash. This condition is reproducible.

    What looks strange to me is that I’d expect some casual distributed noise, not lines.

    I have never encountered this phenomenon, I think this is typical of Sony sensors. I’ve found similar issues report on the web about Sony and Nikon cameras (most of Nikon uses Sony sensor).
    I’ve never had Sony sensors before, only Canon and Panasonic.

  • Mathieu

    It isn’t a defect. It can happen when you shoot an image in a very low light condition and underexposed. The information in the shadows is so little that if you try to recover it in Lightroom (or any other raw developer software), banding can appear if you push the settings too much. Put another way, they appear when your reach the limit of shadow details (recorded in the RAW file) you’re able to recover.

  • Albert

    Have you ever experienced banding, in shadows, at low iso like you see here:
    and here:
    Is it an E-P5 feature or a defect?

  • Albert

    No it was turned off (lens IS priority was off), I also tried with the lens OIS on and I got good results, I haven’t shared those examples because they are not relevant.
    I must say that I deliberately held the camera with little care.

  • Mathieu

    It is clearly visible on the roof samples. I did some test with my E-P5 but found nothing. Out of curiosity, the lumix lens you used, does it have internal OIS and was it switched to on?

  • Albert Look at EXIF data and tell me what do you think.

  • Mathieu

    Can you share the images with us? I did some test with the E-P5 and didn’t find any “negative” results.

  • Albert

    I found it!
    I want to do some more tests, but my first test, done with a panasonic 14-42 (@42mm), built-in IBIS and lens O.I.S. at shutter speeds from 1/60 to 1/160, gave me some positive (well…negative) results at 1/80 and 1/100 (for IBIS).

  • Mathieu

    Hi Albert, I’ll try to do some tests looking specifically for this problem to see if it shows on my model. If I find something worth writing about, I’ll publish a dedicated post about it 😉

  • Albert

    It seems that someone else found the same dpreview “bug” in the e-p5, read this review on amazon:
    So this is not a legend. Maybe this is a production problem, non all cameras can reproduce it.

  • Mathieu

    Hi Albert. The GX7 can shoot up to 40fps with the electronic shutter, but only in JPG format and at a lower resolution (around 4mp). So it is very different from the H mode which is related to the maximum burst with the “normal” (mechanical) shutter. So to sum up, the E-P5 is faster than the GX7 (10fps vs 5fps in AF-S) at full resolution and shooting both RAW+JPG. The GX7 has the optional 40fps with electronic shutter but at a quarter of the full resolution and excluding RAW.

  • Albert

    As reported on the web:
    “Burst shooting with autofocus tracking enabled hits 4.3fps, but is capable of up to 40fps with electronic shutter.”
    May I say that on GX7 “L mode” gives me 4.3 fps and “H mode” 40 fps?!
    Which is the difference between H mode in E-P5 and 40 fps in GX7?

  • T N Args

    Cheers. I think your comment is in response to a comment that I made, which has not appeared in the comments. :)

  • Mathieu

    I’ll try the E-P5 with those shutter speed values, with and without the 5-axis stabilisation activated. Until now, I have never noticed that issue in my photographs and I always check sharpness at 100% but it is worth investigating further 😉

  • Albert

    It should be interesting an article about 5-axis stabilisation problem mentioned by Dpreview, what do you think?

  • Mathieu

    Someone else mentioned the 5-axis stabilisation problem found by Dpreview but honestly, I have never experienced it with either my E-p5 or E-M5.
    On the E-P5 as with the E-m5 and E-M1, the H burst mode gives priority to speed while the L mode gives priority to focus. You can also disable the playback of the shots in the menu.
    I agree about the GX7 having a better grip. It feels nicer in your hand.

  • Albert

    What dpreview says about EP5:
    – Sadly, the biggest problem we’ve had with the E-P5 is something that’s supposed to be counteracted by one of its biggest strengths – its five-axis image stabilization system.
    We’ve found that when examining our images closely, many are visibly shaken, showing a distinct double-image which is almost perfectly vertically displaced (when the camera is in landscape orientation).

    – In 9 fps mode focus is fixed once you start shooting, and rather than showing a live view feed between frames, the ep5 plays back your recently shot images. This helps you to maintain framing just as long as the subject isn’t moving too much, but isn’t so good for panning. We wouldn’t recommend the E-P5 for sports use or trying to photograph fast-moving children.

    And about GX7:
    When you first take hold of the Panasonic GX7, it’s the rubber-coated grip that stands out. It provides a good hold on the camera, certainly better than that provided by the GX1. The magnesium-alloy body is flex-free, with no creaking or twisting, as we’ve come to expect.

  • Heather

    You are right. I will fix this right away.

  • mino

    I am sure……the internal stabilization doesn’t work on GX7 video……it’s ufficial note. I’ll hope will be an upgrade firmware that solve the problem….it’s too mutch important for me……

  • Mathieu

    Are you sure that IBIS doesn’t work in video mode for the GX7? We briefly tried it inside a shop and looked pretty smooth. But I admit we didn’t investigate further because we only had a couple of minutes with it.

  • Mathieu

    We briefly tried it and the GX7 internal stabilization doesn’t seem to be as effective as the 5-axis of the E-P5. About the new Leica lens, it will be autofocus.

  • Mathieu

    Nice sum up 😉 About viewfinders, we had the chance to briefly test the GX7 (article is coming) and we aren’t overly impressed by the built-in viewfinder. Sharpness and color matching are ok, but it is too small and you feel you have to squint to see the image clearly.

  • Nelson

    GX7’s IBIS doesn’t work on video, where else the E-P5 one does, that is a big difference if you shoot video using prime/vintage lens

    E-P5 also allows you to digital zoom in/zoom out anywhere on the screen while recording, which I believe this the first time it has been implanted this way on digital camera

  • DWRobinson

    I think both of these cameras will be great successes. A lot will come down to personal desires on the part of the photographer I think.

    The VF4 viewfinder for the EP5 sets a new standard for viewability and quality with electronic viewfinders. The new panasonic viewfinder also looks very good, though lack of OLED and a shorter eyepoint may reduce its usability especially for eye glass wearers. (GH3 deja-vu where the edges are hard to see without moving your eye around) Another plus for the GX7 viewfinder though may be its better color matching.

    Panasonic has the definite edge for video but unfortunately they built in an achilles heel, the lack of ability to use an external microphone. Both have time-lapse but Olympus is severely restricted the EP5 to only 99 frames. Maybe a firmware upgrade can fix that.

    Both have wireless. Panasonic has NFC but I consider that more of a convenience, not a major decision factor. The wireless edge goes to Panasonic though with its far better smartphone and tablet app that allows for almost complete remote control. Olympus app works but with a lot of limitations. Hopefully they will improve on that with a new app and/or firmware upgrade.

    For me, an old school photographer who loves viewfinders more then external LCD panels, the excellent VF4 would probably be my main consideration, but since I’m not buying now, I can wait to see what the GX7 really delivers. Each has some great strengths, and some significant weaknesses. Both are winners, neither is a looser, so it just depends on what is most important to the individual photographer. If I was buying today though, it would be the EP5 with VF4 for me. But I wouldn’t complain if someone “gave” me a GX7 instead.

  • Andrew in Australia

    I think the 5 axis IBIS is one of the biggest differences. Will that new lens be auto or manual focus?

  • Mathieu

    Good point Peter, I also prefer Olympus JPG colours.

  • Peter Song

    There is the issue that know one has mentioned thus far: Oly color vs Lumix color in the jpegs. Oly colors are warmer and more natural, while Lumix color is cooler, and more greenish. This is an important factor to consider if you shoot photos of family and friends.

  • Mathieu

    Yes the EP-5 has strong points on its favor. I’m not really bodered by the fps difference as I rarely shoot sport. For the stabilisation, we will see but the 5 axis is clearly a reference 😉

  • Bob

    * 5 vs. 2-axis stabilization — A deal breaker.
    * 9 fps vs. 5 for GX7 — Pretty terrible sequential shooting performance, especially for sports/action shooting
    * Better, more solid construction — GX7 looks pretty plasticky.

    Gotta say, though, the GX7’s touch-screen focusing (pinpoint focusing zoom) is pretty sweet.

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