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Date: 09/08/2013 | By: Heather

A First Look at the Panasonic Lumix GX7 in Bristol

DMC-FZ48, 1/400, f/ 2.8, ISO 400

A First Look at the Panasonic Lumix GX7 in Bristol

Update: Check out our high ISO comparison between the GX7 and Pen E-P5!

My heart leapt last Friday evening when I logged onto Twitter: the word was that Panasonic had decided to hold a last minute UK tour featuring the Lumix GX7. Every weekend in seven locations across the nation, the new camera would be on display to try, test and pre-order, and it just so happened that we would be passing through one of these locations – the great port city of Bristol – on our way back from Dorchester.



However, as our friend Jane so wisely said the night before we left, life gets in the way of even our best intentions. Halfway to Bristol along the A303, our dear old yellow Fiat Seicento decided that Somerset would be the perfect resting place for an aging car, and promptly popped her clogs. One look and the AA guy confirmed the worst – we were officially car-less and thus, wouldn’t be spending the day with the GX7.

But as we know, every cloud has a silver lining. It turned out that Panasonic had left a copy of the GX7 at the London Camera Exchange in Bristol for the week, meaning I was able to try it out on the Monday for 10 minutes just before heading home. Here are the results of my quick encounter with this great new addition to the Lumix line:

The new GX7 in my hands at last
The new GX7 in my hands at last

Note: All photos are on-camera JPGs. The RAW files, though available, are not yet editable with Lightroom.


Internal Stabilization

We all know that the 5-axis IS of the Olympus OM-D E-M5 and Pen E-P5 is magnificent, but what about the new in-body IS of the GX7? Though I didn’t have enough time to draw a definitive conclusion, my impression is that the GX7’s Power O.I.S isn’t as effective as Olympus’ 5-axis I.S. No surprises there, really. I took the following photos between 0.2 of a second and 1 second shutter speed, and every example is blurry to some extent.

The Viewfinder

DMC-FZ48, 1/40, f/ 17/5, ISO 400
The GX7’s built-in viewfinder

A main point of interest for those torn between the Pen E-P5 and the GX7 is the viewfinder. The GX7 has a built-in viewfinder, whereas the E-P5 requires the external VF-4 viewfinder.

I had the E-P5 with me when I tried out the GX7, and was therefore able to make a direct comparison between the two. There is no question that the quality of the VF-4 is superior to that of the GX7’s built-in viewfinder. It is bigger, brighter, and covers a larger area. The viewfinder on the GX7 is quite small in comparison. I even felt the need to squint to see the image properly. This said, it is very detailed and the colour rendering seems more accurate than the VF-4.

If I had to chose between the two, I’d definitely go for the VF-4 as I find it easier to use. I am sure that most people who wear glasses or have sight problems will agree. However, many will be attracted to the built-in aspect of the GX7’s viewfinder despite its small size.


Ergonomics

Holding the two cameras in each hand, I had the sensation that the GX7 was slightly lighter than the E-P5. While having a metallic build, it also comes across as having a more plastic feel than its competitor. It is sturdy, very pleasant to hold, and has all the right buttons in the right place. I’ve always loved Lumix bodies, and the GX7 is the classic example of Panasonic’s ingenuity when it comes to design.

The E-P5 and GX7 together
The E-P5 and GX7 together. They’re about the same size!

Silent Shutter Mode

One aspect above all would make me give up the E-P5 for the GX7, and that is the silent shutter mode. When turned on, it renders the camera completely silent. Not X100s silent. I mean feather dropping onto a bed of cotton silent. Having a camera like this could be an incredible advantage for photographers of all genres – street, event, wedding, and so on. Just amazing.

DMC-FZ48, 10/800, f/ 35/10, ISO 800
You can choose to turn the silent mode on or off. I think we’ll keep it on!

LCD Screen

The LCD isn’t much different from that on the E-P5. It is both touch and tilt making it easy to use in all sorts of situations. Scrolling didn’t work very well on the model I tried, but this may have been because it was a pre-production model.

The GX7's LCD screen
The GX7’s LCD screen

Focus Peaking

Focus peaking on the GX7 is truly excellent from what I saw. It comes in red, blue or yellow and clearly indicates which areas of the image are in focus. It is here the E-P5 struggles in comparison, having only white or black peaking options that aren’t always perfectly accurate.

DMC-FZ48, 10/2500, f/ 35/10, ISO 1600
We know that the text below the lens is in focus thanks to the focus peaking function.

Built-in Flash

Like the E-P5, the GX7 has a built-in flash. However, it is less sensitive to trigger. With the E-P5, the flash button is so sensitive that it triggered the flash three times while sitting in my backpack.


Autofocus Tracking

Outside on the streets, I briefly had a look at focus tracking. Using cars as my subject, I was impressed at how it locked onto an object and followed it quite smoothly. This feature will have to be tested more deeply with subjects moving at a faster pace, however.


High ISO Levels

An aspect I was most looking forward to testing was the high ISO, but unfortunately, being a pre-production model, it did not have the option for extended ISO. As such, I had to satisfy myself with a few shots of my dad between 400 and 3200 ISO, the highest it would go.

Note: Comments have been made about the silent shutter affecting the extended ISO levels. In this case, we tried it with the silent shutter on and off and the ISO still wouldn’t extend.

All in all, my impression of the Panasonic Lumix GX7 is very high. I’m sure the silent shutter mode will be a point of envy for Panasonic’s competitors, and the peaking function is far superior to any other I’ve tried so far on a mirrorless camera. Its retro build will certainly appeal to the masses, as will its ergonomic body. The internal stabilization is decent and the video function looks excellent, but I’ll have to test both more when I have a model of my own to use. The only aspect that doesn’t convince me is the small and rather sheepish viewfinder, which is a shame as it is the main factor photographers will take into consideration when choosing between the E-P5 and the GX7.

DMC-FZ48, 10/2500, f/ 32/10, ISO 400
I do love this little camera! Can I take it home? :-)

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About the author: Heather Broster

Heather Broster was born in Canada, has lived in Japan and Italy but currently calls Wales home. She is a full-time gear tester at MirrorLessons. You can follow her on Google+, Twitter or Facebook!

  • Heather

    Hi Jonathan. Sorry but I didn’t check either. Hopefully, we’ll be able to get our hands on our own GX7 soon so I can check these two features for you. Cheers! Heather

  • Heather

    Hi David and thanks for commenting. We actually went to Colwyn Bay in Wales with the intention of seeing it again but Panasonic had moved it to a different location without notice. We will be buying the GX7 when it is released, so at that point we’ll have much more time to look at the nitty-gritty. :)

  • David

    I second the comment that, although undoubtedly a limited first impression, you were able to find a lot to say given that you had only ten minutes, and I thank you for that, and also urge you to ignore those who will always find something to criticize. Thanks! Are you planning to return to look at it again? Or just go ahead and order, and wait until you own it to spend any more time? (that’s what it sound like your plan might be, from last paragraph)

  • Jonathan

    Hi Heather.
    Thanks for the write up. Can you tell me, did you notice if there was an auto-iso function, specifically in manual mode, or anyway to set a minimum shutter speed?

  • Heather

    Thanks for your comment. It is too bad I didn’t have more time with the camera but fate works in funny ways. Maybe Panasonic will be kind and send us a model to test! 😉

  • oompa_loompa

    I think this was a fantastic write up coming from someone who only spent ten minutes with the camera.

    The people who give nothing often denigrate the work of those who do, and your comments illustrate this.

  • Heather

    As I said, I only had 10 minutes with the camera so I couldn’t go as in-depth as I would have liked. Regarding the ISO, the Panasonic rep at the desk told me that being a pre-production model, the ISO could not be extended. We tried it with the silent shutter on and off and it would not go higher than 3200. As for video, you are right – I’ll adjust my statement right away.

  • zzz

    A bit silly review, not knowing such things as panasonic in body stabilization is not working in video and that iso above 3200 is not extended and is not a problem of pre-production model, you simply stayed in silent shutter mode and with electronic shutter it is not possible to go over 3200iso.

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