Not what I expected

Started 5 months ago | User reviews thread
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Alan Ernst
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Not what I expected
5 months ago

Somehow, I find it hard to like this camera, unlike the GH1, GX1 and now the GM1, which I always felt comfortable with right off the bat... I got the GX7 back in October because so much fuss was made about how good the sensor was and since one of my main concerns with the Lumix MFT system to-date has been the quality of their sensors (high ISO, noise, dynamic range).

For the past two years, I worked mostly with two GX1’s, which I loved for their handling, compactness, good feature set and decent IQ.

My first impression of the GX7 was that it felt like a brick compared to the GX1. As with the GH3/GH4, the camera is now as large and heavy as some APS-C mirrorless units, so whatever advantage the smaller sensor might have had, has been lost completely. Yes, the feature set has been expanded as has the user interface with an extra control dial and better customisation of function buttons, etc.. Strangely though, I still find the GX 1 easier and more intuitive to use. Shooting jpeg, the GX7 has less in-camera noise reduction, so jpeg’s are sharper, but at times can actually be noisier. At high ISO, it definitely has the edge.

The improvements I like on the GX7 are:
- noticeable improvement to the sensor with better high ISO performance. Not class leading but definitely better,
- significantly better LCD quality and touch screen implementation,
- more function keys and ditching the iA button,
- Improved battery compartment / memory card compartment which does not require removal of quick release plate,
- added features such as focus peaking, multiple exposure, time lapse, electronic shutter / silent mode, shadow/highlight adjustment
- somewhat better consecutive shooting and processing speed,
- ability to maintain magnification when scrolling through images in play-back

What I don’t like:
- difficulty / inability to focus in the dark (especially using manual mode)
- flash is as weak as ever
- despite size / weight increase, battery capacity is only marginally better, but requires a different battery yet again... (keeps their profits up I guess)
- the built in EVF is not as good as the clip on EVF-2 available for the GX1 (especially for eye glass wearers),

Also, I find numerous features to be poorly implemented such as the front control wheel, which seems more like an after-thought; the awkward implementation of aperture / shutter speed, exposure compensation, using the control wheels (customisable but cumbersome compared to the previous toggle wheel allowing the switch from aperture to exp. comp.); the ridiculous access to the remote release / USB port, which requires the LCD to be flipped out first; shutter delay and sel-timer being cumulative delays; continued inability to combine self-timer and bracketing as is possible in their compact cameras and earlier MFT models. Some designers must have been asleep at the drawing board...

Whereas many of the new features such as in-camera multiple exposure work very well, others such as the in camera HDR function have limited appeal. I find that a properly exposed jpeg will give me better sharpness, contrast than the stacked HDR exposure and look better overall than the washed out HDR’s which offer only limited extra shadow detail and still require post processing to bring back the sharpness. I will continue to bracket and use an HDR software (Oloneo is great), if quality counts. The 14-42 kit lens that comes with the GX7 is very compact but optically not convincing, so if you have a standard zoom already, don’t waste your money on this one.

The GX7 is not a bad camera at all. However, considering the increase in size / weight and the original sticker price of this model, and looking at what the competition offers, I would have expected a) weather sealing, b) a tilt/swivel LCD rather than the limiting tilt-only screen which is useless for portrait orientation, and c) a larger sensor allowing better use of the image circle without sacrificing resolution when switching aspect ratio. Too bad that, despite the price, features we have seen on previous high end Lumix models continue to be dropped.

After six months, I still don’t feel “comfortable” and would have a hard time recommending it to a first time buyer. If you are thinking of Lumix MFT and don’t need the improved high ISO performance, I would go for the GX1, which currently sells for less than half the price of the GX7 and still is a great camera with a good feature set.. If you are upgrading from a previous model, you might want to wait for the successor of the GX7, which hopefully will see some more improvements and some serious shrinkage (or get the GM, which gives you similar features, a better lens with good IQ at half the size and weight, for far less money).

 Alan Ernst's gear list:Alan Ernst's gear list
Olympus Stylus XZ-10 Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX1 Nikon D5200 Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX7 Panasonic Lumix DMC-GM1 +14 more
Alan Ernst's score
3.5
Average community score
4.1
bad for good for
Kids / pets
unrated
Action / sports
acceptable
Landscapes / scenery
great
Portraits
good
Low light (without flash)
okay
Flash photography (social)
acceptable
Studio / still life
good
= community average
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