Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX7
Category: Mid Range Interchangeable Lens Camera / DSLR
Conclusion - Pros
- Photos have pleasing color and sharpness, with little detail smudging
- In-body image stabilization brings anti-shake to any lens
- Well constructed, easy-to-handle body
- Quick autofocus and shot-to-shot speeds
- Highly customizable
- Well-implemented touchscreen
- Large and sharp tilting electronic viewfinder
- Truly 'silent' shooting mode
- Wi-Fi with NFC capability
Conclusion - Cons
- In-body stabilization not available for image composition
- Camera tends to use small apertures (rather than faster shutter speeds) in Program mode
- No sensor-shift IS in movie mode
- Strong 'rainbow' tearing effect in EVF
- EVF is hard to see outdoors, adds bulk to camera
- No in-camera Raw conversion
- Lacks headphone and external mic ports for video shooters
While the Lumix DMC-GX1 offered few improvements to its predecessor (the GF1), the Panasonic GX7 has made some significant leaps. While the rangefinder-style design isn't too different, Panasonic has loaded this mirrorless camera with nearly every feature imaginable. The two most-talked-about features are the in-body stabilization and tilting electronic viewfinder, but the GX7 has a lot more hidden up its sleeve.
The GX7 is the first Panasonic G-series camera to have sensor-shift image stabilization. This allows you to add shake reduction to unstabilized lenses, which not only include those from Olympus, but also lenses from yesteryear (via an adapter) - something further supported by the inclusion of focus peaking. The bad news is that the IS system only activates when the photo is taken, so composing pictures can be a wobbly experience. In addition, the sensor-shift IS system cannot be used while recording movies, which is quite disappointing.
If you like customizable buttons, then the GX7 is for you. There are a whopping nine different buttons (real and on-screen) that you can customize, so the camera can truly be set up to your liking (though it can be intimidating at first). We especially like the on-screen Fn buttons, as they show you what option you're changing. The physical Fn buttons require you to memorize what does what. This level of customization goes well with the twin-dial interface, though we felt the top dial wasn't brilliantly positioned.
There are plenty of cameras with tilting LCDs, but Panasonic has decided that photographers may want their viewfinder to do the same. The GX7's EVF can tilt upwards by up to 90 degrees (though it can't be pulled toward you), and we're not entirely sure why you'd need that, considering that the LCD right below it can do the same thing. The specification of the viewfinder looks good, with its 1280x720 resolution and magnification of 0.70x (equivalent), though the reality is that it has a strong 'rainbow effect' due to its use of field-sequential technology, and the small eyecup that lets in lots of outside light.
The GX7 has a pretty usable touchscreen interface, perhaps the coolest feature of which is Touch Pad AF, which allows you to choose a focus point using the LCD while you're looking through the EVF (though it's not well-suited for those who shoot with their left eye).
The GX7 is really aimed at enthusiasts, and we think they'll be pretty happy about what the GX7 brings to the plate. Naturally, there are a full set of manual exposure controls (including a maximum shutter speed of 1/8000 sec), plus focus peaking, tone curve and dynamic range adjustment, time-lapse, and HDR features.
Something that makes the GX7 a great camera for street photography is its silent mode, which turns on the electronic shutter and turns off all the lights and sounds (to the point that the instruction manual warns you to be aware of local privacy laws). Let's just say that this feature lives up to its billing. Using the electronic shutter has some trade-offs and drawbacks: flash is unavailable, the ISO limit is 3200, slowest shutter speed is 1 second and certain lighting conditions and subjects can cause glitches in images, but it's a rare and interesting feature to have.
Like several of Panasonic's other cameras, the DMC-GX7 has on-board Wi-Fi with NFC capability. The Wi-Fi feature allows for remote capture from your mobile device, and somewhat clunky sharing of images and videos to cloud services and social networks. When it works, NFC makes pairing your camera and smartphone easy, which then allows you to 'tap' the devices together when you want to transfer photos. In reality, this feature can be very flaky, so you may want to use the 'traditional' Wi-Fi connection instead.
The GX7 is capable of recording video at 1080/60p and 24p, at healthy bit rates of 28 and 24 Mbps, respectively. While Panasonic put manual exposure, real-time focus peaking, and mic level controls on the camera, they left out both microphone and headphone ports. The video quality is impressive, though.
Photo quality on the GX7 is very good, though there some things photographers need to watch out for. First is that the camera tends to choose small apertures - rather than faster shutter speeds - when shooting in Program or Auto mode. This brings diffraction into place, which can noticeably soften images. While we hope Panasonic will address this in a firmware update, shooting in aperture priority mode is a good solution for now.
Something else you'll want to do right away is turn on the i.Dynamic feature. That's because at default settings, the GX7 clips highlights rather abruptly. With i.Dynamic, the roll-off to white is much smoother, and overall dynamic range is increased.
Otherwise, the GX7's photos have vivid color, with a sharpness level that's right in the middle, so you get plenty of detail, without artifacts. Panasonic takes a conservative approach to noise reduction, which means that photos will be a bit grainy at higher ISOs, but detail smudging is less of a problem than on its competitors.
The final word
The DMC-GX7 is indeed an impressive camera, but how does it hold up against its immediate peers? Pretty well, in our opinion. The build quality and handling are good, though Panasonic may have gone a bit overboard in the interface department. It's the only mirrorless camera to offer an articulating EVF, and while the finder's resolution is superb, the 'rainbow effect' is not. The revised JPEG engine offers dynamic range that's much more comparable to its peers than some recent Panasonics have been, and some the color rendition too has improved greatly over older models. As a result, the GX7 holds its own against both mirrorless and midrange DSLRs in terms of both performance and photo quality (though there will be a bit more noise in extreme situations).
Panasonic has thrown virtually every possible feature into its DMC-GX7 mirrorless camera, and for the most part, they've succeeded. We like the photo and video quality, performance, customizable controls, and silent shooting mode. That said, the limitations on the in-body IS system, the tendency to close down the aperture in Program mode, and lack of in-camera Raw processing keep the GX7 from earning our highest recommendation.
Scoring is relative only to the other cameras in the same category.
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Ergonomics & handling
Metering & focus accuracy
Image quality (raw)
Image quality (jpeg)
Low light / high ISO performance
Viewfinder / screen rating
Movie / video mode
Those seeking excellent photo and video quality with a very customizable interface; street photographers
Not so good for
Frequent viewfinder users, video enthusiasts, those who want to process Raw images in-camera
The Panasonic GX7 is a full-featured mirrorless camera that offers very good photo and video quality, a highly customizable interface, plenty of useful features, and robust performance. It's marred by a so-so viewfinder, lack of in-camera raw conversion, and a disappointing in-body IS system.
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