Body & Design
While the Lumix DMC-GX7 draws some inspiration from its predecessor (the GX1), it has a more contoured grip and less boxy design. The design of the GX7 can be seen elsewhere in the mirrorless world, namely on the Fujifilm X-E2 and Olympus E-P5. If the two-tone silver and black doesn't do it for you, Panasonic also sells an all-black model in select regions.
The GX7 feels like a $1000 camera as soon as you pick it up. Its body is made of a magnesium alloy that gives it a very solid feel. The only parts that give us pause are the plastic ones, namely the pop-up flash, which feels a bit flimsy.
If you were planning on stuffing the camera into a small pocket, you probably won't be able to get away with it, as it's on the chunky side. That said, the GX7 feels 'just right' for an enthusiast mirrorless class, and it's a lot smaller than any of its DSLR rivals.
Top of camera
Looking at the camera from the top down, everything looks pretty conventional. As you'll see below, that's not the case. Toward the left-hand side of the photo you'll spot the EVF and flash, with the hot shoe squished in-between.
Moving right, you have a dedicated movie recording button, which can be disabled (though not customized), if you wish. Beyond this is the shutter release button, which has the top control dial wrapped around it. The final thing to see here is the fully loaded mode dial, which has the power switch beneath it.
In your hand
Tilting capacitive touchscreen
The DMC-GX7 sports a 3-inch, touch-enabled tilting LCD. The display has 1.04 million dots, with impressive sharpness. The screen has a wide viewing angle and vivid color. If you want to tweak the color or contrast, you can do so in the setup menu. Panasonic advertises that the LCD has no air gap between the screen and the touch panel, improving outdoor visibility by reducing internal reflection. We couldn't see any appreciable difference in our testing.
As the animation above illustrates, the LCD can tilt upward by 80 degrees, and downward 45 degrees. This always-handy feature allows you to shoot over crowds, or take tripod photos without craning your neck. Unlike some recent Olympus mirrorless cameras, the eye sensor does not turn off when the LCD is tilted upward.
One of the highlights on the GX7 is undoubtedly its tilting electronic viewfinder. This feature hasn't been built into a camera since the Konica Minolta DiMAGE A2 (from 2004), though recent add-on EVFs have the same ability.
The EVF smoothly tilts upward by as much as 90 degrees, and is stiff enough that you won't accidentally bump it out of position. Unlike the Minolta cameras of old, you cannot pull the EVF toward your eye.
There's a lot more to this EVF than just its ability to tilt. It's extraordinarily detailed, with 2.76 million dots (equivalent), and the 1.39X magnification (0.70X equiv.) gives you a large view of the scene. Panasonic has also made the viewfinder replicate nearly 100% of the AdobeRGB color space, to ensure the best accuracy possible.
When you're out shooting, the camera switches from the LCD to the EVF when you put your eye to it. If you find the sensor to be, well, too sensitive, then you can opt for a button instead. The camera's optional 'Eye Sensor AF' feature activates autofocus when you put your eye to the EVF.
One frustrating thing that we discovered when using the EVF outdoors is that too much incident light comes in, making it very hard to see - especially if you are wearing glasses. This makes the optional DMW-EC1 eyecup a must-buy, in our opinion. The EVF uses 'field sequential' technology, and while everyone's different, we noticed an unpleasant 'rainbow effect' when rapidly panning the camera, engaging menus or blinking.
Viewfinder size and view
One figure often hidden (or undisclosed) by camera manufacturers is the size of the viewfinder. The size of the viewfinder is a key factor in a camera's usability - the bigger it is, the easier it is to frame and focus your shots, and the more enjoyable and involving a process it is.
Because of the way viewfinders are measured (using a fixed lens, rather than a lens of equivalent magnification), you also need to take the sensor size into account, so the numbers in the diagram below are the manufacturer's specified magnifications divided by the respective 'crop factors'.
|While the DMC-GX7's electronic viewfinder is good-sized, it's eclipsed by those found on the Olympus E-M1 (but not the E-M5) and the Sony NEX-6. The GX7's EVF is larger than the much bulkier optical viewfinders on cameras such as the Nikon D7100.
If you're wondering where the mirrorless Fujifilm X-E2 stands, it's nearly the same size as the D7100.