A week of travel with manual focus primes on the GX8

Started Jun 2, 2016 | User reviews thread
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cameron2 Veteran Member • Posts: 4,058
A week of travel with manual focus primes on the GX8

I think enough reviews have been done already of the GX8. Depending on which ones you read, it's too large and heavy or just right, has poor ergonomics or great ergonomics, is an upgrade from the GX7 or a downgrade from the GX7, etc.

I've been shooting with the GX8 since it first came out, but one of the things that I really liked about it was how nicely it worked with manual focus lenses. I would spend a month or so at a time shooting only manual focus lenses -- "just because" -- but finally had a good excuse to pack up a manual focus kit for a trip and see how well they traveled.

First, the kit:

  • GX8
  • Voigtlander 42.5mm f/1:0.95
  • Voigtlander 25mm f/1:0.95 (version 1)
  • Voigtlander 17.5mm f/1:0.95
  • Kowa Prominar 8.5mm f/1:2.8
  • Rokinon 7.5mm f/1:3.5 fisheye
  • OURAI USB charger for BLC-12 batteries
  • Heliopan 58mm Polfilter cicular slim SH-PMC polarizer
  • EzFoto 52mm hood for the Voigtlander 25mm (with a 58mm thread on the front)
  • 58mm rubber collapsible hood
  • CourierWare Incognito "mini" courier bag - without padding
  • 64GB flash - Sandisk Extreme Pro SDXC1 U3

The harsh truth: Even though the kit packed pretty well into the small bag, I can't comfortably carry that large of a kit on a shoulder. I had really wanted to have this range of lenses available at my fingertips, but in reality I ended up going out with only 1-3 lenses at a time. I'll get to the "sweet spot" later, but suffice to say, the Voigtlanders and the Kowa are all built like tanks, and are heavy like tanks.

Second, a little bit of history. I first picked up m43 with the G1 in January of 2010. Previously, I shot 135 format, so I hoped I could use m43 with my old manual-focus and manual-aperture Canon FD and Voigtlander M lenses. The G1 was ok with these. The GH2 was ok with these. The GX7 was ok with these.

Third, for configuration and settings, I leave the LCD display set to "On monitor recording information" which is basically a large touch-screen menu, and I set white balance and ISO by hand. The front button (F7) on the camera is set to zoom in for manual focus aid "AF Mode/MF", with the "MF Assist Display" option set to "FULL", and "Peaking" set to "HIGH" and pink. "Highlight" set to "ON" with "Zebra Pattern" set to "ZEBRA2". "Shoot without lens" is obviously turned on. Most of the other settings are still on their factory defaults. I shoot RAW+JPEG but workflow goes through LR6.

Love the Voigts. This is nowhere near wide open. What happened to the green?

Out and about, I'd almost always have the 17.5mm or 25mm on the camera. I think this picture is with the 17.5mm, but to be honest, who cares, because they both render so nicely. This is a slight crop, but here's the crazy thing: Whatever color profile comes in LR6 has always stripped away a significant amount of PUNCH in the Pany files. What do I mean by this? Well, when I first click on a photo in LR6, it looks great, but then a few seconds later, LR6 re-draws it with "the flat colors palette". Since I shoot RAW+JPEG, I'm guessing that the first image shown is the JPEG, and the re-draw is the RAW with the LR6 color profile applied, but that is just a guess. Regardless, that first image ALWAYS looks far better than the second one.

Focusing with the peaking turned on is usually pretty easy with these lenses. For the most part, you only really have to focus on things that are relatively close, because the "infinity range" starts only a few meters out (and even closer with the Rokinon). Stopped down to F4, these lenses have a great DOF for outdoor shots. You can see the peaking move back and forth over the scene as you compose and focus, and for the most part the peaking doesn't lie:


The problem with focus with these lenses is when there is a specific thing that you want to focus on with maximum sharpness, and when that thing isn't in the general "infinity range". For that, I use the F7 button on the GX8, which is the one that theoretically falls under the middle finger. The only problem with this button is that it moves. It literally moves around the front of the camera, trying to hide from your finger. I've been using this camera for a year now, and I still can't find that button half the time! I did buy a material to put onto the button to make it more easily findable and usable, but despite that material arriving months ago, I didn't bother to apply it, and I really wished that I had BEFORE this trip!

However, if you can find the little button, the focus aids on the GX8 are really good, and with the near focus capabilities of these manual focus lenses, it can be quite effective. A flower is probably not the greatest example, because it moves around a bit in the wind, but with the focus aids, I could make out quite a few details from the reflections in a subject's eye...

Flower, botanical gardens in Götland, probably with the 17.5mm or 25mm Voigt

For low light and stabilization, the combination of the GX8 and the Voigtlander f/1:0.95 lenses is quite nice. The Vasa Museet was quite the challenge for lighting!

Vasa Museet and never enough light!

Regarding the Kowa Prominar, I had really hoped to use this lens more, as it tends to lose out to the Pany 7-14 zoom most of the time when I have to grab a wide lens, but frankly it just wasn't worth the added weight on days when I wasn't expecting to shoot much wide. The few shots I took with it were plenty sharp and pleasing, but I really didn't have any great occasions for it the few times that I had it with me.

The Voigtlander 17.5mm on the other hand was a near constant on the camera. What a nice lens. The few times that I didn't take the 17.5mm, I took the 25mm instead, and it is very similar, except for the field of view. I don't really think that consciously about field of view with primes; they just seem to work, like they used to on 35mm cameras. Whichever lens that I had, it was the right one.

The Voigtlander 42.5mm only came out a few times. Another great lens, but it just didn't get enough time on the camera.

Rokinon fisheye in the ruins of a church in Visby, Götland

The handiest "second lens" on this trip turned out to be the Rokinon fish-eye. For the odd shot that needed an extra wide FOV, I could pull it out, and it focuses easily and weights almost nothing.


  • Can't complain about any of these lenses in terms of sharpness, although wide-open, the Voigts are slightly soft in the center and truly soft everywhere else.
  • The GX8 balances well with these lenses, and the IBIS is really good in the GX8 for these lenses.
  • The manual focus aids in the GX8 combined with an incredible EVF really make it achievable to shoot consistently sharp, deliberately-focused and -exposed images with manual focus lenses.
  • Heliopan SH-PMC polarizer -- good quality.
  • OURAI USB charger -- it worked! Handy for travel. Never used it before this trip, so I was relieved that it actually worked!
  • Battery life was pretty amazing. Thousands of shots. Only charged the battery once. Didn't spend a lot of time thinking about why, though.


  • Loss of handy flash compared to the GX7
  • Seemingly crazy randomly moving and hiding "F7" front button on the GX8
  • EzFoto 52mm hood - Vignetting on the Voigt 25mm when using the polarizer on the "step up hood" (which is not surprising at all, but I didn't have my 52-58 step-up ring with me.)


  • LR6 default color profile for the GX8 seems to be designed with a Freudian level of repression
  • Crazy moving focus rectangle drives me nuts (simple solution though; see: http://www.dpreview.com/forums/thread/4003776)
  • Physics. Why do nice lenses have to weigh so much? (Note: The Rokinon doesn't.)


The GX8 is a really nice implementation for shooting manual focus lenses. For me, carrying more than one of the Voigtlander (or Kowa Prominar) sized lenses for an entire day is a non-starter, but I discovered that one was almost always enough. (Maybe an ideal kit is the Voigtlander 17.5mm or 25mm on the camera, with the Rokinon fish-eye and the Pany 14-140 mark-ii in the bag.) I've tried shooting with manual focus lenses for years on m43, but this is the first camera that I've tried that really nails it. As long as I can find the F7 button with that finger, I can leave my eye glued to the EVF while I compose, focus, even change aperture (I watch the aperture setting with my left eye, which is often open while shooting). I enjoyed every aspect of this, except the weight of carrying several of these lenses.

Funny realization: I think I could be happy with the Voigtlander 17.5mm on the camera 90% of the time.

Scandinavia. Bicycle. Seemed appropriate.

 cameron2's gear list:cameron2's gear list
Sony RX100 Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX8 Hasselblad X1D
Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX8
20 megapixels • 3 screen • Four Thirds sensor
Announced: Jul 16, 2015
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Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX8
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