Panasonic GX7II (GX85, GX80) is a wonderful camera

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Henry Richardson Forum Pro • Posts: 18,283
Panasonic GX7II (GX85, GX80) is a wonderful camera

I bought a very nice, used Panasonic Lumix GX7II (GX85, GX80) a few weeks ago here in Japan for the equivalent of US$269. I have been using m4/3 for 8 years and used various DSLRs from Canon, Sony, Pentax, and Konica Minolta before. I also currently own the Olympus PEN-F, E-M10II, E-M10, and E-M5. Also, the Panasonic Lumix G3. About a dozen m4/3 lenses too. I also have a Panasonic Lumix TX1 (ZS100, TZ100) and several other non-ILC cameras. Okay, that is probably enough of a rundown of my digital gear experience which goes back to January 2000.

I am really liking this relatively small m4/3 camera with its rangefinder-style body type. It is about the same size and weight as my PEN-F, but has a much simpler, smooth, non-retro body style. Much more like a Leica Q2, Q-P, CL, or TL2. Panasonic and Leica do joint development and share stuff sometimes so it isn't too surprising that some of their bodies look similar. I like the styling of both the GX7II and PEN-F.

A lot of people complain about the GX7II EVF, but when I look through it it seems just fine to me. Comparing it to my PEN-F with both set to 4:3 they both look about the same size. I have had no problems with either one and they both work well for me. Here on dpreview this is what is reported for the EVFs:

  • GX7II: 2.76m-dot field sequential LCD - 0.7x
  • PEN-F: 2.36m-dot fixed OLED - 0.62x

The GX7II 5-axis IBIS seems about the same as in my 5-axis E-M10II and 5-axis E-M5, but not quite as good as in my 5-axis PEN-F. And better than my 3-axis E-M10. Here on dpreview they report this about the ratings (from Olympus, I think):

  • PEN-F: 5 stops
  • E-M10II: 4 stops
  • E-M5: 4 stops
  • E-M10: 3 stops

The exact number of stops above are not important, it is the relative ranking from Olympus that is important since they (presumably) rate all their cameras using the same standard and testing. A couple of reviews said the GX7II IBIS is the same effectiveness as the E-M10II (which is quite good), but a bit below the PEN-F. If you have a Panasonic lens with Power OIS then it can work in concert with the GX7II IBIS to give you 1 or more additional stops -- Dual IS so that would probably be about the same as the PEN-F. I have 4 Panasonic lenses, but none of mine have Power OIS (2 have the older Mega OIS).

I am not going to bother writing a bunch of stuff that has been written countless times in other reviews. You can easily read the reviews here and on many other websites. You can also watch a bunch of video reviews. I read several GX7II reviews and watched several video reviews. Here are some things I have discovered that were not mentioned in any of them though:

1. It only has a 10-bit electronic shutter and the readout speed is unknown -- PEN-F and E-M10II have a 12-bit electronic shutter and 1/20 second readout. It would be better for the GX7II to have a 12-bit shutter, but I have mostly been using the electronic shutter and, at least, in daylight I have noticed nothing to be concerned about. The Olympus E-M1X and E-M1III have a 1/60 second readout. Does anyone know what the GX7II readout is or how to check?

2. After wakeup from sleep mode everything is reset to custom settings -- same as power on. This is my #1 disappointment with this camera. I have had many other cameras and when awaking from sleep mode they would remember any settings I had made. For example, if before going to sleep I had adjusted the aperture and/or EC, etc. it would remember that when it woke up. The only time things would get totally reset to the custom setting would be when I powered on or when I turned the mode dial to the custom setting. Unfortunately, the GX7II (GX85) resets everything when it wakes up. I asked about this on the forum and discovered that some Panasonic cameras such as the G85 do it the same as other companies. Very weird that within the Panasonic line some cameras do it the "right" way and some do it the "wrong" way. Sadly, the GX7II does it the wrong way. Yes, I have the latest 1.3 firmware.

3. The manual says that after adjusting the exposure control you have to set/confirm it before using, but actually you don't. What the manual describes is an extra step that no other camera I have ever owned had, but happily I learned you can ignore it and it still works.

4. Auto ISO: a minimum shutter speed of 1/60 maintained for long time before raising the ISO. It is difficult to figure out exactly how the Auto ISO program works, but in most situations it is okay.

5. iAuto ISO: the camera selected ISO is not displayed, but for Auto ISO it is displayed. I wish it would display the ISO it chose in both cases. iAuto ISO is supposed to detect subject movement and automatically choose an ISO sufficient to give a faster shutter speed than the regular Auto ISO. I have not yet determined how well this works in practice though. The Panasonic Auto ISO does not allow a minimum shutter speed to be selected like Olympus so if this iAuto ISO actually works well then it would possibly mitigate that omission a bit. The test will be in street photography. I do not have high hopes about this though.

6. I have the EVF set to 4:3 and I can position the histogram in the EVF completely outside the image area. Great! On my Olympus cameras the histogram overlays the image.

7. Camera will go to sleep while hanging from neckstrap. Great! My Olympus cameras will not go to sleep if the eye sensor detects anything nearby.

8. Raw files are bigger than Olympus raw files. The GX7II, E-M10II, E-M10, and E-M5 are all 16mp, but the GX7II raw files are bigger:

E-M5/E-M10II/E-M10: 4608x3456 pixels, 16.1mp, embedded 3200x2400 jpeg, ~14-15mb file size generally

GX7II: 4592x3448 pixels, 15.8mp, embedded 1920x1440 jpeg, ~18-19mb file size generally

The GX7II with fewer pixels, a much smaller embedded jpeg, and lossy raw compression results in much bigger raw files than the E-M5/E-M10II/E-M10. Actually, the 16mp GX7II raw files are almost exactly the same size as the 20mp PEN-F raw files:

PEN-F: 5184x3888 pixels, 20.3mp, embedded 3200x2400 jpeg, ~18-19mb file size generally

Olympus uses lossless raw compression. Panasonic uses lossy raw compression. Olympus embeds a larger jpeg. Panasonic embeds a smaller jpeg. Yet, Olympus raw files are smaller. Weird and perplexing. I noticed the same thing with my 16mp G3 a few years ago. Here are just a few things I found concerning Olympus lossless raws and Panasonic lossy raws:

9. The camera wakes up from sleep mode and powers on faster than my PEN-F, which is particularly slow. The PEN-F is the slowest ILC I have ever owned. Slower than my E-M10II, E-M10, and E-M5. And much, much slower than my DSLRs. I would say it is about 15 to 20 times slower than my DSLRs. It is hard to say exactly, but the GX7II feels about the same as my E-M10II -- both are much slower than I would like, but a bit better than the PEN-F. I wish they were more like 0.5 second or faster which is still much slower than my DSLRs, but would be a big improvement.

Here are some more comments about the GX7II:

1. 3 custom modes, but only 1 on mode dial so you have to use the touch screen to select among the 3. Not so bad, but not as quick as with my Olympus bodies. The PEN-F, E-M10II, and E-M10 have 4 and they can all be assigned to spots on the mode dial. Great!

2. Auto ISO: no minimum shutter speed setting. PEN-F allows you to select the minimum shutter speed for both the mechanical and electronic shutter, E-M10II only allows it for the mechanical shutter.

3. No exposure control in M mode -- because there is no EC dial. PEN-F has an EC dial so I can do it, but since I have programmed it to use the rear control wheel for EC I can't do it unless I change back to using the EC dial. My E-M10II, E-M10, and E-M5 are the same as the GX7II since they don't have a separate EC dial.

4. Diopter adjustment knob much better than my TX1 (ZS100). TX1 has a diopter knob in the same position as on the GX7II, but it has less resistance so at least once a day when using it I find it has turned out of position. It is too exposed and too loose on my TX1. That has never happened with any other camera I have owned.

5. Power switch better on TX1. The power switch on the GX7II and TX1 are almost identical and almost the same position, but the GX7II has been shifted very slightly and at a slightly different angle so that it sits directly above the rear control wheel. Sometimes when I turn the rear wheel with my thumb I accidentally turn off the GX7II.

6. Tilt rear screen! Great! My PEN-F and G3 have tilt/swivel rear screens and for my use I much prefer the tilt type because I can very quickly deploy them with no fumbling (the PEN-F is particularly fiddly), no strap tangling, no getting in the way, much less likely to get bumped/broken by someone in a crowd, do not change the size/profile of the camera, and can easily be used like a TLR by looking down at waist level.

7. Built-in flash. PEN-F has a very nice, small, external flash that is included, but for a quick bit of fill flash outdoors it is almost always impossible to get it out, attached, and ready for use before the moment has passed. The E-M5 was the same, but even worse because the method of attachment required removing body parts and stowing them in order to attach the tiny flash. I prefer a small built-in one like on the GX7II, E-M10II, and E-M10.

8. I like that the GX7II has a small grip. The PEN-F is flat in front so I use a leather half-case which provides a bit of a grip and also adds about 5mm to the height. I think the PEN-F should have a small built-in grip more like the E-M10II. The PEN-F has a very nice rear thumb bump which helps a lot in holding and handling. The GX7II has one too, but it is too small and shallow, but better than not having one.

The whole Panasonic name clown show is alive and well with the GX7II. For the last few years Panasonic has had a line of cameras: GX7 -> GX7II -> GX7III. All good, logical names for this progression, but those are the names only in Japan. In North America it is: GX7 -> GX85 -> GX9. In Europe it is:GX7 -> GX80 -> GX9. I don't know what the name is in other parts of the world. My Panasonic TX1 is the same. TX1 in Japan, ZS100 in North America, TZ100 in Europe, and I think there are other names too. Sony, Olympus, Nikon, Canon, etc. don't do this stupid name stuff.

Bottom line: I like this camera a whole lot, especially considering the very low price I paid for it. This camera is the best bang for buck camera I have ever bought in my life!

Here are a few phone snaps of the GX7II, PEN-F, E-M10II, and TX1. Various lenses attached and just for a quick eyeball comparison.

GX7II + 20mm f1.7, PEN-F + 25mm f1.8

GX7II + 20mm f1.7

GX7II + 14mm f2.5

E-M10II (ECG-3 grip) + 45mm f1.8

TX1, PEN-F + 25mm f1.8

I have both the original Olympus 14-150mm and the newer version II. They are almost the same size, but the original is a bit less in diameter. The version II is splashproof though. These are 2 great lenses.

GX7II + 14-150mm f4-5.6, PEN-F + 14-150mm f4-5.6 II

By the way, here is my TX1 (ZS100, TZ100) review:

Henry Richardson

Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX85 (Lumix DMC-GX80 / Lumix DMC-GX7 Mark II)
16 megapixels • 3 screen • Four Thirds sensor
Announced: Apr 5, 2016
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