Conclusion - Pros

  • Solid image quality in both Raw and JPEG
  • 4K (UHD) video
  • Built-in Wi-Fi with comprehensive set of features
  • 4K Photo mode with clever pre-burst option for grabbing stills from video
  • In-camera Raw conversion for post-shot re-processing
  • Super-fast focus for single AF acquisitions
  • Impressive continuous AF and tracking with 6 frame per second shooting
  • Well-proportioned hand grip
  • Extensive external controls

Conclusion - Cons

  • Mechanical shutter causes some softness at around 1/100th exposures
  • Number of external controls make the camera seem more complex than it is
  • Dated Q.Menu is over-complex
  • Touchscreen control tabs leave the screen a bit cluttered (though they can be disabled)
  • Wi-Fi can be overwhelming and unnecessarily complex
  • Battery life quite limited for video shooting
  • Continuous AF performance not as good with Olympus lenses
  • Simplistic Auto ISO implementation

Overall Conclusion

I started this review by stating that I believe the G7 is trying to be a non-specific ILC, rather than draw attention to its mirrorless nature. There are aspects to the user experience, such as the seamless viewfinder/ rear LCD operation (in combination with the use of rear screen to select AF point) that no DSLR has yet fully matched but for the most part it's just trying to be an upper entry-level camera that is a DSLR in all but internal structure.

For this reason, I think it's fair to compare it to just about any mid-range interchangeable lens camera with a viewfinder. This puts it up against serious competition from the likes of Canon's EOS 750D/Rebel T6i, Nikon's D5500, Sony's a6000, the Fujifilm X-T10 and Olympus E-M10. Very capable cameras, every one of them. However, the Panasonic's video capability means it has at least one trump card to help distinguish it in this illustrious company.

Olympus m.Zuiko 40-150mm F2.8
ISO 200
1/125th, F2.8
Photo by Samuel Spencer

And, although it doesn't have a viewfinder (or any option for one), the Samsung NX500's 4K capability is likely to also be in the thoughts of anyone looking at the G7 for video. This means the G7 has to be extremely capable, if it's to stand out.

Then there's its sensor size. The Micro Four Thirds system is built around a sensor that's 38% smaller than those used in most APS-C cameras. This means that the lenses can be smaller, for any given equivalent focal length but that there is likely to be up to a 2/3EV noise cost to be paid (along with a similar loss of depth-of-field control). However, Micro Four Thirds is also the best-established mirrorless system, meaning the G7 is compatible with a wide range of lenses, whatever your interest and budget.

Handling

The G7 handles generally very well, especially if you plan to take control over the camera's settings. There are a good number of control points and they're generally spaced far enough apart that they can all be comfortably operated by all but the biggest of hands.

However, the number of controls risks being a bit overwhelming to the first-time ILC buyer and the integration of the physical buttons, on-screen Fn buttons and the Q.Menu doesn't seem to have been re-thought with this user group in mind. Instead the camera inherits a competent but inelegant control interface that can be customized but not exactly optimized. I'd really like to see Panasonic step back, decide which of the G7's features are most important, then build a simpler interface to prioritize these - something it doesn't feel like has happened.

Lumix G Vario 14-42/F3.5-5.6 II
ISO 6400
1/20th, F5.6

The upside of offering so much direct control is that the G7 makes an excellent camera for someone to grow into. The Micro Four Thirds system offers a range of relatively affordable lenses in useful focal lengths (something not necessarily true of its rivals, despite the sheer number of lenses available), and the G7 offers all the key features a developing photographer would need access to. The user interface certainly benefits from a little customization and its worth ploughing through the 'Advanced Features' manual, to make sure you're not missing out on part of the camera's capabilities.

On top of this, the G7 offers some of the best tracking AF we've seen on any camera (DSLR or mirrorless) in this class. The full capability of this system is only available when you use Panasonic's own lenses, which puts more limits on your choices than necessary, but between this and the 4K Photo mode, it means the G7 offers a lot of support to help you grab the shot you want.

Image Quality

The G7's image quality is generally very impressive. Its JPEGs are generally pleasant with pleasant color rendition and good rendition of the sensor's detail. At high ISO settings the noise reduction is pretty well judged, offering a good balance between noise suppression and detail retention. The colors won't be to everyone's taste, but with the exception of slightly green yellows, are pretty good.

Raw performance is also pretty dependable, with files offering a good degree of flexibility when you come to process them. There's a good amount of dynamic range available at base ISO and the difference in high ISO performance between this and the best of its APS-C rivals is around the 2/3EV disparity that the sensor size difference would account for.

Lumix G Vario 14-42/F3.5-5.6 II
ISO 6400
1/100th, F5.6

The only real bad news is that the camera will exhibit some shake when shooting at shutter speeds around 1/100th of a second. This isn't overly serious (it's only a slight softening of the image that is only really noticeable by comparison to another shot without shake), and can be eliminated by switching to electronic shutter mode, though this comes with a slight cost to dynamic range and a risk of rolling shutter.

Video is the camera's trump card, though. 4K is not yet a commonplace feature, nor is the ability to view it particularly widespread, but the ability to capture high res video gives all sorts of flexibility, whether you downsize back to 1080 or use it for selective cropping as you edit. As well as the ability to capture 4K (UHD) video, the G7 also includes a socket for an external mic, focus peaking, zebra warnings and all the other tools you might need to capture usable footage. Its this combination of features and capabilities that really make the camera stand out, for us.

The Final Word

The G7 is, to an extent, its own worst enemy. It's a really capable camera at a very competitive price, but that's probably not enough to make a significant number of people choose it over the DSLR they might otherwise default to buying. The combination of pricing and build quality typical for its class but with the complexity of controls from a more expensive camera seems misjudged: it risks intimidating upgraders (even though you can safely ignore most buttons, if you don't want to change their settings). I think the more keen photographer would prefer to spend a little more and buy a camera that feels more solid or offers a more coherent control system.

Without the size advantage offered by the still-smaller GM5, I'm not sure even the G7's impressive (and easy to use) autofocus is the knock-out punch it needs to stand above its near rivals.

These reservations should be pushed to one side if you've any serious interest in video, though. It's likely that within its lifetime plenty of its rivals will gain 4K, but not all of them will also gain all the tools the G7 offers to support to capture video or extract stills from it. As such, if you're looking for an interchangeable lens camera that you can grow into or a smaller, second camera and video is a significant factor for you, then the G7 is probably closer to being a 'Gold.'

Scoring is relative only to the other cameras in the same category.
Click here to learn about the changes to our scoring system and what these numbers mean.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-G7
Category: Mid Range Interchangeable Lens Camera / DSLR
Build quality
Ergonomics & handling
Features
Metering & focus accuracy
Image quality (raw)
Image quality (jpeg)
Low light / high ISO performance
Viewfinder / screen rating
Performance
Movie / video mode
Connectivity
Value
PoorExcellent
Conclusion
The Panasonic G7 is an impressive all-rounder, combining solid image quality, impressive autofocus performance and 4K (UHD) capability into a compact body with extensive external controls. Its user interface can be a little unwieldy but has moments of genius in the ability to use the rear screen as a touch pad to set AF point when shooting with the camera to your eye.
Good for
Beginners looking for a camera to grow in to or DSLR owners looking for a smaller, lighter second camera: especially those interesting in shooting video.
Not so good for
Users wanting simplicity from their shooting experience. Photographers obsessed with absolute image quality.
80%
Overall score

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