Autofocus

Like its cousin, the GX85 and big brother, the GX8, the G85 has a 49-point Contrast Detect AF system and Panasonic’s Depth from Defocus technology (or 'DFD', which only works when shooting with Panasonic glass).

DFD works in conjunction with lens profiles that understand how out-of-focus objects are rendered in front of, or behind, the focus plane for any particular lens, helping the camera decide whether to drive the focus element forward or backward to achieve focus. DFD is a major reason why the G85 (and its siblings) can all shoot bursts at 6 fps with successful continuous AF.

Subject Tracking

The G85 unsurprisingly performs very similarly to the GX85 and G8 when it comes to maintaining focus on a moving subject, whether using a single point or using subject tracking, while firing a burst at 6 fps in the 'Medium w/ Live View' burst mode. The below roll-over was shot at a 280mm equiv. with the camera set to its 'Tracking' mode in AF-C.

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It's worth noting that the camera will shoot at 6 fps in both Continuous High and Continuous Medium mode if you engage AF-C. However, you'll only get a live update between frames in Continuous Med drive mode. We got better results in Medium drive speed and would recommend that mode for action shooting. More on that below. 

Face Detect is especially useful when photographing squirming babies. ISO 12,800, 1/320 sec at F2.2.

Face Detect is implemented in exactly the same way as on both the GX85 and G8: a yellow box appears when a face is detected, which then turns green once focus is confirmed. If eyes are detected, a cross-hair will appear over them, within the green box.

In instances with multiple faces, the G85 biases toward the nearest face, you cannot choose between detected faces. Tapping anywhere on the screen, even on another face, simply makes the camera switch to single point AF mode, unless you tap back on the initial face. We'd go so far as to say that face detection is only useful if you don't wish to choose your subject, leaving the camera to automatically choose instead.

Far more useful is the camera's 'tracking' mode, where you place your subject under the center AF-point and half press to initiate tracking. Alternatively, you can tap the screen over your subject to track. Hitting 'Menu/Set button resets tracking. You can see examples of this in the video above.

The G85 uses its sensor for subject recognition and once the camera locks on to a subject, it does an impressive job sticking to it. However initial acquisition, the time it takes between half pressing the shutter release and the camera actually recognizing and locking on the subject, is a tad hesitant. There are also times where the G85 will flat out fail to lock on to a subject. You can see that in the video above, indicated by the small red square (toward the end of the clip).

AF Sensitivity

The Panasonic G85 gains an AF sensitivity slider, it can be adjusted in relation to the movement of one's subject. The default position is '0,' increasing the sensitivity results in the camera adjusting focus more quickly, decreasing the sensitivity results in camera waiting a brief period of time before readjusting focus.

If you don't expect another subject to enter the frame (and cause the AF system to instead jump to it), keeping the slider set to '+2' ensures the fastest continuous AF speeds. But for scenes with distracting backgrounds, keeping the sensitivity closer to its default can prove useful. In our bike test example above, the sensitivity was left at '0' with excellent results.

When using the AF sensitivity slider during video capture, it controls the speed of continuous AF. In the clip above, face detect was used with the sensitivity set to both '0' and '+2.' The latter proved to be the better sensitivity setting for tracking Carey's face. But for a smooth racked focus shot, the ability to slow down the focus speed is a nice option to have.

Performance

When using the mechanical shutter, the G85 boasts a top burst speed of 9 fps (40 fps in SH mode using the e-shutter) with focus locked and 6 fps (with a live view) with the camera set to continuous AF. The G85 is UHS-II compatible and the buffer is fairly impressive. When shooting JPEGs at 6 fps, we couldn't even hit its limits (using a UHS-II card). Shooting Raw at 6 fps, we fired 50 frames before filling the buffer.

The G85 also gains a new top shutter speed of 1/16,000 sec using the e-shutter. 1/4000 sec is the fastest shutter speed using the mechanical shutter and 1/2000 when using the new electronic first curtain shutter mode.

A note about burst modes and AF-C

The fastest burst rate you can shoot with continuous AF on the G85 is 6 fps. However there are four available burst settings when the camera is in the multishot drive mode, they include: Super High, High, Medium and Low.

  Super High  High  Medium  Low
Burst AF-S  40 fps electronic only  9 fps mechanical* /
10 fps electronic
6 fps mechanical* / electronic  2 fps mechanical* / electronic 
Burst AF-C N/A, defaults to AF-S  6 fps mechanical* / electronic 6 fps mechanical* / electronic  2 fps mechanical* / electronic
 Live view No  No  Yes  Yes

*Or electronic first curtain shutter mode

The top two speeds do not offer a live view of your burst while shooting, instead giving a playback of already-shot images, the lower two speeds do. Super High mode locks focus at the start of the burst (regardless of whether you have the AF mode set to AF-C or AF-S) and fires at 40 fps using the electronic shutter. This is pretty straight forward.

Here's where things get tricky: High Speed mode is 9 fps using the mechanical shutter and 10 fps using electronic, but only when the focus mode is set to AF-S. When the focus mode is set to AF-C, it drops 6 fps, again without a live feed (Even though Medium speed offers a live feed and 6 fps shooting). We also observed during our testing that hit rates during our bike test were lower in High drive + AF-C vs Medium drive + AF-C (possibly due to the lack of live feed making it hard to follow the moving subject).

Dual I.S. 2

The G85 features 'Dual IS 2' and uses a new image stabilization algorithm as well as a new gyro-sensor for increased stability. When using a compatible lens, the system uses the in-body and in-lens stabilization systems in concert, which Panasonic claims is capable of 4-5 stops of stabilization when shooting normal-telephoto focal lengths.

We tested Dual I.S. 2 on the G85 using the 14-140mm F3.5-5.6 Power O.I.S. kit lens at both a 50mm and 200mm equivalent focal length (using our standard IS test). In both cases we averaged roughly 3.5-stops of added hand-hold-ability. That's only about a half stop behind the class-leader Olympus Pen F, which give us around 4 stops at a 50mm equiv., but a half stop ahead of the Panasonic GX85 (testing using Dual I.S and the 12-32mm 3.5-5.6 kit lens).

Dual I.S. 2 is also useful during video capture. The above clip shows the difference between shooting a handheld clip with Dual I.S. 2 switched off and then on. The G85 also has an electronic stabilization function that works by cropping the frame in slightly to compensate for shake. You can see its effects on stabilization and the crop factor also in the clip above.

At launch, only two lenses will be compatible with Dual IS 2 - both are kit lenses: the 12-60mm F3.5-5.6 ASPH Power O.I.S and 14-140mm F3.5-5.6 ASPH Power O.I.S Additionally, Panasonic says the Leica DG Vario-Elmar 100-400mm F4.0-6.3 ASPH Power O.I.S will be Dual IS 2 compatible some time in 2017 via firmware update. Ten other lenses are currently 'under study,' to be made compatible with Dual IS 2.