Panasonic Lumix DMC-G85 / G80 Review
The G85 is Panasonic's mid-level all-arounder. It is very much a refinement of the Panasonic G7, which is still an impressively-capable camera, but one that does not reach its full potential due to the issue of shutter shock.
The G85 effectively eliminates shutter shock by switching to a new electromagnetic shutter mechanism and using more magnesium alloy in the body construction as opposed to plastic. It also has a new electronic first curtain shutter mode with no noise penalty, but more on that below. Additionally, the G85 gains weather-sealing and 5-axis image stabilization (which gave us an average of 3.5 stops of added stability). Both of these upgrades make an already tempting camera line, all that much more appealing.
It enters a crowded mirrorless market and has some stiff competition both from other Micro Four Thirds cameras, as well as some APS-C offerings. The Sony a6300 and Olympus E-M5 II in particular stack up nicely against the G85, both in terms of price and capability. The G85 also faces competition from DSLRs like the Nikon D5500 and Canon Rebel T6S/760D. But even among all these heavy hitters, the G85 it has tricks up its sleeve - are they enough to make you open up your wallet?
Body and Handling
|Shown with 12-60mm F3.5-5.6 Power O.I.S. kit lens|
The camera scores big points in the body and handling category. Simply put, the combination of large dual control dials, physical buttons (many of which can be customized), and a well-implemented touch-interface all add up to outstanding ergonomics.
However from a usability standpoint, the G85 is not perfect. Its Auto ISO implementation does not allow users to set a minimum shutter speed, ISO range or relationship to focal length, things we consider standard in today's camera market, nor can it be used when shooting video. Another beef: when a cable is plugged into the microphone or HDMI port, it blocks the LCD from being tilted. It is also worth pointing out that while this reviewer had no problems with the size of camera's smaller buttons, larger-handed shooters may.
Those issues aside, the camera is impressively light, yet solid-feeling in the hand. And did we mention its weather-sealed?
The camera is quick to start up and overall very responsive in operation. Panasonic continues to impress with its Depth from Defocus AF. The G85 uses the same 49-point contrast detect system found in most recent Panasonic ILC's and it can comfortably shoot at 6 fps with accurate continuous autofocus. The G85 can also track subjects in all 3 dimensions with impressive ease, thanks to subject recognition using its image sensor. This is useful in both stills and video mode. Casual shooters will likely find the face detect mode quite handy when photographing friends and family (though the 'Tracking' mode allows users to actually pick a subject, face detect does not).
With focus locked, the G85 can shoot 9 fps using its mechanical shutter and whopping 40 fps using the e-shutter in Super High burst mode. Those modes are likely not all that helpful for shooting moving subjects, but 6 fps with reliable continuous AF is. Of course there are better-performing cameras on the market if you're serious about sports photography.
JPEG noise reduction is very aggressive at high ISO's, smearing away detail.
Raw files converted in ACR
Panasonic is still breathing new life into their 16MP Four Thirds chip by removing the anti aliasing filter and the G85 sees slight improvements in image quality over its predecessor as a result of this and changes to its JPEG engine.
The G85 is able to capture slightly more detail than the G7 in both Raw and JPEG all while doing a reasonable job of keeping moiré and false color in check. JPEG color has been slightly improved, but in general, JPEGs still tend to look washed-out at higher ISOs and noise reduction across the board is very aggressive and often sloppy. Simply put, to get the most of the G85, shoot in Raw mode.
The G85 gains an electronic first curtain shutter mode, which is somewhat ironic because its new shutter mechanism seems to solve any concerns about shutter shock. Using the EFC shutter mode results in 12-bit files, just as when using the mechanical shutter, but the fully electronic results in 10-bit files. This ability to shoot without shutter shock without resorting to E-shutter mode gives the G85 a serious advantage over its predecessor in terms of dynamic range and Raw noise levels at high ISOs.
|At low ISOs JPEGs look just fine. This one was set to the 'Vibrant' color profile. ISO 200, 1/400 sec at F7.1.|
Shooting high quality video with this camera is a pleasure. 5-axis in-body image stabilization makes shooting hand-held extremely easy. Plus, the G85 has second generation sensor + lens image stabilization (Dual I.S. 2) for even more stability when using a compatible lens (though panning hand-held with IS on can result in jerky footage as the camera has a hard time differentiating shake from intentional movement). Using the touchscreen to select a subject is also painless and depth from defocus AF means the subject will usually remain in focus when using AF-C.
Video can be captured at 4K/24,30p at up to 100Mbps. The quality is very good in 4K and also impressive in 1080 (it beats the pants off the EM-5 II). It also has a useful 'live cropping' mode, which takes 4K shoots and crops in to 1080 to simulate panning or zooming in. For slow motion shots, users can shoot at 1080/60p but there is no 120p option.
Video tools like focus peaking, zebra pattern, audio levels and wind filter have long been standard on Pansonic cameras. However, Auto ISO can not be used in manual mode during video capture which can be very frustrating. The camera has a microphone input, but no headphone port.
The Final Word
|Everyone loves flowers. The G85 is almost as lovable as a flower. ISO 1000 1/80 sec F4.2.|
In terms of performance, ergonomics and capability, the Panasonic G85 is the camera I will be recommending to enthusiasts for the foreseeable future. Here is why: It is the most compelling and complete Panasonic camera on the market (until the GH5). I said this when I first reviewed the rangefinder-style GX85 (a very similar camera), but the G85 takes everything a step forward.
Moreover, the G85 also offers the most complete and compelling package of its competitors. Its siblings aside, the G85 is one of the only cameras at this price point capable of 4K video capture. Yes the a6300 shoots 4K and has a more sophisticated AF system, but it has no in-body IS, frustrating ergonomics (lacks dual top-plate control dials) and a limited lens family. On the other hand the E-M5 II has in-body IS, dual control dials and lens choices aplenty, but no 4K. With the G85, you can pretty much have it all.
There is only one real area it struggles: JPEG image quality. This is not to say JPEGs from the camera are entirely unappealing. But when you have similarly-priced cameras like the Fujifilm X-T10 capable of gorgeous JPEG color, it makes Panasonic JPEGs look comparatively 'meh'. Still, I feel strongly that the Panasonic G85 represents a near full realization of what modern Panasonic ILC's are capable of (if only it had that new 20MP chip...). It is a highly enjoyable camera to shoot with and one I would gladly reach for without any hesitation. For these reasons, it wins a gold award.
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-G85 (Lumix DMC-G80)
Category: Mid Range Interchangeable Lens Camera / DSLR
Ergonomics & handling
Metering & focus accuracy
Image quality (raw)
Image quality (jpeg)
Low light / high ISO performance
Viewfinder / screen rating
Movie / video mode
The G85 is an extremely appealing camera for enthusiast photographers. Light-weight and weather-sealed, it offers dual control dials, a fully articulating touchscreen and ample customization. Still image quality is excellent, the same goes for 4K and HD video quality. Autofocus is reliable, even when it comes to subject tracking and 5-axis in body stabilization allows for easy hand-held shooting. Simply put, this camera should fulfill the needs of many with ease.
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Unless otherwise noted images taken with no particular settings at full resolution. Because our review images are now hosted on the 'galleries' section of dpreview.com, you can enjoy all of the new galleries functionality when browsing these samples.
Panasonic Lumix G85 sample gallery
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