Review: Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX85 impresses with image quality, versatility
Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX85 Real World Experience
|An evening of challenge light, both in terms of temperature and brightness, couldn't stop the Panasonic GX85. Edited to taste in ACR. ISO 3200, 1/500 sec at F2.8. Shot at 50mm (equiv. ) using the Panasonic Lumix G 25mm F1.7 lens.SO 3200|
I've been working on our forthcoming review of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX85 for a couple of weeks now and as I put the finishing touches on the technical portion of the write-up, I wanted to share some highlights of my shooting experience with the camera, specifically in two very different shooting environments.
While I've been using the GX85 to shoot street photos and portraits of friends, I also took it along to a music festival in Seattle's industrial SoDo neighborhood called Big BLDG Bash. I shoot a lot of live music for my blog, mostly with a Nikon D750, 50mm F1.8, 20mm F1.8 and flash. But after using the GX85 for a couple of weeks, I felt relatively confident in the Panasonic's ability to keep up.
|The GX85 handled challenging AF scenarios all night long. Out of camera JPEG. ISO 6400, 1/500 sec at F4.5. Shot at 50mm (equiv. ) using the Lumix G Panasonic 25mm F1.7 lens.|
Seven stages, both indoor and outdoor, gave me a chance to test out the GX85's autofocus and overall performance in a variety of scenarios. And the non-stop music meant that this would be a good test of the battery life, too.
Of course after a night of rocking out I figured the GX85 needed some peace and quiet, so I also brought it shooting around one of my favorite places in Seattle: Golden Gardens, a beach along the city's Northwest coast. There I put the GX85's articulating touchscreen and near-silent electronic shutter to good use as I photographed both strangers and other wildlife enjoying the beautiful day and later, the sunset.
Rock and roll
But let's start with some rock and roll. I arrived at the venue around 9:00pm, with plans to shoot as many acts as possible, using mostly available light, until everything wrapped up around 2am.
Since starting work on the GX85, I've found myself very attached to the Panasonic Lumix G 25mm F1.7. Maybe because it reminds me so much of using my own Nikon 50mm F1.8. Both are lightweight, affordable lenses that offer excellent results. I also brought along the Lumix G Vario 7-14mm F4 lens.
Panasonic's Depth from Defocus technology is really impressive. Having already run the GX85 through our AF test (more on that in the forthcoming review) I knew it was more than capable of maintaining focus on a moving subject while shooting at 6 fps. But that testing had been done in bright daylight, and I was eager to see if those results would hold up in low light.
Looking back through my images shot in continuous drive at 6 fps I am impressed. The hit rate isn't quite what I enjoy with my full frame DSLR (nor did I expect it to be), but it's still very high.
The majority of the show was shot using a single point in continuous AF mode. One of my absolute favorite features is touch-pad AF. With one's eye to the finder, simply touch the screen with your thumb to drag your AF point around. The GX85 is remarkably responsive in this regard; and shooting with touch-pad AF is ridiculously simple.
I did also try using both face detect and subject tracking, two AF modes I've had success using in good light, but had poor results in this environment, which is not all that surprising given the challenging shooting conditions.
|Edited to taste in ACR. ISO 6400, 1/500 sec at F4.5. Shot at 14mm (equiv. ) using the Panasonic Lumix G Vario 7-14mm F4 lens.|
Overall, I was very happy with the GX85's performance at Big BLDG Bash. Sure I got some funny looks from dual-DSLR-toting hot-shots, but after field testing cameras like the Sigma Quattro, I'm used to that. One of the best features of the GX85 is how light it is, especially with lenses like the 25 F1.7, 7-14 F4 and even the 12-35mm F2.8. All of those, with the exception of the 25mm are image stabilized lenses, meaning they can take advantage of the GX85's Dual I.S. system which combines sensor and lens based image stabilization.
Of course, IS doesn't do a whole lot for me if I'm shooting stills of bands thrashing around stage, but for hand-held video, it is a true blessing.
|Shot at ISO 6400 1/50 sec F4 in 4k/24p. Shot at 50mm (equiv.) using the Panasonic Lumix G 25mm F1.7 lens.|
Though my experience with the GX85 at Big BLDG Bash was largely positive, I did have some frustrations: Many times I found myself attempting to flip the camera on in a hurry in an effort to capture a fleeting moment of rock and roll glory, only to accidentally switch the camera to video mode and initiate video capture.
This unfortunate occurrence is due to the illogical placement of the mode dial in relation to the on/off switch. The mode dial sits directly above the on/off switch, and because Manual Video mode is directly to the left of Manual mode on the mode dial, it’s easy to bump the dial to this position while turning the camera on in a hurry.
Also, Panasonic is one of the few companies that does not offer a minimum shutter speed setting in Auto ISO, something that would have been hugely helpful for me shooting fast subjects in low light.
|Donormaal performing at the Hangar 1 stage. Edited to taste in ACR. ISO 6400, 1/400 sec at F1.7. Shot at 50mm (equiv. ) using the Panasonic Lumix G 25mm F1.7 lens.|
By 11pm my first battery died. By 1am my second battery died. Around 1000 images and 20 videos into the show and the GX85 was dead. Good thing I packed my Nikon just in case!
The next day I made my way out to Golden Gardens which is about a 10 mile bike ride from my apartment. A backpack packed to the brim with picnic supplies left little room for camera gear, fortunately the GX85 with 12-35mm F2.8 was just small enough to make the cut.
Once I got to Golden Gardens and started shooting, one of the GX85's biggest pitfalls became more apparent, specifically, in regard to its field sequential 16:9 electronic viewfinder. While in low light, color tearing and the rather small image view (due to displaying a 3:4 image in a 16:9 aspect ratio) is less noticeable, it is VERY noticeable in bright light. For these reasons I stuck to shooting using the LCD only while at Golden Gardens. This of course put me in flare's way, fortunately the GX85 can be operated with one hand, freeing your other hand to shade the sun's rays from the LCD.
|I don't shoot birds in flight, I prefer birds at rest. Out of camera JPEG shot in the Scenery JPEG style . ISO 200, 1/1600 sec at F3.5. Shot at 70mm (equiv. ) using the Panasonic Lumix G X Vario 12-35mm F2.8 lens.|
In fact, I spent the majority of the day using the touchscreen with the camera set to it electronic shutter mode. This allowed to discreetly take images, whether of folks walking through the frame, or waterfowl. Speaking of the E-shutter, I am happy to report that at no time was I forced to use it to avoid shutter shock. The GX85 features a newly designed shutter that appears immune from the issues we've experienced with previous M43 cameras.
The scenic views also gave me a chance to try out some of the GX85's JPEG picture styles. The above scene was taken using using the 'Scenery' style, while the below was taken using the new 'L.monochrome' style.
|Out of camera JPEG shot in the L.monochrome style. ISO 200 at 1/320, F9. Shot at 70mm (equiv. ) using the Panasonic Lumix G X Vario 12-35mm F2.8 lens.|
The GX85 offers four customizable buttons, one of which I assigned to 'Photo Style,' for easy access. The new L.monochrome picture style is pretty cool in certain shooting scenarios . And it’s nice to see Panasonic jumping into the fun of releasing a moody analog b/w mode. I really hope this trend of trying to capture specific film ‘looks’ in JPEG profiles continues. I much prefer it to the trend of tacky creative filters.
Back to custom buttons, I left the Quick menu assigned to its default and assigned another button to toggle the touchscreen on/off. I set the final button to 'Focus area set,' so that I could still move my AF point while using the LCD with the touchscreen off.
While I mostly shot using the touch functionality, I occasionally found that when shooting vertically, my nose would move the AF point. Which is both hilarious and frustrating.
|The GX85 is an excellent choice for street photographers, though I wish it was weather-sealed. Out of camera JPEG. ISO 200, 1/80 sec at F2.8 Shot at 52mm using the Panasonic Lumix G X Vario 12-35mm F2.8 lens.|
The GX85 is arguably Panasonic's most compelling camera to date. Sure, it doesn't use the new 20MP Four Thirds chip from the GX8, but it makes good use of its 16MP sensor by removing the AA filter for better detail capture. Moreover, its new shutter mechanism means that shutter shock is a non-issue. And its 5-axis in camera IS makes it the steadiest Panasonic M43 camera to date, not to mention its offers outstanding 4K video. But most importantly, its a really fun and practical camera to shoot with, regardless of whether you're shooting a concert in the dark, or a lazy day at the beach.
Now, should someone buy this over (say) a Sony a6000? Before I answer that, let me make it clear that the reason I compare the GX85 to the a6000 is because despite its age, the latter is probably the camera I end up recommending most to friends and family, due to its excellent all-round performance and attractive price point.
In short, reasons to purchase the GX85 over an a6000: Better/more affordable lens selection, excellent sensor-based IS (plus Dual I.S.), an outstanding touchscreen with class-leading interface and excellent 4K video. On the other hand, with the Sony, you get a better EVF, better overall image quality and a hybrid AF system. Though the GX85 handles itself quite well in the last two regards.
At the end of the day, the GX85 is a great camera, with a couple of things, like its EVF and fumbly controls holding it back. But as a complete package, it has a lot going for it. Enough so that I would not hesitate to recommend it to anyone looking for a lightweight, capable interchangeable lens camera.
|Out of camera JPEG. ISO 200, 1/400 sec at F5. Shot at 70mm (equiv.) using the Panasonic Lumix G X Vario 12-35mm F2.8 lens.|
I own it
I want it
I had it
Discuss in the forums
|Cerulean Sukhoi by cjf2|
|Diver's Watch-2757 by vbuhay|
|Cheetah in the wild by cmgpereira|
|Kilchurn Castle, Scotland by johanmieke|
from Ancient Castles, Forts, and Defensive Structures - EXTERIOR
The EOS 90D is Canon's newest DSLR camera, sporting a new 32.5MP sensor and 4K video without a crop. As Chris and Jordan discovered during their testing, there's a lot to like.
A new gallery from the Canon EOS 90D, shot by Chris and Jordan while filming this week's episode of DPReview TV. As usual, it comes complete with reflected images in puddles.
The Axibo slider can detect and keep focused on faces and most objects thanks to an integrated 6 + 1 AI core CPU
Fujifilm has announced that it is developing a 50mm F1.0 lens for its X-series, instead of the promised 33mm F1.0, as part of its X Summit event in Tokyo.
Fujifilm has revealed extensive detail about its forthcoming X-Pro3 model in a development announcement at its Fujifilm X Summit in Tokyo, Japan.
Ricoh has stated that it's developing a new flagship APS-C DSLR that it'll preview later this month and expects to bring to market in 2020.
Apple says the iPhone XR isn't going anywhere – even now that the iPhone 11 is on sale. The two devices are priced $100 apart – so what does that extra cash get you?
Something about these seems a little familiar, but we can't quite put our finger on it.
ON1 Photo RAW 2020 is now available as a public beta, bringing with it new and improved features across the board, including more AI-powered tools, improved performance and multiple integrations for a more streamlined workflow.
Huawei has announced the details of its new flagship smartphone, the Mate 30 Pro.
Sebastiaan de With, co-founder of the iOS camera app Halide, has used his app's technical readout feature to obtain very detailed camera specifications for the iPhone 11 Pro.
Our guide to the best cameras over $2000 has been updated to include overviews of some of the latest contenders.
Apple joked about the new 120 fps recording mode on its latest smartphone with 'slofies,' a made-up word that combines slo-mo and selfies, but it turns out it might've not been quite as tongue-in-cheek as we initially thought.
The C1 and C1 Plus aspire to bring studio-style lights to the world of smartphone photography for $299 and 499, respectively.
In a press release on its website, Photokina has confirmed that Leica, Nikon and Olympus have canceled their reservations for Photokina 2020.
Readers were quick to point out that Robert Frank wasn't the only iconic artist the photography community lost recently. Peter Lindbergh, Charlie Cole and Fred Herzog have also passed away.
Back in the film days Canon had 'eye-controlled' focus that let you set an AF point just by looking at it, and a recent patent suggests Canon is still interested in this technology. Chris and Jordan consider what a modern eye-controlled AF system might mean to photographers.
CyberLink has revealed the latest updates to its suite of creative production apps, including PhotoDirector 11, PowerDirector 18 and more.
Aputure's impending LED light has 600W raw output in a size not much larger than your standard cinema light.
Apple's iPhone 11 camera updates will inevitably be seen as attempts to catch up to Android. But, taken together, we think they stack up to meaningful upgrades that might make an already very capable camera one of the most compelling options on the market.
Monogram, a company formerly known as Palette Gear, has a new crowdfunded campaign up for its next-generation modular control panel, the Creative Console.
Rumors have been heating up regarding Canon's potential IBIS system and this new patent application gives us the best look yet at what Canon is up to.
The new filters use artificial intelligence to automatize and simplify a range of portrait retouching tasks.
The Laowa 100mm F2.8 2X Ultra Macro APO is unusual among macro optics for offering a maximum reproduction ratio of 2:1. Check out our gallery to see how it performs.
A group of friends traversed around California in an attempt to recreate the stock wallpapers Apple has included with macOS.
With iOS 13 the iPhones XS and XR as well as the latest iPad Pro models will be capable of simultaneously recording video streams from multiple cameras.
The paid firmware update doubles the range for remote cameras/flash units and brings a number of additional features.
The two ‘MicroPrime’ lenses add additional options to SLR Magic's current MFT cine lens lineup, which includes the 12mm T2.8 and 18mm T2.8.
It's not every day that we get to shoot with a system like the medium-format IQ4. We took it into the studio for some portraiture as well as a more casual spin around the block because, well, why not?