The Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX850 (known as the GX800 and GF9 in some regions) is the brand’s most compact interchangeable lens camera (as of Spring 2017) and uses the same 16MP Four Thirds sensor as several of its siblings. Sold kitted with a 12-32mm collapsible zoom, stand-out features include a 180-degree flip-up touch LCD, Panasonic's excellent Depth-from-Defocus AF and 4K video capture.

At its core the GX850 represents a combining of Panasonic's style-oriented GF-line with the ultra-compact-oriented GM-line and replaces both the GM5 and GF8. However, its most similar sibling currently on the market is the larger, EVF-sporting GX85.

Key features:

  • 16MP Four Thirds MOS sensor
  • 4K/30/24p video capture
  • 4K Photo mode for 8MP stills at 30 fps
  • 5 fps bursts with continuous AF
  • 3" 1.04M-dot touch LCD flips ups 180 degrees
  • Wi-Fi

Panasonic's core customer for this camera is the casual user seeking a carry-everywhere-cam for documenting friends or family. This user is someone who prefers a selfie-screen to an EVF and favors ease-of-use and compactness. Since this 'lifestyle' camera buyer is likely to use the camera for a range of different types of photography, we're going to see how it performs in a range of situations.

The rivals

Though the GX850 is Panasonic's most entry-level camera, this segment of the mirrorless market has a lot of strong contenders to choose from. We've compared it to several of its most direct competitors below:

  Panasonic GX850 Panasonic GX85 Fujifilm X-A3 Fujifilm X-A10 Olympus E-PL8 Canon M10
MSRP w/ kit lens $550 $800 $600 $500 $650 $600
Sensor 16MP Four Thirds 16MP Four Thirds 24.2MP APS-C 16MP APS-C 16MP Four Thirds 18MP APS-C
Image stabilization Lens-only 5-axis in-body + lens Lens-only Lens-only 3-axis in-body + lens Lens-only
AF system Contrast-detect Contrast-detect Contrast-detect Contrast-detect Contrast-detect Hybrid AF
Viewfinder n/a 2.76M-Dot 0.7x n/a n/a n/a n/a
Screen 3" 1.04M-dot 180° tilting touch 3" 1.04M-dot tilting touch 3" 920k-dot 180° tilting touch 3" 1.04M-dot 180° tilting
(no touch)
3" 1.04M-dot 180° tilting touch 3" 1.04M-dot 180° tilting touch
Number of control dials 1 2 2 2 1 1
Hotshoe No Yes Yes No Yes No
Burst rate w/ AF-C 5 fps 6 fps 6 fps 6 fps 3.5 fps 4.6 fps
Video 4K/24/30p 4K/24/30p 1080/60/24p 1080/30/24p 1080/30p 1080/30/24p

CIPA battery life

210 290 410 410 350 255
Dimensions 106.5 x 64.6 x 33.3 mm 122 x 71 x 44 mm 116.9 x 66.9 x 40.4 mm 117 x 67 x 40 mm 115 x 67 x 38 mm 108 x 67 x 35 mm
Weight 269 g 426 g 290 g 331 g 357 g 301 g

As you can see from the chart, the two areas the GX850 has an advantage over its direct competitors include 4K video capture and size/weight.

The number of control dials is definitely a differentiator in this class. The GX850 has just one, located slightly awkwardly on the back. This view also shows its USB-charging and HDMI port.

Social, portrait and pet photography

The camera's small size, touch capability and selfie screen make it an appealing choice for casually snapping images of friends, family and pets.

The default exposure behavior in its full auto mode, which is called Intelligent Auto (iA), tends to be sensible: the camera tries to maintain a shutter speed that is one over the focal length or greater. However, if the camera senses subject movement in iA mode, it will automatically increase the shutter speed, at the expense of ISO sensitivity. And if the shutter speed drops too low because of a lack of light, the camera will warn you that the shot might have blur due to camera shake. The GX850 never deploys the pop-up flash though, unless the user does. 

'The default exposure behavior in Intelligent Auto mode tends to be sensible'

When shooting moving subject like kids or pets indoors, the GX850 does not always choose a fast enough mode to freeze the action, even if it senses movement. One way around this is to switch the camera into 'Sport/Action' mode, represented by a tiny running figure on the dial. However this mode still won't always provide a fast enough shutter speed, but should be a better option than any of the other auto settings.

This is a good camera for casual photos of friends. And if you take the time to process the Raw files, as we've done here, you can get some great results. Photo by Dan Bracaglia

Face Detection is turned on by default out of the box (when using the iAuto mode) and is quite useful for documenting fellow human beings. In most cases, when Face Detect is engaged, the camera will lock focus on the most prominent person in one's frame. Of course if the face is too small, obstructed, or there simply is not enough light, this mode will occasionally fail. And if no face is detected, the camera defaults to its 49-point area mode, which tends to focus on the nearest or most central object. 

Most users of this camera will leave it in JPEG mode and be totally satisfied (there are 7 JPEG Picture Profiles you can choose from and 22 Creative Filter effects). However to get the most out of the GX850, we recommend shooting Raw. The above image was processed through Adobe Camera Raw and 'pops' significantly more than the out of camera JPEG (shot in 'Standard' profile). In general, we found default JPEG color can be a tad washed out and skin tones can also occasionally look a little off.

You want a selfie screen? You've got a selfie screen.

Selfie screens are par for the course in this entry level class of camera. By default, when you flip the screen up, the camera uses a 3 sec timer before a photo is taken, and a countdown is displayed to prepare you for the decisive moment (this can be switched off).

There are also several 'beautifying' filters that can be applied to make your selfie sing, including a 'Soft Skin' and a 'Slimming Effect' filter. Both of these are adjusted via sliders ranging from 0-10. There is also a background defocus option that simulates a shallow depth-of-field. And firmware version 1.1 adds a few additional 'Beauty Retouch' effects that can be applied in post. These options are fun to try, but mostly pretty silly.

As selfie, with no beautifying effects applied. A selfie with 'Slimming' and 'Soft Skin' set to 10/10.

Sharing images with the GX850 is also fairly straightforward. There are multiple ways to connect the camera to one's device (you'll need to download the Panasonic Image App first), though sadly the camera does not offer NFC to make life easier for Android users.

The first time you connect you'll need to pull up Wi-Fi in the main menu, located at the bottom of page 1 in the 'wrench menu,' and select 'Wi-Fi Function.' There you can generate a local Wi-Fi network and connect your smart device. The app also allows you to control the camera remotely.

Sometimes you just have to share that delicious plate of pancakes with the world. The GX850 makes zapping photos from the camera to your smart device fairly painless, once you set up the connection. Photo by Allison Johnson.