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Panasonic GX7 Review

Overview and Technical Info by
Posted 08/01/2013

Shooter's Report by David Schloss
Posted

Panasonic GX7 review -- Three quarter view

The Panasonic GX7 compact system camera follows in the footsteps of 2011's DMC-GX1 mirrorless, and like that camera, its mission is to provide a worthy street shooter for the enthusiast photographer. Thanks to a mirror-free design, the GX7 pares off most of the bulk of a DSLR, but it's still big enough to include a comfortable handgrip and the array of controls experienced photographers expect. And unlike many mirrorless cameras which retain an SLR-like design aesthetic, the GX7 cuts a more unassuming profile not unlike that of a rangefinder camera.

The GX7 is no mere level-up with a few more megapixels: Many of the most important features are brand-new. Largely due to a more comfortable handgrip and a built-in electronic viewfinder, the Panasonic GX7 has grown in size a little though it's still very compact. Key among the new features of the Lumix GX7 are the pairing of both a tilting LCD monitor, and a tilting electronic viewfinder. The latter in particular will likely prove popular with the GX7's target demographic.

Panasonic GX7 review -- Rear quarter view

Framing through a viewfinder -- even an electronic one -- gives you a much greater sense of attachment to your subject than does the arm's-length framing used for smartphones and entry-level cameras. And by building the viewfinder into the design, rather than making it an optional accessory, Panasonic ensures that you'll always have it with you when you need it. Better still -- and unlike almost all built-in viewfinders -- the Panasonic GX7's finder tilts, too. That means you needn't lose the connection with your subject when shooting from a lower angle.

Inside, the Panasonic GX7 features a brand-new image sensor that provides a big step forwards in image quality. Resolution is unchanged at 16 megapixels, but the new chip features a redesigned structure for both photodiodes and microlenses. And in a first for the Lumix mirrorless line, that sensor is mounted on a movable platter, allowing it to offer in-body image stabilization as well.

Throw in modern features such as both Wi-Fi connectivity to help get your photos off the camera and onto the web, plus handy Near Field Communications connectivity that makes the process of pairing camera and smartphone painless, and you've got a very compelling offering indeed.

Buy the Panasonic GX7 at one of Imaging Resource's trusted affiliates:

Panasonic GX7 review -- Comparison with GX1

Walkthrough. The Panasonic Lumix GX7 sports a handsome new design that -- in the U.S. market, at least -- is available only in a two-tone finish. Silver-colored plates top and bottom bookend a black-finished mid section that's largely wrapped in textured rubber. Beneath, the GX7's body is crafted from die-cast magnesium alloy. Compared to its predecessor, the Panasonic GX7 sports a much more prominent, wider handgrip that's nicely contoured for your fingers to wrap around.

The GX7 has grown in both size and weight, but not unduly so, given that it must fit in quite a few features which were absent from its predecessor. These include an electronic viewfinder, articulation mechanisms for both the viewfinder and LCD, and the sensor shift mechanism used to provide in-camera shake reduction.

At 4.8 x 2.8 x 2.1 inches, the GX7 is about 0.2 inches wider, 0.1 inches taller, and 0.5 inches deeper than was the GX1. It's still a handy half-inch less tall and 0.7 inch less thick than a full-sized mirrorless like the Lumix G6, however, although the width is identical.

Compared to the smallest digital SLR on the market -- the Canon SL1 -- the Panasonic is about 0.2 inches wider, but 0.8 inches shorter, and 0.6 inches less deep. The advantage in size, then, is significant even before you attach a lens.

Panasonic GX7 review -- Front view

Seen from the front, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX7 is an altogether more handsome camera than the GX1. The lens mount has moved closer to the left-hand edge of the camera (as seen from the rear), making way for the new, larger hand grip. Indeed, the lens release button is now almost flush with the leftmost edge of the GX7's body. The move has left no room for the AF assist lamp on this side, either, and so it has jumped across the lens, and now rests in the top of the textured rubber handgrip.

Panasonic GX7 review -- Top view

Moving to the top, the Panasonic GX7 shows its enthusiast aspirations with a brand-new control on the top deck -- a second control dial encircling the Shutter button. This new Front dial answers a request we made in our review of the GX1, and we're thrilled that Panasonic listened! Another nod to the GX7's credentials is that the dedicated -- and frankly, wasted, on an enthusiast camera -- Intelligent Auto button is gone. The iA mode is still there, should you want it, but now lives more sensibly on the Mode dial.

And there's been quite a bit more rearrangement of the top deck, besides. The new built-in, tilting viewfinder sits at the very leftmost end of the GX7's body, and that placement has dictated that the popup flash strobe jump across to the other side of the hot shoe. Making way for the relocated flash, the stacked Mode dial and Power lever have moved all the way to the right-hand end of the top deck. The Record button used to capture movies, meanwhile, now sits snug against the rear of the combined Shutter button and Front dial.

Panasonic GX7 review -- Back view

The changes don't stop there, either. The rear of the camera is also significantly different. Most visible are the new electronic viewfinder, and the tilting LCD monitor. Panasonic has also added two new controls, and relocated several others.

To the left of the Rear dial, the AF/AE Lock button is encircled by a new Focus mode switch. Directly beneath is the Function 1 button, which also serves as the Quick Menu button. These functions previously resided in the four-button group around the Four-way controller, and in their absence, the Play button has moved into this group. The Function 2 button -- which previously shared a space with the AF/AE Lock button -- now has its own spot, and alongside it is a new Function 3 button. (Fn2 also serves as a Delete button in Playback mode, and backs out of menus; Fn3 acts as a Wi-Fi button in Playback mode.) And believe it or not, there's also a new Function 4 button, which also serves double duty as a viewfinder control. (The viewfinder also includes a proximity sensor, allowing it to be switched automatically.)

The remaining rear-panel controls are largely unchanged, although the Flash Release control is now a mechanical slider, rather than a button. One very nice touch, by the way, is that the Power lever beneath the Mode dial now wraps around to the rear of the camera, within easy reach of a flick of the thumb.

Panasonic GX7 review -- Right view

And finally, we come to the Panasonic GX7's side panels. The right side is now featureless, and the cover over the camera's connectivity now sits on the left-hand end, instead. The move is, again, quite sensible. Previously, you couldn't plug a cable into the camera and then hold the handgrip, but with the cables sprouting from the left side of the GX7's body, the handgrip remains available.

Panasonic GX7 review -- Left view

Shooting with the Panasonic GX7

by David Schloss

Panasonic GX7 Review - Sample Image
Lumix G 20mm lens; f/2.0; 1/8,000s; base ISO (200)
On a country road. The GX7 paired with a fast prime lens is a pleasurable experience indeed.

Panasonic is on a roll. This year, the company has released a string of Micro Four Thirds cameras that truly take advantage of the format's compact size and light weight for go-anywhere convenience, while also delivering photos that rival systems with larger sensors. The Panasonic GX7 is the much-anticipated successor to the GX1 -- the company apparently skipped numbers two thru six to slot the camera ahead of its more affordable G6 and GF6 models.

The GX7 takes the Goldilocks approach. In terms of size, it fits in right between the company's mid-level G6 and entry-level GF6, but its performance puts it in between the G6 and flagship GH3. (Though you could very well argue that for stills, the GX7 surpasses the GH3.) It's not too big, it's not too small, and it delivers excellent performance -- it's just right!

Panasonic GX7 review -- Three quarter view

For my hand, Panasonic has always made the most pleasing designs with grips that err on the side of bulbous rather than skimpy. I'm the kind of photographer who hates camera straps, and so the Micro Four Thirds bodies appeal to me because they can easily be tucked inside a teeny courier bag, where I can also stuff several lenses, diapers for my kid, and a jacket. My shooting style is a grab-and-go one, where I need a firm purchase on the camera in order to keep from dropping it on my foot.

Some companies like to minimize the size of their cameras by reducing the bulk of the grip. Panasonic seems to understand that the grip actually needs to be larger if the body is smaller -- it's the chief system for connecting with the camera.

There's a lot to love about the GX7, and love it I do, especially when taken in context with the many other fixed-lens compacts and mirrorless models I've reviewed recently. In the past months, I've shot the aforementioned, Micro Four Thirds Panasonic Lumix G6 and GF6, the high-end Panasonic LF1 point-and-shoot, and the pro-level mirrorless Olympus OM-D E-M1. I have also tested a couple of APS-C sensored models, including the enthusiast-level Fuji X100s and the beginner-oriented Sony NEX-3N. In terms of performance, image quality and value, the Lumix GX7 is the model that I'd plunk down my own money to buy.

I can hear you scratching your heads. I've tried the Olympus OM-D E-M1 and the Fuji X100s -- and the Panasonic GX7 would be my choice? Don't these cameras provide some better features and possibly better image quality? Yes, and the reason for my decision might take a bit of explaining.

Panasonic GX7 review -- Side view

Design. The Panasonic Lumix DMC GX7 is of the yet-another-retro-styled-camera design, and in fact I think it's safe to accept the fact that the retro look -- solid magnesium alloy chassis with brushed chrome-styled finish and leatherette grip -- is the new normal for enthusiast-level camera systems.

Not quite compact, not quite bulky, the GX7 doesn't skimp on design to fit a certain size. I'm a big fan of "form follows function" design, and with the GX7 it does. Lens-free, it weighs under one pound and measures under five inches on the longest side, both great. But there's a protruding electronic viewfinder on the back which changes the dimensions a bit.

Panasonic GH3 review -- Rear controls

Controls. The back of the camera features a tilting 3-inch LCD screen and a nice combination of buttons. There's the typical four-way control pad, playback button, and a button to toggle between viewing options. There are also four (count 'em, four!) programmable function buttons, a pop-up flash release control, and a focus-mode switch that surrounds the AF/AE lock button. The 1.04-million dot LCD screen integrates nicely into the body of the camera, and functions as a touchscreen that can be used to change the position and size of the focus points, trigger the shutter and, of course, access the menus. (Of note: an additional five function keys are accessible via the LCD screen, as well.) My only regret with the tilting monitor is that it can only be pivoted up or down, making it less useful for live view with portrait-orientation photography, and unhelpful for selfies.

Just below the power switch sits a rear control dial that works in concert with the front control dial encircling the shutter release button. This second control dial puts the GX7 in a rarified category, a compact, enthusiast body that has many of the features pros want. In too many cameras there are compromises (no front control dial, for example), but in the GX7 there is redundancy and an overabundance of features. Take the flash as a perfect example. I mentioned that the GX7 has a built-in flash (albeit a rather weak one), but it also has a dedicated hot shoe. Use the small built-in flash for snapshots or pick up a more powerful unit for full-on photography.

In addition to the flash and hot shoe, the top deck of the GX7 is home to a Mode dial, which may seem pretty standard except that it features three custom positions, and a machined, diamond-knurled finish. It's satisfyingly tight to turn. Finally up top is a dedicated Movie button that sits between the Shutter button/Front control dial, and the AF/MF switch on the back.

Panasonic GX7 review -- Three quarter view

Tilting EVF. Also on the top of the camera, protruding beyond the rear of the body, resides the camera's tilting electronic viewfinder. Let me repeat that key word again: tilting. The EVF pivots up to 90 degrees to enable low-level photography, in a style reminiscent of an old medium-format camera.

The field-sequential EVF also boasts 100% field-of-view coverage and 1280 x 720 pixel resolution, with excellent color reproduction that delivers nearly 100% Adobe RGB coverage. So not only does the GX7 provide provide a tilting feature that's rarely seen on cameras today, but it's also one of the most vivid, viewable EVFs I've ever used. That is, when you have the brightness set to the right level -- I'll talk a bit more about this later.

The rest of the camera is pretty minimalist -- there's a lens-release switch on the front but nothing else. Overall, the GX7 features lots of buttons where you want them, and none where you don't.

Sensor. Inside the cameras are a few changes as well, with a brand-new sensor that offers in-camera image stabilization. This is new for Panasonic; the company usually provides stabilization via image stabilization-equipped lenses, but with in-body stabilization the camera can now reduce motion blur with any lens. In practice, this was great with long exposure shots, especially when pairing the camera with the relatively slow kit lens. It was possible to shoot under much more extreme conditions, thanks to the built-in stabilization. Sadly, it doesn't work in video mode. That's odd, since the GX7 has better video chops than a camera like the Olympus OM-D E-M1, which boasts an excellent five-axis stabilization system for both stills and video.

There are still 16 million pixels on the new sensor, just like that in the GX1, but it now has redesigned microlenses and photodiodes, making it more sensitive to light and better able to handle saturation. The GX7 shares the same Venus Engine image processor with the G6, for similarly excellent reduction in noise and artifacts. ISO sensitivity is excellent, ranging from a base ISO of 200 up to 25,600, with extended ISO 125 available. (See more of my take on image quality, below.) And the GX7 boasts an excellent top shutter speed of 1/8,000s.

Panasonic GX7 - G Vario 14-42 II kit lens across a range of ISOs
Panasonic GX7 Review - Sample Image
f/5.3; 1/1,300s; ISO 200
Panasonic GX7 Review - Sample Image
f/4.5; 1/60s; ISO 800
Panasonic GX7 Review - Sample Image
f/4.5; 1/50s; ISO 1600
GX7 kit lens. These shots showcase the quality of the 14-42mm II kit lens that ships with the GX7. It's a bit better than average for a kit lens, and it's offered for just $100 extra bundled with the camera.

User interface and operation. Newcomers to the GX7 may likely think that -- at default settings -- the viewfinder is vastly too dark, as I originally did. And for the first few hours of shooting I wasn't sure how to change the brightness for the EVF. With most cameras that feature an EVF, there's a separate menu control for it and for the LCD monitor. With the GX7, however, the control is shared by both monitor and viewfinder -- it intelligently switches to controlling EVF brightness when looking through the viewfinder and it switches back to the LCD brightness when looking at the LCD. It's logical once you know how it works, but perhaps a little confusing initially.

Panasonic GH3 review -- Photo Style menu

Otherwise, though, the excellent menu system continues to be one of the highlights of the Lumix cameras. Aside from the Sony NEX lineup, in my opinion, Panasonic MFT models have the best menu layout and functionality in their class. The menu interface is clean and clear, with large, easy to read text and choices that are outlined in white so that the user always knows which feature is being controlled. The menus offer real-time scrolling help and also a feature that's a personal favorite, the ability to have the display resume at the last selected setting when returning to the menu.

That's great because many interfaces return to the top level when the menu is dismissed, requiring the photographer to hunt back down several nested levels to change the previously adjusted setting. General enthusiast photographers can leave the camera as-is and have a great shooting experience while more advanced photographers can set deep-level changes to tweak the operation.

Panasonic GH3 review -- Mode dial

Custom modes. Unlike even a lot of professional cameras, the GX7 has three Custom settings on the Mode dial, as well as the Program, Aperture-priority, Shutter-priority, and Manual exposure modes that enable a photographer to program the camera for different shooting situations. I like to leave my camera set so that C1 disables autofocus on the shutter release, and sets it instead to the AE/AF lock button. I combine that with an AF-F or AF-C setting for the focusing system, and the result is a camera that mimics my pro body. As long as I hold the AE/AF lock button the camera will track focus, but as soon as I let go of the button the cameras stays focused on the last point.

When I want to jump back to normal shooting, I simply turn the dial back to one of the PASM settings, or to another Custom setting. Unlike some pro bodies where the custom features have to be programmed in the menu and actuated by switching the custom mode in the menu, with the GX7 I simply turn the dial to a custom position, make my changes and then any time I return to that custom setting the changes are in place.

Focus peaking. There are a host of other gee-whiz features on the GX7. Switch it over to manual focus mode and the camera adjusts focus (if using a lens with a focus ring) by turning the dial while simultaneously displaying a zoomed focus target. This picture-in-picture, focus peaking display really provides a level of critical focus that's just not possible with most DSLR cameras and really shows the versatility of a mirrorless camera and smart interface design.

Since the LCD touchscreen is active during focusing, it's even possible to drag around the zoomed picture to keep it out of the way of the subject. Couple this camera with a macro lens and the benefits of mirrorless technology really come to the fore. There's an unprecedented level of focus control available for macro shooters.

Panasonic GX7 Review - Sample Image
Lumix G 20mm lens; f/4.5; 1/1,600s; ISO 200
Attention to focus. The GX7 provides a good selection of tools, such as picture-in-picture display, to help achieve precise focus -- even in a crowd.

ISO control. Another great feature of the Lumix GX7 is its control over automatic ISO sensitivity. Many cameras provide a way to set the upper limit for ISO and the lowest acceptable shutter speed, but these settings are usually buried a few levels deep in the menus. While it's certainly possible to dig through the menu to set these, Panasonic has added the ability to change the upper limit at any point while the ISO controls are active, simply by turning the front dial.

In practice, this makes for some quick and precise adjustments. Usually I want to limit the upper bound for sensitivity to the lowest level possible under a given lighting condition. Let's say, for example, that ISO 3200 gives me an exposure of 1/15th of a second (which I can easily handhold), I don't want the camera going to ISO 6400 to provide 1/30th because I'd rather have the lower level of noise.

But sometimes it's more important to capture something at a higher ISO. A good example is when pets or children are playing inside under lower light. A shutter speed of 1/15th at ISO 3200 won't do me much good. The normal solution to this would be to take the camera off Auto ISO, and manually dial in a much higher ISO, but that would mean that all of my shots would be at that higher ISO. Some cameras allow you to adjust the upper limit though the menus, but with the GX7 I can adjust it on-screen while shooting, simply by pressing the ISO button and turning the front dial.

This sets the upper sensitivity limit, but the camera will still try to capture at the lowest ISO possible for the shot. If I make the upper limit ISO 25,600 the camera will still try for ISO 12,800 or 6400, etc. first, if possible, only bumping up to the higher ISO when the shutter speed would be too slow. It seems like such a little thing to make this change, but really it's a smart move and it shows the attention Panasonic is paying to their users.

Panasonic GX7 Review - Sample Image
Lumix G 20mm lens; f/3.5; 1/40s; ISO 1600
Panasonic GX7 Review - Sample Image
Lumix G 20mm lens; f/2.2; 1/6,400s; ISO 12,800
Shooting indoors. Above are a couple of indoor shots pairing the GX7 with the Lumix G 20mm prime lens. The first image is taken at a fairly standard indoor ISO of 1600, while the lamp is shot with the relatively high ISO of 12,800.

Autofocus and performance. I've noted in previous Panasonic reviews how good the autofocus is in their cameras. Even the high-end Olympus OM-D E-M1 doesn't feel that much snappier. Partially that's because of the success of Panasonic's face-detection autofocus. Whatever the engineers are doing in their Venus Engine image processors, it works terrifically, always locking right onto a subject. When too many faces are in the frame, I like to switch to the 23-area focus zone -- the camera always seems to know what I want to concentrate on. In very rare instances I switch over to pinpoint focus mode, or use the LCD touchscreen to target a subject, but generally the camera just knows what to focus on and stays on that subject.

The GX7 features a novel way to help speed up the performance -- an electronic shutter mode, which you can select to use instead of the mechanical shutter, either to be ninja-quiet or to maximize burst shooting. You can shoot up to 40 frames per second in burst mode -- at a reduced resolution, of course -- while the electronic shutter is switched on, and the results are quite good. And you can even squeak out about 8 RAW frames per second at full resolution, or 10.7fps in JPEG. You don't want to be shooting anything large that crosses the frame, though -- say, a white picket fence or trees shot from a moving car -- as the electronic shutter can cause considerable rolling shutter effect, bending your subject. Regular continuous burst shooting on the GX7 is about 5fps, which is decent, though not as blazing-fast as the Olympus E-M1. I found the delay while the buffer filled in these cases to be pretty minimal.

Just how fast is the Panasonic GX7? Find out by clicking here to see our full battery
of rigorous, objective speed and operation tests conducted in the IR Lab.

Panasonic GX7 review -- Three quarter view

Lenses. I shot the DMC-GX7 with the companion kit Lumix G Vario 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 II MEGA O.I.S. lens. Since this lens has built-in image stabilization, the body's IS system is disabled in favor of the lens-based vibration dampening when this glass is mounted. My take on kit lenses has always been the same: They often bring out the worst in a camera. The 14-42mm lens isn't bad, per se, but it's not great either. What you get is a decent zoom lens with a relatively slow maximum aperture. The result is a lens that works best in brightly lit scenes.

Start photographing in lower light and you run into the issue that the lens has a maximum aperture of f/3.5 only at the widest setting, falling to f/5.6 at full zoom. Couple that with a Micro Four Thirds sensor that is more prone to low-light noise than larger sensors and you get a compounded effect on image quality. For cameras at lower price points, this isn't a big deal. Take a $400 camera and pair it with the kit lens and you've got a nice combo. After all, the photographer with a $400 kit probably expects a different level of quality than the photographer with the $1,000 camera. That said, this kit lens only costs you $100, so it's not that big of a deal even if you plan on buying additional lenses.

A camera like the GX7 wants to be paired with a better lens, though. Luckily I was able to oblige, testing the recently released Lumix G 20mm f/1.7 II lens, which was mostly a cosmetic upgrade to an already excellent optic (and also a kit option for the GX7 in some locations outside the U.S. market). Photos taken with the Panasonic 20mm were dramatically better in low light than with the 14-42mm, and the wider aperture also allowed for images to display some nice background blur. The 20mm lens also significantly slims downs the form factor of the camera, making it really shine as a street photography tool. Small, lightweight and sharp as a tack, the Lumix 20mm f/1.7 II is a must-have at this level of photography, especially since it only costs about US$400.

Want to learn more about how the Panasonic Lumix G 14-42mm II lens performs with the GX7?
Click here to see our optical test results.

Panasonic GX7 Review - Sample Image
Lumix G 20mm lens; f/7.1; 1/1,000s; ISO 200

Image quality. Considering the limitations of the Micro Four Thirds format (the small sensors tend to create noisier images than those created with a larger sensor, all other things being equal) the GX7 produces some of the nicest images I've evaluated in the format, though maybe not quite as nice as the Olympus OM-D E-M1.

Reviewing my test shots, it's immediately clear to me which images on the camera are from the kit lens and which are from the 20mm f/1.7. Regardless of the lens, however, images from the GX7 proved to be sharp, crisp and vibrant. Blues and greens are especially pleasing, and the camera does a tremendous job with skin tones.

View the IR Lab's in-depth Panasonic GX7 image quality test results by clicking here, but be sure to read further on to see side-by-side comparisons of the GX7 against its top competitors.

Like all Micro Four Thirds cameras, the GX7 has some issues with noise in high ISO and low-light shots, relatively speaking, but it exhibits some of the lowest levels of distracting artifacts of any of the MFT models I've reviewed. Part of this is due to the new sensor in the GX7, and part of it is the image processing engine that's borrowed from the G6. Exposure seems generally spot-on with the GX7, and in fact I never left the standard metering mode. Between the built-in exposure and compensation adjustment (performed with the front control dial), I always got the exposure I was looking for.

Panasonic GX7 Review - Sample Image
Lumix G 20mm lens; f/1.8; 1/60s; ISO 400
Shallow depth of field. Once again, the GX7 paired with the Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 II lens provides excellent shallow depth of field for shooting interesting fall foliage compositions.

One area where the GX7 seems to have issues that previous Lumix models did not is in panoramas. In several of my test Creative Panorama shots, the left side of the panorama ended up being severely overexposed and striped with vertical lines -- it looks like an inkjet printer running out of ink. Perhaps this is an issue of the auto-stitching not being able to keep up with the speed of the pan (although it didn't warn me it was too fast), or the range of exposures being too great for the combined shot. I couldn't replicate it perfectly each time, though I could predict it would happen when shooting panoramas against a blue sky with a wide range of exposure between the start and end of the panorama.

Panasonic GX7 - Panoramas: The good and the not so good
Panasonic GX7 Review - Panorama 1
Panasonic GX7 Review - Panorama 2
Taking it all in. Not all panoramas I attempted passed military muster due to exposure issues, but the top one certainly did. Perhaps the issue could be fixed with a future firmware upgrade.

Video. The video quality of Panasonic's Micro Four Thirds cameras has a reputation for being excellent, and the GX7 is no exception. It can record Full HD (1080p) video at up to 60p (as well as 30p and 24p), with an ISO sensitivity of 3200 (up from ISO 1600 on the GX1). In addition, full PASM exposures can be used while filming. The videos I shot with the GX7 were sharp, smooth and pleasing, across the board.

All of this makes the omission of an external microphone port more confusing to me. Maybe it means that Panasonic didn't think the GX7 user would be a serious videographer who would use an external mic, but it seems like such a small addition that would make a lot of people happy.

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Stay tuned for a more in-depth review of the Panasonic GX7's video capabilities and quality.

Wi-Fi. In 2012, many manufacturers were tacking on Wi-Fi sharing capabilities almost as an afterthought to keep up with the demands of consumers. Most implementations proved to be quite lacking and clunky. This year, however, we've seen camera makers step up their games, making Wi-Fi easier to use and also packing in quite a few useful features. The GX7 not only boasts robust Wi-Fi functionality that includes remote shooting controlled by a connected device, but also offers Near Field Communication to make connection with Android devices as simple as a physical tap between a camera and a phone loaded with Panasonic's Image App.

I must admit that I'd never paired a camera and smartphone with NFC, and it took me some time to figure out. Unfortunately, the GX7 manual doesn't explain if you have to turn the camera's Wi-Fi on or not, and I had to use trial and error to figure that out. (You don't; the camera enables Wi-Fi for you.) Once paired, the camera would remember my smartphone and allow either sharing or remote control after a successful tap. Pairing a camera and device the old-fashioned way, meanwhile, by creating a local Wi-Fi network with the phone and typing in a password generated by the camera was simple as pie. That's the route Apple users will have to take, since the company doesn't support NFC.

Once paired, image sharing proved to be quite easy and intuitive, though the Panasonic app's design was a tad clunky. It's important to have this image transfer capability these days, but it's not a very sexy process. On the other hand, remote shooting the GX7 with the smartphone turned out to be a lot of fun. Touch focus proved to be extremely precise, and I was easily able to toggle between three different subjects sitting close together on my desk with no problems -- and spot-on results. You can also shoot in any of the four PASM exposure modes -- though you have to manually set the camera to a given mode before you can shoot in it via the connected smartphone -- as well as shoot in burst modes. Again, I found the Panasonic Image App to be somewhat disjointed in presentation, but still not too difficult to navigate.

Panasonic GX7 Review - Sample Image
Lumix G 14-42mm II kit lens; f/14; 1/80s; ISO 200

Why the GX7 for me? At the outset of this review I stated that the GX7 would be my go-to camera if I had to pony up and buy a Micro Four Thirds system, and in fact I'd select it over bodies I've tested such as the Olympus E-M1, the Fuji X100s, Panasonic G6 and the Sony NEX-3N. To clarify, this doesn't mean that I'd pick the GX7 over any other camera system if price were no object, but of the ones I've reviewed, it's the clear winner in terms of what it delivers for the price.

So why am I so gung-ho on the GX7? It combines precisely the photographic aspects I keep hoping to find in a single camera, and lives up to its hype. The X100S is a great camera, but it's limited by its fixed lens and it didn't perform as well as I'd hoped (above the X100 in particular, a camera I owned). Meanwhile, I found the Olympus OM-D E-M1 be a high-performing, pro-level camera, but overkill for my Micro Four Thirds needs. I already own a pro DSLR, and so the GX7's lesser size and weight and its performance is perfect for outings and day trips where I don't want to lug my five-pound DSLR kit around -- especially when the pro kit makes some subjects uncomfortable.

Panasonic GX7 Review - Sample Image
Lumix G Vario 14-42mm II lens; f/5.2; 1/200s; ISO 200
In the field. The Lumix G Vario 14-42mm II bundled with the GX7 is a slightly better-than-average kit lens, capable of delivering interesting shots.

The reason the GX7 wins for me over other models, including its cousin, the Panasonic G6, has to do with the reaction that subjects have to the camera. Take any DSLR-looking body (including the E-M1, though it's indeed quite a bit smaller) and a candid subject starts to get nervous. Their body language changes. I saw this repeatedly when I was recently on a corporate shoot for a TV show where I was working with the contestants. Take out the large camera and people pose. Take out a small(ish) camera and people relax.

Additionally, some of the mirrorless cameras I've tested take the smaller-is-better approach too far and eliminate features in favor of a more compact, consumer-oriented package. That's no good either, as I still want pro-quality controls in a system that presents me with a more convenient alternative to my bulky DSLR gear. And not only does the Panasonic GX7 deliver a great deal of advanced photographic capabilities, it also captures great photos and videos -- especially when it's paired with a good lens.

To sum it up, the GX7 seems to have been designed around my exact shooting style and needs -- and I think many advanced amateurs or pros will agree with me. At US$1,000, it's a pricier camera than many Micro Four Thirds offerings, but it also hits a sweet spot that balances size, format, feature set, user interface and both still and video image quality like few other cameras can. That's why I think it's arguably the best value for an enthusiast-geared mirrorless camera on the market today.

 

Panasonic GX7 Review -- Tech Info

by Mike Tomkins

Panasonic GX7 review -- sensor-shift IS

The new, movable sensor. At the heart of the GX7 is a brand-new 16 megapixel Live MOS image sensor, which can produce images at a sensitivity of up to ISO 25,600 max.

We've mentioned previously that it's now mounted on a movable platter, and so provides for sensor-shift image stabilization. It's designed to be "nearly as effective" as the company's lens-based MEGA O.I.S system. If you mount a stabilized lens, though, the in-lens stabilization will take over, and the sensor shift system will be locked in place. The big advantage of the
in-body system is that it will work with all of your otherwise-unstabilized lenses. There's no price premium for stabilization with each lens purchase, because you bought stabilization along with the camera. At longer focal lengths where optical stabilization typically works better, however, you can still choose to buy a stabilized lens. You get the best of both worlds, and that's great news!

Panasonic GX7 review -- Pixel structure

The system will, incidentally, work with third-party lenses, or lenses mounted via an adapter, but you'll need to manually enter the focal length in this case. It's also important to note that the body-based stabilization system is not used for video capture.

Upgraded image quality. The GX7 has been designed to deliver a significant improvement in image quality. This comes thanks to changes in both the image sensor, and in the way images are processed as compared to the earlier Panasonic GX1. The new sensor is key, however. Although size and resolution are unchanged, the GX7 sports larger photodiodes that can collect more photons before becoming saturated. According to Panasonic, this change has increased the saturation level by 10%. There's also a new, higher microlens structure, and this is said to have increased sensitivity by 10%, as well as improving light collection towards the edges of the array. (And that means less vignetting.)

Panasonic GX7 review -- Readout diagram

The readout circuitry -- both in the pixel itself and in the readout amplifiers -- has also been improved, and we understand there's been around a 25% improvement in signal to noise ratio, along with a 10% improvement in detail reproduction.

Noise reduction, too, has been improved, courtesy of the same Venus Engine image processor used in the Lumix G6. A new algorithm removes low and high-frequency noise separately, working on the raw image data. For JPEG images, there is another round of noise reduction performed after the JPEG conversion process. Also of note is that the detection area used by the noise reduction algorithm has grown from just 13 x 13 pixels to a much more generous 128 x 128 pixels, giving better information for it to work from.

Panasonic engineered the GX7 to improve gradation in dark areas due to improved signal processing, as well as the greater dynamic range you'd expect given the improved well depth.

The processor also improves performance. Along with the claimed improvements in image quality, Panasonic also promises greater performance from the latest-generation Venus Engine. Burst shooting is now possible at up to 5.6 frames per second for JPEG, or 5.0 fps for raw, according to our lab testing, and with an electronic shutter can reach as high as 40 fps. Even with autofocus tracking enabled, Panasonic says that you can shoot images at 4.3 frames per second, a slight improvement over the 4.2 fps claimed for the GX1 with focus locked. We measured startup time at around 0.9 seconds.

Panasonic GX7 review -- Picture in picture display

Focusing. The Panasonic GX7's Micro Four Thirds lens mount might be unchanged, but there are a fair few tweaks to its focusing capabilities. As in the Panasonic G6 before it, the GX7's new image sensor and Venus Engine processor allow sensor data read out at a whopping 240 frames per second, and the lens drive mechanism can respond at the same rate, for faster contrast detection autofocusing.

You can still use the touch screen to indicate a subject for autofocus, and thanks to the proximity sensor in the new electronic viewfinder, the GX7 also offers Eye-Start AF that starts focusing as soon as you put your eye to the viewfinder.

The low-light limit for autofocus has been improved from -3 EV to -4 EV, which is less than the light available from a full moon at an altitude above 40°.

Panasonic GX7 review -- Focus peaking

There's also a new picture-in-picture display available in pinpoint autofocus mode, which helps you retain your framing while confirming the precision of your focus lock, with a magnification from 3x to 6x possible.

When focusing manually, you can magnify from 3x to 10x in 0.1x increments, and the focus peaking function has been improved beyond that in the Lumix G6. You now have a choice of blue, yellow, or green peaking indications, and the peaking level can be set to standard, high, or off using the touchscreen.

Exposure. There's been an important improvement here, too. Where the GX1 was limited to a fastest shutter speed of 1/4,000 second, the GX7 offers a wide range from 1/8,000 to 60 seconds, plus bulb to a maximum of two minutes.

Panasonic GX7 review -- Tilting electronic viewfinder

Better display options. As we've mentioned previously, two of the most important changes in the Panasonic GX7 can be found in its built-in tilting electronic viewfinder and articulated LCD panel.

The EVF tilts upwards some 90 degrees, and has a high resolution of 1,280 x 720 pixels. It's a field sequential (or time-multiplexed) display, as we've seen in the company's EVF units in the past, and so at any given time, all pixels are showing just one color -- red, green, or blue. The colors alternate, providing full color at every pixel location. Panasonic says that the display has approximately 100% Adobe RGB gamut coverage, for better color rendition.

Magnification is 0.7x, and there's a 100% field of view. The EVF has an eye proximity sensor used to enable the display, and optionally, to start autofocus when you raise the camera to your eye. Another option is a viewfinder eyecup, part number DMW-EC1GU. This has an elastic material for enhanced comfort, whether you're viewing with your naked eye or with eyeglasses.

Panasonic GX7 review -- Gamut diagram

The LCD panel, meanwhile, is the same unit used in the Lumix G6. It has a high resolution of 720 x 480 pixels (1,036,800 RGB dots), and uses in-cell touch sensing for a slimmer overall package and reduced glare. (In-cell touch screens don't add an additional layer to the LCD panel.)

Compared to the unit in the GX1, Panasonic says the newer display has 25% lower power consumption at any given brightness level, as well as a 20% wider field of view.

More creative options. Panasonic has also expanded the creative options on offer in the GX7. You can now choose from Monochrome, Gritty Mono, and Silky Mono modes, and add color filters applied during monochrome conversion -- either yellow, orange, or red. It's also possible to adjust highlights and shadows independently, and you can apply more filter effects to panoramas than ever before, with both silky and gritty mono now available for panoramic pictures.

Another interesting feature is the new Silent mode, which enables the electronic shutter, turns off AF operation sounds, and disables both the AF assist lamp and flash strobe, all in a single setting. Handy!

Movie mode has been updated, too. It's not just still imaging that has gotten the love from Panasonic. Movie shooting has also been improved. Resolution still tops out at 1,920 x 1,080 pixels, or Full HD, but with a higher maximum frame rate of 60p, or 60 progressive-scan frames per second. (The GX1 was limited to 60i capture, or 60 interlaced fields per second.) There's also a choice of 30p or a movie-like 24p at full resolution. These rates are for US cameras; in Europe, 60i and 60p are replaced by 50i/50p, and 30p by 25p; the 24p rate is retained.

Panasonic says that the better image sensor means that it need only bind four pixels to create each pixel in the final movie, rather than six pixels as in the G6. The mixing is performed in 1 x 4 pixel lines, rather than 2x2 blocks, and the image processor performs low-pass filtering on the resulting data as it comes off-chip.

The maximum sensitivity for videos is now limited to ISO 3200, rather than the earlier ISO 1600 limit of the GX1, and full PASM exposure modes are now supported.

Maximum continuous recording time for AVCHD format is approximately 140 minutes with the 14-42mm kit lens, and approximately 130 minutes with the 20mm lens. Actual total recording time will be less at about 70 and 65 minutes respectively, with operations such as power cycling, starting/stopping recording, and zooming included. Maximum continuous recording time is limited to 29 minutes 59 seconds in Europe and some Asian areas to satisfy tariff restrictions, though, while continuous recording in MP4 format is limited 29 minutes 59 seconds or up to 4GB.

Panasonic GX7 review -- Image App

Wireless that's simple to use. Panasonic has also revisited its connectivity options in the Lumix GX7, adding both 2.4GHz 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi and Near Field Communications wireless connectivity.

NFC is there to make it easier to get your photos onto a smart device for instant sharing. Simply hold your NFC-compatible phone or tablet to the camera briefly, and the NFC connection is established automatically, then used to pair the devices via Wi-Fi without user intervention. It couldn't be simpler, and it's a shame that iOS users will miss out, because Apple so far has resisted adopting the technology. If you own an iOS device, you'll pair the Wi-Fi manually, and then use a free app to transfer data, just as Android users will do.

With Panasonic's free Image App, you can also remotely shoot both photos and video from a smartphone or tablet, with a smooth 30fps live preview. You can not only adjust exposure settings, but also you can use focusing peaking and zoom (when a Power Zoom lens is mounted).

Panasonic GH3 review -- Motion picture menu

And wired connectivity, too. As you'd expect, the wireless connectivity is supplemented with a selection of wired ports. You can choose from USB 2.0 High Speed data, Type-C Mini HDMI high-def video output compatible with VIERA Link remote control, an NTSC standard-def audio/video output, and a 2.5mm wired remote jack. There's no external microphone connectivity, though -- audio comes from an onboard stereo mic located in front of the flash strobe.

Panasonic GH3 review -- Motion picture menu

Storage and power. The Panasonic GX7 stores images and movies on Secure Digital cards, including SDHC, SDXC, and UHS-I types. (SDHC and SDXC cards boost capacity over standard types, while UHS-I cards are faster than standard ones. Hence, with the GX7 you're well-covered for both types.)

Power comes from a 7.2V, 1,025 mAh lithium ion battery pack. It's rated as good for 350 shots on a charge using the H-FS1442A kit lens. Switch to the H-HS020A optic, which is a prime lens, and you should be able to eke out some 320 shots on a charge.

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Panasonic GX7 Review -- Image Quality Comparison

Below are crops comparing the Panasonic GX7 with the Panasonic GX1, Fuji X-E1, Olympus E-P5, Panasonic GH3 and Sony NEX-6.

NOTE: These images are best quality JPEGs straight out of the camera, at default settings including noise reduction and using the actual base ISO (not extended ISO settings). All cameras in this comparison were shot with our very sharp reference lenses.

Panasonic GX7 versus Panasonic GX1 at base ISO

Panasonic GX7 at ISO 200
Panasonic GX1 at ISO 160

Not much difference between the GX7 and its predecessor here at base ISO, other than subtle differences in detail in some of the fabric swatches. The GX1 exhibits higher contrast in the red fabric swatch, while the GX7 is slightly sharper in the pink swatch. Stay tuned, as higher ISOs should begin to show more in the way of differences between the two.


Panasonic GX7 versus Fuji X-E1 at base ISO

Panasonic GX7 at ISO 200
Fuji X-E1 at ISO 200

Contrast is a little low in the X-E1's red-leaf swatch, but detail is better with less blurring from noise reduction. On the other hand, the GX7 was able to resolve some of the threads in the pink swatch, and it left some of the color in the mosaic tile that's actually there (a result of the offset printing process), which the X-E1 eliminated. Still, great results overall from both cameras at base ISO.


Panasonic GX7 versus Olympus E-P5 at base ISO

Panasonic GX7 at ISO 200
Olympus E-P5 at ISO 200

With the same size sensor size and virtually the same resolution, it's no surprise these two perform similarly. The E-P5 arguably produces better clarity in the bottle crop and the mosaic tile crop, though its images do look more processed, while the GX7 has slightly better contrast and detail in the red-leaf fabric swatch.


Panasonic GX7 versus Panasonic GH3 at base ISO

Panasonic GX7 at ISO 200
Panasonic GH3 at ISO 200

The GH3 is a first cousin of the GX7, with the same size sensor and virtually the same resolution, but housed in a DSLR-styled body and optimized for video. At default settings, the GH3 certainly appears to yield slightly sharper images here at base ISO across all three crops above, especially in the red fabric swatch which tends to confuse all but full- frame sensors.


Panasonic GX7 versus Sony NEX-6 at base ISO

Panasonic GX7 at ISO 200
Sony NEX-6 at ISO 100

With virtually the same resolution but a larger sensor with a lower base ISO, the NEX-6 looks impressive here at ISO 100, with crisper results across the board -- most notably in the mosaic tile detail and the fabric swatches, though its images do have a slightly more processed look. We'll see a bit later if this trend continues as ISO rises.

 

Most digital SLRs and CSCs will produce an excellent ISO 100 shot, so we like to push them and see what they can do compared to other cameras at ISO 1600, 3200, and 6400. Recent advances in sensor technology have made ISO 1600 look a lot more like ISO 100, but there are still cameras whose quality starts to fall apart at this setting. We also choose 1600 because we like to be able to shoot at least at this level when indoors and at night.

Panasonic GX7 versus Panasonic GX1 at ISO 1600

Panasonic GX7 at ISO 1600
Panasonic GX1 at ISO 1600

The above comparisons are a great example of what a difference two years can make where technology is concerned. At base ISO these two looked almost identical, yet here at ISO 1600 the differences are immediately apparent, especially in the GX1's inability to resolve fine detail in the mosaic tile or pink fabric swatch. But the GX7 is already starting to show noise processing artifacts, most noticeable as fragmenting in the bottle crop and mild blotchiness in the mosaic tiles.


Panasonic GX7 versus Fuji X-E1 at ISO 1600

Panasonic GX7 at ISO 1600
Fuji X-E1 at ISO 1600

This is where the X-E1's larger (APS-C) X-Trans sensor comes to the rescue. Notice how much nicer the bottle, mosaic and red-leaf fabric look from the X-E1, with better detail and fewer artifacts. The GX7 does slightly better in the pink fabric swatch, but otherwise it's no match for the X-E1 here.


Panasonic GX7 versus Olympus E-P5 at ISO 1600

Panasonic GX7 at ISO 1600
Olympus E-P5 at ISO 1600

The E-P5 begins to show more obvious noise reduction and sharpening artifacts here, with somewhat similar fragmenting in the bottle image and blotchiness in the mosaic and pink fabric. We'd call it a fairly close race, with the GX7 and E-P5 areas scoring about the same for overall image quality.


Panasonic GX7 versus Panasonic GH3 at ISO 1600

Panasonic GX7 at ISO 1600
Panasonic GH3 at ISO 1600

Similar results here, and a closer race than at base ISO, as the strain on these Four Thirds sensors start to show as ISO rises. The GX7 does a slightly better job at controlling chroma noise, but that results in a softer red-leaf swatch.


Panasonic GX7 versus Sony NEX-6 at ISO 1600

Panasonic GX7 at ISO 1600
Sony NEX-6 at ISO 1600

The NEX-6's larger APS-C sensor gathers more light and does somewhat better as ISO rises (particularly in the red-leaf swatch), though its images continue to have a more processed looked than the GX7's.

 

These days, ISO 3200 is a very viable shooting option for most good cameras, so let's take a look at some comparisons there.

Panasonic GX7 versus Panasonic GX1 at ISO 3200

Panasonic GX7 at ISO 3200
Panasonic GX1 at ISO 3200

As we also saw at ISO 1600, the newer sensor and processing technology helps the GX7 handily win out over its predecessor here with much better detail, less smudging and color bleeding, and improved color as well.


Panasonic GX7 versus Fuji X-E1 at ISO 3200

Panasonic GX7 at ISO 3200
Fuji X-E1 at ISO 3200

Again the differences are astounding as ISO rises when the GX7's Four Thirds sensor is pitted against Fuji's APS-C X-Trans sensor. The crops from the X-E1 are amazingly good for this ISO, while the GX7's are only passable in comparison.


Panasonic GX7 versus Olympus E-P5 at ISO 3200

Panasonic GX7 at ISO 3200
Olympus E-P5 at ISO 3200

Both Micro Four Thirds cameras here show different signs of unwanted noise reduction artifacts, and neither have particularly pleasing results when compared to the X-E1. The GX7's images are a bit noisier but show slightly better detail. Perhaps a slight nod overall to the E-P5 for its cleaner, punchier images.


Panasonic GX7 versus Panasonic GH3 at ISO 3200

Panasonic GX7 at ISO 3200
Panasonic GH3 at ISO 3200

As with ISO 1600, similar results here from these two first cousins, but a slight nod to GX7 for better detail in the mosaic crop, and to the GH3 for slightly better rendering in the fabric swatches.


Panasonic GX7 versus Sony NEX-6 at ISO 3200

Panasonic GX7 at ISO 3200
Sony NEX-6 at ISO 3200

The NEX-6's luminance noise is a little coarser and its images are more heavily processed with lower chroma noise, but overall we'd say it still outperforms the GX7 here at ISO 3200, although perhaps not quite as handily as you would expect.

 

Detail: Panasonic GX7 versus Panasonic GX1, Fuji X-E1, Olympus E-P5, Panasonic GH3 and Sony NEX-6.

Panasonic
GX7

ISO 200
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
Panasonic
GX1

ISO 160
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
Fuji
X-E1

ISO 200
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
Olympus
E-P5

ISO 200
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
Panasonic
GH3

ISO 200
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
Sony
NEX-6

ISO 100
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
Detail comparison. Based on the comparison analysis in the above tables, we would expect the two APS-C sensored cameras to fare better here at resolving high contrast detail, but that's not necessarily the case. All perform fairly well at base ISO with some producing higher contrast than others, no big surprise there. The Sony however leaves false colors between fine lines and the Fuji struggles a bit with desaturated letters in the red text, along with minor demosaicing errors in smaller fonts. By ISO 3200 the E-P5, GH3 and NEX-6 start to pull away from the pack, but the GX7 still does well, doing better than the GX1. These results are similar at ISO 6400, with the E-P5 and the NEX-6 doing a rather remarkable job with fine detail for such a high ISO, but the GX7 is not far behind, continuing to do noticeably better than its predecessor.

 

Panasonic GX7 Review -- Print Quality

Very good 24 x 36 inch prints at ISO 125/200; a nice 13 x 19 at ISO 1600; a good 4 x 6 at ISO 12,800.

ISO 125/200 prints are very good at 24 x 36 inches, with sharp detail and nice, popping colors. Wall display prints are possible up to 30 x 40 inches.

ISO 400 shots look quite good at 20 x 30 inches, with good sharpness in finely detailed areas.

ISO 800 prints look good at 16 x 20 inches. As is the case with most cameras in this class, subtle contrast detail is starting to fade by this ISO setting in our tricky target red swatch, but it still makes for a good overall print.

ISO 1600 makes a nice 13 x 19 inch print, with only mild softening in the red channel.

ISO 3200 tends to be the turning point for most Four Thirds-sensored cameras, as is the case here, and requires a reduction to 8 x 10 inches due mostly to noise in flatter areas.

ISO 6400 prints have enough detail for a decent 8 x 10 inch prints for less critical applications, and a 5 x 7 inch print for our official "good" rating.

ISO 12,800 yields a good 4 x 6 for this ISO and sensor type.

ISO 25,600 prints at 4 x 6 are a bit too watercolored-looking to make our "good" standard, but still retain full color and would be usable for many less critical applications.

The Panasonic GX7 stands its ground in the print quality department, besting its predecessor the GX1 by a print size across many of the available ISO settings, and performing fairly well as compared to many of its competitors. 24 x 36 inch images at ISOs 125 and 200 are quite sharp, and yet it's nice to know that you can print a reasonable 4 x 6 for the relatives even at ISO 12,800.

 

In the Box

The Panasonic GX7 retail box (kitted with a 14-42mm lens, as tested) ships with the following items:

 

Recommended Accessories

 

Panasonic GX7 Review -- Conclusion

Pro: Con:
  • Solid magnesium alloy construction and sharp, retro design
  • New 16-megapixel Live MOS sensor delivers pleasing JPEG image quality
  • Very good high ISO performance, competitive with the best Micro Four Thirds cameras
  • Improved dynamic range over the GX1
  • In-body, sensor-shift image stabilization
  • Excellent quality Full HD video at up to 60p with stereo audio
  • Advanced built-in Wi-Fi with NFC connectivity; allows for both image sharing and remote shooting
  • Tilting high-res electronic viewfinder with excellent color reproduction
  • 3-inch, tilting LCD touchscreen with touch focus and touch shutter capabilities
  • Refreshingly clear, easy-to-navigate user interface and menu system
  • Front and rear control dials
  • Four function buttons on body, plus five more available in menus, as well as three custom slots on Mode dial provide tremendous flexibility
  • 1/8,000s top shutter speed
  • Fast startup and cycle times
  • Fast autofocus, which works even in very low light (though it can hunt a bit)
  • Focus peaking when in manual focus mode
  • Electronic shutter mode offers very fast burst modes and silent operation
  • Excellent buffer depths when shooting JPEGs
  • Useful advanced processing options (Highlight/Shadow Control, Intelligent D-Range, Intelligent Resolution, HDR, etc.)
  • Decent battery life
  • Flash hot shoe
  • Warm colors indoors with Auto and Incandescent WB settings
  • Buffer depths shallow with RAW files
  • Weak built-in flash
  • No external mic or headphone jacks
  • Creative Panorama mode sometimes produces poor results when exposure varies greatly as shots are stitched
  • Electronic shutter can cause rolling-shutter effects with moving subjects
  • Modal LCD / EVF brightness adjustment is confusing until you know how it works
  • User manual could be clearer about functions such as NFC

We've been long waiting for a Micro Four Thirds model with advanced features that does just about everything well at a reasonable price, and the Panasonic GX7 was worth the wait. Other enthusiast-oriented cameras we've reviewed lately have been excellent, but have made calculated sacrifices in one area or another. The Panasonic GH3, for example, delivers exceptional video quality and good stills, but it's a bit large for a mirrorless camera, a bit daunting for the average enthusiast shooter, and a bit more expensive. On the other hand, the Olympus E-M1 captures perhaps the best still images in its class, but its video capabilities are limited, and the camera comes in at about a US$400-$500 premium over the GX7. And stepdown Micro Four Thirds cameras such as the Panasonic G6 or Olympus E-PL5 just don't offer as much as useful functionality as the Panasonic GX7 does.

The GX7 boasts a sharp, retro design with a two-tone, silver-and-black finish and rubberized textured grip, and a solid overall magnesium alloy construction. It's packed with well-made physical controls and includes a tiltable -- yes, tiltable (up to 90 degrees) -- electronic viewfinder with exceptional resolution and color reproduction, as well as a 3-inch tiltable LCD touchscreen that's more useful than most. Among its buttons and dials are four function buttons and three custom slots on the Mode dial (not to mention other custom functions within the camera's menu system), all of which provide immense customizability and flexibility for advanced photographers. What's more, the GX7's user interface is refreshingly clear and intuitive, unlike other models' systems where you can drown in confusion once you dive into the menus.

The compact system camera hosts a new 16-megapixel Live MOS sensor that produces very good still image quality. It bests that of its predecessor, the excellent Panasonic GX1, in terms of detail, dynamic range and high ISO performance, while also providing in-body sensor shift image stabilization. In addition, the GX7 steps up with Full HD video recording capability with frame rates up to 60p and stereo audio for shooting sharp, smooth movies. Unfortunately, the camera doesn't have an external mic or headphone jack, perhaps the only notable flaw on this camera.

The only other problems we discovered in reviewing and testing the GX7 were relatively minor, ranging from a weak built-in flash (thankfully, there's a hot shoe!) to occasionally poor Creative Panorama shots when the exposure across the pan was too great for the camera to process. Otherwise, the Panasonic GX7 handles virtually everything an advanced photographer would it expect it to, and handles it rather well. It's a great value, too, offering most of the features and functionality of high-end, flagship Micro Four Thirds models, but without any pro-level overkill. There's no question: The Panasonic GX7 is a clear Dave's Pick.

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