Panasonic G85 Review
|Full model name:||Panasonic Lumix DMC-G85|
(17.3mm x 13.0mm)
|Viewfinder:||EVF / LCD|
|Native ISO:||200 - 25,600|
|Extended ISO:||100 - 25,600|
|Shutter:||1/16000 - 60 seconds|
|Max Aperture:||3.5 (kit lens)|
5.1 x 3.5 x 2.9 in.
(128 x 89 x 74 mm)
includes batteries, kit lens
|Full specs:||Panasonic G85 specifications|
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Panasonic G85 Review -- Now Shooting!
by William Brawley
Preview posted: 09/19/2016
Back in April 2016, we said hello to the GX85, Panasonic's mid-tier rangefinder-style mirrorless camera -- and smaller sibling to the GX8. Sharing many of the technical upgrades found in the GX85, we now have the new Panasonic G85, its mid-range DSLR-shaped Lumix camera and successor to the G7. Also known as the Panasonic G80 for folks over in Europe, this compact and rugged "field camera," as Panasonic puts it, offers a variety of technical improvements, such as better image stabilization, better construction, better image quality, longer battery life and faster burst shooting. While the exterior design is more or less the same as the older G7, features and performance upgrades, as well as a new exterior accessory, put this camera much closer in line with the flagship GH4 model.
The Panasonic G85 gets a similar 16MP sensor, but no OLPF
At the heart of the camera is a 16-megapixel Live MOS Four-Thirds sensor and updated Venus Engine image processor -- the same pair from the GX85, though Panasonic does state there are some upgrades and improvements to the G85's sensor and processor. And while some might be disappointed with yet another 16MP Lumix camera -- as opposed to the 20MP Panasonic GX8 -- the new G85 does have a trick up its sleeve, just like the GX85: No optical low-pass filter. Like its rangefinder-shaped sibling, the Panasonic G85's AA-filterless sensor combined with its new Venus Engine image processor offers improved per-pixel sharpness over the older G7 model.
The removal of the optical low-pass filter, as we've seen on some other recent cameras, can result in noticeable improvements to fine detail. There is, however, an increased risk of moiré and other aliasing artifacts appearing in your images that one should be aware of. Objects such as thin repeating lines and meshes, certain fabrics and other man-made structures, for example, are all notorious moiré-inducing objects. Moiré patterns are often difficult to remove in post-processing, so it's important to keep that in mind when you're out photographing with one of these "AA-filter-less" cameras.
According to Panasonic, the 16MP sensor from the GX85 and G85 displays the highest resolution out of all 16MP Four-Thirds sensors, thanks to the lack of an optical low-pass filter as well as improved processing. These tests were however conducted using respective kit lenses, so results could vary depending on the lens used.
And speaking of better image quality, it's not only the G85's new sensor and image processor that help it capture sharper, more detailed images but also the camera's improved shutter mechanism and brand new Dual I.S. 2 stabilization technology. Sharing the same electromagnetically actuated shutter mechanism as in the GX85, capturing an image with the G85 causes less internal vibrations, also known as shutter shock, which should result in sharper photos -- especially at certain slower shutter speeds. The G85 also adds a new electronic first curtain shutter (EFCS) mode, which is usually very effective at eliminating blur due to shutter shock (since any vibration from the mechanical shutter only happens at the end of the exposure).
Furthermore, due to the G85's more durable construction (more on that later), the shutter is also quieter than not only the G7 but also the GX85 by about four decibels. Not only is it sturdy, lightweight and compact, but it's also very quiet, making it an excellent choice for events, ceremonies, and other sound-sensitive environments. And there is also an all-electronic shutter mode for complete silence, if you're willing to live with increased rolling shutter, slightly reduced image quality and other possible artifacts.
Quieter and less vibrations: The Panasonic G7's shutter mechanism (left) compared to the G85's electromagnetically-actuated shutter mechanism (right).
Panasonic G85 introduces Dual I.S. 2 with up to 5-stops of stabilization
The Panasonic G85 features a new version of their hybrid lens + sensor-shift image stabilization technology, dubbed Dual I.S. 2. Using a new, high-precision gyroscopic sensor and all new algorithms, Panasonic is claiming up to 5-stops of image stabilization correction, besting the 4-stop, first-generation Dual I.S. system of the GX85. According to Panasonic, the new system, by way of the Venus Engine processor, controls both the lens' optical I.S. system and the sensor-shifting mechanism simultaneously for better angle compensation. This new stabilization system is said to provide up to 5-stops of correction all the way out to an equivalent focal length of about 280mm.
Going to longer focal lengths, you run into issues with the amount of compensation for which the sensor shift mechanism can account. For example, at 14mm a 0.5 degree of angular blur only accounts for 0.94% of the frame (or about a 1.3mm shift). However, when you increase the focal length into supertelephoto territory, say 300mm (600mm eq.), the same 1.5-degree angular blur accounts for a whopping 20% of the frame. In other words, the amount of shake and the effect of angular tilting of the camera and lens become magnified the longer the focal length grows. The longer the focal length, the more correction the sensor and lens stabilization systems need to correct for, and the sensor can only move so much (approximate 1mm). Plus, the image circle for the lenses would need to be larger to compensate more if the sensor was designed to shift around to a higher degree. For optical stabilization, the compensation angle is almost the same from wide angle to telephoto, at about 0.5 degrees. Body-based stabilization shifts the sensor very little at wide angle to about a maximum of 1mm at 100mm. In the end, the Dual I.S. 2 system coordinates the amount of shifting and correction between the optical I.S. system and sensor-shift system to produce the optimal amount of stabilization correction.
Given this brand new image stabilization technology, it's currently only compatible with a relatively small selection of lenses including the LUMIX G VARIO 12-60mm f/3.5-5.6 POWER OIS kit lens, but support for more lenses via firmware updates is planned. (The recently announced LEICA DG VARIO-ELMARIT 12-60mm F2.8-4.0 POWER OIS and the 4 refreshed mark II lenses mentioned here support Dual I.S. 2 out of the gate. The older LUMIX G VARIO 12-60mm F3.5-5.6 POWER OIS, the LUMIX G VARIO 14-140mm F3.5-5.6 POWER OIS and the LEICA DG VARIO-ELMAR 100-400mm F4.0-6.3 POWER OIS need firmware updates. Four more lenses will get updates to provide Dual I.S. 2 support sometime during 2017: LUMIX G VARIO 12-32mm F3.5-5.6 MEGA OIS, LUMIX G VARIO 35-100mm F4.0-5.6 MEGA OIS, LUMIX G MACRO 30mm F2.8 MEGA OIS, and LEICA DG NOCTICRON 42.5mm F1.2 POWER OIS.) Aside from those lenses, ten other lenses will offer compatibility with the first-generation 4-stop Dual I.S. system when used with the G85.
Panasonic G85 offers slightly faster burst rate, deeper buffer
Compared to the G7, the new Lumix G85 is said to offer some helpful performance increases, especially concerning RAW buffer depth. For starters, the G85 is spec'd for up to nine frames per second continuous burst shooting with the mechanical shutter, which is one fps faster than its predecessor. In the lab, the G85 tested a bit faster than that when shooting JPEGs, but it slowed down a bit when shooting RAW files. (See our Performance page for details.) As before, the G85 slows its continuous shooting rate to around 6 fps when using continuous AF mode, which isn't fantastic compared to higher-end cameras, but still rather nice given the camera's price point.
Similar to many recent Panasonic cameras, the G85 supports very fast autofocus with DFD technology. Like the G7, which also included DFD-capable AF, the G85 offers a claimed AF speed of just 0.07 seconds, despite lacking any on-sensor phase-detect. Furthermore, the camera's autofocus system works in both good lighting and dim -- and we mean really dim. Like the earlier G7 and GX85, low-light autofocus sensitivity is rated down to -4 EV, which are remarkably dark conditions. (We measured -6 EV in the lab!) The G85 also includes Panasonic's Starlight AF mode, which can detect the precise, small contrast differences in stars compared to the night sky for easy focusing.
As mentioned, one of the big improvements is with RAW buffer depth, with a claimed 45-shot RAW buffer capacity (we measured up to 62 frames in the lab). On the G7, we were only able to manage 16 RAW frames before the buffer filled. For JPEGs, the Panasonic G85 claims a 300+ shot JPEG buffer capacity, which shows a slight increase compared to the 240-frame lab-tested capacity of the G7.
As mentioned and also true of other recent Panasonic cameras, the G85 offers both mechanical shutter and electronic shutter options, which together offer a combined shutter speed range of 60s all the way up to 1/16,000s (1/4000s maximum for the mechanical shutter). When using the new electronic first curtain shutter mode, the exposure times are capped at 1/2000s. Flash x-sync remains at 1/160s.
One very exciting performance improvement on the Panasonic G85 is a very handy power saving feature. While smaller and lighter than most DSLRs, mirrorless cameras tend to have smaller batteries as well, which leads to limited battery capacity compared to DSLRs. Now, add in either an EVF or rear LCD that is needed for framing as well as other power-draining features like contrast-detect autofocus, and you get 300, maybe 400 shots per charge on a battery pack.
The Panasonic G85 is CIPA-rated for around 330 shots/charge with the LCD or 320 with the EVF in default power mode. Buried in the "Economy" sub-menu of the "Wrench" settings, the G85's "Power Save LVF Shooting" options will auto-sleep the camera after either 3, 5, or 10 seconds. Setting it to a 3-second auto-sleep offers the most power-saving benefits. To get everything working correctly, though, you'll need to make sure the EVF's eye sensor is enabled, as well as toggle through the LCD's various screens to the settings display option (as opposed to any number of live-view screens). Once set, the eye sensor will automatically detect that the camera is away from your eye after the specified number of seconds you selected and puts the camera into a sleep mode. The camera is not completely powered-off, however, and the camera quickly jumps back to life by half-press the shutter button. According to Panasonic, this power saving mode (tested at the 3-second auto-sleep duration) extends the battery life out to a whopping 800 shots per charge! Nice.
Unlike the GX85, in-camera charging via USB is not supported by the G85 and a dedicated battery charger is included in the bundle.
Of course, given Panasonic's expertise in the video arena, the new G85 sports an array of 4K PHOTO image-capturing amenities. Going beyond the usual burst-shooting capabilities, the Panasonic G85 offers the same range of 4K burst shooting modes at 30 frames per second as the GX85 with the fast DFD continuous focusing. The 4K Photo modes let you easily capture fast action by simply recording a 4K-resolution video, in a sense, and then offer an intuitive user interface to select the optimal frame post-capture.
One brand new 4K Photo feature that's making its way into the Panasonic G85 for the first time is a new Bulk Saving feature. In addition to shooting a standard 4K Photo Burst and then selecting the desired frame(s) right away, or later, all in-camera, you can now bulk-save up to 5-second chunks of a 4K Burst "video" or up to 150 individual frames. Even better, you can save multiple 5-second chunks from a longer 4K video sequence, but you can't save all frames of a long 4K Photo burst all at one time. Then you can import those frames onto a computer for later viewing, culling and editing. For those users who are more accustomed to the camera-to-computer image sorting/editing workflow, this is a very handy additional feature that expands the usefulness of 4K Photo even further.
For something like sports, motor sports or any other subject where timing is critical, you usually need to be really precise and exact with your timing when firing off a burst of frames with normal continuous shooting modes. Here, with 4K Photo, since you're capturing at 30 frames per second rather than the typical 9 fps in standard burst mode, you get more freedom and latitude to capture the moment you want. The caveat here, as with other Panasonic 4K Photo-capable cameras, is that you are left with 8-megapixel JPEGs as opposed to full-resolution 16MP images, without the option of RAW capture.
In addition to 4K Photo, the new Panasonic G85 also includes their clever Post Focus and Focus Stacking technology. Also based on 4K video technology, the Post Focus feature captures a photo -- which in actuality is a 4K video clip -- while shifting focus across a predetermined distance range. Then upon playback, you can simply tap on the LCD screen to pick the area or object you want to be in sharp focus and save that still image as a separate file.
Similarly, the Focus Stacking feature works in much the same way. Here, however, you select a predetermined range of focus as before, but then you can just choose the focus range you want to merge. Once selected, the camera will automatically combine each "slice," for lack of a better term, together in a single JPEG image with a deep depth of field. This mode is excellent for macro photos and other still life subjects such as food.
The big caveat here to Post Focus and Focus Stacking, just like it is with 4K Photo, is that you're ending up with 8MP JPEG files. There's no RAW, and no 16-megpixel full-resolution image files. By comparison, Olympus also offers in-camera focus stacking but offers full-resolution images for its burst of focus-shifted frames. The Olympus method, while nice for those who want higher resolution images, is only compatible with a select few Olympus lenses, whereas the Panasonic method (with both Post Focus and Focus Stacking), while lower-res, is compatible with all Panasonic lenses. In the end, with 8MP images provide enough detail we think for general usage, especially for those who like to quickly and easily share images on social media -- and the G85's built-in Wi-Fi makes even easier work of that task!
Panasonic G85 video options cater to more advanced cinematographers
Given its array of 4K Photo features, it almost goes without saying that the Panasonic G85 includes 4K video recording as well. Offering 4K at both 30p and 24p framerates, as well as 25 for PAL regions. According to Panasonic's specs, the NTSC region G85 only has NTSC-specific framerates, whereas European model, dubbed the Panasonic G80 or G81, support in-camera frequency switching between 25p and 30p/24p. For Full HD video recording, the G85/G80/G81 offers up to 60p (PAL models also have a 50p frame rate option). For the US model, there is no continuous video recording time limit, so you can setup the camera and record video continuous until the card fills, the battery dies, or, of course, unless the camera's heat warning kicks in.
Thanks to its 4K video support, the G85 also includes Panasonic's handy "4K Live Cropping" feature, which lets you animate panning and zooming all in-camera while recording video -- simulating the effect of zooming or panning with a motorized slider, all without needing any extra equipment. Using the larger 4K video frame, the resulting video is in Full HD resolution. Before recording, users are shown an intuitive user interface with the smaller 1080p frame inside the full 4K view. Here, you can set the starting and end points for how much zooming or panning you want as well as the duration of the effect. Then, once you start recording, the camera uses that 1080p cropped frame to pan and zoom automatically.
While the G85 shares a lot of features with its bigger GH4 brother, the G85 only includes a choice of MP4 or AVCHD video formats, no MOV. 4K video, which is offered only in MP4 format, is recorded at a 100Mbps bit rate, while AVCHD tops out at 28Mbps for 1080p.
What the G85 does have in common with the GH4's video options includes Cinelike D and Cinelike V picture styles for increased dynamic range in videos and easier color grading capabilities. There's also focus peaking, exposure zebras as well as an adjustable luminance range (except the 16-235 range option is not present, unlike the GH4). The G85 also sports a 3.5mm microphone input plus a hotshoe on top to attach a microphone, but no headphone jack.
Full-time continuous autofocus, with DFD support, is also available for video recording, as expected.
At first glance, you'd be hard-pressed to see any noticeable design differences between the new G85 and the G7 predecessor. With a practically identical size, shape, and control layout, the G85 offers only a few minor tweaks compared to the earlier G7. The big story here is that unlike the G7, the Panasonic G85 is now fully weather-sealed much like its big GH4 brother, which is pretty impressive for a camera in this price category.
In the hand, the Panasonic G85 feels extremely solid and very well built. If feels a bit heftier than the G7, too, which makes sense given the updated weather-sealed construction. Body-only, the G85 weighs in at about 1.1 pounds (505g) with battery and SD card, whereas the G7 with its 14-42mm kit lens and battery only weighs a small amount more (approximately 40 grams or so). The front face of the camera's chassis is solid magnesium alloy, while the top and back panels are both polycarbonate. According to Panasonic, all the joints, dials and buttons on the G85 are sealed, making the camera as weather-sealed as the GH4.
Panasonic G85 Hands-On Tour
As mentioned, while the design is similar to the G7 predecessor, it's helpful to give the new camera a thorough once-over to spot any changes or new features.
Beginning with the top of the camera, you can see that if you compare it to the G7, there are not a lot of changes on this new model. We still have the convenient dual control dials at your thumb and forefinger, as well as a customizable function button and a movie start/stop button. As before, the rear thumb dial has a button in the center that allows for quick access to on-the-fly settings changes. For instance, by default, pressing this center button temporarily assigns white balance adjustment to the front control dial and ISO to the rear dial. Once changes are made, half-press the shutter button to return to normal shooting. These temporary quick-access settings can, of course, be customized to a number of different options to suit your shooting style or needs.
One of the first changes is to the G85's exposure mode dial, where we see the return of two custom C1 and C2 options that we saw in the G6 -- the G7, on the other hand, had minimized the custom modes into a single 'C' mode. To make room, the dedicated Panorama mode has been removed from mode dial and is now tucked within the main Scene mode.
The other noticeable change to the top of the camera is a redesigned pop-up flash. Unlike the G7's simpler flip-up design, the G85 now has a smaller two-part hinged design that's situated further forward on the camera's EVF housing. The pop-up switch itself is located on the left side of the EVF now, rather than on the back panel of the camera.
The left-hand rotating drive mode dial is unchanged from the previous model. Both it and the exposure mode dial are not locking dials, as we've started to see on some higher-end cameras. However, both dials have a rather stiff, sturdy feel to them, with nice knurling along the edge, making it difficult to bump the dials accidentally.
Moving down to the back of the camera, we, again, see very little by way of changes compared to the earlier model. The hinged construction on the articulating LCD screen is different, but the screen itself remains unchanged with a 3-inch touch-sensitive panel with 1,04K dots of resolution.
The rear cluster of controls and the general layout of buttons and dials all remain largely unchanged, with the standard setup of a 4-way control cluster and a smattering of dedicated buttons, including four custom function buttons.
Along the sides of the camera, we do, however, see a number of changes. On the right side, we now have a dedicated memory card door, similar to that on the GH4. Likely due to the enhanced weather-sealing, the memory card is now conveniently located on the side of the grip as opposed to the G7, which had it on the bottom, inside the battery compartment.
On the left-hand side, we now have two flaps that reveal a number of ports, while the G7 didn't sport anything on that side. The G85 features a Micro-HDMI (Type D) port, Micro-USB 2.0, a 2.5mm remote jack and a 3.5mm microphone jack. Unlike the GH4, there is no headphone jack.
Lastly, and perhaps most interestingly, the Panasonic G85 gains its own battery grip accessory -- the first non-GH-series Lumix camera to sport a battery grip. Matching the rugged durability of the G85's construction, the accessory grip is also fully weather sealed. Similar to the GH4, the optional grip supports a spot for an additional battery pack, but unlike the GH4's the new G85 grip ships with an extra battery at no additional cost.
As we mentioned earlier, the new Power Saving feature on the G85 should help extend the camera's battery life by an impressive amount, but if you factor in this extra grip, you should have a camera that lasts you all day long between charges, if not more. At default power settings, the additional grip and battery should get you about 640 shots, but in the power-saving mode, you'll get around 1600-1800 shots, according to Panasonic!
The Panasonic G85 began shipping in October 2016, the is sold body-only or in a couple of kit configurations, depending on the region. For U.S. customers, the G85 is sold body-only for an estimated retail price of about US$900. The U.S. kit, which includes the weather-sealed 12-60mm f/3.5-5.6 lens, retails for about US$1,000, which is an amazing deal since that lens sell separately for about US$500. The price of the optional battery grip is about US$350. In the European market, the Panasonic G85 (G80) is also offered in an additional kit configuration with the 14-140mm f/3.5-6.6 lens.
Panasonic G85 Field Test
The Panasonic G85 is a weather-sealed, faster G7 and it's great
It wasn't all that long ago that Panasonic introduced the world to the GX85 mirrorless camera. They're back with the G85, which is armed with the same image sensor and processor pairing that the GX85 launched with in April. However, rather than opt for a rangefinder-style camera body, the G85 has a compact DSLR-style body and is considered the successor to the G7. This Micro Four Thirds camera has an impressive list of specs, but does it deliver equally impressive results in the real world? Read on to find out.
G85's DSLR-like body is compact & light with a great touchscreen
Externally, there's nothing much of note to differentiate the G85 from its predecessor, the Panasonic G7. However, when you take a peek under the hood, so to speak, you find considerable changes. The G85 has a new version of Panasonic's hybrid sensor-shift image stabilization technology, Dual I.S. 2, which combines lens and sensor-shift technologies to provide up to 5-stops of correction (at least to an equivalent focal length of roughly 280mm).
Panasonic G85 Image Quality Comparison
See how the G85's image quality stacks up to competing mirrorless models
Here we present crops from our laboratory Still Life target comparing Panasonic G85's image quality to that of its predecessor's, the G7, as well as against several more recent mirrorless models at similar price points or in similar categories: the Panasonic GX85, Canon EOS M5, Olympus E-M5 II and Sony A6300.
NOTE: These images are from best quality JPEGs straight out of the camera, at default settings including noise reduction and using the camera's actual base ISO (not extended ISO settings). All interchangeable lens cameras in this comparison were shot with our very sharp reference lenses. Clicking any crop will take you to a carrier page where you can click once again to access the full resolution image as delivered straight from the camera. For those interested in working with the RAW files involved, click these links to visit each camera's respective sample image thumbnail page: Panasonic G85, Panasonic G7, Panasonic GX85, Canon M5, Olympus E-M5 II and Sony A6300 -- links to the RAW files appear beneath those for the JPEG images, wherever we have them. And remember, you can always go to our world-renowned Comparometer to compare the Panasonic G85 to any camera we've ever tested!
Panasonic G85 Print Quality
But how does it compare on paper?
Print quality and image quality are similar but not identical, because what you see on a print isn't always the same as what you see on the screen. Our print quality analysis answers the important question: "Just how big can I print my photos at higher ISOs?"
The Panasonic G85 delivers a solid performance for print quality, and can be counted on to produce quality prints up to ISO 3200. After this the sensor size begins to show its limitations, so we recommend setting the limit at ISO 3200 and below for any printing needs of 8 x 10 or larger. Given its reasonable price point this is an impressive performance in print quality.
In the Box
The Panasonic G85 retail kit w/12-60mm lens package (as reviewed) contains the following items:
- Panasonic Lumix DMC-G85 Camera Body
- Panasonic Lumix G Vario 12-60mm f/3.5-5.6 ASPH Power OIS Lens
- DMW-BLC12 Rechargeable Lithium-Ion Battery Pack (7.2V, 1200mAh)
- Battery Charger
- Hot Shoe Cover
- Body Cap
- AC Cable
- USB Cable
- Shoulder Strap
- Limited 1-Year Warranty
- Large capacity SDHC/SDXC memory card. Fast UHS-II card recommended (UHS Speed Class 3 required for 4K recording).
- Extra Panasonic DMW-BLC12 Rechargeable Lithium-ion Battery Pack (~US$55)
- Medium camera case
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