Panasonic GX850 Review
|Full model name:||Panasonic Lumix DC-GX850|
(17.3mm x 13.0mm)
|Viewfinder:||No / LCD|
|Native ISO:||200 - 25,600|
|Extended ISO:||100 - 25,600|
|Shutter:||1/16000 - 60 seconds|
|Max Aperture:||3.5 (kit lens)|
4.2 x 2.5 x 1.3 in.
(107 x 65 x 33 mm)
includes batteries, kit lens
|Full specs:||Panasonic GX850 specifications|
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Panasonic GX850 Review -- Hands-on Preview
by William Brawley
Preview posted: 01/04/2017
One of Panasonic's longest-running Micro Four Thirds series -- spanning all the way back to 2009 -- the GF-family of compact, rangefinder-esque ILCs serves as the company's most consumer-level offering from their MFT lineup. Hitting their eighth generation of GF cameras, the new Panasonic GX850 (GF800 in Europe; GF9 in Japan) gets a refresh with an updated 16-megapixel Live MOS sensor without an optical low-pass filter, DFD autofocus technology as well as 4K video up to 30p and the now-standard array of Panasonic 4K Photo features. The GX850 is the last Lumix model to gain 4K video and photo capabilities, making nearly all of Panasonic's Lumix cameras capable of capturing 4K media.
Notice we said "nearly all."
If you've been keeping track of the Panasonic camera updates over the last year or so, there's one Lumix ILC that's been rather neglected, the GM-series.
Back in 2013, the team at Panasonic somehow managed to cram a more or less full-featured Micro Four Thirds camera into a pocket-cam-sized body with the tiny GM1. It was instant hit around the IR headquarters. It was small, lightweight and had the full versatility that interchangeable lenses offered. Then the GM5 arrived a year later, adding an EVF, making the GM1 that much better. The problem was the little GM-family was rather a pricey, premium pair of "pocket ILCs," and although we here at IR loved the little cameras, we eventually got the feeling that the GM cameras hadn't sold as well as Panasonic had hoped.
The Panasonic GX850 will be offered in both an all-black color or a two-tone silver-and-black style.
With the introduction of 2015's GF7 (and subsequent GF8 in 2016, which did not see a US release) -- a camera that was more or less similarly sized to the GM5 though much less expensive -- the writing was perhaps already on the wall for the premium GM line. And while we've yet to get a definitive answer from Panasonic regarding the fate of the GM5 and the GM series as a whole, the lack of news as well as both B&H and Panasonic's website listing the GM5 as "unavailable" seems to answer the question. Farewell, GM5.
As such, for those looking to step up from their smartphone or small-sensored point-and-shoot camera to something that's not only an easy to use camera but also an ultra-compact Micro Four Thirds ILC that still fits into your pocket, the new Panasonic GX850 looks to fit the bill quite nicely.
Let's now dive into the nuts and bolts of this new camera, shall we?
The Panasonic GX850 uses a 16MP Four Thirds sensor without an optical low-pass filter.
Panasonic GX850 stays at 16MP, drops low-pass filter
Working from the inside out, the heart of the new Lumix GX850 is centered around an updated 16-megapixel Four Thirds Live MOS sensor. While a handful of recent and upcoming Micro Four Thirds models, such as the GX8 and GH5, are sporting a newer, higher-resolution 20MP Four Thirds sensor, the Panasonic GX850, on the other hand, maintains the familiar 16-megapixel resolution as a large number of previous Lumix ILC cameras. However, similar to the updated sensors from the GX85 and G85 camera, the 16MP chip inside the GX850 does not have an optical low-pass filter. This has become a much more common practice for both high-end cameras and now for more entry-level ones as well. What you gain from the filter removal is sharper per-pixel detail; in other words, sharper photos, especially when you zoom in close.
On the flip side, you run a greater risk of generating moiré and other aliasing artifacts such as false colors and jagged-looked edges. These artifacts can be tough to remove manually on the computer in photo editing software, but if you're careful about how and what you photograph, you should be able to avoid or minimize issues. Generally, subjects such as fabrics or fine repeating patterns like fences or brick walls tend to exhibit moiré artifacts if you're not careful. That being said, in-camera image processing is getting more and more sophisticated, so real-world testing of the new Panasonic GX850 is needed to see how it handles these tricky subjects.
Another imaging pipeline change is a newer Venus Engine image processor, though a specific model name or version number wasn't specified in our briefing with Panasonic. However, despite the newer processor, the GX850 still offers the same ISO range as its predecessor -- 200-25,600, with an extendable low ISO of 100.
On the other hand, the faster imaging processor does give the GX850 does give the new camera some added horsepower and adds a host of 4K recording capabilities, as we mentioned earlier. This pocketable MFT camera now offers 4K video recording (at Ultra HD 3840 x 2160 resolution) at both 24p and 30p frame rates (PAL models can shoot 24p, 25p and 30p), though continuous sustained recording time is limited to just five minutes due to heat constraints brought on by the tiny body size. However, if Full HD video suits your needs, the GX850 can record at 60p or 60i for up to 20 minutes and at 30p or 24p, it can record for an unlimited time, or until you fill your memory card or your battery drains! (The European GX800 model has the same 5 and 20 minute limits for 4K and Full HD at 50p/50i respectively, but is limited to 29:59 at lower frame rates.)
In addition to 4K video, the GX850 offers a host of 4K PHOTO features, including various 4K Burst shooting options -- that is, 4K-resolution (8-megapixel) JPEGs at 30fps -- as well as Post Focus and in-camera Focus Stacking modes. Both of these latter options utilize 4K recording technology by taking a shot while sweeping through a range of focus distances. Post Focus then lets you pick a point of focus after capture, while Focus Stacking composites a series of frames together for a final shot with a deeper depth of field -- great for macro photography!
As for performance features, the Panasonic GX850 is not designed as a high-speed sports- and action-shooting behemoth, though the 4K Photo at 30fps is pretty impressive. For full-resolution photo modes, the GX850 offers a claimed 5.8fps continuous burst rate for single-shot AF mode, while continuous AF slows the burst rate down a tad to 5fps. That increases to 10 and 6fps respectively using the electronic shutter. These are the same specs as on the earlier GF7. Claimed RAW buffer depth has improved however, from 7 frames to 15, while buffer depth with JPEGs is rated at over 100 frames.
Autofocus performance should be quicker, however, thanks to the inclusion of Panasonic's DFD (Depth from Defocus) technology. The earlier GF7 utilized a standard contrast-detection AF system, and while the GX850 is also based on a CDAF system, the DFD addition should give the camera's AF a nice boost of precision and speed. Panasonic claims the GX850 should acquire focus in around 0.07 seconds.
Taking a tour of the pocketable Panasonic GX850
The overall design of the Panasonic GX850 is very similar to that of its predecessor, though it no longer has that noticeable "hump" above the lens for the LCD tilt mechanism; instead continuing a raise top-deck all the way to the edge of the camera body. The more "rangefinder-esque" design does appear a bit more like its premium cousin, the GM5. However, unlike the GM5, the GX850 does not have a built-in EVF; it's LCD-only, like the GF7. The overall styling is very sleek, compact and minimalist, especially from the front, which is all but devoid of any buttons except for the lens release switch.
On the top-deck of the camera, the GX850 features a typical PASM mode dial on the far right, the power switch lever surrounding the shutter release button, a dedicated 4K Photo mode button (though it's also dual-labeled as Fn1, so you can reassign its function), and then a drive mode button on the far left corner (which is a also reconfigurable function button). On the back, the delete button serves as the camera third and final function button. The top of the camera, as with the GF7, houses the small pop-up flash, with its mechanical switch sitting right along the top edge of the camera. Flash power is the same as the GF7 and GM1, rated with a GN of 4.0m at ISO 100 or 5.6m at ISO 200, and maximum flash sync is only 1/50s thanks to the hybrid shutter, the same as the GF7 and GM-series.
On the rear of the camera, the GX850 utilizes a practically identical control layout as the GF7, which centers around a rotating control wheel that also doubles as a 4-way directional control. The large 3-inch touchscreen display uses a 1040K-dot resolution screen and tilts upwards a full 180-degrees, making the camera ideally suited for self-portraits and vlogging (though the camera does not have a hotshoe nor a microphone input). You can even set the camera to enable a hands-free "selfie" mode when you flip the screen upwards, automatically firing off a shot when the camera's facial recognition system detect a face or multiple people (called "Buddy Shutter").
The GX850 also offers 4K Photo and panorama features while in "selfie" mode. As with standard 4K Photo mode, you can take a quick series of images at 30fps and select the best frame after the fact -- especially great if you have multiple people in a group shot and you want to pick a frame where everyone's eyes are open! With panorama mode, you can capture wide selfie shots with groups of people or of large scene backgrounds. Additionally, the GX850 offers a new "Background Control" option with selfies that gives the user adjustable control over the depth of field -- either have sharper background (deep DOF) or isolate your subject (shallow DOF).
While not available right when the GX850 is slated to ship, the Lumix GX850 is planned to incorporate a "Beauty Retouch" filter that's been included on a number of recent Lumix cameras with a future firmware update in Spring 2017. Not offered on the GF7, Beauty Retouch mode automatically applies retouching effects such as smoothing the skin, removing blemishes and whitening teeth.
Regarding storage media and battery life, it's good and bad news, in a way. For starters, unlike GF7, the new Panasonic GX850 downsizes to the smaller microSD card format. If you've used a variety of cellphones with expandable storage capacity lately, you probably have a microSD card or two lying around. Otherwise, you'll need to go out and purchase a new memory card. Furthermore, these much smaller, thinner microSD cards are more easily misplaced than the larger SD cards.
As for the battery, the good news is that the GX850 uses the same compact rechargeable lithium ion battery pack as the GF7 -- and now offers USB in-camera charging, too. However, the new camera is rated for slightly lower battery life than the predecessor, at 210 shots per charge rather than 230.
As with many other recent Panasonic cameras, the new GX850 includes built-in Wi-Fi for easily remote control shooting and wireless sharing of images to smart devices. In our experience, remote shooting with supported Panasonic cameras has been rather robust, as their companion smartphone app offers lots of control of numerous shooting parameters, so we hope to see a similar level of control and performance with this new model.
The Panasonic GX850 will be sold in either an all-black color or a two-toned silver and black style and kitted with the ultra-compact 12-32mm f/3.5-5.6 retractable zoom lens. The GX850 is set to go on sale starting in February for a retail price of US$549.99.
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Kit with 12-32mm Lens (Black)
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$314.95 (74% less)
20.3 MP (21% more)
Also lacks viewfinder