Panasonic G85 Conclusion

Panasonic 100-400mm f/4-6.3 at 400mm (800mm eq.), f/6.3, 1/640s, ISO 800.
This image has been cropped. Click for full-size image.

On the inside, the Panasonic G85 is similar to the rangefinder-styled GX85, which was released seven months prior in April 2016. The DSLR-shaped G85 is also quite similar to the GH4 features-wise, offering several improvements over its G7 predecessor.

Despite having a similar 16-megapixel resolution as the G7, the Panasonic G85 (known in some markets as the G80) drops the optical low-pass filter and employs improved Venus Engine image processing. There are other improvements as well, including: better image stabilization, more durable construction, longer battery life and improved burst performance. We have put the Panasonic G85 through its paces, let's see how it stacks up.

Removing the G85's optical low-pass filter pays big dividends for image quality

The Panasonic G85 has a 16-megapixel Four Thirds Live MOS sensor, which is the same megapixel count as the sensor found in its predecessor, the G7. However, unlike the G7, the G85 does not have an optical low pass filter (OLPF). This change, in addition to different processing, results in the G85 producing sharper images than the G7 at base ISO (200). The G85 delivers images with pleasing colors and sharper, crisper detail, albeit with more artifacts and moiré due to the lack of OLPF and more aggressive default sharpening.

Panasonic 12-60mm f/3.5-5.6 lens at 12mm (24mm eq.), f/9.0, 1/250s, ISO 200
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When considering print quality, the Panasonic G85 did very well at ISO 100 and 200, producing excellent 24 x 36 inch prints. Even at ISO 1600, we were still able to make a good 13 x 19 inch print. At ISO 12800, you could print a fine 4 x 6 image, but that is certainly pushing the boundaries of the sensor. If you need to print 8 x 10 or larger, we recommend keeping ISO at or below 3200. Given its price point and sensor size, we consider the G85 to produce very good print quality.

We no longer perform our own dynamic range analysis, but the fine folks at DxO Mark have tested the G85 and concluded that it offers similar dynamic range performance as its predecessor, which is unsurprising. Dynamic range peaks at 12.5 EV at ISO 100 versus 12.2 EV for the G7, which is quite good for a Four Thirds sensor. You can see more about the dynamic range performance of the G85 and its overall sensor performance here.

Panasonic 12-60mm f/3.5-5.6 lens at 33mm (66mm eq.), f/9.0, 1/125s, ISO 200
This image has been modified. Click for full-size image.

Looking at competition from other companies, the G85 stands up nicely to the Olympus E-M5 II, although the Olympus camera produces slightly cleaner images at high ISO, albeit with less detail. Compared to the APS-C Sony A6300, the G85 unsurprisingly produces images with less detail than the larger-sensored, higher-megapixel Sony camera.

Overall, the Panasonic G85 produces good to very good image quality, particularly for its sensor size and price point. The removal of an OLPF pays big dividends regarding sharpness and resolution throughout the ISO range, as does the improvement to the in-camera processing.

Panasonic 100-400mm f/4-6.3 at 400mm (800mm eq.), f/6.3, 1/640s, ISO 2000.
This image has been cropped. Click for full-size image.

Panasonic G85 offers very fast, accurate contrast-detect autofocus

The Panasonic G85 uses a DFD-powered 49-point contrast-detect autofocus system which works very well in many situations but was particularly impressive in low light. The camera is rated to autofocus down to -4 EV, which is impressive and on par with high-end DSLR cameras. The camera focused quickly and accurately in almost every situation in which we tested it.

Despite relying on a contrast detect autofocus system, the G85's continuous autofocus performance is generally quite good. There is a slight tendency, however, for the camera to hunt in lower light or fail to realize that it has acquired focus on your subject and start searching again.

One of our favorite aspects of using the camera is its AF Touchpad feature. You can utilize the rear touchscreen to move the focus point around the frame even when using the viewfinder, which can be particularly helpful when doing wildlife photography.

Panasonic 100-400mm f/4-6.3 at 400mm (800mm eq.), f/6.3, 1/640s, ISO 320.
This image has been cropped. Click for full-size image.

G85 shows improved speeds & buffer depths, adds UHS-II support

With an updated Venus Engine processor, the Panasonic G85 offers excellent performance for a mirrorless interchangeable lens camera. The strong performance begins right at startup, with the camera offering faster than average startup times. Autofocus speeds proved to be very good as well, especially for a camera which relies solely on contrast-detect autofocus. Full-autofocus shutter lag was 0.197 second, which is good for a mirrorless camera and competitive with prosumer DSLR cameras.

Continuous shooting performance is improved compared to its predecessor. The Panasonic G85 records highest-quality JPEG images at up to 9.35 frames per second with seemingly unlimited buffer depth (note: we are not 100% sure it is unlimited, but it recorded over 200 frames with no signs of slowing). This is an improvement of over a frame per second compared to the G7. RAW capture speeds are improved as well. The G85 can shoot RAW images at up to 7.33fps for 62 frames with the buffer clearing in 13 seconds. This is a big increase in buffer size from 16 to 62 frames, and speeds are over half a frame per second faster. Buffer clearing has increased by five seconds, but this is unsurprising given the much larger buffer. It is worth noting that the G85 also has electronic shutter recording options, which top out at 9.63fps when shooting RAW images. If you want to shoot with continuous autofocus, Panasonic reports that speeds top out at 6fps, but this is not something we test in the lab.

Panasonic 100-400mm f/4-6.3 at 400mm (800mm eq.), f/6.3, 1/200s, ISO 800.
This image has been cropped. Click for full-size image.

Overall, the performance of the Panasonic G85 is excellent for its class. The camera supports UHS-II SD cards, as well, which certainly helps, as does the new processor. The camera is consistently quick. You will want to purchase an extra battery, however, as the battery life is a below average 330 shots when using the monitor (320 shots with the electronic viewfinder).

4K Photo offers fast image capture and good flexibility

While the G85 is quick, if you need even more speed for shooting, its 4K Photo modes offer a lot of flexibility and speed. You can record 8-megapixel JPEG images at up to 30fps using 4K Photo Burst modes. You can also utilize focus stacking if you have a steady surface to shoot from.

Panasonic G85 is very well-equipped for recording video

The Panasonic G85 offers 4K video up to 30p and includes a number of videographer-friendly features, such as a 3.5mm mic input, Cinelike picture styles and 100Mbps bit rate recording. The camera offers fully manual exposure recording, 4K Live Cropping, focus peaking and exposure zebras as well.

4K video quality itself is very nice, offering a lot of fine detail and sharpness. The camera handles automatic exposure and continuous autofocus quite nicely. For videographers looking for good low-light 4K video quality, we found that the G85 offers good 4K video up through ISO 1600, although it can shoot at up to ISO 6400.

The Panasonic G85 closes the gap from mid- to high-range in Panasonic's ILC lineup, sharing many features with the former flagship camera, the GH4, making it a great, well-rounded multimedia camera.

Build Quality: Weather-sealed G85 handles very well

While the G85 looks a lot like its predecessor, there are multiple changes worth mentioning in terms of its construction and physical features. The G85 utilizes Panasonic's latest image stabilization technology, Dual I.S. 2. Dual I.S. 2 combines lens and sensor-shift stabilization to provide up to 5-stops of correction, which worked very well during our testing.

The camera body is weather-sealed, a welcomed upgrade over the G7. It also includes a new quieter shutter mechanism, thanks in part to the sealed-up camera body. The G85 is reasonably compact for its sensor size and body style and proved comfortable to carry even during extended shooting sessions. The grip is moderately chunky and allowed us to get a good hold on the camera.

The 2.36 million-dot OLED electronic viewfinder offers 0.74x (35mm eq.) magnification, and the 3-inch rear touchscreen display tilts and swivels, so you have two great options for shooting with the G85. Overall, it offers comfort, durability and features beyond its price point.

Summary: An excellent, versatile mirrorless camera for under $1,000

The Panasonic G85 is an excellent addition to Panasonic's camera lineup and a boasts a healthy array of upgrades over the G7. It includes numerous high-end features, particularly with regard to the camera body itself and its 4K video features without leaving the mid-range price point of its predecessor. We were very impressed by its performance across the board and combined with the versatility of the MFT lens mount, the G85 is easy to recommend as it is a great all-around DSLR-style mirrorless camera -- a definite addition to our list of Dave's Picks.

Panasonic 12-60mm f/3.5-5.6 lens at 12mm (24mm eq.), f/9.0, 6s, ISO 200
This image has been modified. Click for full-size image.

Pros & Cons

  • Sharp images thanks to the lack of an optical low-pass filter
  • Very good image quality overall
  • Very good high ISO performance and dynamic range for its class, competitive with the best 16-megapixel MFT cameras
  • Accurate colors
  • New 5x 12-60mm kit lens is a decent performer and a bargain at only $100 more than the body when bought in a kit
  • Dual image stabilization
  • Compact, weather-sealed camera body
  • Built-in EVF offers good magnification
  • Excellent tilt/swivel touchscreen display
  • Quick startup
  • Fast autofocus performance
  • Improved continuous shooting performance
  • Able to autofocus in extremely low light
  • Excellent cycle times
  • 9fps burst mode with mechanical shutter (tested at 9.4fps, but see related Con)
  • Excellent buffer depths
  • UHS-II support with reasonably fast buffer clearing times
  • Built-in flash
  • Flash hot shoe
  • 4K video features and quality are very good
  • 4K photo modes
  • Built-in Wi-Fi
  • External mic jack
  • Below average battery life, though power save mode helps
  • Lack of an optical low-pass filter can result in aliasing artifacts
  • Fast 9.4fps mechanical shutter burst mode slows to 7.3fps when shooting RAW or RAW+JPEG files
  • Continuous autofocus limits camera to 6fps shooting speeds
  • Electronic shutter mode wasn't much faster when shooting JPEGs, but at least it didn't slow down for RAW or RAW+JPEG files
  • Weak built-in flash with narrow coverage
  • Electronic viewfinder struggles in low light
  • No external headphone jack
  • No NFC
  • 1/160s x-sync speed
  • Overly sensitive shutter release button has little travel distance

Buy the Panasonic G85

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