Panasonic GF7 Conclusion

42.5mm f/1.7 Lens: 42.5mm, f/2, 1/320s, ISO 400, -2EV

Lightweight in size, but not on features

Though not very flashy, the super-small Panasonic GF7 brings a lot to the table for those looking for a compact, lightweight, and easy-to-use interchangeable lens camera. Sitting in the entry-level position in Panasonic's Micro Four Thirds lineup, this GF6 replacement borrows a lot from the similarly-sized GM5 model, including the same 16-megapixel sensor and image processor -- which is to say the same basic imaging pipeline as the impressive GX7.

Unlike the GM5, which features a fixed LCD screen and small built-in EVF, the Panasonic GF7 borrows the same basic design cue from the GF6 and forgoes an EVF and makes room for a 180°-tilting LCD panel. The included 12-32mm retractable kit zoom lens is the same model that's shipping alongside the GM1 and GM5. This excellent little kit lens -- and we put strong emphasis on little -- allows the entire GF7 package to be very compact and certainly pocketable in a jacket or small bag.

The trade-off with its impressively small size is the rather cramped and tiny controls and buttons. It's not a major issue with the GF7 luckily, though photographers with larger hangs could potentially find the smaller buttons and the thin rear dial, in particular, troublesome. Similarly, a trade-off Panasonic made to keep not only weight down, but also the price, is the increased use of plastic in the body construction in place of magnesium, like in the GM5. Thankfully, you can allay your fear of this camera feeling "cheap." The Panasonic GF7 feels quite solid and well built, and certainly not flimsy or plastic-y.

Despite its entry-level positioning and price-point, the GF7 is rather feature-filled with lots of options, modes and customization for various shooting styles and preferences. Being a smaller camera, it therefore makes heavy use of the menus, which can be a little overwhelming at first given all the various options. Using a similar menu system and on-screen touch interface to the GM-series and even the GH4, the GF7 feels rather impressively advanced for a consumer-level camera.

Like the GM5, it captures high quality photos without the bulk

The Panasonic GF7 offers very good image quality for its size, at both low and higher ISOs. Images pack a lot of fine detail, and for in-camera JPEG processing, the GF7 does a nice job of balancing detail resolving power with noise reduction as the ISO climbs. For higher ISO performance, the GF7 does quite well up to ISO 3200, which is similar to other recent 16MP Micro Four Thirds cameras. At ISO 6400 and above, chroma noise becomes troublesome as well as a big drop in detail thanks to in-camera noise reduction. Overall, though, impressive IQ from a very compact camera.

Panasonic 12-32mm F3.5-5.6: 12mm, f/5.6, 1/160s, ISO 100

Nimble performance with quick AF & fast JPEG burst speeds

On a similar front, the Panasonic GF7 also displayed rather impressive performance. Autofocus was quick and nimble in laboratory and real-world testing with both proper lighting and in dim, low-light situations -- despite the lack of on-sensor phase detect AF or Panasonic's nifty DFD focusing tech. However, while single-shot AF mode works very well, the GF7 struggles with continuous AF. C-AF performance was rather hit-or-miss when it came to continuously focusing on moving subjects.

Though its continuous AF performance felt lacking, the camera nevertheless offers a variety of burst shooting modes to help you capture the decisive moment. Continuous High Speed burst clocked-in slightly under the manufacturer's claimed 5.8fps when using JPEGs (adding RAW slows the burst rate down a bit further). However, using just the camera's electronic shutter allowed for a continuous burst rate of about 11fps (faster than Panasonic's 10fps spec), but only for about 7 frames before slowing down. The GF7 also offers an even faster burst option called Super High Speed mode, which drops the image resolution down to 4 megapixels but fires at a blazing 40fps!

Buffer performance was also decent for its class. When using just JPEGs, the buffer depth was very good, at over 50 frames (based on our lab tests, but likely limited simply to memory card capacity). However, when shooting RAW or RAW+JPEG, the buffer filled very quickly -- after about 7 frames for RAW+JPEG.

Panasonic 42.5mm F1.7: 42.5mm, f/4, 1/40s, ISO 400

Summary: A lot of camera for under $500

All in all, the little Panasonic GF7 packs a lot of performance into a small, lightweight and easy to use package. It may be billed as an entry-level camera and comes in at an affordable, entry-level price, but the GF7 offers a lot of camera for the money. As with many of the other 16MP Micro Four Thirds cameras out there, the image quality is impressive. The GF7 sports numerous options, shooting modes, and lots of user customization to fit your shooting style, making it not only easy to use for beginner photographers, but more advanced ones as well. Given that all these qualities are packed into an ultra-portable design, the GF7 is a great choice for step-up users looking to expand beyond a point-and-shoot but still want something small, light and easy to operate. It also can fit the bill for more seasoned photographers as a very capable travel-sized or secondary camera to their larger gear.

All told, the Panasonic GF7 gets the nod as a Dave's Pick in our book.

 

Pros & Cons

  • Very good image quality for its size
  • Good autofocus speeds for its class
  • Able to autofocus in very low light
  • Up to 11fps full-res burst mode with electronic shutter
  • Electronic shutter allows shutter speeds up to 1/16,000s; includes a silent mode
  • Super fast 40fps 4-megapixel SH burst mode
  • Great value
  • Built-in Wi-Fi & NFC with remote shooting capabilities
  • Very compact design; fits easily into jacket pocket
  • Lightweight build yet solid construction
  • No issues with smaller controls, but could be issue for larger hands
  • Touch-screen interface is easy to use and customizable on-screen Function buttons make for easy settings changes on customizations
  • Responsive, tilting touchscreen LCD
  • Maximum mechanical second-curtain shutter speed of 1/500s
  • Maximum flash sync is 1/50s
  • Electronic shutter artifacts
  • Continuous AF felt hit-or-miss
  • Shallow buffers with RAW files
  • JPEG colors could be better
  • Below average battery life
  • Weak internal flash; no hot shoe
  • Auto and Incandescent white balance too warm in tungsten light
  • No EVF
  • No sensor-shift image stabilization like GX7; relies on lens-based OIS


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