Panasonic GF7 Field Test Part II

Performance in a small package

by Eamon Hickey | Posted

One shot in a Blue Moon. The GF7 didn't slow me down when I scrambled to take this picture before the light changed or the boats sailed away.
Panasonic 42.5mm F1.7: 42.5mm, f/4, 1/40s, ISO 400

Quick and nimble operation so you don't miss a shot

I mentioned in Part 1 of this field test that the Panasonic GF7's controls are a tad small and spaced closely together, but I didn't feel that hampered my shooting in any significant way. The same has been true of the camera's general responsiveness in all my outings with the GF7 -- it has responded quickly, without any noticeable delays, whenever I've needed it. That came in handy one evening when I stepped out onto a terrace overlooking Eastchester Bay completely unaware that a blue moon (the second full moon within a given month) was just rising in the magenta-tinted twilight. I ran inside, grabbed the camera, and was able to get it turned on, set, and shooting before the light changed, the color left the sky and the boats sailed out of frame.

Fast, accurate AF in both good and dim lighting

I also found the autofocus on the Panasonic GF7 to be pretty capable. It acquires focus on stationary subjects very quickly in good light and maintains fairly good speed and decisiveness down to about EV 3 (it slows down noticeably when light levels fall lower than that). It worked very well for another shot that I made of Eastchester Bay, this one through a dark and rainy bedroom window in the late afternoon, when light levels were about EV 7.

Window onto Eastchester Bay. The GF7 focused decisively in the dim, low- contrast light of this stormy late afternoon.
Panasonic 42.5mm F1.7: 42.5mm, f/4, 1/125s, ISO 1600, -1EV

For moving subjects, it's best to pre-focus than use C-AF

The position and size of the AF patch on the GF7 are also highly adjustable, and I used both features to make a shot of some joggers on a running track. By setting the AF patch to a very small rectangle and moving it to the lower part of the frame, I was able to pre-focus on just one particular lane in the track and wait for the runner to enter my frame.

Reducing the size of the GF7's AF patch let me zero in on lanes 6 and 7 for pre-focusing as I waited for this runner to arrive in frame.
Panasonic 42.5mm F1.7: 42.5mm, f/1.7, 1/2500s, ISO 200, -1EV

I also tested out the Panasonic GF7's ability to continuously focus on moving subjects on the same running track as well as on bicyclists on 2nd Ave. during another shoot. My results were pretty hit-and-miss -- the GF7 was not useless for follow-focusing on moving subjects, but I wouldn't rely on it if I needed to get good pictures of sports or action on any kind of regular basis. This is pretty common for entry-level mirrorless ILC cameras, in my experience.

Kit lens offers good versatility and helpful stabilization

I already mentioned that the collapsible LUMIX G Vario 12-32mm / F3.5-5.6 ASPH kit lens that is typically bundled with the Panasonic GF7 is remarkably small. Its focal-length range -- 24-64mm equivalent in 35mm terms -- is also a good fit for the kind of shooting I like to do. Check out our review of this lens to get more information on its excellent optical performance, which is very impressive for such a small and inexpensive optic.

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

Testing the Mega O.I.S. image stabilization, I found that I could pretty reliably get sharp handheld pictures at shutter speeds that were two stops slower than I had to use with O.I.S. turned off. I relied on O.I.S. when I came across an interesting stained glass window in the lobby of an apartment building one day, but I didn't have a tripod. I used a 50mm equivalent focal length and 1/15 shutter speed, and the picture came out quite sharp.

Symmetrical shapes vs. random colors. Handheld at 1/15 with O.I.S.
Panasonic 12-32mm F3.5-5.6: 25mm, f/5.6, 1/15s, ISO 400

Small, light 42.5mm f/1.7 lens pairs nicely with tiny GF7

I also had a LUMIX G 42.5mm / F1.7 ASPH lens, and I shot more than 300 pictures with it over half a dozen outings. We reviewed this lens earlier this year and found it to be optically excellent, surprisingly compact and a great bargain. I concur on all fronts -- and I especially loved the small size and light weight of this lens. It's been simply a breeze to carry and use, yet I made no sacrifices in image quality. I've used it for street shooting, landscapes (the blue moon shot, for example), landscape details, and action shots. Obviously, many photographers would think of it as primarily a portrait lens, and I used it for that, too, including a picture that I liked of two lifelong friends who arrived at a birthday party wearing the same color dress. I stopped the lens down to f/2.5, which gave me a gentle blur in the background just behind the two ladies but provided enough depth-of-field to keep them sharp. I was pleased with the smooth bokeh in this image and all my other shots taken at wide apertures. The lens just never let me down in any way. It's a great optic for the Micro 4/3 system.

Used at f/2.5, the 42.5mm lens gave a beautiful portrait rendering and gentle background blur when I documented how lifelong friends can tend to think alike.
Panasonic 42.5mm F1.7: 42.5mm, f/2.5, 1/50s, ISO 400, +3EV

Wi-Fi take a few moments to setup, but reliable and robust

I tested the Wi-Fi features of the Panasonic GF7 with my iPhone 5. I was able to make reliable connections between the camera and my phone using the standard connection method where I connected my phone to the Wi-Fi network created by the camera. In this mode, using the Panasonic Image App, I could remotely control the camera from my phone and also easily transfer pictures from camera to phone. The Image App's remote control feature gives you access to many of the camera's features and worked seamlessly for me.

Panasonic 12-32mm F3.5-5.6: 32mm, f/5.6, 1/100s, ISO 3200, -0.3EV

Connecting the camera to an iPhone takes a few steps and just isn't as dead-simple easy as I'd like Wi-Fi connectivity to be, but it works more consistently and reliably on the Panasonic GF7 than on several other cameras I've tested in the past year or two. That said, there is a connectivity method using a QR code that the camera is supposed to display and which is supposed to be a bit quicker. Unfortunately, I could not get that to work, and Panasonic's instructional material was next to useless for figuring out why. In fact, Panasonic's instructions on the entire Wi-Fi system, both in the printed manual and online, are terrible -- incomplete, unclear and written in very poor English. All in all, the GF7 is as good at camera-to-smartphone connectivity as any other camera I've tested recently, and better than some, but that's not saying much.

Decent quality video with a typical featureset

Panasonic GF7 Sample Video
1,920 x 1,080, 60 fps, AVCHD
Download Original (35.4MB MTS)

To test the video capabilities of the Panasonic GF7, I took it to Washington Square Park on a late afternoon. The camera's video setup is typical of many mirrorless ILC cameras these days: it has a dedicated video recording button and gives you a great deal of control over exposure and focus settings, as well as many other video and camera parameters. I used the GF7 in manual exposure and focus modes, and set my shutter speed to twice the frame rate for my video clips of activity around the park's fountain. My footage looks good to my eye: sharp and low in artifacts other than some moiré here and there.

Panasonic 12-32mm F3.5-5.6: 22mm, f/4.9, 1/160s, ISO 800, -0.7EV

Field Test Summary: utilitarian, but reliable and very compact

I think there's a lot to recommend about the Panasonic GF7. It's utilitarian rather than glamorous, but Panasonic has packed a whole lot of features and very reliable performance into a really small package in the GF7. Very few interchangeable-lens cameras are this small and light, and yet it can efficiently and reliably take great pictures in a wide variety of situations.


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