Panasonic GX85 Conclusion

Lumix G X Vario 12-32mm f/3.5-5.6: 38mm-equivalent, f/5.6, 1/60s, ISO 640

Panasonic GX85 packs a lot of features and performance into a compact body

As our reviewer Eamon Hickey stated, he's a big fan of what he calls "small-but-serious cameras," and the Panasonic GX85 definitely fits the bill. Panasonic has managed to pack a lot of their latest-and-greatest tech and features into the GX85, including in-body 5-axis Dual Image Stabilization, a built-in EVF, a tilting LCD with touchscreen, a flash, a hot shoe, 4K video and photo capture, and built-in Wi-Fi just to name a few, while keeping the design relatively compact and comfortable to use.

Performance is very good as well, with low shutter lag, relatively fast autofocus, an 8 frames-per-second full-resolution burst mode (10 fps with electronic shutter), and generously deep buffers (unlimited for JPEGs, 40+ for RAW). See our Performance page for details.

Eamon also found that tracking autofocus was impressive for a contast-detect-only AF system, thanks to Panasonic's subject recognition and Depth from Defocus technology, though it's still not as good as most phase-detect or hybrid AF systems. The Panasonic GX85 was however able to autofocus in extremely low light on our low-contrast AF target in the lab (we measured down to -5.6 EV), and lower than we could measure accurately with our high-contrast target. Outstanding.

Our only real complaints on the performance front were slow buffer clearing when shooting RAW or RAW+JPEG files (however you can take additional photos and adjust settings while the buffer is clearing), a relatively slow 1/160s flash x-sync speed, and mediocre battery life.

Lumix G X Vario 35-100mm f/2.8: 200mm-equivalent, f/2.8, 1/800s, ISO 200

Panasonic GX85 produces sharp images

The Panasonic GX85's image quality is very good and on par with most recent Micro Four Thirds cameras, especially when shooting RAW files. No, it doesn't have the highest resolution currently available from a 4/3" sensor (20 megapixels), but the GX85's 16-megapixel AA-filter-less sensor offers noticeably better sharpness than prior Panasonic models with an optical low-pass filter, without a dramatic increase in aliasing artifacts.

High ISO performance and dynamic range are good, comparable to other recent 16-megapixel Micro Four Thirds models, though as expected, not as good as most APS-C cameras.

And while we haven't tested specifically for blurring due to shutter shock, the Panasonic GX85's new electromagnetic shutter mechanism appears to be an effective counter-measure to that common issue.

Panasonic GX85 has good ergonomics with only minor quibbles

The Panasonic GX85 also features plenty of external controls for its size, including dual front and rear control dials with the rear one pressable as an exposure compensation button; dedicated ISO, white balance, drive mode and AF mode buttons, a dedicated movie record button, an AF/AE lock button, and no less than 4 programmable function buttons. The camera also feels very well-built and sturdy despite its small size.

That said, our reviewer did note two minor operational disappointments: you can't set a custom minimum shutter speed when using auto ISO, and you can't use exposure compensation when using auto ISO in manual exposure mode. Both of these are useful advanced refinements for the auto ISO feature (and available on many competing cameras), and he wished the GX85 had them. Eamon also wasn't crazy about the position of the AE/AF lock button, which is the most natural one to use for back-button AF he prefers to use, finding it required a slightly cramped grip.

Eamon also found that the EVF was a bit small, and that display lag can make tracking moving subjects tricky (also true with the LCD), although he noted the GX85's isn't the worst electronic view camera he's used in that regard. The EVF also exhibits color tearing or shimmering thanks to its field-sequential display, which can be distracting for some users.

Lumix G X Vario 12-32mm f/3.5-5.6: 50mm-equivalent, f/5.2, 1/125s, ISO 800

Panasonic GX85 Video: 4K with no recording limit

The Panasonic GX85 is capable of capturing 4K UHD (3840 x 2160) video at both 30p and 24p at 100Mbps with no artificial clip length limit, at least for the NTSC version. Full HD video at up to 60p is also available, as are lower resolutions at 30p. 4K footage looks to be excellent quality, and the 5-axis image stabilization worked extremely well at typical focal lengths, however there are some downsides. 4K video has about a 1.1x crop compared to Full HD, and the GX85 does not have external microphone and headphone jacks nor does it support any V-Log profiles, which will disappoint video enthusiasts.

Other 4K-related features include clever Live Cropping and Post Focus modes, but Eamon was less impressed with the GX85's 4K Photo mode, as he found autofocus couldn't track moving subjects very well at 30 frames per second, and image quality wasn't always as good as downsizing photos captured at full resolution. Still, 4K Photo is a useful feature in some situations.

Panasonic has recently added in-camera Focus Stacking via the firmware v1.1 update, which adds yet another nifty 4K feature. You can read more about it by clicking here.

4K Photo with Lumix G X Vario 35-100mm f/2.8: 90mm-equivalent, f/2.8, 1/500s, ISO 800

Summary

The Panasonic GX85 truly does pack a whole lot of advanced features and performance into a compact, portable package, and all for a fair price. And while it's not perfect (no camera is), it's currently one of the best all-around Micro Four Thirds cameras on the market for those looking for a small yet powerful interchangeable lens camera. As such, we have no reservations recommending the Panasonic GX85 and awarding it a definite Dave's Pick.

Pros & Cons

  • Crisper, more detailed images than prior 16-megapixel models thanks to the lack of an optical low-pass filter
  • Good high ISO performance and dynamic range, competitive with the best 16-megapxiels MFT cameras
  • Dual 5-axis image stabilization works well for stills and video
  • New electromagnetic shutter helps avoid shutter shock
  • Very compact kit lens with decent performance for its size and cost
  • Generally good ergonomics and controls
  • Feels well-built despite its small size
  • Built-in EVF
  • Tilting touchscreen LCD
  • Quick startup
  • Fast autofocus
  • Able to autofocus in extremely low light
  • Good cycle times
  • 8fps burst mode with mechanical shutter
  • Electronic shutter mode offers very fast burst modes, quiet operation and shutter speeds up to 1/16,000s
  • Generous buffer depths
  • Built-in flash
  • Hot shoe
  • Excellent 4K video
  • Clever use of 4K capture including Post Focus and Focus Stacking
  • Built-in Wi-Fi works well (but no NFC)
  • USB charging
  • Good bang for the buck
  • Below average battery life
  • EVF exhibits noticeable lag and color tearing
  • Lack of an optical low-pass filter can result in aliasing artifacts
  • No external mic or headphone jacks
  • Slow buffer clearing when shooting bursts of RAW or RAW+JPEG files
  • Weak built-in flash
  • Slow 1/160s x-sync shutter speed
  • Limited Auto ISO configurability
  • 4K Photo not as useful as expected
  • No wired remote jack (but remote control is supported via Wi-Fi)


Follow Imaging-Resource.com on Twitter!

 



Enter this month to win:

1 $300 Adorama Gift Certificate

2 $200 Adorama Gift Certificate

3 $100 Adorama Gift Certificate