Panasonic GX85 Image Quality


Color

Saturation & Hue Accuracy
Slightly lower than average mean saturation levels, with about average hue accuracy.

ISO Sensitivity
100
200
400
800
In the diagram above, the squares show the original color, and the circles show the color that the camera captured. More saturated colors are located toward the periphery of the graph. Hue changes as you travel around the center. Thus, hue-accurate, highly saturated colors appear as lines radiating from the center. Mouse over the links to compare results at different ISOs, and click on the links for larger images.

Saturation. The Panasonic GX85 produces images with slightly muted colors compared to most cameras at default settings. Mean saturation is 107.8% (7.8% oversaturated) at the base ISO of 200, which gradually falls to a minimum of 103.3% at ISO 25,600. The Lumix GX85 pushes dark red and dark blues moderately and some other colors slightly, but undersaturates yellow moderately, and aqua and cyan slightly. Most consumer digital cameras produce color that's more highly saturated (more intense) than found in the original subjects. This is simply because most people like their color a bit brighter than life.

Skin tones. Here, the Panasonic GX85 does fairly well, producing natural-looking Caucasian skin tones with a slight push towards pink when Auto white balance is used, giving a healthy appearance. Darker skin tones have a small nudge towards orange, but overall results are pretty good. Where oversaturation is most problematic is on Caucasian skin tones, as it's very easy for these "memory colors" to be seen as too bright, too pink, too yellow, etc.

Hue. The Panasonic GX85 shifts orange toward yellow, yellow toward green, and cyan toward blue, but most other hue shifts are quite minor. The yellow to green shift along with the desaturation can unfortunately produce some dingy-looking yellows as we've seen from some prior Lumix models. The GX85's mean "delta-C" color error after correction for saturation is 4.54 for JPEGs at the base ISO of 200 (100 is an extended ISO). That's close to average these days, and color error remains quite stable throughout the ISO range. Hue is "what color" the color is.

See full set of test images with explanations
See thumbnails of all test and gallery images

Sensor

Exposure and White Balance

Indoors, incandescent lighting
Somewhat warm colors with Auto and Incandescent white balance setting. Good color balance with the Manual setting. Average positive exposure compensation required.

Auto White Balance
+0.3 EV
Incandescent White Balance
+0.3 EV
Manual White Balance
+0.3 EV

Indoors, under normal incandescent lighting, color balance is a little warm and reddish with the Auto white balance setting, but results here are actually better then most. Results with the Incandescent setting are warmer, with a stronger orange-yellow cast. The Manual setting produced very accurate results. The Panasonic GX85 required +0.3 EV exposure compensation here, about average for this shot. (Our test lighting for this shot is a mixture of 60 and 100 watt household incandescent bulbs, a pretty yellow light source, but a very common one in typical home settings here in the U.S.)

Outdoors, daylight
Natural colors overall, with a tendency toward high contrast under harsh lighting. About average exposure accuracy.

Auto White Balance,
+0.7 EV
Auto White Balance,
Auto Exposure

Outdoors, the Panasonic GX85 performed well, with natural-looking though slightly cool color in the Far-field shot. Skin tones are fairly realistic in our "Sunlit" Portrait shot, with a healthy-looking push of pinks and reds when Auto white balance is used, which is preferable to too flat or yellow. Exposure accuracy is about average, as the camera required +0.7 EV compensation for our "Sunlit" Portrait shot to keep facial tones reasonably bright. That's typical for this shot. Despite the bright appearance, only a few highlights were actually blown in the mannequin's white shirt which is quite good, though there are some very deep shadows that are quite clean, but discolored and posterized. The default exposure is just slightly dim for the Far-field shot, however as a result there are very few blown highlights, though again there are some very deep shadows that are discolored and posterized. Default contrast is on the high side, but that's how most consumers prefer their photos.

See full set of test images with explanations
See thumbnails of all test and gallery images

Resolution
~2,350 to ~2,450 lines of strong detail.

Strong detail to
~2,450 lines horizontal
Camera JPEG
Strong detail to
~2,350 lines vertical
Camera JPEG
Strong detail to
~2,450 lines horizontal
ACR converted raw
Strong detail to
~2,350 lines vertical
ACR converted raw

An in-camera best quality JPEG of our laboratory resolution chart reveals sharp, distinct line patterns up to about 2,450 lines per picture height horizontally, and about 2,350 lines in the vertical direction. (Some might argue for higher, but aliasing artifacts start to interfere and lines begin to merge at these limits.) Complete extinction of the pattern occurs between 3,300 lines and 3,300 lines. We weren't able to extract significantly more high-contrast resolution by processing the Panasonic GX85's RW2 file using Adobe Camera Raw, and the ACR conversion also shows much more color moiré which is practically nonexistent in the camera JPEG.

Use these numbers to compare with other cameras of similar resolution, or use them to see just what higher resolution can mean in terms of potential detail.

See full set of test images with explanations
See thumbnails of all test and gallery images

Sharpness & Detail
Very good sharpness overall, with minor edge-enhancement artifacts on high-contrast subjects. Mild to moderate noise suppression visible in the shadows even at base ISO.

Very good definition of high-contrast
elements, with just slightly visible
sharpening artifacts.
Subtle detail: Hair
Noise suppression tends to blur
detail in areas of subtle contrast.

Sharpness. The Panasonic GX85 captures sharp, detailed images, thanks in part to the lack of an optical low-pass filter. Some minor edge enhancement artifacts are visible in high-contrast subjects such as the sharpening "halos" along the lines and text in the crop above left, but default sharpening here is fairly typical for consumer-oriented models, and not too overdone. Edge enhancement creates the illusion of sharpness by enhancing colors and tones right at the edge of a rapid transition in color or tone.

Detail. The crop above right shows the effect of noise suppression in the form of smudging of individual strands together in the darker areas of the model's hair, as well as in areas with low local contrast, although chroma noise is well-controlled. This is good noise versus detail processing performance for a 16-megapixel Micro Four Thirds model, leaving lots of fine detail intact instead of blurring much of it away in an attempt to hide noise. Noise-suppression systems in digital cameras tend to flatten-out detail in areas of subtle contrast. The effects can often be seen in shots of human hair, where the individual strands are lost and an almost "watercolor" look appears.

RAW vs In-Camera JPEGs
As noted above, the Panasonic GX85 produces sharp in-camera JPEGs with good detail. As is almost always the case, better detail can be obtained from carefully processing RAW files than can be seen in the in-camera JPEGs, with fewer sharpening artifacts to boot. Take a look below, to see what we mean:

Base ISO (200)
Camera JPEG, defaults
RAW via Adobe Camera Raw

In the table above, we compare an in-camera JPEG taken at base ISO using default noise reduction and sharpening (on the left) to a matching RAW file converted with Adobe Camera Raw 9.1 via DNG Converter 9.6 using default noise reduction with some strong but tight unsharp masking applied in Photoshop (300%, radius of 0.3 pixels, and a threshold of 0).

As you can see, the in-camera JPEG contains very good detail, however ACR extracted additional detail, particularly in the red-leaf fabric where it managed to resolve some of the fine thread pattern. The ACR conversion however shows much more luminance noise after sharpening, especially in flatter areas with little detail. You can always turn up the luminance noise reduction (default of zero was used here), or process the files in your favorite noise reduction program or plugin if you find the noise objectionable. Bottom line, though, as is usually the case shooting in RAW mode provides better detail, color, and control than in-camera JPEGs when using a good converter.

ISO & Noise Performance
Great high ISO performance for a Micro Four Thirds model.

Default Noise Reduction
ISO 100 ISO 200 ISO 400
ISO 800 ISO 1600 ISO 3200
ISO 6400 ISO 12,800 ISO 25,600

The Panasonic GX85's images are very detailed and clean at ISOs 100 (extended) and 200, with only minor luminance noise detectable in the shadows. ISO 400 is also quite detailed, though a touch more noise and blurring from noise reduction can be seen. ISO 800 shows stronger noise reduction, blurring some very fine detail in the process, though overall detail remains very good and chroma noise is low. ISO 1600 is of course a little noisier, but fine detail is still pretty good and chroma noise is still well-controlled, but the GX85's area-specific noise reduction does leave some edges a bit rough and noisy. ISO 3200 shows a larger drop in image quality with noticeably less detail and more noise reduction artifacts. At ISO 6400, a crystalline effect starts to appear, chroma noise in the form of purple and yellow blotches starts to become objectionable and a lot of fine detail is blurred away. Image quality drops off quickly at ISO 12,800 and above, with stronger noise and noise reduction artifacts leaving little fine detail intact.

We're of course pixel-peeping to an extraordinary extent here, since 1:1 images on an LCD screen have little to do with how those same images will appear when printed. See the Print Quality section below for our evaluation of maximum print sizes at each ISO setting.

Note that we now shoot this series at f/8 instead of f/4, for increased depth of field (at f/4, it was very difficult to focus for maximum sharpness in the crop area while maintaining consistent focus between models).

Extremes: Sunlit, dynamic range and low light tests
Somewhat high default contrast but with decent dynamic range. Excellent low-light performance, able to capture images and autofocus in very low light.

+0.3 EV +0.7 EV +1.0 EV

Sunlight. The Panasonic GX85 did fairly well with the deliberately harsh lighting of this test. Contrast is a little high at its default setting, but dynamic range is decent in JPEGs. We felt the +0.7 EV exposure is the best compromise here. Although skin tones around the eyes are a bit dark, we prefer it to the +1.0 EV exposure overall, because there are fewer clipped highlights. It's really the photographer's choice here as to which direction to go in. For those Panasonic GX85 owners that are going to want to just print an image with little or no tweaking, the +1.0 image would probably produce a better-looking face uncorrected. The bottom line though, is that the Panasonic GX85 performed fairly well with the wide dynamic range of this shot, though not as good as some competitors. See below for how the Panasonic GX85's sensor performs (RAW mode) in terms of dynamic range.

Because digital cameras are more like slide film than negative film (in that they tend to have a more limited tonal range), we test them in the harshest situations to see how they handle scenes with bright highlights and dark shadows, as well as what kind of sensitivity they have in low light. The shot above is designed to mimic the very harsh, contrasty effect of direct noonday sunlight, a very tough challenge for most digital cameras. (You can read details of this test here.)

Face Detection
Aperture Priority, 0 EV, f/8
Face Detection Off
Aperture Priority, 0 EV, f/8
Face Detection On
iAuto, 0 EV, f/2.2

Face Detection. Like most cameras these days, the Panasonic GX85 has the ability to detect faces (up to 15 in a scene), and adjust exposure and focus accordingly. As you can see from the examples above, face detection improved exposure in both Aperture Priority at f/8, and in iAuto mode where the camera had control over aperture, and automatically applied Intelligent D-Range (see below).


Far-field Intelligent D-Range Examples
Off
Low

Panasonic's Intelligent Dynamic Range
The above shots are examples of Panasonic's Intelligent Dynamic Range Control (or iD-Range) at work, with no exposure compensation. Note that the camera does not take multiple shots and merge them as HDR mode does (see below). It's a system that adjusts local contrast and exposure more akin to Nikon's Active D-lighting, Canon's Automatic Lighting Optimization or Sony's Dynamic Range Optimization.

There are three levels of iD-Range available on the Panasonic GX85: Low, Standard and High, plus Auto and Off. It's automatically invoked in iAuto and some scene modes and manually selectable in PASM modes. Here, you can see darker midtones and shadows were progressively boosted as the strength was increased, without blowing many highlights in the process.


Far-field HDR Examples
Off

HDR mode
Here, you can see the Panasonic GX85's High Dynamic Range mode at work with our Far-field shot. HDR mode takes three images at different exposures and combines them to increase dynamic range. Mouse over the links, and click on them the view the full resolution files.

Auto did a good job, producing results similar to +/-2 EV which was arguably the best for this scene, while +/-3 dimmed the entire image. Notice the double images and ghosting of leaves, the flag or people moving between frames. Also notice the angle of view is narrower in the HDR images, likely because the images have been cropped and upsized during the optional auto alignment process.

Dynamic Range Analysis (RAW mode)
While we once performed our own dynamic range measurements based on in-camera JPEGs as well as converted RAW images (when the camera was supported by Adobe Camera Raw), we've switched to using DxO Labs' results from their DxOMark website. As technology advanced, the dynamic range of modern high-end cameras in some cases exceeded the range of the Stouffer T4110 density scale that we used for our own measurements. DxO's approach based on RAW data before demosaicing is also more revealing, because it measures the fundamental dynamic range of the sensor, irrespective of whatever processing is applied to JPEGs, or to RAW data by off-the-shelf conversion software.

In the following, we use DxO's "Print" dynamic range results, which are scaled based on camera resolution. As the name suggests, this scaling corresponds to the situation in which you print at a given size, regardless of how many megapixels the camera might have. (In other words, if you've decided to make a 13x19 inch print, that's the size you're printing, whether the camera's resolution is 16 or 300 megapixels.) For the technically-minded, you can find a discussion of the reasoning behind this here on the DxOMark website. Also note that DxO Labs uses a signal-to-noise (SNR) threshold of 1 when defining the lower boundary of acceptable luminance noise in their dynamic range measurements, which corresponds to the "Low Quality" threshold of the Imatest software we used to use for this measurement.

Here, we compare the Panasonic GX85's (known as the GX80 in Europe) dynamic range (in orange) to its predecessor, the GX7 (yellow), and also to the Sony A6300 (red), a state-of-the-art APS-C mirrorless camera.

As you can see from the above graph, the GX85's dynamic range is similar to the GX7's overall, but slightly better at low ISOs, peaking at about 12.6 EV at ISO 100 versus 12.2 EV for the GX7. Interestingly, the predecessor catches up at ISO 1600 and actually does a little bit better at higher ISOs, though you'll likely be hard-pressed to see a difference in real-world shots.

Unsurprisngly, the 24-megapixel APS-C Sony A6300 scored better across the board, with a peak dynamic range of 13.7 EV at base ISO, and the lead increases to a peak of about 1.6 EV at ISO 25,600, and the GX85 doesn't even offer an ISO 51,200 setting.

Still, dynamic range is very good for a Four Thirds sensor, though obviously not as good as the best APS-C mirrorless rivals.

Click here to visit the DxOMark page for the Panasonic GX85 for more of their test results and additional comparisons.


  1 fc
11 lux
1/16 fc
0.67 lux
1/16 fc
No NR
ISO
200

1s, f2.8

15s, f2.8

15s, f2.8
ISO
3200

1/15s, f2.8

1s, f2.8

1s, f2.8
ISO
25600

1/125s, f2.8

1/8s, 1 f2.8

1/8s, f2.8

Low Light. The Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX85 performed well in our low light tests, able to capture bright images down to the lowest light level we test at. The darkest level equates to about 1/16 the brightness of average city street lighting at night, so the Panasonic GX85 should be able to take well-exposed photos in almost any environment in which you can see well enough to walk around in.

Using default noise reduction setting, noise is low at ISO 200 and well-controlled at ISO 3200 with a very fine, tight noise "grain", though as you'd expect, noise is quite high at the maximum ISO of 25,600 which should probably be avoided except in emergencies.

We didn't notice any significant issues with hot pixels, though with long exposure noise reduction turned off (rightmost column) there were a lot of slightly brighter pixels in the shadows at ISO 200, as well as a few hot pixels. We didn't detect any issues with heat blooming or fixed pattern noise, but be aware that the maximum exposure supported by the GX85 is 120 seconds, which doesn't make it a good camera for long exposures.

Automatic color balance is just a touch cool particularly at lower light levels, but pretty neutral.

LL AF: The camera's autofocus system was able to focus on our low-contrast AF subject down to well below the 1/16 foot-candle light level unassisted with an f/2.8 lens (0.05 lux or -5.6 EV), which is excellent, especially for a camera with contrast-detect autofocus. And with our high-contrast AF target, it was able to focus so low that we couldn't accurately measured the light level. The Panasonic GX85 also has a focus-assist light which allows it to autofocus in total darkness, as long as the subject is within range and has sufficient contrast. Excellent results here.

How bright is this? The one foot-candle light level that this test begins at roughly corresponds to the brightness of typical city street-lighting at night. Cameras performing well at that level should be able to snap good-looking photos of street-lit scenes.

NOTE: This low light test is conducted with a stationary subject, and the camera mounted on a sturdy tripod. Most digital cameras will fail miserably when faced with a moving subject in dim lighting. (For example, a child's ballet recital or a holiday pageant in a gymnasium.) Thanks to their phase-detect AF systems, digital SLRs tend to do much better than point & shoots, but you still shouldn't expect a quick autofocus lock with moving subjects. The GX85 uses contrast-detect autofocus, as is found in most point & shoot cameras, so its low-light focusing ability may be less than that of some SLRs with phase-detect systems. That said, though, the larger, more sensitive pixels of the GX85's sensor do better under dim lighting than do the tiny pixels of most point & shoots.

Output Quality

Print Quality

Excellent 24 x 36 inch prints at ISO 100/200; Good 16 x 20 inch print at ISO 800; and a nice 8 x 10 at ISO 3200

ISO 100 and 200 prints look excellent at 24 x 36 inches, with rich colors and very good fine detail and sharpness. At 16 megapixels, pushing the size to 30 x 40 inches will work fine for wall display prints, but the resolution isn't high enough to warrant our good grade at that size for critical uses.

ISO 400 is also quite good at 24 x 36 inches, displaying virtually no evidence of ISO strain at this print size. The 20 x 30 inch print here looks excellent, with terrific fine detail.

ISO 800 delivers a print of 20 x 30 inches that is fine for less critical applications, with only minor issues such as typical softening of fine detail in certain areas of our test target and a mild trace of noise in some flatter areas. The 16 x 20 inch print tightens this up nicely and delivers a print that definitely warrants our "good" seal.

ISO 1600 yields a 16 x 20 inch print that comes close to passing our good grade, and is certainly fine for less critical applications. A reduction in size to 13 x 19 inches does the trick and produces a very good print for this ISO, with full color reproduction and nice fine detail for this gain setting.

ISO 3200 shows a marked decrease in image quality for available print sizes. While the 11 x 14 inch print here can be used for less critical purposes or in a pinch, a reduction to 8 x 10 inches is recommended to assure a good quality print that's reasonably untainted by noise reduction artifacts. Contrast detail is now mostly lost in our tricky red-leaf fabric swatch, which is typical for most crop-sensor cameras at this point, but noise is well-controlled at this print size, and there's plenty of fine detail still present elsewhere.

ISO 6400 images pass our good rating at a fairly modest 5 x 7 inches. The 8 x 10's here are not too bad, but there's not enough fine detail left after noise processing to pass our good grade. They're usable for less critical applications though.

ISO 12,800 prints at 4 x 6 inches are just a bit too muted and soft to pass our good grade for prints, though they're certainly usable for general purpose printing.

ISO 25,600 does not provide a usable print and this gain setting is best avoided.

The Panasonic GX85 performs solidly as expected in the print quality department, yielding useful print sizes from low extended and base ISO up to ISO 3200. After this the quality falls considerably, so for critical printing, setting the ISO limit in the menu to a maximum of ISO 3200 will ensure you can count on good prints depending on the desired print size and how much you crop your image before printing. At 16MP, the GX85 isn't able to compete with the 20MP GX8 which can produce 30 x 40 inch prints at the lower ISOs, and it loses to its popular big brother at a few ISOs as the gain rises. But at a lower price point and a trimmed down size, this is understandable and the Panasonic GX85 still packs a good I.Q. punch up to ISO 3200.

About our print-quality testing: Our "Reference Printer"

Testing hundreds of digital cameras, we've found that you can only tell so much about a camera's image quality by viewing its images on-screen. Ultimately, there's no substitute for printing a lot of images and examining them closely. For this reason, we routinely print sample images from the cameras we test on our Canon imagePROGRAF PRO-1000 printer, which we named our "Printer of the Year" in our 2015 COTY awards.

The Canon PRO-1000 has a lot of characteristics that make it a natural to use for our "reference printer." When it comes to judging how well a camera's photos print, resolution and precise rendering are paramount. The PRO-1000's more than 18,000 individual nozzles combine with an air feeding system that provides exceptional droplet-placement accuracy. Its 11-color LUCIA PRO ink system delivers a wide color gamut and dense blacks, giving us a true sense of the cameras' image quality. To best see fine details, we've always printed on glossy paper, so the PRO-1000's "Chroma Optimizer" overcoat that minimizes "bronzing" or gloss differential is important to us. (Prior to the PRO-1000, we've always used dye-based printers, in part to avoid the bronzing problems with pigment-based inks.) Finally, we just don't have time to deal with clogged inkjet heads, and the PRO-1000 does better in that respect than any printer we've ever used. If you don't run them every day or two, inkjet printers tend to clog. Canon's thermal-inkjet technology is inherently less clog-prone than other approaches, but the PRO-1000 takes this a step further, with sensors that monitor every inkjet nozzle. If one clogs, it will assign another to take over its duties. In exchange for a tiny amount of print speed, this lets you defer cleaning cycles, which translates into significant ink savings. In our normal workflow, we'll often crank out a hundred or more letter-size prints in a session, but then leave the printer to sit for anywhere from days to weeks before the next camera comes along. In over a year of use, we've never had to run a nozzle-cleaning cycle on our PRO-1000.

See our Canon PRO-1000 review for a full overview of the printer from the viewpoint of a fine-art photographer.

*Disclosure: Canon provided us with the PRO-1000 and a supply of ink to use in our testing, and we receive advertising consideration for including this mention when we talk about camera print quality. Our decision to use the PRO-1000 was driven by the printer itself, though, prior to any discussion with Canon on the topic. (We'd actually been using an old Pixma PRO 9500II dye-based printer for years previously, and paying for our own ink, until we decided that the PRO-1000 was the next-generation printer we'd been waiting for.)

 

The images above were taken from our standardized test shots. For a collection of more pictorial photos, see our Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX85 Photo Gallery .

Not sure which camera to buy? Let your eyes be the ultimate judge! Visit our Comparometer(tm) to compare images from the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX85 with those from other cameras you may be considering. The proof is in the pictures, so let your own eyes decide which you like best!



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