My local London Camera Exchanges (we have two in Lincoln) are both now stocking the Panasonic Lumix GX7 camera. I had a quick play with the one in the High Street store, they were also selling various kits so I initially had a play with the 14-42mm lens and then the 20m f1.7 (mark-II) lens, this is a quick post to describe my initial thoughts after having a quick go.
The feel of the camera in the hands is almost goldilocks but not quite as the grip is quite small; to be fair if the grip was larger it wouldn’t be a GX camera. The camera is larger than its predecessor the GX1 and it has to be to include all of the features needed. I like the larger form factor as the GX1 was sometimes too small. The heft of the camera reminded me of the Canon Powershot G10 that I still have – not too light or too heavy (hence the goldilocks statement).
I like the fact that the viewfinder is built in, when I was using the GX1 in bright sunlight the viewfinder was required as the rear screen was almost useless. I used this camera whilst on holiday in Florida last year almost exclusively with the add-on VF2 viewfinder; I think that this camera will be at the top of my list for holiday camera next time around; the GH3 might just be too big?
The viewfinder was very nice to use and the fact that this could be angled from 0 to 90 degrees made it much more useful. The viewfinder is also better than the one in the GH3 which is understandable as this camera is much newer. Electronic Viewfinders (EVF) technology is still maturing from what is now OK to Good, imagine what will be around when the GH5 is released in a year or two (it is unlikely that there will be a GH4 as the numeral “4” is unlucky in the parts of the world where these cameras are designed and manufactured).
The rear screen on the GX7 was gorgeous and the hinge mechanism that allowed this to be positioned at various angles oozed quality it was not too stiff or too loose.
The focusing was as quick as ever and I just adore the touch screens on the Panasonic Lumix cameras, I don’t know why Nikon and Canon don’t feature these on their entire range of DSLR cameras (Canon to be fair are introducing touch screens on the lower end models so maybe this will eventually be added to all of them). The focus peaking feature was enabled and although I gave manual focusing a try I don’t see what all of the fuss is about, I could see when the subject was in focus and the coloured shimmering (the focus peaking) just seemed to be an annoyance! Am I missing something here?
I also tried out the in body image stabilisation (IBIS) option. I ventured into the menus to switch it only to find that it was. If I introduced a small amount of camera shake I could see the image on the rear screen stabilise a bit but it wasn’t s good as the optical stabilisation in some of their lenses, I suppose this is better than none and it is still at version 1. I wish that Panasonic would just licence the technology from Olympus if they want IBIS to be a really useful feature. I just need to point out that I have never handled any of the newer OMD or Pen models with their 5-axis IBIS yet but when I do I will see if it is as good as the hype or not.
I didn’t have a chance to use the WiFi abilities of the camera, but it uses the same software already on my iPad/iPhone that I use with the GH3 so should be pretty good. This camera like the G6 also has the NFC touch to join feature but Apple have not provided this on any of their devices to date so I will never use it. If you have an Android phone there is a good chance that it will have NFC and there is also and Android version of the software too. Unfortunately there is no Windows Phone 7 or 8 version of the App for the Windows phone users out there (not my problem any more).
So with all these great features is there anything missing? Of course there is, all cameras are “limited” in some ways and it always a lesson in compromise. The camera has no microphone input and as good as the viewfinder and rear screen are I prefer the fully articulating screen as per their G and GH models. Although I never tried this out, the stabiliser cannot be used whilst in the video mode and the IBIS in stills was just OK and better than nothing – am I being too harsh as I haven’t tried this when taking photos yet.
So after my brief play I was really impressed but at £999 for the GX7 (with the 20mm lens) was £999 more than I have spare today and if (when?) I get a second body it will most likely be a G6; I need the swivel screen and the Microphone input. This also has £100 cash back on the G6+14-140mm (Mark II) lens at the moment and as much as I like the 20mm f1.7 the 14-140mm is a much more useful lens. I also suspect that I will eventually go for the Panasonic-Leica 25mm f1.4 lens too instead of the 20mm f1.7.
It is obvious to me that this camera will be great with a bag of fast primes (Olympus and Panasonic lenses), the space required this would be very small and allow quality images to be taken using optically excellent fast lenses. Maybe later…..