Reviewed by Jason DiMichele
Panasonic’s newest camera, the Lumix GX85, has some very interesting features and improvements over previous Lumix models. Since all specs are listed on the Panasonic website, I’ll briefly outline some of the key features and will go into more detail on the camera’s usability, performance and wonderful new bag of tricks.
The GX85 ($999) is built around a 16-megapixel Live MOS Micro Four-Thirds sensor. Panasonic has, for the first time on a Lumix camera, removed the low pass/anti-aliasing filter. It’s equipped with a high-resolution Live Viewfinder, a maximum 8 frames per second (30 fps in 4K Photo), an ISO range of 200 to 25,600, 4K Photo, Ultra HD 4K video, a new 5-axis dual image stabilization, a redesigned shutter mechanism, built-in bounceable flash, a touch-sensitive tiltable LCD screen and a maximum shutter speed of 1/16,000th (electronic). The auto focus system works in very low light levels (-4EV) and utilizes Panasonic’s Depth from Defocus technology for very fast and accurate focus with many configurable modes.
The GX85 is a little smaller than the GX8, but the ergonomics are still acceptable for my large hands. Due to the smaller size there are less dedicated dials and buttons to customize, although enough to keep you working efficiently. I found it well-balanced with most of the lenses I tested it with. The build quality is very good and all controls and tilting LCD screen feel solid. The battery life is good for a mirrorless camera as I got approximately 300 photos per charge.
One of the biggest improvements included is the new 5-axis dual image stabilization (Dual IS), effective up to 4 stops. The fifth axis provides camera roll detection, which benefits single-handed shooting. The 5-axis in-body stabilization is always available with any lens, and is even more effective with a Dual IS-supported Panasonic lens. It also works with 4K video, creating tremendous low-light video capturing opportunities! I was consistently able to get sharp images handheld in low-light at very slow shutter speeds. The new 5-axis Dual IS works very well and will provide you with sharp photos in situations that wouldn’t have worked in the past!
The shutter mechanism has been redesigned and is now controlled electromagnetically. This is a very welcome improvement as the Lumix GX8 had a known issue with shutter shock, which could cause shutter-induced vibration at certain shutter speeds.
Most cameras have a low pass/anti-aliasing filter covering their sensors. This filter is used to slightly blur an image to avoid moire patterns in photos with high-detail texture. It’s also the reason why most digital images should be sharpened in post-processing. Panasonic has removed this filter on the GX85, which allows for sharper images with more detail right out of the camera. Any chance of moire is virtually eliminated with the combination of the LiveMOS sensor and Venus processing engine, which also helps reduce high ISO noise as a bonus.
As impressive as the GX85 is, there are a few things to be aware of. The camera is not weather-sealed, but a camera rain jacket could be used for protection. External microphone and headphone jacks have been omitted, which may be an issue for those serious about video. You are therefore limited to the camera’s built-in stereo microphone and speaker. There’s also no jack for a shutter release cable, although you can use the self-timer or your phone via the Panasonic Image App.
Focus and aperture bracketing have been added to the GX85. Focus bracketing will be beneficial in a number of situations and is an awesome feature for focus stacking. The benefits of aperture bracketing will be evident in those situations where you aren’t quite sure how much depth-of-field you’ll ultimately need and don’t have much shot setup time.
In addition to the standard Panasonic 4K features (post focus, pre-burst, burst and loop), a couple of clever new 4K features, Live Cropping and Light Composition Mode have been introduced. Live Cropping allows for in-camera panning and zooming without the need for specialized video equipment. You basically set the beginning and end points of your scene and the camera takes care of the rest! Light Composition Mode helps you capture nighttime scenes such as fireworks by continually capturing the scene, but only adding the brighter pixels while maintaining the desired dark areas.
The GX85 produces excellent JPG images straight out of the camera. If you enjoy shooting in black and white, the new L. Monochrome JPG mode produces images with lovely tonality. Images can be easily shared with the Panasonic Image App (iOS and Android). If you shoot RAW, you can use the camera’s built-in RAW converter to share your images. The Image App also works exceptionally well at controlling the camera via wifi with the ability to control most camera settings.
The Panasonic Lumix GX85 delivers high image quality and many useful features. It holds true to the advancement of the mirrorless revolution. It was a pleasure to shoot with and I highly suggest that you consider it if you’re in the market for a mirrorless camera.
To read more of this issue please pick up the Fall/Winter 2016 (#39) issue of OPC. Or to never miss an issue please SUBSCRIBE today!