Panasonic Lumix GX85 Review

I really like the Panasonic Lumix GX8. It has great handling, awesome EVF, lightning fast autofocus, outputs very nice still images, super sharp 4K videos, really solid body and also the first camera to have Dual I.S..

Panasonic-Lumix-GX85-Review-01

Panasonic-Lumix-GX85-Review-02

*** This review is based on a preproduction sample running firmware 0.1 ***

Panasonic has just announced another new camera, the Panasonic Lumix GX85. It’s a little brother to the GX8 and looks very similar to the GX8, but a bit smaller. But if you put the GX85 next to a GX7, it’s not hard to see why Panasonic calls it the GX7 Mark II in it’s homeland market. The size, layout of the GX85 is a lot closer to the GX7 than the GX8. It is a mid size micro four thirds camera, one size smaller than the GX8. While the construction isn’t as metal as it’s bigger brother, it still feel pretty solid and very well made.
The camera’s 2.7 Million dots electronic viewfinder (EVF) has very minimal lag. Despite it is of a field sequential LCD type, I didn’t notice any rainbow tearing effect at all. The 0.7x magnification is comparable to other cameras in the same class. But it is noticeably smaller than GX8’s really awesome EVF, partially because GX85’s EVF is in 16:9 aspect ratio which means a large part of the display is not used when you are shooting photos in the native 4:3 format. (GX8’s EVF is in 4:3 ratio). I don’t really understand why Panasonic quite often choose a 16:9 EVF/screen for their micro four thirds cameras. I would have thought 4:3 should be the default aspect ratio to match the sensor.
The camera has dual main dials which is great for shooting in manual or aperture/shutter priorty modes. Unfortunately, exposure compensation is still not available in manual mode when auto ISO is turned on. Panasonic can you please add this feature to your future cameras (or via firmware update to the existing cameras) as it’s a little feature that is very useful for a lot of situations for your advanced users.
There are also a number of custom assignable buttons which allows quick access to your favourite settings. The layout of the dials and buttons is good and easy to access even when you are shooting using the EVF. As someone who have shoot with many Panasonic cameras in the past, I felt immediately home when I pick up the GX85. Everything is pretty much exactly where I think they should be.

Panasonic-Lumix-GX85-Review-05

The GX85 has a tilt-able rear touchscreen (maximum up 80° / down 45°), unlike the fully articulated type on the GX8. The question of tilt-able or fully articulated screen is always a highly subjective preference, but the screen itself is bright and useable even under bright sunlight. Panasonic’s touchscreen implementation is definitely one of the best in the market. Very fast response, intuitive, well polished and of course it has my favourite touchscreen feature, touch AF. (If you have not used a Panasonic micro four thirds camera with touch screen before, check out this video to see what it is and how it works on a GX8, which is very similar to the GX85)

Panasonic-Lumix-GX85-Review-14Panasonic GX85 + Panasonic 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 II @ 16mm – ISO 12800 f/4 1/60s
At ISO 12800, quite a bit of fine details are lost after noise reduction but colour, contrast..etc are still quite good

The GX85’s image resolution remains at 16MP. As RAW reader is not yet available when I am writing this review, I can only examine the JPG files. High ISO and dynamic range appears to be very similar if not identical to the G7. Even at ISO 12800, the output images are still quite useable (but not very good quality). Overall image quality is decent and comparable to a lot of APS-C sensor cameras.
Panasonic has removed the optical low-pass filter (OLPF) in front of the sensor this time and they claim it gives about 10% improve in image sharpness. Once again, it’s something I can’t confirm until the RAW reader is available. I’ve compared the JPG files from GX7 and GX85, there are some small differences but I can’t tell if the GX85 is sharper, the JPGs just look different.
In theory, the downside of not having the optical low-pass filter is the higher chance of seeing moire patterns in the images. But I didn’t see any moire patterns in my hundreds of real life sample photos shooting many different kind of subjects, so moire patterns should not be an issue for most users.

Panasonic-Lumix-GX85-Review-10I like the results from the new L.Monochrome mode

For JPG shooters, there is a new L.Monochrome mode which outputs black and white photo that has a bit of “B&W film” look. All the black and white sample photos in this review were shot in this new L. Monochrome mode. By the way, all the sample photos in this review are all unedited JPG straight out of camera, apart from resizing and adding my signature/frame.
Just like all the recent Panasonic cameras, GX85’s autofocus system is really impressive. It snaps onto the targets almost instantly without any hunt or hesitation. While continuous tracking is still a bit behind the top end DSLRs, shooting static objects, or under very low light, the autofocus system’s performance is absolutely fantastic.
The GX85 is Panasonic’s second camera that offers the ‘Dual IS’ image stabilisation system. And the camera’s in-body image stabiliser is now upgraded to a new 5-axis type.
According to Panasonic, the Dual I.S. system can now offer up to 4.5 stops of image stabilisation when work with supported OIS lenses. When I was reviewing the GX8, I was impressed by that camera’s Dual I.S. performance. But I was also a bit disappointed by the effectiveness of the in-body image stabiliser by itself. i.e. when a lens with no OIS (or not supported OIS) is mounted onto the camera as my test results suggested it was only about 1 stop effective. So I paired the camera with a Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 lens (which doesn’t have OIS) to test GX85’s body only I.S. performance. I took approximately 20 photos at various shutter speed, with the I.S. on and then off, and the results are summarised below:

Panasonic-Lumix-GX85-Review-06

Overall, GX85’s 5-axis image stabiliser by itself is around 2 stops effective. With the 20mm lens, even at 0.3s and I still got almost 50% success rate. While this is still not as good as Olympus  5-axis image stabiliser, it is clearly a good improvement over GX8’s 4-axis image stabiliser. And remember this is the in-body image stabilisation only results, not dual I.S.. With a compatible Panasonic OIS lens, I did manage to shoot some handheld photo at crazily slow shutter speed. (4 stops+ easily)

Panasonic-Lumix-GX85-Review-09Panasonic GX85 + Panasonic 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 II @ 14mm – ISO 800 f/9 1s
At 14mm, 1 second handheld is quite possible with the help of Dual I.S.

When reviewing the GX8, I noticed the GX8 has very noticeable shutter shock issues with some particular lenses (such as the Panasonic 14-140) at some certain shutter speed. The GX85 has a new shutter module to minimise the shutter shock problem. So I borrowed the  Panasonic 14-140mm lens from Panasonic again and shot a number of photos at various shutter speed from 1/300s down to around 1/50s at 140mm. My results suggested that the new shutter module  has fixed the shutter shock issue. All the photos from 1/300s down to 1/50s are very sharp with no sign of shutter shock at all.

Panasonic-Lumix-GX85-Review-07GX85 with 14-140mm at 140mm, 1/125s  – No visible shutter shock

Panasonic_Lumix_Gx8_review_26From my GX8 review: same lens and settings,  GX8 has very visible shutter shock with the mechanical shutter (left)

Downside with the new shutter module is that the sync speed is only 1/160th which is a bit slower than GX8 or even GX7. Seeing the new shutter unit has fixed the shutter shock issue, this is definitely a very small trade off most user happy to accept.
On a similar topic, when I was discussing my GX85 shutter shock results with Panasonic NZ, I was told that the new GX8 firmware would minimise the shutter shock issue as the camera would try avoid some particular shutter speed when some certain lenses are mounted onto the camera. While this may not be the perfect solution, it should at least help minimise GX8’s shutter shock problem. So if you have a GX8, definitely upgrade to the latest firmware.
Video is always Panasonic’s strong area, and even though the GX85 is clearly a photo oriented camera, it is still quite a capable video camera. The GX85 can shoot videos at 1080p or 4K internally at various speed with bit rate up to 100Mbps. The videos from the GX85, even the “low resolution” 1080P ones are very sharp and contains lots of details, beating pretty much 90% of the cameras out there in the market.  Unfortunately the camera has no microphone input port.
But on the flip side, the new 5 axis image stabiliser can be enabled even when shooting 4K videos (you can’t do that on the GX8). I took some quick videos to see how effective image stabilisation is when taking videos. It is quite effective in minimising all the small jitters and vibrations. The output footage is a lot smoother when the I.S. is turned on, especially when you are walking or sitting in a car driving on a bumpy road when you are taking the video. You’ll still need a proper external image stabiliser if you want to capture very smooth video footages, but if you want a small and very portable camera that outputs nice sharp 4K videos with some image stabilisation, without having any external aids such as stabiliser, recorder or microphone, the GX85 is your best option right now.

Panasonic-Lumix-GX85-Review-04There is a HDMI out and micro USB port, but no mic input

The battery life is similar to the other micro four thirds or other mirrorless cameras. Good enough to last a few hours but probably can’t last a full day of heavy use. But the good thing is that camera has a micro USB port which allows you to charge the battery using any USB power supply like a portable USB power bank. Unfortunately the camera doesn’t come with any stand alone charger. You may want to buy an additional battery charger especially if you have multiple batteries so you can charge your battery while still able to use the camera.
The GX85 has a little pop-up built-in flash sitting next to the hotshoe mount. I understand quite a lot of people were not happy the GX8 doesn’t have a built-in flash. So GX85’s built-in flash, even though small, should make quite a few people quite happy.

Panasonic-Lumix-GX85-Review-03The GX85 has a little pop-up flash

The camera has tonnes of features like 4K photo modes, post focus, wifi, remote shooting but I won’t be going through them all in this review. It is really amazing how many features are there in our cameras these days.
When reviewing the Panasonic Lumix GX85, I keep asking myself this question: Which is the better camera, is it the GX85 or the GX8?
It’s a hard question to answer. The GX8 has some better key features, a much bigger EVF, the new 20MP image sensor, slightly better controls and also a weather sealed full magnesium alloy body.
On the other side, GX85’s smaller and lighter body, lower price (GX85’s retail price should be around NZD$250 cheaper than the GX8 when it hits the market), and with the better image stabiliser and built-in flash, it is also a more versatile camera for everyday use. Personally, I want the GX8 if I’m buying a micro four thirds camera for myself tomorrow because I just really love that camera especially it’s fantastic electronic viewfinder. But at the same time I feel the GX85 is indeed the better camera for most people.
The GX85 may not have the best of everything, but its a really versatile camera that you can easily carry with you all the time.

 

SAMPLE PHOTOS
All photos in this review are taken with the GX85 with the Panasonic 14-42 f/3.5-5.6 II lens. All photos are unedited JPG straight out of camera, apart from resizing and adding watermark/frame.

Panasonic-Lumix-GX85-Review-08Panasonic GX85 + Panasonic 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 II @ 14mm – ISO 200 f/5.4 1/2500s

Panasonic-Lumix-GX85-Review-11Panasonic GX85 + Panasonic 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 II @ 42mm – ISO 200 f/5.6 1/640s

Panasonic-Lumix-GX85-Review-12Panasonic GX85 + Panasonic 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 II @ 20mm – ISO 1000 f/4.4 1/60s

Panasonic-Lumix-GX85-Review-13Panasonic GX85 + Panasonic 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 II @ 14mm – ISO 200 f/5.5 1/400s

Panasonic-Lumix-GX85-Review-15Panasonic GX85 + Panasonic 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 II @ 15mm – ISO 1600 f/4 0.4s

Panasonic-Lumix-GX85-Review-16Panasonic GX85 + Panasonic 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 II @ 42mm – ISO 200 f/5.6 1/1000s

Panasonic-Lumix-GX85-Review-17Panasonic GX85 + Panasonic 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 II @ 31mm – ISO 200 f/5.5 1/320s

Panasonic-Lumix-GX85-Review-18Panasonic GX85 + Panasonic 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 II @ 14mm – ISO 1600 f/5.6 1/5s

Panasonic-Lumix-GX85-Review-19Panasonic GX85 + Panasonic 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 II @ 14mm – ISO 12800 f/5.6 1/40s

Panasonic-Lumix-GX85-Review-20Panasonic GX85 + Panasonic 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 II @ 14mm – ISO 3200 f/4 1/10s

Panasonic-Lumix-GX85-Review-21Panasonic GX85 + Panasonic 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 II @ 14mm – ISO 1600 f/5 0.3s

Panasonic-Lumix-GX85-Review-22Panasonic GX85 + Panasonic 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 II @ 14mm – ISO 800 f/4  1/6s

Panasonic-Lumix-GX85-Review-23Panasonic GX85 + Panasonic 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 II @ 14mm – ISO 200 f/5.5 1/320s

Panasonic-Lumix-GX85-Review-24Panasonic GX85 + Panasonic 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 II @ 14mm – ISO 12800 f/5  1/50s

Reviewer: Richard Wong

Richard is a multi-award winning wedding/portrait photographer based in Auckland, New Zealand.  Richard’s website is www.photobyrichard.com

Reviewer: Richard Wong
Richard is a multi-award winning wedding/portrait photographer based in Auckland, New Zealand. Richard’s website is www.photobyrichard.com
If you like my review, please follow me on Facebook and Instagram 🙂
https://www.facebook.com/ReviewByRichard
https://www.instagram.com/photo_by_richard/

All photos and text Copyright© 2016 www.photobyrichard.com. All photos and text may not be copied or reproduced in any format without obtaining written permissions

 

2 Replies to “Panasonic Lumix GX85 Review”

Comments are closed.