Panasonic’s newest Micro Four Thirds cameras, the Lumix DMC-GX7, is an impressive effort. Panasonic has always been stronger on SLR-styled bodies, like the GH series that has been popular with still photographers and videographers alike. Its Micro Four Thirds collaborator, and manufacturing competitor, Olympus has traditionally delivered the more impressive bodies with more compact designs. But it’s clear that Panasonic aims to change that with the new GX7. After a brief hands on with a pre-production model, our early impression is that the company has designed an impressive camera.
The GX7 doesn’t quite have the retro look of the Olympus PEN E-P5
The rear display is also hinged. It’s a touch-sensitive LCD with a 1,040k-dot resolution. You can tap a portion of the display to select a focus point and fire the shutter. If you’re using the EVF you can enable Touch Pad AF; it allows you to move the active focus point by sliding your finger across the rear LCD. It’s a neat feature that really lets you take control of the autofocus system. There’s also a pinpoint autofocus mode that magnifies a portion of the frame and lets you touch a tiny area on which to focus; the magnified frame jumps out of the live view frame in picture-in-picture style, so you’ll still have an idea of what is in front of your lens.
The image sensor is a 16-megapixel design. Panasonic promises that it will deliver the best high ISO performance in the Micro Four Thirds class, even better than the Olympus OM-D E-M5
The sensor is stabilized, a first for a Panasonic Micro Four Thirds cameras. If you’re shooting with an adapted lens, or a lens without built-in stabilization, you’ll benefit from that feature when shooting stills and recording 1080p60 video. In-lens stabilization will take precedence over the sensor-shift method automatically.
The body has a ton of control options. There are dual control dials, as well as a standard mode dial. There’s also an AE/AF Lock button that is combined with a toggle switch to change between manual and autofocus modes. Other buttons are available to adjust ISO, the white balance, the focus point, and drive mode, and there are a couple of customizable Fn buttons.
The Fn2 button adjust highlight and shadow adjustment by default. That’s another new feature. You can tune the JPG output using an on-screen curve control to adjust the dynamic range of your photos. If you prefer crunched blacks it’s easy enough to adjust the curves to capture them, or you can do the opposite and bring out detail in the shadows.
The GX7 also supports Wi-Fi with NFC pairing. You’ll be able to transfer photos directly from the camera to your smartphone for online sharing. By default this function is accessed via the Fn3 button. We weren’t able to play with this feature during our hands-on time, but will take a close look at it when we review the camera.
The focus system is contrast detect, but its speed has been improved thanks to a 240fps sampling rate. It supports shooting at up to 4.2fps with tracking focus enabled. Manual focusers will be happy to know that there are a couple focus aids built in. There’s magnification at 3, 5, or 10x, and focus peaking. The peaking offers high- and low-detect modes, with customizable highlight colors. You can choose from light blue, yellow, or green for high-detect, and from blue, orange, or white for low-detect.
There are numerous color effects built in, including two types of black and white. The Rough look is akin to shooting high ISO black-and-white film with lots of grain, where the Silky look offers smooth transitions in tones and as little grain as possible. There’s also color filter simulation for black-and-white image capture. You can choose between a red, yellow, orange, or green filter—but that only works in the standard B&W mode, not in Rough or Silky.
Panasonic is also adding a new lens, developed in conjunction with Leica, to its Micro Four Thirds lineup. The Leica DG Nocticron 42.5mm F1.2 is the fastest autofocus lens in the system. It’s ideally suited for portraiture, as its field of view matches a full-frame 85mm lens. The wide f/1.2 aperture allows for shooting in very dim light, and for extremely shallow depth of field. Pricing and availability for the lens have not yet been set.
The GX7 will ship in September. It’s available as body only for $999.99, or with a 14-42mm zoom (pictured above) for $1,099.99.
By Jim Fisher, PCMag