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Saturday, 27 May 2017


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For some time I have been looking for a replacement of my aging LX7. Its natural successor, the LX100, has some issues (according to two friends - and people I trust on the web) and seemed expensive for what it offers. So I had set my eyes on the GX85 - or GX80 as it is called here in Europe. Thus Gordon's "review' came at a most appropriate moment. I realized early on that it lacks a few of the (for me) prominent features of the LX's (I always used the LX7 with the additional flipable EV): just that - an EV which I can tilt vertical, and a number of easily/rapidly accessible controls on switches/rings on the lens barrel. Fortunately I was able to rent a GX80 for this past weekend and after a few fights with menus and settings (and here Gordon's Part II helped a lot, thanks so much!) I felt reasonably comfortable with handling it. But now: Oh what lense(s) to get... I really liked to 24-90mm equivalent range of the LX7 and wondered what the experts would recommend in that range for the GX80/85. This would be my starter kit with a couple of primes possibly added later.

I enjoyed the comments Gordon Lewis made in this posting. He is a welcome addition to TOP, in my opinion. I like this kind of "user" review of cameras.

I'd love to see the 'Joy' photo with the right side, inward facing facade cropped out, leaving the larger windows from the building on the right.

I have never had a 4/3 camera and I do not even know the size of its sensor, so excuse me if this question sounds primitive. It is about d.o.f.. (And yes, I know that d.o.f. is not what it used to be in film days when it was based on a Leitz definition from the 1930s.)

Assume Gordon and I take the same picture, Gordon with his micro 4/3 and I with my 24x36mm sensor camera. Gordon uses his 25mm lens and I use a lens with a focal distance to eliminate the effect of the "crop factor". I guess that will have to be a 50mm lens. If we have the same standpoint and shoot the same target, then our displays would show exactly the same picture.

If we have used identical f-stops (and iso values and shutter speed and tripod and all the rest) then it is generally proclaimed that Gordon's picture will have a larger d.o.f. than mine because at identical f-stops his aperture is smaller than mine in absolute terms as his focal length is shorter than mine. Sounds logical, even to me.

If we now want to show prints of our pictures, and we want them to be the same size, say A4 or 8 by 10 inches, then Gordons picture will lose some of its sharpness as it needs to be enlarged twice as much as mine. Sounds to me as if some of his larger d..o.f. effet will get lost in enlarging.

Is it so, and then to what extent?

[All correct except the assumptions about "enlarging" (inkjet printing, I assume you mean). 8x10 is not large enough to distinguish quality differences between the sensors, with the possible exception of a slight amount of microdetail or "smoothness" from the larger sensor. It won't make a difference in "sharpness," as sharpness (an elusive quality, difficult to define rigorously) is largely a matter of software processing these days—plus, technically, smaller-format lenses can be made to be a *little* better and "sharper" than larger-format lenses. It would depend on "all things being equal" (to which I always hear, in my mind, Ctein adding "...which they never are.") It also depends on the picture--the closer you are to the "center" of ideal conditions, the less difference will be apparent; the farther from the ideal and closer to the extremes of difficulty for the imaging system, the more one or the other systems might have an edge. In some properties you might look at. I think you would still see the modest difference in "bokeh" based on the conditions you describe.

Focus and subject distances and lens focal length have more effect on d.o.f. generally than sensor size and maximum aperture. Experimenters like to posit hypothetical "identical" conditions as you have done here (although you failed to mention pixel density, which would have to be controlled for--do your two sensors have the same number of total pixels, or the same pixel density?), but from an experimental standpoint that's reductionist thinking and has little to do with the conditions under which we actually photograph. Note that the lens I bought to experiment with pictures in which "bokeh" is dominant is a 45mm ƒ/2.8 Micro 4/3 lens. Forum convention would dictate that that's a very poor lens from which to get out-of-focus blur, but of course it's not--you just have to see with it that way and use it that way. Really, from a grubby seat-o'-the-pants perspective, the only sensible reason for using larger sensors is if you want to make larger prints. --Mike]

Gordon, Thanks for the tips and techniques. The one drawback you mentioned with most mirrorless cameras is the electronic viewfinder. No matter how hard I try with my Sony A6300, it doesn't come close to the circular eyepiece of my Nikon D500. With a comfortable sling strap and the 16-80 Nikkor lens it works for me. The difference in size is outweighed by the touch, feel and "view" I get with this combo. The smaller 35mm F1.8 DX prime lens makes the D500 even a little lighter. All the quick adjustments you spoke of are just as handy, quick and easy.

I have a GX80 and it's a nice camera. I also have a GX7 and I wish they'd kept the tiltable EVF and the AF/MF switch on the back.

Actually as I see no image quality difference between the two what I'd really like is a GX7 with the GX80's shutter and a better EVF not the field sequential one.

As a former 5D owner and now the happy owner of an A7 I've looked at the differences and for me the DoF factor works, convert the focal length and aperture and the picture and the DoF look pretty much the same but the FF shot will be sharper if you pixel peep and go looking for the differences. The A7 also has a bit more dynamic range but the MFT cameras and lenses are smaller and much faster to use.

"Really, from a grubby seat-o'-the-pants perspective, the only sensible reason for using larger sensors is if you want to make larger prints"

I really could not agree with this more having gone from FF to M4/3 to APSC. Honestly, I usually print at 12 X 18 or 12 x 16 and cannot tell the difference. The whole bokeh thing is so over the top on the internet. Now days you see photos where virtually nothing is in focus.

Honestly, if I was in the market for a new camera I would strongly consider this Panasonic. From a very brief time when I had a M 4/3 camera I found the lenses to be fantastic. I had an Olympus and I still print photos I took with it at 12 x 16 and it was only 12 MP.

I am just very happy with my X100F but I really like that tilting viewfinder on this camera. I just need to stay away from the Panasonic display next time I go to Precision Camera.

What a great review by Gordon Lewis. This type of article is why TOP is the best photo site on the internet!

I've shot m4/3 for five years now as a full time working pro. Currently I have two GX8's and two G85's. The difference between the sensors in IQ is imperceptible. I've made prints from the files that are not distinguishable from full frame cameras, and better than even medium format film scans made on an Imacon scanner. Billboards and image wraps the size of a bus have been made, without issue. The reality is that 16-20mp is more than sufficient for most needs.

With the increased DOF you get with the shorter lenses, it's actually a benefit over FF as far as I'm concerned. I can gather light at 1.4 and enjoy either a faster SS or a lower ISO while taking advantage of the DOF characteristics as a FF camera shooting at 2.8. Shooting my old FF lenses at apertures like that often left far too little in focus to be useful. But if I really need that look I have a set of lenses with an f0.95 maximum aperture.

Big sensors and high megapixel counts are demonstrably better for landscape, still life, high end fashion, and shooters who just feel better with either the biggest or most expensive gear. But as someone who actually uses and has to carry gear every day, I'm happy for the lower weight.

I've had mine from about six months ago and shelled out for a "special edition" GX80 with a tan finish. I lose out on the anonymity, but I get into a lot of conversations about the camera as a result. Generally walk around with the Panasonic 20mm and the Olympus 45mm.

A bit minus for me was the touchscreen, which kept resetting the focus point (I generally go for a single one and recompose) and which also drains the battery. Battery life is a big issue with this camera until you learn which features to switch off.

Manual focus was also hard to make use of until I worked out how to reprogram a fn button to toggle it.

Otherwise, I'm loving it.

An upcoming trip overseas last year led me to look at getting a new camera to complement my Sony RX100. The three new Panasonic cameras had just come out (here in Australia the GX8, GX85 and the G85) and I really liked the feel and handling of all 3. I went for the G85 over the other 2 in the end.

Commenting because I'm finding the same about the sensor in the camera. I love the smaller, lighter (and generally cheaper!) lenses available. Reviewing the photos I was getting though.... I was used to getting pretty good out of the camera jpegs with the Sony. A little sharpening, a slight bump on the saturation and I was happy. Not the same experience to be had with the Panasonic.

Out of the camera, I found the G85 files to be flat, and without the micro details and contrast that I was used to getting. But. The files seem to have a lot of information in them, just that the Panasonic jpeg engine chooses to leave it up to the user as to how to pull it out. Speculating here, I don't know if this is a video engineer thing? The look is almost reminiscent of how a v-log frame looks.

So, a bit more work needed to pull together a workflow to get the most out of the files. Straight out of the camera, not that pretty. But there seems to be a lot in there.

Excellent concise commentary on the Panasonic GX85, Gordon. And superb sample images. Your observations largely coincide with mine.

If I may add just a few thoughts to your commentary, Gordon...

First, your point about the GX85’s images featuring a remarkable amount of detail is worth amplifying. It’s true. This is a difference that shines brightest in prints (and during editing). But I think I can show an additional illustration.

Here is a GX85 image I made of a Guggenheim Museum visitor studying a painting by the late Agnes Martin. Martin’s later work consisted largely of arrays of fine lines scribed or painted onto flat neutral backgrounds. The extremely subtle horizontal stripes of this Martin painting were a central aspect of this image's visual play on striped patterns. As you can see, the GX85 had no trouble capturing them.

Image detail

A candid image in low-ish museum light shot very quickly from shoe-top. Eh?

Second, for those who really don’t want to swim out into the sea of M43 lenses, you could do worse than to just use the GX85’s 12-32mm kit lens. I’ve found it to be shockingly good in all kinds of conditions. Most importantly, its compactness really makes the GX85 a very versatile, jacket-pocketable, go-anywhere camera. Sneer if you will but it's damn good on this camera.

Finally, yes, the GX85’s EVF is not luxurious. It shows you what’s in the frame and the basic camera status quite adequately. But the GX85’s remarkable articulating touch-screen LCD more than compensates for this by encouraging me to shoot differently. Panasonic has devoted a great deal of work towards its camera touch-screens over several generations and it shows. The GX85’s touch-screen controls are extremely responsive. You can, for example, move and resize your focus point very easily and quickly. You can even set the camera to focus-and-shoot with just a screen tap. Even better, you can move and size the focus position by touching the screen while you’re looking through the evf! I’d say that I’ve made over 80% of my GX85 images using the screen, and perhaps 50% of those with the touch-to-shoot feature. Keeping the small candid camera below eye-level and away from my face is essential for me.

In summary, the GX85 is a camera that truly invites you to customize it to your own style while inviting you to develop new, faster styles of shooting. It's among the best of the small, high-quality, durable, non-fussy, good-for-travel interchangeable lens cameras available today at an excellent value price.

For those who want to investigate the camera more deeply here’s a link to Panasonic's GX80 / GX85 Manual (PDF).

"One of the benefits to shooting with a Micro 4/3 camera is being able to get this much depth-of-field without having to use ridiculously small apertures."
I laughed. I thought I was the only person left who thought about getting enough depth-of-field.
Also: I remember a few years ago you had some posts about what digital camera could be the new Leica M3. (Can't seem to find them now.) I think you had a name for the concept.
This looks like a candidate. As a small, light, fast digital "rangefinder" it's pretty close, even if it lacks the carved-out-of-a-block-of steel quality of the original.

I jumped into Micro Four-Thirds back in 2011 (gosh, was that really 6 years ago already?!) with a pair of GH2s that I bought for video and hoped that they'd also shoot good stills. Alas, the stills lacked dynamic range and the RAW files were just too crunchy. I didn't abandon the system altogether though and knew I'd jump back when the sensor made enough improvements. My bogey was the lovely 12 megapickle sensor of the Pentax K-x.

Fast forward to 2016. I "needed" new cameras for my cross country motorcycle trip, and the GX85 ticked off all the right boxes - improved sensor, image stabilization, 4k video, small form factor. I bought two and have been happy. 95% of my recent images are made with them, including these from the weekend:

2017 Tour of Somerville

2017 Tour of Somerville

Play Ball!

But if I must be honest, a funny thing happened on the way to the present. While the GX85 files are more than good enough for my magazine publishing needs, I want a little more. A little more megapickles to work with, a little more dynamic range to massage, a little more low light performance. I'm learning patience though and will be happy with the GX85 for several more years.

A funny thing happened on my way to the GX85 -- I liked the GX7 too much to give it up, despite the GX85's wonderful shutter and sensor tweaks. So I kept the GX7 and bought a G85 as my other camera. Now that wonderful shutter, sensor tweaks, and GREAT EVF are seducing me…

An amazing fact about the GX80/85 -- the built-in flash cannot be used as the trigger for the Panasonic/Olympus wireless remote flash capability. An accessory flash can be the trigger, but not the little pop-up. Did someone at Panasonic miss lunch on a critical day?

So my walkaround/street outfit remains the GX7 with the 12-32 pancake zoom with auto-lens cap fitted and the lovely little 45-175 zoom in my pocket. If I want more aperture, that latter will be the Olympus f1.8 45mm, a very small and sharp lens that looks as though it is a natural outgrown of the GX7.

Never had a problem with focus with either the GX7 or the G85.

Panasonic JPEGs? I shoot nothing else. I generally choose "Vivid" mode and I have tweaked that just a little for color and contrast (to make it a little more vivid!).

EVF and LCD colors, etc.? You can adjust them too, over quite a large range.

I prefer the "silver model, by the way. I see black cameras today as the new "hi viz" in cameras. Raise a black camera to your eye and everyone knows you are a "photographer" and therefore suspect. Raise a silver or gaudily colored camera to your eye and nobody takes any notice!

And yes, I am up for calling the GX7 and GX80/85 the spiritual successors to the Leica RFs. That's what they feel like to me (although the nearest I ever got to a Leica M was a Canon 7S with execrable rangefinder visibility).

A picture or two? If it is allowed: https://www.dpreview.com/galleries/5951224179/photos/3623224/17-04-21-p1940102-profile

Cheers, Geoff

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