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Jan 16

Review: Panasonic Lumix GX8

Panasonic’s GX series of Micro 4/3 cameras has evolved from the high-end small body of the original GX1 into a sort of ‘second flagship’ line along with their GH series, but with a stronger focus on stills shooting instead of video.  The latest entry in the series, the GX8, further expands on the well-received GX7 from 2013 by including a brand-new 20 megapixel sensor, and improved viewfinder and 4K video capabilities. The camera has also grown in size and weight, putting it a far cry from the original GX1’s tiny body.  The $1100 asking price for the body only positions the GX8 firmly in the enthusiast space, competing with cameras such as the OM-D E-M1 , and Fuji X-T1 while coming in a bit below the top-end GH4. How does this new camera stack up against the competition?

Panasonic GX8

Panasonic GX8

If you’re not familiar with my reviews, I review from a real world shooting perspective. You won’t find lens charts or resolution numbers here. There are plenty of other sites that cover those. I review products on how they act for me as a photographic tool.  I am not a videographer, so my reviews concentrate on the still imaging capabilities of a camera.

Construction, Handling and Ergonomics

The GX8 has grown a bit since the GX7 was first released.  It’s not a rather substantial body, though it retains the sleek rangefinder styled body from earlier GX series cameras. The camera is very solidly built and the all metal shell inspires confidence. Panasonic claims the GX8 is sealed against dust and moisture, and indeed, the open port areas are well sealed.  The side cover that hides the A/V, Microphone and HDMI ports is very tightly fitting and sometimes even difficult to open. Overall, it’s a very solidly constructed camera.

Panasonic GX8

Panasonic GX8

The GX8’s grip is also enlarged in comparison to the earlier GX7, and it does provide a nice hold on the camera, though I think Panasonic could have done things a bit better here.  The rear thumb grip area is angled away from the shooter, and the result is a less than ideal grip on the rear of the camera.  The material covering the front grip is also somewhat hard and kind of slick, so while the size of the grip increases overall handling, it’s not a grip that my hand settles into naturally.  This is going to be a somewhat personal thing, though, and I can see people with other preferences really liking how it feels in the hand.

I am going to be rather subjective in this next section, so fair warning.  Note that these observations may not be reflective of how you may interact with the camera.  These things can feel quite different for each individual shooter, but I can only report on how I felt, and overall, I am not a fan of the control placement and ergonomics on this camera.  The GX8 has gone to a somewhat odd dial configuration, with the standard two dial setup that most Micro 4/3 cameras utilize, but adding an exposure compensation dial under the mode dial.  These dials all move fine but there’s something that I just didn’t like to how they felt.  The front dial is too short, and feels overly thin when rotating it.  The rear dial is nice and chunky, but the detents are fairly weak and the dial is too flush to the rear of the camera, making it feel unnatural in use.  And while the EC dial moves just fine, with the best clicks of all three dials, it is positioned in what I feel is a very poor location.

On almost every camera that utilizes an EC dial, it’s located at the far right rear of the camera.  On cameras that don’t have it, the rear dial that controls that parameter is located in that position.  With the GX8, it’s located well to the left of the rear dial (which can’t be set up to use EC), making it not only counter intuitive in location, but also somewhat difficult to reach, especially with your eye to the viewfinder. I’ll go a bit more into the dial operation itself in the next section, but let’s continue with ergonomics.

The GX8 has a large number of direct controls, though placement could be better.

The GX8 has a large number of direct controls, though placement could be better.

The GX8 also has a focus mode switch that is meant to be thumb operated, which is great.  What’s not great is the position of this switch, which is just too far left to be comfortable to use.  To be fair, I do have short thumbs, but regardless, the switch should be moved about a half-inch further right.  The buttons, of which there are many, are also poorly placed on top of the camera.  The Fn button on the top plate is exceptionally difficult to press without changing your grip, as is the button on top of the rear dial that acts in the same manner as Olympus’ two-way switch.  The movie record button feels identical to that hard-to-reach Fn button as well, so it can be easy to accidentally press one when you wanted the other, without looking at the buttons.

Overall, I felt like I was fighting the camera during shooting.  While I did adjust somewhat to these controls over the two weeks I shot with the GX8, I never really grew comfortable with them. It was a big minus for me in shooting with this camera, as I feel that the ability for a camera to get out of the photographer’s way and melt into the background while shooting is of critical importance.

Operation and Controls

The GX8 has a bevvy of control options to allow for extensive customization and quick access to many settings.  The camera features a total of 8 physical buttons that can be programmed to various settings and actions, plus an additional five buttons that appear on a slide-out drawer on the rear LCD touchscreen. The buttons are a bit smaller than I’d like given the size of the body, but they work fine.  While spending time customizing the buttons, dials and touch screen to your preferences takes time, it does allow for the GX8 to become a very personal camera, which is great.  It also means less diving in the menu system than many other cameras.

The dial system used on the GX8 is new, and to my preference, a bit odd.  There are three total dials on the camera: one dedicated exposure compensation dial and two other dials in the standard front/rear dial configuration for changing exposure parameters.  As I alluded to in the handling portion, the dials are positioned in the place you’d expect them to be: except  the exposure compensation dial, which sits in a place you don’t expect.  This wouldn’t be a problem except when shooting aperture or shutter priority modes, one of the two main control dials becomes essentially redundant.  In these modes, both dials change either aperture or shutter speed (depending on the mode).  It is impossible, for instance, to set the front dial to change aperture and the rear dial to change ISO, while utilizing the exposure compensation dial for its intended function.  There is also no way to disable the dedicated EC dial and assign it to one of the other two dials.  The result is the feeling of honestly losing a dial.  I don’t understand the decision-making here.

The rear of the GX8 shows the many buttons and switches that can be customized for your use.

The rear of the GX8 shows the many buttons and switches that can be customized for your use.

One very nice thing, however, is the ability to switch the operation of the dials simply by pressing a function button.  This can be assigned to any of the programmable function buttons, but defaults to the one on top of the rear dial.  This operates just like the 2×2 switch on Olympus bodies, and changes the function of the two dials from exposure parameters to ISO and White balance.

Focus mode is changed via a dedicated three position switch, with an additional button for exposure and focus lock in the center of this switch.  Despite my issues with button placement, the degree of customization and direct controls is outstanding, and will really aid a photographer in getting the shot once they become comfortable with where everything is located.

The GX8 can shoot to 1/8000s with its mechanical shutter, and up to 1/16,000s with the electronic shutter.  The electronic shutter can be easily accessed by setting one of the buttons to enable silent mode. The top plate Fn button is set this by default, and it’s a quick way to quiet the camera or enable electronic shutter capabilities for discretion or an extra stop of shutter speed when using fast lenses in daylight.

The GX8 menu system is clear and easy to navigate by touch

The GX8 menu system is clear and easy to navigate by touch

The menu system is the same that has been present on Panasonic cameras for quite a while, and for the most part they are well done. The menu system is laid out in a way that begs to be touched, and indeed, the touch screen works very well for navigating through the many pages of options present on the camera.  A few things were frustrating, such as the depth to which the in-body stabilizer settings are buried, or the somewhat haphazard organization of items, but overall, Panasonic does a better job here than most camera manufacturers.

There is a Quick Menu option as well, which can be accessed at the press of a button, which allows for direct access to change common settings. It adds convenience, but the way you navigate the options is a bit counter-intuitive.  For instance, going to the movie quality section brings up two rows of options.  To get into the options, you press the down button, but then the settings must be accessed solely using the left and right buttons.  Pressing up when you’re in the bottom row to go to a setting in the top row simply closes the setting entirely.

The last major portion of operation and controls involves the touch screen, so let’s dive into those details next.

Continue: Viewfinder, Rear Screen and Performance

About the author

Jordan Steele

Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Admiring Light; Photographer; Electrical Engineer and Dad

22 comments

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  1. carol

    Thanks for this review. Just one point, the camera definitely DOES have in camera Raw processing, I use it all the time. If you go into the playback menu there is a menu option for ‘Raw processing’ This allows you to do full Raw processing and, on completion, outputs a Jpeg file to the card.

    1. Jordan Steele

      Thanks for the heads up. I wish I had been able to find it. I’ll revise the review later tonight.

  2. Andy Miles

    It’s great that there can be two systems in micro four thirds that are different enough to suit individual preferences. Regarding adjusting the focus point in the EVF using the rear touch screen – Panasonic let you choose either mode on several of their cameras, so you can change to offset mode using a menu option.

  3. Clive Dyson

    Great review as always. Thanks.

    One small correction. The GX8 does let you customise the Quick Menu, in the same way as all other Lumix G cameras I’ve used – see page 68 of the advanced manual. You have to set [Q.MENU] in the [Custom] menu to [CUSTOM] and can then customise it via a button in the lower left of the Quick Menu. I do like to change this to get the settings I want quickly available.

  4. Tom

    Disappointing and unprofessional review

    So you think “However, like the GX7, I found the IBIS of the GX8 to be a step behind the other systems that feature body-based stabilization.” the Dual IS feature lacks behind other systems but the only lens you have is the “The only optically stabilized Micro 4/3 lens I have is the tiny 12-32mm f/4-5.6 pancake zoom, which is compatible with the new Dual IS system present on the GX8.”

    Didn’t you think it would be a good idea to use on the stills flagship Panasonic GX-8 camera, the flagship “pro” level Zoom 12-35mm f/2.8 to test the IBIS?

    From my personal experience with this combination the IBIS works amazing and for me much much better with Tele focal lengths as Olympus, because of the stabilized EVF.
    Check it out: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sRK6WfCboM8
    For stills (!) a much better solution then Olys way!

    1. Jordan Steele

      First of all, my comment about the IBIS being disappointing is in relation to the IBIS by itself. It, like the GX7 was only good for 1-2 stops for almost all my shooting with the camera. This is in comparison to the 3 stops I get regularly with the A7 II and nearly 4 stops I regularly get with the OM-D series. That’s a big difference.

      Second, the dual IS feature should enhance optically stabilized lenses similarly regardless of whether it’s the 12-35/2.8 or the 12-32/3.5-5.6. It adds an extra stop or so. Nice, yes…amazing? No. If I owned the 12-35mm, I would have tested it with it. I can’t afford to spend $1,000 to do a slightly more thorough test of one feature.

      I’m glad the GX8+OIS lenses works great for you. I find it kind of odd that you think it’s a much better solution than Olympus, however, but if it works well for your shooting, that’s fantastic. You mention that it’s great because of the stabilized EVF: well, the Olympus has a stabilized EVF with ALL lenses, not just ones with OIS (which are stabilized anyway in the viewfinder, even on cameras that have no IBIS). The GX8 does not stabilize the view with non-OIS lenses…Olympus does it even with adapted manual focus lenses.

      1. Tom

        Jordan, yesterday I tried a couple of shots with the 12-35mm f’/2.8 and Dual IS @35mm and 1/2s (!) shutter speed. 7 out of 10 perfect sharp (with experience in photography of 25 yrs) and as you know 35mm on m4/3 is equivalent 70mm an a full frame sensor. Without stabilization a shutter speed of 1/80s would be necessary, so 1/2s means 5-6 stops of stabilization (1/80 – 1/40 – 1/20 – 1/10 – 1/5 – 1/2).

        Of course I would be able to provide pictures with EXIFs, but I’m not able to show you they are shot handheld so it makes unfortunately no sense.

        I apologize for my direct way and hope you will on some day retest the GX8 Dual IS feature with a proper lens, the results are really amazing.

        1. Jordan Steele

          I don’t doubt your results. Thing is: it doesn’t add to my data point because everyone’s amount of handshake is different. You may be a much steadier hand-holder than I am. You may have shake only in certain directions that the GX8 corrects better than a more rotational shake that perhaps I have. Besides, it’s only one stop better than what I received. The dual IS helps a lens with OIS…I got 4 stops with the 12-32. Thing is, I got 3 stops with the 12-32 on its own, so the Dual IS only added one stop or so. When I reviewed the 12-35, I consistently got sharp shots at 1/8s at 35mm. A one stop added would bring that to 1/4s, and then you might be a stop or half stop steadier than me.

          The fact is, I could only consistently count on the Gx8 to give me an extra stop of handholding, whether on a non OIS lens or adding to an OIS lens. That’s nice, but it’s not a game changer and is behind the other systems. If the camera works great for you, then that’s fantastic. If you are happy with the camera that’s all that matters. It’s a quality device that is capable of creating great images.

  5. Hal Knowles

    Hello Jordan. As usual, a very thorough and informative review with some really gorgeous images. I am a long time follower of your blog and it has been a lot of fun watching your art and talent evolve and improve over the years!

    I have used many Micro Four Thirds bodies and lenses since 2012 and I love both Panasonic and Olympus for their unique offerings. I had a GX7 for a bit over a year and loved it! I recently had a GX8 for a few weeks over December and tried to fall in love with it, but I found many of the same personal ergonomic challenges as did you. The location and action of the exposure compensation dial and the AF mode dial/button were especially awkward for my hands. The 2.5 mm mic-in jack and grip were also strange. Despite loving the huge EVF, loving the images coming from the new sensor, and generally finding the camera to be really well built, it ultimately did not feel right in my hands. I ended up finding a new open box GH4 for only a bit more and it fits my hands and my needs perfectly!

    I think many people may find the GX8 to fit their needs well. It was just not for me. All the best to you and your family this new year!

  6. Andy Miles

    Agreed, I love checking this site out, eagerly awaiting each post. I think the GX8 is one of those cameras you either love or hate, but for me it was both. I bought one when they first came out and didn’t take to it at all. I was use to the GH3 grip and physical interface, and quite pleased when I found the GX8 had a fault and had to be returned. Move on a few months and I was keen to give it a try again due to the improvements of the GH3. Ironically the price drop, cashback, strange Amazon kit pricing, and trading in my GH2 + GH3 meant I could buy both the GX8 and GH4 for less than the GX8 at launch. Using it a second time it felt like a different camera and I really came to appreciate things like the tiltable viewfinder and physical exposure compensation dial.

  7. W. Nicholls

    I have different complaints about the ergonomics. The grip is shallow enough that I accidentally activate buttons on the back of the camera when I hold the camera with a more substantial lens mounted. There’s no ridge on the back grip for the heel of your hand, and for me, that means it’s easy to switch into ISO, DISP, and WB settings unintentionally. Needless to say, that’s extremely annoying and can cause lost shots. You can reduce the problem by locking out all but the DISP button, but that also slows access to settings. I’ve partially solved the problem by creating a grip pad that supports the heel of my hand. I’m surprised that more people don’t complain about this issue – go figure.

    I find the exposure comp dial to be quite easy to find by feel, and I use it a lot. It’s far easier to find and set by feel than using anonymous buttons that control ISO in combination with a command dial (like my GH3 or my Nikon D800).

    Image stabilization is good with OIS lenses that have been updated to the new firmware. Only a few lenses have firmware available to-date. With non-OIS or adapted lenses, stabilization is useful, but not nearly as good as it is in dual mode.

    You don’t list the mediocre battery life as a con. I do. And it’s ridiculous for a camera its size to have the memory card access behind the battery compartment door. The microphone jack size is also annoying – and unnecessary.

  8. T. Simpson

    Liked the extensive and personal review. – many thanks

    However, the enormous weight given to IBIS which I use a few times a year surprised me. Also I am not a video man but to just write off the amazing possibilities for capturing exactly the best moment in an action that the 4K photo options offer was difficult to understand, Using it for a static picture of a bottle begs belief!

    Totally agree about the handling taking time to get used to, especially coming from the GX7 as I did.
    We have the same views on the EVF and screen.

    Pity you do not have a larger lens collection – mention it before your next birthday.

    1. Jordan Steele

      Regarding 4K photo – I thought my text covered it well. I did use it for more than a static photo, but the people I used it on while testing did not want their images posted for the world to see. The bottle shot is simply to show the interface for selection.

  9. Otto Von

    A really honest review for sure Jordan. I own the GX8 and completely agree with you on the placement of the EC dial. It’s actually quite frustrating and pretty much ensures I hardly ever use it. And what’s extremely annoying is that Panasonic forces that that poorly positioned dial for EC!!! I would love to program (while in Aperture Priority mode) the shutter dial to change my EC. But this isn’t allowed – how frustrating. But overall I do enjoy the camera and the image quality is what I need for both stills and video. Thanks.

  10. I. Brekke

    I find your blog interesting and you write about much of the equipment I am interested in. I also think you have written a good review of the camera based on your experience and your preferences, so I can not say you are wrong about anything. At the same time I find it somehow too critical about a camera I have bought myself and have fantastic experience with. It has a great feel, build quality, picture quality, responsiveness and autofocus. I find it is the first M43 camera that I would be truly comfertable to use in professional settings. I agree that the handling too a couple of days to get used to, but now I like it better then any, I love the feel of the dials. The IBIS might not be as good as the market leading Olympus, but how often do you really shoot at 1/10 of a second?

    Still, nice review and keep up the good work!

  11. Hendrik

    “It’s not a rather substantial body”
    presumably should read
    … *now* …

    That notwithstanding an excellent read.

  12. Frank

    My main complaint about the GX8 in comparison to the GX7 is its increase of size. I love my GX7 which is my minimalist travel companion with an Olympus 12/2 mm and a Panasonic 42,5/1.7 mm. Wow, what a flexible high-class combination in such a small package! I would love to get the improved 20 MP sensor in a compact GX7 sized body. I do not need a fully articulated screen, I am very happy with the tilt touchscreen of the GX7. So why carrying a bigger body? (Maybe that is necessary because of the integration of 4k, but I am not a video guy.)
    That is the reason why I stick to the GX7. This is still a wonderful camera, following the idea of Micro FourThirds: beeing small.

  13. james wilson

    Love my GX8 and enjoyed the review despite the quibbles but I wanted to offer a note on post focus. It is the ultimate solution for focus stacking. If you are in low light and want to avoid high ISO/long exp noise and want your whole scene in focus you can shoot wide open at low ISO and stack all the images to provide a completely focused scene with low noise. Subject movement not appreciated. Helicon focus has produced a feature for their software that will take a post focus video capture and stack all the frames for a full focused shot automatically. In my experience with the feature I have found that if subject movement spoils part of the image I can select the single image of the affected area and blend in the static image to the composite image in just that part and recover the area spoiled by movement. Far more than being a toy feature I can imagine many ways that Post Focus will benefit my commercial shooting. The only downside is the 8mpx capture.

    1. Andrew

      Wow, didn’t know that Helicon Focus could do the stacking straight from the video. That’s great. Do you know which license version you need for that feature?

    2. Jordan Steele

      For my use, the way the focus bracketing feature on the Olympus E-M10 II (and added to the E-M5 II and E-M1 in firmware) is much more useful. Still automatically records individual images for focus stacking, but captures full resolution RAW files (or JPEG if you choose). Much higher quality than stitching 8 MP JPEGs. Panasonic’s process is a bit more automatic, but Oly’s isn’t hard to set up.

      1. james wilson

        I have done high res focus bracketing with Panasonic using touch focus on the screen. Not very fast but can do a good job.

  14. Hen3ry

    Good job, Jordan.

    I can see what you eman about the AF/MF switch and its button. What on earth are they doing there? Nicely located in the GX7.

    What really, really gets me, though, is the AF/AE lock button n ac little raised island to the right of the thumb. I think the same applies to the PEN F. How to you use that and hold the camera too? You have to change your grip and LOSE your grip! On the GX7, this switch is actually under the thumb, it does NOT get pressed by accident, but it is very convenient to press when you want to use that feature AND retain your grip on the camera.

    There have been some complaints about accidentally pressing the WB (in the 4 way) and DISP buttons on the GX8. This also happens on my G6 and has been reported on the G7. I beat it on the G6 by gluing a little bit of plastic stuff on the outside of the 4 way, and some more on the thumb rest point above the switches which lift my thumb above them. A correspondent on the DPReview m43 forum did a very nice job with little piece he moulded out of one of those two ingredient putties.

    I have never had this problem with the GX7 and when I look at it, I can see why.

    It offers just a few mills more real estate to the right of the 4 way so the lower part of my thumb can rest on that. That area actually curves out just a tiny bit too.

    The designers had the chanceto set everything a little to the left because of the flip up screen, rather than the fully articulated screen with its big hinge (twice as bit as that on the PEN F, I notice).

    In the same part of the G6 and GX8, the body is already curving away to the front. The DPREview guy’s molding provided those extra few mills needed for the lower part of the thumb to have a gripping action (as does the bit of plastic stuff I have glued to the G6) but without interfering with the controls under it.

    But yes, the buttons you mention, and the CRAZY little raised island with the wrongly angled AF/AE lock switch on it.

    And after doing so very well with the GX7.

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