- 1Body and Ergonomics
- 2Viewfinder and Screen
- 3Operation and Menus
- 4Performance and Autofocus
- 5Flash Performance
- 6In-Body Image Stabilization (IBIS)
- 7Focus Peaking
- 9Electronic Shutter
- 10Other Key Features
- 11Image Quality: Dynamic Range and Color
- 12Image Quality: Noise
- 13JPEG Quality
- 16Image Samples
In-Body Image Stabilization (IBIS)
One of the headline features in the Panasonic GX7 is the inclusion of an in-body image stabilization system (IBIS). This is the very first Panasonic camera to feature IBIS, though Micro 4/3 has had the feature in every Olympus body since the system’s origin. Unfortunately, coming from the truly outstanding 5-axis IBIS found on Olympus’ OM-D line, the simple 2-axis IBIS in the GX7 is a bit of a letdown
While the GX7’s stabilizer certainly is better than nothing, I was only able to regularly get around 1 stop of image stabilization, with occasional sharp images at 2 to 3 stops below the traditional 1 / (35mm effective focal length) rule. While it did a decent job when I was using the very best technique, the problem I had with the in-body IS on the GX7 wasn’t that it couldn’t stabilize at slower speeds, but that it couldn’t do so consistently. Ultimately, I couldn’t trust the IBIS to steady the shot at anything below about a one stop advantage over the traditional hand holding rule. Meanwhile, with the best optical stabilizers and the OM-D’s IBIS, I can count on those systems to give me a full three stops easily, with the occasional 4 to even 5 stops in the right circumstances.
While it’s definitely a step in the right direction, I was hoping for a little better performance in this department. One other disappointment with the in-body IS system is that it is not available when shooting video, which is one of the key areas where in-body IS is useful. Additionally, the stabilization is only active during exposure, so you won’t get that nice stabilized view that is possible with optically stabilized lenses or the Olympus 5-axis IBIS system.
The GX7 features Focus Peaking for aiding in manual focus, and the implementation in use here is well done. When you shift into manual focus mode (either via the switch, or automatically when attaching an adapted lens), the camera will give you the ability to both magnify a portion of the image if desired and highlight the in-focus portions of the image in a cyan color. The cyan stands out easily and is clearly visible in the viewfinder and on the rear LCD. This feature is outstanding for quickly acquiring accurate manual focus, even with wide aperture lenses.
Speaking of adapted lenses, the camera’s in-body IS will also stabilize any adapted manual focus lenses that you may attach. You simply have to enter the focal length into the camera and the IBIS will make the proper adjustments required to provide the best stabilization.
One thing Panasonic added that is extremely helpful is that when a lens without electrical contacts is attached to the camera, and the camera is switched on, a dialog box pops up confirming the currently set focal length and asking if you’d like to change it. Not only does this allow you to very quickly change the focal length when needed, it serves as an excellent reminder so that you don’t accidentally shoot a hundred frames with the IBIS set to the completely wrong focal length, thus inducing blur in all your images. It’s a simple thing to do, but the first time I’ve seen it done, and it’s something I’d love to see Olympus do as well. I’ve had numerous occasions where I’ve taken 10 or 20 frames before I realize I forgot to change the focal length setting on a different adapted lens.
The Panasonic GX7, like it’s older brother the GH3, features Wi-Fi connectivity that allows you to do a wide variety of tasks with a smartphone or tablet, as well as to a PC. You can transfer images directly to a mobile device, wirelessly tether your camera to your computer to instantly store photos on your hard drive, and even take full control of the camera via a remote shooting application, complete with live view, image parameter adjustment and focus point selection.
The GX7 is the fourth camera I’ve reviewed (the GH3, Fuji X-M1 and Olympus E-P5 are the others), and Panasonic still has the best Wi-Fi capabilities of any mirrorless camera maker that I’ve had the chance to use to date. The remote control is full featured without the limitations that Olympus imposes, and the range of options is outstanding.
The only downside to the GX7’s Wi-Fi capability is that it’s a little awkward to get the camera to connect to a mobile device. I did not have any luck connecting through my home wireless network, but the direct phone to camera connection worked well, though it is a little tedious typing in the long alphanumeric password on initial setup. The second downside isn’t with the Wi-Fi, but that the GX7 doesn’t offer any in-camera RAW conversion capability. Since the camera will not wirelessly transmit RAW files to your device, you need to shoot JPEG or RAW+JPEG to be able to transfer an image.
One of the great features of the GX7 is the electronic shutter, which is available when shooting up to ISO 3200 and when not using flash. The electronic shutter can be accompanied by an electronic shutter sound, or you can simply shoot the camera completely silently (provided you are shooting wide open…when stopping down, you can hear the aperture blades close). This is great for shooting events in quiet venues, or for street shooting where you don’t want the shutter to distract your subject and draw attention to you as a photographer.
While I prefer hearing the mechanical shutter when shooting, the electronic shutter certainly has great value. In one situation, I wanted to take a picture of my napping son, without risking waking him. The electronic shutter to the rescue! You do need to be careful, though, as the readout of the shutter can make shooting high-speed action create some interesting artifacts, and as mentioned, flash cannot be used with the electronic shutter, but overall, it’s a great addition to the camera.
Other Key Features
The GX7 features an easy to use and access intervalometer, which makes taking time-lapse or star trail type images easy. You simply set the number of exposures you want and the interval at which they are to be taken, and then just start the sequence. The camera will continue until the number of requested exposures is complete. Very handy!
The GX7 also features a bunch of different filter and scene modes that cater to the more novice shooter, though some of the filters may be useful for the odd shot here and there. There are 22 total creative art filters included with the camera, which can do anything from a high contrast black and white to an artificial backlit sunlight, which even allows you to position and size the sun in the frame. Many of these are heavy handed and result in horrible color blotching, but at least half of them actually provide nice results. The black and white modes and some of the softer filters are pleasing.
While many cameras feature modes such as ‘sports’ or ‘landscape’ which dial in certain settings to help a shooter get the shot they’re after, the GX7 goes in-depth, with a tremendous amount of ‘scene modes’ featuring very specific shooting situations like “Relaxing Tone” shown above. Many of these use the art filters in conjunction with other settings.