Panasonic Lumix GX85
Think of it as a ‘GX8 Lite’. The GX85 is essentially the GX7 rebooted with a lot of GX8-spec features and a few brand new goodies, all at a more affordable price.
The GX8 is one of our all-time favourite mirrorless cameras here at Camera mag, so how does its little brother stack up? It’s less expensive, but the all the really good bits have been retained… so you be the judge.
The GX8 is the star of Panasonic’s Lumix G mirrorless camera lineup at the moment. As a complete package, it’s hard to beat and it certainly takes the fight right up to its closest Micro Four Thirds rival, Olympus’s retro PEN F. But it was also a big step up from the previous GX7 and, for many photographers, the latter model was the perfect combination of a portability and performance… and affordability. So the ever-responsive Panasonic is welcoming back the GX7, rebadged as the GX85 and incorporating many of the GX8’s upgrades. In fact, in Japan this model is actually called the GX7 II, but on the inside it really is closer to the GX8 so elsewhere in the world – including here – it gets the numerical link and is badged either GX80 or GX85.
Nevertheless, the body’s design and styling is very close to that of the GX7, albeit now with polycarbonate covers rather than magnesium alloy. Compared to the GX8, there’s no weather sealing, but it is quite a lot smaller and lighter, something that Panasonic is further
emphasising by packaging it with the ‘pancake’ 12-32mm zoom lens (equivalent to 24-64mm) rather than the standard 14-42mm model.
Being derived from the GX7, the GX85 has a built-in flash – which the GX8 hasn’t – and a tilt-adjustable LCD monitor screen (with touch controls), but the built-in EVF is now fixed and doesn’t offer the handy tilting eyepiece which was introduced on the GX7 and continues on the GX8. It retains the former’s LCD-type field-sequential panel rather than the latter’s superior OLED display, although the resolution and coverage are the same. The EVF is perhaps emblematic of the GX85 as a whole; it’s a lot cheaper than the GX8, but paring down of the bottom line has come at other costs, including some features that might just be worth paying a bit more for. There’ll be a few more examples of this as we progress through the GX85’s features.
The control layout is pretty much the same as that of the GX7 and is based around a main mode dial with front and rear input wheels, and a four-way navigational keypad cluster. The latter have various direct functions and there’s four other buttons (designated Fn1 to Fn4) which can be customised. As is the case on all the current Lumix G cameras with touchscreens, a set of additional ‘Fn’ tabs are available in the monitor – in this case numbered Fn5 to Fn9 – which can also be customised.
A single SD format memory card slot is provided and shares a compartment with the battery pack which can now be charged in-camera which is a first for a Lumix G camera (and an AC adapter is supplied rather than a charger). Some people don’t like this arrangement, others do, but it does mean the camera is out of action when a recharge is needed. The battery is the same as was used in the GX7 rather than the GX8’s higher-capacity unit. The connection bay moves sides on the GX85’s body and comprises USB 2.0 and micro HDMI terminals, but no stereo audio input which, of course, was added to the GX8 and is a pretty important feature for the serious video-maker (the rest of the camera’s video capabilities are covered in the Making Movies side-panel).
PUMPING UP THE PIXELS
The GX85 uses the same 16.84 megapixels ‘Live MOS’ sensor as the GX7 (and a number of other Lumix G models), but with one important change, namely that it no longer has an optical lowpass filter (LPF). This is another first for a Lumix G camera and, theoretically at least, it should allow for an improvement in definition sufficient to match that of the GX8’s (filtered) 21.77 MP sensor. Panasonic says the increase in resolving power over the previous 16.84 MP sensor is in the order of ten percent, but this may be a bit on the conservative side. Correction for moiré patterns and aliasing artefacts is now handled by the GX85’s new ‘Venus Engine IX’ quad-core processor which also delivers a number of other performance improvements over the GX7.
The effective resolution is 16 megapixels, giving a maximum image size of 4592x3448 pixels. The sensitivity range is equivalent to ISO 200 to 25,600 with a onestop ‘pull’ to ISO 100. JPEGs can be captured in one of four image sizes with a choice of two compression levels. There’s also the choice of three aspect ratios beyond the standard 4:3, although obviously all – 3:2, 16:9 or 1:1 represent a crop of varying degrees. RAW files are captured with 12-bit RGB colour. The fastest continuous shooting speed is 8.0 fps – as per the GX8 and much faster than the GX7’s 5.0 fps – for a (quoted) burst of up to 100 JPEGs or 13 RAW files. At 8.0 fps, the autofocusing and metering are locked to the first frame, but with continuous adjustment the maximum shooting speed is still a reasonably snappy 6.0 fps.
Like both the GX7 and GX8, the GX85 has a sensor-based shutter to supplement its physical one (the latter confusingly always referred to as being ‘mechanical’, although it’s electronically controlled), and this allows for a top shooting speed of 10 fps, again with the AF/AE locked to the first frame. There’s also a 40 fps ‘Super High Speed’ mode, but the limitations here are a reduced resolution of around 4.0 MB and a duration of just three seconds (i.e. 120 frames).
CURING THE SHAKES
Panasonic introduced sensor-based image stabilisation on the GX7, and increased its capabilities from two-axis correction to four-axis on the GX8. The GX85 goes further again with a five-axis shift system – bringing it into line with the latest Olympus MFT cameras – and, importantly, it’s available when shooting both 1080p and 4K resolution video.
The correction range for camera shake is now up to four stops, and ‘Dual I.S.’ operation is available when using the Panasonic Lumix G lenses equipped with optical image stabilisation (and, if necessary, the required firmware upgrade). While there’s clearly a step up in the sophistication of the GX85’s stabilisation, unlike Olympus, Panasonic hasn’t taken it any further with pixel shifting to generate ultra-high resolution stills.
The GX85 also has a new shutter which is electromagnetically actuated via dual solenoids – rather than using the traditional micromotors and springs – with the primary objective of reducing vibrations, although it’s also quieter. Panasonic says the reduction in shutter shock vibrations is in the order of 90 percent which is substantial.
We tend to think of camera-induced vibrations as mostly a D-SLR issue due to the reflex mirror, but mirrorless cameras suffer from it too, and it’s especially problematic with longer focal length lenses. This obviously
The Lumix GX85 rises from the ashes of the GX7, matching this camera’s compact bodyshell and sensor with many of the GX8’s features and functions.
The EVF is fixed and uses an LCD panel. The menu design offers Panasonic’s usual mix of logical design and easy navigation. Rear panel is mostly occupied by a tilt-adjustable monitor screen which also provides touch controls.