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.

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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.

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