In part 1, I gave you my opinion and rundown on the physical, ergonomic changes along with a couple of the key, new features to the GX lineup. Now, we can take a look at how this camera has evolved from a performance point of view compared to the GF1 and GX1. C’mon in for some videos and comparisons…
The body styling has changed pretty considerably in the hand, even if it doesn’t seem to stray too far from the lines of the GF1 and GX1. Simple, clean and well thought out.
As we’ve seen many times over from Panasonic and just about every other manufacturer, new models are often released that are merely warmed over versions of their predecessors. To me, this has not been the case from the GF1 > GX1 > GX7 which I see as the true line of succession. The other GF models have produced some interesting incremental upgrades, but to me, these three are really the true upgrades to, and for each other.
That said, let’s see just how they compare in a few functions that we tend to really need and use, or at least appreciate as photographers. Below are a collection of videos and images that I’ve put together. They’re not meant to be scientific or definitive, but they’re examples of how I’d use the camera, and observations along the way, so to me, they’re definitive enough for my needs. I’ll outline my process, lenses and settings used when applicable and if you have any questions, please feel free to comment below and I’ll do my best to answer. I love the continued conversation and always love what I learn from other’s perspectives.
AF SPEED AND ACCURACY
In the above video, I placed three targets at varying distances and exposure values which I measured with a Sekonic L-358 incident meter. The first, and closest was 3 feet away and measured in at +4.5EV, the second was 10 feet away at +2EV and the final was about 15 feet away and came in at -0.5EV. I didn’t compare the GF1 directly, but know that it is noticeably slower than the GX1. Still a fine camera, but slower in the AF department. I’m impressed, and while I don’t shoot a lot of quickly moving subjects, I would find it hard to say that this AF speed wouldn’t do for me in most situations I find myself shooting in. More than speed, I feel accuracy is the biggie. In low light, the GX7 has shown me that not only can it be decently quick, it is very accurate and for that I’m stoked.
The most impressive feat in my experience over the last couple weeks has been the ability by the GX7 to auto focus in extremely low light. I often hear people commenting on forums and the like asking why anyone would ever need to shoot at ISO 6400 or need a camera to focus in candle light… Well, I often find myself at smaller venues for live music where the EV borders on the negative, and I do need ISO 6400 and the ability to AF in very low light, so to me, this has been awesome. The above shot was taken on the GX7 with the newer Lumix 20mm f/1.7 II at ISO 6400, f/1.7 at 1/30 second which is pretty slow considering the appearance of a lot of light on stage. In reality, the metering was taken directly off the singer which I then overexposed by two thirds of a stop as I find this to allow a small amount of ambient light to creep back in giving the scene just a little detail for reference. It may not be often that a situation like this presents itself, but they do, and for me, they do more often that they do for most I’d guess. I can say that I have shot quite a bit in these situations, and I’ve not found any micro 4/3 camera that I’ve personally used to have done better than the GX7. I’ve always defaulted to my full frame and fast prime setup when shooting bands, and have even had some success with the EM5, but this GX7 has produced a new benchmark for me in the compact system camera arena. Just awesome.
I remember cringing when I needed to bump the GF1 up to ISO 1600, and whenever I did, it would require some post noise reduction. With the GX1 generation sensor, Panasonic truly increased the noise performance by about 2 stops allowing me to stay cringe free up through ISO 3200 for the most part. Below, I’ve placed 100% sized files (click on any to see them in their full size) with their respective settings on each. The exposures were the exact same, shot in RAW with the incandescent light temperature set in camera. All RAW files were processed through Adobe Camera RAW because it’s the only RAW converter (I won’t use Silkypix) that I have that will work with the GX7 files currently, so to keep it consistent, it’s how I did it. The GF1 files were shot in 3:2 while all others were 4:3 which will explain the slight variation on framing, but otherwise, exposure settings were all the same. The scene is lit by one single 60 watt incandescent bulb which was used in a reflector, where the EV measured in at 4.5 for reference (measured using that trusty Sekonic L-358 incident meter). The point of focus was the “120” on the bottom right of the Kodak 400TX box.
At lower ISO settings, the GF1 and GX1 were both entirely comparable (up to about 400) for my taste, and to save the time and space, I’ll start the GF1 and GX1 files at ISO 800 to see how they compare to the GX7. The GX7’s full range of full stops are listed below, and again click on any to see them full sized.
Comparison at ISO 800:
Comparison at ISO 1600:
Comparison at ISO 3200:
Comparison at ISO 6400:
Comparison at ISO 12,800:
And finally, the GX7 at ISO 25,600:
While the gap between the GF1 and the two GX models is significant, I am very surprised to see how well the GX1 does compared to the GX7 up through about ISO 3200 with both files looking very similar and workable for me. At ISO 6400 and up the GX7 pulls away showing me about a stop’s worth better noise performance and to be honest, the 25,600 file while noisy, has done well to maintain color accuracy and detail all things considered. I will be comparing the GX7 files against the Sony sensor in the OMD EM5 here soon, but back when I compared the Panasonic G3 (same generation as the GX1) sensor to the EM5, I found the EM5 to have about a stop on the G3 apparent above ISO 3200 or so, but from memory, the ISO 12,800 and 25,600 files from the EM5 were atrocious which basically gave me a single usable ISO setting benefit where I do think that I could use the GX7’s ISO 12,800 file if I needed that sensitivity, but time will tell as I’ll pit them back against each other here soon.
ISO125, xSYNC 1/320, 1/8000sec
Why is this important? Well, for me, the combination of ISO 125 and a 1/8000 top shutter speed is just awesome. This gives us 1 2/3 stops less sensitivity than most all previous models. Some Pana models have employed ISO 160 (the GF1 did have a native ISO 100 setting which I wish never went away) but most micro 4/3 models bottom out at ISO 200, and top off in the shutter speed category at 1/4000 second. So, why is having this a good thing? Shooting in a lot of light, while nice in ways, can be difficult to decrease your DOF, or in cases of subject motion (when you want to allow some blur), any light cutting you can accomplish in camera is really handy.
Let me paint two scenarios where this is really beneficial to me.
- 1) When shooting portraits in open shade or mid day light. I like to separate my subject from background elements much of the time, and doing so requires a larger aperture, which of course lets in more light requiring a faster shutter speed and a lower sensitivity setting. 1 2/3 stops doesn’t sound like much, but can make the difference, and would be equal to being able to shoot at f/1.4 as opposed to shooting at f/2.5 on a body that maxes at ISO200 and 1/4000sec.
- 2) Out and about in nature, I come across a stream. I like allowing an exposure of a second or more, and to do so, I need to cut as much light sensitivity as possible. ISO125 isn’t going to do it on its own, but even if I need to use an ND filter to cut light, 2/3 of a stop is the difference between 1 second and 1/3 of a second, or 1/15 sec and 1/25 sec. This may seem insignificant, but when introducing a 3 stop ND filter for instance, that 1 second vs 1/3 second difference turns into 8 seconds vs 2.5 seconds which becomes a much more substantial difference for motion.
The flash sync at 1/320 second vs the micro 4/3 standard of 1/160 second again cuts a full stop of light out which comes in handy for two things that I can think of.
- 1) While it’s not going to freeze a cheetah at full tilt, 1/320 is enough for many sports, or at least enough for a well timed shot to freeze action. Be that skate boarding or biking, the difference a stop makes can be big.
- 2) Cutting light when shooting outside and wanting to balance for ambient light is also a situation where a stop can make a pretty big difference. If I’m shooting in and trying to over power full sun, while wanting to drop the background to be underexposed for drama’s sake, I’ll take a stop anywhere I can get it.
DETAIL AND RESOLUTION
Detail and resolution charts will show graphs and the like, citing the amount of lines per picture height that a sensor is capable of resolving. I don’t do those tests, but I do appreciate those tests. What I can do, and do with my cameras is see how they look when shooting a target or controlled subject to compare how they look next to each other at high magnifications (see: pixel peeping). Below are shots straight out of each camera after using my best manual focusing technique with a 200% crop to show detail in each. I used the Olympus M.Zuiko 75mm f/1.8 lens stopped down to f/2.8 because it is largely regarded as the sharpest lens for the system, and it happened to be sitting right next to me. Click on any to see a larger version.
While there may be a slight variance on my manual focusing technique, I did take multiple shots with each camera to give myself a sample size from which to choose. These are examples of the best I could get these to focus with the Oly 75mm. To my eye, all are acceptable, but the GX7 is noticeably sharper.
Here are three successive shots from the GX7, the GX1 and the GF1, all shot under identical conditions and at identical settings. For this shot, I used the Panasonic Leica Summilux 25mm f/1.4 lens on all three cameras. The target was an 8.5″ x 8.5″ sheet, shot three feet away. Point of focus was the center of the larger circle. Shot and converted from RAW files as above in the ISO test. Click to see full sized file.
As far as the chart goes, all seem to do a fine job at resolving detail, even in the corner. The center of the circle shows some moire, but take into consideration that the “black dot” in the center of the image measures in at 1/16″ or roughly 1.5mm, from three feet (.914m) away Some may say a lack of increased detail through the generations, but I’d say it started off great and has kept that resolution without increasing any artifacts through over sharpening which can be an issue with higher resolution sensors in the same format by comparison.
I’ve really enjoyed the micro 4/3 system, and having shot with various Panasonic and Olympus cameras over the last 4 years, I feel very comfortable and familiar with them. While I still feel there is room for improvement in certain areas, I do feel that the system offers a lot in a compact package. The GX7 is an evolutionary balance of size and performance, just what the system has always promised, and that promise has been delivered upon in spades. A fully featured compact system cam that with the 20mm or 14mm pancake can fit into a pocket. Watching how the quality has grown over the last few years as well has been fascinating.
Here are what I see as the Pros and Cons as far as the GX7 is concerned and taking into consideration what else has been and is available for the micro 4/3 system.
- Compact yet full featured with external access to key adjustments
- UI and menus are simple, streamlined and logical
- EVF is high quality, and while the tilt is strange, being able to tilt by even 15% or so to keep your nose off the screen is cool.
- Touch interface is better than any camera I’ve used
- AF/MF switch is just straight up handy
- Focus Peaking is well implemented and the sensitivity is adjustable (and available in all shooting modes, not just Auto)
- WiFi is more handy than I thought it would be and is easily set up
- 1/320sec sync, 1/8000 max shutter speed and ISO 125 are all very nice and handy upgrades
- AF is very fast, and accurate in staggeringly low light
- Color fidelity to my eye is far more true than the Sony sensor
- IBIS is very nice and hopefully included in every Pana body from here out
- The grip is just the right size for my large hands
- Good video options
- Battery life certainly should be better by this point, not as horrible as the OMD EM5, but not near the GF1’s endurance
- Weather sealing would be nice at this price point
- While solid, it is a bit hollow feeling compared to the OMD EM5 or Pen series
- The DISP (display) button is placed directly under where you place your thumb which may lead to inadvertently changing your screen
- I’m still wanting to see a hybrid AF system throughout the m4/3 landscape… until then the universal usefulness and “pro” labels will be questioned from various angles
- While I personally can live without an external mic input, I can see why many are upset at its exclusion, and the lack of IBIS in video is ridiculous, c’mon firmware update!
As far as features, the integrated EVF is wonderful, IBIS a welcome inclusion, the focus peaking is well implemented and the WiFi is one of those features that give you wireless control through existing tools (assuming you own a modern phone) which is remarkably handy in various situations (studio, event, wild life, sport shooting, selfies, etc.) That the sensor has incrementally progressed as well is icing. It’s not a quantum leap (as perhaps the Old Oly to Sony sensor was), but it has continued to get a little better in a couple areas while not introducing some of the short falls that some sensors can introduce. The video is nice as is normally the case with Panasonic, but the intentional hampering of the mic input and IBIS in video is just odd. I know that these newer cameras pull a lot of juice with IBIS, high res screens and EVF’s and the like, but seriously, the battery life needs to do better, OR stop charging $50-75 per battery and offer them at a reasonable price. My suggestion? $25 for a battery, no more, done.
The $100 price drop is nice for those who’ve not yet bought one (thanks Panasonic for screwing your fervent supporters/pre-orderers/early adopters). While we expect price drops 6 months in or so, the near immediate drop screams that you had this camera priced too high and you knew it. Feel free to compensate those of us with a gift certificate or discount on Panasonic goods…🙂
You can now get the GX7 just about everywhere. Hit the links below to see them at B&H:
All things considered, this is a great camera that offers photographers almost everything you need. While environmental sealing would have been nice, I’ve only ever owned one interchangeable lens system camera (out of dozens) that has been “sealed” and I live in a very, very wet place. I’ve never had an issue even shooting in a downpour and have always found ways to work around it, or not been too bothered by a little moisture. Still though, at this price, it should be included for the “top of the line” compact body in my opinion.
Next up will be my comparison between the GX7 and the OMD EM5. Has the Panasonic offering come far enough to outbid the quirky EM5 for my undying love? Stay tuned to find out🙂 Follow on Twitter, Facebook or enter your email at the top right of the page to receive alerts when new articles post.
Finally, here are a few snaps from the last two weeks with the GX7.
GX7 + Oly 75mm f/1.8
GX7 + PL 25mm f/1.4
GX7 + Oly 75mm f/1.8
GX7 + PL 25mm f/1.4
GX7 + Oly 75mm f/1.8
GX7 + PL 25mm f/1.4
Thanks all and happy shooting,