*The GX7 vs the OM-D E-M5, battle for my affection, Round 3 – IQ, Interface, Features and the Final Decision

round3

These two have gone toe to toe, and we’re all tired.  If you’re not, believe me you will be, this final round is a long one, and really the reason I needed to break this into three parts.  Now it’s time to see which, if either can really pull itself ahead and prove to be a better choice.  I use the word choice because, it will come down to a personal preference, or needed feature for any given shooter because both are great cameras.  I’m finding that it is a decision based more on what each camera doesn’t have as opposed to the qualities that they do.  Both are great, but what can you live without?  Here’s round three, the round to end all others…at least for me and my decision making process.

P1020142 (1 of 1)

IQ

This gets a little more interesting.  The current Sony sensor being utilized in the Olympus cameras has been lauded as the best micro 4/3 sensor currently being produced and for good reason.  It does a good job, period.  I’ve found that the EM5 files don’t sharpen as nice in post, and the reds are overly saturated and harder to correct for which makes it a more difficult file to work with for lighter skin tones comparatively. That said, there’s no denying that the Oly files do very well for many applications.

Panasonic says that the sensor in the GX7 is a new sensor, and while I don’t doubt them, I’m not seeing as huge a difference between it and the previous sensors as I did between the Oly/Sony sensor and the 12mp Oly sensor of yesteryear.  One area where I need to applaud the new Panasonic sensor is how well a job it does at color accuracy and consistency at any given light temp setting, where in most every camera I own, even the full framers,  there are marked color shifts as the ISO, and s:n increases.

Here is a boring, static scene, shot at identical exposure settings, in RAW, converted in ACR with settings as listed for an apples to apples comparison at different ISO settings.  Scene lit by that single 60w incandescent bulb and the in camera white balance setting, set to the default incandescent (light bulb) setting.  These are full sized files, so feel free to click on any and pixel peep to your hearts content.

GX7iso200

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

GX7iso400

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

GX7iso800

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

GX7iso1600

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

GX7iso3200

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

GX7iso6400

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

GX7iso12800

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

GX7iso25600

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

One area that is apparent to me is how well the GX7 does at keeping color fidelity throughout the entire ISO range.  The default, in camera incandescent settings are what they are, cooler on the Olympus EM5 side, and warmer by default for the GX7.  Where the shift really sets in though is from 12,800 up, and granted these are pretty unusable settings (or are they? see below) but that the EM5 shifted noticeably and the GX7 hasn’t, is something to note.  This is the first time I’ve seen a camera (any camera that I’ve used) do such a good job in this type of test.  While the higher ISO settings are certainly messy, I’ve run the ISO 12,800 and 25,600 shots from each through Topaz DeNoise 5 (which is absolutely awesome, read more here) using the same exact, un-adjusted preset, and included 100% crops following each.  Have a look (click on any to see full size files)

P1030318

gx7100crop12800

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

P1030319

gx7100crop25600

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

How about that?  While I wouldn’t want to use ISO 12,800 or 25,600, I know that in an absolute pinch, I could and that’s kind of nuts.  To me, I feel the GX7 files handle the higher ISO’s better both in color fidelity and in overall grain structure.  I’ve found the Sony sensor to be much more aggressive with file sharpness, which has its ups and downs.  Great when you get what you want sharp, sharp, but not so good in post as it has continually created more artifacts when trying to work with any post processing sharpening, especially as you start to get into ISO 800+ (as I do with files from all my various cameras).  Not bad necessarily, just requires a different approach in post in many cases.  After the noise reduction run through, I feel either of the 12,800 files could be useable (again, in a pinch) and while it comes at the sacrifice of some of the finer detail, it’s still impressive the amount of actual detail that remains, but comparing the 25,600 files, the GX7 didn’t exhibit the same level of banding and cleaned up noticeably better to my eye.

This has just as much to do with Topaz DeNoise (it really is badass) as it does with the files though, and kudos to all parties involved.  That I’m even talking loosely about a semi-usable file in this ISO range from a micro 4/3 sensor is pretty awesome to me.

Let’s have a look at a simple setup to see how each camera’s RAW files handle in regard to detail.  Everything has been shot in RAW, with the in camera white balance again set to incandescent, converted in ACR with no adjustments made whatsoever.  While I could have gone through and shot at every ISO setting, I didn’t want to, and just wanted to see what each camera was able to do at its native, base ISO with the M.Zuiko 75mm f/1.8 lens wide open, and stopped down to f/4 for comparison.  All shots manually focused.  All are full sized files, click on any to see them larger.

GX7f1.8

GX7f1.8 - Version 2 (1 of 4)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

GX7f4

GX7f4 - Version 2 (2 of 4)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Both sharp, both seem very comparable.

Here are the f/4 shots after being run though an identical combo highpass/unsharp mask sharpening action in Photoshop which I use as my standard, final sharpening.

GX7f4 - Version 2 sharpened

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Aside from the difference in the temperature, both have done very well in my opinion, and really either is fully useable and has sharpened up pretty nicely.  I think that I’d dial it down a little bit, but tit for tat, they both look good to me.

Both camera’s sensors are fully capable, and the differences are mostly going to come down to personal workflow or preference.  To me, I judge based on RAW files because that is what I shoot and use.  I can always make a RAW file a compressed JPEG with the click of a button or preset so to me, in camera JPEG compression profiles aren’t a huge factor.  That said, the IQ between the two is very comparable and comes down to tradeoffs.  If shooting Jpegs, I do think that Oly/Sony has the edge, although you may need to try and account for the red channel issue (or at least I have) which requires a bit of tweaking both in camera and in post.  As for RAW files, the differences for me come down more to fidelity, accuracy and noise which to my eye, I prefer the Panasonic’s more natural, and consistent profile.

In a real world shooting scenario, either camera is going to be capable of doing well and personal decisions will come into play.  I by no means think that the Oly/Sony sensor is a lesser sensor, at least not through ISO 6400, I just personally prefer the RAW files out of the GX7 as they require less in the way of color correction or temperature compensation.  A more natural, albeit somewhat less vibrant profile and signature which I appreciate.  Again, I can always add color or contrast easily in post, but it can be much harder to get rid of it or correct for it.

head2head

USER INTERFACE/OPERABILITY 

Like I mentioned in round 2, I feel the tactile feedback on the GX7 favors a more solid feel operationally, and is really only let down by comparison to the EM5 in things like frame rate, which in the EM5 is a very capable 9fps vs 5fps for the GX7.  Neither of those still frame rates translate to a continuous AF, but the tracking struggles anyway in my experience for both cameras, so for tracking I’ve found the spray and pray methodology comes into play.  Speaking of, the GX7 does in fact have a 40 fps setting if you’re okay with shooting 3.5mp images.

For me, so much depends on how the camera interacts with me while shooting, and I really never got used to, or liked the way that the Olympus went about controlling the functional parameters.  I know (and have certainly heard from Oly fans) that there are those who disagree with me and that’s totally cool.  It doesn’t change the fact for me that I have been frustrated with the amount of time I’ve had to interact with the EM5, trying to dig through menus and submenus to try and find the feature I need to alter, or adjust.

The SCP! The SCP! You may hear the Oly crowd cry.  Fine and dandy for a quick menu (which most all cameras have) but even figuring out how to turn it on requires a read through the PDF, or just dumb luck at changing the right settings at the right time in the right screen to initiate for those of us that have not used an Olympus camera before, and the fact that it is still a screen based menu required to interact with to change simple parameters, it doesn’t get away from needing to stare at the back of the camera before you can focus on what is in front of the camera, or require many more button presses to access what you may need.  That Oly has a pretty poorly written PDF manual didn’t help either.

I can say, without a doubt in my mind, that the OMD EM5 is the most complicated interface that I have ever seen on a camera personally.  Some laud the “customizability” and if you’re into that, maybe you’ll enjoy programing your own camera, but for me I like to have direct access to certain features, and feel there are a few that everyone could benefit from having at their fingertips without having to program and remember which button they assigned them to, in which ever mode they happen to be using.  There is such a thing as too much customization, and for me, the Oly system is it.

I feel that if an individual were totally sold on the Oly system, and shot only the Oly system, the time necessary to get used to the menus and setup, while programing their camera(s) could greatly benefit from this level of customization.  If you shoot multiple systems (like I do) having to memorize where different parameters live in the Oly menu cache, or which functions you’ve assigned to which buttons in which ever mode, can be a difficult task when coming back to the camera after a few days or weeks of shooting with something else.  I know that there are those who defend the Oly setup tooth and nail, and to you I say kudos.  I don’t pretend that my experience is the same as everyone else’s, but this has absolutely been my experience.

Customization may be your flavor, but buyer beware, because if for whatever reason the camera craps out (as mine did when using the rebate Oly flash that came with the camera) or you inadvertently reset back to factory defaults, you lose all of that customization.  I had mine more or less figured out until a faulty flash fried the sensor and internal electrical components.  Lucky for me, Olympus replaced my camera’s internals completely (essentially giving me a new camera), but all of those adjustments and customizing went away as it was returned to me reset to factory defaults (as you’d assume it would be).  It had taken me days, even over the course of the first few weeks to set the camera up the way I needed and liked it, and I just couldn’t be bothered to go back through to try and remember what I’d figured out and done, much of which had to be learned through forums and the like because the PDF manual sucks, hard.  In retrospect, I wish I’d have documented my customization and written myself a map as to how I’d done what I’d done, but as they say, hindsight…  Since then, the amount of customizing on mine is minimal and for various tasks, I resort to one of my other cameras.

In this respect, the GX7 wins hands down in my opinion.  I have direct buttons for ISO, Frame Rate/bracketing, White Balance, AF Operation, AF/AE lock, Exposure Comp, and with the dual wheels (much like the EM5) I can control both Aperture and Shutter Speed in Manual mode, or exposure compensation in the other modes.  Add to that the ability to switch between AF and MF on the camera, and do all of this without needing to take my eye away from the viewfinder or screen is just better in my opinion.  A more useful and intentional photographic tool.  While spec sheets and buzz worthy features seem to win a lot of praise, for me, more than any of that, it comes down to functionality and simplicity.  Getting to the functions and features I want to and need to quickly, easily and intuitively are paramount and for me the Olympus OMD EM5 was the furthest thing from that, that I have ever used.

My ire for the user interface on the Oly cameras has certainly drawn criticism from some of the more fervent Oly fans.  I know this reads as if I have my mind made up before any questions were asked, but that isn’t true.  It doesn’t help the situation from the Oly standpoint in my eyes, but I’m not completely discounting the camera by any means because it really is a good image making device.

FEATURES

Features like the WiFi/NFC, focus peaking and Silent Shooting mode available in the GX7, are really cool, and should certainly become much more commonplace moving forward.  Boasting a 1/8000 sec max shutter speed, 1/320 sec x-sync speed and ISO 125 are all very handy additions as well.  The EM5 is condemned by being released just a little early to have gained access to these features, or Oly decided to not redesign the camera to enable the faster shutter and sync speeds or less sensitive ISO settings, so I can’t fault it for not having them.  I will say that the WiFi control on the GX7 is easy and very useful.  From selfies to long exposures, intervelometer time lapses or remote shooting wildlife or an event, the ability to control it from a phone or tablet is really, really cool.  Focus peaking is awesome and I’m sure it will become standard from here on out.  Especially when using adapted optics, it makes manually focusing so much easier and more accurate.  The silent shooting mode and implementation of access to an electronic shutter for a fully silent shooting mode is wonderful if shooting in quiet environments, macro shooting small moving creatures, or just wanting to minimize every last ounce of motion from a physical, focal plane shutter, it is very nice to have access to.

The EM5 has the environmental sealing and faster frame rate.  Until the GX7, the IBIS was a huge benefit, and still is nice, but as I found in Round 1, it isn’t up the Panasonic IBIS in certain situations.  It does have the IBIS in video, and live view which shouldn’t be ignored, but now that Panasonic has finally incorporated and IBIS system of their own, this argument is much closer.  The EM5 has the anti-shock setting and things like that, but really nothing else for me stands out as a feature that the GX7 doesn’t have in some way shape or form.

With these two cameras we have two different approaches, two different philosophies on photographic interaction one might say.  On one hand, the EM5 has a blistering frame rate, rugged body and good weather sealing.  It does require a lot more in the way of time spent setting up and memorizing menus and functions.  The GX7 by comparison provides newer functionality in features like WiFi, focus peaking and Silent Mode.  It’s not weather sealed, nor quite as ruggedly built, it doesn’t have the same frame rate, but it is far more streamlined in its external and internal interface.  Either approach could sway any given individual, and having shot with both I feel I’ve gotten a good feeling from the way they each operate.

If you want an environmentally sealed (and well sealed) body, there is no comparison.  Sure, you’d need to pony up for a sealed lens, but the option is there with the EM5 and that is nice.  The IBIS in both cameras equal each other in many ways and surpass in others.  The EM5 does allow for IBIS in video while the GX7 oddly does not.  To my eye, the Oly JPEGS are better, but If you shoot primarily in RAW, I think the GX7 is the better sensor, or at least has better overall noise performance and fidelity with a less aggressive file as far as color, contrast or sharpening.  While the EM5 was plagued with well documented, early issues (sleeping beauty freeze/lock, various battery issues, screen bevel cracks, mine had to have the sensor and internal electronics replaced for heavens sake) it is too early to say that the GX7 is free and clear of any similar issues.  Time will tell, but while I was having issues right off the bat with the EM5, and continued throughout the 18 months I’ve had mine, I cannot say that I’ve seen any hints of those types of issues yet with the GX7…knock on wood.

Below I have listed (with caveats where applicable) where I feel either camera bests the other.  We’ll start with the EM5

Olympus OM-D E-M5:

  • Weather sealing.  (they’ve had problems with the screen bevel cracking though due to the screws, and the multi-piece hotshoe cover is a bit of a mess)
  • Frame burst rate. (although, it is challenged at AF tracking, and at 9fps has the focus locked starting at the first frame, while at a lower resolution 3.5mp, the GX7 also can do 40fps with similar performance though…)
  • IBIS for live view, and VIDEO.  Great stabilized image for viewing on screen or through the EVF.  (the GX7’s IBIS has been superior for still results for me though!)
  • JPEG output.  Files out of the camera have the Oly/Sony Magic (mostly irrelevant for RAW shooters), albeit exhibiting trouble with reds
  • More solid feeling body. (heavier, but in this case, heavy can be good)

Panasonic DMC-GX7

  • The interface is superior.  From the menus to the physical controls, the GX7 wins in my mind hands down.  (the EM5 has quite a bit of customization, but it is a bit challenging to wrap your head around, and then remember.)
  • Off center, tiltable EVF.  While I find the idea of a tilting EVF a little weird, using it has justified it’s inclusion.  Resolution wise it’s a better EVF, but I can’t tell a huge real world difference between the two.  The auto switch (EVF/LCD) sensor is better on the GX7, and can alter the sensitivity.  Being off to the side also keeps the screen off of my nose.
  • Wi-Fi.  Simple, easy and a cool feature for remote shooting.
  • IBIS for end results.  While the live view isn’t nearly as smooth and steady, the results are better than the OLY IBIS. (as mentioned the Oly IBIS is superior in Live view stabilization AND is included for video where the Panasonic IBIS is not).
  • Integrated Flash.  People who categorically dismiss an on camera flash don’t know how to use and utilize an on camera flash, nor see the benefits (albeit compromised in many ways).  I can optically fire my studio lights, or produce a bit of fill and I don’t have to carry around an extra, bulky piece.  Being able to tilt it to bounce is a nice touch as well.
  • MF/AF switch.  This really could be included in the interface bullet above, but it is cool enough to deserve it’s own.  So handy, I love it.
  • Focus Peaking.  Why have Panasonic and Olympus not worked harder to integrate this feature sooner and for all current models via a firmware update!  Seriously, for MF work it is amazing.
  • Silent Mode.  A very handy feature for shooting in quiet environments, or when wanting to be a sneaky creepy shooter.

ROUND 3 – Decision:

IQ – Split

  • I prefer the GX7 and feel it is a better sensor for how and what I shoot.  Admittedly, this is coming from shooting RAW files, and the difference is not huge.  At low ISO’s, either is really good.  Amazing if you look at the Oly and Panasonic sensors from the early generations a mere 3 or 4 years ago.  The reason I give the edge to the GX7 is mainly because of its consistency (next to no color shift when changing ISO’s) and the noise is more manageable.  If you’re a JPEG shooter, the EM5 will probably give you a better “finished” file straight out of the camera without any tweaking in post.

INTERFACE – GX7

  •  The interface on the GX7 is better.  There are some that will disagree, but for every one of those preferring the Olympus interface, there are at least 3 that seem to feel the opposite (if I go by everything I’ve read or heard over the last couple years), or at least feel the Oly menus and interface are far too complicated, jumbled and counter intuitive.  It’s not a universally accepted truth, but for me there is no doubt that the Pana menus and UI are superior and more photographer friendly as far as my interaction with them goes.

FEATURES –  Split

  • Depending on what is more important to you, either camera offers much that the other does not.  I feel as far as features go, it’s more about what you can live without as opposed to buying to have access to.  Do you need 9fps?  If so, can you live without tracking AF available in that frame rate?  Do you need wireless control of your camera?  It’s handy, but we’ve gotten this far into our own photographic histories, very likely without this feature.  Silent mode and focus peaking are really nice, but so is weather sealing…

THE JUDGES HAVE DECIDED AND THE ROUNDS ARE SCORED AS FOLLOWS!!!

Here’s how it all comes down, round by round:

ROUND 1:

  • IBIS: Split
  • EVF: GX7
  • LCD: GX7

ROUND 2:

  • BUILD QUALITY: EM5
  • ERGONOMICS: GX7

ROUND 3:

  • IQ: Split (GX7 RAW and EM5 JPEG)
  • INTERFACE: GX7
  • FEATURES: Split

FINAL SCORE (out of 8 categories):

GX7 – 5.5

EM5 – 2.5

In conclusion, I think that both cameras are great cameras.  The deciding factors really come down to the interaction with the camera as well as the features as a set of tools for me, and in that, I do prefer the Panasonic GX7.  The GX7 has the great benefit of being a year and a half younger though too, so I would certainly assume that it would perform compared to the EM5.  That said, with the same sensors being used for generations, it really comes down largely to the features added to these bodies, and while the EM5 is using the same sensor as the  EM10, EP5, EPL5 and EPM2, it has unique features of its own, but costs quite a bit more pushing it into a different category.  On the other side, the newly announced GM1 boasts the same sensor as the GX7, albeit without the fancy IBIS, EVF and external controls for a few hundred cheaper.

For me, I can forego weather sealing and a faster frame rate for what I see as a better overall photographer’s tool in operability and bells and whistles.  On paper, I really liked the OMD EM5, and tried hard to fall in love with it, but it just wasn’t meant to be for me.  My experience is just that, and by no means do I think the EM5 is a bad machine, it just didn’t fit me or my style, and this has become very clear when comparing it to the GX7.

Some have mentioned that a comparison between the GX7 and EP5 would have been more appropriate, and to me these again are different categories, or at the very least, require extra equipment to be purchased in the case of an EVF to really compare apples to apples and seeing as the EP5 and EM5 share a sensor, and basic menu layout, I feel the EM5 is still the camera that the GX7 more directly competes against between Olympus and Panasonic.

If you need the sealing, frame rate, or IBIS in video, then the EM5 is the better machine.  Of course, if you prefer the Olympus user interface approach, then your decision is that much easier as well, but for me, I do feel that the GX7, while not perfect, has done enough for me to be seen as the best micro 4/3 camera body under $1,000.

I wish that I could take these two cameras and forge one super camera with features and hardware from each, but alas, if the perfect camera existed, and was reasonably priced, we’d all own it and then we’d have to focus on our own technique, and everyone knows that’s rarely fun🙂  All jokes aside, both of these cameras are fully capable machines only limited by those of us who choose to buy them.  They’re not without their faults, but that said, either one, with a little effort is going to have more power packed into it than most any of us will ever truly exploit beyond the boundaries available in these cameras.

I’m happy replacing my OMD EM5 with the GX7, and while I’ll miss the environmental protection and video stabilization, I am happy to move on.  Anyone want to buy an OMD EM5?  Feel free to contact me if so.

Thank you for reading and following the battle series.  If you missed them, you can read the IBIS, EVF and LCD comparison in Round 1 HERE and Interface and Build Quality comparison in Round 2 HERE.

Coming up soon will be a comparison between the new Lumix 20mm f/1.7 lens versus the older model…  Kind of an odd update, but we’ll take a look anyway.  I’m always into networking and would love to do some collaborating so please hit me up via the contact page, or via Facebook or Twitter.

Below you’ll find my affiliate links to these two cameras via B&H.  If you choose to buy one of these machines, I’d always greatly appreciate the link click here to do so.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX7 Mirrorless Micro Four Thirds Digital Camera”>Panasonic GX7 silver body

Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX7 Mirrorless Micro Four Thirds Digital Camera with 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 Lens (Black)”>NEW BLACK GX7 w/14-42 kit!

Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX7 Mirrorless Micro Four Thirds Digital Camera with 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 Lens”>Panasonic GX7 w/14-42 silver kit

Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mirrorless Micro Four Thirds Digital Camera (Body, Black)”>Olympus OMD EM5 black body

Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mirrorless Micro Four Thirds Digital Camera (Body, Silver)”>Olympus OMD EM5 silver body

Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mirrorless Micro Four Thirds Digital Camera with 12-50mm Lens (Black)”>Olympus OMD EM5 black 12-50 kit

Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mirrorless Micro Four Thirds Digital Camera with 12-50mm Lens (Silver)”>Olympus OMD EM5 silver 12-50 kit

Thanks all and happy shooting,

Tyson

110 thoughts on “*The GX7 vs the OM-D E-M5, battle for my affection, Round 3 – IQ, Interface, Features and the Final Decision

  1. You, you’re going to get hate mail but you can’t please both sides. Thanks for taking the time to really look at these two.

    I do like the Super Control Panel, on the Olympus E-5, and I like the physical controls on the E-1, but the E-M5 left me with nothing but nostalgia, thinking about my OM-1N–that slippery camera I used to own.

    I dislike the electronics feel of the menu interface on both my E-5 and my GH3. I wish Apple or even Google would standardize an interface for cameras. I used to design all sorts of displays with just text available. I could probably do a better job than any of the camera makers because they make us guess at where it all is. It is a fairly common complaint that the Olympus menus are difficult, though.

    I wish that Olympus could update the E-M5 with the E-P5 features to see how it would fare against the GX7. While the E-M5 brought a huge leap in image quality to micro Four-Thirds, the GX7 seems to be more usable. I wish the GH3’s image quality was as good but it certainly beats the E-5 as the light decreases. I wish that Panasonic could update my GH3 with GX7 improvements, but I suppose I’ll just have to pay for the GH5.

    Are you happy with the switch to the GX7? It sounds that way. I would think that you would find a use for the vertical viewfinder, while the GX7 is on the tripod. My early camera experiences were all through the top.

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    • Thanks Nobuyki! Yeah, I get plenty of negativity regardless of what I say. I especially like stumbling onto a forum where armchair critics like to ‘disprove’ my findings while never having used any of the equipment in question, nor actually read what I’ve written. Always good for a laugh. Nothing is stopping those folks from buying camera gear and (objectively) testing it and starting their own blogs, aside from brand loyalty perhaps🙂

      So far, I’ve been really enjoying the GX7 and have felt it’s been built for a photographer and has done a nice job at integrating new technology while not getting in the way of being a camera. Going through this comparison has helped me definitively decide for my own purposes certainly.

      Shooting the EVF vertically could certainly work, but the tilting LCD makes for a much better waist level finder in my experience, and the GX7’s LCD is very nice.

      Like

      • It must not be very sunny there or you’d find that tilting rear panel almost impossible to use. Then again, Portland/Vancouver never has sun like Orlando or Los Angeles, as I recall.

        It’s always interesting to see crazy assumptions from someone trying to justify their purchase. I just try to see all sides, though the Sony A7/A7R duo made me laugh.

        Keep making people smile.

        Like

      • Yeah, we get a bit of the grey, but we’ve had an amazing last 7 months of beautiful weather (for us) and the GX7’s screen does better than any other I’ve used in bright light.

        With the A7/r, I’m excited in the direction they’ve gone, more for what it represents in ability and price point moving forward. I’m happy with my mirrorless and full frame systems, but competition for both is always a good thing🙂

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  2. Nice work Tyson, very well written and you know that I’m with you 100% on Oly’s menu system. I think I would switch also except that I have really gotten used to the IBIS in video mode, it works great when I’m not carrying a tripod. I think if Panny would have include this in video mode, I would be making the switch. Thanks again for such a thorough and thoughtful review. Also, can’t wait for match 1 between the Sounders and the Timbers!

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  3. Hey Tyson,

    Always a joy to read your insight . i almost bought the GX7…just because I would like better video than my E-PM2 offers but upon further review I find results from others comparing the GX7 and the E-PM2…and found that the E-PM2 has better performance at higher ISO and overall IQ and considerably cheaper…I’ll just stick with the E-PM2 til my E-M1 comes in…as far as video…I see the GH3 has dropped in price or I can just get a full time video camera

    Heyyyy! , Portland Timbers…the crowd should be rockin’ tonight…take care

    Like

    • Hey Florence!

      Thanks for the comment. I’ve not seen where the EpM2 sensor outperforms the GX7, or vice versa I guess, but with the same sensor as the EM5, depending on which parameters are being tested, they’re certainly close enough to swing in either’s favor.

      Yeah, the GH3 is a ridiculous bargain right now. It pays to wait a few months on the Panasonic front apparently.🙂

      A big night here in PDX. Timbers first ever MLS era playoff appearance and the Blazers home opener. If only Mrs Squeeze hadn’t left town for the weekend, I might be able to catch one or the other…

      Have a great weekend,

      Tyson

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  4. Hi Tyson. After reading your Round 1 weeks ago I bought GX7 – I’m a newbie in photography. After reading your Round 2 I bought 20mm f1.7 and 14-140mm lenses. Your Round 3 confirms that I made the right decision. Now I need to go to work and find out more the relations between aperture-iso-shutter speed. Many thanks for sharing your reviews with us. Just a question from a newbie: what do you think is the approximate shutter life of the GX 7?

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  5. Pingback: *The GX7 vs the OM-D E-M5, battle for my affect...

  6. If I had these same two cameras I think my analysis and conclusions would be the same. This is based on the fact that I currently own the EM5 and it overlapped with my ownership of the GH2 for a while. I remember writing on someone’s blog that it took two days to learn the Oly menu (and I had owned the E-520 and E-620 previously !) and two hours to learn the Pany menu (but I had previously owned an FZ8 and LXseries). Bottom line, I found it so much easier to change settings in the field with the GH2. I ended up keeping the EM5 because of (1) IBIS for my many adaptive lenses and Oly 4/3 lenses and (2) ability to use manual mode with autoISO.

    Currently as a second camera I went the way of the Sony NEX6. Even with its terrible UI I prefer it as a tool over the EM5. Had the Pany GX7 come out at the same time I would likely have bought it instead of the NEX6… I do so much like using a rangefinder style EVF!! The interchangeablity of lenses is a real plus with the EM5/GX7 combo.

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    • Thanks Peter,

      When the NEX 6 came out, I felt like Sony had a hit on its hands (and they finally included a standard hotshoe!). The NEX UI has always been a little too cell phone circa 2005 for me, and the proprietary lenses on offer leave a little to be desired from my personal perspective, but the quality is there, no doubt about it. How are you liking it compared to the m4/3 as a system?

      Cheers,
      t

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      • I love the NEX6 body with the Buchanan grip and L plate attached. (At your rec I also use the RRS grip and L plate on the E-M5 and am trying to see the proprietary Oly grip.) The NEX feels better to me and I like the sound of the shutter. I also like the 1.5x crop to complement the 2x Oly crop to get different equiv focal lengths on both cameras with my legacy glass. The fact that the Sony lacks IBIS hasn’t been a real factor for my legacy glass as I generally shoot around 1/focal length regardless. But you are right about the lens for the Sony. They don’t do the camera sensor justice. I only have the 16-50 and it is good enough for 95% of my pix (those that will never be printed). I have just tested the new $1000 Zeiss 16-70 and am sending it back. It’s good but not worth $1000 (IMO). It has nowhere near the edge sharpness quality of my Oly 14-54 though both have similar equivalent (except the 24mm-equiv on the Zeiss) zoom range. I am going to be posting a summary of my findings comparing these two lenses on my blog. I’ll email you separately about that. You might be interested.

        Peter F.

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  7. A good, thoughtful critique Tyson that dispels some myths. it has certainly helped clarify my thinking.
    As I said before, don’t let the b******s grind you down!
    All the best,
    John

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  8. interesting review Tyson. I’ve always liked the images from the E-M5 but I just hated holding the damn thing…. I walked into a store convinced I would buy it. I suspect that you might relate to that.

    I’ve never understood the antipathy between Oly and Panny owners. The two companies have created a fine set of lenses.

    I hope that Panny will continue to improve the IBIS and that they follow Olympus lead with PADF.

    BTW I eventually sold my my GF1 but i just had to buy another. I sit it in B&W Dynamic JPEG mode and stick the 20mm MKI on it…..

    now do I buy the Panny 7-14 or Olympus 9-18?? I hired the Panny and it is lovely but I think the 9-18 might work better for me….or do I just buy that TINY GM1 with the 12-32….. decisions!

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    • Hi Pete,

      The ultra wide angle lens question is one I myself have been asking as well. I have been hoping that someone would come out with a 7 or 8mm rectilinear prime lens that comes in at a reasonable price. I like the idea of the Oly, but not sure if an 18mm equivalent will be wide enough for interiors or the like. I do a lot of interior shooting and do so with a 17mm on a full frame, but also have a 14mm f/2.8 which I use often as well…

      The GM1 with the new little kit zoom looks like a killer combo too.

      Choices, choices. Not a bad conundrum to have I guess.

      t

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  9. I bought a GX7 about a week ago and couldn’t be happier. It is a joy to handle and has more than enough customizability for me. I don’t shoot a lot of video, so the lack of IBIS in video is not that important. I have really come to like the tilting EVF: I often tilt it up just a bit so that my face isn’t directly against the camera. Tilting also sometimes helps to keep stray light out of the finder. I think the jpegs look fine, but I’ve never shot with an Olympus, so I don’t have a basis for comparison. I like the Panny UI. It was easy to start shooting right away and figure out how to change basic settings without plowing through the manual. Now, of course, I am beginning to go through the manual to find out how to use all the many features of the camera.

    I think this will be my camera for the next several years. All I need now is to build up my collection of m43 lenses. Thanks for your review of the GX7 and EM5. It helped to clarify many things for me.

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    • Congrats, and if think I fall into a similar mold and approach. That the system has so many really high quality options is a testament to the collaborative effort and dedication to the format that Pana, Oly and the third parties have been able to build up.

      It’s only going to continue to get better, and I think one could make the argument that the m4/3 system is one of the most compelling and complete systems for many types of photographers.

      Cheers,

      Tyson

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  10. One question, sometimes I’ll be using a long telephoto with the GX-7. My shutter speed will be around 2500, still some shots will be slightly blurred. Do you think it’s because of the IS? I took one yesterday and was even leaning on a fence, still blurred. Tele was a 45-200 Pany zoom with it’s own IS.
    Please find out for me why Oly has to use 2 names for the OM-D EM-1…………it’s driving me mad. At one point I was thinking of buying the Oly but I want to see what Panasonic does after the GH-3. I can wait, I have the GX-7 to keep me warm.

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    • Owen OM-D is the series name. They do it to hark back to their film OM- series, which was very highly regarded. Hence when the E-M5 came out they had OM-D to hint it was a continuation. So the camera is an E-M1 but the OM-D is added as a reminder…..

      How far was the object you were photographing and was it static? i’ve found that Panny telephotos are short sighted….. oh and the OIS in the 45-200 is not the best.

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      • It was an old airplane hanger about 100 yards away. I may turn off the IS and try it at the high shutter speeds and see just what happens. Maybe the in body IS is not turning off when I have a lens with IS in it and they are conflicting?

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      • I doubt that would be the case, but if it is, it would be a faulty GX7. Are you seeing blurry results at all shutter speeds with that lens, or when do you see it sharpen up?

        I’d try to eliminate all possible variables. Try shooting a distant target with the OIS on at varying shutter speeds, then with the OIS off at the same shutter speeds. See if there is a decisive speed that the OIS starts, or stops being effective. If that is inconclusive, try another lens on the same camera, and if possible, your 45-200 on a different camera body and try repeating the same exercise.

        My guess is it has something to do with the lens, but I’d definitely test it out.

        Good luck man.

        T

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    • When using any lens that has optical IS (OIS) on the GX7, it will disable the in body IS and utilize the OIS.

      The OMD is a call back to the older OM series Olympus film cameras, hence the “retro” design for the Em5 and EM1. The OMD designation is more about the series and the model number is the EMx if that makes sense.

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  11. A great read again, as usual. But I must admit to what amounts to complete ignorance on both cameras. What impressed me was some of your tests, and when the ISO/ASA (I dated myself) was cranked up, I swear I could hear an Irish guy in the background, maybe named Scotty, saying, “We’re brrreakin’ up Captain”. I thought, “Wow, how far can this go?” And I must say, what a great collection of still objects for the comparison pictures. Why, some even look vaguely familiar. Ha! Anyway, I need to learn more about Topez Denoise 5. I intend to go back now to where it says “…read here”. Thanks again.

    D. Spivey

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  12. I am curious about the jpeg output of the GX7. I am colorblind (red/green) and not very successful in post with color correction. Is it bad, or just not quite as good as the EM5? I am actually down to either the GX7 or the Fuji XE1/2. I need to be able to rely on decent OOC color. I do like to work with B&W conversions, but my wife still likes to have color pics of the grandkids. Thanks for your great review.

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    • Hi Jim,

      The Jpegs out of the GX7 aren’t bad at all, quite the contrary actually. I like them, but find that they, like any Jpeg, start to get harder to work with at higher ISO’s, etc. The color in the standard profile is more muted by comparison, but you can tweak that profile to your heart’s content to boost the color, contrast, sharpness, etc. The best way I can describe the EM5 by comparison is that the Jpeg presets are more aggressive, creating a punchier output by default. Not that it cannot be achieved with the Panasonic cameras, but it takes a little bit of tweaking either in camera or on the computer. Once you have your Jpeg profile set up in camera, you can save it on the GX7 as well. I just don’t really take the time to fully explore this in camera compression much more than playing around initially.

      I wish that I had first hand experience with the Fuji X series as I think they’re awesome cameras from what I’ve seen and read. I know that Fuji has done quite a bit to really provide nice, dare I say, Fuji-like Jpeg profiles akin to the Fujifilm of old. The system has its own ups and downs, but to me seems solid. They have a great lineup of prime lenses, and while not quite as diverse as the micro 4/3 system, they are compelling and exciting offerings in my opinion, as opposed to a bunch of slow zoom lenses like some other mirrorless systems seem to focus on.

      I don’t think you would be unhappy with Jpegs out of any of the three (GX7, EM5 or the Fuji), but depending on what you prefer, one may offer more of what you want, of course needing to balance the other features and necessary interaction with any of the cameras mentioned.

      Good luck with it and enjoy whatever you choose, they’re all great!

      Cheers,
      t

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    • Hope Tyson doesn’t mind my comment.

      IMHO the Fuji JPEGS (using the Velvia default) have more pop than the GX7 out of the camera. (I guess the same is true of the E-M5. I think the gap has narrowed over the generations).

      The GX7 are not bad, indeed actually I’d say they were good I just prefer the Fuji’s (if you went with the GX7 you can tweek the JPEG output boost contrast etc take a pic with each of the default options and see what the wife prefers).

      I owned and enjoyed the XE1 but in low light the AF just wasn’t reliable enough. At a family event I got too many non sharp shots which I know even the older Pan GX1 would have done better with either the 14-42PZ or 20 f1.7. The GX7 is better at AF and high iso than the GX1 (not as clean as the Fuji tho).

      I’d also say the Fuji pics convert to B&W well. Not really tried this with the GX7 yet.

      You’ll need to find out if the XE2 AF is improved enough. For me the XE1 wasn’t right (AF) and I ended up staying with m4/3.

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  13. A great review. I’m on the fence between GX7 and E-M5. (E-M1 is an overkill for the kind of shooting that I do.)

    I have a couple of questions that you didn’t cover in your review. How is the autofocus performance – accuracy and speed? Did either one perform better? How about tracking and face detection?

    Like

    • Hi Rick,

      The AF on both the EM5 and GX7, to me, is very, very close to identical. Different lenses perform a little differently depending on which camera they’re on (Pana lenses seem to do better on Pana bodies, Oly lenses on Oly bodies, etc, although the Oly 75 is still very quick on the GX7). At least for what I shoot, which normally is a mix of scenery and people, they’re entirely comparable. Tracking, in my experience on both sucks to be honest, or at the very least, inconsistent. Face detection/priority on both seems to be about the same in the little I’ve used it. I find that the best, and most accurate results come from the single point AF which I use 99.9% of the time in my own shooting, and just move the AF point around in the frame depending on where I need it. The GX7 has included the “pinpoint” AF. I’ve not yet really found a situation that I’ve tried it in that I can tell any real difference between it and the single point AF. I tend to decrease the single AF point to its smallest size, and it has done very well for me. The EM1 brings the new hybrid AF, which in practice, I have no idea as it seems to be somewhat confusing in the literature in that it seems to be used for the adapted 4/3 standard lenses on the PDAF side, and auto switches to the CDAF for the micro 4/3 lenses. I’ve read that you can utilize the PDAF for m4/3 lenses in tracking AF, but again, I have no idea how accurate it is. This is, in my opinion, the achilles heel of the system, and hopefully this hybrid AF will continue to be focused on by both companies and truly come to a place where the AF tracking is on the level of the DSLR’s.

      Hope this helps a little.

      Cheers,
      t

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      • Rick, one thing I forgot to mention was how amazing the AF is on the GX7 in low light. It will AF down to EV -4 which is next to no light at all, and it does it reasonably quickly. If you look at the AF video on my GX7 ‘evolution’ review, I have a little more on the low light AF performance.

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      • Thanks for the review that is almost convinced me to get the GX 7. It seems to be the perfect travel camera. I am musing over the lens set to get. On the radar is 20mm for low light and Lumix G Vario 14-140mm F3.5-5.6 or Lumix G X-Vario 12-35mm F2.8 . I lean towards the more wide range 14-140mm. What a appreciate some ideas on this.
        Also, is there a way to view the most recent blog entry on the top?
        Thanks again for the great review.

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      • Thank you Udo,

        I think you’ve posed an even better inquiry with the lens question. Cameras are very dated and time sensitive tech compared to optics. A camera will last us 4, 5 maybe 6 years. Sure we can often get more out of them, but technology continues to grow at such a rate that within that time frame, there is enough to justify an upgrade. The lenses though, that is where a bit of longevity comes into play, and in the micro 4/3 system, we have many high quality choices. The 20mm is a solid performer and in my opinion, you can’t go wrong with it. I can’t speak to either of the other zooms though. I would certainly look at the new Oly 12-40 f/2.8 as well compared to the Pana 12-35 and for me, I have really enjoyed the 100-300 f/4-5.6 zoom from Panasonic. It is the only zoom I own other than a 14-42 kit zoom I have lying around somewhere, but for the price, I’ve found it to be an amazing value. It really comes down to need, personal style and budget, and at the very least, we have many good choices in the m4/3 system.

        Good luck with the decision making process and enjoy whatever you end up with!

        Cheers,

        Tyson

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    • Hello Tim,

      How does the thumb grip look like on your GX7? The hotshoe on the GX7 is located beside the EVF further to the left side instead of the middle of the camera top. Are you comfortable with it when it is attached to your GX7?

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      • It is very comfortable, I almost returned the gx7 because I found it strange to hold. I had one of these lying around and was surprised by how well it fit and worked (plus the flash still pops up with no issues) I have decided to keep the gx7 and it has really grown on me. I now do not even use a strap because this makes for such a secure grip. Try it out… if you don’t like you can return.

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      • Tim,

        Thank you for the thumbs up🙂 I’m going to order one, as you say, for $15 it is a good investment and if it doesn’t jive with me and the GX7, I have a couple other mirror less cams that could utilize it.

        As for the strap, stay tuned. I’m starting to hand build some comfy wrist straps made from high quality dyneema (spectra) and cordura yachting rope that I think will go really well with a thumbs up grip like this. I’ve been using them for the last 9 moths or so and have finally really tuned my building technique.

        Thanks again for the link, can’t wait to try it out.

        Cheers,
        t

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    • Hey Tim,

      Just received my thumb grip and will say that it is pretty cool. It is a bit awkward in that it is obviously built for smaller cameras than the GX7 and because of that has my thumb resting near the right side of center on the camera, over the right side of the LCD. Because I have large hands, this isn’t really an issue, and because it is where it is, allows for full access to all the buttons, (AF/MF switch, AE/AF lock button, etc) but for users with smaller hands, it might not be a comfortable fit. Because I have larger hands, I can essentially wrap my fingers around the grip as per normal, plant the bottom right corner of the camera into my right palm, and swing my thumb up and over the buttons and LCD screen to grab hold of the thumb grip. While at first it’s a little weird feeling, I will say, it has grown on me and it does feel nice and secure in the hand. I put together a visual montage of the thumb grip for others interested in seeing what it looks like on the GX7 via flickr here:

      http://www.flickr.com/photos/tysonrobichaud/10732736113/

      Thanks for the link Tim!

      t

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      • You’re right Tim. For those with smaller hands like me this will be uncomfortable as I would stretched my thumb to reach for the thumb grip and putting all the weight of the camera on the ball of my palm and losing some finger grip in front. I just wish the hotshoe is located in the middle of the top of the camera but then the Thumb Grip will cover the buttons AF/MF switch, AE/AF lock button. Thanks for the pictures, very helpful.

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      • You bet Hussam,

        I think that Fotodiox could certainly design a thumb grip more around the GX7, and honestly if they built one that was about 1/4″/6mm longer, you’d still have access to the AF/AE Lock button MF/AF switch, but it would be just that little bit over to allow for a more universally comfortable grip. Then may even have one built to that spec, I just didn’t do much research, but all said and done, I have really enjoyed it these last couple days as I’ve gotten used to the way I now grip the camera. The idea is nice, and as long as the hands in question are large enough (I don’t think they’d need to be huge like mine, but I’d say on the larger side of average) it does produce a nice solid, albeit different, type of grip.

        Cheers,
        t

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  14. Great review – all three parts!! I have a black GX7 pre-ordered (waiting patiently..) Regarding video: The IBIS does not work while shooting video but In lens IS will. I’m a beginner and will try out the 14-42 II kit lens to see what focal ranges I prefer before I buy any expensive primes/zooms. The 14-42 kit lens does have MEGA OIS and from what I have researched – will work while shooting video. What is your opinion on “In Lens IS” compared to “IBIS”? I keep reading reviews that IS will not work with the GX7 while shooting video – but why not just use the In Lens IS?

    Like

    • Thank you John,

      You are totally correct regarding lens based IS in video, and as long as you have a lens that has OIS, it will work in video as well as stills. For a lens with OIS, it automatically disables the IBIS in the GX7. I guess this is because Panasonic feels its OIS is superior, or on par with the IBIS, because the OIS is designed specifically for the focal length(s) of the lens, so for any lens that is outfitted with OIS, the IBIS is not able to be initiated when the lens is fit to the camera. An odd situation in my opinion, but not really an issue as the IBIS doesn’t stabilize the live view anyway, so there’s no huge benefit that I can see to using the IBIS over the OIS when it is available.

      Enjoy it, I certainly have been loving shooting with the GX7.

      All the best,
      t

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  15. I come from using the near-supernaturally-sharp PANASONIC travel zooms zs3 and zs7. I bought an E-PL5 (almost the same camera as the EM-5 – same sensor and lenses) for the low light capability, but I realize now that I have made a horrific mistake. I cannot afford to take a 2-semester course in how to make this user interface do what it’s supposed to do. And, the color balance is always screwed up on this camera.

    The Olympus focusing system fails an alarming amount of the time, which is an abomination! You press the shutter button and the camera just sits there, doing nothing, saying “No way am I taking this picture. I can’t focus! No way! No Way!”

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    • Also in my experience, when you pan the video, the Olympus really falls flat on its face, it tries to stabilize the pans, and as a result the picture jumps and halts, jumps and halts, etc. Also the Olympus is going to be hunting in focus far more often. Panasonic in general (I don’t know about this camera, but across most of their range) just really nails the video capture better than almost any other maker, except Sony. I think that both makers see themselves as late arrivals to the DSLR and point-and-shoot markets, and are willing to give up more of their videocam software secrets in their low-end devices.

      Like

      • I’m no video person, and while I wish I understood it more deeply. I think you’ve described a situation where the IBIS can hinder it’s overall usefulness as it does in fact try to compensate for movement and can create that jumpy effect. My suggestion, try IS2 which is supposed to be used when/for panning and see if you get better results, hopefully it’s as easy as that.

        Like

      • Note that there are 3 stabilisation modes on the m5, horizontal, vertical and both. if you re doing horizontal pans or follows, then make sure you change the IS mode.

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    • Thanks SB,

      I think that the Oly cameras are very usable, once you get a basic amount of customization (and understanding of how to implement it) down. I agree that the interface is kinda nuts. I’m not familiar with the button layout of the EPL5, but depending on what you need to do, I’d certainly suggest searching around on forums like DPReview or Flickr as I’ve seen a few over the last year and a half that have helped lay out some of the more confusing vernacular.

      Depending on which focusing mode you’re using, I think it can be just as accurate and consistent as the Pana system. For me, the ONLY consistent AF method has been the single point AF (S-AF) which I use to move around the screen via the touch interface if and when I need it. I keep it as small as it gets (14x I think) and by default keep it on one of the thirds lines intersections. Focus + Recompose works well as long as I keep the shutter button half way depressed, and of course with the touch interface, you can immediately move the AF point anywhere on the screen (and more importantly, CHOOSE where you want that AF point).

      In low light, it does (like many, many others) struggle a bit, and the GX7 has it beat dead to rights there, but this is not an OLY problem, but more to do with the contrast based AF in general, although, Panasonic has done well enough to figuring it out somewhat, although it still requires a good level of contrast even in those low light situations.

      Hope you are able to make amends with your camera🙂 While certainly quirky, the Oly cameras are capable of great quality.

      Cheers,

      tyson

      Like

      • Initially I was so enthusiastic about the Olympus, having once owned an Olympus C-700 super zoom which produced the best signal-to-kilobyte jpegs ever (400 Kb for sharp 2Kx1.5K photos, no camera with less than 5 megapixels beat this 2 megapixel camera), but it always seemed the Olympus cameras were slower to focus, but in return they gave superior results.

        I have to admit that after messing around for 60 mins (trying to photographs some bike frames for EBay on a deadline), I chickened out and got out the ZS3. I was tempted by this article to sell the body and buy a GX7 body for my (economy) olympus lenses. I guess I’ll give it another shot and your advice will be very useful, thanks!

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  16. Really an excellent review. I recently also switched from the E-M5 to the GX7. I noticed right away that the color response of the GX7 is better. You also notice this very well when pushing shadows during PP. The GX7 holds the colors better. When I mentioned this some people (maybe even many) thought I was crazy. Reviewers never mention it.
    You do and that makes this review very reliable.
    Keep up the good work.

    Like

    • I’ve always had qualms with the color reproduction on the Sony sensor, and because it required so much tinkering, I was never really able to consider it for certain work or shooting when I had various other cameras that would nail what I needed without any tinkering. Not that it couldn’t be achieved with the EM5, but it took too much work after the fact for me unfortunately. Not the case with the GX7, and thank you for noticing my observations🙂 For this, and a few other reasons, I do feel it’s the best micro 4/3 sensor available right now, and if nothing else, helps push the format further forward. It has built on small, incremental upgrades, but when all are taken into account, add up to a really nice step up in my opinion.

      Cheers,

      Tyson

      Like

  17. Awesome, I left you a (late) comment on part 2 and just realized part 3 is out. Good followup on the cameras. I’m strongly considering the GX7, but need more time to decide.

    Having owned and loved the EM5 and still owning the GX1, I can say without a doubt Panasonic’s interface is *TONS* better than Olympus. Sorry Oly fans, but that almost *is* an undeniable truth. The little GX1 (which is less than the GX7) interface is absolutely awesome to use, and while the EM5 UI was okay, once you had it set up, it just had too many “gotchas” to keep track of….enabling feature X would disable or change feature Y (undocumented, of course), which got really annoying.

    Also, Tyson — If you have time, you might really, really think about running your high ISO raws through Capture 1.

    In testing my EM5 against my GX1 (or maybe it was against my Fuji XE1, which has the best non-FF IQ in existence, IMO), I found that Adobe’s Lightroom (using 4.4) has a *horrible* shadow shift around the ISOs you indicate, turning a rancid blue or magenta.

    This didn’t happen in Capture 1 at all, and though I hate the C1 workflow, I must admit the IQ advantage *at high ISO* was noticeable with the EM5.

    YMMV of course, but something to consider.

    Like

    • Thanks for the heads up Smitty.

      I don’t own C1, and while I wouldn’t mind having another tool in the quiver, I just can’t bring myself to try and learn/use another RAW conversion/DAM software. Hopefully, once apple gets off it’s backside and graces us with the wherewithal to continue supporting current cameras RAW formats, I can re-test everything. I did run the EM5 RAW files through Aperture (as per my normal workflow) and didn’t notice any shifts, or other issues that didn’t show themselves in ACR as well, so I felt it was at least a decent representation when looking at both sets of files run through ACR.

      If you’re really happy with the EM5, I think the GX7 is skippable. The new bells and whistles are nice, but not really worth paying for an entirely new camera if you’re happy with what you’ve got. Because I never really settled in with the EM5, it was much easier for me to get curious and personally, I’m glad I did, but I don’t think I’d be as stoked if I had really loved the EM5 if that helps at all.

      Thanks again man.

      t

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  18. For those of you who are confused like me and torn between EM5 and GX7- the deciding factors why I purchased GX7 are: menus, full touchscreen and video formats. Someday when I become a good photographer I might move to full frame cameras. However, GX7 is not the type of camera that you hand down to someone because you have a new and more expensive camera. GX7 is for keeps. When the Sony A7/r was announced I felt I made the wrong decision but does a newbie like me really need a full frame camera without a touch screen and a very loud shutter sound… but living in a country wherein taking pictures of people without their permission can be considered as a crime, GX7 is the way to go. Just buy some good lenses and a nice camera bag and you will feel confident taking pictures. GX7 has the cool features that some of you would like to have from various camera brands/models – although in a smaller package. Waiting for Tyson’s camera straps.🙂

    Like

    • I know that there has been much made of the recent article comparing full frame to smaller formats, namely the micro 4/3 format, and while much of it is very true, there is a different look to full frame files in many circumstances. For me, when shooting in low light, the micro 4/3 files can’t touch the full frame files. Larger pixels have certain advantages, and while for a lot of shooting, those advantages disappear, when under the proper circumstances, the larger sensors, and larger pixels really shine for me. People will also call out the ability to more easily shallow up the DOF, and yes, this is true, but can also be a hindrance, and being able to shoot a lens wide open, in low light for instance, while still having a decent working depth of field, which is very handy when shooting moving subjects as it allows for a little leeway, it can be a bonus. One area, and while I’ll admit it is a catch 22 as I’ve laid out my two points above, is when shooting live music in very low lit venues. Having the ability to gain a deeper working DOF is handy when shooting quickly moving bands while still being able to shoot a fast lens at a decently high ISO, although in the same situation, that full frame will handle the lower light better at the same exact exposure settings albeit with a shallower DOF… trade offs and both tools that have their place as far as I’m concerned.

      Enjoy the journey and stay tuned for the wrist straps. Should have all my stuff figured out within the month😉

      All the best,

      t

      Like

  19. thanks for the excellent review. I am definitely considering getting the GX7. I had two questions. What is the auto iso range on the GX7? Also can you use auto iso in manual mode?

    Like

  20. Very thorough, great Review. I personally prefer a review from someone who actually owns the camera, or at least has it for enough time to go thru the camera, not just looking at a spec sheet.
    Loving it so far, it’s my daily walk around camera. My 6D is getting used less. I love the 6D color and pictures overall, but I cant have it around my neck all day and I refuse to carry my cameras in a bag, for fear if missing the shot.
    The GX7 is a near perfect street shooter. If I was just patient enough to wait for the all black version.
    Again, great review, thanks for the read.

    Like

    • You bet, and thank you.

      My 5D2 is almost fused to my nodal tripod head nowadays for interior work and also is getting used less and less, although when used it certainly pulls its weight. I agree though, the GX7, and most any camera in the system provides a much more streamlined tool for everyday shooting, not to mention that they’re really fun to shoot with.

      Thanks again and I’m happy that you enjoyed the review.

      Cheers,

      Tyson

      Like

  21. Hey Tyson, first off, fantastically in depth conclusion to this battle through article trilogy. Fantastically put together and insanely informative. People who just want to know more about gx7 or em5 alone will learn a tremendous amount aswell people who like the comparison. That’s what i think i like the most about this trilogy article is the sheer amount of heart and research (personal research, what suits you etc) you have put into it. Its not simply a ‘gx7 is New therefore its better review’ its a heres what i think and why and after spending so much damn time to make sure you can justify your words. There is so much 2 paragraph summaries out there making quick unfounded conclusions, its always such a breath of fresh air to see and read your honest inputs about this stuff we love and for that I thank you man. It really is a pleasure to read your work as i don’t have a little voice in the back of my head saying this sounds like BS like so many review sites. The GX7 to me, sounds like a solid choice and one ill be keeping my eueye on in the future. At the mo, I’m having unbelieveable amounts of fun with the gx1 , just need to save and get a lvf2.

    Finally, apologies it has taken me so long to comment on this one. I’ve had a few migraines recently and stops me checking the screen so much.

    Take it easy man, thanks!

    Like

  22. Thanks for all the time and energy spent on this comparison test. I hope you’ll continue to have both available in the future as the Olympus EM1 and its Panasonic counterparts develop. It will be a long time before I can justify the expense of a new camera, but reviews of this sort are a valuable means of keeping track of what’s available — and how it performs in the real world.

    Like

  23. Question from a newbie: Will all the features of GX7 that are meant for Pany lenses work if I use an Oly 12-40mm F2.8? I’m not sure what question to ask but I’m just worried that if I buy Oly 12-40mm, some menus and features related to the lens will not work properly or everything will get slower. To rephrase it: is it 100% compatible on a GX body?

    Like

    • While in theory, all lenses and bodies from both manufacturers are fully, and completely compatible. In cases, there have been issues with Oly lenses on Pana bodies and vice versa. In practice, personally, any issues I’ve experienced have been minor enough to mostly ignore them, even if they are situationally frustrating.

      Regarding the Oly 12-40 and the GX7, I cannot say from personal experience. I am very interested in this lens and I’m also curious to hear first hand knowledge about their interaction with each other. If I find anything out, I’ll report back, but at this point, I can’t say anything with any certainty unfortunately, I’m sorry.

      Like

  24. Thanks for this great review
    I own the Em5 and just got the GX7 and I have one concern. It seems to have a strange lag time in the EVF in lower light and the Em5 does not. Did you notice this at all?

    Like

      • Thanks for your response

        I have not seen any info on this but I can’t Get rid of this effect when indoors in low light Or at night Seems very strange

        I would really appreciate it if you could check it out when you have a chance

        Happy thanksgiving And thank you

        Excellent blog

        Steve

        s s.. stevenseinberg.com

        >

        Like

      • Tyson

        To be clear It seems slower when moving around in any Slightly low light Where the em5 doesn’t do this

        It seems like it must be a setting or something But I can’t find it

        Thanks

        s s..

        >

        Like

      • Tyson

        Just to clear up my question

        The gx7 has a jumpy choppy image in lower light Where the Olympus is smooth

        Kinda like lower frames per second in a video

        Any thoughts you have would be great

        Happy thanksgiving

        By the way This was the best comparison I have seen And thanks

        Steve

        s s..

        >

        Like

  25. Hi there!

    I’m a first time poster and a few days lurker around this site. Even at steve huff’s site, I never commented eventhough I lurked there since last year (exactly). I noticed that you are more down to earth and replying to people in more patient way, and that’s why I was really motivated to make my first mark in here. WARNING: Super boring long post

    Intro: I’m a newbie, I have not shoot for other purpose than a hobby. My first camera was of course, pocket film camera. I don’t remember any of that anymore though. My first real camera was Kiss X3 (I think it’s called Canon Ti or something on other part of the world.), and I shot some stuff with the kit lens for more than 1 1/2 years. I know nothing about lenses, what is apertures, and most importantly, how to compose a picture. Yet, I was happy and wanting to exploit this “pro” (for me back then, to my knowledge.. haha) camera. Then I started to buy more lenses, without even knowing why. I got those lenses just through reading and out of boredom. I got couple of lenses such as 50mm 1.8 (people said it’s the must have lens while me thought it was cheap, so why not..), 70-300mm tamron vc (the latest version, weight a ton.. bring this to universal studio wasn’t a wise choice), and just couple of the cheap ones.

    Back then after owning those lenses, I started to lose passion in photography. I thought changing lenses just for fun purpose and no image quality different. Of course, back then I knew about the ubiquotus 70-200mm L lense, f4 and f2.8. Alas, price was too high for me, an ignorant newbie that wasn’t even making crazy money in the first place to spend. So to cut it short, I sold my first love for camera in Kiss X3 with all the lenses. Since it was Japanese warranty, all those only got me around $500. I was very surprised since I expected a lot more, but can’t do anything because I don’t bother keeping my cam on a drybox, nor cleaning them regularly.

    Since then, I moved forward to Fuji x100 (lovely color! super slow AF, quirky camera I’ve ever owned.), Sony rx100 (the best pocket cam I have ever used.), and Nikon D600 (jumped ship.. haha). I still own all of them except for the D600, because while it was my first full frame, and I love the picture quality, I can’t help to realize that the camera has been on the shelf for months. From Dec to July, I took out and used the camera for a grand total of 2 times!

    I just can’t be bothered to carry it at restaurant gathering, romantic dinner, quick outings due to the size. People are moving away, and literally acting like they are some sort of celebrity and I’m the annoying paparazi.. Weight is another issue. I just can’t be bothered anymore to carry it with me because most of the time when I see something I want to take a photo, the camera is inside a bag and by the time, no matter how fast I tried, I took it out, moment’s gone. So, I sold it, $1500 from $1900 I bought less than a year before, but hey, I could actually use the money instead of it sitting on my shelf.

    As end of the year approaching, I tend to have some sort of CAS, or I call it, Camera Acquiring Syndrome. It’s been like that for the last 3 years running. After a lot of readings, trust me, A LOT. I tend to read things over and over just to convinced myself and educate myself for the best. I came into a more unusually down-to-earth (So shameless for me to say that about myself…) conclusion:

    No matter how fancy the camera is, it’s useless if I never use it. No matter how pretty the picture a camera can produce, it’s useless if I am blind to the fact that the person is the one producing the said picture.

    I let it rang inside my head for a lot of times and I decided that, screw it, I’m gonna gamble. I will jump into micro 4/3 world. I got GX7 because it speaks to me the most compared to the em-5’s slippery handling, and overkill price and feature (I live in a tropical country) of EM-1. After handling it at the store, I knew that it’s the one. I just love the handling, and black+black combo is very stealthy.

    Now at this point, I begun to opened up, wanting to learn about photography as much as the camera itself. I started to compose (although I still dont get it, can anyone point to me online tips on how to compose an INTERESTING picture?), looking at different angles (thanks to titling EVF and screen on GX7), and changing settings. I bought GX7 with 2 lenses. Vario X 14-42mm HD (I know its crappy, but for some reason I was attracted to it due to the quiet zooming), and PanaLeica 25mm f1.4. Presently, unlike few years back, I know what are a good lenses and why.

    I’m so glad to hear this comparison and its conclusion. I knew I was making the right choice anyway, but I’m glad to hear it from someone else who really OWN and USE the cameras.

    Thank you for the great blog and I know it’s very long first post here, but excuse my excitement. I promise the next one won’t be as long.

    PS: Please pardon the grammar mistakes, English isn’t my first language.

    PPS: Which post can I use to get more response in this website regarding my dilemma in choosing my next lens?

    Like

    • Well hello!

      Thank you for taking the time to comment, and obviously spending a lot of time and energy on your thoughts.

      I think that you are right in looking for compositional tips and wanting to focus on making images as opposed to just the gear. There is a lot on the internet, and I would suggest searching for “rule of thirds” and “the golden ratio” and that will give you plenty of subject matter to read through. I wrote an article a while back about looking at how art has used consistent compositional rules to create visual interest. If you look up the article on Antoni Gaudi, it goes over this type of stuff.

      Keep shooting, and keep learning. The motivation comes from the interest in the craft and the more you start to learn, the more you want to.

      Thanks for the thoughtful and thought out comment,

      T

      Like

  26. Hey, Tyler – just wanted to thank you for the thoughtful and amusingly written series on the GX7 vs the OMD E-M5. I have been going through a similar internal debate, being on the verge of upgrading one of my two older mirco 4/3 bodies – a venerable Pen E-PL2 – and was on the horns of a similar GX7 vs M5 dilemma of my own. Your articles helped. And, in the last analysis, so did a recent (still ongoing as of Nov 30) post Black Friday sale on slightly used GX7’s at amazon warehouse deals. So I’ve pulled the GX7 trigger and mine is on the way. But your chronicles helped me get there – so MUCHAS gracias, dude!

    Like

  27. Just upgraded to GX7 after enjoying my GF1 for past 4 years or so. I had been looking to upgrade for at least a year but this was the first new Pany model that seemed to be worthwhile replacement for the venerable old GF1 for a primary photo rather than video user. One thing I would really like to see covered for the MFT group is the issue of of best add on flash particularly in respect to the newest model cameras such as the GX7. A couple of years ago I purchased a Nissen 466i which seems to do an OK job but am wondering about a more appropriate selection for the GX7 at a reasonable price. Since my wife can’t wait to inherit my old GF1 despite having a very respectable Pentax 20D I have a feeling I will be losing my 466i flash to her as well!

    Like

    • Thanks for the comment Mal.

      Speed lights aren’t Panasonic’s strong suit, or at least proprietary compatibility wirelessly or otherwise I’ve found. What I do though is to use a variety of strobes and pocket wizards to wirelessly trigger said lights (alien bees and some canon 580 exII’s) or have even used the on camera flash to optically trigger the lights when shooting indoors. I rarely use an external flash on camera, and with the body size of these m4/3 cams, I just find it to be pretty imbalanced which is why when using added light, I tend to do so off the camera myself. I wish I had both more experience and better suggestions for you, but if you liked the Nissin, I doubt you’d find a more economical marriage for an on camera add on flash.

      t

      Like

  28. E-M5 owner here. I just returned a GX-7 (which I liked much better in the hand tthan the E-M5) because the IQ was noticeably below (rather, softer) the E-M5’s (RAW files with and without optimal sharpening in Lightroom). This was with handheld comparison shots at 200 iso in daylight with the 14-42 pancake at f5.6 and the 20mm at f4 and IS at default setting in both cameras — in other words my usual shooting style. I could see the difference in crops printed to the equivalent of a full sensor capture at 17″x22″. I did the head to head since what I was getting from the GX-7 looked a bit soft to me me when I was reviewing/culling the imported files. Since the head to head was done the way I usually shoot, I reluctantly parted ways with the GX-7. I don’t have a clue why this would be, since all the other reports I have seen show detail resolution as being neck and neck. Bummer for me. (P.S., real nice series of comparison articles, BTW. Thanks!)

    Like

    • Thanks Alan,

      That is a bummer. I’ve not had that experience with the GX7 files being softer. I haven’t used LR since v3 a couple years ago, so I’m not sure, but could it have been your default Raw profile for the GX7? I’d imagine that one could modify the profiles to increase sharpness, etc upon conversion compared to what the LR default may be.

      Regardless, that’s too bad, but at least you have the EM5 to fall back on😉

      Thanks for the comment and read.

      All the best,

      Tyson

      Like

  29. Hi Tyson,

    Just want to say awesome article comparing these 2.
    I’m in the market for an upgrade as I can’t take the slow AF of my Sony Nex 5 gen 1 anymore. Initially I thought it was my own lack of skills but in the hands of my brother who’s an enthusiast he couldn’t take the AF as well. The kit lens are lacklustre and I didn’t see any potential for the Nex for me personally so I didn’t invest in any more lens. Back then I was deciding between the Nex 5 (sensor) and GF1 (pancake 20mm 1.7) and I guess I made a wrong choice there.

    Anyway, I just handled the GX7 yesterday and it is indeed a little gem. The menu and buttons to me are way more intutive than EM5 not to mention the somewhat mushy EM5 buttons. But the EM5 seems just a tiny bit faster to focus. Loved the tiltable EVF as well and the overall grip and handling seems to favour GX7 more.

    Over in Singapore the EM5 has dropped to about USD 1000 and the GX7 is about $150 more.
    I was also looking at a used EM1 but for that price, I can pick up another couple of lens so it’s out of my league. The main use for me will be shooting my family and also for holidays etc so EM1 seems to be overkill as well.
    Main thing holding me back is the lack of cash as I just can’t get rid of the Nex 5.

    Like

  30. Pingback: *Panasonic Battle, GX7 vs GM1 | Tyson Robichaud Photo-blography

  31. Pingback: *Have you been on the fence? GX7 on super sale. | Tyson Robichaud Photo-blography

  32. Pingback: *$300 off the Lumix GX7?! Camera body, or kit. | Tyson Robichaud Photo-blography

  33. Hi there,
    Thanks for this complete and honest review.
    I’m about to leave my EM5 because I do street photography and I can no longer support the time it takes to leave its standby mode (about 1.5 second).
    One year later will you still recommand the GX7 or is it worth to consider the GHx serie (even if I’m not interested at all by making video) ?
    Thanks again.

    Like

    • Hey Simon,
      I will say that the GX7 wakes quickly. If you can find one (check Adorama) for the current prices, it is a great deal. I dont think you’d notice a huge difference in IQ unless you start shooting at high ISOs, but i have loved mine, especially after the EM5.

      I am waiting to pull the trigger on a GH4 myself, but I’ll still have the GX7 as a more compact option. They’re two different, and in my opinion, complementary approaches to shooting and I’d probably shade to the GX for street myself.

      Thanks for the read and comment!

      T

      Like

  34. Pingback: *Might be close to the last chance to grab a GX7 kit on super sale @adorama | Tyson Robichaud Photo-blography

  35. Firstly, I’m a little surprised not to see many direct comments about stabilization of the GX7. I’ve also referred readers in some forums to this review, and I noticed one post in DPR citing someone’s attempt at serious assessment of stabilization over several m4/3 cameras that put the GX7 at the bottom (of his set) with 1.5 EV gain, rising through various Olys to the E-M5 at 3.0, and topping out w/Pany pro zooms OIS 12-35 & 35-100 resp. at 3.2 & 3.5 (or similar) !?

    One of the nice aspects to so many folks chasing the Latest(must-be)Greatest (so, per this topic, E-M1, GX8, if not X-T1, A7rII) is that “old”(=obsolete(not!)) cameras such as the GX7, E-M5(i), … are available for cheap. Although KEH.com had zero GX7s (this might say something?), other used-goods sources have them for around $350-500 (ditto for E-M5(i)).
    Get while the gettin’ is good!
    I can quibble at the article’s title putting the comparison as “vs” and by some slight implication “either or else (not both)”; and I recognize the author’s dismissal of such exclusionary reading –for which I’m thankful. As a JPEG shooter (so far –(s)low-tech me), I have not just happliy acquired a GX7 (though have long admired) to (not challenge but) **complement** my E-M5; to “play nice” wiht Pany glass in getting any in-camera corrections that Oly might miss, and vice versa.
    And as one who regularly cycles w/cameras in tow, ready to go (who knows when a good photo op will present itself?!), I much appreciate the compactness of Pany’s ultra-wide (7-14/4) & tele (35-100/2.8) zooms vs. the larger/heavier (but also good) Oly counterparts –as well as the used Pany’s being way cheaper! So far, I’ve used both on the E-M5 w/o noticing any issues (unless I find that I’ve more distortion in the ultra-wide than the GX7 will deliver –yet to check GX7 pics); i.p., the 35-100 has much pleased me. (Oh, I know that the Oly 40-150/2.8 can do lovely things, give more reach yet shoot closer to subject too, but … it’s just too big and $$$ for me, **at the moment**.)
    .:. Tyson’s here reviewed two very good cameras; take you pick, or take BOTH. (And the E-M5 ii & GX8, well, I imagine that they continue to offer great quality for photographers. I’m particularly happy that Panasonic didn’t shrink to fiddly size but slightly enlarged w/toughness the GX8 –yes, be *serious*! Weathersealing is a Good Thing.)
    Cheers, –dl*

    Like

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