Small form cameras with interchangeable lenses will always have a place on the market. A solution that isn’t as overwhelming as a top-end camera but still feels like you’ve got professional gear in your hands.
One example is the Panasonic LUMIX GX85 (labeled the GX80 in Europe). The GX85 has a rangefinder type body, interchangeable lenses and although it has a 16MP sensor, there’s no anti-aliasing (AA) filter.
There may be similarities and comparisons to the larger GX8, but this is a camera for those who want a more straightforward solution. plenty of potential here, so let’s dig in and have a closer look.
The general specs of the GX85 are not lacking with a Micro Four Thirds 16.84-megapixel sensor. There’s also 4K video at 30fps, which can snatch 8MP stills at a moment’s notice. There’s also the Panasonic 5-Axis Dual IS, which should work equally well for both video and stills.
The layout of the camera is very straightforward and the addition of the faux leather covering gives a very retro feel and look. The top of the camera is simply laid out with the shutter button, mode dial, dedicated video record, hot shoe, and pop-up flash.
The shutter button is surrounded with a dial that can change things like menu items, shutter speed, and aperture, which initially feels fiddly, but easy to get accustomed to.
The rear of the camera has a simple layout with function buttons, a familiar four-way, menu button surrounded by commonly accessed features like ISO and white balance, play, and a dial for exposure compensation. Initially feeling quite small, but still very usable.
The electronic viewfinder is very bright and clear, with a 2,764,000-dot resolution and a 3-inch rear LCD with a 1,040,000-dot touch screen. An eye sensor can detect automatic switching between the rear screen and viewfinder, which can be sensitive, so you always have to be mindful of where you are placing your fingers on the camera body.
Panasonic has also included a good deal of their propriety technology, which includes Depth from Defocus (DFD) when Panasonic lenses are used and contrast-detect autofocus (AF) with third-party lenses. This basically varies the focus point of images and allows you to choose the best of the bunch via the touchscreen.
Autofocus modes and options are plentiful from single autofocus(AFS) to flexible autofocus(AFF) and manual focus(MF). Along with modes which include Face/eye detection, 49 areas, Tracking, and Pinpoint. You can use either the touchscreen or the EVF for choosing any of these.
The ISO ranges from 200-25,600 which can be expanded to ISO 100, along with auto and intelligent ISO which can set the upper limit of ISO from ISO 400-25,600.
Along with the usual semi-automatic and manual modes, there is intelligent auto, four scene-based modes, three programmable custom modes, 22 creative filters, panoramic mode, multiple exposures, timelapse, and stop motion animation. Add into the mix multi, center, spot metering, three stops of exposure compensation, and WIFI with an included app and the whole package feels very rounded.
The Panasonic LUMIX GX85 in Use
As with many cameras of this type, it’s expected to have a good bunch of in the box processing. The Panasonic LUMIX GX85 doesn’t disappoint with its wide range of shooting modes that produce some very nice results. Monochrome mode delivers well-rendered black and whites, while panorama, HDR, and even stop motion animation are a lot of fun to use. If nothing else, it’s a great way to achieve these looks instantly without further processing.
The Five-Axis Dual IS is also a great performer, allowing for very low shutter speeds. It’s not uncommon to get down as low as 1/25 of a second with the 45-150mm lens, which is great for lowlight shooting. The metering modes are good in low light conditions and if you need to dial in any exposure compensation, then even with JPEGs there is room for slight maneuvering.
When the camera is left in auto white balance mode, it does shoot on the cooler side of the spectrum. Thus, it was found to better use some of the dedicated white balance modes, such as Daylight WB when needed. There are also preset modes for AWB, but in general, the camera is quite adept at rendering quality colors and tones which are not disappointing.
With lots of autofocusing modes, the Panasonic LUMIX GX85 is very quick and accurate when locking onto a still or moving subject. It’s definitely better with still subjects, but when tracking a moving object across the frame, there are still lots of keeper images.
If you want to go the manual focusing route, then you can use focus peaking and focus assist, which will enlarge the subject on the screen, making it easy to fine-tune the focus. Face/eye detection focus mode works very well but generally gives the best results in good light conditions.
As the camera uses a 16MP sensor, you would expect ISO noise to creep in early, but especially with RAW files, noise only becomes noticeable around ISO 3200. Very good for this level of sensor.
For JPEGs and with noise reduction turned off, color noise starts creeping around ISO 1600 and is still generally usable up to ISO 6400. As with most shooting scenarios, capturing everything in RAW format is the way to go.
How Does It Compare?
When it comes to these rangefinder type cameras that do it all, the Fuji X-A5 is one of the mainstays. Classic, retro type looks and a rich feature set. The Fuji has many of the assets of the Panasonic on paper, including 4K video, image stabilization, plenty of creative modes and takes wonderful images.
The benefits of the Fuji is that it has a slightly higher pixel count and shoots great video, but is not always the best in low light. The Fuji comes in at roughly the same price point as the Panasonic, which means both could be a good option as generalist all-rounders.
In the current climate of mirrorless cameras, you can’t ignore the Sony Alpha series if you don’t mind spending a bit more and want to step up to more expensive, interchangeable lenses.
|Panasonic LUMIX GX85||Fuji X-A5|
As a generalist, entry-level mirrorless camera, the Panasonic LUMIX GX85 has a lot packed into the box to make photography fun and straightforward. The menu system can be initially complicated, but once everything is set up, the quick menu is an easy way to access all functionality as well as the function buttons.
The autofocus system is fast and accurate with the camera having no problem producing detailed images, especially in good light. The included kit lenses aren’t the best in the world, but with many other interchangeable lenses available, the camera body itself is a very good starting point. 16MP may seem low by today’s standards, but it’s more than adequate for everyday shooting.
The 4K video and three 4K burst modes provide great quality and are some of Panasonic’s standout features. They may not be the included functionality of higher-end cameras in this department, but the overall quality is still very good for this price point.
Overall, the Panasonic LUMIX GX85 is a well-rounded package that produces very high-quality images, which won’t disappoint. If you need a camera for travel or just one that has a bit of everything crammed into the box, then you’re getting a lot of functionality for the money.