The new jewel of Panasonic’s catalog, the Lumix DMC-GX7, has everything to become one of the most interesting cameras of the year. We’ve traveled to Oporto to test the GX7 and see for ourselves what this Micro Four Thirds is truly capable of.
Nothing better to test a camera tan a beautiful city like Oporto. And even though tourism is becoming a priority among what used to be a quiet and humble city, the colorful streets near the Douro River and the spectacular Dom Luis Bridge make it the perfect place to take a walk with a camera.
And this is exactly what we did once we laid hands on the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX7. With this Micro Four Thirds, the 14-42 mm f3.5-5.6 zoom and the 20 mm f1.7 II in hand, we took a few pictures to experience its potential firsthand.
The retro style is now a bit overused, but the GX7 is the first of the Lumix G cameras with a design like this. However, it combines a classic look and feel with the latest technologies, features and components.
A classic design doesn’t mean we can’t have Wi-Fi connectivity or an articulating touch screen. Purists may not like this combination, but like we always say, if you don’t like it you just have to ignore it.
We’ll have more time later to talk about the ergonomics; the first thing we’ve noticed after testing this camera was how customizable it is, from its shortcuts to the control of the double dial.
The sound of the shutter, however, does seem a bit excessive, since there are no mirrors here. In any case, it features a silent shutter mode that only uses a digital shutter, making the camera totally silent. This option is hidden in the many menus, though, which is kind of an annoyance.
The peaking focus option is also sort of hidden, this one helps with the manual focus. In fact, it’s called "maximum borders" in the camera, so you’ll have to look through the options many times at first until deducing this is the one you were looking for.
The camera is designed to use manual lenses through an adapter, and the integrated stabilizer –the first one ever in a Lumix G- makes this point clear.
However, let’s not forget that lenses like the Lumix 20 mm f1.7 II we’ve been using don’t have a stabilizer. In these cases, the camera itself detects the lens and the focal and then activates the mechanical stabilization, which offers decent results and manual shooting of up to one eight of a second.
This configuration must be done manually with manual lenses, of course, and it’s still unknown if the automatic configuration also applies with Micro Four Thirds that are not Panasonic’s. This automatic system doesn’t always work as one would expect it to, this concern remains.
Aside from the design and stabilizer, the viewfinder is possibly the most characteristic feature of the GX7. It’s not the first one of the series with this feature (the Lumix DMC-G1 had it), but it is the first one that combines it with a design not that doesn’t remind us of the SLR series.
This is also the first integrated electronic viewfinder capable of being tilted by 90 degrees, which is especially useful from lower, waist-level viewfinder positions.
This function, along with the quality, refresh rate and 2.7-megapixel resolution, are the main features of this camera. The size (slightly smaller than other viewfinders) and the excessive saturation and contrast of the pictures (they don’t look bad, just unrealistic) are its weaknesses, though it can cover 100% of the Adobe RGB color space.
The battery life is another issue worth taking a look at: we didn’t even record video and its full battery life only allowed us to take 150 pictures.
The best Micro Four Thirds sensor? The GX7 also has a 16-megapixel CMOS and a Venus Engine VIII processor, which might make it the best Micro Four Thirds on the market.
This is what our first tests suggested; the camera performs impeccable, offering great color and sharpness with good light, and it can keep giving great results with the sensitivity at 3.200 ISO.
Is it better than the Lumix DMC-GH3 or the OM-D E-M5 from Olympus? It’s still too soon to talk about this, we think, but the preliminary results say they’re all just as good, having in mind that the JPEG files the Olympus cameras produce tend to look better.
Can it compete with cameras with APS-C sensors? Panasonic said a confident “yes”, and they even pitted their camera against full-frame reflex cameras.
Something that might backfire, but with more and more rumors about the full-frame Sony NEX, taking risks is necessary. After a week testing the Lumix DMC-GX7, we now know two things: this is an excellent model, but thanks to the many options available on the market today, we can say that it arrived a bit late to the party.