Lumix GX7 Review Part 2 – Sensor, Shutter and In Body Stabilization

New Sensor, New Venus Engine

If you were to spend enough time online you might get caught up in the constant talk about digital cameras and sensors. In fact there are some communities that are more focused on the camera sensor than the camera. While the sensor is important in a camera it’s not the most important part of the camera. In my opinion the most important part of the camera is the system that it belongs to. Thankfully the GX7 is not only part of the largest mirrorless format (Micro 4/3) in the market it also features a brand new sensor designed and manufactured by Panasonic.

GX7 Sensor

The sensor of the GX7 is a NEW Panasonic design and quite possibly the finest on the market.

gx7 sensor cross section
The sensor in the Lumix GX7 is quite possibly the finest sensor in the Micro 4/3 world. It features larger Photo Diodes which are the the area at the bottom of the sensor responsible for collecting light. The larger the Photo Diode the more light the sensor will gather and the cleaner the image. For us that means a 10% increase in sensor performance alone. This is not taking into account for the updated Venus Engine which processes the data from the chip (RAW or JPEG) and the firmware which tells the hardware how to operate. The Venus Engine controls functions such as AF, built in effects though creative control settings, custom JPEG control and focus peaking.

The Panasonic Lumix GX7 Venus Engine sits in the chassis behind the sensor.

The Lumix GX7 Venus Engine sits in the chassis behind the image sensor.

Cutting through the tech jargon, what you get is a cleaner image and more dynamic range at every ISO which is to be expected when you get a next gen camera. Personally I was not expecting this tech to come until we see the GH3MKII but hey I’m not complaining!

Faster AF for Tracking and static subjects

The Venus Engine in the GX7 is the fastest and most powerful in any Lumix camera to date. It’s essentially the same as the guts of the GH3 however because of the faster speed in the GX7 version, AF is faster and more accurate including with AF tracking. The AF drive checks focus 240 times per second plus an additional 240 times per second for newer Lumix glass which is double the speed of most mirrorless cameras and can track a subject at 4.2FPS.

For low lighter shooters the GX7′s AF system will focus as low as -4EV which makes the GX7 the current market leader in this area.

af-chart-GX7

click to enlarge

 

The GX7 also features a silent shooting mode which when activated combines the electronic shutter, turns off the AF illuminator while turning off any sounds the camera might make emit such as AF beeps. Combine this mode with the the Leica 25mm f/1.4 and you got a nice low light street shooting machine. For those with speciality glass such as the Voightlander 25mm f/.95 combine the low light mode with focus peaking and you’re shooting in complete darkness.

WiFi and NFC

If you are not shooting with WiFi you’re missing out. Using a camera and smart device together has so many benefits. Think of your camera and a smart device as best friends. They’re like two buddies in a cop film,  Starsky and Hutch works because they are a team and together they kick ass. Like my GH3 the GX7, when paired up with my iPad or iPhone also kicks ass like Chuck Norris did in The Octogon.

With WiFi you can control the GX7 (like the GH3), download after you shoot or download as you shoot. I use all three depending on what I’m up to. Feel like being sneaky? Set up the GX7 on silent mode and shoot from your phone. I could see Chuck Norris using this feature to spy on some Ninjas or something rad like that.

If you have an Android phone with NFC and want to transfer phones simply launch the Lumix app, touch your smart phone to the grip of the GX7 and you’ll transfer whatever photo is on your LCD while in playback mode. Transferring of a full sized image takes about 5 to 8 seconds depending on your smart device.

Creative Control filters

When I first left my DSLR behind for small mirrorless cameras the one thing I did not like was built in filters. I thought they were not serious and somewhat cheesy. After a while I started to experiment with them and came to the conclusion that if a photo is “cheesy” its me that made it that way. I’ve since become a big fan of shooting with in camera filters and use them every time I’m out shooting.

There are many benefits of shooting with a cameras built in filters which I’ll be happy to go into detail in a future post but suffice to say I’ve grown as a photographer from embracing in camera processing. I’m able to shoot and share from the camera (via WiFi or NFC) quickly, I get looks I might not otherwise be able to reproduce fast in post and if I want the best of both worlds I’ll shoot a JPEG + RAW.

The GX7 features 22 Creative Control effects, 18 of which can be used in the dedicated Panorama mode. Each filter in the Creative Control can be customize on the fly and you’ll see the changes in the LVF as you make them so there’s no guessing if the shot is going to be good or not. You should note that there are now four monochrome Creative Effects in the GX7 that gives you plenty of options between them. This is in addition to Monochrome Photo Style which has even more options.

Think of these presets as you do with Lightroom presets. Same idea but for preprocessing not post. - click to enlarge

Think of these presets as you do with Lightroom presets. Same idea but for preprocessing not post. – click to enlarge

Once you discover your favorite filters you could pair them with other camera settings such as a square format and store them into a custom setting to recall at any time.

Examples of using WiFi with Creative Control Filters

Shoot and share quickly on Instagram or Google +
Make a square crop and add vintage toy effect complete with vignette and store that as a preset similar to what you would do with Lightroom. Share via NFC or WiFi as you shoot – Google + backs up your work as you shoot.

Street shooting
Meet a cool looking character on the street? What I do is snap the photo with a preset and combining the WiFi transfer feature of the camera, email them copy right on the spot.

Business networking events
You meet a potential client at an event. They see your sweet looking retro camera and you start to talk photography. Rather then exchange business carts you set the main control dial to C1, which recalls your grainy monochorme look you built toned specifically for skin tones, snap their shot and email them a copy on the spot. That’s how your network like a BOSS.

Focus Peaking

A big feature for enthusiasts and those that like legacy glass is focus peaking. Once turned on you get the option to choose how sensitive the peaking is to edges and what color you want. For subjects that have loads of detail you might want to turn the sensitivity down so the LVF/LCD image does not get covered in the peaking indicator color thus obstructing your view.
GX7 Peaking colors
GX7 Peaking with magnification

GX7 Peaking with magnification

GX7 Peaking without magnification

GX7 Peaking without magnification

Independent Highlight, Shadow Control

One of the coolest feature for me is the Highlight Shadow feature. The Highlight, Shadow control tools is basically live contrast control using curves similar to what you would use in Photoshop or Lightroom. Using this tool you can independently control the highlights and shadows of your shot. This is a killer feature for JPEG shooters and also works with video. Micro 4/3rds shooters first saw this in the Olympus OMD. It’s a great feature and I think one that is somewhat under appreciated. With the Highlight, Shadow control combined with custom white balance, saturation and contrast you’ll be able to create (and save) your own custom looks similar to what you would do in Lightroom.

Lumix GX7 Highlight Shadow Control

This of this tool as an “on demand” dynamic range expander. :-) The GX7 comes with 4 Highlight, Shadow control presets built into the camera but you can also save up to three curves of your own.

Newly Designed Shutter

GX7 Shutter

The newly designed shutter in the GX7 marks the first Lumix to have a top shutter speed of 1/8000 a second. That’s pretty amazing for a camera this small. This will come in handy when you are shooting in very bright light yet still want to use a large aperture to help blur the background. Naturally this new shutter will also help you freeze action too.

In Body Stabilization

One of the most important features for the GX7 is the In Body Image Stabilization (IBIS). Although I have not had ample time to test this out, the feature does work and works well. Don’t expect the GX7 IBIS to be as effective as what you might be used to in the Olympus OMD system if you currently have one but this is a effective IBIS system.

What’s missing and why?

The black body - In the USA we will not be seeing the black GX7 at launch. That does not mean we wont’ see it ever…just not at launch. If having the GX7 is important to you speak up online. You will be heard. This is simply a supply, demand issue here.

Mic Port - There’s no mic port on the GX7. For serious video shooting you’ll want to use the GH3 which is designed for full-on hybrid shooting. That said the GX7 is a capable video machine but not at the professional level. The GX7 will shoot video at the same quality as the GH3 but with less options such as built in slow motion.

IBIS for Video – As mentioned above, there is not IBIS for video. That’s not to say that it won’t come ever but it’s not in firmware 1.0.

All in all the GX7 is one superb M43 camera. It’s got style, features galore and the image quality to boot. Panasonic is back with a vengeance but does the image quality and real world use stand up to the hype? Find out in part 3 coming soon.

Don’t miss Part 1 – Body and Design

Want to see more of the GX7 now? Circle me on Google + where I have been posting loads of great GX7 photos.

Preorder your GX7 on Amazon or Unique Photo

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About Giulio Sciorio

Since 2009, Hybrid Photography pioneer Giulio Sciorio has been blending still + motion & sound with his photography. Giulio is a Lumix Luminary, commercial photographer and founder of SmallCameraBigPicture.com - the resource for everything Hybrid. A portfolio of Giulio’s hybrid work can be found at GiulioSciorio.com.

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38 Responses to Lumix GX7 Review Part 2 – Sensor, Shutter and In Body Stabilization

  1. Mitch August 14, 2013 at 3:14 pm #

    Another great piece, I can tell you’re loving every minute with your GX7, can’t wait to get mine!

    • Giulio Sciorio August 19, 2013 at 9:58 am #

      Thanks Mitch! I am enjoying the GX7 very much. Now that I’m back home I’ll be putting some photos from my Route 66 portion of the Connect with Lumix GX7 road trip soon.

  2. chipbutty August 14, 2013 at 5:56 pm #

    Looks great. It’s good to see Panasonic giving you more control over JPEGs. Adjusting the tone curve is nice. Of course Fuji have been doing that for a while. I have the X100 as well as m43 gear. One thing I hate about Panasonic cameras is the JPEG output. Always seems miles behind Olympus and light years behind Fuji. If I use my G3 I always shoot RAW. I hope Panasonic really start to see the value with out of camera JPEGs.

    • Giulio Sciorio August 15, 2013 at 9:55 pm #

      The JPEG’s from Olympus have always been solid but I like the JPEG’s from the GX7 more than any camera I’ve used to day including the GH3 and OMD.

  3. Cliff August 14, 2013 at 6:12 pm #

    Regarding the curves adjustment feature, you make the comment: “also works with video.”

    Which is great! However another reviewer stated that it was not usable in video. Any chance you could clarify, please?

    • Giulio Sciorio August 15, 2013 at 8:41 am #

      The curves tool works in all modes except in the Create Effects which apply their own adjustments to the tones.

      • Cliff August 19, 2013 at 11:11 am #

        Good to hear. Thanks kindly for the reply Giulio

      • Richard August 24, 2013 at 7:50 pm #

        Do you know if the GX7 has auto bracketing for people like me that like to shoot HDR? I would like it to do 3 to 7 shots in 1/2 or 1 stop in increments. Hopefully have it shoot the brackets with one press of the shutter. Thanks..

        • Giulio Sciorio August 25, 2013 at 9:44 am #

          Yes up to 7 frames. Also has a great HDR mode where it blends three frames together for you in camera. It’s one of my favorite features.

  4. Jon August 14, 2013 at 7:07 pm #

    First, I want to say thanks for sharing… but I also want to express disappointment in the content. There’s almost nothing in this article that can’t be gleaned from the Panasonic press releases and specifications. I was really looking forward to an actual review of performance in real life examples. You mention the design of the sensor, touting its theoretical benefits to performance, without expressing an opinion of how well that theory is implemented from a photographer’s perspective. Unfortunately, I feel like this piece is just a Panasonic marketing piece.

    • Giulio Sciorio August 15, 2013 at 9:58 pm #

      Hi Jon,

      thanks for reading and commenting. The first two parts in the review are going over the tech of the GX7 which is what most reviews do on the web. I used a mix of shots of the body I took along with some graphics provided from Panasonic, much like what Dpreview does. I’ve been shooting with the GX7 in Chicago, St. Louis, Memphis (tonight) then Nashville, Atlanta and finally Austin. Part three of the camera will be the hands on portion of the review.

  5. ericcote August 14, 2013 at 8:03 pm #

    Thanks G. Can’t wait to get my hands on one of those. :-)

  6. Paula Thomas August 14, 2013 at 10:08 pm #

    Does the focus peaking work in video mode?

  7. Joe fotosiamo August 15, 2013 at 1:59 am #

    Do you know if the GX7 has an AA filter?

    Also, I assume it doesn’t have the banding issue with the Panny 20mm like the OM-D and the GH3, right?

    • Giulio Sciorio August 15, 2013 at 9:59 pm #

      Hi Joe. Have no idea about an AA filter but I can say the images are super sharp. In the short time I used the 20mm I didn’t notice anything funny with it.

  8. Mika August 15, 2013 at 7:43 am #

    Does it have live highlight/shadows blinkies as Olympus has?

    • Giulio Sciorio August 15, 2013 at 10:00 pm #

      It’s not exactly the same as Olympus but you do get a live preview of your shots so there’s no little guessing what will and what will not be exposed to your liking.

  9. Nick Nieto August 15, 2013 at 8:38 am #

    Never had that much interest before now about M4/3 systems. The more I see this camera the more excited I am to try them and to add a small camera to my workflow.

  10. QMan August 15, 2013 at 9:33 am #

    Nice piece, can you elaborate more on shutter durability and rolling shutter effect when in silent mode?

  11. rep96st August 15, 2013 at 10:13 am #

    Even though I want the All Black version, I still have the Black/Silver reserved on Amazon. Hopefully the black option comes to the states before release.
    Still, it really doesn’t matter.. I can’t wait.

  12. Otto August 17, 2013 at 7:28 pm #

    Reading the GX7′s features really gets me pumped about the Lumux future. I can’t wait to read the real world review. Thanks G!

  13. Manuel Avendaño August 17, 2013 at 8:33 pm #

    Hi, is this camera capable of High Speed Sync flash?

  14. Vlastik August 18, 2013 at 4:41 am #

    Looking like Panasonic to trying to compete with OM-D, which I really like. They now have in body stabilization, curves, magnesium, and probably more. Could you please compare image quality and ISO sensitivity with OM-D please?

    • Giulio Sciorio August 19, 2013 at 9:44 am #

      I don’t have an EM5 to test against but I would assume its at least on par with the EM5 if not a notch up in quality.

  15. JonNYC August 18, 2013 at 8:58 am #

    I was going to purchase the GH3 until I started reading about the GX7. Currently own a hacked GH2 and lots of M43 and legacy glass. Disappointed the black version will not be available.

    What sold me on the GX7 was primarily the faster 1/8000th shutter speed and a fast synch speed (1/250 for off camera flash). As a Strobist shooter, I was always deeply disappointed in Panny’s 1/160th synch speed for their top of the line M43 cameras. As the advantage of M43 is a smaller more portable system, I never understood why Panasonic wasn’t trying to market to the Strobist crowd which uses a more compact and portable lighting system. The 320 synch speed for in-camera flash will grab some attention. Now to develop 320 and preferably HIGHER synch speeds for off camera flash will win over many in the Strobist community the way the Fuji X100S is with it’s leaf shutter that can synch to 1/4000th. Could Panasonic develop a camera that can synch at 320 with off camera? How about synching at 1/500?

    What I wish the GX7 had was a weatherproof body, audio input and better video custom modes.
    Thought he GH3 is a new release and an awesome video camera, I would hope Panasonic would update that weatherproof, video pro model sooner than they normally would to take advantage of the revolutionary new sensor and shutter speeds. Those pro features would seriously give Canon and Nikon some competition amongst pros that need performance but also need a lighter more portable system.

    • Giulio Sciorio August 19, 2013 at 9:43 am #

      Hi John,

      I think if the GX7 had all the features you asked for it would more or less be the GH3 with a different shaped body. For off camera flash I use the high speed sync setting to go over 1/250. There are some pro stobist flash units coming out by Quantum. They’re quite nice and also are compatible with the the Omicron LED light too.

      Thanks for reading and commenting.

  16. Arsalan August 22, 2013 at 12:59 am #

    Hello G,
    Thank you for the review. Did you by any chance compared IQ of GX7 vs GH3? If so, how does the new sensor compares against GH3 sensor in DR and high ISO?

    Thanks

  17. zenon (zen) billings August 25, 2013 at 7:52 pm #

    really surprised black version isn’t available in usa. i live in niagara falls area canada and black version is available up here. if your really are dying for and must have black two websites to visit are vistek and henry’s ( note: i am in no way connected with these two retail dealers just so you know.) i pre-ordered my GX7 2 weeks ago, release due middle of sept.

  18. Miguel Tejada-Flores August 26, 2013 at 7:45 pm #

    Nice review, Giulio. For me, it raises an old conundrum – for some time, the world has seemed to be divided into two camps. When it comes to 16 megapixel cameras, photographers who shoot video always rave about the extreme virtues and qualities of Lumix CSC’s, whereas those who rarely (almost never) shoot video, rave about certain other qualities (tones, color reproduction, dynamic range and sensor superiority) of the latest iteration of Olympuses. Most cognoscenti seem to believe that the best Lumix sensor in recent history, the one used in the GH3, is in fact identical to that used in the most recent generation of Olympus Cameras (the OM-D and, more recently, the E-PM2, the E-PL5, and the E-P5). But in general Olympus gets most of the kudos for being able to wring out levels of still performance from the aforementioned sensor, while the comparably equipped GH3 draws ooohs and aaahs for advanced video, but rarely for superb dynamic range.

    So, with all that in mind – and this may be an impossible question for you to answer now – do you think the GX7 uses the same Sony sensor as its predecessor, the GH3? Or is the new version a tweaked/updated one? Or is it possible that Panasonic has gone back to their earlier practice of using Panasonic-built sensors, in the GX7?

    I’m asking because sensor capabilities – and dynamic range – while not something I lose sleep over….are nonetheless important to me. Before switching to micro 4/3 (my current and excellent cameras are Olympuses, an E-PL5 with the newer 16mp sensor, and its underrated predecessor the E-PL2), I used to use APSC Pentax DSLR’s – which had, in retrospect, astounding and amazing dynamic range. It would be nice to have a mirrorless 4/3 body that could compete with what my wonderful Pentaxes used to produce, or even equal it —- do you think the GX7 could achieve this?

    And, yes, I realize that as a “Lumix Luminary”, you are understandably prejudiced in favor of Lumixes. But I’d love an honest (i.e. critical) answer – or at least to hear you weigh in on this.

    Thanxxx!

    Miguel

    • Giulio Sciorio August 28, 2013 at 12:25 pm #

      Here’s the facts and by the facts I mean the facts. :-)

      Both the GH3 and the OMD use the same sensor but different versions of the sensor. The GH3 is a later version and is optimized per the design requirements of the GH3 engineers.

      The GX7 uses a brand new, built from the ground up, new generation Panasonic sensor. It is designed and manufactured by Panasonic and is total next gen.

      • Miguel Tejada-Flores August 28, 2013 at 1:22 pm #

        Thanks for the quick, succinct – and informative – reply. Of course, being curious, I have only a few more related questions.

        The first is regarding AA or anti-aliasing filters – and supposedly, from one or two tidbits I’ve read, the new sensor in the GX7 does not have an AA filter. I understand this is a mixed bag: ditching AA filters generally means that a camera should be able to achieve higher resolution (a plus obviously); the downside being, the tendency to create more Moire effects in digital negatives. On the whole though, it sounds like a good step for the GX7. In your (so far relatively limited) use of the GX7 – have you noticed results from this (lack of AA filter)?

        The second question I think I can answer myself, but I’m curious – some time back, there was a joint announcement from Panasonic and Fuji that they are collaborating on new sensors. Obviously that’s cool. Previous to that, in the evolving sensor battleground, Sony purchased significant stock in Olympus – with one theoretical benefit being that future Olympus cameras would or might benefit from the newest Sony sensors. So I guess this is a two-part question: first, do you think the GX7′s new sensor….is in any way a partial product of some joint Fuji/Panasonic creative partnership?

        And second, if not -when will we (consumers) be likely to see new (and improved) sensor coming out of the combined Panasonic/Fuji partnership?

        Thanks again for taking the time not only to read comments – but respond to them. It seems like free time is a commodity which none of us have much of – so the fact that you are willing to do it, on your website, for fellow photographers….is very, very cool.

        Cheers!

        Miguel

        • Giulio Sciorio August 28, 2013 at 11:33 pm #

          The GX7 could very well have no AA filter. The images I’m getting are insanely sharp. Just check what I’m posting on Google Plus to see. I’ve not had a single issue of moiré in still or motion either.

          The GX7 is all Panasonic from the ground up. Not sure when or if the organic sensor will make it to market. That info goes more deep into the workings of Panasonic than I have access to. :-)

          Thanks for commenting and reading,

          G

  19. Thomas Enoksen September 3, 2013 at 1:43 pm #

    Nice review!
    Does anybody know if this camera/sensor shoots 14-bit RAW files or not?

  20. Martin July 27, 2014 at 5:47 pm #

    Thanks for the review. I’m most interested in part 3 of the GX7 review but can’t seem to find it. Did you ever publish it?

    • Giulio Sciorio August 1, 2014 at 10:16 am #

      Hey Martin expect part three soon. The review went from something quick and simple to a real world long term review.

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