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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.