Lumix GX7 Review Part 1 – Tech and Design

GX7 on purple

The Lumix GX7 is Panasonic’s latest hybrid camera and a serious one at that. Panasonic has gone through great lengths to listen to the needs of both enthusiast and pro photographers to create the GX7.  There’s a lot to talk about with this one, so I’m breaking the review into multiple parts.

Part 1 of this review I’ll go over the exterior features that stand out to me such as the LFV, battery and build quality.

Part 2 will be going deep, examining the new Panasonic made sensor, shutter and in body stabilization which is a first for a Lumix camera. We’ll also cover the Venus Engine which controls functions such as AF, built in effects though creative control settings, custom JPEG control focus peaking and more.

Part 3 is hands on shooting, looking through the entire menu and examining the in camera processing (preprocessing) options of this camera. This is a very robust camera and one that deserves the attention it’s getting.

Is Panasonic back with a vengeance to the market it created or is the GX7 marketing hype? We’ll have a pretty good idea after this series.

Disclaimer - I am sponsored by Panasonic. This means I get loaner gear, express repair and advanced knowledge of their releases. This does not mean I am an employee. I am free to speak my opinion in any way I see fit. It is only because of the freedom within my sponsorship as a Lumix Luminary that I feel comfortable with writing this review.

Preorder your GX7 on Amazon or Unique Photo

 

Body and Design

The GX7 design reminds me of the Lumix classics I remember years ago, in particular the LC1. Although our first look is on the silver GX7, you can really tell the similarities to the LC1 when looking at the black GX7.

I kinda hinted at the GX7 in a post about my tour of Panasonic’s old HQ in Jersey. Now we can compare that classic LC1 to the Gx7 -

LC1 vs GX7

The GX7 has a similar style to many of the current classically inspired cameras out today. The chassis of the GX7 made with the same process of the GH3 which is from magnesium alloy. In addition to the chassis of the GX7 being extra sturdy it also acts as a heat sink. This feature keeps the internals of the camera cool, helps with operational speed and decreases the chance of image noise being introduced into the images during extended use.

GX7 Magnesium body slant small

The main control dials are crafted from solid pieces of aluminum. This adds to the solid feeling of the GX7 and gives me a sense of confidence that I’m holding something well crafted and built to last. Of course, this does not directly affect the photo making capability of the camera, but when I have a camera that is well built it inspires me to shoot more often.

Lumix GX7 closeup

In addition, on top of the camera you’ll see a hot shoe, stereo mic, pop-up flash and video record button. On the main control dial, there are three custom setting slots for storing your own color/B&W recipes, aspect ratios and custom menus. I use this feature a lot on my GH3 since the formulas work for stills and for motion. Once you have your C1-C3 setup for your tastes moving from color to B&W to a creative filter is as easy as turning the dial.

This is a BIG DEAL shooting in time sensitive situations such as street portraits. When trying to capture something spontaneous, fiddling with camera settings will cost you the shot. When I lose a shot, it burns into my mind all day…all I can think about is how I lost the shot. However, if I have my camera preset with my preferred settings, not only am I more likely to capture the spontaneity of the moment, I can do it with multiple looks for both still + motion.

GX7 Silver top with 20mm MKII

The built in flash of the GX7 can come in handy when you want a splash of light for fill but like any other on-camera flash don’t expect it to be your main light unless you are looking for that particular look similar to what Terry Richardson is known for.

What the built in flash can do however is wirelessly control the FL360L (or FL600R) units. Wireless flash control from the built in flash unit is a feature that the GX7 has that many cameras, including the NEX7, are lacking. What should be noted here is that with a GX7, one FL360L and a small tripod you could shoot studio quality portraits anywhere and in a tiny bag. I’m very much looking forward to shooting like this, using my MeFoto as a light stand when its not being used as a tripod.

GX7 silver PopUp flash animated

Pick up the GX7 and you’ll quickly notice the layout of buttons which, similar to the GH3, can be reprogramed to different camera functions. The rear dial can control various exposure options such as aperture, shutter or exposure compensation. Like many cameras today the dial can be pushed inwards to access additional features.

GX7 silver back

Four custom function buttons to reprogram to your favorite functions.

The LCD and LVF (Live View Finder)

I’m big on shooting with the LCD. I really enjoy the touch capabilities of modern cameras for things such as focus, creative control and the ability to shoot from various angles. Most of the time, I shoot with camera below eye level which allows me to be face-to-face with my subject, directing and overall being aware of my scene. When I shoot, I need a screen that is articulating, works in daylight and is responsive to touch. Shooting with cameras such as the OMD, GH3 and G6 have spoiled me to expect high quality LCD screens on cameras. I’m happy to say that the screen in the GX7 takes things to the next level.

GX7s back slant LCD

The LCD on the GX7 is what’s called an “In Cell Touch” LCD which means that the front touch panel is directly attached to the LCD removing all air gaps between the touch surface and the LCD. This results in approximately 20% wider field of view and has increased sharpness. Also since the screen does not have to use as much power to illuminate for outdoors it saves on power too.

The GX7 features one killer LVF (Live View Finder). It’s a huge 2.7 million dot unit with 100% color reproduction and is 90 degrees tillable. If the LVF had only the resolution, color reproduction or articulation it would be great but all three together makes this one of the finest viewers on the market today. Where you will really see the difference is within the reds and blues which is an area of the color spectrum that most EVF’s struggle with.
GX7 LVF color

What’s the difference of the EVF and LVF?

What makes a LVF special is that with select Lumix cameras you get a true live view of how your image will be captured. This means you’ll see the depth of field, shutter effects, focus and any filter effects you may have designed so there’s no guessing if your shot will turn out or not. If you like the way the image looks in the LVF then capture it and you’re done. Shooting like this is a very simple and straightforward way to create.

While most cameras on the market with an EVF simulate the scene being captured only select cameras with the right processing power and refresh rates of the electronic screen can display a true live view.

Having a LVF in a camera requires a huge amount of processing power which the GX7 shares with the GH3. Live view works on both the LVF and LCD of the GX7.

Articulating LVF with huge dynamic range and brightness? Yes please!

Articulating LVF with huge dynamic range and brightness? Yes please!

Bottoms up

Underneath the GX7 you’ll see the usual stuff with one nice surprise. The tripod socket is in line with the lens which helps if you’re shooting panos on a tripod and there’s the battery/SD card door which inside holds the surprise. The GX7 is powered by the same battery as the GF6! This means that we’ll not have to play the waiting game on getting extra batteries and furthermore you’ll be able to get aftermarket batteries at great prices. While I don’t expect the battery life on the GX7 to be the same as the GH3, which lasts forever, I do suspect that we’ll get good battery life from the new GX.

Don’t miss Part 2 where I dig into the sensor, IBIS, Venus engine and more!

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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42 Responses to Lumix GX7 Review Part 1 – Tech and Design

  1. tbymrtn August 7, 2013 at 10:05 pm #

    From what Ive read so far youre the first to mention that the GX7 can wirelessly control the FL360L. With a 1/250 sync speed, that’s great news. Waiting for the hands on!

  2. karo August 8, 2013 at 8:19 am #

    I read on cameralabs.com that the sync speed should be 1/320th. Giulio can you either confirm or deny this?

  3. Mitch August 8, 2013 at 12:13 pm #

    @Karo: 1/320th with on camera flash, 1/250th with external flash, refer to panasonic.net’s spec sheet.

    Thanks for the GREAT review, excited for part 2

    • Giulio Sciorio August 8, 2013 at 8:29 pm #

      Thanks Mitch. I didn’t have time to check before I sent the prototype back. I’ll have a final version on Sunday.

  4. Pete August 8, 2013 at 12:19 pm #

    Is there a difference between the autofocus speed of the new 20mm f1.7 to the old one?

    • Giulio Sciorio August 8, 2013 at 12:41 pm #

      I have not had the chance to compare the MKII with the MKI 20mm since mine is on loan but I will soon.

      Seems that the MKII is faster but it could very well be the GX7 which is all around fast.

      • Albertz August 8, 2013 at 11:59 pm #

        It would be really awesome if you can also compare them to the Zuiko 17mm 1.8.
        I hope its not too much to ask for the comparison between the tiltable LVF and the VF4.
        Great job on the review. Covers all the things that matters. Keep it up!

        • Giulio Sciorio August 9, 2013 at 11:45 am #

          I’d be happy to but I don’t own any of the Olympus gear you had mentioned.

          • Albertz August 9, 2013 at 4:25 pm #

            Steal them from Jamie =X

  5. stripedrex August 8, 2013 at 12:50 pm #

    Very intelligent review thank you so much looking forward to the rest.

  6. Roberto Ortiz August 8, 2013 at 3:39 pm #

    Can you really control the Olympus FL600R? To what degree?
    (That would be fantastic for me.)

    • Giulio Sciorio August 8, 2013 at 8:28 pm #

      You bet! The FL600R is identical to the FL360L. Both are made by Panasonic. It’s the same flash system as the GH3 and OMD. Check my FL600R review on here to get a break down how it works and how to set it up.

  7. kww August 8, 2013 at 4:05 pm #

    Nice review.
    Does the LVF have diopter adjustment?

    • Giulio Sciorio August 8, 2013 at 8:26 pm #

      Sure does! I’m happy to say that even without my glasses I can use the EVF with the diopter set to the max (not sure which way).

  8. joe Gunawan August 8, 2013 at 6:20 pm #

    Awesome review G. Can’t wait to see the rest. Can you please compare it to the GH3 and the OM-D if you have the latter,

    I have to say, though, I’m so spoiled with the GH3′s battery grip. I hope there’ll be an option for the GX7 in the future.

    • Giulio Sciorio August 8, 2013 at 8:15 pm #

      Thanks Joe. I would not expect a grip option for the GX7 but there will be leather half cases for it. I don’t have an issue holding it though but yes the GH3 is the most comfortable camera I currently have. When I get a moment I’ll be testing it with other cameras for sure. Problem is, that until Lightroom and C1pro work with the RAW files it’s JPEG all the way and I can say that based on what I have shot with the GX1 already that it’s JPEGS are second to none in the M43 world.

  9. Aaron Fown August 9, 2013 at 10:21 am #

    I’m curious: can the built in flash be tilted upwards for some bounce-fill?

  10. RV Abbott August 9, 2013 at 1:21 pm #

    Thanks for the great review! Did you try the GX7 with any of the larger lenses? Is the grip comfortable? E.g., the 12-35, 75, or any other larger lens.

  11. Rick August 9, 2013 at 2:18 pm #

    Wearing glasses, how is it to look thru the EVF? I’ve seen several complaints about the specs and eye relief, would like a real-life report.

    Thanks!

  12. Jason August 10, 2013 at 4:52 am #

    Great review so far.
    Does the flash allow itself to be tilted back for roof bounce like the RX100?

  13. alanskeltonAlan August 10, 2013 at 10:49 am #

    I like to shoot with wide apertures (wider than f2.8) in good light and therefore being limited to a max shutter speed of 1/4000 sec means using ND’s and I find them annoying as they need to be on for one shot… and off for the next and they’re a two handed operation to fit and remove.

    I welcome the addition of a max shutter speed of 1/8000 but the base ISO has risen to 200. There is a “low” setting of 125 so…

    Will the increased dynamic range allow shooting at wide apertures at ISO 200 without blowing the highlights?

    How good is the low setting? Is DR lowered significantly?

    Can you shoot RAW at the “low” setting?

    Can ISO 125 be included in auto ISO?

    There seems to be a lot of focus on high ISO performance but what really interests me is performance at the lower sensitivities and being able to use wide apertures without resorting to ND’s.

    Also, how usable is the EVF in low light? I’ve only tried two CSC’s with EVF’s, my G1 and a Nex 6 and I find both unusabale for low light shooting due to eye strain caused by the EVF’s high light output even after they’re adjusted for best effect.

  14. Sophie August 11, 2013 at 7:47 am #

    Great review, waiting for the next one!

    Have you had the chance to test the video? I’d like to know if it’s true that it’s similar to the GH3 quality.

    Thanks!

    • Andrew Camin August 12, 2013 at 11:04 am #

      Love the review so far…would love your thoughts on this or the omd5

  15. Michael August 12, 2013 at 7:33 am #

    Thanks. looking forward to trying it. Seems to have just about everything (minus mic)
    Could you tell something about the viewfinder? It seems physically tiny, much smaller than the one on the G3, G5, etc or the NEX 6, NEX7 etc, or the OMD. Perhaps half the size of the vf4. And there must be a diopeter?
    Looking forward to the next part of the review

  16. Jonathan Auch August 13, 2013 at 9:21 am #

    Hi Giulio

    Thanks for the write-up. As a pro photographer who uses the OMD for professional work, I have my ‘ear to the ground’ about the GX7. I am interested in the form-factor. Back when I first ventured into M4/3 territory I owned the GF1 which began to change my mind about bulky SLR’s for professional work.

    I have a question for you, forgive me if you have answered it already:
    On the GX7 is there Auto-Iso in Manual (m) mode?

    This is by far and away the most important feature for me. I shoot events, journalism and street and absolutely refuse to buy any camera with out this feature. I know many fellow photographers who feel the same way.

    If this is not an option perhaps you can forward this suggestion along to Panasonic.

    All the best,

    Jonathan

    • Giulio Sciorio August 13, 2013 at 12:03 pm #

      Hi Jonathan,

      I’m here with the team right now actually so good timing on the comment. Can you explain why you would want to use auto ISO in Manual exposure mode? Doesn’t this defeat the purpose of shooting in Manual exposure mode? Also why not shoot in Aperture or shutter priority that has auto ISO?

      Thanks for the feedback.

      • Jonathan Auch August 13, 2013 at 1:13 pm #

        Hi Giulio
        I shoot event photography, photojournalism, and street photography, which all have quickly changing lighting conditions. Auto-Iso in Manual allows one the ability to fluidly move from one extreme lighting condition to another (ie; outdoors to indoors, closed shadows to bright sunlight) and concentrate on capture the emotion and moment rather focusing on yet another setting. I am not saying it can’t be done the other way, but it is such a huge advantage that I refuse to purchase a camera without this feature.

        Ideally you would have all of the following; Auto Iso in: Manual, Aperture and Shutter priority all with exposure compensation, the ability to set a minimum shutter speed greater than 1/350 sec in Aperture priority, and the ability to set a max and min ISO cap.

        Often for photojournalism, weddings, and street photography, I will set the focus to a specific distance, the Aperture to f/8 and the Shutter Speed to 1/350th. This allows me to zone focus and freeze the movement. 1/350th is the minimum required to stop the motion if both the subject and myself are moving.

        Both Nikon and Pentax implement this feature well.

        Olympus currently implements this feature on both the OMD and the Pens, yet neither have the ability to use exposure compensation while in manual, or the ability to set a minimum shutter, this limits it’s usefulness.

        The fluidity of being able to set both your aperture and shutter speed, and use the exposure compensation to moderate the brightness of the image is invaluable in quickly unfolding situations. It is much faster than manually setting the iso.

        I know many top-tier wedding photographers and photojournalists who feel the same way.

        • Jonathan Auch August 13, 2013 at 1:19 pm #

          I should also mention that if you go to my website (http://jonathanauch.com) all of the images were shot with Auto-Iso in manual, and the vast majority could not have been captured without this feature. This is because of the speed in which things unfold with documentary photography. Ultimately we are talking about fractions of a second, yet those fraction make all the difference.

      • Michael Gilberg Fotografie August 15, 2013 at 8:27 am #

        Sometimes it´s very handy to work with Auto ISO in M (or TAv, thats what it´s called in the Pentax world). When i´m working with Nikon, Pentax or Sony RX1, it´s the most used mode for me.
        So, does the GX7 have this option?

        Thx
        M.

        • Jonathan Auch August 15, 2013 at 12:30 pm #

          Michael,
          According to what Giulio the GX7 does not have this option. Which is a real shame.

          Giulio,
          Any word from panasonic about the possibility of including the feature?

          Ray Sachs (another street-photographer) put it this way over at dpreview, and I agree with his sentiments:

          “But with the quality of the sensors… auto ISO becomes a really powerful tool – IF it can be fully utilized. At which point the ability to change it manually more easily becomes LESS important and the ability to program the the auto-ISO function for my particular preferences becomes MORE important…. the advantage for programming the auto-ISO parameters to use the same logic I’d use if I was still doing it manually. Which frees me up while shooting in a way I find really liberating.

          And even as is, Ricoh’s approach is better than anything else I’ve used OTHER than the Nikon… Sony and Fuji (except for the X100s) don’t even let you specify a minimum shutter speed for auto-ISO in A mode (the X100s does, but it maxes out at 1/125, which is pretty useless IMHO). Sony’s auto-ISO function with manual mode is actually really good (at least on the RX1), allowing a top and bottom ISO, and the minimum ISO can be used to artificially crank up the shutter speed. But Fuji’s is terrible because you can’t even use exposure comp with auto-ISO in manual mode, let alone set any other parameters. But I haven’t found anything that works as well as the Nikon in Aperture Priority mode, with a minimum shutter speed somewhere up around 1/500 and a max ISO of 6400. When the ISO is pegged, the shutter speed will start coming down to assure proper exposure, but this is the same logic I’d use if I was trying to do it manually.

          If the Ricoh would just bump its settable minimum shutter speed up to higher values than 1/250 (1/500 is all I think I’d ever need – the Nikon’s 1/1000 is faster than I’d ever use personally, but maybe someone has a use for it), that’s the only change I’d want to see… Or allow for a high ISO setting in TaV with that auto shutter speed shift function enabled, which would have exactly the same effect.”

          It seems to me that Panasonic could be a class leader in the m4/3 market if they implement this properly.

          • douglasgottlieb December 3, 2013 at 3:22 pm #

            Damn! That TAV mode is indeed ESSENTIAL to me as well, which is why I love the Ricoh GR. Jonathan: YOUR work is pretty friggin’ awesome and inspiring. Ever used a GR? It is fixed at 28mm, but with APSC, you can crop and not lose much rez. The latest firmware (2.0) even allows for 35 and 50 crops, which show up on the display for framing. Pretty neat

          • Paul December 16, 2013 at 9:18 am #

            The Ricoh GR with TAV mode has completely transformed my photography. With one finger on the font ‘wheel’ and thumb on the jog dial you can change aperture and shutter speed respectively, almost by thinking about it (..well at least very quickly with the slightest movement ;-) The Pentax SLRs which also have TAV are too bulky for me, and so I would love to know if mirrorless cameras are capable of similar functionality (as the GR in TAV). Otherwise any rumours about a new Ricoh GXR?

            Best,

            Paul

  17. Ron Baselice August 13, 2013 at 2:47 pm #

    Been using the GH3 for stills and video since March. Love the camera. Have you shot in low light with the GX7 yet

  18. Michele (Mike) Annunziata August 17, 2013 at 1:39 pm #

    Ben fatto oops sorry: well done!
    Best regards
    Michele (Mike) Anunziata

  19. vpanasonic February 17, 2014 at 6:50 am #

    Thanks for sharing great information about Panasonic Lumix series.

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