Shooting with the Panasonic GX85. Small with a huge punch!
By Steve Huff
Hey guys! I’m back again with a real world look at a little Micro 4/3 camera, the Panasonic GX85. I recently took a look at the Panasonic GX8, and it is a nice, but chunky camera but overall Panasonic’s best Micro 4/3 to date IMO. With the constant competition between Olympus and Panasonic, I often find there are just as many Panasonic fans as Olympus.
My video on the GX85
Some like the look, feel and performance of Panasonic, and others, well, they prefer Olympus. Even though both use the Micro 4/3 format, the IQ differences are there, mostly in color, snap and contrast with the Panasonic line usually being more “BAM, IN YOUR FACE”, which…is good. Reminds me of how the Leica Q renders over the Sony RX1RII.
Sony is more gentle and organic, and the Leica just has that slam in your face POP BAM WOW kind of IQ and presentation.
Debby with the GX85 and Panasonic 25 f/1.7 wide open – click for larger
So the way I see the two Micro 4/3 brands is sort of the same. Panasonic has that edgy, contrasty sharp pop and Olympus has a smooth, gentle, well…quite different way of rendering the colors. Some prefer choice A, some prefer choice B. I admit, I always fell into the Olympus camp when it came to the color and look but I feel I may be switching, as I feel the Panasonic’s can deliver a bit more “excitement” to the images. Ive noticed it for years, even with the Panasonic lenses, of which there are some amazing choices.
The Color and pop from this camera and the two lower cost lenses, the 25 1.7 and 42.5 1.7 is quite stunning. I mean, I can not get this kind of look with my Sony A7RII, and I like this look!
When the GX85 arrived, I also recieved the 25 1.7 and 42.5 1.7 lenses, which are SMALL, LIGHT and FAN FREAKING TASTIC. Olympus has the f/1.8 versions of these lenses that have bee legendary forever, but these, I feel, especially the 42.5 take it up a slight notch. Not only is the aperture SLIGHTLY faster these lenses have that snap, pop, bite and color of the more pricey versions. (which is the 25 1.4 and 42.5 1.2)
The little 42.5 f/1.7 is like a baby NOCTICRON (Which is my fave M 4/3 lens ever).
So the camera, and two lenses arrived and I was quite pleased when I took the GX85 body out of the box. It was more hefty than I thought it would be, and felt very nice in my hand. It felt better than my E-M10II which I have in my office and I really enjoyed the look and feel. Small, discreet, and like a Mini GX8.
The little GX85 has a tilt LCD, touch screen at that..it has 5 Axis IS that works STUNNINGLY well. Just as good as the Olympus bodies, so now Panasonic is just as competitive in this area as far as I am concerned. With lenses that have IS, this little guy can function with DUAL IS for even better image stabilization performance. These days, with this type of performance against the shakes, we can shoot in situations that were not possible 5-6 years ago. This is one area where digital imaging has really upped the game IMO. For photos, or for video.
This camera has 4K video and stills, and while many video based sites will go over the video performance, that is not my thing, so I will only be focused on a few things with this guy…the things us real world camera geeks like to know as this is a real world use report…
- BUILD AND FEEL
- AF SPEED AND CAPABILITIES
- EVF, LCD
- ISO PERFORMANCE
- IMAGE QUALITY
- BATTERY LIFE
- ANY PROBLEMS?
So these are what I will focus on, as those of you who know me realize I have never written a scientific over the top geek out review with technical scientific tests. I like to focus on the fun factor, the performance, the bang for the buck and the things that matter to most of us, the use of it as a photographic tool. Yep, this has WiFi just as most middle to high end cameras have today, and yes this has all of the old classics..like photo filters that we will never use and gimmiky features that are lost in the menu.
Me, I’m going to talk about WHY I love this little guy and WHY it has made me take a new look at the bigger brother, the GX8, of which prior I preferred the lovely PEN-F to…maybe..I am leaning back over to Panasonic. As I write this I have visions in my head of a GX8, 12mm f/1.7, 25 1.4 and 42.5 1.2 along with a nice long HQ zoom. Then I snap out of it and realize I am sitting here with 8-12 cameras flooding my office and wonder what I would do with more. GEEZ, I HAVE ISSUES!
The GX85 has no issues with stunning IQ…
It’s strange, even though I am here with cameras and gear EVERY DAY, I still dream of owning more. This disease STILL has a hold of me! I guess that says a lot of this GX85 if it is making this jaded reviewer who has worked with cameras DAILY for 8 years now, getting excited about it and the brand. Again.
CLICK THE IMAGES FOR BETTER VERSIONS!
1st image, Olympus 7-14 Pro Zoom, f/2.8 (My fave ultra wide zoom)
GX85, 25 1.7 wide open
So let’s get to it. I will keep this as short as possible, while giving my thoughts in a cleat concise way. As for build, it does not feel as good as my Olympus PEN-F but the PEN-F is also $500 more expensive. This camera should be compared to the Olympus EM10II, which is the same class of camera. When I compare the two of these, I prefer the Panasonic GX85 slightly, as it seems to feel better, respond quicker, and give me IQ I prefer, more snap, crackle and pop.
The build of the GX85 is perfectly in line with its price point and truth be told, slightly better than I expected. It’s solid, and while not a pro level body, we should not expect it to be for the money. To those used to small point & shoot’s, this would be a HUGE upgrade!
The GX85 has pretty speedy AF. As in, its fast as I expected it to be and maybe a snap faster. The GX85 has a new mode called “Depth from Defocus Af Technology”. I will post the details on what Panasonic says its does below:
“Depth-From-Defocus AF Technology. For accelerated autofocus performance, DFD (Depth-From-Defocus) technology is employed to quickly calculate the distance to subjects and adjust the focusing position in order to suit working with continuous shooting rates up to 6 fps with continuous AF. This contrast-detection type focus method benefits both still and video recording modes, as well as subject tracking applications where subject color, size, and motion vectors are used to intelligently lock-onto the moving subjects and ensure precise focus. Additionally, supporting working in low-light conditions, a Starlight AF feature enables accurate AF performance down to -4 EV.
Benefitting manual focus operation, focus peaking is available that highlights bright edges of contrast with a colored outline for quickly recognizing your focus point, as well as Touch MF Assist for touch-to-focus operation.”
For me, the AF was excellent, and I missed no shots due to AF speed or inaccuracies. In fact, the only cameras I feel do not have good AF today are the Sigma Quattro series of cameras. Those are DOG slow, but most mirrorless bodies today have very fast AF that is faster than almost all DSLR’s of old. Today, the pro DSLRs still reign supreme for sports shooting, action, etc but Mirrorless cameras have come a LONG LONG way since those early days of the GF1 and PEN.
The first three were with the Olympus 7-14 which allows crazy close focus as well. The only ultra wide one would ever need for Micro 4/3 IMO (though I am lusting after the new 12mm f/1.4 from Panasonic)
The one shot below was with the 42.5 f/1.7 at f/4.5. This lens is a stunner for the money!
THE EVF and LCD
The EVF on the GX85 is its weak point IMO, but then again, I am spoiled by the picture window display of the Leica SL. I prefer the EVF in almost all of my other cameras but when compared with the E-M10II, its a wash. So you get what you would expect in this class of camera. The LCD has a 1 million dot resolution, the EVF 2.7, so technically it is a bit better than the EM10II’s EVF. The LCD is a touch screen which did come in handy from time to time as well. I used it often to set my focus point by using my finger.
The ISP performance was very good, beating out the Olympus E-M10II slightly at the ultra high ISO’s though from 3200 – 12800 they were pretty close. By the time the cameras hit the max of 25,600 the GX85 took the lead, but then again, who shoots at ISO 25,600? Not many, not very often.
So for ISO, you get very good performance. The shots below were all shot RAW with ZERO noise reduction and zero PP. Take a look:
OVERALL IMAGE QUALITY
The overall IQ is fantastic. In fact, I could not expect or ask for better from this camera. The IQ is on par with even more expensive Micro 4/3 bodies like the E-M1, PEN-F, etc. IQ is not an issue with the GX85 but there are differences between the Olympus and Panasonic bodies in regards to color, contrast, and overall rendering. As I mentioned earlier, the Olympus bodies seems to pump out a more “fun” color signature, have a slightly softer presentation and have lower contrast, out of camera. The GX85 delivers, IMO, richer color, more contrast and more “bite” which gives a Leica like look (Think Leica Q, Leica T, etc)
The IQ from this camera can get addictive in some situations but remember, it is MICRO 4/3 so you will lose out on Dynamic Range, Ultra low light and Shallow DOF over full frame cameras. If we keep the fight fair, between Micro 4/3 bodies, then this little guy is up there with the best for image quality.
These days most camera over $600 offer loads of dynamic range, highly capable high ISO performance, fast AF and ease of use. The GX85 is no different.
4K Photo Modes
This camera also allows 4K photo mode, which allows one to grab a still from the 4K video, meaning if you shot this way, you would never miss that “decisive moment” because you would have every frame captured..then you pick and choose your “frame”…here is more on that…
Utilizing the 4K video recording capabilities, a trio of still shooting modes are available for recording continuous 8MP stills at a 30 fps shooting rate:
4K Burst: Just as with video recording, this mode will allow you to continuously record 8MP images at 30 fps for up to 29 min. 59 sec., making it ideal for instances where you need a fast frame rate in order to capture the best moment.
4K Pre-Burst: This mode is ideal for times when you’re unsure of the critical moment to press the shutter button and will record 8MP images at 30 fps one second prior to and one second after pressing the shutter button in order to give you 60 frames to choose from.
4K Burst (S/S): This mode most closely follows the 4K video recording process, and allows you to playback your video, pause at the chosen moment, and use the shutter button to mark a chosen frame from the video and save it as a single 8MP frame.
I did a couple of “Crazy Comparisons” of this camera with the PEN-F and even the full frame Sony A7RII.
- It’s small and light but still well made for the price point of under $800
- Touch screen swivel LCD works great
- AF is fast, new AF modes work well
- 5 Axis IS works just as well as Olympus bodies, this was a hugely welcome addition for me
- LOADS of amazing lenses from cheap to pricey. 95% of them amazing!
- Video capabilities seem strong
- 4K photo modes could be handy for some
- IQ is rich, deep and has bite. Lovely.
- Has all features one could want from photo filters, to WiFi to everything in between.
- Battery life is good, I shot all week on one charge (but I select and shoot carefully and do not chimp)
- Price is right at under $800 with a kit lens.
- CAN USE Panasonic lenses with the aperture ring (Can not do this on Olympus)
- EVF could be larger, but for this price point its good
- Not as “fun” to use as a PEN-F but also $500 less
- Could be a tad small for someone with larger hands
I love the Panasonic GX85. If I were starting FRESH, and only had a phone camera or point and shoot, I KNOW I would be so overwhelmed by today’s choices. 1″ sensors, Micro 4/3, APS-C, full frame, even MEDIUM FORMAT is now mirrorless and hand holdable with the new Hasselblad.
But if I was looking for a camera under $1000 with lens, I would take a SERIOUS look at the GX85 with a 25 1.7 Panasonic lens. This would be a small solution, discreet but packing LOADS more power and IQ potential over a 1″ sensor camera or phone camera. It’s a beautiful sleek design that builds on the original GF1 from so long ago.
Today, a camera like this offers so much for so little. Speed, gorgeous IQ, low light performance that blows away 1″ sensors and cel phones and lenses that range from $200 and up, all very good. I feel M 4/3 hits a “sweet spot” in sensor design. Not too large to make the camera large bulky and sluggish, yet not too small to bring in the noise and lack of dynamic range that most 1″ sensors bring. Micro 4/3 to me, competes with any APS-C out there as it has some cons over it but also some pros.
As one can see here, the IQ is not lacking and I feel I have some better looking shots here than in my full frame camera reviews, and to note, the GX85 does not have a low pass filter (AA filter) which could lead to its crisp photos that truly POP. I am in the camp that no camera should have an AA filter, as every time I use one without I fall in love. This little guys offers small size, huge lens selection, great IQ and a great price. I mean, what is not to like?
WHERE TO BUY?
For Panasonic, my fave dealers ever are B&H Photo and Amazon. TWO HUGE trusted shops with great ease of ordering, great return policies and they ALWAYS deliver (I only use Amazon prime for Amazon though). Use the links below to see more or order, and if you do, it helps this site continue on, and these days I NEED IT!! So thank you in advance if you use my links below to make a purchase, its what you can do to help these free reviews and content to forge on for the next years ahead. THANK YOU!!
PLEASE! I NEED YOUR HELP TO KEEP THIS WEBSITE RUNNING, IT IS SO EASY AND FREEE for you to HELP OUT!
Hello to all! For the past 7 years I have been running this website and it has grown to beyond my wildest dreams. Some days this very website has over 200,000 visitors and because of this I need and use superfast dedicated web servers to host the site. Running this site costs quite a bit of cash every single month and on top of that, I work full-time 60+ hours a week on it each and every single day of the week (I receive 100-300 emails a DAY). Because of this, I could use YOUR help to cover my costs for this free information that is provided on a daily basis.
To help out it is simple, and no, I am not asking you for a penny!!
If you ever decide to make a purchase from B&H Photo or Amazon, for ANYTHING, even diapers..you can help me without spending a penny to do so. If you use my links to make your purchase (when you click a link here and it takes you to B&H or Amazon, that is using my links as once there you can buy anything and I will get a teeny small credit) you will in turn be helping this site to keep on going and keep on growing.
Not only do I spend money on fast hosting but I also spend it on cameras to buy to review, lenses to review, bags to review, gas and travel, and a slew of other things. You would be amazed at what it costs me just to maintain this website, in money and time (250 hours a month, and about $3000 per month).
So all I ask is that if you find the free info on this website useful AND you ever need to make a purchase at B&H Photo or Amazon, just use the links below. You can even bookmark the Amazon link (not the B&H) and use it anytime you buy something. It costs you nothing extra but will provide me and this site with a dollar or two to keep on trucking along.
B&H PHOTO LINK – (not bookmark able) Can also use my search bar on the right side or links within reviews, anytime.
Outside of the USA? Use my worldwide Amazon links HERE!
One other way to help is by donation. If you want to donate to this site, any amount you choose, even $5, you can do so using the paypal link HERE and enter in your donation amount. All donations help to keep this site going and growing! I do not charge any member fees nor do I (nor will I ever) charge for reviews, so your donations go a long way to keeping this site loaded with useful content. If you choose to help out, I thank you from the bottom of my heart.