Having Fun with a GX7 in Bangalore, India
By Keith Lewis
My name is Keith Lewis. I am an expat Brit engineer living in Bangalore, India, for almost two years and I prior to that for almost three years in KL, Malaysia. About 3 months ago I came across your great website whilst looking for a review of the Lumix GX7. I really liked the style and content of the site, particularly the Daily Inspiration contributions, and the site is now a highly anticipated part of my daily reading. I am pretty much a novice photographer who has spent much of his life taking a combination of family, travel and sports “snap-shots”. It is only in the last few weeks that I have started taking my photography more seriously, and much of this interest has been inspired by the contributions of many on the website. The site has also motivated me to share some real user experience with the Lumix GX7 and to give the readers some insight into the contrasts of life in my immediate Bangalore neighbourhood. All the photos in this review are JPEG straight from the camera with no PP.
Before I jump into my GX7 review, a little about my camera history and expectations which steered me to the Lumix system. I love travel, outdoor activities and sports. Camera size matters to me because many airlines now have a cabin bag limit of 7kg; therefore, I want to travel with as little gear as possible. Back in college days (more than 35 years ago) I travelled with a little Rollei 35 which I loved. The only SLR I have ever owned was a Pentax ME Super with several lenses; my son loves film photography and is still using these lenses with a fully manual Pentax K camera; he prefers this kit over his Nikon DSLR. I was a very early adopter of digital media and acquired the first commercial Olympus digital pocket camera (1.3 MP) in about 1998. Over the next few years I progressively upgraded through a series of mid-range and rugged pocket digital cameras from Sony, Olympus and even Casio, all of which served my wife and I well on many ski trips, fishing adventures, hikes and camps plus the usual birthdays and family get togethers. I shied away from the DSLRs because of size, not price. I finally upgraded to a “real camera”, the Lumix GF2, on a whim whilst killing time in Singapore airport. With the GF2 purchase I acquired the Panasonic 14mm 2.8 pancake lens, 14-42 mm zoom and I added a 45-200mm zoom to give me the opportunity to do some sports and wildlife photography. Overall the GF2 has met my needs and expectations, particularly to stay compact but with good quality. I have many memorable pictures with this set-up that has travelled with me around SE Asia, Europe and the USA. My major issue with the GF2 is poor low light performance, lousy flash synchronisation and no view-finder. I tried the add on EVF but was very disappointed with the quality, and it seemed poor value.
Whilst in Malaysia last Christmas I was shopping for the Panasonic 20mm F.17 lens to use with the Lumix GF2. I was struggling to find the lens in the many KL Photo and Camera stores when an enterprising salesman introduced me to the “new” GX7 with the 20mm lens as a kit. Frankly I wasn’t really looking for a camera upgrade and I was not even aware of the GX7 because I was relatively happy with the convenience and performance of the GF2. I didn’t jump straight in, being from Yorkshire (notoriously tight with their money) and a very methodical type, I went searching on the internet for a GX7 review and that’s how I first found the Steve Huff site. I really enjoyed the style and enthusiasm of his reviews (especially the GX7 crazy comparison) and this convinced me to go back and take another look at the GX7. After a bit more KL shopping I found a great deal on the silver and black GX7 with the silver 20mm lens. Hot-tip: Malaysia is a very competitive and service orientated location to get photo equipment up to the highest specifications with no sales taxes to pay. I got a much better deal in the high-end KLCC mall (below the famous twin towers) than I could get at any of the “Discount” locations! Unfortunately there was a problem with the EVF on the first camera; I returned it to the store next day (which was Christmas Day) and they immediately replaced it and issued a new warranty card.
Now for the review proper: I really like the GX7 and it has ignited an ambition to become a better photographer and to take much more time and care with composition but at the same time I like to take very quick and spontaneous street shots. The feel and the balance of the GX7 is great. For me it has just the right combination of high quality mechanical controls for mode, MF/AF, aperture, shutter speed and exposure combined with the highly responsive and intuitive touch screen menu options. Having the manual controls has made me want to experiment much more with the camera than my experience with the GF2. The EVF is very bright and the amount of information available is amazing and easy to see. I like using the combination of the EVF and the touch screen i.e., you can set the touch screen to show the camera settings whilst framing the photo with the EVF. This combination allows you to easily access the menu to adjust settings. My one gripe with the EVF, which has been noted by Steve and others, is the white balance is a bit off; however, I have learned to ignore this and generally trust the camera settings for colour. My one IQ gripe with the camera is that in the very bright and intense afternoon sun we often experience in Bangalore the 20mm lens at F1.7 tends to over-expose. I now find myself making exposure corrections and/or stopping the lens down manually when shooting in sunlight. The ISO range of the GX7 is incredible, combined with the in-body stabilisation, means that indoor shots and low light shots are now a breeze. The resulting pictures are impressive, sharp with little noticeable noise/grain until I blow them up full screen on my 27″ iMac screen.
Most of the street photos in this article were taken from the hip (touch screen trigger) with the iA+ (intelligent auto-plus) settings which seems to give very consistent results. I have experimented with most of the other settings and my personal favourites include the in-camera BW options which can produce excellent results with having to do PP conversions. iA+ on the GX7 is much better than the iA setting on the GF2. I find the auto-focus and metering to be very accurate. My favourite lens is the 20mm F1.7 which is quite the brightest and sharpest lens I have ever used.
I have tried many of the features on the GX7, all seem to work as expected, including the WiFi connection and control via iPad – this is a very useful feature if you are using a tripod and want a remote trigger. It is also a great way to quickly review your photos whilst they are still in the camera. However, the WiFi eats battery life very quickly. I have yet to make a reliable WiFi connection to the iMac either direct or via the network. The menu doesn’t seem to be able to manage the fact that I have multiple users with different file directories – I have pretty much give-up on this.
Now for some photo examples. My local neighbourhood is such a contrast of absolute poverty to very high-end expat and Indian living. I often walk the neighbourhood at different times of the day looking for a different perspective and photo opportunities. It has been difficult to choose just a few photos to show this contrast:
Hoodi Village Street with 5 Leg Cow: 20 mm, F 5.0, 1/1000, ISO 200
Local fishmonger: 20 mm, F 1.7, 1/125, ISO 200
Tea Lady works this stall 12 hours/day: 20 mm, F 1.7, 1/60, ISO 400 (flash fill)
Water is delivered many times a day: 20mm, F 1.7, 1/60, ISO 250
Cows Lake Grazing: 20 mm, F 5.0, 1/1000, ISO 200
Typical Construction Workers Camp: 20 mm, F 4.5, 1/800, ISO 200
Community Pool: 45 mm (zoom), F 4.0, 1/500, ISO 200
Cricket is everything to these kids: 20 mm, F 3.5, 1/500, ISO 200
Look, feel and balance.
Overall IQ (especially with the 20 mm lens), and range of conditions including high ISO/low light performance
Great practical mix between manual controls and the touch screen menus (I am already very used to the Lumix touch screen controls and menu)
EVF – white balance is a bit frustrating BUT EVF articulation is a great and very practical
Excellent touch screen – can be tilted 90 degrees for very discrete street shots with a touch of the screen to trigger
Manual focus – once I got used to focus peaking
Wireless connectivity to ipad – I have used this feature for night shots using a tripod
B&W settings – they give really great results!
iA+ auto setting gives very reliable results, no fuss and my wife is happy to use it!
EVF white balance
Protruding eye piece catches your side when carrying (You can articulate up to avoid this but is looks a bit strange)
Cover to access connections requires the screen to be moved out to open it – quite frustrating
WiFi rapidly east battery life
I would like it smaller with same performance!
Weather proofing – not sure I would risk it on a fishing or ski trip
GX7 Still to Try:
Need to do more with the video. With an upcoming wedding I plan to do a lot more of this
I plan to purchase the 45 mm Pana/Leica, or equivalent Olympus lens, and relegate the kit zoom to the GF2 body
Very little experience with the flash since the indoor performance is so good
Thanks again for a great site.
Regards, Keith Lewis