Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX80 Review

Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX80 Review ImagePanasonic Lumix DMC-GX80 Review Image

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Introduction

Panasonic has introduced a new compact system camera which sits in between the GX (single digit) and the GF ranges in terms of who it is aimed at. The Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX80 (also known as the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX85) features a 16 million pixel sensor and a Venus Engine was has been tweaked to work specifically in this camera. For the first time in a G series camera, the optical low pass filter has been removed which boosts the sensor’s capability to record fine detail. As with several other Lumix cameras recently released, the GX80 features the ability to record 4K video which also facilitates 4K photo modes. A new 5-Axis Dual I.S. system combines OIS (Optical Image Stabiliser – 2 axis) as well as B.I.S (Body Image Stabiliser – 5 axis) in the main body of the camera. This is designed to negate the effects of hand shake, and Panasonic claims that it is the “best IS in the camera market” – which it says is especially true when shooting with telephoto lenses. A brand new shutter unit has been designed to minimise slight vibrations and shutter sound when pressing the shutter button. This means that you can use the mechanical shutter in situations where you might have only been able to use the electronic shutter before. Other features include a LVF (Live Viewfinder) with 2764k-dot equivalent resolution and a 3.0-inch, approx 1040k-dot resolution touch sensitive monitor which tilts 80 degrees upwards and 45-degrees downwards. Wi-Fi is included, but NFC is not. The Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX80 will be available to buy from early May and will be available either body only (£509), with a 12-32mm lens (£599 / $799) or as part of a twin kit which includes a 12-32mm and 35-100mm lens and costs £729.

Ease of Use

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX80 has been designed as an alternative for the GX8, being cheaper and slightly lower specced in some respects. However, to look at, it appears very similar to the GX7 – the GX8’s predecessor.

That means it’s got a nicely slim and sleek body, and while it’s not quite pocket sized, it’s not too far off when paired with the small collapsible 12-32mm lens (which will be the default kit lens). On the front of the camera is a grip to help your finger rest nicely and give good purchase. Where your thumb sits on the rear of the camera is also textured, preventing your thumb from slipping onto the screen when holding the camera.

On the top of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX80 is a mode dial which allows you to quickly choose a shooting mode, such as aperture priority, fully automatic, scene mode and so on. In a difference from the GX8 however, there’s no exposure compensation dial for quickly making such a change.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX80
Front of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX80

Panasonic views this camera as being for photographers who are not quite as advanced as GX8 users, so it’s not too much of a surprise to see a dial like this missing. Around the shutter release is a dial which will allow you to alter aperture or shutter speed (depending on the shooting mode you’re in). There’s a secondary small dial on the back of the camera which can also be used for a similar function – you can set up how these dials work in the main menu.

In another difference from the GX8, while the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX80 has an electronic viewfinder, it’s not quite as large as the GX8’s, and it also doesn’t tilt. While this makes it not quite as pleasant to use, it does help save on space (and cost) and becomes something you’ll perhaps use only for shots in bright sunlight, rather than every shot. That said, the view inside it is bright and clear, if a little more cramped than perhaps we’d generally like.

Similarly, the back screen only tilts, rather than being fully articulating. That makes the GX8 perhaps a little more suited to video shooting (and selfies), but a tilting screen is still useful for a number of different awkward angles. As we’ve come to expect from Panasonic G series cameras, it is touch sensitive and very responsive. You can use the touchscreen while using the viewfinder to set the autofocus point, which is an innovation other manufacturers are now starting to copy because it is so useful.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX80
Rear of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX80

The buttons occupying the rear of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX80 will be familiar to anybody who has used a Panasonic G series camera before, and make for a very sensible way of working. As always, there are a number of function buttons (four in this case) that can be customised to work in different ways depending on your preference but which have a default function already. For instance, one near the viewfinder controls the viewfinder function, while another near the navigational pad switches on Post Focus shooting. If you decide you’d prefer something else to be more easily accessible, you simply change their function in the main menu.

A quick menu can be accessed by pressing the Fn2 button when in shooting mode. This will bring up most of the key settings that you’re likely want to change shot to shot, such as white balance, ISO, Picture Style and so on. You can either use the touchscreen to navigate around this menu, or the directional keys on the back of the camera.

There’s also another more extensive menu if you need to make other changes, such as to the date and time, or change the function of buttons. This is a sensibly arranged menu, and doesn’t take much getting used to, especially if you’ve used any Panasonic cameras before.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX80
Tilting LCD Screen

Like other Panasonic G series cameras, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX80 has 4K Photo modes. This utilises the ability to capture 4K video for a number of different functions. One of these is Post Focus, which allows you to take a series of photos all with a different focus point, and then choose your preferred one after you’ve captured the shot. This can be more useful for some subjects than others, for example with Macro it’s a great idea.

There’s also the three standard 4K photo modes. There’s 4K Burst, which will keep shooting at 30fps so long as you have the shutter release held down. There’s 4K Burst (Start/Stop), which will start recording with a single press of the shutter release, and stop when you press it again and 4K Pre-Burst, which will record just two seconds of footage, one second before you fully press the shutter button, and one second after to give you 60 frames to shoot from. Which mode you use will be dependent on the shooting situation – after you’ve recorded, you can simply play back the frames on the camera and choose the one you want to extract. It will be extracted at 8 million pixels, rather than the full 16 the sensor offers, but that’s still enough to print at A3 size.

Dedicated function buttons are available for these 4K modes, but again, you can switch these to another function if you’re not using the 4K modes all that often.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX80
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX80 In-hand

Hidden away a little more, there’s also Light Composition, which gives you the opportunity to combine several frames into one final image, giving priority to specific pixels based on their brightness. So, you can use it for fireworks or night sky images to dramatic effect.

As we’ve come to find with Panasonic cameras, focusing is very quick and accurate, locking onto a subject almost instantly when shooting in good light. When you’re using the viewfinder you can use TouchPad AF to move the autofocus point by tapping on the screen to select the point you want. While occasionally you may touch it accidentally with your noise and move the point when you don’t want to, it’s a very useful feature.

In lower light, the lens will sometimes hunt for a little longer than in bright light to acquire focus, but it’s rare for focus to fail – or for a false confirmation of focus to be presented.

Shot to shot times are very quick, and flicking through images in preview mode is also very speedy. Start-up time is practically non-existent, while you may experience a little slowness when the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX80 is processing 4K photos, but considering the large amount of work the camera is doing, it’s not too long a wait at all.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX80 Review ImagePanasonic Lumix DMC-GX80 Review Image

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Image Quality

All of the sample images in this review were taken using the 16 megapixel Fine JPEG setting, which gives an average image size of around 7Mb.

Panasonic cameras usually impress us with high image quality, and happily the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX80 is no different. It’s interesting to see that Panasonic has gone down the route of removing the low pass filter with a new design, and it appears to have a positive effect on image quality.

If you look at our sample images, you’ll see that detail is resolved extremely well, with lots of fine detail visible throughout the camera’s native sensitivity range. The overall impression of detail is fantastic when looking at images at normal printing or web sizes (such as A4 or below), but if you zoom at 100%, there’s some loss of detail towards the higher end of the sensitivity spectrum – that’s not surprising though and will only really have an impact if you want to perform some heavy cropping.

Low light performance is generally good, with the amount of noise reduction applied to JPEG images appearing quite natural. You can use Panasonic’s Silkypix software to work on raw format images (an update for Adobe Camera Raw will be in the making). Here we can see that at higher ISOs (such as ISO 3200) there is a fair amount of chroma noise and speckling visible when you turn off all noise reduction. However, there is also more detail than in the corresponding JPEG files giving you good scope to bring back any detail in fine subjects if you prefer.

Colours directly from the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX80 are nicely saturated to give a pleasing effect without going too far over the top. Raw files are slightly flatter in terms of vibrance, but again this gives good scope for working on the files in post production.

Exposures are generally accurate thanks to the camera’s all-purpose metering system, while being able to use the electronic shutter to utilise very fast shutter speeds gives you the option to create shallow depth of field shots even in bright sunlight.

Under artificial light, the GX80’s automatic white balance system tends to err ever so slightly on the warm side, but if you find that to be problematic you can switch to a more appropriate white balance setting.

One of the headline new features of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX80 is improvements to optical image stabilisation. With 5-axis stabilisation in place, you can shoot at slower shutter speeds handheld with confidence. I was able to get sharp shots shooting at speeds as slow as  1/5 of a second handheld, which is great.

4K Photo Modes continue to impress with their versatility. Whether you’re photographing action, sports, wildlife, or just an active child, the applications that this technology has is great – and the fact that it’s so simple to execute makes it even better too.

Noise

There are 9 ISO settings available on the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX80. Here are some 100% crops which show the noise levels for each ISO setting, with JPEG on the left and RAW on the right:

JPEG

RAW

ISO 200 (100% Crop)

ISO 200 (100% Crop)

   

ISO 400 (100% Crop)

ISO 400 (100% Crop)

   

ISO 800 (100% Crop)

ISO 800 (100% Crop)

   

ISO 1600 (100% Crop)

ISO 1600 (100% Crop)

   

ISO 3200 (100% Crop)

ISO 3200 (100% Crop)

   

ISO 6400 (100% Crop)

ISO 6400 (100% Crop)

   

ISO 12800 (100% Crop)

ISO 12800 (100% Crop)

   

ISO 25600 (100% Crop)

ISO 25600 (100% Crop)

Flash

The flash settings on the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX80 are Auto, Auto/Red-eye Reduction, Forced Flash On, Slow Sync./Red-eye Reduction and Forced Flash Off. These shots of a white coloured wall were taken at a distance of 1.5m.

Flash Off (24mm)

Flash On (24mm)

ISO 64 ISO 64
   

Flash Off (64mm)

Flash On (64mm)

ISO 64 ISO 64

And here are some portrait shots. As you can see, neither the Flash On setting or the Red-Eye Reduction option caused any amount of red-eye.

Flash On

Flash On (100% Crop)
   

Red-eye Reduction

Red-eye Reduction (100% Crop)

Multiple Exposure

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX80’s Multiple Exposure mode combines two or three different pictures to create one composite image.

Multiple Exposure

Photo Styles

Panasonic’s Photo Styles, similar to Nikon’s Picture Styles, Canon’s Picture Controls and Olympus’ Picture Modes, are preset combinations of different sharpness, contrast, saturation and noise reduction settings. The six available Photo Styles are shown below in the following series, which demonstrates the differences. There is also a Custom option so that you can create your own look.

Standard

Vivid

   

Natural

Monochrome

   

Scenery

Portrait

Filters

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX80 has an extensive range of creative Filters with 22 different options on offer.

Expressive

Retro

   

Old Days

High Key

   

Low Key

Sepia

   

Monochrome

Dynamic Monochrome

   

Rough Monochrome

Silky Monochrome

   

Impressive Art

High Dynamic

   

Cross Process

Toy Effect

   

Toy Pop

Bleach Bypass

   

Miniature Effect

Soft Focus

   

Fantasy

Star Filter

   

One Point Color

Sunshine