Panasonic G80/G85 Review

Introduction

The Panasonic G85 initially released winter 2016, marks the successor to the previously released Panasonic G7. There was quite a bit of confusion surrounding Panasonic’s naming convention at that time. Even today, the release of this camera leaves users questioning where it fits among their other consumer-grade mirrorless cameras. To clarify this, in North America, this camera is the “G85,” and in Europe, it is the “G80.” As far as where it fits into their lineup, this camera is a step down from their flagship GH series, specifically the Panasonic GH4. At first glance, this camera and its successor, the G7 are almost indistinguishable. Their differences, however, lie in features delivered to their users and overall size. With this release, Panasonic upped both features and performance to provide a camera more on par with their GH4. It was aimed to compete with Sony’s a6300 and Canon’s 80D. Panasonic-LUMIX-G-DMC-G85MK-specs

What are some of the goods, bads, and the uglies of the Panasonic G85?

Pros:

Image Quality

Image quality and dynamic range are reasonable, considering the small size of the sensor. Surprisingly, dynamic range and recoverability in post-production are equivalent to the Sony a6000, an APS-C sized camera. Impressive. When compared to the G7, this camera delivers sharper images across the board as it lacks an Anti-Aliasing filter helping the camera to resolve fine detail akin to the Panasonic GX8. The removal of this filter eliminates moiré and strange patterning across its standard ISO range.

Video Quality

Video quality is a resounding strength of this camera. It shoots Ultra HD 4K up to 30 fps at 100 MBs/second and Full HD 1080p up to 60 fps. Low light performance during filming is also excellent, and the camera delivers usable footage up to ISO 3,200. 

The camera lacks any artificial limits on video recording time, so users can record until their SD cards are full all in a single file. Thank Goodness. However, this is only applicable to the North America version of this camera. The European G80 iteration has a limitation of filming duration. 

It has a surprising new feature called “4K Live Crop.” This feature sets the camera to 4K output and allows users to choose between two 1080p boxes of various sizes which the camera uses to automatically set as points to either pan, tilt, or zoom. Did we mention, this occurs all without ever moving the camera? Insane. This feature alone wholly removes the need for doing any complex editing in post-production with keyframing and could single-handedly sell this camera to professional videographers.

Focusing Performance

Panasonic’s Depth from Defocus system is among the best contrast-detection AF systems to date.  It delivers almost instantaneous focusing when shooting stills and is brilliant. Users can also adjust the sensitivity of the focusing system to subject movement, for both stills and videos independently. Unfortunately, this awe-inspiring focusing performance is lacking when filming, which we cover more in-depth in the cons section below. 

Display & Viewfinder

It has a viewfinder with a resolution of 2.36 million dots and 0.74x magnification, which provides excellent sharpness and brightness across a multitude of shooting environments. 

It has a vari-angle touch LCD, which delivers a resolution of 1.04 million dots and 100% coverage of the sensor. The addition of a touchscreen allows users to perform a variety of gestures via touch. Here is a list of the available functions: touch focus, touch shoot, swiping, full menu, and quick menu navigation. The addition of a swivel LCD also means uses can adjust autofocus using the touchscreen even when viewing through the viewfinder, yes!

User Interface

The user interfaces and menus of this camera are simple and easily mastered. Panasonic has done well optimizing the menus for the added touch functionality, which is excellent. The camera also has a quick menu (Q-Menu), which displays critical shooting information reducing the time users waste going into a more in-depth menu. Here are a few parameters displayed in this menu: flash, white balance, autofocus, metering. Overall, it functions to provide access to standard settings in a single contextual menu and does so very well. 

It has a total of 5 customizable function buttons, including the shutter button which is mappable to start or stop a video. 

Physical Layout and ergonomics

It has two adjustment dials. One changes shutter speed the other changes aperture. 

It has a dedicated view mode button, which allows users to customize viewing to their liking.  

It has a deep and recessed grip. The grip is designed to prevent users from accidentally pressing buttons, which is not something said about its competition. 

Overall, it offers a clean and straightforward layout with immediate access to a range of dials needed for regular use. In all, it delivers the perfect amount of physical control dials for its size. It’s visible the layout was thoroughly considered with this camera and geared to everyday settings to prevent users from battling on-screen menus alone. 

It provides two custom shooting modes, C1 and C2, which allow users to create a custom shooting preset to change settings with a single dial.  

Both the SD card and battery compartments are improved. The SD card moved to the grip of the camera, and the battery moved further to the side. These small changes deliver a significant improvement over the G7, which had both elements in one area close to the tripod plate. In all, that became an annoyance for tripod and gimbal users as it made changing either item incredibly cumbersome. Finally, you can quickly change the SD card without removing your camera entirely from a tripod first. 

Niche features offered/Extras

It has 5-axis in-body image stabilization (IBIS), which delivers stronger performance than the Panasonic GH4. This built-in stabilization allows users to lean on the stabilization to reduce necessary ISO settings to assist the camera in low light conditions. This iteration features Dual IS II which will enable users to couple IBIS with compatible Panasonic lenses that have built-in optical image stabilization (IS). The result is significantly improved image stabilization, which allows users to shoot handheld at shutter speeds of up to 1 second and still have sharp images.  This system builds on the success of Panasonic’s GX85 and results in a performance that’s superior to the GH4. Very impressive. 

It has a continuous burst rate of 9 fps in AF-S, up from 8 fps in the predecessor. Keep continuous AF active, and it delivers 6 fps. Solid. The buffer on this camera is also quite respectable. It provides 60 frames in RAW and approximately 300 frames in JPEG. Buffer rate is also improved and, overall, users will find the firing rate and performance excellent.  

It is entirely weather and dust sealed as a result of the re-designed magnesium chassis. 

It has a built-in microphone input port. It also displays audio levels on a screen when filming, a critical element needed to monitor audio. It even has a built-in limiter, which compresses incoming audio to reduce harsh peaks to better smooth audio levels. This built-in limiter removes much of the need to do this in post-processing. 

It has a built-in flash.

It provides a variety of bracketing options, here is a list of these options: seven-step exposure, aperture bracketing, and focus bracketing. 

It has manual focus peaking.

It has zebras for exposure clipping. 

It has a completely silent shutter. 

It uses a standard Mini USB port, instead of some arbitrary one that makes it difficult to get replacement cables. 

It has built-in stop motion animation.

It has a built-in time-lapse feature that is highly customizable and generates a movie file of the resulting lapse. 

Cons:

Image Quality

While the image quality improves over from the predecessor, it still lacks amongst the competition. Even the older generation Sony a6000 and Nikon D3300 both resolve fine details better. The size of the sensor limits the performance in this regard. 

The camera has a native ISO range from ISO 200 to 25,600. However, low light performance is lacking. Reduced performance is the direct result of smaller sensor size. A smaller sensor reduces the sensitivity to light, thus making it more susceptible to noise at higher ISO’s. As ISO increases, we get characteristic softness, a typical pitfall found in these sensors. In all, it’s best to rely on the in-body image stabilization to avoid higher ISO, unless necessary.  

Video Quality

It only has 8-bit 420 colors, users desiring 422 10-bit colors will have to upgrade to the Panasonic GH5 instead. Alternatively, if color is critical to your work, you can output to an external monitor which would allow you to bypass this limitation. While this is not necessarily a con, it is a consideration for those requiring precise color accuracy and the most comprehensive color space available. 

It shoots Full HD 1080p 60 fps at only 28 MB’s/second. 28 MBs/second is a low bitrate, especially compared to the competition. Not only that, all frame rates below 60 fps significantly degrade in video quality and have visible artifacts. 

It experiences rolling shutter, which is both noticeable and distracting.

ISO performance during filming lacks as well. The ISO range is limited during filming to a maximum of ISO 6,400, but the footage is not usable at that value. To avoid grain, a maximum of ISO 3,200  is best. 

It lacks dedicated log profiles. Thankfully, the Cinelike color profile is available, so not a total deal-breaker. Cinelike delivers a flat profile, that works adequately for post-production color grading, though not the same extent as dedicated log profiles. 

Focusing Performance

Continuous AF performance during filming is adequate but not excellent. It outcompetes the Panasonic GH4 in this regard but is lacking specifically during subject tracking. Overall, DFD technology works excellent in stills, but it doesn’t give users confidence when filming whatsoever.

Layout and ergonomics

The placement of the microphone, HDMI and USB ports are awkward, particularly when the LCD is articulated towards the front of the camera for self-filming. Its placement blocks a portion of the LCD, and it limits the range of the articulation. 

It lacks a headphone input port if this is important to you consider upgrading to the Panasonic GH4 instead. 

Features removed

Battery performance is adequate, not excellent. Panasonic rates the battery to deliver 320 shots on a single charge, exactly the industry-standard expected for mirrorless cameras. Thankfully, this camera features a new power saver mode, which automatically disables the display when not in use. This mode effectively triples the battery life to deliver upwards of 800 shots on a single charge. Nice.

It does not support charging via USB, unlike the GX80. 

Is the Panasonic G85 a good starting camera?

Yes, it makes an excellent starting camera. It’s a camera for videographers who periodically shoot stills.  In many respects, Panasonic has created a miniature GH5 at a price point that’s best suited for beginning multimedia shooters. Overall, it’s an excellent choice and a hard act to follow considering its price. While it lacks the show-stopping flare of its counterparts, it remains a camera that is highly sophisticated and functional. 

What are the best lenses for the Panasonic G85? 

General Photography: 

LUMIX G VARIO 14-140mm, F3.5-5.6 II ASPH
LUMIX G X VARIO 35-100mm, F2.8 II ASPH

Specifically for Macro Photography:

LUMIX G Macro Lens 30mm, F2.8 ASPH
LUMIX G LEICA DG MACRO-ELMAR 45mm, F2.8 ASPH

Specifically for Landscape Photography:

LUMIX G LEICA DG SUMMILUX 15mm, F1.7 ASPH
LUMIX G II Lens, 20mm, F1.7 ASPH

Specifically for Portrait Photography:

LUMIX G Lens 42.5mm, F1.7 ASPH
LUMIX G VARIO Lens, 45-200mm, F4.0-5.6 II

Best bundles for the Panasonic G85

g85 bundle

Is the Panasonic G85 a good camera for you?

Possibly, this is a camera best tailored to the enthusiasts and consumers looking for a capable video-centric camera with adequate photography features. 

It makes a fantastic successor the G7 and Panasonic has delivered a well-rounded camera that’s hard to come by, even today. This camera is excellent for users desiring a portable camera with a robust feature set. It is also a solid choice for filmmakers who are willing to overlook the inadequate focusing performance. Same applies with YouTube or Vlog creators, though it will require some customization for best use. 

However, if you’re a videographer who films action, this is not the camera for you. The amount of rolling shutter experienced, though better than the competition, will surely be a deal-breaker. 

The fully articulating LCD and microphone input make this a significant improvement over the GX85 and G7. In many respects, this is a G7 body with improved specifications from the GX80. While this camera is undoubtedly more expensive, the improvements deliver an all-rounded workhorse camera that makes a compelling reason to upgrade. Previous Panasonic users should seriously take a look at this camera. 

Is this camera still relevant today? Yes! The only camera that competes with it in Panasonic’s line for value is the GH4 and G9. For the price, this is undoubtedly one of Panasonic’s best all-round cameras to date and one to look at in 2019.

Panasonic-G7-vs-Panasonic-G85-80-comparison-banner

Overview
  • Image Quality
  • Video Quality
  • Focusing Performance
  • Low Light Performance
  • Dynamic Range
  • Battery Performance
  • Display & Viewfinder
  • User Interface
  • Physical Layout & Ergonomics
3.7

Summary

The Panasonic G85 makes a fantastic successor the G7 and Panasonic has delivered a well-rounded camera that’s hard to come by today. This camera is excellent for users desiring a portable camera with a well-rounded feature set. In many respects, Panasonic has created a miniature GH5 at a price point that’s best suited for beginning multimedia shooters. While it lacks the show-stopping flare of its counterparts, it remains a camera that is highly sophisticated and functional. The only camera that competes with it in Panasonic’s line for value is the GH4 and G9. For the price, this is undoubtedly one of Panasonic’s best all-round cameras to date and one to look at in 2019.