Panasonic GX8 Review

Introduction

Initially released in the fall of 2015, the Panasonic GX8 is the official replacement to the previously released LUMIX GX7. And, on paper, it’s not a camera Panasonic is delivering as a minor upgrade. Instead, it appears to be the most advanced LUMIX camera they’ve ever released, outside of the flagship GH4, most notably with its newly designed 20.3-megapixel Live MOS sensor. And, in many respects, it looks to be one of their most prestigious cameras to date. Panasonic aims this camera at its higher-end photographic market and as a competitor to Olympus’ EM-1 and Sony’s a6300. In today’s post, we address it’s strengths, weaknesses, and answer whether or not it’s still relevant today.

panasonic-gx8-camera-specs

What are some of the goods, bads, and uglies of the Panasonic GX8?

Pros:

Image Quality

It features a brand new 20.3MP Live MOS sensor, ditching the long-standing 16MP sensor that was previously synonymous with Micro-Four-Thirds (MTF) cameras now for almost three years. This addition makes it the first MTF camera to come to market with a higher resolution sensor. Though, it does have an Optical Low Pass Filter installed to reduce the presence of hideous moiré. Overall, the extra 4MP bump is a nice bonus, and it’s images are sharper and provide added room for post-production cropping. Though, the difference in fine details is quite subtle in real-world use. Nevertheless, the dynamic range remains excellent, so it appears that the increased resolution comes penalty-free in image quality – a very nice touch. And the RAW files deliver ample headroom for post-processing, though still not to the extent of it’s larger APS-C rival.

It provides a continuous burst rate of up to 10 fps, without AF, or 6 fps with AF and a large buffer that the processor keeps up with, no problems. The camera can deliver 32 RAW and 75 JPEG images without a hitch.

Video Quality

It shoots 4K UHD video up to 30 fps and 1080p Full HD up to 60 fps in the highly compatible MP4 and AVCHD formats. It also obtains many of the benefits of the G7 and flagship GH4. Most notably, it inherits the Cinelike D and V picture profiles for flatter footage with an increased dynamic range. These profiles lend themselves better to post-production adjustments and grading. Overall, video quality is excellent and at a high level. Videos are sharp, with plenty of details, and color reproduction is fantastic. And video recordings are free of moiré and any signs of compression artifacts. It also offers full manual control over video recording. And the North American version of the camera also completely does away with any video recording limits. Thus, you can record as long as your battery and SD card allows. Sure, it doesn’t offer some of the advanced features as the more video-oriented GH4, but this camera is quite powerful nonetheless.

Note: The European versions maintain the standard 29 minutes and 59-second recording limit.

Low Light Performance

Low light performance is good, though not class-leading. Its capabilities are mostly the same as the predecessor, which is an improvement considering the camera’s extra resolution. It features a native ISO from 200 to 25,600. And it provides usable results up to ISO 3,200, where only minor post-processing noise reduction is required. Otherwise, ISO 1,600 is entirely usable as-is.

Focusing Performance

It inherits the 49-area contrast-detection AF system with Panasonic’s Depth from Defocus (DFD) technology as the GH4. This system also comes with Face/Eye Detection and tracking. Compared to the predecessor’s 23-point system and lack of DFD, this is a significant improvement in both coverage and capabilities. Focusing in good light is now instant, and reasonably fast, even in low light. And the addition of the DFD technology allows the camera to deliver the best AF-S point to point performance in its class. It’s quick, accurate, and rarely, if ever, hesitates before locking. With the touchscreen, AF point selection is now more straightforward and as simple as tapping on the screen. At this point, the AF engages and tracks at the point of focus. And overall, the touch implementation works well and is quite useful.

For those who prefer manually focusing, the camera displays a focusing scale and magnifies a part of the frame. You can customize the size of the frame and the area of magnification as well. And it also offers focus peaking.

Battery Performance

Battery life is average for a mirrorless camera of this class. Panasonic rates its battery at 340 shots per charge, 10 shots shy of the 350 shot industry-standard.

Display & Viewfinder

It features a tilting OLED Live View Finder with a resolution of 2.36M dots and a large 0.77x magnification. The viewfinder also tilts, adding versatility when composing, and makes it one of the very few cameras on the market to offer this feature. Some users claim this is not necessary, but it’s a unique feature that helps when shooting at awkward angles and is a welcomed addition. Compared to the predecessor, the EVF is larger, and it’s 60 Hz refresh rate creates a far superior viewing experience. The addition of OLED technology also makes it brighter with better reproduction and avoids any RBG tearing effects. Overall, these specs outcompete most DSLRs and much of the mirrorless competition at this price range.

It also features a 3.0-inch free-angle fully articulating touchscreen, making it one of few Panasonic cameras in this range offering this feature. A fully articulating screen is the ideal choice for maximum versatility. The display provides a resolution of 1.04M dots with superb quality and viewing angles. And it’s also nice and thin. Surprisingly, there is virtually no latency whatsoever, and it updates instantaneously and is very responsive. The addition of OLED technology here also makes it brighter and the colors more accurate compared to the predecessor as well.

User Interface

It features classically designed Panasonic menus, which remain clear and well-organized. However, the menus are quite complex, as the camera offers many features, so it will take some time to master for new users.

The camera provides enormous customization. Nearly its entire layout is customizable. It offers a total of eight customizable buttons, above-average this class, along with an extra 5 virtual buttons on the touch LCD. And it provides the customizable Quick Menu as well. Overall, users will have no issues customizing the camera to match their needs and shooting style.

The camera also offers three dedicated custom shooting modes, C1-C3.

Physical Layout & Ergonomics

If you’re familiar with the predecessor, the camera will look and feel familiar and quite reminiscent. Though, upon further inspection, this camera is substantially larger than the predecessor. While this added size, in many respects, goes against some of the advantages of the MFT’s ideal, it does create a far more comfortable camera. And considering Panasonic aims this camera at the professional market, this change is justifiable. Build quality is excellent, and the camera features a robust magnesium chassis surrounded with soft non-slip rubber. But, the body remains rough and rugged. And the larger size affords the camera added real estate for physical buttons. The camera also provides full weather sealing, unlike the predecessor, which is rare to find on a camera that has a fully articulating screen. Panasonic has also improved the ergonomics, now making the grip far larger and more comfortable. And overall, the added size has made a better, balanced, and more stable shooting platform.

It features dual adjustment dials for shutter and aperture control as well as dedicated exposure compensation dial. The exposure compensation dial is also seated under the mode dial for immediate access, a new change for this release, but a welcomed one.

Niche Features/Extras

It features built-in image stabilization, which works in conjunction with optically stabilized lenses to create Panasonic’s Dual IS for added performance. This system is re-designed and new for this camera’s release. Previously, the GX7 was the first LUMIX camera to offer sensor stabilization. However, it only provided 2-axis stabilization, and users had to choose between using the lens or cameras stabilization. While that system was helpful, it wasn’t the ideal configuration. With this release, however, that changes. This system now combines both the camera’s stabilization and the optical for added performance, using 2-axis’ from each for a total of 4-axis’ of compensation. The results it provides are excellent and allows users to shoot handheld exposures up to 1/2 second with confidence. And overall, this addition was a much needed improvement over the predecessor.

It has a microphone input, though it is a 2.5mm size which requires an adapter for use with conventional devices. Thankfully, when adapted, users have full manual control over the input gain to bypass the camera’s auto gain.

It has built-in Wi-Fi, allowing users to control the camera and download images remotely. However, the RAW format isn’t supported; only JPEG transfers are possible. Nevertheless, unlike the competition, Panasonic’s app supports remote control over both stills and video recording. This functionality makes it a key selling point over rivals and the ideal choice for self filming.

It inherits Panasonic’s full suite of 4K photo modes. Firstly, 4K Photo, which shoots a 4K video at 30 fps, where you can manually select a frame to save as an 8 MP JPEG. It also offers 4K Pre-Burst, which uses a rolling buffer and only commits the captured images when the shutter is depressed. At this point, it saves 1 second before the shutters release and 1 second after. Both of these features are perfect for capturing decisive moments.

It features a fully electronic shutter, which provides silent shooting when maximum discretion is required.

It offers a built-in panorama, which automatically stitches the captured images in-camera.

It offers a built-in time-lapse, which is also fully customizable, allowing users to choose the interval length and how many shots to take.

It offers zebras for highlight clipping indication.

It offers built-in HDR, merging three separate exposures into a single file.

It offers stop-motion animation.

Cons:

Video Capabilities

It lacks any super slow-motion recording in the form of 120 fps at 1080p.

Switching from 1080p to 4K produces a substantial crop factor of 1.25x into the frame, which means switching to 4K will require changing lenses to maintain the set focal length.

It also doesn’t obtain the All-I codec and MOV file format of the GH4.

It segments recordings into 4 GB chunks, which requires merging the files in post-production.

Autofocus Performance

The autofocusing performance for tracking is average. It works well on clearly defined subjects in easily recognizable scenes or backgrounds. But, if the contrast drops, the performance slows. The camera’s video autofocus is also average, and it’s sometimes buggy. Overall its performance is suitable for casual uses, not professionally. And it isn’t nearly as strong as the cameras still shooting AF performance.

Ergonomics

The only ergonomic gripe is the front face function button is easy to press accidentally, due to its placement on the grip. And, unfortunately, you cannot disable this button, only reprogram it to a non-distracting function.

Lacking Features

While the image stabilization system works well, Panasonic reserves this feature strictly to still shooting only. Sadly, video recording is not supported. Thus, for stabilized footage, you will have to rely on stabilized lenses or use electronic stabilization, which isn’t nearly as effective.

It lacks a built-in pop-up flash.

It doesn’t support USB charging.

It lacks a headphone input.

Is this a good beginner camera?

Yes, it is an excellent starting camera. While it’s a camera that Panasonic aims at their pro-level photography demographic, it’s an extraordinary beginner’s camera nonetheless. It provides an incredibly versatile feature-set to please both photographers and videographers alike. And it does so while providing top of line image quality, superior autofocusing, and a strong stabilization system.

What are the best lenses & bundles for the Panasonic GX8?

General Photography: 

LUMIX G VARIO 14-140mm, F3.5-5.6 II ASPH

LUMIX G X VARIO 35-100mm, F2.8 II ASPH

Macro Photography:

LUMIX G Macro Lens 30mm, F2.8 ASPH

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

Landscape & Astrophotography Photography:

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

LUMIX G II Lens, 20mm, F1.7 ASPH

Portrait Photography:

LUMIX G Lens 42.5mm, F1.7 ASPH

LUMIX G VARIO Lens, 45-200mm, F4.0-5.6 II

Sports & Wildlife Photography:

LUMIX G VARIO Lens, 45-200mm, F4.0-5.6 II

Product & Still Life Photography:

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

Extra Batteries:

Panasonic DMW-BLC12 Lithium-Ion Battery

SD Cards:

SanDisk Extreme PRO 32GB

SanDisk Extreme PRO 64GB 

SanDisk Extreme PRO 128GB

Tripod:

Manfrotto Compact Action Aluminum 5-Section Tripod

Is this a good camera for you?

Yes.

For those who shoot street, lifestyle, or travel photography, this is an excellent choice. Its rangefinder design and incredibly precise autofocusing make it a confident choice for these applications.

This camera is a strong contender of sports, journalism, and wildlife applications with its weather sealing, reliable AF, and large buffer.

For aspiring videographers, filmmakers, or current hybrid shooters, this camera is also a reliable choice. The only minor drawback is that it lacks super-advanced video features such as waveforms, vector scopes, 120 fps, and the All-I codec. However, if you are willing to live without these features and okay with the added crop in 4K, then it’s a competitive choice for a hybrid camera. It provides excellent quality footage, a high-end articulating touchscreen, and microphone input, albeit the 2.5mm variant.

Current Panasonic users should consider this camera, especially GX7 users. This camera is a worthy upgrade.

In the end, the GX8 is an excellent all-round camera and arguably among the best Micro-Four-Thirds still shooters around. It provides a slick and well-designed body, that is both substantial in hand, but balanced with an excellent control set. While it’s predecessor, the GX7 was already a well-received and admired camera; it was far from perfect. This camera has fixed all of its flaws. And it represents a significant refresh over the predecessor, with its updated autofocusing, stabilization, and buffer. Overall, Panasonic has a real winner with this release and a complete package that’s incredibly capable. This camera is still easily competitive in today’s market and an excellent all-rounder for everyday use.

Overview
  • Image Quality
  • Video Quality
  • Focusing Performance
  • Low Light Performance
  • Dynamic Range
  • Battery Performance
  • Display & Viewfinder
  • User Interface
  • Physical Layout & Ergonomics
3.9

Summary

The GX8 is an excellent all-round camera and arguably among the best Micro-Four-Thirds still shooters around. While it’s predecessor, the GX7 was already well-received, this camera proves to be far superior and a worthy successor. And Panasonic has a real winner with this release and a complete package that’s incredibly capable. It’s a camera that remains competitive in today’s market and is an excellent all-rounder.