This is one of the cameras announced in Photokina 2016 that excited me the most.
Because this camera is a G7 on steroids.
Few days after Photokina I got asked if I wanted to do a Panasonic G85 review for travel photography. Guess how big was the smile on my face.
Table of Contents
And if you don’t really know the G7, well, this is one of the most successful cameras made by Panasonic. It received a Silver Award by DPReview and, if not convinced, just have a look to all the positive comments on Amazon for the Panasonic G7.
What did I love of the Lumix G85?
- very sharp images
- super stable camera with effective handshake correction and compensation
- splash and dust proof body, to make photos in the most “unsuggested” environments
- 4K photography with the new stacking process
- longer than usual battery life
- shutter shock reduced to a very low level
- very quick focusing
- 4K video, I guess essential if you are a vblogger
- the amazing price
What did not not impress me that much?
Well, read on
But let’s start with an analysis of what I liked and why.
Sharpness of the photos during the Panasonic G85 review
Impressively sharp images on the Lumix G85.
How did Panasonic increase sharpness?
Well, the main change is actually the removal of the anti-aliasing filter from the camera sensor, also known as low pass or AA filter. This is a trend that Panasonic started with the GX85.
Why was this filter added on the sensor in the previous Panasonic G7? And actually in most of the cameras in the market nowadays?
To avoid the moiré effect.
You may experience moiré when you have an area of your photo with repetitive details. Details so small that the sensor resolution is not able to understand. You may end up with a soft photo, almost foggy, with mixed up colours.
It’s rare to have moiré in landscape or travel/city related photography. Details are usually not that small. It’s more likely to experience it on clothes and textile as in the below photo.
Panasonic did not give up to reducing moiré. Panasonic introduced instead the new Venus Engine which detects high-frequency components and reduce the moiré effect.
I have tested the Panasonic G85 with a jumper that it would be usually affected by moiré. Check the photo below. No problem
I would have to do more tests to declare the moiré era over.
In saying that, I honestly think that if you shoot mostly on trips and city weekends, parties and days out, you will be very unlikely to experience it anyway. Add the fact that you can mitigate it also on post-production with tools like Lightroom.
To me, the idea to take the AA filter off the camera is just great. Panasonic believes that removing the anti-aliasing filter improves quality by approximately 10%.
The end result is a much sharper photo, as in the example below.
In camera image stabilisation
I usually run photography workshops in Melbourne. When I am asked what is the minimum shutter speed to use, if photographing hand held, I always answer to take 1/50 second as the minimum and go shorter if using a focal length over 50mm (rule of thumb is shutter speed=1/focal length).
This suggestion works on average of course.
Someone may have a more, or less, stable hand.
Someone may have a camera, or a lens, with image stabilisation, which may be extremely, or not that much, effective.
The Panasonic G85 has a 5-axis gyro sensor compensation that minimise hand shake for all lenses, it does not matter if they have IS (Image Stabilisation).
Moreover the Lumix G85 integrates the 5-axis dual IS 2 that combines the 5-axis camera with the 2-axis lens stabilisation for a sharper hand-held photo.
The Panasonic compatible lenses at the moment are the H-FS12060 (LUMIX G Vario Lens, 12-60mm, F3.5-5.6 ASPH) and the H-FS14140 (LUMIX G Vario Lens, 14-140mm, F3.5-5.6 ASPH). If you have these lenses remember you may need to update the firmware
How to upgrade the Panasonic Lens firmware?
A firmware update has been just announced and the download procedure can be followed here:
The H-RS100400E (Panasonic Leica DG Vario-Elmar 100-400mm f/4-6.3 ASPH) will be updated in 2017. A plan for other lenses will be announced.
Panasonic suggests that the 5-axis dual IS 2 provides a hand-shake correction up to 5-stops, which is massive.
Let’s go back to my first suggestion, shooting at 1/50sec if using an equivalent focal length of 50mm. With 5 stops correction I should be able to shoot at 1/2sec with the same confidence.
I gave a try and yes, I had few sharp images even with a shutter speed of 1/2 sec. Have a look below
Keep in mind that “up to 5 stops” does not necessarily mean 5 stops. It just specifies the possible limit. In my tests I was able to have a sharp photo at 1/2 sec in 80% of my cases (two hands holding the camera).
And this is where it works great, when we have to go down to a low shutter speed due to low light condition.
You may argue that you can always increase ISO, which is true. More on this later, it will be quite interesting.
Weather proof body
With the years I am giving more and more importance to the weather proof capability of a camera.
Yes, because when I travel I come across days with rain, or bad weather condition, which may be great for some kind of dramatic photography.
Not only that. You may want to use your camera in places with possible water splash, like a pool or the beach, or maybe sailing.
It’s all about freedom to execute wherever and whenever you want.
Attention, weather proof does not mean water proof. You can’t take this camera under water. You would need a special case like the DiCAPac, if you are after some occasional water photography.
I went down to my local pool to make some photos of swimmers. It was a great fun and I never had to worry about the water splashes.
4K photo with the new in-camera focus stacking
We already talked about 4K photography during the GX8 Review. I went down to my local skate park and I could take 4K videos at 30 frames per second and save a 8M photo from a frame. Perfect for action and sport photography.
I know, it could be done through computer too but it takes so much more time. This is so easy to do it on the Panasonic cameras.
When I reviewed the TZ110, I loved the post focus mode. Although it did not always work. I don’t think it was an issue with the software, I believe it was just the TZ110 sensor, probably too small to deliver that nice blurred depth of field.
I was happy to give another try with the Panasonic G85, which has a nice MFT sensor.
The post-focus works like a charm. Really amazing.
What is focus stacking?
Focus stacking has been used for a long time, mostly by macro photographers. This technique blends multiple images made at different focus distance resulting in a photo with greater depth of field.
Again it’s not a new technique as such, it can be done in post production as well. However being able to do it in-camera in just few seconds is quite impressive, and quicker.
I tried few focus stacking and I was mostly happy, when using the tripod.
Hand held the camera did not perform as good.
It has to be said that for this Panasonic G85 review I used a pre-production firmware (Ver.0.2). I expect some improvement on this feature when full production software is available.
Lumix G85 battery life really improved
If you have been using a Mirror Less camera you may have noticed that the battery life is not amazing. Usually in the 300-350 photos range.
When travelling, it’s usually enough for a day of photos. But on a weekend trip I would always take a battery charger with me because it’s really pushing the limits.
Keep in mind that the 300-350 range is best case scenarios. If you start going back and forward on your LCD, deleting here and there, making videos……well you will see soon your battery blinking red.
It’s great news that the Panasonic G85 implements a power-saving eye sensor that enter the camera in sleep mode whenever the eye moves away from the viewfinder.
What does it mean?
That the range is now increased to 800-900 photos. Similar or higher than most DSLR.
An optional battery grip is also available. I am for “smaller is better” and I prefer to take with me a spare battery instead of a battery grip with a size almost half of the camera itself. I am not really a fan of any battery grip for travel or city photography.
New electromagnetic drive
The Lumix G85 implements a new electromagnetic drive in the shutter unit.
What does it mean?
The Panasonic G7 had an issue with the mechanical shutter. Quite noisy and potentially affecting sharpness when shooting slower than 1/100sec.
The G85 implements a new electromagnetic drive and a new solid magnesium front panel which reduces the shutter shock by approximately 90%.
What is the benefit?
Of course sharper images (less camera shake). And you can now make photos in places where silence is mandatory.
I have been tested many cameras this year and the Panasonic G85 has one of the fastest auto focusing.
Panasonic has implemented in the G85 a technology called DFD (Depth From Defocus) that calculates distance based on two images with different sharpness levels.
With DFD the G85 can now shoot up to 6 frame per second in AFC (Auto Focus Continuous). Usually AFC is used for sport and action photography (and kids photography 🙂 ). Otherwise in AFS (Auto Focus Single) it can shoot up to 9 frames per second.
Viewfinder and rear monitor
The EVF (electronic viewfinder) has been upgraded on the Panasonic G85 with a magnification of 0.74x and an eyepoint of 20mm, which is similar to what the flagship GX8 offers (0.77x and 21mm).
What does this mean?
It means that with a 20mm eyepoint you can wear glasses and shoot in a comfortable way (the smaller the less comfortable).
It also means that the Lumix G85, with an equivalent 50mm lens, set at infinity, makes things appear to be three-quarters the size they look to be with your naked eye (0.74x = almost 3 quarters or 74%).
How does it compare to other cameras? Very good. Usually the most expensive cameras can reach a magnification of 0.88x. A value of 0.74x is not that far off.
The rear monitor is a pleasure to use. Fully touchscreen, seen nowadays as a must have, and fully articulating. I believe it is the same as on the flagship Lumix GX8.
There is only one small issue with the monitor articulation, more in my final thoughts section.
I am not a Vblogger however I definitely appreciate having a good video camera, just in case 😛
Why do you want 4K video?
Because you can frame details from the same video track.
If you are interviewing someone, for example, you can alternate full body with close up using the same video track (windowing on the face in post).
With Panasonic you can do that in-camera as well, which can save again lots of time.
My final thoughts
I had great expectations for the Panasonic G85 review and they were all satisfied.
There is still room for improvement, as in any camera in the market. This may be dictated by a manufacturer’s decision, as not creating model overlapping, trying to keep the price as low as possible, etc etc
I would have loved to see the Panasonic G85 with:
- a more vintage look (as the GX8), instead of the DLSR look. The Lumix G85 is definitely smaller than any DSLR on the market however the design is not one of the most exciting. This is obviously a personal opinion.
- a headphones plug on the camera, which can be really useful for understanding the audio levels. The mic plug is also in a position which is not great, if you make a self-video, basically in front of the monitor.
- no USB charging option as in other Lumix models. It is so practical!
- a 20MP sensor instead of the 16MP. Maybe the same as the GX8. But than, probably, the overlap with the GX8 would have been even bigger
Usually with a 16MP photo you can print in good quality up to A3 format (which is anyway pretty big)
Also noise at high ISO values can’t be avoided. This is more of a MFT sensor issue than a camera issue. The DSLR and Mirrorless cameras with APS-C sensor do work better, but usually they are also slightly heavier and bulkier (you can’t have everything, can you)
I can live with all of the above, considering how much the Lumix G85 is delivering. I was really impressed by how sharp is this camera, and so stable when shooting hand-held, even at half a second shutter speed.
There is only one thing that may leave a question mark in many people. What are the important differences between the Panasonic G85 and the other Lumix models?
Here is a full comparison table that may help
G85 vs G7 vs GX85 vs GX8 – A Comparison Table
Panasonic this year really delivered some of the greatest cameras.
I just wanted to make this table to help understanding the differences between the models.
[EasyTable class=”table table-bordered”]
What,Panasonic G85,Panasonic G7,Panasonic GX85,Panasonic GX8
Sensor (resolution/size),16MP Four Thirds,16MP Four Thirds,16MP Four Thirds,20MP Four Thirds
Stabilization,Sensor-shift (5-axis) + Dual IS 2,In-lens only,Sensor-shift (5-axis) + Dual I.S.,Dual I.S. (working also with Lumix lens IS)
EVF res/mag.,2.36M-dot OLED (0.74x),2.36M-dot OLED (0.7x),2.76M-dot field sequential LCD (0.7x),2.36M-dot field sequential LCD (0.77)
Autofocus,Contrast Detect w/ 49-points + DFD,Contrast Detect w/ 49-points + DFD,Contrast Detect w/ 49-points + DFD,Contrast Detect w/ 49-points + DFD
Burst w/ continuous AF,6 fps,6 fps,6 fps,6 fps
“LCD size, type”,3-inch 1.04M-dot articulating,3-inch 1.04M-dot articulating,3-inch 1.04M-dot tilting,3-inch 1.04M-dot articulating
Max movie resolution,4K/30p,4K/30p,4K/30p,4K/30p
Flash sync speed,1/160 sec,1/160 sec,1/160 sec,1/160 sec
Battery life,320 shots (up to 800-900),350 shots,290 shots,330 shots
Weight,453 g,410 g,426 g,487 g
Dimensions,128 x 89 x 74 mm,125 x 86 x 77mm,122 x 71 x 44 mm,133 x 78 x 63 mm
Are you even more confused? This would be my choice:
- G7 if you are on a very tight budget. There are now some amazing offers with the new G85 coming in the shops
- GX85 if you are not after video (no microphone port) and you will take care of your camera in tough weather conditions (no water/dust proof)
- G85, if you like the DSLR look and you can live with the 16MP sensor (or printing up to A3 format, which is quite big anyway)
- GX8, if you like to have the best of all features together with a beautiful design