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Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX8: Latest technology wrapped in a vintage look

The controls of the DMC-GX8, with two command dials and many dedicated function buttons, are so well-positioned that seasoned photographers will find the layout to be just heaven-sent.
The controls of the DMC-GX8, with two command dials and many dedicated function buttons, are so well-positioned that seasoned photographers will find the layout to be just heaven-sent.PHOTO: PANASONIC

The image quality of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX8 is near that of an APS-C DSLR

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX8 is the first mirrorless camera to have a Micro Four Thirds (MFT) image sensor that has more than 20 megapixels.

It is also the first Lumix mirrorless camera to have a dual image stabiliser, or Dual I.S. As its name implies, Dual I.S. combines the image stabilisers in the lens and the GX8 body to help prevent camera shake.

The GX8 can also shoot 4K (3,840x2,160 pixels) video at 30 frames per second.

  • TECH SPECS

  • PRICE: $1,699 (with Lumix G Vario 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 kit lens) or $2,699 (with Lumix G X Vario 12-35mm f/2.8 lens)

    IMAGE SENSOR: 20.3-megapixel Micro Four Thirds

    DISPLAY: 3-inch tiltable LCD with 1,040,000 dots; electronic viewfinder with 2,360,000 dots

    SENSITIVITY: ISO 100 to 25,600

    SHOOTING SPEED: Up to 8 frames per second

    CONNECTIVITY: Wi-Fi, Near Field Communications

    WEIGHT: 487g (body with battery and memory card only)


    RATING

    FEATURES: 4/5

    DESIGN: 5/5

    PERFORMANCE: 4/5

    BATTERY LIFE: 3/5

    VALUE FOR MONEY: 4/5

    OVERALL: 4/5

I reviewed the all-black model (it also comes in silver/black) with the Lumix G X Vario 12-35mm f/2.8 lens. For photographers inspired by legendary photojournalists... who used vintage rangefinders to document the defining moments of history, the GX8's rangefinder-like design will set their hearts aflutter.

I reviewed the all-black model (it also comes in silver/black), with the Lumix G X Vario 12-35mm f/2.8 lens. For photographers inspired by legendary photojournalists such as Henri Cartier-Besson and Robert Capa, who used vintage rangefinders to document the defining moments of history, the GX8's rangefinder-like design will set their hearts aflutter.

A 2.36-million-dot electronic viewfinder (EVF) and a 3-inch touchscreen display lets you compose your pictures easily. The EVF can be tiltled up to 90 degrees for chest-level shots, while the touchscreen display has a hinge that lets you rotate it to all sorts of interesting angles when taking photos and selfies.

Its magnesium alloy chassis is said to be splash-proof and dust-proof. I like the solid build of the camera and it looks like it can take some knocks too.

I also like the front rubberised grip and rear thumb rest, which make holding the camera really comfortable even during prolonged use.

The buttons and controls are so well-positioned that they make handling this camera second nature.

On the camera's top right, there is a mode dial sitting on top of an exposure compensation dial. Beside these two dials is a command dial that is just behind the power switch. At the top of the grip is a second command dial which cradles the shutter button.

At its rear are many dedicated buttons for functions such as ISO, autofocusing points, white balance and drive mode. There is also a circular focusing lever that lets you toggle quickly between autofocus and manual modes. For seasoned photographers, this button layout is just heaven-sent.

Start-up is really fast, at about 0.8sec, compared to 2sec for most of its peers. Shutdown is slower, at 1.5sec. Shutter lag is negligible.

Using an SDXC card with a writing speed rated at 60MB per second, the GX8 shot an impressive 37 RAW images in 4.3sec before the buffer ran out.

Autofocusing (AF) is equally impressive. It immediately locks on in bright light. In dim conditions, the AF takes only around 1sec to focus with the aid of an AF assist light, which is a second or two faster than its peers.

The quality of images shot using the GX8 comes really close to that of an APS-C DSLR. Images exhibit great tonal range, accurate colour reproduction and crisp details.

But I found the ISO performance a tad disappointing. I could spot noise artefacts at ISO 800. In comparison, its predecessor, the GX7, shows noise artefacts only from ISO 3,200.

With the GX8, an ISO setting of 3,200 is the highest I am comfortable using if I plan to print my images. Any higher and the detail loss would be too evident. But ISO 6,400 images are still good enough for Web use.

The 4K videos shot with the GX8 are crystal-clear, aided by its fast AF, which locks to a focus in 2sec when panning from one scene to another. Ambient, or wind, noise is minimal.

Jerkiness of videos is also insignificant, thanks to Dual I.S. With still shots, I managed to capture sharp images at a slow shutter speed of around 1/6sec.

Perhaps the GX8's only real downer is its average battery life. It is good for 330 still images on a full charge. That is 20 fewer still images than the GX7.

Other minor quibbles: The GX8 is around 36 per cent bigger than its predecessor and heavier by 33g. It also lacks the GX7's built-in flash and has the price tag of a mid-range APS-C DSLR.

• Verdict: It might be a bit pricey, but the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX8 is one superb speedy and great-looking rangefinder-style mirrorless camera that delivers great moving and still images.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 07, 2015, with the headline 'Vintage looks with latest technology'. Print Edition | Subscribe