The Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX8 won the Best Overall Camera as well as Best Interchangeable Lens Camera (Micro Four Thirds, or MFT, and below) categories for its superb handling, great image quality and affordable price.
There is now an even more affordable version of it. Touted as a mid-range model, the GX85 sits just behind the flagship GX8.
The GX85 is known as GX7 Mark II in Japan. But I find it inappropriate to call it that. While it features GX7's 16-megapixel MFT image sensor instead of GX8's 20.3-megapixel one, the GX85 is about 30 per cent smaller than GX7.
GX85 does not have any weather-sealing, microphone port and tiltable electronic viewfinder (EVF), which are found in GX7 and GX8.
But, like the GX8, the GX85 shoots 4K (3,840 x 2,160 pixels) videos, has a Post Focus feature (whereby you can decide which subject in a picture is to be sharp after shooting), and comes with a dual-image stabilisation system (body and lens).
The GX85 does have its own unique features. It is the first Panasonic camera not to have an anti- aliasing filter, which means higher resolution, though at the risk of moire or jagged lines.
PRICE: $1,249 (with Lumix G Vaio 12-32mm f/3.5-5.6 kit lens), available next month
IMAGE SENSOR: 16-megapixel Micro Four Thirds
DISPLAY: 3-inch tiltable touchscreen LCD with 1,040,000 dots; electronic viewfinder with 2,764,000 dots
SENSITIVITY: ISO 100 to 25,600
SHOOTING SPEED: Up to 6 frames per second
CONNECTIVITY: Wi-Fi, Near Field Communications
WEIGHT: 426g (body with battery and memory card only)
BATTERY LIFE: 3/5
VALUE FOR MONEY: 5/5
It also has an in-body five-axis image stabilisation system.
But the best part of the GX85 is its size and weight. With the Lumix G Vaio 12-32mm f/3.5-5.6 kit lens used in this review, it is compact enough that I could slot it into my backpack without any issues.
I was glad I took it to San Francisco to cover Apple's developer conference earlier in the month. It alleviated the weight on my shoulder.
Although not as sturdily built as GX8, the GX85 does not feel cheap. It is clad in faux leather with a good grip that allows me to have a good grasp of the camera.
Handling is surprisingly splendid for its size. Button layout is simplified but yet catered for both amateurs and advanced users.
There is a mode dial that sits beside the shutter release, with a dedicated video-recording button behind the shutter release, allowing quick access to operations such as changing modes and activating video recording. It has a top command dial and a rear command dial - sited on the thumb rest - for you to quickly change settings, even in Manual mode.
Operation wise, it is much faster than most mirrorless cameras. It takes 0.9 second to start and 1.4 seconds to shut down when most mirrorless cameras take around two seconds for each process. Shutter lag is negligible.
Using an SD card with a writing speed rated at 48MB per second, I was able to shoot 48 RAW images in 6.9 seconds before the buffer ran out. This shooting performance will put many DSLR cameras to shame.
Autofocusing (AF) is immediatein bright light. In dim conditions, the AF takes only around one second to lock on to a focus with the aid of AF assist light.
Image quality is impressive. Details are sharp with great tonal range and accurate colour reproduction. The ISO performance, while not as good as GX8, is excellent. During the review, I found noise artefacts appearing at ISO 3,200. Things became noisier at ISO 6,400, but the detail loss was slight. Even at ISO 12,800, I found the shots good enough for Web use.
The 4K videos shot with GX85 are crisp with fast AF, and I was able to lockfocus in less than two seconds when panning from one scene to another. Ambient or wind audio is minimal when the Wind Cut function is on.
Each full charge of the battery is good for around 290 still images. This is a bit on the low side, considering that the GX7 is able to shoot 350 still images. But, on the bright side, you can charge GX85 via its micro-USB port. No more taking out the battery from the camera to charge and having to take along an extra power adapter.
•Verdict: It might have some trade-offs compared with the flagship cousins, but the Panasonic GX85 is an affordable great mirrorless camera for those who prefer lightweight usability over features.