Panasonic Lumix GX8: First Look

Having previously posted about the Canon EOS M3 and the Samsung Galaxy NX, both mirrorless cameras with APS-C sized sensors, offering upwards of 20MP resolution, (Canon EOS M3 = 24MP, Galaxy NX 20.3MP), today, I’m going to take a first look at the latest ‘luxury’ offering from Panasonic, the Lumix GX8 (Black, but also available in Silver /Black), first launched middle to late 2015, this is a high end, Micro Four Thirds camera, boasting a new 20.3MP sensor, in body image stabilisation, NFC and WiFi, Touchscreen LCD, 2.36MP High Res EVF blah blah blah.

First off, this isn’t a review, I’ll post one of those very soon, once I get to grips with this new high end shooter, it’s a first look, to give you my impressions of the quality, build and most importantly, the ‘feel’ of the camera in hand.

I will point out that this isn’t a loaner or review product from the maker or a retailer. This is a camera I have personally paid for. This isn’t the first time I’ve had a Micro Four Thirds camera, having owned the Olympus OM-D E-M5 some time ago, but I never really bonded with that camera, it was just a bit too small and you needed ‘pixie’ fingers to operate it. Image quality was pretty impressive for the 16MP Micro Four Thirds sensor, but image quality did get a bit squishy @ISO3200 onwards, so I sold it on for something else.

Some time later, Panasonic launched the Lumix GX7, which got great reviews and I liked the design, but having the same 16MP sensor as the OM-D E-M5, I kinda knew what to expect as far as image quality was concerned, so I bypassed the temptation. . .

Then Panasonic announced the very understated Lumix GX 8 in mid 2015. I absolutely loved the design. It was bigger than the GX7, more Leica Rangefinder in design, with minimal branding and an absolutely low key, but ‘I know what I’m doing’ look about it.

At almsot £1000.00 for the body, it was a very expensive temptation, again which I managed to subdue, until now. Prices, as they always do, came down and I couldn’t resist any longer. I had to see this beast up close and personal. My first Panasonic Lumix camera.

So, here it is in all it’s finery. . .The Lumix GX8

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The minimalist branding, makes this a street photographer’s dream camera, with only the Lumix name on the top shoulder and a small ‘L’ badge on the lower corner beneath the lens release button, other than that, there is nothing outwardly shouting ‘look at me I’m a high end camera for enthusiasts and pros’.

In case I wasn’t impressed with the camera, I wanted to minimise my outlay, but wanted something better than a plastic mounted kit lens (NO LENS SHOULD EVER HAVE PLASTIC MOUNTS!!! COME ON MANUFACTURERS, GET REAL!), so looking at review after review, I was seeing really good reviews about the Sigma DN ‘Art’ range of lenses. Three Prime offerings, 19mm, 30mm and 60mm all @f2.8, which is a fairly fast lens. I thought they’d probably be pretty expensive, but at (currently) £119.99 each, I grabbed a 60mm f2.8 to allow the 20.3MP sensor to shine with some Prime lens loveliness and boy, it looks really good mounted to the Lumix GX8. I’ll review the lens a later post, but early testing has shown this to be a sharp and I mean really sharp Prime lens.

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The Lumix GX8 is a very well built magnesium alloy bodied camera featuring weather seals (dust and splash proof) which is great to have on a camera body and allows the shooter a less anxious shooting experience when out and about and it starts raining. Obviously, for maximum protection, a weather resistant (WR) lens needs to be used as well and Panasonic and Olympus do have WR lenses in their line ups. The faux leather ‘grippy’ parts feel great in the hand and give an assured feel to the body.

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The Lumix GX8 is, in my opinion, a good looking camera. It just says ‘I mean business’. It feels excellent in the hand. Solid with no body flex at all. The seams are tight and the grip offers a confident ‘this ain’t going nowhere’ assurance. It’s a heavy looking camera, but in hand, it’s very well balanced (obviously this will alter depending on lens mounted) with just enough weight to remind you it’s there but not enough to make you wish it wasn’t. This is a well built, well considered camera. I really like the weight and have already carried it with me every day for the past few days and it has never got in the way. This is a take everywhere camera. Weight is not an issue.

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On the rear of the Lumix GX8, you’ll find the usual suspects of buttons, but on Lumix cameras, almost every button can be reprogrammed with special a function, allowing the photographer the ability to set up the camera as ‘they’ want, not the way the manufacturer dictates you will use it. There’s also a physical switch (with another Function button inserted within) for quick changes to auto focus settings.

Being my first Panasonic camera, I’ve not gone too much into that yet, but will do for a proper review.

The more observant reader will notice the distinct lack off a rear LCD in the picture above and will notice the huge viewfinder. The 2.36Mp EVF is a big one and it is beautiful to use. In good light it’s better than an optical viewfinder (OVF) and in dimmer settings is better than an OVF since it’s brighter. There is virtually no lag, no colour distortion and no blur. It is the best EVF I have ever seen or used on a camera. It’s that simple.

But, no LCD screen? It looks like an old film camera. . .

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Except of course there is a beautiful 16:9 LCD touchscreen hiding there. Fully articulated, so you can ‘hide’ the screen to protect it when not in use. A great addition to a camera allowing you to shoot from virtually any angle without having to get down low, dirty and well ‘stuck’ if you’re of an older disposition.

There is a slight lag between switching from the rear LCD to the EVF, but it’s minimal.

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The rear LCD is high resolution and very sharp. The menu is new to me, but seems fairly straight forward and can be navigated either by using the physical buttons or if you’re more touchscreen orientated, by touching the screen.

I have to say that the integration of physical dials etc. and touchscreen on the Lumix GX8, seems at least to me, more fluid than on the Canon EOS M3.

There’s a good sized thumb grip which in combination with the front grip makes the Lumix GX8 feel great in the hand.

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The rear LCD flips out, turns round (for videographers or for the selfie mad generation). Being fully articulated, the Lumix GX8 offers an unencumbered view of the LCD from any angle and it’s dust and splash proof!

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The EVF is solidly locked into place and does take quite a push to lift out of the ‘native’ position. Apparently the Lumix GX7 EVF flipped up very easily and so could be knocked out of position. There is no chance of an accidental knock moving the EVF of the Lumix GX8.

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Some reviewer’s have stated they don’t see the point in having an articulated EVF, but I really like it. The picture above shows the angle I feel most comfortable using it at, allowing me to compose on screen while flipping my eye up slightly to view the real world ‘wider’ scene.

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Looking into the EVF, it’s a big and bright image. Tack sharp with virtually no lag, blur or colour issues. It is stunning and a joy to use.

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The top plate Mode and Exposure Comp dials, are well made and have a solid ‘step’ between each setting, again the Lumix GX7 reviews stated the dials were easily moved. Panasonic have addressed that one as these, just like the EVF, need a deliberate force to make them budge.

The rear command dial (just beneath the ‘Off/On’ switch) has a programmable Function button in it’s centre, as well as another to it’s right on the main body top plate.

The shutter button sits inside the front command dial, allowing manual control and changes to be made instantly.

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The Sigma 60mm f2.8 DN ‘Art’ Lens is a minimalist yet stylish addition to the Lumix GX8 and doesn’t detract from the Lumix GX8’s understated look. It also has a metal lens mount, as ALL lenses should have.

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As with all Sigma lenses, the Sigma 60mm f2.8 DN ‘A’ Lens comes with lens hood (excuse the dust), front and rear lens caps and a well made padded lens bag. All for under £120!!!!

Canon, Nikon, Panasonic, Olympus, Fuji etc please take note of this. Every lens should come with these things! Having to pay extra for a hood and a padded lens case is pure GREED. Nothing else. GREED.

There is no Optical Image Stabilisation on this lens, but the Lumix GX8 has a party trick, well, it has two. The first is it has in body stabilisation, which helps when using a non image stabilised lens, so you can happily add any Olympus Micro Four Thirds lens to your arsenal kit bag and benefit from some image stabilisation.

If you’ve had cameras with in body stabilisation previously and added a lens with lens based image stabilisation, there was a trade off. You had to disable one or the other, relying on either in body OR Lens based stabilisation. You couldn’t combine both.

Here’s the Lumix GX8’s second party trick. . . if you attach a supported Panasonic lens with lens based image stabilisation (updated to the latest firmware) the in body image stabilisation and the lens based system work together to give the ultimate combination of image stabilisation Body + Lens, allowing hand held low light shooting to @1/10th – 1/5th shutter speed!!! That’s amazing!

NFC and Wi-Fi are built in allowing for easy upload / sharing to cloud services or devices and the camera can be operated remotely via a smartphone App. There’s also 4K Video and 4K Photos (with a wicked Post Focus facility – I haven’t tried it yet but the reviews I’ve seen about it look great) are also included. I’ll talk about them in a later review of the Lumix GX8.

So, there’s a quick first look at the Panasonic Lumix GX8 20.3MP Micro Four Thirds system camera. It’s solid but not too heavy, it’s weather sealed against dust and splashes, it’s built for people with real sized hands and not pixies. There’s a range of prime lenses out there which offer stunning image quality, for @£120 NEW!.

In the time I’ve been using it, I am impressed with the camera. I’m still adjusting to yet another menu system, trying to remember where everything is, but that hasn’t hampered me taking some excellent test shots so far and as for the image quality? You’ll just have to come back for my review. . .

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