It’s over a couple of weeks since I took possession of my Panasonic Lumix GX8 Micro Four Thirds Camera, so having done a first look, it’s now time to give a real world use review. I won’t be going into the scientific blurb, there are much more thorough reviews out there for that sort of thing. This is my take on everyday use and whether or not I regret my purchase and if it is worth you parting with your cash to get one.
I’ll spare you looking at more images of the Lumix GX8, there are plenty images to look at in my First Look piece, so instead, I will just post some quick out of camera JPEGS with no post processing whatsoever.
The images were all taken hand held at ISO 100 in Aperture Priority, using f2.8, f4.0, f5.6, f8.0, f11, f16 and f22. I’ve included the f16 and f22 shutter speed in the image captions. f16 is sharp the f22 @1.5th second is blurred but I include it to show that when scaled down to web size, a hand held shot at 1/5th of a second may still be useable.
I gave BB-8 a rest and opted for a Soap Stone carving from South Africa as the object of the quick shots. This is a hand sculpted and carved piece and I hope the following images reflect the detail and emotion the Lumix GX8 can achieve. I decided to just use the lens that was on the Lumix GX8, which in this case was the Sigma DN Art 19mm f2.8.
The Panasonic Lumix GX8 is a handsome and well made camera, as I pointed out in my first look piece a while ago. It has a classic rangefinder look about it, very Leica-esque. Now, this isn’t my first experience of the Micro Four Thirds camera market. I bought the Olympus OM-D E-M5 a few years back and was pretty happy with the stellar image quality, fast auto focus, retro looks and the weather sealing. I just couldn’t get on with the overall size of the camera. Even with the hand grip (both parts) it was just too small for my liking and the buttons needed tiny little fingers to operate them. It was a cracking little camera, but literally didn’t quite ‘sit right’ in my hands.
I kept a distant eye on the Micro Four Thirds sector and watched the E-M1, E-M10 come out to much fanfare, but they were still too small, or just way too expensive in the case of the E-M1, for me to take another plunge into the Micro Four Thirds market.
Now, during this time, I knew that Panasonic made cameras under their Lumix brand, but I’d never really paid them much attention, despite reading some very positive reviews, but again, with the GH3 or the GX7, the cost was too much to think about forking out for a brand I had never used (at least on the camera side, I’ve had plenty Panasonic stuff over the years and always found their gear to be top notch).
I read stunning reviews about the Lumix GX7 and did manage to get a hands on with one in a shop one day and while bigger than the OM-D E-M5, it still felt a bit too small in my hands. Maybe I was just used to slightly bigger cameras, but the camera should become an extension of your hand and so you really shouldn’t be that aware of it when using it, at least that’s how I feel about my gear.
I did keep an eye on the GX7 and noticed prices were coming down significantly. That is a sure indicator a replacement is coming out soon.
And, it did in the form of the Panasonic Lumix GX8 and it cost with 14-42mm kit lens, @£1300.00. OUCH! My Micro Four Thirds option was going to have to wait a while longer, but I kept reading reviews and watching video reviews. I really loved the look of the all black GX8 and as months passed sine first launch, noticed that prices were coming down (as is usual after the initial launch price), but browsing eBay one day, I found a like new, hardly used, absolutely pristine all black GX8, for £500.00. I’d hit buy it now button before my brain had even processed I’d just bought another camera.
The reviews were all praising the GX8 with its new improved 20.3MP M4/3 sensor and blisteringly fast DFD Starlight AF, which for a totally contrast based system, I can tell you is fast. Very fast. It’s awesome fast. Tracking moving objects is accurate and the hit rate is way higher than some more expensive ‘pro’ cameras I have used previously.
The Lumix GX8 is bigger than the GX7 it replaces, which is big enough for me to be happy. It feels about the same size as the Fuji X-Pro 1/2 and a bit smaller than the Leica M8 / M9, but I absolutely love it. It feels solid, but not too heavy. This camera was built to last.
Button layout is well thought out and the buttons are small, but not too small to be awkward. In short, I like the layout, feel and responsiveness of the buttons and control dials.
Over the past decades, I’ve had a multitude of camera bodies and lenses, but the GX8 is the first camera that I’ve ever had that is so customisable. The options for programming the multitude of function buttons is daunting. You can set this camera up to have pretty much every option assigned to a button of your choice. It is quite daunting but as you familiarise yourself with the GX8 (and by that I mean remember what buttons you’ve programmed and where they are) shooting is effortless.
The menu system is different to the usual culprit manufacturers, it isn’t overly complicated with sub menu after sub menu and some of the terminology used on the GX8 is more video maker as opposed to stills shooter, but it isn’t a problem really. After some regular use, it is actually a very well thought out menu structure and again I like it.
Being able to fly through the menu selections using either that glorious touchscreen, physical buttons or a combination of both, allows fast settings changes. Combined with the programmable function buttons, there really is no reason to miss a shot. This thing starts up fast and allows you to get shooting almost instantly.
So, what about that new sensor? Is it a good one? The answer is a resounding yes.
I’ve had full frame bodies by Canon and Nikon and the images are stunning, so I am a bit fussy about my image standards. The Micro Four Thirds sensor in the Lumix GX8 is a beauty. Images detail is crisp and sharp, colours true and white balance honest.
Does it beat a full frame? It really depends on what you’re shooting and what’ glass you have in front of the sensor. To be honest, the larger sensor will always give a better image quality, but with modern technology ever advancing, sensor resolution and sensor size is pretty much a moot point. A full frame or medium format sensor is great if printing images onto the side of buildings is your thing, but for the most of us printing to a max of A3, I honestly think anybody would be hard pressed to tell the Micro Four Thirds GX8 from a full frame.
‘Oh but the Depth Of Field’, I hear all the full frame brigade shout aloud. Increased Depth of field can be achieved quite easily on smaller sensor cameras, by altering your shooting angle, to create a more pronounced blur to your background, if that’s the look you’re going for, positioning the object you want to shoot, closer to the camera lens the background will be thrown much farther out of focus, so you can ‘cheat’ the effect. But to be honest, it’s quite easy to get nice blurred backgrounds with most of the lenses on offer for the Micro Four Thirds market.
I grabbed a couple of really cheap primes by Sigma for my purposes. I prefer Prime to zooms and the two Sigma lenses I went for have really surprised me. I opted for the Sigma DN Art Series 19mm f2.8 and the 60mm f2.8. Both give absolutely stunning results, the 19mm being slightly weaker than the 60mm, but they allow this sensor to really shine and they’re unbelievably cheap to buy, well made and come with soft pouches, lens hoods and caps. They look modern and minimalist and really suit the Lumix GX8. How Sigma can make such quality glass and sell them for £120.00 is beyond me. The 60mm is sharp. Very very sharp.
The f22 shot below is hand held at 1/5th shutter speed, ISO 100. It is blurred but when scaled down for web use, it looks tack sharp
I’m so impressed with both lenses, I’m grabbing the 30mm f2.8 to give me a mid range option. On Micro Four Thirds, there is a 2x crop factor, so the 19 = 38mm, 30 = 60mm and the 60 = 120mm equivalent field of view.
The Sigma DN Art lenses aren’t optically stabilised, but thanks to the Lumix GX8s in body O.I.S, all the lens being f2.8, you can hand hold below 1/30th and get a clean shot. It is an impressive combination.
The shutter on the Lumix GX8 is a bit loud, but it has a very reassuring ‘thunk’ about it when you take a shot. It sounds like a shutter that was built to last and with 1/8000th speed on the mechanical shutter, allows for every shooting condition. The electronic shutter goes to 1/16000th if required and can be easily switched between the two.
In the hand, the GX8 feels great. It’s a bit thicker than you might think and some have criticised the size of the GX8 for being larger than other Micro Four Thirds cameras, but people have different sized hands and like me, I prefer a slightly bigger camera body, I have more confidence in what I’m doing with it. Compared to DSLRs out there, the GX8 is still a slimmed down lighter alternative which will give you stunning images.
The last two shots were just a couple of ‘creative’ (I use the term loosely) thrown together at a different angle shots. The last shot (above) I think really captures the sense of intimacy the sculpture displays when viewed at different angles. Something which could easily be transferred to portrait shooting techniques with the GX8.
To sum up, it is very early days with the Lumix GX8, I usually take a few months to really get a good feel of a new camera, but the Lumix GX8 really is a wonderful camera to use and the images I am taking are excellent.
I hope the small sample of images I include here give you the sense of what this fantastic camera can achieve and hopefully shows that when it comes to cameras, sensor size really isn’t that important any more. Any sensor with top glass in front of it can create fantastic images.
So, was the Panasonic Lumix GX8 worth the money? Absolutely without a doubt.
I’ll post reviews soon with examples of both the Sigma DN Art lenses I have. They really are excellent lenses.