If you have landed here at Olyallthetime for the first time you may not know that I took the new Panasonic GX8 on a work trip to Taiwan where I shot the GX8 every single day for 10 straight days. Some of those images and thoughts are found below this post. After I returned from Taiwan, I decided to buy and keep the GX8. I guess that sums up how I feel about the GX8 doesn't it? I liked the camera enough to purchase one with my own money. Let me tell you why.
I have been a long time fan of Panasonic. The camera that got me hooked on photography was a Panasonic LX3. I took that amazing little camera everywhere and when Panasonic launched the ground breaking GF1 micro 4/3 camera, I upgraded immediately. The GF1 with 20mm f1.7 is the camera that I will always remember as my first really nice camera. Panasonic was my camera maker of choice when I fell in love with photography.
Unfortunately, Panasonic didn't keep me. I'll be honest, they kind of fell off the radar with a long series of not so great products. They lost me when they followed up the GF1 with the crappy GF2. I moved from the GF1 to Olympus Pen series cameras followed by what I think is the ground breaking camera for m43, the Olympus OMD EM5 which I shot for 2 years. I bought a GH3 to complement my EM5 when they came out as I thought I'd like to get into video, but quickly sold it after fighting with it often, disliking the EVF, strongly disliking the shutter sound, losing my SD card slot's flimsy door, and finding out that I strongly dislike video editing. I have also shared here that almost a year ago, I picked up a used GX7 and now own a GM5. So when the GX8 came out with a new sensor and in the rangefinder style of camera that I prefer, I was immediately interested.
First impression reports on the web were mixed about this new Panasonic camera. A couple common themes emerged that made people question the price. The first being the size. "It's huge!" people wrote. The second being folks stating they couldn't really see any improvements in the new 20MP sensor. Those two things coupled with the historical fact that Panasonic cameras lose value quickly over their lifespans made me question purchasing it. But why not try it right? If I liked it, I knew that in not too long there would be used copies available at much more affordable street prices.
I took the GX8 to Taiwan for 10 days. My kit consisted of the GX8, the Olympus 17mm & 45 f1.8 lenses and the Panasonic 25mm f1.4. I also had a small Ultrapod with me as I always carry it in my back pack. I did not get a second battery despite 1st impressions by others stating poor battery life. I just figured given I was traveling for work, that I would not be shooting that much and one battery would not be a problem.
When I received the camera to get it set up, it arrived with a memory card and had a few pictures. Not surprised as the camera was a camera a store demo model. I put my card in and noticed that the date and time had not been set up. When I went to set date and time, it would not let me complete the set up. It kept defaulting to initial program default date and giving me a message that it was incomplete. I tried no less than 5 ways after turning it on and off, snapping a few pictures and then re trying as well as taking the battery out and reinserting. Nothing worked. Right then and there I almost put it back in the box and left for Taiwan with my trusted EM1. I really wanted to try the GX8 though. It felt good in my hand. It felt balanced with the 25 f1.4 and I really liked the sound of the shutter (a critical feature for me). I did a hard factory reset on the camera and after that, everything was OK. Alright then, I decided I would give it a go. Just in case I had a problem while abroad, I threw my little GM5 body in my bag as a back up.
I must admit that when I opened the box, that the GX8 did look quite large. My first impression when grabbing the camera and holding it to my eye was that it felt pretty darn good. Good grip. It did feel a little too thick but not so thick to really put me off. I set the camera next to my EM1 and it really wasn't that big. The hump on the EM1 is actually taller. I think some of the bulkiness feel has to do with the square design, the molded in thumb grip on the back side and some of the hard lines of the visual language of the industrial design of the camera. But again, I liked it. Your results may vary depending on your preferences.
Whenever I set up a new camera for testing, I try to see if I can navigate and operate it without viewing the owners manual. This camera set up easily. Menus, although deep as one has something like 9 pages, were organized into 5 tabs and given my history with Panasonic, super easy to navigate. No problem. Super simple. Now it was time for travel and shooting.
I like to write and share my thoughts on cameras but I think it is important to know that I shoot only for myself and for the joy of shooting. I shut my camera business down 2 years ago. I shoot for the joy and experience. I find photography mentally intoxicating. It brings me so much satisfaction and peace. Therefor, any gear that I just don't like or get along with is out, even if it takes pleasing to me pictures. If I do not enjoy shooting with it I won't use it. If I don't like the shutter sound I will not use it. This is where the GX8 really came into play for me. I just love holding it and shooting AND I love the images it produces. It's a winner for me.
Here is my bullet point style things i like and things i don't like or could be improved. Remember, this is only after 10 days of shooting it.
Things I like, love or appreciate:
- Rangefinder style. For my everyday camera, this is important to me. It is just my personal preference.
- The EVF is huge and fantastic.
- Manual focus implementation with adapted glass. This is unbelievable really. Put the camera to your eye with your favorite legacy piece of glass, touch the LCD with your thumb to determine focus point, release your thumb and the focus points magnifies, focus and shoot. It is a stand out feature for me. So much so that if I did not already own autofocus lenses I might not need too. It is that good and that fast.
- New 20MP sensor. Folks say there isn't really a difference, but I think there is a small difference that is noticeable and the few extra MP's give you just a bit more flexibility in cropping if needed.
- Hands down the best and simplest to navigate in camera RAW converter I have ever seen or used. This coupled with decent WiFi connectivity and image transfer made it a joy to use. The gallery below is from my computer and images are processed using Lightroom and VSCO presets that I have modified to my taste. A few of the images, though, are processed in camera and sent to phone for sharing while traveling were really close to my final edits shared below. If the in camera processing had the ability to add vignetting and grain, I might not have had to use Lightroom at all. In fact, a few of the images in the gallery below are straight in camera jpeg conversions.
- Autofocus - There are many things to like about the autofocus including it's blazing speed, it's low light ability and the quick touch screen focus point placement while the camera is up to your eye. I have shot about 50,000 frames with the Olympus EM1 so I appreciate quick autofocus, but I do think this exceeds the EM1 for single point autofocus speed. I have not tested tracking or continuous focus.
- Shutter sound & silent mode. I can't even tell you how many cameras I have tried. This one is pretty darn good and pretty quiet and when I need silence I have a custom function button programmed and 100% complete silence is only a button click away.
Things I don't like or need improvement:
- The flippy screen. I just don't need and want that on my camera. I'd prefer the tilting screen. I know many prefer the flip out screen though.
- It's just a hair too thick feeling for my preferences. I think this is probably related to the flippy/floppy screen but it is not so thick that I didn't buy one.
- In camera Image Stabilization is appreciated but after using the Olympus cameras it just isn't that good. I have not tried with any of Panasonic's "dual IS" capable lenses so I cannot comment on this yet.
- When disconnecting the WiFi and turning the camera off, the WiFi stays on and stays connected even if the camera shuts down. I have to remove battery often to break the connection. Sometimes it disconnects. Others times it does not. This same frustration is true on my GM5 as well. Either I am doing something wrong on both or this is a problem that Panasonic needs to fix. Anyone reading this have the same issue or know how to properly disconnect/shut down the WiFi connection.
- When shooting with manual focus adapted glass, every time you turn the camera on it asks you if you want to change your focal length setting. That's nice, but it's annoying and slows you down. It goes away with just touching the shutter, but the menus are simple enough and you can quickly change that if you change lenses. It's just annoying and I'd love for a firmware update at some point to fix this.
- Tilting EVF. I just don't need it or want it. I would prefer the EVF to be fixed and that the LCD allowed this tilting for waist/low level shooting. Some say the tilting EVF allows for more anonymous shooting but I don't get that. You still need to hold the camera to your eye or bend over if you want low level shooting. I'd prefer to just hold the camera at my waist with a flip out screen and shoot that way.
Other notes and things I still don't know about:
- Video capabilities. I just don't shoot video so cannot comment on this camera in this area. I am a stills shooter
- Continuous autofocus - Have not testing this yet.
- Battery life. I have turned off image preview and while I have good overall luck while traveling and not having battery issues, I truly have not tested battery life. Time will tell here now that I purchased this camera.
- Dual IS - I will need to borrow or rent a lens or two to try this function out
- High ISO - While I shot many images up to ISO1600 and a few at 3200, I haven't really compared or looked at them too closely. More high ISO shooting is needed but I was pleased with many images at 1600 and my either the Oly 17mm at f1.8 or the Panasonic 25mm at f1.4.
So...here are some images from my trip. I processed these to my liking in Lightroom. They are all 1500 wide at 75% quality. Hope you enjoy them.
All in all, the Panasonic GX8 has met my high expectations and surpassed them in some cases. I enjoy shooting the camera immensely and can't wait to learn it more. I will continue to use my Olympus EM1 with Olympus Pro zooms for events and sports photography. I will use the GX8 as my primary shooter with primes and adapted glass. I will use my GM5 as my super tiny and on the bike or in the pack camera.
As always, let me know if you have any questions or can offer help or insight on some of my quibbles and problems that I have encountered.