User Review: Panasonic Lumix GX8

Marina - Port Area - Valencia (DD) ( Panasonic Lumix GX8 & mZuiko 60mm F2.8 Macro Prime)
Morning Glory (Wings Tip over Essex) (DD) Panasonic Lumix GX8 & mZuiko 17mm F1.8 Prime Lens
Cafe (Valencia) (High ISO) (DD) (Panasonic Lumix GX8 Panasonic 14mm Pancake Prime)
Candid (Plaza De La Virgin) (DD) (Panasonic Lumix GX8 & mZuiko 60mm Macro Prime)
Chopping up octopus (Mercado Central - Valencia) (DD) Panasonic Lumix GX8
Panasonic GX8 User Review : Panasonic’s Best MFT Effort Yet
Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX8 Review Image
The other month I had a couple days in sunny Valencia and whilst there I was fortunate enough to have the use of Panasonic’s new 20mp MFT (Micro Four Third) rangefinder styled Panasonic Lumix GX8, a major update on the previous GX7.
The headline feature of the new GX8 is the brand new 20mp four third sensor (the highest resolution for a four third sensor) but as I discovered this new Sony derived sensor doesn’t really offer any easily apparent “improvement” in resolution over the older 16mp sensor in the GX7 or other MFT models.
No its in the general handling and ergonomics that the larger GX8 shines which together with an improved AF performance all add up to a very well rounded and rewarding camera.
Throw in an excellent EVF (that’s tiltable – very useful)  a touch sensitive (ie touch focus) fully articulated screen, 4K video (with the ability to “pull” a 8mp still), a free firmware update that allows post capture focus, Wi-Fi, silent shooting up to 1/16000 and a weather sealed body and your left with what is probably Panasonic best MFT to date.
In my experience the GX8 is easily a match for say the Olympus OMD EM5 II ( a camera I own) and in some key areas it ends up trumping its Olympus rival.  In some quarters there have been moans that the GX models have grown in size but I actually preferred the physical set up of the GX8, the increase in body size and adoption of a more substantial hand grip really added to it overall usability.
As for image quality, well from base ISO to ISO 1600 images are crisp, very detailed and when shooting RAW display a reasonable dynamic range. The jump to 20mp hasn’t unduly effected the cameras noise performance although Panasonic’s in-camera noise reduction  can be a tad bit aggressive and to my eye Olympus’s 16mp sensor produces a bit less noise and / or Olympus’s noise reduction is more subtle leaving high ISO images with a bit more detail.
So any moans? Very few in fact. Panasonic’s in-body stabilisation is definitely not as effective as Olympus’s hugely impressive 5-axis system and the GX8’s continuous AF performance is not as impressive as some of its rivals but that’s about it, the GX8 is a very accomplished performer.
I used the GX8 with 3 primes, a Panasonic 14mm f2.5,  Olympus 17mm f1.8 prime and an Olympus  60mm f2.8 Macro primes but many potential owners of Panasonic’s own primes and zooms would perform equally as well on the camera and I’d strongly recommend buying the Panasonic 12-35mm F2.8 zoom to us as the standard zoom. Only large ( or relatively large) telephoto’s would likely unbalance the camera’s handling.
So there you have it. The Panasonic GX8 is probably Panasonic’s best MFT effort to date  and possibly depending upon ones requirements the best overall MFT camera on the market at the moment (especially if you want to combine stills and video).
Mark Baynham ( December 2015)

Canon EOS 7DII User Review

Canon EOS 7D Mk II User Review
Still Canon’s best APS-C camera but is it the best on the market?
Canon EOS 7D Mark II Review
Last week I was loaned a Canon EOS 7DII the company’s top end cropped DSLR for a user test by those kind folks at Digital Depot (Stevenage).
Before I go any further, I have a confession. Not only do I own a Canon 7D (having moved from a 350D to a 40D) but I also possess some excellent EF / EFS optics, so I’m a Canon user and therefore bound to love the new 7D model, right?
Well not necessarily because the fact is these days I rarely use my bulky Canon DSLR, preferring my MFT (Micro Four Third) cameras, namely the Olympus OMD EM5/ EM5II. Besides whilst the 7D was ground breaking way back in  2009 (when I purchased) and was easily the best APS-C / Cropped DSLR on the market at the time, that market has moved on considering these past few years the newer &D model has an awful lot to live up to in order to regain the top spot for Canon.
Some specs of the new 7D2 read like a enthusiasts wish list, 10fps, 65 point (all cross-type) AF system, dual CF & SD card slots, built in GPS, a 5D3 control layout, weather sealed body, new iTR metering sensor (with face detection & subject recognition and tracking) plus a new 20mp dual -pixel CMOS sensor.
But it’s also what the 7D2 lacks that is telling, i.e. no Wi-Fi and a fixed rear screen which lacks touch capacity and no 4K video capture, features which many of today’s semi pro- enthusiast expect or even demand.
Overall Conclusion:
First its plain that the new 7D2 is a significantly superior camera to the original 7D, its handling, performance and “feel” oozes “Pro”, in this sense it’s a class leading APS-C camera.
The very comprehensive internal revamps and additions have all combine to produce a highly competent performer that comes across very much as a “workhorse”, which is no bad thing.
Any one coming from the 7D will immediately feel comfortable  with the 7D2 and even owners of 40/50D’s will feel right at home, yes it’s a feature packed camera but its easy enough camera to get to grips with a bit of effort.
Image quality produced by the new sensor (well its not new it’s actually a 70D sensor?) is noticeably superior to that produced by the older 7D especially the newer camera’s high ISO / low light performance. The slight increase in sensor resolution is useful but hardly mind blowing and Canon used have gone further in this respect.
So image quality is excellent but (and here’s the “but”), the image quality from the 7D2 is not an outright class leader, in particular the sensor’s dynamic range performance is not as good as the competition.
Thames View (DD) (Canon 7DII & 35mm F2 Prime)
Bomber Command Memorial (Hyde Park Corner) (DD) (Canon 7DII & EF 17-40mm Zoom)
The bottom line is that outright sensor performance lags a little bit behind the latest 24mp sensors’ found in Nikon and Pentax DSLR’s, and that’s before one considers the awesome 28mp sensor found in the Samsung NX1.
Ideally Canon really should have put some clear water between the 7D2 and its own 70D model by empowering the 7D2 a more resolute and competitive sensor, why they didn’t is a mystery.
So is it worth current 7D owners upgrading to the 7DII? Yes, the new model is an excellent camera and Canon’s best APS-C cameras to date. Anyone into wildlife photography or sports photography will love the 7DII.
But (here’s that “but” again) I can’t help feeling that Canon were over conservative, far too cautious, even maybe a bit short-sighted when it came to the 7D2. Despite its great performance I just can’t shake the feeling that the Canon EOS 7DII could have been an even better camera with just a little bit more application from Canon. In school terms the new Canon EOS 7DII is an -A student, it’s a “silver” medal winner, close to being an absolute winner but just lacking that final “wow” factor, which is a pity.
Which begs the question, would I be tempted to upgrade from my current 7D to the new 7DII? Well it’s a tough call but all things considered I have to say I would purchase the newer camera because overall it’s a superior model to the older model in pretty much every regard.
As to whether it’s future proof in the medium – long term and is able to remain highly competitive against future models from the opposition is another question all together.
Mark Baynham (October 2015)


Panasonic Lumix GM5 User Review

Small but rather fun, proof that size isn’t everything.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-GM5 Review Image
User review Panasonic Lumix GM5
Last week I had a trip to Antwerp (Belgium) in the company of the tiny Micro Four Thirds (MFT)  wonder from Panasonic, the Panasonic Lumix GM5, a tiny EVF (with eye sensor) equipped, 16mp, lens inter-changeable CSC / mirror less camera which when paired with a 12-32mm zoom really does fit into a coat pocket.
The GM5 is one of the smallest system cameras around and replaces the equally tiny GM1 but adds two new features over the previous model, namely an electronic viewfinder and a hotshoe.Like the previous model the touchscreen remains fixed and although there’s built-in WiFi like the GM1, there is still no NFC capacity. Movies are captured at a maximum of 1080 / 60p, but unlike Panasonic’s recent releases there’s no 4k video (as found in the LX100 say).
Line of Beer Pumps (The Harp Pub - Charing Cross) (High ISO) (DD) (Panasonic Lumix GM5 & 12-32mm Pancake Zoom)
Glass of De Konnick (Grote Markt) (DD) (Panasonic Lumix GM5 & 12-32mm Pancake Zoom)
The diminutive Panasonic GM5 packs an impressive number of features and capacities into its small form factor with the end result perfectly combining the advantages of a small compact body but with the adaptability and flexibility of using different if required. I especially enjoyed “silent” mode which enable very discrete shooting.
Image quality from the GM5 is good as per other Panasonic / Olympus 16mp cameras especially bearing in mind that it’s physically no bigger than some compacts notably the Fuji X30 or Canon G7 X.  The GM5 came paired with a 12-32mm kit lens which as I know from previous use is a very good optical performer despite its size. The GM5 offers plenty of scene and filter modes to play with or you can utilize RAW capture and edit post capture.
 The Cathedral - Antwerp (DD) (Panasonic Lumix GM5 & 12-32mm Zoom)
Despite its physical size handling and ergonomics are pretty good although I still think some sort of finger grip would be a useful addition.All things considered the only obvious moans with the GM5 includes adoption of a fixed screen (it really should be at least tilting if not fully articulated), a lack of built in flash ( the GM1 has one), relatively low res EVF (its both smaller and of lower resolution than that in the Sony RX100 III and IV), poor battery life (you’ll be lucky to get just over 200 shots on one charge) and the reliance of what is slowly looking more and more like an aging 16mp sensor.
Personally I’d prefer it if the GM5 was actually slightly larger, had a grip, better EVF and sported even a small built in flash, the icing on the cake would be the adoption of Panasonic’s newer 20mp MFT sensor as found on the Panasonic GX8. Maybe these features will appear in the GM6?
These niggles aside the Panasonic Lumix GM5 is actually a winner representing a sensible and pragmatic compromise between size and performance. In fact the GM5 is an ideal choice for anyone seeking a portable city break camera or as a carry anytime device.
I own a Panasonic LX100 and there are some obvious comparisons between the fixed lens LX100 and the GM5. The LX100 sports a superior “fast” fixed zoom lens, a better EVF and can shot 4K video, whilst the GM5 counters by offering the flexibility  of being able to change lenses (NB: you wont want to stick a big optic on the tiny frame of the GM5 it really is tiny). In fact as I discovered you can squeeze a GM5 with 12-32 zoom plus say a Panasonic 14mm F2.5 and 20mm F1.7 into a small camera bag no problems at all, impressive.
Verdict Panasonic Lumix GM5:
Although far from perfect the Panasonic GM5 represents a portable carry anytime camera that also happens to offer the occasional flexibility of fixing say small “fast” primes onto it, in this respect the GM5 is a winner.
Whilst there are superior cameras out there that offer a similar focal length via fixed zooms (i.e. the Panasonic LX100 or Sony RX100 IV) the GM5 has a certain “charm” about it and is the ideal travel companion if you simply don’t want the bulk of a large DSLR, or are seeking a really discrete camera to have about you which also offers the option of attaching different lenses onto it.
Mark Baynham (September 2015)


Panasonic Lumix G7 User Review

Panasonic G7 User Review
Panasonic Lumix DMC-G7 Review Image
Panasonic DMC Lumix G7: A genuine DSLR rival
The other week I spent some time using the new Panasonic DMC Lumix G7, Panasonic’s new Micro Four Third (MFT) entry – mid level mirrorless CSC camera that’s meant to compete with the more traditional DSLR’s from the like of Canon, Nikon and Pentax.
The G7 builds upon the previous G6, retaining a similar 16mp MFT CMOS sensor but adding a lot of features seen in the Panasonic LX100 and recent Panasonic GX8 particularly the latest must have feature of 4K video (including the ability to pull an 8mp still).
Other features includes a high res 2.3k OLED EVF, selectable electronic shutter, built in flash, a dedicated hot shoe, silent mode, a fully articulated  1040k dot 3” touch screen, Wi-Fi,  full PSAM capacity, custom modes, RAW capture,  HDR capture, various filter & effect / scene modes plus  a good smattering of direct, programmable buttons.
Physically the G7 is highly compact especially if you pair it with Panasonic’s 12-32mm pancake zoom or one of Panasonic’s pancake prime lenses. All in all the G7 doesn’t want for much with a specification that is highly competitive for the intended market.
However the camera does have a rather plastic feel about it, don’t get me wrong it’s screwed together well enough but the body isn’t weather sealed and not what one would describe as robust. The flip side is that the G7 is a light and really shoulder friendly camera.
Right let’s cut to the chase, the Panasonic G7 does improved significantly upon the previous G6 when it comes to features but image quality has only marginally improved but improved it has. Panasonic’s venerable Sony derived 16mp sensor is beginning to fall behind the latest APS-C sensors in relation to resolution and high ISO performance.
Images offer acceptable levels of detail and in the real world and are devoid of noise up until ISO 1600. Thereafter noise does creep in but is not over intrusive until ISO3200. Colour saturation in standard colour mode is very close to natural / neutral and you can always vary the look by a whole host of colour effects.
Tube Carriage (DD) (Panasonic Lumix G7 & 20mm Pancake Prime)
Pint of Samuel Adams (DD) (Panasonic Lumix G7 & mZuiko 12mm F2 Prime)
St Nicholas Church Stevenage Old Town (DD) (Panasonic G7 & mZuiko 12mm F2 Prime)
Tilly (DD) (Panasonic DMC Lumix G7 & 20mm Prime)
Trafalgar Square (DD)  (Panasonic Lumix G7 & mZuiko 17mm Prime)
Auto focus is seriously snappy & flexible (via spot focus which also allows focus peaking), with a “low Light AF mode” proving useful in dull or low light when you want to be discrete. The AF set up is highly flexible and follows the set up available on the LX100 which is a set I am rather impressed with.
Metering proved generally predictable and the white balance performance was reasonably accurate under most lighting conditions. Like focus, metering & WB can be tweaked to taste or you can shoot RAW. The presence of a very decent EVF and fully articulated touch screen are the icing on the cake for what proved to be a decent performer.
General handling and ergonomics are greatly helped by the presence of several direct / programmable buttons (including a Q-button) which are sensibly placed around the camera body. All in all the Panasonic G7 is a well thought out and executed camera so Panasonic has clearly listened to feedback from their current customers / users. 
4K Modes 
If there is one area where the G7 completely outperforms the opposition it’s by offering various 4K (UHD) modes, including “4K Burst” & “4K Pre-Burst”. The ability to shoot say 4K video and then extract an 8mp could be a real deal clincher for many as this capacity does open up a number of genuinely exciting possibilities for action and wildlife shooters.
So are there any moans or niggles? Well the G7 lacks any form of in-body stabilisation and while most Panasonic MFT lenses possess stabilisation, I used non stabilised Olympus Zuiko lenses during my review and the set up was not always ideal. It’s about time that Panasonic adopted the superb in-camera Olympus 5-axis system in all their cameras. I’d also prefer it if the G7 had some degree of weather sealing and as I have already hinted Panasonic should introduce its new 20mp MFT sensor in all its up and coming releases.
The Panasonic G7:
The Panasonic Lumix G7 is a nicely rounded camera and is a powerful and versatile photographic tool in its own right. In many aspects is superior to its obvious rivals, especially in offering 4K modes and a fully articulated touch screen. Image quality is overall very good whilst the camera offers first rate handling & manages all this with a physical proportion that offers the perfect compromise between these key requirements.  With access to a wonderful lens range the G7 should be seriously considered if you are in the market for an entry / mid level DSLR like CSC or indeed any entry / mid level camera full stop.
Mark Baynham (August 2015)


Canon PowerShot G3 X User Review

Canon PowerShot G3X User Review
So near yet so far, a tricked missed
The other week I spent a few days in the picturesque Belgium of Bruges and was fortunate (on the whole) to have the loan of the new Canon PowerShot G3 X compact super zoom thanks to the guys at Digital Depot (Stevenage)
The G3X is a high end / enthusiast orientated compact super zoom packing the same 20mp 1” back-lit CMOS sensor of Canon’s high compact the G7X and what initially appears to be an impressive 24-600mm (equivalent) F2.8 – 5.6 zoom lens. I say “initially” for as I soon discovered in the real world although the focal length proved useful in reality is that the lens isn’t really “fast” throughout the focal range and the Sony RX10 II trounces the Canon with a constant f2.8 zoom lens.
The new G3 X is no doubt intended to do battle with the likes of the Panasonic FZ1000 and new Sony RX10 II (also both equipped with 1-inch sensors), by offering the same high image quality but in a robust body that is physically smaller.
So its win, win for the G3 X? Well not exactly as real world shooting soon proved, for while it has plenty of scene modes, Wi-Fi, a high res tilting touch screen, it does lack what turned out to be fundamental feature, namely a built in viewfinder and as I soon discovered this lack of viewfinder really limits the usability of that monster zoom.
Right cutting to the chase unsurprisingly the Canon G3X produces excellent images which are unsurprisingly near identical to those produced by smaller G7X.
In fact JPEGS from the G3 X are pretty much the same as those from the Sony RX10 not to mention the Panasonic FZ1000, in other words very good and not far off from what can achieve with a Four Third sensor equipped camera or even older APS-S DSLR;s. But there is a caveat, this image quality is best with in the ISI100-800 range and isn’t maintained beyond IS O800. JPEGS are detailed and noise free up to ISO 800 with 1600 ISO and (with some processing) ISO 3200 being useable (just).
Getting Ready to Canoe The Thames (DD) (Canon PowerShot G3X)
Tilly ( The Neighbours 3-legged cat) (DD) (Canon PowerShot G3 X)
Child Portrait (BW) Canon PowerShot G3X Compact Super-Zoom (DD) (Cropped)
The G3 X records RAW and employs Canon’s latest Digic 6 processor, this results in top notch image quality from a camera which despite its relatively small form has an incredibly useful zoom. On the zoom, the 24-600mm F2.8 – 5.6 image stabilised lens actually delivered a very credible optical performance, it’s a good lens that’s for but it’s not a “fast” one, very quickly as you zoom you lose F2.8 and this then means you have to up the ISO. The bottom line is I reckon the zooms in the RX10 (Mk I & II) and Panasonic FZ1000 are superior in real world shooting.
Elsewhere the G3 X has a nicely resolute tilting rear touch screen, a small built in flash (that can be manually tilted to give a “bounce” effect) plus a hot shoe for Canon Speedlite flash guns.
The Belfry Tower ( Market Square - Bruges - Belgium) (DD) Canon PowerShot G3X
Church of Our Lady (Bruges - Belgium) (DD) Canon PowerShot G3X
Dark & Blond Zot (Bruges - Belgium) (DD) Canon PowerShot G3X
Glass of Chouffe (Belgium Dark) (DD) Canon G3X
Glass of Zot (Blond Beer) Half Moon Brewery - Bruges (DD) (Canon PowerShot G3X)
Historic - Church of Our Lady (13th Century - 122m Tall) (DD) Canon G3X
Physically the G3 X is robust and solid (its weather sealed) and the placement of direct buttons are workman like delivering reasonable handling while the menu system will be immediately recognisable to any canon user as will the various scene and effect modes.
So far it’s all good but are there any moans? Well there are and one in particular has a huge bearing on the G3 X aspirations to be a proper enthusiast camera, namely the absence of a built in EVF.
Now I could live with no direct ISO button (or the fact you can’t set limits in auto ISO), the fact that the rear screen is only tiltable and not fully articulated, I can accept (just) the absence of a full printed instruction manual or even a CD to down load Canon’s RAW converter or the fact that battery life is pretty poor, or that the lens isn’t “fast” throughout its focal range, but no EVF, utter madness.
With such a long zoom it proved a real challenge to maintain a steady composition resulting in more then my fair share of blurred images, time and time again I kept bringing the G3 X up to my eye, the G3 X is screaming out for a built -in EVF.
The fact that Canon requires you to part with close to £200 for an external clip on EVF ( EVF- DC1) that slides onto the hot shoe is to be frank an absolute liberty, especially on a camera already costing  over £700 in the first place. If you end up buying an external EVF the combo creeps very close to the £100 mark, ridiculous, the G3 X is no £1000 camera.
For an enthusiast to part with £900 plus for a bridge camera they are going to expect (and deserve) a built in EVF and I suspect 4K video. At the end of the day it’s that simple inexplicable omission that means the likes of Panasonic FZ1000 and Sony RX10 II leave the G3 X trailing in their wake (and the fact they shoot 4K and have fully articulated rear screens only reinforces their dominance)
So there you have it, the new Canon G3 X could be (no its should be) a potential class leader, the concept behind it I applaud and the camera can deliver very good image quality but like Canon’s forage into the mirror-less market it ends up almost like a half hearted effort which ends up over priced, under featured (for the target market) and frustratingly all for no obvious logical or conceivable reason.
Canon PowerShot G3 X:
The Canon PowerShot G3 X is a pretty good camera but ends up being so hamstrung by lack of a built-in EVF that all the good features it possesses (zoom range, great lens, top notch image quality) count for nothing. It’s over priced and at the same time its direct competitors offer far better alternatives.
Canon’s concept of a relatively compact weather sealed, long zoom camera with a large (ish) 1-inch sensor to act as an all in one solution for the enthusiast looked great on paper, but by leaving out a built in EVF it ends up as both a frustrating and mystifying near miss.