I get asked about cameras quite often, and inevitably the question about what cameras I use comes up. I shoot Panasonic cameras. These are compact interchangeable lens cameras using the Micro Four Thirds mount. The camera I am currently shooting is the G7. I have had this camera for a year now and really enjoy using it. In fact I liked it so much I have two of them! After a year's worth of shooting, I think I have formed a useful enough opinion of this camera that I can share. So, here's my real world review of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-G7.
The G7 is a very unassuming camera really. Positioned as a mid-tier camera in the Lumix m4/3 lineup, Panasonic's G series have always been a sweet spot of price/performance/function. By this I mean they are reasonably priced, yet often feature packed. In my opinion the G7 fully embraces this philosophy.
The camera body is a mini-DSLR style, with grip and center viewfinder hump. The grip is nicely sculpted and feels really wonderful in hand. I dare to say this is one of the most comfortable cameras I've ever held. The body is simply jam packed with buttons, dials, and switches. Direct control points are all within easy reach and makes the shooting experience efficient and seamless. The twin control dials on top of the camera are well made and have a lovely smooth, yet clicky feel to them. The main mode dial and drive mode dial on the other side have a much stronger resistance to them, to prevent accidental turning. Did I mention all the programmable function buttons on this thing? There are a total of six physical function buttons on the body. Six! I find them very useful for assigning functions I might not always use but can get at quickly if needed.
The 2.4 million dot resolution electronic viewfinder is large and bright and very easy to look through. This is an OLED unit so you will not see any tearing or rainbow effect common on older viewfinders. The articulated touch screen display is bright and vivid as well. The touch screen functionalities are a nice supplement to the hard control points of this camera and makes for a very efficient shooting experience. I love how the screen remains active while looking through the viewfinder and acts as a touch pad for your thumb to select focus points. Panasonic pioneered this function back with the G5 and Olympus had just recently implemented this in their newer models. Frankly I'm surprised there aren't more mirroless cameras with this ability.
As wonderful as this camera is, not all is peachy with the G7. The body is unfortunately made of plastic. Build quality is good but the material is nothing worth praising about. In fact I do feel a bit of flex and can detect some creaking at the base of the grip sometimes, especially with a heavy lens attached. I supposed the up side is that the camera is extremely light due to the plastic construction, although it almost feels too light especially with a small lens mounted. The lack of weather sealing is also disappointing but cameras in this class tend to be not weather sealed.
Another missing feature would be the lack of in body image stabilization. Panasonic had solely relied on in lens stabilization in the past, but recent models seem to indicate they will be incorporating this in in more (hopefully all) future models to come.
The sensor is the 16 megapixel sensor found in the GX7. The base ISO is now 200 and tops out at 25,600. Who shoots at 25,600? Not I. I do however, like to shoot at low ISOs and the base 200 kind of bums me out. I understand improving high ISO is important but doing it at the expense of base ISO makes me sad. I generally shoot in good light so I hardly go above 1600, and would love to have native ISO 100 back. Unfortunately this might indicate a limitation of the Four Thirds sensor.
Anyways high ISO performance has indeed improved over previous models, and from what I can tell, even bests the flagship GH4 in some ways. Everybody calm down, these are not massive differences and if you do a lot of low light photography perhaps a full frame camera will better suit your needs.
Please note: I am not a pixel peeper, so don't expect test charts and image comparisons. There are other places you can find that stuff. The G7 RAW files are quite easy to work with and have plenty of latitude for shadow recovery. Highlights are a bit harder to do, so I would recommend exposing for highlights and pulling shadows in post. As far as noise levels go, I find noise shows up from 400 ISO on. That sounds terrible but frankly it's not so bad and easily removed in post. And I don't find the noise very offensive until it gets kinda ugly at 6400. Even then it's still usable to my eye. Other people might have higher standards though.
A camera is only as good as the lens you put in front of it. The Micro Four Thirds system is supported by a very healthy lens ecosystem. Due to the involvement of Olympus and Panasonic, as well as third party manufacturers. I find focus speeds very fast with the G7 using a variety of lenses from Panasonic, Olympus, and Sigma. In single point focus (the way I shoot), focus lock is blazing fast and accurate.
Video focusing is a different story. The camera hunts and is rather slow while in video mode. I find this ironic since Panasonic is a big player in the video arena. Speaking of video, the G7 shoots gorgeous 4k video. It must be seen to be believed!
A capable, easy to use camera for both expert and beginner alike. Good image quality further enhanced by availability of excellent native lenses. Incredible 4K video is icing on the cake. Besides the plasticy build, and not great high ISO performance, I find it difficult to find fault with this camera!
Thus concludes my first review! I hope to update this blog more often with posts, reviews, and the like. Of course feedback is always welcome! Thanks for reading and happy shooting!