Panasonic GX8: Brief thoughts

I’ve added a Panasonic GX8 to my camera bag. Firstly, this is to supplement for gig photography, replacing the E-M5 with my current X100S + 2 x MFT arrangement and ultimately allowing a 3 x MFT bag when lenses allow. Secondly, I’ve been working on a video related project that I’ll describe another time.

What’s good

  • It’s a surprisingly affordable way to get access to the new 20MP MFT sensors. With cashback deals and Amazon vouchers you can end up with a body-only GX8 for under £500 or with a kit-lens for £550. That’s half the price of the conceptually similar Olympus PEN-F. It’s also very close, or even cheaper, than the GX80 which is supposed to sit lower in the range
  • For photography use it seems really solid. Autofocus is fast and accurate. Not much to say really, it gets on with the job as well as the Olympus cameras
  • The viewfinder is the best I’ve used in an mirrorless camera. It doesn’t make a huge practical difference, but it is nice
  • The video support is far, far better than anything else I own. It’s 4K to start with, but with all the helpful tools like live histogram, peaking and zebras. It lacks V-Log and the 10bit HDMI output[1] of the GH4, but then it is, again, around half the price
  • The live video monitor via tablet app is very cool
  • The articulated screen works nicely for video

What’s not so good

  • It’s a real brick. Much bigger than the Olympus E-M5 and close enough to the E-M1 which has far superior physical ergonomics. It doesn’t seem like a big size difference on paper, but in person it feels oversized. You get a few more buttons than the E-M5 and an exposure compensation wheel, but otherwise it’s not really obvious where the space has gone
  • Despite the GX8 being huge, the card slot is integrated with the battery compartment, so you can’t change cards whilst mounted to a tripod
  • Style-wise, it’s somewhere between a Pentax K01 and an 1980s Volvo
  • The shutter, to my ears, is a bit louder and clunkier sounding than the E-M1
  • No "0 second anti-shock" option for the shutter. There is the automatic electronic shutter mode, but that’s not as useful for gig photography which often involves LED lighting
  • The 4K video uses a section of the sensor so produces an overall crop of around 2.5x versus the standard 2x of MFT[2]. This makes standard zooms quite long in small spaces
  • No high bitrate HD recording. The GH3 has better HD format choices, although GX8 4K downscaled to HD is better if you can spare the processing
  • The articulated screen is less convenient than a tilting one for photography

Conclusions

  1. The E-M1 is still my preferred photography camera
  2. ...but the GX8 is perfectly fine in it’s own right
  3. The GX8 is better than the E-M5 and X100S for photography
  4. The GX8 is the best camera I own for video, by some margin
  5. It should either be smaller, or have better ergonomics to compensate for its size
  1. The 10-bit 4:2:2 was the only thing that made me consider the GH4. But for this benefit to be realised you need an Atomos-type recorder and overall you’ve spent 3x the cost of the GX8. Also, I suspect Panasonic cameras will start doing 10-bit 4:2:2 internally in a generation or two, just because it would be a relatively easy way to show improvement compared to, for example, a big jump in sensor tech [Back]
  2. The GH4 and G7 have similar, but not identical, crops for 4K video [Back]