If the Panasonic Lumix GX85 is an update to any camera currently in the company’s mirrorless-interchangeable lineup, it’s really the G7, even though that model is still current and less than a year old. But with an $800 price for the kit, an electronic viewfinder, fast continuous shooting and 4K video, it fits right into that camera’s demographic: an enthusiast-friendly model with a feature set that should also appeal to families and travelers at a reasonable price. Plus, it has a more attractive design.
I don’t yet have prices for Australia or the UK, but its US price with the 12-32mm f3.5-5.6 power-zoom lens directly converts to £560 and AU$1,050. Keep in mind that Panasonic rarely offer the consumer models as body-only in the US, but frequently does in other regions. That lens is compact, especially for its 24-64mm equivalent focal length, and essentially turns the camera into an oversized point-and-shoot. It’s slated to ship at the end of May.
Panasonic also announced a new flash, the $230 DMW-FL200L (GN20), which has a tilting head for bouncing light, and an LCD array for continuous video lighting. It also supports wireless control and triggering. The back has a retro design, all dials rather than an LCD; it’s basic, but easy to understand.
In addition to some hardware that Panasonic debuts in the GX85, it incorporates all the latest Panasonic features, including 4K burst modes and post focus as implemented in the ZS100.
What’s newSensor. Although it’s still 16 megapixels, not the new 20.3MP sensor that’s in the GX8, it’s a new version of the Four Thirds-size sensor that forgoes an antialiasing filter (aka OLPF). Cameras use them to blur edges slightly, which removes some color artifacts (moire and false color) that would normally appear, but you sacrifice sharpness. The new version of the company’s Venus image-processing engine which is in the GX85 has moire-reduction built in to compensate.Stabilization. This model uses hybrid stabilization, a combination of 5-axis sensor-shift (which Panasonic calls BIS, for Body Image Stabilizer) plus optical stabilization if a supporting lens is attached (similar to Olympus’ Sync IS). It’s definitely a useful feature. Unlike Olympus’ implementation, though, Panasonic lenses with OIS will be able to support it via a firmware update.Vibration-reduced shutter. Panasonic claims its new electromagnetic shutter mechanism, which swaps springs for electronics and is made of lighterweight carbon fiber, reduces shutter shock by about 10 percent. In practice, that should mean sharper photos at slower shutter speeds.Wi-Fi update. With this camera, Panasonic introduces password-free connection between the camera and your mobile devices.
Overall, it sounds like a solid mix of features and performance specs, though there are some potential pitfalls. First, the battery life: it’s rated at 290 shots, which is low even by ILC standards. The sensor is also a wildcard, since it’s the first AA-filter free one for Micro Four Thirds. And I suspect some potential buyers of this camera would prefer a flip-up display for selfies and groupies. Still, not compared with similarly priced direct competitors like the Olympus E-M10 Mark II.
Panasonic’s marketing will stress the video aspects of the camera, which makes sense given that it’s the only ILC in its price range with full 4K video support; the Samsung NX500 does and is still available, but it lacks a viewfinder. Plus no one knows what’s up with Samsung’s camera division these days.