Panasonic GX7 focuses on style-conscious photo enthusiasts

July 31, 2013 11:00 PM PDT / Updated: July 31, 2013 11:00 PM PDT
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX7 boasts features that put it more in line with a rangefinder-style camera than any other G-series that has come before it. Lexy Savvides/CNET
The U.S. version will only come in two-toned black and silver. Panasonic

Panasonic seems to finally be seriously going after the photo in-crowd with the Lumix DMC-GX7, its replacement for the relatively old DMC-GX1. While its cameras have long had an enthusiast-friendly feature set, Panasonic is putting its latest technology in a more attractive body that competes directly in the hot retro-enthusiast segment against models like the Fujifilm X-E1 and Olympus PEN E-P5.

Two years is a long time in this rapidly growing part of the market, but the Lumix DMC-GX7 looks like a lot more than a me-too catchup update. Though it uses a 16-megapixel sensor, it's a new version that incorporates a variety of technological updates, albeit nothing that sounds particularly novel. Panasonic claims a 6dB increase in signal-to-noise over the GX1 and a 10 percent increase in sensitivity and saturation, thanks to a combination of deeper and wider photodiodes; rounder and taller microlenses (for better focusing of light on the diodes); a dedicated circuit to separate the noisiest signal from the rest; and the latest version of its Venus Engine image processor (the same as in the GF6 and G6).

The Lumix DMC-GX7 is the first ILC with a built-in EVF that tilts; usually, only add-on EVFs have that capability. At 2.76 million dots it is also very high-resolution, and Panasonic claims 100 percent Adobe RGB color gamut coverage. Lexy Savvides/CNET

The camera also adds a built-in electronic viewfinder with a traditional TFT LCD display for better color reproduction. It's the first built-in EVF that tilts, a really nice capability that we usually only see in add-on EVFs. Also, with this model, Panasonic, traditionally optical-image-stabilization-oriented, rolls out its first sensor-shift-stabilized camera; the camera supports both systems. And while Panasonic's performance is generally pretty good, the AF system in the GX7 has improved sensitivity, with a claimed ability to focus in light as low as -4 EV -- that's astrophotography level.

Panasonic also touts improved video performance; it's binning pixels down to 1,920x1,080 for better sensitivity and resolvability.

And of course there's the GX7's design, a magnesium-alloy body and the black-and-silver two-tone retro look that's become so popular of late. (The all-black version shown here in photos from our Australian sister site will only be available overseas.) With two adjustment dials, three custom-settings slots on the mode dial, an AE lock button, and multiple programmable function buttons, it really seems designed for control-oriented photographers. The popup flash can be tilted back to bounce light, one of my favorite general camera features, along with focus peaking for manual focus. A few new special-effects filters -- mostly enhanced monochrome options -- and Wi-Fi connectivity with NFC also join the feature parade.

Here are some of the GX7's competitors:

  Fujifilm X-E1 Olympus OM-D E-M5 Olympus PEN E-P5 Panasonic Lumix DMC-G6 Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX7 Sony Alpha NEX-6
Sensor (effective resolution) 16.3MP X-Trans CMOS
n/a
16.1MP Live MOS
12 bits
16.1MP Live MOS
12 bits
16MP Live MOS
n/a
16MP Live MOS
n/a
16.1MP Exmor HD CMOS
n/a
23.6mm x 15.6mm 17.3mm x 13mm 17.3mm x 13mm 17.3mm x 13mm 17.3mm x 13mm 23.5mm x 15.6mm
Focal-length multiplier 1.5x 2.0x 2.0x 2.0x 2.0x 1.5x
Sensitivity range ISO 100 (exp)/ 200 - ISO 6400/ 25600 (exp) ISO 200 - ISO 25600 ISO 100 (exp)/200 - ISO 25600 ISO 160 - ISO 12800/ 25600 (exp) ISO 125 (exp)/200 - ISO 25600 ISO 100 - ISO 25600
Continuous shooting 6fps
n/a
9fps
17 JPEG/11 raw
4.5-5fps (lens-dependent, IS off)
70 JPEG/20 raw
(9fps with fixed AE/AF, no IS)
5fps (with continuous AF)
9 raw/ unlimited JPEG
4.3fps (with tracking AF)
40fps (with electronic shutter)
9 raw/ unlimited JPEG
3fps
11 raw/15 JPEG
(10fps with fixed exposure)
Viewfinder EVF
0.5-inch
2.36 million dots
100% coverage
n/a
EVF

1.44 million dots
100% coverage
1.15x/ 0.58x
Optional EVF

2.36 million dots
100% coverage
1.48x/ 0.74x
OLED EVF

1.44 million dots
100% coverage
1.4x/0.7x
EVF

2.76 million dots
100% coverage
1.4x/0.7x
OLED EVF
0.5-inch
2.4 million dots
100% coverage
1.09x/0.73x
Hot shoe Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Autofocus 49-area
contrast AF
35-area contrast AF 35-area contrast AF 23-area contrast AF 23-area contrast AF 99-point phase detection, 25-area contrast AF
AF sensitivity range n/a n/a n/a -3 - 18 EV -4 - 18 EV 0 - 20 EV
Shutter speed 30-1/4,000 sec.; bulb to 60 min; 1/180 x-sync 60-1/4,000 sec.; bulb to 8 minutes; 1/250 sec x-sync (flash-dependent) 60 - 1/8,000 sec.; bulb to 30 minutes; 1/250 sec x-sync
(FP to 1/4,000 sec.)
60-1/4,000 sec.; bulb to 2 min; 1/160 x-sync 60-1/8,000 sec.; bulb to 2 min; 1/250 x-sync (external flash) 30-1/4,000 sec.; bulb; 1/160 sec x-sync
Metering 256 zones 324 area 324 area 1,728 zones 1,728 zones 1,200 zones
Metering range n/a 0 - 20 EV 0 - 20 EV 0 - 18 EV 0 - 18 EV 0 - 20 EV
Flash Yes Included add-on Yes Yes Yes Yes
Wireless flash No No Yes No No No
Image stabilization Optical Sensor shift Sensor shift Optical Sensor shift Optical
Best video 1080/24p H.264 1080/60i QuickTime MOV @ 20, 17Mbps 1080/30p @ 20Mbps H.264 QuickTime MOV AVCHD 1080/60p @ 28Mbps, 1080/24p @ 24Mbps AVCHD, H.264 MP4 1080/60p @ 28Mbps, 1080/24p @ 24Mbps AVCHD 1080/60p @ 28Mbps, 1080/24p @ 24Mbps
Audio Stereo; mic input Stereo; mic input Stereo; mic input Stereo; mic input Stereo Stereo; mic input
LCD size 2.8-inch fixed
460,000 dots
3-inch tilting touch-screen OLED
614,000 dots
3-inch tilting touch screen
1.04 million dots
3-inch articulated touch screen
1.036 million dots
3-inch tilting touch screen
1.04 million dots
3-inch tilting touch screen
921,600 dots
Wireless connection None Optional Bluetooth Wi-Fi Wi-Fi Wi-Fi Wi-Fi
Battery life (CIPA rating) 350 shots n/a 330 shots 350 shots 350 shots 270 shots
(with viewfinder)
Dimensions (inches, WHD) 5.1 x 2.9 x 1.5 4.8 x 3.5 x 1.7 4.8 x 2.7 x 1.5 4.8 x 3.3 x 2.8 4.8 x 2.8 x 2.2 4.8 x 2.8 x 1.1
Body operating weight (ounces) 12.6 15.1 15.1 16.1 (est.) 14.2 (est.) 12.3
Mfr. price $799 (est., body only) $999.99 (body only) $999.99 (body only) n/a $999 (est., body only) $749.99 (body only)
$1,199.95 (est., with 18-55mm lens) $1,299.99 (with 12-50mm PZ lens) n/a $749.99 (with 14-42mm lens) $1,099 (with 14-42mm lens) $899.99 (with 15-60mm PZ lens)
n/a $1,099 (with 14-42mm lens) $1,449.99 (with 17mm f1.8 lens and VF-4 EVF) n/a n/a n/a
Ship date November 2012 April 2012 July 2013 April 2013 September 2013 October 2012

One of my favorite parts of a new camera briefing is when they trot out the comparisons with selected competing products. In this case, Panasonic made a big deal of comparing the image quality to that of the Olympus OM-D E-M5 -- certainly a good camera, but a relatively old one for which image quality has since been surpassed by the E-P5. (In my notes, I also wrote, "Compared to D800E. Bad idea.")

Leica DG Nocticron 42.5mm f1.2 Panasonic

That said, on paper the sensor improvements sound good and I think the GX7 will give the E-P5 some decent competition; the power to use lenses with or without OIS and still have stabilization is a real competitive advantage. Its video-relevant specs look especially good, with the binning promising better-than-average quality, the tilting EVF offering extra shooting flexibility, and the low-reflectance LCD potentially improving usability. It's a little frustrating, though, that it in some ways rivals the DMC-GH3 for video capabilities, but it doesn't share the high-bit-rate codec or mic jack, which would be useful for people who just want better video out of the box and don't need a lot of the production features packed into that model (such as time code and clean HDMI out). I also suspect the location of the record button, not easily reachable with thumb or forefinger, will probably annoy me once I get to take it out for a test shoot.

The company also announced a new Leica Micro Four Thirds lens series with its debut lens: the Leica DG Nocticron 42.5mm f1.2. Panasonic hasn't revealed any real specs, availability, or pricing for it; however, it does seem to have optical image stabilization for backward compatibility.

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Quick Specifications See All

  • Digital camera type Digital Single Lens Mirrorless camera
  • Optical Zoom 3 x
  • Optical Sensor Type Live MOS
  • Sensor Resolution 16.0 Megapixel
  • Image Stabilizer Optical
  • Optical Sensor Size 13.0 x 17.3mm
About The Author

Lori Grunin is a senior editor for CNET Reviews, covering cameras, camcorders, and related accessories. She's been writing about and reviewing consumer technology and software since 1988.