There's a lot in the Lumix GX85 to appeal to family photographers and first-time mirrorless buyers as an alternative to a decent (as opposed to cheap) first dSLR like the Nikon D5500. It's got a great feature set, very good photo and video quality for its class, pretty fast performance, and an attractive, relatively compact design.
With 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.
The kit with Panasonic's collapsible 12-32mm f3.5-5.6 (24-64mm equivalent) lens runs $800 and AU$1,200; in the UK, the model is the GX80, and costs £600 for the same kit. Like many Panasonic cameras, it's not available in the US as a body-only version, but you can get it that way in the UK and Australia for £510 and AU$1,100. And in the UK, you can get it in a dual-lens configuration with the 12-32mm and 35-100mm lenses for £730.
A sharper image
Although it's 16 megapixels rather than the new 20.3MP sensor that's in the higher-end GX8, it's a 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.
As a result, JPEGs remain clean through ISO 1600, and depending upon light and subject, usable through the top of the camera's ISO sensitivity range. It's noticeably better than the Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark II in this respect. If you process raw files, you can eke out some more detail at all sensitivity levels; the default Standard Photo Style applied to JPEGs pushes the saturation and contrast enough that you'll lose some detail in highlight and shadow areas.
Its color rendering and white balance is excellent. The automatic white balance delivers some of the best results I've seen, even in cloudy weather, low light and multiple light sources, which are three of the trickiest conditions you'll encounter.
The video looks great, too, though because of the sensor you'll see moire on high-frequency patterns, which are surprisingly common on clothes. But even in high-contrast lighting (such a bright subway platform and dark track area) at midrange sensitivities, it does a good job.
Panasonic's DFD (Depth from Defocus) autofocus technology is generally fast and accurate, and that holds true in the GX85 for individual shots; it locks focus and shoots quickly enough for most uses in bright and dim light. Its tested continuous shooting rate of 6.6 frames per second with autofocus for more than 40 shots or raw or JPEG is better than average, and even sustains a solid burst with raw+JPEG.
However, the continuous-autofocus accuracy seemed hit-and-miss for burst shooting (it's fine in video). Most of the time it produced a reasonable number of in-focus shots, and like most systems, it would occasionally lose the tracking or focus on something other than the subject. But it also failed to focus on anything more frequently than I expected.