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Panasonic Lumix DMC-G7 review: The Lumix G7 hits the target for families in motion

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I liked the Panasonic Lumix DMC-G7 a lot more than I expected. The G7 brings the company's midrange line of enthusiast and family-oriented interchangeable-lens models up to date with features like 4K/UHD (ultra high definition) video and the company's most recent autofocus and image-processing systems. The result is a very good interchangeable-lens model that's a good, as well as smaller and lighter, alternative to many comparable dSLRs.

The Good

For the money, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-G7 delivers great photo and video, excellent performance and a broad feature set.

The Bad

It's another in a long line of Panasonic cameras with proprietary USB connectors and some people might find it too complicated.

The Bottom Line

A great mirrorless interchangeable-lens camera for families and travelers, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-G7 is a compelling alternative to similarly priced dSLRs.

The G7 comes in solid black or a two-tone graphite and black, in a variety of kits worldwide: one with a 14-42mm lens ($800, £680, AU$1,000), one with a 14-140mm lens ($1,100, £850, AU$1,500), one with both lenses (AU$1,200), and body only (£600, AU$900). However, in the US we'll only offically get the 14-42mm and 14-140mm kits, and it looks like the dual-lens kit is only available in Australia, at least at the moment.

Image quality

Its photo and video quality is quite good for its price class, especially if you spring for something a bit better than the kit lens. Photos have somewhat better-than-average dynamic range for a Four Thirds size sensor, colors are quite accurate, and its low light JPEG photos remain decently detailed through ISO 1600. If you process raw you can get even more detail out of the low-light photos, though like most of its competitors you still lose a lot of highlight and shadow detail as light drops and ISO sensitivity setting rises.

Panasonic Lumix G7 full-resolution photo samples

See all photos

The 4K video looks really good -- seriously, 4K in general is visibly sharper and more detailed than HD -- and is easy to work with and play on different devices. Persnickety viewers may find bright areas a bit washed out, but otherwise it displays few artifacts and the low-light video is quite clean.

Analysis samples

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The G7 maintains excellent color, sharpness and detail in JPEGs up through ISO 1600. Lori Grunin/CNET
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You start to lose image detail by ISO 3200, though it does better in low light with a better lens than with the kit lens. Lori Grunin/CNET
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The G7's raw files have a bit more recoverable highlight detail than I've seen in comparable cameras. Lori Grunin/CNET
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The G7's default Standard color setting delivers pretty neutral color balance. Lori Grunin/CNET
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You can get less smeary-looking images if you process raw files at higher ISO sensitivities (this is ISO 25600), but like most cameras at this level you lose a lot of tonal range in the dark. Lori Grunin/CNET

Performance

Overall, the G7's performance is up to whatever most families and travelers may throw at it. It takes a middling 0.6 second to wake up and shoot. That's more than twice as long as the similarly priced Nikon D5500 , for example; slow startup is one of the few remaining drawbacks for mirrorless cameras in comparison to dSLRs. Panasonic's autofocus system is pretty fast, as is the 14-42mm kit lens we tested with. Focusing and shooting in good light takes only 0.1 second, which rises to a still-good 0.3 second in dim light.

Camera response when you factor in image-processing is a little slower. Time to take two sequential JPEGs runs about 0.4 second. That's not bad, but it's not quite as good as competitors. Shooting raw drops that to a much better 0.2 second. With flash, the time rises to just about 1 second, which isn't bad.

Continuous shooting with autofocus is quite good, running about 6.5 frames per second for more than 30 JPEGs. It takes a bit longer to process the images, though that doesn't interfere with starting another burst -- just reviewing the photos and changing settings. It's not quite as impressive for raw shooting; although it can sustain a burst for about 6.2fps, that's only for 8 frames after which it slows down a lot. In the limited number of cases where you can forgo continuous autofocus, exposure and white balance -- like jump shots -- it can shoot as fast as 8fps. The 40fps super-high burst mode doesn't use those either, and it sets the picture size to small (4 megapixels).

If you're shooting very short sequences, the 4K Photo mode is probably a better option than that, since it shoots a short 30fps short burst of 8-megapixel photos from which you extract and save the one(s) you like.

Action shooting with the G7 was a surprisingly good experience, even with the kit lens (as long as you're in bright sunlight). I achieved an excellent ratio of usably focused to out-of-focus action shots, both in sunlight and at dusk with the Olympus 12-40mm f2.8 lens. It grabs focus fast, which comes in handy for street photography, too. In complete let-the-camera-pick-the-focus-areas mode, it's just slightly better than most cameras; it's still inconsistent about its choices and tends to default to the nearest object, but if you give it another chance, it frequently makes more intelligent guesses.

The battery life is rated at a meh 360 shots -- typical for mirrorless models but frustrating in practice. However, during typical testing I got 750 shots and a handful of videos and the battery indicator only dropped by one bar. Video does really run it down, though, and when shooting 4K video in moderately hot conditions (around 80° F/27° C), I found it would continue shooting but turn off the viewfinder and the LCD.

Shooting speed

Olympus OM-D E-M5 II 0.1 0.2 0.2 0.2 0.7Panasonic Lumix DMC-G7 0.1 0.3 0.4 0.2 0.7Nikon D5500 0.6 0.6 0.2 0.2 0.3
  • Shutter lag (typical)
  • Shutter lag (dim light)
  • Typical shot-to-shot time
  • Raw shot-to-shot time
  • Time to first shot
Notes: Seconds (smaller is better)

Typical continuous-shooting speed

Olympus OM-D E-M5 II 10.3Panasonic Lumix DMC-G7 6.5Nikon D5500 5.1
Notes: Frames per second (larger is better)

Design and features

The G7 looks and feels like an entry-level dSLR, plasticky-feeling but sturdy, with a comfortable and substantial grip. It has two adjustment dials in the front and back of the camera's top; a programmable function button sits inside the rear dial.

Also on the top right is the mode dial with the usual manual, semimanual and automatic modes, as well as a manual movie mode, custom setting slot that maps to three sets, and a panorama mode. The power switch is next to it, along with another programmable function button and a flat, ill-placed movie record button that's difficult to find and press without looking and awkwardly moving your forefinger.

On the left shoulder you'll find the drive-mode dial with options for time-lapse/stop-motion animation (this is one of the few cameras I've seen with a direct-access control for that); self-timer, exposure bracketing (up to seven shots in 1/3-stop, 2/3- and 1-stop intervals); the aforementioned 4K photo and 4K burst options; normal burst mode; and single-shot mode.

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Among the G7's drive modes you'll find 4K photo and time lapse/stop motion animation. Sarah Tew/CNET

Below it on the back is another programmable button, which by default cycles through the electronic viewfinder (EVF)/LCD display, and the flash popup button. the autofocus mode switch lies to the right of the viewfinder, with the autofocus/autoexposure lock button in its center. Below the thumb rest on the right is another programmable button, which defaults to pulling up the quick settings menu, plus the playback and display options controls.

A four-way navigation pad with buttons for ISO sensitivity, autofocus area (the usual suspects plus Panasonic's unique custom configuration, which allows you to select any set of AF areas, including discontiguous ones), white balance and a programmable button. Below that, yet another programmable button.

Have you been counting? Aside from the explicitly mentioned Fn buttons, there are a total of 11 buttons that can be remapped for your customizing pleasure.

On the grip side are the three connectors: a remote shutter control, Micro-HDMI (the camera supports clean HDMI-out) and an annoyingly proprietary combination AV- and USB-out. That and the placement of the SD card slot in the battery compartment are my only two real gripes about the design.

I really like the EVF. It's big and bright with a reasonably comfortable eyecup on it. The articulating touchscreen LCD is pretty typical, and Panasonic utlizes the touchscreen very well, with the ability to use it for everything, nothing and many stops in between.

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Panasonic offers a very full-featured, well-behaved remote control app. Screenshot by Lori Grunin/CNET

Panasonic's Wi-Fi operation for transferring photos and remote shutter operation is straightforward and one of the least aggravating systems I've used, and it's pretty feature-rich as well.

The camera really does have an impressive set of features, along with one of the best PDF user manuals I've seen (download the G7's manual); it takes advantage of interactivity, provides complete and useful information and reads like it was written/edited by a native English speaker. Oddly though, it has no index. Unfortunately, you really need to use the manual. There are tons of features you'll never find without it and never realize it has.

Some of them include the ability to apply effects in the manual and semimanual exposure modes, with the option to simultaneously record an unfiltered version of the JPEG (instead of having to shoot raw+JPEG). You can apply preset curve adjustments or customize your own.

The Snap Movie feature, which shoots 2- to 8-second clips, has a Pull Focus option; you define two focus points, and the camera automatically refocuses from one set area to another over the course of the clip. That's a really neat feature, though it doesn't work with all Micro Four Thirds lenses. (Unfortunately, the documentation doesn't specify which ones.)

While its video features aren't quite as broad as, say, those in the Sony Cyber-shot RX100 IV advanced compact , it does support an external hot-shoe microphone, and you can specify whether you'd like the tonal range to expand to the full 0-255 RGB scale of still photos or the 16-255 RGB compressed video-safe values. It also supports Panasonic's Cinelike D (dynamic-range priority) and Cinelike V (contrast-priority) tonal settings -- you can customize them as well -- for a little more flexibility.

Panasonic has also made a big deal about its Clear Retouch feature, where you can remove unwanted objects in a scene by scribbling over them on the display (similar to Photoshop's Content-Aware deletion technology), but the feature demos a lot better than it works. At least my fingers are too big and the screen is too small for me to produce any useful results. Your mileage may vary.

Conclusion

Now that the newer (but far more expensive) Lumix GX8 has incorporated a higher-resolution version of the sensor and offers sensor-shift stabilization in addition to optical so that it works with Olympus lenses, it's tempting to ding the G7 for not having these features. If you plan to never venture beyond the kit lens, the former isn't an issue, but there isn't a lot of wiggle room for cropping with the 16-megapixel sensors.

However, while that leaves some holes in the G7's future-proofing, if you're looking for something that's a great camera for now as an alternative to a similarly priced dSLR, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-G7 delivers.

Comparative specifications

Fujifilm X-T10 Panasonic Lumix DMC-G7 Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX8
Sensor effective resolution 16.3MP X-Trans CMOS II 16MP Live MOS 20.3MP Live MOS
Sensor size 23.6 x 15.8mm 17.3 x 13mm 17.3 x 13mm
Focal-length multiplier 1.5x 2.0x 2.0x
OLPF No Yes Yes
Sensitivity range ISO 100 (exp)/200 - ISO 6400/51200 (exp) ISO 100 (exp)/ISO 200 - ISO 25600 ISO 100 (exp)/ISO 200 - ISO 25600
Burst shooting 8fps
8 JPEG/n/a raw
6fps
100 JPEG/13 raw
(8fps with focus fixed on first frame; 40fps with electronic shutter)
6fps
100 JPEG/30 raw
(8fps with fixed focus; 10fps with fixed focus and electronic shutter)
Viewfinder
(mag/ effective mag)
EVF
0.4-inch/10mm
2.4 million dots
100% coverage
0.93x/0.62x
OLED EVF
100% coverage
2.36m dots
1.4x/0.7x
OLED EVF
Tilting
100% coverage
2.36m dots
1.54x/0.77x
Hot Shoe Yes Yes Yes
Autofocus 77-point phase-detection AF
49-area Contrast AF
49-area
DFD Contrast AF
49-area
DFD Contrast AF
AF sensitivity n/a -4 - 18 EV -4 - 18 EV
Shutter speed 30-1/4,000 sec.; bulb to 60 min; 1/180 x-sync (electronic shutter to 1/32,000 sec) 60-1/4,000 sec (up to 1/16,000 with electronic shutter); bulb to 2 min; 1/160 sec x-sync 1/8,000 to 60 secs (1/16,000 with electronic shutter); bulb to 30 min; 1/250 sec x-sync
Shutter durability n/a n/a n/a
Metering 256 zones 1,728 zone 1,728 zone
Metering sensitivity n/a 0 - 18 EV 0 - 18 EV
Best video H.264 QuickTime MOV
1080/60p
H.264 QuickTime MOV
UHD/30p, 25p, 24p @ 100Mbps; 1080/60p, 50p, 25p, 24p @ 28Mbps
UHD/30p, 25p, 24p @ 100Mbps; 1080/60p, 50p, 25p, 24p @ 28Mbps
Audio Stereo Stereo; mic input Stereo, mic input
Manual aperture and shutter in video n/a n/a Yes
Maximum best-quality recording time per clip 14 minutes 29:59 mins 4GB/29:59 mins
Clean HDMI out n/a n/a n/a
IS Optical Optical Optical and Sensor shift
Display 3 in/7.5 cm
Tilting
920,000 dots
3 in/7.5cm
Articulated touchscreen
1.04m dots
3 in/7.5cm
Articulated touchscreen
1.04m dots
Memory slots 1 x SDXC 1 x SDXC 1 x SDXC
Wireless connection Wi-Fi Wi-Fi Wi-Fi, NFC
Flash Yes Yes None
Wireless flash Yes No n/a
Battery life (CIPA rating) 350 shots
(1,120 mAh)
360 shots
(1,200mAh)
330 shots
(1,200mAh)
Size (WHD) 4.7 x 3.3 x 1.6 in
118.4 x 82.8 x 40.8 mm
4.9 x 3.4 x 3.1 in
124.9 x 86.2 x 77.4 mm
5.2 x 3.1 x 2.5 in
133.2 x 77.9 x 63.1 mm
Body operating weight 13.4 oz (est.)
381 g (est.)
14.7 oz
418 g
16.1 oz (est.)
487 g (est.)
Mfr. price (body only) $800
£500
AU$1,000 (est.)
£600
AU$900
$1,200
£1,070
AU$1,400
Primary kit $900
£600
AU$1,300
(with 16-50mm lens)
$800
£680
AU$1,000
(with 14-42mm lens)
£1,150
AU$1,500
(with 14-42mm lens)
Alternate kit $1,100 (est)
£800
AU$1,100
(with 18-55mm lens)
$1,100
£850
AU$1,500
(with 14-140mm lens)
AU$1,200
(with 14-42mm and 45-150mm lens)
£1,800
AU$2,400
(with 12-35mm lens)
£1,400
AU$2,000
(with 14-140mm lens)
AU$1,700
(with 14-42mm and 45-150mm lenses)
Release date June 2015 June 2015 August 2015
panasonic-lumix-dmc-g7-01.jpg
8.2

Panasonic Lumix DMC-G7

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 9Performance 8Image quality 8