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 likeand 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 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.
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.
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.
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, 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.
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, 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.