Panasonic Lumix DMC-G7 - in-depth review and reappraisal of an underestimated camera.


IMPORTANT SPECS.

  • Max resolution 4592 x 3448 (16MP)
  • ISO - 160 to 25600 with expansion.
  • Number of focus points - 49
  • LCD Fully articulated
  • Screen size 3″
  • Screen dots 1,040,000
  • Touch screen - Yes
  • Viewfinder type - Electronic
  • Viewfinder coverage - 100%
  • Viewfinder resolution - 2,360,000
  • Minimum shutter speed 60 sec
  • Maximum shutter speed 1/16000 sec
  • Built-in flash - Yes (Pop-up)
  • Flash range 9.30 m
  • External flash Yes (Hot-shoe)
  • Flash modes Auto, On, Off, Red-Eye, Slow Sync
  • Flash X sync speed 1/160 sec
  • Continuous drive 7.0 fps

Metering

  • Multi
  • Center-weighted
  • Spot

 

  • Exposure compensation ±5 (at 1/3 EV steps)
  • AE Bracketing±3 (3, 5, 7 frames at 1/3 EV, 2/3 EV, 1 EV steps)
  • WB Bracketing - 3 frames in either blue/amber or magenta/green axis

Video

  • Video - Resolutions 3840 x 2160 (30, 25, 24, 20fps) 1920 x 1080 (60, 50, 30, 25fps) 1280 x 720 (60, 50, 30, 25fps), 640 x 480 (30, 25 fps)
  • Format MPEG-4, AVCHD
  • Microphone - Stereo
  • USB 2.0 (480 Mbit/sec)
  • HDMI (microHDMI TypeD)
  • Microphone portYes
  • Wireless Built-In

 

  • Weight (inc. batteries) 410 g (0.90 lb / 14.46 oz)
  • Dimensions 125 x 86 x 77 mm (4.92 x 3.39 x 3.03″)

I rarely put specs. of cameras in my reviews, but in this case it's worth making an exception, because the Panasonic DMD-G7 is one hell of a camera. After the release of the GX8 with it's 20MP sensor it has been somewhat overlooked. However, if you are looking for a small, light 4K video enabled camera on a budget, it's hard to think of a better option. And it's better specified than you might think. For example - 100% viewfinder coveage from the OLED EVF and 1/16,000 top shutter speed are things you would expect to see only in more expensive cameras.


LOOK - DESIGN - ERGONOMICS

If you are used to Panasonic m4/3 then you will know what to expect. The camera looks and feels pretty much like a bridge camera. And despite the fact that my copy has a silver / grey trim, the G7 will win no awards for aesthetics. This is no Olympus 'show pony.' And the feel of the body is total polycarbonate. However, don't be fooled by this. It may feel and look pretty cheap when you pick one up, but I've used Panasonic bodies like this for years and they are surprisingly rugged. I've dropped one or two over the years and they are tougher than they look. There is also the great virtue that they are very light. Layout is very similar to past G models. Panasonic do tweak this from time to time, but they follow much the same pattern. 

Now it's very difficult for me to offer any opinion on how well the layout works. Because I've owned and used all the G's. G1. G2. G3, G5, G6 and G7. (There is no G4 as it's an unlucky number in certain societies, much like the number 13 is here) As you might expect I'm pretty familiar with the layout here and I adapt to each new camera very easily. It would therefore be unhelpful for me to offer an opinion on this, since with all my use of these cameras I find the body and menu controls very familiar and therefore easy to navigate. It may well not be the same for others unfamiliar with the brand. 


IMAGE QUALITY

CLICK HERE FOR SAMPLE OOC RAW AND JPG IMAGE FILES AND 4K VIDEO

Image quality for stills is pretty much what we have come to expect from 16MP m4/3 files. And that is very good indeed. Yes, 'full frame' high MP cameras such as Canon and Nikon DSLR's and the Sony FE will give you better image quality and better dynamic range (and more pixels of course) but these days there's not a lot in it. I've included some samples via the link above so you can see what the camera + the 14-42mm kit lens is capable of.

Below is a 100% blowup from an ISO 200 file.

As you can see, excellent sharpness and colour from this OOC jpg. Moving up the ISO scale quality gets predictably worse. Below is an example at ISO 3200. 

Not as good as other larger sensor cameras, but compared with how m4/3 started off, a great improvement and perfectly acceptable for many types of print reproduction. 


VIDEO

Video has a 4K option and this is where Panasonic cameras shine these days. As you can see with the above sample, the 4K version is very good indeed. However, the above footage was hand held and I have to say that the OIS in the kit lens isn't that great. Certainly if you do a lot of hand holding for video, then the Olympus or Sony cameras with 5-axis stabilisation work better for that. No 4K with Olympus though. But then for optimum 4K results a tripod works best anyway. See below tripod-mounted footage shot with a Panasonic 100-300mm zoom.


WI-FI and IMAGE APP.

This is one of the advantages for Panasonic users. Unlike a lot (the majority?) of other cameras, the Panasonic Wi-Fi app. actually works well and works consistently. In fact, I think it's exactly how these apps. should work, in every case, because if they don't what on earth is the point if having them?. Above I'm using it on one of my iPads and it works equally well on a smartphone. Top marks for this. I use it a lot, especially for tripod mounted video. 


MANUAL FOCUS AND THIRD PARTY LENSES

All images above - Panasonic Lumix DMC-G7 + Voigtlander Nikon mount 58mm f/1.4 fitted to camera using Metabones 0.64x Speed Booster. 

Like all Panasonic cameras the G7 is excellent for manually focusing lenses. One of the reasons I got into m4/3 so enthusiastically when the G1 first came out, was the ability to use my Nikon lenses on it. This is because of the lens mount to sensor distance, which allows adapters to be used that allow the use of literally 1000's of third party lenses. In those early days it was passive adapters and a 2x crop only, which meant that standard to telephoto lenses were OK, but wide-angles were a problem. However, along came Metabones with their Speed Boosters and the choices got better. You can get a 0.71x version which makes 'full-frame' lenses perform like they would on APS-C sensor cameras, with the bonus of an added stop of light gathering. I have the 0.64x version (pictured above) which means 'full-frame' lenses get a only a 0.28 increase in their focal length, again with that 1 stop 'boost.' So my 14mm f/2.8 becomes the 'equivalent' of an 18mm f/2. Not too shabby then.

There are a few options that make manually focusing easy. You use buttons to magnify the image, including 'picture in picture' and with the focus peaking switched on, it is easy to get precise focusing with a variety of lenses. Not quite as simple and clean (in terms of whats in the viewfinder) as the focus confirmation systems of Nikon and Canon DSLR's, but nonetheless pretty good. Olympus unfortunately make this somewhat more fiddly, but Sony have pretty much the same system. Throughout my 'history' with m4/3 cameras I have used 'alternative' lenses (mainly Nikon or Nikon fit, though I have used Leica M lenses as well) almost as much as I've used 'native' m4/3 lenses, particularly for video. The Voigtlander SL II - N 58 mm f/1.4 Nokton I used above is a particularly fine lens and in the gallery at the top of this section I was out with it a couple of days ago shooting some autumn images with the lens mostly at f/1.4 or f/2. And while bokeh and lots of out of focus areas is not really 'my thing' I do like to use it from time to time. And even in some pretty dull light I was able to get high shutter speeds and low ISO settings using the speed booster. It is a great option to have.  


OTHER G7 'GOODIES'

Fully articulated rear view screen with magnifcation options and focus peaking for quick and accurate manual focusing. 

Pinpoint AF

Ex Tele conversion mode

Panasonic cameras with this feature switch to using pixels in the center of the sensor creating a further cropped view (I believe an additional 2.6x crop). Since it’s still using a 1:1 pixel readout, there is no noticable loss in resolution for full 1080p video.

This is extremely handy as you can easily more than double the focal length of any lens. With this mode, a Lumix 12-35mm F/2.8 (24-70mm 'equivalent') quickly turns into something like a 31mm-90mm F/2.8 (60-180mm 35mm equivalent) and all without losing a stop.

Virtual Sprit level

Microphone level adjustment, metering and limiter.

Add to this, a polaroid sunglasses friendly OLED viewfinder, microphone input socket (though unfortunately no headphones output) a wide range of video options 4K and HD and a built in flash and you have a VERY well specified camera.


WHAT IT DOESN'T HAVE

  • Headphone socket
  • Particularly good battery life
  • An optional battery grip (Which would help with the above)
  • Those extra 4MP's that the GX8 has. Though I would expect the G8 to be 20MP
  • Some of the GH4 video options (But then it is almost half the price)
  • Particularly impressive high ISO performance
  • A cool look

SUMMING UP AND CONCLUSION.

I have a lot of time for Panasonic G series cameras. So far I've bought all six and there is every reason to suppose that I'll have the G8, G9 etc. as well. These were the cameras that introduced me to m4/3 and the whole mirrorless / CSC / E.V.I.L concept. I've shot an incredible number of pictures using cameras like this and sold an incredible number as well. So before reading the rest of this article, I'm 'declaring an interest.'

But no matter how much I like these cameras, I can still assert, with some justification that the G7 is a lot of camera for what you will pay for it these days. It doesn't have all the GH4's video 'bells and whistles' or the extra battery life of that camera and it doesn't have the extra pixels of the GX8, but it's a pretty amazing camera nonetheless. And it is truly 'hybrid' with superb stills and superb video. And it does have one virtue above all else i would like to mention. 

This image is in one of the 'camera porn' galleries above. It's the G7 + 14-42mm kit lens, Rode microphone and Carry Speed Video Loupe. It looks huge and heavy, but in fact the whole thing weighs just over a kg. (lighter than some lenses I've used) and the camera and lens on it's own is about half that. And that's how I've been using it mainly. The GX8 has in body IS yes, but for serious 4K video work using a tripod, which by using the kit lens (better than you might think) and the Ex Tele Converter gives you a 28-180mm (equivalent) and which can be controlled by smartphone or tablet and has the capacity to shoot easily upsizeable 16MP stills, where else can you get something like this for around £600?

And those are the great virtues of the G7. Amazing specification, small, light, well-built despite the cheap look and feel and at a pretty amazing price. Because, be in no doubt, you can shoot glossy covers and A3 spreads for the most upmarket magazines and broadcast quality video with this camera and lens. If I had an award for the best value hybrid camera on the market currently, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-G7 would walk away with it. 

With all the fuss over the (admittedly excellent) GX8, you might be forgiven for thinking that the G7 had 'disappeared' but it hasn't, it's still around and likely to remain so for some time. And it does a job. In fact it does several jobs and it's an incredible all round camera both for the price and for itself. It doesn't have much headline-grabbing 'fluff' but it's a far better camera than many caneras that get far more 'internet chatter' than this. It's pretty plain and it won't turn heads or win any accolades for style and design, but it's an incredibly solid and reliable performer. 

I don't recommend much, but I have no hesitation in recommending this. You won't hear much about it these days as the 'butterfly internet' has flown off to the next pretty short lived flower, but that would be a shame and why I've decided to take the trouble to put together this review. To be honest I'm not really reappraising it, since I rated it very highly when I first got it. And people may have forgotten that I bought it because I use it mainly for video and I don't publish much on that side of my 'workflow' simply because people don't seem to want to read it. But if you are interested in hybrid and are serious about shooting some (more than) decent stills and video, without havng a huge budget to expand your choices, then you won't go far wrong with the Panasonic Lumix DMC-G7. It's relatively cheap, unfussy and produces results way above it's 'pay grade.'  And I can't think of any higher praise than that.