Panasonic G7 - First Impressions

Having bought the G1, G2, G3, G5 and G6 it may come as no surprise that I've bought the Panasonic G7. A long distinguished line of cameras with the G1 being the first ever mirrorless / CSC / E.V.I.L and m4/3 camera. Things have moved on since the ground breaking G1 and the G7 offers 4K video, 4K Photo, better high(er) ISO results, electronic shutter, pinpoint focus, lots of other improvements and extra features from the original and a rather natty steel grey faux chrome trim. Not real chrome of course, this is an unashamedly polycarbonate construction. As such however it is incredibly light and Panasonic have also reduced the size of the 14-42mm kit lens again, so that is now tiny. And from the samples above you can see (unsurprisingly) that it's the usual excellent m4/3 quality.

N.B. The video above was shot in 4K with the kit lens, hand held and edited in iMovie with software stabilisation added. Since iPhoto won't output in 4K it's a 1080 HD file. But as you can see it's a very good file. As is the 4K Photo still from video grab pictured underneath. 

Regular readers will appreciate why I've bought this. The 4K options, as I'm shooting a lot of stock video these days. My D-LUX (Typ 109) / Panasonic LX100 is indeed excellent for 4K video, but the G7 offers interchangeable lens options which is what I wanted. I don't need all the fancy bells and whistles of the GH4, so the G7 will do me just fine. 

There are no surprises here. I got exactly what I was expecting. Which is an excellent small footprint hybrid stills / video camera. I suppose those who have taken up photography recently think this is all pretty much run of the mill stuff. But for those of us who started with film, what the G7 offers is little short of astounding. Seen in it's own right and without comparing it with anything else, it is simply staggering to me what the G7 can do. Some may take all this for granted, but I never do. Having used, for example, a fixed lens 6x6 film camera with manual focusing, a reversed viewfinder and no accurate metering, taking just 12 shots per (expensive) roll of 120 film, the G7 is a miracle to me. For it's size, weight and price it would be simply unbelievable for a photographer time warped from the past to now. And from not that long ago either. The G7 simply blows away all the film cameras I ever used (including MF) and the superb image quality plus the speed and ease and use and the almost infallible way it produces perfectly exposed and focused images time after time shouldn't be underestimated or diminished. We may all compare and contrast cameras, but in the scheme of things, if I had this camera 15 years ago, in the early days of digital and nobody else did, I would have cleaned up and made a fortune. 

But such is the way of the world, things move on. And it will of course get compared to the other technological marvels we have the option to buy. Dpreview gave it 80% and a silver award. Gosh! So for those of us who can put up with 'overwhelming and unnecessarily complex wi-fi' and 'Simplistic Auto ISO implementation' (usual Dpreview BS) it may well be the camera for you as well as me. Though of course we would all like more complex Auto ISO implementation. Who wouldn't? Modern digital cameras being far too easy to understand these days, we are all gagging for a bit more complexity aren't we? I know I am. (NOT!!)

In the m4/3 universe Panasonic have taken a different approach to Olympus. None of your classy Olympus bodies here, with their retro styled, old-school chic. The G7 has the same cheap and nasty plastic feel as all the other Panasonic m4/3 cameras. A style icon it's not. (Though the faux chrome effect is at least an attempt by Panasonic to make it slightly more cool than a Nissan Micra. (Which is admittedly not difficult!) But don't be fooled by that mass produced, made to a budget exterior, the G7 has lots of amazing stuff 'under the hood.' It's got pretty much everything the Olympus OM-D E-M5 II has, excluding IBIS and high-res mode and adds the 4K video and 4K Photo options that the Olympus doesn't have. And for stills and video hybrid / convergence work this is a monster.

Panasonic are now making the 4/3 sensors that they and Olympus use. And damn good they are too. Only 16MP but capable of dramatic upsizing and really very close these days to APS-C sensor high ISO performance. Plus that body really isn't that bad compared to a lot of the opposition. When I picked the camera up from Jessops, I took the opportunity to have a look and play around with the Fuji X-T100. Well actually not much of one since I picked it up and put it straight back down again almost immediately. Demonstrating yet again that cameras that look great in internet pictures can be a serious disappointment 'in the flesh.' You will gather I was not impressed, in fact I thought the Fuji felt cheaper than the Panasonic. Fuji on a 'budget', Hmmmmm.........

So first impressions with the G7 are very positive. And of course yet again I'm back seriously with m4/3. All my Fuji and Sony gear has gone and I've been trawling through ebay to pick up some lens bargains. I've got a Panasonic 100-300mm and 14-140mm is coming soon. Brand new for a combined cost of just over £600 for both. (God bless grey importing!) So expect more on the camera in the coming days. And no the G7 isn't a Leica or a Nikon DSLR, but as a carry anywhere high quality hybrid stills / video camera it takes a lot of beating. And if you can't run to a GH4 (or like me don't want one) and would like to explore 4K on a budget then I can't think of anything that surpasses it and is currently available.

And for all the Sony FE fans out there, when Sony come up with equivalents of the 15mm f/1.7 and 75mm f/1.8 lenses I used yesterday then I might be a bit more enthusiastic about what the e-mount has to offer. Because that's where m4/3 leaves all other Mirrorless / CSC / E.V.I.L systems behind. Small, light, high quality lenses. And lot's and lot's of them. It's all very well having bigger sensors and lots of pixels, but if what you can bolt on in front of them is as limited as the Sony Alpha e-mount range, then for me, the FE system flatters to deceive. And Fuji with their awful video and overwhelming and unnecessarily complex (see above) noise reduction don't get me hot and bothered any more either. For me m4/3 is what Mirrorless / CSC / E.V.I.L systems are all about and though other formats try to assert some kind of superiority, (try) ultimately I think that so far they have failed to surpass what m4/3 has to offer. Because since I can buy the G7 + kit lens for under £700 and get the stills and video quality that I do with the G7 then Sony, Fuji, Samsung still have a lot of catching up to do as far as I'm concerned. m4/3 Rules!!