Panasonic's New GX85

June 15, 2016

Hot on the heels of the GX8 comes Panasonic’s new GX85, what can be described as the actual next iteration of the GX7 (it’s actually named the GX7II in Asian markets). While the features have been substantially improved in every single aspect, it retains a small and unobtrusive body in the familiar rangefinder style. The first thing you’ll notice about the GX85 is that it’s built really well. It has a surprisingly solid feel, giving better balance to the camera and improving the handling overall. It is made of a resin composite, instead of the usual plastic. This helps to keep the size, weight and cost down but allow for a stronger, weather-sealed magnesium body. One thing that was omitted was the tilting EVF this helps to keep the size down. Internally, the GX85 is all new. I mean that in the most literal sense. Where the GX8 had a 20 megapixel sensor (the first resolution upgrade in a micro four-thirds sensor in some years), the GX85 has a completely redesigned 16 megapixel sensor. This was done to give priority to sharpness and low light performance, striking a balance between usability in the broadest circumstances and overall image quality. Along with a brand new sensor, the GX85 has a new processor to help stop moire (a purple-ish color fringing on repetitive patterns) during 4k video down. But the most innovative upgrade in the GX85 is the first-of-its-kind electromagnetic shutter, driven by magnets instead of springs. This keeps the noise and vibration of shutter down. This is also the first camera to utilize 5-axis in body stabilization during 4k video recording. What’s even more amazing is that that in-body stabilization can work with Panasonic’s stabilized lenses for even better stability. When you look at all the firsts in this camera, you realize how fantastic this camera is. In terms of daily use, it is familiar to people already using Panasonic cameras, and quick to learn the basics for anyone taking their first foray into the Lumix camera lineup. The number of features packed into this camera is astounding, so don’t feel bad if you haven’t utilized specific features for some time after you pick one up. I’ve been testing one for a few weeks as a daily camera and still haven’t used everything that this powerhouse can actually do. The autofocus is fast and accurate, especially on the Panasonic lenses, utilizing the “Depth from Defocus” autofocus system, which is their term for a very fast autofocus system. Face recognition is good as well, but tends to lose faces with mild obstruction. The object tracking can lock on to person/thing and typically works well until it moves fast or something crosses in front of the track object, either locking on to something else or losing it all together. The image stabilization is mind blowing. Using the in-body stabilization I was able to hand hold 1 second shots. The image quality is the best I’ve seen from a micro 4/3rds camera. It’s easily on par with the higher resolution GX8 in terms of sharpness, owing to the fact that the GX85 has no optical low pass filter. The dynamic range (highlights to lowlights in an image) is as good as its predecessors, not quite as broad as the GX8, but fantastic for everyone but the most discerning cinematographers. In short, this camera is aimed more at the ‘prosumer’ market, but in reality this is every bit a high-end camera at a mid-range price point. Its mix of innovative and ground breaking technology in a very compact package makes it the perfect camera for wide spectrum of photographers. The GX85 could be described as the photographer’s camera, everything you need without the excessive size. And even though it is one of their smaller interchangeable lens cameras, it still felt balanced in the hand paired with the larger zoom lenses in their line-up. The GX85 is really all about: balance. It’s ultimately the most balanced camera in the micro four-thirds arsenal, staying in the middle ground between size, quality, and functionality. J. Ford CCCamera