A Review of the Panasonic Lumix GX8 4K Mirrorless Camera
The Panasonic Lumix DMC GX8 might just be one of the first Micro Four Thirds mirrorless cameras to come with a powerful 20 megapixel sensor, and along with this powerful “little” feature, the camera also offers a whole pile of other cool updates and specs.
Some of these excellent aspects of the GX8 include 4K video recording, a superb extended ISO, a 3 inch OLED touchscreen, in body image stabilization and some truly excellent viewfinder technology, as well as top notch raw image quality.
While the GX8 is definitely a bit on the bulky side for a mirrorless camera and comes with a retro styling to its body which some users might not like, the value offered by this particular device is indisputable. This is one solid Panasonic camera and while it doesn’t reach the professional grade of the GH4 from the same company, it will give most amateur and semi-pro users more than enough hardware and software for all sorts of projects, while not being too heavy on the pocketbook.
Panasonic has been in the compact system camera business since their Lumic DMC-G1 first emerged 7 years ago and since then they’ve done more than almost any other manufacturer in expanding the range of what’s available with mirrorless cameras. The GX8 is only the latest in the bunch and what you get with it really shows off the native know-how that Panasonic has developed with their previous mirrorless and compact camera models.
Thus, the GX8 sits somewhere below the GH4 while offering a remarkably impressive range of features for amateurs and serious enthusiasts. These include a rangefinder-style retro body design with a corner mounted tilting electronic viewfinder, a weather-sealed build, fully articulated LCD screen, a whole range of physical controls and of course, the feature we’re most interested in – 4K video recording at a decent frame rate speed. The GX8 also offers Panasonic’s 4K Photo mode with their UHD video capabilities. This extra technology lets the camera shoot bursts of 8MP photos at 30 frames per second, combined with a pile of tools that also let you set the right moment for the perfect frame. On top of this, there is also continuous full resolution photo shooting at a very decent 8 frames per second.
Also very important, the very heart of the GX8 is its powerful and brand spanking new 20.3 megapixel Digital Live MOS imaging sensor, which also happens to be the highest resolution 4/3” sensor developed in a camera like this to date. The GX8 also combines this new sensor with the same high-powered Venus Engine image processor that comes in the considerably more professional GH4 and in turn creates an improved image resolution, color reproduction and tonal gradation.
As a nice finishing touch in this brief description of the great stuff in the GX8, we should also mention that its high ISO noise sensitivity lets the camera create some much more natural looking noise reduction and processing.
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For starters the Lumix DMC-GX8 is a rather bulky mirrorless camera. In comparison to its predecessor the GX7, the GX8 is quite a bit heftier and comes with a body that feels chunky and loses out on some of the better design portability found in a number of other mirrorless cameras.
Furthermore, the connectors on the GX8 have a tendency to block the free movement of the articulated screen. This is another design flaw that speaks of too much cramming in the GX8, though it too is hardly a deal-breaker in this otherwise excellent camera. And while we’re on design flaws, the physical appearance of the GX8 is decidedly plain Jane. In fact, it looks somewhat retro, and while some users might love this, a lot of others won’t. So if physical appearance is as important as performance for some potential buyers, the look of the GX8 might be a turn-off.
Finally, the GX8 comes with a couple of minor issues that are found in its focus technologies. First of all, continuous autofocus on the camera can be a bit hit and miss, with occasional errors and the touchscreen is a bit dangerous for accidental focus point adjustments happening if you’re not careful right before taking a shot or sequence.
Despite a couple of minor design flaws, the Panasonic Lumix DMC GX8 is one superb piece of 4K video and high resolution photo technology. It packs a lot of punch into its relatively compact body and offers both photography and high resolution video enthusiasts a load of features to tinker with. Best of all, its price is not at all on the really steep side, which is a major bonus.
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Camera Type: 4K mirrorless Camera
Video Resolution: 3840 x 2160 pixels
Max photo resolution: 5184 x 3888
Sensor Type: 20.3 MP 17.3 x 13 mm Digital Live MOS Sensor
Recording Formats: Still Images: JPEG, MPO, RAW, Movies: AVCHD Ver. 2.0, MP4, Audio: AAC, Dolby Digital 2ch
Recording media: SD, SDHC, SDXC
Lens Mount: Micro Four Thirds
Display: LCD 5” Touchscreen
Other screen: 3" Rear Touchscreen Swivel Touchscreen OLED (1,040,000)
ISO: 100 – 25,600 (extended)
Connectivity: 1 SDI Video output (10 bit 4:2:2), 2 Analog audio input, 1 Analog audio output, 2 channel SDI Audio output
Screen Size: 5 inches
Frame Rates: 3840 x 2160p MP4: 30 fps/ 1920 x 1080p: 60 fps at 28 Mbps (AVCHD, MP4) 1290 x 720p: 30 fps at 10 Mbps/ 640 X 480p: 30fps at 4Mbps
Shutter Speeds: 60-1/8,000sec + bulb (1-1/16,000sec electronic)
Continuous Shooting: 30 fps
Burst modes: Up to 10 fps at 20.3 MP x 100 frames
Up to 8 fps at 20.3 MP x 100 frames
Up to 6 fps at 20.3 MP x 100 frames
Up to 5.5 fps at 20.3 MP x 100 frames
Up to 30 fps x 8 MP
Autofocus points: contrast detection: 49
Connectivity: WiFi, NFC
The Panasonic Lumic DMC-GX8 comes packed with all of your standard accessories in the box. You get your hands on a DMW-BLC12 rechargeable Lithium-ion battery (just one), a battery charger, an AC cable, a USB cable, useful shoulder strap, body cap, Hot shoe cover, a DVD-ROM with the key installation software for your PC and there is also a limited one-year warranty that’s standard for pretty much all electronics.
Unfortunately, no basic zoom lens is included with the GX8, as is the case with some 4K cameras we’ve seen. These you’ll have to buy separately as optional extras. One particularly essential lens would be the Lumix G X Vario 12-35mm f/2.8 Asph. Lens for Micro 4/3, which sells for roughly $900.
The main highlights of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GXG are found in its robust array of photo and video features that have been crammed into this fairly small and relatively affordable design.
For starters, there is the Micro Four Thirds sensor, which has been updated to manage very high-resolution 20.3 megapixel digital photos. Included with this is the extremely powerful Venus Engine Processor, which is the same as that found in the even higher-end GH4 4K DSLR camera from Panasonic. Thus, this compact GX8 mirrorless can shoot incredible photos at a wide range of frame rates and can also manage continuous shooting of 8 megapixel 4K still shots at as many as 24 or 30 frames per second depending on specific format.
Full resolution 20.3 megapixel still shots can also be done at between 8 and 10 frames per second with AF-S and the DX8 is also highly capable when it comes to low lighting conditions. Its top sensitivity of ISO 25,600 allows for some very realistic low-noise night time photo production.
What also complements the imaging abilities of the DX8 is a rather unique Dual I.S system which offers up the use of both in-camera and in-lens image stabilization for maximum photo and video clarity. Furthermore, the 2.36m-dot OLED electronic viewfinder is a tilting design that comes with a free angle 3 inch 1.04m-dot rear OLED touchscreen for work regardless of odd angles. This latter feature only adds to this camera’s flexibility.
Other solid and by now rather common highlights of the GX8 also consist of built-in WiFi and NFC for maximum connectivity and seamless wireless image delivery to external devices like smartphones, tablets and notebooks. Furthermore, the camera has remote control capacity from these same devices thanks to these same connectivity features.
The overall performance of the GX8 is for the most part superb for a camera of its type and in its class. This little mirrorless can deliver everything you’d need for a wide range of everyday uses while also being built with some very advanced multimedia capture capacities in mind.
Very high speed is also a major strength in the DMC-GX8. Thanks to the added power of the new Venus Image processor, the GX8 can manage its 20 megapixel image bursts at 8 frames per second without continuous AF and at 10 fps with the electronic shutter enabled. In AF-C mode, the camera can do the same at 6 fps. Mechanical shutter speed also goes as fast as 1/8000 seconds while exposures can be done at speeds of up to 1/16,000s with the use of the all-electronic shutter.
Shooting 4K and 1080p HD video or conventional HD and SD footage in this camera is also remarkably versatile with a decent range of frame rates that go from 30 on downward for 4K video depending on format and resolution and 60 frames per second for Full HD. The GX8 offers a version of Dual I.S as well when it comes to video recording, with an electronic image stabilization system inside the camera working with a lens-based 2-axis counterpart for a combined 5-axis Hybrid O.I.S setup. Unfortunately however, the entire 5-axis O.I.S does not work for 4K video footage, only for Full HD and lower video resolutions.
We should also mention that the 4K shooting mode of the GX8 is also not available on the camera dial. Instead, it has to be accessed via the drive menu. This is a small indicator that this camera has been aimed more at high resolution fast fps image capture than for 4K video recording, though the quality of the 4K video is definitely good and fine for some decent still shots. And speaking of those still shots in 4K, the pre-burst mode is a user’s best bet, since it captures a second of video right before shutter press and a second of video right after, resulting in a total of 60 frames to choose from, all with 8 megapixel resolution.
Finally, it’s worth mentioning that new higher resolution MOS sensor on the GX8. The Micro Four Thirds offers just above 20 megapixels for photos at up to 10 fps and with excellent noise reduction: shooting into shadows and in dark conditions at high ISO offers up some very clean black tones. Even zoom shots at ISO above 1000 during low lighting manage to look very decent with this camera.
We’re going to overview the main features of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX8 once again here by covering each of its key value specs in brief detail:
The 20-3 MP Digital Live MOS Sensor and Venus Engine combine to offer a seriously fast and robust overall video and photo processing performance, wider dynamic range and higher image quality than those found in the G7 from Panasonic. Because of these characteristics and a really wide range of ISO sensitivities that go from ISO 200 to 25,600, the GX8 is truly great for work under a broad range of conditions.
4K UHD Video Recording in this camera is versatile and great for some lower resolution 8 megapixel still shots, as we’d already mentioned. Shot in MP4 format, 4K video can be put out at 30 frames per second and 24 fps at 100Mbps. This results in a relatively smooth grade of video at UHD resolution and a useful solution for fast action photo sequences in a very presentable 8 MP resolution. There are three main 4K photo modes in the GX8. These consist of:
• 4K Burst mode, for continuous shooting of 8MP images at 30fps for as many as 29 minutes and 59 seconds.
• 4K Pre-Burst, for when you’re not sure about a critical moment for pressing the shutter. This mode shoots a 30 fps one second burst before shutter click and a second 30 fps burst after shutter click.
• 4K Burst (S/S), for recording at the standard 30 fps rate but with pauses at chosen moments, playback and using the shutter to mark select frames as single image files.
Depth-From-Defocus and Starlight SF Technology is also include in the GX8 for some accelerated autofocus performance. With DFD technology, the GX8 lets a user quickly calculate the distance to a subject and adjust focus accordingly in as little as 0.07 seconds. In this mode, with continuous AF, shooting can be done at 6 fps at full resolution. The starlight AF feature also allows for precise focus in low-light conditions.
Overall, the image quality and resolution capabilities of the DMC GX8 are superb. The 20.3 MP Digital Live MOS Sensor and Venus Engine pretty much guarantee some superb photo quality and the wide range of ISO means that even photos taken in very bright or dark conditions will look remarkably good and certainly better than they would in the cameras of many competitor brands.
A wide range of shooting modes, like those we’d covered above, are available for very high quality single shot and continuous shooting functionality across the board in JPEG, MPO or RAW photo formats. The only major problem with Image quality lies in the JPEG shots, whose color can look less than vibrant.
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX8 is currently retailing for $1,197.99. This isn’t a very bad price considering the sheer range of features in this camera and its overall quality. However, the downside is that the Body is not sold with any lenses. Those have to be bought separately and can be costly.
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To summarize briefly, the DMC-GX8 suffers mainly from less than great JPEG photo color, a somewhat overly bulky body and a touchscreen-based tap-to-focus system that can easily be accidentally moved to focus on unintended targets when adjusting the screens position. This can become annoying.
• Excellent 20.4 MP MOS sensor
• Wide ISO range
• Great continuous shooting options
• Very decent 4K video and photo capacity
• Venus Engine Image Processor from GH4
• A bit on the bulky side
• Less than decent JPEG image color
• Sensitive focus adjust in vari-angle screen