The G7 aims to change the way we shoot by pulling 8Mp stills from its 4K videos. Camera brands have been hard at work, inventing new ways to simplify the photo-taking process. Panasonic’s latest 4K technology pushes the idea that you’ll never miss a moment by shooting a 4K video burst at 30fps and extracting the exact frame you want afterwards. This new technology is becoming a regular feature in Panasonic’s CSCs and bridge cameras after making its debut in the widely-praised GH4 last year. For many, the GH4’s body-only price of £1049 is out of reach. But the new G7 borrows many of thefeatures found in its bigger brother and comes in at £450 less. Does this make the G7 a fantastic bargain? We find out.
Features & Build
The G7 takes on a 16.8Mp Micro Four Thirds sensor which measures 17.3x13mm and produces shots with a maximum resolution of 4592x3448px.
A powerful Venus Engine with a quad-core GPU has been employed to handle the processor-hungry 4K video stream and high frame rates – 8fps for RAWs or 40fps for JPEGs. It also provides an ISO range of 200-25,600 (expandable to 100 at the low end) and an impressive shutter range of 60-1/4000sec. This can bepushed to 1/16,000sec with the electronic shutter when shooting JPEGs.
The headline feature of the G7 is its ability to record 4K, or rather a derivative of 4K called Quad Full HD (QFHD). This format shoots movies at 3840x2160 which is four times the resolution of Full HD and means JPEGs can be extracted at 8Mp. Its 4K mode is more geared towards stills, as the Cinema 4K option found in the GH4 has been left off the bill. In addition there’s a dedicated 4K Photo mode on the Drive Mode dial. Here, you can choose from 4K Burst which records while the shutter is depressed, 4K Burst S/S where a press of the shutter starts the recording and another ends it, or 4K Pre-Burst which records 30 frames before and after the shutter is pressed.
The Drive mode dial sits on the left of the top-plate giving easy access to the various Burst, 4K and Self-timer modes. Next to it is the OLED 2,360k-dot Electronic Viewfinder (EVF), and this has a hotshoe and pop-up flash integrated into its housing. On the right you’ll find the Mode dial with MASP modes, Intelligent Auto, Custom and Movie modes. Twin command dials make it easy to adjust exposure settings quickly and there’s a movie record button behind the shutter to capture those 4K videos.
The 3in, 1,040k-dot screen sits on the back and flips out to assist with awkward compositions. An AF mode switch above the LCD makes it easy to flick through the AFS/AFF, AFC and MF focusing modes. When using autofocus there are even more choices such as Face/Eye Detection AF, Tracking AF, 49-Area AF, Custom Multi, 1-Area and Pinpoint AF. It’s a contrast-detection based system so you can place your AF point anywhere by tapping the touchscreen. If you wish, you can also resize the AF point.
Wi-Fi is part of the build andallows remote shooting through the Panasonic Image App which is available for free on smart phones and tablets.
Performance & Handling
In theory the G7 shouldn’t feel too dissimilar in size and weight to an entry-level DSLR. Its grip is a good size and hugs the hand well, its weight of 410g is only 60g less than Nikon’s D5500, and there’s not much in the dimensions either. Despite this, the G7 feels remarkably small and portable. This is perhaps partly thanks to the 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 ASPH Mega O.I.S lens we tested it with. The lens has squat dimensions of 56x49mm but still features a good manual focus ring which is a nice touch.
The G7 boasts Depth from Defocus (DFD) technology and claims to be able to lock onto a subject in just 0.07sec. We couldn’t disagree when shooting stills – it didn’t falter whether focusing near or far. But the AF performance did slow down when shooting 4K movies. That said, one of the G7’s most impressive features is its Focus Peaking which puts a bold, colourful line around items that are sharply focused. It works on both the rear screen and EVF and made manual focusing the best option for video shooting.
The EVF is clear and fluid with almost no sign of lag. A motion sensor sits below it and automatically switches it on when you bring it up to eye level. This took a moment to engage, and if you don’t require it, you have the option to switch the EVF on or off manually.
The G7’s button layout and camera design is very ergonomic – we were rarely left wondering where specific settings lived. It was a little fiddly to change the AF area size using the touchscreen, however, and took a few attempts even with a dextrous pair of hands. The touch display is very handy though, whether its for scrolling through pics or accessing menus.
You’ll need a fast, Class 10 SDHC or SDXC card with a UHS Speed Class U3 rating (or faster) to handle the vast amounts of data from 4K video recording. We used a Panasonic 64GB SDXC U3 card with a write speed of 90MB/s. Here the G7 took 0.83sec to record a single JPEG and 1.2secs to write a lone RAW file. The buffer never filled when shooting a continuous burst of JPEGs but RAWs slowed after 16 shots, taking 8.5secs to clear.
Value for money
Panasonic’s G7 has an RRP of £599 body only, £679 with the 14-42mm lens or £849 with the 14-140mm lens, all of which are sizeable amounts of cash. Nikon’s D5500 DSLR is £599 and has a larger 24.2Mp APS-C sensor, while Canon’s 100D is a compact DSLR with 18Mp APS-C sensor.
Its main rival from the CSC camp is likely to be Samsung’s NX500 which costs £599 with 16-50mm lens. It has a DSLR-sized, APS-C sensor and shoots 4K video, but doesn’t have the G7’s clever 4K Photo modes.#
The G7 is packed with innovative features that make it a real alternative to a DSLR. Its high burst rate, flip-out screen and focus peaking features are all fantastic, and make the G7 a pleasure to shoot with. It feels light and portable yet is very robust, and its EVF performed well too.
You’ll need to decide whether you want the portability and speed that the G7 offers, or the slower bursts and larger APS-C sensors found within entry-level D-SLRs. The G7’s ISO results prevented its Image Quality from reaching top marks and its 8fps RAW burst speed is a little slow for a CSC (Nikon’s 1 J5 hits 60fps). If you’re considering the GH4 for its 4K features, the G7 is a strong alternative, as it’ll save enough cash for a quality lens. All-in-all it’s a solid camera that makes shooting high-speed moments easier.
- Street price: £499 with 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 MEGA O.I.S lens (As of June 2016)
- Resolution: 16.8Mp (4592x3448px)
- Format: RAW & JPEG
- Sensor: Micro Four Thirds
- ISO: 200-25,600 (100 expanded)
- Shutter: 60-1/4,000sec, electronic shutter 1/16,000sec & Bulb mode
- AF system: Contrast with DFD
- Focusing modes: Manual Focus, Face/Eye Detection AF, Tracking AF, 49-Area AF, Custom Multi, 1-Area and Pinpoint AF
- Metering: Multiple, Centre Weighted & Spot Burst: 8fps RAW
- Monitor: Rotatable 3in 1040k-dot touchscreen LCD
- Viewfinder: OLED 2360k-dot EVF
- Pop-up flash: Yes Hotshoe: Yes
- Video: 4K 3840x2160 @ 30p
- Write speeds: 1.2secs RAW, 0.83sec
- Fine JPEG
- Storage: SD, SDHC and SDXC
- Weight: 360g (body only)
- Dimensions: (WxHxD) 124.9x86.2x77.4mm
- Visit: www.panasonic.com/uk
This review was first published in the September 2015 issue of Digital Photo - download back issues here.