In an age where we want a camera that does everything at a price that won’t break the bank, the enthusiast-level GX80 has a spec sheet that’s sure to entice.
Despite a comparatively modest £509 body price, it offers 4K video recording, a 5-axis image stabilisation system, and lots of unique technology like Post Focus shooting and 4K Photo modes. Slotting just below the larger and more expensive GX8 in Panasonic’s CSC line up, its smaller design is more akin to 2013’s GX7 than that of its direct predecessor.
However, with a fairly conservative resolution of 16Mp, the removal of the popular tilting electronic viewfinder found on several previous GX models, and some more subtle alterations, is everything about this camera equally as impressive? We put the GX80 through its paces to find out for ourselves...
At the heart of the GX80 is its 16Mp Live MOS Micro Four Thirds sensor, the same as in the GX7. While this is a lower pixel count than the 20.3Mp on the GX8, it’s sufficient to make prints large enough for most. The sensor has no anti-aliasing filter, which notably improves the sharpness of fine detail in images. It’s paired with Panasonic’s Venus Engine processor, outputting shots as RAWS or JPEGs at 4592x3448px. The camera’s native ISO range begins at ISO 200 and finishes at ISO 25,600.
The GX80’s full-resolution burst shooting speed of 8fps with AF locked from the first frame, or 6fps with continuous focusing, is par for the course for an enthusiast CSC, but the camera does benefit from numerous 4K Photo modes. These allow the capture of 8Mp stills at a rate of 30fps. There’s also a Super High burst mode that uses the electronic shutter with a lower resolution for 40fps shooting. One of Panasonic’s unique features is its Post Focus shooting function. It captures a series of 8Mp pics at a range of focus distances, allowing you to select the desired shot on review.
A newly-designed mechanical shutter is driven by electromagnets, substantially reducing the chance of blur from shutter vibration, and the camera’s audibility for quiet shooting. This comes at the price of a slower maximum shutter speed compared to the GX8. 1/4000sec is the new limit, though there’s the option to use the electronic shutter for speeds up to 1/16,000sec.
The GX80 can impressively record Ultra High Definition 4K video at a frame rate of 25p and Full HD at 50p. The camera’s 5-axis Dual I.S. system also works during video recording, although the GX80 lacks inputs for either headphones or an external mic.
Like the GX7 and GX8, the GX80 has an electronic viewfinder (EVF) placed at the top left corner of its rear. However, unlike those models, this bright 2764K-dot EVF does not flip up, and the fixed design helps to keep the overall size to a minimum. Complementing the EVF is a 3in touchscreen LCD that can be tilted up by 80° and down by 45°. This 1040K-dot display allows full control of the camera’s menu by touch, and includes touch-focus and touch-shutter operations.
The camera has Wi-Fi for remote shooting and file transfer via an smartphone or tablet app, but doesn’t feature NFC. A pop-up flash is present on the GX80 (something that wasn’t on the GX8), as is a hotshoe, and micro HDMI and USB outputs. The latter is used for charging the camera battery internally.
Build & Performance
Notably smaller than the GX8, the GX80 measures a compact 122x71x44mm. Despite this reduced size, it still manages to feel well-balanced in the hand, thanks to a raised front grip and thumbrest. With all-metal dials and faux leather cladding, this rangefinder-styled CSC may not quite have a luxury finish, but it does avoid the plasticky feel of lower-end models. However, unlike the GX8, it lacks weather-sealing. While this is not a deal-breaker for a camera at this price, it may weaken its appeal to those who shoot in all weathers.
Most of the camera’s important settings are kept close to hand, and can be selected either by a dedicated control or via the GX80’s Quick menu. There are dials on the top for shooting modes and adjustments, and a secondary dial on the rear, which also controls Exposure Compensation when pressed in.
Quickly finding focus in well-lit conditions, the GX80’s Contrast Detect AF system performs well in most situations. However, despite its -4EV rating, it did struggle slightly in low lighting. Available focusing modes include Tracking, and the popular Pinpoint setting that magnifies the selected area. There are also all of the standard AF and MF options to choose from.
The camera’s 8fps burst mode slowed down after 55 RAWs, and these took 20secs to clear the buffer. Single RAWs took just under 1sec, while single JPEGs were written almost instantly in an impressive 0.1sec.
Value for money
The enthusiast CSC market is highly competitive, and there’s never going to be one model that’s right for everyone. While the GX80 is pretty unique in offering 4K recording and its related stills modes, there are several competing CSC models at similar prices that users might also want to consider.
For £489 the Sony A6000 includes a lens, a larger APS-C size sensor, Hybrid AF and 11fps burst mode. Then for £449 there’s the Fuji X-T10 (body only) with an APS-C sensor, or the Micro Four Thirds Olympus E-M10 MkII
with its refined retro styling. Handling these, along with the GX80, will help you decide.
The GX80 has a lot to be applauded, offering not only respectable image quality, but also several advanced features like 4K recording and 5-axis Dual I.S. at an appealing price. Sitting below the GX8 in the brand’s lineup, it feels as much an evolution of the GX7, as a stripped-down version of that model. For those who like to dabble in videography, it could make an excellent purchase, just as it could for travellers looking for a small camera. There is, however, a lot of competition out there on the market for buyers at this price point. While the GX80 benefits from great access to lenses thanks to its Micro Four Thirds mount (something that may of its rivals will struggle with), those who aren’t swayed by the inclusion of 4K may be tempted elsewhere by CSCs with larger sensors or designs based on a refined retro-chic styling.
- Price: £509 body-only (As of July 2016)
- Resolution: 16Mp (4592x3448px)
- Format: RAW & JPEG
- Sensor: Micro 4/3, 17.3x13mm
- ISO: Native 200-25,600
- Shutter: 1/4000sec – 60secs
- AF system: Contrast detect
- Burst rate: 6fps with AF-C
- Monitor: 3in 1040k-dot tilt LCD
- Viewfinder: 2764k-dot EVF
- Flash: Yes
- Video: 4K UHD 3840x2160 @ 25fps
- Connectivity: Wi-Fi
- Storage: SD, SDHC & SDXC
- Weight: 426g with battery and SD card
- Dimensions: (WxHxD) 122x71x44mm
- Visit: www.panasonic.com/uk
This review was first published in the June 2016 issue of Digital Photo - download back issues here.