The Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX85 the litle brother of the GX8, (known as the GX80 outside of North America) is Panasonic’s latest mid-range Micro Four Thirds model. It sits in the company’s ‘GX’ series which is used to denote that it’s targeted towards dedicated enthusiast photographers but priced as a mid-range model.
It’s a 16MP model that’s capable of 4K video shooting but features a viewfinder and several features carried-over from the older GX7, including a built-in, bounceable pop-up flash.
As such, it’ll sit below the GX8 in the company’s lineup but the more budget-conscious user may well find that the GX85 offers a lot of its big brother’s capabilities. And, thanks to a redesigned shutter mechanism intended to minimize shutter shock, may even offer some practical advantages.
The GX85’s body is noticeably smaller than the GX8’s. In fact it looks a little like a GX7 that’s been left in the wash and has shrunk a little. This downsizing leaves it with fewer customizable buttons, no focus mode switch and a smaller battery compartment, but most of those changes still leave it as being broadly comparable with the GX7.
Despite the lower price point, it’s still a very solid-feeling camera. Unlike the GX8, it’s not weather-sealed, but it doesn’t feel like corners have been cut, either. The body has a pleasantly dense feeling to it, with no sense of flex or weakness.
The viewfinder is borrowed from the GX7 but it no longer hinges upwards. Its 2.7 million-dot equivalent resolution translates as 1280 x 720 pixels refreshed one color at a time (a process called field sequential update). This is a 16:9 aspect ratio, which is fairly unusual. Like the GX7, the GX85’s rear screen tilts up and down, and is touch-sensitive. It’s a 3:2 aspect ratio panel with 1.04M-dots, which works out as 700 x 480 pixels.
One of the biggest areas in which economies have been made is in the reversion to using a 16MP Four Thirds sensor. This probably isn’t going to be a deal-breaker for many people, and Panasonic has sweetened the pill slightly by doing away with the anti-aliasing filter in front of the chip.
This lack of AA filter should allow it to capture slightly more fine detail (Panasonic claims an improvement of as much as 10%), though comes with a slightly higher risk of moiré when used with a sharp lens. Panasonic says its JPEG engine will detect and remove the false color of moiré when it detects it.
The camera also shoots 4K video at 30p or 24p (25p in the GX80 model outside North America).
Like the GX8, the GX85 offers a Dual IS system which augments two axes of stabilization if you use a lens with built-in stabilization. Unlike the GX8’s in-body stabilisation, even without a stabilised lens the GX85 offers 5-axis stabilisation.
Most impressively, Panasonic says that the IS continues to work in all 5 axes when you’re shooting 4K video – the first camera we can think of that does this. The digital component of IS used in video requires the camera to read lines off the sensor above and below the standard output region, then use gyro sensors to predict where on the sensor the original framing is now being projected. Most sensors can’t read out a large enough section of the sensor fast enough to stabilize 4K video, but the GX85 claims to do so.
The GX85 continues Panasonic’s history of offering high-end video capabilities across much of its range, with this latest camera able to shoot UHD 4K at 30p or 24p. It shoots this 4K footage as MP4s at up to 100Mbps, which is pretty respectable for a consumer-focused model. It can also capture 1080p footage at up to 28Mbps as MP4 or AVCHD.
We say ‘consumer-focused’ because the GX85 lacks not only the slightly flatter ‘CinelikeD’ color profile offered by the GH4 but also neglects to include a microphone socket, which will limit anyone with any real video-shooting aspirations. And to think we complained about the non-standard 2.5mm socket on the GX8.
The camera does, however offers the ‘Live Cropping’ feature first introduced on the ZS100 (and demonstrated in our review of that camera). This lets you specify a start an endpoint to produce 1080p footage that appears to either pan or zoom, but does so from the 4K capture – meaning you can fix the camera on a tripod and not have to worry about how smoothly you can pan or zoom. It’s a handy option if you aren’t using sophisticated editing software.
The GX85 features built-in Wi-Fi, which allows remote control of the camera from a smart device, as well as opening up the option to transmit images from the camera. To make full use of this, the GX85 includes in-camera Raw conversion so that pictures can be tweaked and perfected before they’re shared with the world.
Like a couple of recent Panasonic models, the initial Wi-Fi connection is established by displaying a QR Code on the back of the camera, which can then be read by the iOS or Android app. It’s not clear whether the slightly faster NFC method has been abandoned to keep cost down or because it excludes Apple devices.
Interestingly the GX85 is called the GX7 Mark II in the Japanese market and, if you place the two side-by-side, that makes some sense: it’s not radically different in spec or control layout. That gives a hint about its intentions – it may not have all the GX8’s specifications, but it has enough that it could have sat at the top of the lineup just a few years ago.
Most of the omissions compared to the GX7 (tilting viewfinder, AF/MF switch) aren’t necessarily essential features. Indeed the retention of the built-in pop-up flash actually gives it an advantage over the more expensive GX8. Sadly, there is one feature that’s been removed that we think will be sorely missed: the lack of any microphone input is likely to come as a real blow to anyone wanting a keenly-priced stills/video hybrid.
Overall though, so long as the new shutter mechanism has settled the shutter shock problem, the GX85’s capability and price mean it looks to wear both the mid-range and enthusiast labels comfortably.