Hands-on Review: Panasonic Lumix G7

First Impression
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-G7 feels like it has substance to it. There is a protruding grip that feels extremely comfortable in my hands. Also, there is a rubber material on the front and rear which makes holding the camera more secure. I started off by taking some test shots of my cat to see the image quality of a relatively still subject in soft lighting (near a window on an overcast day, in this case). I switched between viewing through the viewfinder and Live View on the LCD by pressing the LVF button, although you can set it to automatically switch when you bring your eye up to the LVF as well. The touch focus on the LCD screen was great for focusing on the cat’s face, and seeing the focus on a large LCD screen is great for fine tuning.

Key Features

LUMIX 4K Ultra HD video
The DMC-G7 records 4K Ultra HD video at 30 frames per second. I brought it to a roller derby bout to see how well it records movies in a low-light, fast-paced situation. I set the Mode Dial to Intelligent Auto and set the Drive Mode Dial to 4K, this way the camera can choose the exposure while recording. Overall, the video was a little dark and slightly choppy, although the choppiness was probably because the memory card I used was a bit slow (4K requires a minimum of UHS-I, mine was a Class 10 card). It picked up the sound very well and the focus was pretty good considering how quickly the derby girls were moving. This would definitely be good to record the bouts so the girls can see what they need to improve upon or if they want to relive an amazing hip check!

Also, there was a band that I recorded. The video was much sharper because they were not moving around nearly as much. The sound of the band picked up decently, considering it was in a large skating rink in which the sound was not being directed anywhere. So, is 4K video really better than 1080p HD? Well, I’m used to shooting video with an action camera so, in comparison to that, the quality is definitely better. I could definitely see a band using this camera to record a cool set at a venue.

4K Photo mode
After extracting a photo from a 4K video, I was really surprised by the results. In the past, when I wanted to get a photo from a video, I would pause the video and take a screen shot. Then I would work on it in Photoshop. The quality was never as good as I wanted it to be. The DMC-G7, however, allows you to take stills directly from your 4K videos. It is very easy to use. The user just pulls up the video on the LCD screen and touches and drags each frame. Then, when there is a frame worth keeping, you just save it. I found this very useful with the roller derby video. It was very eye opening to go through each frame and pick out the stills that stood out. Roller derby is a very quick sport, and looking at it this way really let me capture the action.

I was also able to pull some great shots from my 4K video of the band. Again, the photos were sharper since they did not move around all that much, but the overall result was the same… high quality photos that really captured the action as it happened, something that is always difficult to do when shooting traditional stills.

Continuous Shooting
I turned the Mode Dial to burst shooting and fired the shutter when there was action. This is a good feature to use especially for fast action events. Rather than trying to get the perfect shot by shooting one frame, you can shoot once you think that shot is coming, and choose the best one later. While burst shooting might not be as fast as 4K Photo (8 FPS vs 30 FPS), the quality and resolution are better, so if you are only looking to shoot stills, burst mode is the way to go.

BURST SHOOTING

Vari-angle LCD Touchscreen
The Vari-angle LCD screen is very handy when I want to get shots at different angles without having to move around too much. The shot below was taken at a Sushi restaurant. If I didn’t have a camera with a vari-angle LCD screen I would have to be hovering over the plate of food to get the framing and focus right. The vari-angle LCD took away the need for this. I just pushed the LVF button, put the camera over the plate of food and tilted the screen so I could see the subject without having to get out of my chair. This feature also came in useful during the roller derby event when I was shooting video at various angles, anywhere from the floor to high above my head, and I imagine it would be convenient in countless other situations.

Built-in Wireless
It only took a few minutes to download the app, install it, and connect my phone to the camera via Wi-Fi. I used it to transfer some of the pictures from the DMC-G7 onto my phone, then I uploaded them onto Facebook to show my friends and family what I have been working on. The whole process probably took about ten minutes, and once it’s set up, transferring pictures is fast and fairly simple.

Low-light sensitivity
The ISO goes up to 25600 and the new Venus Engine is said to capture crisp pictures even in low light. The picture below was shot indoors next to a window that was covered with a blind. There wasn’t a lot of light coming into the room, but it captured the image beautifully without a tripod.

Image Quality

Macro / 16MP sensor
I zoomed in, set the Mode Dial to Program and the camera adjusted everything. The detail in the center of this flower is very sharp thanks to Touch Focus and the colors are true to life. I like a lot of contrast, so I would play around with the picture in Photoshop, but for a picture that has not been retouched, it looks pretty close to what I saw in person. The 16MP Digital Live MOS Sensor captured the nuances of light and shadow on a subject that has window and fluorescent light spilling onto it.

High Speed AF
The DMC-G7 is able to focus quickly whether shooting single shots or continuous burst shots. I had to shoot at 1/400-1/500 second in order to get optimal sharpness and good exposure at the roller derby bout. Program and Intelligent Auto usually picked a shutter speed that was too slow for me, I wanted to freeze the action. The AF was extremely fast for this and I never had a delay. I put the ISO up to 25600 to test out the clarity. When the ISO is up that high and there isn’t a lot of light in a room, then there is some noise in the picture. Also, the bundled 14-42mm lens has a maximum aperture opening of f/3.5-5.6 so it isn’t the greatest lens for this type of situation, but overall, it provided sufficient results.

Live View
It is easy to switch between Live View on the LCD screen and the OLED viewfinder. After shooting for two hours, the LCD screen would occasionally go blank. Maybe it happened because the battery was getting low. So, I switched to the OLED viewfinder when necessary. Maybe I’m just used to using optical viewfinders that aren’t electronic, but I found that the brightness of the viewfinder bothered my eye. For the shooting that I was doing, I preferred to compose my shots on the LCD screen.

Panorama
The Mode Dial has a panorama function. I used a tripod and panned to the right to get a shot of the whole skating rink. If I went too fast or if I stopped, the panorama would stop recording. It was a little tricky to get the right speed and fluidity, but eventually I got the hang of it and produced some really cool panoramic shots.

Photo Style
There are a variety of Photo Style modes including Standard, Vivid, Natural, Monochrome, Scenery, Portrait and Custom. If you don’t have Photoshop or other software to edit pictures then these are a great way to enhance your images in-camera.

BLACK & WHITE VIVID

Usability

Dials on Top
The front and rear dials on the top of the camera are easy to access in order to manually control the shutter and aperture, and the dials can be programmed with other functions. The Mode Dial on top has the typical Program, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority and Manual Exposure functions along with a few others. Also, you can choose Intelligent Auto Mode, Scene Guide Mode, Creative Control Mode, Creative Video Mode, and Panorama. It is definitely convenient to have these functions at the ready.

Buttons on back
For me, the less time I have to spend figuring out how to choose options the better. The back of the camera has ISO and White Balance buttons to quickly make adjustments. When I wanted to add a Photo Style to some of the pictures I pressed the Q.MENU button and used the touchscreen LCD to pick the style I wanted to apply.

Drive Mode Dial
This dial has Single, Burst, 4K Photo, Auto Bracket, Self-timer, and Time Lapse functions. Single was good to shoot the band or the derby girls when they were not moving around a lot. In order to capture fast-action I used Burst or 4K Photo. I especially like that in 4K Photo I can go through each frame to choose the one I like.

Final Thoughts

The body has some weight to it but was not too heavy to carry around. I especially like using Live View on the LCD screen and Touch Focus. This camera and lens combination are great for close-ups or slow moving subjects, but I do not think that it is ideal for indoor fast-action as there is some noise. I was still able to get some great shots at the derby, but I had to use a noise reduction filter in Photoshop. The flower and food pictures had practically no noise and the sharpness was really incredible, so with upgraded optics this camera would have no problem in other situations.

Overall, I think this camera is a good choice for traveling, family functions, blogs, hanging out with friends… pretty much anything. It offers a lot of features, including true 4K video, which will likely be the standard resolution for video in the near future. And although I was a bit intimidated using 4K Photo mode at first, it was an amazing feature. Being able to look at the video frame by frame to pick the best still was really exciting, and it helps you catch many moments you would normally miss.

Also…

Check out our video preview of the Panasonic Lumix G7!

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