Panasonic’s latest take on the mirrorless camera not only show it has the guts to be a great camera, but a very creative and forward-thinking one, too.
Features and performance
Panasonic is no stranger to invention, and to get the masses interested in your gadgets these days, that’s what you need to do, coming up with ideas that no one else will see coming.
Oh sure, you could just release another camera and repurpose last year’s technology, or even update this year’s and trickle it into something else, but why not be inventive a bit and produce something truly interesting?
That might be what Panasonic has accomplished with the G7, one of the most recent models in its long running mirrorless range of Lumix digital cameras, which grabs technology from higher end models and makes it smaller and more in reach of anyone who doesn’t have a spare two grand to kill on a new camera.
It might say “7” on the bottom of the body, but this is by no means Panasonic’s seventh mirrorless camera. What it is, however, is the company’s seventh 4K capable camera, and that’s part of the main draw of this camera, with the little box capable of shooting both images and video, all well above what Full HD offers.
In the image department, you’ll find 16 megapixel images are possible from the Micro Four-Thirds LiveMOS sensor, while the video area can provide 4K video, allowing you to make movies for one of those 4K TVs that are being sold, long before Hollywood gets its act together and finds a way of delivering 4K movies outside of Netflix.
An SD card slot is included, and there’s support for WiFi, too, meaning you can move files over to your phone and tablet, but only 30 at a time. The upside of this, however, is that you’ll be able to share images on social media fairly quickly.
There’s a 3 inch LCD touchscreen on the back on a vari-angle hinge, a viewfinder above this, and lots of controls, with support for RAW and quite a few creative modes to boot, and even low-light sensitivity going down to ISO 25600.
In the hands, you’ll find a slightly bigger body than some of the mirrorless cameras we’ve seen before, with what feels more like a small digital SLR than a compact mirrorless.
These are different feelings, of course, and the Lumix G7 has been designed to be more like a camera made for enthusiasts, so we can sort of see why this design has been used, and why the look of this camera is what it is.
That look isn’t retro like what Olympus goes for, nor black and flat like Sony, but rather kind of in the middle, with a rubberised grip and leather look around a plastic body offering loads of controls.
And when we say “loads”, we actually mean it.
Hold the camera properly — left hand flat under the lens and body, right hand on the grip — and you’ll find that right hand is within reach of practically everything you’ll need, whether you want to control everything like a pro or let the camera do most of the heavy lifting.
There’s a control ring around the shutter button, a control ring on the other side near where your thumb will rest, a mode selector ring up top on the right for your thumb to peruse, an auto-focus switch and lock near these, and function buttons on the top and at the back, giving your thumb plenty of things to memorise when you decide to get down to the act of customising the camera.
Panasonic has also provided a touchscreen for you to control the exposure with — touch to focus or do a little more if need be — and this is a vari-angle screen sitting on a hinge that allows you to pull it out with ease.
There’s also a viewfinder provided here, each of which show a digital representation through the camera.
Unfortunately, there’s no optical viewfinder here and everything is digital, but the image is bright and friendly, with the only problem being from the eye-line sensor under the viewfinder, which occasionally picks up on your body and forces you over to the viewfinder, stopping the LCD dead in its tracks.
It’s a bit of a bug, and if it happens, you’ll just want to pull the camera away from your body to tell the camera that you’re not using the viewfinder, which will bring access back to the screen once again.
But if you do decide to use the viewfinder, you may find a bit of a treat. A weird treat, sure, but one none the less, with focus able to be determined by where you’re looking.
We haven’t seen this technology for quite some time, but essentially where you look — and where your eyelashes brush across — appears to be used as a focus point, highlighting squares off the viewfinder for where you should focus.
Most of the time, like many digital camera users, we just stuck to the LCD screen on the back, but the inclusion of a viewfinder, especially one with eye-based focus, was nonetheless quite useful.
Moving past this, if you know what you’re doing and/or are an enthusiast, you’ll find the G7 is easily controlled, and that comes from all of those controls.
The grip is comfortable to hold, and that helps, with the half kilogram weight easy to deal with whether it’s in hand or around your neck not in use.
Images from the camera are often bright and cheerful, with decent colour recreation, though we do wish the kit lens that came with the camera — 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 — was a better piece of glass.
This feels like the oldest part of the package, and images aren’t super sharp from this bit, so we’d make sure to upgrade and replace this element as fast as you can.
Panasonic also includes some of that innovation we were talking about before, and it does with 4K photo modes.
This is a bit of technology that is so special, we’re willing to call them “game changing” because that’s not far from the truth.