Panasonic GX8 and lenses

I recently added a Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX8 to my micro 4/3 camera collection for several reasons:

  • Added resolution of a 20-megapixel sensor
  • Ability to take 4k movies
  • It overcomes the time limit on videos by seamlessly starting a new file when the 2 GB limit is reached
  • A really nice tiltable optical viewfinder
  • A fully-articulated rear screen

In addition to the GX8, I still have my Olympus OM-MD1, and two other older micro 4/3 cameras. I was unhappy with the MD1's performance at taking movies. Aside from only being able to take 1080p (maximum) videos, it had an annoying tendancy to hunt its focus as the orchestra conductor conducted.

I just took the GX8 on a trip through the South China Seas, and wanted to share my experiences with the camera after taking 4500 pictures and a few dozen videos. Please go to this link and look at the pictures for yourself. As you will note in the above picture, I mostly used the Olympus 14–150mm F4-5.6 II zoom lens on the trip. In addition, I carried the Panasonic 7–14mm ultra-wide angle lens. Shown above is the Olympus 12–50mm f3.5-6.3 lens that I use for symphony videos. This lens has a motorized zoom, which I find essential.

The GX8 has one huge flaw for me: it is impossible to hold without hitting (and changing) the WB button on the back.

The Olympus MD1 does not exhibit this problem. As a result, on the GX8 I was constantly changing the white balance and occasionally the ISO setting. This was really annoying. As a result, I had to edit all of my images, changing the white balance on many of them. I shoot in RAW mode, so the images are fine, they just need tweaking. On the other hand, The Olympus MD1 has its own problem—I am forever resetting the focus point by accident. This is also annoying, and results in a ruined picture if the wrong thing is in focus.

Otherwise, I am quite pleased with the image quality I got with the GX8. I used my Olympus TG4 one day for underwater shooting, and the reduction in image clarity on the TG4 (compared to the GX8) is striking and disappointing, although it may be due to a lack of image stabilization. Reports say that the MD1 image stabilization is superior to that of the GX8, however I found that the GX8 stabilization was generally sufficient. Most of the pictures I kept are nice and sharp.

I was disappointed to find that the panoramic mode does not work when the camera is in portrait mode. But I got many good panoramas in landscape mode. My LG G4 phone camera is much more helpful than the GX8 when you take panoramas. The phone gives you up-down and left-right guidance as you move it; the GX8 just dies and tells you to move faster or slower on the next try. GX8 Panoramas come out as 8,176 x 1,920 JPEGs.

The GX8 excels at taking movies. I finally mastered my movie-making techniques, and am quite pleased with the video of the family concert. I am less pleased with the videos I took on my trip. The GX8 had a hard time staying focused during zooms. If the image stabilizer is working in 4k mode, it is not terribly effective; good videos require a tripod. A BIG plus is that this is the only micro 4/3 camera that has no time limit on videos. When the file size limit is reached on the SD card, the GX8 seamlessly opens a new file and continues. Apple iMovie refuses to make 4K videos on my older, but very powerful Mac Pro, so I do it inside a Parallels virtual machine in Windows 10. Cyberlink Power Director joins the file chunks seamlessly and creates beautiful 4K videos. Another bad feature of the GX8 is that the record button is small, and flush to the camera body. Several times, I have thought I started a video, but in fact did not press the button. One bad feature is the non-standard 2.5mm microphone jack. Adaptors are awkward, and the thin 2.5mm plug is not gripped strongly enough by the jack. As a result, whenever you go to zoom the lens (motorized zoom control is on the left), it is impossible to avoid hitting the mic cable, which injects noise into the recording.

Finally, I must comment on the WiFi connection between the camera and my LG G4 phone using the Panasonic Image app. It is frustrating and unreliable. Both have near field capability, but this has never worked for me. On my trip I spent hours trying to get the phone and camera to talk to each other so that I could do geo-tagging, but with no success. When I came home, they connected the first time I tried it. Grrrrrr.

I have decided to return to using my Olympus MD-1 for normal photography. It is smaller, lighter, and has better image stabilization than the GX-8. I also can grab it without hitting any buttons.

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