GX-8 Owner Review from a former GX-7 user

Discussion in 'Panasonic Cameras' started by Dansteinberg, Feb 24, 2016.

  1. Dansteinberg

    Dansteinberg New to Mu-43

    Jan 17, 2012
    Hi there everyone. I wanted to give my initial impressions of the Panasonic GX-8. I owned the GX7 as my primary camera for the last couple of years and recently upgraded.

    After starting out with DSLR(Sony A200 then A580) I made the switch to M43 a while back, going through a succession of the EP-2, then the EP-3, and then the GX7.

    I am a big viewfinder guy, I can’t stand shooting without one, it just feels un-natural to me both holding the camera, and staring at a screen. So I always had the optional viewfinder with the Olympus cameras, and one of the reasons I upgraded to the GX7 (from the Pen EP-3) was because the viewfinder was built in and felt more “integrated”.

    However, while I loved every other aspect of the GX7, and felt it was a great upgrade to the EP-3, the viewfinder was a big step backwards from the olympus viewfinder I moved up from, in several specific ways:

    -The magnification was smaller so it didn’t fill my field of view as much. Very disappointing.

    -It’s 16x9 aspect ratio made the view very “tunnel like” since you were always seeing a huge chunk of screne that was not filled with anything. I thought that was a very odd decision for a still camera whose video was a secondary function.

    -I always noticed the tearing “rainbow effect”, specially on the edge of the screen, and it was very distracting.

    So, when the GX8 came out, I had to try upgrading, since by all reports. all of these issues were dealt with. For me anyway, the viewfinder on the GX8 is amazing, basically what the GX7 should have been all along. I finally have the camera I wanted, which is a M42 lens mount, but with the better viewfinders I was jealous of, on cameras like the Fuji XT-1.

    So with that long and boring backstory out of the way, here’s a long winded list of what I like and don’t like about the GX8, after having it a couple of weeks. The observations are, for now, more about controls and ergonomics compared to any changes in image quality vs the GX-7 I used to have. And as mentioned, this is all from the perspective of someone who used the GX7 as their only camera for about 2 years, and now has the GX8 as their only camera.

    The Good
    Viewfinder is excellent: Large magnification, good detail, correct aspect ratio

    2-Optional deeper eye cup for the viewfinder (which I also have) is WAY better than the optional eyecup for they made for the GX7, for two reasons:

    -Much, much deeper rubber surround, it really does shut out completely isolate all surrounding light. On the GX7 optional eyecup, it was honestly only a little deeper than the stock eyecup, made things better but not by much. I would try eyecups on old film DSLRs at the flea market that were nice and deep and think “why is this so hard to replicate something we had 40-50 years ago?”.

    -With the GX8, the optional eyecup “locks” onto the viewfinder with a small sliding switch, so it can not accidentally fall off. With the GX7, the optional eyecup could come off way too easily, I lost two of them in the field over the last 2 years, no fun at $20 a pop.

    3-Dedicated exposure compensation dial is very handy, when I take pictures (almost always in Aperture mode), exposure comp is the very last thing I adjust (if needed) before taking the shot, so it feels right to have a nice big dial just for this function. For me, I can only seem to adjust it with two fingers, not just one, but it is easy to reach over and do so. This dial feels nice and solid/chunky.

    4-I like how the rear screen can turn around and have the screen stored on the inside when you don’t want to use it. It is nice to know the screen cant be banged up when the camera is in a bag or my wife’s purse. Also, I always turn the screen off completely when shooting (since I use the viewfinder) but the GX7 would not remember that setting when turned back on, so I would constantly have to re-toggle to that setting every time I turned the camera back on (never got in the habit of letting it just go to sleep).

    I don’t actually care much about the extra articulation you can do vs the GX8, the previous methods was always enough for me to easily take high or low shots as needed. In fact the fully articulated design makes me nervous, I am worried if using it that way I might accidentally snap it off.

    5-Lots more function buttons than on the GX7. If I am comparing correctly, the GX8 has the same two function buttons the GX7 had, but adds three more, for a total of 5.

    Since Panasonic is good about letting you assign all 5 buttons to a huge range of functions (unlike the dials), you can really customize things to have quick access to lots of often used settings. This is how it should be on a camera in this price range.

    6-3-position focus mode switch, whereas the GX7 had a 2-position switch. If you are going to have a rotary switch it makes sense to add a third mode to allow even easier changes of focus settings

    As I own it longer I am sure I will appreciate the other improvements like better low light performance, more pixels (possibly), 4k video, etc.

    to be continued in next post......
    Last edited: Feb 24, 2016
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  2. Dansteinberg

    Dansteinberg New to Mu-43

    Jan 17, 2012
    The Bad
    As much as I like the new camera, and I am very glad I upgraded, there are definitely a lot of areas Panasonic got wrong in my opinion. Some could be easily fixed in a firmware update (but I won’t hold my breath) whereas others are physical issues that I will hopefully get used to over time. Issues for me included the following:

    1-The camera definitely feels larger in the hands, maybe a bit “too” large. I have fairly beefy "man hands” and the GX7 was a bit smaller than I needed (especially the grip) but the GX8 feels like a big “jump” in size. Whatever the actual increase was in dimensions, when I hold it in my hands I wish it was somewhere in between the GX7’s size and the GX8’s actual size.

    2-Besides feeling a little too big, the camera has a a “chunky” squared off vibe/feeing to it. Whereas the GX7 felt like a hip and classy “jewel” of a a rangefinder, the GX8 reminds me more of some chunky Russian brute force brick of a camera. I know none of this affects the quality of the photos I take in any way, but what would forums like this be for, if not for complaining about minute details?

    3-While I like that the grip is bigger, it’s not rounded enough on the inner part of it. The outer part of the grip has a nice round curve that your hand comfortably wraps around, but the inner part of the grip is a sharp-feeling right angle that “pokes” into your fingers. I noticed this the very first time I picked it up and it continues to annoy. A slight rounding of the inner part of the grip would have solved this issue nicely.

    4-Not sure if I will miss the built-in flash. I will be honest I never used it on the GX7, but I had been meaning to get more experienced with using it for fill flash, trying to light up faces outdoors against a bright sun, that sort of thing.

    5-The exposure compensation dial works backwards from how I would expect and I don’t see a menu to reverse it. In my mind, I would expect a clockwise rotation to make things brighter and add light, but it works the reverse of that. They should add a firmware update to allow you to use the dial in either direction (like they do for the other dials). I would not care that the physical +/- marks on the wheel would now be reversed.

    6-In aperture mode (which is what I shoot in 99% of the time) the dual dials BOTH control aperture, and as far as I can tell that can not be changed. I really don’t know what they were thinking here, you can assign the 5 function buttons to literally dozens of functions, but in aperture (an shutter speed) modes, the dials both have the same function, which is a complete waste of a valuable dial.

    So in the end I have no more control than I did on the GX7, where I used one dial for aperture and the other dial for exposure compensation. These extra dials are part of what differentiates the high end models from the lower ones; why hobble their potential for no good reason?

    The “2x2” button that assigns alternate functions to the 2 dials is only a partial solution, since it resets with every shot, and re-assigns both dials.

    What I would like would be to assign aperture to one of the dials, and then assign ISO to the 2nd dial. That way, when shooting, if the light is low and my aperture is already wide open, and I need to go up an ISO level, a quick click of the other wheel does the trick. The 2x2 function could still be used to switch to 2 more “2nd tier” dial functions, such as white balance and….not even sure what the 2nd one would need to be.

    This really needs to be fixed in a firmware update and quickly, I consider it one of the camera’s most glaring oversights. This is a high end camera, users need to be able to customize it to their preferred use case. This is not an engineering limitation, the designers just didn’t think of it, or they thought they knew better.

    7-The dial that surrounds the shutter button is easy to adjust with the same pointy finger that presses the shutter, same as on the GX7. However, the 2nd dial has been moved from the back panel, to the top panel, and in my opinion it is much harder to adjust.

    On the GX7, the rear panel dial was easy to adjust, I just moved my thumb from its resting position over to the wheel and rotated. With the new top panel dial, no matter what finger I try to adjust it with, I can not do so without changing my right hand’s grip on the camera, and temporarily gripping the camera in an uncomfortable and precarious fashion. This seems to be a basic issue of hand ergonomics and I don’t think this will improve as I own the camera longer.

    I wish they had kept this dial on the back panel like on the GX7, it could sit to the left of the thumb rest. Not only would it be easier to adjust (at least for me), but if they gave it the same “push” function that it had on the GX7, that would still allow both dials to have the 2x2 function. Best of all, there would be a huge chunk of top panel space freed up for the built in flash they got rid of because they could’t find room for it.

    So this is an area where I think they were trying to hard to give the camera an old school top panel dial look and feel (like the Fuji lineup) and by doing so, they made the dial harder to adjust, AND took up crucial top panel space that could have gone to a built in flash. Not a good tradeoff Panasonic !

    8-While I am grateful for the extra function buttons, some of them are not locatable by feel, as the buttons are literally completely flush with the casing surrounding them. Panasonic seemed to want to differentiate some of the function buttons from other menu buttons, by making them shallow and flush whereas the menu buttons are nice and tall. This is a bad idea IMO, ALL buttons should be raised and easy to feel when reaching for them.

    With the front panel function button especially, even if my fingers remember exactly where it is, it is literally hard to press because the button is so small and flush mounted.

    9-The optional extended eyecup, while I do love how deep it is, is shaped like an oval/rectangle, and is not an even circle like on some eyecups from back in the day. This works great for landscape shots since the whole huge eyecup nestles into your head’s eye socket nicely. However, the moment you rotate the camera for a portrait shot, the deep eyecup doesn’t fit into your eye socket well at all, since it is now “fighting” your eye socket and mashes up against the bone above your eye socket.

    I would have preferred for the eyecup to be a circle or at least more circular, so that it worked equally well in both orientations.

    I think that is all for now. I hope this was not too long winded and that this info helps anyone who is trying to decide whether to buy or upgrade. Thanks!
    Last edited: Feb 24, 2016
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  3. pmpup4p3

    pmpup4p3 Mu-43 Regular

    Jun 23, 2014
    Thanks for taking the time to post this.
    I have a GX7 and am "constantly" debating with myself about a possible upgrade to the GX8
  4. burdickjp

    burdickjp Mu-43 Veteran

    Feb 25, 2013
    Thank you for the review. The size of the GX8 was a big reason why I went with an E-M5II. Your review makes me glad I did, as I would not have been happy with some of the functions.

    Sent from my SM-G900M using Tapatalk
  5. marz

    marz Mu-43 Regular Subscribing Member

    Jul 5, 2011
    Pyrenees, France
    I have the feeling the you mixed up the old and new camera type a few times, or am I misunderstanding your style of writing?

    • Agree Agree x 1
  6. AlanU

    AlanU Mu-43 Veteran

    May 2, 2012
    I think panny should exercise caution in the size of their bodies. I do not have large hands but I think the portability of an Oly E-M1 is the sweet spot for the spirit of owning an m43 body.

    I find my E-M5 to be too small. For my casual camera I'm fine with a small body for short duration shooting. If I had to do an 8-12hrs shoot my hands would like the E-M5's weight but cramp on clutching such a small body. The GH3/4 has the ergonomic comfort with buttons galore for long duration shooting and still retain a small functional size.

    As long as I can have the functions I need with ease with comfort (not talking cosmetics) that's all that I need as long as I can get the IQ and focus without sacrificing creative control.

    When the size of the body gets into the GX8 range this starts to venture into fuji territory and Sony A7 series. However if your an M43 shooter with a bag of primes and zooms buy a 1200USD GX8 is the most economical.
  7. Agree with marz, I found myself editing in realtime as I read -- since I Have a GX7 I knew when you really meant to say GX7 but wrote GX8, but others might get confused. Thanks for the review.
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  8. tkbslc

    tkbslc Mu-43 Legend

    Great first post! Welcome to the forum community.
  9. danelkins

    danelkins Mu-43 Top Veteran Subscribing Member

    Mar 9, 2013
    Norhtern Illinois
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts and experiance. I love my GX8 and only have one cpmplaint – the front face function button next to the grip does not work for me. I accidentaly hit it all the time so i turned it off. Not a major issue as I set all my over rides and customize settings and make very few changes in my shooting settings. I LOVE the size of the GX8, I enjoy the GX7 as well but when using the longer lens (35-100/2.8) the experiance is more natural on the GX8 then GX7
  10. Estrellas321

    Estrellas321 Mu-43 Regular

    Feb 19, 2015
    Vancouver, BC
    Thanks for your review. I also have a GX7, and like many here, have been contemplating the GX8. I don't think your pros will necessarily match my pros, and same with your cons. After reading many reviews, I think I have come to the conclusion that I don't *need* the GX8 unless the EVF and weather sealing is a priority...which for me is not.

    I think my ~$800 will be better spent on lenses (been drooling over the Panny 15mm lately), or perhaps save it for if/when the GX8 comes down in price down the road.
  11. Dansteinberg

    Dansteinberg New to Mu-43

    Jan 17, 2012
    Oops! Definitely had some typos and mixed up which model I was referencing.

    I think I have corrected them all, and apologies for the confusion. That's what I get for typing a long post at 1 in the morning!
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  12. Dansteinberg

    Dansteinberg New to Mu-43

    Jan 17, 2012
    Oh, the other thing I probably should have mentioned is that I did not pay full price for the camera, what finally got me to go ahead with it was that Amazon warehouse deals had a batch of them, in basically new condition, for $770, as opposed to the current $1200-ish price range they still seem to be at overall.

    My copy came in a box that had been opened/resealed (as advertised) but the camera was cosmetically, and as far as I can tell mechanically, in perfect shape, and had all of the accessories.

    As I am not a professional, $1200 would be way, way too much for me to spend on a single body at any given time, but $770 was just about acceptable to me, at least when factoring the small amount of money I hope to get for selling the GX7 (it's packed up but not sold yet).

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  13. Turbofrog

    Turbofrog Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Mar 21, 2014
    Thanks for the thorough review. I also have a GX7 and have followed the GX8 with interest...

    I think that while I would enjoy a lot of the features of the GX8 (better EVF, weather sealing, fully articulated screen, 4K video/photo features), my GX7 works so well for the kind of shooting that I generally do that I will happily wait another generation for something before I upgrade. I know there's always something better, but the price of a new body at this point is probably better spent on glass - or more realistically, on a trip to somewhere nice to shoot!
    • Agree Agree x 2
  14. DHart

    DHart Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jan 7, 2010
    Scottsdale, Arizona
    Thank you for the detailed review!

    As several others here have stated, I too have a much loved GX7 and have been contemplating the GX8.

    The size of the GX8 gives me pause. Perhaps a GX9 isn't too very far off in the future and may address the "oversized" GX8 size, and some of the controls issues.

    I have no plans to let go of the GX7 anytime soon, as there is so little about it that I have any concerns with. Though the EVF on the GX8 would be great to have, the EVF on the GX7 suits my needs quite well enough.
    Last edited: Feb 24, 2016
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  15. Generationfourth

    Generationfourth Mu-43 Regular

    Sep 11, 2015
    I agree with a lot of what you said. In the end though I don't see much of these as deal breakers. It's still a great camera.

    For the ISO bump try setting a FN button to ISO (I use FN1) and when you tap it it will automatically bump up the ISO. Not exactly what you wanted but could work for you.

    I find the FN7 (on the front of camera) button to be really hard to hit, and easy to accidentally hit so I put a couple of tiny squares of gaffer's tape and now it's usable.

    How long have you had the camera? I found that after a couple of weeks/2000+ shots I adjusted quite well to the 8.
  16. Dansteinberg

    Dansteinberg New to Mu-43

    Jan 17, 2012
    Agreed that none of the complaints are deal breakers, I have been enjoying the camera and am glad I upgraded.

    I have had it a week or so, but not had time yet to take it out and really put it through its paces.

    That's a good tip about the ISO button function, very cool. At first I tried mapping it to the "trash/back" button, but for some reason when you map it to that button, it only brings up the iso menu but does not increase it, you still have to scroll with the cursor diamond to change the value.

    Only when I mapped it to a different button (in my case the Fn button to the right of the trash/back button) did it perform as documented, increasing the ISO with a button press.

    That's the kind of thing that confuses me, I don't understand why some engineer somewhere decided that a mapped function should work differently, depending on which button you assign it to. I would have much rather mapped it to the trash/back button, since it is a) raised and not flush and b) a spot where my thumb can be moved more naturally while gripping the camera.

    But I do still love the camera :) 
  17. DHart

    DHart Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jan 7, 2010
    Scottsdale, Arizona
    I wish there was a local shop where I could lay hands on the GX8 to see how the size feels without having to buy one first (with potential to return). Though that's the way it has been for me for quite a while. I will just have to order one from B&H to find out.
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  18. danelkins

    danelkins Mu-43 Top Veteran Subscribing Member

    Mar 9, 2013
    Norhtern Illinois
    The closest camera in feel is the Fuji xpro1. The both have a straight edge body lines with the GX8 having a bit more grip.
  19. barry13

    barry13 Super Moderator; Photon Wrangler Subscribing Member

    Mar 7, 2014
    Southern California
    Best Buy is rolling out their new camera section to more stores.
    I'm not sure if they'll have the GX8, but they do have the G7 currently in some stores.

  20. DHart

    DHart Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jan 7, 2010
    Scottsdale, Arizona
    Thanks guys... I will have to check in at the Scottsdale Best Buy to see what they have.
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