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New GX85 vs. my E-M10, first impressions and discoveries

Discussion in 'Panasonic Cameras' started by Egregius V, May 18, 2016.

  1. Egregius V

    Egregius V Mu-43 Regular

    122
    Jun 14, 2015
    Massachusetts, USA
    Rev. Gregory Vozzo
    This past day was my last day of vacation - thought I'd give myself one more treat! I found a Best Buy store about an hour away that still had a couple of black GX85 kits in their warehouse. (There was no display for them on the sales floor.) One had been repackaged - badly. The other really was brand new, so I bought it. Can it replace my older cameras, my Olympus E-M10 in particular? I have two weeks to determine that, but first impressions are rather positive.

    Unboxing:

    Opening the top flaps, one finds a sales brochure - "Micro Four Thirds Lens Lineup" - in an unsealed plastic bag with the manual and warranty info. Under this is a flap listing the contents of the box and optional accessories - very useful if checking out the camera in-store! Under this flap is an open compartment with the camera itself (lens attached) and a closed compartment holding the strap, battery, USB cable and A/C adapter.

    Noticeably absent: a rear lens cap for the 12-32 lens! Also a lens pouch.

    The camera shell is obviously plastic, but fairfy robust with little flexing. Handling the camera, one can hear and feel its innards rattling around - until one turns the camera on. (The IBIS, as confirmed by the manual.) Taking off the lens for the first time revealed a closed shutter, not an exposed sensor cavity. After using the camera, the sensor is exposed - it floats! It jiggles! Hello, IBIS.

    Battery and SD card insertion is no different than with the Olympus E-M10. Out of the box, the battery was about half-charged. For now, the only way I can charge it is in-camera. Turning it on - after setting the time, date, and region, I was ready to go!

    Camera size is nearly identical to the E-M10 (sans hump). The Panasonic body feels just slightly heavier, but also has a slightly more comfortable and secure grip for my right hand (US glove size medium). Considering I already liked the E-M10 size and grip, the GX85 is looking pretty good as a successor.

    The kit lens has a plastic mount. I couldn't care less about that. I have yet to test the lens out, but can say that zooming the lens in and out isn't quiet. It's smooth but stiff. Also not a concern for me, a stills shooter.

    EVF, LCD, and controls:

    This is my first experience with a Panasonic EVF, and it's rather unpleasant. Its position is great for the right eye - terrible for the left. Size is OK, but not ideal for someone with glasses. My eyes are already sensitive to chromatic aberrations in eyeglass lenses; I see these in the EVF, too, when I look off-center. If I move the camera around (or just blink or move my eyes), white parts of the image flash red, green, and blue (tearing). There are also some distracting internal reflections which can blur the display. Fortunately, in general use and with some practice, I'm not noticing the problems so much that it's a deal-breaker. Besides, the tilt LCD is more important to me.

    In-camera, default colors are very saturated and shifted toward red. This is noticeably worse in the EVF than on the LCD, making it even harder to guess how the photos will actually look on a calibrated monitor. Colors look a bit more natural when viewed out-of-camera - on a calibrated monitor. (Similarly, Olympus saturation can appear stronger in the camera, but is more consistent between EVF and LCD.)

    The LCD tilts up and down - same as the one on the E-M10, only the Panasonic screen is a bit thinner and more flush with the camera body. This makes it harder to handle, but more aesthetically pleasing.

    Happily, reviewing photos in-camera is noticeably snappier on this camera than on my Olympus cameras. Olympus offers finer navigation controls, however. In comparison, the Panasonic dials are stiff, have a rather long throw between positions, and result in larger zoom steps. Incidentally, the on/off switch is also stiff. Buttons are tiny and not as tactile as what Olympus offers, IMO - but they're fine.

    Shutter and stabilizer:

    With all lenses I tested, one can hear the IBIS working continuously while the camera's on - a whispery hum, just like one would hear in an Olympus OM-D with the shutter half-pressed.

    The mechanical shutter has a nice sound to it. I'd call it quiet - just a bit louder and sharper than the E-M5 II's soft and smooth mechanical shutter (which I absolutely love). A bit quieter than the GX85's fake shutter sound played by default when using the electronic shutter.

    Grip: a bit superior to Olympus grips, in my opinion. My hands are on the small side and find the grip just about perfect. The thumb and two fingers do most of the work; the palm mostly supports the side of the camera rather than the bottom.

    Menus and default controls: Here, familiarity breeds contentment, not contempt. I find that I much prefer Olympus default controls, menu organization, and on-screen help. Panasonic cameras aren't night-and-day different, though. There are enough similarities that I can find my way around. Of course, there are also reasons to prefer Panasonic's interface to Olympus's. There are just more pages of settings to go through in each category, rather than more categories with fewer pages.

    Banding with the 20mm lens and mechanical shutter? So far, I haven't been able to produce any. I don't know what this says about the sensor, the shutter, or any other part of a camera that might contribute to banding. I'm just happy with the result! Very happy!

    Is the AF any better than Olympus AF? One evening might be sufficient to test what I was most curious about. With the 20mm lens, Panasonic's AF is not noticeably faster mechanically - just more capable in low light and low contrast situations. It'll still hunt, but not in futility. With other lenses, I imagine focus acquisition can be noticeably faster, too.

    All of my Olympus cameras have trouble accurately focusing my 75-300 II. Very preliminary results indoors show me that the Panasonic AF is more accurate, perhaps due in part to its pinpoint focus mode. I will test this a lot more outside in the coming days. If it proves true, then this will be the deal-maker par excellence for me. If not, well - I think there's still more than enough to like about the GX85 for this Olympus fan to adopt it enthusiastically.
     
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  2. Danny_SWE

    Danny_SWE Mu-43 All-Pro

    Apr 30, 2013
    Sweden (Gothenburg)
    Great review! I read it twice and found it very interesting because I am also an Olympus user that loves the 20mm lens :)
     
  3. pdk42

    pdk42 One of the "Eh?" team

    Jan 11, 2013
    Leamington Spa, UK
    Thanks for the quick comparison. I had a GX7 for a while and found its biggest weakness was the poor IBIS, but a close second was the terrible EVF. Seems they got one of the two right - although based on the Cameralabs review it seems to lag the Olympus E-M1 / E-M10ii by a stop and the E-M5ii by 2 stop. I can't see me buying the GX85.
     
  4. Egregius V

    Egregius V Mu-43 Regular

    122
    Jun 14, 2015
    Massachusetts, USA
    Rev. Gregory Vozzo
    I'm glad a few reviewers are not just focusing on the excellent dual IS, but are testing the IBIS by itself. Camera Labs for the win - their video discussion of the GX80/85 is really thorough! :th_salute:

    Olympus has set the bar really high with its 5-axis IBIS. Using my 75-300 with the GX85 today, it's clear that the IBIS does fall short of that high bar. However, it's still a big help. Much better than any 2-axis IBIS and, even at 300mm, at least equal to the E-M10's very good 3-axis IBIS. Even if I didn't also have an E-M5 II, I would consider this good enough with proper technique. Having the live view stabilized is also a deal-maker for me.

    The GX85's AF continues to impress me. With the 20mm f/1.7, I can often lock focus on a blank wall in a fairly dark room! (Whaaaaaaaaaaaaat?!?!) With my troublesome 75-300, single AF does indeed seem a bit more precise than the same mode using the E-M10 - provided I take the shot very quickly. If I hold down the shutter button, then as with my Olympus cameras, AF tends to miss even with a tripod, though a bit less often. (I used a shutter delay to try to further rule out camera movement.) I have yet to try C-AF mode, which sometimes improves the E-M10's AF with this lens.

    Some more observations:

    I believe the OM-D cameras have better focus peaking. Sometimes, I can't see it at all with the GX85, meaning it usually takes longer to use it. Manual focusing is still very effective, though, functioning much as it does on OM-D cameras - and the experience can be customized a bit more with the picture-in-picture option.

    The GX85's histogram is very narrow compared with that of the OMDs, but can be placed anywhere on the screen and is translucent - very nice.
     
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  5. Egregius V

    Egregius V Mu-43 Regular

    122
    Jun 14, 2015
    Massachusetts, USA
    Rev. Gregory Vozzo
    More observations - very negative. :(

    On-screen display: In Aperture Priority mode, adjusting the exposure takes away display of the histogram.

    With the included 12-32 lens, distortion is not being corrected on-screen or in JPEG output. The distortion is astonishingly bad both close-up and at a distance from the target.

    My copy of the 12-32 lens is decentered - softer along the right side of the image.

    Metering with the e-shutter is way off. As I increase aperture, the photo taken becomes darker than what is displayed in-camera. Raising exposure as I increase aperture does not always compensate. The problem doesn't happen with the mechanical shutter.

    I'll be investigating the in-camera issues. Not much I can do about the lens except return the camera kit and try again.
     
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  6. Egregius V

    Egregius V Mu-43 Regular

    122
    Jun 14, 2015
    Massachusetts, USA
    Rev. Gregory Vozzo
    OK - the exposure issue with e-shutter has an explanation: I was exceeding the slowest allowed shutter speed (1 second). :laugh:

    Another comment about the GX85 - its display doesn't show focal length the way Olympus cameras do. That's an Olympus feature I prefer to have, but can live without.
     
    Last edited: May 22, 2016
  7. agentlossing

    agentlossing Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jun 26, 2013
    Andrew Lossing
    You need to enable constant preview or whatever it's called to see what the result of changing exposure parameters will do to the image in live view.

    Sent from my SAMSUNG-SM-N920A using Mu-43 app
     
  8. DennisH

    DennisH Mu-43 Regular

    70
    Apr 27, 2016
    Dennis
    Im curious how does the GX85 stack up if against the M10 Mark II? I found out my local Best Buy has a couple GX85's in stock, might borrow one on credit to mess around with it tomorrow.
     
  9. DennisH

    DennisH Mu-43 Regular

    70
    Apr 27, 2016
    Dennis
    Picked up my GX85 , first observation is the M10-2 EVF is nicer/more clear/a bit larger than the EVF on the GX85.
     
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  10. davidzvi

    davidzvi Mu-43 All-Pro

    Aug 12, 2012
    Outside Boston MA
    David
    It is, but I find it more than good enough. For me a big part of the choice between the two it SLR vs rangefinder. I've found over the last year I'm enjoying the rangefinder style over the SLR for what I use m4/3 for.
     
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  11. MoonMind

    MoonMind Mu-43 Top Veteran

    626
    Oct 25, 2014
    Switzerland
    Matt
    I've been very busy these past couple of weeks, and it's not quite over yet. That's why I haven't been able to put the GX80 through its paces as thoroughly as I would have wished for, but it's shaping up to be a very nice camera to shoot. It's quick and responsive, and while I'm still in the process of setting it up to meet my needs and habits as closely as possible, it handles very well and shows its strengths as a versatile everyday camera. I guess the point I'm trying to make is that you have to spend a reasonable amout of time with a new camera and actually set it up to suit your taste before actually judging it. It took me several months to actually have the E-M10 work *exactly* as I wanted it - and I don't see why the GX80 should be any different.

    Panasonic cameras work differently from Olympus ones, so I also have to adapt; the GX80 offers advantages over the E-M10 in some areas that I have to get used to, like the coupling of spot metering and AF point - handy, but it means I have to shift habits; I used to meter first, but the GX80 actually makes that unnecessary in many situations.

    I like the way it feels and handles, and specifically, I quite like the EVF - probably also because I've been used to it since the LX100 uses the same unit; the eye relief could admittedly be better (I wear glasses), but it's really not a problem. The EVF is sharper and contrastier than the one in the E-M10, and with 60Hz refresh (preset - finally!), I don't experience any major lag or smearing.

    The only slight niggle I've found is with the otherwise very good I.B.I.S. - with the E-M10, I never felt I actually *had* to turn it off in bright light, but the GX80 has a tendency to produce double images when I.B.I.S. is left turned on at high shutter speeds; it's not a shutters shock issue at all (since slow shutter speeds work very well), it's just interference. It's my laziness that's actually revealed here, so no real complaints ... I've put IS on one of the function buttons and am training myself to think about it in time.

    Unfortunately, I've not yet had the time to create a profile for RAW processing, but Darktable actually comes with a tool that automates that process - I can do it myself, no need to have some experts perform their magic ... Just a matter of spare time. That said, the JPEGs are indeed very good - and RAW processing in-camera is quite impressive, though I really like to have a bigger screen.

    In short: It's an impressive camera, but there's a learning curve, and like everything, it's not perfect. But in many ways, it comes close - it's simply a very well rounded package.

    M.
     
    Last edited: Jun 14, 2016
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  12. agentlossing

    agentlossing Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jun 26, 2013
    Andrew Lossing
    Do you have an example of the double images you mentioned? I find that very odd!
     
  13. MoonMind

    MoonMind Mu-43 Top Veteran

    626
    Oct 25, 2014
    Switzerland
    Matt
    Yes, but sharing over mu-43.com will be difficult because images are resized, and I only discovered it at 100% in RAW. It's not a major issue, but still visible enough to make the image in question unusable for me (I only process files I'm satisfied with). Crucially, it's more a question of handling in my opinion, but a problem that I didn't encounter with the E-M10: I was holding the camera at an awkward angle (high up and far to the left of my center of balance) and must have moved the camera at the last moment (possibly when pressing the shutter button - don't know why I even chose to do it that way). I think I actually caught the movement of the I.B.I.S. system trying to correct my near-fumble.

    The RAW's here: Dropbox - _1000055.RW2

    You have to look at what looks like a sort of halo on the upper parts of the fir cone. I first thought it was just nicely out of focus, but it's a kind of visual echo of the out of focus parts of the cone. Again, not too bad, just a pity.

    M.
     
    Last edited: Jun 14, 2016
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  14. Egregius V

    Egregius V Mu-43 Regular

    122
    Jun 14, 2015
    Massachusetts, USA
    Rev. Gregory Vozzo
    Yeah, there's some odd motion blur in that sample image (I'm noticing especially the jaggedness in the lower right corner) - maybe chromatic aberration, too. Did you use e-shutter? I suppose that would have made the situation worse.

    Too bad there isn't an Auto mode for Panasonic's IBIS. I suspect leaving it on is OK most of the time, but will follow your lead in assigning a function button to it.
     
  15. kingduct

    kingduct Mu-43 Veteran

    290
    Oct 12, 2013
    Seems like this could be fixed with a firmware update, if it proves to be a widespread problem. (This is the first I've seen it mentioned.)
     
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  16. MoonMind

    MoonMind Mu-43 Top Veteran

    626
    Oct 25, 2014
    Switzerland
    Matt
    re: e-shutter: perfectly possible, I didn't actually check, but the shutter speed may be an indicator; I went for bokeh, so it's probably wide open or almost so, and since it's an uncorrected RAW file from the Olympus 17mm f/1.8, yes, there's bound to be some CA. Sorry I didn't add EXIF explicitly - it's all in the file anyway.

    EDIT: Again, please note that it's probably mostly pilot error here - except for the fact that it's obviously possible to fool the I.B.I.S. system, there's no problem at all. I actually tried to re-create the issue today with no success whatsoever - neither with the mechanical nor the electronic shutter, I should add.

    M.
     
    Last edited: Jun 14, 2016
  17. Egregius V

    Egregius V Mu-43 Regular

    122
    Jun 14, 2015
    Massachusetts, USA
    Rev. Gregory Vozzo
    Very interesting, MoonMind. In that case, I'm going to go out on a limb and suggest that the e-shutter caused what you're seeing, not the IBIS. What I saw in the RAW file is explained by that. Also, so far, I haven't seen any such artifacts in my own tests with the 75-300 lens (which, hand-held in wind, with IBIS on, introduces shake while taking shots and is used at 1/600s or faster). I don't have a 17mm/1.8 lens to try.

    Here's an update on my tests with the 75-300. For still photos, I can't precisely determine which autofocus mode is best with this lens, but compared with the E-M10 this is what I've seen so far:

    AFS: sometimes hunts with a tough target, but is generally fast and does seem much more accurate than the E-M10's AF-S with this lens.
    AFF: super-fast focusing and very accurate, but seems more prone to misses than AFS (doesn't allow pinpoint AF).
    AFC: faster to stabilize than Olympus AF-C, accuracy can be better but remains hit-and-miss with still subjects.
    MF: Olympus totally owns Panasonic when it comes to focus peaking. Panasonic wins with other focus assists (zoom, PIP).

    There's still so many settings I haven't played with. I can see why reviewers tend to take the easy way out and stick with the camera's defaults, but what a shame when there's so much under the hood.
     
  18. MoonMind

    MoonMind Mu-43 Top Veteran

    626
    Oct 25, 2014
    Switzerland
    Matt
    I agree - but I sometimes doubt my own way is a lot better since I tend to set the camera up immediately and change lots of settings. Coming from the LX100, I knew what most of the items meant, but I'm still experimenting with touch screen and back dial settings, as well as contemplating handling styles different from those I'm used to. The GX80 is deceptively simple and straightforward in the hand, but there are loads of possibilities to be explored, apart from functionality. My own habits dictate that I find a way of handling the camera with confidence before really delving into stuff I haven't done or used before - so I've still quite a distance to cover.

    NB. I've set Fn4 for I.B.I.S. for the time being, but if the problem remains this rare, I'm simply going to forget about it :)

    M.
     
  19. Egregius V

    Egregius V Mu-43 Regular

    122
    Jun 14, 2015
    Massachusetts, USA
    Rev. Gregory Vozzo
    I took the GX85 out for a walk this morning in Aperture Priority mode (my usual). Got some great shots with two lenses (14-45 and 75-300) - except for one thing that ruined nearly all of them: severe overexposure, even with the exposure compensation dialed down a notch. Argh. I thought I had this under control when testing, but no. It was a sunny morning, so strong highlights were present. The annoyingly-tiny histogram suggested I was underexposing, but the camera's displays suggested to me that highlights might be blown. I'm going to have to work on this (see below) - might need a different metering mode or the iDynamic mode. Glad these are all easily accessed!

    Meanwhile, going through the menus, I noticed the following:

    - "ISO Increments" can be set to 1/3 EV, and yet ISO Limit Set can only be adjusted in 1-EV increments. Booooo. :doh:
    - Some info on the monitor (shutter speed in A mode, aperture in S mode, battery indicator when displaying function buttons) is not persistent. o_O
    - Changing the LVF function button (4) seems to have changed the Eye Sensor setting from Auto to Monitor. It can be changed again in the menus.
    - I really like how the GX85 handles customizing its controls. Yay! Olympus should take note.
    :jedi:

    My overexposure problem:

    P1010225.JPG
     
  20. MoonMind

    MoonMind Mu-43 Top Veteran

    626
    Oct 25, 2014
    Switzerland
    Matt
    I use spot metering in A mode (my standard) and ZEBRA 2 to see heavy overexposure - and I use the EVF to "pre-chimp". This way, "expose to the right" (of the histogram - ETTR) is pretty straightforward even without the actual histogram - and I usually have to dial in some exposure compensation anyway, so it's not something I mind.

    You see, for best light yield, ETTR is necessary with digital cameras; pulling it down a couple of stops in post is much easier and less troublesome than having to pull it up (which'd create noise and colour inaccuracy pretty quickly with even the best :mu43: sensors).

    Did you try to recover the highlights (from RAW)? Would be interesting to know anyway - I'll profile my camera next weekend and check ...

    All that said, I agree that JPEG exposure should take care of stuff like that. However, the weather here's absolutely awful - you'll need someone else to cross-check.

    Could you elaborate a bit, specifically about the first issue? As soon as you half-press the shutter button, the shutter speed is displayed - the meter is turned off pretty quickly to safe battery life, though you can activate permanent metering if I recall right.

    M.