1. Reminder: Please use our affiliate links for holiday shopping!

Panasonic GX7 vs Olympus EP5 - a quick comparison

Discussion in 'This or That? (MFT only)' started by Ray Sachs, Oct 2, 2013.

  1. Ray Sachs

    Ray Sachs Super Moderator

    Apr 17, 2010
    Near Philadephila
    I received loaner copies of the GX7 and the EP5 this morning and spent a few hours playing with both, setting them up to my liking, and doing a few quick test shots (raw only) just to check out low light noise levels, auto white balance, etc.

    The first thing I have to say is that both of these cameras are simply awesome cameras. If you don't want the mini-DSLR form factor of the GH3 or the EM1 (or, to a lesser extent, the EM5), these cameras are incredibly capable alternatives. In terms of image quality, both of them match the quality of my EM5 at high ISO. 3200 is good, 6400 is useable for some types of shooting, 12,800 is pretty rough but for grainy B&W, it'll work too. 25,600 is well beyond the pale for both of them. I'd say these sensors are equal to or, at worst, within a half a stop or so of the APS sensors on the market these days. I have a Fuji XE1 and a Nikon Coolpix "A", and if they're any better at high ISO, it's not by enough to obsess over.

    I've never been particularly comfortable with Panasonic's color cast and WB and the GX7 is a Panasonic through and through, so I'd mark it down for that, but that's just personal preference - it shouldn't apply to those of you who like Pany colors or are comfortable working with them in raw. I'll leave it to the technical testers to work out the fine points of these sensors and determine if one may have a tiny edge over the other, but from my lay perspective, they're both equally good and that's very very good indeed.

    In terms of features and controls, the biggest and most obvious difference is that the GX7 has a built in EVF and the Olympus doesn't. By this measure alone, you'd have to rate the GX7 as the better value of the two cameras - it's selling for about the same price with the kit lens as the EP5 does body only, and by the time you add the EVF, the Olympus is notably more expensive (not to mention larger). That's a clear plus for the GX7. The related upside for the Olympus is that if you add the VF-4 external viewfinder, its simply an amazing EVF. A HUGE view, clear and bright as you'd ever want. As close to an OVF type viewing experience as I'd ever hope to have with an EVF. The EVF on the GX7 is perfectly good - it's easily a match for the one in the OMD-EM5, but the new Olympus viewfinder used in the VF-4 and, from what I understand, the EM1, is a considerable step up in the quality of an EVF experience.

    The EVF leads me into the IBIS. The GX7 is the first Panasonic with with in body stabilization, having relied on lens based stabilization with all of their previous bodies. I haven't tested the finer points of which does better in terms of how many stops they offer for slow shutter speeds. I suspect the Oly is somewhat better with it's 5-axis system, but I'm not going to be able to clearly verify that one way or the other. I've done some hand-held exposures down to about 8/10 of a second with the EM5, which I consider pretty amazing, and the EP5 should be as good, using the same system. I don't know if the Panasonic will quite match that, but it doesn't really have to in order to be perfectly effective. I've really only used those extreme shutter speeds to do trick type stuff like getting ghosting of people walking - it doesn't really serve that much practical purpose beyond a good solid normal IBIS system.

    The one area where I could see a difference between the two stabilization systems was in stabilizing long lenses during the composition processes, and the Olympus system has a clear edge here. This is one of the most useful aspects of the Olympus system to me - shooting with the 75-300 or even the 75mm, a less than steady hand can make it tough to focus on a distant subject, The Olympus system stabilizes the EVF (in both the EM5 and EP5) and makes it incredibly easy to lock focus. The GX7 doesn't, and the long end of the 75-300 was a pretty shaky experience to work with. Obviously less of an issue with Pany lenses with their OIS systems, but for un-stabilized lenses, I have to give the edge to the Olympus here. Although I also have to add that the EP5 stabilization system makes quite a racket! This was a bone of contention with many when the EM5 came out, but I could barely hear the EM5 working, and only heard it at all in a very quiet environment with the camera up to my eye, near my ear. The EP5 I can clearly hear even when shooting at waist level with the LCD. So there are tradeoffs to everything.

    Both cameras have excellent flip up rear screens (the GX7 EVF also flips up, but I can't honestly see when I'd use that when I've got a flip up screen right there). This is a first for Panasonic m43 bodies, which have either used fully articulating or immovable screens previously. I'm a fan of the flip up screen, so this is a welcome change to me, but I'm sure many who prefer the fully articulated screens are sorry to see this development. I'd rate the two screens as about even, including in their touch-screen capability. Olympus has had excellent touch screens going back to the EP3 a couple of years ago, but previous Panasonic touch screens that I've used (GH2, G3) required pressing into the screen rather than reacting to a mere touch and I was not impressed with them. The GX7 screen is excellent, though.

    In both cases it's easy to use a touch to set the focus area and instantly take the shot. In both cases, with manual focus set, the entire screen becomes a very discrete shutter button. I've found this really handy for street photography with the OMD and EPL5 in the past and both of these cameras are up to the task. The GX7 adds the silent electronic shutter to the mix, a first for m43, and makes the whole street shooting setup even more discrete. This is a great advance and I look forward to the day when more ILC's incorporate this feature. It only works up to ISO 3200, but that includes a LOT of shooting.

    The menus and controls are typical Olympus and Panasonic. I'm very familiar with both and find both equally easy to get around on, but I'd imagine the Panasonic would be somewhat easier to get up to speed with if you were starting with the system cold. In the past, I've considered the Olympus platform far more customizable than the Pany system, but with four function buttons on the back of the camera and up to five more easily available on the touch screen, I'd have to say Panasonic has at least caught up with Olympus here. I can't imagine anything you'd want quick access to that you couldn't work out on this camera.

    In terms of handling, AF speed, etc, there's very little difference between these cameras. Both have excellent two dial control layouts, well located (to me) on/off switches. Both have lightning fast AF. There may be a slight difference (I've seen some references to the Pany being slightly faster), but these are into the AF speed stratosphere where the differences simply don't register - they're both excellent. Subjectively, I like the looks of the EP5 slightly more, but only without the EVF. And part of that is the not-terribly-attractive Panasonic grip, but the grip is so comfortable and useful that I'd say there's a lot of functional beauty in that ugly grip. The grip alone probably gives the GX7 a handling edge.

    I'm not near as much of an m43 shooter as I used to be and probably won't buy either of these cameras, or the EM1. I'm mostly using my EM5 for longer lens work these days and the EM5 is more than adequate for my current needs. But if I was still primarily an m43 shooter, either of these cameras would be really tempting. For long lenses, I'd probably prefer the EP5 mostly because of the excellent way the EVF is stabilized during the framing process - the EM1 will likely be even a bit better in this regard. The incredibly large clear Olympus EVF would also be an advantage, also to be carried through to the EM1. But for most of my shooting, which is NOT long lens, I think I'd be hard pressed not to go for the Panasonic rather than the Olympus, assuming I could come up with a workflow that resulted in colors I was pleased with. The price is lower particularly considering the built in EVF, the silent shutter is a really nice feature that might matter more to me than some others, but would probably be of some benefit to a lot of shooters. And the Pany still has, as it always has had, much easier access to custom settings, right on the mode dial, something I like to have available.

    Overall, these are two incredible cameras and there's not a bad choice to be had. There are tradeoffs, but unlike in the past when Olympus and Panasonic bodies seemed to have very different strengths and weaknesses, these two cameras are very very similarly good in almost every respect.

    -Ray Sachs
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 21, 2016
    • Like Like x 25
  2. Ulfric M Douglas

    Ulfric M Douglas Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Mar 6, 2010
    Northumberland
    Lovely little review Ray, and going into some important details that are lacking elsewhere.
     
  3. Armanius

    Armanius Mu-43 All-Pro

    Feb 23, 2010
    Houston
    Muttley
    Thanks Ray!

    Another difference is the ability to use Auto-ISO in M exposure mode in the EP5, but not in the GX7.

    Metering can be assigned to the GX7's FN buttons, but not in the EP5.

    And Oly's face detection can detect faces at an angle, while in the GX7, the face has to be almost facing the camera for the detection to work.

    Last but not least, the EP5 is a better looking camera!
     
  4. orfeo

    orfeo Mu-43 Top Veteran

    673
    Sep 27, 2013
    FR
    Olympus = good real time IBIS for framing and movies, but so-so quality movies. No EVF.
    Lumix = silent shutter, built in EVF, nice grip, nice layout, nice menu, IBIS but not for framing or movies, awesome movie quality.

    Do the math yourself.
     
  5. Hyubie

    Hyubie Unique like everyone else

    Oct 15, 2010
    Massachusetts
    Herbert
    Thanks, Ray.

    From the subsequent comments it seems like your review confirms all our biases whether for or against Panny and Oly. That's hard to do! Congratulations! :laugh1:
     
  6. Steven

    Steven Mu-43 All-Pro

    May 25, 2012
    USA
    Thanks for the review. I really like Gx7 and would love to upgrade from the Gx1, but I am having trouble ignoring the fact that a used Em5 is almost half the price while offering no improvement in image quality. :/

    BTW , I find on Gx1 flipping viewfinder up can offer greater stability in some situations.
     
  7. Hyubie

    Hyubie Unique like everyone else

    Oct 15, 2010
    Massachusetts
    Herbert
    If you really are set on the GX7, best advice I can give you is WAIT. Prices of Panny bodies (in my personal observation) tend to fall quickly.
     
  8. Talanis

    Talanis Mu-43 Top Veteran

    509
    Oct 15, 2012
    Sherbrooke, Canada
    Eric Cote
    I was not sure about the utility of the tilting viewfinder but found some use to it last weekend for taking low shots in really bright sunlight. It was easier to compose with the viewfinder than with the sun hitting the screen. It is more stable that way too (3rd point of contact).

    I did some tests too with the E-M5 and seriously can't tell which photo comes from which camera if I don't see the filename or the EXIF
     
    • Like Like x 1
  9. Steven

    Steven Mu-43 All-Pro

    May 25, 2012
    USA
    Yes, I forgot to mention that - looking down rather that into sun is a benefit of the flip up finder.
    BTW, does anyone think Panasonic would release a dumbed down version of the Gx7? Maybe without Ibis and VF but same sensor? I am kind of upset about not being g able to use the Lvf2 in future model.:frown:

     
  10. demiro

    demiro Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Nov 7, 2010
    Thanks for the quality comparison Ray. This is what I really appreciate about your writings:

    After that we can simply work out which details matter most to each of us.
     
  11. Ray Sachs

    Ray Sachs Super Moderator

    Apr 17, 2010
    Near Philadephila
    Thanks for filling in some of the blanks folks. I didn't mention video because nobody could be LESS qualified to compare video features than I am. Face detection I didn't try - I assumed both would be up to the standards of the EM5, but maybe not?

    And I forgot to add that both have focus peaking, a first in the Olympus line and among the first in Panasonic's lineup (not sure about the GH3 or G6). Both look like pretty good implementations too - almost up to the Sony standard and better than Fuji's early attempts.

    Regarding auto-ISO, the EP5 does allow it's use in manual mode, but there's no exposure compensation. And neither give you the ability to set a minimum shutter speed with auto-ISO in aperture priority mode - a HUGE benefit for me. The Olympus seems to give you the same sort of back door to that using flash sync speeds and even seems to jack up the highest minimum from 1/250 (in the EM5) to 1/320 in the EP5. I haven't played with it enough to see how well it works. But I'm spoiled by my Nikon which allows a minimum shutter speed up to 1/1000, which I don't use, but I use 1/500 ALL the time. With either of these I'd probably be OK with auto-ISO for a lot of shooting, but I'd still set the ISO manually for street shooting - the Nikon is the only camera I've been able to use auto-ISO effectively on the street...

    As for the flip up EVF, I have one on my RX1 and I do use the feature on occasion, but there's no flip up screen on that one. Most of these screens are getting quite good in even the brightest sunlight, so I doubt I'd use the flip up EVF with a flip up screen there. But there's no downside to it - it surely doesn't hurt anything and it seems to snap into place pretty securely. So certainly not a problem, just not as big a benefit as in some other cameras...

    There used to be much more substantial tradeoffs and reasons to prefer either Oly or Pany bodies. Which didn't mean one was better than the other, but often one was better for a particular set of preferences. Those differences are getting smaller and smaller and are nearly insignificant with these two bodies... I haven't shot with an EM1 or GH3 yet, and there's a bigger size and style difference between those two, but I suspect both are pretty similar photographic tools at the end of the day.

    -Ray
     
    • Like Like x 1
  12. Armanius

    Armanius Mu-43 All-Pro

    Feb 23, 2010
    Houston
    Muttley
    Bias? I take exception! :biggrin: I have no bias towards any camera or brand. Just stating the facts. Well, except for my opinion that the EP5 is better looking than the GX7 -- which it is! :wink:
     
  13. Armanius

    Armanius Mu-43 All-Pro

    Feb 23, 2010
    Houston
    Muttley
    EP5 is the same as EM5 as far as ability to pick out a face(s) from a scene. I must admit that Oly has done a pretty nifty job with the face detection feature.

    GX7 uses only multi-point AF when the camera is set to face detection AF. If there's no face in the photo, camera defaults to multi-point AF. In the Oly's like EM5 and all digital Pens that I've ever used, the user can use face detection as an option in single or multi-point AF.
     
  14. Ray,

    Thanks for finding that the GX7 does not provide image stabilisation through the screen/viewfinder prior to shutter release (same as the 2-axis Olympus bodies). In all the back-and-forth arguments I've read before and after the camera was released between GX7 IBIS vs Olympus 5-Axis IBIS, I have yet to see anyone mention a difference as fundamental as that. Now if you own lenses with OIS this is a moot point of course, but there are a lot of Micro 4/3 lenses that don't.
     
  15. Talanis

    Talanis Mu-43 Top Veteran

    509
    Oct 15, 2012
    Sherbrooke, Canada
    Eric Cote
    Quick find today: the GX7 doesn't have the banding issue while using the Panasonic 20mm at high ISO which is a problem on the E-P5, E-M5, E-PM2 and E-PL5

    Sent from my Nexus 7 using Mu-43 mobile app
     
    • Like Like x 1
  16. Ray Sachs

    Ray Sachs Super Moderator

    Apr 17, 2010
    Near Philadephila
    That was always one of the great benefits I always found with the EM5 and I was really wondering if the EP5, with a bolt-on EVF, would be able to do the same. I was pleasantly surprised to see that the EP5 could, and with that much better an EVF on top of it. That new EVF is so good I'd consider it a primary reason to upgrade if one used an EVF most of the time. But, no, the GX7 doesn't do the same. I guess you need something like the five axis IBIS to pull it off.

    -Ray
     
  17. dougjgreen

    dougjgreen Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jun 5, 2013
    San Diego
    Doug Green
    All I want is a m4/3 camera that has a modern, highly sensitive sensor, very effective IBIS, good ergonomics, and is well behaved with my 20mm and 7-14mm lenses. Is that too much to ask? I used to also insist on a built in EVF, but I've gotten comfortable with an external add-on EVF, so long as it's good.
     
  18. I figure that the difference is that, even if the IBIS on an E-M5 or E-P5 is switched off, the sensor itself "floats" so the IS unit is always active anyway. Providing an "IS preview" therefore shouldn't work the IS unit any harder than it already is.
     
  19. barrytea

    barrytea New to Mu-43

    9
    Jun 23, 2012
    Thanks for the great comparison. Olympus was known to produce better SOOC jpeg than panasonic in the past. But with the latest Gx7, is it still valid?
     
  20. Ray Sachs

    Ray Sachs Super Moderator

    Apr 17, 2010
    Near Philadephila
    Kind of a matter of taste rather than better or worse, but I've preferred Olympus colors to Panasonic for years, both in jpegs or raw, although in raw you have more ability to change them to your liking. I haven't shot jpegs with either of these cameras, but the raws are clearly consistent with the look of previous Olympus and Pany bodies. Not sure if that implies anything about the jpegs though.

    -Ray