Usability vs. Image Quality: Panasonic GX7 or Sony A7?

Lettermanian

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Sold my EM1 and got the GX7 and am very happy with it. Lost sleep over which body to go with too, but am much happier having made the decision. I have the 20mm 1.7ii, Oly 9-18, Panny 14-45 and 45-200, and a Canon FD 50mm 1.8 (just ordered the adapter so haven't used it yet). I work on the premise that m43 and the smaller ff cameras are really a couple of years away from being amazing, so I would suggest getting something you'll be happy with for the interim and save up for the incredible gear we'll be seeing then :)
 

bikerhiker

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Hey guys, appreciate all the insights coming in. I'm really not trying to make this a referendum on FF vs. M4/3 (which is too often where these threads end up). To be clear, it's totally impossible for FF (in any form factor, mirrorless or DSLR), to really replace M4/3 for me. Unless they get into the habit of releasing slow, high-quality zooms (like f5.6-f8 or something) in order to match the size, weight, and price of M4/3 options. So I won't be getting rid of my GX1, but complementing it instead.

@ bikerhiker - While I'm not sure that I've "mastered" my GX1, I am constantly butting up against its limitations. Both handling-wise, as well as sensor-wise. I want more direct exposure controls, I want an EVF, and I want focus-peaking. Those are pretty non-negotiable, and easily understood reasons for an upgrade. Sensor-wise, it's primarily dynamic range, in contrasty and low-light situations. In order to combat shadow noise even at base ISO I've taken to aggressive ETTR metering, but in a lot of circumstances you can't compensate very far before you run into highlight clipping. So if I have a tripod, I'll sometimes take 3 1-stop bracketed HDR exposures. But the tone-mapping is a pain, it messes with my Lightroom workflow, and it's obviously entirely unusable for any image with movement in it (even landscapes on a slightly windy day). It's also a lot to have to do to work around a pretty fundamental limitation. Yes, I could not shoot under contrasty situations, but dramatic light often makes for interesting photographs.

From what I've seen, I know for sure that the A7 will be able to perform in those circumstances. What I don't know is whether the GX7 is sufficiently improved over the GX1 to also eliminate those problems. For instance, the GX7's 2 extra stops of dynamic range make my 3-bracket HDR shots unnecessary. That's a huge benefit. The nature of its shadow noise at 1600-6400 ISO also appears to be a lot better than the GX1's, with less blotchiness and extreme chroma, even if the overall quantity of luminance noise isn't that much different. That's okay by me - I don't need hyper clean looking files.

Most of my lenses are legacy film lenses, though, so there's always going to be that little nagging feeling about wanting to see them as they were originally. Whether it will just end up revealing soft corners and more disappointing aberrations, I'm not sure, but I expect that the larger, lower density sensor with its thinner optical stack should definitely be more tolerant.

I guess really what I should do is download some RAW files from both cameras from somewhere like Imaging Resource's test galleries and see if the difference from the A7 really calls to me or not. But they aren't usually ideal images to stress test the cameras very much...

Photography is about light, so I don't know what kind of light you're dealing with. If it's sunlight, then the only times your camera's dynamic range can cover is when you shoot during the golden hour (either sunrise or sunset) depending upon which the subject is best lit either from the East or West. I've shot slides like Velvia and Provia and its dynamic range is ever narrower than my E-PL1. And yet we old timers had no problems producing masterpieces. These days, not sure why people want to keep spending $3000 and up of cameras just for a mere 1 to 2 stops more?!? If you want to know where the sun is at your location, the iOS app I use is called SunCalc.net. Tells you when the sun rises and sets and where those sweet rays angle will hit. Cheap and I think it's free too. Best tool next to Stellarium which I use for night Astrophotography.

When the sun is up high and harsh or during an overcast, you're just going to have problems with dynamic range and washed out colors. Dynamic range is basically the difference between light and dark. If you have a problem with dynamic range, you would want to bring the light and dark closer; not expand it by taking more exposures which I think why you have tone mapping issues, because highlights have a different tone than shadows, so I tend to use "Split Toning" a lot to independently adjust these 2 parameters. The simplest way to do this is to take one photo exposed for the highlights and then another photo exposed for the shadows and then blend them in your image editor. On the Olympus, there are 2 spot metering (Hi-key spot metering and Lo-key spot metering).

You need to remember that you could only see up to 7 stops on a normal display and up to 11 to 13 stops on a more expensive professional display. Prints probably will do no better than 7 stops with the best premium photo paper. Most of the best landscape photographers shoot during the golden hour, be it with a m/43, APS-C, full frame and medium format. That's how they've done it with Velvia and Provia as well as Kodachrome and Ektachrome for many many years. The difference really is the FOV and DOF coverage you want as well as how big you want to print -- Sony A7r or Nikon D810 or a Phaseback One. I had no problems making fantastic landscape with my E-PL1. The reason I upgraded was because the interface is so bad. No Av and Tv dials like my E-P5 and no tilt screen and I got it on a deep sale (price never went down so low again afterwards) -- Good! 16MP, higher ISO performance and extended DR were just pluses, so now my E-P5 is my recreational main cam and E-PL1 is now my recreational B/W cam. If this is important to you in terms of usage and interface, then I say upgrade to a GX-7. There is no point in getting frustrated over limitation in an older camera. Photography is supposed to be fun not pulling your hair out all the time.

I've been very impressed with my E-P5 and what it can do. I've also been impressed with the Sony A7 as well and I know what it can do. But at the current price and the weak FE lens line up, it's just simply to much money for what a lower price OMD or GX7 can do with more of your skills needing to be upgraded. Maybe when the Sony A9 comes out next year, the A7 will be priced down. Then maybe I will look into it as a second low light wide angle body to use with my Nikon lenses in manual.
 

val

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I'm so use to under exposing with my GX7 since the highlights clip quicker than the shadows. The dynamic range of the Sony A7 is really nice for my uses.

I've used both cameras extensively and while I really, really like the Sony A7. I just like the small M43 lenses..yeah the Sony FE 35mm F2.8 is a nice small lens, it's currently the only small one.
I'm keeping my GX7 for the forseeable future. I have a feeling that sticking with M43 would be better in the long run with sensor improvements since the current glass is really good and Oly/Pana seem commited to improving the lens range.
I think Panasonic made a big mistake with the GX7 EVF with it being both field sequential (rainbow effect while panning) AND 16:9 aspect ratio for 4:3 images -_-.

I really wish Panasonic made a 17.5mm F1.2 or F1.4. that would be nice.
 

bikerhiker

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Hey guys, appreciate all the insights coming in. I'm really not trying to make this a referendum on FF vs. M4/3 (which is too often where these threads end up). To be clear, it's totally impossible for FF (in any form factor, mirrorless or DSLR), to really replace M4/3 for me. Unless they get into the habit of releasing slow, high-quality zooms (like f5.6-f8 or something) in order to match the size, weight, and price of M4/3 options. So I won't be getting rid of my GX1, but complementing it instead.

@ bikerhiker - While I'm not sure that I've "mastered" my GX1, I am constantly butting up against its limitations. Both handling-wise, as well as sensor-wise. I want more direct exposure controls, I want an EVF, and I want focus-peaking. Those are pretty non-negotiable, and easily understood reasons for an upgrade. Sensor-wise, it's primarily dynamic range, in contrasty and low-light situations. In order to combat shadow noise even at base ISO I've taken to aggressive ETTR metering, but in a lot of circumstances you can't compensate very far before you run into highlight clipping. So if I have a tripod, I'll sometimes take 3 1-stop bracketed HDR exposures. But the tone-mapping is a pain, it messes with my Lightroom workflow, and it's obviously entirely unusable for any image with movement in it (even landscapes on a slightly windy day). It's also a lot to have to do to work around a pretty fundamental limitation. Yes, I could not shoot under contrasty situations, but dramatic light often makes for interesting photographs.

From what I've seen, I know for sure that the A7 will be able to perform in those circumstances. What I don't know is whether the GX7 is sufficiently improved over the GX1 to also eliminate those problems. For instance, the GX7's 2 extra stops of dynamic range make my 3-bracket HDR shots unnecessary. That's a huge benefit. The nature of its shadow noise at 1600-6400 ISO also appears to be a lot better than the GX1's, with less blotchiness and extreme chroma, even if the overall quantity of luminance noise isn't that much different. That's okay by me - I don't need hyper clean looking files.

Most of my lenses are legacy film lenses, though, so there's always going to be that little nagging feeling about wanting to see them as they were originally. Whether it will just end up revealing soft corners and more disappointing aberrations, I'm not sure, but I expect that the larger, lower density sensor with its thinner optical stack should definitely be more tolerant.

I guess really what I should do is download some RAW files from both cameras from somewhere like Imaging Resource's test galleries and see if the difference from the A7 really calls to me or not. But they aren't usually ideal images to stress test the cameras very much...

Is there a place where you can rent a Sony A7 for a week? Probably that's better. I know some people buy the Sony A7 kit from BestBuy and test it and then return it cause I see a lot of Open Box Sony A7 returns but I don't want to imply that you should do that..
 

Whtrbt7

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This is an interesting thread. I wouldn't have considered the A7 but rather the A7R as pretty much a legacy 135 format lens high resolution manual camera. It's definitely worth it for shooting some awesome legacy 135 format glass. It does however have issues with internal reflection with UWA Leica M glass. If you're using longer flange distance glass, the issue goes away. The A7R shoots slightly faster than a modern Leica M since it has more modern features but I find that focus peaking can sometimes be tough to use and I prefer to just magnify for focus. The A7R also requires a lot more shot discipline as well as pretty much steadying the camera due to its shutter shock issues. If you double tap on the shutter, you'll most likely get the shot. Overall, you need to shoot slower on the A7 series compared to the GX7, E-M1, or GH4. FE glass is pretty decent but I find that I'm only interested in the 55/1.8 and 35/2.8 due to their speeds. The zooms just seem too large and too slow for what I normally shoot. The thing about the A7R is that I would choose between that or a main camera like the E-M1. It's one of those secondary bodies I would carry just to get more resolution or use legacy glass. I wouldn't be able to use the A7 series by themselves just because I shoot faster and I don't like being tied up with stricter shot discipline. They are great cameras, they just may not be a great camera that you would always have with you.
 

Lisandra

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I didn't see Evf quality or size mentioned. Sony has a much bigger and nicer Evf than Panasonic .

It is? I dont think so. They seem exactly as big side by side (dont have the numbers here) save for the change in aspect and I recall the gx7 being 2.76 million dots vs the 2.36 from the sony. Pana looks way sharper to me.
 

mattia

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The A7R and E-M1 have almost identical EVFs. Both are excellent. The GX-7's is smaller, far as I'm aware.
 

Turbofrog

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I found the A7's EVF to be acceptable but not outstanding. The GX7's wasn't really noticeably worse, just a bit smaller. I haven't looked through an XT-1 before, but the only EVF that really impressed me was the one on the E-M1.

I feel like I was spoiled by learning to shoot on a Pentax Spotmatic II with its big OVF. No modern DSLR or mirrorless EVF can compare.

If I have the opportunity and the lighting cooperates, I actually prefer composing on a big rear LCD, but I want the EVF for bright conditions and for better stabilization of the camera when shooting longer lenses and longer exposures.
 

Steven

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It is? I dont think so. They seem exactly as big side by side (dont have the numbers here) save for the change in aspect and I recall the gx7 being 2.76 million dots vs the 2.36 from the sony. Pana looks way sharper to me.
GX7's is smaller. The dots don't mean anything when it comes to size. Panasonic's previous EVF, like LVF2 has even fewer dots, but the view is bigger. Sony's has a large view, like G6 or GH4.
 

Lisandra

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GX7's is smaller. The dots don't mean anything when it comes to size. Panasonic's previous EVF, like LVF2 has even fewer dots, but the view is bigger. Sony's has a large view, like G6 or GH4.
Looking it up it seems Im not crazy. The GX7 viewfinder is almost exactly as big as the one on the A7, thats why I remember them being exactly as big (dont have the GX7 anymore). I know dots dont mean anything when it comes to size, but it does when it comes to sharpness.

A7 has a magnification of 0.71 and the GX7 0.70. The difference would be insignificant
vfcomp.png
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zulfur666

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I wonder why you even compare a GX7 to a A7 a closer match especially by ergonomics standards might be the GH4 or Olympus's E-M1 not the EM10. JMO.
I asked myself the same questions you did, but came to the conclusion that built quality of the A7 is well "cheap" Just look at the 2 part plastic / metal mount?
Try to mount that Sony 70-200 f/4 if you ever want a zoom. And the reach is well just 200 vs the new Olympus 40-150 f/2.8 will get you all the way to 300mm.
I came to the conclusion to stick with Olympus for the near future at least. And sensor technology will improve with the next generation of cameras.
 

Turbofrog

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Looking it up it seems Im not crazy. The GX7 viewfinder is almost exactly as big as the one on the A7, thats why I remember them being exactly as big (dont have the GX7 anymore). I know dots dont mean anything when it comes to size, but it does when it comes to sharpness.

A7 has a magnification of 0.71 and the GX7 0.70. The difference would be insignificant

Here's a more accurate image that someone created, since the GX7's viewfinder has a different aspect ratio.

EhSkub4.png
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Still a very respectable size. If anyone has used an APS-C DSLR, the GX7's is better than anything out there.
 

Steven

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Those numbers don't tell the whole story . What am I going to believe some graphics or my lying eyes? :)

Looking it up it seems Im not crazy. The GX7 viewfinder is almost exactly as big as the one on the A7, thats why I remember them being exactly as big (dont have the GX7 anymore). I know dots dont mean anything when it comes to size, but it does when it comes to sharpness.

A7 has a magnification of 0.71 and the GX7 0.70. The difference would be insignificant
vfcomp.png
Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)
 

gswpete

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Hey guys, appreciate all the insights coming in. I'm really not trying to make this a referendum on FF vs. M4/3 (which is too often where these threads end up). To be clear, it's totally impossible for FF (in any form factor, mirrorless or DSLR), to really replace M4/3 for me. Unless they get into the habit of releasing slow, high-quality zooms (like f5.6-f8 or something) in order to match the size, weight, and price of M4/3 options. So I won't be getting rid of my GX1, but complementing it instead.

@ bikerhiker - While I'm not sure that I've "mastered" my GX1, I am constantly butting up against its limitations. Both handling-wise, as well as sensor-wise. I want more direct exposure controls, I want an EVF, and I want focus-peaking. Those are pretty non-negotiable, and easily understood reasons for an upgrade. Sensor-wise, it's primarily dynamic range, in contrasty and low-light situations. In order to combat shadow noise even at base ISO I've taken to aggressive ETTR metering, but in a lot of circumstances you can't compensate very far before you run into highlight clipping. So if I have a tripod, I'll sometimes take 3 1-stop bracketed HDR exposures. But the tone-mapping is a pain, it messes with my Lightroom workflow, and it's obviously entirely unusable for any image with movement in it (even landscapes on a slightly windy day). It's also a lot to have to do to work around a pretty fundamental limitation. Yes, I could not shoot under contrasty situations, but dramatic light often makes for interesting photographs.

From what I've seen, I know for sure that the A7 will be able to perform in those circumstances. What I don't know is whether the GX7 is sufficiently improved over the GX1 to also eliminate those problems. For instance, the GX7's 2 extra stops of dynamic range make my 3-bracket HDR shots unnecessary. That's a huge benefit. The nature of its shadow noise at 1600-6400 ISO also appears to be a lot better than the GX1's, with less blotchiness and extreme chroma, even if the overall quantity of luminance noise isn't that much different. That's okay by me - I don't need hyper clean looking files.

Most of my lenses are legacy film lenses, though, so there's always going to be that little nagging feeling about wanting to see them as they were originally. Whether it will just end up revealing soft corners and more disappointing aberrations, I'm not sure, but I expect that the larger, lower density sensor with its thinner optical stack should definitely be more tolerant.

I guess really what I should do is download some RAW files from both cameras from somewhere like Imaging Resource's test galleries and see if the difference from the A7 really calls to me or not. But they aren't usually ideal images to stress test the cameras very much...

I went from a GX1 to E-M5 and noticed a pretty significant improvement in the amount of highlights or shadows that could be rescued. The GX7 based on what I read is pretty similar to the E-M5 in terms of dynamic range so you should be fine.
 

Lisandra

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Those numbers don't tell the whole story . What am I going to believe some graphics or my lying eyes? :)
what else is there to the story? Ive also had them both at the same time, and other than the difference in aspect ratio they are the same size. :smile:
 

Turbofrog

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So I downloaded some RAW files from both the GX7 and the A7. The A7’s resolution (with the 55mm lens in particular) was pretty astonishing, and the files are nice and clean – finer grained than the M4/3, which I like. There was also a certain je ne sais quoi that the GX7 didn't have. The 28-70 kit lens also didn't seem as bad as people mention. But I had to keep reminding myself that most of the differences appeared at 100%, and were scarcely, if at all, visible at full size. And I would likely need to crop, anyway, given that there’s no way I’m going to get a 600mm lens for taking photos of animals. The threshold between a usable low-light shot on the A7 and on the GX7 was also very tenuous.

I’m still undecided, but ironically despite the image quality deficit, the GX7 looks like it would have a longer useful life in my bag. The silent shutter, IBIS, smaller size, built-in flash and touch screen make it a much more usable social camera, where the A7 would be relegated to a special-occasion camera for photo walks. But every time I think of travelling, I shy away from the prospect of relying entirely on fully manual lenses. The results are nice, but the keeper count is never as high. I am planning a trip to the Galapagos with my girlfriend this winter, and for the same price as the A7 I can get the GX7 and the Panasonic 100-300 lens. People often give that lens negative reviews, but maybe they are used to 300mm f2.8 primes, or something - the results that I have seen from it are very impressive to me, personally.

I think this isn’t the time for the A7. Maybe next year when Sony’s product churn continues ever greater and the prices drop even more, but a $1000 camera dedicated to static subjects (and only in my own city) with a frustrating interface just doesn’t seem worth it to me at this point.
 

tomO2013

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864
Personally I think you made a good decision. As it stands today if I was to look at an A7/r/s it would only ever be in the context of picking up a supplementary body to a good primary system where that primary system is small format (Canon/Nikon/Sony Amount), APS-C (Fuji X, Samsung NX) or m43.
Even then I'd want to see lots of changes to the Sony A7 line, changes that are skin deep and are more important to me than the sensor itself.
Focus speed would need to ramp up considerably, build quality and weather sealing would need to be improved, the native zooms would need to be faster, wide angle glass would need to perform better (I know the A7s works better here but still not perfect here), it's an innovative product no doubt but I get the feeling that the core innovations of the A7x series are to work around a lens mount that inherently was not originally designed to operate with a 35mm sensor format. For me the A7x range from Sony does not have the versatility of their A99 and other Sony A mount cameras if you were looking for a primary system, for my shooting needs anyway.
Too many technical sacrifices have been made for the sake of pushing a really large sensor in a small body which in itself hurts image quality. From a marketing perspective it's genius. People equate bigger sensor with better IQ. But from a balanced system perspective... I sometimes think that if you want Full frame autofocus and all the bells and whistles then you may as well go for the Canon/Nikon.

To be honest if I was thinking about a second system now, I'd seriously give the Samsung NX1 a good hard look when it drops in price... 4k video recording (in camera) with the capability to write H.265 to save space. You can also use your existing UHS class 10 memory cards with it for 4k video. It helps that lenses are relatively cheap and of a very high optical quality. Both Pro zooms are image stabilized... there is a lot of interesting stuff to like and its sensor is mated to a lens mount that is well optimized for the sensor size, the sensor itself is BSI and latest manufacturing process and it looks to have a lot of oomph to be able to do full sensor readout from 28mp and write H.265 video internally. There is a lot to like...
 

bikerhiker

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The Sony A7 series is a nice concept in terms of marketing, but did so with a number of compromises as the E-Mount was never intended to accommodate a full frame sensor. I think Sigma made mention of that and these serious compromises only made these systems as complementary system at best if you have the money. Moving forward though, I like to see and be convinced how Sony are going to address these issues. At the trade shows, they seemed to just do marketing talk, but you can only B.S people for so long. But if you do have the money, what is stopping you from buying a Canon 6D (a fabulous low-light full frame body) or the Nikon D610 which are both mature systems with mature uncompromising glasses to boot. These systems are worthy of becoming your primary system albeit both are DSLRs. So far, I'm only impressed with both the FE 35 and FE 55 prime lenses, but nothing else is as impressive or uncompromising as you find with the m43 lens line up or with Canon and Nikon. $1000+ is a lot of money to burn and suffer the depreciation afterwards.
 

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